This piece is a response to Barbara Herrnstein Smith's article, “The Chimera of Relativism: A Tragicomedy,” in the Common Knowledge symposium on “comparative relativism.” The theme is complexity—as distinct from simple contrast or binarism of any kind—similarities as well as differences are observed in ancient Chinese and ancient Greek responses to cultural difference; also the significantly different views of these matters among the Greek philosophers. In the same vein, discussing studies of cultural/linguistic variability or counterclaimed universality among humans in color perception, the essay stresses the complexity of such cognitive activities, including the ongoing interactions among the multiple variables presumably involved. Noting the challenge that such intrinsic complexity and inevitable interactivity present to standard dichotomies of universality and cultural relativity, the essay concludes that these and other familiar dualisms have been made obsolete by a century of research in genetics, ethnography, and related empirical disciplines.
G. E. R. Lloyd; MULTIDIMENSIONAL REALITY. Common Knowledge 1 January 2011; 17 (1): 27–30. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2010-031
Download citation file: