Ethical Universalism

Ethics was long presumed to be universal within the Western tradition, even though Aristotle wrote of differences in cultural values as the bases for persuasion. The shift to modernity at the end of the European Middle Ages meant moving several institutions (church, monarchy, the landed aristocracy) off their pedestals while elevating others (science, rationality, progress, and the individual). Through the Enlightenment and much of the 19th century, universalism was not really questioned in certain respects. However, the shaking of institutional foundations gave rise to questioning of the all-encompassing, presumably rational or natural standards for morality. This societal development has been quite uneven, of course, and does not represent a single ethical path or narrative. The importance of narrative in positioning values and ethics was demonstrated ...

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