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A morality is a complex of concepts and beliefs by which an individual sets a standard of right and wrong for his or her actions. Oftentimes, these concepts and beliefs are created by a culture or group to develop a regulation of individual behaviours.

Views on morality have varied greatly over time and from culture to culture. Usually, a morality can apply to the generality or to part of the fields in which the personal choices of individuals will express an intention that implies some reference to the other individuals (not necessarily belonging to the same community). This causes indeed an academical dispute about whether morality can exist only in presence of a generical society (meant also as a mere plurality of few individuals), or it could also exist in a hypothetical individual with no relationships with other similars.

A concept of morality can be expressed in any of the possible fields and may tend to any of the possible directions, and moralities exist that recommend heavy restrictions on behaviours, as well as moralities that recommend totally free self-determination, as well as a variety of intermediate positions.

The respective efficacy of these rules depends on the social position of the group that develops them, on its eventual political representativity, on its relationships with the norms of the related society. In case a morality can represent a relevant position inside a society, it will proportionally influence the general rules (and its formal codes - often with regard to penal codes) for many unavoidable aspects in the determination of the juridically correct conduct. For this reason, it is frequent that most of the fields in which the common appreciation on morality will have a relevant influence are sex-related matters, economical and professional conducts (with the notable example of deontology[?]), and human relationships in general.

A morality, a code of conduct, can be suggested by many sources. Very often, an individuals morality is influenced, to some degree, by theology or religion, but other other sources are often cited, such as objective reality or political reality.

Many groups, effectively, might be distinguished by the morality concepts they share, as a fundamental characteristic; in some cases, the common view on morality can be a basic factor of aggregation, as it happens in developed countries where the giantism of social structures causes (for other reasons) the need of re-building inside them newer sub-groups, identified by a common belief or view upon certain matters. This process, indeed, shows a proximity with the process of creation of political regroupements, and in fact sometimes the two fields (not always reciprocally) interfere.

On a subjective level, instead, morality is a system of personal ethical conduct that the individual imposes himself. It is more concerned with individual choices, as a personal effect of his free will, rather than with dispute resolution or conflict, or however it does not imply a relationship with other individuals or groups. This subjective self-regulation too can sometimes be derived from theology or religion, but is also often seen as totally personal, unsharable, intuitive, creative and aesthetic (a "moral core").

The nature of morals themselves is often at issue between those who advocate shared morality or intuitive morality. They may be seen as rules, or simply as examples drawn from stories. Most sources of morality, e.g. the Bible, include both, although it is usually clear that the rules drawn in the story itself are more important than those observed within it as examples.

Evolutionary psychologists have argued that human morality assists survival. An innate sense of right and wrong may allow a social, thinking species to act cohesively, so helping the society and its members to thrive. Selected behaviours, seen in abstraction as moral codes, are common to all human cultures, and reflect, in their development, similarities to natural selection. This aspect of morality can be seen in religious doctrine, much of which deals with the acceptance, in people, of positive aspects, and the rejection of negative ones. Thus it can be argued that there may be a simple Darwinian explanation for the existence of religion: regardless of the truth or falsity of religious beliefs, religion tends to encourage morality, morality tends to encourage communality, and communality tends to assist survival.

In some juridical systems, the word morality concretely means a requirement for the access to certain charges or careers, or for the obtaining of certain licenses or concessions, and generally consists of the absence of previous records on (i.e.) crimes, bankruptcy, political or commercial irregularities.

In some systems, the lack of morality of the individual can also be a sufficient cause for punishment, or can be an element for the grading of the punishment.

Specially in the systems where modesty (i.e., with reference to sexual crimes) is legally protected or otherwise regulated, the definition of morality as a legal element and in order to determine the cases of infringement, is usually left to the vision and appreciation of the single judge and hardly ever precisely specified. In such cases, it is common to verify an application of the prevalent common morality of the interested community, that consequently becomes enforced by the law for further reference.

See: blue laws, sexual morality, moral relativism, moral absolutism, moral universalism

Compare: ethics

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