Donnelley CH 6- HR and Cultural Relativism

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Political Science
Political Science 3388E
James S Quinn

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 condemned. • Radical relativists would respond that consensus is morally irrelevant • Both radical forms are inappropriate and a intermediate position should be taken. 3. Internal Versus External Judgments Internal Judgment of practice External Judgment of Practice Morally Unimportant Morally Important Case 1 Case 2 Morally Unimportant Case 3 Case 4 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 -Uninteresting 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} 4. Concepts, Interpretation, Implementation A. Substance or Concept • Core beliefs, general or abstract statements of orienting value. It is rare for a culture to reject a full single right in the UDHR. There is general consensus at the concept level. • Eg. Freedom from arbitrary arrest, slavery, equality before the law are all agreed upon concepts. Freedom of religion is a generally agreed upon concept but interpretation is where the disagreement arises
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