Such concepts as-justice, honesty, fairness, righteousness, conscientiousness, disinterestedness, prudence, incorruptibility, freedom, mercy, etc., are purely moral concepts because they represent the moral values. They are capable of deeply influencing and also changing the course of society. Political and social movements normally hinge upon the values of this kind. What then do we mean by morality?
‘Morality’ which is often equated with ‘moral code’ is sometimes taken for those rules of behaviour which are admitted at large in society. In this sense, it is equivalent to “mores” and mostly coincides with customs, conventions, fashions, etiquettes, folkways, etc. But actually, in sociology, we make a distinction between moral rules or code and other kinds of social rules.
As Gisbert has pointed out, in a strict and more accurate sense, the moral code is “that body of rules or principles concerned with the good and evil as manifested to us by conscience”. This body of rules is admitted at large by the society.
P. Gisbert is of the opinion that, “the moral good is essentially different from the utilitarian and sectional good “. When we speak of Mr. Sharma as being good at business or in public speaking, we ordinarily mean his ability in that particular field.
But when we apply the term ‘good’ to man in the moral sense, we mean that he is living upto the moral code, and that he is trustworthy, helpful, sympathetic, and humble towards his fellowmen, faithful to his wife and children, honest in business, loyal to the nation, and possesses similar other qualities. This “goodness” is not utilitarian, nor sectional, but integral.
Moral principles, ideas and notions are crystallised in the form of an institution called ‘morality’. Morality has been a vital factor in all the societies of the world, including the uncivilised, in affecting and controlling the social behaviour of man. Moral rules which prescribe the wrong are the very basis of our collective life.
Hence the evolution of the group life of man is connected with the evolution of his notions. Moral notions are at the back of the give-and-take policy without which group life is difficult. Because of moral force an individual tries to suppress his impulsive behaviour and individualistic tendencies.
Moral principles get the sanction of society and strongly support the general system of values. Since moral ideas are inculcated into the personalities of the children from the very beginning they become habituated to honour them and obey them. Much of the moral norms are internalised by the individuals during the period of socialisation and hence they obey them due to some internal pressure.
The pressure is sometimes so strong that some individuals even in critical situations may not be prepared to go against it. They are more powerful than laws and legislations. Sometimes the people who are prepared to break the laws on some grounds are not ready to go against the dominant moral values.