In this post I modify the notion of moral harm in a post Moral Harm and Non-Being and in my book on sexual morality.* In those places the notion of moral harm was presented as too intellectual and individualistic. I presented moral harm as the mere status of an individual who had chosen contrary to the moral law and the damage done to him was the status of diminishing his being -what he is- by now being less than he ought to be. I am modifying it in in light of my post justifying the rationality of retribution. With use of the notion of retribution, the notion of moral harm is being expanded to include the natural harms which OUGHT TO BE brought about by violation of moral laws.
Let the term “bad moral consequences of an act” mean the natural bad things that ought to happen to human beings because of the choice of an act contrary to morality..
Consider some examples of moral thinking and thoughts of moral consequences. A person who knows that he has lied to make a good deal certainly does not think that he ought to be better off because of his lying. This is so even if he has lied to bring about better natural conditions for all concerned. He hopes that he will get the good things without getting the harmful things which ought to be for having lied.
But let me go beyond individuals to communities. Communities can suffer moral harm by virtue of having their decision making authority, however it may operate, choose what is contrary to moral law. U.S. citizens before the War Between the States were well aware of the injustice and cruelty of the enslavement of people of African origin. The devastation of that horrible war was regarded by many as some of the harm that ought to have been brought about by the slavery system. Because the notion of retribution by itself does not specify how much harm ought to occur, who should suffer it or who should inflict it we are still thinking that harms ought to be brought about for slavery and its residual violations of moral law in the racism remaining after slavery. To put it simply: A part the White Guilt felt by so many over slavery and its residual racism is a manifestation of its moral harm – the lingering expectation that some bad things still OUGHT to be inflicted upon us.
Consider more examples for citizens of the U.S.. Part of the reasons we cringe when learning of our country’s unjust proxy wars during the cold war and the torture, targeted killings and reckless collateral damage in the war on terror is that we must admit that some bad things ought to happen to us because of how we as a nation have violated moral laws.
Relevant to these reflections is a suggestion about reporting on the achievements of those who have been the first member of certain groups who suffered some type of unjust discrimination to make such achievements. These are reported as “The first black who…” “The first woman who…” Such reporting calls to mind the thought of injustice for which harm ought to happen along with the thought of the individual’s achievements. The thought of harms which ought to happen are not pleasant thoughts. These unpleasant thoughts about bad things which ought to happen can diminish the pleasure of the thought of thinking about the splendid achievements of the individuals. The splendor of the achievement gets forgotten as the report as taken as more “political” reporting.
*Introduction of the retributive principle is developing the notion of moral harm which I used in my book. In my book I did not clearly enough link moral harm with natural harms
My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.
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