Site Map The Secular Morality Project - Towards a Shared Morality

The Scope of Morality

This project will remain quite open-minded about the scope of morality. It can afford to do this because it has no intention of being an authority whose role might need to be demarcated or, for instance, of offering courses that need to be precisely scoped. We will be guided by an emerging consensus on what people find helpful and appropriate, whether or not they can justify it.

So far the project has been mostly concerned with how people interact with each other on a personal level. This has occasionally been extended to a political level where trade-offs between consequences for different groups need to be made and numbers may count. This tends to need different moral processes and a greater reliance on tools such as Consequentialism . A different approach may be necessary when it comes to contributing to debates about the objectives of public policy. What importance should be attached to the interests of other species? Or to future generations of our own? When can cultural traditions be challenged on moral grounds? And by whom? Issues such as these can raise wider questions about human nature than can be resolved solely by practical observations of everyday experience.

Most of our ethical juries have been run in humanist groups but we are hoping to involve a much wider set of belief systems. As we do this it is likely that we will encounter the need for a wider scope. The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt's work on the foundations for morality may help as we move forward. He believes that morality is based on our concerns for caring, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty.

We may also need to become more precise about the meaning of such terms as "values" and "objectives". This can lead to a very technical philosophical debate. We will only get into this to the extent that helps us to make better moral decisions and to clarify what we say.