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Stuart W. Mirsky
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The Moral Way

What is it that we want to find in intentions, manifested by agents through their actions, to warrant ascriptions of moral value?

Although we may consider a great many issues – from how we comport ourselves in public or private, to what we have for dinner and whom we choose to marry – to be moral questions, there’s such a broad range of these that it’s not a simple matter to sort them all out – or to distinguish between them. Sometimes what we deem “moral” is just what fits with certain codes of conduct we acknowledge although, at other times, we may think it right to dispute the codes themselves. If the moral dimension involves assessment of intent, can the intent to abide by a given code be enough to establish a judgment of moral goodness?

If the code itself can be questioned, on what basis can a presumably right intent prevail where even particular moral codes are subject to moral consideration? A code that urges vengeance in blood, for instance, might seem morally unappealing to many in the modern world even as it may remain compellingly attractive to members of cultures in which it represents the norm. Just being the norm cannot be enough to render something morally good then.

What then do we look to? And how do we reconcile conflicting moral claims and codes?

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