In responding to Barbara Herrnstein Smith's article, “The Chimera of Relativism: A Tragicomedy,” this essay addresses a number of recently published research papers attempting to identify the neuronal correlates of cultural selves. However, underlying these studies of the “cultures of human nature” are some very strong assumptions about the nature of human culture. Current discussions of cultural effects on the brain are therefore not simply about reducing identity to brain states; they also show how a notion of identity is transformed and reconfigured by its relation to a brain domain of knowledge making. Understanding these dynamics, both at a discourse level and at a brain level, this piece suggests, may provide a useful case for a contemporary discussion of relativism.

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