Category Archives: Moral philosophy

Progressivism vs. Catholicism

Is progressivism* consistent with Catholicism? No! There are many inconsistencies; especially in moral theory. But here I focus on theology in order to show the necessity of the notion of moral harm for understanding redemptive suffering.

Moral harm is harm which ought to be for violation of a moral law. Catholicism holds holds that Christ suffered torture and crucifixion to fulfill the prescription for the moral harm required for human sinfulness. In paragraph 601 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Christ’s suffering is called “redemptive suffering” Progressivism rejects the notion of moral harm. Hence, progressivism rejects the notion of redemptive suffering.

Am I saying that someone who takes a progressive approach to morality cannot be a Catholic or Christian? No. I am writing about a moral theory I built up from a foundational idea that there ought to be no harm and intended it reflect popular progressive moral beliefs. I write of Catholicism as body of doctrines. I point out a contradiction between these two theories. Progressivism cannot be a consistent Catholicsm. Catholicism cannot be a consistent progressive morality.

People are not theories. What people think are at best bits and pieces of theories. People do not think, say or believe all the implications of what they say or believe. A Catholic who takes a progressive approach to moral issues need not ever think or say anything which contradicts fundamental Catholic teaching about redemptive suffering. A Catholic can say words such as “Jesus Christ is our saviour who died for our sins” without every trying to spell out what it means. He can regard them as holy words he is supposed to say or immediately accept it as all a mystery which we cannot even start to understand.

Or all that I know, people can be both morally progressive and Catholic. Indeed such people may be very good Catholic. I do not hesitate to judge another person’s character. But I do not judge a person’s character on the basis of the logical consistency of theories I develop from bits and pieces of what they say. For instance, I think Joe Biden might be a good Catholic despite the fact that his moral progressivism on abortion and homosexuality place him in contradiction to Catholic teaching. He might well be too busy thinking about other issues to draw out implications inconsistent with progressive morality from Catholic doctrines on redemption. Biden is not a good example for other Catholics. But he may have an innocent childlike faith in the words and ceremonies of Catholicism which is pleasing to God.

However, there are some of us for whom trying to understand is crucial for letting words guide our lives. So, if I were to say that what Jesus Christ accomplished by his suffering and death did far more for humanity than anything such as discovering a vaccine for Covid-19, I need to have some concepts or ideas which I can use appreciate why I would say something like that. If I cannot even start to make sense of it, I won’t believe it. But I want to believe it to avoid the nihilism of progressivism. Here then is a situation in which there is my faith seeking understanding. Faith seeking understanding is theology.

My faith is holding fast to the words of Catholicism. My theologizing is the constant effort to think of why I would say those words.

The notion of moral harm is a key to gaining at least a part of understanding. Hence, I will be using moral harm in theology exercises to gain some understanding of the Paschal mystery.

*Perhaps, I should use “moral progressivism” to distinguish it from “progressivism” which is used to label a variety of political views which are successors of what used to be called liberal views.

What is Progressive Morality?

“Progressive morality” is a term I recently introduced to refer to a type of moral theory contrary to the authoritarian morality I support. Progressive morality is an extension of a theory about sexual morality examined in my book* which I called Progressive Sexual Morality. The guiding thought of progressive sexual morality is the moral neutrality of sexuality. The morality neutrality of sexuality holds that in principle any sexual activity is morally permissible. The guiding thought of progressive morality is that no harm ought not be.

A good way to answer, “What is Progressive Morality?” is to show how progressive sexual morality can be made a progressive morality. In my book I implicitly connected progressive sexual morality with progressive morality’s thought that harm ought not be with the provision that coercive sexual acts are not permissible. Progressive sexual moralities are easily incorporated into progressive moralities if they would drop any absolute condemnation of coercive sex. It is remotely possible that a coercive sexual act produces less harm than any other act open to the rapist under the circumstances.

Do progressive moralities hold the moral neutrality of sexuality? Yes. Progressives hold the moral neutrality of every type of act. In principle, any act, even an act done to intentionally inflict harm, might be the act which produces the least harm in certain circumstances.

Act utilitarism is the fundamental method of moral evaluation for progressive morality. The basic good is satisfaction of human inclination and harm is frustration of inclination satisfaction. There cannot be any specification of any other condition such as development of talents as a good. Such a specification would characterize it as something we ought to pursue. But if we ought to pursue it then there needs to be a sanction for failing to pursue it. But sanctions open up the prospect of harm that ought to be. Inclination satisfaction becomes the good by default. Everyone naturally has this goal and there is no need to command people to have it.

In effect, the guiding thought of progressive morality is that there ought to be no frustration of human desires. And the right act in any circumstances is the act, which after balancing satisfactions with frustrations, produces the highest amount of satisfactions.

Progressivism is a humanism with its restriction to human desires. And with human desires ultimately determining what is right or wrong, “man is the measure of all things.”

The most interesting aspect of progressive morality comes out in explaining the status of the norm “Harm ought not be” which we just interpreted as “there ought to be no frustration of human desires.” Progressives are not naïve. They realize that at the present time there are kinds of desires whose satisfaction produces harm as well as kinds of people whose system of desires aim at what is harmful.

The explanation brings out why they can be called “progressive.”

Obviously, they cannot take “harm ought not be” as an imperative with sanctions. Progressivism makes assumptions about human nature. Some of the most important assumptions are as follows.
1. Moral language is part of human thinking and use of moral language actually modifies human desires and guide human behavior. It is not for telling the truth or somehow indicating the way things are.
2.Humans have some desires, such as occasionally desiring that others satisfy their desires, which could be called moral desires. (It’s simply not a sociological fact that people are totally selfish.)
3. What people desire can be modified. In particular, with development of technology people can be educated to care more for the satisfaction of other’s desires.
4. Technical progress will continue to provide resources for desire satisfaction so that, amongst other things, there will be less conflict over scarce resources.

So, progressives who bother to think about the foundations of their moral stance look at their guiding thought that there be no harm as a normative principle pervasive in human thought which their inclinations for human satisfaction leads them to take it very seriously. They might admit that they are higher on the compassion inclination scale than most other people. After noting that they are simply following amoral nature in their moral endeavors they look to technical advances and education, which may use moral language, to develop schemes for maximum desire satisfaction in the future. This future, which they most certainly will not see, most likely will require somewhat different kind of people with somewhat different desires. But such a future is possible. To be working on a scheme which leads to this right kind of future is being on the right side of history.

* 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 Harm as An Intrinsic Evil

Authoritarian moral theories recognize some acts as intrinsically evil. For instance, my Authoritarian moral theory regards masturbation as intrinsically evil. Such a condemnation of masturbation means that under no circumstances and regardless of the intention or consequences is masturbation morally permissible. However, moral harm is not an intrinsic evil for Authoritarian moral theories. Here “moral harm” stands for the intentional infliction of harm to satisfy the sanctions for violation of a moral law. Intentional tolerance of harm as harm suffered for violation of a moral law would also be moral harm as I am using “moral harm” for this post. So interpreting AIDs as punishment for homosexual acts is interpreting it as moral harm.

For example, if a young boy were masturbating, he would be performing an intrinsically evil act. If his father caught him in the act, grabbed him, shook him while yelling at him about being a pervert, the mental pain and slight physical pain are harms that the father not only was permitted to inflict on his son but might well have been his obligation to inflict on his son simply as punishment for what his son did.

The term “Progressive moral theory” is a term I invented. Progressive moral theories hold that in principle the morality of every act depends upon the circumstances of its performance, the intention with which it is performed and the consequences of its performance. So, it seems that Progressive moral theories classify no act as intrinsically evil.

However, Progressive theories also resolve the basic contradiction in moral thought by specifying that no harm ought to be. This does not mean that Progressive theories condemn infliction of harm as intrinsically evil. Under certain circumstances with an intention to produce good and the production of good is likely, harm may be inflicted. What they absolutely condemn is the intentional infliction of harm to satisfy the sanctions for violation of a moral law . This is moral harm. Inflicting harm for retribution. There is not a contradiction with the denial that no act is intrinsically evil. It says at most that an act connected with a special intention to punish is intrinsically evil.

But what is the moral significance of holding moral harm as intrinsically evil if there are no sanctions for performing acts of this type? In Progressive morality what is analogous to intrinsically evil act in Authoritarian morality is a condition or situation which ought not be.

In Authoritarian morality there are acts which ought never be done.

In Progressive morality there are conditions or situations which ought never be.

In Progressive morality harm is what ought never be. So in Progressive morality moral harm is simply harm which ought not be. So inflicting harm or tolerating harm as retributive punishment for violation of moral laws is something which ought not be.

Moral harm still exists, of course. But it exists because humanity has not progressed far enough to realize that Authoritarian morality is really superstitious belief in an enchanted reality with super human authority. As humanity progresses to eliminate erroneous beliefs about reality and moral theory it will realize that the point of morality is to eliminate harm; not to promote harm under any conditions.

The Virtue of Obedience in Authoritarian Morality

Assume for this post that authoritarian morality is correct. What kind of person ought we be? It is clear what we ought to do. We ought to act in the ways the authority commands.

Always acting in accordance with the moral law is neither necessary nor sufficient for being the right kind of person. It is not sufficient because the perfect conformity could be simply caused by the agent’s inclinations. Some non-behavioral specifications, such as the agent’s motives or intentions for choosing, are required. Perfect conformity to the moral laws is also not necessary for being the right kind of moral agent. We want to recognize normal human beings who occasionally succumb to temptation as still being the right kind of moral person.

When I continue trying to specify the mental or non-behavioral conditions for being the right kind of moral agent, I assume that the agent almost always acts in accordance with the moral law. I cannot specify a number. But a person who quite often succumbs to temptation is lacking the strength of character needed for being the right kind of moral agent. The concept of “proper moral agent” is a so-called vague concept with borderline cases.

What about fear of the sanctions for violating moral laws? In authoritarian morality, moral laws have sanctions. If they are violated some harm ought to occur. Fear of the law is neither sufficient nor necessary for being the right kind of moral agent. A person acting in accord with the moral law because of fear may resent or even despise the moral law. A person who thinks the moral law is always right may obey it without any concern for consequences of disobedience.

From the suggestion that a person who thinks the moral law is always right, we have a clue to what makes a moral agent the proper kind of agent. It seems that the agent must obey the law because of some morally significant feature of the law such as being right or aimed at human flourishing if generally obeyed.

Let’s specify recognizing the law as right is recognizing that it is reasonable along with recognizing that it aims at human flourishing if generally followed. There is no suggestion of some type of consequentialist moral theory. There is no claim that a moral law is valid because it is productive of human flourishing. The law specifies what constitutes human flourishing.

But the focus of this post is not what makes moral laws valid. The focus is what attitude towards moral laws makes a law abiding agent a proper moral agent.

Certainly a person whose policy, attitude or maxim is to act in accordance with the moral law because it is right and directed at the good has respect for the moral law and should definitely be classed as a highly moral person; as a person with a strong moral character.

Perhaps, though, having a strong moral character is not quite enough to be a proper moral agent.

A man of strong moral character acts for the law. He does not act for the good of those for whom the law is promulgated. His stance towards the law places the law between people for who’s good the moral authority enacts the laws. He acts for the sake of obeying the law rather than acting for the sake of the human goods at which the law aims. His primary intention is to make himself a person who obeys the law. Would it not be better if he willed as the moral authority wills? The moral authority wills for human good of people subject to the law.

“Willing as” is an asymmetrical relation. If I will as the moral authority wills, it does not imply that the moral authority wills as I will. The authority will is in place for me to agree with. My will is not a choice in place for the authority to agree with.

This asymmetry leaves place for a type of autonomy. Autonomy is thought of as a condition to be defended at all costs. A suggestion of this post is that to be the best kind of person this highest type of autonomy in which you hold yourself to be an agent apart from the law who can choose to obey or disobey is to be let go in order to become a person who really is no longer free to choose not to obey.

A person with a strong moral character maintains a type of autonomy. As I pointed out in the post Autonomous obedience vs. autonomous legislation one can admit that the content of the moral law is from another (heteronomous) while maintaining that as an agent one has the autonomy to obey or disobey the law.

Choosing to obey laws aimed at producing human good is not itself within the scope of human goods at which the laws aim. It stands outside the law. However, as we will see, obedience can be transformed into a human good.

It would be better for him and everyone else if he acted in accordance with the law as if he willed the law. If instead of a strong moral character or in addition to a strong moral character, he obeyed because acting in accordance with the law was a part of his living a good life aimed at having others live a good life. He had been enjoying the goods of acting in accord with the various laws. And now an additional good to those various goods, he was enjoying the good of obeying the law. He now has the virtue of obedience.

To be the best type of moral agent, strong moral character has to be elevated to a virtue of moral obedience. His obedience to the law has to become a habit in which he finds obedience usually easy and satisfying because his obedience is for the good at which the law aims.

Let me try to illustrate obeying the law virtuously from a case from my work in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. A woman, Tina B., to whom I have brought food, clothing and furniture on various occasions calls, during the coronavirus shutdown, to ask me to help her get a TV set. She is partially crippled and lives in wretched conditions with her twenty two year old autistic son. Without a TV they live 24/7 in a squalid basement apartment which is usually dark. In her call she pleaded that she was desperate after 36 hours with emptiness. In truth, I was annoyed by her call. I had other things to do besides solve Tina’s problems.

I decided to get he a TV. What would be the virtuous way of getting her a TV? I did feel compassion for her wretched condition being exacerbated by lack of TV. But acting out of compassion to ease the discomfort of feeling compassion would only be acting as a sentimental person who is focusing on dealing with his feeling. In doing charitable work, one has to be careful about responding to one’s feelings.( You’re open to being a “sucker” at the expense of others who truly need help if you are out to feel good about yourself.) I needed to consider whether I ought to help her. After some deliberation, I concluded that moral laws applied to this situation obligated me to get Tina a TV. The deliberation should bring out that some genuine human good would be realized by her getting a TV.
As a man with strong moral character recognizing my duty would suffice for giving up my afternoon to get and deliver a TV to her. I would act, and as duty also required act, pleasantly for this abstraction of my duty. There is something demeaning to Tina about acting for her to fulfil my duty. She becomes a means to my end of duty fulfilment. The better way would be to get the TV for the good of Tina. A virtuous person would serve her as morality required the sake of her good.

Authoritarian Morality, Lincoln’s 2nd Inagural, Today

For Black History Month 2020 the book I selected was Andrew Delbanco’s The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War. Random House Penguin 2018.

The thesis of the book is that cognitive dissonance between acceptance of slavery and the professed ideals of the new nation along with a clash with the Christian morality of most of its citizens produced a cold war between the North and South from the final acceptance of the Constitution in 1789 until the outbreak of hostilities in April 1861. The catalyst for this cold war and ultimately full war was a “poison pill” in the Constitution. For some reason, I had never really noticed this.

The “poison pill” was a provision in Article IV Sec. 2 which stated: “No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due” A significant opinion forming elite in Northern states would not obey that Constitutional requirement.

Delbanco’s book is well worth reading. His occasional moralizing may annoy some readers but I think it adds to the interest of the book. Here I focus on the moralizing towards the end of his text where he writes with approval that in March 1865 on the occasion of his second inaugural ” Lincoln had come to see the ’mighty scourge of war’ as divine punishment visited not only upon the South but upon all America. “ Delbanco quotes with approval Lincoln’s “God gives to both North and South, this terrible war , as the woe due to those by the offense came” He cites Lincoln’s reflections on ending the war . If it “continue until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword , ” There would be no cause to doubt God’s justice or to presume the blessings of his mercy.

With proclamation of suffering which ought to occur because of injustice, it is clear that Lincoln is using the language of authoritarian morality. I have no doubt that Lincoln was sincere in using this moral framework. I interpret Delbanco as accepting Lincoln’s framework. As Delbanco goes further to suggest that we Caucasians whose main roots reach back to those who fought the Civil War and its preceding cold war are still incurring punishment due for injustices done to descendants of the slaves after the Civil War. The moral order, if not an acting moral authority, is still passing judgment on us and prescribing some harm which ought to befall us.

The purpose of this post has been to remind us that the perspective of authoritarian morality was alive in 19th century USA and is still alive now.

I am not sure that it is the dominant moral perspective. It is interesting to note that when I consulted an on-line copy of Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural I called it up from a source called Owl Eyes. With respect to Lincoln’s talk of an avenging God a commentator, called: “Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor” suggests that Lincoln might have been using this language simply for rhetorical effect because he realized his audience used that kind of language. I was not surprised by the comment. There is a point of view in our contemporary culture that an intelligent person, and no doubt Lincoln was a highly intelligent person, would seriously believe what the language of authoritarian morality implies. However, that assumption about intelligent people is shown to be wrong by the clear words of Lincoln and how Lincoln’s moral perspective is shared by Delbanco. At least I interpret Delbanco as moralizing from the standpoint of authoritarian morality because he used the language with enough conviction to evoke in me a sense of dread of punishment due for our social structure which inflict injustice on African Americans.

Holy Week: Is It Only a Show?

This post is a reminder that virtual worship services support a widespread conviction that religious worship is only a show. There are narratives with scant, if any, historical evidence. Miraculous events are described. Moral language is used which is not generally used. That is not at all unusal for shows. When the show is over, one returns to real life, viz., where your body is. In real life one ignores the narratives and does not use the moral categories used in the show. The sense of a show would be diminished by actually being present. For then it is not only a show because one is actually there participating. It is in the real world.

During Holy Week 2020 throughout the whole world severe restrictions are imposed on commercial and civil life to lessen spread of COVID-1 virus. Amongst other restrictions public worship is prohibited. Churches, temples and mosques are locked. The Catholic Triduum is not to be celebrated publicly. The fight against spread of the virus is the dominant social force. All the kingdoms of the earth bow down before it.

As substitutes for public worship, there are numerous on-line and TV presentations of the worship services. I personally, follow on-line liturgies from Bishop Robert Barron’s “Word on Fire” organization. In these substitute services, we hear the traditional biblical narratives and homilies about the suffering and death of Jesus. They tell a story whose events are alleged to have changed the human condition. We proclaim that by undergoing a horrible execution by crucifixion Jesus, who was God incarnate, suffered the immense punishment for some wrongdoing for which all of us and each of us is responsible. The harm He endured fulfilled a moral sentence that this immense punishment ought to occur. The wrongdoing was so grave that the harm that ought to be suffered could not be suffered by any ordinary human being.

If the presenters and we viewers are serious about our Catholicism we are supposed to think that what happened then accomplished something immensely more important for human beings than, say, finding a vaccine for COVID-19. Is this madness? Would not an explicit statement to this effect be taken by most of the world, and many Catholics, as asserting a pious myth which serious people should dismiss as irrelevant to current problems?

Beside the theological stance, the moral language embedded in the religious talk alone exacerbates the sense of irrelevance. The moral language presupposes a moral stance of an authoritarian morality. Only fragments of authoritarian morality remain in the moral stance in Europe and North America. The concept of suffering which ought to occur simply to make reparation for a past violation of a moral law is dismissed as primitive. Thinking that one person’s suffering could make reparation for the crime of another is regarded as immoral. The suggestion that God as a moral authority could demand suffering for violation of His laws is opposed as a blasphemous theological hypothesis.

To someone who struggles daily to understand and practice his commitment to Catholicism, this disconnect between the language of our Holy Week liturgies and and the language used in the fight against COVID-19 has become much more threatening.

I would love to be able to proclaim with conviction that what happened in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplished something immensely more important for human beings than, say, finding a vaccine for COVID-19.

With only virtual services, it all seems much more to be only a show for people with a taste for that kind of show. Bringing it into the real world would be a threat to public health. This sharpens a sense that the only good religions can do in the real world-where our bodies are- is works of charity.

I will not accept that Christianity’s only value to society is to provide a curious motivations for NGOs and to keep alive as museum pieces ancient narratives and practices.

My way of resisting is to try to bring forward the concepts of authoritarian morality. If the concepts of authoritarian morality, which are now latent in our cultures, are brought into more common use, then the moral categories of traditional Catholicism would start to become part of the language used in the real world.

Perhaps, then, being only able to view liturgies as shows on my computer or TV has accomplished some good by encouraging me to continue my struggle to bring the concepts of authoritarian morality into greater use.

Purgatorial Suffering

I return to expounding authoritarian morality by introducing a very useful term “purgatorial suffering.”

A crucial notion in authoritarian morality* is “moral harm.” Moral harm is the mental or physical harm which ought to occur as a consequence of violation of a moral law. Moral harm is the sanction for the moral law. Hence, when a moral law is violated the moral authority issues a new specific moral prescription. This specific moral prescription is that some harm ought to happen because of the violation. In the case of so-called social or sins of unjust structures no definite individuals can be identified as the violators. But here let us think of violations for which a definite individual is the violator.There is no claim that the moral authority actively inflicts the prescribed suffering.The harm prescribed is for purgatorial suffering.

There is no claim that the moral authority actively inflicts the prescribed suffering. Infliction of the suffering may be turned over to us.** And the suffering prescribed may never occur.

Purgatorial suffering is an apt term because the specific norm requiring suffering for the violator is removed as the suffering goes on. The specific prescription is fulfilled when the prescribed suffering has occurred. The moral order is purged from the ad hoc prescription of punishment. The violator is purged from the condemnation of the specific moral norm prescribing his suffering. He is cleansed from condemnation.

Seriously, I am uncovering the basic thoughts behind ordinary notions of retributive punishment and pleas or prayers for mercy from the moral authority. It is thought that the moral authority can set aside or forgive some of the prescribed suffering. One of my goals is to uncover basic thoughts in ordinary moral thought

Purgatorial suffering can be internal and external or physical. Guilt and shame are examples of internal purgatorial suffering. Disease or loss of a job could be external purgatorial suffering.

Mental or physical suffering does not need to be interpreted or accepted as suffering prescribed for a violations to be purgatorial. Consider a comparison with criminal law. If a man serves a five year sentence as retributive punishment for his crime, he has fulfilled the prescription of the judge who sentenced him and has “paid his debt to society” regardless of whether or not he accepted his suffering as justified.

In subsequent posts, I need to explore how moral character is purged from bad character traits by proper responses to purgatorial suffering. This will connect purgatorial suffering with concepts such as repentance, mercy and forgiveness. In this post, I focus on purgatorial suffering and violations of what we ought to do; not with purgatorial suffering and how we ought to be – moral character.

Primarily purgatorial suffering is for a violation of what has happened. It is not for bringing about some good in the future. However, purgatorial suffering can be linked with accomplishment of some future good by being accepted as an occasion for character building

*Core Concepts of Authoritarian Morality
**See Virtue of Taking Retribution

Why the Modest Goal of Moral Apologetics?

In my previous post I wrote the following about the purpose of making a case making a case for a moral principle commanding what could accurately be labeled “Traditional Catholic Sexual Morality.

“We seek assent, even if grudgingly granted to our rationality and decency along with assenting to the claim that the principle we are defending is not irrational. Seeking that type of assent for a moral principle can properly be called moral apologetics.

Why do I take such a humble stance? I satisfy myself with moral apologetics because of the community I hope to reach. I a addressing the secular, or de facto secular, community of progressive and dominant opinion on sexual morality in the early twenty first century.

This dominant opinion forming community accepts, explicitly or implicitly, the moral neutrality of sexuality. Those who hold this view hold that in principle no sexual act is morally wrong. Immoral sexual acts, if any, are determined by the circumstances in which the act is performed, the intentions of the actors and the consequences of the act.

Amongst progressives the moral neutrality of sexuality is regarded as almost self-evident. I have set myself the task of confronting the dominant view on sexual morality with arguments to dislodge any assumption of self evidence and prerogative of moral decency for the moral neutrality of sexuality.

In my book I made clear that my goal was moral apologetics to contemporary secular society. Unfortunately, my book has probably never been read; let alone reviewed.

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. I in which I explicitly acknowledge that my goal is moral apologetics. 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
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Moral Apologetics

I have browsed in a little bit of John Henry Newman’s reflections on proving principles. Back in January in Why Justify a Moral Principle I noted that I needed to look at some of what Newman wrote about giving arguments for principles. He puts well what I think about the effectiveness of arguments for principles as a way of getting people to assent to the principle. I agree that arguments are not the way to get the assent of most, if any body’s. Probably the more rigorous the argument, the less effective it is for obtaining assent at the time of presentation.

However, I should have realized from logical considerations alone that even the best argument for a moral principle- a proof- cannot establish a moral principle as a command a person internalizes as an obligation. A proof of a moral principle establishes a fact about the moral principle! A proof establishes at best: It IS the case that one OUGHT to X. From what IS the case there is a logical gap between “This IS an obligation” and “I OUGHT to obey.”

But deeper than the logical gap is the psychological gap reflected linguistically by a linguistic mood change from indicative mood to imperative mood. A proof allows one to say in the indicative mood “You ought to do X.” is proved. An additional thought and sentiment is required to accept an obligation to do X by dropping “is proved” and accepting the imperative to me “You ought to do X!

This subtle point can be made in another way by distinguishing the assent to a principle as true and assenting to an imperative as coming from a valid authority. Assent to the command of an authority is not obtained by any proof that the authority gave the command but by receiving the command from the authority.

Nonetheless proving, or making a good case, that a command comes from the moral authority – or whatever the source of morality may be is important for clear thinking about morality.

So the purpose of developing an argument for a moral principle is to place in public reasoning, viz., somehow publish, defenses against claims that assent to the principle is irrational. In making a case for traditional sexual morality, the assent we seek is assent that our arguments are logically correct i.e. free from formal and informal fallacies and based on plausible assumptions. We seek assent, even if grudgingly granted to our rationality and decency along with assenting to the claim that the principle we are defending is not irrational. Seeking that type of assent for a moral principle can properly be called moral apologetics.

So, at the risk of seeming conceited, I can write that the approach in my book to defend a fundamental principle for male sexuality was correct. Chapter IV focused on an argument for the principle whose gist I will state one more time.

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 imagined an academic setting – a philosophy seminar- as the context in which the argument is given. Assuming an academic context made clear that there was no intention of getting popular assent. I intended only moral apologetics.

To avoid the criticisms placed against stereotypic natural law arguments, I made an empirical case for selecting our reproductive systems as needing moral control. Sexuality, as opposed to other systems, can be perverted. Then I, more or less, used traditional “perverted faculty” considerations.

I should have used considerations from “New Natural Law” theory to point out the basic human good protected by obedience to the principle. And I probably should not have introduced my idiosyncratic interpretation of Kant to provide a Kantian justification.

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. 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
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

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.