Ariadne's Thread on Ethical Relativism
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Cultural Relativism

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Ayesha Speaking
I have some thoughts on this to help us get started.  

As an anthropology major I have read some of the great anthropologists. I'm thinking of Franz Boas and his students Ruth Benedict and Melville Herskovits. All of them argued against the idea that race was a way to explain history and culture. Black Americans owe a lot to these guys. And, by the way, I say 'guys' but some of Boas' most important students were women.

They did more than argue against the use of race as an explanation in anthropology. They were also impressed by the diversity of moral codes around the world. Each culture is different and has its own value for the people of that culture. Herskovits believed that none of these codes was superior to the others. Therefore, outsiders should not impose their own code on other cultures. Herskovits called this 'cultural relativism.'

So I say we should continue to think the way we do about polygamy but not judge west Africa and not seek to impose our moral views on them.


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