Moral thinking

armaments don't give securityCan reading moral philosophy help my own morality?

I am consequentialist. An action is good insofar as it promotes the flourishing of human beings. If I accept certain rules, such as the principles of natural justice, that is because I can find consequentialist arguments for them. I would find an ought from an is: because this is a good result, it follows that we ought to seek it- unless my definition of “good” makes that a circular argument.

Moral philosophy might help me discomfit opponents: a blog said homosexuality is Wrong, and a comment called the blogger’s thinking “deontological”. That might be a good tactic, to bamboozle another with long words. But how much of my morality comes from moral rules? Is my belief in the equal value of human beings a moral rule? I could make that consequentialist: another human being has more value to me as a free collaborator than as a slave to do my will.

Is gay sex immoral? Clearly not. Next question. The claim that it is causes suffering. But then, I would say that wouldn’t I. Here is a conservative evangelical who says that her lot are far too obsessed with us queers. She heard a sermon about gay sex indicating “relational brokenness” and believes the preacher should have considered instead sex before marriage, adultery, divorce and remarriage, and many other inappropriate relationships that permeate the Christian church. I agree that if preaching against sexual temptation a preacher is better to address the temptations of the whole congregation rather than a small part of it, but-

She met a man recently who had left his wife, because she had the same chronic condition from which the blogger suffers. My heart goes out to both women. Having freely vowed “til death us do part”, he should have kept his word; but just possibly she has as much self interest in preaching about other sexual sins as I have. I do not imply that her husband is considering leaving her, merely that it is easiest to empathise with a person when you can imagine yourself in her position.

Even when I seek what is “Right”, or what has the best consequences, having been socialised into civilisation, there may be self-interest there. That is why Quakers have such involved ritual and myth around our decision making. Yesterday, having ate together at my meeting house, we sat in silence, then spoke to matters of business one by one, each knowing that we must set aside self-interest in seeking the Good, and having experienced the Good emerging before. We minuted a decision only when we could unite behind it.

A modified ritual is available for an individual who wishes to make a decision, to sit in worshipful silence with others and seek together for the Right.

All comments welcome.

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