Steven Pinker Defines Morality

Psychologist and Linguist
The experimental psychologist confronts the contradictions of moralists.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Pinker: At heart, morality is treating other people the way one would want to be treated oneself; and some version of that, of interchangeability of perspectives.  It’s the fact that I’m not the only entity in the universe, and I have no grounds for privileging my interests over yours.  That’s really what most or all moral systems ultimately boil down to.  And again, as long as I’m talking to someone, as long as I am providing reasons, I can’t say that I am a unique, privileged person and hope for you to take me seriously.  Why should you?  You’re you, I’m me.  Anything that I come up with as a code of behavior . . . any reason that I give you for how you should behave has to apply to me in order for me not to be a hypocrite or to contradict myself.  And once you do that, then I think much or all of morality follows.  And I think that the alternative that many people appeal to, mainly faith, is . . . immediately refutes itself.  Faith means believing something with no good reason to do it.  Once you’re talking to someone about what they . . . what is good to do, what they ought to do, or what they have reasons to do, you cannot appeal to faith.  You’re committed to reason.


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