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Lecture 6

Readings Week 6: Donnelly

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Political Science
Political Science 3388E
Jennifer Mustapha

Readings Week 6 Donnelly HUMAN RIGTHS AND CULTURAL RELATIVISM y The doctrine of cultural relativism holds that some such variations cant be legitimately criticized by outsiders y Culture poses only a modest challenge to the contemporary normative universality of human rights 1 DEFINING CULTURAL RELATIVISM y When internal and external judgements of a practise diverge cultural relativists give priority to the internal judgements of a society y Radical universalism by contrast would hold that culture is irrelevant to the validity of moral rights and rules y Strong cultural relativism holds that culture is the principle source of the validity of a basic right or rule y Weak cultural relativism which might also be called strong universalism considers a secondary source of the validity of a right or rule Universality is initially presumed y Weak cultural relativism recognized a comprehensive set of prima facie universal human rights but allows limited local variations 2 RELATIVITY AND UNIVERSALITY A NECESSARY TENSION y Radical universalism requires a rigid hierarchal ordering of the multiple moral communities to which we belong y Would give absolute priority to the demands of the cosmopolitan moral community over other communities y Human nature is itself relative y Culture can significantly influence the presence and expression of many aspects of human nature by encouraging or discouraging the development or perpetuation of certain personality traits and typesy The radical relativist response that consensus is morally irrelevant is logically impeccabley Plausible arguments can be advanced to justify alternative mechanisms to guarantee human dignity y The relative technological and administrative weakness of traditional political institutions further retrained abuses of power y Human rights seem necessary rather than rational Radical or unrestricted relativism thus is as inappropriate as radical universalism Some kind of intermediate position is required
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