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Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter?

User Thread
 85yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that coberst is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter?
Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter?

I suspect most of us would agree that principles of morality can and do legitimately vary from one nation to another.

Within a nation would we also agree that principles of morality can and do legitimately vary from one political party to another? Would we also agree that such variation is legitimate from one state to another; or perhaps from one city to another or from one family to another?

Is there a universal morality that overrides all community boundaries?

In his essay Open and Closed Morality as published in the book of essays The Morality of Politics W. H. Walsh has written about the difficult and elusive concept of an 'open and closed morality'.

'You have a right to remain silent.' I guess all Americans who have reached the age of seven have heard this expression many times on TV. I also expect that all adult Americans agree that our nation was founded on the principle that all citizens have rights. Human rights are written into our constitution.

'Right' and 'good' are important moral concepts. Those who believe that all humans have certain rights are convinced that these rights supersede any consideration of the good. In other words, it is believed by some that humans, qua human, have certain inalienable rights that cannot be denied even in the interest of the good. These rights are considered to be universal and thus applicable to all humans wither they are members of my community or not.

Those who hold the existence of such universal moral principles are considered to have an 'open morality' while those who believe that such universal rights do not exist and only the good determines the moral are considered to have a 'closed morality'.

Walsh contends that those with the conviction of a closed morality 'For them morality is, first and foremost, an affair internal to a particular community rather than a phenomenon covering the whole of mankind...[this individual] wants to make his own society as good as he can, rather than to construct some finally valuable Utopia.' The individual with a closed morality insist that the virtues on which they 'insist are in the first instance communal virtues, and the vices they seek to avoid are modes of conduct which would disrupt socials life as such'.

Those with an open morality hold that moral law 'holds without distinction of persons...privilege and preferential treatment have no place in morality, which is a sphere of pure principle...that the moral law commands for its own sake and not for the sake of any good its observance produces or might be expected to produce, whether private or public...man's only overriding loyalty is to the moral law itself.'

Those with a closed morality are convinced that there are no rights, there is only the good. Any act that is beneficial to the community, i.e. is a common good, can be judged as moral or immoral based upon the consequences of the action.

I consider myself to have an open morality; what do you consider yourself to be, are you open or closed?

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 38yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Squarepants is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
I'm not sure if I'm open or closed.

I believe that when I act upon another I should see myself in their position. I feel that a good action is about preventing pain.

A person with strong morals tends to get involved in the community much more than the typical person. They see strength in good relations.

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"I hungry"
 85yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that coberst is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Captain Dave will under no circumstance torture a prisoner (open morality). Captain Jim will torture a prisoner when he considers such action will save the lives of his platoon (closed morality).

'The two main concepts of ethics are those of the right and the good; the concept of a morally worthy person is, I believe, derived from them.' This quote and any others are from 'A Theory of Justice' by John Rawls.

In teleological (explaining phenomena by final causes) theories of ethics the good is defined independently from the right.

The attitude of the individual is to seek the satisfaction of desire, more appropriately it is 'the satisfaction of rational desire'. Many people find that society should be just an extension of this attitude. The good, for society, is the satisfaction of rational desire. The right is that which maximizes the good.

Others in society reject this utilitarian view and find that the right comes before the good and embodies a boundary for the good. The right becomes a principle that has priority over the good. In the United States the right is placed in the Constitution and each individual determines the good.

Captain Dave rejects the utilitarian view of morality (open morality). Captain Jim embraces the utilitarian view of morality (closed morality).

Morality/ethics is a matter pertaining only to the relationship between subjects and thus there is nothing objective about it. All such matters are subjective and thus relative. Religion interjects God into the matter and thus makes it a matter of absolutes for believers.

Many individuals think of the individual as constituted by the community to which s/he belongs-their value is dependent to a large extent upon the community. It is this interdependence upon the community that makes ideology so very potent. For the individual who embraces closed morality the ideological association is more important than to the person with an open morality.

Morality: ennie-minnie-minie-moe

I cannot remember where I read it but is resonates for me; 'all decisions, wherein there is a choice, are moral decisions'. One may find quibbles to get around this message but the essence of the matter is that for a person seeking to be moral, all judgments from which decisions are derived warrant careful consideration.

In an attempt to comprehend the nature of ethics/morality one will find a forest of writings but essentially each person must build his or her own model of what ethics/morality means. Somewhere along the way toward becoming an enlightened person regarding this matter we all must settle on that which makes sense for us. That does not mean that we remain static about the matter but it means that we settle on some model that is our personal guide until we decide to change it.

Our community and our family mold our moral sense as we grow up. But at some point we must remold that model to fit our adult self. I am an American and my sense of ethics/morality was codified by the Declaration and the Constitution as I grew up and it is what determines, to a large extent, my adult sense in this matter.

The Declaration declares 'We hold these truths to be self evident, all men are created equal and they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights'. The Constitution sets forth a listing of the rights of all citizens that are to be protected by law. These declarations are part of my heritage and are what I accept as the foundation of my sense of morality.

It appears that the two concepts 'right' and 'good' form the foundation of any moral system. The 'good' is 'rational desire' and the 'right' has varying meanings. The status of the right seems to be the important variable that determines what one's ethical/moral model becomes.

I call my model of morality as being a closed system as opposed to an open system. I call my system a closed system because 'right' is clearly defined in the Declaration and the Constitution as being prior to the good. That which is right has a fence around it with a big 'No Trespassing' sign and is closed to usurpation by the good. A different system could be called an open system when there is no closed area representing rights but that the right is considered as being that which maximizes the good.

I suspect that often we do not have the knowledge and understanding to determine at the time we make our decisions which matters might be amoral as opposed to moral. I think that a moral person needs to have that consideration constantly in mind and thus to form habits that help to keep us on track even though we often act unconsciously. It is all a part of developing character I guess.


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Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter?
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