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.