Category Archives: Moral Harm and Moral Worth

The Virtue of Taking Retribution

In this post I use my theory of moral harm to understand and appreciate the thinking behind retributive punishment. This is not to say that I show that the thinking behind retributive punishment is precise. It’s radically imprecise!

What is my theory of moral harm? My theory is that moral harm is the moral judgment, concomitant with a moral law, that harm OUGHT to result from violation of the moral law. See Moral Harm Is a Moral Judgment.

However, nothing in the moral law tells us what the harm ought to be. Moral laws are categorical imperatives: Don’t do it! Their “tone” conveys the message “Don’t do it or else!” The what else is unspecified harm – infinite harm in the sense of unlimited. For the functioning of moral thinking the threat, perhaps promise, of unspecified harm gives authority to moral laws. There is no negotiating with moral laws.

If we regard moral thinking merely as the evolution of one way, amongst other ways, of thinking and feeling to inhibit specific behaviors, it is not surprising that the sanction for violation of moral laws is infinite – unlimited. The trouble arises when we take it upon ourselves to apply the sanctions.

Unfortunately, this imprecision of the harm that ought to result leads us to great vices in moral practice. Some have taught doctrines about infinite torment by some non-human agency for small infractions, history and current events tell us of cruel and unusual punishments and terribly destructive vengeance has been allegedly justified as retribution.

Shortly we will appreciate use of the term “vices,” in an Aristotelian sense, to label the horrible excesses and sometimes shameful laxity in proposing and applying punishment.

The thinking behind retribution is radically imprecise and always requires moral reflection to justify a punishment. The radical imprecision rests on the fact, just noted, that the moral judgment that harm ought to result from violation of the law does not specify how much harm ought to come about. The imprecision is radical because it is at the roots of every moral judgment. From the tautology “The harm that ought to be a consequence of the violation is harm that ought to be” we formulate the dictum “The punishment ought to fit the crime.” Not surprisingly for a dictum formulating a tautology,the dictum “the punishment ought to fit the crime” tells us little. It only tells us that we are supposed to think morally, in some way or other, about what harm we ought to inflict if we take it upon ourselves to bring about the harm that ought to occur if a moral law is violated.

Punishment is intentional infliction of harm on people because a law has been violated. I restrict attention to laws which are also moral laws. This restriction includes the large overlap of morality and legality. Many of the laws of a community express the morality of a community Prohibitions against killing, cheating, beating, sexual misconduct etc., reinforce the moral laws. The point of this restriction is to set aside the complex discussion of the differences between morality and legality. I want to focus on interpreting thought about what ought to be done when a law is violated; be it legal or moral.

This harm which ought to result from the mere violation of a moral law is retribution for violating the law. Intentional infliction of this harm is retributive punishment.

To admit that the infliction of punishment for violations of rules is radically imprecise is not to admit that the proper amount cannot be decided upon. It is only to admit that it cannot be decided by further moral rules. So, if we say that meting out justice is totally a matter of following rules, application of punishment is not exactly meting out justice.

What justifies inflicting harm because a moral law has been violated? The moral law which has been violated provides the fundamental justification for inflicting harm because of its violation. For, on my theory, part of the moral law specifies that harm ought to result from its violation. Further moral thought is needed to decide who ought to inflict the harm, on whom ought it be inflicted and how much harm ought to be inflicted. But what is this further moral thought? Ultimately, it is not finding more rules.

Answering the questions about who inflicts punishment and on whom to inflict it is for social and political philosophy. Over the centuries many with the competence have confronted these questions. For simplicity, I consider cases where it has been morally decided that there is a group authorized to inflict the harm, it has been decided that the harm ought to be inflicted on the violators of the law ought and somehow the harm ought to “fit the crime.” To say that an infliction of harm fits the violation is really only to say that the harm is the proper retribution. I do not think that we have ever adequately decided what it is for a punishment to fit the crime.

I propose that the only moral justification for punishment is retribution. The other rationalizations for inflicting harm on violators are morally justified only in so far as they are part of retribution. Consider the others.

1. A violator may be restrained for many years to prevent him from committing more violations. However, the pain of the number of years of restrain ought to be neither more nor less than the harm which ought to follow upon violation of the law.

2. Pain, whipping, imprisonment, putting in stocks, etc., may be inflicted upon a violator to deter others from violating the law. Again, however, the pain to deter others and the violator from future violations ought be neither more nor less than the harm that morality requires for its violation.

3. The group authorized to punish may require a violator to make restitution for goods stolen, or more generally restoration for a condition destroyed by the violation. Making restitution and restoration are painful in so far as they require effort or loss of violator’s property. Now the requirement to make restitution or restoration are not punishment. So, restoration is not a justification for punishment. However, the authorities many consider whether the pain of restoration is some, or even all, of the, harm required by the violation.

So the moral way to mete out punishment is to aim at having the violator suffer the right retribution which as just noted, may involve attaining other goals. But moral laws do not tell us what is the right retribution. So, in meting out punishment we must recognize in moral thinking a type of moral thought different from following rules. I call this Aristotelian virtue thinking because the goal is to reach a mean: not too little and not too much harm. Punishing requires Aristotelian virtue thinking. Wise judges have the virtue of discerning what is the proper amount of punishment. Judges who are too lenient or too harsh have a vice.

Now as noted above, having the virtue of meting out proper punishments is not simply a matter of justice. I suggest that we have a moral imperative to show mercy. This mercy imperative authorizes modifying thought about “what is due” when finding the punishment which is neither too much nor too little.

With introduction of “mercy” into a discussion of the network of concepts in our ways of thinking morally about punishment, this post threatens to become a treatise on punishment. So, I stop here and repeat my goal for writing this post.

My goal has been to show that my notion of moral harm makes sense of the notion of retribution and the notion of retribution is essential for making sense of punishment although it does not specify what the punishment ought to be.

The Pain of Moral Harm

Theoretically moral harm is not actually harmful but actually moral harm is harmful! What?

In a previous post, I conceded that moral harm is not actual harm. Moral harm is the moral judgment that actual natural harm OUGHT to result from breaking a moral law. For instance, the moral harm of a murder is the thought, concomitant with judgment that murder is immoral, that bad things ought to a result from this crime. Separable from this judgment that bad things ought to happen might be moral judgments that the bad things be the death of the killer.

The moral judgment that harm ought to result can be a factor in causing all sorts of unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Some are of these thoughts and feelings are guilt, shame, anxiety, anger and hatred. These unpleasant thoughts and feelings can be classed as natural harms. They are painful. But they are the causal effects of moral harm; not the moral harm itself. Moral harm can help cause actual natural harm because moral harm by virtue of being a moral judgment is a thought. Thoughts have causal consequences. The pains of moral harm can be spread beyond the perpetrator of an immoral act. For instance, a murderer may suffer guilt and fear while witnesses suffer anger.

Of course, another type of natural harm connected with moral harm are the bad consequences which ought to happen as a result of breaking a moral law, do happen. The most obvious cases of this are when society punishes a perpetrator. A subsequent post will focus on moral harm and punishment. Here the point is that the actual harm that so to speak is required by moral harm is not the moral harm.

I am updating my post with the following quotation from a review in July 18, 2019 edition of the New York Review of Books. It illustrates that feeling moral harm is painful, that moral harm is diffuse by not condemning only the perpetrator, and is connected with the religious notion of atonement. Orlando Figes is reviewing novels of the Russian writer Sergei Lebedev. Figes writes on p.42 “In Lebedev’s fiction, the desire to confront the Soviet past comes with a sense of being burdened by its crimes. In Oblivion, the narrator travels to the island because he wants to atone for the sins of Grandfather II, whose blood runs in his on veins.”

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 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
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Moral Harm is a Moral Judgment

In this post I make and support a claim that moral harm of an act is the moral judgment that harm ought to be a consequence of the act.

In my book*, I introduce a notion of moral harm to challenge Steven Pinker’s proposed counter example to an absolute prohibition against incest. For simplicity’s sake suppose the moral law in question commands: A brother and sister ought never engage in coitus with one another. Pinker asks us to imagine a scenario in which a brother and sister in their early twenties practice recreational coitus. He names them Julie and Mark. In the imagine scenario the couple takes such elaborate contraceptive measures that pregnancy is physically impossible. We are also asked to imagine that these siblings are psychologically disposed never to feel regret or guilt about this act. They will only remember it as some fun. And no one else will ever know about it.

Pinker alleges from anecdotal evidence that people cannot answer the question: What is wrong with what Julie and Mark did? Presumably his respondents understood the question as: What harm resulted from Julie’s and Mark’s recreational coitus. In the imaginary scenario it seems that every possible harm has been imagined out of the picture: unwanted pregnancy, regrets, bad example.

Pinker did not explore my type of response. I would reply: “ The harm Julie and Mark did was doing something they ought not do; they disobeyed a fundamental moral rule.”

My imagined argument with Pinker begins with challenging the very idea of doing harm simply by violating a law. The challenge could start by accusing me of begging the question. Pinker might claim that the question at issue is “What is wrong – what is the harm- brought about by disobeying the alleged moral law?” Pinker could go on to note that that I am begging off answering the question at issue by simply asserting that the harm is disobeying the law.

I would reply that I am not begging the question because the question is ambiguous. The question about the harm done by a morally forbidden act can be interpreted in two different ways as illustrated by the two questions A and B.

A. What is the harm done by performance of the forbidden act?
B. What is the harm done by violating the law forbidding the act?

Does it make sense to distinguish damage done by a violation of a law and damage done simply by the law’s being violated? The intelligibility of the distinction between harm done by a violation of a law and harm done by violating a law is brought out by considering traffic laws. It makes sense to consider whether I did any harm by violating a speed limit when my speeding caused no accident and was undetected. Even if many people will simply answer “Actually no harm at all” their answering the question, instead of challenging the question as senseless, indicates that they understand what is being asked.

However, a concession that it makes sense to ask about the harm done simply by violation of a law seems to bring us back to the original question which stumped Pinker’s respondents. A new question is “What is the harm done by the mere fact of violating a moral law?

I am faced with a dilemma between inventing some type of special harm which is necessarily connected with mere violation of a moral law or claiming that some natural harm always results from the mere fact that a moral law is violated.

If I invent some special non-natural type of harm such as creating disharmony in the moral order or even offending God, I make claims which I cannot justify since I want to justify my claims about morality on natural grounds.

If I claim that some natural harm, such as law abiding diminishes, situations can be invented as Pinker did with Julie and Mark, that shows the harm does not always occur.

What is the result of the discussion so far?

1. It is not a fact that acts violating moral laws always result in harm. (Pinker’s example)
2 It is not a fact that the mere violating of a moral law itself results in harm. (Concession from my dilemma.)

Because I cannot claim that there is some natural harm which inevitably result by the mere fact of violating a moral law but claim that moral harm is an inevitable consequence of violating a moral law, I have to concede that moral harm is not actual harm. So, to say that Mark and Julie suffered moral harm due to their incest is not to say that they or anyone else has actually suffered any harm. What, then, is moral harm?

It is a fact that people can get away with murder. My next sentence gives the key to my thesis about the reality of moral harm. People ought not be able to get away with murder. Unfortunately, there are many examples. Let one suffice. Think of a lynching in “the old south” of the 1930s. Of course, great harm was done to the black man. The perpetrators had enjoyment; let alone suffered harm. They died without any punishment or ill effects. Moral thinking warrants the thought “That is not how it ought to have been nor is it how it ought to be.” Some harm should have resulted from that terrible violation of the fifth Commandment “Thou shalt not kill!” Even now, after every member of the lynch mob is dead, there is still the warranted moral judgment that there ought to be harmful consequences. Now it is unspecified to whom the harm should fall upon.

The moral harm from the lynching is the warranted moral judgment that some harm should befall some human beings because of an awful violation of the moral law against killing.

The moral judgment creating moral harm is always unspecified with respect to whom ought to suffer harm and what the harm ought to be. The judgments about who ought to be harmed and how are separate moral judgments made to carry out the moral judgment that harm ought to result from violation of the moral law. The judgment that harm ought to occur because of a violation of a moral law is part of the moral judgment that an act ought not be done. That there is a sanction for violating a moral law is logically connected to the moral law. What the sanction ought to be and who ought to be sanctioned are further moral judgments – they are morally, not logically connected to the moral judgment that an act ought not be done.

I have used this notion of moral harm in a recent post Identity Politics and Collective Guilt.

In closing, I suggest much of the outcry for justice of the victims of clerical sexual abuse is a cry that some natural harm ought to result. The victims have to see that someone or something connected with the Catholic church needs to suffer harm even if the alleged perpetrators are long dead. There seems to be little complaint from the public at large if those of us who are faithful to the Church suffer economically and socially because of those secret sins between priests and boys.

* 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 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
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

Jesus Has Saved Us From Nihilism Being a True Account of the Human Condition

In this post I begin my case that we need not understand the torture and death of Jesus as a human sacrifice God demands in retribution for humanity having original sin so that He will forgive us for having original sin. Instead I will be arguing that our morality, to which God in his mercy allows us to be bound while having original sin, demanded the execution of Jesus in retribution for our having original sin so that we can be forgiven for having original sin.

Here, I give the broad outline of my argument and elaborate on details in subsequent posts. *s refer to notes at the end of this post linking to earlier posts on the topics marked.

A crucial question answered in this post is “From what does Jesus’ suffering and execution free us?” I am struggling to express clearly an insight that Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection brought it about in “the fullness of time” that the human condition is not as nihilists describe it.

Despite our having the original sin of repudiating God and morality, God still gives us morality as the means for attaining our good.* Our good is being as we ought to be. But we have morality while still repudiating it. Our reasoning is in conflict.** Satan exploits this conflict

Satan, who has the power of adding thoughts to human thinking*** adds thoughts which push human moral thinking to an extreme which would destroy the very moral thinking it exploits.

Moral thought goes to the extreme by leading us to think that there ought to be elimination of humanity for having original sin and acting on the original sin we have. Put another way: The original sin we have is a choice to be amoral animals. Moral thinking rightly requires that there be unpleasant consequences of wrong acts which are somehow in proportion to the wrong done.**** The extreme moral thinking alleges that our repudiation of morality requires that we suffer the consequences of choosing to be amoral beings. A consequence of choosing to be amoral beings is exactly that, viz., being amoral beings. In addition the horror story dimension of human history is brought up to make a case that humans are such a vile species that we should be eliminated. “Killer Angels,” the title of Michael Shaara’s 1974 novel of the Battle of Gettysburg seems an apt description of human beings.

But what would it be to eliminate the human species whose members are animals with a moral destiny, a morality to attain that moral destiny but yet are animals who repudiate that morality?

Simply having the human species be eliminated by a catastrophe or becoming slowly extinct would not be the elimination of humanity as moral beings. Such an extinction is likely to happen well before the end of the ages. But the human species with a moral end would not be actually eliminated The physically extinct species would still be a species which had the moral destiny God set for it. And some members may be enjoying this moral destiny after the extinction of all human beings in the natural universe.

The way to eliminate the human species, as we know it now, would have been to reduce the human animal to an amoral animal with no moral destiny. If so reduced the human condition would be accurately described by nihilism. Nihilism holds that everything is permitted for humans if they can get away with it. There is no way, according to nihilism, that humans collectively or individually ought to be. With no goal of the way we ought to be there is no purpose for which we should live. We are simply an animal which has evolved with an extremely clever intelligence but there is nothing which this intelligence ought to accomplish since evolution alone has no purpose or purposes. Nihilism describes the human species as one amongst millions of species which come into existence and pass into extinction for no purpose whatsoever.

How can humanity be annihilated as it ought to be but yet undergo this annihilation so that it still has the good God originally set for humanity?

A solution is that one human being pass through the pain and annihilation required by morality. What would such a human be like? I have argued that the logic of moral thinking does not preclude the permissibility of a person, or persons, who have not done the wrong undergoing punishment to atone for the wrong.****

A human who was truly human and truly divine could pass through pain and annihilation required by morality and still have the end set by God if that being reincarnated Itself entitled to have the end God sets for humanity. Jesus of Nazareth who I accept as true God and true man is such a person.

In his death on the cross the man Jesus underwent for all humanity the annihilation of humanity. He vanished as nothing as nihilists posit as the fate for all of us. Non-being is total evil. So vanishing is a “descent into hell.” Jesus’ dual nature allows for the radical discontinuity of vanishing but yet continuing. As a human he vanished as God he remained so that at the resurrection the risen Jesus was the same dual nature being but with the human nature which justifiably has a moral destiny.

This resurrected human is a human as humans ought to be. By the action of this resurrected human the thought that we are justified in holding that we have a goal set by God is in our common reasoning. The Paschal Mystery justifies us in believing that we are justified – have a right to salvation, viz. attaining what we ought to be..

This is more than enough for a single post. As promised subsequent posts will elaborate on this conceptual mode of the Paschal Mystery which I am trying to construct.

But one last question. What about human sacrifice in the Paschal Mystery?

God sacrifices Himself by incarnating Himself so that He can be the representative human executed in accordance with the demands of human morality.

In my book on sexual morality I show how if it is true that all sexual acts are in principle permissible then nihilism is a correct philosophy of the human condition.

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.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.

* Can God Love Humanity After Original Sin?
**Human Reasoning is Inconsistent: Thank God
***There is a Satan in Opposition to God
Retributive Punishment is Consistent with the Logic of Moral Thinking
For those who might like a biblical passage suggesting my thought of Satan using morality to condemn us consider.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” Rev. 12:10 New American Standard

The Impossibility of Being Moral by Normal Human Reasoning and Choosing

The previous post in this series Human Reason is Inconsistent: Thanks be to God! argued that for humans to still have the destiny God willed for us before our original sin after our original sin, God had to allow us to have morality while rejecting it. At the deepest level where we focus on the purpose of human life, God’s allowing us to live with this inconsistency is a great gift from God. At the level of daily life, human history is a bloody tragedy of moral depravity tempered by moral nobility. This is how it is with humanity as a whole and each individual.

Much can be written about the agony of human life due to our rejection of morality while also acknowledging it. I will not write much about the actual human condition except in some subsequent posts bring out how this tension between morality and its rejection makes human sexuality a book of horror stories with a few chapters telling the most inspiring romances of love, fidelity and the nurturing of children. My emphasis is on the “logical” issues in building a conceptual model of the core Christian teaching that the incarnation of God as Jesus, Jesus’ suffering death and resurrection made it possible that human beings could attain the condition of being the way they ought to be even after original sin.

The conceptual question for this post asks: How is it possible for human beings to have the principle of being moral as the dominant principle while we hold a principle permitting us to override the demands of morality on occasion. Let me use the Kantian term “Good will” as standing for having the principle of choosing to do what is right because it is right regardless of any inclination to do otherwise. In religious terms a person has a good will if that person chooses to do what God wills simply because God wills. In other words, how is a good will possible.

A principle I assume holds: You cannot remove an inconsistency in thinking with inconsistent thinking.

To become a person with a good will we would have to eliminate the policy of setting aside morality to satisfy inclinations. We cannot set aside a policy of satisfying inclination over morality while still having such a policy. So, individually we cannot become consistently moral because the universal human reason we use is inherently inconsistent. Now we have to ask: If we cannot with our efforts become consistently moral which principle dominates: The principle of setting aside morality for inclinations or the principle of setting aside inclination satisfaction for the sake of morality. Given that we cannot eliminate the principle of setting aside morality to satisfy inclinations that means that in principle, in the principles of our thinking, there is a price , measured in terms of inclination satisfaction. If there is a price at which we will set aside any requirement of morality, the principle of setting aside morality is dominant in us.

Very, very good strong willed people can train themselves to place duty over inclination in almost every case we can think. Yet, despite all of their effort they still have a principle in the “back of their minds” that morality can be set aside. By our own efforts we cannot eliminate the fact that we have a price on our morality or fidelity to God. By our own reason and will power we cannot become people of good will and thereby the kind of people we ought to be.

For those interested, note that we have avoided the heresy of Pelagianism

Now we confront the following question. If humans cannot become beings who can choose with normal human reasoning their moral good, how can humans still have this moral good God wills for us? We have argued in the previous post that God still wills that we ought to become as we ought to be. “Ought” implies “can.” The answer has to be that in addition to allowing us to have morality after original sin, God also grants individuals power to choose to be morally good using more than normal human reasoning and willing. This capacity to choose what is right simply because it is right or in religious terms: To obey God simply because God wills it, is a gift from God which we do not earn or acquire by our moral efforts.

For those interested, I am proposing that what Kant calls respect for the moral law is a gift of God which takes us beyond normal moral thinking and choosing.

In the next post, I will illustrate how we use this gift, or grace, of being motivated to choose what is right because it is right in daily life. Then in other posts we will address questions about how God can give us the gifts of a moral destiny and a supernatural capacity of attaining it.

Readers my be interested in my book on sexual morality. My book illustrates how humans are unable to make their sexuality as it ought to be with normal human reasoning and willing.

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.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214

Moral Harm as the Natural Harm Which Ought to Be

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.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.

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Moral Harm and Non-being

I am beginning a series of posts the goal of which is to get some understanding of the basic Christian framework called the Paschal Mystery. The Paschal Mystery is the teaching that the Incarnation of God as Jesus and Jesus’ subsequent suffering, death and resurrection radically transformed the human condition. These events restored the human condition from a fallen one in which at best human life had no greater destiny than that we typically attribute to bedbugs to an original one in which human beings rise after biological death to live eternally with God. Human beings were in the fallen condition because they had chosen some act which they ought not have chosen and so they were no longer as they ought to be.

The phrases with the moral terms are emphasized because they gave me the clue on how to clarify and modify concepts to become somewhat clearer about the Paschal mystery. Moral concepts will be those under closest analysis and modification. This post focuses on a notion of moral harm.

What is moral harm? Distinguish moral harm from natural harm which here I will treat as medical harm. I use “medical” to have a working definition of natural harm. The medical harm of an act is a physical or psychological condition brought about by an act for which the person has a high probability of being compensated by medical insurance. So if you assault a person and break his arm, that person can very likely win a suit for damages from you. Similarly, if a man seduces a boy into sexual acts medical professionals will almost certainly testify that the boy has suffered psychological harm for which he should be compensated.

Moral harm is not the medical harm which an immoral act causes. Certainly we cannot say that an act is not immoral if it causes no medical harm. Moral harm is the harm a person inflicts on himself when he chooses contrary to a moral law. For instance, there is a moral law that you ought not testify that you saw a man at the scene of a crime when you clearly realize that he was somewhere else. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor!” The moral harm he inflicts upon himself comes from choosing to break the moral law. Moral laws specify how we ought to be. By choosing to break the moral law he chooses to not be the kind of person he ought to be. Moral harm is not being as you ought to be. Harm can be called an evil. So a notion of harm or evil as non-being is being used: non-being as a departure from what ought to be. The non-being which is evil may be an actual state of affairs. But it is a state of non-being, moral non-being, because of its difference from what ought to be.

This notion of moral harm or evil as non-being will be fundamental in posts trying to get clearer about the Paschal mystery. This will include introduction of a notion of Satan!

My book explores the notion of moral evil in conjunction with an examination of male sexual morality.

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.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.

Penance : Fulfillment of Our Obligation to Express Moral Wrath

This post is a criticism and development of my previous two posts on penance.
February 16, 2015: Penance: Pain as a Scapegoat Which Carries Away Moral Evil
February 24, 2015:Penance: Guilt, Shame, Self-Loathing as Penitential Pain

In those posts, I interpreted penance as self inflicted pain to make up for and restore oneself after commission of a moral wrong. An act of masturbation was the example of an immoral act so that there would be no issues of compensating other people. Four dimensions of making up for and restoring were noted. Restitution was inflicting a pain to pay for an immorally attained satisfaction. This could be a simple fast of skipping a meal. Rehabilitation was inflicting pain so that by becoming accustomed to enduring dissatisfaction aesonould be less likely to subcumb to temptations to seek immoral satisfactions.Again a simple fast could be an example of penance. Deterrence was inflicting pain with a threat to inflict it again if we pursued the immoral satisfaction. Taking a cold shower with threats of subsequent cold showers is an example of a deterring penance. My focus was on the retributive dimension of penance. Retribution is the most difficult dimension for which to articulate a motivation even if in some people the need for it is strongly felt.

In retribution we inflict a pain to represent to ourselves our moral evil, i.e., breaking a moral law, as physical or mental damage. This physical or mental damage intentionally connected with the moral damage can be called punishment. Punishment is always a physical or mental pain. Punishment is imposed for moral reasons but the punishment itself is factual (empirical) not moral. Penance is self-inflicted punishment.With recovery from the connected factual damage the moral damage is cleansed or healed. The factual damage becomes a “scapegoat” which carries away the moral damage.

Perhaps my account of retributive penance accounts for why some, or even many, people do punish themselves for immoral behavior with a hard to articulate sense that it makes them clean or healthy again. But an account of why some people punish themselves does not justify their doing so and certainly does not give support to a claim that this type of retributive punishment is what we ought to do.. Now my goal is to make a case that we ought to perform retributive penance.

Why ought connect factual damage with moral damage by inflicting factual damage on an offender because of his moral damage? If we do not accept a prescription for conduct as a command coming from ourselves in which we both think and feel that factual damage be imposed on violators we do not accept it as a moral law. Thinking and feeling that factual damage be imposed on violators simply because they violated a moral law is moral wrath. Genuine acceptance of what we think ought to be requires internalizing the prescription. Internalizing a prescription requires feeling that it ought to be followed because what it commands is right. This feeling that it ought to be followed because it is right has as a complementary feeling a sense that a violator ought to be damaged in some factual way simply because he did not act as he ought. Acting on this moral wrath is retribution. In retribution we do not seek to accomplish anything by imposition of the damage beyond striking back after violation of the law. To be sure, as noted above, in inflicting damage after a violation, we may hope to accomplish restitution, rehabilitation and deterrence. But retribution is simply to express the obligation to react negatively to violations of a moral law we have internalized, viz., genuinely accepted.

Penance, then, is retribution inflicted on ourselves for our own violations of morality. As the wounds from our self-inflicted moral wrath heal, we often have a sense of being healed or cleansed.

My thoughts about penance, forgiveness etc., come from my emphasis on sexual immorality as producing moral harm in my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism .
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 $12.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $16.70 per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.

Penance: Guilt, Shame, Self-Loathing as Penitential Pain

This post elaborates on my February 16 Post: Penance: Pain as a Scapegoat Which Carries Away Moral Evil in two ways. First, I advocate mental pain as the proper penitential pain. Second, I bring out more of the theory rationalizing inflicting pain on yourself to cleanse yourself from a moral stain or heal yourself of a moral wound.

In my previous post, I suggested interpreting penance as a way of cleansing or healing ourselves for moral damage we inflicted upon ourselves by a wrong such as masturbation which in no clear way does any tangible damage to our bodies or anyone else’s body. My suggestion was that we inflict some tangible damage on ourselves. Penance as cleansing or healing works by linking the moral wrong with a tangible wrong which will heal. The healing tangible wound is taking away the moral harm with which it has been linked. We are morally cleansed because the moral wrong in us has gone away insofar as it was a type of wound in us. However, the moral wrong is still formerly – “on paper” – in our history until it is forgiven.

Forgiveness is another topic. Penance may be necessary for forgiveness but I do not think penance is sufficient for forgiveness

What kind of pain is a suitable penance for victimless sexual immoralities; especially masturbation? As suggested by the Lenten texts from Joel: “Rend your heart; not your garments” the pain should be interior – in the mind. Mental pain is tangible – guilt, shame and self-loathing are felt. Let yourself feel these pains by not giving yourself any excuses. Of course, as in any important endeavor, good judgment is needed to know when to “go one with your life” and let the mental pain and moral wound heal.

Why, though, inflict pain on ourselves so that it can become a wound which is supposed to take away a moral wound? Here I need to sketch out thoughts on the reasons for punishment.

One reason for punishment is restitution. I am not writing of penance as restitution. I am not thinking of penance being the infliction of some tangible damage to ourself as a way of paying back for a satisfaction immorally attained. For instance, the pay back for the pleasure of masturbation might be a cold shower. On this model the pain is paired with the illegitimate pleasure and then the pleasure-pain pair is neutralized. Such a model may be useful for understanding some dimensions of penance. But that is not the dimension which I am trying to understand. Here I am struggling with a belief that penance is appropriate to make myself cleaner or healthier after committing a moral wrong. I try bring myself back to my moral status I had before the immoral act. The restitution model does not seem to me to bring out making myself healthy after committing a moral wrong. It is too impersonal. Restitution brings our making the situation better. What can fairly be labeled a retribution model of penance brings out that penance is supposed to make me better by somehow removing the moral damage I brought upon myself. This is different from a rehabilitation model of penance where penance is to build my character. The retribution model is also different from a deterrence model. On a deterrence model, the masturbator would inflict some pain on himself after masturbating and threaten to inflict that pain on himself every time he masturbated. Cold showers might be his choice of deterrent.

Restitution, rehabilitation and deterrence are all important dimensions of penance. They are forward looking dimensions of penance. They aim at making the person or situation better in the future. Retribution is backward looking. In retribution we go back in our history to clean or heal a wound we suffered. We are trying to bring ourselves status quo ante.

My thoughts about penance, forgiveness etc., come from my emphasis on sexual immorality as producing moral harm in my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism .
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 $12.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $16.70 per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.

Penance: Pain as a Scapegoat Which Carries Away Moral Evil

At the beginning of Lent 2015, it is appropriate to reflect on penance. I hope to clarify my thought that penance is choosing an inclination frustration – pain- to remove or cleanse from oneself a negative feature or stain on oneself which resulted choosing an immoral act.

Since these blog posts are on sexual morality, let us consider the point of doing penance for sexual immorality. The focus is on an act of male masturbation. The act itself has no significant consequences in the world outside the man who masturbated. I do not want to be distracted by consideration of needs to restore some damage done by the act. Also I do not want to consider penance as a either a way of building strength of character or a way of somehow deterring oneself from masturbating again. Penance may strengthen character and be a deterrent. However, I hope to clarify a thought and feeling that somehow penance cleanses a person from a morally evil condition he has produced in himself

An immoral sexual act is bipartite. Both parts are immoralities One part is the act performed. In masturbation this part is the self-stimulation to orgasm. The other part is self inflicted moral damage in the person who chose the wrong act. The moral damage or moral evil is whatever it is in the person which now justifies passing the judgment upon him: He is now a man who chooses to do what is wrong to gain a sexual inclination satisfaction.

This moral damage seems nebulous, intangible and invisible. How can it be removed?

Nothing can be done to remove the past choice to masturbate for an inclination satisfaction. Nothing can remove the fact that he had enjoyed the inclination satisfaction which is now gone. However, the point of penance is to cancel out that wrongly gained inclination satisfaction by inflicting on oneself a greater inclination frustration. Choosing to connect an overriding inclination frustration with the wrongly chosen inclination satisfaction transforms the moral damage into complex condition of moral evil connected with a balancing natural or non-moral evil. This complex of moral and natural evil is not so nebulous. It is certainly tangible if not visible. Because of its natural component this complex can fade away with time as the natural pain of frustration diminishes.

Penance is a “scapegoat.” The penitential pain attaches to the moral evil and as the pain fades way so does the moral evil it carries with it.

I introduce my thoughts on moral evil in my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism

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 $12.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.





To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $16.70 per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.