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Morality

MORALITY AS A DESCRIPTIVE CATEGORY

MORALITY AS A NORMATIVE CATEGORY

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Morality (Latin neuter plural: moralia ) is a multifaceted term. It is commonly used to describe the behavioral teaching and practical lessons of literary and artistic works. As a descriptive term about the cultural and social realms, morality signifies the habits and norms of behavior that establish right and wrong conduct for individuals in particular societies. Normatively, morality is the systematic and principled reflection concerned with determining what ought to be the standards of conduct and duties for particular agents and communities and how these standards are reproduced in members of society. In this sense, morality thus specifies the proper practice of individual and communal life and prescribes what constitutes the good life and how it is to be attained. In doing so, moral reflection draws upon the cultural, religious, and theoretical worldviews and values of particular societies in determining the proper standards of behavior.

MORALITY AS A DESCRIPTIVE CATEGORY

Morality is a term of social theory used to describe the range of acceptable human behaviors, that is, the norms that structure and guide proper, intentional behavior for a particular community. In this sense, morality describes the customs and principles that particular societies use to determine what is right or wrong for behavior in that social order. At the external level, morality can merely signify the customs and common practices that tell a member of society how to act within interpersonal relationships and social circumstances. These practices and customs generally rest upon a theoretical and ideal foundation, sometimes called a worldview, that expresses the internal beliefs and values of the society. Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) called this the collective or common consciousness and defined it by stating, The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of society forms a determinate system with a life of its own ([1893] 1984, pp. 38-39). Such a worldview system provides the horizon of values and stock of norms and duties within which individuals and social groups determine courses of intentional action. Individual and communal actions are judged according to their conformity with or deviation from these duties. This horizon of beliefs and values functions to reinforce desired behaviors, reproduce norms in succeeding generations, and impose implicit and explicit sanctions for deviant behavior.

MORALITY AS A NORMATIVE CATEGORY

Morality also describes the process of judgment whereby people determine what actions to undertake. As opposed to anthropological descriptions of social and individual behaviors (e.g., what is the behavior of this set of peoples?) or judgments that are narrowly customary (e.g., should I send a thank-you note to the host of the dinner?), aesthetic (e.g., does this new building fit into the city skyline?), or political (e.g., how do we shape the democratic will of the people to adopt this particular policy?), moral judgments specifically inquire into what behavior or action one ought to undertake. This view of morality, most commonly studied in moral philosophy and moral theology, denotes a set of inquiries that purport to describe and analyze human behavior through determining what ought to be the case from some objective perspective that goes beyond descriptive accounts of actual behavior or mere instrumental achievement of prudential goals. How do humans learn these norms and standards of behavior that specify what duties and obligations they must respond to?

Moral judgments draw upon the mores of a social group to specify proper behavior. Moral norms are based upon the stock of principles and values contained in the worldview that set duties and obligations for human action and behavior. These standards may come to be known by means of external revelation; by referring to the traditions, practices, and behaviors determined by protocol or exemplars in ones community; by reference to internal emotional sentiments shaped through character development and habituation; or by rational determinations carried out through the agents own cognitive capacities.

Many early societies (e.g., Hebrews, Babylonians) believed that norms were revealed by divine beings through a special dispensation of knowledge by the deity. This tradition continues today in some religious moral reflection, commonly called divine-command ethics, wherein the norms of behavior for the religious group are thought to emerge through revelation (i.e., through the text of the Bible or the law given through a religious authority) that shapes the authoritative traditions and rituals of religious communities.

The customs, habits, and traditions of social groups can also serve as the primary source of norms for setting standards of behavior. The authority of the norms rests on their continuity with the communitys past practices and its own standards of the ideal member. The customs might be implicit and known to the individual only through informal means. For instance, communal and familial expectations can place pressure on individuals to act in certain ways or follow a particular life course. These customs may also be codified in formal codes, such as moral proverbs, narratives, or codes of conduct. While communal customs still inform and undergird positive laws in many modern social orders, modern legal systems have increasingly divorced the legitimacy of law from mere custom or historical practice.

Some accounts of the role of custom and habit in the moral life (i.e., those by Scottish philosophers Francis Hutcheson [1694-1746] and David Hume [1711-1776]) hold that the knowledge of right and wrong arises from sensorily perceiving that an action produces sentiments of moral pleasure or displeasure. In this view, humans are constitutively feeling creatures, and right or wrong action gives rise to distinctively moral pleasure or displeasure. Reason, while helping to discern what ought to be done, cannot motivate an agent to act on its own. The motivating force, rather, is the pleasure produced through the moral action. The moral norms of a community are customs and habits that reflect these moral sentiments, reproducing proper character of community members by rewarding proper actions and sanctioning illicit behavior.

The utilitarian theories of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) extend this view of seeking pleasure but require a duty for the human to maximize societal benefit. While humans are motivated to action by the desire for pleasure and avoidance of pain, reason is used to determine what course of action will maximize pleasure. This calculus is based on the principle of utilitythe agent must always act so as to maximize the greatest happiness for the greatest number in society. Utilitarians thus submerge the individuals moral desires under the overall outcome of the well-being of the community.

Some moral theory privileges the role of reason as the source of the moral norms. The Stoic philosophers, as well as thinkers in the Christian natural law tradition, held that rational capacities allow human beings to discern the purpose of life from perceiving the order of nature and rationally comprehending the role and structure of human life within the cosmos. The modern emphasis on the autonomy of the will, shaped by the Protestant emphasis on individual conscience and unmediated relation to the divine, was articulated by modern philosophers like John Locke (1632-1704) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). In this strand of moral thought, the human is thought to be a rational agent who reflectively engages in determining what should be the proper course for his or her action. For Kant, the freedom of individuals using their own reason to determine the best course of action and set ends for themselves is the basis of the possibility of the moral life. The norms of action are determined through universalizing the proposed action and determining whether the action, if it were to become a universal law, could be rationally consistent as a duty for all agents. The good will is not, therefore, merely one that acts in a way that conforms to the custom of the society. Rather, the good will is one that is motivated by pure respect for the moral law: to act upon ones rationally prescribed duty, not merely to achieve instrumental outcomes or gain advantage. The moral life is self-imposed, not derived from obedience to external sources. In this way, Kant thought that humans stood out from their natural, animalistic aspects, and at the same time the individual could never legitimately be made subject to anothers arbitrary will. This sentiment reflected and heralded the liberal, democratic political ideals of his age.

In general the moral life is the process of applying these norms in practical circumstances to achieve desirableor goodends, thereby fulfilling ones duties and obligations. What constitutes these good ends, and the corresponding moral obligation that thereby arises, depends upon the source of the norms applied. The agent who lives in a manner that is responsive to these moral obligations acts over time in ways that inculcate good habits. These habits are said to produce a virtuous agent if the moral actions cause the agent to develop predispositions to act in ways that fulfill his or her duties. Likewise, those who fail to respond to obligations, and develop predispositions to act contrary to moral duty, are said to act immorally and may, over time, develop vicious character traits.

Ethics in the Greco-Roman and early Christian traditions tended to focus on the agents character in relation to society. The moral life revolved around shaping character so as to develop habits of virtue that led to the good life, a state of happiness, or well-being (eudaimonia ). Thinkers in the Aristotelian tradition conceived of moral education as a process of transforming the agents character so that his or her desires were inclined toward the virtuous mean of possible courses of action. If ones habits inclined the agent to flee a dangerous situation where ones assistance was required to save another (cowardice) or to wantonly intervene without regarding the complexity of the situation (recklessness), virtuous agents, instead, would be properly habituated so their instincts, emotions, and habits would allow them to intervene in a cool and calculated way, not withering in the face of the danger (courage).

Under pressures from modernization, the traditional patterns and norms of the moral life have become more disoriented in contemporary society. Industrialization and urbanization have upended small-scale communities and transformed social bonds; historical, scientific, and technological understanding is more predominant, disrupting traditional explanations for value origins and compromising their explanatory legitimacy (disenchantment); globalization has decentered community and national identity through a growing recognition of the basic diversity of worldviews; and the social and political order is increasingly instrumentalized and bureaucratized, leading to coordination and steering problems for building political will. In the wake of the upheaval of traditional societies, professional ethics (especially in law, business, and medicine) have arisen as a mode of moral regulation that set standards of behavior whose legitimacy derives from consensus among members of the profession. In society at large, traditional moral norms are felt to be decreasingly persuasive or authoritative, and the charge is often levied that contemporary society has become increasingly individualistic and relativistic. In reaction to this decentering, some thinkers such as Alasdair MacIntyre have charged that traditional moral categories, while still commonly used, are uncoupled from their worldview contexts and their resulting use is often considered to be confused, shallow, and contingent.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aristotle. 1962. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. Martin Ostwald. New York: Macmillan.

Bentham, Jeremy. [1789] 1948. The Principles of Morals and Legislation. New York: Hafner.

Durkheim, Émile. [1893] 1984. The Division of Labor in Society. Trans. W. D. Halls. New York: Free Press.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1975. Legitimation Crisis. Trans. Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon.

Hadot, Pierre. 1995. Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. Trans. Michael Chase. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hume, David. [1739] 1969. A Treatise of Human Nature. New York: Penguin.

Hutcheson, Francis. [1728] 2002. An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of Passions and Affections, with Illustrations on the Moral Sense. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.

Kant, Immanuel. [1785] 1991. The Metaphysics of Morals. Ed. Mary Gregor. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Kant, Immanuel. [1788] 1997. The Critique of Practical Reason. Ed. Mary Gregor. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Locke, John. [1690] 1997. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. New York and London: Penguin.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. 1984. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. 2nd ed. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Mill, John Stuart. 1969. Utilitarianism (1861). In The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, ed. J. M. Robinson, vol. 10, 203-259. London and Toronto: Routledge and University of Toronto Press.

Michael Kessler

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morality

morality Morality refers to ethical issues — principles of right and wrong conduct — as well as instances of real behaviour — the manner in which individuals comply more or less fully with such standards. Based on the Latin mor — ‘a manner, custom’ — this term covers all kinds of human actions, although it is often associated specifically with virtue in sexual conduct. To encourage moral conduct, early theological representations of sin and evil highlighted the body's capacity for suffering. Luxuria or lust was commonly represented as a nude woman whose past misconduct prepared her present torture — in some church statuary snakes devoured her breasts and vulva, or toads issued from her mouth. In the medieval and early modern ages, morality referred to a religious framework; through diet and bodily maintenance, the individual was expected to defend himself against the temptation of the flesh.

Codes of morality have evolved in keeping with larger cultural, historical, and economic currents. Prostitution had long been considered wicked and detrimental to the commonweal, but it was not until the nineteenth century, when national interests were linked directly to commercial economies, that this practice became known as ‘the social evil’. More than other traditional targets of moral reform, such as the drunkard or blasphemer, the prostitute was vilified because of her unproductivity; she partook of sexuality without repaying the nation with the commodities it needed most — citizens and domestic stability.

In modern industrial societies, the body has largely lost its connotation as a vessel of sin and has become increasingly involved in the secular mechanisms of consumption and display. The 1920s were crucial for the formation of the modern-day body ideal; by the end of the decade, women, under the combined impact of the cosmetic, fashion, and advertising industries, had for the first time in large numbers put on makeup and rayon stockings, and abandoned corsets for rubber girdles. The rage for sunbathing in the interwar years further legitimated the public display of the body. Whereas Christian religious traditions aimed to subordinate the body to ‘higher’ spiritual ends, modern consumer culture works to release the naked body from shame and guilt. The individual's primary responsibility shifts from his soul to his health, body shape, and appearance. Since the 1960s the ideal of the youthful body has dominated Western culture; fitness and slimness have largely replaced spiritual goals as indicators of human worth. But the opprobrium inflicted on the immoral remains powerful: those who do not maintain standards of bodily maintenance are considered lazy, self-indulgent, even a burden to national well-being.

While age-old controversies regarding homosexuality, pornography, drinking, gambling, and other ‘immoral’ practices remain current today, they are perhaps less compelling than the dilemmas created by recent innovations in medical technology. The availability of techniques to alter the beginning of life (through fertility drugs, surrogacy, or prenatal testing) and the end of life (through doctor-assisted suicide or machine-enhanced existence) has prompted the growth of a new morality — the ethics of medical intervention on the human body.

Julia Douthwaite

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Morality

Morality


Morality (Latin mores, from mos, implying custom, practice, or conduct) is a standard of character measured against established philosophical or other categories. Morality may be assessed by psychoanalytic and social theory as a degree of superego formation and socialization (Sigmund Freud). It can be seen as a mark of maturity in relation to stages of a cognitive-structural hierarchy (Lawrence Kohlberg). It is often viewed as a level of character formation and responsible self-appropriation (Erik Erikson). Moral self-consciousness is tangible in relation to the customs, manners, and character that constitute life within a shared space (Charles Taylor). The axes of moral reflection can generally be seen as constituted by deontological or teleological considerations, such as questions of obligation (actions, intentions, etc.) or value (respect, dignity, etc.).


See also Freud, Sigmund; Value

rodney l. petersen

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morality

mo·ral·i·ty / məˈralətē; mô-/ • n. (pl. -ties) principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. ∎  behavior as it is affected by the observation of these principles: the past few years have seen a sharp decline in morality. ∎  a particular system of values and principles of conduct, esp. one held by a specified person or society: a bourgeois morality. ∎  the extent to which an action is right or wrong: behind all the arguments lies the issue of the morality of the possession of nuclear weapons. ∎  behavior or qualities judged to be good: they saw the morality of equal pay.

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morality

moralitybanditti, bitty, chitty, city, committee, ditty, gritty, intercity, kitty, nitty-gritty, Pitti, pity, pretty, shitty, slitty, smriti, spitty, titty, vittae, witty •fifty, fifty-fifty, nifty, shifty, swiftie, thrifty •guilty, kiltie, silty •flinty, linty, minty, shinty •ballistae, Christie, Corpus Christi, misty, twisty, wristy •sixty •deity, gaiety (US gayety), laity, simultaneity, spontaneity •contemporaneity, corporeity, femineity, heterogeneity, homogeneity •anxiety, contrariety, dubiety, impiety, impropriety, inebriety, notoriety, piety, satiety, sobriety, ubiety, variety •moiety •acuity, ambiguity, annuity, assiduity, congruity, contiguity, continuity, exiguity, fatuity, fortuity, gratuity, ingenuity, perpetuity, perspicuity, promiscuity, suety, superfluity, tenuity, vacuity •rabbity •improbity, probity •acerbity • witchetty • crotchety •heredity •acidity, acridity, aridity, avidity, cupidity, flaccidity, fluidity, frigidity, humidity, hybridity, insipidity, intrepidity, limpidity, liquidity, lividity, lucidity, morbidity, placidity, putridity, quiddity, rabidity, rancidity, rapidity, rigidity, solidity, stolidity, stupidity, tepidity, timidity, torpidity, torridity, turgidity, validity, vapidity •commodity, oddity •immodesty, modesty •crudity, nudity •fecundity, jocundity, moribundity, profundity, rotundity, rubicundity •absurdity • difficulty • gadgety •majesty • fidgety • rackety •pernickety, rickety •biscuity •banality, duality, fatality, finality, ideality, legality, locality, modality, morality, natality, orality, reality, regality, rurality, tonality, totality, venality, vitality, vocality •fidelity •ability, agility, civility, debility, docility, edibility, facility, fertility, flexility, fragility, futility, gentility, hostility, humility, imbecility, infantility, juvenility, liability, mobility, nihility, nobility, nubility, puerility, senility, servility, stability, sterility, tactility, tranquillity (US tranquility), usability, utility, versatility, viability, virility, volatility •ringlety •equality, frivolity, jollity, polity, quality •credulity, garrulity, sedulity •nullity •amity, calamity •extremity • enmity •anonymity, dimity, equanimity, magnanimity, proximity, pseudonymity, pusillanimity, unanimity •comity •conformity, deformity, enormity, multiformity, uniformity •subcommittee • pepperminty •infirmity •Christianity, humanity, inanity, profanity, sanity, urbanity, vanity •amnesty •lenity, obscenity, serenity •indemnity, solemnity •mundanity • amenity •affinity, asininity, clandestinity, divinity, femininity, infinity, masculinity, salinity, trinity, vicinity, virginity •benignity, dignity, malignity •honesty •community, immunity, importunity, impunity, opportunity, unity •confraternity, eternity, fraternity, maternity, modernity, paternity, taciturnity •serendipity, snippety •uppity •angularity, barbarity, bipolarity, charity, circularity, clarity, complementarity, familiarity, granularity, hilarity, insularity, irregularity, jocularity, linearity, parity, particularity, peculiarity, polarity, popularity, regularity, secularity, similarity, singularity, solidarity, subsidiarity, unitarity, vernacularity, vulgarity •alacrity • sacristy •ambidexterity, asperity, austerity, celerity, dexterity, ferrety, posterity, prosperity, severity, sincerity, temerity, verity •celebrity • integrity • rarity •authority, inferiority, juniority, majority, minority, priority, seniority, sonority, sorority, superiority •mediocrity • sovereignty • salubrity •entirety •futurity, immaturity, impurity, maturity, obscurity, purity, security, surety •touristy •audacity, capacity, fugacity, loquacity, mendacity, opacity, perspicacity, pertinacity, pugnacity, rapacity, sagacity, sequacity, tenacity, veracity, vivacity, voracity •laxity •sparsity, varsity •necessity •complexity, perplexity •density, immensity, propensity, tensity •scarcity • obesity •felicity, toxicity •fixity, prolixity •benedicite, nicety •anfractuosity, animosity, atrocity, bellicosity, curiosity, fabulosity, ferocity, generosity, grandiosity, impecuniosity, impetuosity, jocosity, luminosity, monstrosity, nebulosity, pomposity, ponderosity, porosity, preciosity, precocity, reciprocity, religiosity, scrupulosity, sinuosity, sumptuosity, velocity, verbosity, virtuosity, viscosity •paucity • falsity • caducity • russety •adversity, biodiversity, diversity, perversity, university •sacrosanctity, sanctity •chastity •entity, identity •quantity • certainty •cavity, concavity, depravity, gravity •travesty • suavity •brevity, levity, longevity •velvety • naivety •activity, nativity •equity •antiquity, iniquity, obliquity, ubiquity •propinquity

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Morality

MORALITY

The quality attributable to human action by reason of its conformity or lack of conformity to standards or rules according to which it should be regulated. This supposes on the one hand that human actions are voluntary and responsible, and on the other, that there are standards and rules by which human conduct should be measured, a position not admitted by all contemporary philosophers. Existentialists, for example, dislike all universal norms and principles. The atheists among them have disposed of traditional morality by saying that anything a man chooses to do freely is morally permissible. Other contemporary philosophers, for different reasons, have a flexible, or even absent, attitude with regard to norms. Catholic writers agree that there are proper and binding norms of conduct, and therefore that morality in the strict sense is found in man's rational choices and is indeed the paramount aspect of human acts. They distinguish the physical from the moral aspect of an act, saying that the former refers to its physiological existence and that the latter is the relation of the act, and of the whole man, to the value of man. Since this is his supreme good, the morality of a human act is the relation of the act to the supreme good of its agent.

Ethical Positions and Norms. A presupposed philosophy and/or theology will affect what kind of moral norms, if any, are to be considered. Moral theology or Christian ethics will differ from moral philosophy or philosophical ethics according to the sources of knowing such norms; and each will differ according to the different philosophy or theology upon which each is based (for some of this variety, see moral theology [contempo rary trends]).

All Catholic moralists and, in fact, all professedly Christian and theistic moralists should agree fundamentally that man's ultimate end is somehow connected with his Creator. In other words, that moral goodness means conformity in some way with the nature or will of God. Divergences occur in determining more proximate norms for learning what is or is not in conformity with man's ultimate end. For Catholics, a more proximate objective norm has been the nature of man as created by God, with all his relationships: to God, to fellow human beings, and to himself, as known by reason and by revelation interpreted by the living teaching authority of the Church. However, at present not all Catholic writers agree even on these points.

Many modern writers propose man's self-development as a norm, understanding such development to include a greater degree of knowledge, a balanced personality, and a comfortable degree of self-satisfaction and enjoyment. There is a great divergence in judging what these terms mean, in judging which acts or objects really contribute to such development, and even in judging what sort of norm or faculty may be used to discover which acts or objects will promote proper development. Self-development can well be a norm for judging the morality of actions even in accord with traditional Catholic thought, if measured by a full understanding of what is for the best welfare of the self in relation to the ultimate end.

Species of Morality. The distinction of the morality of actions into good, bad, or indifferent in kind, as well as the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic morality, has been widely neglected, especially with a blurring of the distinction between subjective and objective morality. While all Catholic moralists have always agreed and still agree that the most decisive element in human morality is in the person, some modern moralists refuse to consider a distinction between this morality in the agent and a morality attributed analogously to certain described actions.

Determinants. The position of such moralists has led them to deny that morality can ever be legitimately attributed to any acts objectively considered, unless such acts are described by such a prejudicial term as "murder," which implies unjust killing. Some such writers fail to realize that the older distinction between the object and the circumstances of a moral action did not necessarily mean that the object signified some kind of physical action without any circumstances. Even the term "killing" necessarily includes more content than just a physical act; in ordinary usage it denotes an act by which a living being is deprived of life. Even in times past, all Catholic moralists agreed that there was no absolute moral imperative against all killing, nor even against all killing of a human being; but in times past all did agree that the direct killing of an innocent human being was always immoralat least apart from a certain command of the Creator who possesses ultimate dominion over all of creation.

The traditional use of the term "circumstances" as a determinant of morality beyond the object, referred to circumstances which could affect the morality of an action, other than those included in the definition of the object or act.

Objective and Subjective Morality. The modern objection that morality is never present apart from the intention of the agent misses the essential idea of the distinction between objective (or material) and subjective (or formal) morality. It is certainly true that morality is essentially in the act of the human will, but that does not mean that there cannot be a proper but derived use of the term with regard to objects and circumstances. When traditional Catholic moralists speak of an object or of an object with certain defined circumstances, as intrinsically or objectively evil in a moral sense, it is understood that this means that it would be morally wrong to intend such an action in such defined circumstances, regardless of further circumstances or intention.

Moral and Physical Evil. In considering the object of a human action, Catholic moralists have always recognized a difference in the meaning of moral evil and physical evil, although at times some have used the terms in a confused way. Evil, in general, was understood to mean the lack of something which should be present. To speak of physical evil was to speak merely of such a lack in the physical make-up of things; a lack of conformity to what some reality should normally be. Thus, a human being with only four fingers on one hand, or with six fingers, was said to be lacking conformity with what should normally be the number of fingers on a human hand, with no reference to morality. It was understood that ordinarily it would also be morally evil for one human being to inflict such a physical evil on another human being, although it was generally admitted that circumstances and intention could alter the matter. Thus, it was commonly agreed that amputation or excision of a part of the human body can be morally good in circumstances in which that part constitutes a threat to the whole human organism. For this reason, the loss of a finger was not considered a moral evil even in a remote sense, but only a physical evil, which it would be illicit to intend unless there were a good reason for doing so. On the other hand, the direct killing of an innocent human being was considered an objectively immoral action, whose only imaginable justification could be a direct command of the Creator who had the absolute dominion over human life.

Some modern moralists, including some Catholic theologians, avoid this sort of terminology. They prefer to use terms like "ontic," "premoral," "non-moral" evil to include, apparently, what traditional Catholic terminology classed as "objective" or "intrinsic" moral evil, but also to include what traditional terminology called "physical" evil. As mentioned above, there was some confusion between the terms "physical evil" and "objective moral evil" in some older manuals, especially in the treatment of the so-called principle of double effect at least in their examples. However, this does not prove that the distinction itself is useless.

Values and Disvalues. Instead of speaking of moral good and evil, many modern Catholic moralists prefer to follow what had previously been mainly non-Catholic philosophical terminology and speak rather of values to be achieved or preserved and of disvalues to be avoided. Practically speaking, the use of the terms "values" and "disvalues" in morality differs little if at all from the older terminology among Catholic moralists of good and evil in morality.

Again difficulties and divergences arise in determining the norm or norms for judging what is a value and what is a disvalue, as well as in determining whether there are any disvalues so great that they may never be directly chosen as a means of achieving certain positive values. All admit that many human choices involve both values and disvalues, good and evil.

Often overlooked are values in what might be called a religious or spiritual sense. These can include the value of self-denial and sacrifice (the Cross); the value of patient suffering; the value of helping others even at a seeming loss (disvalue?) to oneself; in general, the value of submission to God; and, finally, the value of achieving the real end of man's existence (union with God), even at the cost of losing the greatest of merely human values. Nevertheless, even some who neglect man's relation to God, still recognize some of these values as helps towards character development.

Moral Absolutes. What was explained above as objective moral evil is the basis of most moral absolutes. When the more traditional moralists state that an action is objectively morally evil, they mean that such an action would be morally wrong as a direct object of a human will in all imaginable circumstances in the ordinary course of affairs. Accordingly, although all killing involves some form of physical evil to a living being, it was and is not considered absolutely morally evil objectively, but needs further determination by at least some added circumstances. On the other hand, the killing of an innocent human being was and is considered a moral evil, even though the traditional principle of double effect would, under certain conditions, allow such a killing to be the unintended but foreseen event of a directly willed action. On the contrary, the direct killing of a cat would not be considered an objective moral evil, even though it is a physical evil for the cat. It could be a moral evil or a moral good for the killer depending on further circumstances as well as on the intent. To deny that there are any objective moral absolutes is tantamount to saying that it is impossible to describe any action in such a way that in no imaginable further circumstances in the ordinary course of affairs could such an action be justified, and any person who felt justified in doing such an action would be laboring under a misapprehension or false conscience.

Some who profess to deny the possibility of moral absolutes actually restrict such a judgment to personal morality and especially sexual morality, while insisting on absolutes in social matters. For example, the same writer may voice an opinion that premarital sex, masturbation, adultery, and homosexual acts can be morally good in some circumstances, but that the use of nuclear armaments or even nuclear power sources are absolutely immoral.

The Notion of Moral Obligation. The connection between moral obligation, and thus of morality, and the relationship of man to his Creator is often overlooked in modern discussions of morality. In an analysis of the meanings of "ought," "must," and similar words, some common-sense ideas are often neglected. An instance of such an idea is that notions of obligation are concerned with a sort of conditioned necessity, and do not always have a tie-in with morality. For example, to say that a bridge player who bids four spades must take ten tricks, has nothing directly to do with morality. It only suggests that if he does not take ten tricks, he has failed in that round of play. So also with the obligation of religious rules in most religious orders and congregations. To say that a religious must keep silence, means that if he/she does not keep proper silence, he/she is not fulfilling the perfection of that form of life, but it does not imply any sin. Most regulations in business enterprises are similar. If one wishes to remain a member of the organization in good standing, one must follow such regulations. To fail to do so does not imply immorality, but may endanger the person's position in the organization. The condition implied in moral obligations might be stated: if you wish to achieve the purpose for which you exist, you must do certain things and you must avoid doing certain other things.

Bibliography: h. allard, "Recent Work in Moral Theology: In Defense of Objective Morality," Clergy Review 61 (1976) 191195. s. pagan, "No More Sin?" Catholic Mind 75 (January 1977) 2940 (reprinted from Doctrine and Life 26 [1976] 375388). t. gilby, ed., Principles of Morality in St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (60 v., London, New York 19651976) v.18. r. mccormick, "Notes on Moral Theology," Theological Studies 29 (1968) 679741, esp. 707718; 32 (1971) 66122, esp.66.80; 34 (1973) 53102, esp. 5365; 36 (1975) 77129, esp. 84100; 37 (1976) 70199, esp. 7187; 38 (1977) 57114, esp. 5884; all of which give many further references. v. mcnamara, "Approaches to Christian Morality," Catholic Mind 75 (October 1977) 3037 (reprinted from: "Approaching Christian Morality," Furrow 28 [1977] 213220).

[t. j. higgins/

j. j. farraher]

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Morality

Morality

Sources

Piety. In the ancient Near East, a pious person was one who told the truth, avoided blasphemy, gave charity, and avoided controversy. These actions by themselves were nevertheless insufficient without constant devotion to sacrifice and prayer. These concepts were expressed in a series of Wisdom texts. In one text, Counsels of Wisdom, a wise man instructs his “son” about piety.

Every day worship your god

Sacrifice and benediction are the proper accompaniment of incense

Present your free-will offering to your god,

For this is proper toward the gods.

Prayer, supplication, and prostration

Offer him daily, and you will get your reward

Then you will have full communion with your god. (Lambert)

Moral Code. The modern maxim “Don’t rock the boat” was an idea expressed throughout Mesopotamian history. One sought to live a cautious quiet life without discord, aspiring to success without change. This pragmatic approach to life is included in the earliest known piece of Wisdom literature, the Instructions of Shuruppak, dating to around 2600 b.c.e. In this collection a father gives his son practical advice and moral precepts—what modern people would term a “code of proper conduct”—standards of action providing guidelines for a family-centered, urban, civilized society ruled by a monarch. A son is advised to seek success; to avoid undue risk; to pay attention to the authority of parents, law, gods, and ruler; and to seek lasting rather than temporal values. The following are excerpts from this text:

You should not steal anything. … You should not break into a house. … A thief is a lion, but after he is caught, he will be a slave. My son you should not commit robbery, you should not cut yourself with an axe. …

You should not sit alone in a chamber with a married woman.

You should not travel during the night: it can hide both good and evil.

You should not have sex with your slave girl: she will chew you up (?).

You should not curse strongly: it rebounds on you.

You should not drive away a debtor: he will be hostile towards you.

My son, you should not use violence (?)… You should not commit rape on someone’s daughter; the courtyard will learn of it.

With your life you should always be on the side of the warrior; with your life you should always be on the side of Utu (the god of Justice).

The palace is like a mighty river: its middle is goring bulls; what flows in is never enough to fill it, and what flows out can never be stopped.

You should not pass judgment when you drink beer.

Heaven is far, earth is most precious, but it is with heaven that you multiply your goods, and all foreign lands breathe under it.

You should not buy a prostitute: she is a mouth that bites. You should not buy a house-born slave: he is a herb that makes the stomach sick. You should not buy a free man: he will always lean against the wall. You should not buy a palace slave girl: she will always be the bottom of the barrel (?). You should rather bring down a foreign slave from the mountains, or you should bring somebody from a place where he is an alien; my son, then he will pour water for you where the sun rises and he will walk before you. He does not belong to any family, so he does not want to go to his family; he does not belong to any city, so he does not want to go to his city.

You should not speak arrogantly to your mother; that causes hatred for you. You should not question the words of your mother and your personal god. The mother, like Utu, gives birth to the man; the father, like a god, makes him bright (?). The father is like a god: his words are reliable.

The instructions of the father should be complied with. (Black et al.)

The Moral Canon. The moral injunctions of Mesopotamians parallel the prohibitions and precepts of many of their neighbors. There existed in Sumerian, Babylonian, and Hittite civilizations a common body of ethics resembling in part that found in Hebrew and Christian scriptures. In contrast to later biblical theology, however, there did not exist any uniform moral code. A section of an omen collection called by scholars the Moral Canon comprises sayings about praiseworthy conduct that are similar in many respects to the sayings called the Beatitudes in the Christian scriptures (Matthew 5 and Luke 6):

If he says “I am powerful,” he will become rich.

If he says “I am weak,” he will become strong.

If he says “I am poor,” he will become rich.

If he says “I am w eak,” he will be shamed.

If he is impetuous, he will not obtain what he wishes.

If in his heart he wants mortification, he will prosper.

If he is surrounded by wealth, he will let go of everything, he will die soon.

If their heart is troubled, it will rejoice, it will light up.

If he is sick in his heart, he will be answered in his inmost desires.

If his heart is in the dark, he will rejoice.

If in his heart he weeps constantly,…

If he asks himself, “Why should I keep it up?” he will rejoice.

If he is in joy, a depression will seize him.

If he says all the time “When shall I see? When shall I see?” his days will become longer.

If there is too little for him, he will prolong his life, he will have sufficient food.

If everything goes well for him, either death or poverty will come.

If his health is good, a serious disease will overtake him.

If he is just, and nevertheless things go wrong, later on things will go better.

If he speaks according to justice, he will have a good recompense.

If he is just, he will see light.

If he is flattered, he will not obtain …

If he is always praised, he will remain well.

If he loves what is good, only goodness will follow him all the time.

If he has a great heart, he will reach old age.

If he is endowed with fear (of god?), he will be victorious.

If he is merciful, he will die in abundance.

If he does favors, people will do favors to him.

If he is limpid in his heart, he will find honor.

If he is pure …

If “yes” and “no” follow in good order in his mouth, hunger will go from his granary.

If he is tranquil in his heart …

If he is concerned about helping others, the gods will follow him all the time. (Buccellati)

Moral Texts in the Hellenistic Period. Even as late as the first century b.c.e., after the conquest of the Near East by Alexander III (the Great) of Macedon (336–323 b.c.e.), inscriptions written in Greek still expressed values and ethics that can be shown to have roots in Mesopotamian texts. A Greek foundation inscription found in Asia Minor describes the revelation of a man called Dionysus who dreamt that the god Zeus gave him commandments to be observed by all visitors to his sanctuary. The instructions require strict observance of moral injunctions and ritual purity in order to prevent the desecration of holy sites; misdeeds angered the gods, endangering the health of the individual and the purity of the sanctuary. All who entered the shrine of Zeus were instructed to swear to obey the following injunctions:

Not to rob

Not to murder

Not to steal anything

Be loyal to the sanctuary

If somebody commits (a transgression) or plans (to commit one), he shall not be allowed to, and it will not be kept silent, but they will make it known and punish him.

A man shall not lie with a strange woman except for his wife … not with a boy and not with a virgin.

A man or woman who has committed one of these transgressions shall not enter this sanctuary, for here great gods sit (on their seats) who keep watch against these transgressions and will not tolerate transgressors. … The gods shall pardon the obedient and grant them blessings, and they will hate those who transgress (against the commandments) and impose upon them great punishments. … The men and women who are certain of their uprightness shall touch the inscribed pillar every month and year at the time of offering sacrifices. (Weinfeld)

Sources

Bendt Alster, The Instructions of Suruppak: A Sumerian Proverb Collection, Mesopotamia: Copenhagen Studies in Assyriology, volume 2 (Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1974).

Alster, Proverbs of Ancient Sumer: The World’s Earliest Proverb Collections, 2 volumes (Bethesda: CDL Press, 1997).

Giorgio Buccellati, “Ethics and Piety in the Ancient Near East,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, 4 volumes, edited by Jack M. Sasson (New York: Scribners, 1995), III: 1685–1696.

W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960).

Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible, volume 5 (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney & Auckland: Doubleday, 1991).

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