(GS PAPER-4) Moral Attitudes

Moral Attitudes

  • Moral attitudes gives a basis to the whole of moral life. Moral values are the highest among all natural values. Moral values are the standards of good and evil, which govern an individual’s behavior and choices.
  • Moral values are always personal values. They can only inhere in man, and be realized by man. A material thing, like a stone or a house, cannot be morally good or bad, just as moral goodness is not possible to a tree or a dog. Similarly, works of the human mind (discoveries, scientific books, works of art), cannot properly be said to be the bearers of moral values; they cannot be faithful, humble and loving. They can, at the most, indirectly reflect these values, as bearing the imprint of the human mind.
  • Man alone, as a free being, responsible for his actions and his attitudes, for his will and striving, his love and his hatred, his joy and his sorrow, and his basic attitudes, can be morally good or bad. A man will have personality radiating moral values if he is humble, pure, truthful, honest and loving.
  • As long as a man blindly disregards the moral values of other persons, as long as he does not distinguish the positive value which inheres in truth, and the negative value which is proper to error, as long as he does not understand the value which inheres in the life of man, and the negative value attached to an injustice, he will be incapable of moral goodness.

How Moral Values Are Derived?

  • How can man participate in these moral values? Are they given to him by nature like the beauty of his face, his intelligence, or a lively temperament? No, they can only grow out of conscious, free attitudes; man himself must essentially cooperate for their realization. They can only develop through his conscious, free abandonment of himself to genuine values.  Individual’s morals may derive from society and government, religion, or self.
  • When moral values derive from society and government they, of necessity, may change as the laws and morals of the society change. An example of the impact of changing laws on moral values may be seen in the case of “marriage” vs. “living together.”
  • In past generations, it was rare to see couples who lived together without the benefit of a legal matrimonial ceremony. In recent years, couples that set up household without marriage are nearly as plentiful as traditional married couples in cities. But, not only are such couples more plentiful, they are also more accepted by other individuals in our society, particularly in western society.
  • Moral values also derive from within one’s own self. This is clearly demonstrated in the behavior of older infants and young toddlers. If a child has been forbidden to touch or take a certain object early on, they know enough to slowly look over their shoulder to see if they are being observed before touching said object. There is no need for this behavior to be taught; it is instinctive. Once, however, any form of discipline is applied to modify the child’s behavior, the child now gains the capacity within himself to distinguish his right behavior from his wrong behavior. The choices that are made by an individual from childhood to adulthood are between forbidden and acceptable, kind or cruel, generous or selfish. A person may, under any given set of circumstances, decide to do what is forbidden. If this individual possesses moral values, going against them usually produces guilt.
  • Religion is another source of moral values. Most religions have built-in lists of do’s and don’ts, a set of codes by which its adherents should live. Individuals who are followers of a particular religion will generally make a show of following that religion’s behavioral code. It is interesting to note that these codes may widely vary; a person whose religion provides for polygamy will experience no guilt at having more than one spouse while adherents to other religions feel they must remain monogamous.

Virtues of Moral Attitudes:

  1. Reverence
  2. Faithfulness
  3. Awareness of Responsibility
  4. Veracity
  5. Goodness

1. Reverence

  • The capacity to grasp moral values, to affirm them, and to respond to them, is the foundation for realizing the moral values of man. These marks can be found only in the man who possesses reverence.
  • Reverence is a feeling or attitude of deep respect towards others tinged with awe; veneration.
  • Reverence is the attitude which can be designated as the mother of all moral life, for in it man first takes a position toward the world which opens his spiritual eyes and enables him to grasp values.
  • The irreverent and impertinent man is the man incapable of any abandonment or subordination of self. He is either the slave of his pride, of that cramping egoism which makes him a prisoner of himself and blind to values, and leads him to ask repeatedly: Will my prestige be increased, will my own glory be augmented? Or he is a slave of concupiscence, one for whom everything in the world becomes only an occasion to serve his lust. He does not preserve a reverent distance from the world.
  • Irreverence can be divided into two types, according to whether it is rooted in pride or in concupiscence. The first type is that of the man whose irreverence is a fruit of his pride. He is the type of man who approaches everything with a presumptuous, sham superiority, and never makes any effort to understand a thing “from within.” He is the “know-all,” schoolmaster type who believes that he penetrates everything at first sight, and knows all things. He is the man for whom nothing could be greater than himself, who never sees beyond his own horizon.
  • The other type of man who lacks reverence, the blunt, concupiscent man, is equally blind to values. He limits his interest to one thing only: whether something is agreeable to him or not, whether it offers him satisfaction, whether or not it can be of any use to him. He drags himself about eternally in the circle of his narrowness, and never succeeds in emerging from himself. Consequently, he also does not know the true and deep happiness which can only flow from abandonment to true values, out of contact with what is in itself good and beautiful. He does not approach being as does the first type in an impertinent way, but he is equally closed up within himself, and does not preserve that distance toward being required by reverence. This man also is blind to values.
  • The man possessing reverence approaches the world in a completely different way. He is free from this egospasm, from pride and concupiscence. He does not fill the world with his own ego, but leaves to being the space which it needs in order to unfold itself.
  • This responsive attitude to the value of being is pervaded by the disposition to recognize something superior to one’s arbitrary pleasure and will, and to be ready to subordinate and abandon oneself. It enables the spiritual eye to see the deeper nature of every being. It leaves to being the possibility of unveiling its essence, and makes a man capable of grasping values.
  • Reverence is the indispensable presupposition for all deep knowledge—above all, for the capacity to grasp values. Reverence is the presupposition for every response to value, every abandonment to something important, and it is, at the same time, an essential element of such response to value.
  • The fundamental attitude of reverence is the basis for all moral conduct toward our fellowmen and toward ourselves. The basic attitude of reverence is the presupposition for every true love. A similar reverence is evident in justice toward others, in consideration for the rights of another, for the liberty of another’s decisions, in limiting one’s own lust for power, and in all understanding of another’s rights.
  • Wherever we look, we see reverence to be the basis and at the same time an essential element of moral life and moral values. Without a fundamental attitude of reverence, no true love, no justice, no kindliness, no self-development, no purity, no truthfulness, are possible.

2. Faithfulness or Constancy

  • Among the attitudes of man which are basic for his whole moral life, faithfulness is ranked next to reverence. Faithfulness is the concept of unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something and putting that loyalty into consistent practice, regardless of extenuating circumstances.
  • One can speak of faithfulness in a narrow sense and in a large one. We have the narrow sense in mind when we speak of fidelity toward men, such as fidelity to a friend, marital fidelity, fidelity to one’s country or to oneself.
  • The more faithful, the more constant a man is, the more substantial will he be, the more capable of becoming a vessel of moral values, a being in whom purity, justice, humility, love and goodness will dwell lastingly and will radiate from him to the world about him.
  • This constancy in the true sense of the word is a fundamental moral attitude of man. It is a necessary consequence of all true understanding of values, and it is a component element of every true response to values, and consequently of the whole moral life.
  • Only the man who is constant really grasps the demands of the world of values; only he is capable of the response to value.
  • The eminent importance of faithfulness will stand out in a special way against the background of human relationships. (Here faithfulness is taken in its narrow sense, i.e. fidelity.) For what is love without fidelity? In the ultimate analysis, it is nothing but a lie.
  • There are people to whom faithfulness appears in the light of a mere bourgeois virtue, a mere correctness, a technical loyalty. In the opinion of such people the man who is great, highly gifted and freed from “petty conventions,” has no concern with it. This is a senseless misunderstanding of the true nature of faithfulness.
  • This virtue is a free, meaningful response to the world of truth and of values, to the unchangeable and intrinsic importance, to the real demands, of that world. Without this basic attitude of faithfulness, no culture, no progress in knowledge, no community, above all no moral personality, no moral growth, no substantial, inwardly unified spiritual life, no true love, are possible. This basic significance of fidelity, in the larger sense, must penetrate to the heart of every relationship

3. Awareness Of Responsibility

  • When we call someone a “morally conscious” man, and another man a “morally unconscious” one, we have in mind a difference which is decisive from the ethical point of view. The unconscious man drifts through life; of course, he grasps certain values, and responds to them, but this process goes on in a manner that is deprived of an ultimate awakedness and of an explicit character. His grasp of values remains more or less accidental. Even when, at a given moment, he rejects something bad and affirms something good, at heart this attitude is rather an affirmation of his own temperament than a really enlightened cooperation with the implacable demands of values, and conformity to those demands.
  • The unconscious man behaves according to the impulses of his nature; he has not yet discovered within himself the capacity to direct himself freely toward the objective demands of the world of values independently of what is or is not congenial to his nature. Consequently, they ignore the necessity for conscious effort to develop and improve their moral stature. In their lives we find no moral self-education. This moral sluggishness is an obstacle to the formation of a moral personality.
  • Reverence and that true fidelity, which we have called constancy, are closely related to this moral awakedness. Moreover, they can only fully unfold themselves in a morally conscious man. This moral awakedness is also the soul of the fundamental moral attitude which we have called “awareness of responsibility.” Only the man with this consciousness of responsibility can justly appreciate the impact of the demands of the world of values. He possesses that awakedness toward the world of values which places his life under its sword of justice, which makes him at every moment aware of his own position and duties in the cosmos, and makes him realize clearly that he is not his own master. He knows that he cannot act freely according to his arbitrary pleasure, that he is not his own judge.
  • The very opposite of the man who is conscious of his responses, is the heedless and thoughtless man. The most radical type in this category is represented by the man who does not in the least concern himself with the world of values, but only with what is subjectively satisfying to him. He is the coarse man subject to his own desires who blindly by-passes all values and for whom the whole world offers only an occasion to secure more pleasure; this is the same type of man we have designated earlier as one who lacks reverence.
  • Completely different from this totally corrupted type in whom no moral value can flower at all, is the morally unconscious man of whom we have spoken above, who really does grasp values, is affected by them, and sometimes even conforms to them, but who has not a full understanding of them, since he is deprived of a conscious and explicit awareness. He is also filled with a deep thoughtlessness, with a lack of realization of the ultimate importance of the world of values and its demands. He can be good-natured, amiable, generous, ready to help, but all this without an ultimate attainment of moral excellence. This man also does not possess a consciousness of responsibility.
  • Finally, there exists a type of thoughtless man who makes a conscious moral effort, but who, on account of a certain superficiality and frivolity in his nature does not consider it necessary in making his decisions to have a clear and precise notion of the value in question. He does not exert himself to work out a clear idea of the question of value in a given case. What public opinion says, what is advised by an acquaintance, what appears to him through convention, as correct, suffices for him to take a position in a given case. The thoughtlessness of such men lies in the fact that they do not take the question of value seriously enough; that in spite of their good will, they reach an affirmative or negative decision without having truly harkened to the voice of values.
  • The man lacking in a sense of responsibility also responds too quickly, without taking the trouble to test new experiences against the background of truths he has already discovered. In lack of responsibility, in thoughtlessness, there is also evident a lack of respect for reality. In lack of responsibility, in thoughtlessness, there is also evident a lack of respect for reality.

4. Veracity

  • Truthfulness is another of the basic presuppositions for a person’s moral life. An untruthful or mendacious person not only embodies a great moral disvalue, but he is crippled in his whole personality; the whole of his moral life; everything in him which is morally positive is threatened by his untruthfulness.
  • The untruthful man lacks reverence toward values. He assumes a lordly position over being, he deals with it as he pleases. This attitude implies an element of arrogance, of irreverence and impertinence.
  • A liar considers the whole world, to a certain extent, as an instrument for his own ends; everything which exists is an instrument for him; when he cannot use it, then he will deal with it as non-existent.
  • One must distinguish three different kinds of untruthfulness. First of all, in the artful liar who sees nothing wrong in affirming the contrary of what is true when it is expedient for his aims. Here we are dealing with a man who clearly and consciously cheats and betrays other men in order to reach his aims.
  • The second type is that of the man who lies to himself and consequently to others. He is the man who simply erases from his mind everything in his life which is difficult or disagreeable.This is the man who does not want to recognize his own faults; he is the man who immediately twists the meaning of every situation which is humiliating or disagreeable for him. His deception is above all practiced upon himself, and only indirectly upon others. He first deceives himself, and then cheats other men.
  • In the third type of untruthfulness, the break with truth is still less reprehensible, but goes perhaps still deeper, and is reflected even more in the very being of its perpetrators. We see it in that type of ungenuine persons whose personality is a deception, who are incapable of experiencing real joy, genuine enthusiasm, genuine love, whose every attitude is a sham, and bears the stamp of pretense. These men do not want to deceive and dupe others; neither do they wish to cheat themselves, but they are unable to achieve a real and genuine contact with the world. They are those shadow-like beings who are ungenuine; even though their intention is honest, their joys and sorrows are artificial. Their untruthfulness is due to the fact that all their attitudes are not really motivated by the object and are not enflamed by contact with it, but are artificially stimulated; they pretend to conform to the object, but in reality they are only phantoms without substance.
  • The man who is really truthful is opposed to the three above-mentioned types of untruthfulness. He is genuine, he cheats neither himself nor other people. Because of his deep reverence for the majesty of being, he understands the basic demand of the value which inheres in every being. The truthful person places the demands of values above every subjective wish prompted by his selfishness or his comfort. He consequently abhors all self-deception.
  • The truthful man who has a “classical” relationship with being, is the man who in his every attitude and action is genuine and true. In his soul we do not find sham attitudes. He is the genuine and straightforward man. He holds himself free from personal pride, so that he is not moved to arrogate to himself a position in the world other than the one which is objectively due him.
  • Veracity is, like reverence, fidelity or constancy and the awareness of responsibility, a basis of our whole moral life. Like these other virtues, it bears a high value in itself, and like these is also indispensable as a basic presupposition of a personality in which genuine moral values may flower in their plenitude.

5. Goodness

  • Goodness is the very heart of the whole reign of moral values. It is by no accident that the term “good” means moral value as such, and also the specific moral quality of goodness. Among the different moral values there is none which embodies more completely the entire reign of moral values, than goodness.
  • It is the center of all morality, and at the same time, its most sublime fruit. Its central importance in the moral sphere is, therefore, of a completely different type from that of the fundamental attitudes previously mentioned: reverence, fidelity, awareness of responsibility and veracity. For, apart from their own high moral value, these virtues are accepted as a presupposition for the moral life. Goodness, on the contrary, is not a pre supposition, but the fruit of moral life. It culminates all morality; it is the queen of all virtues.
  • What is goodness? What do we mean when we say that a man irradiates goodness? We say this of a man when he is disposed to help, when he is kindly, just, when he is ready to make sacrifices for others, when he pardons wrongs done him, when he is generous, when he is full of compassion. All these qualities are specific forms and manifestations of love. This indicates the close connection which exists between love and goodness. Love is, as it were, flowing goodness, and goodness is the breath of love.
  • The goodness of a man does not limit itself to benevolent intentions toward one particular person whom one loves. When we say someone is good, we mean that he continually manifests this open benevolence, that his attitude toward every man has this loving, this generous character.
  • For goodness, like every other virtue, is not limited to a particular momentary attitude, but it is a basic attitude and position.
  • There are three types of men who embody a specific antithesis to goodness: the indifferent or cold man, the hardhearted one, and the wicked one. The latter is the man who is an enemy of values: the man who is ruled by a basic attitude of pride, and who lives in an impotent revolt against the world of values.
  • Another antithesis to goodness in the hardhearted person. He is the stern, cold man who is never moved by compassion, whose ear is deaf to all petitions, who tramples on everything without consideration.
  • Finally, the antithesis to the good man is the cold, indifferent man. He is the man who by-passes his fellowmen with a blighting lack of comprehension; the man who lives for his own comforts and enjoyments; he, too, is a typical egoist, but he has a different complexion from the hardhearted man. He is neither hostile toward others, nor brutally and unrelentingly hard, but he is filled with indifference toward his fellowmen. He has not the sternness and brutality of the hardhearted man. Instead of the awakedness and openness of the good man, we find him circumscribed and blind regarding values, and instead of the all embracing breadth of the good man we find in him a petty narrowness.
  • One should beware of confusing goodness with good-nature. The good-natured man is harmless and is an appeaser; because of a certain lassitude and inertia of his nature, he lets himself be badly treated without noticing it. His amiable attitude has its source in a completely unconscious tendency of his nature. Goodness, on the contrary, flows from a conscious response of love; it is “ardent awakedness” and never “harmless lassitude.” It is the most intensive moral life, and not inertia and dullness; it is strength and not weakness. The good man does not allow himself to be made use of because he lacks the strength to resist, but he serves freely and humbles himself willingly.
  • Whereas the other fundamental attitudes, such as reverence, faithfulness, awareness of responsibility and veracity respond to the world of values as a whole, goodness not only responds to this world of values, but is, so to speak, the reflection of the whole world of values in the person.

What is Spirituality?

  • The traditional meaning of spirituality is a process of re-formation which “aims to recover the original shape of man, the image of God.
  • In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience. It may denote almost any kind of meaningful activity or blissful experience. It still denotes a process of transformation, but in a context separate from organized religious institutions, termed “spiritual but not religious”.
  • Modern spirituality is centered on the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” It embraces the idea of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality. It envisions an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being.
  • Spirituality develops inner peace and forms a foundation for happiness. For example, Meditation and similar practices are suggested to help practitioners cultivate his or her inner life and character.
  • Spirituality causes a wide array of positive health outcomes, including “morale, happiness, and life satisfaction.”
  • Spiritual practices may include meditation, mindfulness, prayer, the contemplation of sacred texts, ethical development. Love and/or compassion are often described as the mainstay of spiritual development
  • Waaijman discerns four forms of spiritual practices:
    1. Somatic practices, especially deprivation and diminishment. The deprivation purifies the body. Diminishment concerns the repulsement of ego-oriented impulses. Examples are fasting and poverty.
    2. Psychological practices, for example meditation.
    3. Social practices. Examples are the practice of obedience and communal ownership reform ego-orientedness into other-orientedness.
    4. Spiritual. All practices aim at purifying the ego-centeredness, and direct the abilities at the divine reality

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