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Not to be confused with immorality.
For the philosophical position rejecting all moral claims, see moral nihilism.

Amorality is an absence of, indifference towards, or disregard for morality.[1][2][3] Amorality is an intrinsic property of an object because while morality is determined relatively to a moral code, amorality can exist independently, especially by default in the absence of morality.

Morality and amorality in humans and animals is a subject of dispute among scientists and philosophers. If morality is intrinsic to humanity, then amoral human beings either do not exist or are only deficiently human.[4] If morality is extrinsic to humanity, then amoral human beings can both exist and be fully human, and may be amoral either by nature or by choice.

Amoral should not be confused with immoral, which refers to an agent doing or thinking something he or she knows or believes to be wrong.[5]

Non-human manifestations[edit]

Any entity that is not sapient may be considered categorically amoral. For example, a rock may be used (by rational agents) for good or bad purposes, but the rock itself is neither good nor bad. In ontological philosophy, the ancient gnostic concept that the material world was inherently evil applied morality to existence itself and was a point of concern in early Christianity in the form of Docetism, as it opposed the notion that creation is good, as stated in The Book of Genesis.[6] In modern science, however, the matter of the universe is often observed amorally for objective purposes.


Animals have long been thought to be amoral entities. However, research into the evolution of morality, including sociality and altruism in animals, has sparked new debate amongst many philosophers. Many animals display behavior that is analogous to human moral behavior, such as caring for the young, protecting kin, and sharing the spoils of the hunt. Generally speaking, if this behavior is a voluntary response to ethical norms, then animals do have morality; if animals are involuntarily following innate instinct, then they are amoral.

Legal entities[edit]

Some people consider corporations to be intrinsically amoral entities.[7][8][9][10]

Human amorality[edit]

Human morality appears in adults and even children from a young age. However, some humans may be considered amoral. There is some debate as to whether the infant human being develops a moral sense—is moral education cultivated (from within) or implanted (from without)?

Humans may discard codes or systems of morality that have been purely socially constructed by their native cultures. If a rational human being can in any way override the capacity to establish notions of right and wrong, it is arguable that human beings have the ability to become amoral.

In literature and pop culture[edit]

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[edit]


  1. ^ Johnstone, Megan-Jane (2008). Bioethics: A Nursing Perspective. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-0-7295-3873-2. 
  2. ^ Superson, Anita (2009). The Moral Skeptic. Oxford University Press. pp. 127–159. ISBN 978-0-19-537662-3. 
  3. ^ "Amorality". Archived from the original on 29 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 
  4. ^ Lewis, Clive Staples (2010). Abolition of Man. Lits. p. 60. ISBN 1609421477. 
  5. ^ Page 24, COLLINS,new School Dictionary, 1999, ISBN 0 00 472238-8
  6. ^ Roberts, Alexander; Donaldson, James; Coxe, A. Cleveland et al., eds. (1885). The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans. Ante-Nicean Fathers 1 (Christian Literature Publishing).  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help);
  7. ^ Hazelton, James; Ken Cussen (2005). "The Amorality of Public Corporations". Essays in Philosophy 6 (2). 
  8. ^ Quigley, William (2003–2004). "Catholic Social Thought and the Amorality of Large Corporations: Time to Abolish Corporate Personhood" (PDF). Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law: 109–134. Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  9. ^ Stephens, Beth (2012). "The Amorality of Profit: Transnational Corporations and Human Rights" (PDF). Berkeley Journal of International Law 20 (1). Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  10. ^ Donaldson, Thomas (1982). Corporations and morality. Prentice-Hall. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-13-177014-0. 

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