I am studying moral philosophy and I wish to learn who was the first to posit the above quote, preferably in similar wording as above.

  • according to google, it was quizlet. the first cultural relativist?
    – user47711
    Sep 9, 2020 at 9:06
  • actually, i think you. :D
    – user47711
    Sep 9, 2020 at 9:14
  • If you wish to study moral philosophy you should look deeper than the origin of formulaic quotes on midterm flashcards posted online. On historical background of moral relativism see SEP. Protagoras's quote ""Man is the measure of all things, of the things that are, that they are, and of the things that are not, that they are not" is often seen as one of the earliest expressions.
    – Conifold
    Sep 9, 2020 at 19:26
  • @Conifold Actually I am trying to determine if someone plagiarized that phrase(among others) in his Phd thesis
    – MAA
    Sep 10, 2020 at 20:18
  • 1
    If they copied it from flashcards to their dissertation without attribution (and they should really use a more credible source than online flashcards) then yes, it is plagiarism. But such issues should be asked about on Academia SE, not here.
    – Conifold
    Sep 10, 2020 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


To be sure, some of the intuitions underlying cultural relativism were around in various forms well before Herder. The most famous doctrine of the Ancient Greek Sophist Protagoras — the great foil in Socrates’ and Plato’s search for universal truths — is that “man is the measure of all things,” but the focus of Protagoras’ relativism was not culture, but rather, the possibility of truth as such. Herodotus’ presentation of events and various peoples in his History is thoroughly (often frustratingly and indiscriminately) non-judgmental, but he articulated no overarching belief or philosophical doctrine to ground his approach. It was perhaps Montaigne, in his essay “On Cannibals,” who came the closest to a direct statement of the cultural relativist position when he wrote that “everyone gives the title of barbarism to everything that is not in use in his own country. As, indeed, we have no other level of truth and reason than the example and idea of the opinions and customs of the place wherein we live: there is always the perfect religion, there the perfect government, there the most exact and accomplished usage of all things.” But Montaigne, though a brilliant writer and essayist, was not a philosopher


This article suggests Johann Gottfried von Herder, though

Johann Gottfried von Herder is not exactly a household name, and many of the few who know him may think of him chiefly as the eighteenth century philosopher who originated the nationalist conception of “the Volk” that the Nazis ran with and turned into their notion of Aryan racial purity. Herder’s view of the Jews doesn’t help his cause.

Good luck

  • 2
    While Herder certainly is a good contender, the quote you gave does not show why he may qualify and does not point out how your source is of relevance to the question. Maybe you could pick a relevant passage?
    – Philip Klöcking
    Sep 9, 2020 at 16:19

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