TED Conversations

Senior Scientist, Johnson Matthey


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Can we unify our moral code?

From Haidt's talk, for humans there seems to be five moral pillars: harm, fairness, ingroup, authority, purity.
From de Waal there seems to be the possibility that non-human conscious creatures exhibit moral attributes too.
Saxe found that our interpretation of others actions within the moral realm stems from a source of brain activity that is not necessarily maximised in everyone - and I presume this is easily observable by those who have higher related brain activity.
Sam Harris argues that there are moral truths that can be answered by science and Dan Ariely presents an excellent example where he has done just that - by testing the harm and cheating principles.

With all of this under consideration: could we begin to organise a set of moral principles (possibly under Haidt's pillar set) which we can openly discuss in depth order to evolve our moral standards?

Topics: morality

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  • May 1 2012: That depends on where you source the moral code. Maybe it is true that people are born with the understanding that an act such as murder is amoral; I think it is more likely that we collectively realize, at least at first, that we value our own lives thus that mass murdery rampage I was planning for later this week doesn't sound so appealing anymore. A better question might be 'do we want to unify our moral code?' I would think not. If we scale it back to the example of polygamy, what harm does it bring to you if I want to have 6 beautiful wives to perform glorious lesbian acts with? None at all! You may even get a few utils out of it! It seems a misguided endeavor to seek to unify a person's respective moral code. How is that any different from wanting to bring the plague that is christianity to the world? Let people be people, let them do wrong and learn.

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