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Morality mostly refers to the factual patterns of action , conventions , rules or principles of certain individuals , groups or cultures and thus the totality of currently applicable values , norms and virtues . The violation of moral standards is called immorality . Amoral denotes the absence or the conscious rejection of moral concepts, up to and including the absence of moral feelings .

Understood in this way, the terms morality, ethos or custom are largely synonymous and are used descriptively . In addition, speaking of morality is also associated with a range of practical values ​​(values, goods, duties, rights), principles of action or generally recognized ( social ) judgments. A distinction between morality and immorality understood in this way is not descriptive , but norm-setting (normative). A moral evaluation can be understood as a mere expression of subjective approval or rejection (comparable to applause or boos), especially when assessing actions whose maxims or other principles are considered morally good or morally bad. Therefore, morality in the narrower sense denotes the subjective tendency to follow custom or morality in the broader sense, or one's own ethical maxims that deviate from them but are considered to be correct. In this sense, commitment or special discipline within a group is also referred to as “morality”; For example, in the world of work there is often talk of the “work ethic” of a particular employee. In military jargon , the courage of armed forces in dangerous situations is called "morality" ( combat morale ).

Positions that represent a metaethical realism assume that the moral value of an action, a state of the world or an object cannot be reduced to its or its subjective evaluation. So there is also morality in the spontaneous assessment of actions ( “moral intuition” ). The theoretical elaboration of different methodological approaches and criteria of moral judgments and feelings are the subject of the philosophical discipline of ethics .

Concept history

The German expression "Moral" goes back to the French morale on the Latin moralis (concerning the custom; Latin: mos, mores Sitte, Sitten), which is used in the expression philosophia moralis newly coined by Cicero as a translation of êthikê ( ethics ).

Morality originally described above all how people actually act and what action is expected or considered correct in certain situations. This descriptive aspect of the meaning of a morality is also referred to as morality or ethos and comprises “regulating judgments and regulated behaviors” without the rational or moral-theoretical justification of the same being judged or evaluated. Such an assessment is referred to as the “reflective theory of morals” or “ethics”.

Sciences of morality

Morality is the subject of various sciences :

Morality as an aspect of human nature

As a social being, humans normally experience love from birth, the willingness to do without and to care. Long-term coexistence in communities would not be possible without these characteristics . They have developed in the course of evolution and the predisposition to this is therefore in the genes. The biologist Hans Mohr puts it as follows: "We do not need to learn moral behavior - it is an innate disposition that enables us to take the morally right thing." (/473535297.pdf) However, a person's concrete moral concepts are culturally influenced : They are expressed, for example, in the “golden rule” , in religious rules of action (such as the Ten Commandments in Christianity, the Five Silas in Buddhism or the dreamtime mythology of the Australian Aborigines) or in the legal norms of modern states. Despite the moral disposition, upbringing and ideological manipulation can elevate even destructive behaviors to the supposedly “good” , which completely contradict the aforementioned properties.

Morality and law

One of the basic questions of legal philosophy is the relationship between law and morality. In many ways, morality and law (e.g. the prohibition of killing) coincide. The question of how it For example, morally reprehensible laws have been discussed since antiquity (see natural law ) and in recent history particularly intensely in the post-war German period. Particularly noteworthy here are Radbruch's formula on the relationship between right and injustice, the refusal to obey and the question of whether deserters should be given amnesty (see Law on the Repeal of National Socialist Injustice Judgments in the Administration of Criminal Justice ).

Descriptive moral concept

In descriptive use, “morality” describes a regulation of action that is guiding for a society, social group or individual or “the rules of behavior that have been established in a concrete community or internalized by a person”. Depending on the theoretical approach, this is specified differently, for example as “the entirety of the socially represented rule-related action orientations and mutual behavioral expectations anchored in the personality system of the individuals or as a more precisely defined sub-class” of these. Luhmann defines, "purely empirically meant": "Communication assumes moral quality if and to the extent that it expresses human respect or disregard". In this descriptive sense, “moral” or “moral” are used simply descriptively in the sense of “belonging to morality”, not normatively in the sense of “morally good”. “Morality” then describes, for example, “a company of society” for “steering the individual and smaller groups”. Such descriptive ways of speaking correspond to everyday language formulas such as “ruling morality”, “bourgeois morality” or “socialist morality”. The psychologist Jonathan Haidt has proposed the following definition: “Moral systems are interlocking compilations of values, virtues, norms, customs, identities, institutions, technologies and developed psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and to enable social coexistence. "

Post-conventional morality

Postconventional morality strives to overcome the orientation of moral judgments to the prevailing conventions or norms set by positive law on the one hand, to purely subjective decisions of conscience on the other, which aims to base moral judgments on rational discourses , especially in the case of ethical dilemmas .

Morality vs. Hyper morality

In his work Moral und Hypermoral , published in 1969 , the philosopher Arnold Gehlen designed a pluralistic ethic and critically described tendencies in society, which he describes as hyper-moral . He criticized the fact that hypermorality unduly clings to the private and internal (in the extreme case: thought crimes), while at the same time abuses are neglected that also exist outside of the personal and intellectual, where social institutions such as politics or the legal system could counteract them. Odo Marquard continued Gehlen's thoughts in 1986 in his essay Relief and wrote of “over-tribunalization”.

In today's political discourse, “hypermorality” is being rethought, for example with regard to debates about “ microaggression ” that are currently (2016) being carried out at universities in the United States, but also in Germany, for example in the dispute about the politically correct media representation of crimes committed by members of ethnic or religious minorities. In the socio-political discourse, increased moralizing behavior is referred to as " moralism " and has a negative connotation. In 2018, the philosopher Alexander Grau recognized a "moralism with totalitarian traits" and called one such: " Hypermoralism ": "Hypermoralism is not politically neutral, but we actually know it from the left or left-liberal camp. It is an attempt to orient society on the basis of left-wing notions of order and an image of man with a largely left connotation and has its roots in the 1968 movement and in the cultural hegemony that at least this left-wing liberalism has now achieved in some parts of society. "

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Morals  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Morals  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Cicero: De fato 1; Historical dictionary of philosophy : Moral, moral, Moralphilosophie , Volume 6, p. 149.
  2. For example Dietmar Mieth : What do we want to be able to do? Ethics in the age of biotechnology. Freiburg im Breisgau 2002, p. 55 and in many other publications.
  3. So the short description of Geoff Sayre-McCord:  Metaethics. In: Edward N. Zalta (Ed.): Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . .
  4. Ina Wunn : The evolution of religions. Habilitation thesis, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Hanover, 2004. online (PDF)
  5. Sibylle Kästner: Hunting foragers and foraging hunters: How Australian Aboriginal women capture animals. LIT Verlag, Münster 2012, ISBN 978-3-643-10903-3 , p. 124.
  6. Gert 2005.
  7. Werner 2005.
  8. Bernard Gert: The moral rules: A new rational justification of morality. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1983/1966, p. 27 ff., Quoted here. n. Werner 2005; similar to Martin Honecker : Introduction to Theological Ethics. Berlin / New York 1990, 4: "the totality of accepted norms of behavior of a society or group, stabilized by tradition"
  9. ^ N. Luhmann: Ethics as reflection theory of morality. In: N. Luhmann: Society structure and semantics. Volume 3, Frankfurt am Main 1993, p. 360 ff.
  10. ^ A b William K. Frankena : Analytical Ethics. Munich 1994, p. 22 f.
  11. ^ J. Haidt: Morality. In: ST Fiske, DT Gilbert, G. Lindzey (Eds.): Handbook of Social Psychology. 5th edition. Volume 2, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ 2010, pp. 797-832.
  12. The Debate Police. In: The time. January 28, 2016.
  13. The loss of the center. In: The time. 4th February 2016.
  14. ^ Christian Röther: Moralism Debate. Hyper-morality hype. In: Deutschlandfunk . August 10, 2018.