The moralization of the body: Protecting and expanding the boundaries of the self

How is morality revealed in the body? Protecting the body coincides with a desire to keep resources for the self, whereas breaking these boundaries (e.g., through physical touch) coincides with a desire to share with others. At its essence, morality can be viewed as concerning resource allocation. “Being moral” normally refers to the willingness to allocate personal resources to others. This includes helping others achieve their goals, comforting them, and sharing valuable goods such as food and information. Therefore, a substantial part of our everyday morality involves decisions on whether to keep our psychological, physical, and material resources to ourselves or, instead, give them away. For social life to be sustainable, human groups develop a shared understanding of who possesses what and the extent to which these resources are distributed and shared. In the present chapter we demonstrate how the negotiation of psychological and material resources with others is grounded in processes of the physical body, such as those that support disease avoidance. In what follows, we discuss the historical roots of our approach, its theoretical standpoint, and the accruing empirical evidence in support of it.