Why do people routinely arrive at a different set of moral priorities and judgments to that of a friend or family member? Although these differences are commonly attributed to factors such as one’s religious upbringing or local cultural norms, our moral worldviews are also shaped by our individual personalities.
People base their judgments about right and wrong, to varying degrees, on at least five basic principles:
~Care (vs harm): are there implications for the wellbeing of others?
~Fairness (vs cheating): are there implications for justice?
~Loyalty (vs betrayal): are there implications for my group?
~Authority (vs subversion): are there implications for social institutions and hierarchies?
~Purity or sanctity (vs degradation): are there implications for protecting what’s pure and sacred?
So, for example, someone might argue that mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 is a moral imperative based on the care-related foundation, because it reduces illness and death. But another person could decide it is wrong based on the purity foundation, because (to that person) mandatory injections seem like an invasive violation of the body. Debates surrounding COVID-19 vaccine mandates have been highly politicised in many countries, likely because of their connection with how liberals and conservatives construct their moral worldviews. Specifically, those who identify as liberal or progressive tend to place more importance on the care and fairness foundations than on the others. Conversely, those of a more conservative or traditional political leaning tend to think that morality must also involve respect for authority, fealty to one’s group, and protecting the pure and sacred.
Mark Twain ~ “It’s easier to fool a man than it is to convince him that he’s been fooled” – can apply to all sides in this equation.
Although there is considerable variation in how people think and make judgments about moral issues, many aspects of our moral thinking appear to be shared by humans around the world. Your sense of right and wrong is interwoven with your personality