Pennance

I am in the midst of a project of showing that people who make moral judgments have, even if felt only dimly, a sentiment that some harm ought to be if a moral principle is violated. There are people who rarely make moral judgments. But if they only make moral judgments about some public policies, they make moral judgments. For instance, declaring that separating families of immigrants is a moral issue, is making a moral judgment about current practices.

I have made a case that moral judgments that a moral principle has been violated logically entail that harm ought to result because of the violation. See Moral Harm is a Moral Judgment. But now I am going further than arguing about the entailments of moral judgments. I am trying to show that people actually think and feel what their words imply.

Of course, what people actually think and feel is a question of fact. I cannot answer factual questions about social-psychology while sitting in front of my PC and imagining what I think a typical person should think and feel.

But the word “typical” I just wrote provides the clue for understanding what I am doing and its presuppositions. I am presupposing that people share a type or form which makes us what we are. In this case I am focusing on the part of the type revealed by moral language. I am, then, presupposing an innate moral psychological structure. I want to tell the truth about this innate moral psychology of the typical person. But I do not seek the truth about the innate moral psychology of the typical person by the methods of empirical science. I just think while being lead by verbal links.

There is no way to characterize most of the thinking. I cannot say that I think about the typical person where “typical” suggests average or normal. I may think of some unusual character in a novel who submits to physical suffering to cleanse himself from guilt. So, of course, be wary of what I write. To corroborate my claims, think to yourself how you and others respond to admission of moral violations. I hope these results may lead us to a better understanding of ourselves and that such understanding is good for us.

In this post I want to bring out the link between moral judgment and the sentiment that there ought to be physical suffering. In my previous post I made a case that the typical person thinks and feels that someone who violates a moral principle ought to suffer the unpleasant moral feelings of shame and guilt. See You Ought to be Ashamed of Yourself. Here I want to add that typical people think and feel that the moral feelings are insufficient harm to remove the need for harm required by moral violations. We have the notion of penance where penance is some physical discomfort to make up for a moral failing. Recall that moral violations of basic principles introduces all sorts of temporary obligations for occurrence of harm. See Moral Harm is a Moral Judgment. The quickest way to exhibit the presence of the notion of penance in the typical person is to think of someone who would like to set aside the moral outlook which holds that moral violations require harm. Think of a case of a man who cheated on his wife, felt guilty and started to pull back from hanging out with his male friends and drinking far less. He thought that it is not enough to feel guilt and shame. He had to do something. Confessing to his wife would do far more harm than good and it would not bring him cleansing pain but inflict pain on his wife. It is easy to imagine one of his companions telling him that he doesn’t have to do penance for cheating on his wife. She does not know and nobody really got hurt. But the man who cheated on his wife may very likely feel that his forgoing some pleasures somehow makes up for his betrayal. These typical men understand the notion of penance.

You Ought To Be Ashamed of Yourself!

The point of this post is to add some support for the intelligibility of a crucial notion I have been using in my interpretation of moral thought as based on commands of a moral authority who commands, amongst other things, that some harm ought to be as a consequence of moral infractions. I have heard it said that the notion of harm as mere retribution does not make sense; it does not serve any purpose. Infliction of harm simply for a past violation does not aim at making the future any better.

Let me be clear that the position I am criticizing, is not that there should be no harm after a violation. It is admitted by all that harm should result but that it should be aimed at improving the violator and/or society.

I grant that retributive harm is pointless in the sense of “pointless” which indicates lack of a future better condition at which the occurrence of harm is supposed bring us. However, “pointless” in this sense should not be confused with “senseless” with “senseless” being interpreted as “cannot be understood” as a phrase such as “Days barked all day long.”

The notion of harm which ought to be inflicted is understood if talk of it is frequently used. For this post, the usage cited as evidence that the notion of obligatory harm as pure retribution makes sense is “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” People with widely divergent views on what is morally wrong, converge on their usage of this phrase. Progressives tell me that I ought to be ashamed of myself for disparaging gay marriage. I tell progressives that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for promoting gay marriage.

Shame is an uncomfortable emotional state. Both progressives and I think that it makes perfectly good sense to allege that the other OUGHT to suffer this uncomfortable state simply from having the morally wrong thoughts and attitudes about same sex marriage.

There Ought to be Moral Suffering

In my previous post I made a great step forward in articulating the structure of what I have called authoritarian morality. Authoritarian morality is based on rules with sanctions. The sanctions specify suffering which ought to occur if the rules are violated. The thought that there ought to be some suffering is morally repugnant. For the suffering in question is not suffering as a means for some good; it is suffering for violating the law. It’s retribution. In Inconsistency in Moral think Resolved By Moral Skepticism I addressed the problem of the moral repugnance of accepting that some suffering ought to be by arguing that we need to repress that thought to have a consistent rule based morality. However, what is the suffering which ought to be?

In my efforts to find the topics which need to be addressed in making a case for a moral principle I realized that I needed to point out some good realized by obedience to the rule. I had to do more than show that obeying the principle meets some standard for acting rationally. Fortunately, there is readily available a characterization of moral thinking which shows that obedience to traditional moral rules aims at attainment of some basic human goods. This is the so-called New Natural Law Theory.

I have not yet re-developed the argument in my book* for the moral principle I call the Paternal Principle.

A man may intentionally seek an orgasm only in coitus open to conception with a woman to whom he has a lifelong commitment to care for her and any children resulting from their intercourse.

I plan to re-develop it by showing its rationality using thoughts from those working in Thomistic moral theory and that it aims at a basic human good by adapting thoughts from the New Natura Law theory on the good of marriage.

However, the main point for this blog post is that I can specify a minimum suffering which ought to be. The basic idea is that a person who violates the law ought to suffer loss of the good at which obedience to the law aims. It is difficult to specify in detail the good of obedience to the law. What, in detail, is the good of being honest? However, the structure of this suffering can be stated. I will state it for the case of a man who violates the Paternal Principle by habitual masturbation stimulated by pornography.

He ought not have any of the satisfactions of proper marital intercourse. He ought to suffer awareness that he does not deserve his satisfaction. He ought to suffer longing for proper sexual satisfaction even in a inchoate way. He ought to suffer shame from the thought that people who think rightly about sexuality think that he ought not be acting as he does.

Similar paragraphs about people who are dishonest, cruel etc., could be written. These thoughts and feelings of guilt or shame could be called moral suffering.

I must emphasize two points about moral suffering. First moral suffering is always suffering which OUGHT TO BE for violating a moral law. Moral suffering is only occasionally suffering which actually occurs upon violation of a moral law. Second, moral suffering is only a minimum suffering which ought to be. Other suffering such as physical pain or disease may always be required for violations.

However, by accepting moral suffering as a SUFFERING WHICH OUGHT TO BE, we accept retributive suffering in our moral framework.

* 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. See Ch. IV for my justification see pp. 72ff. for discussion of moral harm. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.





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There Ought to Be Suffering

This post interrupts the line of thought in my past several posts. That line of thought was why and how should we try to prove a moral principle. Here I return to the theme of moral harm as harm which ought to be as a result of violating a moral principle. I do not want reflections on proving a moral principle to lead me away from exploring implications of this notion of moral harm for understanding the Christian doctrine of redemption.

I review how I developed this notion of moral harm from an essay of Steven Pinker.* Then I apply it to the sensitive topic of my morally condemning homosexuality.

Pinker’s passage which led me to develop the notion of moral harm as harm which ought to be is the second “hallmark” in the following:

“The first hallmark of moralization is that the rules it invokes are felt to be universal. Prohibitions of rape and murder, for example, are felt not to be matters of local custom but to be universally and objectively warranted. The other hallmark is that people feel that those who commit immoral acts deserve to be punished. . .

we are born with a universal moral grammar that forces us to analyze human action in terms of its moral structure, with just as little awareness.”

I developed that hallmark into a thesis about a fundamental component of moral thinking, viz., if a moral law is violated harm ought to occur. I left the principle at a high level of generality. There was no specification of what the harm might be, on whom it should befall and how much. The very general thought is merely that moral principles carry sanctions. This does not mean that these subsidiary questions cannot be answered. There simply needs to be further moral thought to answer them.

Let me add here that right now I think that moral thinking contains almost no provisions for numerically measurable thinking on the quantity of harm and good.

I return to this notion of moral harm by considering its ramifications for a moral judgment I make. I think homosexual acts are morally wrong. I have argued for that position in my book**. Hence, I judge that the homosexual acts of 2020 Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg are immoral. Concomitant with that judgment is a judgment that he ought to suffer some harm for his homosexual behavior.

This thought that I ought to think that he ought to suffer some harm poses a problem for me. First, the proposal that there ought to be some suffering is repugnant. Second, I confess to not caring that Pete Buttigieg suffers. However, as I have argued in several posts, we are not serious about morality if we do not think that there ought to be unpleasant consequences for immoral behavior. Not caring whether the sanctions for violations of morality be applied is irrelevant for thinking that they ought to be applied

So, what kind of suffering do I think Pete Buttigieg ought to undergo? Not getting nominated as the 2020 Democrat candidate is a type of disappointment which is too loosely connected with his homosexual behavior to be a proper punishment.

Here is my proposal for the kind of suffering a man who has a practice of immoral sexual behavior such as: frequent masturbation, homosexual activity, fornication and adultery. From the stance I take on sexuality, proper sexual activity is confined to coitus open to conception in a lifelong monogamous marriage. Basic human goods are realized when sexuality is so confined. The harm which man who does not so confine his sexual activity ought to suffer is twofold First there is failure to attain these basic human goods along with a sense of not realizing these goods. Second, there is a realization, perhaps quite dim, that people who think properly about sexual activity judge that he ought not realize the goods of proper sexuality. Broadly speaking, he ought to suffer a sense of unworthiness, articlguilt and shame.

If I am right that this kind of inward moral suffering ought to occur in men who misbehave sexually, it seems reasonable that we should proclaim traditional sexual morality to facilitate occurrence of these negative moral feelings in ourselves and others when needed. Trying to post proofs of principles of traditional sexual morality is a way of proclaiming traditional sexual morality.

Mr. Butttigieg knows everything I could say. In so far as I care, my sympathies are that he does not suffer too much from the negative moral thoughts and feelings he ought to have.

* Pinker Article .

** 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. See Ch. IV for my justification see pp. 72ff. for discussion of moral harm. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.





To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
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Moral Argument as Kantian Universalization

This post assumes some familiarity with Kant’s moral theory. However, this is not exegesis of Kant’s thought. What I write is best interpreted as going off on a tangent* from the text to develop my own thoughts from a fragment of Kant’s thought. In this case, my own thoughts are those of my past three posts: “How do we prove a moral principle?” And “What is accomplished by a proof of a moral principle?”

The fragment of Kant’s thought is his first statement of the categorical imperative in his Foundation of the Metaphysics of Morals.**

It reads: Act only on maxims which you can will to be a universal law of nature.

In my previous post I came to the conclusion that relative to certain assumptions – a stance – a proper argument for a moral principle shows that activity in accord with the principle is rational activity and that activity in accord with the principle is directed towards attaining and maintaining conditions good for human beings over and beyond the good of being rational.

In the following I write of proofs as characterized above.

My Kantian speculation is that proof of a moral principle is showing that you can will a maxim to be a universal law of nature.

Let me illustrate this speculation with the principle for male sexuality of the previous post which I call the Paternal Principle.

As a maxim or principle for personal action the Paternal Principle becomes:

I shall not intentionally seek an orgasm except in coitus open to conception with a woman to whom I am committed for life to care for her and any child resulting from the coitus.

A “Kantian” proof that a man is acting in accord with laws of morality by following this maxim would show that any man acting in accord with principle is following a principle which is part of rational activity and is part of the human good of marriage. In other words, the proof shows what a rational seeker of human good would do. Any other course of conduct, for male sexuality, would be inconsistent with being a rational seeker of human good.

As the line of thought develops, an assumption that every human being is potentially a rational seeker of human good is a crucial assumption.

In light of such a proof one can will that nature be so constructed that every man actually acts on the principle on the basis of psychological-physiological laws of nature. But one could not consistently will that some potential seeker of human good be causally determined not to realize their potential.

In a way, the line of thought is that you can not consistently say “This is the way an ideal human being would act but in fact some human is not to act that way.”

This is far from standard ways of discussing Kantian generalization. The usual approach is to inspect a generalization of a maxim itself for consistency. The approach here is to consideration of consistency only after a moral proof of a principle has been presented. The question of consistency is “In light of a proof showing certain activity is what a rational seeker of human good would do, can maxims be consistently be willed as causal laws for what a rational seeker of human good does.”

I cannot resist alluding to the four examples Kant used to illustrate his categorical imperative.
1. Suppose it was shown that humans would flourish in their commercial life if all kept promises. It cannot be consistently that in a human society of rational seekers of human good some would not keep promises.
2. Suppose it was shown that rational seekers of human good made efforts to maintain their health and life. It cannot be consistently willed that it becomes a causal law that for such beings some choose to end their lives.
3. Suppose it was shown that rational seekers of human good made efforts to develop skills. It cannot be consistently willed that it becomes a causal law that some such seekers choose to develop no skills.
4. Suppose it was shown that rational seekers of human good made efforts to cooperate to help others attain human goods. It cannot be consistent will that it becomes a causal law that some such seekers become totally uncooperative.

* I have been off on this tangent for over twenty years

I wrote a book on Kant’s moral theory and religion It is
A Kantian Condemnation of Atheistic Despair: A declaration of dependence. Peter Lang, N.Y. 1997
See pp. 200ff for remarks on Kantian moral universalization.
See pp. 170 ff of my more recent book.
Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional sexual morality as an antidote to nihilism, Tate Enterprises, Oklahoma City, 2014

**handle nur nach derjenigen Maxime, durch die du zugleich wollen kanst, dass sie ein allgemeines Gesetz werde AK IV 421

Translations of Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Morals will have the AK edition vol. and p. # in the margins.

Autonomous obedience vs. autonomous legislation

In the course of several posts I have struggled to articulate what I hope to show by justifying a moral principle for male sexuality and how I should go about showing it. The principle, in agreement with traditional Catholic morality, stated:

Thou shall not intentionally seek an orgasm except in coitus open to conception with a woman to whom you are committed for life to care for her and any child resulting from the coitus.

I hoped to show that independently of religious considerations, a man who follows, or struggles to follow, the principle has a character trait which makes him a better human being – a man closer to being as he ought to be than if he followed any other principle for sexuality.

I came to the conclusion that any arguments for the principle would have to be based on assumptions or, as I say, from a stance. Consequently, the arguments might not be compelling for all intelligent people. From a stance, arguments should be of two types. One line of argument would show that activity in accord with the principle is rational activity. Another line of argument would show that activity in accord with the principle is directed towards attaining and maintaining conditions good for human beings over and beyond the good of being rational. With respect to the principle for male sexuality, the human good would be life-long monagamous marriage.

I need to emphasize a feature of the human goods. They are not goods independent from morality with morality being a means to their attainment. The human goods attained and maintained by activity in accordance with the principle are not conditions apart from activity in accordance with the principle. Activity in accord with the principle is not only a means to the good but also a feature of the good brought about. For instance, activity in accord with a principle for traditional male sexuality not only produces a good marriage but it is also part of a good marriage.

I do not need to invent new arguments. For showing that the rationality of the activity, I can adapt arguments from what some call “The Old Natural Law Theory” or better: Thomistic Moral Theology. For showing that activity in accordance with the principle is directed towards human flourishing, I can adapt arguments from what is frequently called “New Natural Law Theory.”

I write of adapting the arguments because I do not make any assumption that an intelligent human being will take activity in accordance with the principle as morally binding upon clearly understanding the line of argument. There is still need for someone to choose to be obligated or something to impose the moral obligation.

As I interpret both types of natural law theories, they hold that nature -reality- formed human nature so that once a human being clearly recognizes that a principle promotes rational activity directed toward human good the human being because of a law for its nature chooses to be bound by and follow the principle. I believe that to be morally bound by a law there must always be the possibility of rejecting the law.

So I concluded my previous post confessing that I still felt that I had not uncovered all that I hoped for in a justification for a moral principle. Now I think that I can articulate what Ithought was lacking. I wanted to show that the moral principle is true and I do not think that reasoning alone brings us to moral truth.

Here is how the issue of truth comes up. After being persuaded by the arguments that activity in accord with the principle is rational and directed towards human good, there still needs to be imposition of a moral obligation to act in accord with this principle. This imposition could be self imposed or imposed by something outside our self.

Self imposed obligation could be called “autonomous moral legislation.” Unfortunately, autonomous moral legislation might be only a human decision to make such a moral rule. The rule could be invented; not discovered. It might be invented in response to our reasoning.

But how could a rule-an imperative- be discovered in thought independent reality? What corresponded to a rule in reality would not be a fact or a descriptive law of nature. It would have to be something like a command. At this time, the best I can say that the aspect of mind-independent reality corresponding to a moral law would be something we “hear” rather than “see,” and have the possibility of being accepted and obeyed or being rejected and disobeyed. If, and this is a huge “if,” there is something like hearing an imperative from mind independent reality, then there is a true or actual imperative. Still, though, there is a need for a choice to accept or reject the imperative. This could be called the “autonomy of obedience.”

If there is a place for autonomy of moral obedience, then we can talk of moral laws being true.

Consider a definition of “truth” which extends it to include truth for norms.

Truth for facts and norms

For facts to think what is true is to think of what is that it is and to think of what is not that it is not.
For norms to think what is true is to accept as obligatory what ought to be and to accept as forbidden what ought not be.

But if we can receive moral laws from an moral authority in mind independent reality, what is the role of arguments for moral principles? The arguments are valuable checks on illusions with respect to hearing the moral law, they help us to articulate what we hope to discover as true, they show others the plausibility of our rules and may lead others to investigate our moral rules. *

In my book, I struggled in Chapter XI with laying out what beyond reasoning needs to be done to discover what we ought to do.

* 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. See Ch. IV for my justification see pp. 72ff. for discussion of moral harm. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.





To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
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Why Justify a Moral Principle?

I wrote a book* trying to justify a well know, even if not widely accepted, moral principle for male sexuality. In the course of several previous posts, I have been exploring moral theory, from the perspective of the consequences of mere violation of a moral principle. I reached the stage where I realized that a principle needs to be justified from a stance – some basic assumptions about sexuality. Then the argument from the stance must show that the principle follows from the stance and obedience to the principle is for human good. The purpose of this post is to ask myself again why I want to justify the principle along with noting that before presenting a justification I need to consider work of John Henry Newman. I have read that my approach to justification might well be similar to Newman’s way of justify assent to principles.

The principle commands men:

Thou shall not intentionally seek an orgasm except in coitus open to conception with a woman to whom you are committed for life to care for her and any child resulting from the coitus.

Perhaps my Catholic religion led me to take the principle seriously. However, once I learned basic biology the principle seemed sensible to me. Orgasms are for sperm dispersal. The purpose of the inward drive and pleasure are to get men to disperse sperm. Coitus is primarily for “baby making.”
Mothers and babies need care and protection.

Of course, I realize that the principle is hard to follow and is contradicted by many other suggestions. I hesitate to call them principles; let alone moral principles.

I am ashamed to confess that I have not always lived up to the principle. But I have never really doubted it. After violations in my teens as a young soldier and in early courting, I have obeyed the principle for over sixty years of married life. For a time, that involved living in accord with the so-called “rhythm method.” It has required discipline of mind and body. For instance, I love long distance running. I also appreciated how marathon training made obedience easier. There was a thirty five year period in my life during which I kept myself in condition so that I could run a full twenty six point 2 mile marathon on any weekend. Even in my eighties I discipline my eyes and thoughts.

I am not trying to justify the principle because I want to show myself that I have been living correctly most all of my life with respect to sexuality. I am confident that with respect to sexuality, I have.

So, when I consider only myself: Why I am still trying to justify the principle? There is something intellectual with which I am not satisfied. I am searching for a line of thought leading to a conclusion of which I can say “It has to be this way.” I am still searching for an intellectual compulsion.

When I consider others, I hope that my thoughts in these posts and my book are read by others. But what do I want to show others? I want to show that independently of religious considerations, a man who follows, or struggles to follow, the principle has a character trait which makes him a better human being – a man closer to being as he ought to be than if he followed any other principle for sexuality.

In a recent New York Review of books, Gary Wills had remarked that the Catholic Church in promoting the principle was promoting some type of “goofiness” about sex. Wills’ outlook is widely held. I hope to show that that widespread outlook on sex is foolishness.

* 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. See Ch. IV for my justification see pp. 72ff. for discussion of moral harm. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.





To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
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Reconsideration of Justifying a Moral Principle

The previous post reflections on combining duty and love in moral thinking have significantly altered my beliefs on how to conduct the aspect of moral thinking which is justifying to my self and persuading others that a moral rule is correct.

A goal for writing blog posts has been to discover a better way of justifying a moral principle than I used in my book** to justify what I called a fundamental principle for male sexuality. I sensed that I had ignored something important.

Essentially the principle stated: A male should not intentionally seek an orgasm except in coitus open to conception with a woman to whom he had a life-long commitment to care for her and any child resulting from their intercourse.

Also in my book I had introduced a notion of moral harm which I have been exploring and developing in many of my recent posts. This exploration of moral harm, which is harm which ought to be, led me to fundamental contradiction in moral thinking. The contradiction, which must be resolved in some way to avoid irrationality, led me to the judgment that reflective moral thinking, which is moral thinking after resolution of the fundamental contradiction, will be a humanly constructed conceptual scheme or stance on how moral thinking ought to be conducted.

To justify a moral rule requires thinking about -reflecting upon- moral thinking for the rule is in moral thinking. Because justifying a moral principal is always in reflective moral thinking and hence within a conceptual scheme we need to concede that our justification are based on the assumptions of our stance. Consequently, we need to concede that some intelligent people who think consistently about morality may reject our justifications without being irrational.

In my book, I had already conceded that justifications of moral principles would be relative to a stance. So, I conceded that justifications of moral rules could have only persuasive or rhetorical force.

For me, justification of a moral rule would be bipartite. First, there would be acceptance of the rule as correct within in a stance. This is showing that the rule is a principle of reasoning, even if reasoning from a stance. Second, there would be discovering in daily life that the moral authority commanded the rule. The moral authority’s command would confirm the stance.

However, what I had overlooked in my book was trying to show that the rule in question promoted and protected some basic human good*. In short, I totally overlooked the need for love in moral thinking!

I argued that the proposed rule for male sexuality was the simplest rule for male sexuality. Its simplicity made it the only genuine rule for male sexuality because once qualifications are made the proposed sexual moral rules become at best some kind of guideline. I then argued that some rule for male sexuality is better than none. I pointed out that lawless sexuality readily leads to nihilism.

I now realize that a complete justification for a moral rule needs to show that the rule is proper rule – a rule of reason- within the stance. But also show how it promotes and protects basic human goods.

*The New Natural Law view holds that practical reason, that is, reason oriented towards action, grasps as self-evidently desirable a number of basic goods. These goods, which are described as constitutive aspects of genuine human flourishing, include life and health; knowledge and aesthetic experience; skilled work and play; friendship; marriage; harmony with God, and harmony among a person’s judgments, choices, feelings, and behavior. From an essay by Christopher Tollefsen on The New Natural Law Theory. See New Natural Law Basic Goods .

I am not a new natural law theorist because I do not claim that reason grasps certain goods as self evident. I simply believe that it is highly probable people will find the proposed goods as highly desirable and thereby many will be persuaded to accept as morally binding rules which promote and protect them.

** 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. See Ch. IV for my justification see pp. 72ff. for discussion of moral harm. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.





To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
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Duty vs. Love

The point of this post is to sketch out how duty and love ought to be interrelated in moral thinking. We began by considering duty and love in resolving the basic contradiction in moral thinking.

The basic contradiction in moral thinking runs:

Some harm ought to be
&
No harm ought to be.

DUTY

The claim “Some harm ought to be” comes from focusing on rules. Focusing on rules is based on thinking that morality is primarily for restricting conduct to avoid bad consequences. Rules specify a sanction in case they are violated. A sanction will specify that some harm ought to occur upon violation of the rule.

People who believe that rule following is primary in morality believe that the indication that they are acting in accordance with morality is that their intention is to obey the rule. The moral intention is to do one’s duty.

People who believe that rule following is primary in morality believe that the only basic human good is having the character trait of always choosing to follow moral rules. This trait can be called having a morally good will.

In practice, those who hold that the sole basic human good is having a good will, may not be vigilant about promoting and protecting conditions which many believe approach human flourishing
——————————————
LOVE
The claim “No harm ought to be” comes from focusing on basic human goods* to be attained. Focusing on attaining basic human goods comes from believing that morality is for human flourishing.

People who believe that promoting human good is primary in morality believe that the indication that they are acting in accordance with morality is that their intention is to promote human good or at least not impede any human good. Since one definition of “love” is “to will the good of a person” we can say that for those who believe that morality is for promotion of human flourishing the moral intention is to express love.

People who believe that the moral intention is to express love by promoting and protecting conditions approaching human flourishing believe that the character trait of a moral person is compassion. They will be vigilant about promoting and protecting conditions which many believe approach human flourishing.
——————————————————————-
DUTY vs. LOVE

When we consider practice, it may seem that we should prefer resolving the contradiction by taking promotion of good as primary in moral thinking. However, when we consider that promotion of good relies on rules to promote the food and not inhibit it, we see that rules are primary in moral thinking. But rules require sanctions which call for inhibition of the good. Hence, in moral thinking duty is more fundamental than love. Resolution of the contradiction, then, requires alteration of the tendency in moral thinking that takes promotion of human flourishing as primary. The alteration is that some harm, up to including intentionally taking a human life, is morally permissible for violation of a moral law.

However, moral laws apart from how they promote and protect conditions which constitute human flourishing seem pointless. A moral outlook which took the primacy of rules in morality as saying that human goods are morally irrelevant comes close to moral nihilism. Moral nihilism holds that every is permitted – nothing matters morally. The stance I am talking about here holds that what we do matters with respect to morality. However, with respect to human goods our being or not being moral does not matter. So we ought not separate identifying, promoting and protecting basic human goods from our moral thinking.

(I use “ought” because I believe that we ought not let ourselves think and speak about morality which makes it seem stupid, insensitive, irrelevant etc.,.)

We ought to combine duty and love in serious moral thinking. Here is a sketch of how to combine love and duty. Love will seek out the conditions which make for human good, discover what promotes and protects them. This provides content for rules. Duty transforms guidelines from love into moral rules. Once we have rules, love develops guidelines for mellowing the destruction of some human goods required by moral rule sanctions. These will be guidelines for forgiveness and mercy. Of course, love’s guidelines for forgiveness and mercy should not be transformed into moral rules because that would require more sanctions and more harm.

These reflections on combining duty and love in moral thinking have significantly altered my beliefs on how to conduct the aspect of moral thinking which is justifying to my self and persuading others that a moral rule is correct.

*The New Natural Law view holds that practical reason, that is, is reason oriented towards action, grasps as self-evidently desirable a number of basic goods. These goods, which are described as constitutive aspects of genuine human flourishing, include life and health; knowledge and aesthetic experience; skilled work and play; friendship; marriage; harmony with God, and harmony among a person’s judgments, choices, feelings, and behavior. From an essay by Christopher Tollefsen on The New Natural Law Theory .

Inconsistency of Moral Thinking Resolved by Moral Skepticism

It is embarrassingly conceited even to link my fumbling with contradictions in basic concepts of moral thinking with the brilliant investigations of the contradictions in basic concepts of mathematical thinking by Bertrand Russell et al in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nonetheless, there are some parallels which help clarify what I am trying to accomplish.

I only outline the main steps in finding the inconsistency in mathematical thinking. Mathematical logicians had shown that all mathematical thinking could be represented as thinking about natural numbers. G. Frege showed that all thinking about natural numbers could be represented as thinking about classes. A basic principle for thinking about classes was that there is a class consisting of the extension of any property. Russell considered the property “the class of all classes which do not belong to itself.” A law of excluded middle of the form: for any classes x and y, x belongs to y or x does not belong to y, was accepted as fundamental in mathematical thinking. An explicit contradiction is reached when both x and y are taken as the classes of all classes which do not belong to themselves.

Of course, the set theory contradiction did not hinder mathematical development in any way. For one, mathematical thinking does not depend upon going back to some foundational ideas such as set theory. Secondly, and relevant to my project, is that the contradictions can be resolved by altering the conceptual scheme for thinking about classes. For example, some set theorists restricted the kinds of properties whose extensions were classes.

It is the altering of the conceptual scheme which links my reflections on moral thinking with the foundational work in mathematics. Altering the conceptual scheme leads to a type of skepticism. First, it suggests that our ways of thinking are human inventions for thinking about the way things are. Insofar as they are our inventions the ways of thinking might contain components peculiar to humans and thus not accurately tell us now things really are apart from our thinking. If there were only one way of removing the contradiction, we might have some basis for thinking that we now had the right way of thinking about the topic. Unfortunately, as will be shown in subsequent posts, there are several ways of resolving the contradiction. As a result, one has to take a stance that one specific way of thinking about morality is the correct way.

Of course, conceding that there is no right way to resolve the fundamental contradiction in moral thinking is not conceding that there is no right way to think morally. Indeed a possible stance, which I take, is that after qualifications in the notion of an authoritarian morality to allow acceptance of “Some harm ought to be” we have attained the correct way of moral thinking. I have to concede, though, that I might have taken the wrong stance.

Let me put it as follows. I take the stance “There are absolute moral principles which correctly express the normativity in reality.” I concede that I might be mistaken about reality by taking such a stance. Moral skepticism is not moral relativism. There is only one correct way of thinking about morality. Unfortunately, I am not absolutely certain that I have the correct way.

This means that moral arguments have two phases: First, persuade someone to take your stance. Second, convince the other of the correctness of your reasoning within the stance. Also the need to take a stance implies that there may be irresolvable moral disputes.

A significant difference between the mathematical and moral resolution of a basic contradiction is that in the mathematical case a person can enjoy working with the different set theories. In the moral case, only a cynic, switches from one stance to the other. It is morally significant to take a stance and stay with it.