Cultural Relativism

Mon, 9 May 1994 13:16:00 PDT

McCreery nicely points out with an example that empowered/powerless is not
adequate and adds beneficial/not-beneficial. Undoubtedly an example will
now be found that shows this distinction to be inadequate, if only because of
the difficulty of deciding what is beneficial and not-beneficial. THe
comment by Rindos in his discussion of fitness versus adaptation, namely
that adaptation is a judgement whereas fitness can be measured, seems to be
applicable here. "Beneficial" is a judgement call, not something that can
be measured, which contrasts with empowered which at least can
be measured (even if roughly).

In both cases (adaptation and beneficial) we seem to
get caught in the quagmire of wanting to ascribe value judgements to
phenomena (ADAPTIVE traits are good; BENEFICIAL "coercion" is good) but
without an objective basis for so doing. Objective justification seems to
require first principles and outside of religious claims there are no
exogenous first principles, hence any moral stance is subject to challenge
on the grounds that the presumed first principles are also subject to
challenge. We seem to be left with something like, to extend Moffatt's
comment on female infibulation: As a cultural being, I am going to
make value/moral judgements which I may want to enforce and not because I can
rationally defend them against all attack but because I am a cultural being
and for that reason alone I believe in the correctness of my first principles
and their implication for taking action.

D. Read