George A. Blair

Copyright © 1992


First, the general implications of this are developed, discussing why people feel necessitated to obey this command, and secondly its implications for the choice one makes rather than the act itself one performs: how morality depends on one's knowledge of one's reality, and is modified by constraints on one's freedom.

Then, the various aspects of human existence are explored, showing what acts are inconsistent with one's reality and why: one's finiteness, one's life, one's actions, inclluding sex. Secondly, the book investigates one's relations with others: rights,including a discussion on the various human rights, and then the social relationship and its implications, including the "natural societies" of marriage, the family, and civil society.



Part One: General Principles
Chapter 1: The Moral Command
1.1. A science of ethics?
1.1.1. A self-contradictory moral position
1.2. The two basic observable facts
1.3. The question to investigate
1.4. Observed characteristics of the fact
1.4.1. How to use the observed data
1.5. Association from early training
1.6. Social pressure
1.6.1. Examples of "immoral=inhuman"
Chapter 2: The Real Issue
2.1. The true moral norm
2.1.1. A note on "natural-law" ethics
2.1.2. The moral command
2.2. The real issue
2.2.1. The problem
2.2.2. The reason people are afraid of immorality
Chapter 3: The Consequences
3.1. Can this theory be scientific?
3.2. Evidence dealing with life after death
3.3. Nature of the life after death
3.3.1. Relation of this theory to others
3.3.2. Happiness and enjoyment
3.3.3. No forgiveness
3.3.4. The afterlife and God Theological note on salvation
3.4. The meaning of life
3.4.1. God as the "real" goal of life?
Chapter 4: Freedom and Responsibility
4.1. The choice as free
4.1.1. Characteristics of free choice
4.2. The general moral rule
4.3. Morality and emotions
4.3.1. Morality and emotional problems
4.3.2. Habits: virtues and vices
4.4. Responsibility
4.4.1. Responsibility and guilt
Chapter 5: Moraliity and Knowledge
5,1, Morality and knowledge: conscience
5.1.1. Clear and unclear conscience
5.1.2. Clearing an unclear conscience
5.2. Act and situation
5.2.1. The motive
5.2.2. The means
5.2.3. Side effects
5.2.4. The Principle of the double Effect

Part Two: Applications to Human Life
Chapter 6: Individual Life
Introduction to Part Two
6.1. Finiteness
6.2. Bodiliness
6.3. Life
6.3.1. Control of acts
6.3.2. The act itself
Chapter 7: Sexuality
7.1. Preliminaries
7.2. The sexual faculty
7.2.1. The general rule
7.2.2. What you can't do Masturbation Non-human sexual expression Homosexual sex Child molestation Rape Inconsistent heterosexual acts Contraception Artificial insemination
7.3. Some positive remarks
Chapter 8: Self-Determination and Rights
8.1. We are not alone
8.1.1. Ways people relate to others
8.2. Rights in general
8.2.1. Claiming a right
8.2.2. Kinds of rights
8.2.3. Against whom the right exists
8.2.4. Defending a right
8.2.5. Coercion
8.2.6. Dehumanization
8.2.7. Inalienable rights
8.3. When a human being is a person
8.4. Exercising rights
Chapter 9: Human Rights
9.1. The right to life
9.1.1. Abortion
9.1.2. The end of life
9.1.3. The dying person
9.2. Economic rights
9.2.1. "Rights" we don't have
9.3. The right of ownership
9.3.1. How ownership is assigned
9.3.2. Claims against others' property
9.4. Other rights
Chapter 10: The Social Relationship
10.1. Cooperation
10.1.1. Motivating cooperation Characteristics of a sanction
10.1.2. Totalitarianism Police states
10.1.3. Punishment and its justice
10.1.4. Authority
10.1.5. Common goal and common good
10.2. Morality and society
10.2.1. Responsibility in a society
10.3. Justice
Chapter 11: The Natural Socieites
11.1. Sex and marriage
11.2. Marriage and love
11.3. The family
11.4. Civil society
11.4.1. Its necessity
11.4.2. The Principle of Subsidiarity
11.4.3. The Principle of Least Demand
11.4.4. Note on "Christian civil society"
11.4.5. Defense of society: war
11.4.6. Civil society and the family


Just a word or two before we begin. If you're looking for a book on "values clarification" in the ethical field, I'm afraid you'll have to look elsewhere. If you want a book on the history of ethical theory, this is not your book. If you want "discussions" on the issues which lay out both sides of controversial topics, and leave it up to you to make up your mind, then don't bother reading this. This book lays out what the facts are in the moral aspect of the health-care field.

"What nonsense!" you say. "Who are you to say that you "know what the facts are" and can presume to tell other people what they should do!" There are no "facts" in ethics, anyway—if there is such a thing as a "fact" that can be absolutely known at all."

Oh yes? Is that a fact? Is it a fact that there are no facts in ethics? How do you know? And who are you to presume to tell me that there aren't? And what do you mean by "presume"? That it's somehow wrong of me to dare to say that my position is correct and that anyone who disagrees with it is wrong?

But how can you say that? Aren't you trying to tell me that my position is wrong? Isn't it wrong of you to dare to say that, based on your own principles? How do you know that it's an absolute fact that no one can know absolute facts? (You seem to know this one.)

The moral disease I discuss at the beginning of the book is a symptom of the intellectual disease that is infecting our whole culture: that no one "really knows" the actual facts, and that everyone "has a right to his own opinion"—meaning that you're "dissing" someone, somehow, if, instead of saying, "I disagree with you," you say, "Nope. Things aren't that way. You're mistaken."

That attitude kills learning. All it means is that we "share" our opinions, and if you happen to like mine, you'll adopt it. But if it doesn't grab you, then you'll stand on your "right" to your own opinion, and denounce me as a sinner for claiming that I'm objectively right and you're objectively wrong.

But that position is sustainable only if it is objectively true that no position is objectively true—in which case, that position (that no position is objectively true) isn't true. So it's not a wise position, it's a stupid one, not because I disagree with it, but because it disagrees with itself. And it's not a tolerant position, because it refuses to tolerate anyone who knows what he's talking about; it's not open-minded, but closed-minded, because it insists, "I've got a right to my opinion, so don't bother me with facts!"

Besides, you yourself know at least one fact that can't be doubted by anyone: There is something, meaning that there's not just absolutely nothing at all. Try to deny it. There's the denial, and that's something, and you know it. Doubt it. There's the doubt, and that's something, and you know it. Disagree with it. There's the disagreement. No matter what you do, you know with absolute certainty this fact, and you also know that it's certain for anyone, because no matter who denies it, there's the denial, which is something.

So we can know facts; we can find evidence that shows that one position is correct and its opposite is incorrect. Hold onto that. There are no "facts for" someone. You may or may not know what the fact is, but a fact is a fact is a fact.

So don't tell me I can't come up with the facts in ethics. Challenge me to do it. The rest of the book is an attempt to meet the challenge. Sometimes I may not succeed; but don't kill the attempt before I even start by declaring without any evidence that it can't be done.

[For more on this see Modes of the Finite, Part One, Section 1, Chapter 1 and following.]

Feast of St. Alphonsus Liguouri,
August 1, 1996