Morality

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Allegory with a portrait of a Venetian senator (Allegory of the morality of earthly things), attributed to Tintoretto, 1585 Tintoretto Allegory.jpg
Allegory with a portrait of a Venetian senator (Allegory of the morality of earthly things), attributed to Tintoretto, 1585

Morality (from Latin : moralis, lit.  'manner, character, proper behavior') is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper. [1] Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. [2] Morality may also be specifically synonymous with "goodness" or "rightness".

Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is the rendering of text from one language to another one word at a time with or without conveying the sense of the original whole.

Intention is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future. Intention involves mental activities such as planning and forethought.

In sociology, social action, also known as Weberian social action, refers to an act which takes into the account of actions and reactions of individuals. According to Max Weber, "an Action is 'social' if the acting individual takes account of the behavior of others and is thereby oriented in its course".

Contents

Moral philosophy includes metaethics, which studies abstract issues such as moral ontology and moral epistemology, and normative ethics, which studies more concrete systems of moral decision-making such as deontological ethics and consequentialism. An example of normative ethical philosophy is the Golden Rule, which states that: "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself." [3] [4]

Ontology study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations

Ontology is the philosophical study of being. More broadly, it studies concepts that directly relate to being, in particular becoming, existence, reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

Normative ethics is the study of ethical action. It is the branch of philosophical ethics that investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one ought to act, morally speaking.

In moral philosophy, deontological ethics or deontology is the normative ethical theory that the morality of an action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong under a series of rules, rather than based on the consequences of the action. It is sometimes described as duty-, obligation- or rule-based ethics. Deontological ethics is commonly contrasted to consequentialism, virtue ethics, and pragmatic ethics. In this terminology, action is more important than the consequences.

Immorality is the active opposition to morality (i.e. opposition to that which is good or right), while amorality is variously defined as an unawareness of, indifference toward, or disbelief in any particular set of moral standards or principles. [5] [6] [7]

Immorality is the violation of moral laws, norms or standards. Immorality is normally applied to people or actions, or in a broader sense, it can be applied to groups or corporate bodies, and works of art.

In most contexts, the concept of good denotes the conduct that should be preferred when posed with a choice between possible actions. Good is generally considered to be the opposite of evil, and is of interest in the study of morality, ethics, religion and philosophy. The specific meaning and etymology of the term and its associated translations among ancient and contemporary languages show substantial variation in its inflection and meaning depending on circumstances of place, history, religious, or philosophical context.

Amorality is an absence of, indifference towards, or disregard for morality. Some simply refer to it as a case of not being moral or immoral. Amoral should not be confused with immoral, which refers to an agent doing or thinking something they know or believe to be wrong.

Philosophy

Ethics

Immanuel Kant introduced the categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law". Immanuel Kant (painted portrait).jpg
Immanuel Kant introduced the categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law".

Ethics (also known as moral philosophy) is the branch of philosophy which addresses questions of morality. The word "ethics" is "commonly used interchangeably with 'morality,' and sometimes it is used more narrowly to mean the moral principles of a particular tradition, group, or individual." [8] Likewise, certain types of ethical theories, especially deontological ethics, sometimes distinguish between ethics and morals: "Although the morality of people and their ethics amounts to the same thing, there is a usage that restricts morality to systems such as that of Immanuel Kant, based on notions such as duty, obligation, and principles of conduct, reserving ethics for the more Aristotelian approach to practical reasoning, based on the notion of a virtue, and generally avoiding the separation of 'moral' considerations from other practical considerations." [9]

Philosophy Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Immanuel Kant Prussian philosopher

Immanuel Kant was an influential German philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.

Aristotelianism tradition in philosophy

Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. This school of thought, in the modern sense of philosophy, covers existence, ethics, mind and related subjects. In Aristotle's time, philosophy included natural philosophy, which preceded the advent of modern science during the Scientific Revolution. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school and later on by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle's writings. In the Islamic Golden Age, Avicenna and Averroes translated the works of Aristotle into Arabic and under them, along with philosophers such as Al-Kindi and Al-Farabi, Aristotelianism became a major part of early Islamic philosophy.

Descriptive and normative

In its descriptive sense, "morality" refers to personal or cultural values, codes of conduct or social mores from a society that provides these codes of conduct in which it applies and is accepted by an individual. It does not connote objective claims of right or wrong, but only refers to that which is considered right or wrong. Descriptive ethics is the branch of philosophy which studies morality in this sense. [10]

A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the social norms, religious rules and responsibilities of, and or proper practices for, an individual. In its 2007 International Good Practice Guidance, "Defining and Developing an Effective Code of Conduct for Organizations", the International Federation of Accountants provided the following working definition:

Mores customary behaviour

The concept of mores refers to social norms that are widely observed and are considered to have greater moral significance than others. Mores include an aversion for societal taboos, such as incest. The mores of a society usually predicate legislation reinforcing their taboos. Often, countries will employ specialized vice squads or vice police to combat specific crimes offending against societal mores.

Descriptive ethics, also known as comparative ethics, is the study of people's beliefs about morality. It contrasts with prescriptive or normative ethics, which is the study of ethical theories that prescribe how people ought to act, and with meta-ethics, which is the study of what ethical terms and theories actually refer to. The following examples of questions that might be considered in each field illustrate the differences between the fields:

In its normative sense, "morality" refers to whatever (if anything) is actually right or wrong, which may be independent of the values or mores held by any particular peoples or cultures. Normative ethics is the branch of philosophy which studies morality in this sense. [10]

Realism and anti-realism

Philosophical theories on the nature and origins of morality (that is, theories of meta-ethics) are broadly divided into two classes:

Some forms of non-cognitivism and ethical subjectivism, while considered anti-realist in the robust sense used here, are considered realist in the sense synonymous with moral universalism. For example, universal prescriptivism is a universalist form of non-cognitivism which claims that morality is derived from reasoning about implied imperatives, and divine command theory and ideal observer theory are universalist forms of ethical subjectivism which claim that morality is derived from the edicts of a god or the hypothetical decrees of a perfectly rational being, respectively.

Anthropology

Tribal and territorial

Celia Green made a distinction between tribal and territorial morality. [12] She characterizes the latter as predominantly negative and proscriptive: it defines a person's territory, including his or her property and dependents, which is not to be damaged or interfered with. Apart from these proscriptions, territorial morality is permissive, allowing the individual whatever behaviour does not interfere with the territory of another. By contrast, tribal morality is prescriptive, imposing the norms of the collective on the individual. These norms will be arbitrary, culturally dependent and 'flexible', whereas territorial morality aims at rules which are universal and absolute, such as Kant's 'categorical imperative' and Geisler's graded absolutism. Green relates the development of territorial morality to the rise of the concept of private property, and the ascendancy of contract over status.

In-group and out-group

Some observers hold that individuals apply distinct sets of moral rules to people depending on their membership of an "in-group" (the individual and those they believe to be of the same group) or an "out-group" (people not entitled to be treated according to the same rules). Some biologists, anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists believe this in-group/out-group discrimination has evolved because it enhances group survival. This belief has been confirmed by simple computational models of evolution. [13] In simulations this discrimination can result in both unexpected cooperation towards the in-group and irrational hostility towards the out-group. [14] Gary R. Johnson and V.S. Falger have argued that nationalism and patriotism are forms of this in-group/out-group boundary. Jonathan Haidt has noted [15] that experimental observation indicating an in-group criterion provides one moral foundation substantially used by conservatives, but far less so by liberals.

Comparing cultures

Peterson and Seligman [16] approach the anthropological view looking across cultures, geo-cultural areas and across millennia. They conclude that certain virtues have prevailed in all cultures they examined. The major virtues they identified include wisdom / knowledge; courage; humanity; justice; temperance; and transcendence. Each of these includes several divisions. For instance humanity includes love , kindness , and social intelligence.

Still, others theorize that morality is not always absolute, contending that moral issues often differ along cultural lines. A 2014 PEW research study among several nations illuminates significant cultural differences among issues commonly related to morality, including divorce, extramarital affairs, homosexuality, gambling, abortion, alcohol use, contraceptive use, and premarital sex. Each of the 40 countries in this study has a range of percentages according to what percentage of each country believes the common moral issues are acceptable, unacceptable, or not moral issues at all. Each percentage regarding the significance of the moral issue varies greatly on the culture in which the moral issue is presented. [17]

Advocates of a theory known as moral relativism subscribe to the notion that moral virtues are right or wrong only within the context of a certain standpoint (e.g., cultural community). In other words, what is morally acceptable in one culture may be taboo in another. They further contend that no moral virtue can objectively be proven right or wrong [18] Critics of moral relativism point to historical atrocities such as infanticide, slavery, or genocide as counter arguments, noting the difficulty in accepting these actions simply through cultural lenses.

Fons Trompenaars, author of Did the Pedestrian Die?, tested members of different cultures with various moral dilemmas. One of these was whether the driver of a car would have his friend, a passenger riding in the car, lie in order to protect the driver from the consequences of driving too fast and hitting a pedestrian. Trompenaars found that different cultures had quite different expectations, from none to definite. [19]

Evolution

The development of modern morality is a process closely tied to sociocultural evolution. Some evolutionary biologists, particularly sociobiologists, believe that morality is a product of evolutionary forces acting at an individual level and also at the group level through group selection (although to what degree this actually occurs is a controversial topic in evolutionary theory). Some sociobiologists contend that the set of behaviors that constitute morality evolved largely because they provided possible survival or reproductive benefits (i.e. increased evolutionary success). Humans consequently evolved "pro-social" emotions, such as feelings of empathy or guilt, in response to these moral behaviors.

On this understanding, moralities are sets of self-perpetuating and biologically driven behaviors which encourage human cooperation. Biologists contend that all social animals, from ants to elephants, have modified their behaviors, by restraining immediate selfishness in order to improve their evolutionary fitness. Human morality, although sophisticated and complex relative to the moralities of other animals, is essentially a natural phenomenon that evolved to restrict excessive individualism that could undermine a group's cohesion and thereby reducing the individuals' fitness. [20]

On this view, moral codes are ultimately founded on emotional instincts and intuitions that were selected for in the past because they aided survival and reproduction (inclusive fitness). Examples: the maternal bond is selected for because it improves the survival of offspring; the Westermarck effect, where close proximity during early years reduces mutual sexual attraction, underpins taboos against incest because it decreases the likelihood of genetically risky behaviour such as inbreeding.

The phenomenon of reciprocity in nature is seen by evolutionary biologists as one way to begin to understand human morality. Its function is typically to ensure a reliable supply of essential resources, especially for animals living in a habitat where food quantity or quality fluctuates unpredictably. For example, some vampire bats fail to feed on prey some nights while others manage to consume a surplus. Bats that did eat will then regurgitate part of their blood meal to save a conspecific from starvation. Since these animals live in close-knit groups over many years, an individual can count on other group members to return the favor on nights when it goes hungry (Wilkinson, 1984)

Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce (2009) have argued that morality is a suite of behavioral capacities likely shared by all mammals living in complex social groups (e.g., wolves, coyotes, elephants, dolphins, rats, chimpanzees). They define morality as "a suite of interrelated other-regarding behaviors that cultivate and regulate complex interactions within social groups." This suite of behaviors includes empathy, reciprocity, altruism, cooperation, and a sense of fairness. [21] In related work, it has been convincingly demonstrated that chimpanzees show empathy for each other in a wide variety of contexts. [22] They also possess the ability to engage in deception, and a level of social politics [23] prototypical of our own tendencies for gossip and reputation management.

Christopher Boehm (1982) [24] has hypothesized that the incremental development of moral complexity throughout hominid evolution was due to the increasing need to avoid disputes and injuries in moving to open savanna and developing stone weapons. Other theories are that increasing complexity was simply a correlate of increasing group size and brain size, and in particular the development of theory of mind abilities.

Psychology

Kohlberg Model of Moral Development Kohlberg Model of Moral Development.svg
Kohlberg Model of Moral Development

In modern moral psychology, morality is considered to change through personal development. A number of psychologists have produced theories on the development of morals, usually going through stages of different morals. Lawrence Kohlberg, Jean Piaget, and Elliot Turiel have cognitive-developmental approaches to moral development; to these theorists morality forms in a series of constructive stages or domains. In the Ethics of care approach established by Carol Gilligan, moral development occurs in the context of caring, mutually responsive relationships which are based on interdependence, particularly in parenting but also in social relationships generally. [25] Social psychologists such as Martin Hoffman and Jonathan Haidt emphasize social and emotional development based on biology, such as empathy. Moral identity theorists, such as William Damon and Mordechai Nisan, see moral commitment as arising from the development of a self-identity that is defined by moral purposes: this moral self-identity leads to a sense of responsibility to pursue such purposes. Of historical interest in psychology are the theories of psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud, who believe that moral development is the product of aspects of the super-ego as guilt-shame avoidance.

Because we are naturally prone to be empathic and moral, we have a sense of responsibility to pursue moral purposes, [26] [27] we still, at least occasionally, engage in immoral behavior. Such behaviors jeopardize our moral self-image; however, when we engage in immoral behaviors we still feel as though we are moral individuals. Moral self-licensing attempts to explain this phenomenon and proposes that self-image security increases our likelihood to engage in immoral behavior. When our moral self-image is threatened, we can gain confidence from our past moral behavior. The more confident we are, the less we will worry about our future behavior which actually increases the likelihood that we will engage in immoral behaviors. [28] [29] Monin and Miller (2001) [28] examined the moral self-licensing effect and found that when participants established credentials as non-prejudiced persons, they were more willing to express politically incorrect opinions despite the fact that the audience was unaware of their credentials.

As an alternative to viewing morality as an individual trait, some sociologists as well as social- and discursive psychologists have taken upon themselves to study the in-vivo aspects of morality by examining how persons conduct themselves in social interaction. [30] [31] [32] [33]

Moral cognition

Moral cognition refers to cognitive processes that allow a person to act or decide in morally permissible ways. It consists of several domain-general cognitive processes, ranging from perception of a morally salient stimulus to reasoning when faced with a moral dilemma. While it's important to mention that there is not a single cognitive faculty dedicated exclusively to moral cognition, characterizing the contributions of domain-general processes to moral behavior is a critical scientific endeavor to understand how morality works and how it can be improved. [34]

Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists investigate the inputs to these cognitive processes and their interactions, as well as how these contribute to moral behavior by running controlled experiments. [35] In these experiments putatively moral versus nonmoral stimuli are compared to each other, while controlling for other variables such as content or working memory load. Often, the differential neural response to specifically moral statements or scenes, are examined using functional neuroimaging experiments.

Critically, the specific cognitive processes that are involved depend on the prototypical situation that a person encounters. [36] For instance, while situations that require an active decision on a moral dilemma may require active reasoning, an immediate reaction to a shocking moral violation may involve quick, affect-laden processes. Nonetheless certain cognitive skills such as being able to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, emotions to oneself, and to others is a common feature of a broad range of prototypical situations. In line with this, a meta-analysis found overlapping activity between moral emotion and moral reasoning tasks, suggesting a shared neural network for both tasks. [37] The results of this meta-analaysis, however, also demonstrated that the processing of moral input is affected by task demands.

Neuroscience

The brain areas that are consistently involved when humans reason about moral issues have been investigated by multiple quantitative large-scale meta-analyses of the brain activity changes reported in the moral neuroscience literature. [38] [37] [39] [40] The neural network underlying moral decisions overlaps with the network pertaining to representing others' intentions (i.e., theory of mind) and the network pertaining to representing others' (vicariously experienced) emotional states (i.e., empathy). This supports the notion that moral reasoning is related to both seeing things from other persons' points of view and to grasping others' feelings. These results provide evidence that the neural network underlying moral decisions is probably domain-global (i.e., there might be no such things as a "moral module" in the human brain) and might be dissociable into cognitive and affective sub-systems. [38]

Brain areas

An essential, shared component of moral judgment involves the capacity to detect morally salient content within a given social context. Recent research implicated the salience network in this initial detection of moral content. [41] The salience network responds to behaviorally salient events [42] and may be critical to modulate downstream default and frontal control network interactions in the service of complex moral reasoning and decision-making processes.

The explicit making of moral right and wrong judgments coincides with activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC) while intuitive reactions to situations containing implicit moral issues activates the temporoparietal junction area. [43] [41]

Stimulation of the VMPC by transcranial magnetic stimulation, has been shown to inhibit the ability of human subjects to take into account intent when forming a moral judgment. According to this investigation, TMS did not disrupt participants' ability to make any moral judgment. On the contrary, moral judgments of intentional harms and non-harms were unaffected by TMS to either the RTPJ or the control site; presumably, however, people typically make moral judgments of intentional harms by considering not only the action's harmful outcome but the agent's intentions and beliefs. So why were moral judgments of intentional harms not affected by TMS to the RTPJ? One possibility is that moral judgments typically reflect a weighted function of any morally relevant information that is available at the time. On the basis of this view, when information concerning the agent's belief is unavailable or degraded, the resulting moral judgment simply reflects a higher weighting of other morally relevant factors (e.g., outcome). Alternatively, following TMS to the RTPJ, moral judgments might be made via an abnormal processing route that does not take belief into account. On either account, when belief information is degraded or unavailable, moral judgments are shifted toward other morally relevant factors (e.g., outcome). For intentional harms and non-harms, however, the outcome suggests the same moral judgment as the intention. Thus, the researchers suggest that TMS to the RTPJ disrupted the processing of negative beliefs for both intentional harms and attempted harms, but the current design allowed the investigators to detect this effect only in the case of attempted harms, in which the neutral outcomes did not afford harsh moral judgments on their own. [44]

Similarly VMPC-impaired persons will judge an action purely on its outcome and are unable to take into account the intent of that action. [45]

Mirror neurons

Mirror neurons are neurons in the brain that fire when another person is observed doing a certain action. The neurons fire in imitation of the action being observed, causing the same muscles to act minutely in the observer as are acting grossly in the person actually performing the action. Research on mirror neurons, since their discovery in 1996, [46] suggests that they may have a role to play not only in action understanding, but also in emotion sharing empathy. Cognitive neuro-scientist Jean Decety thinks that the ability to recognize and vicariously experience what another individual is undergoing was a key step forward in the evolution of social behavior, and ultimately, morality. [47] The inability to feel empathy is one of the defining characteristics of psychopathy, and this would appear to lend support to Decety's view. [48] [49]

Politics

If morality is the answer to the question 'how ought we to live' at the individual level, politics can be seen as addressing the same question at the social level, though the political sphere raises additional problems and challenges. [50] It is therefore unsurprising that evidence has been found of a relationship between attitudes in morality and politics. Moral foundations theory, authored by Jonathan Haidt and colleagues, [51] [52] has been used to study the differences between liberals and conservatives, in this regard. [15] [53] [54] Haidt found that Americans who identified as liberals tended to value care and fairness higher than loyalty, respect and purity. Self-identified conservative Americans valued care and fairness less and the remaining three values more. Both groups gave care the highest over-all weighting, but conservatives valued fairness the lowest, whereas liberals valued purity the lowest. Haidt also hypothesizes that the origin of this division in the United States can be traced to geo-historical factors, with conservatism strongest in closely knit, ethnically homogenous communities, in contrast to port-cities, where the cultural mix is greater, thus requiring more liberalism.

Group morality develops from shared concepts and beliefs and is often codified to regulate behavior within a culture or community. Various defined actions come to be called moral or immoral. Individuals who choose moral action are popularly held to possess "moral fiber", whereas those who indulge in immoral behavior may be labeled as socially degenerate. The continued existence of a group may depend on widespread conformity to codes of morality; an inability to adjust moral codes in response to new challenges is sometimes credited with the demise of a community (a positive example would be the function of Cistercian reform in reviving monasticism; a negative example would be the role of the Dowager Empress in the subjugation of China to European interests). Within nationalist movements, there has been some tendency to feel that a nation will not survive or prosper without acknowledging one common morality, regardless of its content. Political Morality is also relevant to the behavior internationally of national governments, and to the support they receive from their host population. Noam Chomsky states that [55] [56]

... if we adopt the principle of universality : if an action is right (or wrong) for others, it is right (or wrong) for us. Those who do not rise to the minimal moral level of applying to themselves the standards they apply to others—more stringent ones, in fact—plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of appropriateness of response; or of right and wrong, good and evil. In fact, one of the, maybe the most, elementary of moral principles is that of universality, that is, If something's right for me, it's right for you; if it's wrong for you, it's wrong for me. Any moral code that is even worth looking at has that at its core somehow.

Religion

Religion and morality are not synonymous. Morality does not depend upon religion although for some this is "an almost automatic assumption". [57] According to The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics, religion and morality "are to be defined differently and have no definitional connections with each other. Conceptually and in principle, morality and a religious value system are two distinct kinds of value systems or action guides." [58]

Positions

Within the wide range of moral traditions, religious value systems co-exist with contemporary secular frameworks such as consequentialism, freethought, humanism, utilitarianism, and others. There are many types of religious value systems. Modern monotheistic religions, such as Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and to a certain degree others such as Sikhism and Zoroastrianism, define right and wrong by the laws and rules set forth by their respective scriptures and as interpreted by religious leaders within the respective faith. Other religions spanning pantheistic to nontheistic tend to be less absolute. For example, within Buddhism, the intention of the individual and the circumstances should be accounted for to determine if an action is right or wrong. [59] A further disparity between the values of religious traditions is pointed out by Barbara Stoler Miller, who states that, in Hinduism, "practically, right and wrong are decided according to the categories of social rank, kinship, and stages of life. For modern Westerners, who have been raised on ideals of universality and egalitarianism, this relativity of values and obligations is the aspect of Hinduism most difficult to understand". [60]

Religions provide different ways of dealing with moral dilemmas. For example, there is no absolute prohibition on killing in Hinduism, which recognizes that it "may be inevitable and indeed necessary" in certain circumstances. [61] In monotheistic traditions, certain acts are viewed in more absolute terms, such as abortion or divorce. [a] Religion is not always positively associated with morality. Philosopher David Hume stated that, "the greatest crimes have been found, in many instances, to be compatible with a superstitious piety and devotion; Hence it is justly regarded as unsafe to draw any inference in favor of a man's morals, from the fervor or strictness of his religious exercises, even though he himself believe them sincere." [62]

Religious value systems can diverge from commonly held contemporary moral positions, such as those on murder, mass atrocities, and slavery. For example, Simon Blackburn states that "apologists for Hinduism defend or explain away its involvement with the caste system, and apologists for Islam defend or explain away its harsh penal code or its attitude to women and infidels". [63] In regard to Christianity, he states that the "Bible can be read as giving us a carte blanche for harsh attitudes to children, the mentally handicapped, animals, the environment, the divorced, unbelievers, people with various sexual habits, and elderly women", [64] and notes morally suspect themes in the Bible's New Testament as well. [65] [e] Christian apologists address Blackburn's viewpoints [66] and construe that Jewish laws in the Hebrew Bible showed the evolution of moral standards towards protecting the vulnerable, imposing a death penalty on those pursuing slavery and treating slaves as persons and not property. [67] Elizabeth Anderson holds that "the Bible contains both good and evil teachings", and it is "morally inconsistent". [68] Humanists like Paul Kurtz believe that we can identify moral values across cultures, even if we do not appeal to a supernatural or universalist understanding of principles - values including integrity, trustworthiness, benevolence, and fairness. These values can be resources for finding common ground between believers and nonbelievers. [69]

Empirical analyses

A number of studies have been conducted on the empirics of morality in various countries, and the overall relationship between faith and crime is unclear. [b] A 2001 review of studies on this topic found "The existing evidence surrounding the effect of religion on crime is varied, contested, and inconclusive, and currently no persuasive answer exists as to the empirical relationship between religion and crime." [70] Phil Zuckerman's 2008 book, Society without God, based on studies conducted during a 14-month period in Scandinavia in 2005–2006, notes that Denmark and Sweden, "which are probably the least religious countries in the world, and possibly in the history of the world", enjoy "among the lowest violent crime rates in the world [and] the lowest levels of corruption in the world". [71] [c]

Dozens of studies have been conducted on this topic since the twentieth century. A 2005 study by Gregory S. Paul published in the Journal of Religion and Society stated that, "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies," and "In all secular developing democracies a centuries long-term trend has seen homicide rates drop to historical lows" with the exceptions being the United States (with a high religiosity level) and "theistic" Portugal. [72] [d] In a response, Gary Jensen builds on and refines Paul's study. [73] His conclusion is that a "complex relationship" exists between religiosity and homicide "with some dimensions of religiosity encouraging homicide and other dimensions discouraging it". On April 26, 2012, the results of a study which tested their subjects' pro-social sentiments were published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal in which non-religious people had higher scores showing that they were more inclined to show generosity in random acts of kindness, such as lending their possessions and offering a seat on a crowded bus or train. Religious people also had lower scores when it came to seeing how much compassion motivated participants to be charitable in other ways, such as in giving money or food to a homeless person and to non-believers. [74] [75]

See also

Notes

a. ^ Studies on divorce in the United States done by the Barna Group suggested that atheists and agnostics have lower divorce rates than faith groups on average (though some faith groups had lower rates still). [76] [77] The study notes that fewer atheists and agnostics enter into marriage relative to faith-based individuals.
b. ^ Some studies appear to show positive links in the relationship between religiosity and moral behavior [78] [79] [80] Modern research in criminology also suggests an inverse relationship between religion and crime, [81] with some studies establishing this connection. [82] A meta-analysis of 60 studies on religion and crime concluded, "religious behaviors and beliefs exert a moderate deterrent effect on individuals' criminal behavior". [70]
c. ^ Zuckerman identifies that Scandinavians have "relatively high rates of petty crime and burglary", but "their overall rates of violent crime—such as murder, aggravated assault, and rape—are among the lowest on earth" (Zuckerman 2008, pp. 5–6).
d. ^ The authors also state that "A few hundred years ago rates of homicide were astronomical in Christian Europe and the American colonies," [83] and "the least theistic secular developing democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards." [84] They argue for a positive correlation between the degree of public religiosity in a society and certain measures of dysfunction, [85] an analysis published later in the same journal argues that a number of methodological problems undermine any findings or conclusions in the research. [86]
e. ^ Blackburn provides examples such as the phrase in Exodus 22:18 that has "helped to burn alive tens or hundreds of thousands of women in Europe and America": "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," and notes that the Old Testament God apparently has "no problems with a slave-owning society", considers birth control a crime punishable by death, and "is keen on child abuse". [87] Others interpret these passages differently, arguing for example that Jewish laws show the evolution of moral standards in society: that Jews actually threatened those who pursued forced slavery with the death penalty, held that slaves were persons instead of property, and protected them in several ways. [66] [67] [88]

Related Research Articles

Lawrence Kohlberg was an American psychologist best known for his theory of stages of moral development.

Moral reasoning, also known as moral development, is a study in psychology that overlaps with moral philosophy. Children can make moral decisions about what is right and wrong from a young age; this makes morality fundamental to the human condition. Moral reasoning, however, is a part of morality that occurs both within and between individuals. Prominent contributors to this theory include Lawrence Kohlberg and Elliot Turiel. The term is sometimes used in a different sense: reasoning under conditions of uncertainty, such as those commonly obtained in a court of law. It is this sense that gave rise to the phrase, "To a moral certainty;" however, this idea is now seldom used outside of charges to juries.

Moral psychology is a field of study in both philosophy and psychology. Historically, the term "moral psychology" was used relatively narrowly to refer to the study of moral development. More recently however, the term has come to refer more broadly to various topics at the intersection of ethics, psychology, and philosophy of mind. Some of the main topics of the field are moral judgment, moral reasoning, moral sensitivity, moral responsibility, moral motivation, moral identity, moral action, moral development, moral diversity, moral character, altruism, psychological egoism, moral luck, moral forecasting, moral emotion, affective forecasting, and moral disagreement.

Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development constitute an adaptation of a psychological theory originally conceived by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Kohlberg began work on this topic while being a psychology graduate student at the University of Chicago in 1958 and expanded upon the theory throughout his life.

Social intuitionism model of moral psychology

In moral psychology, social intuitionism is a model that proposes that moral positions and judgments are: (1) primarily intuitive, (2) rationalized, justified, or otherwise explained after the fact, (3) taken mainly to influence other people, and are (4) often influenced and sometimes changed by discussing such positions with others.

Secular ethics is a branch of moral philosophy in which ethics is based solely on human faculties such as logic, empathy, reason or moral intuition, and not derived from supernatural revelation or guidance—the source of ethics in many religions. Secular ethics refers to any ethical system that does not draw on the supernatural, and includes humanism, secularism and freethinking. A classical example of literature on secular ethics is the Kural text, authored by the ancient Tamil Indian philosopher Valluvar who lived during the 1st century BCE.

The ethics of care is a normative ethical theory that holds that moral action centers on interpersonal relationships and care or benevolence as a virtue. EoC is one of a cluster of normative ethical theories that were developed by feminists in the second half of the twentieth century. While consequentialist and deontological ethical theories emphasize generalizable standards and impartiality, ethics of care emphasize the importance of response to the individual. The distinction between the general and the individual is reflected in their different moral questions: "what is just?" versus "how to respond?". Gilligan criticizes the application of generalized standards as "morally problematic, since it breeds moral blindness or indifference."

Jean Decety American neuroscientist

Jean Decety is an American and French neuroscientist specializing in developmental neuroscience, affective neuroscience, and social neuroscience. His research focuses on the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms underpinning social cognition, particularly social decision-making, empathy, moral reasoning, altruism, pro-social behavior, and more generally interpersonal relationships. He is Irving B. Harris Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago.

Jonathan Haidt American psychologist

Jonathan David Haidt is an American social psychologist, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business, and author. His main areas of study are the psychology of morality and the moral emotions.

The evolution of morality refers to the emergence of human moral behavior over the course of human evolution. Morality can be defined as a system of ideas about right and wrong conduct. In everyday life, morality is typically associated with human behavior, and not much thought is given to the social conducts of other creatures. The emerging fields of evolutionary biology and in particular sociobiology have argued that, though human social behaviors are complex, the precursors of human morality can be traced to the behaviors of many other social animals. Sociobiological explanations of human behavior are still controversial. The traditional view of social scientists has been that morality is a construct, and is thus culturally relative, although others argue that there is a science of morality.

Moral disengagement is a term from social psychology for the process of convincing the self that ethical standards do not apply to oneself in a particular context. This is done by separating moral reactions from inhumane conduct and disabling the mechanism of self-condemnation. Thus, moral disengagement involves a process of cognitive re-construing or re-framing of destructive behavior as being morally acceptable without changing the behavior or the moral standards. In social cognitive theory of morality, self-regulatory mechanisms embedded in moral standards and self-sanctions translate moral reasoning into actions, and, as a result, moral agency is exerted. Thus, the moral self is situated in a broader, socio-cognitive self-theory consisting of self-organizing, proactive, self-reflective, and self-regulative mechanisms. Three major sub-functions are operating in this self-regulatory system in which moral agency is grounded. The first sub-function is self-monitoring of one's conduct, which is the initial step of taking control over it. "Action gives rise to self-reactions through a judgmental function in which conduct is evaluated against internal standards and situational circumstances". Thus, moral judgments evoke self-reactive influence. The self-reactive and judgmental mechanisms constitute the second and third sub-function.

Secular morality is the aspect of philosophy that deals with morality outside of religious traditions. Modern examples include humanism, freethinking, and most versions of consequentialism. Additional philosophies with ancient roots include those such as skepticism and virtue ethics. Greg M. Epstein also states that, "much of ancient Far Eastern thought is deeply concerned with human goodness without placing much if any stock in the importance of gods or spirits." An example is the Kural text of Valluvar, an ancient Indian theistic poet-philosopher whose work remains secular and non-denominational. Other philosophers have proposed various ideas about how to determine right and wrong actions. An example is Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative.

The science of morality may refer to various forms of ethical naturalism grounding morality in rational, empirical consideration of the natural world. It is sometimes framed as using the scientific approach to determine what is right and wrong, in contrast to the widespread belief that "science has nothing to say on the subject of human values".

Morality and religion is the relationship between religious views and morals. Many religions have value frameworks regarding personal behavior meant to guide adherents in determining between right and wrong. These include the Triple Gems of Jainism, Islam's Sharia, Catholicism's Canon Law, Buddhism's Eightfold Path, and Zoroastrianism's "good thoughts, good words, and good deeds" concept, among others. These frameworks are outlined and interpreted by various sources such as holy books, oral and written traditions, and religious leaders. Many of these share tenets with secular value frameworks such as consequentialism, freethought, and utilitarianism.

Moral development focuses on the emergence, change, and understanding of morality from infancy through adulthood. Morality develops across a lifetime and is influenced by an individual's experiences and their behavior when faced with moral issues through different periods' physical and cognitive development. In short, morality concerns an individual's growing sense of what is right and wrong; it is for this reason that young children have different moral judgement and character than that of a grown adult. Morality in itself is often a synonym for "rightness" or "goodness". It refers to a certain code of conduct that is derived from one's culture, religion or personal philosophy that guides one's actions, behaviors and thoughts. This term is related to psychology. There are other types of development such as social development, physical development and cognitive development.

Moral foundations theory is a social psychological theory intended to explain the origins of and variation in human moral reasoning on the basis of innate, modular foundations. It was first proposed by the psychologists Jonathan Haidt, Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham, building on the work of cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder; and subsequently developed by a diverse group of collaborators, and popularized in Haidt's book The Righteous Mind.

Joshua D. Greene is an American experimental psychologist, neuroscientist, and philosopher. He is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Most of his research and writing has been concerned with moral judgment and decision-making. His recent research focuses on fundamental issues in cognitive science.

Dual process theory (moral psychology)

Dual process theory within moral psychology is an influential theory of human moral judgment that posits that human beings possess two distinct cognitive subsystems that compete in moral reasoning processes: one fast, intuitive and emotionally-driven, the other slow, requiring conscious deliberation and a higher cognitive load. Initially proposed by Joshua Greene along with Brian Sommerville, Leigh Nystrom, John Darley, Jonathan David Cohen and others, the theory can be seen as a domain-specific example of more general dual process accounts in psychology, such as Daniel Kahneman's "system1"/"system 2" distinction popularised in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. Greene has often emphasized the normative implications of the theory, which has started an extensive debate in ethics.

Moral emotions are a variety of social emotion that are involved in forming and communicating moral judgments and decisions, and in motivating behavioral responses to one's own and others' moral behavior.

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Further reading

"Religious Morality", (from Mind, 1963).
"Religious Morality: a Reply to Flew and Campbell", (from Mind, 1964).
"God and the Good", (from Religious studies , 1967).