From relativism to self-destruction Print
By David Carlin   
Wednesday, 16 November 2011

In a rapidly shrinking world made up of hundreds of cultures, international peace depends on international understanding; and international understanding is impossible, say the cultural relativists, so long as ethnocentrism prevails – so long, that is, as people insist on using their own culture-specific standards to judge people who live by other standards. If only we would all embrace the cultural-relativist point of view, thin what happy results would follow. We would all understand one another and abstain from passing negative judgments on one another. This is the high road to world peace.

Strictly speaking, of course, the relativists should have abstained from proposing any moral principles, even mutual tolerance. Instead, they said in essence, “The one absolute rule of morality is that we should never believe there are absolute rules of morality.” In other words, their moral recommendation that we all become cultural relativists self-destructs. In fairness to cultural relativists, though, it should be noted that theirs is not the first school of thought to fall into this contradiction; it has been common to almost everyone who has taken the trouble to offer a theoretical defense for either limited or wholesale skepticism.