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Basic Principles of Moral Decision Making

Basic Principles of Moral Decision Making

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Basic Principles of Moral Decision Making

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  1. Basic Principles of Moral Decision Making Patrick O’Connell, MD

  2. Basic Principles • Truth exists • One may never use evil as a tool for good • The principle of double effect • The moral evaluation of the “human act”

  3. Basic Principles • Truth exists • One may never use evil as a tool for good • The principle of double effect • The moral evaluation of the “human act”

  4. Truth Exists “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all you heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mt 22:37-39

  5. Truth Exists “To love is to will the good of another” Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1766, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas

  6. Truth Exists • We exist • We are animals • We are human beings Summa Theologiae, I-II, q94, a2

  7. Truth Exists • We exist: life itself is the fundamental good. • We are animals: having children & raising children. • We are human beings: marriage, friendship with others, knowing and loving God, education, living in a just society

  8. Truth Exists Love God, love your neighbor To love is to will the good of another Fundamental human goods are true because of our human nature (which is based on divine nature)

  9. Truth Exists Some types of acts “are by their nature ‘incapable of being ordered’ to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image.” John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (Splendor of Truth), 80

  10. Basic Principles • Truth exists • One may never use evil as a tool for good • The principle of double effect • The moral evaluation of the “human act”

  11. Cannot Use Evil as a Tool “One may never do evil so that good may result from it” CCC 789

  12. Cannot Use Evil as a Tool Why not?

  13. Cannot Use Evil as a Tool • We would harm ourselves • We would harm the victims of our evil • Doing evil would become morally mandatory and even praiseworthy (!!) • The martyrs who died rather than cave in would become fools rather than role models

  14. Basic Principles • Truth exists • One may never use evil as a tool for good • The principle of double effect • The moral evaluation of the “human act”

  15. Rarely (?never) does a single action have a single consequence; actions will typically have multiple consequences • Inevitably, some consequences will be good and some bad or evil • Given this mixture of good and bad consequences, how do we decide what acts to do and what acts not to do?

  16. CConsider a simplified version of this situation: an act with one good consequence and one bad consequence; ie an act with a Double Effect

  17. Double Effect • The action itself that I’m doing must be morally good (or at least morally neutral). • I must intend only the good outcome; I cannot intend the bad or evil outcome. • The good outcome cannot be accomplished by means of the bad or evil outcome. • The good accomplished must be proportionate to the unintended evil that I cause.

  18. Basic Principles • Truth exists • One may never use evil as a tool for good • The principle of double effect • The moral evaluation of “the human act”

  19. The Human Act • The object chosen, aka the object of the will (the “what” of what you are doing) • Intention (the “why” of why you are doing this) • Circumstances

  20. The Human Act • For the act as a whole to be good, both the object chosen and the intention must be good (CCC 1755) • The circumstances are “moral modifiers;” “they contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness of human acts…circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves” (CCC 1754)

  21. The Human Act • More about the concept of the object • Correctly identifying the object Let’s spend a little extra time on the object chosen

  22. The Human Act • Whatever is hostile to life itself: murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia • Whatever violates the integrity of the person: mutilation, torture • Whatever offends human dignity: arbitrary imprisonment, slavery, prostitution, degrading conditions of work see Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), 27

  23. The Human Act • “In order to be able to grasp the object of an act…it is therefore necessary to place oneself in the perspective of the acting person.” • John Paul II, Splendor of • Truth, 78

  24. The Human Act • The object chosen, aka the object of the will (the “what” of what you are doing) • Intention (the “why” of why you are doing this) • Circumstances

  25. The Human Act OK, enough theory! Let’s talk about examples!