Cultural RelativismLearning Outcomes:At the end of this lesson, you should be able to:1.Understand who the moral agent is.2.Know the Filipino Society3.Know the impact of cultural relativism.___________________________________________________________________________What is cultural relativism?Cultural relativismis the idea that a person's beliefs, values, and practicesshould be understood based on that person's own culture, rather than be judged againstthe criteria of another.It was established asaxiomaticinanthropologicalresearch byFranz Boasin thefirst few decades of the 20th century and later popularized by his students. Boas firstarticulated the idea in 1887: "civilization is not something absolute, but ... is relative, and... our ideas and conceptions are true only so far as our civilization goes". However,Boas did not coin the term. Neither did the 21st century relativist James LawrenceWray-Miller.The first use of the term recorded in theOxford English Dictionarywas byphilosopher and social theoristAlain Lockein 1924 to describeRobert Lowie's "extremecultural relativism", found in the latter's 1917 bookCulture and Ethnology. The termbecame common among anthropologists after Boas' death in 1942, to express theirsynthesis of a number of ideas Boas had developed. Boas believed that the sweep ofcultures, to be found in connection with any sub species, is so vast and pervasive thatthere cannot be a relationship between culture andrace. Cultural relativism involvesspecificepistemologicaland methodological claims. Whether or not these claims
necessitate a specificethicalstance is a matter of debate. This principle should not beconfused withmoral relativism.1The following claims have all been made by cultural relativists:21Different societies have different moral codes.2The moral code of a society determines what is right within thatsociety; that is, if the moral code of a society says that a certainaction is right, then that action is right, at least within the society.3There is no objective standard that can be used to judge onesociety’s code as better than another. There are no moral truths thathold for all people at all times.4The moral code of our own society has no special status; it is butone among many.5It is arrogant for us to judge other cultures. We should always betolerant of them.These five propositions may seem to go together, but they are independent ofone another- some may be true while others are false. Indeed, two of the propositionsappear to be inconsistent with each other. The second says that right and wrong aredetermined by the norms of society; the fifth says that we should always be tolerant ofother cultures. But what if the norms of a society favor intolerance.For example, when the Nazi army invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, thusbeginning World War II, this was an intolerant action of the first order. But what if it wasin line with Nazi ideals? A cultural relativist, it seems, cannot criticize the Nazis for beingintolerant, if all they’re doing is following their own moral code.