Human Diversity and the Culture Wars: A Philosophical Perspective on Contemporary Cultural Conflict

Human Diversity and the Culture Wars: A Philosophical Perspective on Contemporary Cultural Conflict

Human Diversity and the Culture Wars: A Philosophical Perspective on Contemporary Cultural Conflict

Human Diversity and the Culture Wars: A Philosophical Perspective on Contemporary Cultural Conflict

Synopsis

Raising the war on political correctness to a new and higher intellectual level, Philip Devine sheds fresh light on the whole question of cultural standards and the fashionable notion of multiculturalism. While acknowledging the diversity of ways of life and the differing belief systems that arise from and justify those ways of life, the author attacks the current exploitation of diversity to justify a militantly intolerant relativism. His wide-ranging and erudite work connects cultural issues to our real-world existence as biological and historical beings, pulling together ideas of bioethics, education, and the structure and purpose of families. This work will be of interest to those fighting the culture wars across the humanities and social and behavioral sciences.

Excerpt

I have always been fascinated by the diversity of ways of life and by the differing belief-systems that arise from and justify these ways of life. But I have also been disturbed by the exploitation of diversity to justify a militantly intolerant relativism, which gained strength in American politics after 1972 or 1973 and whose future as I write this is uncertain. My own experience has sustained both my belief in the importance of human diversity and my conviction that the way such diversity is commonly invoked in politics and the academy is more than questionable. the focus of my discussion is the United States, a highly diverse country and the one I know best. But radical diversitarianism is if anything more troubling if one's perspective includes Nova Scotia, Rwanda, and Bangladesh. Even if we imagine replacing the United States with larger or smaller political units (or even with both), the problem of human diversity will not go away and may even be intensified.

During my graduate school years, I was asked to fill out one of many forms by which I identified my "cultural heritage." Having received a decent education in the Western tradition, I included both "Jewish" and "Greek" among my answers, though to my knowledge I have neither Jewish nor Greek ancestors--not, I suspect, what the framers of the questionnaire had in mind. From 1972, when I received my Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, to 1990, when I was appointed to my present position at Providence College, I was a gypsy scholar teaching at a wide variety of colleges and universities. I visited the Harvard Law School during the academic year 1980-1981, and there observed the battle between . . .

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