Saturday, January 14, 2023

an argument against strong identity politics

Only aboriginal people know what is best for aboriginal people? Is that what The Voice is about? But in a cosmopolitan society normal people are both free and often want to learn interesting stuff from other cultures.

The argument from strong cultural relativism goes something like this. Culture refers to the collective identity of a group. This culture in turn determines the identity of the individuals in that group. There is a special moral value in my culture, it determines my true, essential, authentic identity. There is an essential link between my culture and my identify. You are not allowed to criticise any aspect of my culture, even if you find some aspects repugnant (eg. the right of a man to beat his partner) because that is criticising my essential identify.

This is a quasi biological argument, that my capabilities are an extension of the culture I was born into. To make a fetish of culture can lead to white racism at one pole and indigenous separatism at the other pole.

From within this framework what can we learn from other cultures in such a world? My culture determines me. Your culture determines you. The next step in the argument is incoherent: My culture can teach your culture valuable lessons. Refer Moody Adams, pp. 215-6. Strong cultural relativism leads to separate development.

Another problem with strong cultural relativism is that it doesn't explain, given that culture is dynamic and can change (which nearly everyone agrees with) , why it is so important? Why is it so important given that it can be changed? Why not just work to change the culture?

Moody-Adams, Michele M. Fieldwork in Familiar Places: Morality, Culture and Philosophy (1997)

No comments: