Relativism is not a single doctrine but a family of views whose common theme is that some central aspect of experience, thought, evaluation, or even reality is somehow relative to something else. For example standards of justification, moral principles or truth are sometimes said to be relative to language, culture, or biological makeup. Although relativistic lines of thought often lead to very implausible conclusions, there is something seductive about them, and they have captivated a wide range of thinkers from a wide range of traditions.
Relativistic motifs turn up in virtually every area of philosophy. Many versions of descriptive relativism (described below) bear on issues in the philosophy of social science concerning the understanding and interpretation of alien cultures or distant historical epochs. Other versions bear on issues in the philosophy of mind about mental content. Still others bear on issues in the philosophy of science about conceptual change and incommensurability.Relativistic themes have also spilled over into areas outside of philosophy; for example, they play a large role in today's "culture wars." Some strains of ethical relativism (also described below) even pose threats to our standards and practices of evaluation and, through this, to many of our social and legal institutions. And the suggestion that truth or justification are somehow relative would, if correct, have a dramatic impact on the most fundamental issues about objectivity, knowledge, and intellectual progress.
However, essentialism is not the only way of understanding the concept
of “human nature.” An alternative view, now salient in all post-modern
thought and very significant in the biological sciences, is
non-teleological evolution, pioneered by Darwin. When applied to the
study of human beings, an evolutionary view makes no claim for the
rational necessity of human nature, or for its immutability and
timelessness; nor does it claim that an account of human nature will
show that human nature is rationally related to the rest of the
universe. There need also be no requirement that what makes humans
human is some trait that the members of other species entirely lack.
Typically, looking at traits allows one to recognize species, but the
traits that allow us to recognize humans as humans might be found in
some measure in other animals. And ultimately, in an evolutionary
account, what really distinguishes species is not any claim about what
traits characterize the members of the species, but the causal story
that can be told about how the species appeared on the scene and how,
through reproduction, it persist
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