What are the seven moral principles shared by almost all societies throughout human history?
Anthropologists at Oxford University have recently published research of 60 different cultures, which has identified seven moral principles that have defined the norms and taboos of almost all societies and communities for our 200,000 year history.
As a moral philosopher, this is a fascinating insight into what we describe as “normative” ethics, in other words what ethics is as opposed to what we think it ought to be. When I read this research I also thought about how each of these seven principles could map to the three moral perspectives of the MoralDNA profile, which I have noted in brackets and (italics). These seven universal principles are:
Help your family (People)
Be a loving parent, care for frail relatives and pass on property to the next generation
Help your group (People)
Join group activities and events, adopt local customs, promote group harmony, unity and solidarity
Return favours (People)
Forgive people when they apologise, repay debts, fulfil contracts
Divide resources fairly (Values)
Divide rewards of collective activity fairly and be willing to negotiate, compromise and come to an agreement
Be brave (Values)
Put yourself at risk to help others
Respect elders and leaders (Rules)
Be respectful, loyal or obedient to those who lead
Respect other people and their property (Rules)
Do not hurt others, or steal or damage others’ property
Most of us would agree with most of these in our personal lives. However do these moral principles also apply to our workplace communities? Do we truly care about our colleagues at work? Do we forgive those at work who make mistakes and apologise? Do senior executives only take their fair share of resources?
What about respect for our workplace elders and leaders? Or do we simply fear them because our jobs and careers can be damaged or destroyed if we do not obey them?
Which of these moral principles do you believe in? Do you experience these same principles at work? What would happen to our workplace communities if these seven moral principles became the norm for all?
And do remember that you can see how your own personal and professional preferences for People, Values and Rules can be assessed at MoralDNA!