The Echoes of the Mind (160) Morality


A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true. ~ Socrates

Morality is a biological process that appraises the rightness or wrongness of a behavior. Ethics is the philosophic codification of morality.

The core concept of morality is fairness, which is innate in all organisms, from microbes on up. Sociality would be impossible without morality. Lacking a sense of equity, an organism would have no means to assess the quality of interactions with others.

Moral judgments are stitched into the fabric of human nature, steering us toward cooperation and away from exploitation. ~ English social psychologist Jim Everett et al

Between 2 parties, fairness may play out as reciprocity, based upon immediate needs. In such case, a rough accounting of equity is made through a series of exchanges.

The degree of altruism’s exhibition depends upon individual constitution and cultural fostering of empathy. Irrespective of species, some individuals are more altruistic than others.

Most men have always wanted as much as they could get; and possession has always blunted the fine edge of their altruism. ~ American writer Katharine Gerould

Altruism and compassion are highly correlated, just as egoism is antithetic to altruism.

In assessing the morality of someone’s acts, we necessarily attempt to discern intention. An accident does not have moral implications.

Mind perception is the essence of moral judgment. ~ Kurt Gray et al

The ideal of justice is grounded in fairness. Restitution has always been an abiding principle of justice systems.

A moral judgment of wrongdoing typically provokes a strong emotional reaction. Conversely, witnessing right action is nonprovocative.

The long history of mammalian evolution has shaped us to be sensitive to signs of suffering of others. And this constitutes a natural foundation for morality and sensitivity to justice. ~ Jean Decety

An innate sense of fairness coupled to sympathy forms the foundation for compassion, an emotion humans share with other mammals and birds, among other organisms.

Compassion is the basis of morality. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Honesty is another dimension of morality. Like fairness, there are gray areas. Whereas deception for personal gain is clearly immoral, a “little white lie” to spare ill feelings is often considered compassion rather than an ethical lapse. The morality of honesty is ultimately tied to advantage, and so irrevocably linked to fairness and empathy.

Moral character information determines the impressions people form of individuals. ~ American psychologist Geoffrey Goodwin

People put great stock in their moral assessments. It is how individuals define themselves, and the most important criterion in adjudging others.

Moral traits are a reliable predictor for how individuals will fare as potential partners for cooperation and affiliation. One of the chief reasons we make distinctions among persons in the first place is to monitor suitable social partners, and indeed, a person’s moral character – as compared with, say, their personality or shared interests – is the ultimate dimension by which we judge friends, business associates, and mates. ~ Nina Strohminger & Shaun Nichols

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There are 2 opposing perspectives on ethics: deontology and teleology (also known as consequentialism).  Consequentialism casts morality by its outcomes. The utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill exemplify teleological ethics.

The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals. ~ Jeremy Bentham

Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. ~ John Stuart Mill

By contrast, under deontology, morality is in the act, not its outcome. Deontology is morality by rule, not result. Duty is a deontological concept.

Nothing can be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will. ~ Immanuel Kant

For Kant, goodness comes from acting “out of respect for the moral law.” The extreme of deontology is moral absolutism: that certain acts are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of intention or consequence. Kant’s position was absolutist, in that the sole determinant of morality was intent.

Intuitive and automatic judgments tend to be characteristically deontological, whereas characteristically consequentialist judgments are often the result of slow, deliberative cognitive processes. ~ American psychologist David Pizarro et al

People prefer empathic, cooperative partners who are trustworthy. We gauge trustworthiness from reliability, which is most apparent in those who have rules of right and wrong, who view morality in terms of duties and rights.

Individuals who make deontological decisions in moral dilemmas are rated as being more empathic and having a superior moral character compared to those who make consequentialist decisions. ~ American psychologist Molly Crockett et al

Practically, morality is a blend of teleological and utilitarian constructs. Deontic principles may be overridden if following them is considered harmful. Focus on fairness and justice embrace contractual moral theory with both deontological and teleological underpinnings.

Societally, morality is a social metric which may be deformed by group mores that are immoral.

Bad company ruins good morals. ~ Roman Christian evangelist Paul of Tarsus