Download Morality: First Principles

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Foundations- Part 1
• MORALITY- principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good
and bad behavior.
• Being able to understand and define morality (whether for oneself or for a society) is one
of the most essential duties of any human being.
• Morality does not have only legal implications, but social implications at the most basic
level; it goes to the heart of what human beings are, what human life means, and how we
can interact.
• Many moral systems will disagree on how to organize truths in relation to one another,
even when they agree on what truths are most important! Without further dialogue, it is
impossible to long sustain a stable society (whether as an individual or as a society)
without basic agreement on morality.
1) If you believe that there is true GOOD
and/or EVIL, then there has to be a ‘MORAL
LAW’ in the universe.
2) If there IS a moral law, you have to ask
yourself-- WHAT is the ‘lawgiver’?
3) If there is NO lawgiver, then there can be no
moral law; if there is no moral law, then there
is no true good and evil.
4) If there is no good or evil except what we
believe, then there is no way for human
civilization to eradicate our species’ selfdirected ‘problems’ (poverty, racism, war,
sexism, slavery, etc.) other than for the strong
to compel the weak.
Racism is BAD!!!
Killing is BAD!!!
Love is GOOD!!!
• The Christian understanding of good and evil
is that it is NOT the product of human
projection or religious invention, but rather
that it is tied to the created universe as an
actual ‘law of nature’.
• Like the law of gravity, it can’t be visibly seen,
but its effects can.
• This concept– known to theology as ‘natural
law’– is the foundation for much of western
civilization, going back centuries (or even
“When, in the course of human events, it becomes
necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds
which have connected them with another, and to assume
among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal
station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God
entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind
requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.”
–Declaration of Independence
• The question of God is therefore very pressing upon the question of
defining morality, for this reason: if we are here through natural
processes alone (no God, no higher intelligence, etc. creating us), then
there IS no valid moral basis to expect others to adhere to a moral
• The question of God goes right to the heart of whether or not morality
is real or merely an illusion; it seeks to answer the question of whether
or not human ‘moral law’ is OBJECTIVE (true for everyone) or
SUBJECTIVE (true only for some).
“The ‘God question’ is part of
our public life, and we simply
can’t avoid it. Does God exist or
not? Each [American] citizen
answers that in his or her own
way. But the issue is not
theoretical. It goes to first
premises. It has very practical
implications, just as it did at our
country’s founding...”
-Archbishop Chaput,
Render Unto Caesar
• ‘Natural law’ also implies the involvement of
human reason and thought, not the blind
submission to an irrational faith.
• Because it is held to be the law of ‘nature’,
morality must at least be, in a clear sense
and in very clear manifestations, able to be
discerned and explained through the use of
logic and reason.
• For Christianity, it is a logical impossibility
for God to be the ‘moral lawgiver’ who
establishes natural law to contradict Himself
through commandments which would
violate human reason OR the natural law