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Title: The concept of morality
Author: McCarney, Joe
ISNI:       0000 0001 3622 8400
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1970
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The aim of this study is to reach a philosophical understanding of the concept of morality. The contemporary literature is dominated by a series of contrasts; 'individual' morality and 'social' morality, a morality of 'sensibility' and 'insight' and one of 'rules' and 'principles' , 'formal' as against 'material' characterisations. In reviewing it the suggestion arises that this dualism is systematic and depends upon some more fundamental feature of the concept. A point of general agreement is that there is an intimate relationship between. morality and the world of human actions and activities. This world makes two major intellectual demands on us. There is the need to decide how to act in particular Situations, and there is the need to see one's actions as invested with a larger significance, as elements in a meaningful pattern. Morality is a response to both demands. Thus, it consists of a dimension of assessment of action, a sphere of practical judgement, and of a way of interpreting its significance, a mode of vision. These aspects may be distinguished by speaking of 'moral assessment' on the one hand and of 'moral understanding' on the other. Moral understanding may be characterised in terms of the kind of significance it offers and the kind of reasons it can recognise. A striking feature of the distinction between moral and non-moral forms of 'understanding is its tendency to cut across conventional categories. This can be illustrated in the case of religious belief and of what may, loosely and provisionally, be called 'humanism'. But it is also possible to find familiar modes of thought l"1hichbelong wholly and unequivocally to each side. When the lesser contrasts are examined in the light of the understanding-assessment distinction it is found that the claims made for the fundamental significance of that between the 'individual' and the 'social' cannot be sustained. Only the 'individual' half can comprise both understanding and assessment and so qualify as a wholly adequate conception of morality. There are some residual problems here which involve the issue of 'form 'versus' content'. This controversy dissolves, in its turn, once it is recognised that while moral understanding is contentless, moral assessmentt is necessarily tied to certain material considerations. The stress on the contrast between 'sensibility' and 'rules' may be interpreted as an oblique way of drawing attention to that between understanding and assessment, and, more specifically, of warning against the danger of identifying morality with practical reason. The element of truth in this is safeguarded by assigning talk of 'sensibility' to understanding and of 'rules' t~ assessment. A general conclusion that emerges from the discussion of these antitheses concerns the need for moral philosophy to work with an adequate conception of what it is to be human, a philosophical theory of man. The final task is to draw together the elements of the fundamental distinction, and so exhibit the unity of the concept of morality. It is best pursued through a discussion of some problems connected with education. There is an important tendency in the philosophical literature which may be interpreted as a recognition of the conceptual link between education and moral understanding. Moreover the concept of education provides a bridge between the category provisionally known as 'humanism' and a reconstructed one from which the non-moral elements have been excluded. What remains are moral understanding and moral assessment. The essential link between them is that they constitute a coherent and systematic approach to a particular area of experience. Using a terminology that needs careful explication, morality may be characterised as the response of humanism to the demands of the practical world.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BJ Ethics