Monthly Archives: February 2020

Pennance

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Ought To Be Ashamed of Yourself!

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

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

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

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

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

There Ought to be Moral Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. See Ch. IV for my justification see pp. 72ff. for discussion of moral harm. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.





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There Ought to Be Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Pinker Article .

** My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. See Ch. IV for my justification see pp. 72ff. for discussion of moral harm. Free copies can be obtained here by credit card by paying $3.75 for shipping and handling.





To receive a free book, send check of $3.75 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.