Theism, Non-theism, and Morality
Theists and non-theists alike would regard acts of inflicting harm, injury, pain, etc., upon one’s fellows as being morally unjustified except under special circumstances. But their attitudes to the mere fact of human suffering would vary profoundly. For the non-theist, what brings about human suffering — e.g. some human action or other may be an object of moral judgement or appraisal. But the mere fact of human suffering — e.g. the fact that a man is in pain — is not a proper object of moral attitudes. It is a natural phenomenon, merely, and while one can feel pity for the man in pain, one cannot morally appraise his being in pain. Of course, the humanist — a non-theistic moralist — would regard an attitude of letting the man suffer, when his suffering can be allayed, as being blameworthy. But here he would be morally appraising a human action or attitude and not the mere fact of human suffering. The non-theist might of course regard human suffering as being an ‘evil’, in the sense of being something which we ought, in so far as it lies in our power, to reduce or eliminate. But human suffering which is not in our power to reduce or eliminate — that would, for the non-theist, be morally neutral. But not so for the theist.
KeywordsMoral Obligation Mere Fact Human Suffering Moral Imagination Logical Necessity
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