View Poll Results: Are all societies and cultures morally equal?

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  • Yes.

    4 11.43%
  • No.

    31 88.57%
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Thread: Are all societies and cultures morally equal?

  1. #1
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Are all societies and cultures morally equal?

    Are all societies and cultures morally equal?

  2. #2
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    You realize, of course, that this is a very loaded question for a simple "yes" or "no" answer

    If morality is how well one adheres to their professed values...well I think it has been well stated that "...all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God..."

    If morality is how I, from my position of cultural values assess another from his position of cultural values I get a biased relative answer to that same question.

    That said, I think the answer is "no," but its complicated.
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    Default A "yes" would be logically valid ...

    IF and only IF all societies and cultures were exactly the same.

    The same logic applies to the question: Are all persons morally equal ? - except that there, there is an exception (in my theology) because all persons are created morally equal. What happens after that is unique to each individual.

    Since societies and cultures are ongoing collectives of persons, that theological exception, applicable to each of its members, cannot logically apply to those collective entities.

    This has to be a Sunday morning question.

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    Default Agree with both Bob and JMM

    But here's another perspective. Extreme cultural relativism argues the moral equivalence of all cultures. Yet, some activities pursued by particular cultures are simply not acceptable and in the extreme risk the survival of the culture. There is a distinct religious subculture in the US called the Shakers. Essentially harmless, their belief that all sex is sinful stops them from procreating. They survive - barely - on converts and one day there won't be any converts; then their culture will die having committed cultural suicide. Their beliefs are simply self-destructive.

    Full disclaimer: I grew up in a community where they once lived and now named for them, Shaker Hts. OH. All that is left is a name and several lakes they built by damming Doan Brook.

    Cheers

    JohnT
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-26-2009 at 09:50 PM. Reason: Get bold to show properly

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    some activities pursued by particular cultures are simply not acceptable and in the extreme risk the survival of the culture. There is a distinct religious subculture in the US called the Shakers. Essentially harmless, their belief that [B]all[B] sex is sinful stops them from procreating. They survive - barely - on converts and one day there won't be any converts; then their culture will die having committed cultural suicide. Their beliefs are simply self-destructive.
    That would of course be immoral if we assume that survival is a moral imperative.

    The question is only relevant if we have a consensus definition for the term "moral". If you believe that "morality" is an externally sourced absolute, then you will of course not believe that societies and cultures are morally equal, though among those who believe in externally sourced absolute morality there will be a good deal of disagreement about what exactly that moral code calls for. Every self-appointed mouthpiece for the absolute seems to have their own ideas on the subject.

    If you believe that "morality" lies in actually following one's own professed beliefs, than we are probably all immoral, though perhaps unequally so.

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    Maybe it is intentional, but the question is objectively meaningless without additional context since morality is closely tied to culture and both are inherently subjective. It's kind of like asking if all flavors of ice cream are equally good. In an abstract philosophical sense - maybe. In the real world with real people, not at all.

  7. #7
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    That would of course be immoral if we assume that survival is a moral imperative.

    The question is only relevant if we have a consensus definition for the term "moral". If you believe that "morality" is an externally sourced absolute, then you will of course not believe that societies and cultures are morally equal, though among those who believe in externally sourced absolute morality there will be a good deal of disagreement about what exactly that moral code calls for. Every self-appointed mouthpiece for the absolute seems to have their own ideas on the subject.

    If you believe that "morality" lies in actually following one's own professed beliefs, than we are probably all immoral, though perhaps unequally so.

    I think you about covered it all the way around....excellant answer!

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    Council Member Charles Martel's Avatar
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    Default Moral Equivalency is Mental Indolence

    Saying that all cultures are morally equivalent is to not think about the underlying question at all. There are God-given rights that, if violated, make a culture less worthy than others that respect human rights. There can be different but equivalent cultures or societies, but to get there, they have to have respect for rights as their base.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    I'd be a bit careful of assuming that "morality" is context specific, or somehow relative. Some actions are clearly wrong.

    For me, the big indicator is the actual practice of toleration that a society aspires to, and how they react when the toleration is not reciprocated. ...and I mean toleration, not respect.
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I'd be a bit careful of assuming that "morality" is context specific, or somehow relative. Some actions are clearly wrong.
    Stating that "some actions are clearly wrong" is actually a subjective statement and highly influenced by context. While it's true there are a few foundations that almost all humans believe are wrong, they are still highly variable and dependent upon circumstance. For example, most would agree that murder is clearly wrong, but in many cases people will turn around and justify murder or even say that murder is a moral imperative given the proper context.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    While it's true there are a few foundations that almost all humans believe are wrong, they are still highly variable and dependent upon circumstance.
    Very well aware. However there are basics on which most of the world's major religions have broad agreement on. Are these effected by context? Sure, but don't confuse actual morality with the cultural or social context in which it is applied, - thus the question - Are all societies and cultures morally equal? - that's something different from the moral norms common to most religions.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
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  12. #12
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    A culture has first and foremost the job of enabling a functioning, sustainable society. It needs to set social norms that prevent self-destruction.
    These norms need to be feasible; their enforcement must not require more resources than are available to the society.

    A Burqa serves the purpose of preventing violent conflict among men over women and of preventing that a women cheats, and her man leaves her or kills the bastard.

    A criminal may lose a body part or his life - at very low cost to the society other than the loss of his productivity.


    We achieve the same purposes of social and physical security by very different means; we employ full-time policemen, judges, attorneys, lawyers and wardens. Our system is simply unaffordable in almost all Third World societies (and they usually fail badly if they implement it without huge adjustments).

    The critical variable for "resources" is the productivity of the agricultural sector. You can easily maintain a modern society if one farmer family feeds ten families, but not so if four farmer families feed five families. The fifth family is already busy with trading, fighting, mining and craftsmanship.

    The Afghans substitute our resources/productivity with brutality of enforcement and a loss of freedom for prevention.

    That's not necessarily likable, but it works. Their system would function and be sustainable.

    We wouldn't want to use their system, and they couldn't employ our system/society/culture.


    Meanwhile, our societies fail to ensure sustainability - a factor that makes them actually very bad societies.
    We gamble that our societies can shift around and invent critical technologies in time to save us from our self-destructive economic behaviour (which is linked to our moral).


    I'd say neither culture is advisable, but at least theirs could function for another thousand years if they don't irrigate their fields into salt deserts.

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    I'm trying to think of an explanation to justify a "yes" response, but I can't find one. Suppose that it's possible. Even then, what are the odds?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    I'm trying to think of an explanation to justify a "yes" response, but I can't find one. Suppose that it's possible. Even then, what are the odds?
    It seems to me the only possible way to honestly answer yes, besides in the abstract, is if one's personal philosophy is extreme relativism. Me? I refuse to answer yes or no.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I'm going to go get

    some bourbon. Y'all have fun...

  16. #16
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    Default No

    Coltures are not morally equal. To survive and not be vanquished is the goal.

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    - ah, a 'loaded' question from the get-go, maybe ken's last response should be, " I'm going to get some MORE bourbon."

    Ontologically yes because I believe our species is inherently/genetically orientated towards creating and sharing and over the course of generations, the good created by one culture will equal, per capita, the good of another.

    In the here-and-now, no and in particular for men who can and will fight, no enemy can be regarded as fully equal in all respects - close in many respects but they never get the cigar, particularily in the sense of being righteous in our offensive operations.

    By the way, Ken, what brand do you drink?

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    If it weren't early morning in my time zone I'd be tempted to look for the single malt stash...

    If one assumes "equal" to mean "the same as", certainly societies and cultures are not morally equal.

    I think it's fair to say that most moral codes evolved to manage the same problem: they are intended to manage behaviour and reduce internal conflict within a social group. Different societies evoloved in different circumstances and approached this problem in different ways.

    Morality changes over time: at various times in the US, for example, it was considered morally acceptable to burn witches, keep slaves, and shoot native Americans. That's changed. For the most part we see this change as evolution, though some might argue that, again for example, the trend toward lenience in criminal punishment and tolerance of what would once have been called sexual immorality is a regression, not an evolution. Some would, of course, argue otherwise.

    Different societies and their moral codes change at different paces and in different directions, another source of moral difference.

    So yes, it's fair to say that cultures and societies are not morally equal. If you push that a step farther and bring in the notion that some are not just unequal - different - but that some are superior and inferior, or bring it a step farther still and say that the morally superior are entitled or required to impose their morality on the morally inferior.... then, in my view, you open a can of worms than might better stay shut.

    Morality is not constant, so rationally it's not likely to be equal. Concepts of morality change over time, they vary among societies, and they are infinitely debated within societies. If we view a difference in views of morality as a legitimate reason to fight, we're gonna have a whole lot of fighting going on.

  19. #19
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    If anyone stumbles upon the meaning of life, then please send me an email.

  20. #20
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    Default The meaning of life is found

    in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    Well, not exactly. But it is interesting that the Declaration is theoretically binding on all member states of the UN regardless of their culture, religion, or politics. And every member formally accepted its validity. So, if a state refuses to abide by the Declaration which it agreed to has it not violated its own code of morality?
    But then my buddy who spent 5 years as a CIA case officer told me that the CIA polygraphers found Muslims the most difficult of subjects because "it wasn't a sin to lie to the infidel."

    Cheers

    JohnT

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