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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
a-, morality, The Mask of Sanity, Juliette (novel), Degeneration (Nordau), Sex and Character

Amorality is the quality of having no concept of right or wrong. 'Amorality' or 'amoralism' may also refer to knowing of right and wrong but lacking a belief in the absolute existence of any moral laws.

However, "amoral" must be distinguished from "immoral" in that amoral persons either do not possess ethical notions at all as a result of an unusual upbringing or inborn traits (see Antisocial personality disorder) or else do not subscribe to any moral code. This latter may in turn mean strong individualistic leanings that do not get codified into a universally applicable system. Someone may maintain that he will do as he likes and let others do the same, if they so desire, without turning this into a general principle as, for example, Kant's categorical imperative would require. Because whoever says so only expresses his personal preference or informs about the way he is going to act, the position is consistent. An amoralist might also make a stronger point that moral systems are arbitrary and unfounded on the whole, which is an epistemic or anthropological claim and not an ethical one. For this principled sort of amoralist, see Stirner and to a degree Marquis de Sade. The writings of H.P. Lovecraft often depict godlike beings who are shown to be beyond human morality, inferring that humanity is much too insignificant for its notions of morality to matter.

"Immoral" refers to a person or behavior that is self-consciously within the scope of morality but does not abide by its edicts. A thief will not deny that stealing is immoral, but would perhaps attempt to deflect the blame or offer excuses in order to justify his actions, either to other or to himself. A more sinister kind of immoral individual might even derive pleasure from "breaking the rules". An amoral individual, on the other hand, would see the entire issue as moot; an excuse would only need to be offered if it resulted in the danger of punishment being averted. Essentially, immoral individuals believe that certain things are wrong, but disregard this information, possibly resulting in feelings of guilt. An amoral person believes that the concepts of right and wrong are subjective, and determined entirely by personal preference. Thus, guilt is meaningless in an objective sense. Typically, "amoral" and "immoral" are used interchangeably (despite the terms not being interchangeable in meaning).

In literature and pop culture

The narrator John Steinbeck's East of Eden suggests that Cathy Ames is born without a conscience.

The Joker in Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke is portrayed not as immoral or misguided, but rather as amoral in spite of his madness. Further identifying his moral stance, the primary intent of his actions in this graphic novel is to show that anyone can succumb to or embrace madness after but one bad day, wholly independent of one's morality—or lack thereof. Making his amorality perhaps more complicated, however, The Clown Prince Of Crime is willing to let the Batman kill him for his most recent crimes—an action which perhaps suggest that the Joker retains a vestige of his former morals, adjudicated by the sincere tone in which he presents this offer to The Dark Knight. He implies that he has, in fact, truly decided to surrender himself to his fate: at that very moment he is not just tempting The Caped Crusader into committing murder in efforts to corrupt his moral codes, but genuinely seeking to end all the misery and corruption he spreads around him.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Amorality" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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