Ethics and different Culture- Right or Wrong?

Essay by zirkpatrCollege, UndergraduateA, January 2004

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For the same reason that I look people in the eye while conversing, a gesture of confidence and sincerity, is the same reason that the people of Japan consider direct and constant eye contact a rude gesture that means defiance or challenge, and they shift their eyes or look down to show respect to another. Our culture educated us to act in certain ways and form habits accord to what is considered normal. I argue that moral and ethical values are determined by one's culture. Culture dictates what a person learns, how one behaves, and their habitual modes of thought and reason. Individuals are subject to outside influences and each person is responsible for making decisions in an ethical-as seen by culture- manner. An evaluation of what is good and bad is related to the cultural background out of which they arise.

The action a person partakes in is dependant on the society which one belongs.

For example: human sacrifice and cannibalism in the 1500 hundreds was a common practice of the American Indians when Cortez landed in South America. It was considered ethically repulsive and unacceptable to the Spanish. At the same time, the Spanish also had their forms of punishment, burning at the sake, which was equally appalling to the Indians and was considered a great evil. This display of differences is a labeled cultural relativism; the Spanish considered burning at the stake an ethical form of execution as did the rest of Western Europe.

But when presented in South America to the Indians, it was rejected as evil. Who is to say that human sacrifice is any worst or better than burning at the stake? The Indians have as much right to criticize the Spanish as the Spanish do to criticize the Indians.

Interestingly, moral and immoral...