Empathy; (the Golden Rule, trust, honesty, fairness, emotional contagion, body language,
perspective taking, sympathy, mind-reading, sense of separate self, targeted helping,
evolution, circle of concern, cooperation)
Evolution; (the Healing Principle, empathy, cooperation)
Fairness; (reciprocity, egalitarianism, proportionality, justice and rights, objectivity,
Perfect Compassion, cooperation, empathy, sharing, the Golden Rule, relative flourishing)
Morality can be thought of as similar to mathematics, in that (at least at this interpersonal
level) it consists of a collection of facts, logical relations between the facts,
and principles (of thriving cooperatively) arising from this situation.
The moral principles outlined above are simply necessary when people live by collaborating
together in small groups. Probably, a computer could be programmed with those facts
and goals, and would arrive at the same principles.
In the map above, we can identify an “empathy” cluster, a “fairness” cluster and
a “cooperation” cluster (Bekoff and Pierce 2009).
All of these are normative – expected by others around us – but some components of
morality also have ethical content – they represent what is considered the best of
moral behaviour, since they are directly concerned with primary goals/values (cooperative
thriving). The corresponding interpersonal moral principles, concerned with maximising
goals in a cooperative way, would probably consist of: helping in response to need,
fairness, reciprocity, and at least in the West in the 21st century, personhood and
... the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also
bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even
Paul the Apostle – Romans 2:15
We all need some kind of moral authority to refer to. This makes perfect practical
sense, as morality can be considered the art of living well. Religious people are
able to refer to God as the authority, which is perfectly valid, except that opinions
vary widely over what “God” thinks is the right thing to do.
We may construct objectivity by several different means, for example:
the universal ethics that all healthy people feel in their hearts (in fact, every
healthy individual member of any Homo species).
ethical principles that achieve what are universally considered the “highest” values.
Currently in the West, the highest value seems to be “thriving”, in that human rights
are considered paramount in every situation. (See Perfect Compassion.) Other ethical
systems may prioritise other values, such as “controlling female sexuality”, some
cultural values, or perhaps “warriorship”, “loyalty”, etc., whatever it might be.
If we prioritise human rights, we are saying that people are the most important thing.
If we combine these two kinds of objectivity, and choose cooperative thriving and
fairness as our primary value, then we arrive at Perfect Compassion, and by extension,
human rights and unconditional love. This has the automatic corollary that encouragement
and enforcement of some kind are necessary, in order to help prevent people from
defaulting on their moral obligations.
Moral realism and the sense of objectivity
A moral realist might say, “it is the case that” X moral statement, e.g. “it is the
case that I am responsible for the consequences of my actions”, or “it is objectively
true that I am responsible for the consequences of my actions”.
Someone who is not a moral realist might say, “it is the case that I have a sense
that” X moral statement, e.g. “it is the case that I have a sense that I am responsible
for the consequences of my actions”, or “I have a sense that it is objectively true
that I am responsible for the consequences of my actions”.
Evolutionary ethics attempts to explain the evolutionary source of this psychological
Map of cooperation
The concepts are arranged by association with each other:
from the beginning modern humans possessed early humans’ second-personal morality
for face-to-face interactions with collaborative partners, so they did not have to
create an “objective” morality from scratch, only scale up their existing second-personal
morality to fit a cultural way of life. ...
Cultures build on top of individuals’ natural morality a cultural morality encouraging
conformity to norms designed for maintaining social order in particular ways of life.
Michael Tomasello – “A Natural History of Human Morality”
The moral compass
Left-hand side constructed by symmetry with the existing right-hand side. The right
hand side can be considered “ethical” as it conforms to Perfect Compassion.
Self-other equivalence as part of a shared collaborative endeavour; mutual respect
and deservingness; fairness; impartiality
we = me
Identification with the group; “I am a member of Team X, cooperating with other X”;
“our goals are aligned”
you > me
Altruism; service; deference
we > me
Joint self governance; partner control; moral self-governance; following norms. In
making a commitment to collaborate with other individuals, or in making a commitment
to the group’s morality, we relinquish some personal control to the team, group,
or “we”, and its goals; and since “we” consists of self and others, this is internalised
as a sense of responsibility to others to uphold the associated role ideals, standards,
you ≠ me
“I do not respect you”; “I am not treating you as an equal”; unfairness; partiality
we ≠ me
Out-group members; “I am not one of ‘us’;” “I am not one of ‘you’”; “we are not in
a cooperative relationship”; “we do not share the same goal”; “I have no commitment
to you”; “your rules do not apply to me”; “I do not follow your norms”
you < me
“I take from you”; “I come first”
we < me
“I am dominating the group”; despotism; tyranny; “I make the rules”