Moral Hypertrophy

Fundamentalism (in all its different manifestations – religious, ideological, nationalist, etc) is the consequence of what we could denominate Moral Hypertrophy. This term is a derivative of the term Hypermoral, created by the German anthropologist Arnold Gehlen. Moral Hypertrophy is a morbid sharpening of moral perceptions and feelings. When that happens, certain moral values or principles are considered to be absolute, i.e. applicable at any given time and in any given place.

All our moral values can become subject of moral hypertrophy. And that happens when we make them absolute. At this moment, the community exalts specific moral principles and elevates them over anything else. The sensitiveness of its members intensifies, and with it their readiness for the aggression.

Aggression must not necessarily adopt the form of physical violence. There are different forms of punishment for deviants in a group. In some cases, the aggression might appear in an active form, such as physical or verbal violence, or different degrees of mockery and derision. In other cases, the aggression is rather passive. The group just ignores the individual who deviates from the norm, isolates him/her. This form of passive aggression, the social isolation, does not necessarily represent a more lenient punishment. Our social nature, according to the author, explains why a life under such circumstances becomes entirely unbearable.

My last line of research in the field of public opinion focuses on the development of a methodological frame to detect moral hypertrophy. Since this phenomenon is closely related to the outbreak – or the acceptance – of aggression, the methodological frame could become an excellent instrument to foresee social conditions and circumstances that generate violent behaviors.