Common Morality: Deciding What to Do
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Moral problems do not always come in the form of great social controversies. More often, the moral decisions we make are made quietly, constantly, and within the context of everyday activities and quotidian dilemmas. Indeed, these smaller decisions are based on a moral foundation that few of us ever stop to think about but which guides our every action.
Here distinguished philosopher Bernard Gert presents a clear and concise introduction to what he calls "common morality"--the moral system that most thoughtful people implicitly use when making everyday, common sense moral decisions and judgments. Common Morality is useful in that--while not resolving every disagreement on controversial issues--it is able to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable answers to moral problems.
rules. My concern here is with the procedure for deciding 56 Part I. The Moral System whether a violation is justiﬁed when there is agreement about the interpretation of a moral rule and about who is protected by morality. I am concerned with the justiﬁcation of a clear violation of a moral rule with regard to a moral agent, someone who is regarded by everyone as fully protected by morality. No one has any serious doubts that killing, causing pain or disability, depriving of freedom or
being caused, avoided, and prevented and that the goods being promoted are morally relevant. However, there are other morally relevant features in addition to these consequences, including the feature already mentioned, the moral rule that is being broken. The claim that only consequences Part I. The Moral System 61 are morally relevant results in many counterintuitive moral judgments. Whether a person is violating a moral rule—for example, deceiving or breaking a promise—is morally relevant.
Characteristics of Moral Rules 26 To whom do the rules apply? 26 Whom do the moral rules protect? 28 Interpreting the Rules 29 1. ‘‘Do not kill.’’ 29 2. ‘‘Do not cause pain.’’ 31 3. ‘‘Do not disable.’’ 33 4. ‘‘Do not deprive of freedom.’’ 35 5. ‘‘Do not deprive of pleasure.’’ 38 15 10 xx Contents Summary of the ﬁrst ﬁve rules 40 6. ‘‘Do not deceive.’’ 40 7. ‘‘Keep your promises.’’ 42 8. ‘‘Do not cheat.’’ 44 9. ‘‘Obey the law.’’ 47 10. ‘‘Do your duty.’’ 50 Violations of Moral Rules Involve
agreement in geometry than we have in morality.30 The purpose of this book is to provide such a clear, coherent, and comprehensive description of morality and its justiﬁcation, so that no one will be able to deceive himself or others about the moral acceptability of his actions. This will not eliminate immoral behavior, but by making it harder to defend immoral policies, it may contribute to the goal of common morality, which is the lessening of the amount of harm suffered. This page
bad,’’ ‘‘morally good,’’ ‘‘morally ought,’’ ‘‘morally right,’’ and ‘‘morally wrong’’ are not redundant phrases. They do not mean the same as ‘‘bad,’’ ‘‘good,’’ ‘‘ought,’’ ‘‘right,’’ and ‘‘wrong.’’ As an examination of the ordinary uses of the latter terms shows, most of them have nothing to do with morality—for example, ‘‘That is a good movie; you ought to go see it.’’ The failure to appreciate this fact is responsible for the apparent plausibility of views that have no plausibility at all. Moral