How the other side thinks

Moral Foundations Theory holds that people have 6 fundamental principles (or “foundations”) which they use to support their moral beliefs: Care for others Fairness Liberty Loyalty to your group Obedience to authority Moral sanctity or purity Conservatives tend to believe in 5 or more pillars, but are particularly strong in their belief in loyalty, obedience and moral purity. Liberals (like me) tend to have little or no belief in obedience or sanctity, and very little concern for loyalty.

Deontological ethics and the gun problem

First, some background on recent studies in social science: The study by Jared Piazza of the University of Pennsylvania and Paulo Sousa of Queen’s University Belfast, which included a total of 688 participants, found religious individuals and political conservatives consistently invoked deontological ethics. In other words, they judged the morality of actions based on a universal rule such as, “You should not kill.” Political liberals, on the other hand, consistently invoked consequentialist ethics, meaning they judged the morality of actions based on their positive or negative outcomes.


In my view, any rule-based moral system will inevitably give “wrong”, “evil” or “immoral” answers to moral questions under certain circumstances. They may be unlikely circumstances, but I’ve never met a moral code which didn’t fall down under some sets of conditions, recommending behaviour which I would deem unacceptable. My view of morality is that it is a cache of pre-generated guidelines for resolving moral questions. We cannot hope to reason out an answer every time we are confronted with a moral problem, so we build rules which attempt to encode an approximation of moral reasoning in easy-to-remember formulae.