What is Cultural Relativism ?

First I should say, as always, that I use blogs to write about things I know nothing about. So let me try to understand what cultural relativism might be.

Basically it begijns with the idea that should not judge other cultures. I think the origen might be with Herder who I try to translate “There must be no comparison. Each nation contains within itself it own happiness” or something like that. Substitute culture for nation and try to understand what he might have meant.

1. According to cultural relativists disrupting a culture is the worst crime.

That is CR might be an absolute ethical doctrine in which the objective moral truth is that no choice within a culture is as bad as an outsider attempting to fight a culture.

This is coherant but it is not relativist and I doubt that anyone believes it.

2. Each of us belongs to a culture somehow and our duty is to act according to it’s mores.

This has the fault of 1 which is that it might be the sum total of objective moral truth but that is not relativism and why would anyone think such a thing. Finally my culture tells me to be open minded and think for myself exploring what I might gain from other traditions. That means I can’t be at type 2 CR without logical contradiction. Finally how are people assigned to cultures.

3. We should choose a culture to obey and obey it.

All the faults of 2 but the last plus how to choose.

4. We can’t prove that one cultures moral principals are better than anothers. Therefore they are all equally valid. This applies equally to all views of right and wrong not just those of a “culture”. It also applies to purely hypothetical moral beliefs that no one has ever held. It is, I think, a confusion of knowledge and truth. From the obvious fact that we can not prove something right or wrong, it is concluded that there is no fact of the matter no moral truth. This obviously doesn’t follow. There is an excluded middle “everything that is true can be proven”. This is definitely false as has been proven (Godel’s theorem). Who ever thought such a silly thing.

Sad to say this is the well known distinction between ontological objectivity and epistimelogica objectiviity.

5. In fact the cause of our beliefs about right and wrong is our upbringing in a culture not God speaking to us or our deducing the catagorical imperative using neutral logic or anything like that.

I certainly agree with this. However, my belief in certain moral principals survives the conviction that I believe them not because they are true and their truth was made manifest to me somehow but because my mother and father thought they were true and they well etc back a million years. So ?

It seems to me that cultural relativism is either a moral imperative like any other except that no one would accept it as the be all of right and wrong or it is a confusion of the concepts “proven” and “true”