Publication Date

April 2011


Morality has always been contentious. Thus, in recent years, absolutists have been aligned against relativists. Both sides, however, are mistaken about the nature of morality. Absolutists come in many varieties, which include: the religious, the naturalist, the philosophical, the Marxist, and the scientific. Meanwhile, relativists are divided into social and individual camps. Opposed to both groups are the moral nihilists who may be classified as nice, nasty, and skeptical. Sadly, all miss the mark because they do not account for morality as it actually operates. A "socially adjustable" model fits the facts much better. It describes morality as consisting of 1) informal rules that are paradigmatically transmitted, 2) created via polarized social negotiations, and 3) maintained through the agency of intense emotions such as anger, guilt, shame, and disgust. Together these explain how morality can be simultaneously stable and changeable. They also elucidate the manner in which morality controls important social conflicts.