Tuesday, August 7, 2018


Cultural Relativism and Environmental Ethics
International Union for the Conservation of Nature
Working Group Report No 5

Freya Mathews

The fact of cultural difference in respect of moral attitudes to the environment is, I believe, the central meta-ethical problematic... This is a hard assertion to defend in the present post-colonial climate... in many respects the traditional belief systems of the West are simply wrong...

The insistence on cultural relativism prevents us from recognizing ...  local and concrete realities, and the ethical attitudes appropriate to them,will also need to be revised if they in their turn are to become adequate to these more qualitative dimensions of the world. 

In mutually revising our cultures in light of the ontological discoveries that cultural interchange has made possible...  various kinds of unprecedented crisis... demand... new cultural initiatives and deviations from traditional values and practices.

There is also a new, as yet shadowy, dimension of our identity - a transnational, transcultural, ecological dimension - which is at this very moment in process of formation. It is this exciting new aspect of our identity which will, more than anything else, I think, create the possibility of a fertile though pluralistic ethical consensus rather than a sterile relativistic stalemate.