Cultural relativism is the purest form of this skepticism about understanding across cultures. Much as Descartes posited privileged access to one’s own mind, at the cost of access to the minds of others, cultural relativism posits privileged access to one’s own culture, at the cost of access to the cultures of others. Co-culturalists are supposed to understand one another in ways that people from other cultures simply cannot. Acculturation has caused them to share a unique set of beliefs, claims, intentions, norms, values, and concepts — ‘commitments’ as we use this blanket term hereafter. 1 Having all of the same commitments grants them access to each other’s reasons, enabling interpretation and critique. The uniqueness of what they share denies such access to outsiders. To share a culture, on this account, is thus to share a perspective on the world, to see things in the same way. Relativism, simply put, is the view that cultural boundaries circumscribe the
space of reasons — the normative realm where people make sense of, and justify themselves to, one another. Rational access to other people must then be constrained by contingent facts about the way we are brought up.