Morality and Moral Development: Traditional Hindu Concepts

By Srivastava, Chhitij; Dhingra, Vishal et al. | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Morality and Moral Development: Traditional Hindu Concepts


Srivastava, Chhitij, Dhingra, Vishal, Bhardwaj, Anupam, Srivastava, Alka, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: Chhitij. Srivastava, Vishal. Dhingra, Anupam. Bhardwaj, Alka. Srivastava

Morality (from the Latin word moralitas that means "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad (or wrong). It is determined by how one's genetic makeup interacts with the environment. The development of morality has been a subject of investigation for a number of decades, and our understanding of neuro-biological and psychological mechanisms has increased manifolds in the last few decades. Development of morality has been of particular significance to psychiatric literature because of its significant contribution to the development of one's personality and it's aberration in various disorders. Cultures that have been just, equal and moral have been widely accepted and appreciated. In this review, we shall summarize the modern theories of moral development and then look into a part of our past and cultural heritage and review the traditional Hindu concepts of morality and their contribution to development of one's personality and their relevance in the current times.

Introduction

Morality (from the Latin word moralitas that means "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and those that are bad (or wrong). It is an intriguing and evolving construct. Moral values are governed by a number of biological-socio-cultural-religious underpinnings. Not everyone within the same environment ends up with the same moral values. It is determined by how one's genetic makeup interacts with the environment.

The development of morality has been a subject of investigation for a number of decades [sup][1],[2] and our understanding of neuro-biological and psychological mechanisms has increased manifolds in the last few decades.

Development of morality has been of particular significance to psychiatric literature because of its significant contribution to the development of one's personality and it's aberration in various disorders. The abhorrent acts of "immorality" conducted by those who are "psychiatrically unwell" have intrigued the society for long. Society is in some ways in pursuit of the "ultimate in morality". Cultures that have been just, equal and moral have been widely accepted and appreciated. Such social set-ups promote healthy upbringing. An essence of this healthy upbringing is inculcating moral values from parents, teachers, role models, peers, colleagues and the wider society. In this review, we shall summarize the existing modern theories of moral development and then look into a part of our past and cultural heritage and review the traditional Hindu concepts of morality and their contribution to development of one's personality and their relevance in the current times.

Modern Theories of Moral Development

Biological theories

Moral development doesn't start on a blank slate at birth. Our genes determine our temperament to a large extent, although, gene expression can be influenced by one's environment. It therefore, follows that both our genetic makeup and the environment we experience would influence our overall development, including our moral development. However, further discussion on this is not the purpose of this review and therefore, we will not dwell on this further.

Cognitive theories

Cognitive development theorists, Jean Piaget (hereby referred to as Piaget) and Lawrence Kohlberg (hereby referred to as Kohlberg) have shown that the moral development during childhood occurs in stages and is mirrored by other cognitive changes in the child's brain. Piaget referred to himself as a genetic epistemologist, interested in the process of development of human knowledge. He explained that Genetic Epistemology attempts to explain knowledge, and in particular scientific knowledge, based on its history, its sociogenesis, and especially the psychological origins of the notions and operations upon which it is based. …

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