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Friday, October 19, 2012

An Elevated Moral Nature

It is relevant to that which follows to reflect on what is meant by an elevated moral nature. To illustrate the lack of such a nature: We had a kitchen employee who pilfered, that is, she would quietly lift provisions from our larder and tote them home to her own. This practice did no offense to such moral scruples as she possessed; she was only concerned lest anyone see her indulge it; nothing was wrong except getting caught! My point is that this individual had not yet acquired what is here meant by an elevated moral nature.
What is to distinguish the individual who has an elevated moral nature? For one thing, he cares not one whit about what others see him do. Why? He has a private eye of his own, far more exacting and severe than any force or influence others can impose: a highly developed conscience. Not only does such a person possess a sense of justice but he also possesses its counterpart, a disciplinary conscience. Justice and conscience are two parts of the same emerging moral faculty. It is doubtful that one part can exist without the other.
It seems that individual man, having lost many of the built-in, instinctual do-nots of his earlier cousins, acquires, as he evolves far enough, a built-in, rational, prohibitory ethic which he is compelled to observe by reason of his sense of justice and the dictates of his conscience. We repeat, proper prohibitions are just as important to the survival of the human species as to the survival of any other species.
Do not do to others that which you would not have them do unto you. There is more to this prohibition than first glance reveals. Nearly everyone, for instance, will concede that there is no universal right to kill, to steal, or to enslave—that such behavior could never be tolerated as a general practice. But only the person who comprehends this ethic in its wholeness, who has an elevated sense of justice and conscience, will see clearly why this denies to him the right to take the life of another, to relieve any person of his livelihood, or to deprive any human being of his liberty. And, one more distinction: While there are many who will agree that they, personally, should not kill, steal, enslave, it is only the individual with an elevated moral nature who will have no hand in encouraging any agency—even government—to do these things on behalf of himself or others. He clearly sees that the popular expedient of collective action affords no escape from individual responsibility.

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