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Political Science 3388E Chapter Notes -Cultural Relativism, Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Secondary Source

Political Science
Course Code
Political Science 3388E
James S Quinn

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Donnelley Chapter 6
HR and Cultural Relativism
1. Defining Cultural Relativism
Radical Cultural Relativism- Culture is the sole source of the validity
of a moral right to rule
Radical Universalism- Culture is irrelevant to the (universal) validity
of moral right and rules
Strong Cultural Relativism- Culture is the principal source of the
validity of a right or rue, but other factors may
be a secondary source of validity
Weak Cultural Relativism- culture plays (at most) a secondary role
in validating (Strong Universality) rights and rules
2. Relativity and Universality: A Necessary Tension
If HR are based in human nature, on the fact that one is a human
being, how can HR be relative in any fundamental way? Simple, human
nature is itself relative (Donnelly):
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 types
Human nature is as much a social project as it is a natural given
This would mean that the concept of “human being” would hold
no morally specific significance due to its infinite variability.
Views that deny the existence of a morally significant common
humanity (slavery, caste systems) are almost universally
Radical relativists would respond that consensus is morally
Both radical forms are inappropriate and a intermediate position
should be taken.
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3. Internal Versus External Judgments
Internal Judgment of practice
External Judgment of
Practice Morally Unimportant Morally
Morally Unimportant
Morally Important
Where internal and external judgments conflict, assessing the relative
importance attached to those judgments may be a reasonable place to
start in seeking to resolve them.
Case 1- Morally unimportant both internally and externally
Case 2- Externally unimportant, internally very important
-Best to not press the negative external judgment, this
would be insensitive
Case 3- Externally very important, internally unimportant
-Best opportunity to press for external judgment
Case 4- Important both internally and externally
-Still a good opportunity to press for external judgments
(consider slavery, human sacrifice, female infanticide, …)
Our moral precepts are our moral precepts. They demand our
obedience and to abandon them simply because others reject them is
to fail to give proper weight to our moral beliefs. (external pressures on
internal concepts) {but this goes both ways tension between culture
and universalism}
Case 1 Case 2
Case 3 Case 4
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