Questioning Morals : Do universally valid morals exist?

Essay by maximiusHigh School, 11th grade November 2003

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Do universally valid morals exist or are they merely relative to cultural approval or individual choice?

When I first began this essay, I believed that a reply to this question was necessary in order to answer our first fundamental question, given the reality of our pluralistic and multicultural student base. As I did not have a clear opinion in this matter, I researched the issue and discovered as many arguments for universal morals as against.

To summarize these arguments, the doctrine that moral principles are valid only relative to cultural or

individual choice is called moral relativism. It denies that there are any independently justified moral

principles, insisting rather that what is considered moral in one society can and often is considered immoral in another. Moral objectivism, on the other hand, affirms the universal validity of some moral principles even if they may not always be applicable.

That is, moral principle A could be overridden by moral principle B in a given situation, and, in other situations, there may be no right answer.

As my research progressed, I came to the conclusion that the debate waged by relativists and objectivists was a philosophical one and of little practical value to our organization. It is perhaps enough to agree that certain moral principles exist that are "generally" accepted by most societies as being necessary or at least desirable (4). For example, to say that lying is wrong is generally accepted as being necessary to the normal functioning of society, for if lying were in fact the rule, all communication would be impossible and chaos would reign. The same could be said for stealing and killing.

Of course, people will always be quick to point out the flaws in this line of thinking. What of killing in...