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    (Original post by Zarathustra)
    What would you say that all things we label "good" [in the moral sense] have in common then, other than the fact that they're all things that we somehow approve of them, which is more a common feature of our attitudes towards these than a common property of the things themselves (unless we are counting 'ability to inspire approval' as a common property of good things)?

    I like your analogy, but still think that it's not quite how the term 'good' works (imho, obviously). To re-cast it in terms of 'bad' for a moment - because I can think of an example for that now! - rather than designating a group of things with a common property, it could just designate a group of things with nothing really to tie them together apart from our distate for them...like weeds. There isn't really any class of plants that count as 'weeds', it's just a name we've applied to all the plants we don't want in our gardens. Similar with good and bad. Games, on the other hand, do, as you (and Wittgenstein) say, loosely resemble each other.

    That make sense?

    ZarathustraX

    :confused: I'm confused. I think perhaps wires have become crossed.
    That is precisely what I am trying to say with regards to good.
    Games loosely resemble each other. But that that is not to say if you took any two games they would have something in common, but rather they would both be games because Game X has something in common with Y and Game Y has something in common with Z. We call them all games because of this relationship, but that doesn't mean every game needs to resemble every other game. Look at clock patience and Tennis for example.
    In case you know any logic, resemblance is a non-transative relationship. That is, if X is resembles Y and Y resembles Z it need not be the case that X resembles Z.


    Weeds are another good example. We call weeds 'weeds' for a variety of different reasons, but that is not to say there is some property, some platonic form of 'weed-ness' that all weeds share, rather 'weed' is just used to refer to an arbitrary collection of plants. Ugly plants, plants we disapprove of, plants that grow rampantly, plants that grow where they are not supposed to and so forth. Plant X might be a weed because like Y it grows out of control, Y is like Z in that it is ugle, and so forth. We call this related group 'weeds' but there is no single predicate of weed-ness we can point to. And precisely which plants are weeds changes from person to person. I might call a flower what you would call a weed.

    Similarly when it comes to good. There is no single property of goodness, rather there is a family resemblance. It's not even that each good thing needs to resemble every other good thing- clock patients and tennis don't resemble each other at all for instance yet they are both games, presumably because they resemble other things which resemble other things so eventually you could trace a path from clock patience to tennis.

    So I suggest goodness similarly isn't pointing to a single property, but rather is a name for a collection of things we put together for resembling each other.

    So I'm expressly not saying there is something which ties all games or good things together and that is why ethics is arbitrary.
    Perhaps we agree, but I'm not quite sure yet.
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    Hey there - as you can tell by my username, I absolutely adore Philosophical discussion. Hence, why I'm sitting A-Levels right now in the subject.

    I'm on Edexcel for my Philosophy and Ethics (A2) and my Synoptic Paper. I'm just going outside in the sun now to study Deontology and Ontology - I'm a bit rough around the edges there.

    I wouldn't mind joining this society. What does it entail?
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    (Original post by Philosophia)
    Hey there - as you can tell by my username, I absolutely adore Philosophical discussion. Hence, why I'm sitting A-Levels right now in the subject.

    I'm on Edexcel for my Philosophy and Ethics (A2) and my Synoptic Paper. I'm just going outside in the sun now to study Deontology and Ontology - I'm a bit rough around the edges there.

    I wouldn't mind joining this society. What does it entail?
    Hey Philosophia!

    Are you doing Edexcel Religious Studies - Philosophy of Religion and Ethics? Or is there another Edexcel course?

    Of course you can join, I'll add you to the members list (at start of thread) now It just entails...meh...coming here to chat/argue about Philosophy :tsr:

    Put a link to us in your sig if you like! *points down to own sdig as example*

    Cheers,

    ZarathustraX

    PS: Read up the last page of the thread - who will you be voting for on the BBC poll?
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    So I suggest goodness similarly isn't pointing to a single property, but rather is a name for a collection of things we put together for resembling each other.
    And that would be? I'm sorry, I've never got this argument... how can the good for essays (structure) and the good for sex (spontenaity) be related? Surely they're opposites, so have the same quality? (OK, that was a rubbish example but I can't think of anything else atm :p: )

    Aristotle makes much more sense to me... they all contribute to the good life, but don't hold the same characteristic which makes them 'good'. Or was that what you meant? :confused:
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    (Original post by skevvybritt)
    And that would be? I'm sorry, I've never got this argument... how can the good for essays (structure) and the good for sex (spontenaity) be related? Surely they're opposites, so have the same quality? (OK, that was a rubbish example but I can't think of anything else atm :p: )

    Ok let me further clarify because the argument is getting lost I think with a misunderstanding. Sorry this is long, I hope it's worth it.

    'Good' is a word used in a number of ways.

    A table can be a good table, sex can be good sex, a teacher can be a good teacher, an action can be a good action.

    It is completely irrelevent to the point I am making whether there is a sense in which a good table and good sex resemble each other. Perhaps they don't I'd argue in a sense they do, but that beside the point I'm trying to make. I'm not trying to say that all uses of the word 'good' resemble each other, I'm saying that if we look at one particular use in which the word good is used, namely the moral sense, even then, it does not mean anything in particular, there is no specific thing which an action or a person needs to possess to make it morally good action or person. Rather it is a family relationship.

    So I'm not trying to show all uses of the word good resemble each other, perhaps they do, but I don't really care about that. I'm trying to show that all uses of good in the moral sense are tied to gether by a family relationship rather than by having some specific predicate in common.

    If we take the word 'flat', there is some thing an object must possess in order to be flat, that is a sort of particular physical form. It is possessing this particular form which makes an object flat. There is a temptation to say that the same is true with 'good' (in the moral sense.) Philosophers then argue about this and ask what one needs in order to be good- is it approval of god? approval from your culture? understanding of the platonic form of goodness? etc etc.
    What I am saying is that actually there is no one thing which goodness identifies. We use moral 'good' to refer to a number of things which need not share any one specific thing in common.

    Thus ethics, which tries to ask 'what is it to be good?' and so forth is pointless. It tries to come up with theories about what is the good action, when actually all it should be doing is saying "oh that's interesting, we sometimes use the word 'good' (moral sense) to refer to things like that!" There is no thing which makes an action good except that we call it 'good'. To ask, "why do we call that action good?" is pointless, you are making a mistake by trying to find what it is that makes something good. There isn't anything! So to try and build a theory about what makes something good is deluded.
    Thus ethics is pointless.

    (Original post by slevvybritt)
    Aristotle makes much more sense to me... they all contribute to the good life, but don't hold the same characteristic which makes them 'good'. Or was that what you meant? :confused:
    Hmm... Not entirely sure. I haven't read that much Aristotle, depends on what he means by the good life.

    Phew, these get longer and longer. Hopefully clearer though. Helped clarify my point at all?
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    Hmm... Not entirely sure. I haven't read that much Aristotle, depends on what he means by the good life.

    Phew, these get longer and longer. Hopefully clearer though. Helped clarify my point at all?
    OK, so what you're saying is that any use of the word 'good' is useless because it's a concept which depends on the subject.
    It's subjective and so to talk of something being good without defining what you mean by goodness is a pointless waste of breath.
    Is that right?

    Aristotle thought the good life was achieved by following the virtous mean.
    e.g. courage is the virtuous mean between rashness and cowardice.
    And by contemplation.
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    (Original post by skevvybritt)
    OK, so what you're saying is that any use of the word 'good' is useless because it's a concept which depends on the subject.
    It's subjective and so to talk of something being good without defining what you mean by goodness is a pointless waste of breath.
    Is that right?

    Aristotle thought the good life was achieved by following the virtous mean.
    e.g. courage is the virtuous mean between rashness and cowardice.
    And by contemplation.

    Basically. But because 'good' doesn't point to a predicate but rather a family, no definition of it will be complete because the only way to define good would be to give every situation in which it is used.

    But then there are two problems:
    Firstly different people use different words for the same thing, I might call beneficial what you call good in a particular circumstance, as such, listing all the times we used good will only be a definition for one person, i.e. for the person who would use good in precisely those situations.

    And two, there is no precise set of situations in which the word good is exclusively used. I can use the word 'plague' as in 'the city center has been hit by a plague of cars'- this isn't the ordinary usage of plague, I have abstracted the word from ordinary use and put it to a slightly new one. The same can be said of other words. So there is no precise way to look at the word 'good' and say when it can and can't be used. So then precisely what words are contained in the family which defines 'good'? Without being able to set a boundary for the family, you can't define good because we can only define good by listing its family. We can give a rough definition by listing some of the cases, but no complete definition. So any attempt at ethics can only roughly outline usage, it can't be a complete theory.

    So two points I making I guess. One ethics is arbitrary- why is that the family for good rather than that one.
    Two, ethics is only ever going to be incomplete anyway because it isn't a complete understanding of 'good' because there is no set way to understand 'good' (whether we are looking just at the moral sense or not)

    *reads back*
    Yes, I think that's basically what I'm saying.

    So in a sense, I'm not saying morality is subjective. That would be to enter the subjective-objective debate which I'm expressly trying to avoid by saying we can't have theories of ethics. With no theories of ethics, we don't have the problem of objective Vs subjective. There is no thing which ties together moral claims; no objective moral fact and no subjective moral fact like my personal disapproval. To assume it was one of these would be to say what good means, and as I've said, we can't do that.


    (Just edited to add that last paragraph in the hope it clarifies.) Any thoughts?
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    So in a sense, I'm not saying morality is subjective. That would be to enter the subjective-objective debate which I'm expressly trying to avoid by saying we can't have theories of ethics. With no theories of ethics, we don't have the problem of objective Vs subjective. There is no thing which ties together moral claims; no objective moral fact and no subjective moral fact like my personal disapproval. To assume it was one of these would be to say what good means, and as I've said, we can't do that.
    Aaah, moral relativism... no such thing as a moral fact. OK, now I get it. Yes, it makes sense, empirically and rationally. Unfortunately, it is important that we DO have a moral framework, and what do we base this on if not good and bad?

    e.g. under your theory you can't make a statement like "murder is wrong", and therefore what justification can you have for legislating against it? Or punishing people who do it?
    This is the main problem people find with this one... it's just not practical in the real world (of course, this is philosophy, so it doesn't really have to be :p: ).



    Can you tell I did ethics as part of my philosophy last year?
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    Just because it's not practical, does not make it philosophically untenable.

    how can we assert that there is SOME sort of relationship between language in the "language-game" sense and then claim that ethical language is a completely arbitrary collection of words? For even in the LG sense we need some sort of pattern imposed, surely? (the non-transitory type you referred to...?)

    I would not say I was taking a platonic approach, at least not explicitly - I did mention the EXTENT to which there is a common property is problematic.

    i would develop this but unfortunately i have henna on my hand so i apologise for the brevity of my message....
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    No this isn't moral relativism either.

    I'm not saying 'there are no objective moral facts'
    I'm saying there are no facts about morality. It's a different point. Relativists say something like "'X is good' means 'I approve of X' and thus there are no objective moral facts, there is only natural facts about what we do and don't approve of". But I'm saying you can't say what good means and that includes saying 'good just means what I approve of'.

    I'm trying to stay outside the objectivist-subjectivist debate and that includes relativism. I'm not saying "'X is good' is/is not about bla bla bla" like relativisms and subjectivisms and objectivisms try, I'm trying to be more fundamental and say "you can't say what 'X is good' is about.

    When it comes to a moral framework- yes, that is precisely it, we can't have a moral framework. You say we must. I ask you then: why must we?

    We can still say things like 'murder is wrong' or 'you should not have done that' because I'm not adopting moral relativism so we don't run into problems with justification. All I am saying, and this is the really crucial thesis statement of my argument: You can't have a theory of ethics. You can't say what good means and thus you can't have a theory of ethics which defines good or says what we mean by good.

    So you can still say things like 'X is good' and even say what you mean is a particular instance. "Oh, I meant I approve of it" but that isn't to say what 'good' means, that is only to say what you meant by 'good'. You still can't say what good in general means.
    But then if you can't say what good in general means then why call such a statement a moral statement? what about them makes them moral? Presumably the way in which we use them. But that is a linguistic issue, not something which so called 'ethics' is concerned with.

    So we can't have an ethics, only philosophy of language. But that is not to deny that we can meaningfully say things like 'You shouldn't have done that', just to deny that we can invent ethical theories which say, when we say this, what we mean is "bla bla bla"




    (Original post by Reema)
    Just because it's not practical, does not make it philosophically untenable.

    how can we assert that there is SOME sort of relationship between language in the "language-game" sense and then claim that ethical language is a completely arbitrary collection of words? For even in the LG sense we need some sort of pattern imposed, surely? (the non-transitory type you referred to...?)

    I would not say I was taking a platonic approach, at least not explicitly - I did mention the EXTENT to which there is a common property is problematic.
    Because the resemblance is an entirely arbitrary one. I see a resemblance and go, "right, so in that sentence I will use the word 'good'". Some other person with a different attitude will see a different resemblance and say 'ah, in that sentence I will use the word 'beneficial' (for example)".
    Which was right? Was their a real objective resemblance? What would that even mean? How could a resemblance be objective?

    But if we take the subjective view, the resemblance, and thus the words will depend entirely on attitude, it won't depend on some kind of real measure, just whim and preference and circumstance. And how more arbitrary could that be?
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    Whoa, OK, you've made my head spin. Congratulations :p:
    I can't respond to that because I honestly can't get my head around it. Sorry to cut the discussion short.
    *creeps away in confusion*
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    (Original post by skevvybritt)
    Whoa, OK, you've made my head spin. Congratulations :p:
    I can't respond to that because I honestly can't get my head around it. Sorry to cut the discussion short.
    *creeps away in confusion*

    No problem. It occured to me when we started getting into the really complicated stuff that I may have picked a tricky starter. Perhaps we should go for more easing in to an issue, or something people are likely to have covered before.
    Anybody care to pick a different topic?

    (though if anybody still wants to talk about this I'd be happy to start a new post)
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    No problem. It occured to me when we started getting into the really complicated stuff that I may have picked a tricky starter. Perhaps we should go for more easing in to an issue, or something people are likely to have covered before.
    Don't you dare! I'll be back to talk about weeds and dispute your definition of relativism this very evening

    ZarathustraX
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    Grrrrr. It's not relativism!
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    But I look forward to it.
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    No this isn't moral relativism either.

    I'm not saying 'there are no objective moral facts'
    I'm saying there are no facts about morality. It's a different point. Relativists say something like "'X is good' means 'I approve of X' and thus there are no objective moral facts, there is only natural facts about what we do and don't approve of". But I'm saying you can't say what good means and that includes saying 'good just means what I approve of'.

    I'm trying to stay outside the objectivist-subjectivist debate and that includes relativism. I'm not saying "'X is good' is/is not about bla bla bla" like relativisms and subjectivisms and objectivisms try, I'm trying to be more fundamental and say "you can't say what 'X is good' is about.

    When it comes to a moral framework- yes, that is precisely it, we can't have a moral framework. You say we must. I ask you then: why must we?

    We can still say things like 'murder is wrong' or 'you should not have done that' because I'm not adopting moral relativism so we don't run into problems with justification. All I am saying, and this is the really crucial thesis statement of my argument: You can't have a theory of ethics. You can't say what good means and thus you can't have a theory of ethics which defines good or says what we mean by good.

    So you can still say things like 'X is good' and even say what you mean is a particular instance. "Oh, I meant I approve of it" but that isn't to say what 'good' means, that is only to say what you meant by 'good'. You still can't say what good in general means.
    But then if you can't say what good in general means then why call such a statement a moral statement? what about them makes them moral? Presumably the way in which we use them. But that is a linguistic issue, not something which so called 'ethics' is concerned with.

    So we can't have an ethics, only philosophy of language. But that is not to deny that we can meaningfully say things like 'You shouldn't have done that', just to deny that we can invent ethical theories which say, when we say this, what we mean is "bla bla bla"






    Because the resemblance is an entirely arbitrary one. I see a resemblance and go, "right, so in that sentence I will use the word 'good'". Some other person with a different attitude will see a different resemblance and say 'ah, in that sentence I will use the word 'beneficial' (for example)".
    Which was right? Was their a real objective resemblance? What would that even mean? How could a resemblance be objective?

    But if we take the subjective view, the resemblance, and thus the words will depend entirely on attitude, it won't depend on some kind of real measure, just whim and preference and circumstance. And how more arbitrary could that be?
    Hmmm. I think I'm following, but forgive me if I'm misinterpreting you. There is some correspondance of meaning between the ways people use 'good' in regard to ethical situations, particularly within a single culture. When someone devises a meta-ethical theory about 'what people mean when they say something is good' they are referring to the word only in its moral sense, which narrows things down considerably. Of course there are individual, subjective aspects, but resemblances have a social aspect as well. Take the psychological schema for the word 'bird.' There may be slight differences between different people as to the set of concepts they use to form the idea 'bird,' and some disagreement in borderline cases. But the resemblance between birds is transitive - bird X will always resemble any bird Y in certain crucial ways. While you are quite probably right that this does not apply to the idea of 'good' in its broadest sense, it is possible to argue that it applies in the narrower 'moral' sense.
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    (Original post by wanderer)
    Hmmm. I think I'm following, but forgive me if I'm misinterpreting you. There is some correspondance of meaning between the ways people use 'good' in regard to ethical situations, particularly within a single culture. When someone devises a meta-ethical theory about 'what people mean when they say something is good' they are referring to the word only in its moral sense, which narrows things down considerably. Of course there are individual, subjective aspects, but resemblances have a social aspect as well. Take the psychological schema for the word 'bird.' There may be slight differences between different people as to the set of concepts they use to form the idea 'bird,' and some disagreement in borderline cases. But the resemblance between birds is transitive - bird X will always resemble any bird Y in certain crucial ways. While you are quite probably right that this does not apply to the idea of 'good' in its broadest sense, it is possible to argue that it applies in the narrower 'moral' sense.
    Resemblance is not transitive. Bird X may resemble bird Y, and Bird Y may resemble bird Z, but that is not to say that bird X need have any resemblance to bird Z. Unless of course we take the word as making certain requirements. For instance, in biology 'bird' points to a certain class (? might be a phylum not sure) of animals and any member must fit certain requirements to be a bird. For example, have a certain evolutionary history or be a vetebrate and so forth. But in natural language (as opposed to the artificial language of biology) we make no such requirements. I can call anything a bird. A person might be said through metaphor to be a bird- presumably saying they are scrawny and squawk or something like that.
    But there need not necessarily be any resemblance between any two things I call a bird. X and Z do not resemble each other, but both can sensibly be called birds.


    Similarly with good I think it is even more obvious. I call many many things good even in the narrow moral sense. Am I pointing to some specific predicate each time? Well you can answer that, when you say 'good' do you always have some idea in mind? Do you say good but always consciously think 'producing of more pleasure than pain' for instance. I presume not.
    Thus to say "'good' means X" is a very strange thing to say. Are you saying that each time we say 'good' we mean 'X'? That seems empirically false.

    And given that there is no one predicate for 'good' and that resemblance clearly isn't transitive I see no way to argue that all uses of good resemble all other uses.
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    Grrrrr. It's not relativism!
    I know :p: I wasn't saying that you were arguing for relativism, just that I disagreed with something you said about it!

    Anway: tonight! Stop distracting me!!

    On a side note (to explain why I am in a position to be distracted):

    I am currently on the internet doing my revision, because my RS course has the most appalling textbook that the world has ever known. It is so bad, in fact, that its authors appear to have no qualms whatsoever about saying the following three sentences ON THE SAME PAGE:

    "A proof is: an argument which starts from one of more premises, which are propositions taken for granted for the purpose of the argument, and argues to a conclusion."
    "A proof is a statement which cannot be false: e.g. 4+4=8. Such a proof is therefore logically necessary."
    "Other proofs, however, are only proofs in so far as they lead to conclusions that are possible or probable."

    Umm...ok yeah - so a proof is either an argument or a statement that is either certain or not certain. :rolleyes:

    When my exams are over, I shall be writing to the publisher!! :mad:

    ZarathustraX
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    (Original post by Zarathustra)
    When my exams are over, I shall be writing to the publisher!! :mad:
    Ah its not their fault. It's just because we use 'proof' is so many different ways. hehe :p:
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    (Original post by Calvin)
    Resemblance is not transitive. Bird X may resemble bird Y, and Bird Y may resemble bird Z, but that is not to say that bird X need have any resemblance to bird Z. Unless of course we take the word as making certain requirements. For instance, in biology 'bird' points to a certain class (? might be a phylum not sure) of animals and any member must fit certain requirements to be a bird. For example, have a certain evolutionary history or be a vetebrate and so forth. But in natural language (as opposed to the artificial language of biology) we make no such requirements. I can call anything a bird. A person might be said through metaphor to be a bird- presumably saying they are scrawny and squawk or something like that.
    But there need not necessarily be any resemblance between any two things I call a bird. X and Z do not resemble each other, but both can sensibly be called birds.


    Similarly with good I think it is even more obvious. I call many many things good even in the narrow moral sense. Am I pointing to some specific predicate each time? Well you can answer that, when you say 'good' do you always have some idea in mind? Do you say good but always consciously think 'producing of more pleasure than pain' for instance. I presume not.
    Thus to say "'good' means X" is a very strange thing to say. Are you saying that each time we say 'good' we mean 'X'? That seems empirically false.

    And given that there is no one predicate for 'good' and that resemblance clearly isn't transitive I see no way to argue that all uses of good resemble all other uses.
    There are certain characteristics that identify something as a bird in natural language as well as in biological language. They're just fuzzier. Yes, it can be used in a metaphorical sense, but an ambiguity of language use does not necessarily indicate an ambiguity in concepts. If you call a tree a bird in ordinary conversation, whoever you are talking to is going to think something is wrong. A tree doesn't have the characteristics to fit in with their schema for the word 'bird' - it doesn't have feathers, lay eggs and so forth. The reason communication is possible is that words correspond to schema that are basically standardised within a social context - we all have similar, if not identical, concepts of what a bird is, and we, as english speakers, associate the word 'bird' with that schema. There is a resemblance between any two objects that would ordinarily be called birds by english speakers, which is not the same as claiming that there is a resemblance between any two things you decide to call a bird at any one time.

    Now the question is whether the argument in the case of 'bird' also applies to 'good.' Do people in society (I'll deal with humanity as a whole in a bit) share, to an extent, a common schema of a 'good' action? Obviously, there is far more disagreement over whether things are good than over whether they are birds. But there are certain norms - few will claim that rape and murder can be described as 'good' actions. It is possible to argue (although I'm not sure I agree) that there are at least one or two characteristics common enough to be described as part of a common schema of 'good' - bringing about happiness, for example. Its worth noting that this schema could be a collection of attributes, not all of which are required for something to be good, which is closer to your argument but doesn't preclude a definition of 'good.'

    If this schema can be established within a single society, does it then lead in to cultural relativism - do different societies have different schema? Not necessarily. Different cultures may have different words for 'bird,' but human nature ensures that those who encounter sufficient varieties of bird will have a schema for birds. In particular, concepts basic to humanity are shared across cultures (I think I read somewhere that every known language, even the more esoteric ones, have words for certain things like 'hand') and the concept of morality seems fairly basic, even if there are significant differences between different cultures' concept of 'good.' As with individuals within a culture, an interesting approach would be to look at similarities between schema, to see if some basic resemblance can be found.
 
 
 
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