Basic Moral Values: A Shared Core [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 9 (1995)

December 3, 1995

We have to explain not only why there is so much difference between cultures on ethical questions, but also why there is so much concurrence at a general level. If the most basic ethical values are objective and cultures use those basic building stones to construct implicit ethical arguments in the form of secondary and tertiary values, then we have an explanation for both similarities and differences. The base-line core is shred; the upper tiers differ by culture. Requiring cross-cultural concurrence not only separates out core values from secondary ones, but also provides a check that a whole culture has not gone awry due to local circumstances. Without some form of objectivity, there is no firm grounding other than taste for criticizing whatever happen to be another culture's values, or even for reforming one's own. Without objectivity there is no firm grounding for moral objections to someone from a different culture - such as Hitler or Idi Amin.


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