Thematic values and universal norms

by Paul Deats

Institution: Boston University
Year: 1954
Keywords: Philosophical anthropology; Anthropology
Record ID: 1550020
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2144/9047


The category of purpose is held to be the most significant clue to the nature of cultural institutions. Patterns are understood and judged in terms of what a people is trying to do, not in isolated acts but in a total way of life. The category of purpose enables the comparison of cultures, but they must be evaluated in terms of a norm. The norm to which anthropological evidence points is personality (personality-in-community-made-possible-by-culture). The implicit appeal of anthropologists, even in arguing for relativism, is to a norm and also to a criterion of coherence, verified not by appeal to another criterion but by its use. The function of universal norms (themselves judged by the norm of personality) is the resolution of conflicts, as indicated in the following conclusions: l. Thematic values point to purposes common to all men and all human societies which require adequate instrumentation if the society is to remain viable and if its members are to realize their full potentialities as human beings. 2. These purposes do not have to be instrumented in just way, nor can they be instrumented in just any way, but there are objectively given limits within which instrumentation must be accomplished. 3. Thus the values and norms of a culture are relative not only to the background and conditions of that culture but also to a universal ground and human nature, postulated and progressively discovered through the norm of personality and the criterion of coherence. 4. It is to this norm of personality that appeal ought to be and often is made in resolving value conflicts within the experience of a single person, or between members of a single society, or in proposing or opposing change in a culture. 5. Values and norms are comparable across cultures as they are within cultures, and it is by appeal to the norm of personality that value conflicts between cultures (or between members of different cultures) can, in principle, be resolved. The work of the anthropologist first assumes and then progressively makes possible the discovery of universal norms and the achievement of an inclusive community. [TRUNCATED]