HOME   People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!

 

Immoral Moralities
 
WHAT DOING RIGHT IS
 
Doing right is doing whatever will result in the least damage possible if not in the short term then in the long run. If we have to do permanent damage or temporary damage we must do the latter for it can be fixed.


THE MENU
 
An act can produce good and be a good act. But for it to be a morally good act, the intention to do right has to be present. So there is a difference between good acts and morally good acts.
 
You either believe that the moral goodness of an act depends on what the act is in itself or that it depends on the consequences of the act. The first is absolutism – so called for it says certain deeds are absolutely or always wrong – and the second is consequentialism. Absolutism and consequentalism believe that doing right is doing the least damage. The trouble with absolutists is that they are convinced that doing evil is doing the most damage even if the consequences will be worth it. If they said that doing right was not doing the least damage at least in the long run there would be no morality.
 
You cannot mix the two. People do mix them. It would be mad to say certain acts are always wrong and then that evil may be done if the good consequences will outweigh the bad.
 
An egoist or an altruist can be an absolutist or a consequentialist.
 
The absolutist’s menu
 
The doctrine that we must forget about the future for we don’t know about it and must do what the present and past experience indicates is the fairest thing.
 
The doctrine that there are fixed rules that must be kept no matter what the circumstances are for the rules were made by God or nature or both and we do not understand fully why they are right. This view is called Legalism.
 
The doctrine of Kant that if an action cannot be done by all people on earth for it will harm – for example, we cannot live if all lie – then it is wrong in itself.
 
The consequentialist’s menu
 
The doctrine that doing right is maximising the greatest happiness of the greatest number. This is Utilitarianism.
 
Hedonistic Utilitarianism says that this happiness is pleasure of any kind.
 
Their opponents say that this is true but the intellectual pleasures of wisdom, intellectual pleasures, come first for they are more durable for the others depend on the mood and on the condition of your physical being. This is synonymous with the tenet that we must maximise good happiness of most people as far as possible. Good happiness is rejoicing in, say, a person’s health and not in his sickness. This is Ideal Utilitarianism.
 
The doctrine that doing right is minimising the greatest suffering of the greatest number. This is Negative Utilitarianism.
 
The doctrine that we must stick to rules that maximise happiness or minimise suffering even if they lead to more suffering in certain situations. We must have rigid rules to prevent chaos for if we give in even a bit people will find ways to abuse the system. This doctrine will forbid murder under all circumstances and see it as the worst crime. It would see itself as magnifying the greatest dignity of the greatest number. This is not absolutism for though it has fixed rules these rules are made to create a good future. It cares about results while absolutism doesn’t. This is Rule Utilitarianism.
 
The doctrine that love alone is the law and that love is justice and that there should be no rules for every situation is different is situation ethics. The difference between it and Utilitarianism and Negative Utilitarianism which it both accepts depending on the situation, is that it insists that we must act in love and intend to do right. It is really the same as Ideal Utilitarianism for it is anti-hate.
 
Utilitarianism in principle implies that morality is about us and not God. What if belief in God makes us happier? Then Utilitarianism will correctly see this as belief in belief rather than any real concern for God. It is about the crutch. If there is a God, it is the perception of him that is meant to be adored not him. When Utilitarianism seems to be agreeable with love for God, you can be sure it is an idol that is loved and not God if he really exists.
 

RIGHT AND WRONG
 
What is the true doctrine of right and wrong?
 
There are three basic attempts at an answer.
 
The first is legalism. This teaches that some acts are wrong regardless of how much good they cause. Religion tends to be legalistic. If there is a higher power who can bring a greater good out of evil then that power can make all the rigid commands it likes.
 
The second is consequentialism which teaches that a good action is one that is intended to bring about good consequences which exceed any evil that has to be done or caused.
 
The third is consequentialism which argues that your motive does not matter as long as mostly good results from your act.
 
But it is obvious that it is better to do good for a good reason than for a bad one. A bad person wills evil.
 
We accept the second option which is consequentialism that tries to bring about the best. We recognise that this, the truly rational form of consequentialism is not perfect but all we can do is find the best ethical doctrine and follow it.
 
Everything has indirect results that will stretch out to the end of time. We can’t worry about them for they are inevitable. Just worry about what you can take care of.
 
It is more important to prevent suffering than to increase happiness. Educating is more important than preventing suffering for it can enable people to help themselves and others and gain self-confidence through wisdom. That is why we are bound to propagate Humanism and have no excuse for not doing so. Hate and indifference are always wrong for they attack the value of the person and are not necessary.
 
True consequentialism has absolute rules – it forbids things because they will have terrible consequences and forbids them under all circumstances.
 
The forms of consequentialism which are against rules and which would let you do anything for the benefit or happiness of most people are dangerous. They would mean that you could never prove that a person is bad for nobody can know how something is going to turn out. They may work in some cases but will be bad for society if widely embraced. It is impossible to calculate how much good will be.
 
IN A NUTSHELL
 
The true doctrine sees doing right as working out a reasonable compromise between rules and the principle of making most happiness and holds that the basis of all morality is the value of the person. The issue needs to be thought about on its own terms. Bringing in ideas such as God's will and what God has supposedly said about right and wrong only complicates the issue. Bringing God in implies that people must suffer for the sake of complicating the issue.
 
BOOKS CONSULTED
 
A HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY, VOL 6, PART II, KANT, Frederick Copleston SJ, Doubleday/Image, New York, 1964
CHRISTIANITY FOR THE TOUGH-MINDED, Ed John Warwick Montgomery, Bethany Fellowship Inc, Minneapolis, 1973
ETHICS, A C Ewing, Teach Yourself Books, English Universities Press Ltd, London, 1964
ETHICS IN A PERMISSIVE SOCIETY, William Barclay, Collins and Fontana, Glasgow, 1971
FREE TO DO RIGHT, David Field, IVP, London, 1973
MORAL PHILOSOPHY, Joseph Rickaby SJ, Stonyhurst Philosophy Series, Longmans, Green and Co, London, 1912
MORALITY, Bernard Williams, Pelican/Penguin, Middlesex, 1972
MORTAL QUESTIONS Thomas Nagel, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, London, 1979
NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA, The Catholic University of America and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., Washington, District of Columbia, 1967
PRACTICAL ETHICS, Peter Singer, Cambridge University Press, England, 1994
RUNAWAY WORLD, Michael Green, IVP, London, 1974
SITUATION ETHICS, Joseph Fletcher, SCM Press, London, 1966
SUMMA THEOLOGICA OF ST THOMAS AQUINAS, Part II, Second Number, Thomas Baker, London, 1918
THE PROBLEM OF RIGHT CONDUCT, Peter Green MA, Longmans Green and Co, London, 1957
 
The WEB
 
Roman Catholic Ethics: Three Approaches by Brian Berry
www.mcgill.pvt.k12.al.us/jerryd/ligouri/berry.htm