Sunday, 1 January 2017

Far from Normal Christian Ministry & News: Moral Obligation Part 2

Text from lesson
II. Extent of moral obligation.By this is intended, to what acts and states of mind does moral obligation extend? This certainly is a solemn and a fundamentally important question. In the examination of this question I shall, 1. Show by an appeal to reason, or to natural theology, to what acts and states of mind moral obligation cannot directly extend. 2. To what acts or states of mind moral obligation must directly extend.3. To what acts and mental states moral obligation must indirectly extend. I. I am to show by an appeal to reason, or to natural theology, to what acts and states of mind moral obligation cannot directly extend.1. Not to external or muscular action. These actions are connected with the actions of the will, by a law of necessity. If I will to move my muscles, they must move, unless the nerves of voluntary motion are paralyzed, or some resistance is offered to muscular motion, that overpowers the strength of my will, or, if you please, of my muscles. It is generally understood and agreed that moral obligation does not directly extend to bodily or outward action. 2. Not to the states of the sensibility. I have already remarked, that we are conscious, that our feelings are not voluntary, but involuntary states of mind. Moral obligation cannot, therefore, directly extend to them. 3. Not to states of the intellect. The phenomena of this faculty, we also know, by consciousness, to be under the law of necessity. It is impossible that moral obligation should extend directly to any involuntary act or state of mind. 4. Not to unintelligent acts of will. There are many unintelligent volitions, or acts of will, to which moral obligation cannot extend, for example, the volitions of maniacs, or of infants, before the reason is at all developed. They must, at birth, be the subjects of volition, as they have motion or muscular action. The volitions of somnambulists are also of this character. Purely instinctive volitions must also come under the category of unintelligent actions of will. For example: a bee lights on my hand, I instantly and instinctively shake him off. I tread on a hot iron, and instinctively move my foot. Indeed, there are many actions of will, which are put forth under the influence of pure instinct, and before the intellect can affirm obligation to will or not to will. These surely cannot have moral character, and of course moral obligation cannot extend to them. II. To what acts and states of mind moral obligation must directly extend. 1. To ultimate acts of will. These are, and must be, free. Intelligent acts of will, as has been before observed, are of three classes. 1. The choice of some object for its own sake, i.e. because of its own nature, or for reasons found exclusively in itself, as, for example, the happiness of being. These are called ultimate choices, or intentions. 2. The choice of the conditions and means of securing the object of ultimate choice, as, for example, holiness, as the conditions or means of happiness. 3. Volitions, or executive efforts to secure the object of ultimate choice. Obligation must extend to these three classes of the actions of the will. In the most strict and proper sense it may be said, that obligation extends directly, only to the ultimate intention. We learn, from consciousness, that the choice of an end necessitates (while the choice of the end exists) the choice of the known conditions and means of securing this end. I am free to relinquish, at any moment, my choice of an end, but while I persevere in the choice, or ultimate intention, I am not free to refuse the known necessary conditions and means. If I reject the known conditions and means, I, in this act, relinquish the choice of the end. The desire of the end may remain, but the actual choice of it cannot, when the will knowingly rejects the known necessary conditions and means. In this case, the will prefers to let go the end, rather than to choose and use the necessary conditions and means. In the strictest sense the choice of known conditions and means, together with executive volitions, is implied in the ultimate intention or in the choice of an end. When the good or valuable, per se, is perceived, by a moral agent, he instantly and necessarily, and without condition, affirms his obligation to choose it. This affirmation is direct and universal, absolute, or without condition. Whether he will affirm himself to be under obligation to put forth efforts to secure the good must depend upon his regarding such acts as necessary, possible, and useful. The obligation, therefore, to put forth ultimate choice, is in the strictest sense direct, absolute, and universal. Obligation to chose holiness, (as the holiness of God) as the means of happiness, is indirect in the sense that it is conditioned. 1. Upon the obligation to choose happiness as a good per se; and, 2. Upon the knowledge that holiness is the necessary means of happiness. Obligation to put forth executive volitions is also indirect in the sense that it is conditioned; 1. Upon obligation to choose an object as an end; and, 2. Upon the necessity, possibility, and utility of such acts. It should here be observed, that obligation to choose an object for its own sake, implies, of course, obligation to reject its opposite; and obligation to choose the conditions of an intrinsically valuable object for its own sake, implies obligation to reject the conditions or means of the opposite of this object. Also, obligation to use means to secure an intrinsically valuable object, implies obligation to use means, if necessary and possible, to prevent the opposite of this end. For example. Obligation to will happiness, for its intrinsic value, implies obligation to reject misery, as an intrinsic evil. Obligation to will the conditions of the happiness of being, implies obligation to reject the conditions of misery. Obligation to use means to promote the happiness of being, implies obligation to use means, if necessary and practicable, to prevent the misery of being. Again, the choice of any object, either as an end, or a means, implies the refusal of its opposite. In other words, choice implies preference, refusing is properly only choice in an opposite direction. For this reason, in speaking of the actions of the will, it has been common to omit the mention of nilling, or refusing, since such acts are properly included in the categories of choices and volitions. It should also be observed that choice, or willing, necessarily implies an object chosen, and that this object should be such that the mind can regard it as being either intrinsically, or relatively valuable, or important. As choice must consist in an act, an intelligent act, the mind must have some reason for choice. It cannot choose without a reason, for this is the same as to choose without an object of choice. A mere abstraction without any perceived or assumed, intrinsic, or relative importance, to any being in existence, cannot be an object of choice, either ultimate or executive. The ultimate reason which the mind has for choosing is in fact the object of choice; and where there is no reason there is no object of choice.