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Morality

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We like to think that all people feel empathy to the same degree. In reality, it varies a lot from one person to the next, like most mental traits. We are half-aware of this when we distinguish between "normal people" and "psychopaths," the latter having an abnormally low capacity for empathy. The distinction is arbitrary,... Read More
Puck, 1916. The \"postwar\" flapper era had already begun when America entered the war (Wikicommons)
The First World War casts a dark shadow over the 20th century. It shattered the relative peace that had reigned since the Napoleonic Wars, killing some 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians. It is also blamed for causing the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the postwar decline of traditional morality—the flapper era, and the rise... Read More
Collection box for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society circa 1850.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Throughout the world, kinship used to define the limits of morality. The less related you were to someone, the less moral you had to be with him or her. We see this in the Ten Commandments. The phrase "against thy neighbor" qualifies the commandment against bearing false witness and, implicitly, the preceding ones against killing,... Read More
From the Cape to Cairo, Puck, 1902. Source: Library of Congress, public domain The White Man\
Growing up in rural Ontario, I would talk with older folks about politics. A favorite topic was Quebec, and how those selfish French Canadians wouldn't fight in the Boer War, the First World War, and the Second World War. Later, as a student in Quebec City, I would hear the other side. French Canadians saw... Read More
Election poster from the 1930s for Sweden’s Social Democratic Party (source). Is the welfare state more workable if the population is more predisposed to obey moral norms? Do we differ genetically in our ability, or willingness, to comply with moral norms? Please note: I'm talking about compliance. The norms themselves can vary greatly from one... Read More
I once knew an African student who told me that his language had no words for “good” or “evil”. When the missionaries translated their materials into his language, they had to write “Jesus is beautiful” instead of “Jesus is good.” This sort of semantic evolution has occurred in all human languages. People have expressed new... Read More
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