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)  
  7. long-lasting pair bonding for child rearing (“marriage and the family”); related norms
  8. The Patriarchy: mate guarding of females through sexual norms; male protection of women and children (male chivalry)  


All eight can be seen as families of primary values.  

Primary values fall into two categories:

7 and 8 are therefore both moral (concerning benefit/harm and fairness) and conventional (group-oriented) families of values.  7 and 8 are related but distinct.  




See also:  Moral Universals (Brights)




Universal and local

Since 1, 2, 7 and 8 are interpersonal, they are universal.  These evolved when we lived in small groups, before the advent of culture, around 2 million years ago.  

Since 3-8 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, and therefore larger groups, are known from around 150,000 years ago.  

We see that 7 and 8 are both universal and cultural.  

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.  

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





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”  “Patriarchy”