TED Conversations

Alan Huckle

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

The Genesis of Morality

We all have moral compasses that are influenced by everything around us. Our age, race, gender, religion (or lack thereof), political affiliation, local culture and societal norms all play a part in how we define our set of morals. But everyone is individual, and thus our compasses are unique.

Is there a true base for morality that isn't tied to religion, politics, or society? Can you find a universal root that can be ascribed to from all walks of life?

From constant pondering and discussion with others, I've come to the conclusion that empathy is the genesis of morality. Our miraculous gift of putting ourselves in each other's shoes and viewing the world in different perspectives is the doorway to morally sound decisions. While the exact machinations of the reasoning behind historical villains can be debated for hours, you can chalk up many infamous immoral acts such as the Holocaust, the Crusades, and the Kony abductions to a lack of empathy, a complete disregard for the victims. If more people learned to see what their neighbor sees, the world would be a much more cooperative place.

(I just want to make one point perfectly clear: there is a difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is the mutual agreement based upon emotions or feelings. Empathy is putting yourself in another's perspective to gain an understanding.)

But that's just my opinion. What's yours?

Topics: empathy morality
+1
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    May 14 2012: I see you are enforcing a "non-religious debate" Mr. Huckle, that is your right. But I must say I would not call it "straying from the subject" to introduce the argument that the Holy Bible is germane to your topic. Do I understand you wish to debate the source of morality while excluding the Holy Bible?
    • thumb
      May 15 2012: I agree. I don't see how a Christian would refrain from claiming that their god is the source of morality. Nor can I imagine why those who don't believe that such a god exists from arguing against such an idea.
    • May 30 2012: By no means did I say you can't count your faith as a basis, I'm religious myself, but what I wanted to find was a basis that everyone could ascribe to. Not everyone is religious. Are non-religious people automatically immoral?
      • thumb
        May 30 2012: No. Not at all Alan. I know some very moral heathen and some very immoral religious people. My uncertainty was about your willingness to allow spiritual input. If others cannot ascribe to my beliefs does that rule them (my spiritually based opinions) out of the conversation? Thanks.
        • May 31 2012: The whole point of the conversation was about finding the universal root to morality if there is one. I'm not necessarily ruling out religion per se, but then again not everyone agrees upon the same religion.
      • thumb
        May 31 2012: Best of luck in your search for the lowest common denominator. I doubt you will find the genesis of morality in the natural realm. "Moral compass" is of questionable value as a descriptor of man's moral constitution. The cause of man's conduct is in the spirit, not the chromosomes. Thank you!
        • May 31 2012: You seem a little tense. Why so serious? It's just a friendly conversation after all
      • thumb
        May 31 2012: Not tense, Alan, just a bit of a worrywart when it comes to the root-cause of most of mankind's problems. If you are truly wondering about human morality, which I assume you are, it is incongruous to me that the very realm from which those standards come is excluded. If your intent is tongue-in-cheek I did not realize it. Sorry to dampen your amusement and levity. I leave you with the words of our French friend Voltaire, QUOTE: "All sects are different because ,they come from men; morality is everywhere the same, because it comes from God."
        • May 31 2012: You make a very interesting point there. Thanks for all your contributions, Edward.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.