“Common”

A point that was brought up today in class is this question of common virtue or common morality.  It seemed to me that the prevailing opinion of the class was that there is no such thing as a common morality.  Someone cited execution and cannibalism as examples of things that are accepted in some places but not in others.  And this blank slate idea has been the common wisdom for a long time, perpetuated by 20th century anthropologists.  Of course the blank slate being the idea that all people are born with no biological beliefs, opinions, practices, or morals.  However, in the last two decades or so we have come to some startling new conclusions on the subject through very simple means.  It took a new wave of scientists to analyze the the information gathered by anthropologists to see the patterns, but they are there.  For example, in the past, we would examine two cultures, one that wore only red t-shirts and one that wore only blue t-shirts and conclude, these two cultures have nothing in common.  But, if we now look through a more scientific perspective, we can see that, of course they do have something in common, both cultures wear t-shirs.  Using this technique of examining the shared opinion or practice of a culture and determining what the true underlying feature is, we have realized that humans in fact do share a great number of beliefs and practices, what we now have come to call Human Universals.

– Travis Piser

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