Cultural Relativism Essay Questions

He mentions an anecdote of Darius the Great who illustrated the principle by inquiring about the funeral customs of the Greeks and the Callatiae, peoples from the extreme western and eastern fringes of his empire, respectively.If anyone, no matter who, were given the opportunity of choosing from amongst all the nations in the world the set of beliefs which he thought best, he would inevitably—after careful considerations of their relative merits—choose that of his own country.Everyone without exception believes his own native customs, and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best; and that being so, it is unlikely that anyone but a madman would mock at such things.Although Kant considered these mediating structures universal, his student Johann Gottfried Herder argued that human creativity, evidenced by the great variety in national cultures, revealed that human experience was mediated not only by universal structures, but by particular cultural structures as well.The philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt called for an anthropology that would synthesize Kant and Herder's ideas.Boas believed that the sweep of cultures, to be found in connection with any sub species, is so vast and pervasive that there cannot be a relationship between culture and race.Cultural relativism involves specific epistemological and methodological claims.Cultural relativism was in part a response to Western ethnocentrism.Ethnocentrism may take obvious forms, in which one consciously believes that one's people's arts are the most beautiful, values the most virtuous, and beliefs the most truthful.The principle of cultural relativism thus forced anthropologists to develop innovative methods and heuristic strategies.Between World War I and World War II, "cultural relativism" was the central tool for American anthropologists in this rejection of Western claims to universality, and salvage of non-Western cultures.

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