Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/617

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MORALITY


559


MORALITY


Art, it. GossEL, II (London, 1903) : Gatley, Representative Eng- lish Comedies (New York. 1903) ; Idem. Plays of Our Forefathers (London and New York, 1908); Manly. Specimens of Pre- Shaksperian Drama (Boston and London. 1897).

K. M. Warrem.

Morality. — It is necessary at the outset of this article to distinguish between morality and ethics, terms not seldom employed synonymously. Morality is antecedent to ethics: it denotes those concrete activities of which ethics is the science. It may be defined as human conduct in so far as it is freely sub- ordinated to the ideal of what is right and fitting. This ideal governing our free actions is common to the race. Though there is wide divergence as to theories of ethics, there is a fundamental agreement among men regarding the general lines of conduct desirable in public and private life. Thus Mr. Hobhouse has well said: " The comparative study of ethics, which is apt in its earlier stages to impress the student with a be- wildermg sense of the diversity of moral judgments, ends rather by impressing them with a more funda- mental and far-reaching imiformity. Through the greatest extent of time and space over which we have records, we find a recurrence of the common features of ordinary morality, which to my mind at least is not less impressive than the variations which also appear" (Morals in Evolution, I, i, n. 11). Plainly this uni- formity regards principles rather than their appli- cation. The actual rules of conduct differ widely. While reverence to parents may be universally ac- knowledged as obligatory, certain savage tribes be- lieve that filial piety requires them to despatch their parents when the infirmities of old age appear. Yet making allowance for all such diversities, it may be saitl that the common voice of the race proclaims it to be right for a man to reverence his parents: to care and provide for his children ; to be master of his lower appetites; to be honest and just in his dealings, even to his own damage ; to show benevolence to his fellows in time of distress; to bear pain and misfortune with fortitude. And only within comparatively recent years has anyone been found to deny that beyond this a man is bountl to honour God and to prefer his coun- try's interests to his own. Thus, indeed, the advance of morality lies not so much in the discovery of new principles as in the better application of those already accepted, in the recognition of their true l>asis and their ultimate sanction, in the widening of the area within which they are held to bind, and in the removal of corruptions inconsistent with their observance.

The relation of morality to religion has been a sub- ject of keen debate during the past century. In much recent ethical philosophy it is strenuously maintained that right moral action is altogether independent of religion. Such is the teaching alike of the Evolution- ary, Positivist, and Idealist schools. And an active propaganda Is being carried on with a view to the general substitution of this independent morality for morality based on the beliefs of Theism. On the other hand, the Church has ever affirmed that the two are essentially connected, and that apart from religion the observance of the moral law is impossible. This, indeed, follows a-s a necessary consequence from the Church's teaching as to the nature of morality. She ■ admits that the moral law is knowable to rea.son: for the due regulation of our free actions, in which moral- ity consists, is simply their right ordering with a view to the perfecting of our rational nature. But she in- sists that the law has its ultimate obligation in the will of the Creator by whom our nature was fashioned, and who imposes on us its right ordering as a duty; and that its ultimate sanction is the loss of God which its violation must entail. Further, among the duties which the moral law prescribes are some which are directly concerned with God Himself, and as such are of supreme importance. Where morality is divorced from religion, reason will, it is true, enable a man to


recognize to a large extent the ideal to which hia nature points. But much will be wanting. He will disregard some of his most essential duties. He will, further, be destitute of the strong motives for obed ience to the law afforded by the sense of obligation to God and the knowledge of the tremendous sanction at- tached to its neglect — motives which experience has proved to be necessary as a safeguard against the in- fluence of the passions. And, finally, his actions even if in accordance with the moral law, will be based not on the obligation imposed by the Divine will, but on considerations of human dignity and on the good of human society. Such motives, however, cannot pre- sent themselves as, strictly speaking, obligatory. But where the motive of obligation is wanting, action lacks an element essential to true morality. Moreover, in tliLS connexion the Church insists upon the doctrine of original sin. She teaches that in our present state there is a certain obscurity in reason's vision of the moral law, together with a morbid craving for in- dependence impelling us to transgress it, and a lack of complete control over the passions; and that by rea- son of this inherited taint, man, unless supported by Divine aid, is unable to observe the moral law for any length of time. Newman has admirably described from the psychological point of view this weakness in our grasp of the moral law: "The sense of right and wrong . . •. is so delicate, so fitful, so easily puzzled, obscured, perverted, so subtle in its argumentative methods, so impressionable by education, so biassed by pride and passion, so unsteady in its course, that in the struggle for existence amid the various exercises and triumphs of the human intellect, the sense is at once the highest of all teachers yet the least luminous " (Newman, " Letter to the Duke of Norfolk", in .section on conscience).

In dealing with this subject, however, it is further necessary to take account of the historical argument. Various facts are adduced, which, it is alleged, show that morality is, in pomt of fact, capable of dissocia- tion from religion. It is urged (1) that the mo.st primi- tive peoples do not connect their religious beliefs with such moral code as they possess; and (2) that even where the moral consciousness and the religious system have reached a high degree of development, the spheres of religion and morality are sometimes re- garded as separate. Thus the Greeks of classical times were in moral questions influenced rather by non-religious conceptions such as that of atSuis (natural shame) than by fear of the gods; while one great religious system, namely Buddhism, explicitly taught the entire independence of the moral code from any belief in God. To the,se arguments we reply, first: that the savages of to-day are not primitives, but de- generates. It is the merest superstition to suppose that these degraded races can enlighten us as to what were the beliefs of man in his primitive state. It is among civilized races, where man has developed normally, that we must seek for knowledge as to what is natural to man. The evidence gathered from them is overwhelm- ingly in favour of the contention that human reason proclaims the essential dependence of morality on religious belief. In regard to the contrary instances alleged, it must be denied that the morality of the Greeks was unconnected with religion. Though they may not have realized that the laws prescribed bv natural shame were derived from a divine command, they most certainly believeil that their violation would be punished by the gods. As to Buddhist belief, a distinction must be drawn between the metaphysical teaching of the Buddha or of some of his disciples, and the practical interpretation of that teaching as ex- pressed in the lives of the great mass of the adherents of the creed. It is only the Buddhist monks who have really followed the speculative teaching of their mas- ter on this point and have dissociated the moral law from belief in God. The mass of adherents never did