How many moral values are there? What are they? What does it take to be a morally good person?

Over the centuries, philosophers, theologians and others have offered no shortage of answers to these questions.

Plato argued that there were four virtues: temperance, courage, wisdom and justice. Aristotle said that there were 14 – including generosity, magnanimity, friendliness, honesty and modesty.

The ancient Egyptians promised to refrain from the 42 sins of Maat.

Judaism distilled 613 commandments into the famous 10, including prohibitions against murder, adultery, stealing and lying. Christianity added faith, hope and charity to Plato’s list to make seven heavenly virtues (along with seven corresponding deadly sins).

Confucianism endorses virtues such as filial piety, trustworthiness and wisdom. The 20 laws of Aberewa, a spirit figure of the Akan of Ghana, encourage paying your debts and accepting requests for help, and discourage disobeying chiefs and ‘carrying firewood in bundles into town’.

The philosopher W D Ross identified seven prima facie moral duties: fidelity, reparation, gratitude, non-maleficence, beneficence, self-improvement and justice.

More recently, psychologists have argued that there are variously three (community, autonomy, divinity), or four (unity, respect, equality, proportionality) or five to six (care, fairness, loyalty, authority, purity and perhaps liberty) basic moral principles.

Source: Psyche online publication

Oliver Scott Curryis research director for Kindlab, at He is also a research affiliate at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, at the University of Oxford, and a research associate at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, at the London School of Economics.

Mark Alfanois an associate professor of philosophy at Macquarie University, Sydney.

Mark Brandtis an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Michigan State University.

Christine Pelicanis a DPhil candidate in international relations at the University of Oxfor