Do Humans Have Morals?


I was lucky enough recently to have gone on safari in Namibia. Lucky, because I was with a bunch of photographers who were more concerned with ISOs and FStops which meant I had the local safari guide to myself so I could ask all the questions I wanted about the flora and fauna!

At one point, one of the photographers wondered if animals had morals. This made me wonder if humans also really have morals?

Now, the obvious answer  is  “Yes.”

But what does that mean in reality? 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary a moral means being "concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour”. 

However, morals do not exist in a tangible form, you cannot see them or touch them.  

I know we are quick to make judgements about right and wrong behaviour based on - and often blinded by - our unconscious bias or habits of the mind  and that we defend ourselves by saying those judgments come from our morals.  

So then, is “morals” the right word for our judgments? 

What we believe is right and wrong must be a product of our thinking. 

Our thinking drives our belief systems, values or culture.

There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that our core belief systems can and do change in certain situations, and not only the extreme ones!

And what about the emotional component? Morals might also just be thoughts focussed on our emotions at the time we make the judgement!

So, at the risk of being provocative, that would mean morals are just thoughts, and are not real  - just a powerful illusion. Often, individuals become constrained by or even victims of this. It’s an illusion that is so strong that wars have been started based on these thoughts. 

So, back to my original questions - do humans and animals have morals?  

Well, sometimes we may be just acting on blind instinct and just finding a label for the process. At other times, perhaps, we have confused our thinking, our need for power or our need to fit in with our belief system, values or culture. In any event, before we just let these thoughts hi-jack us into taking a judgement or indeed an action, perhaps it would be useful to take the time to really notice our thinking.
What do you think?