Thursday, September 14, 2006

Today's ethics question

In Eskimo cultures (in the past) female babies liable to be killed and this was permitted simply at the parents' discretion, with no social stigma attached to it. Also, when older people were too feeble to contribute to the family, they were left outside in the snow to die.
Basically the Eskimo society had little respect for life.
They killed the babies because the Eskimos lived in a harsh environment, where food was in short supply. A fundamental Eskimo thought was this: "Life is hard, and the margin of safety small." A family may want to nourish it's babies but unable to do so. Eskimo mothers would nurse their infants over a much longer period than mothers in our culture...for 4 years or longer.
So even in the best of times, there were limits to the number of infants one mother could sustain. The female babies were the ones that were killed b/c the males were primary food providers.
So today's question is: Eskimos practiced infanticide (usually with female girls) and also that they sometimes left the elderly in the snow to die. How do you evaluate the practices morally?

1 comment:

Michael Robinson said...

Clearly this type of society values the collective over the individual. Certain individuals are sacrificed seemingly against their wishes.

Of what value is it to continue the existance of a human collective when the worth of each individual is not valued.

On a moral level, some humans separate themselves from other animals by protecting and caring for the weak. If the Eskimo society does not funtion in this way, on what moral level are they different from a pack of dogs or other animal grouping?