Collective Contrition

Collective Contrition

To build an authentic moral barrier to abortion we should cultivate a condition of collective perfect contrition for abortion.

I wondered why we, and I in particular, should care about almost unlimited access to abortion. We, and I in particular, are not threatened with any great harm. The extreme damage to unborn babies might well be outweighed by the social problems solved by their destruction. Some, but not many, might fear the wrath of God.

Yet, there is a deep sorrow that elective abortions are legally permitted and that millions of women have and will use that permission. Explicitly, or implicitly, those of us opposing abortion want having this sorrow about abortion become dominant in society. The goal is to have the dominant thinking be that abortion is immoral with the appropriate thoughts and sentiments that being immoral itself is what makes it horrible.

The effort to understand thoughts and sentiments connected with violating a moral law led to the concept of perfect contrition . Perfect contrition is primarily a religious notion of sorrow over offending God by violating moral laws which are His commands. This religious concept is readily generalized to be a candidate for the thoughts and sentiment, if any, about violation of a moral law over and above sorrow and fear of any consequences of the moral violation.

I write, “if any” to indicate the prospect that psychological analysis of any particular sorrow about violation of a moral law might indicate that it is in fact some fear or grief about the consequences of the violation to society or oneself.

The concept of perfect contrition is not meaningless even if no one came ever be certain that they really have it. The concept is meaningful even if we can never be absolutely certain that it has anything in its extension. The concept is necessary for moral thinking, but it is not necessary that it be exemplified in any individual.

For those who might still be interested in twentieth century concerns over cognitive meaningfulness, note that claims of perfect contrition are empirically falsifiable.

Indeed, there is no authentic moral thought without the thought of immorality being a reason for sorrow regardless of any physical or social harm. Perfect contrition is necessary for morality. Dogmatic claims of psychological egotism that people have only selfish concerns and can make only selfish choices are dogmatic denials of morality. Case by case analyses to raise suspicion about unselfish concerns, as alluded to above, are efforts to show that there is no morality.

As important as it is to be honest about motives etc., unceasing efforts to uncover selfishness are uninteresting. They seem to be based on the dogmatic assumption of psychological egotism that there is always some selfishness to be uncovered. Of course, we are selfish and hypocritical. What is interesting is to show what it is like for a person to be sincere and unselfish.

In any event, we can set aside the whole topic of tortuous psychological analyses of individual motives. Morality is primarily collective thinking. So, if morality requires perfect contrition, then perfect contrition is an element in collective thinking. I admit that contrition seems preeminently a condition of an individual. However, we learn to think from others. So, if we can have perfect contrition, we have acquired it from others.

Upcoming topics are exploration of what collective perfect contrition might be like and the possibility of vicarious contrition.

Ontology, theories about what is real, are inseparable from my pursuit of truth in moral theory. I close with an argument for the truth of one of my major ontological assumptions.

There is no doubt that I assume that there is collective thinking in what I have written. But of more significance for the reality of collective thinking my act of writing and the act of anyone writing in reaction to what I write assumes and presents the reality of collective thinking. More generally any discussion, written or verbal, of the reality of collective thinking exhibits the reality of collective thinking.