The Individual And The Patterns Of Culture Essay

The Individual And The Patterns Of Culture Essay

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Should I help this old woman who’s struggling to cross the street? Our lives are the embodiment of the phrase “to be or not to be.” We are constantly faced with decisions at every turn and these choices shape our lives and our lifestyles. At this level of thinking, there can be a notion of right and wrong. The “right” thing to do in the question I provided, as many have voiced in their heads, is to help the woman cross the street. But could it be that in a different culture, the right thing to do would be to disregard or even maim her? In “The Individual and the Patterns of Culture,” Ruth Benedict, a renowned anthropologist, would say that there could exist such a culture. She’d inject her method of cultural relativism and advise that every individual be judged only in the context of their culture. Therefore, if another culture doesn’t value helping the elderly then there couldn’t possibly exist a universal right and wrong. Steven Pinker’s lecture on human nature and the blank slate suggests otherwise. He proposes that the human mind is structured in part by its culture but has a foundation in biology. Our biology can explain why we have so many human universals ranging from weapons, the color white, and age statuses. The core of Pinker’s and Benedict’s argument relies on the pertinence of human universals.
Ruth Benedict leans toward nurture when confronted with the age old question of “why do people do what they do?” According to Benedict, “The richest musical sensitivity can operate only within the equipment and standards of its tradition” (113). Benedict doesn’t dismiss the idea that humans are born with innate traits. Her main point, however, is that ultimately it is our culture that provides us with tools so we can bring thos...


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...ndians. The main problem I encountered when applying cultural relativism is that it inhibits our ability to critique other societies. One can’t be completely objective when confronted with Nazi Germany’s crimes or past occurrences of slavery in America. Although culture is important, it doesn’t quite carry as much pertinence as Benedict assumed. The concept of “right and wrong” exists. It’s just that cultures interpret them differently. Benedict maintains that “the range of normality in different cultures does not coincide” (119). This would mean all cultures are unique. Sure, Chinese and American cultures are different. All culture, however, is the same on a fundamental level. One culture may value Christianity and another may value Buddhism, but there’s no denying that both cultures worship some higher being. Consequently, moral sense is universal across cultures.

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The Individual And The Patterns Of Culture Essay

- Should I help this old woman who’s struggling to cross the street. Our lives are the embodiment of the phrase “to be or not to be.” We are constantly faced with decisions at every turn and these choices shape our lives and our lifestyles. At this level of thinking, there can be a notion of right and wrong. The “right” thing to do in the question I provided, as many have voiced in their heads, is to help the woman cross the street. But could it be that in a different culture, the right thing to do would be to disregard or even maim her....   [tags: Culture, Anthropology, Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict]

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