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DEFINATION OF
CULTURAL
RELATIVISM IN THE
PERSPECTIVE OF
SOCIOLOGY
What is Cultural Relativism?
 According to Khan
Academy(2020) Cultural
Relativism refers to not judging a
culture to our own standards of
what is right or wrong, strange
or normal. Instead we should
try to understand cultural
practices of other groups in its
own context.
In addition to
Cultural Relativism
wrongly claims that
each culture has its
own distinct but
equally valid mode of
perception, thought,
and choice.
 Cultural relativism, the opposite of
the idea that moral truth is
universal and objective, contends
there is no such thing as absolute
right and wrong. There is only right
and wrong as specified by the
moral code of each society. Within
a particular society , a standard of
right and wrong can be inviolate.
Cultural relativism maintains that
man’s opinion within a given
culture defines what is right and
wrong.
Relativism: a Brief History
of an Old Idea
 The English term “
Relativism” came into usage
only in the 19th Century,
John Grote was probably
the first to employ it when
in Exploratio Philosophica
(1865)
 Its German Counterpart,
“Relativismus” has a longer
history. Whilhelm Traugott
Krug, who succeeded Kant
in the University of
Konigsberg in his
philosophical lexicon,
defines it as:
 “ the assumption that
everything which we
experience and think (the
self, the idea of reason,
truth, morality, religion etc.)
is only something relative
and therefore has no
essential endurance and no
universal validity
 Although the term “relativism”
is of recent coinage ,
doctrines and positions, with
some of the hallmarks of
contemporary relativism, date
back to the very beginnings of
Western philosophy.
Protagoras of Abdera (490-420
BC) is often considered the
first overt champion of
relativism, and his dictum:
“ Man (anthropos) is the
measure (metron) of all
things ( Chrematon), of the
things which are, that they
are, and of the things which
are not, that they are not
(ton men onton hos
estiton de me onton hos
ouk estin) ( from Plato’s
According to Plato, Protagoras
thought:
“ Each thing appears to
me, so it is for me, and as
it appears to you, so it is
for you – you and I each
being a man.
Activity 1: “Think – Share – Pair”
 Instruction: think of a certain
action ( e.g. programs / activities /
traditions, and social gathering)
that are being practiced in your
community.
Programs/ Policies
(LGU, BLGU ,
Private Sectors
Traditions Social Gatherings
( Festivals, Fiestas,
Religious, Etc)
1 1 1
2 2 2
3 3 3
5 5 4
5 5 5
Processing Questions:
 1. based on the action that you have
noted in the template, did you find
similarity or difference between the
actions you had observed in your
own community and the actions you
had seen in other community?
 2. would you consider these
actions in your community are
far better that those in other
communities ? Why?
 What is the importance of cultural relativism?
 (Adapted from Michael Kilman, 2017)
Cultural Relativism is one of those topics that is
entirely misunderstood
by many people. Cultural Relativism is a tool, a
suspense of your own personal
viewpoints and cultural bias temporarily to try to
understand the conditions
of a particular cultural practice or problem. If we
want to understand
something (This is especially true of very
contentious things) then we have to
approach it with as fresh and objective a mind as
possible. That doesn’t mean
you can’t have judgments of the topic, but it
means putting those judgments
in check to see things more clearly.
1. Cultural Relativism does not mean
anything a culture or group
of people believe is true
 A good example of this is flat earthers1. Just because someone
believes this to be true, doesn’t make it so. We have endless evidence
against their claims. However, if you wanted to understand how the
flat earthers came to believe this point, you would temporarily put
aside your own views and evidence for a moment and try to examine
their claim from their point of view. This can also be valuable in
debunking some of their claims in the long term. By learning to speak
their ‘language’ we can open lines of communication that are more
productive, and hopefully get them out of their insane beliefs.
2. Cultural Relativism does not mean that
anything a culture does
is good or moral.
 This is one of the ones that confuse people.
Some people might
claim that we can never understand
something because it’s ‘cultural’.
Not so. There are certain beliefs and
practices that are objectively
harmful. But this is where someone, who has
never studied
 anthropology, might not understand that
kinship/marriage patterns
don’t actually contain any real morality
outside of culture. For
example, there is nothing objectively
wrong with a woman practices
polyandry (she has several husbands),
such as is practiced in some
parts of the Himalayas
 Cultural relativism teaches us that, marriage patterns are
cultural options, not objective truth. We can also examine
the history of our own (I am American) cultural
relationships to marriage and see these things have
changed over time. However, it’s pretty easy to say that a
group of people who kill their neighboring tribes for the
purpose of cannibalism is wrong. We can all easily agree
that murder is a bad thing across culture. An
anthropologist in this circumstance would use cultural
relativism (one of the three main aspects of the
anthropological lens) to understand why a tribe engages
in this practice and how it relates to their worldview. An
applied anthropologist would take it one step forward and
perhaps use that cultural knowledge to try and put an end
to the harm that is being
created by the practice.
3. Cultural Relativism doesn’t mean
that cultures can’t be
compared
 There is sometimes a strange notion that there are no
commonalities between cultures. It is true that there are
very few universals across all human experience, but
there are definitely some core things that humans all do,
most of which relate to survival and continuity. But even
in practices that are entirely different, we can find
comparison as a useful tool for understanding ideas and
points of view. But again, cultural relativism is about
putting aside our preconceptions and having an
experience that is less tainted by our past knowledge and
experience. This is especially powerful and useful when
problem solving in other cultures or even our own.
Activity No. 3: “ACCEPTING
THE CHALLENGE”
 Instruction: Take some time to read
below an excerpt from the work of
James Rachels entitled, “The
Challenge of Cultural Relativism”.
After reading the
questions, answer the questions
written below.
What We Can Learn from
Cultural Relativism
James Rachels
 “So far, in discussing Cultural Relativism, I have dwelt mostly on
its shortcomings. I have said that it rests on an unsound
argument, that it has implausible consequences, and that it
suggests greater moral disagreement than exists.This all adds up
to a rejection of the theory. Nevertheless, you may have the
feeling that this is a little unfair.The theory must have something
going for it—why else has it been so influential? In fact, I think
there is something right about Cultural Relativism, and there are
two lessons we should learn from
 First, Cultural Relativism warns us, quite rightly, about the
danger of assuming that all of our practices are based on
some absolute rational standard.They are not. Some of our
customs are merely conventional—merely peculiar to our
society—and it is easy to lose sight of that fact. In reminding
us of this, the theory does us a service. Funerary practices are
one example. The Callatians, according to Herodotus, were
“men who eat their fathers”—a shocking idea, to us at least.
But eating the flesh of the dead could be understood as a sign
of respect. It could be seen as a symbolic act which says, “We
wish this person’s spirit to dwell within us.” Perhaps this is
how the Callatians saw it. On this way of thinking, burying the
dead could be seen as an act of rejection, and burning the
corpse as positively scornful. Of course, the idea of eating
human flesh may repel us, but so what? Our revulsion may be
only a reflection of our society. Cultural Relativism begins
with the insight that many of our practices are like this—they
are only cultural products.Then it goes
 wrong by inferring that, because some practices are
like this, all of them must be.
 The second lesson has to do with keeping an open
mind. As we grow up, we develop strong feelings
about things: We learn to see some types of behavior
as acceptable, and other types as outrageous.
Occasionally, we may find those feelings challenged.
For example, we may have been taught that
homosexuality is immoral, and we may feel
uncomfortable around gay people. But then
someone suggests that this may be prejudice; that
there is nothing wrong with being gay; and that gay
people are just people, like anyone else, who happen
 to be attracted to members of the same sex.
Because we feel so strongly about this, we may
find it hard to take this line of reasoning seriously.
Realizing this can help broaden our minds.We can
see that our feelings are not necessarily
perceptions of the truth— they may be due to
cultural conditioning and nothing more.Thus,
when we hear it suggested that some
element of our social code is not really the best,
and we find ourselves resisting the suggestion, we
might stop and remember this.Then we will be
more open
 to discovering the truth, whatever it might be.We
can understand the appeal of Cultural Relativism,
then, despite its shortcomings. It is an attractive
theory because it is based on a genuine insight:
that many of the practices and attitudes we find
natural are really only cultural products.
Moreover, keeping this thought in mind is
important if we want to avoid arrogance and
remain open to new ideas.These are important
points, not to be taken lightly. But we
can accept them without accepting the whole
theory.”
 Processing questions:

1. What are the things that you had learned?
2. How the article had helped you gain more
insights about the importance
of cultural relativism?
3. Are the things mentioned by James
Rachels are applicable in your life? Or in
your community? Why or why not?

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UCSP-Q2.pptx

  • 1. DEFINATION OF CULTURAL RELATIVISM IN THE PERSPECTIVE OF SOCIOLOGY
  • 2. What is Cultural Relativism?  According to Khan Academy(2020) Cultural Relativism refers to not judging a culture to our own standards of what is right or wrong, strange or normal. Instead we should try to understand cultural practices of other groups in its own context.
  • 3. In addition to Cultural Relativism wrongly claims that each culture has its own distinct but equally valid mode of perception, thought, and choice.
  • 4.  Cultural relativism, the opposite of the idea that moral truth is universal and objective, contends there is no such thing as absolute right and wrong. There is only right and wrong as specified by the moral code of each society. Within a particular society , a standard of right and wrong can be inviolate. Cultural relativism maintains that man’s opinion within a given culture defines what is right and wrong.
  • 5. Relativism: a Brief History of an Old Idea  The English term “ Relativism” came into usage only in the 19th Century, John Grote was probably the first to employ it when in Exploratio Philosophica (1865)
  • 6.  Its German Counterpart, “Relativismus” has a longer history. Whilhelm Traugott Krug, who succeeded Kant in the University of Konigsberg in his philosophical lexicon, defines it as:
  • 7.  “ the assumption that everything which we experience and think (the self, the idea of reason, truth, morality, religion etc.) is only something relative and therefore has no essential endurance and no universal validity
  • 8.  Although the term “relativism” is of recent coinage , doctrines and positions, with some of the hallmarks of contemporary relativism, date back to the very beginnings of Western philosophy. Protagoras of Abdera (490-420 BC) is often considered the first overt champion of relativism, and his dictum:
  • 9. “ Man (anthropos) is the measure (metron) of all things ( Chrematon), of the things which are, that they are, and of the things which are not, that they are not (ton men onton hos estiton de me onton hos ouk estin) ( from Plato’s
  • 10. According to Plato, Protagoras thought: “ Each thing appears to me, so it is for me, and as it appears to you, so it is for you – you and I each being a man.
  • 11. Activity 1: “Think – Share – Pair”  Instruction: think of a certain action ( e.g. programs / activities / traditions, and social gathering) that are being practiced in your community.
  • 12. Programs/ Policies (LGU, BLGU , Private Sectors Traditions Social Gatherings ( Festivals, Fiestas, Religious, Etc) 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 5 5 4 5 5 5
  • 13. Processing Questions:  1. based on the action that you have noted in the template, did you find similarity or difference between the actions you had observed in your own community and the actions you had seen in other community?
  • 14.  2. would you consider these actions in your community are far better that those in other communities ? Why?
  • 15.  What is the importance of cultural relativism?  (Adapted from Michael Kilman, 2017) Cultural Relativism is one of those topics that is entirely misunderstood by many people. Cultural Relativism is a tool, a suspense of your own personal viewpoints and cultural bias temporarily to try to understand the conditions of a particular cultural practice or problem. If we want to understand something (This is especially true of very contentious things) then we have to approach it with as fresh and objective a mind as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have judgments of the topic, but it means putting those judgments in check to see things more clearly.
  • 16. 1. Cultural Relativism does not mean anything a culture or group of people believe is true  A good example of this is flat earthers1. Just because someone believes this to be true, doesn’t make it so. We have endless evidence against their claims. However, if you wanted to understand how the flat earthers came to believe this point, you would temporarily put aside your own views and evidence for a moment and try to examine their claim from their point of view. This can also be valuable in debunking some of their claims in the long term. By learning to speak their ‘language’ we can open lines of communication that are more productive, and hopefully get them out of their insane beliefs.
  • 17. 2. Cultural Relativism does not mean that anything a culture does is good or moral.  This is one of the ones that confuse people. Some people might claim that we can never understand something because it’s ‘cultural’. Not so. There are certain beliefs and practices that are objectively harmful. But this is where someone, who has never studied
  • 18.  anthropology, might not understand that kinship/marriage patterns don’t actually contain any real morality outside of culture. For example, there is nothing objectively wrong with a woman practices polyandry (she has several husbands), such as is practiced in some parts of the Himalayas
  • 19.  Cultural relativism teaches us that, marriage patterns are cultural options, not objective truth. We can also examine the history of our own (I am American) cultural relationships to marriage and see these things have changed over time. However, it’s pretty easy to say that a group of people who kill their neighboring tribes for the purpose of cannibalism is wrong. We can all easily agree that murder is a bad thing across culture. An anthropologist in this circumstance would use cultural relativism (one of the three main aspects of the anthropological lens) to understand why a tribe engages in this practice and how it relates to their worldview. An applied anthropologist would take it one step forward and perhaps use that cultural knowledge to try and put an end to the harm that is being created by the practice.
  • 20. 3. Cultural Relativism doesn’t mean that cultures can’t be compared  There is sometimes a strange notion that there are no commonalities between cultures. It is true that there are very few universals across all human experience, but there are definitely some core things that humans all do, most of which relate to survival and continuity. But even in practices that are entirely different, we can find comparison as a useful tool for understanding ideas and points of view. But again, cultural relativism is about putting aside our preconceptions and having an experience that is less tainted by our past knowledge and experience. This is especially powerful and useful when problem solving in other cultures or even our own.
  • 21. Activity No. 3: “ACCEPTING THE CHALLENGE”  Instruction: Take some time to read below an excerpt from the work of James Rachels entitled, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”. After reading the questions, answer the questions written below.
  • 22. What We Can Learn from Cultural Relativism James Rachels  “So far, in discussing Cultural Relativism, I have dwelt mostly on its shortcomings. I have said that it rests on an unsound argument, that it has implausible consequences, and that it suggests greater moral disagreement than exists.This all adds up to a rejection of the theory. Nevertheless, you may have the feeling that this is a little unfair.The theory must have something going for it—why else has it been so influential? In fact, I think there is something right about Cultural Relativism, and there are two lessons we should learn from
  • 23.  First, Cultural Relativism warns us, quite rightly, about the danger of assuming that all of our practices are based on some absolute rational standard.They are not. Some of our customs are merely conventional—merely peculiar to our society—and it is easy to lose sight of that fact. In reminding us of this, the theory does us a service. Funerary practices are one example. The Callatians, according to Herodotus, were “men who eat their fathers”—a shocking idea, to us at least. But eating the flesh of the dead could be understood as a sign of respect. It could be seen as a symbolic act which says, “We wish this person’s spirit to dwell within us.” Perhaps this is how the Callatians saw it. On this way of thinking, burying the dead could be seen as an act of rejection, and burning the corpse as positively scornful. Of course, the idea of eating human flesh may repel us, but so what? Our revulsion may be only a reflection of our society. Cultural Relativism begins with the insight that many of our practices are like this—they are only cultural products.Then it goes
  • 24.  wrong by inferring that, because some practices are like this, all of them must be.  The second lesson has to do with keeping an open mind. As we grow up, we develop strong feelings about things: We learn to see some types of behavior as acceptable, and other types as outrageous. Occasionally, we may find those feelings challenged. For example, we may have been taught that homosexuality is immoral, and we may feel uncomfortable around gay people. But then someone suggests that this may be prejudice; that there is nothing wrong with being gay; and that gay people are just people, like anyone else, who happen
  • 25.  to be attracted to members of the same sex. Because we feel so strongly about this, we may find it hard to take this line of reasoning seriously. Realizing this can help broaden our minds.We can see that our feelings are not necessarily perceptions of the truth— they may be due to cultural conditioning and nothing more.Thus, when we hear it suggested that some element of our social code is not really the best, and we find ourselves resisting the suggestion, we might stop and remember this.Then we will be more open
  • 26.  to discovering the truth, whatever it might be.We can understand the appeal of Cultural Relativism, then, despite its shortcomings. It is an attractive theory because it is based on a genuine insight: that many of the practices and attitudes we find natural are really only cultural products. Moreover, keeping this thought in mind is important if we want to avoid arrogance and remain open to new ideas.These are important points, not to be taken lightly. But we can accept them without accepting the whole theory.”
  • 27.  Processing questions:  1. What are the things that you had learned? 2. How the article had helped you gain more insights about the importance of cultural relativism? 3. Are the things mentioned by James Rachels are applicable in your life? Or in your community? Why or why not?