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The Mechanics of Moral Change

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I’ve recently become fascinated by moral revolutions. As I have explained before, by “moral revolution” I mean a change in social beliefs and practices about rights, wrongs, goods and bads. I don’t mean a change in the overarching moral truth (if such a thing exists). Moral revolutions strike me as an important topic of study because history tells us that our moral beliefs and practices change, at least to some extent, and it is possible that they will do so again in the future. Can we plan for and anticipate future moral revolutions? That's what I am really interested in. To get a handle on this question, we need to think about the dynamics of moral change. What is changing and how does it change? Recently, I’ve been reading up on the history and psychology of morality and this article is an attempt to distill, from that reading, some models for understanding the dynamics of moral change. Everything I say here is preliminary and tentative but it might be of interest to some readers. 1. The Mechanics of Morality: a Basic PictureLet’s start at the most abstract level. What is morality? Philosophers will typically tell you that morality consists of two things: (i) a set of claims about what is and is not valuable (i.e. what is good/bad/neutral) and (ii) a set of claims about what is and is not permissible (i.e. what is right, wrong, forbidden, allowed etc). Values are things we ought to promote and honour through our behaviour. They include things like pleasure, happiness, love, equality, freedom, well-being and so on. The list of things that are deemed valuable can vary from society to society and across different historical eras. For example, Ancient Greek societies, particularly in the Homeric era, placed significant emphasis on the value of battlefield bravery. Modern liberal societies tend to value the individual pursuit of happiness more than bravery on the battlefield. That said, don’t misinterpret this example. There are many shared values across time and. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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