One of the frustrations many new to the study of ethics express is the notion that there are no absolutes in ethics; rather, moral subjects are subjective and each person has the right (moral right? legal right?) to decide for themselves what is right or wrong. Others, of course, believe that there are universal moral principles or rules that have non-subjective truth. They may be rules given by God (a theory called “divine command ethics) such as the 10 commandments or the 613 laws found in the Old Testament followed by those of the Jewish faith or non-religious principles found in classical ethics theory. So, is there any basis or justification for making a moral judgment about the actions – or the values – of other people? This week’s readings explore the question of whether cultures create morals or moral values frame cultures – in other words, which come first, the chicken or the egg?

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Can moral values that are not only different from but incompatible with our own also be “right”?
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Research online the short documentary “A Choice for K’alia” produced by CBC Television. It is about a Native American family’s decision to forego an organ transplant for their terminally ill child.

Next: Research online the drama named “Sophie’s Choice”. It is about a mother’s decision to choose between her son or her daughter.

**On what basis can we/ should we judge others’ moral choices?

All avenues of work involve engaging with people (supervisors, colleagues, subordinates, consumers) who come from cultures very different from our own and whose moral understandings regarding issues both mundane and consequential. How should we respond? Can moral values that are not only different from but incompatible with our own also be “right”? Or are there universally true moral values?

The parents in both Sophie’s Choice and “A The choice for K’alia” certainly face an emotionally wrenching situation. As extreme as both situations are, most of us, sometime in our personal or professional lives will face a decision that will have difficult consequences for ourselves or others.

1) Was Sophie’s decision immoral? Did K’aila’s parents do the right thing? Explain your answer.

2) What is your opinion about the matter?

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