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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Are there universal values?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25804 points ) October 10th, 2012

I’ve had the pleasure of living in many different countries and visiting many more. I’ve lived in the US, some places in Europe, a number of places in Asia, and Australia.

It’s my opinion that foreign travel and especially living overseas teaches one that cultures value different aspects of life. In the case of Asia, I was taught that some of those values diverge radically from what I learned in my mother culture.

In Japan, I learned the group is far superior to the individual, which is a polar opposite to what I learned growing up. With the group as supreme, even an individual’s life means less.

Are there some values that transcend culture?

Are values relative to their cultural significance?

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9 Answers

WyCnet's avatar

Do not destroy knowledge.

janbb's avatar

@WyCnet I think almost every culture has had periods where knowledge is destroyed or shunned.

I’m not sure if love for own’e own children is a value or a biological imperative but I would say that that is nearly universal. Which is not to say that there aren’t individuals in every culture who don’t love their children.

LuckyGuy's avatar

My deity or belief system is the right one and those held by everyone else are wrong.
All unexplainable events will be explained knowingly by someone looking to control the group.
Have sex and reproduce. (Only eat your children as a last resort.)

LostInParadise's avatar

This is a link to a Steven Pinker article on the moral instinct that I have posted before on related questions. Pinker, who is the author of the book The Language Instinct, suggests a possible analogy between language and morals. There is lots of evidence that we our brains are wired for creating and acquiring language, but not for any specific language. In a similar way we seem to be wired for certain moral impulses. We may, however, differ individually and culturally in the details on how our morals are constructed.

flutherother's avatar

I haven’t got a better answer than this…

Dawn Landscape by Tu Fu

The last watch has sounded in K’uei –chou.
Colour spreading above Solar Terrace Mountain,

a cold sun clears high peaks. Clouds linger,
blotting out canyons below tangled ridges,

and deep Yangtze banks keep sails hidden.
beneath clear skies: clatter of falling leaves.

And these deer at my bramble gate: so close
here, we touch our own kind in each other.

Translated by David Hinton

WyCnet's avatar

The non-destruction of knowledge also implies no murder due to the stilling of a Mind, and respect for Elder achievers because of the knowledge they can share..

Symbeline's avatar

A lot of cultures and people have very similar values worldwide, but I’m of the mind that none of these are confirmed as universal by anything but the survival instinct that drives mankind. Therefore, unfortunately, I think the closest things about us that might be universal are things that we wouldn’t all call ’‘values’’.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t believe so. Further, I think the question should be “Should there be universal values?”

SavoirFaire's avatar

If we are understanding universal values to values shared by all people, or at least by all cultures, then the answer is no. This is the sociological data from which arguments from moral relativism begin. But while the arguments for moral relativism are widely contested, the data itself is not. Indeed, it is widely acknowledged (the philosophical issue being whether or not there is a valid argument from the shared data to the relativist’s conclusion).

Some have argued that it is only practices that vary, while the underlying values those practices are meant to exemplify are constant. The case can be made quite convincingly for a select number of instances where there appears to be variance, which tells us that there is more commonality than some people let on. But I’ve never seen even an attempt to rigorously demonstrate that there is at least one particular value that every culture in the world accepts.

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