Ruth Benedict: "Anthropology and the Abnormal"

I. Normality/Abnormality of Behavior is Largely Culturally Determined 

Example of Dobuans: Behavior that is crazy according to their culture is morally praiseworthy according to ours.

Example of Kwakiutl: Behavior normal/acceptable/morally permissible according to their culture is abnormal/unacceptable/morally impermissible according to our culture.

II. How Normality/Abnormality of Behavior Gets Determined

"Normality, in short, within a very wide range, is culturally defined. It is primarily a term for the socially elaborated segment of human behavior in any culture; and abnormality, a term for the segment that [a] particular civilization does not use" (73).

III. Normality and Morality

"We do not any longer make the mistake of deriving the morality of our locality and decade directly from the inevitable constitution of human nature. We do not elevate it to the dignity of a first principle. We recognize that morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits. Mankind has always preferred to say, "It is morally good," rather than "It is habitual" . . . but historically these two phrases are synonymous. The concept of the normal is properly a variant of the concept of the good. It is that which society has approved" (73).

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