Real Moral Rules Come From No One

Real Rules Come From No One

I do not recall any book or article in which someone claims that we lose freedom if we accept moral rules which we have not made ourselves. So, here I am responding to remarks I have read or heard about contemporary opinion with regard to admitting being bound by moral rules which they have not made. Of course, if one makes up a moral rule by himself, it is not a moral rule. For rules one makes up for oneself can be revoked. Moral rules cannot be revoked.

Can rules restrict freedom? Of course, rules for any community or institution to which we belong, voluntarily or involuntarily, restrict our freedom by threatening sanctions if we do not obey. Nominally we are free to choose to accept the sanction. But freedom under threat of a sanction is not in general a freedom worth wanting.

Of course, if we are the boss who makes up the rules for the business or community, the rules do not restrict our freedom. The rules are for restriction of the employees or citizens’ freedom.

All of the rules for institutions and communities are objective. They are objective in the sense that it is a fact that such-and-such is a rule or not. Let’s call these rules natural rules because the rule makers are part of the natural world even if the rule comes from the traditions of a community.

So, people who think objective moral rules restrict their freedom, are thinking of objective moral rules as natural rules. From this perspective accepting objective moral rules is accepting as having our whole life being subject to the will of some rule giver. There is no escape such as going to another community or coming home from work where we are free of the work rules. Our whole life is bondage.

What are the implications of this type of mentality for my project of justifying moral rules?
When I try to justify a moral rule, I should raise considerations which lead me, my readers or listeners to accept the moral rule as irrevocable. Allegations that some authority commands these rules tends to undercut the case for the rules.

Only after we have accepted the rule as irrevocably binding may we ask what the source of these rules might be. An answer that the rules are divine commands is only a metaphysical interpretation of the rules. A divine foundation for morality is not an essential part of any argument for a moral rule.

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Real Moral Rules Come From No One

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