[Click for a PDF of the full chart]

Human action, whether by individuals, groups, or governments, is driven by ideas—most substantially by the ideas people accept as morally correct.

  • Why did Rosa Parks refuse to give up her bus seat to a white passenger?
  • Why did Edward Snowden release classified NSA documents to the media?
  • Why did Muslims hijack passenger jets and fly them into buildings full of Americans?
  • Why did Congress pass ObamaCare into law?

The broad answer to such questions is that the individuals, groups, or governments did what they did because they regarded the actions as morally right.

People act (for the most part) on their moral convictions, whether explicit or implicit, pure or mixed; thus, if we want to understand why individuals, groups, and governments do what they do, we need to understand the key elements of the moral codes that motivate them. Toward that end, I’ve created a chart titled “Moral Theories at a Parallel Glance.”

The chart presents key aspects of four general moral codes at play in the world today: “supernatural” subjectivism (“God”-based, faith-based morality), social subjectivism (consensus-based morality), personal subjectivism (whim-based morality), and rational egoism (life-based, reason-based morality). . . .

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