Morality Play

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves the hard questions. But often, we don’t. So we get others to ask it for us.

Try the Morality Play quiz (discovered via ST).

This is one meme which will make you think.

My result is as below:

Your Moral Parsimony Score is 45%

What does this mean?

Moral frameworks can be more or less parsimonious. That is to say, they can employ a wide range of principles, which vary in their application according to circumstances (less parsimonious) or they can employ a small range of principles which apply across a wide range of circumstances without modification (more parsimonious). An example might make this clear. Let’s assume that we are committed to the principle that it is a good to reduce suffering. The test of moral parsimony is to see whether this principle is applied simply and without modification or qualification in a number of different circumstances. Supposing, for example, we find that in otherwise identical circumstances, the principle is applied differently if the suffering person is from a different country to our own. This suggests a lack of moral parsimony because a factor which could be taken to be morally irrelevant in an alternative moral framework is here taken to be morally relevant.

How to interpret your score

The higher your percentage score the more parsimonious your moral framework. In other words, a high score is suggestive of a moral framework that comprises a minimal number of moral principles that apply across a range of circumstances and acts. What is a high score? As a rule of thumb, any score above 75% should be considered indicative of a parsimonious moral framework. However, perhaps a better way to think about this is to see how your score compares to other people’s scores.
In fact, your score of 45% is significantly lower than the average score of 65%. This suggests that you have utilised a noticeably wider range of moral principles than average in order to make judgements about the scenarios presented in this test, and that you have tended to judge aspects of the acts and circumstances depicted here to be morally relevant that other people consider to be morally irrelevant.

Moral Parsimony – good or bad?

We make no judgement about whether moral parsimony is a good or bad thing. Some people will think that on balance it is a good thing and that we should strive to minimise the number of moral principles that form our moral frameworks. Others will suspect that moral parsimony is likely to render moral frameworks simplistic and that an overly parsimonious moral framework will leave us unable to deal with the complexity of real circumstances and acts. We’ll leave it up to you to decide who is right.

How was your score calculated?

Your score was calculated by combining and averaging your scores in the four categories that appear below.

Geographical Distance

This category has to do with the impact of geographical distance on the application of moral principles. The idea here is to determine whether moral principles are applied equally when dealing with sets of circumstances and acts that differ only in their geographical location in relation to the person making the judgement.

Your score of 35% is significantly lower than the average score of 73% in this category.

This suggests that geographical distance is a relevant factor in your moral thinking. Usually, this will mean feeling a greater moral obligation towards people located nearby than towards those who are far away. To incorporate geographical distance within your moral framework as a morally relevant factor is to decrease its parsimoniousness.

Family Relatedness

In this category, we look at the impact of family loyalty and ties on the way in which moral principles are applied. The idea here is to determine whether moral principles are applied without modification or qualification when you’re dealing with sets of circumstances and acts that differ only in whether the participants are related through family ties to the person making the judgement.

Your score of 18% is a lot lower than the average score of 54% in this category.

It seems then that family relatedness is an important factor in your moral thinking. Normally, this will mean feeling a greater moral obligation towards people who are related to you than towards those who are not. To the extent that issues of family relatedness form part of your moral thinking, the parsimoniousness of your moral framework is reduced.

Acts and Omissions

This category has to do with whether there is a difference between the moral status of acting and omitting to act where the consequences are the same in both instances. Consider the following example. Let’s assume that on the whole it is a bad thing if a person is poisoned whilst drinking a cola drink. One might then ask whether there is a moral difference between poisoning the coke, on the one hand (an act), and failing to prevent a person from drinking a coke someone else has poisoned, when in a position to do so, on the other (an omission). In this category then, the idea is to determine if moral principles are applied equally when you’re dealing with sets of circumstances that differ only in whether the participants have acted or omitted to act.

Your score of 100% is much higher than the average score of 60% in this category.

It seems that you do not think that the distinction between acting and omitting to act has any real moral significance.

Scale

This category has to do with whether scale is a factor in making moral judgements. A simple example will make this clear. Consider a situation where it is possible to save ten lives by sacrificing one life. Is there a moral difference between this choice and one where the numbers of lives involved are different but proportional – for example, saving 100 lives by sacrificing ten? In this category then, the idea is to determine whether moral principles are applied without modification or qualification when you’re dealing with sets of circumstances that differ only in their scale, as in the sense described above.

Your score of 27% is significantly lower than the average score of 73% in this category.

This suggests that scale, as it is described above, is an important consideration in your moral thinking. To insist on the moral significance of scale is to decrease the parsimoniousness of your moral framework.

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