Debate Info

For the Motion Against the Motion
Debate Score:37
Total Votes:39
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Argument Ratio

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 For the Motion (10)
 Against the Motion (15)

Debate Creator

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Cultural Relativism is Dangerous

For the Motion

Side Score: 12

Against the Motion

Side Score: 25
1 point

Hello x:

What IS that? Is it when I eat Mexican food, and speak Spanish to the waitress? Is it when I say hello to my Muslim neighbor instead of telling him to get fucked?? Is it when I see my black friends, and say, waaasssss up, dude? Is it when I think my gay friends ought to get the same rights I have???

Clearly, I don't know what it is.. I'm sure it's much less complicated than I've outlined..


Side: For the Motion
marcusmoon(515) Clarified
1 point

Hello, Excon.

According to what I was taught decades ago in Cultural Anthropology 101, it is understanding and judging a culture according to its own values and assumptions.

The idea is based on the observation that there is no universal standard. All our ideas (about right, wrong, polite, rude, sensible, foolish, obvious, etc.) are culturally taught. If we apply our values and assumptions to a different culture, we are likely to make the following "errors"

- misunderstand social cues and relationships.

- misunderstand the experience of people who live within the culture.

- judge or evaluate the people or practices in the culture "unfairly" (more positively or negatively than people in the culture would.)

- have unrealistic expectations of behavior and events.

- think we and our culture are better than people in other cultures think we are.

I am sure you can see it has very limited applications, but the most important one is not behaving like an ass when traveling abroad.

Side: For the Motion
excon(8021) Clarified
1 point

the most important one is not behaving like an ass when traveling abroad.

Hello again, marcus:

Then it IS eating Mexican food and speaking Spanish.. I jest, of course, but only a little bit.. After all, I learned to love Mexican food and speak Spanish when I IMMERSED myself into the Mexican culture..

Admittedly, much of that immersion was forced upon me when the chief of police discovered a couple hundred pounds of pot in my airplane, but I went with it. So, if you wanna get immersed, that's the way to do it..

It sounds a lot worse than it actually was. One of their cultural norms that WE should adopt, is that they don't think it's their job to make their prisoners lives miserable.. It's their job to KEEP them there. However they want to live while in jail is up to them.. So, if you can afford it, you eat well, you smoke the BEST pot, and you screw the prettiest girls..

In terms of corrections, they're sooo far behind us, they're WAY ahead. I wrote a book about it..


PS> Lest anyone think the girls I refer to aren't really girls, think again.. If a prisoner is from outta town, when his family visits, they move right INTO the jail for a few days.. Your visitors can spend the night if they wish.. Suffice to say, the jail was full of women, and children all the time.

Like I said, they're SOOOO far behind us, they're WAYYY ahead..

Side: For the Motion
Amarel(3619) Clarified
1 point

Is it when I see my black friends, and say, waaasssss up

Do you really do that?

Side: For the Motion
excon(8021) Disputed
1 point

Hello A:

I do.. Why wouldn't I? I say that to everybody. I also call 'em Dude. You DO notice that I call lots of people Dude, don't you? Do you think it's disrespectful? As I said, these are my FRIENDS.. They're NOT casual acquaintances.. I'm REAL with my friends. They're not gang bangers after all..


Side: Against the Motion
2 points

Cultural relativism is just an idea, a way to think. Ideas, like hammers, are only dangerous when people use them without thinking, apply them to problems they are ill suited to, or use them to do stupid or dangerous things.

Like most ideas, it is subject to people's tendency to syncretize it with other ideas, or to apply it selectively.

For example, applying the principles of cultural relativism is invaluable when marketing products. Not only does it help the company to shape the product to the needs and strategies of the particular market, but it enables the marketers to communicate about the product in terms that are meaningful to the consumers in that market.

By contrast, cultural relativism is useless when evaluating a treaty to decide whether to participate in it. Evaluating and validating a culture according to its own values cannot tell you whether your needs will be met by the terms of the treaty. The other culture's concepts of right and wrong do not change what your requirements are.

Side: Against the Motion
2 points

Great post. I agree 100% and appropriate the tool analogy.

One of the ways in which cultural relativity is misused is in moral arguments as merely an aspect of moral relativism. When used in this way, all cultures are presumed good by virtue of the fact that they are cultures. They must be good in their own terms or they would not persist as culture. When used this way, it is a tool used to paint an opponent as a bigot or a racist. I find that people misusing cultural relativism in this way can be corrected by pointing out that the Nazis had their own culture. Though it is only occasional that this makes people receptive to perspectives concerning matters such as a culture of poverty in inner cities and rural slums.

Side: Against the Motion
Jace(4669) Clarified
1 point

Do you mean that it's a misapplication of cultural relativism to (a) observe that morality is relative to culture; or (b) thereby conclude that we have to respect other cultures' values at the expense of our own? If you mean the latter then I'd agree that's over-extended from cultural relativism, and not very defensible either. Otherwise, I'd disagree

Side: For the Motion
1 point

When used in this way, all cultures are presumed good by virtue of the fact that they are cultures. They must be good in their own terms or they would not persist as culture. When used this way, it is a tool used to paint an opponent as a bigot or a racist.

That is an obvious misuse of the tool. The point of the cultural relativism is to suspend assumptions in order to aid in understanding, not to invalidate judgments or evaluations.

What is ironic about this argument strategy is that it does not deal with the culture of the opponent (the one painted as a bigot/racist) in terms of cultural relativism.

The general tendency in this argument strategy is automatic invalidation of one's own culture in the face of a different culture. Because cultural relativism is a product/aspect of Western/Euro-American culture, other cultures cannot be required to apply the same principle when dealing with other cultures, including Western culture.

The problem many people have is that cultural relativism is useless when making evaluations of a culture, because when applied to any culture, the culture is automatically "good".

No evaluation can be conducted without a rubric of some sort, whether explicit or implied. For example, evaluation for technological innovation will rate some cultures higher/better than they would be rated if the standard were continuance of traditions, or linguistic stability and continuity.

Side: Against the Motion
1 point


Another thought:

I keep waiting for the folks who demand cultural relativism across contemporary cultures to apply the principle across time.

The Antebellum agrarian culture of the Southern states was different than that of modern urban Northern states.

What happens when a privileged liberal Harvard or Yale ethnic studies grad applies cultural relativism to white slave-owners like Thomas Jefferson or Robert E. Lee?

Side: Against the Motion
Nomenclature(1296) Disputed Banned
1 point

Great post. I agree 100% and appropriate the tool analogy.

It's a "great post" because you are exact same person using two different accounts you deceitful scumbag.

Also, the correct word is "appreciate", not "appropriate". I told you over a week ago to stop using Google Translate, but you just never listen.

Side: For the Motion
1 point

It depends on what you mean by dangerous: it certainly can cause people to suspend judgement on harmful activity and as a result not take action to prevent such activities.

Cultural relativism is usually used to better understand the motivations and actions of individuals in other cultures, however it is often misapplied to attempt to prevent evaluations of the relative merit of cultures and their practices. If we can make relative merit judgements on certain practices of a culture, such as female genital mutilation or slavery, why is it not possible to make a relative merit judgement of a culture as a whole?

Side: Against the Motion
1 point

The only thing more dangerous than cultural relativism is cultural indifference. Because it's indifference that allows people to kill and screw the hell out of each other without being deterred by empathy or guilt.

Side: Against the Motion