Moral Judgments of Foreign Cultures and Bygone Epochs. A Two-Tier Approach

Eckhart Arnold


In this paper the ethical problem will be discussed how moral judgments of foreign cultures and bygone epochs can be justified. After ruling out the extremes of moral absolutism (judging without any reservations by the standards of one’s own culture and epoch) and moral relativism (judging only by the respective standards of the time and culture in question) the following solution to the dilemma is sought: A distinction has to be made between judging the norms and institutions in power at a certain place and time and judging people acting within the social institutions of their time and culture. While the former may be judged rigorously, only taking into account the objective possibilities for having other institutions at a certain development stage, the latter should be judged against the background of the common sense morals of the respective time and culture.


20th century philosophy; philosophy; social studies; Wittgenstein Ludwig; clash of civilizations; conflict of values; historical relativism; intercultural dialogue; intercultural ethics; moral relativism; world ethics

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