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    The attitude that "all cultures are equal" stems from the moral relativist idea that it's impossible to objectively say whether something is good or bad. At a very basic level this is true, but that renders calling all cultures "equal" meaningless because things can only be considered equal if they measure on the same place on a scale, but there is no such scale.

    So what cultures are better or worse is down to personal opinion, but that does not make them equal any more than the fact that art is subjective makes all art equal. "Equal" simply doesn't come into it and is essentially meaningless in this instance.

    However, what opinion one holds of what makes a culture better or worse than others may not be objective but it can certainly say a lot about the person who holds the opinion.

    Generally more compassionate people will favour more understanding or benevolence rather than violence and wrath. This is almost the definition of compassion. Thus cultures which punish less people less harshly for victimless crimes will generally be preferred by compassionate people over cultures where it is considered acceptable to kill gays, adulterers, atheists etc.

    Compassionate people may support violence if it is necessary to stop very violent people but they won't support violence for the sake of wiping out people who choose to live a different way to you but are not violent.

    Thus we can conclude that it might be impossible to say which cultures are "good" or "bad" but we can certainly say which are more compassionate than others.
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    (Original post by KingBradly)
    The attitude that "all cultures are equal" stems from the moral relativist idea that it's impossible to objectively say whether something is good or bad. At a very basic level this is true, but that renders calling all cultures "equal" meaningless because things can only be considered equal if they measure on the same place on a scale, but there is no such scale.
    Agreed. Would anyone seriously argue that our culture is the equal of, say, the Aztecs who sacrificed people in their thousands to bizarre feathered gods? The priests of the Aztec religion pulled the beating heart from the sacrificee then kicked his lifeless body down the steps of the pyramid.

    Their culture was obviously sick, we are clearly their superior. So it is possible for one culture to be superior to another.
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    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    Agreed. Would anyone seriously argue that our culture is the equal of, say, the Aztecs who sacrificed people in their thousands to bizarre feathered gods? The priests of the Aztec religion pulled the beating heart from the sacrificee then kicked his lifeless body down the steps of the pyramid.

    Their culture was obviously sick, we are clearly their superior. So it is possible for one culture to be superior to another.
    Yeh, I mean you can be really pedantic about it and say "ooh well there's no absolute definition of good and bad" or you can just admit that just like the arts or sciences, a culture's ethics become more sophisticated the more it develops, and clearly a more sophisticated understanding of ethics is superior to a less sophisticated understanding.
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    (Original post by KingBradly)
    Yeh, I mean you can be really pedantic about it and say "ooh well there's no absolute definition of good and bad" or you can just admit that just like the arts or sciences, a culture's ethics become more sophisticated the more it develops, and clearly a more sophisticated understanding of ethics is superior to a less sophisticated understanding.
    This was my initial thinking, the argument is predicated upon the axiom that certain things have objective value which is not the case, at the same time working within a human-centric value system will give more meaningful statements regarding culture and how it's viewed.
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    (Original post by KingBradly)
    However, what opinion one holds of what makes a culture better or worse than others may not be objective but it can certainly say a lot about the person who holds the opinion.
    I'm in agreement with most of what you say, but people's opinions on cultures and their morals say very little about a person, in actual fact, if we believe that moral relativism is true. It's only true in a trivial sense that more compassionate cultures favour less violence in general, but if one is a moral relativist, that means almost nothing.

    As someone who does believe in objective moral values, I do believe that some cultures are better than others. Specifically, cultures that are indifferent to the suffering of others, whether it is people in their own community, or outsiders beyond their borders, or animals, are inferior to cultures that are concerned about people, and sentient beings, everywhere.

    (Original post by KingBradly)
    Yeh, I mean you can be really pedantic about it and say "ooh well there's no absolute definition of good and bad" or you can just admit that just like the arts or sciences, a culture's ethics become more sophisticated the more it develops, and clearly a more sophisticated understanding of ethics is superior to a less sophisticated understanding.
    Sophisticated? How do you measure the sophistication of an ethical system if you're a moral relativist? Science is not subjective, and there's no such thing as sophisticated and unsophisticated art.
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    (Original post by viddy9)
    I'm in agreement with most of what you say, but people's opinions on cultures and their morals say very little about a person, in actual fact, if we believe that moral relativism is true. It's only true in a trivial sense that more compassionate cultures favour less violence in general, but if one is a moral relativist, that means almost nothing.

    As someone who does believe in objective moral values, I do believe that some cultures are better than others. Specifically, cultures that are indifferent to the suffering of others, whether it is people in their own community, or outsiders beyond their borders, or animals, are inferior to cultures that are concerned about people, and sentient beings, everywhere.



    Sophisticated? How do you measure the sophistication of an ethical system if you're a moral relativist? Science is not subjective, and there's no such thing as sophisticated and unsophisticated art.
    Just because I can't say whether a culture is better or worse, superior or inferior, it doesn't mean I can't say it's more sophisticated than others. For something to be considered sophisticated it just needs to be a product of a history or a tradition of development. A synonym of sophistication is "advanced". Think of it this way: I can't say objectively whether a mud-hut is better or worse than a grand palace, but I can say that the process of making the grand palace was far more advanced, and therefore I could also say that the palace itself is a far more sophisticated design.

    The same goes for all the arts and humanities. I can't say whether our ethics are better or worse than other cultures, but I can say that our culture has a far greater history of developing ideas on the subject. Thus I could also say it is more advanced, and I think more sophisticated.
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    (Original post by KingBradly)
    I can't say whether our ethics are better or worse than other cultures, but I can say that our culture has a far greater history of developing ideas on the subject. Thus I could also say it is more advanced, and I think more sophisticated.
    Of course you're going to think this, because you're far more familiar with your own culture's history than that of others.

    In terms of ethical systems produced by the West, Utilitarianism, which calls on people to maximise well-being impartially, is perhaps the most sophisticated. Yet, it has many parallels in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Mohism, which also called on people to equally consider the interests of all individuals. Its end-goals were slightly different (calling on people to maximise order, material wealth and population instead of happiness or preference-satisfaction), but it was still a sophisticated form of consequentialism. It also called on governments to promote meritocracy and social mobility. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: the Mohists "formulated China’s first explicit ethical and political theories and advanced the world’s earliest form of consequentialism, a remarkably sophisticated version based on a plurality of intrinsic goods taken as constitutive of human welfare." [My italics]

    Other object-level ethical actions have been practiced in many cultures. Take India under Akbar's reign from 1556-1605, in which religious pluralism was promoted both in the arts and in society in general: "In order to preserve peace and order in a religiously and culturally diverse empire, he adopted policies that won him the support of his non-Muslim subjects... By abolishing the sectarian tax on non-Muslims and appointing them to high civil and military posts, he was the first Mughal ruler to win the trust and loyalty of the native subjects... Akbar himself was a patron of art and culture. He was fond of literature, and created a library of over 24,000 volumes written in Sanskrit, Hindustani, Persian, Greek, Latin, Arabic and Kashmiri, staffed by many scholars, translators, artists, calligraphers, scribes, bookbinders and readers."

    Indeed, religious pluralism and freedom of belief has its roots in Asia: "Feuerbauch and Ernst Troeltsch concluded that Asian religious traditions, in particular Hinduism and Buddhism were earliest proponents of religious pluralism and granting of freedom to the individual to choose the faith and develop a personal religious construct within it... Jainism, another ancient Indian religion, as well as Daoism have also always been inclusively flexible and have long favored religious pluralism for those who disagree with their religious viewpoints... The Age of Enlightenment in Europe triggered a sweeping transformation about religion, segregation of state and religion, with rising acceptance of religious pluralism. These pluralist trends in Western thought, particularly since the 18th century, brought mainstream Christianity and Judaism closer to the Asian traditions of philosophical pluralism, states Chad Meister". [My italics]

    The edicts of King Ashoka of India (3rd century BC) have been called the first decree respecting Freedom of Conscience. Ashoka emphasized respect for all religious teachers, harmonious relationship between parents and children, teachers and pupils, and employers and employees. Ashoka's religion contained gleanings from all religions. He emphasized the virtues of Ahimsa, respect to all religious teachers, equal respect for and study of each other's scriptures, and on rational faith. On top of this, he declared that slaughtering other animals was wrong. Because he banned hunting, created many veterinary clinics and eliminated meat eating on many holidays, the Mauryan Empire under Ashoka has been described as "one of the very few instances in world history of a government treating its animals as citizens who are as deserving of its protection as the human residents"

    If you were just making a generic point and weren't arguing that our culture has a far greater history of developing ideas about ethics, then fine, but the above simply goes to show that people who say that their culture is more sophisticated probably simply aren't aware of other cultures in the first place.

    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    Agreed. Would anyone seriously argue that our culture is the equal of, say, the Aztecs who sacrificed people in their thousands to bizarre feathered gods? The priests of the Aztec religion pulled the beating heart from the sacrificee then kicked his lifeless body down the steps of the pyramid.

    Their culture was obviously sick, we are clearly their superior. So it is possible for one culture to be superior to another.
    You think their culture is sick, but if you're a moral relativist (as it is fashionable to be these days amongst non-philosophers), then there's nothing objectively inferior about a culture being "sick".
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    (Original post by viddy9)
    You think their culture is sick, but if you're a moral relativist (as it is fashionable to be these days amongst non-philosophers), then there's nothing objectively inferior about a culture being "sick".
    How convenient for me that I'm not a moral relativist. The Aztec culture was intrinsically disordered; ours is their superior in every way. Ethically, socially, technologically, economically.

    I would add that some theorists have been thinking about ways that you can perceive morality, compassion and solidarity as being, if not objectively *good*, then at least objectively logical. I would say that is certainly a reasonable way to think about it if one is disinclined to accept ideas from the perspective of moral good and bad
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    (Original post by viddy9)
    Of course you're going to think this, because you're far more familiar with your own culture's history than that of others.

    In terms of ethical systems produced by the West, Utilitarianism, which calls on people to maximise well-being impartially, is perhaps the most sophisticated. Yet, it has many parallels in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Mohism, which also called on people to equally consider the interests of all individuals. Its end-goals were slightly different (calling on people to maximise order, material wealth and population instead of happiness or preference-satisfaction), but it was still a sophisticated form of consequentialism. It also called on governments to promote meritocracy and social mobility. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: the Mohists "formulated China’s first explicit ethical and political theories and advanced the world’s earliest form of consequentialism, a remarkably sophisticated version based on a plurality of intrinsic goods taken as constitutive of human welfare." [My italics]

    Other object-level ethical actions have been practiced in many cultures. Take India under Akbar's reign from 1556-1605, in which religious pluralism was promoted both in the arts and in society in general: "In order to preserve peace and order in a religiously and culturally diverse empire, he adopted policies that won him the support of his non-Muslim subjects... By abolishing the sectarian tax on non-Muslims and appointing them to high civil and military posts, he was the first Mughal ruler to win the trust and loyalty of the native subjects... Akbar himself was a patron of art and culture. He was fond of literature, and created a library of over 24,000 volumes written in Sanskrit, Hindustani, Persian, Greek, Latin, Arabic and Kashmiri, staffed by many scholars, translators, artists, calligraphers, scribes, bookbinders and readers."

    Indeed, religious pluralism and freedom of belief has its roots in Asia: "Feuerbauch and Ernst Troeltsch concluded that Asian religious traditions, in particular Hinduism and Buddhism were earliest proponents of religious pluralism and granting of freedom to the individual to choose the faith and develop a personal religious construct within it... Jainism, another ancient Indian religion, as well as Daoism have also always been inclusively flexible and have long favored religious pluralism for those who disagree with their religious viewpoints... The Age of Enlightenment in Europe triggered a sweeping transformation about religion, segregation of state and religion, with rising acceptance of religious pluralism. These pluralist trends in Western thought, particularly since the 18th century, brought mainstream Christianity and Judaism closer to the Asian traditions of philosophical pluralism, states Chad Meister". [My italics]

    The edicts of King Ashoka of India (3rd century BC) have been called the first decree respecting Freedom of Conscience. Ashoka emphasized respect for all religious teachers, harmonious relationship between parents and children, teachers and pupils, and employers and employees. Ashoka's religion contained gleanings from all religions. He emphasized the virtues of Ahimsa, respect to all religious teachers, equal respect for and study of each other's scriptures, and on rational faith. On top of this, he declared that slaughtering other animals was wrong. Because he banned hunting, created many veterinary clinics and eliminated meat eating on many holidays, the Mauryan Empire under Ashoka has been described as "one of the very few instances in world history of a government treating its animals as citizens who are as deserving of its protection as the human residents"

    If you were just making a generic point and weren't arguing that our culture has a far greater history of developing ideas about ethics, then fine, but the above simply goes to show that people who say that their culture is more sophisticated probably simply aren't aware of other cultures in the first place.



    You think their culture is sick, but if you're a moral relativist (as it is fashionable to be these days amongst non-philosophers), then there's nothing objectively inferior about a culture being "sick".
    All very interesting, but apologies as I didn't word that very well. When I said "other" cultures I didn't mean all other cultures. I'm well aware that there are other cultures which had or have equally sophisticated understandings of ethics. Cultures with a less sophisticated understanding of ethics would be ones where there hasn't been much of a dialogue about the subject, or where discussion has been stifled.
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    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    How convenient for me that I'm not a moral relativist.
    Finally, someone on here who isn't. We're in agreement, then.

    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    I would add that some theorists have been thinking about ways that you can perceive morality, compassion and solidarity as being, if not objectively *good*, then at least objectively logical. I would say that is certainly a reasonable way to think about it if one is disinclined to accept ideas from the perspective of moral good and bad
    We're especially in agreement on this point (see the Philosophy thread on whether there is such a thing as right or wrong).
 
 
 
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