Monthly Archives: November 2022

Love of God is Essentially Love of Neighbor

The formula “Loving God is Loving What God Loves “ answers questions about the relation between morality and benevolence. There are two types of questions.

1. Does doing it because it is right diminish, if not eliminate, doing it because it is good for the other?

2. Is doing it only because it is good for the other amoral- without moral worth?*

The answer to the first question is No. Doing it because it is right is doing it because you love what God loves. God loves the good of the other. So, doing it because it is right is doing it for the good of the other.

An abstract answer requires an example.

Once I had an assignment as a Vincentian – a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I was to be a companion with Edward who was battling depression and other behaviorial health issues. I talked with him over coffee except that he wouldn’t drink coffee. We attended a few movies, sports events, some political meetings. I visited him when he was hospitablized in behaviorial medicine wards. On the whole, I found time with him dissagreeable. I could tell that he found me agreeable because I accepted his dislike of so many things and complaints. Over the years I slowly disengaged myself from him because he did connect with a few more people and I stopped driving. After not hearing from him for about three years, there was a message on my phone that Edward called. I did not want to return the call. I was going to ignore the call. Then I thought that I ought to return the call. By being his companion for quite awhile, I made some comitment to give him attention. That was my thought about morality.

With my moral thought, I intended to call Edward. Most likely, I would have called sooner or later. However, I started to think about Edward and “put myself in his place” to imagine how he might be hurt by ignoring the call but have positive feelings if I returned the call. So, for Edward’s good I made the call immediately. It turned out to be a pleasant call. Edward wanted to update me on his improved current status. I returned the call that I thought I ought to make for Edward’s good.

This example suggests another question about the role of morality and benevolence.

Edward might have been humiliated if he realized that I returned his call because I thought that I ought to and that it was for his good. He might think that I didn’t do it for him. Morality and what is good for him are not who he is. I slighted him.

The question intermediate between the two above could be posed as follows.

May doing it because it is right and for the good of the other fail to do it for the other?

The answer is clearly Yes. In personal relations, especially romantic love, there is a way of interacting which could be called doing it simply for that other person. Willing it simply for the other is a different type of love than willing it for the good of the other.

But simply doing it for someone without contraints of morality and consideration for the good of the other can be very destructive for oneself, the other and society. Think of a wife who enables her husband to contiue in substance abuse simply because he claims that if she loves him, she will give the money he despartely wants now. Think of a man’s mistress who demands that he kill his wife if he loves her.

I am not denying the reality and value of the personal relationship of acting simply for the other. When contrained by morality and consideration of the basic human goods, it is a component of friendship.

The answer to (2) above depends upon the kind of good being provided.

If it is a basic human good** or a direct means to a basic human good, there is a moral obligation to promote those goods and never intentionally inhibit them. So, doing it because it is a basic good for the other is inevitably doing what you ought to do and thereby is a moral action, i.e., has moral worth.

For instance, parents want to promote the health and knowledge of their children. That is what they ought to do.

If the good is amoral such as some condition or object the other desires, doing it to satisfy the other may well be amoral but of value for making life agreeable. It has no moral worth in the sense of being neither right nor wrong. Classing an act as amoral is not classing it as immoral. Most of what we do in daily life is amoral.

For instance, parents enjoy satisfying desires of their children. For the most part, that is just acting naturally.

Of course, if what the other desires is only good in so far as it is something he desires, providing that good has negative moral worth; it is wrong. The enabling wife and man manipulated by his evil mistress are examples of this type of wrongdoing.

So, morality and love harmonize

* I am obviously concerned with a controversy about Kantian morality. But I am not here concerened with Kantian exegesis. I tried Kantian exegesis in my book pp. 178ff. Contronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexuality as an antidote to nihilism. Tulsa OK, 2014
A copy of my book is available without cost by emailing

** I use a modified version of New Natural Law morality. The New Natural Law view holds that practical reason, that is, is reason oriented towards action, grasps as self-evidently desirable a number of basic goods. These goods, which are described as constitutive aspects of genuine human flourishing, include life and health; knowledge and aesthetic experience; skilled work and play; friendship; marriage; harmony with God, and harmony among a person’s judgments, choices, feelings, and behavior. From an essay by Christopher Tollefsen on The New Natural Law Theory .

Contrition Requires a Firm Purpose of Amendment

This post fills a gaping hole in my previous attempts to characterize contrition. By “contrition,” I always mean “ perfect contrition .” Perfect contrition is sorrow for offending the source of morality over and above any sorrow about the consequences of the misdeed for which one is to have perfect contrition.

In my post Loving God is Loving What God Loves I characterized perfect contrition as a tripartite sorrow:

1. Sorrow over the basic human good set aside by the violation
2. Sorrow over the impediment to virtue produced by the violation
3. Sorrow over the requirement that harm be done

exacerbated by shame that those conditions for which we feel sorrow are known by the author of morality who wills only good for us.

I illustrated these conditions with an example of a married man feeling profoundly dissatisfied with himself over having, yet again, masturbated stimulated by internet porn. His condition could hardly be called contrition if in the back of his mind he resigned himself to continuing to act this way.

A firm purpose of amendment is extremely hard to characterize, as all of us who have tried to break a bad habit realize. It is so easy to fool ourselves that we have made a resolution “this is the last time.”

There needs to be some action plan to stop the offense in question. Those of us who are religious may realize that we need to ask God’s help to amend our lives.

An illustration of having an action plan for amending a married man’s life who masturbates to internet porn is provided by “That Man is You” TMIY. It is specifically for Catholic men. But a serious action plan needs to “get down to specifics.”

1.Go to confession immediately after failing.
2 Turn of media … only watch good media.
3. Get electronic software to help e.g. Covenant Eyes.
4. Go to bed together with spouse.
5. End each day with your spouse for 15 minutes.
5. Enriched environment .. friendship with other men.
6. Participate in an ascetical program, e.g. Exodus 90
7. Seek professional help.

This is from lesson 7 of TMIY’s lesson series “The Light of Men.”

Loving God is Loving What God Loves

The purpose of this post is to sketch out how there might be genuine human feelings of sorrow over the violation of a moral law, viz., moral harm. This would be sorrow over and above any sorrow felt about the consequences of the act violating the moral law. It presupposes the command moral theory which I have been developing over the past few years. Links to crucial posts are provided.

What might it be like to have sorrow over offending God or the source of basic moral rules?

The hypothesis of this post says: To love God is to love what God loves.

This hypothesis is not essentially theological. I am developing a divine command morality; so here it is theological. If I planned to characterize the source of our morality as The Moral Law, my hypothesis might be formulated as: To respect the moral law is to respect what the moral law respects. If I planned to take Rationality as the source of morality, my hypothesis might formulated as: To respect Rationality is to reason in accordance with Rationality. The various hypotheses are attempts to characterize how we can have a relation to the source of morality and, thereby, have contrition for the harm of offending it. I prefer to write of God and love because “love” connotes most clearly that the thinking of the source of morality is a combination of thought and feeling; not from pure theoretical thought.

People can love as God loves without thinking of themselves as loving God. However, as we will see, once one violates a moral law and still loves God, that person in some way recognizes that God has been wronged. This is because of the transparency of morality to the source of morality.

What God loves are the basic human goods aimed at by fundamental moral rules, the virtues or character traits people develop to attain these basic goods, and the freedom of will to accept and apply these basic rules.

For a list of the basic human goods in the New Natural Law Theory, see the end of Duty vs. Love. My moral theory is a revision of the New Natural Law theory.

So, loving what is good for humans and gives them moral dignity is loving God. Our dignity is the freedom to accept and apply the fundamental moral rules.

This can be expanded to say: Loving God is loving the basic human goods aimed at by fundamental moral rules, the virtues or character traits people develop to attain these basic goods, and the freedom of will to accept and apply these basic rules.

Sorrow over violation of a moral law, then, is tripartite
1. Sorrow over the basic human good set aside by the violation
2. Sorrow over the impediment to virtue produced by the violation
3. Sorrow over the requirement that harm be done

For background on the following paragraph see Normative theory of moral harm.

The sorrow over the requirement that harm be done is based on the good of our freedom of will. Our freedom of will brings with it the authority to create many ad hoc norms with moral force. These ad hoc norms come from applying moral rules. The ad hoc norms are eliminated from morality when they are fulfilled. For instance, a promise creates and ad hoc moral rule to keep the promise. When the promise is kept the norm to keep it is eliminated. When they correspond with moral rules they are good. But when they come from violation of a moral law they aim at destruction of good. God has given us the freedom to create these norms and consequently God has given us the freedom to create retributive punishment.

The norms for retributive punishment come solely from humans But God has given us the authority to create them.

These sorrows are exacerbated by shame that those conditions for which we feel sorrow are known by the author of morality who wills only good for us. This shame brings one who had loved God before violation of the moral law to recognition that God has been wronged.

Contrition is a having this tripartite sorrow and its associated shame.

I choose the following illustration because I regularly attend sessions of That Man Is You, (TMIY) which consists of videos and discussion to help Catholic men become better husbands and fathers. One video by Steve Bullman, founder of TMIY highlighted how masturbation with internet porn is corrupting men and dissrupting marriages.

Connsider a married man who has just finished masturbating after viewing internet porn. He feels foolish for choosing this trivial satisfaction over the good of the fundamental moral law for men,viz., the paternal principle . This good is the procreative and unitive conjugal coitus. He is anxious because now he is even further behind in the struggle we men have in controlling sexual desires. He is vaguely fearful that he might seek ever more stimulating porn and ultimately illegal porn. He judges that he deserves some bad things because such as the disgust his wife and children would feel about him if they knew of his behavior. And, although he hides it from his wife and children, he is ashamed because what he has done is there in morality to be known.

A Conceptual Path from Moral Harm to Contrition

In my book on sexual morality*, I confronted Steven Pinker’s example** of coitus between a brother and sister which had, as the imaginary cases for moral philosophy can stipulate, absolutely no harmful consequences in nature. I propose that there is a type of harm over and above natural harm which is specifically a moral harm. Without much development of the notion, I simply proposed that moral harm is the harm done merely by disobedience to a moral law. In my book, I left this notion of moral harm lie in the background of my argument for traditional sexual morality. My case was mainly that the harm of setting aside the rules of traditional sexual morality was a sense of lawlessness and ultimately a sense that life is pointless, viz., nihilism.

After publication, I realized that the argument of my book needed to be strengthened by clarification and justification of moral harm as the harm of simply disobeying a moral law.

I have religious or theological concerns about understanding the fundamental Christian thesis that Christ suffered and died for our sins. In my religious reflections I reached a stage at which I realized that I could not hope to understand doctrines about our redemption by Christ unless, I understood retributive punishment.

A breakthrough in my thinking about the need for redemption was that retributive punishment is repair of moral harm.

The proposal that retributive punishment is repair of moral harm demands portrayal of moral harm as something which can be repaired. What goes on in the violation of a moral law which is something which can be repaired? I conjectured that in violation of a moral norm the violator adds a new moral norm to morality. This new moral norm is ad hoc for this violation. The ad hoc moral norm specifies that some harm ought to be done. A violation of a moral rule does expose a choice that the good aimed at by the rule ought to be inhibited. Inhibition of good is harm. So, moral harm is a perverse moral norm, i.e., a norm with the force of morality but contrary to the goal of morality. This ad hoc norm with the force of a genuine moral norm is damage or dirt in morality.

See Revision of the Normative Theory of Moral Harm for elaboration of the proposal that violation of a moral norm creates a perverse moral norm

This damage to morality can be repaired by fulfilling the ad hoc moral norm and thereby removing it from morality.

Doing the harm required by the ad hoc rule is retributive punishment.

Besides trying to understand moral harm and retributive punishment, I want to understand a thought that abortion is always a grievous wrong despite the fact that it frequently can be justified by utilitarian considerations. What is it like to have sorrow simply over the breaking of a moral law that innocent human life should not be directly terminated? This question led me to the proposal there might be an analogue to the Catholic notion of perfect contrition. Perfection contrition is sorrow over simply disobeying God. So, perhaps, the genuine moral conviction that abortion is wrong is sorrow over simply disobeying a moral law against it. This would be sorrow over moral harm. This sorrow over moral harm would be sorrow over having the ad hoc moral laws requiring harm in morality.

This is where I am now in my investigations. I have in thought, or “on paper,” specified moral harm and contrition for moral harm. But it needs to be shown that there can be genuine human sentiments connected with what I have called contrition.

*Contronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism,, Tulsa, 2014
Email for a free copy of this book
** p. 63 of my book, Originally in “The Moral Instinct” in the New York Times Magazine,Sun Jan. 13, 2008

Moral Harm and Contrition

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.

See Moral harm for crucial background.on how and why I defined “moral harm” as I have defined it. Contrition here means perfect contrition.

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.