The Illusion of Moral Decline

Sam Brinson
Collosum
6 min readAug 22, 2023

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We disagree a lot on what’s right and wrong, good and bad. We disagree between individuals, cultures, and countries. And our views on these matters change over time.

Actions once deemed off-limits have become admissible, and vice versa — take attitudes on same-sex marriage, slavery, drugs, assisted suicide, animal rights, eating meat, foul language, abortion, religion, child labour, etc.

Would you say we’re getting better or worse? More moral or less?

Naturally, your answer will depend on your personal moral compass, making it a difficult thing to measure objectively, but one thing we should all agree on is that kindness and respect towards others is an essential part of morality.

Compassion is the basis of morality.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

In this respect, most of us think we’re getting worse, and have been for some time.

Moral Perceptions

This perceived decline in morality comes from a paper by researchers Adam Mastroianni and Dan Gilbert.

They went looking for perspectives on moral dimensions like kindness, honesty, generosity, helpfulness, and respect — what we might call being nice to one another.

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Sam Brinson
Collosum

An emergent property of billions of chaotically firing neurons. Currently thinking about thinking. http://sambrinson.com/