Moral relativism

Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences
in moral judgments across different people and cultures. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that
some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such
disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong; andnormative moral relativism holds that
because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we
disagree about the morality of it.
Not all descriptive relativists adopt meta-ethical relativism, and moreover, not all meta-ethical
relativists adopt normative relativism. Richard Rorty, for example, argued that relativist philosophers
believe "that the grounds for choosing between such opinions is less algorithmic than had been
thought", but not that any belief is equally as valid as any other.

Moral relativism has been espoused, criticized, and debated for thousands of years, from
ancient Greece and India to the present day, in diverse fields including philosophy, science,
and religion.
Descriptive moral relativism is merely the positive or descriptive position that there exist, in fact,
fundamental disagreements about the right course of action even when the same facts hold true and
the same consequences seem likely to arise.
It is the observation that different cultures have
different moral standards. Descriptive relativists do not necessarily advocate the tolerance of all
behavior in light of such disagreement; that is to say, they are not necessarily normative relativists.
Likewise, they do not necessarily make any commitments to the semantics, ontology,
orepistemology of moral judgements; that is, not all descriptive relativists are meta-ethical relativists.
Descriptive relativism is a widespread position in academic fields such
as anthropology and sociology, which simply admit that it is incorrect to assume that the same moral
or ethical frameworks are always in play in all historical and cultural circumstances.
Meta-ethical moral relativists believe not only that people disagree about moral issues, but that
terms such as "good", "bad", "right" and "wrong" do not stand subject to universal truth conditions at
all; rather, they are relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of an individual or a group of
The American anthropologist William Sumner was an influential advocate of this view. In
his 1906 work Folkways he argues that what people consider right and wrong is entirely shaped by
the traditions, customs and practices of their culture. Moreover, since there is no higher moral
standard than the local mores of a culture, no trans-cultural judgement about the rightness or
wrongness of a culture's mores can be justified.
Meta-ethical relativists are, firstly, descriptive relativists: they believe that, given the same set of
facts, some societies or individuals will have a fundamental disagreement about what one ought to
do (based on societal or individual norms). What's more, they argue that one cannot adjudicate
these disagreements using some independent standard of evaluation—the standard will always be
societal or personal.
This view contrasts with moral universalism, which argues that, even though people disagree, and
some may even be unpersuadable (e.g. someone who is closed-minded), there is still a meaningful
sense in which an action may be more "moral" than another; that is, they believe there are objective
standards of evaluation that seem worth calling "moral facts"—regardless of whether they are
universally accepted.
Normative moral relativists believe not only the meta-ethical thesis, but that it has normative
implications on what we ought to do. They argue that meta-ethical relativism implies that we ought to
tolerate the behavior of others even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards.
Most philosophers do not agree, partially because of the challenges of arriving at an "ought" from
relativistic premises.
Meta-ethical relativism seems to eliminate the normative relativist's ability to
make prescriptive claims. In other words, normative relativism may find it difficult to make a
statement like "we think it is moral to tolerate behaviour" without always adding "other people
think intolerance of certain behaviours is moral". Philosophers like Russell Blackford even argue that
intolerance is, to some degree, important. As he puts it, "we need not adopt a quietism about moral
traditions that cause hardship and suffering. Nor need we passively accept the moral norms of our
own respective societies, to the extent that they are ineffective or counterproductive or simply
That is, it is perfectly reasonable (and practical) for a person or group to defend their
subjective values against others, even if there is no universal prescription or morality. We can also
criticize other cultures for failing to pursue even their own goals effectively.
The moral relativists may also still try to make sense of non-universal statements like "in this country,
it's wrong to do X" or even "to me, it is right to do Y".

Moral universalists argue further that their system often does justify tolerance, and that
disagreement with moral systems does not always demand interference, and certainly not
aggressive interference.
For example, the utilitarian might call another society's practice 'ignorant'
or 'less moral', but there would still be much debate about courses of action (e.g. whether to focus
on providing better education, or technology, etc.)
Moral relativism encompasses views and arguments that people in various cultures have held over
several thousand years. For example, the ancient Jaina Anekantavada principle of Mahavira (c.
599–527 BC) states that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, and
that no single point of view is the complete truth;
and theGreek philosopher Protagoras (c. 481–
420 BC) famously asserted that "man is the measure of all things". The Greekhistorian Herodotus (c.
484–420 BC) observed that each society regards its own belief system and way of doing things as
better than all others. Various other ancient philosophers also questioned the idea of an objective
standard of morality.
In the early modern era Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) notably held that nothing is inherently good or
The 18th-century Enlightenment philosopher David Hume (1711–1776) serves in several
important respects as the father both of modern emotivism and of moral relativism, though Hume
himself did not espouse relativism. He distinguished between matters of fact and matters of value,
and suggested that moral judgments consist of the latter, for they do not deal with verifiable facts
obtained in the world, but only with our sentiments and passions. But Hume regarded some of our
sentiments as universal. He famously denied that morality has any objective standard, and
suggested that the universe remains indifferent to our preferences and our troubles.
Friedrich Nietzsche believed that we have to assess the value of our values since values are relative
to one's goals and one's self. He emphasized the need to analyze our moral values and how much
impact they may have on us. The problem with morality, according to Nietzsche, is that those who
were considered ―good‖ were the powerful nobles who had more education, and considered
themselves better than anyone below their rank. Thus, what is considered good is relative. A ―good
man‖ is not questioned on whether or not there is a ―bad‖, such as temptations, lingering inside him
and he is considered to be more important than a man who is considered ―bad‖ who is considered
useless to making the human race better because of the morals we have subjected ourselves to. But
since what is considered good and bad is relative, the importance and value we place on them
should also be relative. He proposed that morality itself could be a danger.
Nietzsche believed that
morals should be constructed actively, making them relative to who we are and what we, as
individuals, consider to be true, equal, good and bad, etc. instead of reacting to moral laws made by
a certain group of individuals in power.

It is controversial
[citation needed]
whether the late modern philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
is an anti-realistor a relativistic realist
[citation needed]
about morality.
See e.g.: Nietzsche's Views On Ethics; Prominent Moral Skeptics.
One scholar, supporting an anti-realist interpretation, concludes that "Nietzsche's central
argument for anti-realism about value is explanatory: moral facts don't figure in the 'best
explanation' of experience, and so are not real constituents of the objective world. Moral
values, in short, can be 'explained away.' "

It is certain that Nietzsche criticizes Plato's prioritization of transcendence as the Forms. The
Platonist view holds that what is 'true', or most real, is something which is other-worldly while
the (real) world of experience is like a mere 'shadow' of the Forms, most famously expressed
in Plato's allegory of the cave. Nietzsche believes that this transcendence also had a parallel
growth in Christianity, which prioritized life-denying moral qualities such as humility and
obedience through the church. (See Beyond Good and Evil, On the Genealogy of
Morals, The Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, etc.)
Anthropologists such as Ruth Benedict (1887–1948) have cautioned observers
against ethnocentricism—using the standards of their own culture to evaluate their
subjects of study. Benedict said that transcendent morals do not exist—only socially
constructed customs do (see moral nihilism); and that in comparing customs, the
anthropologist "insofar as he remains an anthropologist . . . is bound to avoid any
weighting of one in favor of the other". To some extent, the increasing body of
knowledge of great differences in belief among societies caused both social
scientists and philosophers to question whether any objective, absolute standards
pertaining to values could exist. This led some to posit that differing systems have equal
validity, with no standard for adjudicating among conflicting beliefs. The Finnish
philosopher-anthropologist Edward Westermarck (1862–1939) ranks as one of the first
to formulate a detailed theory of moral relativism. He portrayed all moral ideas as
subjective judgments that reflect one's upbringing. He rejected G.E. Moore's (1873–
1958) ethical intuitionism—in vogue during the early part of the 20th century, and which
identified moral propositions as true or false, and known to us through a special faculty
of intuition—because of the obvious differences in beliefs among societies, which he
said provided evidence of the lack of any innate, intuitive power.
Views on meta-ethical relativism[edit]
Scientific views[edit]
Moral questions and science[edit]
See also: Science of morality
Author and neuroscientist Sam Harris, a prominent figure in the New Atheist movement,
has argued that there are correct and incorrect answers to moral questions that may
one day fall within reach of a maturing neuroscience.
He advocates an empirically
based moral science founded upon ethical realism or, more specifically, ethical
naturalism, and presupposes a loosely utilitarian consequentialism.
Harris wrote extensively on how science can influence how we view moral truth. He
claims that human well-being, which includes peaks of happiness and valleys of
distress, indicate that morality and its consequences can be studied within the realm of
science. These ―states of the human brain…depend on events in the world.
Consequently, there must be scientific truths to be known about it.‖ (Harris 2). Everyone
can distinguish between what a happy person and a miserable person looks like.
Furthermore, we can distinguish between a ―good life" and a ―bad life‖. Harris presents a
disturbing account of the differences between the two in The Moral Landscape, in which
he describes the bad life as being ―a young widow who has lived her entire life in the
midst of civil war‖ and witnessed her ―seven-year-old daughter [being] raped and
dismembered‖ at the hands of her ―fourteen-year old son, who was goaded to this evil at
the point of a machete by a press gang of drug-addled soldiers‖ (15). The good life,
however, is much different and more familiar to most Americans, in which ―you are
married to the most loving, intelligent and charismatic person you have ever met. Both
of you have careers that are intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding.‖ (15).

Morality and evolution[edit]
See also: Evolution of morality
Some evolutionary biologists believe that morality is a natural phenomenon that evolves
by natural selection.
In this case, morality is defined as the set of relative social
practices that promote the survival and successful reproduction of the species, or even
multiple cooperating species.

Philosophical views[edit]
R. M. Hare[edit]
See also: Universal prescriptivism
Some philosophers, for example R. M. Hare (1919–2002), argue that moral propositions
remain subject to human logical rules, notwithstanding the absence of any factual
content, including those subject to cultural or religious standards or norms. Thus, for
example, they contend that one cannot hold contradictory ethical judgments. This allows
for moraldiscourse with shared standards, notwithstanding the descriptive properties
or truth conditions of moral terms. They do not affirm or deny that moral facts exist, only
that human logic applies to our moral assertions; consequently, they postulate an
objective and preferred standard of moral justification, albeit in a very limited sense.
Nevertheless, according to Hare, human logic shows the error of relativism in one very
important sense (see Hare's Sorting out Ethics). Hare and other philosophers also point
out that, aside from logical constraints, all systems treat certain moral terms alike in an
evaluative sense. This parallels our treatment of other terms such as less or more,
which meet with universal understanding and do not depend upon independent
standards (for example, one can convert measurements). It applies to good and bad
when used in their non-moral sense, too; for example, when we say, "this is
a good wrench" or "this is abad wheel". This evaluative property of certain terms also
allows people of different beliefs to have meaningful discussions on moral questions,
even though they may disagree about certain "facts".
Walter Terence Stace[edit]
"Ethical Relativity" is the topic of the first two chapters of The Concept of Morals in
which Walter Terence Stace argues against moral absolutism, but for moral

Philosophical poverty[edit]
Critics propose that moral relativism fails because it rejects basic premises of
discussions on morality, or because it cannot arbitrate disagreement. Many critics,
including Ibn Warraq and Eddie Tabash, have suggested that meta-ethical relativists
essentially take themselves out of any discussion of normative morality, since they
seem to be rejecting an assumption of such discussions: the premise that there are right
and wrong answers that can be discovered through reason. Practically speaking, such
critics will argue that meta-ethical relativism may amount to Moral nihilism, or else
These critics argue specifically that the moral relativists reduce the extent of their input
in normative moral discussions to either rejecting the very having of the discussion, or
else deeming both disagreeing parties to be correct. For instance, the moral relativist
can only appeal to preference to object to the practice of murder or torture by individuals
forhedonistic pleasure.
This accusation that relativists reject widely held terms of
discourse is similar to arguments used against other "discussion-stoppers" like some
forms of solipsism or the rejection of induction.
Philosopher Simon Blackburn made a similar criticism,
and explains that moral
relativism fails as a moral system simply because it cannot arbitrate disagreements.
The moral relativist might respond that their conception of morality (as being capable
only of describing preferences) is more accurate, regardless of the practical use of this
conception. The critics, however, maintain that their conception of morality is, for that
exact reason, inadequate. Ultimately critics can do little more than to invite moral-
relativists to re-define "morality" in practical or morally realistic terms.
Religious views[edit]
Roman Catholicism[edit]
See also: Relativism § Catholic Church and relativism
Catholic and some secular intellectuals attribute the perceived post-war decadence of
Europe to the displacement of absolute values by moral relativism. Pope Benedict
XVI, Marcello Pera and others have argued that after about 1960, Europeans massively
abandoned many traditional norms rooted in Christianity and replaced them with
continuously evolving relative moral rules. In this view, sexual activity has become
separated from procreation, which led to a decline in the importance of families and
to depopulation. As a result, currently the population vacuum in Europe is filled by
immigrants, often from Islamic countries, who attempt to reestablish absolute values
which stand at odds with moral relativism.
The most authoritative response to moral
relativism from the Roman Catholic perspective can be found inVeritatis Splendor,
an encyclical by Pope John Paul II. Many of the main criticisms of moral relativism by
the Catholic Church relate largely to modern controversies, such as elective abortion.
Bhikkhu Bodhi, an American Buddhist monk, has written: "By assigning value and
spiritual ideals to private subjectivity, the materialistic world view ... threatens to
undermine any secure objective foundation for morality. The result is the widespread
moral degeneration that we witness today. To counter this tendency, mere moral
exhortation is insufficient. If morality is to function as an efficient guide to conduct, it
cannot be propounded as a self-justifying scheme but must be embedded in a more
comprehensive spiritual system which grounds morality in a transpersonal order.
Religion must affirm, in the clearest terms, that morality and ethical values are not mere
decorative frills of personal opinion, not subjective superstructure, but intrinsic laws of
the cosmos built into the heart of reality."

See also[edit]
 Atheist existentialism
 Axiology
 Cultural relativism
 De gustibus non est disputandum
 Ethical egoism
 Ethical intuitionism
 Moral nihilism
 Secular ethics
Moral nihilism
Moral nihilism (also known as ethical nihilism) is the meta-ethical view that nothing is
intrinsically moral or immoral. For example, a moral nihilist would say that killing someone, for
whatever reason, is neither inherently right nor inherently wrong. Moral nihilists consider morality to
be constructed, a complex set of rules and recommendations that may give a psychological, social,
or economical advantage to its adherents, but is otherwise without universal or even relative truth in
any sense.

Moral nihilism is distinct from moral relativism, which does allow for moral statements to be true or
false in a non-objective sense, but does not assign any static truth-values to moral statements, and
of course moral universalism, which holds moral statements to be objectively true or false. Insofar as
only true statements can be known, moral nihilism implies moral skepticism.
Forms of moral nihilism[edit]
According to Sinnott-Armstrong (2006a), the basic thesis of moral nihilism is that "nothing is morally
wrong" (§3.4). There are, however, several forms that this thesis can take (see Sinnott-Armstrong,
2006b, pp. 32–37 and Russ Shafer-Landau, 2003, pp. 8–13). There are two important forms of
moral nihilism: Error theory and Expressivism
p. 292.
One form of moral nihilism is expressivism. Expressivism denies the principle that our moral
judgments try and fail to describe the moral features, because expressivists believe when someone
says something is immoral they are not saying it is right or wrong. Expressivists are not trying to
speak the truth when making moral judgments; they are simply trying to express their feelings. "We
are not making an effort to describe the way the world is. We are not trying to report on the moral
features possessed by various actions, motives, or policies. Instead, we are venting our emotions,
commanding others to act in certain ways, or revealing a plan of action. When we condemn torture,
for instance, we are expressing our opposition to it, indicating our disgust at it, publicizing our
reluctance to perform it, and strongly encouraging others not to go in for it. We can do all of these
things without trying to say anything that is true."
p. 293.
This makes expressivism a form of non-cognitivism. Non-cognitivism in ethics is the view that moral
statements lack truth-value and do not assert genuine propositions. This involves a rejection of the
cognitivist claim, shared by other moral philosophies, that moral statements seek to "describe some
feature of the world" (Garner 1967, 219-220). This position on its own is logically compatible with
realism about moral values themselves. That is, one could reasonably hold that there are objective
moral values but that we cannot know them and that our moral language does not seek to refer to
them. This would amount to an endorsement of a type of moral skepticism, rather than nihilism.
Typically, however, the rejection of the cognitivist thesis is combined with the thesis that there are, in
fact, no moral facts (van Roojen, 2004). But if moral statements cannot be true, and if one cannot
know something that is not true, non-cognitivism implies that moral knowledge is impossible (Garner
1967, 219-220).
Not all forms of non-cognitivism are forms of moral nihilism, however: notably, the universal
prescriptivism of R.M. Hare is a non-cognitivist form of moral universalism.
Error theory[edit]
Error theory is built by three principles:
1. There are no moral features in this world; nothing is right or wrong.
2. Therefore no moral judgments are true; however,
3. Our sincere moral judgments try, but always fail, to describe the moral features of things.
Thus, we always lapse into error when thinking in moral terms. We are trying to state the truth when
we make moral judgments. But since there is no moral truth, all of our moral claims are mistaken.
Hence the error. These three principles lead to the conclusion that there is no moral knowledge.
Knowledge requires truth. If there is no moral truth, there can be no moral knowledge. Thus moral
values are purely chimerical.

Error theorists combine the cognitivist thesis that moral language consists of truth-apt statements
with the nihilist thesis that there are no moral facts. Like moral nihilism itself, however, error theory
comes in more than one form: Global falsityand Presupposition failure.
Global falsity[edit]
The first, which one might call the global falsity form of error theory, claims that moral beliefs and
assertions are false in that they claim that certain moral facts that do not exist in fact do exist. J. L.
Mackie (1977) argues for this form of moral nihilism. Mackie argues that moral assertions are only
true if there are moral properties that are intrinsically motivating, but there is good reason to believe
that there are no such intrinsically motivating properties (see the argument from
queerness and motivational internalism).
Presupposition failure[edit]
The second form, which one might call the presupposition failure form of error theory, claims that
moral beliefs and assertions are not true because they are neither true nor false. This is not a form
of non-cognitivism, for moral assertions are still thought to be truth-apt. Rather, this form of moral
nihilism claims that moral beliefs and assertions presupposethe existence of moral facts that do not
exist. This is analogous to presupposition failure in cases of non-moral assertions. Take, for
example, the claim that the present king of France is bald. Some argue that this claim is truth-apt in
that it has the logical form of an assertion, but it is neither true nor false because it presupposes that
there is currently a king of France, but there is not. The claim suffers from "presupposition
failure." Richard Joyce (2001) argues for this form of moral nihilism under the name "fictionalism."
Moral nihilists in history[edit]
The philosophy of Niccolò Machiavelli is sometimes presented as a model of moral nihilism, but this
is at best ambiguous. His book Il Principe (The Prince) praised many acts of violence and deception,
which shocked a European tradition that throughout the Middle Ages had inculcated moral lessons in
its political philosophies. Machiavelli does say that the Prince must override traditional moral rules in
favor of power-maintaining reasons of State, but he also says, particularly in his other works, that the
successful ruler should be guided by Pagan, rather than Christian virtues. Hence, Machiavelli
presents an alternative to the ethical theories of his day, rather than an all-out rejection of all
Closer to being an example of moral nihilism is Thrasymachus, as portrayed in Plato's Republic.
Thrasymachus argues, for example, that rules of justice are structured to benefit those who are able
to dominate political and social institutions. Thrasymachus can, however, be interpreted as offering a
revisionary account of justice, rather than a total rejection of morality and normative discourse.
Glover has cited realist views of amoralism held by early Athenians, and in some ethical positions
affirmed by Joseph Stalin.

Criticisms of moral nihilism come primarily from moral realists,
[citation needed]
who argue that there are
positive moral truths. Still, criticisms do arise out of the other anti-realist camps
(i.e. subjectivists and relativists). Not only that, but each school of moral nihilism has its own
criticisms of one another (e.g. the non-cognitivists' critique of error theory for accepting the semantic
thesis of moral realism).
[citation needed]

Still other detractors deny that the basis of moral objectivity need be metaphysical. The moral
naturalist, though a form of moral realist, agrees with the nihilists' critique of metaphysical
justifications for right and wrong. Moral naturalists prefer to define "morality" in terms of observables,
some even appealing to a science of morality.
[citation needed]

See also[edit]
 Evolution of morality
 Nihilism
 Non-cognitivism
 Moral relativism
 Moral skepticism
 Morality
 Perspectivism
 Psychological determinism
1. ^ Jump up to:



Landau, Russ Shafer (2010). The Fundamentals of ethics. Oxford University
Press. ISBN 978-0-19-532086-2. p. 292
2. Jump up^ Glover, Jonathan (2000). Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. Yale
University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-300-08700-0. "The Athenians presented hard amoralism as
mere realism. Echoes of this have been heard many times since, for example in a comment by
Stalin on the policies of countries at war: 'Whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his
own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army has power to do. It
cannot be otherwise.'"
Bibliography and further reading[edit]
 Garner, Richard T.; Bernard Rosen (1967). Moral Philosophy: A Systematic Introduction to
Normative Ethics and Meta-ethics, New York: Macmillan.
 Joyce, Richard (2001). The Myth of Morality, Cambridge University Press.
 Mackie, J. L. (1977). Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, Penguin.
 Shafer-Landau, Russ (2003). Whatever Happened to Good and Evil?, Oxford University Press.
 Garner, Richard T.; (1994). Beyond Morality. Temple University Press, .
 Shafer-Landau, Russ & Terence Cuneo (eds.) (2007). Foundations of Ethics, Blackwell
Publishing Ltd.
 Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter (2006a). "Moral Skepticism," The Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.). (link)
 Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter (2006b). Moral Skepticisms, Oxford University Press.
 van Roojen, Mark (2004). "Moral Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism," The Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Evolution of morality
The evolution of morality refers to the emergence of human moral behavior over the course
of human evolution. Morality can be defined as a system of ideas about right and wrong conduct. In
everyday life, morality is typically associated with human behavior and not much thought is given to
the social conducts of other creatures. The emerging fields of evolutionary biology and in
particular sociobiology have argued that, though human social behaviorsare complex, the precursors
of human morality can be traced to the behaviors of many other social animals. Sociobiological
explanations of human behavior are still controversial. The traditional view of social scientists has
been that morality is a construct, and is thus culturally relative, although others argue that there is
a science of morality.
Animal sociality[edit]
See also: Social animal
Though animals may not possess moral behavior, all social animals have had to modify or restrain
their behaviors for group living to be worthwhile. Typical examples of behavioral modification can be
found in the societies ants, bees andtermites. Ant colonies may possess millions of individuals. E. O.
Wilson argues that the single most important factor that leads to the success of ant colonies is the
existence of a sterile worker caste. This caste of females are subservient to the needs of their
mother, the queen, and in so doing, have given up their own reproduction in order to raise brothers
and sisters. The existence of sterile castes among these social insects, significantly restricts the
competition for mating and in the process fosters cooperation within a colony. Cooperation among
ants is vital, because a solitary ant has an improbable chance of long term survival and reproduction.
However as part of a group, colonies can thrive for decades. As a consequence, ants are one of the
most successful families of species on the planet, accounting for a biomass that rivals humans.

The basic reason that social animals live in groups is that opportunities for survival and reproduction
are much better in groups than living alone. The social behaviors of mammals are more familiar to
humans. Highly social mammals such as primates and elephants have been known to exhibit traits
that were once thought to be uniquely human, like empathy and altruism.

Primate sociality[edit]
See also: Altruism in animals
Humanity‘s closest living relatives are common chimpanzees and bonobos. These primates are
known to share acommon ancestor with humans who lived four to six million years ago. It is for this
reason that chimpanzees and bonobos are viewed as the best available surrogate for this common
ancestor. Barbara King argues that while primates may not possess morality in the human sense,
they do exhibit some traits that would have been necessary for the evolution of morality. These traits
include high intelligence, a capacity for symbolic communication, a sense of social norms, realization
of "self", and a concept of continuity.
Frans de Waal and Barbara King both view human
morality as having grown out of primate sociality. Many social animals such as primates, dolphins
and whales have shown to exhibit what Michael Shermer refers to as premoral sentiments.
According to Shermer, the following characteristics are shared by humans and other social animals,
particularly the great apes:
attachment and bonding, cooperation and mutual aid, sympathy and empathy, direct and
indirect reciprocity, altruism and reciprocal altruism, conflict resolution and peacemaking,
deception and deception detection, community concern and caring about what others think
about you, and awareness of and response to the social rules of the group.

Shermer argues that these premoral sentiments evolved in primate societies as a method of
restraining individual selfishness and building more cooperative groups. For any social species,
the benefits of being part of an altruistic group should outweigh the benefits of individualism. For
example, lack of group cohesion could make individuals more vulnerable to attack from
outsiders. Being part of group may also improve the chances of finding food. This is evident
among animals that hunt in
packs to take down large or
dangerous prey.
Social Evolution of Humans

Period years ago Society type Number of individuals
6,000,000 Bands 10s
All social animals have
hierarchical societies in which
each member knows its own
[citation needed]
Social order
is maintained by certain rules
of expected behavior and
dominant group members
enforce order through
punishment. However, higher
order primates also have a
sense of reciprocity.
Chimpanzees remember who did them favors and who did them wrong.
[citation needed]
For example,
chimpanzees are more likely to share food with individuals who have
previouslygroomed them.
Vampire bats also demonstrate a sense of reciprocity and altruism.
They share blood by regurgitation, but do not share randomly. They are most likely to share with
other bats who have shared with them in the past or who are in dire need of feeding.

Animals such as Capuchin monkeys
and dogs
also display an understanding of fairness,
refusing to co-operate when presented unequal rewards for the same behaviors.
Chimpanzees live in fission-fusion groups that average 50 individuals. It is likely that early
ancestors of humans lived in groups of similar size. Based on the size of extant hunter gatherer
societies, recent paleolithic hominids lived in bands of a few hundred individuals. As community
size increased over the course of human evolution, greater enforcement to achieve group
cohesion would have been required. Morality may have evolved in these bands of 100 to 200
people as a means of social control, conflict resolution and group solidarity. This numerical limit
is theorized to be hard coded in our genes since even modern humans have difficulty
maintaining stable social relationships with more than 100-200 people. According to Dr. de
Waal, human morality has two extra levels of sophistication that are not found in primate
societies. Humans enforce their society‘s moral codes much more rigorously with rewards,
punishments and reputation building. People also apply a degree of judgment and reason, not
seen in the animal kingdom.
Evolution of religion[edit]
See also: Evolutionary origin of religions
Psychologist Matt J. Rossano muses that religion emerged after morality and built upon morality
by expanding the social scrutiny of individual behavior to include supernatural agents. By
including ever watchful ancestors, spirits and gods in the social realm, humans discovered an
100,000–10,000 Bands 10s–100s
10,000–5,000 Tribes 100s–1,000s
5,000–4,000 Chiefdoms 1,000s–10,000s
4,000–3,000 States 10,000s–100,000s
3,000–present Empires 100,000–1,000,000s
effective strategy for restraining selfishness and building more cooperative groups.
adaptive value of religion would have enhanced group survival.

Sexuality and morality[edit]
Human sexuality is intricately linked with notions of virtue and modesty. In particular, compared
to males, females tend to be under more intense social scrutiny regarding promiscuous
behavior. Evolutionary psychology suggests that this differential application of sexual morality
may be an evolutionary adaptation related to parental investment. Because women invest more
resources into rearing children, such as a nine month gestation, it is argued that they must
select a mate who is willing to participate in rearing children. Consequently, women have
[citation needed]
more exacting criteria for mates than men. Women have a stronger
preference for long term partners,
[citation needed]
whereas men have preferences for both long and
short term partners.
[citation needed]
The theory supposes that men are more open to dropping their
standards for short term partners as there is no parental investment.
[citation needed]
In this regard,
promiscuous behavior by women would be maladaptive, as they would have to raise children
with no or little parental support.
[citation needed]
In most societies, female adultery is generally seen
as a greater moral infraction than is male adultery.
This is likely reinforced by the fact that in
most human cultures (known as "patri-lineal") family identification, property, and status within the
society are transmitted through the male hereditary line. In such societies it is vitally important to
the social order that females be monogamous so that their male partners are assured that their
title, property and legacy are in fact being left to offspring that are biologically theirs. In such a
society, a child's paternity must be known, else his status within the society cannot be
determined and his relationships to other members are ambiguous.
[citation needed]

The Wason selection task[edit]
See also: Wason selection task and Altruism § Scientific_viewpoints
In an experiment where subjects must demonstrate abstract, complex reasoning, researchers
have found that humans (as has been seen in other animals) have a strong innate ability to
reason about social exchanges. This ability is believed to be intuitive, since the logical rules do
not seem to be accessible to the individuals for use in situations without moral overtones.

Disgust, one of the basic emotions, may have an important role in certain forms of morality.
Disgust is argued to be a specific response to certain things or behaviors that are dangerous or
undesirable from an evolutionary perspective. One example is things that increase the risk of
an infectious disease such as spoiled foods, dead bodies, other forms of
microbiological decomposition, a physical appearance suggesting sickness or poor hygiene, and
various body fluids such as feces, vomit, phlegm, and blood. Another example is disgust against
evolutionary disadvantageous mating such as incest (the incest taboo) or unwanted sexual
Still another example are behaviors that may threaten group cohesion or
cooperation such as cheating, lying, and stealing. MRI studies have found that such situations
activate areas in the brain associated with disgust.

See also[edit]
 Evolutionary ethics
 The Origins of Virtue
 Science of morality
 Veneer theory
1. Jump up^ Wilson, Edward; Bert Hölldobler (1994). "The origin of cooperation". Journey to
the Ants. Cambridge, Mass; London: Belknap Press. ISBN 0-674-48525-4.
2. Jump up^ Wade, Nicholas (July 15, 2008). "Taking a Cue From Ants on Evolution of
Humans". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-27.
3. Jump up^ Byrne, Richard; Lee, P.C.; Njiraini, N.; Poole, J.H.; Sayialel, K.; Sayialel, S.;
Bates, L.A.; Moss, C.J. (2008). "Do Elephants Show Empathy?". Journal of Consciousness
Studies. 10-11 15: 204–225.
4. Jump up^ Rodriguez, Tommy (2011). Diaries of Dissension: A Case Against the Irrational
and Absurd. iUniverse Publishing. ISBN 1-475-91933-6.
5. Jump up^ What Binti Jua Knew
6. Jump up^ King, Barbara (2007). Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of
Religion. Doubleday Publishing." ISBN 0-385-52155-3.
7. Jump up^ Excerpted from Evolving God by Barbara J. King
8. Jump up^ Shermer, Michael (2004). The Science of Good and Evil. New York: Times
Books. p. 16. ISBN 0-8050-7520-8.
9. Jump up^ Shermer, Michael (2008). The Mind of the Market. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
LLC. ISBN 0-8050-8916-0.
10. Jump up^ Videos of chimpanzee food sharing
11. Jump up^ Reciprocal food sharing in the vampire bat
12. Jump up^ Capuchin Monkeys refusing unequal rewards
13. Jump up^ The absence of reward induces inequity aversion in dogs Range, Fredericke et
14. Jump up^ Rossano, Matt (2007). Supernaturalizing Social Life: Religion and the Evolution
of Human Cooperation.
15. Jump up^ Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior. New York Times.
March 20, 2007. Nicholas Wade.
16. Jump up^ Matthew Rutherford. The Evolution of Morality. University of Glasgow. 2007.
Retrieved June 6, 2008
17. Jump up^ biology of promiscuity
18. Jump up^ Buss, D.M. (2011). Evolutionary psychology
19. Jump up^
20. Jump up^ Rodriguez, Tommy (2011). Diaries of Dissension: A Case Against the Irrational
and Absurd. iUniverse Publishing. ISBN 1-475-91933-6.
21. Jump up^ Tybur, J. M.; Lieberman, D.; Griskevicius, V. (2009). "Microbes, mating, and
morality: Individual differences in three functional domains of disgust". Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology 97 (1): 103–122. doi:10.1037/a0015474.PMID 19586243. edit

Science of morality
Science of morality can refer to a number of ethically naturalistic views. Inmeta-ethics, ethical
naturalism bases morality on rational and empiricalconsideration of the natural world. This position
has become increasingly popular among philosophers in the last three decades.

The idea of a science of morality has been explored by writers like Joseph Daleiden in The Science
of Morality: The Individual, Community, and Future Generations or more recently
by neuroscientist Sam Harris in the 2010 bookThe Moral Landscape. Harris' science of morality
suggests that scientists using empirical knowledge, especially neuropsychology and metaphysical
naturalism, in combination with axiomatic values as ―first principles‖, would be able to outline a
universal basis for morality. Harris and Daleiden chiefly argue that society should consider normative
ethics to be a domain of science whose purpose amounts to the pursuit of flourishing (well-
[note 1]
They add that "science" should not be so narrowly defined as to exclude important roles
for any academic disciplines which base their conclusions on the weight of empirical evidence.
These ideas have not seen widespread acceptance by the scientific community, have been
disputed by philosophers, and continue to generate public controversy – although they have also
gained some support (e.g. Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, and other proponents).
Patricia Churchland sometimes refers to a neuroscience of morality in relation to her book Braintrust:
What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality. The term "science of morality" is also sometimes used
for the description of moral systems in different cultures or species. For a collection of the
hypotheses of how moral intuitions are thought by some to have evolved and emerged, see moral
psychology and the evolution of morality.
The idea of a normative science of morality has met with many criticisms. These critics include Sean
M. Carroll, who argues that morality cannot be part of science.
He and other critics cite the widely
held "fact-value distinction", that thescientific method cannot answer "moral" questions, although it
can describe the norms of different cultures. In contrast, moral scientists defend the position that
such a division between values and scientific facts is arbitrary and illusory.

Among other methodological issues that a science of morality would need to address include the is-
ought problem (i.e. Can we, in any sense, determine how people morally ought to behave based on
physical facts. If so, how?). There are also questions of naturalistic fallacy, where the alleged fallacy
is deriving moral claims from natural facts (although the term is sometimes used very differently: to
refer to the alleged fallacy of calling behaviours that are natural to humans "moral").
In its weakest form, science of morality is the idea that we do not need divine authority to be critical
of any so-called 'moral system' that causes unreasonable suffering. Daleiden, Harris and others
discuss or support a stronger case, however. It is the idea that, once we accept the premises that
are necessary for any empirical, secular, and philosophical discussion, we can define "morality" in a
relevant way. Presumably, societies can then use the methods of science to provide some of the
best answers to 'moral' questions. This means identifying which values and norms (e.g. free speech
versus government censorship) are more likely to maximize the well-being of all conscious
In plainer words, Harris imagines a science premised on the use of the term "morality" to
refer to the pursuit of flourishing for every conscious creature.
If an issue does not, in any way,
concern conscious creatures, then it is devoid of morality by the definitions of science of morality. A
universe full of nothing but rocks and dirt, for example, would be one without anything that can be
meaningfully called "moral issues". Advocates of a science of morality believe that science needs to
begin pursuing and debating "moral facts" about people's flourishing. Consequently, it is possible to
be wrong about how to maximize flourishing as a general rule, and even in a specific situation.

In sum, from the perspective of neuroscience and brain evolution, the routine rejection of scientific approaches to
moral behavior based on Hume‘s warning against deriving ought from is seems unfortunate, especially as the
warning is limited to deductive inferences. The dictum can be set aside for a deeper, albeit programmatic,
neurobiological perspective on what reasoning and problem-solving are, how social navigation works, how evaluation
is accomplished by nervous systems, and how mammalian brains make decisions.

-Patricia Churchland in her book Braintrust (emphasis added)
The scientific search for empirical facts always requiresoperationalization. In other words,
investigators need to agree to define terms to some extent before reasonable discussion can even
Here, moral scientists purport to possess a more than adequate working definition:
something is morally good if it promotes the flourishing of conscious creatures.
Although moral
norms have often been defined as requiring supernatural origins, science of morality thus
understands morality to describe facts about nature (i.e. how creatures can live in harmony).
Daleiden adds that society can no longer afford to wait and see which values cause cultures to fall
apart, and which ones allow them to succeed: scientific methods are what is needed.

There are other linguistic and nomenclature issues. Words, even in science, can be fuzzy and
subject to revison and elimination as knowledge progresses. The word atom translates to
"indivisible" – which was the common understanding of atoms until science progressed further.
Already this foreshadows why the moral norms offered by a science of morality would not bemoral
absolutes. This is a byproduct of the philosophy of science in general; science does not make claims
to certaintruths. The norms advocated by moral scientists (e.g. rights to abortion, euthanasia,
and drug liberalization under certain circumstances) would thus be founded upon the shifting and
growing limits of human understanding.
As human understanding improves, so does
understanding of human nature itself. This is critical to science of morality, which cannot effectively
base norms on a flawed understanding of those creatures being organized. Keeping
itself consilientwith the science of the day will make science of morality unintuitive at times. Daleiden
says that the science rejects the idea of libertarian free will in favor of compatibilistic free
will (discussed further below).

Threatening violence against those who do not wish to wear burkas, or alternatively, empowering the freedom to
choose, are unlikely to be equally effective ways of fostering well-being.
Even though flourishing remains a rather fuzzy term, it is far from meaningless. It is a decidedly grey
area whether stealing someone's pencil or stealing their pen would be the more immoral action. Yet
to the secular rationalist it seems likely that, in the majority of cases, forcing one class of people to
cover themselves at all times in burkas under threats of violence is less moral than empowering the
freedom to choose. Moral scientists maintain that to argue otherwise is to ignore empiricism and
history (which have taught humanity a great deal about wellbeing), as well as all the moral strides
that various societies have made against sexism, racism, and other causes of suffering.
Even with
science's admitted degree of ignorance, and the various semantic issues, moral scientists can
meaningfully discuss things as being almost certainly "better" or "worse" for promoting
Harris hopes that seeing the role that science can play in normative ethics will
empower critical thinkers to pass important "moral" judgment on the quality of fellow citizens' and
societies' behaviors.

Science of morality acknowledges another crucial fact. Even once the terms of scientific moral
discourse are accepted, this will not automatically cause moral behavior (i.e. not even among those
who explicitly agree to the terms). Another main goal of the science of morality is therefore to
discover the best ways to motivate and shape individuals. The aim is to make each citizen capable
of balancing the desires of the present and the future, but also of themselves and others. Creating
what Daleiden calls people who follow "conditioned self-interest", conditioned egoism, requires a
program that applies everything psychology has discovered about humans, especially the most
effective ways of promoting prosocial behaviors. Note that this does not at all suggest that the
government, or any elite individual or group, should or would be solely charged with this task. Nor
should the most private values, which have almost no bearing on society, be of much concern to
society at all.

Although it does at times, science of morality does not necessarily conflict with the moral teachings
of all religions. Daleiden says that the science does not even conflict with many other moral systems
-which can often be understood as simply emphasizing certain aspects of the science.

The idea that science could help make moral prescriptions may be relatively new. Determining what
constitutes "science" versus "non-science" is the challenge known as the demarcation problem.
Philosophy has not always been understood as being very separate from science,
and empiricism has long since started playing a major role in modern philosophy. The scientific
method provides details, some of which challenge traditions or intuitions, about human nature.
These details become vital to forming any conception of morality.
In philosophy[edit]
Language lags behind science, and too frequently refuses its aid to knowledge. The innovations of philosophy upon
long-received expressions are slow and difficult. Philology is apt to refuse the contributions of the other sciences. It
prides itself on its poverty. And this is the more to be regretted, inasmuch as all languages had their birth in a period
when moral and intellectual cultivation could only be in their infancy.

-Jeremy Bentham

Utilitarian Jeremy Bentham, in his book Deontology, or The Science of Morality (published in 1834,
after his death) discussed some of the ways moral investigations are a science. He
criticizesdeontological ethics for failing to recognize that it needed to make the same presumptions
as his science of morality to really work – whilst pursuing rules that were to be obeyed in every
situation (something that worried Bentham).

Positivism and pragmatism are also philosophies related to the science. John Dewey, a pragmatist,
maintains that overly theoretical moral systems are not useful in real life. He believes that moral
considerations, while they should not be oversimplified, must certainly make use of facts about
everything from what the individual desires, what others desire, the nature of people(e.g. humans) in
general, and even data about likely outcomes of behaviours.

Some positions on morality may hold that all facts are, in general, discovered by the sciences, but
that there are no things worth calling "Moral" facts. These include certain forms of moral anti-realism,
such as error theory as famously advocated by J.L. Mackie, and non-cognitivism as advocated
by Simon Blackburn. Science of morality operates under a philosophy of moral naturalism. This form
of moral realism is the view that moral facts are facts about nature.
[note 3]
W.V.O. Quine similarly
advocated "naturalizing" epistemology by looking to natural sciences like psychology for a full
explanation of knowledge. This motivated naturalism in philosophy generally, helping give rise to a
resurgence of moral naturalism in the last half of the 20th century.
Philosophical movements like eliminative and revisionary materialism warn that philosophy is like
science in that it may need to redefine or eliminate concepts as human understanding progresses.
For instance, science of morality may never provide an immutable definition of relevant terms like
the "flourishing" that it pursues, because it must adapt to new scientific knowledge. Harris believes
that our knowledge about humanity's history gives us an idea of what flourishing entails, and that
modern scientific understanding offers even more insight (see positive psychology).

In the social sciences[edit]

Maria Ossowska used the methods of science to understand the origins of moral norms.
Maria Ossowska, Polish sociologist and philosopher, thought that sociology was inextricably related
to philosophical reflections on morality, including normative ethics. She proposed that science
analyze: (a) existing social norms and their history, (b) the psychology of morality, and the way that
individuals interact with moral matters and prescriptions, and (c) the sociology of morality.

Science of morality opposes the ideas of paleontologist and science writer Stephen Jay Gould, who
argued that science and religion occupy "non-overlapping magisteria". To Gould, science is
concerned with questions of fact and theory, but not with meaning and morality – the magisteria of
religion. In the same vein, Edward Teller proposed that politics decides what is right, whereas
science decides what is true.

Popular literature[edit]
The theory and methods of a normative science of morality are explicitly discussed in Joseph
Daleiden's The Science of Morality: The Individual, Community, and Future Generations (1998).
Daleiden's book, in contrast to Harris, extensively discusses the relevant philosophical literature.
Sam Harris[edit]
Sam Harris' first two books, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and Letter
to a Christian Nation, attacked religious faith, and his third attacks moral skepticism. In The Moral
Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, Harris' goal is to show how moral truth can
be backed by "science", or more specifically,empirical knowledge, critical thinking, philosophy, but
most controversially, the scientific method. As described by philosopher Thomas Nagel: "Harris's
concrete moral conclusions depend almost entirely on one venerable moral premise and a number
of commonsense observations about human life, though they are accompanied by ritual reminders
that everything about human experience and behavior depends on our brains. Harris's book also
presents some experimental data about the brain. Those data are largely irrelevant to determining
the answer to substantive questions of right and wrong, but they do provide the setting for Harris's
important additional claim that the fact that moral judgments are produced by the brain and that the
brain was produced by evolution, does not undermine the existence of moral truth, as some
psychologists apparently believe.‖

Harris, himself, described the "backlash" he had anticipated from this book: "cloudbursts of vitriol
and confusion… Watching the tide of opinion turn against me, it has been difficult to know what, if
anything, to do about it". He deplores the case of Colin McGinn criticizing his book based solely on
the review of Anthony Appiah; Harris explains that:

Why respond to criticism at all? Many writers refuse to even read their reviews, much
less answer them. The problem, however, is that if one is committed to the spread of
ideas – as most nonfiction writers are – it is hard to ignore the fact that negative reviews
can be very damaging to one's cause. Not only do they discourage smart people from
reading a book, they can lead them to disparage it as though they had discovered its
flaws for themselves...No matter that I cannot find a single, substantive point in Appiah's
review not already addressed in my book, McGinn appears to know otherwise through
the power of clairvoyance. Many other philosophers and scientists have begun to play
this game with The Moral Landscape, without ever engaging its arguments.

In the same lengthy Huffington Post "Response to Critics", Harris responded to three reviews, all of
which claimed to have found critical flaws, as well as some merits: "As far as I know, the best
reviews… have come from the philosophersThomas Nagel, Troy Jollimore, and Russell

Blackford highly recommend the book, noting Harris' overall criticism of moral relativism and offering
lengthy analyses of critical, though easily avoided errors, arising from Harris' unnecessary fact-value
treatment and failure to provide a convincing account of obtaining "determinate, objectively correct
answers…" Blackford goes on:

Harris seems to think that the course of conduct which maximizes global well-being is the
morally right one because 'morally right' just means something like 'such as to maximize
global well-being.' But this won't do… Harris toys with the rather desperate idea that even
the word 'should,' or the expression 'ought to,' can be translated along the lines that 'You
should do X,' or 'You ought to do X means X will maximize global well-being.' Apart from
the inherent implausibility of this for any competent speaker of the English language, it
misses the point…

Massimo Pigliucci adds that J. L. Mackie, whom Harris' dismissed, makes no such error. Pigliucci
remarked: "a major problem with the whole project is precisely the stubborn attempt to overextend
the reach of science which is properly labeled as scientism". He concurred with "Blackford's own
damning (though superficially positive) review". Pigliucci highlights some closing words from

Unfortunately, Harris sees it as necessary to defend a naïve metaethical position…
Harris reaches these conclusions only by offering what strikes me as a highly implausible
and ultimately unsustainable account of the phenomenon of morality… Harris is impatient
with all this, and often resorts to outright scorn in rejecting considerations that don't fit
with his position…Harris overreaches when he claims that science can determine human
values. Indeed, it's not clear how much the book really argues such a thing, despite its
provocative subtitle… Harris is not thereby giving an account of how science can
determine our most fundamental values or the totality of our values… He is, however, no
more successful in deriving 'ought' from 'is' than anyone else has ever been. The whole
intellectual system of The Moral Landscape depends on an 'ought' being built into its

What one ought to do to be moral depends on there being definition of what constitutes a 'moral'
goal in the first place. A case in point: it seems one ought not to infect themselves with various
diseases and eat rotten foods if one has a goal of being healthy. Those who believe that morality
can be derived from scientific evidence argue that there is no meaningfully 'healthier choice' (any
more than there is a 'moral choice') unless we define these terms. Daleiden remarks that central
here is the idea of the "contingent statement". This because ought-statements, he says, are of the
form "if you want X, you ought to do Y." Moral oughts would thus be a type of contingent statement:
"if you want to increase flourishing, you morally ought to do Z".

Patricia Churchland offers that, accepting Hume's is-ought problem, the use of induction from
premises and definitions remains a valid way of reasoning in life and science.

Social navigation is an instance of causal navigation generally, and shapes itself to the existing ecological
conditions. In the social domain, the ecological conditions will include the social behavior of individual
group members as well as their cultural practices, some of which get called "moral" or "legal". By and
large, humans, like some other highly social mammals, are strongly motivated to be with group members
and to share in their practices. Our moral behavior, while more complex than the social behavior of other
animals, is similar in that it represents our attempt to manage well in the existing social ecology.

In sum, from the perspective of neuroscience and brain evolution, the routine rejection of scientific
approaches to moral behavior based on Hume's warning against deriving ought from is seems
unfortunate, especially as the warning is limited to deductive inferences. The dictum can be set aside for
a deeper, albeit programmatic, neurobiological perspective on what reasoning and problem-solving are,
how social navigation works, how evaluation is accomplished by nervous systems, and how mammalian
brains make decisions.

The truth seems to be that values rooted in the circuitry for caring—for well-being of self, offspring, mates,
kin, and others—shape social reasoning about many issues: conflict resolutions, keeping the peace,
defense, trade, resource distribution, and many other aspects of social life in all its vast richness. Not only
do these values and their material basis constrain social problem-solving, they are at the same time facts
that give substance to the processes of figuring out what to do—facts such as that our children matter to
us, and that we care about their well-being; that we care about our clan. Relative to these values, some
solutions to social problems are better than others, as a matter of fact; relative to these values, practical
policy decisions can be negotiated.

The hypothesis on offer is that what we humans call ethics or morality is a four-dimensional scheme for
social behavior that is shaped by interlocking brain processes: (1) caring (rooted in attachment to kin and
kith and care for their well-being), (2) recognition of others' psychological states (rooted in the benefits of
predicting the behavior [of] others), (3) problem-solving in a social context (e.g. how we should distribute
scarce goods, settle land disputes; how we should punish the miscreants), and (4) learning social
practices (by positive and negative reinforcement, by imitation, by trial and error, by various kinds of
conditioning, and by analogy). The simplicity of this framework does not mean its forms, variations, and
neutral mechanisms are simple. On the contrary, social life is stunningly complex, as is the brain that
supports our social lives.

— Patricia Churchland, Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality
Scientific methods[edit]
Some of the philosophy and findings of science are important to understanding how a science of
morality might work.
Harris discusses little philosophy beyond warning that the science must not become entrenched in
applying any specific moral system. Daleiden spends a great deal more time explaining how many
ideas from philosophy might be applied within science of morality. He believes that the science must
use hybrids from various approaches to ethics, law, and human nature. Daleiden finds especially
useful the consequentialist metaethics of utilitarianism, as well as John Rawls's ideas of Justice as
Fairness. Daleiden admires the veil of ignorance as a way of thinking about ethics objectively.

Daleiden warns that science is probabilistic, and that certainty is not possible. One should therefore
expect that moral prescriptions will change as humans gain understanding.
psychologist Leonard Carmichael discussed this idea as well.
[note 4]
Daleiden continues: tradition
should not be the basis of moral norms. While traditions can be appreciated as survivors of some
form of natural group selection, this process is extremely slow, and it is a process where societies
with poor values must fall apart. Empiricism, to moral scientists, is the more reasonable method of
establishing norms.
Daleiden says this is especially the case considering traditions too often
become "time bound" based on the limited knowledge of the past, and are designed to meet the
needs of people from those times.
[29][note 5]

Without free will, we at first seem diminished, merely the playthings of external forces. But really, determinism hardly
makes us the playthings of external forces. Rather we are the forces themselves, concentrated and directed in
patterns whose regularities we are just beginning to discern.

-Thomas W. Clark

All human actions depend on motivations. Harris and Daleiden both believe that research into the
psychology and neuroscience of free will gives us good reason to reject libertarianism (which is a
contra-causal form of free will). Onlycompatibilistic free will is valid in their view; the form of free will
that Daniel Dennett called the only form of free will "worth wanting".
Humans, then, sometimes
have the freedom to act according to their motives, but the motives themselves are largely affected
by other factors.
Daleiden worries about the stigma attached to the word determinism. He
recommends thinking in terms of a "Law of Causal Behaviour": every effect has a cause, and so too
does every human choice.
That is why the causes of good behaviour can be identified and
promoted (as discussed later). This also involves treating humans as morally responsible in practice
(although, with compatibilistic free will, it would be committing the single cause fallacy to treat them
as solely morally responsible).
[note 6]

Normative values and science have always been deeply intertwined. Harris explains that the
scientific method has settled on values in answering the question "what should I believe, and why
should I believe it?"
It is thus a mistake to think of science as a value free enterprise.

Defining morality[edit]
The idea of morality has a long history, and the term has known many uses. Some do not change –
and others are very different – when analyzed from the view of science of morality. This means a
great deal of time must be spent on understanding and establishing the definition of terms,
compared to other sciences. Traditionally, this has been the domain of the philosophy of meta
Disputed terms in science[edit]

Empirical investigation into physics requires operationalization, yet it would not be distracted if
apseudoscienceadopted and misused their term "center of gravity"
There may be some disagreement over the exact definitions of happiness and suffering in general,
concepts of great importance to science of morality, but Harris says that these disagreements should
not be taken too seriously. He mentions that even a lack of firm agreement within the scientific
community over terms like "life" or "health" has not prevented researchers from making progress.
Furthermore, it is even less likely that others' use of the term "healthy" in an unjustified manner
would have any effect on the progress of more serious researchers and thinkers.
[37][unreliable source?]

In practice, this is thanks to the fact that academics often establish and agree on other clear working
definitions (the focus is to avoid debating words beyond necessity).
Moreover, the usefulness of
these scientific constructs can be subjected to tests of construct validity. This is one sense in which
some definitions can be better than others. For instance, just as scientists have generally agreed on
practical grounds of sorting "Earth's atmosphere" into 5 categories (i.e. layers), so too might they
decide to sort "flourishing" practically into a number of categories (e.g. positive psychology is
exploring the possibility that happiness comes in generally 5 varieties).
Harris also emphasizes that the ideas captured by the word "flourishing", like "health", may also
change over time.
Ancient civilizations, where life expectancies were around 25 years old, may not
have expected we could some day consider healthy an individual living comfortably to over 80 years
old. Likewise, humans are continuing to make strides in moral development, attaining new heights of
cooperation and empathy, and discovering new horizons in the use of the word "flourishing" – the
same way we have for the word "healthy".
[37][unreliable source?]
Jeremy Rifkin describes such key moral
revolutions throughout human history in The Empathic Civilization, and predicts a new revolution in
which we overcome our tribe focused empathy and extend it to others we may never meet.

The first step for the so-called science of morality is not, therefore, any sort of revelation. Rather, it is
to establish early working definitions (which can and will evolve with time).
Defining terms like this,
based on implications for methodology and possible conclusions (see operationalization) is an
important part of any science. This is well demonstrated by the attempts of positive psychology to
address topics about which many are opinionated. In such areas of science that overlap with
philosophy or religion, arguments over the supposed meaning of a word sometimes stand in the way
of progress. That is, discussions risk becoming arguments over what the definition of a word should
be, rather than simply agreeing on other working definitions in order to facilitate
Two hundred years ago, Bentham said this is part of understanding how
scientists can begin to debate moral facts; they must first define key terms like 'moral'.

"Morally good"[edit]
Michael Shermer explains that this is where science of morality can come in. "The first principle is
the well-being of conscious creatures, from which we can build a science-based system of moral
values by quantifying whether or not X increases or decreases well-being". Activities like lying or
stealing, and even certain cultural values, for example, will be more morally "wrong" because
they tend to cause more suffering than alternative social practices.
Science of morality, then, is a
social morality; it must mediate between the varied needs and desires of many individuals across
time. Harris and Daleiden both contend that this is what many religious thinkers are doing, only they
are factoring an after life into their pursuit of well-being.
[37][unreliable source?][41]

Psychology holds that subjective experiences very often correspond to objective facts (e.g. about the
brain). For instance, clinical depression certainly has a subjective component (when feelings of
depression are experienced by an individual) but it has also been operationally defined and
objectively studied (e.g. described in terms of physical characteristics of the brain, resulting in
a biology of depression). These are concepts that are indispensable in science of morality.
This scientific conception of morality is also in a position to give meaning to the difference between
oughts "in general" as opposed to "moral oughts"; between "good for me" and "morally good". That
is, once researchers have agreed to terms, there is a difference between arguing that "he ought to
use more poison on his victim, since he wants to be a good murderer" versus "he morally ought to
use no poison at all, since he wants to be a morally good person".
[note 7]

Bentham was opinionated regarding the purpose of what he called "morality". He says that "To
detect the fallacies which lie hid under the surface, to prevent the aberrations of sympathy and
antipathy, to bring to view and to call into activity those springs of action whose operation leads to an
undoubted balance of happiness, is the important part of moral science."
He was also critical of
philosophers who respected only classical texts, rather than scientific methods, to understand and
improve their moral systems.

Dewey notes that "We test scientific hypotheses by bringing about their antecedents and seeing if
the results are as they predicted. Similarly, we test value judgments by acting on them and seeing if
we value the consequences in the way the judgment predicted."
Additionally, values, to Dewey,
are clearly determined and modified, to some extent, during the pursuit of those values. For all the
importance of science and philosophy, morality is ultimately practiced (or neglected) at the scale of
life, with the myriad facts of specific situations.
[15][note 8]

With accepted terms for scientific discourse on normative morality, discussions that have no bearing
on "the flourishing of conscious creatures" would simply not be moral discussions.
terms related to morality or physics still does not prevent use and misuse outside the scientific
Limited relativity[edit]
In some sense, from a cosmic perspective, everything is irrelevant. According to Daleiden, a "cosmic
perspective" is not how we realize the act of valuing; only conscious beings can determine what is of
value for themselves.
Science of morality is the empirical discourse of concern for the conscious
experiences of creatures. While scientists should approach moral issues as objectively as possible,
one should not expect that meaningful discussion can be had about increasing well-being from a
perspective of complete indifference about well-being. This was discussed above, and is in much the
same vein as the science of medicine. The focus on conscious flourishing is the cosmically arbitrary
startingpremise of science of morality. Ethical systems that do not grant that premise have always
suffered from "cosmic irrelevance".

Moral relativists point out that different cultures, and even individuals, use 'morality' to mean different
things. They may argue that scientists' defining "morality" as "maximizing people's flourishing" still
amounts to just one culture's view (i.e. a different culture may value preserving nature instead of
people's lives). The idea is that simply defining 'morality' grants no additional sort of authority to
power – or more strongly, that there is no such authority at all when one group rejects the norms of
the other.
[note 9][citation needed]
Jonathan Meddings, a writer for the Young Australian Skeptics, argues that:

Just because morality is relative does not mean it cannot be studied objectively within the
context of the wellbeing of conscious creatures. And just because morality is not absolute
does not mean moral truths do not exist within this context, although they may be difficult
or even impossible to discern. The beauty of Harris‘ moral landscape is that it illustrates
how morality can be relative (there are many peaks and valleys), but still studied
objectively (one can only move up or down).

Harris engages various issues he thinks might be raised by relativists.
[37][unreliable source?][47]
scientists do not seek some divine authority. Nor do they expect that the definitions of morality
themselves will cause everyone to feel some metaphysical urge to be moral, or even cause any kind
of punishment for delinquency (see the section Causes of flourishing below). Instead, supporters like
Harris seek to show how "morality" can be meaningfully understood through the lens of science.
Harris says, about morality, science, and rationality in general, in all of these things- "a person can
always play the trump card, 'What is that to me?' – and if we don't find it compelling elsewhere, I
don't see why it must have special force on questions of good and evil". A person can always
question or reject the terms of discourse (even in science). Harris maintains, however, that
we can talk about morality as scientifically as anything else, and as usual, ignore those people who
are not interested in discussion.

Ronald Lindsay, President of the Center for Inquiry, made a similar point, and argued that scientists
and skeptics should use the word "morality", because of the important connotations it still has with
many people when it comes to motivating action.

The ideas of cultural relativity, to Daleiden, do offer some lessons: investigators must be careful not
to judge a person's behaviour without understanding the environmental context. An action may be
necessary and more moral once we are aware of circumstances.
However, Daleiden emphasizes
that this does not mean all ethical norms or systems are equally effective at promoting
and he often offers the equal treatment of women as a reliably superior norm, wherever
it is practiced.
Moral facts[edit]

Harris argues that there may be multiple peaks on the moral landscape of optimized human societies, but even more
ways for a society not to be on a peak
It may be important to get clearer on the sorts of moral facts to expect from a science of morality.

Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson says that, even though philosophers often highlight and
discuss some of the most challenging moral situations, there are still many more "moral no brainers".
Compared with morally grey issues, clearer cases of immorality can be more urgent and important to
Michael Shermer opines that "It doesn't take rocket science – or religion" to deem the
average acid attack to be wrong.
[40][note 11]
As philosopher Alonzo Fyfe points out, if one intends to
cause a great deal of harm to many people, it is easy enough to guess which actions are likely to do
the most damage (i.e. be the most immoral).

There are objective facts about things that are relative (i.e. relational facts). For example, it might be
a fact (not subject to anyone's opinion) that Alex would like to play a musical instrument more than
would Jamie. Alex would flourish given the opportunity, but Jamie would not (unless Jamie's
preferences change). It may therefore be a fact that it is more morally good to give the instrument to
Alex than to Jamie precisely because the two people value different things. The existence of such
moral facts does not directly rely on the individuals subjective opinions, whether or not they care
about such facts, or whether they act morally (Jamie may exploit Alex, and it would remain a fact
that this was a less moral option).

Science of morality will often discover multiple "moral peaks", or optimal ethical systems. Harris
believes these are successes, because identifying moral peaks would necessarily mean identifying
the more obviously sub-optimal ethical systems (and maybe some re-occurring obstacles to
flourishing in societies). Moreover, some religious and private intuitions about what is right may be
vindicated by science; this can happen whether or not the beliefs were held for justified reasons in
the first place.
[5][37][unreliable source?]

Satisfying every desire, or living in complete bliss, are not realistic goals in the eyes of Daleiden.
Even the Buddhist ideal of having no desires, and hence no unsatisfied desires, is extremely difficult
to achieve and maintain for a whole society – not least of all for younger people (who, Daleiden
says, have less self control). Science of morality could never yield autopia. Nevertheless, science of
morality could greatly increase well-being for very many people.

It is unlikely that humans will create a moral code that can answer all moral questions. The
complexity of situations where flourishing is at stake does not lend itself to simple, unconditional
rules (the field of law demonstrates how complex these issues can get at the ground level).
Balancing the flourishing of multiple conscious creatures is difficult, but it can even be a challenge to
balance the flourishing of a single conscious creature – across different times (what
psychologistGeorge Ainslie describes as a sort of 'community of selves in competition').
refuses to provide supreme principles or laws of morality because he believes real life is too
Daleiden says that moral absolutism is a defunct pursuit; science of morality instead
tentatively advocates general values (like high degrees of free speech) or rules of thumb (like
the Golden Rule).
Any conclusions reached using science and regarding moral norms would not be absolute.
Even a
rule like "never cut open a child's stomach against their will" may find exception in certain cases
such as emergency appendectomy. Likewise, it may sometimes be as practically impossible to
determine the more moral route as it is to determine the number of birds in flight around the
[37][unreliable source?]
The moral norms identified by science of morality will always be subject to
revision in light of new evidence.
Moral traditions which focus on "will" may also be obsolete. Dewey called it "magical thinking" to
believe that a desire to control immoral habits is enough to actually control them. He advocates the
use of various methods to make it easier for people to do the right thing, and recognizes that some
situations make it more challenging than others.
Certain habits make moral behavior easier as
[note 12]
These issues of moral responsibility are especially relevant in light of modern science,
including the neuroscience of free will.
To the extent that there are moral facts, individuals or groups can be mistaken about these facts
(instances of the illusion of introspection) whereas others may become moral experts (e.g. the Dalai
Lama). For instance, over-emphasizing a value like submission might lead to more suffering than
other values. Thus some groups or individuals, like the Taliban, may have as little a place in serious
discussions about morality as they do in discussions about string theory. Harris argues, "just as
there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim

Personism argues that we must include non-humans, to some extent, in any conception of a moral
society. This is because conscious creatures exist along a large spectrum, at different ranges of

Causes of flourishing[edit]
See also: Moral psychology
Good behaviour[edit]
Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior
should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man
would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.

-Albert Einstein
Critics might propose that science of morality fails to answer the question "even having defined
good, why do it?", something that is often expected of a moral system. Even those philosophical
theories that Daleiden admires most (utilitarianism and Rawlsian justice) are, in his view, incomplete,
in that ―neither theory seems to offer an adequate motivational basis to insure widespread
He comments elsewhere that even the possession of a coherent moral system,
based on reality, does not necessarily change or motivate a person's behavior.

That is why Daleiden says that society should aim for its members to aspire to more
than egoistic behavior, or evenrational egoism. He confronts the hypothesis that everyone pursuing
their own self-interest will somehow result in everyone cooperating, and calls it bunk. Instead,
Daleiden advocates for "conditioned self-interest" (aka conditioned rational egoists). These are
individuals who pursue their self-interest, and for various reasons, their self-interest amounts
to altruistic behavior. This is important, because humans have evolved many tendencies that can be
maladaptive to civilized society. A case in point: our sometimes-uncontrollable aggression (see
also evolutionary psychology).

In terms of game theory research, the goal is to create as many non-zero sum scenarios as
possible. Daleiden expounds: Reaching the goal of conditioned self-interest requires knowledge
from fields including sociobiology, moral development.
[note 13]
and behaviourism.
[note 14]
The result is a
comprehensive program that encourages good behaviour. It starts with the knowledge that humans
are one of many animals that have evolved altruistic tendencies.
[note 15]
Besides altruistic instincts,
the program comprises the development of a sense of social identity, ensuring that there are
consequences for actions, providing economic incentives, and lastly, providing moral training.
Daleiden discuss the program's last element, prosocial moral training, the most.

Prosocial training includes everything from instilling explicit virtues, building character strengths, and
forming mental associations. Prosocial training also requires some level of practiced reasoning.
Daleiden discusses moral development research by James Rest suggesting that intelligence,
abstract reasoning, is also a factor in making moral judgments.
[64][note 16]
Rest also emphasized that
moral judgements alone do not predict moral behaviour. As Rest puts it ―Moral judgement may be
closely related to advocacy behaviour, which in turn influences social institutions, which in turn
creates a system of norms and sanctions that influences people‘s behaviour.‖
The point is: the
entire prosocial training regime is an important part of creating conditioned egoists. Daleiden's last
factor in prosocial training, mental associations, is quite familiar: he says it has been traditionally
understood as the conscience – where the student learns to feel empathy, and to feel regret for
harming others. Unless an individual can, and begins to feel empathy, it may be unlikely that any
amount of reasoning, or any coherent moral system will motivate them to behave very altruistically.
Discussing his proposed training, Daleiden says ―Call it indoctrination if you wish; I find nothing
repugnant in training children to be honest, kind, and hardworking.‖
Also described above are the
reasons that it should be the intention of adults to shape children, or presumably "indoctrinate" them,
to think critically. He adds that the focus is on especially socially relevant values (e.g. kindness,
sharing, reasoning) and not the more personal, private values (e.g. a preference like writing novels
versus painting on canvas).

Religion, although it is not the best method of determining moral norms, has often been very
effective at promoting them. Religions often satisfy many of Daleiden's criteria for raising people to
be conditioned egoists, especially by practicing the aforementioned elements of prosocial training.
He suggests that this is what they are doing when they instill a sense of virtue and justice, right and
wrong. They also effectively use art and myths to educate people about moral situations.
Randy Olson believes that the use of the arts, including stories, is likely important for science
communication in general.

The role of government[edit]
Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984 imagine dystopian future
societies that control the populace by advanced scientific techniques. Harris argues that moral
scientists approaching truths does not imply an "Orwellian future" with "scientists at every door".
Instead, Harris imagines data about normative moral issues being shared in the same way as other
sciences (e.g. peer-reviewed journals on medicine).

Earthly paradise[edit]
Harris claims that if some degree of conditioning, such transhumanism, or genetic
modification allowed everyone greater well-being, then they would actually be good things.
[T]he necessity of grounding moral truth in things that people "actually value, or desire, or care about"
also misses the point. People often act against their deeper preferences – or live in ignorance of what
their preferences would be if they had more experience and information. What if we could change
[someone's] preference… Should we? Obviously we can't answer this question by relying on the very
preferences we would change… I'm not simply claiming that morality is "fully determined by an objective
reality, independent of people's actual values and desires." I am claiming that people's actual values and
desires are fully determined by an objective reality, and that we can conceptually get behind all of this—
indeed, we must—in order to talk about what is actually good. This becomes clear the moment we ask
whether it would be good to alter people values and desires. [sic]

Consider how we would view a situation in which all of us miraculously began to behave so as to
maximize our collective well-being. Imagine that on the basis of remarkable breakthroughs in technology,
economics, and politic skill, we create a genuine utopia on earth. Needless to say, this wouldn't be boring,
because we will have wisely avoided all the boring utopias. Rather, we will have created a global
civilization of astonishing creativity, security, and happiness.

However, some people were not ready for this earthly paradise once it arrived. Some were psychopaths
who, despite enjoying the general change in quality of life, were nevertheless eager to break into their
neighbors' homes and torture them from time to time. A few had preferences that were incompatible with
the flourishing of whole societies: Try as he might, Kim Jong Il just couldn't shake the feeling that his
cognac didn't taste as sweet without millions of people starving beyond his palace gates. Given our
advances in science, however, we were able to alter preferences of this kind. In fact, we painlessly
delivered a firmware update to everyone. Now the entirety of the species is fit to live in a global civilization
that is as safe, and as fun, and as interesting, and as filled with love as it can be.

It seems to me that this scenario cuts through the worry that the concept of well-being might leave out
something that is worth caring about: for if you care about something that is not compatible with a peak of
human flourishing—given the requisite changes in your brain, you would recognize that you were wrong
to care about this thing in the first place. Wrong in what sense? Wrong in the sense that you didn't know
what you were missing.

This is the core of my argument: I am claiming that there must be frontiers of human well-being that await
our discovery—and certain interests and preferences surely blind us to them.

— Sam Harris
Daleiden specifies that government, like any organization, should have limited power. He says
"centralization of power irrevocably in the hands of one person or an elite has always ultimately led
to great evil for the human race. It was the novel experiment of democracy – a clear break with
tradition – that ended the long tradition of tyranny.‖
He is also explicit that government should only
use law to enforce the most basic, reasonable, evidence and widely supported moral norms. In other
words, there are a great many moral norms that should never be the task of the government to

The role of punishment[edit]
Main articles: Differential reinforcement and Prison
One author has argued that to attain a society where people are motivated by conditioned self-
interest, punishment must go hand-in-hand with reward.
For instance, in this line of reasoning,
prison remains necessary for many perpetrators of crimes. This is so, even if libertarian free will is
false. This is because punishment can still serve its purposes: it deters others from committing their
own crimes, educates and reminds everyone about what the society stands for, incapacitates the
criminal from doing more harm, goes some way to relieving or repaying the victim, and corrects the
criminal (also see recidivism). This author argues that, at least, any prison system should be
pursuing those goals, and that it is an empirical question as to what sorts of punishment realize
these goals most effectively, and how well variousprison systems actually serve these purposes.

Evaluative diversity[edit]
Main article: Evaluative diversity
According to Tim Dean, moral diversity likely evolved through frequency-dependent
selection because different moral approaches are vulnerable to different sets of situations which
threatened our ancestors.
The need for modern teams to be competitive, supportive, stable, and
innovative suggests that maximal human flourishing continues to rely upon evaluative diversity.
Christopher Santos-Lang has therefore argued that management of morality should, like the
management of ecosystems, preserve diversity. He advocated for adaptive management, warning
that early efforts of scientists to manage ecosystems backfired.

See also: Positive psychology
Science of morality should
identify basic components required for human flourishing, drawing
heavily on findings from positive psychology. In a proto-scientific example, Abraham
Maslow suggested a hierarchy of needs: basic physical survival, then social and self esteem needs,
and lastly philosophical and self-actualization. In contemporary positive psychology, three years of
research resulted in a systematic classification and measurement of universal strengths and
virtues, Martin E. P. Seligman and Christopher Peterson's Character Strengths and Virtues.
Research looking for optimal ethical systems can draw on all the methods of science, especially
those used by positive psychology. While this might include obvious methods like asking people
to self-report what they think they need to flourish in life – psychology has shown that people are
often surprisingly incorrect on these matters (particularly when it comes to making predictions and
recollections). Some cases in point: having too many varieties of consumer goods actually
creates consumer choice anxiety; when it comes to removing bandages, Dan Ariely's research
suggests that "getting it over with as quickly as possible" may cause more negative memories than if
one went slowly (with breaks) while being careful never to reach a 'peak' in pain; stress is not always
harmful (such stress is called eustress). While very careful use of self-report can still be illuminating
(e.g. bogus pipeline techniques), in the end, unconscious methods of inquiry seem to be more
promising. Some unconscious methods of data collection include the Implicit Association
Testand neuroimaging. In these ways, science can further our understanding of what humans need
to flourish, and what ways of organizing society provide the greatest hope for flourishing.
Nobel prize winner Eric Kandel and researcher Cynthia Fu describe their findings
that depression can be diagnosed very accurately just by looking at fMRI brain scans.
This is
because researchers have made strides identifying neural correlates for, among other
things, emotions. A doctor's second opinion would still be used, they explain. But the two
researchers suggest that mental illnesses may someday be diagnosable by looking at such brain
scans alone.
Extensive study of cooperation has shed some light on the objective (and subjective) advantages of
teamwork andempathy.
The brain areas that are consistently involved when humans reason about moral issues have been
investigated by a quantitative large-scale meta-analysis of the brain activity changes reported in the
moral neuroscience literature.
In fact, the neural network underlying moral decisions overlapped
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.
There is evidence to suggest that a risk factor for becoming victims of bullying is deficient moral
development. Examples of deficient moral development may be something like neglecting an agent's
intentions during an action, or blaming them for accidents. In other words, victims of bullying may be
more likely to make less accurate moral assessments, for some reason. The researchers also found
that, in contrast, bullies were just as morally developed as victim defenders. The difference is that
bullies are more able to disengage themselves. That is, for whatever reason, bullies end up
suppressing their feelings of compassion and conscience.

Egalitarians point out the various adverse effects of the trickle up effect (when money flows from the
poor to the rich) when it causes economic inequality.
Psychologist Daniel Gilbert also explains, in
his book Stumbling on Happiness, why excessive luxury goods(over and above having basic needs
met) does not lead as reliably to happiness as a good job and social network. It is in a similar vein
that Daleiden suggests that people do not need to be as motivated by excessive salaries the way
they may be in the United States. Society could instead leverage other motives, even prestige or

Other implications[edit]
Philosopher Paul Kurtz coined the term "Eupraxophy" to refer to a type of scientific and philosophical
approach to normative ethics. Kurtz believes that the careful, secular pursuit of normative rules is
vital to society.
Physicist David Deutsch tells the story that, answering a group of school children's question of why
so many people feel hate so strongly, former president George Bush told them "There is evil in the
world. But we can overcome evil. We're good". Deutsch says that, although secularists may wince at
Bush's use of the word "good",

...civilization will survive the miscellaneous evils that one finds in a mature, Western
religion — such as Bush's opposition to abortion, and the like. But it would not...survive
the typical non-believer's (pre-September-11) take on the nature of morality. We non-
believers have failed too. What comes next is that we must correct that failure, by
incorporating into the Western tradition of critical rationalism an objective conception of
right and wrong.

Deutsch is worried about the implications of moral nihilism being taken too seriously. He advocates
defending (always as peacefully as is possible) values including tolerance, openness, reason, and
respect for others. He adds that such a moral framework allows an alternative to war only if both
sides embrace it.

Sean M. Carroll maintains that, although we would like it to be, morality is not a scientific domain.

Utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer argued in his book, The Life You Can Save, that it is important
for all conscious creatures for nations to have "cultures of giving". He has expressed in books
like Animal Liberation that, because of so-called "speciesism", animal rights are too often neglected
by humanistic ethical movements. Singer holds more of apersonistic stance.
Critics have suggested that a belief that some cultures are "wrong" or somehow less optimal could
lead to paternalism. As a result, one nation may force their own culture upon another – particularly
because moral realists risk becoming dogmatic in their decisions about what is "bad". On the other
hand, if it is agreed that a culture is suffering unduly – it may be a good thing if the other cultures
save them from themselves. Generally, this need not ever require any force at all, as persuasion and
example can be far more effective. That is not to say that war is always avoidable, such as in
extreme cases of fighting fascism.
During a discussion on the role that naturalism might play in professions like nursing, Philosopher
Trevor Hussey calls the popular view that science is unconcerned with morality "too simplistic".
Although his main focus in the paper is naturalism in nursing, he goes on to explain that science can,
at very least, be interested in morality at a descriptive level. He even briefly entertains the idea that
morality could itself be a scientific subject, writing that one might argue "..that moral judgements are
subject to the same kinds of rational, empirical examination as the rest of the world: they are a
subject for science – although a difficult one. If this could be shown to be so, morality would be
contained within naturalism. However, I will not assume the truth of moral realism here."
[note 17]

In assessing specific measures of well-being, Daleiden disputes the usefulness of the common
economic measure gross domestic product (GDP) as a meaningful indicator.
His criticisms are in
line with supporters using a more eclectic measure such as gross domestic happiness (GDH).
Daleiden provides examples of how science can use empirical evidence to assess the effect that
specific behaviors can have on the well-being of individuals and society with regard to various moral
issues. He argues that science supportsdecriminalization and regulation of drugs, euthanasia under
some circumstances, and the permission of sexual behaviors that are not tolerated in some cultures
(he cites homosexuality as an example). Daleiden further argues that in seeking to reduce human
suffering, abortion should not only be permissible, but at times a moral obligation (as in the case of a
mother of a potential child who would faces the probability of much suffering). Like all moral claims in
his book, however, Daleiden is adamant that these decisions remain grounded in, and contingent on
empirical evidence.
[11][note 18]

Other proponents[edit]
Ronald A. Lindsay is a bioethicist, lawyer, and chief executive officer and senior research fellow of
the Center for Inquiry (CFI). He likens discussions of morality, like discussions of the theory of
evolution, to consist of arguments about details that are too often confused as arguments over basic
tenets. In these moral discussions, he says, the public too often fails to go deeper than mere
slogans. Lindsay says that morality is the practical enterprise of pursuing peace and happiness. He
places great emphasis on the methodology of analyzing morality, and suggests that we: (a) gather
the foundations on which we all agree, (b) identify the more culturally relative and relevant norms,
and (c) analyze and create our moral system according to facts provided by science.

Vice president of CFI John Shook shows similar support. In his article "The Science of Morality", he
writes "Could science determine morality through application of constructive engineering? The
answer is yes." As long as we admit the critical role that philosophical reasoning must play, Shook
imagines that "A scientific ethics will investigate all social institutions and propose reforms to
anything involving human well-being."

Richard Dawkins had openly stated that science has little to say directly about morality. He has since
said, about science of morality as friend and colleague Harris presents it in The Moral Landscape,
that it "changed all that for me".
In an online interview, Dawkins reiterated that he believes that
Harris makes relevant points, and that, once one defines the moral goal as maximizing the wellbeing
of creatures, science has much to say about what is actually morally good.

President of the Atheist Community of Austin Matt Dillahunty said that he was thinking of things
similarly to the way they are presented in The Moral Landscape. On The Atheist
Experience television show, Dillahunty was answering a caller's question about where he disagrees
with Harris on other matters (regarding the use of the word "atheist"). However, before discussing
areas of disagreement, Dillahunty explains that he normally agrees with Harris and says: "When he
came out with The Moral Landscape I had actually been running around at universities giving a talk
about the superiority of secular morality, and I stopped doing it because I didn't feel the need to keep
doing this as long as the book was out and he and I were thinking similarly about this."

Patricia Churchland is a philosopher at University of California - San Diego well known for
supporting eliminative materialism (the position that certain terms used in materialistic philosophies
need elimination or revision). To Churchland, the ideas of philosophers should be grounded in
science, making them more like "theoretical" scientists. She cites facts about early visual processing,
explaining that valence is assigned to stimulus subconsciously; this process is seen in children and
may have a large biological component. Churchland uses this an example of science limiting the
scope of relevant philosophical theories.
Regarding her book Braintrust, some of what she
discussed on evolutionary neurological understanding of facts/values and is/ought, falls within the
general structure that Sam Harris has laid out. She describes what he is asking us to envision, that if
false beliefs were factored out, the remaining evaluative facts should become apparent, and that
should result in a agreement on values. She agrees especially it would be most likely at the extreme
ends of the spectrum, in the clear-cut cases of flourishing or not flourishing.
However, Churchland anticipates a lot of cases lie in the middle ground, that can lead to
disagreement and it's uncertain whether this might be due to a disagreement about facts, or a
fundamental disagreement on values. She continues, that there may be cases where there are
simply no more facts that can shed any light on the matter. She also mentions pernicious cases,
such as questions involving just war and preemptive strikes, were there is always most likely be
some value disagreement. Referring to Harris understanding of a science of morality, she says he
handles many issues very well, but Churchland claims to play devil's advocate, and offers three
worries: arrogance (or silliness) on the part of academics, in providing condescending or unrealistic
advice; ideological enthusiasm at the behest of demagogy, as in the cultural revolution in China; and
finally, do-goodery that takes on a bad problem and makes it worse, when one ought not to have
interfered on a presumption of having the normative high-ground.

Steven Pinker says that science, broadly enough defined to consist of general reason and evidence-
based belief, is certainly how we learn what is right and wrong. On the other hand, Pinker says that
"science" is often understood as separate from philosophy and other necessary components of good
moral thinking, which would make science necessary but insufficient. Asked whether science can tell
us what is right and wrong, Pinker says "Yes and No", depending on how broadly or narrowly a
science is being discussed.

In debate, Peter Singer expressed the same contingent agreement with the idea of a science of
morality (i.e. he agrees that broadly defined, science can tell us what is right and wrong). Sam Harris
explained that he is appealing to the broad use of 'science' which he says means more than lab
coated researchers in laboratories – it includes secular philosophizing and scientific theory.

Many criticisms of the concept of a science of morality revolve around the implications of calling
"good" what allows a society to flourish. In the past, some leaders have appealed to science
dogmatically in order to justify certain moral claims. The results, like social Darwinism, have later
come to be seen as undesirable, misguided, wrong or evil and this could be taken to imply that
future attempts at a science of morality could very well be later seen in the same critical light. There
is also the concern that a science of morality could produce an ethical system where
everyone hedonisticallypursues merely their own interests as in Aldous Huxley's 1931 novel Brave
New World.
C. S. Lewis predicted in his 1943 philosophy book The Abolition of Man, that a future generation of
"conditioners" could change human nature "through eugenics, pre-natal conditioning, and an
education and propaganda based on a perfectapplied psychology" so that all future generations will
be involuntarily imprinted with its moral values (or lack thereof) which they would presumably justify
through science or pseudoscience. Lewis argues that this would be the effective end of the human
race. Lewis regards certain first principles in ethics shared across all major cultures (natural law) to
be the essence of humanity and argues that regarding these principles as subject to modification
has a dehumanizing effect; ultimately reducing persons to objects to be manipulated by scientific
technique, rather than fellow persons who use scientific techniques on objects. He says, "A dogmatic
belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience
which is not slavery." These themes are further developed in his 1945 novel, That Hideous Strength.
See also[edit]
 Capabilities approach
 Ethical calculus
 Evolution of cooperation
 Felicific calculus
 G. E. Moore
 Jonathan Haidt
 Max Scheler
 Moral skepticism
 Open question argument
 Pareto efficiency
 Philosophy of law
 The Oakes test
 Tit for tat
 Value (personal and cultural)
 Welfare economics
1. Jump up^ Harris explains that, to some extent, the term flourishing is intended to be a catch-all
term for those states that creatures consider positive, and which must be harmonized with other
times and individuals.

2. Jump up^ Daleiden writes that ―Moral issues need to be discussed in the less politically
pressured form of academia. Some might argue that religions could perform this function…
However, virtually all religions base their moral judgements on flawed premises such as divine
revelation, natural law, and free will. They usually rely little on the methods of scientific inquiry.
Therefore, it is almost serendipitous if they arrive at value judgements designed to promote
human happiness. Hence it again falls to the academic community to undertake the empirical
studies and analysis necessary to decide moral issues, just as for any other subject of human

3. Jump up^ One prominent school of moral naturalist thought is that of the Cornell realists,
especially Richard Boyd and Nicholas Sturgeon. They hold that, although moral facts are natural
facts, moral facts are not reducible to any other sort of natural facts. The two were therefore non-
reductive moral naturalists. Cornell realism, in turn, has been criticized in papers by Terry
Horgan and Mark Timmons, who apply the "Moral Twin Earth" thought experiment.
Other moral naturalists include reductionists Peter Railton and Frank Jackson, and neo-
Aristotelians such as Rosalind Hursthouse and Judith Jarvis Thomson.
4. Jump up^ To quote Carmichael: "We do not turn aside from what we know about astronomy at
any time because there is still a great deal we do not know, or because so much of what we
once thought we knew is no longer recognized as true. May not the same argument be accepted
in our thinking about ethical and esthetic judgements?"

5. Jump up^ Daleiden elaborates: ―Like the moral rules of religious institutions, any so-called
universal rules or commandments that may benefit society and the individual under one set of
circumstances may result in great misery under different conditions.‖

6. Jump up^ Daleiden's entire second chapter (pages 53–86) is dedicated to attempting to
dismantle various conceptions of "free will". In his book's summary he writes "The concept of free
will is a metaphysical myth stemming from confusion between the idea that humans possess the
ability to choose – which all higher-order animals possess to some extent – and the notion that
humans are free to choose without the constraints of those determining factors that motivate
choice: genetics and environment." He makes other arguments, including that a lacking free will
does not mean behaviour will be predictable in practice, and that holding people responsible
(again, in practice) is important to shaping behaviour.

7. Jump up^ This is a common example in law, but is especially based on Daleiden's description of
the difference between more private values, as opposed to more socially relevant values

8. Jump up^ John Dewey described how part of the moral process can sometimes mean shifting
one's values according to how well they satisfy some more primitive, and even partially
unconscious values or desires. He provides the example of the connoisseur; one may be better
able to discern the relevant factors of a meal which make it more or less enjoyable. The
connoisseur is thus better able to select such higher order values.
Dewey further believes that
understanding the means to an end is an important part of understanding the ends themselves.
The relative weightings of qualities of a suit, for example, are not fixed for the shopper, but rather
established throughout the process of considering possible uses for the suit (e.g. "Ok, so they
come in different colours, and now that I think of it, my Boss likes Blue- so I want blue").
9. Jump up^ The disagreement, then, may be a practical one. That is, why does the definition of
morality matter if nothing has changed? Perhaps there are facts about what tends to promote
human flourishing (complete with notable exceptions like, again, psychopaths). It will still be the
case that many are ignorant or in denial about such facts. At very least, this seems to be a case
for abandoning the word "morality", which has metaphysical connotations to many, and adopting
new language (e.g. from law, defining what it means to be a "goodcitizen").
10. Jump up^ Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss defends the position that, even if one disagreed that
science can determine what is right and wrong, rejecting science is to reject any hope of moral
knowledge. Krauss argues that knowing something is moral entails knowing various facts about
reality. Furthermore, he says that science has already shown us that the world is very often not
what we expected (e.g. made of atoms). He discusses how knowing certain facts which are most
relevant to moral appraisals is impossible without science's systematic empirical investigation.
Krauss uses the example of embryonic stem cell research, and suggests that various morally
relevant facts have been discovered by science, and would not have otherwise been known.

11. Jump up^ A long tradition of more nuanced philosophical discussions on the topic of morality
can and should be reconciled with science of morality. Some of these issues are especially
complex, however. Patricia Churchland offers a particularly intractable example: "no one has the
slightest idea how to cmopare the mild headache of five-million against the broken legs of two, or
the needs of one's own two children against the needs of a hundred unrelated brain-damaged
children in Serbia."

12. Jump up^ Dewey talked about how certain habits (of thought or action) promote more
flourishing than others. He says an example might be that one of the most important habits is
that of keeping other habits flexible. This is because context is important to moral considerations,
and the rules that work in one situation or society may not work as well in others. He
nevertheless mentions independent thought, critical inquiry, experimentation, imagination, and
sympathy for others as generally reliable rules of thumb. Dewey is also extremely critical of any
supposed moral system which emphasizes uncritical obedience – because this only damages
people's ability to learn better values.

13. Jump up^ relevant researchers includeJean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg and James Rest
14. Jump up^ This includes differential reinforcement
15. Jump up^ There are many domains related to the study of human tendencies as they relate to
morality. Fields like evolutionary biology look at the evolution of cooperation.Evolutionary
ethics has similar interests. There is furthermore the study ofreciprocal altruism
16. Jump up^ Daleiden explains, based on the research of James Rest "it would take a Ph.D. in
philosophy to make the more difficult ethical judgements. Even these people would find it much
easier to make the correct judgement in the abstract than when personally faced with their own
moral dilemmas.‖

17. Jump up^ Hussey writes "The relationship between naturalism and morality and politics is
complicated, and is difficult to state in a few sentences because it involves deep philosophical
issues. Only the briefest discussion is possible here. The most popular view is that science, and
hence naturalism, is concerned with objective facts and not with values: with what is the case
rather than what ought to be. But this is too simplistic." He gives a reason immediately: "First, at
the very least, science can study morality and politics at a descriptive level and try to understand
their workings within societies and in the lives of individuals, and investigate their evolutionary
origins, their social propagation, and so on." Hussey then describes how scientists must adhere
to certain values, but also how values guide what it is that science may investigate. His real
interest in the paper is to justify naturalism as a nursing practice, yet he does eventually write:
"Finally, the idea that science and morality are separate realms, one dealing with facts the other
with values, is not as certain and clear-cut as it seems. Various versions of moral realism are
now widely discussed among philosophers (e.g. Railton, 1986, 1996, 2003; Sayre-McCord,
1988; Dancy, 1993; Casebeer, 2003; Shafer-Landau, 2003; Baghramian, 2004; Smith, 1994,
2004). Despite their differences, moral realists generally agree on two principles. First, that our
moral utterances, such as ‗Murder is morally wrong‘ or ‗We ought to be honest‘ are genuine
statements and hence they are capable of being either true or false. Second, what makes them
either true or false are aspects of the real world, open to objective examination. It can be argued
that it is an implication of this thesis that moral judgements are subject to the same kinds of
rational, empirical examination as the rest of the world: they are a subject for science – although
a difficult one." He continues "If this could be shown to be so, morality would be contained within
naturalism. However, I will not assume the truth of moral realism here. It is sufficient to say that it
has at least as much credibility as any theory claiming a supernatural or divine foundation for
morality: views which, while popular among the general public, do not have widespread support
among moral philosophers – for what that is worth." Hussey thus directs discussion back towards
Naturalism in nursing because his main point in all this was, in the end, to prove that naturalistic
moralities are not necessarily less credible than supernatural ones, and may even be more

18. Jump up^ Joseph Daleiden's final word regarding his book, The Science of Morality, is that
―[The study of ethics] should be included with the social sciences and be subject to as rigorous a
scientific program of research as any other area of human behaviour. Lacking this scientific
rigour, the moral conclusions drawn in this volume must be considered as working hypotheses,
some with greater degree of evidentiary support than others. It is the process by which to assess
and transmit moral norms that was the primary focus of this work, and I hope it will serve as a
new way of deciding moral issues.‖
1. Jump up^ Lenman, James (2008). "Moral Naturalism". In Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 ed.).
2. ^ Jump up to:

Sam Harris (2010), page 183: "Much of the skepticism I encounter when
speaking about these issues comes from people who think "happiness" is a superficial state of
mind and that there are far more important things in life than "being happy." Some reasers may
think that concepts like "well-being" and "flourishing" are similarly effete. However, I don't know
of any better terms with which to signify the most positive states of being to which we can aspire.
One of the virtues of thinking about a moral landscape, the heights of which remain to be
discovered, is that it frees us from these semantic difficulties. Generally speaking, we need only
worry about what it will mean to move "up" as opposed to "down".
3. Jump up^ Daleiden (1998) page 191.
4. Jump up^ Sean Carroll (2010-05-04). "Science And Morality: You Can‘t Derive 'Ought' From
'Is'". NPR. Retrieved 2010-06-14. "Casting morality as a maximization problem might seem
overly restrictive at first glance, but the procedure can potentially account for a wide variety of
approaches. A libertarian might want to maximize a feeling of personal freedom, while a
traditional utilitarian might want to maximize some version of happiness. The point is simply that
the goal of morality should be to create certain conditions that are, in principle, directly
measurable by empirical means. ...Nevertheless, I want to argue that this program is simply not
possible. ... Morality is not part of science, however much we would like it to be. There are a
large number of arguments one could advance for in support of this claim, but I'll stick to three."
5. ^ Jump up to:






g, "Sam Harris: Science Can Answer Moral Questions."
6. Jump up^ Morality, "When effective benevolence is brought into the realms of Deontology, when
the greatest good, the universal happiness, is made thecentral point round which all action
revolves the golden era of moral science will commence.."
7. Jump up^ on from pg. 39 in The Moral Landscape
8. Jump up^ NMJ Woodhouse (2003). Special relativity. London: Springer. p. 58. ISBN 1-85233-
9. Jump up^ page 56 for
10. Jump up^ page 395 for
11. ^ Jump up to:







Daleiden, Joseph (1998). Chapter 20: Summary and conclusions.
Pages 485–500
12. ^ Jump up to:



Sam Harris (May 7, 2010). "Toward a Science of Morality". Huffington Post.
Retrieved 2010-06-14. "In February, I spoke at the 2010 TED conference, where I briefly argued
that morality should be considered an undeveloped branch of science."
13. ^ Jump up to:

Deontology or, the Science of Morality, "Language lags behind science, and too
frequently refuses its aid to knowledge. The innovations of philosophy upon long-received
expressions are slow and difficult. Philology is apt to refuse the contributions of the other
sciences. It prides itself on its poverty. And this is the more to be regretted, inasmuch as all
languages had their birth in a period when moral and intellectual cultivation could only be in their
infancy. / A time will come, it is earnestly to be hoped, when morality, like chemistry, will create
its own fit nomenclature."
14. Jump up^ or, the Science of Morality
15. ^ Jump up to:






Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Dewey's Moral Philosophy"
16. Jump up^ "The Moral Landscape", pg. 183
17. Jump up^ Marcin T. Zdrenka. (2006). "Moral philosopher or sociologist of morals?". Journal of
Classical Sociology.
18. Jump up^ Essays on Science and Society. "Science and Morality".
19. Jump up^ Nagel, Thomas (20 October 2011). "Review By Thomas Nagel | The New Republic".
"The Facts Fetish"
20. Jump up^ Harris, Sam (29 January 2011). "A Response to Critics". Huffington Post.
21. Jump up^ Pigliucci, Massimo (17 September 2011). "Rationally Speaking: Genuinely puzzled:
what exactly is Blackford saying about Harris?". "Now, given all the above, I understand why
Blackford agrees with my criticism of Harris. The only thing he seems to complain about
concerning my review is that I claim that Harris is affected by the common malady of scientism.
But even there, Blackford writes: "In the end, the problems with The Moral Landscape aren't so
much about thinking that all problems can be solved by science. Even if Harris may sometimes
seem to think that, the real problems are elsewhere.""
22. Jump up^ p24, Daleiden (1998)
23. ^ Jump up to:

24. Jump up^ Churchland, Patricia Smith (2011). Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About
Morality. Princeton University Press. pp. 7–9. ISBN 978-0-691-13703-2.LCCN 2010043584.
25. Jump up^ 247, 275, 284, Daleiden (1998), and the page 120 quote: ―…some merely reflect a
shift in emphasis…they are not mutually exclusive; rather, they all offer valuable insights as to
how the members of society can institute a code of ethical behaviour that will benefit all.‖
26. Jump up^ p502, Daleiden (1998)
27. Jump up^ Leaonard Carmichael, the chapter "Absolutes, Relativism and the Scientific
Psychology of Human Nature", H. Schoeck and J. Wiggins (eds), in the book "Relativism and the
Study of Man, Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand, 1961, page 16
28. Jump up^ p306, Daleiden (1998)
29. Jump up^ p218 and 509, Daleiden (1998)
30. Jump up^ p208, Daleiden (1998)
31. Jump up^, "Free Will and Naturalism: A Reply to Corliss Lamont"
32. Jump up^ see Elbow Room
33. Jump up^ 62, Daleiden (1998)
34. Jump up^ 77, Daleiden (1998)
35. Jump up^ "The Moral Landscape", pg. 144
36. Jump up^ 314, Daleiden
37. ^ Jump up to:





The Center for Inquiry, Sam Harris talks "the Moral Landscape" in NYC
38. ^ Jump up to:

Stanovich, K. E. (2007). How to Think Straight About Psychology. Boston:
Pearson Education.
39. Jump up^
40. ^ Jump up to:

41. Jump up^ 509, Daleiden
42. Jump up^ [1]
43. Jump up^ "Read modern books less and ancient more. Go for the moral sciences to Aristotle, to
Plato. For metaphysics, not to Locke, but still to Aristotle. For Botany, not to Linnaeus, but to
Theophrastus to Elian... This is precisely the way to talk of everything and know nothing; to be as
much farther from knowledge in almost every science as a child who cannot tell his letters is from
the most intelligent professor."
44. Jump up^ 90, Daleiden (1998)
45. Jump up^ Daleiden (1998)
46. Jump up^ Meddings, Jonathan. "In Defense of the Science of Morality". Young Australian
47. Jump up^ "The Moral Landscape"
48. ^ Jump up

49. ^ Jump up to:

100, Daleiden
50. Jump up^ The science network, the great debate, Part 2 with Lawrence Kraus
51. Jump up^ Center Stage podcast, "Why secularism and humanism need evolutionary theory",
with David Sloan Wilson
52. Jump up^ The Moral Landscape (2010), on page 68
53. Jump up^ Podcast: Morality in the Real World, Alonzo Fyfe, Episode 9, 4 minutes 25 seconds
54. Jump up^ 15, Daleiden (1998), quote "This is not another social engineering scheme that
promises to create a utopia where humankind lives in absolute bliss. But it does offer to improve
the human condition substantially." and discussion on 246
55. Jump up^ The Moral Landscape (2010), on page 211, note 51, referring to George Ainslie's
"Breakdown of Will"
56. Jump up^ 110, Daleiden (1998), quote: ―Although specific norms must change to meet changing
human needs, and a norm itself is only a guideline that must be judged in light of the specific
circumstances, there may be overall principles that are useful in setting norms.‖
57. Jump up^
58. Jump up^ Bioethics: an anthology By Helga Kuhse, Peter Singer
59. Jump up^ Applied ethics: a non-consequentialist approach By David S. Oderberg
60. Jump up^ 150, Daleiden (1998)
61. Jump up^ 150, Daleiden (1998), quote: : ―It is insufficient just to present moral knowledge as
information; to effect changes in behaviour, it must strongly affect a person‘s sense of empathy
or, better still, hold out the promise of rewards or punishment.‖
62. Jump up^ 176, Daleiden (1998), quote ―…many of our genetically endowed coping mechanisms
may be ―obsolete‖ in the context of present society. Earlier I discussed one such obsolete
instinctual response-aggression. In a nuclear age, unless we learn to curb this instinct, which
may have been essential to our prehistoric ancestors‘ survival, it may lead to our eventual
demise as a species.‖
63. Jump up^ 306, Daleiden (1998)
64. ^ Jump up to:

James R. Rest, Development in Judging Moral Issues. (1979). Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press.
65. Jump up^ 211, Daleiden (1998)
66. ^ Jump up to:

332–334, Daleiden (1998)
67. Jump up^ 323, 326, Daleiden (1998)
68. Jump up^ Point of Inquiry Podcast, "Don't Be Such a Scientist
69. Jump up^ Asked "Let's say scientists do end up discovering moral truths. How
are they supposed to enforce their findings? Would they become something like policemen or
priests?" Harris writes "They wouldn’t necessarily enforce them any more than they enforce their
knowledge about human health. What are scientists doing with the knowledge that smoking
causes cancer or obesity is bad for your health, or that the common cold is spread by not
washing your hands? We’re not living in some Orwellian world where we have scientists in lab
coats at every door. Imagine we discovered that there is a best way to teach your children to be
compassionate, or to defer short-term gratification in the service of a long-term goal. What if it
turns out to be true that calcium intake in the first two years of life has a significant effect on a
child’s emotional life? If we learn that, what parent wouldn’t want that knowledge? The fear of a
"Brave New World" component to this argument is unfounded."
70. Jump up^ Harris, Sam (29 January 2011). "A Response to Critics". Huffington Post. The
Persuasion Problem.
71. Jump up^ 219, Daleiden (1998)
72. Jump up^ 273–274, Daleiden (1998)
73. Jump up^ 77, Daleiden (1998), quote ―We use rewards and punishments, praise and blame, in
training any animal. The human species is only different in degree in this regard, not in kind.‖
74. Jump up^ 289, Daleiden (1998)
75. Jump up^ Dean, Tim (2012). "Evolution and moral diversity". Baltic International Yearbook of
Cognition, Logic and Communication 7.
76. Jump up^ Santos-Lang, Christopher (2014). "Chapter 6: Moral Ecology Approaches" (PDF). In
van Rysewyk, Simon; Pontier, Matthijs. Machine Medical Ethics. New York: Springer. pp. 74–96.
77. Jump up^
78. Jump up^ "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."
79. Jump up^ "The Moral Psychology of Bullies and Their Victims"
80. Jump up^ "Inequality: The Mother of All Evils?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
81. Jump up^ 144, Daleiden (1998), quote: ―Although there is less income disparity in countries
such as Japan, Korea, Germany, Sweden, and most industrialized nations, there is no evidence
to suggest that their labor forces work less diligently, and the savings rate in each of these
countries exceeds that of the United States.‖
82. ^ Jump up to:

Edge.Org, Question Center, "What Now?", David Deutsch's entry
83. Jump up^
84. Jump up^ Naturalistic nursing, Trevor Hussey (2011), Nursing Philosophy, Vol 12, Pg.45–52.
85. Jump up^ 225, Daleiden (1998)
86. Jump up^ John Shook advocates
87. Jump up^, I was one of those who had unthinkingly
bought into the hectoring myth that science can say nothing about morals. To my surprise, The
Moral Landscape has changed all that for me. It should change it for philosophers too.
Philosophers of mind have already discovered that they can't duck the study of neuroscience,
and the best of them have raised their game as a result..."
88. Jump up^
89. Jump up^ Matt Dillahunty, on episode 737 of "The Atheist Experience", at 38min38seconds
90. Jump up^
91. Jump up^
92. Jump up^

Moral skepticism
Moral skepticism (or moral scepticism) is a class of metaethical theories all members of
which entail that no one has any moral knowledge. Many moral skeptics also make the
stronger, modal, claim that moral knowledge is impossible. Moral skepticism is particularly opposed
to moral realism: the view that there are knowable, objective moral truths.
Defenders of some form of moral skepticism include David Hume, J. L. Mackie (1977), Max
Stirner, Friedrich Nietzsche,Richard Joyce (2001), Michael Ruse, Joshua Greene, Richard
Garner, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (2006b), and the psychologist James Flynn. Strictly
speaking, Gilbert Harman (1975) argues in favor of a kind of moral relativism, not moral skepticism.
However, he has influenced some contemporary moral skeptics.
Forms of moral skepticism[edit]
Moral skepticism divides into three subclasses: moral error theory (or moral nihilism),
epistemological moral skepticism, and noncognitivism.
All three of these theories share the same
conclusions, which are:
(a) we are never justified in believing that moral claims (claims of the form "state of affairs x
is good," "action y is morally obligatory," etc.) are true and, even more so
(b) we never know that any moral claim is true.
However, each method arrives at (a) and (b) by different routes.
Moral error theory holds that we do not know that any moral claim is true because
(i) all moral claims are false,
(ii) we have reason to believe that all moral claims are false, and so, because
(iii) we are not justified in believing any claim we have reason to deny, we are therefore not
justified in believing any moral claims.
Epistemological moral skepticism is a subclass of theory, the members of which
include Pyrrhonian moral skepticism and dogmatic moral skepticism. All
members of epistemological moral skepticism share two things in common: first
they acknowledge that we are unjustified in believing any moral claim, and
second, they are agnostic on whether (i) is true (i.e. on whether all moral claims
are false).
 Pyrrhonian moral skepticism holds that the reason we are unjustified in
believing any moral claim is that it is irrational for us to believe either that
any moral claim is true or that any moral claim is false. Thus, in addition to
being agnostic on whether (i) is true, Pyrrhonian moral skepticism denies
 Dogmatic moral skepticism, on the other hand, affirms (ii) and cites (ii)'s
truth as the reason we are unjustified in believing any moral claim.
Finally, Noncognitivism holds that we can never know that any moral claim is
true because moral claims are incapable of being true or false (they are
not truth-apt). Instead, moral claims are imperatives (e.g. "Don't steal
babies!"), expressions of emotion (e.g. "stealing babies: Boo!"), or expressions
of "pro-attitudes" ("I do not believe that babies should be stolen.")
Moral Error Theory[edit]
Moral error theory is a position characterized by its commitment to two
propositions: (i) all moral claims are false and (ii) we have reason to believe that
all moral claims are false. The most famous moral error theorist is J. L. Mackie,
who defended the metaethical view in Ethics: Inventing Right and
Wrong (1977). Mackie has been interpreted as giving two arguments for moral
error theory.
The first argument people attribute to Mackie, often called the Argument from
holds that moral claims imply motivation internalism (the doctrine
that "It is necessary and a priori that any agent who judges that one of his
available actions is morally obligatory will have some (defeasible) motivation to
perform that action"
). Because motivation internalism is false, however, so
too are all moral claims.
The other argument often attributed to Mackie, often called the Argument from
maintains that any moral claim (e.g. "Killing babies is wrong")
entails a correspondent "reasons claim" ("one has reason not to kill babies").
Put another way, if "killing babies is wrong" is true then everybody has a reason
to not kill babies. This includes the psychopath who takes great pleasure from
killing babies, and is utterly miserable when he does not have their blood on his
hands. But, surely, (if we assume that he will suffer no reprisals) this
psychopath has every reason to kill babies, and no reason not to do so. All
moral claims are thus false.
Epistemological Moral Skepticism[edit]
All versions of Epistemological Moral Skepticism hold that we are unjustified in
believing any moral proposition. However, in contradistinction to moral error
theory, epistemological moral skeptical arguments for this conclusion do not
include the premise that "all moral claims are false." For example, Michael
gives what Richard Joyce
calls an "evolutionary argument" for the
conclusion that we are unjustified in believing any moral proposition. He argues
that we have evolved to believe moral propositions because our believing the
same enhances our genetic fitness (makes it more likely that we will reproduce
successfully). However, our believing these propositions would enhance our
fitness even if they were all false (they would make us more cooperative, etc.).
Thus, our moral beliefs are unresponsive to evidence; they are analogous to the
beliefs of a paranoiac. As a paranoiac is plainly unjustified in believing
his conspiracy theories, so too are we unjustified in believing moral
propositions. We therefore have reason to jettison our moral beliefs.
There are two different opinions that follow from moral skepticism.
Amoralism is the idea to drop morality.
Hare claims there are some reasons to obey moral rules. He claims that
amoralists are logically consistent, but have plenty of disadvantages in their
[citation needed]

Criticisms of moral skepticism come primarily from moral realists. The moral
realist argues that there is in fact good reason to believe that there are objective
moral truths and that we are justified in holding many moral beliefs.
One moral realist response to moral error theory holds that it "proves too
much" — if moral claims are false because they entail that we have reasons to
do certain things regardless of our preferences, then so too are "hypothetical
imperatives" (e.g. "if you want to get your hair-cut you ought to go to the
barber"). This is because all hypothetical imperatives imply that "we have
reason to do that which will enable us to accomplish our ends" and so, like
moral claims, they imply that we have reason to do something regardless of our
If moral claims are false because they have this implication, then
so too are hypothetical imperatives. But hypothetical imperatives are true. Thus
the argument from the non-instantiation of (what Mackie terms) "objective
prescriptivity" for moral error theory fails. Russ Shafer-Landau and Daniel
Callcut have each outlined anti-skeptical strategies. Callcut argues that moral
skepticism should be scrutinized in introductory ethics classes in order to get
across the point that "if all views about morality, including the skeptical ones,
face difficulties, then adopting a skeptical position is not an escape from

1. Jump up^ Moral Skepticism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
2. Jump up^ D. Brink, "Moral Realism and the Skeptical Arguments from
Disagreement and Queerness," Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62
3. ^ Jump up to:


Joyce, Richard (2001). The Myth of Morality, Cambridge
University Press.
4. Jump up^ M. Ruse, Taking Darwin Seriously (Oxford: Basil Blackwell,
5. Jump up^
6. Jump up^ Daniel Callcut, ―The Value of Teaching Moral Skepticism,‖
in Teaching Philosophy Volume 29, Number 3 (Sept 2006), p.231, paper
online at
Further reading[edit]
 Butchvarov, Panayot (1989). Skepticism in Ethics, Indiana University Press.
 Gibbard, Allan (1990). Wise Choices, Apt Feelings. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press.
 Harman, Gilbert (1975). "Moral Relativism Defended," Philosophical
Review, pp. 3–22.
 Harman, Gilbert (1977). The Nature of Morality. New York: Oxford
University Press.
 Joyce, Richard (2001). The Myth of Morality, Cambridge University Press.
 Joyce, Richard (2006). The Evolution of Morality, MIT Press. (link)
 Lillehammer, Halvard (2007). Companions in Guilt: arguments for ethical
objectivity, Palgrave MacMillan.
 Mackie, J. L. (1977). Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, Penguin.
 Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter (2006a). "Moral Skepticism", The Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta(ed.). (link)
 Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter (2006b). Moral Skepticisms, Oxford University
External links[edit]
 Moral skepticism at PhilPapers
 Moral Skepticism entry by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong in the Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy
 Moral Epistemology entry by Richmond Campbell in the Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy
 Moral Reasoning entry by Henry S. Richardson in the Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy
 Moral skepticism at the Indiana Philosophy Ontology Project

Amorality is an absence of, indifference towards, or disregard for morality.
Amorality is
an intrinsic property of anobject because while morality is determined relatively to a moral code,
amorality can exist independently, especially by default in the absence of morality.
Morality and amorality in humans and animals is a subject of dispute among scientists and
philosophers. If morality is intrinsic to humanity, then amoral human beings either do not exist or are
only deficiently human.
If morality is extrinsic to humanity, then amoral human beings can both
exist and be fully human, and may be amoral either by nature or by choice.
Amoral should not be confused with immoral, which refers to an agent doing or thinking something
he or she knows or believes to be wrong
Non-human manifestations[edit]
Any entity that is not sapient may be considered categorically amoral. For example, a rock may be
used (by rational agents) for good or bad purposes, but the rock itself is neither good nor bad.
In ontological philosophy, the ancient gnostic concept that the material world was inherently
evil applied morality to existence itself and was a point of concern in early Christianity in the form
of Docetism, as it opposed the notion that creation is good, as stated in The Book of Genesis.
modern science, however, the matter of the universe is often observed amorally for objective
Animals have long been thought to be amoral entities. However, research into the evolution of
morality, including socialityand altruism in animals, has sparked new debate amongst many
philosophers. Many animals display behavior that is analogous to human moral behavior, such as
caring for the young, protecting kin, and sharing the spoils of the hunt. Generally speaking, if this
behavior is a voluntary response to ethical norms, then animals do have morality; if animals are
involuntarily following innate instinct, then they are amoral.
Legal entities[edit]
Some people consider corporations to be intrinsically amoral entities.

Human amorality[edit]
Human morality appears in adults and even children from a young age. However, some humans
may be considered amoral. There is some debate as to whether the infant human being develops a
moral sense—is moral education cultivated (from within) or implanted (from without)?
 Young humans
 Newborn human infants, like animals, do not display any sense of empathy with their fellow
creatures, nor answerability to obligation, nor guilt or remorse.
 Cognitive Disorders
 Cognitive disorders and psychopathologies like antisocial personality disorder may be
examples of human beings without morality.
 Rejection of Morality
 Philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche argue further that rational human adults may even be
able to choose to be amoral by rejecting the morality. If morality is bad, then it should be
discarded. Yet if morality is bad, even asserting that it is bad invokes a kind of morality.
Therefore the truly amoral argument would reject morality for non-moral reasons.
Humans may discard codes or systems of morality that have been purely socially constructed by
their native cultures. If a rational human being can in any way override the capacity to establish
notions of right and wrong, it is arguable that human beings have the ability to become amoral.
 Suspension of Morality
 At times human beings willingly suspend consideration of moral values, although in a limited
domain. For instance, a lawyer may choose to be amoral with regard to his client in order to
avoid judging his client's guilt or innocence before the trial is complete. This is different from
a complete rejection of morality if the lawyer continues to abide by moral laws and take into
account moral considerations when he is out of the courtroom.
In literature and pop culture[edit]
The narrator John Steinbeck's East of Eden suggests that Cathy Ames is born without a conscience.
The Joker in Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke is portrayed not as immoral or misguided, but
rather as amoral in spite of his madness. Further identifying his moral stance, the primary intent of
his actions in this graphic novel is to show that anyone can succumb to or embrace madness after
but one bad day, wholly independent of one's morality—or lack thereof. Making his amorality
perhaps more complicated, however, The Clown Prince Of Crime is willing to let the Batman kill him
for his most recent crimes—an action which perhaps suggest that the Joker retains a vestige of his
former morals, adjudicated by the sincere tone in which he presents this offer to The Dark Knight. He
implies that he has, in fact, truly decided to surrender himself to his fate: at that very moment he is
not just tempting The Caped Crusader into committing murder in efforts to corrupt his moral codes,
but genuinely seeking to end all the misery and corruption he spreads around him.

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