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Morality (from Latin: moralitas, 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".

Moral philosophy includes meta-ethics, 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]

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]

The brain areas that are consistently involved when humans reason about moral issues have been investigated by multiple quantitative large-scale

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.[37][35][38][39] 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.[37]

Brain areas

If morality is

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.[49] 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,[50][51] has been used to study the differences between liberals and conservatives, in this regard.[15][52][53] 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 c

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. The Sentience Institute, co-founded by Jacy Reese Anthis, analyzes the trajectory of moral progress in society via the framework of an expanding moral circle.[54] 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 them, 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 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, 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 in the form of Merit, to determine if an action is right or wrong termed.[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.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]

Several 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 14 months 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

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] he concludes that a "complex relationship" exists between religiosity and homicide "with some dimensions of religiosity encouraging homicide and other dimensions discouraging it". In April 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 non-believers.[74][75]