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{{for|the capacity of a group's members to maintain belief in the face of opposition or hardship|morale}}{{for|the 2009 novella by Stephen King|Morality (novella)}}{{redirect|Morals|the 1921 film|Morals (film)}}{{redirect|Immoralist|the novel by André Gide|The Immoralist}}{{short description|differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper}}File:Tintoretto Allegory.jpg|thumb|Allegory with a portrait of a Venetian senator (Allegory of the morality of earthly things), attributed to TintorettoTintorettoMorality (from ) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper.BOOK, The Hellenistic Philosophers: Translations of the Principal Sources with Philosophical Commentary,weblink 1, A. A., Long, D. N., Sedley, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987, 366–67, 9780521275569, 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.WEB,weblink The Definition of Morality, Stanford University, 14 March 2011, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 22 March 2014, 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."ENCYCLOPEDIA, golden rule, Antony Flew, A Dictionary of Philosophy, Pan Books in association with Macmillan Publishers, The MacMillan Press, 1979, London, 134, 9780333262047, The maxim 'Treat others how you wish to be treated'. Various expressions of this fundamental moral rule are to be found in tenets of most religions and creeds through the ages, testifying to its universal applicability., Walter Terence Stace argued that the Golden Rule is much more than simply an ethical code. He posits that it "express[es] the essence of a universal morality." The rationale for this distinction occupies much of his book The Concept of Morals (1937). BOOK, Stace, Walter T., The Concept of Morals, The MacMillan Company; reprinted by Peter Smith Publisher Inc, January 1990, 1937, New York, 136, 978-0-8446-2990-2, 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.BOOK, Johnstone, Megan-Jane, Bioethics: A Nursing Perspective, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2008, 102–03, 978-0-7295-3873-2, BOOK, Superson, Anita, The Moral Skeptic, Oxford University Press, 2009, 127–59, 978-0-19-537662-3, WEB,weblink Amorality, 2010-06-18,, "having no moral standards, restraints, or principles; unaware of or indifferent to questions of right or wrong"



File:Immanuel Kant (painted portrait).jpg|thumb|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".){{see also|Sittlichkeit}}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."John Deigh in Robert Audi (ed), The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 1995. 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."BOOK, Simon Blackburn, Blackburn, Simon, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd, 2008, 240, 978-0199541430, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy,

Descriptive and normative

{{unreferenced section|date=January 2015}}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.BOOK,weblink The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Gert, Bernard, Gert, Joshua, 2016-01-01, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, Zalta, Edward N., Spring 2016, 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.

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:
  • Moral realism is the class of theories which hold that there are true moral statements that report objective moral facts. For example, while they might concede that forces of social conformity significantly shape individuals' "moral" decisions, they deny that those cultural norms and customs define morally right behavior. This may be the philosophical view propounded by ethical naturalists, however not all moral realists accept that position (e.g. ethical non-naturalists).Chapouthier, Georges, "To what extent is moral judgment natural?", European Review (GB), 2004, 12(2): 179–83
  • Moral anti-realism, on the other hand, holds that moral statements either fail or do not even attempt to report objective moral facts. Instead, they hold that moral sentences are either categorically false claims of objective moral facts (error theory); claims about subjective attitudes rather than objective facts (ethical subjectivism); or else not attempts to describe the world at all but rather something else, like an expression of an emotion or the issuance of a command (non-cognitivism).
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.


Tribal and territorial

Celia Green made a distinction between tribal and territorial morality.Green, Celia (2004). Letters from Exile: Observations on a Culture in Decline. Oxford: Oxford Forum. Chapters I–XX. 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.T.R. Shultz, M. Hartshorn, and A. Kaznatcheev. Why is ethnocentrism more common than humanitarianism? {{webarchive |url= |date=2012-03-27 }} Proceedings of the 31st annual conference of the cognitive science society, 2009. In simulations this discrimination can result in both unexpected cooperation towards the in-group and irrational hostility towards the out-group.Kaznatcheev, A. (2010, March). Robustness of ethnocentrism to changes in inter-personal interactions. In Complex Adaptive Systems – AAAI Fall Symposium. Butiz wintrades 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 notedJOURNAL, 10.1007/s11211-007-0034-z, When Morality Opposes Justice: Conservatives Have Moral Intuitions that Liberals may not Recognize, 2007, Haidt, Jonathan, Graham, Jesse, Social Justice Research, 20, 98–116,weblink, 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 SeligmanPeterson, Christopher, and Martin E. P. Seligman. Character Strengths and Virtues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 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.Pew Researchweblink 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 (Westacott,weblink 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.BOOK,weblink Did the Pedestrian Die: Insights from the World's Greatest Culture!, Trompenaars, Fons, 2003-03-14, Wiley, 9781841124360, en,


{{See also|Altruism#Evolutionary explanations|Evolution of morality|Evolutionary ethics}}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.BOOK, The Science of Good and Evil, 978-0-8050-7520-5, Shermer, Michael, Michael Shermer, Transcendent Morality,weblink The Science of Good and Evil, 2004-02-02, 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.Bekoff, Marc and Jessica Pierce Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (Chicago, The University of Chicago Press 2009) In related work, it has been convincingly demonstrated that chimpanzees show empathy for each other in a wide variety of contexts.JOURNAL, O'Connell, Sanjida, July 1995, Empathy in chimpanzees: Evidence for theory of mind?, Primates, 36, 3, 397–410, 0032-8332, 10.1007/BF02382862, They also possess the ability to engage in deception, and a level of social politicsBOOK, Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals, de Waal, Frans, 1997, Harvard University Press, 978-0674356610, prototypical of our own tendencies for gossip and reputation management.Christopher Boehm (1982)JOURNAL, Boehm, Christopher, The evolutionary development of morality as an effect of dominance behaviour and conflict interference, Journal of Social and Biological Sciences, 1982, 5, 4, 413–22, 10.1016/s0140-1750(82)92069-3, 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.


{{See also|Kohlberg's stages of moral development|Jean Piaget#Education and development of morality}}File:Kohlberg Model of Moral Development.svg|thumb|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.Gilligan and Kohlberg: "Implications for Moral Theory" Author(s): Lawrence A. BlumSource: Ethics, Vol. 98, No. 3 (Apr., 1988), pp. 472–91 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,JOURNAL, Decety, Jean, 2008, Study shows Children are naturally prone to be empathic and moral,weblink University of Chicago, JOURNAL, Decety, J, Michalska, KJ, Akitsuki, Y, 2008, Who caused the Pain? An fMRI investigation of empathy and intentionality in children, Neuropsychologia, 46, 11, 2607–14, 18573266, 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.05.026, 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.JOURNAL, Monin, B, Miller, D. T., 2001, Moral credentials and the expression of prejudice, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1, 33–43, 10.1037/0022-3514.81.1.33, 11474723,, Merritt, A., Effron, D., & Monin, B. (2010). "Moral self-licensing: When being good frees us to be bad". Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4/5, 344–57. WEB,weblink Archived copy, 2012-08-09, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2013-05-14, Monin and Miller (2001) 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.JOURNAL, Bergmann Jörg, 1998, Introduction:Morality in discourse, Research on Language and Social Interaction, 31, 3/4, 279–74, 10.1080/08351813.1998.9683594, Jörg Bergmann "Veiled morality: Notes on discretion in psychiatry." In BOOK, Talk at work: Interaction in institutional settings., Paul, Drew, John, Heritage, 1992, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 137–62, Lena Jayyusi "Values and moral judgment: Communicative praxis as moral order." In BOOK, Ethnomethodology and the Human Sciences., Graham, Button, 1991, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 227–51, JOURNAL, Cromdal Jakob, Michael Tholander, 2014, Morality in professional practice,weblink Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 9, 2, 155–64, 10.1558/japl.v9i2.25734,

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.JOURNAL, Young, Liane, Dungan, James, Where in the brain is morality? Everywhere and maybe nowhere, Social Neuroscience, January 2012, 7, 1, 1–10, 10.1080/17470919.2011.569146, 21590587, 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.JOURNAL, Yoder, Keith J., Decety, Jean, The neuroscience of morality and social decision-making, Psychology, Crime & Law, 12 December 2017, 24, 3, 279–295, 10.1080/1068316X.2017.1414817, 30766017, 6372234, 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.JOURNAL, Monin, Benoît, Pizarro, David A., Beer, Jennifer S., Deciding versus reacting: Conceptions of moral judgment and the reason-affect debate., Review of General Psychology, 2007, 11, 2, 99–111, 10.1037/1089-2680.11.2.99, 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.JOURNAL, Sevinc, Gunes, Spreng, R. Nathan, Contextual and Perceptual Brain Processes Underlying Moral Cognition: A Quantitative Meta-Analysis of Moral Reasoning and Moral Emotions, PLoS ONE, 4 February 2014, 9, 2, e87427, 10.1371/journal.pone.0087427, 24503959, 3913597, 2014PLoSO...987427S, The results of this meta-analaysis, however, also demonstrated that the processing of moral input is affected by task demands.


{{anchor|Neuroscience of morality}}{{see also|Science of morality}}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.JOURNAL, Bzdok, D. et al. Parsing the neural correlates of moral cognition: ALE meta-analysis on morality, theory of mind, and empathy. Brain Struct Funct, 2011, 2012-01-24, 10.1007/s00429-012-0380-y, 22270812, 217, 4, Brain Structure and Function, 783–96, Bzdok, Danilo, Schilbach, Leonhard, Vogeley, Kai, Schneider, Karla, Laird, Angela R, Langner, Robert, Eickhoff, Simon B, 3445793, JOURNAL, Boccia, M., Dacquino, C., Piccardi, L., Cordellieri, P., Guariglia, C., Ferlazzo, F., Ferracuti, S., Giannini, A. M., Neural foundation of human moral reasoning: an ALE meta-analysis about the role of personal perspective, Brain Imaging and Behavior, 25 January 2016, 11, 1, 278–292, 10.1007/s11682-016-9505-x, 26809288,weblink JOURNAL, Eres, Robert, Louis, Winnifred R., Molenberghs, Pascal, Common and distinct neural networks involved in fMRI studies investigating morality: an ALE meta-analysis, Social Neuroscience, 27 July 2017, 13, 4, 384–398, 10.1080/17470919.2017.1357657, 28724332, 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.

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.JOURNAL, Sevinc, Gunes, Gurvit, Hakan, Spreng, R. Nathan, Salience network engagement with the detection of morally laden information, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, July 2017, 12, 7, 1118–1127, 10.1093/scan/nsx035, 28338944, 5490682, The salience network responds to behaviorally salient events JOURNAL, Seeley, W. W., Menon, V., Schatzberg, A. F., Keller, J., Glover, G. H., Kenna, H., Reiss, A. L., Greicius, M. D., Dissociable Intrinsic Connectivity Networks for Salience Processing and Executive Control, Journal of Neuroscience, 28 February 2007, 27, 9, 2349–2356, 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5587-06.2007, 17329432, 2680293, 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.JOURNAL, Harenski, CL, Antonenko, O, Shane, MS, Kiehl, KA., 2010, A functional imaging investigation of moral deliberation and moral intuition, NeuroImage, 49, 3, 2707–16, 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.10.062, 19878727, 4270295, 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 moraljudgment. 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 whywere 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 othermorally 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.JOURNAL, Young, Liane, Camprodon, Joan Albert, Hauser, Marc, Pascual-Leone, Alvaro, Saxe, Rebecca, 2010, Disruption of the right temporoparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces the role of beliefs in moral judgments, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, PNAS, 107, 15, 6753–58, 10.1073/pnas.0914826107, 20351278, 2872442, 2010PNAS..107.6753Y, Similarly VMPC-impaired persons will judge an action purely on its outcome and are unable to take into account the intent of that action.JOURNAL, Young, Liane, Bechara, Antoine, Tranel, Daniel, Damasio, Hanna, Hauser, Marc, Damasio, Antonio, 2010, Damage to ventromedial prefrontal cortex impairs judgment of harmful intent, Neuron, 65, 6, 845–51, 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.03.003, 20346759, 3085837,

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,JOURNAL, Rizzolatti, Giacomo, etal, 1996, Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions, Cognitive Brain Research, 3, 2, 131–41, 10.1016/0926-6410(95)00038-0, 8713554,, 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.NEWS,weblink The Washington Post, If It Feels Good to Be Good, It Might Be Only Natural, Shankar, Vedantam, 2010-05-13, The inability to feel empathy is one of the defining characteristics of psychopathy, and this would appear to lend support to Decety's view.JOURNAL, de Wied M, Goudena PP, Matthys W, Empathy in boys with disruptive behavior disorders, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 46, 8, 867–80, 2005, 16033635, 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2004.00389.x, 1874/11212, JOURNAL, Fernandez YM, Marshall WL, Victim empathy, social self-esteem, and psychopathy in rapists, Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 15, 1, 11–26, 2003, 12616926, 10.1023/A:1020611606754,


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.See Weber, Eric Thomas. 2011. Morality, Leadership, and Public Policy (London: Continuum). 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,JOURNAL, Haidt, Jonathan, Joseph, Craig, Intuitive ethics: how innately prepared intuitions generate culturally variable virtues, Daedalus, September 2004, 133, 4, 55–66, 10.1162/0011526042365555, BOOK, Graham, J., Haidt, J., Koleva, S., Motyl, M., Iyer, R., Wojcik, S., Ditto, P.H., Moral Foundations Theory: The pragmatic validity of moral pluralism, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 2013, 55–130,weblink 10.1016/b978-0-12-407236-7.00002-4, 9780124072367, has been used to study the differences between liberals and conservatives, in this regard.MAGAZINE,weblink Morality: 2012: Online Only Video, The New Yorker, 2012-05-06, WEB,weblink Why conservatives and liberals talk past each other on moral issues., Dangerous Intersection, 2007-07-07, 2012-05-06, 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 thatWEB,weblinkweblink" title="">weblink dead, 2013-01-13, Terror and Just Response, ZNet, Chomsky, Noam, 2002-07-02, JOURNAL,weblink On Responsibility, War Guilt and Intellectuals, Schivone, Gabriel Matthew, 2007-08-03, CounterPunch, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2009-10-04, Interview.... 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.


{{See also|Divine command theory|Divine law|Morality without religion|Religious law|Secular ethics}}
Religion and morality are not synonymous. Morality does not depend upon religion although for some this is "an almost automatic assumption".BOOK, Rachels, (ed) James, Rachels, (ed) Stuart, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, McGraw-Hill, 7, 2011, New York, 978-0-078-03824-2, 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."BOOK, Childress, (ed) James F., Macquarrie, (ed) John, The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics, The Westminster Press, 1986, Philadelphia, 401, 978-0-664-20940-7,


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.Peggy Morgan, "Buddhism." In BOOK, Ethical Issues in Six Religious Traditions, Second, Peggy, Morgan, Clive A., Lawton, 2007, Columbia University Press, 978-0-7486-2330-3, 61, 88–89, 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".BOOK, The Bhagavad Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War, Miller, Barbara Stoler, 2004, Random House, New York, 978-0-553-21365-2, 3, 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.Werner Menski, "Hinduism." In BOOK, Ethical Issues in Six Religious Traditions, Second, Peggy, Morgan, Clive A., Lawton, 2007, Columbia University Press, 978-0-7486-2330-3, 5, In monotheistic traditions, certain acts are viewed in more absolute terms, such as abortion or divorce.{{Ref label|A|a|none}} 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."David Hume, "The Natural History of Religion." In BOOK, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, Hitchens, Christopher, 2007, Da Capo Press, Philadelphia, 978-0-306-81608-6, 30, 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".BOOK, Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Blackburn, Simon, Simon Blackburn, 2001, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 978-0-19-280442-6, 13, 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",BOOK, Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Blackburn, Simon, Simon Blackburn, 2001, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 978-0-19-280442-6, 12, and notes morally suspect themes in the Bible's New Testament as well.BOOK, Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Blackburn, Simon, Simon Blackburn, 2001, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 978-0-19-280442-6, 11–12, {{Ref label|E|e|none}} Christian apologists address Blackburn's viewpointsWEB, Colley, Caleb, Is Christianity a Threat to Ethics?,weblink Apologetics Press, 3 May 2012, 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.WEB,weblink Does the Old Testament Endorse Slavery? An Overview,, 2012-05-06, Elizabeth Anderson holds that "the Bible contains both good and evil teachings", and it is "morally inconsistent".Elizabeth Anderson, "If God is Dead, Is Everything Permitted?" In BOOK, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, Hitchens, Christopher, 2007, Da Capo Press, Philadelphia, 978-0-306-81608-6, 336, 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.See Weber, Eric Thomas. "Religion, Public Reason, and Humanism: Paul Kurtz on Fallibilism and Ethics {{webarchive|url= |date=2013-10-14 }}." Contemporary Pragmatism 5, Issue 2 (2008): 131–47.

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.{{Ref label|B|b|none}} 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." 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".BOOK, Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment, Zuckerman, Phil, New York University Press, New York, 978-0-8147-9714-3, 2, October 2008, {{Ref label|C|c|none}}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.JOURNAL,weblink Journal of Religion and Society, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look, Gregory S., Paul, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005, 7, 4–5, 8, 10, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2011-12-14, {{Ref label|D|d|none}} In a response, Gary Jensen builds on and refines Paul's study.Gary F. Jensen (2006) Department of Sociology, Vanderbilt University "Religious Cosmologies and Homicide Rates among Nations: A Closer Look'", Journal of Religion and Society, Vol. 8, {{ISSN|1522-5658}} 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."Highly Religious People Are Less Motivated by Compassion Than Are Non-Believers". Science DailyLaura R. Saslow, Robb Willer, Matthew Feinberg, Paul K. Piff, Katharine Clark, Dacher Keltner and Sarina R. Saturn"My Brother's Keeper? Compassion Predicts Generosity More Among Less Religious Individuals"

See also


a.{{Note label|A|a|none}} 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).WEB,weblink New Marriage and Divorce Statistics Released, Barna Group, 31 March 2008, Barna Group, 19 November 2011, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 19 December 2014, WEB,weblink Survey Inspires Debate Over Why Faith Isn't a Bigger Factor in Marriage, Christine, Wicker, 2000,, 1 April 2012, The study notes that fewer atheists and agnostics enter into marriage relative to faith-based individuals. b.{{Note label|B|b|none}} Some studies appear to show positive links in the relationship between religiosity and moral behaviorJOURNAL, Kerley, Kent R., Matthews, Blanchard, Troy C., 2005, Religiosity, Religious Participation, and Negative Prison Behaviors, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44, 4, 443–57, 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00296.x, JOURNAL, Saroglou, Vassilis, Pichon, Dernelle, Rebecca, 2005, Prosocial Behavior and Religion: New Evidence Based on Projective Measures and Peer Ratings,weblink Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44, 3, 323–48, 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00289.x,, e.g. a survey {{webarchive|url= |date=2007-10-08 }} by Robert Putnam showing that membership of religious groups was positively correlated with membership of voluntary organisations Modern research in criminology also suggests an inverse relationship between religion and crime,As is stated in: JOURNAL, Chu, Doris C., 2007, Religiosity and Desistance From Drug Use, Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34, 5, 661–79, 10.1177/0093854806293485, with some studies establishing this connection.
For example:
  • JOURNAL, Albrecht, S. I., Chadwick, B. A., Alcorn, D. S., 1977, Religiosity and deviance:Application of an attitude-behavior contingent consistency model, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 16, 3, 263–74, 10.2307/1385697, 1385697,
  • JOURNAL, Burkett, S., White, M., 1974, Hellfire and delinquency:Another look, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 13, 4, 455–62, 10.2307/1384608, 1384608,
  • Chard-Wierschem, D. (1998). In pursuit of the "true" relationship: A longitudinal study of the effects of religiosity on delinquency and substance abuse. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertation.
  • JOURNAL, Cochran, J. K., Akers, R. L., 1989, Beyond Hellfire:An explanation of the variable effects of religiosity on adolescent marijuana and alcohol use, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 26, 3, 198–225, 10.1177/0022427889026003002,
  • JOURNAL, Evans, T. D., Cullen, F. T., Burton, V. S., Jr, Dunaway, R. G., Payne, G. L., Kethineni, S. R., 1996, Religion, social bonds, and delinquency, Deviant Behavior, 17, 43–70, 10.1080/01639625.1996.9968014,
  • JOURNAL, Grasmick, H. G., Bursik, R. J., Cochran, J. K., 1991, Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's": Religiosity and taxpayer's inclinations to cheat, The Sociological Quarterly, 32, 2, 251–66, 10.1111/j.1533-8525.1991.tb00356.x,
  • JOURNAL, Higgins, P. C., Albrecht, G. L., 1977, Hellfire and delinquency revisited, Social Forces, 55, 4, 952–58, 10.1093/sf/55.4.952,
  • JOURNAL, Johnson, B. R., Larson, D. B., DeLi, S., Jang, S. J., 2000, Escaping from the crime of inner cities:Church attendance and religious salience among disadvantaged youth, Justice Quarterly, 17, 2, 377–91, 10.1080/07418820000096371,
  • JOURNAL, Johnson, R. E., Marcos, A. C., Bahr, S. J., 1987, The role of peers in the complex etiology of adolescent drug use, Criminology, 25, 2, 323–40, 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1987.tb00800.x,
  • JOURNAL, Powell, K., 1997, Correlates of violent and nonviolent behavior among vulnerable inner-city youths, Family and Community Health, 20, 2, 38–47, 10.1097/00003727-199707000-00006,

A meta-analysis of 60 studies on religion and crime concluded, "religious behaviors and beliefs exert a moderate deterrent effect on individuals' criminal behavior".JOURNAL, Baier, C. J., Wright, B. R., 2001, If you love me, keep my commandments":A meta-analysis of the effect of religion on crime, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38, 3–21, 10.1177/0022427801038001001,

c.{{Note label|C|c|none}} 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.{{Note label|D|d|none}} The authors also state that "A few hundred years ago rates of homicide were astronomical in Christian Europe and the American colonies,"JOURNAL,weblink Journal of Religion and Society, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look, Gregory S., Paul, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005, 7, 4–5, 8, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2011-12-14, and "the least theistic secular developing democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards."JOURNAL,weblink Journal of Religion and Society, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look, Gregory S., Paul, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005, 7, 11, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2011-12-14, They argue for a positive correlation between the degree of public religiosity in a society and certain measures of dysfunction,JOURNAL,weblink Journal of Religion and Society, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look, Gregory S., Paul, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005, 7, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2011-12-14, an analysis published later in the same journal argues that a number of methodological problems undermine any findings or conclusions in the research.JOURNAL,weblink Journal of Religion and Society, Religiosity, Secularism, and Social Health, Gerson Moreno-Riaño, Mark Caleb Smith, Thomas Mach, Cedarville University, 2006, 8, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2011-10-28, e.{{Note label|E|e|none}} 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".BOOK, Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Blackburn, Simon, Simon Blackburn, 2001, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 978-0-19-280442-6, 10, 12, 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.WEB, Westacott, Emrys, Moral Relativism,weblink, 12/5/2018,



Further reading

  • BOOK, Churchland, Patricia Smith, Patricia Churchland, Braintrust : What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 978-0-691-13703-2,weblink 2011, (Reviewed in The Montreal Review)
  • Richard Dawkins, "The roots of morality: why are we good?", in The God Delusion, Black Swan, 2007 ({{ISBN|978-0-552-77429-1}}).
  • BOOK, Harris, Sam, Sam Harris (author), The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, 2010, Free Press, New York, 978-1-4391-7121-9, The Moral Landscape,
  • Lunn, Arnold, and Garth Lean (1964). The New Morality. London: Blandford Press.
  • John Newton, Complete Conduct Principles for the 21st Century, 2000. {{ISBN|0967370574}}.
  • JOURNAL, Prinz, Jesse, Jesse Prinz, Jan–Feb 2013, Morality is a Culturally Conditioned Response, Philosophy Now,weblink
  • BOOK, Stace, Walter Terence, Walter Terence Stace, The Concept of Morals, 1937, The MacMillan Company; Reprinted 1975 by permission of Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., and also reprinted by Peter Smith Publisher Inc, January 1990, New York, 978-0-8446-2990-2,weblink
  • BOOK, Trompenaars, Fons, Fons Trompenaars, Did the Pedestrian Die?: Insights from the World's Greatest Culture Guru, 2003, Capstone, Oxford, 978-1-84112-436-0,weblink
  • BOOK, Yandell, Keith E., God, man, and religion: readings in the philosophy of religion, 1973, McGraw-Hill,weblink containing articles by Paterson Brown:

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

External links

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