Jonathan Hait introduced the five foundations of morality, see Ethics Defined.

  • Harm/Care
  • Fairness/Reciprocity
  • Authority/Respect
  • In-group/Loyalty
  • Purity/Sanctity

He claims that successful civilizations have used all five, and that Liberal morality is insufficient for our civilization because Liberals value only the first two.

  In his TED talk Jonathan Haidt points out that one thing in common with every successful civilization through history is that all five tenants of morality as he defines them have been present.  These successful civilizations seem “to use every tool in the tool box”.

I see Liberal Morality changing to meet the realities of the Anthropocene Era. In particular I think we are beginning to define Loyalty as Loyalty to the human species and Disloyalty as placing the short term advancement of an In-group, such as the 1%, over survival of humanity in the long term. I also embrace a secular Sanctity, "Is it green?" "Does this destroy the planet for future generations?"

Purity/Sanctity is rooted in the emotion of disgust, tied to evolved responses to avoid disease contagion. It's disgusting the way Climate Destabilization is changing our fresh water supply and the oceans.

Harmful cyanobacteria benefit from global warming

Professor Hans Paerl of the University of North Carolina (USA) and professor Jef Huisman of the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) conclude on the basis of several recent studies that the worldwide proliferation of harmful cyanobacterial blooms is linked to climate change.

Just touching water with toxic cyanobcteria is dangerous as the poisons penetrate skin. Toxins also spread through the air near contaminated lakes and ponds.

I was impressed by the story of a man whose dog ran into a contaminated lake. Taking the dog home, he washed him immediately. The dog died and the man was hospitalized from absorbing the poison through the skin while he washed his dog.

In the same way I'm disgusted by fracking, where companies inject poisons directly into the water table to extract natural gas. Nobody should have tap water that burns.

I'm also disgusted when I see tour buses and tractor trailers running their motors for hours, parked in lots, in order to heat or cool the interior. Designing such dependence and purchasing vehicles with this design flaw aren't just unwise. It's revolting. It's not just the plumes of exhaust which billow out surrounding large immobile "dirty" vehicles, in terms of fuel efficiency and pollutants emitted. It's the obvious carbon footprint that accompanies those noxious fumes. The operators are forced to kill future generations and pollute their immediate surroundings just to avoid freezing or baking to death.

Why aren't we articulating and promoting secular versions of loyalty and sanctity?

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If these foundations of morality have been articulated somewhere, we need to send those links to Haidt. We could get him to spread the word.

@Ruth, I read one of your messages and was so impressed, I copied it and want to send it, but I can't find the site where you posted it. The topic was Bible Morality, and quoted Barbara Walker - Man Made God. If I remember correctly, you quoted someone else and I want to give you both attribution when I repost it. 

Perhaps you are thinking about a blog by Richard Goseki?

I can't recall discussing Barbara Walker.

That is the one! Thanks. 

As discussed in the article, I have a hard time with these concepts.  It's probably because I am not a philosopher.  When I see, standing freely in a list, that "In group / Loyalty" is a virtue, I think why then isn't "my group is white, I want separate facilities" a virtue?  Or "This is a men's only profession,  women can start their own profession"?    Is the concept of In Group / Loyalty being redefined?  That said, I'm loyal to a fault to my friends, partner, was to my parents.  So it seems to me to be a situational virtue. 


Purity/Sanctity, seems quite religious or christian.  The bible laws have a lot to say about purity and it's antithesis, abominations.  Purity can also be purity of race, purity of gender, purity of hetero orientation, purity of thought (lack of sensuality comes to mind).  Again, we can redefine these terms, but I start to think they are not in and of themselves virtues, and without redefinition I would call both "in group" and "Purity" vices.


Authority/respect - Again, I'm of 2 minds.  There is a place to respect authority.  Then again, it seems to me we are heading into a more authoritarian state, "Obey", and past history with such states tells us they are not successful, and leave a lot of dead bodies along the way.


I don't know harm/care means.  Is it "avoid harm / be caring?"  That seems pretty noble.  Maybe a little simple - sometimes we have to harm to do good, and sometimes when we over protect, it is harmful,  but at least caring, and avoiding harm when possible, and defining when we think harm is necessary,  seem like a good basis for an ethical society.


That leaves Fairness / reciprocity.  To be honest, those seem like noble virtues.


Sorry if this is over critical.  Like I say, I'm not a philosopher.  Even so, I strive to be what I hope is a good person.

Sentient Biped, your responses seem typical for a liberal. What I’m saying is that I see changes happening from this usual liberal position in response to the ultimate moral challenge of species survival. I for one have adopted new views of what’s right based on the standard of “Will this keep humanity alive in the future or wipe us out?”


In-group Loyalty, for example, has been a staple of morality for thousands of years when competing tribes evolved in what seemed to be a stable and plentiful world. I feel this needs to be turned on its head. This is why Hang With Friends says “location: Earth” instead of “America” or some such narrow-minded designation. It’s past time for a revolution in our identity, if we intend to avoid self-extermination. Why not follow your moral objections to the next step, a constructive identity, instead of merely rejecting the negative as you rightly do? Let's be Loyal to Humanity As A Whole, including future generations! (Yes I do seem to be shouting.)


Just because Purity/Sanctity is loudly proclaimed by religions doesn’t mean religions have a monopoly on this moral foundation. What objections did you have to my revision of this disgust-based morality? Don’t you find despoiling pure water disgusting? How about ocean acidification and warming leading to jellyfish replacing bony fish? Wouldn’t you be disgusted to visit a future where

  • oceans were dominated by jellyfish,
  • where toxic algal blooms made bodies of water lethal, and
  • when it gets hot enough purple sulfur bacteria begin to emit enough hydrogen sulfide.

H2S doesn't just change ocean water chemistry. Toxic hydrogen sulfide will eventually outgass from the oceans. Perhaps you haven’t read enough about where climate destabilization is heading in a few hundred years. Perhaps you lack a vivid imagination. I’ve seen films of the toxic lake in Palau. This is a sample of what the whole ocean could be like, excepting that the layer of purple sulfur bacteria would eventually rise up to the surface. My sanctity isn't virginal purity or monotheism, it's "Is this green?" Any action or inaction that makes a Toxic-Ocean Earth happen sooner is morally revolting.

As to Authority/respect think outside the box of political or religious authorities. There’s the authority of Scientific Communities too. Where’s the respect for their methods and findings? Don’t allow theists and jingoists to define what Authority means! We don’t need to swallow their viewpoints. We can think for ourselves and define morality as our judgment dictates. But we need to put our emotions behind our too intellectual judgments, to articulate and celebrate and defend our views of ethics.

This reply is already too long, so I won't respond to the last 2.

What does "purity of gender" mean?  Do you mean, good clean sex?  Remember, only words have a gender.  People have sex.  My sex is female.  I have no gender.  Neither do you.  Do you mean sexual purity?   Or the virtue of not having sex?

I'm guessing Sentient Biped used "purity of gender" to refer to the conservative insistence that human beings are either 100% female or 100% male, discriminating against the intersexed. Such views go with forcing intersexed babies into one gender or the other by surgical and hormonal intervention.

one sex or the other.   To change gender, you need only an eraser.  

Jeremy Rifkin's video does a better job of redefining In-group Loyalty than my feeble attempt, based on a new view of empathy. He goes beyond mirror neurons to connect our capacity to communicate with our capacity for empathy.

Actually I read his book and found it fascinating. What it explains (partly through experimental research) is why miscommunication occurs, and particularly why the left and right each think that the other is basically evil, whereas they are actually sitting on slightly different perspective on the multi-facet scale. [An interesting side point, was that when self identified liberals or conservatives were asked to fill out a form as if they were the opposite, conservatives were considerably more accurate in predicting what a liberal would answer than liberals predicting what a conservative would. ]

One of the stereotyping issues is visible in how this discussion is framed: "short term advancement of an In-group, such as the 1%, over survival of humanity in the long term". It's not the 1% who experience the benefits of medicine, readily available food and shelter. All of these things are driven, inextricably linked, to technology and energy. Everything. Outside of war zones, there are far fewer of the human population hungry than 100 or 200 years ago, and that is driven almost entirely by trade, transport, productivity, energy and technology. (and of those who aren't directly benefiting, it's largely because political or or other circumstances have kept them outside this loop). A poor person in the west lives better than a 'middle class' person outside the developed world.

One has to avoid the rabidly "anti-" attitude that characterizes the anti-vaxer and similar movements. Science needs to study risks, and also realistically evaluate their credibility unless you want to go back to an 18th century quality of life (not good). Not every risk that can be imagined is necessarily accurate (most turn out not to be).

[Methane in water is documented in various places which never have experienced fracking. There is some valid question of how much activity thousands of feet underground could realistically affect the surface.

The cyanobacteria story as reported in the news extrapolates a sequence of possible events that might cause CB problems in some areas. Or might not.]

Science needs to be about level headed evaluation (and mitigation) or risks, not just responding to fears.

jay, you say

It's not the 1% who experience the benefits of medicine, readily available food and shelter.

as if the 99% hasfull access to medicine, readily available food and shelter.

You haven't noticed that some of us can't afford medical care?

According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2009 there were 50.7 million people in the US (16.7% of the population) who were without health insurance.

Wikipedia, Health insurance coverage in the United States

That number may be higher now, as people lose health insurance when they lose their job or go from full time to part time employment.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless

Fifty million Americans – one in five children - go to bed and awaken hungry.

Not everyone has shelter. There are 31 homeless veterans for every 10,000.

The State of Homelessness in America 2012

Surely you're aware that the mortgage default crisis hasn't abated.

Perhaps you don't agree with my framing of this discussion, but your framing seems to leave out "details" that are important to me.

I agree completely that

Science needs to study risks, and also realistically evaluate their credibility...

But "scientific" studies aren't always valid. Much pharma research is biased by the drug companies designs and by burying studies that don't support their product. We don't even do studies on the fracking fluids injected into the water table, because their compositions are trade secrets. When the science is scary, it's easier to question the scientists' credibility than to face your fears and realistically evaluate their credibility. (Example: North Carolina legislature and rate of ocean rise)

It's certainly true that some natural fresh water sources contain enough methane to burn. It's also true that many water sources worldwide contain serious pollutants. Is that a reason to accept practices that seriously degrade pure water, tainting future water supplies of entire regions?

WHO claims that toxic cyanobacteria in water supplies is increasing wordwide.

The threat posed by toxins from cyanobacteria to water supplies has increased world-wide during the past 30 years. Health problems attributed to the presence of such toxins in drinking water have been reported in a number of countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, England, South Africa and the USA.

When you dismiss the issue by saying,"...might cause CB problems in some areas. Or might not.", you're not citing quantitative scientific models to reassure us it's not an issue worthy of our concern.

Of course not every risk that can be imagined is necessarily accurate. But consider that the risks I'm concerned about aren't independent. Climate Destabilization is an underlying cause of this cluster of fears for our future. "[T]rade, transport, productivity, energy and technology from our growth-based global civilization has been responsible for our better status today then 100 or 200 years ago. The problem is that more of the same won't solve the problems we face globally now because we are already consuming 50% more than the sustainable level. We're running out of resources and we're destroying the stable planetary biosphere upon which all of our lives are based. We can't grow trade and grow transport and grow productivity and grow energy and grow technology enough to sustain a global economy of 7 billion plus.

I'm all for level headed evaluation of risks and their potential mitigation. Unfortunately that's not how our economy or politics works. Human beings don't like change. We especially don't like catastrophic change. We find ways to rationalize, ignoring the results of level headed careful scientific inquiry whenever it threatens our ideology.

It takes an extraordinary intelligence, in my view, for someone to hear a high level (rather abstract) scientific evaluation of a large scale threat, grasp the implications swiftly, and then take drastic uncharacteristic action. In my life I've met very few capable of that kind of concrete application of data. Most of us need to see, hear, touch and smell a hazard in order to engage "fight or flight", and then to actually use higher level intelligence instead of reacting instinctively - very rare indeed. When people do realize that world climate is destabilizing, they usually want to buy a powerful truck to flee to the mountains or stock up on canned goods.




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