A Beginner’s Guide to Society’s Morality

By Elena

Everyone has their own moral viewpoint, but what’s even more interesting is how our moral viewpoints affect what society deems moral or immoral. Society’s morality has changed as time goes on, more of our societal viewpoints seem to shift. But why does society’s view on morality change, and more importantly, what is the driving force?

Photo by Mike Chai on Pexels.com

Religion

Historically, morality has been largely influenced by religion. In some senses, religion is a moral viewpoint.

Religion can provide a baseline for what an individual considers moral, and even more so, some societies will adopt those ideologies in their laws. For hundreds of years, those in power often used religion as an argument for their power, and society tended to follow them because of their religion.

Law

Although this isn’t necessarily a good way to look at philosophy, I would like to argue that what society deems moral or immoral is largely tied to the laws the society has. Obviously, there are some issues with this. Being more in line doesn’t equate to being more moral, but the law is essentially what society deems moral.

This isn’t to say those living in society agree with what society deems moral, but it is what we tend to follow. Many people believe following the law is equal to doing the right thing. 

You don’t speed (at least not too much) because it’s the law, you stop at stop lights every time because it’s the law, you don’t steal because it’s the law. Sure, you might do some of these from time to time, but many people will follow these almost completely. And yes, there are obviously instances when it is more moral to follow these rules, however there are exceptions where this doesn’t apply.

For example, if you’re driving down a road and there’s absolutely no one else there, I don’t see what moral issue there is with speeding much, or driving through a stop light when there’s no one else. And even with laws such as not stealing, one could argue there’s exceptions where it probably is more moral to steal.

So, although the law itself isn’t a moral guidebook, I do believe it is society’s moral guidebook.

Aristocracy

As I’ve already said, those in power used religion to further their political agendas, but that’s not as far as they went. 

Not only does society’s morality tend to follow the majority of the population’s religious beliefs, but morality can also be twisted into political gain.

I’ve also already said that the law is society’s guidebook, but where does law come from? Largely from power. 

As aristocrats held power, they were able to create law. As power shifts, the law may shift, but ultimately, law comes from power. Thus, society’s moral guidebook is created from power.

Change

Over time, society’s morality will change, and it isn’t always completely in line with the law, however it is definitely influenced by it. The law and morality are very much interconnected, and change together.

Much of what society once believed to be moral, society now has changed its mind. We can see this as we pass new laws against discrimmination, make more laws protecting people’s rights, and even take away laws we believe to be wrong.

Society’s morality must change. We’re presented with new issues we need to fix, and still being presented with old issues as well. Life isn’t the same now as it was when the morality many cling onto was created, and we must change with it.

Society’s morality is outdated, and has been for a while. The moral standpoints come from protecting institutions and protecting things which have long been criticized. 

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