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Are ethics universal?

PhilosophyPosted by David McDonagh Fri, August 29, 2014 12:43:46

The moral law is universal.

Many people seem to think that as all do not adopt the moral law then philosophers like Plato, or his epigone, Kant err on this hallmark of ethics that moral rules are universal. Many feel that cross cultural studies suggests to them that moral rules can vary from society to society. They also feel that the breaking of the moral law by theft or murder by some people in all societies also shows us that the philosophers badly err.

But neither supposed counter example is really germane, for the flouting of the moral law does not mean it is not universal, as universal here does not mean we have all adopted it, but rather that it applies to one and all by the moraliser. Ethics is about rules, not facts. A flouting of the formal or categorical moral rule is no more a refutation of it than is any schoolboy getting his sums wrong in boring mathematical lessons is a refutation of arithmetic.

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