Especially as digital media dramatically accelerate these processes of encountering other cultures, we can indeed see rapid cultural change in our own day, described in part in terms of cultural hybridization and the development of “third cultures.” Digital media thereby confront us with a seemingly overwhelming range of cultural diversity – thus dramatically heightening the temptation toward ethical relativism. At the same time, however, a world increasingly interwoven precisely by digital media and computer networks only amplifies the force of Midgley’s insistence – “Morally as well as physically, there is only one world, and we all have to live in it”. Insofar as ethical relativism leads to moral isolationism and a perhaps fatal paralysis of moral judgment, these logical outcomes fly in the face of what we actually do in the contemporary world: we evaluate and make judgments about those elements of cultural practices, beliefs, norms, etc., different from our own that we will accept or reject.
Ethical absolutism (monism) Opposite to ethical relativism is a position often called ethical absolutism or ethical monism. Briefly, this view insists on the following:
There are universally valid norms, beliefs, practices, etc. – that is, such norms, beliefs, practices, etc., define what is right and good for all people at all times and in all places.
What is often tacit or unstated for the ethical absolutist is the additional claim:
I/we know what those norms, beliefs, practices, etc., are – completely, clearly, unequivocally.
This may seem like an odd claim to spell out, but, as we will see, this is an especially crucial element of the ethical absolutist’s position. Finally, the ethical absolutist will thereby have to argue:
Those norms, beliefs, practices, etc., that are different from the ones we know to be universally valid must therefore be wrong (evil, invalid, etc.).
In this way, the ethical absolutist is in the position both to applaud those beliefs and behaviors that agree with his or her own view of what is universally valid, and to condemn those beliefs and behaviors that differ from his or her own.