Thursday, August 04, 2005

Morality? Part 2

Assuming that there is a distinction, [1] we may distinguish three factors that guide us when making decisions. [2] These can be illustrated through a situation:

Having just woken up from a good nights sleep, I wander into the kitchen to get some breakfast. Upon opening the fridge I discover that I am out of milk and need to go to the store to get some. So I make myself semi-presentable and wander towards the door. But do I take the car or just walk? My reasoning may go something like as follows.

Perhaps I should walk to the store because it is within walking distance and I do need to save gas (practical reasons). However, it is still dark, and I do live in Beachaven. Im more than a little worried that I might come home without wallet, shoes, or milk (emotional reasons). On the other hand, I dont really want to be unnecessarily pumping exhaust into the environment, that wouldn't be right (ethical reasons). In the end I decide not "skip" breakfast.

In any given situation we may consider only one of these or all of them and reasons within each may contradict each other. The factors may overlap each other, such as if I was to do something that I feel is immoral then this may result in emotional harm. But nevertheless, the distinction does exist between practical, emotional, and ethical factors.

We may postulate a person who does not hold ethical stances on anything, indeed who does not believe that we can make the moral/amoral distinction. Such a person would work within the practical and emotional alone. But does such a person exit? Can such a person exist?

Can we locate moral issues in their ability to pull at our heart-strings. When we do something we know is wrong, we feel guilty, when right, we feel good. The argument could run that moral issues are those that have an emotional factor attached. But not all people are emotionally attached to the same issues. It is the belief that something is a moral issue that then creates the emotional factor. When someone feels morally strong about something, they feel emotionally strong about it also. Morality comes before emotion.

[1] Although there need not be. Whether or not the distinction corresponds with reality, people still make decisions sefl-consiously for moral reasons, as the below illustration makes clear.
[2] I have taken these from Gareth Jones, 'The Authority of scripture in Christian ethics', p.16, in Gill, R. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge, 2001), pp.16-28

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