moral or emotion?

March 8th, 2016

I was a thief

Have you ever thought about the difference between a moral and an emotion?  I thought they were the same, and operated my life using emotions as an excuse for my behaviors.  I’m scared, so I yell, type of thing.

The dictionary defines ‘moral’ as behavior.  Obviously, emotions are not behaviors.  Emotions can stem from other things, but generally lead TO a behavior.  This was news to me.

For example, as a child, I stole money from my mother’s wallet, went to the toy store and bought candy, paper fans and other kid things.  The reasons I did that are still obscure to me.  But I stole from my mother, which is against a moral code of behavior.

Are there behaviors that aren’t moral?  I jumped out of airplanes in college.  I was terrified, but I did it anyway.  I don’t think that was any type of moral act.  I thought it was more like my death wish that led me to jump.  Take brushing my teeth?  Is that vanity?  Pride?

I needed more information, so I did some research about morals, both positive and negative.

The seven deadly sins, as we call them in the Western world, are pride, greed, lust, sloth, anger, gluttony and envy. They are considered transgressions and they keep us out of Heaven, if that’s our belief.  Those ‘amoral’ behaviors keep us from spiritual awareness.

What about positive morals?  We know they can influence morality in different ways, even if the emotion is unrelated to a morality situation.

Algoe and Haidt (2009),( van Dongen and Dr. Igou) studied the positive values of love, optimism, amusement, relaxation, compassion and inspiration, and tried to prioritize them. Their studies are more specific than I want to discuss here.  Love is the biggy, of course.  In my book, love is an emotion, but not for those studies.

But research concluded that people’s political ideology can be useful in understanding people’s emotions.  There may be a different relationship between positive and the conservative values. It would be interesting to study more, especially in this year’s Republican and Democratic debates.   Someone will likely explore the morality of those debates someday.  I’m not going to.

Ok, Golden Rule: the best moral code, right?  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  That’s about as complicated as I can get.  I feel better when I do unto others as I would have them do unto me, so there is some connection going on between emotion and behavior, or behavior and emotion.

I have no conclusions. I hope you do.



2 responses to “moral or emotion?”

  1. Charleen says:

    The positive values listed seem more like states of being to me. A positive value, to me, would be more like thrift, generosity, fidelity, honesty, charity, and empathy.
    Just semantics in the end?

    • Pru Starr says:

      I see a difference between behaviors and feelings. The negative “sin” behaviors of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth seem to be easily recognizable. Fidelity, honesty charity and empathy have opposite behaviors, too. The idea they are ‘values’ and ‘states of being’ is interesting. Thanks for pointing them out.

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