Start Encyclopedia69 Dictionary | Overview | Topics | Groups | Categories | Bookmark this page.
dictionary -  encyclopedia  
Full text search :        
   A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z   #   




  Morality is a system of moral (from Latin mores, ‘customs’ or ‘behaviour’) rules. But what more can we say about morality? One can say at once that it is a set of rules which tell one how to behave, which lay down what one ought to do in certain circumstances. But this does not distinguish moral rules from other sets of practical norms. For instance, there are rules which tell one how to invest money and rules which tell one how to behave at a dinner party. These prudential maxims and rules of etiquette are not normally regarded as forms of morality. So how do they differ from moral rules?

One criterion which might be used to pick out the moral rules derives from Kant. He distinguished between hypothetical and categorical imperatives. A hypothetical imperative is one you should obey if you have certain desires. For instance, if you desire to make money, you should buy low and sell high. But if you don\'t desire to make money, there is no reason to obey this prudential maxim. A categorical imperative is one you ought to obey whatever your particular desires. ‘Do not kill the innocent’ applies to you whatever your desires or interests. However, we cannot say that all categorical imperatives are moral rules since the rules of etiquette are categorical imperatives as well. One should not pick one\'s nose at the dinner table, whether or not one wants to.

Another criterion which might distinguish morality from etiquette is that moral rules should be overriding where there is a clash between a moral rule and some other practical norm, the moral rule should always win. But this is not how people actually think about morality. To use an example of Phillipa Foot\'s, a host does not stop serving drinks at a dinner party just because the guests are getting drunk and some have to drive home. Here, the obligation of politeness to one\'s guests is felt to override one\'s moral obligation to ensure that people on the road drive safely.

In view of such examples it is difficult to say what makes a set of rules into a morality. AJ

Further reading P. Foot, Virtues and Vices; , R. Hare, Moral Thinking.



Bookmark this page:



<< former term
next term >>
Moral Sense
Morality Play


Other Terms : Polyphony | Ethics | Political Drama And Theatre
Home |  Add new article  |  Your List |  Tools |  Become an Editor |  Tell a Friend |  Links |  Awards |  Testimonials |  Press |  News |  About |
Copyright ©2009 GeoDZ. All rights reserved.  Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us