8/14/13 Anti-anti-ethnocentrism.

Richard Rorty
Richard Rorty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are all products of our culture, our place in history, our physical and social environment. The accident of where and when we were born and our unique personal history shapes our beliefs and forms our opinions. For those who accept this ethnocentric explanation of the diversity of beliefs that one encounters in the world there are various possible responses. Often the first response is anti-ethnocentrism.

If all beliefs are determined by historical accident then how are we to privilege one belief system or culture over another? Are truth and morality dependent on the context in which they are embedded? If so, then everything is relative. A naïve ethnocentrism is an evil to be resisted. Anti-ethnocentrism leads to relativism and on into nihilism.

Are we stuck then with these two unattractive choices?

Richard Rorty says no. One way to judge world views is to ask whether or not they are aware of ethnocentrism. Do they know that their point of view is not privileged? Are they open to consider, evaluate and choose among a diversity of beliefs? If so they are superior to world views that are naively ethnocentric. Ethnocentric world views that are aware of their ethnocentricity are good, which justifies anti-anti-ethnocentrism and gives us a reasonable third choice.

Wasn’t that fun?


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