Are There Universal Moral Codes?

Recently Time Magazine displayed on its cover a picture of a beautiful young woman who had been horribly disfigured, having been sentenced to and having experienced the cutting off of her nose and ears in her native country. (Time Magazine cover August 9, 2010).
In discussing this cover with others here in Ohio the response was unanimously one of horror and outrage, yet this was a court-decreed punishment in one region of her native country. In the context of this community, in this region, in this country, this punishment was consistent with the moral code, yet totally unacceptable to everyone with whom I spoke. In Ohio it was called a sign of the systematic abuse of women.
How can we reconcile these huge gaps in agreement as to what is right and proper, moral and just? Are there universal moral codes of justice and beneficence? What do we do when we encounter moral codes which deviate so far from our own? What about cultural sensitivity; our understanding that there are many cultural beliefs and practices on this planet? Do we say, “live and let live,” and practice a form of non-interference or act when we think universal moral sensibilities have been outraged? I present these questions not to suggest the answers are easy. They are not. I bring the questions forward to ask your thoughts and opinions. Many philosophers, writers and others have dealt with these issues. I bring to your attention the work of Dr. Kent M. Keith, author of the Paradoxical Commandments. Dr. Keith attempted to develop a Universal Moral Code. Dr. Keith’s Universal Moral Code can be found at  Given the complexity and diversity of the world we live in today can we say there are universal codes of behavior that are good, right and proper? What do you think? Can we get a conversation going?

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2 Responses to Are There Universal Moral Codes?

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Talmud’s moral code can be summed up in one or two phrases, “Justice, justice, shall ye pursue,” or “Do not do to others that which you don’t want done to you.” Our justice is defined in our Bible, and Islam’s justice is defined in their Qur’an and Shari’a laws. For 1400 centuries, we have not interfered with Islamic laws, and their culture has strengthened. Because of increased and improved communication among nations as well as the jihad that’s come to our country, we are awakening to a multifaceted moral dilemma: Do we stay out of their business or not? This leads to more questions!

  2. Kathe says:

    Moral codes seem to be heavily influenced by culture. I think there are behaviors which are considered archaic by 21st century western ideas. Some which are against the very religion the perpetrators profess.

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