Trans-cultural knowledge without evaluation: Ernest Gellner and a Second falsity

Anthony C. Ajah


I argue in this paper that Gellner’s acceptance that everything about the condition of mankind in the 20th Century (and beyond) makes it utterly plain that cognitive relativism is false, was enough ground for him to also agree that moral relativism is false. This is what I mean by a second falsity which Gellner refused to accept as valid. It is not in doubt that cultural relativism is attractive, particularly because of its promise of cultural egalitarianism and an outright rejection of possibilities of trans-cultural evaluation and criticism of cultures and systems of valuation. It is also not in doubt that this rejection is consoling, especially for cultural and valuation systems that had been battered and insulted by slavery and colonialism. Yet, to be consoled that one is unique and thus should not be criticized, is to engage in self-deception. To suspend judgment, on the other hand, because one would like to be regarded as a cultural angel, is also to engage in self-deception on a global scale.

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