1. Definition of multiculturalism:

(a) All cultures are of equal validity, value, significance. No culture can be regarded as superior in any respect to any other.


(b) All judgments of validity, value, significance are made from within a culture, using that culture's concepts and criteria, and

(c) Concepts and criteria from one culture do not apply to other cultures (which lack those, or comparable, concepts and criteria).

2. Argument against (c)

a. consider as examples geometry, surgery, division of labor, military science, birth control, agriculture, environmentalism, the gambler's fallacy - these concepts and criteria can be applied to a culture lacking them

b. consider truth, logic, justification, rationality - these concepts and criteria can be applied to a culture lacking them

c. consider acupuncture, meditation, Japanese corporate practice, African art as additions to western culture

[d. cultures benefit from learning from one another precisely because their concepts and criteria do apply to one another]

e. problems concerning truth, knowledge, rationality etc. are not the result of cultural idiosyncrasy - the same problems would exist even if everyone shared these concepts and criteria

[f. concepts and criteria in our culture serve certain purposes in particular ways; a culture which lacks them will not be able to serve those purposes in those ways]

g. disagreement in applying a concept: acceptable if limited and peripheral; if global

or fundamental then (probably) it is not the same concept (beauty, good, reason)



A. Each person/society/culture has its own truth; there is no universal, objective truth; truth is relative.

B. Relativist's argument: all human opinions are fallible, therefore it is wrong to declare any particular view finally true - all opinions should be expressed and respected.

Refutation: the argument only shows that claims to know the truth are tentative (granted), not that truth is relative. We can respect people and allow free expression of ideas without having to grant equal validity to all ideas, e.g. Holocaust deniers

Arguments against relativism

1. contrasting beliefs will not both yield accurate predictions (earth round/flat)

2. what is the purpose of argument, persuasion and education if the beliefs I have now are already true for me? Or if I don't have beliefs I can choose them arbitrarily

3. is A also relative to person, etc.? If I believe truth is universal and objective, is it so for me? How then can the relativist contradict the absolutist?

Conclusion: A is false or incoherent; our position that truth is objective and universal is the only alternative.



A. Each person/society/culture has its own values; there are no universal, objectively correct values; values are relative

B. Relativist's arguments and replies

1. Mead: different cultures live by different values; therefore no one set of values is objectively correct

Refutation: MERE difference of practice does not PROVE BY ITSELF lack of objectivity - compare difference of belief vs. objective truth

[Refutation: difficult to establish difference of values since concrete value judgments depend on factual beliefs]

2. no particular values have ever been proved objectively correct; therefore no values are objectively correct

&#Refutation: lack of proof does not PROVE BY ITSELF lack of objectivity - compare universe older than five minutes, dreaming, axiom of mathematical induction - [however (claim of) positive refutation would be serious]

3. there is no procedure for establishing particular values as objectively correct; therefore no values are objectively correct

Refutation: lack of procedure does not PROVE BY ITSELF lack of objectivity - compare alchemy->chemistry, present psychology (->??)

Conclusion: A cannot be proved, therefore one is free to believe in absolute values

C. Argument against relativism: ad hominem - rejection of absolute values implies no real moral disputes, no justification of universal human rights, no non-trivial condemnation of Nazis

Conclusion: relativism has a prohibitively high personal price, therefore since we are free to believe is absolute values, we should.