I write this after the November 8, 2022 elections showed that a majority of the people in the USA do not think abortion is truly immoral. My goal is to make a small contribution to conceptual resources for leading people, including myself, to realize the immorality of abortion despite the fact that utilitarian, cost/benefit reasoning, or however we label moral evaluation by weighing consequences do not clearly show the immorality of abortion.
What I accomplish in this post may seem abstract and lifeless; disconnected from any complex of thought and feeling anyone would call “contrition.” But this post is only a phase in a conversation trying to articulate what it would be like to have contrition for abortion. If I could clearly articulate and communicate having contrition for abortion, I would have something worth saying in efforts to convince people that abortion is truly immoral. Bringing someone to have contrition or realize that contrition is needed for an action is to prove the immorality of the action.
This is conversational development of concepts. What is conversational development of a concept? I write by imagining that it is my turn in a conversation to propose theses and definitions. My line of thought is proposed for modification and correction by others. They are not intended to be the “last word.”
Here I should state a crucial assumption about conceptual development which I did not realize I make until after I had published this post. I have never had perfect contrition for offending God or morality. I believe that I ought to have such contrition. My crucial assumption is that if I can find “just the right words” for characterizing perfect contrition the proper sentiments of perfect contrition will come along with having the right words or thoughts.
This post, via logic, connects contrition with moral harm.
First premise: Contrition is sorrow over having offended the source of morality by violation of a moral law.
Second premise: moral harm is the harm done simply by violation of a moral law .
These two premises yield a:
First conclusion: Contrition is sorrow over having offended the source of morality by producing moral harm.
My detailed characterization of moral harm is used as the:
Third premise. Moral harm is the occurrence in human moral thought of a prescription that harm ought to occur because of a violation along with a stress in morality’s authority until the harm which ought to occur upon violation of a moral law actually occurs.
This characterization and the first conclusion permit derivation of:
Second conclusion: Contrition is sorrow over having offended the source of morality by producing the occurrence in human moral thought of a prescription that harm ought to occur because of a violation along with a stress in morality’s authority until the harm which ought to occur upon violation of a moral law actually occurs.
Contrition has been logically connected with enough other concepts to write a book about contrition. So conceptual development is now best served by sketching out informally the vision of morality and contrition with which I am working.
Human moral thinking is a creation of God, viz., the moral authority. In moral thinking we produce norms. Correct moral thinking is thinking the norms for human behavior which God knows aim at basic human goods. So, in correct moral thinking we think as God thinks about what ought to be. If no one ever chose against the moral norms which God thinks, there would be a beautiful system of norms all aiming at the production of basic human goods.
However, we do choose wrongly. Unfortunately, in our immoral choices, we produce norms for moral thinking is always normative thinking. But in the case of the norms put into moral thought by immoral choices there are norms that the human goods aimed at by the correct norms ought to be inhibited, viz. evil be brought about. Hence, immoral choices produce ad hoc norms that evil ought to be. These ad hoc norms defile the beautiful system of moral norms the source of morality would have as our moral thought.
I have connected satisfying and thereby removing, these ad hoc norms with retributive punishment .
Here I conclude by noting that contrition is at least sorrow over having defiled the creation of the moral order with norms that some non-moral harm ought to be.
But this post is only a prelude to showing that this abstract definition of contrition can be exemplified in genuine human thoughts and sentiments.