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Various Civilizations, Essay Example

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Essay

When people claim that Western Civilizations are the height of cultural evolution, they are being ethnocentric, a characteristic that is not only exhibited with respect to people’s cultures, but also to themselves, their possessions, their kin folk, their ways of doing things and so forth.  While many people claim that Western Civilizations are the best, inhabitants of many other civilizations also believe that theirs are the best.  So how does someone decide whose claims are true? Do objective standards exist by which civilizations can be assessed?

Rachels says that “If we assume that our ideas of right and wrong will be shared by all peoples at all times,” we are merely naive…’different cultures have different moral codes’.”  To be able to say who is right and who is wrong, one would need to “have an independent standard of right and wrong by which they may be judged.  But there is no such a standard;  every standard is culture bound…Cultural relativism challenges our ordinary belief in the objectivity and universality of moral truth” (ibid.).  Consequently, no civilization can say that it has reached the highest level of cultural evolution.  If it does, it, basically, invites disputes of varying intensities.  Furthermore, since cultural evolution is considered to be achieving change when humans adapt to some non-cultural stimulus; such as, population growth, the evolution would be different for various civilizations because they would not all have the same evolutionary desires.  Small islands, such as Tuvalu, definitely do not want population growth

It should, however, be noted that ethnocentrism has some positive aspects to it as well, the chief one being loyalty, which results in citizens willingly promoting and defending their city, state, country, family, neighbors, hospitals, schools, and laws. In so doing, tact is, however, of the essence.

References

Rachels, J.  The Challenges of Cultural Relativism. Adapted from The elements of moral philosophy by James Rachels, Chapter 2, pp. 15 – 29, 1999, by

McGraw-Hill, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.  Retrieved on November 22, 2012, from http://faculty.uca.edu/movy,Rachels–Cultural%2OR.

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