Cultural Relativism: Why Groups Should Have Rights Based On Their Culture

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From what I have seen so far, people arguing for either cultural relativism, or universalism will inevitably ignore some information or another that contests their position. Jack Donnelly describes where both views are contested by distinguishing between radical, strong, and weak versions of each of the two positions. Believing in radical universalism would be believing that culture has NO bearing on how people should act or respond to conflict, while strong universalism would allow culture some role in how conflicts are resolved, and so on, ending with radical cultural relativism on the other side of the spectrum. This spectrum is useful to us because it allows us to see where distinctions are made between what must be universal and what…show more content…
This obviously doesn't make anyone a cultural relativist, but people based their positions on a specific case where universal values would have been in tension with a particular culture. It took us working out our questions on a case by case basis to think further about how much weight these positions should have. Since any position in the middle of the spectrum requires discrimination and specificity regarding what is universal and/or relative, case studies are necessary to to uncover these positions. The class seemed reluctant to make these distinctions, as if they were already obvious(I only heard two claims expressing skepticism of group rights when we were asked if they should exist). However, when we began to discuss case studies in small groups, the question was shifted away from asking “Should groups have their own rights?” or “Are human rights universal or relative?” in the broadest theoretical sense to specific human rights dilemmas. This gave us the ground to respond to each other's claims on the same terms. We would have had a difficult time responding to any claims made between cases. Once we knew those cases however, it was easy to think through the dilemmas in a constructive manner. I learned a lot more about cultural relativism through those case studies and how they compared than I did reading arguments for and against cultural relativism. We could make the distinctions between what could have been universal and what could not based on our experiences in our own culture(s) and that of the cases
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