This is how I look at Morality. To me it is a science, part of the Science of Human Survival.
Compared to any other animal, humans survive based on what we learn far more than our instincts. That is the mark of a human, but we still have instincts and they are very important. How humans survive is by strategy. Those survival strategies have instinctive and learned parts. Together we call them Morality. Some people may question using that word or its meaning, but it is the best word as will be discussed moving forward. Morality is basically the key to human survival. Unfortunately, its source in in the trial and error of genetic and behavioral evolution more than logic, so it can be hard to understand. This section is to create an understanding of it.
Morality is a way of knowing. Humans use a few ways of knowing. Science is one of the better known ways of knowing that we use. Philosophy, including the reason and logic of Critical Thinking as well as the bodies of knowledge that are considered philosophy, is another way. These are described in more detail elsewhere, but only by recognizing these methods and their differences was I able to recognize morality as another way of knowing truth so I suggest you think about this paragraph carefully. Only by understanding that morality is another way of knowing can you understand it.
In the past, humans have relied on moral systems inherited from history with their authority based on force, precedence and claims of being divine law. With the changes that have occurred, they can no longer be defended and in many cases are no longer good strategies. In the future we will need moral strategies based on reason and understanding or they will not be used, will not be defended and won't do the job.
Humans have very powerful moral instincts. Morality instincts have great control over how we act We all learn about that sooner or later when we get push back. Those instincts include a drive to used learned systems. Those systems are the main way we choose what is right and wrong, but it is our instincts that make us choose and they do restrict our choices some. The objective of this section is to describe moral instincts as well as to describe and define both the tribal moral systems from our past and a post tribal moral system. It doesn't have to be completely correct. It is unlikely I can make a complete and correct description of something like that, but it has to be clearly stated and the form has to be correct enough to help make an understanding of moral instincts and a documentation of moral systems. Even if they are software, moral systems are tools of survival. We are entering a new world where we need new systems to survive. In the past we have followed systems without needing to understand them, based on authority that can no longer be effectively defended. We must develop new survival strategies for the future. That means understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the moral systems useful in the tribal ecology, that we have used in the past. Also, in the time since the start agriculture and cities, many parts of the strategies we need to use in the future have already bean developed, including perhaps the most important concept of all for our future survival. that concept helped end one of the most dangerous of the tribal strategies. guide how we can learn more and improve the morality we use and will depend on in the future.
Moral systems are so important to human survival that we seem quite willing to fight to the death over them. Their importance is such that our instincts include an inhibition against even questioning or examining them. Our instincts are powerful. They don't negotiate much, though they might be persuaded some.
Morality is how we decide what is right or wrong and compels us to act in accordance with what we believe is right. It is the main driver of our actions. We need that or we are weakened. A strong sense of morality means we have a strong sense of direction. It can be an important part of our drive to survive.
Morality is not inherently a logical process which is part of why it is difficult to understand and describe. Morality was created by evolution which is a trial and error process. Morality, like many biological features, includes very complicated balances. This too makes it difficult to understand and describe. Trying to simplify morality can lead to misunderstanding. Be careful not to make that mistake. While it can be easier to apply logic and reason to moral strategies than to moral instincts, they too have often been based on experimentation or serendipity, though the importance of leadership must be kept in mind here. A good leader can "make luck" for their people.
It is time for a definition of morality. Usually it has been considered part of philosophy and many moral strategies must be considered that, but there is a problem with that. Smart philosophers have tried to describe moral systems and usually they have failed. Most often in the past it was because they assumed they came from God. Figuring them out from that perspective has never worked out in the long run, though a lot of work was put into it. Many times they were based on "Natural Law", but that hasn't worked out well, because just about everything that has been firmly believed to be a Natural Law, has at some point has been found to be flawed. Along with that has been that they are then also based on reason and logic, a limited tool for examining morality. Some very smart people have worked to describe moral systems. When they test them, they tend to be honest enough to admit that their systems don't hold up well in the real world. There are too many exceptions. From what I have seen this is due to variations in people and circumstance.
Philosophers can argue endlessly over morality, though it is a difficult enough subject that those root arguments are few even if they get repeated a lot. Luckily, I'm not a philosopher, I'm a biologist and since I'm pretty much the only biologist that defines Morality and I am defining it in biological terms, not philosophy, I'm correct. Actually I think I am correct in larger sense as well, but I don't really care. The definition I use is that a Moral System is a learned survival strategy. If you think this is referring to individual survival, stop reading and study some basic biology before continuing this. In biological terms, survival is a balance between the individual and group, over generations. In a sense, this definition is based on a Natural Law, which I will ascribe to Charles Darwin. To greatly paraphrase him - "the purpose of life is to survive". Notice that his "laws" and the Laws of Thermodynamics are some of the few Natural Laws that seem to endure objectively.
It is time to add one more part, that is detailed more elsewhere. All my writings are about survival by creating and adapting to a "New Ecology" that we need to create to replace the older Tribal Hunter-Gatherer ecology". I refer to that ecology as "Civilization" distinguished from the Tribal ecology in that then an individual almost exclusively dealt with people similar and related to them self. In a Civilization, we deal with peoples that are very different. In any case, "Civilization" does not directly address the basis of ecology, the energetic and reproductive strategies of the species, that will be technology of some kind and who knows what, but in that for humans, our social milieu is of paramount importance, it will suffice.
So, what moral strategies, based on reason and understanding, will we need for Civilization? I do hope you read the description of Philosophy first.
One important and basic lesson about morality that is widely agreed upon is that it is dynamic and there is no perfect solution. Morality is the daily struggle of all good men and women to maintain the society that is the life support system of humans, generation after generation. Keep that in mind and you will make less mistakes. It's not simple and it's not perfect. It is simply ongoing, just like life.
Morality is generally considered a topic within philosophy. Looking at what the philosophers have said is instructive, but most of them, after presenting an excellent consideration of morality, will admit that when comparing it to the real world care system seems flawed because clearly there are exceptions. I think this is for two reasons. The first reason is that they are naturally going to presume that a moral system is going to be based on reason and logic. Again, this is not necessarily going to be the case, because moral instincts and systems were developed by trial and error. The second reason I think this happens, is a common case that the philosopher assumed that there could be a "perfect" (or anywhere near perfect) moral system. When this happens I think they may be reverting to wishful or even religious thinking.
Luckily I'm a biologist, so I can define morality as learned survival strategies. That allows me to sidestep a lot of debate. It may even be accurate in the philosophical realm as well. Assume that anything I say about morality is in that context of it being a strategy of survival.
The best place to start is instincts. Instincts, including moral instincts can be difficult to understand and describe in words because they are a product of the trial and error of evolution rather than of logic. Think of animals before a storm. Animals cannot consciously analyze the weather, but they can detect certain signs. The process is not going to be conscious. You cannot often see the signals that your instincts are responding to, though it seems a good field of study for some smarty out there. Instincts always operate in a balance. As the sky grows gray, there are puffs of wind and the air gets chill, each signal is detected separately and added to the balance. Once the balance tips, the animal seeks refuge from the storm whether those instincts have told it a storm is coming or not. Human morality is probably the most sophisticated instinct in nature, especially because it is evolved to respond to the complex social milieu that is the most important part of human environment. In that learning is such an important part of human strategy, some people have trained themselves to be very sensitive to signals from their instincts. They can "listen to their gut" and hear it even if their conscious mind can't register the signals their instincts are picking up.
Not surprisingly, I've noticed my instincts will warn me of danger both from people around me and from physical circumstance. Some of these are trained, my experiences with nature, tools and chemicals may lead to warnings of dangers. Those seem to be unconscious processes that have been trained in. Self hypnosis - intentionally training of your unconscious mind, is a good thing for intelligent people to know about using. The warnings about people though seem to be rooted far more in instinct than in experience. I'm extremely oblivious. I am very often busy just thinking my own thoughts, not paying attention to the people around me. I don't want to know what they are thinking about. Sometimes though, my instincts will simply make me pay attention. Even if it is not so for me, my ancestors survived in violent times and my instincts are very sensitive to dangers.
The interesting thing about instincts is that balance I mentioned. Instincts tend not to distract you with messages until the signs have added up to tip the balance. Then suddenly you have an instinctive response. Then again, the signs can add up extremely quickly such as if you are in physical danger. Many signs, such as weather or signals from your supportive social group, can add up slowly until you suddenly have an insight. In terms of morality, you may not be sure if something is good or bad but be assured your mind is trying to figure it out and you at anytime you can suddenly have an insight that will clearly tell you.