amoral != immoral

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

I have been noticing that with increased frequency many posters have been using the word, “amoral” when they in fact meant to say “immoral.” Amoral means that something is without moral value (neither moral nor immoral.) Immoral is the opposite of moral.

Here is an example from a recent thread from Doper Com2Kid:

Mr. Com2Kid, of course, meant to say “immoral.”

(I don’t have anything against you, Com2Kid, just using you as an example.)

Thank you.


I don’t see it as inaccurate. Moral means, basically, “Be a wimpy, whiney, snot-nosed goody-two-shoes” (I’m joking, I’m joking). Amoral means the absence of morals… in other words, someone who’s completely apathetic about being good or not and does something without considering what effect it would have on others.

Immoral means doing things specifically because they hurt people.

For example, in the thread you linked to, if Com2kid said “We should blow up everyone because it would serve our purposes”, that would be amoral. But if he said “We should blow up everyone because it would cause them pain and suffering”, that would be immoral.

Nope, I think you’re wrong SPOOF. That something is without moral values does not make it immoral (or moral.) There are three distinct states here, and we should have three distinct words for them. Blowing shit up without just cause is immoral, because it hurts people without a good reason. Me scratching my nuts is amoral, because it is neither good nor bad.

American Heritage Dictionary

1)not admitting of moral distinctions or judgements, neither moral nor immoral
2) lacking moral responsibilty, not caring about right or wrong

freido is using definition 1, I generally see the word used meaing definition 2. The example in the OP was wrong using either.

I most often see the word used to describe a sociopath. ex amoral killer

I use it in sense 1 most often. It irritates me too to see it in the second sense.

The best way to see this is not classifiying acts, but attitudes.

  1. Moral - I give back the 100$ bill to the lady that dropped it
  2. Immoral - I steal 100$ from someone
  3. Amoral - I keep the money in the wallet I found on the ground, though there was ID in it, because I don’t really understand the concepts of right and wrong.

because there is some old perhaps Brit common law that says “finder’s keepers.”

This is interesting:


Sociopaths are amoral: They have no conception of morality whatsoever, so they do things to benefit them without even considering the other person. It is, as far as I know, a genetic disease (ergo, a physical defect at root), so normal people cannot be amoral.

Normal people think of the other person as a matter of genetic course, and then decide whether or not to let that thought guide them. If they do, they are moral. If they do not, they are immoral.

This is a crucial difference: The amoral can be intelligent (in fact, the average sociopathic killer is above-average in intellect), charming (using empty gestures to achieve a desired end, in other words), and very ‘human’ at first blush (no more than a facade). They can smile to your face, treat you like a king, and serve you over rice to the next victim. How? Because they don’t connect you with themselves. They have no internal isometry that says ‘His pain is just as my pain is, his joy is just as my joy is, etc.’ Their downfall is a sexual perversion: The serial killer takes physical pleasure in the dominion over, and destruction of, other humans. This leads to ritualized behavior acted out against a specific subset of the population. All of the things profilers look for, in other words. They are amoral, yet they still have emotions. They just don’t comprehend the emotions of others.

(All of this is reminding me of The Heart of Darkness and, to a lesser extent, ‘Apocalypse Now’. Especially Kurtz’s final words: “The horror. The horror.” It has always been my opinion that Kurtz was speaking of the horror of having people in the world who are dedicated, disciplined, honorable, and sociopathic. The Congo natives, in other words, or the Viet Cong.)

Didn’t I say that?

Again, didn’t I say that?

Do people who dont know right from wrong ever do right? Youd think that on a purely statistical basis, it ought to happen at least half of the time.

Fortunately, there`s a simple empirical test: wrong them, and see what happens.

Personally, I hate the word “amoral”: like “sick”, it`s become a euphemism for “evil”.

Derleth, in general, choosing what to eat for dinner is an amoral decision. We make amoral choices all the time; that is, choices which are not formed inside of a moral framework.

A person needn’t be a sociopath in order to make amoral decisions.

If a person is taught right from wrong by their parents, but what their parents teach them is not right to start with, but simply what the parents believe to be right and wrong, is that person amoral, immoral, or moral? For an example from my life; some people don’t teach their children it’s wrong to litter, and in fact teach their children it’s right to litter by example. Now, if these kids grow up and litter freely, they feel they are acting in a moral fashion, because they were taught to litter by their parents. In my opinion, based on having been taught it is wrong to litter, they are behaving immorally, but not in their own frame of reference.

And what, you may ask, is my point? Umm, that morality discussions are particularly subjective, I think. I have a cold, and it may just be the medicine talking.

I think you make an excellent point featherlou. Morality is so subjective that most definitions boil down to the ol’ USSC standby definition of “i know it when i see it”. :slight_smile:

As for the use of “amoral”, I’ve noticed it being used a lot lately in a political or social context.
For example–genital mutilation of young girls. By our standards, it’s wrong and immoral. By their standards it’s an accepted practice. Now, I feel it’s wrong to do this regardless of one’s belief structure, but many people would argue otherwise. This attitude–that any act is devoid of inherent “right or wrong” outside of the social or political arena in which it takes place–is amoral.


Amoral means, purely and simply, that there is no moral judgment affixed to a given act.

For a devout Catholic, taking communion is a moral act.
For an Orthodox Jew or a vegetarian-on-principle, eating a cheeseburger is an immoral act.
For most people, eating a Popsicle is an amoral act, neither contrary to a moral stricture nor in support of one.

Bad example, Polycarp… you’ve never seen my SO eat a popsicle. :smiley:


belladonna: “This attitude–that any act is devoid of inherent “right or wrong” outside of the social or political arena in which it takes place–is amoral.” I’ve never considered something amoral outside of a moral framework before. For without a moral framework, how can one even say it is devoid of morality?

I said “most people,” Thurgin – one young lady (I use the term loosely, but so was she) that my foster son was so foolish as to date was able to make eating a single-stick frozen item into an X-rated performance. :slight_smile:

In hindsight of my post, belladonna, I agree with you, I’d just never considered it before. I don’t do much thinking outside of a moral framework :wink:

Morality only enters into it when other people are concerned.

If I was about to eat someone else’s steak and I didn’t have any thoughts for the other person, I would be amoral.

If I was about to eat another’s steak, thought about the other person, and decided to go ahead and eat the steak anyway, I would be immoral.

If I was about to eat my own steak, morality would be irrelevant.

There can be ONLY ONE!

[sub]What, this isn’t a Highlander thread?[/sub]