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Midgley, Mary. Trying Out One's New Sword
1981, Heart and Mind: The Varieties of Moral Experience. London: The Harvester Press Ltd., 69-75
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Daniel Weltman

Abstract: All of us are, more or less, in trouble today about trying to understand cultures strange to us. We hear constantly of alien customs. We see changes in our lifetime which would have astonished our parents. I want to discuss here one very short way of dealing with this difficulty, a drastic way which many people now theoretically favour. It consists in simply denying that we can ever understand any culture except our own well enough to make judgements about it. Those who recommend this hold that the world is sharply divided into separate societies, sealed units, each with its own system of thought. They feel that the respect and tolerance due from one system to another forbids us ever to take up a critical position to any other culture. Moral judgement, they suggest, is a kind of coinage valid only in its country of origin.


Midgley describes and attempts to refute cultural relativism, the view that we should not morally judge other cultures. She uses clear examples, writes in a straightforward manner, and makes her points concisely.

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