Wednesday, December 14, 2005

CONSERVATISM AS HERESY: An Australian reader

Published in 1974 by the A.N.Z. Book Co. of Sydney, Australia

(Click here to view the cover of this book)

By John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)

Table of Contents


The Authors


What is Conservatism? -- A personal Preface



1. Are People Pollution?
Resources not fixed; people create resources; people are resources; `Populate or perish'; migrant ghettoes; problems of the cities; food; economies of scale; Asia and the West must be treated differently; pollution control by legislation.

2. Will Population Growth Lead to Famine or Plenty?
Past pessimism; Dr Ehrlich; Monday Conference; animal versus vegetable protein; speculation versus facts; falls in fertility; population growth goes with better per capita standards of living; Japan.

3. Is There a Minerals and Energy Crisis?
When will we run out? Fossil fuels versus nuclear and solar energy; fusion; hydrogen; radioactive wastes; aluminium from clay; interchangeability of mineral products.

4. The Doomsters Rise Again
Resources diplomacy; impossibility of prediction; Club of Rome; energy costs are declining; coal reserves; best prices for minerals are now; conservationism produces shortages; ignoring of economic factors; ineffectiveness of resources diplomacy.

5. In Defence of French Nuclear Tests
Reliability of the USA; credibility of a French deterrent; sharing nuclear secrets; ideology or scientific caution?

6. Decentralisation: Or the Myth that it is Good to Get People to Settle Where They Don't Want to
Having your cake and eating it too; historically a military and farmer's lobby; more direct defence expenditure better; urban blight; great urban size range already available for the choosing; city attractions strong; variety goes with bigness; people are rewarding; transport costs are a huge proportion of total costs; country industries are expensive; people have to be bribed to live in the country; big cities enable specialised jobs.

7. Can We Afford Decentralisation?
Secret government report on costs; no diseconomies for Melbourne versus smaller centres; service costs higher in smaller centres; police, hospitals, education, water supply, sewerage cheaper in Melbourne; housing cheaper; high growth rate advantageous.

8. Pollution: The Cost of Clean Living
Cranks in danger of discrediting conservationism; economic growth tends to lower pollution and resource consumption; unreasoning pessimism; environmentalism an elitist luxury; inegalitarianism may be good; many development projects are uneconomic as well as exploitive of the environment; water conservation destructive and uneconomic; clearing of farmland often stupid; tax pollution; subsidise trees; tax unsafe cars; tax roadspace.

9. Concorde and the Destruction of Ozone
Ozone produced by sunlight from ordinary oxygen; Ozone also continually being broken down; ozone absorbs dangerous radiation; Scientific committees see no danger; oxides of nitrogen break down ozone; nuclear explosions create vast amounts of nitrogen oxides; ozone has in fact increased.


10. Rhodesia: In Defence of Mr Smith
Belgian Congo; self-government since 1920s; Amin; education for voting; Rhodesians trusting; high level of black education; Rhodesia at war; the swing to South African methods; whites need help, not attack.

11. The Rhodesia Information Centre
Freedom of information at stake; propaganda; must have both sides; Communist bookshops never closed down; conservatives the guardians of liberty; open government; freedom to agree only under Leftism.

12. Racism in Australia?
Defining racism; does racial confrontation imply prejudice?; inverse racism; cultural differences; contact and emergence of `prejudice'; backlash; apartheid emerges naturally.

13 Are All Races Equally Intelligent? -- 0r: When is Knowledge Knowledge?
Sociology of knowledge; Intelligence A and B; substitution of ideology for science; when is moral moral?; ecological influences on evolution.

14. In Defence of the White Australia Policy
White Australia generally disclaimed; academic moralism perverted; six arguments against the policy; Australia is already culturally very diverse; Australia has one of the world's most liberal immigration policies; Right and wrong are abitrary; a pragmatic account of moralism removes its imperative force; how moral delusions are acquired; draining talent from Asia; Asian immigration would create racism; national characteristics; avoidance of conflicts.


15. Economic Growth--Blessing or Curse?
Former advocacy of growth; many urgent needs still to be met; anti-materialism; Mishan; are underdeveloped countries to stay that way?; anti-car movement; growth and the status quo; non-renewable resources; growth reduces the birthrate; doomsday may never come; poverty in the underdeveloped world is the real problem; maximum growth; GNP; type of growth; present problems.

16. Is Inflation Inevitable?
Why worry?; progressive taxation; workers must lose; price control; wage rises in excess of productivity rises are illusory; socialism; the `worldwide' excuse; weak governments issue too much money; who is to blame; inflation is irreversible; who suffers; the worker's savings; capital accumulation; nationalisation; needy people; subjective welfare; collective versus private goods; strikes; cost push; velocity of circulation; rural receipts; imported inflation; falling standards of living; investment spending; consumer spending; monopolies; trade unions as monopolies; no change in the share of capital and labour for over 100 years; wealth is goods and services; small potential effect of `sharing the wealth'; competitive scramble; cost of living adjustments; productivity indexation; non-monetary relativities index; the nature of power; revolutionaries; a generational hypothesis on industrial unrest; business monopolies; competition as price control; government protection of monopolies; restrictive trade practices; bureaucratic price control.

17. How to Control Union Power
Taft-Hartley amendment; the problem of enforcement; court settlement of disputes; rule of the jungle; outlawry; a frightening penalty; unlikely to be used; strikers cannot have it both ways.

18. Why Price Control Won't Work
South Australian petrol versus petrol elsewhere; rationing under Chifley; business profits relatively small; must be accompanied by wage control; controls much more bureaucratic than a freeze; controls can be avoided; consumers penalised; some price controls impossible; helps managers victimize shareholders; educative role of prices tribunal most important.

19. Economic Nationalism and Foreign Investment
Foreign investment a gift; Singapore; savings necessary to affluence; benefits for both parties; the alternatives are less growth or more totalitarianism; tariff cuts; marketing agreements.

20. Why Some Prices Should Rise
Oil crisis; government mismanagement; evil effect of price controls; higher prices would mean economization and increased supply; quantifying `need'; the poor; the market will do what the government cannot.

21. Protecting Australian Industry
Industry bigger spongers than the farmers; some industries have eighty per cent tariff protection; much Australian capital tied up in unproductive enterprise; unions and businesses both show contempt for consumer; businessmen two-faced; only the inefficient need protection; cheap Asian labour; loss of Australian jobs; tariffs like narcotics; some industries should go broke; defence self-sufficiency; infant industries; motor vehicle industry senile; under free-trade Australia's secondary exports could increase.

22. Cutting up the National Cake
Anti-materialism contradicted by behaviour; class politics; the worker share; Mr Tilling; long-term shares are stable.

23. The Traps of the 'Needs' Concept
Pseudo-technocracy; needs conditional; resource ceilings; penalises independence; against power diffusion; pricing needed.

24. The National Health and the Case for Prepaid Medical Care
No freedom for doctors; Mr Cameron; shortage of doctors the problem; use of existing funds; economies of scale; bigness leads to inefficiency; the Kaiser plan; Government can fix fees already; 'non-participating' doctors; faster consultations; artificial scarcity of doctors; more training facilities a better investment; doctors should be poor.

25. Dr Jim's Moral Indignation Meter
Boycott of Portuguese trade mission; no trade with China because of Tibet; no trade with Russia because of Czechoslovakia; no trade with Africa because of military dictatorships.

26. Plastic Radicals in Academe
Community of scholars; staff remote; no longer a playground for the rich; working class students looked down on; like Marx but not beer and football; contempt for the worker's pleasures; slumming soon gives way to a Nice Home; drug market capitalistic; contempt for intellectual standards.

27. The Vietnam Protest
Moratorium ban on Bryant; peace or Communist victory?; Cambodia and the Americans; objectivity penalized.

28. Sport and the Anti-Apartheid Movement
South African cricketers like Cassius Clay, Daniel and Sinyaevsky; freedom of expression; banning Solzhenitsyn because Russia is anti-semitic; ban M.A.S.H. because America bombs Vietnam; protest supports Rightist parties; aggression and moralism of the Left; nobody helped by the protest.

29. Free Speech Versus Leftist Censorship
Leftist physical attacks on Jensen and Eysenck; dangerous to have God on your side; violence of `peace' demonstrators; unionist postal censorship; cut off phones at Rhodesia Information Centre; Leftist followers of Goebbels.

30 Murphyism
McCarthyism; Croatian `terrorism'; Yugoslav leader Bijedic; visit a pretence; no evidence against Croatians; deporting refugees from totalitarianism; para-military training and Boy Scouts.


31. Are We Over-educated?
Education a sacred cow; sixty per cent of state budgets spent already; education to fit you better to society; Cato and liberal education; too much stress on the 'humanities'; 'personal development'; transfer of training; education for citizenship; 'broadening the mind'; training for leisure; literature courses deter readers; Socially adaptive attitudes and social skills; `humanities' a recreation only; taxpayer should not be asked to subsidise something unless benefit to him shown; supply leading demand.

32. Upper Houses
Politicians as dogsbodies; NSW upper house; 1917 Bryce report; revisions and amendments are valuable; fosters expertise in government.

33. Subsidies to 'The Arts'
Even mediocre talent is now rewarded without subsidy; risk; are art lovers morally better?; the arts as recreation; good art is what pleases people.

34. The 'Power Elite'
'Them'; conspiracy theories on Right and Left; Hitler a socialist; paranoia and socialism; conspiracy theories totalitarian; fractionation of power; the weakness of Whitlam and Hawke; big business; Lang Hancock; the military industrial complex; Vietnam; power is plausibility; persuasion; the ecology movement.

35. Women and Suburbia
Boredom or relaxation?; prices; job satisfaction versus hobbies; working wives overstressed; absent mothers.

36. Blueprint for Disaster: American Defence Expenditure
Army of only 800,000; only fifteen per cent fighting men; Soviet seapower; new Soviet missiles; MIRVing; N. Vietnamese treaty-breaking; Democrat budget cuts; betrayal of S. Vietnam.

37. In Defence of Monarchy
Effect of abolishing monarchies not good; Farouk; colonels the alternative; the Shah of Iran; non-political identity; ceremonial; dignity; Thailand; Queen of England; American Presidents.

38 Conformity or Diversity? -- Which Way are We Going?
Ellul, Toynbee and the myth of vanishing choice; Design-a-Mustang; superindustrialism flourishes on variety; standardisation a crude initial phase only; cigarettes, petrol, groceries, furniture; costs of variation declining; automation enables variety; automobiles.



39. Do Mental Events Exist or is Man Just a Protein Machine?
Psychophysiology; reflexology; cerebroscope; responses as stimuli; blueness is in the object; imageless thought; orienting responses; consciousness; perceptual inferences; touch; behaviourism; mind as feeling.

40. Is Self Theory the Hypostatisation of a Syncategorematic Word?
Existentialism and phenomenology; Sartre, Rogers, Bertocci and Calkins; varying definitions of `self; need for interpretation; tautologies and statements untrue by definition; experiences having themselves; `self' as a grammatical marker; reflexivity; stipulative definition.


41. Are Authoritarians Sick?
Nazi-type behaviour; methodological doubts about California work; mythology; acquiescence; dogmatism; masking variables; conservatism and psychopathology; scales; subjects students; neuroticism and norms; subcultural groups among students; religion; sensation seeking; few significant relationships; authoritarianism and Methodism; situational factors.

42. Authoritarian Humanism
Authoritarianism of the Left; Rokeach; Eysenck; toughmindedness; National Servicemen; volunteer artifact; balanced 'F' scale; item analysis; negative items turn out positive; Kerlinger's `criterial referents'; reliabilities; acquiescence; yeasaying score; simplistic wording and intolerance of ambiguity.

43. Are the Workers Authoritarian, Conservative or Both?
Lipset; Miller & Riessman; weakened thesis; Lipsitz; Hamilton; economic and non-economic conservatism; opinion polls; validity; scales; 'F' scale; acquiescence and balance; assuming what you have to prove; perceived economic deprivation; ethnocentrism; vertical and horizontal social stratification; door-to-door survey; low and high status suburbs; 'BF scale, 'BD' scale and 'AA' scale; upper class dichotomy; workers conservative but not authoritarian; 'permissiveness'.

44 Are Militarists Sick?
Eckhardt & Newcombe; `F' and `T' scale defects; sampling; student attitudes; Eysenck `N' scale; Ethnocentrism scale; Wilson & Patterson `C' scale; acquiescence; student behaviour; peer and teacher ratings; `AA' scale; submissiveness; Masling, Greer & Gilmore; conscript sample; militarism scale; social adaptability; conservatism items; cluster analysis; intercorrelations unexpected in direction; Elms; behaviour not same as attitudes; Titus; LaPiere; militarists racially tolerant; Social desirability response set; social cohesiveness of Army men; Intolerance of ambiguity and order; rigidity; sociology of knowledge and authoritarianism; militarist better adjusted.

45. Anti-Authoritarianism: An Indicator of Pathology
(By J. MARTIN & J. J. RAY)
Rudin and rational authoritarianism; Fromm; liberalism; Perth; Tauss index; Goossen test of intelligence; yeasaying; two halves of Rudin scale differ; Welsh R scale; partialiing out social desirability; pro-authoritarianism not neurotic; anti-authoritarianism pathological; rationality; previous research accepted for wrong reasons.


46. Are Racists Ethnocentric?
Ethnocentrism as an explanation for racism; two value logic; psychological and logical opposites; misanthropy; group-specific attitudes; hygiene; postjudice; rational prejudice; Adorno et al.; generality of prejudice; religious prejudice; some prejudice is irrational; prejudice and contact; Redfern; Southern Europeans; door-to-door sampling; four scales; Redfern and Zetland show similar tolerance; different forms of dislike little related; assumption falsified; Jews and S. Europeans seen as similar; location of Aborigines in Redfern; categorising people; nouns as generalisations; all the evidence never in.

47. Prejudice Both Pathological and Natural
'Racism' as a term of abuse; international politics; Nazism; race is a political factor; psychological diffences not allowed to be mentioned; equality a dogma; Africanisation is racism; Jewish racism; Arab-Israeli relations; anti-Japanese racism; past non-racialism; move to homogenisation; Negroes and assimilation; Soviet racism; Soviet Jewry; Chinese racism; Apartheid; shared identities; racism inevitable; may be healthy.


48. The New Education
(By F. P. JUST)
'Cramming'; intellectual depreciation; no short-cuts; opinionated `experts'; knowledge oldfashioned; radicalism; creativity an apology for mediocrity; a-historical `relevance'; radical propaganda; vague theories taught; store of knowledge; dismay; sex instead of Shakespeare; curricula; external assessment; underlying philosophies; rote; lack of facts; grammar; communication; competition; assignments; order; Dewey's `progressive education'; relevance is hollow without knowledge; indoctrination for Utopias; Curriculum Advisory Board; politicisation; encouragement to laziness; experimentation too careless.

49. The Case for Examinations
(By F.P. JUST)
Exams not perfect but fair; exams deprecated by educationists; opponents of knowledge; `child centred' education; `self fulfilment'; `how to think'; `personal development'; Marxism in education; `flexibility'; ACER; Radford report; Queensland; class inequalities; shortness of exams; knowledge for its own sake; trained intelligence vital; knowledge dependent on ideology?; justice; actual achievement; hard work making up for lesser ability; class bias; merit by attainment; no exams in schools means low standards for American universities; prediction of tertiary success.


50. Censorship -- a Conservative Viewpoint
Drawing the line; Spock; conflict of interests; J. S. Mill; freedom; not oppressive in 1974 Australia; no freedom absolute; harm to others; protecting people from themselves; assumptions about the nature of man; morality; political implications; breaking down society; big business; censorship by omission; society vs. the individual; quality control; civilizations; psychological pollution; danger creeping up; expediency; community standards; vigilante law; what people want; ITS and Australian polls; research evidence on harm; American Commission Report; evidence against censorship poor; violence; intuition; dangers from television; myths and legends; evidence for harm 'from pornography; double standards; legal porn versus illegal; prohibition; sex crimes; boredom; benefits from porn; why censorship being challenged; permissiveness as an ideology; Freudianism; Wolpe; Mowrer; existentialism; moral values; spiritual values; Christian guidelines; weakness of man.

51. How Good is the Wilson & Patterson Conservatism Scale?
Wide use; form of measurement; not original; acquiescence; validity; Kerlinger; meaning-opposition; social desirability; samples; factorial structure; revised C -scale.

52. Who Are the Alienated?
Radical critique of society; measuring instruments; previous literature; sub-concepts; collection of items; intercorrelations of sub-scales; ITRO; quintessential scale; alienation and radicalism; authoritarianism; balanced scales; alienation and social class; Job dissatisfaction; relative alienation.

53. Moralism and politics
Absolute right and wrong; `rights'; Leftist moralism; moralism and moral conservatism different; Kohlberg; everyday decisions; Technical College students; reliability high; moralism as a delusion; radical behaviour; anti-apartheid movement; sociology students; Attitude to authority; alienation; U-curve relationship with moralism; moralism and social desirability correlate highly; faking good; moralism as persuasion; savagery justified by moralism; `sick' minds; moralism as pragmatism; attitude to morality; radical ambivalence; conditioned emotionalism; childhood deceptions; morality versus understanding.

54. Acceptance of Aggression and Australian Voting Preference
Authoritarianism; alienation; psychology of politics; McClosky; forward defence; interpersonal trust; middle class and covert aggression; management students, school teachers, process workers; new scale; voting preference; generalisation from personal to national shown; social class.

55. The Tsivitca
Religious cult; exclusivism; self-righteousness; evil; Russian saint; apocalyptic belief; present-oriented; narrow spatial range; demons and ogres; coercion morally right; one source of evil; martyrdom; original sin; conformity; chosen people; proselytism; ceremonies; oratory; personality transformation.

Postscript -- The 1974 Elections

Consolidated List of References

Friday, November 18, 2005

NON-LEFTIST ETHICAL NATURALISM: A coherent alternative to moral relativism

By John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D. -- article originally written December, 2003 but subsequently expanded -- up to 2007)

In moral philosophy the view that "ought" or "is right" statements are ordinary statements about the world (empirical statements) rather than having some privileged and peculiar "moral" quality is termed "ethical naturalism". Like all positions in moral philosophy it has its difficulties but I believe that such difficulties arise from a misunderstanding of how moral statements arise.

In fact, I do not think that the nature of "ought" or "is right" statements is very problematical at all.

It seems to me that statements such as "X is right" (or "X is good" or "You ought to do X") can be unpacked in only four or perhaps five basic ways:

1. I like it when people do X
2. Doing X generally leads to widely desired results

3. It is the will of God that you do X

4. X has an eternal, inescapable, universal "moral" quality.
5. X is the prevailing rule around here (though if the person was asked why that rule exists he would almost certainly reply by referring to some version of one of the preceding three statements).

I think most people would agree that "You ought" statements can mean 1, 2, 3 or 5 above. I do. You might dispute the truth of any of them but you would understand what is being said and understand that it is a factual claim. I would for instance dispute an "ought" statement that is unpacked as 3 above because I am an atheist but I accept that the person making the claim is trying to make a statement of fact that can be proved or disproved in some way.

Interpretation 4 above however is untestable, undemonstrable and hence gibberish -- though it does seem to be widely believed. But lots of clever people believe in global warming so beliefs are neither any proof of anything nor any cause for surprise. Now isn't that simple?

Not everybody agrees that it is simple. A famous objection is the objection by David Hume. David Hume contends that there is an unbridgeable gap between "is" and "ought" statements -- so that you cannot justify "ought" statements by "is" statements. Yet that is precisely what people normally do. An "ought" statement always commends some course of action and when people ask WHY that course of action is commended the reply is often in terms of "is" (empirical) statements (e.g. the commendation of X can be explained as: "X leads to generally desired consequences" or "X leads to consequences that you would like" or "I like X" or "X is the prevailing rule in this culture"). So in my view the fact that an "ought" statement can be explained in that way shows that it is an empirical statement to begin with. Statements in general have all sorts of influences on people (for example, if someone said to me: "Your son has just died", it is clearly an empirical statement but it would also have an enormous influence on me if true. It would cause me to take many actions that I would not otherwise take) and an "ought" statement is an empirical statement with what is expected to be one particular sort of influence -- a commendatory influence. So an "ought" statement is often simply a shorthand (compressed) "is" statement that can be promptly expanded if desired.

A major way in which I differ with many philosophers, however, is that I accept that "ought" statements are used in a variety of ways rather than in one single way and I do not try to make sense out of ALL the ways that they are used. And I have SHOWN that usage of moral language differs from person to person by way of psychological research. As I see it, "ought" statements always commend but they are not always empirical statements. Sometimes they are in fact very incoherent statements (at best pseudo-empirical statements) and I think Hume's difficulty arose out of a determination to find meaning in incoherent uses of "ought" statements (i.e. when "ought" statements are elaborated as being or emanating from timeless and universal rules that are "known" only in some mysterious and untestable way -- typically expressed by saying "X just IS right", with no further explanation given) and I simply regard that quest as a fool's errand. The world is awash with incoherent gibberish and baseless assertions so there is no reason to be either disturbed by it or interested in it when such assertions occur in moral discourse. When I encounter it, my usual response is to point out its incoherence and untestability and then refuse to have any further truck with such things (as I did here).

Being primarily a psychologist, I am of course interested in WHY what I have called incoherent uses of moral terminology arise and I find the explanation given by philosophical psychologist John Maze persuasive: That they are a conscious or unconscious attempt at fraud -- an attempt to persuade by saying that immutable and peculiarly moral properties exist and that they have some claim on us because of that. Maze's work is not online but if you have access to a university library, you can find it in: Maze, J. (1973) "The concept of attitude". Inquiry, 16, 168-205. Maze also had a book published in 1983 called The Meaning of Behaviour which I have not read but which almost certainly would contain similar arguments. I have summarized Maze's arguments at somewhat greater length in my academic paper on the present topic.

Many people -- Roman Catholics in particular -- are nonetheless very attracted to the view that some moral statements just ARE right, regardless of time and place. They say that killing babies is ALWAYS wrong for instance. If one objects that killing babies was perfectly normal and perceived as "right" in the most brilliant civilization of ancient times -- Greece -- they are quite unmoved and just say that the Greeks were wrong. But how do they KNOW? What is their authority or source of information about the "wrongness" concerned? Basically, they cannot tell you. Their only authority is a "gut reaction" and different people in different times and in different places have many different "gut reactions", of course. Pro-abortionists, for instance, seem to have the gut reaction that killing babies is OK as long as the baby is young enough. So "gut reactions" simply reduce to "in my opinion". What starts out looking like a very authoritative statement turns out to have no authoritativeness at all.

Leftists make great hay out of that. They popularly refer to such views as "moral absolutism" (a philosopher would say "ethical non-naturalism") and assert a version of ethical naturalism which is popularly referred to as "moral relativism". They reject what I have called meaning 4 above and say that only meaning 5 is possible for "ought" statements. In other words, they say that right and wrong is only what is accepted behaviour in a given society at a given time. And I in part agree with them. I too believe that there is no timeless and forever fixed right and wrong and that what is right and wrong varies from society to society. That does NOT mean, however, that all ways to live are equally wise -- which is the extension of moral relativism that Leftists usually glide into without people noticing. Leftists normally seem to ignore totally what I have called above meaning 2 for "ought" statements: that some ways of living lead to generally desired outcomes and some do not. Such claims are simple empirical propositions for which there is much evidence. Most people, for instance, desire material prosperity but only some ways of living lead to that. Laziness, for instance generally does not lead to prosperity so laziness is generally unwise, or, in shorthand, "bad" or "wrong". So there is no need for anybody to be embarrassed into abandoning talk of "right" and "wrong". Such terms do have real and important meanings -- even if you are an ethical naturalist.

And at least from Edmund Burke onwards, conservatives have taken the matter one step further. That some value is merely the custom of a given society is taken by Leftists to imply that the value concerned is NOT worthy of respect or continuation. Conservatives draw precisely the opposite conclusion. That some custom has evolved through trial and error over a long period of time is seen by conservatives as indicating that it is probably a wise and valuable custom that should not be abandoned except for very strong reasons. The custom may not be "right" in any absolute, immutable or unimprovable sense but it may still be very wise and valuable in enabling a civil and healthy society to function and give its members what they desire -- such as peace, security and prosperity. In that sense, courage, honesty, democracy and the rule of law are "right". Countries where such values are widespread generally have more peace, security, freedom and prosperity than countries where such values are not widespread. Values and standards of behaviour are very important matters indeed.

Amusingly, however, Leftists are very prone to using the language of right and wrong (which they claim not to believe in) when it suits them. They will claim that things like Apartheid or "racism" are WRONG without batting an eyelid. The moral relativists suddenly become moralists. They will happily say things that they do not remotely believe in if it suits their ends of gaining power and influence. I did some research into the dishonest Leftist use of moral language which is reported here. And when Leftists do use moralistic language, it is rather fun to use the arguments of moral relativism to show how shallow their arguments are -- as here.


It may be that some see a contradiction between my statement above that gut instincts are not authoritative and my statement elsewhere that most morality is instinctive.

There is however a large distinction to be made between the truth of a statement and a person's motivation for making it. What I said above was about truth claims, not about why that claim is made. One hopes that there is usually some connection between the truth of a statement and why people make the statement concerned but that there is no obvious or necessary connection is all too obvious.


Some 2007 research by Haidt would seem to be of considerable interest in connection with the above. Haidt argues that the basis of morality is instinctive but that conservatives display greater cognitive complexity in dealing with moral questions. Given the frequent Leftist assertion that "there is no such thing as right and wrong", that is not inherently surprising. Although they often use moral talk in an attempt to influence others, Leftists would seem, on their own admission, to have no serious interest in or committment to morality of any kind. That does make the invariable brutalities of Communist regimes rather understandable.

Part of a summary of Haidt's research:

"Haidt argues that human morality is a cultural construction built on top of -- and constrained by -- a small set of evolved psychological systems. He presents evidence that political liberals rely primarily on two of these systems, involving emotional sensitivities to harm and fairness. Conservatives, however, construct their moral understandings on those two systems plus three others, which involve emotional sensitivities to in-group boundaries, authority and spiritual purity."

There is a longer account of Haidt's research here

Click here for a list of all John Ray's comments on moral philosophy


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Journal of Social Psychology, 1981, 115, 227-235.


University of New South Wales, Australia


Editor's Note: Too infrequently do social psychologists challenge the epistemological bases and implications of the concepts guiding their theories, their research, and themselves. In the role of a somewhat tolerant gadfly the author of this paper takes a fresh look at one of the concepts favored by social psychology. The Journal, therefore, departs from its usual stern but eclectic criterion which demands that a contribution contain empirical or experimental data of statistical significance.


Maze has argued that all users of moral discourse thereby attribute factual properties to moral propositions. His argument is challenged. It is suggested that the factual format of moral propositions tends to mislead, but that moral propositions are, after all, policy statements, statements about goals and rules for attaining them. Maze's suggestion that the factual format of many moral propositions arose as a polite form of social manipulation is seen as solving certain difficulties in a utilitarian account of moral discourse; its nonutilitarian appearance is thus a form of self-effacing ellipsis, not a sign of its real intent.


"To express an attitude is to express moralism and moralism is the attribution to acts of properties they do not have. No intellectually honest person can knowingly therefore have attitudes." This paraphrase is my summary of the attention-getting thesis at the core of a long article by Maze (1). Utterly wrong-headed though it may seem at first glance, his article is nonetheless an extremely illuminating and extremely effective attack on meta-ethical non-naturalism (the doctrine that moral properties are in some sense irrevocably inherent in certain acts). In the present paper I wish to propose what could be called a less extreme version of Maze's thesis: I will argue that Maze's account of moralism is correct, but that there are some moral propositions that are not instances of moralism in Maze's sense. Attitudes, then, may be any of three types of moral propositions only one of which is irrevocably incoherent.

It seems to me that Maze gives an excellent account of how certain misunderstandings about moral discourse arise. Under the rubric of "moralism" he describes certain very important pathological uses of moral discourse. I would dispute, however, that Maze's account has the generality of application that he claims. I would submit that many ordinary users of moral discourse are not "moralists" and use such discourse without assuming or intending much that Maze implies they must thereby assume or intend. I hope to show in fact that a utilitarian sort of meta-ethical naturalism is in some sense "basic" and that the non-naturalism Maze describes, explains, and attacks is merely a confused deviation from that base.

Maze's account, then, represents a very persuasive explanation of how non-naturalistic meta-ethical theories arise. The important mistake that Maze, to my mind, makes is to assume that all users (except perhaps some philosophers) of moral discourse are meta-ethical non-naturalists. He says that anybody who has attitudes is a person who "claims to know, perhaps by intuition, perhaps by revelation, that there are certain activities of the kind 'ought-to-be-done' and others of the kind 'ought-not-to-be done.' " He goes on to claim that "it is the ascription of moral properties that is the special function of attitude expressions." Later again in his paper Maze repeats this assertion in the words: "What I am asserting, then, is that an attitude expression is a claim that a certain action ought to be done (or refrained from) under specifiable circumstances by a specifiable class of person, because it has the objective moral property of goodness or rightness or desirability (or badness etc.)."

I feel we should assert the opposite to Maze's position. We could assert that no one of normal mental competence fancies on reflection that goodness or rightness are objective properties. While it is true that the two statements "X is pink" and "X is good" have the same form, I personally have yet to meet someone who, when asked what the difference between the two was, did not reply: "The first is a statement of fact and the second is a value judgment" -- or something of equivalent import. If it is true that, as Maze says, "Statements of the form 'X is good' . . . masquerade as factual statements," the masquerade is not one that fools many people. As some evidence for this assertion, Piaget (5) found that "moral realism" was a stage of thought found only in young children-soon to be superseded by a perception of moral statements as statements about rules rather than about facts [see also Merchant and Rebelsky (2)].

Where, then, does this leave us? Do we simply have to choose between Maze's assertions and the ones detailed above? Is it a case of "never the twain shall meet?" Since we seem to have arrived at what is essentially a dispute about the nature of common usage in a particular area, a venture into "counting the horse's teeth" may again be a not entirely inappropriate way to settle a philosophical dispute. In a word, why not do a survey to find out what people do in fact mean when they use moral discourse? This is not entirely a vainly optimistic project. What we glorify by the name of "meta-ethics" is to the ordinary man in the street a matter of no small importance -- though certainly not under that label. I would submit in fact that just what we mean by "Right and Wrong" or "Good and Bad" is one of the commonest disputes there are. So much of our ordinary social interaction is about whether something or another is an instance under these terms that an awareness of what the terms may be taken to imply is essential to even elementary conversation.


With this thought in mind, then, I drew up a list of 20 meta-ethical formulations as they might be made in everyday life and asked all students in an introductory sociology course (not a philosophy course) in an Australian university to indicate the extent of their agreement with each. The results appear in Table 1. The numbers in the table represent the frequencies with which a particular response was chosen (N = 117). An inspection of the results reveals that the four statements on which there is something like unanimity were nos. 5, 6, 7, and 12. They agree that what is right for one man may be wrong for another and they reject "what is right and wrong was laid down before man ever began to think about it." They also reject, however, that "right and wrong are myths." We cannot of course expect that what these students say will be typical of what the community as a whole will say but at the very least these figures constitute strong support for the contention here that no one account can suffice to explain what is meant by such terms as "right" and "wrong." That 89 students agreed with statement no. 19 constitutes apparent support for Maze's contentions, while the agreement of 71 with item 17 is strong support for a utilitarian account of ethical discourse. It may be interesting to know also that by the normal conventions of psychometrics, the 20 items formed a satisfactory "scale" -- with a reliability coefficient (alpha) of .76 [see Shaw and Wright (6)]. Thus the correlations between these 20 items written to polarize around the naturalism/nonnaturalism issue were sufficiently high to indicate that there was in fact a position on a single underlying issue substantially determining the person's response to each item. I would summarize the above results, then, as showing that these particular students believed that people do not in general use moral statements to mean the same thing and that they see grounds for supporting both a naturalistic and a non-naturalistic account of ethics. At the very least, then, these figures support my contention that Maze's account of the meaning of moral discourse is true of the usage of some people only. It is not universally applicable. On Maze's account no student should have agreed with item 17.



The Statements:

1. There is no such thing as an absolute right and wrong.
2. The only things that are right and wrong are what man has made so by his laws.
3. "Things are wrong only if you think they are.
4. There are some things which can never possibly be right.
5. It is always possible that what is right to one man will be wrong to another.
6. What is right and wrong was laid down before man ever began to think about it.
7. Right and wrong are myths.
8. What is right and wrong doesn't depend on man's opinions about it.
9. There is a higher moral law of which man's law is only an imperfect reflection.
10. There are some things which are right regardless of time and place.
11. One man's opinion on what is right and wrong is as good as another's.
12. There are universal moral laws.
13. What is right for one man may be wrong for another.
14. Some things are just wrong and that's all there is to it.
15. Whether a thing is right or not doesn't depend on man's convenience.
16. There are no absolute, unchanging moral laws that man can go by.
17. Things are regarded as wrong only because if everyone did them, civilized life would become impossible.
18. Your conscience is nearly always an infallible guide.
19. Some things you just know to be wrong without anybody needing to tell you.
20. You cannot go against your conscience.

The responses:

SD = Strongly Disagree; D = Disagree; NS = Not Sure; A = Agree; SA = Strongly agree. NR = No response




What I believe happens, then, is that "good" and "right" have a basic meaning that is something like "that which is in our own long-term self-interest" or "that which is my goal," but because of the need for a polite form of social manipulation and disagreement people speak as if "goodness" or "rightness" were objective properties. Some of them, particularly when given the sort of upbringing detailed by Maze, are however misled by this polite ellipsis into supposing that there must in fact be some objective properties for these forms of speech to refer to. This error is, I believe, a far less pernicious one than Maze imagines. I have found that even those who appear to be the most thoroughgoing of non-naturalists do, when quizzed about how they know something is "just wrong," quite readily admit that its being "wrong" is a world removed in type from being "pink" or "quick." They acknowledge that "x is wrong" is not a statement of fact. It is a "value judgment." I would submit in fact that the distinction between moral and factual propositions is an inevitable part of any child's moral education. Generally, the small child who disobediently runs across the road will be told, "you naughty boy," rather than, "if you run across the road you may get knocked down and killed and I don't want you to get killed." On the other hand, at some time he will be bound to ask why it is that crossing the road is naughty for him but not naughty for daddy. From the answers to such inquiries he will very soon learn that the naughtiness resides not in the act itself but rather in whether or not that act constitutes the transgression of a rule or a standard, and that different people may follow -- or be obliged to follow -- different rules. He will also learn that rules are formulated for the purpose of helping people to avoid various undesired eventualities or to attain desired ones and that this is the reason why different people choose to follow or are obliged to follow different rules -- they may be more or less in need of such help, they may prefer a different brand of help, or they may desire different eventualities. He will learn that ". . . is good" statements are related to "I like" statements but will differentiate the former as instrumental or long-term. All things we dislike are bad except insofar as they lead to something we do like. All things we like are good except insofar as they lead to something we dislike. In the case where several alternatives are liked or disliked equally choosing one in particular may lead to something that we do emphatically like or dislike and this too will be termed good or bad.

Wherever, of course, we are seeking something long-term, we need to have at least an opinion about what actions will get us there, and acting in accord with such an opinion will be an example of following a rule. "The Good" is either our long-term goal itself or whatever rule is believed to get us there.

In both cases what we conceive of as "The Good" will be socially formed via reward, punishment, and imitation. For the child, both his goals and his opinions about how to achieve them will tend to converge with those of his parents and his parents will in fact for much of his behavior demand this. Contrary to Maze's assertions, however, the above account shows that this "internalization" of his parents standards need not imply for the child any acceptance of a delusion.

On the above account, then, moral arguments are perfectly intelligible. In general, one can argue either about empirical propositions or about policies. To show that an apparently factual statement is reducible to a policy statement does not remove it from the realm of argument. Quite the contrary, it seems to me that most of our everyday arguments are about policies. What we argue about in the two cases is simply different. One argues about the evidence for an empirical proposition, but about the effectiveness ("utility") of policies. A policy is a resolve to follow some particular rule, and moral arguments are arguments about what rules are most effective in enabling one to reach particular goals. Does rule X, Y, or Z lead most efficiently to goal Q? It is, of course, also a possibility that in the course of argument with another, one will find out that one's companion does not share and cannot be induced to share or consider one's own goals. Once this has been firmly established, there is no further point in the argument. Perhaps one of the most frustrating sorts of moral debate is the one where neither is aware that the goals are not agreed upon -- either because the goal is vague (perhaps "happiness" would be an example here), because one of the parties denies his real goals in favor of more socially approved avowed goals, or because overly sweeping assumptions about goals are made by one or both parties.

Thus "Smoking is bad" becomes translatable to "Smoking will keep you away from your (presumed) goal of a long life." In this sense, as many previous writers have detected, moral propositions may have truth value (e.g., 3). Also, "Smoking is bad but I like it," becomes translatable to: "Smoking now deprives me of certain future satisfactions but I like doing it now."

On this account, then, the person who uses the language of "right" and "wrong" or "good" and "bad" is not, as Maze asserts, necessarily deluded. He may simply be labelling and know he is labelling particular acts as instances of following or transgressing some rule or other. Insofar as the goals and their derivative rules or standards are generally agreed upon, his utterances may serve as simple factual communication. Thus: "This is a good chisel" could simply communicate that the chisel is not blunt or notched. It is a chisel effective for achieving the goals that are normally achieved with chisels. Instrumentality in achieving goals is the unifying feature that explains why "bad" as applied to objects means "falling below a standard" and "bad" as applied to acts means "transgressing a rule." Rules are simply a particular type of standard (for acts) and both are maintained for the sake of achieving goals.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I find great value in Maze's having pointed out so clearly how easily the "factual" format of moral judgments can lead some people (including many philosophers) to argue "as if" we were dealing with facts. I agree with him that many people do so argue and that it can be confusing or even dangerous so to do. I have, however, found that even our local Ayn Rand objectivists will, when probed, quite happily acknowledge that "The Desirable" or "The Good" is simply that which works to the long-term self-interest of the individual. The stress is simply on the "long term." One may have bad desires if they work in the long term to one's ill. Christians, too, speak of Sin as if it were an objective entity but again when pressed will affirm that Sin or Wrongdoing is simply that which transgresses the will (or law) of God. To Christians also, then, wrongdoing is the transgression of a rule. The only difference is that, like children, Christians feel compelled to obey rules made by others. Why this is so would be a separate inquiry.

To return to the focus of Maze's paper, then, what are attitudes? More exactly, what is there about attitudes that distinguishes them from straightforward statements of belief or straightforward expressions of preference? On the account given here there is no sharp distinction. Insofar as there is one at all, however, it is that attitude statements are particularly about goals. By a goal one simply means a basic (i.e., nonderivative) preference, a preference, moreover, which is generally not fulfilled at the time it is expressed. As such, goals are emotional or reflexive rather than rational, and argument is essentially irrelevant to them. They correspond to what Murray (4) calls "needs."

Attitude statements then may consist of the following: (a) an avowal that the utterer holds some particular goal; (b) an expression of belief that some course of action leads to some particular goal -- a goal that may be explicitly stated or implicitly assumed; (c) the phenomenon described by Maze, where the performance (or nonperformance) of some act has become a goal in itself accompanied by a self-deceptive screen of belief that that act has some irrevocable but undemonstrable "moral" property.

There is no strict philosophical ground on which we might be critical of some act becoming a goal in itself. All that can be objected to are the occasions when this phenomenon is accompanied by incoherent beliefs. Take, for example, the phenomenon of attitudes to racial discrimination. An objection to racial prejudice may fall into any of the above three categories of attitude. In category two it might consist of a stated belief that racial discrimination reduced the sum of human happiness and an avowal that the maximization of human happiness was a goal sought by the utterer. In category one it might consist of a simple avowal that the avoidance of racial discrimination was a goal in itself for the utterer. In category three it might be an assertion that acts of racial discrimination had some objective moral property of Wrongness -- goals regardless.

With regard to the person in category two we can have little objection. His goals are explicit and we can decide by introspection whether or not we share them. If we are well adjusted and well socialized products of a civilized culture, we probably will. Either way, whether racial discrimination leads to or detracts from the achievement of that goal is open for rational discussion.

With regard to the person in category one we may feel that he has been oversocialized into making a goal out of what was originally intended as merely a means. Both we and the person making the statement, however, realize that there is no point in disputation. It is a matter of the emotional responses of the utterer.

With regard to the third person, however, we feel that he has made and perversely continues to make a mistake about the grounds for his own aversion. He has been socialized similarly to the person in category one but has acquired incoherent cognitive beliefs to accompany his emotional conditioning. Whether or not we share his goals we must find unsatisfactory the cognitive beliefs that accompany them. We cannot accept his explanation that his aversion is due solely to some property of the act rather than to his own conditioning history.

In summary, then, attitudes, far from being foolish are necessary. They are the conscious expression of our past conditioning or socialization and socialization is necessary to civilized life. It is only when attitudes are accompanied by pseudo-cognitive beliefs that we must find them objectionable.


1. MAZE, J. R. The concept of attitude. Inquiry, 1973, 16, 168-205.

2. MERCHANT, R. L., & REBELSKY, F. Effects of participation in rule formation on the moral judgment of children. Genet. Psychol. Monog., 1972, 85, 287-304.

3. MITCHELL, D. The truth or falsity of value judgments. Mind, 1972, 81, 67-74.

4. MURRAY, H. A. Explorations in Personality. New York: Oxford, 1938.

5. PIAGET, J. The Moral Judgment of the Child. Glencoe, El.: Free Press, 1948 (orig. published, 1932).

6. SHAW, M. E., & WRIGHT, J. M. Scales for the Measurement of Attitudes. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Chapter 53 from: J.J. Ray (Ed.) "Conservatism as Heresy". Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co., 1974


By John Ray

It is shown that Left-wing activism is often termed 'moralistic' by its opponents. It is suggested that any idea that moral statements could have truth value is delusory and a moralist is defined as one who accepts such a delusion. A scale was devised to detect the extent to which people use moral criteria in deciding on courses of action. This 'moralism' scale showed a reliability of .90. On a group of one hundred technical college students moralism was found to be high in two groups of respondents -- those who were radical on social issues and those who were conservative on issues of sexual morality. In the second study a polarised sample was obtained by student interviewers in a campus-wide study at the University of New South Wales. The issue was attitude to Apartheid. Anti-apartheid demonstrators were found to have lower moralism scores than the non-demonstrators but their moralism scores correlated highly with social desirability. A second study with Sociology I students confirmed this finding and also showed that demonstrators tended to reject intellectually the notion of an objective Right and Wrong. The high correlation with social desirability is interpreted to indicate however that the radical is strongly drawn to moralism even though he rejects it intellectually.

This paper is concerned with the ascription of 'right' and 'wrong' to certain actions. Considered by itself the proposition that there is a discoverable (or 'objective' or 'absolute'). Right and Wrong distinct from the imperatives of human legislation or policies could not be expected to receive wide support from social scientists (1). It is fairly clear that the difference between the two statements 'x is right' and 'x is pink' lies in the fact that the first tells us more about the utterer. It has the function of expressing personal values and preferences whereas the latter does not. This also holds for 'x is good' or 'x is something that ought to be done'.

We may on some occasions of course wish to translate 'x is good' as 'x is something that all men on all occasions would desire if they had full knowledge of its consequences for them' -- in which case it is an empirical statement normally requiring proof. On many occasions, however, it is accurately translatable only as 'I like x' or 'I have been taught to like x' or 'x will get me what I want'. The similarity in form between the two sentences 'x is good' and 'x is pink' does not on reflection deceive us into thinking that both are empirical propositions about something outside ourselves. In saying 'x is good' we tell something about ourselves (i.e. our policy beliefs or preferences) only.

Political polemics, however, often seem to involve some sort of reference to an absolute, true-for-all-times Right and Wrong. One does suspect that phrases such as 'basic human rights' are presented as describing something other than the personal preferences of the utterer or the legislative provisions of some community. In the absence of a provident Deity the source of these 'rights' is somewhat mystical and it comes as little surprise when users of such talk are referred to derogatorily as 'moralistic'. The political Left appears to attract this epithet while the Right is 'practical' or pragmatic. On the issue of support for white South Africa, Mr Gorton, a former Australian Prime Minister and head of the conservative Liberal-Country Party coalition, was reported as saying: 'Australia will decide its actions purely on the criterion of practical self-interest. It will not be swayed by moral considerations . . . . (2). Mr B. A. Santamaria, perhaps Australia's foremost Right-wing political commentator (and a devout Roman Catholic), was reported as saying: 'Australia should base its diplomacy on the principle of effective control, not of moral judgments (3). On the American political scene the liberal Mr Ramsey Clark, former Attorney-General was described as follows by the political journalist Sam Lipski: 'It is clear that what attracts many liberals to Mr Clark is his moralism, and that what angers his opponents is their inability to accept the Clark gospel' (4). Also in the U.S.A., the editor of "Ramparts", the sensationalist Left-wing magazine is reported as having said: 'We look at things from a moral point of view. That's what the new politics is all about' (5). Speaking of the British Conservative party Feiling (1953) says: 'Indeed, if we called them the most unprincipled of all parties, in the sense that rigidity or exclusive principle has been alien to their manner of thinking, there would be a measure of truth in it.' (p. 130). The study of moralism per se is obviously then an enterprise of the greatest social relevance. For all that, the following comment by Eisenman remains true: 'A wealth of research has been done on children's moral judgments, with comparatively little research on moral values in older subjects' (Eisenman, 1970; p. 34).

The work by Eisenman (1970) himself was like that by Jourard (1954), in that it appears to confound moral conservatism with moralism as such. One can believe that women have an inalienable right to have abortions on demand, but this is scarcely a morally conservative point of view. Moralism refers to the strength with which a belief about the rightness of some action is held. What that action is may be variable. It may be an action taken in accordance with a conservative policy or one taken in accordance with a liberal policy. Thus if a person said that on the whole he thought that women should remain virgins until they were married, he would appear as a conservative on a scale of moral conservatism. If, however, we discovered that he was mainly concerned about the risk of venereal disease, we might say that although he was conservative on that particular moral issue he was not very moralistic. If the basis for his attitude had been something like: 'It's just wrong and that's all there is to it' we would say that he was both morally conservative and moralistic. Thus moral conservatism-radicalism refers to the direction of the belief whereas moralism refers to the basis or justification for that belief. If a person is quite definite, however, that there is no such thing as right and wrong he cannot be either conservative or radical on moral issues. This is not to say that he may not have policy preferences. Thus he may say that he thinks the Vietnam war is a good thing but he may wish to support this statement only by saying that he (personally) hates 'all those little yellow bastards' and consequently is pleased by the thought of them wiping one-another out. He is not concerned to justify the slaughter as 'right' and condemnation of it as 'wrong', which he sees as simply irrelevant. On a conventional attitude scale of political conservatism such a person would show up as politically conservative while on an ideal scale of moralism he would be completely non-moralistic (a-moral ) . Another non-moralist, on the other hand might say that the Vietnam war was a bad thing because the thought of people being killed upsets him (personally). If he does call the war 'wrong' he is simply trying to persuade or induce others to experience the same response or take the same action that he does.

Perhaps the most widely known work on the measurement of moralism is that by Kohlberg (1969). His work has been also extended into the political field by Hampden-Turner & Whitten (1971). Kohlberg, however, makes the assumption that the stages of moral development he sees in (some) children can be equated with a scale of adult morality. Thus a person is 'more' moral if he exhibits decision-rationales similar to those children whom Kohlberg considers to be more morally developed. It will be evident that this is a rather arbitrary approach. Even if some children do go through these stages in a regular progression, this of itself is no criterion for saying that they are 'more' moral than when they started out. What would we say of a person who went through all Kohlberg's six stages and then went 'back' to Kohlberg's second stage? An answer to this question would surely reveal that the criterion for what is 'moral' exists only in Kohlberg's own set of values -- however plausible they may seem. Surely even if most people behaved as in the case given above, Kohlberg would still want to say that they were 'going back'. He would not want to regard the final stage as 'higher'. The 'scale' is thus imposed on the data rather than being derived from it. A less contentious scale of moralism would, therefore be highly desirable. Some sort of explicit and value-free measure of moralism is necessary. This is, of course, no easy task. It is easy enough to measure an attitude, but with moralism we want to measure something about how an attitude is held or justified. We want to measure a characteristic of attitudes. Even more difficult, we want a measure that will not be ideologically biased. As was pointed out, one can be moralistic about a wide variety of issues. If we want to examine whether Leftists are more or less moralistic, we cannot simply ascertain how many of a set of supposedly 'Left-wing moralistic' statements they agree with. They would obviously agree with them not only because they are moralistic but also because they are Left-wing. What we want to do is sort out the two possible bases for agreement. Only thus can we empirically examine whether moralism is characteristic of the Right, of the Left or of neither. Although the present author is something of a psychometric specialist with a long list of contributions to the measurement of psychological dispositions to his credit (Ray, 1970 a & b, 1971 a, b & c, 1972 a to g ), any idea at all for a solution to this problem eluded him for some years. As it is, what is presented in the following sections must be viewed as only a preliminary attempt at the objective measurement of moralism.

In the following study, then, a moralism scale is reported which is used to check on the hypothesised relationship between moralism and radical-humanitarian stances on social issues. An initial attempt will also be made to probe into 'what makes the moralist tick?'. Why do people seem to believe in an absolute Right and Wrong when there are such obvious questions than can be raised about the tenability of such beliefs?



In the construction of the scale it was assumed that the important thing was not to ascertain whether, on mature reflection, the person believed that there was such a thing as absolute right and wrong, but rather to ascertain on what he based his decision when confronted with a demand for decision. The scale itself therefore was designed to take no sides in the philosophical debate over whether discoverable right and wrong exists. It merely considers responding in terms of what is believed to be right and responding in terms of one's own self-interest as possible alternative bases for decision. Presumably the person who had devoted some thought to the philosophical questions involved and concluded that there was no such thing as right and wrong would always use self-interest (enlightened?) as his decision basis. For him one of the alternatives would be excluded a priori. It is assumed however that for most people the choice between doing what is right and doing what is in one's own interest was a real one. Administration instructions for the scale included the assurance to the subjects that they could use 'their own definition' of what is right. Throughout, however, the interest was not in what it was that they thought to be right but rather in the relevance this had for their policy decisions. This is to some extent the opposite of the immediate concern in most attitude scales.

The scale took the form, then, of a set of situations or policy requirements wherein it was expected that people might divide in their responses. In response to each the subject was asked to tell whether he would 'Do what is right' (scored 3), 'Do what is to our own advantage' (scored 1) or 'Don't know' (scored 2). See the appendix for full details.

This scale is basically a measure of a person's set to respond 'Do what is right' in a variety of situations. What situations they are is relatively secondary -- as long as they are as near to 'real-life' as possible. It seems fairly clear, however, that there must be some temptation to social desirability responding also, and steps to control for this are indicated.

For the purpose of testing the scale, it was desired to employ a sample somewhat less demographically biased than the usual first-year university student sample. As has been shown many times elsewhere, (e.g. Ray, 1970a ) scales tested on university students often turn out to be far less satisfactory when applied to general community samples. This scale, therefore, was applied to a sample of one hundred evening students at North Sydney Technical College. It was administered as part of a larger questionnaire in normal class time by one of the teachers. Also included in the questionnaire were items to measure conservatism in social issues, political issues and issues of sexual morality (these scales are given in Ray (1971 c )). The short forms of Eysenck's Neuroticism and Extraversion scales were also included -- as were the eight strongest items (four negative and four positive) of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale (Greenwald & Satow, 1970); see the appendix.


The reliability of the scale was .90 (Cronbach's, 1951, coefficient 'alpha'). This indicates a high degree of consistency in response on the part of these subjects. The fact that the item means oscillate on either side of the midpoint (2) indicates that a good spread of responses was obtained. Some subjects fairly consistently opted for what was 'right' while others fairly consistently opted for self-interest.

The correlations between all the variables measured in this study are given in Table 1. There are two groups of respondents who are high on moralism -- those who are radical on social issues and those who are conservative on issues of sexual morality (rs of -.239 and .377). These correlations remain significant when the social desirability artifact is removed by partial correlation. That political conservatism was not related to moralism reflects the many bases that political issues have. Moralism is obviously of very subsidiary importance in political life -- except on purely social issues. These correlations should be read in conjunction with the actual items of the three attitude scales. It is clear that in the political items (involving military preparedness and foreign policy) judgments of national vulnerability, likelihood of aggression and social class of respondent might be the important influences. Where humaneness of social practice on the home front is in question (e.g. racial prejudice, treatment of criminals etc.) moralism does play a part.


Correlations of selected variables with moralism among 100 Technical College students

.....................Moralism....Pol. C...Soc. C...Mor. C....S. Des...Extr....Neur

Voting choice... .078...... .472.... .269...... .287....... .025... -.049... -.064
Moralism....................... -.155... -.239...... .377...... .403.... -.044... -.123
Political conservatism............... .504...... .171...... .042.... -.014... -.158
Social conservatism................................ .213..... -.217..... .056.... .059
Moral conservatism.............................................. -.045..... .065... -.092
Social desirability............................................................... -.042... -.303
Extraversion.................................................................................... .318


An apparently satisfactory measuring instrument for moralism was produced. Instead of ranking people on an arbitrary value continuum of morality, it simply categorises people into whether or not they do accept a morality -- be it of whatever sort in their own personal life. This makes it possible for empirical investigations into the causes of moralistic attitudes to proceed. Given its importance to the great debates over social issues (also confirmed in this work) that feature so prominently in public life nowadays, an understanding of moralism could have a far-reaching impact. That it could be related to the justifications given for parental punishment during early childhood (as distinct to the type or intensity of that punishment) remains an open and interesting possibility. The initial checks made in this study show that moralism is not related to the broad personality categories of extraversion or neuroticism. The cognitive effects and correlates of moralistic training also still offer a promising field for investigation. As has been mentioned before (Maze, 1973), it could well be maintained that a belief in an absolute right and wrong is a type of delusion. It attributes to objects or actions a property for which there is no obvious manifestation or evidence. What needs does this mystical attribution subserve? Does it indicate a need to be protected from the imperatives of one's own impulses or is there a cognitive limitation or inadequacy of some kind? The aggressive violence of moralistic political movements (e.g. the anti-apartheid movement?) with their talk of 'conspiracy' and their blatant misrepresentations of their opponents in demoniacal terms 96), do in fact make an understanding of moralism an urgent necessity. (For a fuller disquisition on the Australian anti-apartheid movement see Ray 1971d.) The comment by the British Conservative Home Secretary (Mr Reginald Maudling) to the effect that 'there was an apparently growing doctrine that if one held views strongly enough, one was entitled to impose them on others by force (7) is also most relevant here.


The foregoing study fell into the well-known mould of correlating pencil-and-paper personality measures. This alone will obviously not suffice. We also want to know whether our new personality measure (the moralism scale) is related to actual behaviour of a politically radical kind. By reason of its topicality at the time of writing, the particular behaviour selected for examination centred around the anti-apartheid movement. It was desired to ascertain whether moralism was especially high among anti-apartheid demonstrators. If this could be shown to be so, it would provide some encouragement to the view that moralism is one of the causes of anti-apartheid demonstrating.


It was proposed to obtain the mean scores of a group of people who had actually taken part in an anti-Apartheid demonstration and compare their scores on the Moralism scale with those previously obtained. This was not a particularly easy enterprise. The anti-Apartheid 'movement' as such is quite inchoate and there existed the real danger that contacts made purely through anti-Apartheid formal organisations might cover only 'organisation men' -- people who find an important part of their social rewards by joining any radical movement that happens to be going. It was desirable, therefore, to cast our net widely enough to catch 'supporters' as well -- people who demonstrate out of concern for the cause who may not necessarily be habitually alienated. Two separate solutions to this sampling problem seemed possible and both were adopted. One solution was to administer a questionnaire to all students in the Introduction to Sociology course at the University of N.S.W. It was felt on a priori grounds that a substantial proportion of Sociology students might at some time have taken part in one of the demonstrations and a question was included in the schedule to check on this. Students who had demonstrated could then be separated out and compared with those who had not. The other solution, and the one that will be reported initially here, was to send interviewers out on the campus to ask people whether or not they had ever demonstrated and, if they had, ask them to fill out a questionnaire. In this sample two students were used as interviewers. They contacted people they knew personally and also approached people in places such as the cafeteria. The questionnaires used in the campus-wide study contained the moralism and social desirability scales as before, but the accompanying scales were different. There was an Attitude to Apartheid scale plus the Ray (1971c) Attitude to Authority scale and an Alienation scale.

These scales deserve description in some detail. The attitude to Apartheid scale is given in the appendix. It is a balanced ten item scale designed to reflect condemnation versus acceptance of Apartheid. It is scored so that a high score denotes approval of Apartheid. With this scale it was hoped to provide an attitudinal counterpart to the behavioural dichotomy. The Attitude to Authority (AA) scale has, of course, been fully described elsewhere. Suffice it so say here that the AA scale is designed to provide a less inferential and more predictively valid measure of authoritarianism than does the California F scale (Adorno et al, 1950). It has been found to predict submissive, but not domineering or aggressive behaviour (See Ray, 1971c ). The Alienation scale was that given in the previous chapter.


In gathering this sample, the interviewers endeavoured to obtain a highly polarised group. That is, a particular effort was made to obtain people who were opposed to demonstrating as well as those who actively supported the cause. In contrast to the other sample of students to be reported, then, the non-demonstrators here are also to some extent anti-demonstrators. There were twenty-four demonstrators and twenty-seven non-demonstrators in the sample. A 'demonstrator' was defined as someone who answered 'Yes' to the question: 'Have you ever taken part in an anti-Apartheid demonstration?' appearing at the end of the questionnaire. All respondents answered yes or no.

Pooling responses for both types of respondent produced results some of which were quite similar to those obtained in Study I. The correlation between moralism and social desirability was .402 (cf. .403). The correlation between moralism scores and scores on the attitude to apartheid scale was -.368 (cf. -.239 with the social conservatism scale in Study I) . Note that both attitude scales are scored so that a radical would get a low score. The correlation of -.368 is significant at the .01 level. Moralists were not more authoritarian (r = -.185) but were less alienated (r = -.277). Since normlessness has always figured as an element in the concept of alienation, this later result may be taken as concurrent validation for the moralism scale. Moralism and normlessness are obviously opposed.

It is when we come to the correlations with behaviour that the results partake of the unexpected. The correlations between having demonstrated and moralism is non-significant and is in fact in the direction opposite to that expected. With 'Yes' in answer to the 'Have you demonstrated' question scored '2' and 'No' scored '1', the r with moralism scores was -.133. To have attitudes and behaviour unrelated is conceptual problem enough, but to have them running in opposite directions is very peculiar indeed.

To help sort out this peculiarity, the data was divided into the two sets of demonstrators and non-demonstrators and re-analysed. The mean scores on the moralism scale (SDs given in brackets) for the two groups was 78.41 (10.11) for the demonstrators and 81.18 (10.48) for the non-demonstrators. Both these levels are high in relation to what was observed with the sample of Study I -- where the mean was 70.64 , (13.49). This does of course tend to suggest a U-curve relationship -- with both people who are strongly 'for' and people who are strongly 'against' being especially moralistic.

A much more revealing comparison uncovered by the re-analysis, however, was in the correlation between moralism and social desirability compared across the two groups. For the anti-demonstrators it was .193 while for the demonstrators it was .601. Note that this cannot be explained in terms of a high level of social desirability (invalid) responding on the part of the demonstrators. Their overall mean on the SD scale was in fact -- at 24.75 (6.18) lower than that of the non-demonstrators -- at 28.88 (5.32). This compares with figures of 23.11 (4.87) for the sample of Study I. A summary table of the correlation observed in this study is given below as Table 2.


Moralism among two groups of students

A. Correlations among 24 demonstrators

................................Auth...........Ali.......Att. Apar.....Soc. Desirability

Moralism................ -.347......... -.570.... -.655.............. .601
Authoritarianism..................... -.172..... .286.............. -.306
Alienation............................................. .431.............. -.358
Attitude to Apartheid................................................... -.656

B. Correlations among 27 non-demonstrators

...............................Auth............Ali.......Att. Apar.....Soc. Desirability

Moralism............... -.169.......... .063.... -.219.............. -.193
Authoritarianism..................... -.223.... .576................ .078
Alienation........................................... -.227............... -.476
Attitude to Apartheid................................................... -.295


The evidence just reported suggests that moralism brings about anti-Apartheid attitudes, but not anti-Apartheid demonstrating. The high correlation between the moralism scale and social desirability among the demonstrators, however, does suggest that their responses to the moralism scale cannot be taken at face-value. Among the demonstrators, moralism is associated with 'faking good. Our suggested explanation for the findings will therefore be centred around this phenomenon.

The most charitable view we can take of social desirability responding is that it indicates confusion. As Martin (1964b) suggests, responses in terms of a social desirability set are a recourse where there is some difficulty in responding in terms of content. What might be the source of this confusion? It could be that moralism is in some sense old-fashioned, reactionary or traditional and that, increasingly, the norm among educated people is to reject it. Notions that value judgments are in some sense non-objective do in fact seem to permeate modern social discourse. Among educated people, the saying that 'There is no such thing as Right and Wrong' is almost conventional wisdom. It makes sense then that no-one should so thoroughly accept this view as the radical activist. If nothing else, it does have the value of freeing him from so much that has gone before. Against this, however, we must set the strong appeal we have noted before that moral imperatives do appear to have for at least the radical propagandist. There is to the radical some attraction for appeals to absolute and inalienable Right or Rights.

We could, of course, understand this conflict as only apparent and really rather Machiavellian. We could say that although the radical does not believe in morality himself, he does find it effective in motivating those others to whom he must appeal or whom he must try to convert.

I cannot admit this Machiavellian answer because it is too implausible. I am in a word, prepared to allow the possibility of sincere and honest radicalism. It is suggested that the real answer lies again in the by now familiar phenomenon of attitude-behaviour discrepancy (Ray, 1971d ). If one may for a moment wax anecdotal, on occasions I have, when talking with young Maoists and others of the more 'revolutionary' (and minuscule) Left in Australia, often had the experience of hearing their actions and creed justified by talk that boiled down to something being 'just wrong' or 'basically unjust' (cf. Bedford, 1970). When giving my reply to this: 'But I don't believe that there's any such thing as Right and Wrong', the typical answer was initially a rather long silence followed by: 'But I don't either'. This would then be followed by some sort of attempt by other arguments to persuade me to feel as the revolutionary did about the fancied 'injustice'. The conversation always terminated in the revolutionary realising that he was speaking to someone who just did not get angry about the same things he did. This caused complete (if sometimes polite) cessation of further interaction. The radical, then, although he would on serious reflection reject out of hand the notion of an objective Right, does find in the heat of debate no language more appropriate to express his feelings than the language of Right and Wrong. Once out of his armchair, the radical is as moralistic (if not more so) as the reactionary. His abstract conclusions about the nature of Right have not penetrated far or deeply into his everyday behaviour or thinking. Underneath it all, he is still working with the same sort of assumptions as the reactionary. The point at issue is always what is right, not whether anything is right. If then to some the radical appears an especially moralistic person, this is to be understood as showing that he is a person who feels especially deeply about certain social phenomena and, as a consequence, he has more need of the language that is traditionally appropriate to expressing such feeling and which has most efficacy in inspiring others to feel similarly. The danger of course is that if the radical talks as if there were an absolute Right and Wrong he might, given the opportunity, act as if there were also. We all know the pitiless oppression that can result (e.g. the Spanish inquisition, Stalinist Russia) when men believe that they act in the name of Right. Thus alone can inhumane acts be justified in the name of humanity and mercy.

The challenge, then, is to understand why opposing affect can be attached to the same phenomenon or policy among different people. Given the need to defend that affect, and where an appeal to self-interest is not immediately plausible, people at either end of the political spectrum will probably defend it (at least initially) in moralistic language. If we are to take note of the political quotations given earlier at all we might in fact entertain a revised hypothesis, not that radicals are more moralistic, but rather that they more often express affect for policies or actions that can not readily be justified by observable or inferable self-interest. They might be, in a word, more altruisic (to put a 'good' face on it) or more irrational (to put a 'bad' face on it). For whatever reason they may more often have a practical need to give a moral apologia for their policies and preferences.

A step towards the explanation of this opposition of affect-attachment between conservatives and radicals is to be found in Ray, 1972d. It is there suggested that childhood experience of inter-personal aggression may carry over to assumptions in adult life about the greater or lesser probability of international aggression.

Looking at it from the radical's point of view, one crucial problem is to understand why it is that some people may actually like war and enjoy aggression. The facile answer that such people are 'sick' is at best false (Elms, 1970; Masling, 1954; Martin & Ray, 1972; Ray, 1971c; Ray, 1972c and e) and at worst the sort of terrifying value-judgment that put Zhores Medvedev and other Soviet intellectuals who criticise the regime in psychiatric hospitals for indefinite periods and against all medical evidence. Until we have understood why some people like aggression (and indeed perhaps after we have come to understand it) we can be sure that there will be many more Vietnams.

The above interpretation of the findings of Study II, although plausible, does stand in need of further confirmation. This is especially so because informal interviews with some of the respondents revealed that at least some of the people who reject the idea of a discoverable morality but who nonetheless order their lives according to what they believe to be 'right' were not really being inconsistent. Some respondents appeared to be using the terms 'good' and 'right' simply to index the accepted practices or preferences of their own community or reference group. In this sense an argument about the 'goodness' of some practice could intelligibly proceed as an argument about what is or is not compatible with the other standards or preferences of the group. This is perhaps particularly likely where it is felt that the particular preference or standard is one that would be required to ensure the enjoyment by the individual of certain universally sought biological states (such as shelter and nourishment). It might be argued that humanitarianism is 'right' in this sense. It is a value which, if held, gives me the best assurance of the good (pleasant) life. This is, of course, an empirical proposition and can be argued as such without any commitment to belief in a discoverable morality. This, then, was taken into account in designing Study III.


It had been hoped that both the content and format of the moralism scale would have precluded the type of responding described above-where the 'do what is right' alternative is seen as being to some extent equivalent to 'do what is to your own advantage'. Since it appeared that this might not have happened as planned in some instances, a further scale of the classical 'attitude to -' type seemed called for -- in this case 'attitude to morality'. This scale would take as its focus the issue that the moralism scale had eschewed -- i.e. whether there is or not an objective Right and Wrong. The items of the scale constructed to fill this need are given in the appendix.

As was foreshadowed above, the sample used in this study was obtained by administering a questionnaire to the Introduction to Sociology class at the University of NSW. Aside from the moralism and attitude to morality scales, the questionnaire also contained the attitude to Apartheid and social desirability scales as before. The scales occurred in the questionnaire in the order in which they were given above -- i.e. with moralism coming first. Analysable results were obtained from 117 respondents.

Reliabilities (Cronbach's, 1951, coefficient 'alpha') observed for the scales were as follows: Moralism .9I; Attitude to Morality .76; Attitude to Apartheid .73; and Social Desirability .69.

As was to be expected from the results of both previous studies, there was a significant negative relationship between the Moralism and Attitude to Apartheid scales (r = -.200) when the sample was analysed as a whole. The overall correlation between moralism and social desirability was also maintained -- with an r of .203.

As in the second study above, the correlation between moralism and having actually demonstrated was again non-significant but negative in sign (r = -.088). When the subjects were divided into the two groups of thirty demonstrators and eighty-seven non-demonstrators, the means of the non-demonstrators were again slightly (but non-significantly) higher on the moralism scale -- 75.19 (12.03) versus 72.76 (15.40). The scores on the Social Desirability scale were 24.87 (4.83) for the non-demonstrators and 23.86 (5.40) for the demonstrators.

The matter of particularly great interest in this study, however, is the comparison between the two groups with the attitude to morality scale. The mean for the demonstrators was 54.26 (12.58) and for the non-demonstrators it was 60.79 (8.97). The 't' between these two means is significant <.05. The correlation between the moralism and social desirability scales was .074 for the non-demonstrators and .453 for the demonstrators. The correlation between the attitude to morality and social desirability scales was -.082 for the demonstrators and .062 for the non-demonstrators -- both of which are non-significant.

Our suggestion that the much higher correlation between the moralism and social desirability scales among the demonstrators could be due to their overt rejection of morality has thus received support. The theoretical mid-point (no. of items x mid-point of each item) of the attitude to morality scale is 60. We can see therefore that the non-demonstrators vacillate on whether there is an objective morality whereas the demonstrators definitely reject it.

Both the findings and the inferences drawn from the previous study have then been supported by this third study.

The overall correlations observed in Study III are given in Table 3.


Correlations with moralism among 117 first-year students

A. Demonstrators (n = 30)

.........................................Att. Mor......Att. Ap.......Soc. Desirability

Moralism........................... .211............. -.394.......... .453
Attitude to Morality................................ .081.......... -.062
Attitude to Apartheid............................................... -.272

B. Non-Demonstrators (n = 87)

........................................Att. Mor.......Att. Ap........Soc. Desirability

Moralism............................ .340............ -.155........... -.074
Attitude to Morality............................... -.061............. .062
Attitude to Apartheid................................................. -.108


We must conclude that, contrary to what one would suppose from everyday observation, the radical activist is not (at least overtly) a moralist and is in fact a person who is characterised by the clear rejection of an absolute morality. He is, however, caught in the ambivalence of seeing morality as highly desirable. Among radicals, people who are trying to 'fake good' choose the 'Do what is right' alternative of the moralism scale rather than the 'Do what is to your own advantage' alternative. Among non-activists and non-radicals doing what is right is not seen as deserving more esteem than doing what is to one's own advantage.

We can thus see the radical activist as a conflicted person who has particular need of just that which he also sees he must reject. In terms of the explanation for moralism given in Maze (1973), we can only suppose that the radical activist is one who has received all the characteristic totalitarian upbringing of the moralist but who for some reason has rejected moral absolutism at the conscious level only. What his attitude to morality scores would disguise, the correlation between his moralism and social desirability scores strongly reveals. Everyday observation then is not so wrong after all. Both attitudinal and behavioural radicalism does go with moralism -- the only qualification necessary is that behavioural radicalism goes with what is potentially a most pernicious form of moralism -- unacknowledged moralism.

It is perhaps in order here to look at the possible reasons both for the radical's overt rejection of morality and his real attraction to it. We could say, as was suggested earlier, that the radical simply feels outrage at the discomfiture of others (and of himself) much more readily. This need not necessarily be traced back to the fact that he was brought up to respond in that way, though there are now plenty of studies (e.g. Keniston, 1968) which confirm that young radical leaders at least are simply putting into practice values they learnt from their parents. They are not in fact characteristically alienated from the culture of their homes. It could also be possible that some sort of biological predisposition to sensitivity or emotionality (Eysenck, 1967) has a role in making some people more radical than their home-background would demand. In either case this outrage is presumably greater than what other people in general feel. In this situation the idea that the radical has identified some property ( 'wrongness' ) of the outrageous situation which other people have not as yet identified at once furnishes the radical with cause for self-congratulation, explanation for his own oddity, and material for propaganda. We can thus see that there are strong incentives for moralism to be perpetuated and transmitted in radical families. In any one instance we could not be sure then to what extent moralism was a cause or an effect of radicalism. Certainly the radical brought up in a radical family would have a remarkably good chance of learning both the outrage and its apologia. No reasonable person could of course object to others feeling outrage of this nature. It is in the apologia that danger might lurk.

Having seen then that moralism for the radical is probably both a response enforced in childhood and a response of great immediate value, we need to consider why it is in general not acknowledged when under challenge. Again as was suggested above, the answer probably lies in greater acceptance by the radical of the conclusions of an intellectual sub-culture. The prominence and extremeness of students in radical movements is probably the best-known evidence of this. This could also have a bearing on why radicals feel greater outrage about social phenomena. Through being better informed, the stimuli to outrage are probably more available to them. Given the exposure to disturbing information and ideas that students have, people in the general population might also be as radical as students; greater outrage might in some cases be simply the product of greater or more vivid information. Beyond sub-cultural influences, however, the denial of morality would also have value to the radical in enabling him to discard the system which has produced the phenomena disturbing to him. If the man who supports 'the system' argues that: 'We think this is right because . . .' it is indeed a neat and intellectually respectable ploy to say: 'But nothing is right'. This would certainly confound most opponents rather readily. The radical has then detected that the untenability of moralistic assumptions invalidates many of the assumptions upon which existing society is built. As one who would tear down what exists, this suits him very well indeed. The sorrow is that he has not realised that the moralism is probably at least as harmful as the assumptions it has been used to justify. On this account what we want are more radical radicals. A society where grandiose justifications of one's own personal affect were recognised as not possible would surely be a more tolerant one. 'All men are equal!' are surely fighting words in a way that 'I like to treat all men equally' or 'it would be in our own interest to treat all men equally' surely are not. The moralist can condemn. The non-moralist must try to understand.


1. Among philosophers, hostility to such a view extends at least as far back as Friedrich Nietzsche: e.g. Beyond Good and Evil (1907), London: Foulis.

2. Report in the "Australian" newspaper, 23 January 1971. (p. 11)

3. Report in the "Sydney Morning Herald" newspaper, 10 February 1971. (p. 11)

4. Report in the "Australian" newspaper, 21 November 1970. (P. 11B)

5. Report in "Time" magazine, 6 January 1967. (p. 39 )

6. A recent anti-apartheid poster to be seen on the campuses of all three Sydney universities was headed: 'Australia-South Africa -- the white conspiracy. Bishop Crowther speaks'. Paranoia is not exclusive to the political Right.

7. Report in the "Australian" newspaper, 16 January 1971. (p. 10 )


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The Moralism scale

Following are a list of things that people sometimes have to decide whether to do or not. We would like you to read each question and tell us in each case what you would go by if the decision were up to you. Tell us in each case whether you would choose what was right or whether you would choose what was to your own best advantage. These questions are all ones where many people think we should just do what is to our own advantage, so please do not feel afraid to say so if that is what you think. You circle one of the three numbers to indicate your answer.

1 Should we steal things from big business firms? (Presuming you're not likely to get caught)
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

2 Should we steal things from persons we know? (presuming we're not likely to get caught)
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

3 Should we give back money we see someone drop in the street? (Presuming there was nobody else around to see whether we did or not)
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

4 Should we allow African negroes to migrate to Australia if they want to?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

5 Should we allow Chinese people to migrate to Australia if they want to?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

6 Should we torture prisoners of war to get information out of them?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

7 Should we tell white lies?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

8 Should we tell serious lies?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

9 Should men force a girl to have sex with them if she didn't want to?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

10 Should we kill someone we hate if we were pretty sure we could get away with it?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

11 Should we bash up someone who we really dislike?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

12 Should Australia send its troops to fight in Vietnam?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

13 Should the Australian Government co-operate with the South African Government in business and defence even though the South Africans are hard on the black people?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

14 Should girls remain virgins until they are married?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

15 Should we do things that might harm other people?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

16 Should you help a small-time criminal in any way?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

17 Should we eat, drink and be merry while people in other countries are starving?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

18 Should we eat, drink and be merry while people next door are starving?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

19 Should we tell lies to escape paying some of our taxes?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

20 Should we break the speed limit when we are driving?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

21 Should we say insulting things about other people behind their back?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

22 Should we say insulting things about other people to their face?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

23 Should we dob in our mates to the boss if they have done something wrong?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

24 Should we crawl to the boss?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

25 Should we bung on an act to get out of doing something we don't like?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

26 If someone we know is in trouble with the police, should we help him to avoid them?
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

27 You are a used-car salesman. You have an old car to sell which you know will break down completely not long after it is sold. A customer from interstate, who doesn't know much about cars, offers you $500 for it and says he hopes to drive it back to his home state. Would you:
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

28 You are the honorary treasurer of a social club. You know you can take some of the club's money for your own use without anybody ever finding out. Would you:
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

29 You are a prosperous shopkeeper. You get some goods in at a very low cost to you. You are deciding whether to pass on the low cost to your customers or not. Your customers need the goods but cannot get them from anyone but you. Would you:
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

30 You are a big businessman. You have a small competitor. You know you can ruin your competitor by cutting prices temporarily. Would you:
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

31 You are a trade union boss. Some of your unionists want to force non-union members to join the union by threats of bashing, but they won't do it unless they get the go-ahead from you. Would you:
3 Do what is right
1 Do what is to our own advantage
2 Don't know

(1) Items 23, 24 and 25 above use peculiarly Australian idiom and might have to be omitted if administered to other populations.
(2) The scale score is the sum of the numbers circled.

The Attitude to Morality Scale

Items marked 'R' are reverse-scored.

Following is a set of statements on which we would like to get your opinion. You will find them a bit repetitious but this is because this questionnaire is only a trial version. On the basis of your response we expect to be able to cut out more than half of the statements in later versions of the survey. You indicate whether you personally agree or disagree with each statement by circling a number. Try to answer each question in its own right without looking back to see how you responded before. Answers are given by circling one of the numbers from 5 to 1 to signify Strongly Agree, Agree, Not Sure, Disagree, Strongly Disagree.

1 There is no such thing as an absolute right and wrong. R
2 The only things that are right and wrong are what man has made so by his laws. R
3 Things are only wrong if you think they are. R
4 There are some things which can never possibly be right.
5 It is always possible that what is right to one man will be wrong to another. R
6 What is right and wrong was laid down before man ever began to think about it.
7 Right and wrong is a myth. R
8 What is right and wrong doesn't depend on men's opinions about it.
9 There is a higher moral law of which man's law is only an imperfect reflection.
10 There are some things which are right regardless of time and place
11 One man's opinion on what is right and wrong is as good as another's. R
12 There are universal moral laws.
13 What is right for one man may be wrong for another. R
14 Some things are just wrong and that's all there is to it.
15 Whether a thing is right or not doesn't depend on man's convenience.
16 There are no absolute, unchanging moral laws that man can go by R
17 Things are regarded as wrong only because if everyone did them, civilized life would become impossible. R
18 Your conscience is nearly always an infallible guide.
19 Some things you just know to be wrong without anybody needing to tell you.
20 You cannot go against your conscience.

The Attitude to Apartheid Scale

Items marked 'R' are reverse-scored.

1 The South African government should definitely abolish its Apartheid policy as soon as possible. R
2 Apartheid may not do as much harm as some people think
3 The South African blacks are every bit as good as the whites and should not be discriminated against. R
4 Some separation of different races is a good thing if conflicts are to be avoided.
5 The South Africans are ruled by a brutal Fascist Government. R
6 People here in Australia should do everything they can to smash apartheid. R
7 If the blacks in South Africa were really being oppressed as much as some people make out, they could always leave the place or use force to get a better deal from the white minority.
8. It is survival of the fittest in this world so if the South African blacks can't help themselves they don't deserve to be helped.
9 It is no good us condemning the South African whites because we in Australia would probably do the same if we were outnumbered four to one by a less civilised race.
10 The South African attitude towards their blacks is a disgrace to humanity. R

The Social Desirability Scale

Items marked 'R' are reverse-scored.

Here are a few questions about how you see yourself. Answer 5, 4. 3, 2, or 1 to indicate from "Definitely Yes" to "Definitely No"

1 R I have sometimes taken unfair advantage of another person.
2 I am always willing to admit when I make a mistake.
3 R There have been occasions when I took advantage of someone.
4 R I sometimes try to get even rather than forgive and forget.
5 I am always courteous; even to people who are disagreeable.
6 R I sometimes feel resentful when I don't get my own way.
7 No matter who I'm talking to; I'm always a good listener.
8 I am quick to admit making a mistake.

Click here for a list of all John Ray's comments on moral philosophy