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« Values (4) Social Science Definitions | Main | Values (6) Cultural Relativism »

January 25, 2005


I apologize for not putting the page references in my citation of Heidegger, Being and Time (trans. Macquarrie & Robinson). References are to the pagination of the later German editions, per M&R's index. H. begins, "The Worldhood of the World," H63-66, distinguishing things of the world and things invested with value (worth - wert); this is Lotze's distinction (Microcosmus), that is to say, feelings. Then he goes to argue that we have no access to things of nature. The world in which Dasein dwells (Dasein is being-in-the-world) are things invested with value. Then H launches into his depiction of environmentality, which is things closest to hand. "Close to hand" and "ready to hand" are values (feelings). See also H69. Heidegger's discussion of how the world is encountered (how things are let be ready to hand) relies upon the concept of signs. A sign is a value or worth (Lotze: feeling). See H79-80. H's discussion of appropriation (encountering things within an already established interpretation) relies upon the concept of fore-sight. Foresight is a value. H150. The concept of value appears in the key discussion of guilt; "they" are a value. H287.

Heidegger was one source of cultural relativism, though one might not give his philosophy that tag. For some readers, perhaps, it helps to make H's philosophy not seem subjective (which he would deny) to think of Dasein's world as a group world of values shared by others. In the first half of the 20th century, many secular European and American thinkers moved to a philosophical stance (ideology?) of cultural relativism. In the U.S., Boas and his students in anthropology were a popular source of scientific cultural relativism; but I do not think they were the main inspiration for the cultural relativism in post-modernism, post-structuralist thought after 1960. The source of that was existentialism, specifically Heidegger and Sartre, which influenced literature and criticism.

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