Thursday, March 22, 2012

Let Me Apologize: Responsibility is part of the Moral Law.

Quite often, when we discus the Moral Law, we talk about things like Murder and Theft.  Christians often talk about Lust and even Gluttony.  But, as I said, I'm trying to keep this out of a purely Religious argument, and keep it to the "universal" Moral Law.  The Religious Moral Law is concerned with consequences after death.  The Universal Moral Law is concerned with consequences now.  In either case, a key component of the Moral Law is Responsibility.

I've written in this space before that Responsibility is the inverse of, or the balance to, Liberty.  As regards the Moral Law, responsibility is both a duty and a balance.  It simultaneously requires that we "man up" to our mistakes, and that we deal with the consequences thereof.  It requires a "confession" of sorts, while it also requires its own form of "penance."

Taking responsibility for one's actions is, itself, a moral action.  This requires the admission of mistakes and the confession of wrong-doing.  In this sense, responsibility is as much a choice, as much a verb, as it is a simple explanation of events.  More than simple admission or confession, it requires that one place one's self directly in the path of whatever the consequences of those wrong actions will be.  It requires bearing the burden you have created.  This is Moral for two reasons.

First, this is Moral- universally moral- because it is a natural form of "negative reinforcement."  Much like getting burned when you place your hand on a hot iron, this is not some cosmic "punishment," though it may function as same.  It is simply the natural result of your actions.  In this way, we might not even call this "responsibility" except for two things.  First, this kind of responsibility is often delayed.  Unlike touching a hot iron, Moral Responsibility can come minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or even years or decades after the actual offense.  From dealing with the lack of trust shown to you after you've lied to someone, to dealing with the pain you've caused others and yourself from some other lapse, these are still natural results of your actions, they are just delayed from the incident.  Second, this kind of consequence can be avoided, to some extent.  You can avoid telling people you lied to them, and, if you're clever and lucky, not get caught in your lie.  Even if you are caught, you can refuse to be held accountable for it, and just avoid the person to whom you lied.  It is this ability to be avoided that changes these natural results from mere "consequence" to "responsibility."

Second, this is Universally Moral because you have the power, in accepting or rejecting responsibility, to take a Moral Action.  It is very, very easy, when you've had a lapse of judgement, or moral failing of any kind, to allow others to take the fall, or to allow them to get "caught in the cross-fire."  Indeed, it is often our natural reaction to these consequences to seek some kind of shelter from them- and that shelter is often our family, friends, and acquaintances.  By shouldering the responsibility, by being willing to bear the cost of your decisions on your own, you are taking Moral Action by sparing them that burden.

So, we have shown that Responsibility is part of- or at least necessary to- the Moral Law.  And, again, this is the Universal Moral Law, the one that everyone understands, even if they hold no religious convictions of any kind.  Box 10 checked.  Next: The Government has a Moral Responsibility to the Governed.


  1. charliebrown'sdildoMarch 22, 2012 at 8:43 AM

    I disagree. Liberty is not predicated on any individual morality. The perpetuation of liberty requires that society be responsible, but there is not requirement that the individual be responsible for anything.

    If the individual violates the laws of a free society, he will be punished according to those laws, but he retains his liberty as a member of that society.

    1. "there is not requirement that the individual be responsible for anything."

      I disagree (as proven by this series of posts). If individuals are not responsible for their actions and their consequences, what chance does a society have to protect liberty? There is much behavior that is lawful but not moral. If people engage in that kind of behavior too much, it weakens the bonds of trust (tenuous as they may already be) that are required for society to function.

      Morality starts with the individual. A society cannot be Moral unless the people who make it up are Moral. A society that is not Moral is a tyranny- of one kind or another.

      More to the point of this post- Responsibility is as much a "rule" of the Moral Law as is not committing murder. A person can avoid (or attempt to avoid) the consequences of their actions, they can avoid making any recompense for any harm they cause. Responsibility is the active choice to accept those consequences, and make any possible recompense.

  2. I've been rather busy the last few weeks and it took me a while to both read and ponder the entire body of the posts on this subject. I'm not qualified to add anything to the discussion. I must admit that while I look about me and converse with people who hold positions of power in my rural part of the world, that I am dismayed at the lack of morals and courage. Intellectual rigor, self examination and a willingness to continue to seek out knowledge seem to have died away around me. I admit to despair.
    Allen, read at you leisure the most excellent article on PJ Media by David Solway "The Decline of Literate Thought"
    It reminded me of you and your fight for our civilization.
    Keep up the good work and thanks you again.