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In the blogs, 9/9/08

Here are some interesting things happening in the blogs today, September 9. The topic was cultural relativism.

  • Several blogs made some helpful clarifications and asked some great questions about just what CR means:
    • Stacey K. (6:30) gives a nice characterization of the anti-CR position
    • And James L’s comment on Mark C. (4:30) is a hard-nosed cultural relativist response.
    • Amanda B. comments on Tori K. (4:30), wondering whether accepting CR automatically means that one cannot want to change or improve one’s culture. Eric M. (6:30) asks a similar question, using the example of the Protestant Reformation
    • Aja J. (6:30) and her commenters made me wonder to what extent moral objectivism requires one culture not merely to pass judgment on another culture but to actually step in; something similar is happening in Jonathan R. (6:30)
  • A couple students gave very persuasive sounding defenses of CR, but it seemed to me that the examples they chose were more about aesthetic disagreement than moral disagreement. Is there an important difference?
    • Becca W. (4:30) talks about neck stretching in Africa
    • Aaron B. (4:30) draws attention to the blurry line between moral and aesthetic questions
    • Neha G. (6:30) considers how different cultures look at female beauty
    • Tom M. (6:30) thinks about whether we should eat fish on Christmas Eve
  • Many of you chose examples where there seems to be disagreement even within a given culture:
    • Hannah K., commenting on Justin B. (4:30) questions just how good the Nazi example is
    • Tyler B. (4:30) and Matthew P. (6:30), among others, consider abortion
    • Peter C. (4:30) thinks about health care
    • Matt F. (6:30) talks about the Israel/Palestine question, reminding me how there can only be one solution to the problem
    • Nicholas A. (6:30) discusses homophobia in Jamaica, and Shereida gives her own experience
    • Waqar O. discusses FGM
  • Finally, Amanda O.’s comment on Rich R. (4:30/6:30) presents a novel reason for doubting the cultural relativist connection between moral beliefs and moral truth: namely, the susceptibility of people – even large groups of people – to radically false belief through techniques like brainwashing and propaganda.
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