The “Six” Pillars of Morality

 

 

necessity of thriving, surviving and reproducing =>

necessity of cooperation and interdependence =>

 

values of

 

  1. benefit / harm    
  2. fairness / reciprocity / proportionality / unfairness, cheating, free-riding    
  3. liberty / oppression     
  4. loyalty to in-group / betrayal of in-group    
  5. respect for authority / tradition / subversion    
  6. sanctity / purity / disgust (physical and moral)  

 

All six can be seen as families of primary values.  

These values fall into two categories:

1 and 2 therefore belong with small groups, and all 6 with large groups, since the interpersonal scene still exists in large groups.  

Political Left and Right – small and large group morality

In his book “The Righteous Mind”, Jonathan Haidt shows that the political left wing currently in the US employ 1, 2 and 3 (with fairness as equality and proportionality), and the political right wing use all 6 (with fairness more as proportionality).  

This fits with an idea that the Left use more small-group morality (egalitarian, personally interdependent, using unconditional love as reciprocity, with personal commitment and loyalty); and the Right use more of large-group morality (impersonal, tit-for-tat [business-like] reciprocity, social norms, loyalty to the group as well as using small-group morality).  It seems that the interest in liberty is more general on the Left, whereas on the Right it represents freedom from government interference.  

See also: unconditional love; stakeholder principle; map of morality; reciprocity

 

 

 

See also:  Moral Universals (Brights)

 

 

 

Universal and local

Since 1 and 2 are interpersonal, they are universal, although they interact with the other foundations.  They evolved when we lived in small groups, before the advent of culture, around 2 million years ago.  

Since 3-6 are cultural, they vary between cultures in the way they are emphasised and carried out.  All of them may vary between individuals or between political or religious persuasions.  These values evolved as a way of cooperating within large groups.  Cultural markings, evidence of large cultural groups, are known from around 150,000 years ago.  

Conceptions of fairness vary widely, but there is always a conception of fairness.  

 

 

 

Multiple moralities

When the individual is making a moral judgement, there will be multiple moral “voices” competing for attention and consideration, from the various families of values.  

Sometimes cultural values may conflict with interpersonal values and human rights.  

see also: circle of concern, cruelty of culture and religion

 

 

 

Evolution of moral foundations

1.  Care/harm

Caring for others is thought to have evolved within the context of child-care in mammals and birds and, evolutionarily, has since become available to be used in any social situation where care is required.  See also:  empathy, targeted helping

2.  Fairness

It is thought that sharing, and fairness, evolved in the context of collaborative activities in pairs or small groups of early humans, and the need to reward participants in a satisfactory way (to motivate further cooperation) and exclude free riders.  The interpersonal version of sharing tends to be more equal, while more impersonal business type transactions are generally proportional to effort, merit, skill, etc.  We would expect “need” to be a factor in deservingness in both cases.

Within an interdependent relationship, fairness is based on self-other equivalence (the interchangeability of persons within fixed roles with fixed standards) (“you = me”); mutual respect (between potential partners); and deservingness (of collaborative partners as opposed to free riders).  

The feelings of mutual respect and deservingness provide a moral “ought” to fairness.

3.  Liberty

According to Jonathan Haidt in his book “The Righteous Mind”, people on the political Left reject authority and tradition and embrace the liberty to pursue one’s own ends; while Right-wing people support freedom from government interference, with Right-wing libertarians also in favour of the liberty to pursue one’s own ends.  

4.  Loyalty / betrayal

The interpersonal version of loyalty is commitment and obligation to one’s collaborative partners, to play one’s part well throughout the collaborative activity and to be a good cooperator and treat others with respect.  It is necessary to be like this, otherwise the mission might fail.  

This moral foundation, loyalty/obligation, provides an original “ought” as a motivation for ethical behaviour.  

In large groups, interdependence is increased through division of labour, although the interdependence is more impersonal because of the larger group size.  A group is a cooperative unit, and in a cooperative unit, the members depend on and need each other.  Hence, there is a feeling of warm positive regard and loyalty to one’s compatriots in the group, and the small-scale feelings of commitment and obligation to a partner become, on a large scale, feelings of generalised commitment to all potential partners, i.e. the group and its norms.   See also:  stakeholder principle

5.  Authority / tradition / subversion

This refers to the “authority of the social order” which is generally “paternalistic” and not oppressive: the strong and high up are supposed to take care of those “below” them in the social order.  Of course, this power difference is sometimes abused, or otherwise unjust or unjustly carried out.  

6.  Sanctity / purity / disgust

 

Oh, that dirty, double-crossin’ rat. I'd like to get my own hooks on him. I’d tear him to pieces.

James Cagney – “Blonde Crazy” (1931)

 

 

References:  

Haidt, Jonathan – “The Righteous Mind – why good people are divided by politics and religion”

Tomasello, Michael – “A Natural History of Human Morality”

Wikipedia: “Moral Foundations Theory”

 

 

See also:  patriarchy