Should we judge the practices of other cultures?

When discussing the practices of other cultures, debates coalesce around two positions:

Moral Relativism: Rights are culturally dependent and there are no moral principles that should apply to all people. Societies should be able to do whatever they want and we shouldn’t judge them.

Moral Universalism: There are certain absolute moral truths (i.e. Human rights) and we should hold people accountable to those truths.

This debate has existed for a long time and in an increasingly global world, these arguments will not go away. Below are some interesting and in some cases, disturbing, examples of cultural practices that go from strange (ritually marrying a dog) to terrifying (burning witches and killing albino).

Is there a moral position from which to judge these if they are from radically different cultures from ours? If so, is there a reciprocal right others have to judge our practices? Can we act upon our judgments? What if acting on these judgments involved intervention in other cultures that don’t want it?

1. Girl marries stray dog to ward off evil spirit

2.Papua New Guinea Is Still Burning “Sorcerers” at the Stake

3. Tanzanian gangs hack off limbs of albinos for traditional rituals

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