What Are the Elements Determining Morality?

The elements determining morality depend on the individual and the surrounding culture; however, basic human emotions, religious beliefs and political views are decisive factors in establishing morality. Morals emerge from the superego, the region of the brain that controls feelings of guilt and conscience, according to Sigmund Freud.

Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, believed that the superego incorporates values from parental and other authority figures, as well as moral dictates from society. A fear of punishment often influences a sense of right and wrong. However, traits such as compassion and empathy are generally considered to be inherent in the human psyche. Corrupt morals can also be internalized in the superego, causing such problems as racism and sexism.

Religions typically establish standards of behavior that determine morality. For instance, the Ten Commandments in the Bible outline a code of conduct that is influential to societal norms of Western society.

A sense of fairness that stems from moral principles is inherent in judicial systems around the world. There is debate as to whether or not morality is subjective and determined by the situation, or is objective and categorically right or wrong in all situations. Examples include the issue of abortion, censorship and the right to bear arms. Psychologists and sociologists often consider morals to evolve over time based on changing life circumstances.