Saturday, 31 December 2016

Far from Normal Christian Ministry & News: Moral Obligation Part 1

Here is the text for today's lesson:

This is a first truth of reason. A first truth, be it remembered, has this invariable characteristic, namely, all moral agents know it, by a necessity of nature, and assume its truth, in all their practical judgments, whatever their philosophical theories may be. Take, for example, the affirmation, or assumption, that every event must have had an adequate cause. This is a first truth; all men know it, and, in all their practical judgments, assume it, whatever their theorizings may be. 
Now who does not know, with the same certainty, that men possess the attributes of moral agents; to wit, intellect, (including reason, conscience, and consciousness,) sensibility, and free will. Every moral agent does know, and cannot but know this. That man has intellect and sensibility, or the powers of knowing and feeling, has not, to my knowledge, been doubted. In theory, the freedom of the will in man has been denied. Yet the very deniers have, in their practical judgment, assumed the freedom of the human will, as well, and as fully, as the most staunch defenders of human liberty of will. Indeed, nobody ever did or can, in practice, call in question the freedom of the human will, without justly incurring the charge of insanity. By a necessity of his nature, every moral agent knows himself to be free. He can no more hide this fact from himself, or reason himself out of the conviction of its truth, than he can speculate himself into a disbelief of his own existence. He may, in speculation, deny either, but in fact he knows both. That he is, that he is free, are truths equally well known, and known precisely in the same way, namely, he intuits them--sees them in their own light, by virtue of the constitution of his being. I have said that man is conscious of possessing the powers of a moral agent. He has also the idea of the valuable, of right and of wrong: of this he is conscious. But nothing else is necessary to constitute man or any other being a subject of moral obligation, than the possession of these powers, together with sufficient light on moral subjects to develope the ideas just mentioned. 
Again. Man, by a law of necessity, affirms himself to be under moral obligation. He cannot doubt it. He affirms absolutely, and necessarily, that he is praise or blame-worthy as he is benevolent or selfish. Every man assumes this of himself, and of all other men, of sound mind. This assumption is irresistible, as well as universal. 
The truth assumed then, is a first truth, and not to be called in question. But if it be called in question, in theory, it still remains and must remain, while reason remains, a truth of certain knowledge from the presence of which there is, and can be, no escape. The spontaneous, universal, and irresistible affirmation that men, of sound mind, are praise or blame-worthy, as they are selfish or benevolent, shows beyond contradiction, that all men regard themselves, and others, as the subjects of moral obligation.