Re: relativity/ism

Mon, 17 Jan 1994 10:37:44 CST

E. J. Sobo writes,
>A quick question: what is the difference between cultural relativity and
>cultural relativism? which is the correct-er phrase? or is it all context
>specific? Who can set me right?? THANKS, ej.
Not claiming to set anyone right, I suggest that the distinction
might be useful to mark the difference between a state of affairs and
a methodological precept. It is a state of affairs that decapitating
an enemy has a very different significance among headhunting societies
than the "same" act in an industrial society. As a methodological
precept, we try to suspend moral judgments insofar as a judgmental
attitude hinders attempts at scientific understanding of customary
headhunting. These exemplify, respectively, "cultural relativity" and
"cultural relativism." Actually, to the extent that judgmentalism
always hinders a scientific understanding of human behavior, we should
try to suspend it even for "deviant" criminal decapitation in our own
society. Maybe we need a term such as "scientific relativism," of
which "cultural relativism" would be the anthropological kind?
--Bob Graber