[ExI] are all cultures equivalent?

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Sun Apr 12 13:22:37 UTC 2009

On Sat, Apr 11, 2009 at 6:32 PM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:
> What I am asking is about the conflict of two memesets, a full step back
> from the religion notion, and one we discussed here a few years ago.  If the
> entire world is divided into two equal sized groups, one with the memeset
> that all cultures are equivalent, and the other with memeset that their own
> culture is superior to the those who say cultures are equivalent.  In the
> long run, it appears to me the ones who consider their own culture superior
> have a memetic advantage.

Why, this issue is really central in my own reflection.

In fact, I think that the idea that values and cultural norms and POVs
would exist which are "objectively superior" is really too discredited
in genealogical, philosophical and consequentialist terms to deserve
much further discussion.

"God is dead", at least in the West, and we know by now well enough
the details of its birth and of its not-too-edifying biography. Its
"universal" claims are automatically disproved by the identification
of specific roots of that very idea, which are not, btw, European, but
biblical - which explains why "my truth is the Truth" is a meme
equally shared by the christian, jewish and muslim legacy. Moreover,
the same goes with its replacement with secular avatars: "As the
archeology of thought easily shows, Man is an invention of recent
date. And one perhaps nearing its end... like a face drawn in sand at
the edge of the sea" (Michel Foucault).

On the other hand, the concept of an "equivalence" of different
cultures is IMHO still not "relativistic" enough, as it still posits
the existence of a common measure by which a value judgment (in that
case, a judgment of equivalence) can be based. And it is not really
compatible with the empirical fact of most people's preference for
their own...

What should be said is instead that "every culture is superior - from
its own point of view". In other words, if there is no absolute terms
of reference, we cannot avoid founding our own value judgments on a
relative value system - our own.

Recognising the relativity of the same does not imply in the least
that we would be "weaker" in defending it. In fact, in historical
terms, most cultures and communities were born, flourished, resisted
aggression, fought, and died without ever any idea of incarnating any
"universal  truth", "objective justice" or a "superior exemple for

One may wonder in this respect whether abolishing the conceit of
"superiority" would change anything, since those who do not know or
care about it can adopt exactly the same behaviours, by taking the
relative as absolute.

Well, I should say that a big difference nevertheless exists.

In fact, while cultural relativism does not guarantee any kind of
mythical "golden age" peace, and Darwinian mechanisms amongst cultures
and peoples obviously remain in place, a "relativistic" cultural
attitude, which I maintain to be the "normal" state of things, at
least does not necessarily imply that different cultural norms are
morally intolerable, that those who do not share my own point of view
must be at all cost shown "the error of their ways", and that an
ethical duty exists to save the Others from themselves, possibly
killing them in the process, unless and until they recognise my own

Even from a "humanistic" angle, this dividend should not be neglected.

In addition, this seems the only attitude ultimately  compatible with
the opinion that sees diversity as the fundamental wealth of our
species, and its futher, "extropic" and plural, increase and evolution
as a goal per se.

Stefano Vaj

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