relativism in intro courses

Eric Silverman (ERICS@DEPAUW.EDU)
Sat, 23 Apr 1994 15:03:12 -0500

I, too, teach the distinction between cultural/methodological relativism
and ethical relativism. However, many students then ask me repeatedly
during the semester how you can make moral judgements given cultural
relativism. And the fact is, most, if not ALL, intro textbooks that I
have seen ignore this issue completely. Just take a quick look in the
intro texts that are likely sitting around your office. The almost always
make the distinction between the two types of relativism, but provide no
advice, hints, examples of how you can go about making moral decisions in
order to participate in social life and the world.

My question: what are some insightful books that deal with this issue, and
are suitable for intro courses?

Given that, in order to act, we must make moral choices and evaluation, how
do we do so wihtout violating cultural relativism? A nice intro-level
book that explores this issue is badly needed!

Oh, any appeal to so-called human rights is VERY problematic, because it
assumes that people everywhere, regardless of their social role, have some
sort of intrinsic "humanness" that confers univesal rights. But this premise
only makes sense with a particular view of personhood and the self. (see
Shweder and Bourne, Does the Concept of the Person Vary Cross-Culturally,
IN Culture theory, Shweder and LeVine, eds., 1984; see esp. pp. 188-92).

Eric Silverman
DePauw University
Greencastle, IN 46135