Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Moral Universals, Ancient Culture and Indian Youth: Part II - Facing the Challenge of Westernization

Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Moral Universals, Ancient Culture and Indian Youth: Part II - Facing the Challenge of Westernization

Article excerpt

Everywhere, human beings want to understand causal explanations of suffering (Shweder, 2000; Shweder, Much, Mahapatra & Park, 2003). They include inter-personal, biomedical and moral modes of causal explanations of suffering. The most interesting and yet little explored by psychologists is the moral mode. Out of the other two modes, interpersonal refers to largely blaming others for our miseries, and the biomedical explanations involve finding causes and cure of suffering in material objects. In the moral mode, the agent takes responsibility of its suffering and searches the answer to eliminate it through wisdom and reasoning, and where culture is a significant factor. Morality involves mastering knowledge and intelligence so that the agent acquires effective use of his/her abilities of discrimination and judgment. Shweder et al. (2003) in their analysis of moral discourse of the residents of the old town of Bhubaneswar, Orissa abstracted three clusters of ethics which individuals follow to maintain order in society-the Ethics of Autonomy, the Ethics of Community, and the Ethics of Divinity-as a result of which suffering is avoidable. In other words, they are the laws of personal responsibility as enshrined in the Hindu concept of karma.

In Part -1 of this paper, Renner, Ramalingam, and Pirta (2013) explored current evidence on moral issues as evidenced by Moral Foundation Theory (Graham et al., 2011), in Part - II the question is whether Indian youth growing in certain cultural and religious milieu face the challenge of westernization and globalization. It is reasonable to hypothesize, if these moral codes have functional value in maintaining order in a social system, and in turn, avoids suffering of an agent. They may also have value for the individual in other human social systems. However, different social systems have evolved apparently different moral codes. Though they may appear extremely divergent, they can be classified under these three ethics of autonomy, community, and divinity. Cultures also vary by inculcating each of these three moral codes to a great or lesser extent, for example, Western societies may give more emphasis on autonomy whereas some Eastern cultures prefer divinity. At certain stages of human development, moral codes of divinity and community were perhaps functionally significant in maintaining order in a social system, but in modern global scenario, autonomy codes apparently have greater functional value.

There are three important questions. Is there a possibility of some other moral code? Are these moral codes universal? Lastly, whether those moral codes that have lost meaning in the present context, can be modified or reinterpreted to accommodate new events? At least five modes of moral codes have been identified (Moral Foundations Theory (MFT): Harm/care, Fairness/ reciprocity, Ingroup/loyalty, Authority/respect and Purity/sanctity); they are universal, and are adaptable to new events (Haidt, 2007; Haidt & Kesebir, 2010). Human understanding on these issues, perhaps, originated when human groups were in direct contact with nature, and was propagated from one generation to the other, as means of interacting with other humans, animals, plants and other non-material objects in the world. In this context, Wilson (2012) suggested that supernatural entities were invented to mediate these interactions. Disorder would ensue if these ways of interaction were not followed. At the present stage of human cultural evolution, as the boundaries of group are fading in a rather rapid manner and emerging in drastically new ways, a new world order is imminent. For our common future, new understanding of morality, religion and evolution seems imperative (Bloom, 2012; Ramachandran, 2010). But the reality is, an infant grows up in a culture and imbibes its values, and as a young man or woman, when these values mature in brain or take the form of virtues, or are part of his/her identity and character, they become important mediators of interactions in any social system. …

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