Chapter 7: Morality, Religion and
- Secularization: religion is on the decline and people around the world are
discovering new secular and rational ways to make sense of their lives.
○ But in reality, religion is growing in importance across the planet.
○ The consequences of cultural differences in perceptions of morality underlie
many of the past and future conflicts around the world (9/11 bombing, Islam
is criticized by Christians).
Three Perspectives for Making Sense of Cultural Diversity: Universalism,
Evolutionism and Relativism
- Universalism: the perspective that sees people from different cultures as largely
the same and that any observed cultural variability exists only at a superficial
○ People are the same wherever you go and the differences that we see across
cultures are largely differences in term of conventions and are of little
○ Languages of cultures seem to be very different from one another but
closer examinations of languages reveal that they do have much in common
(universal word orders and grammar).
- Relativism: the perspective that sees cultural diversity in ways of thinking is not
superficial but reflects genuinely different psychological processes (culture and
thought are mutually constituted).
○ Cultural practices lead to certain habitual ways of thinking and because
cultural practices differ across cultures, habitual ways also vary.
○ East Asian cultures are much more concerned with face than are people in
Western individualistic societies.
○ No individual culture’s psychological tendencies is view as better or worse
but that cultural practices reflect a solution to the challenges faced by that
- Evolutionism: the perspective that sees cultural variability reflects genuine
differences in psychological processes and that there really is only one way that
the mind has evolved to think.
○ Some ways of thinking are more mature or advanced than others and people
of different cultures would all think in the same ways once they reached the
same point of development.
○ Evolutionists identify a particular psychological process as a standard of
mature or advanced thinking and then to evaluate other cultures by how
closely they match this standard.
Ethnocentrism and Interpreting Cultural Variability
- Ethnocentrism leads people to assume that their own culture’s way of life are in
some ways better or more natural than that of others (but it is not true).
1 - Because of the ethnocentrism bias, it is a big challenge to consider
standards for psychological phenomena that would be universally valid, rather
than ones that are favored within one’s own culture.
- We cannot determine which country has the highest quality of life because
there are different standards that could be used, depending on the operational
definition (lowest suicide rate or highest income per capita).
Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development
- Level 1: The Preconventional Level
○ Individuals understand the cultural rules and labels of what is good and bad
but interpret these labels in terms of either the physical or hedonistic
consequences of their actions.
○ Calculate morality on how better or worse off they would be for acting in a
- Level 2: The Conventional Level
○ People are able to identify themselves with a particular group and social
order and show loyalty toward this group.
○ Viewing actions as moral to the extent that they help maintain and facilitate
○ Actions are morally wrong if they involve violating any rules or laws.
- Level 3: The Postconventional Level
○ Moral reasoning is based on the abstract ethical principles of what is right
○ Moral decisions are reached based on the logical extensions of those
○ Behavior is good if it is consistent with a set of universal ethical principles
that emphasize justice and individual rights.
- It is universal in terms of no person will reach level 3 without passing levels 1
- It is not universal in terms of what levels different cultures reach.
- Preconventional and Conventional thinking was found to be universally
applicable, but postconventional thinking was not universally found.
○ Reason for Evolutionist: it is due to having fewer opportunities to experience
○ Reason for Relativist: urban Western environments are one kind of
environment and tribal environment are another kind of environment and
that people develop a moral framework that best fits their environment.
○ There are other ethical principles aside from justice and individual rights on
which people in other cultures base their moral reasoning that’s why
postconventinal thinking was not found to be universal (as it only
measures Western ethical principles).
Ethics of Autonomy, Community and Divinity
- Ethic of Autonomy: views morality in terms of individual freedom and rights
○ It is the code of ethics inherent in Kohlberg’s model.
○ There is emphasis on personal choice, right to engage in free contracts and
2 - Ethic of Community: emphasizes that individuals have duties that conform with
their roles in a community or social hierarchy.
○ There is an ethical principle to uphold one’s interpersonal duties and
obligations toward others; actions are seen as wrong when individuals fail to
perform their duties.
- Ethic of Divinity: concerned about the sanctity and the perceived “natural order”
○ It contains the ethical principle that one is obligated to preserve the
standards mandated by a transcendent authority; believes that God has
created a sacred world and everyone’s obligation is to respect and preserve
the sanctity of this world.
○ Actions are seen as immoral if they cause impurity or degration to oneself or
others or if one shows any disrespect for God or God’s creations.
Ethic of Community
- Women are more likely to reason this way than are men.
- Gemeinschaft: characteristic of smaller folk organizations and within these
groups, interpersonal relationships play an especially important role (meaning
○ Gemeinschaft groups suggest that obligations associated with one’s
relationships would take on the weight of full moral obligations.
- Gesellschaft: characteristic of modern Western societies and it treats
relationships as imaginary, instrumental and means to ends (meaning
association or society).
○ Groups come up with their own set of rules, norms and laws in which people
○ Gesellschaft groups tend to be relatively impersonal and contractual, which
leads to the necessity of justice obligations to govern over disputes between
○ Individuals can’t be expected to always behave in prosocial ways toward
- Moral obligations are viewed