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Chapter Ten: The Systems Stage

Section 4: Moral Evaluation



The morality of consequences is based upon an enlightened and expansive self-interest: "enlightened" in that side-effects and long range effects are taken into account; "expansive" in that one's self-interest is best served by identifying with others -- perhaps the entire human race. A morality based on self-interest is inconsistent with certain emotions and attitudes that tend to poison human interaction. There is no reason to condemn another for failing to operate according to their own self-interest. There is no reason to feel self-righteous for following one's own self-interest. There is no reason to feel guilty (to condemn oneself) for not following one's own self-interest.



Condemnation, guilt, and self-righteousness are emotional aspects of authoritarian ethics that accompany obedience or non-obedience of a rigid commandment. They all interfere with the integrity of one's personality and the constructiveness of one's interactions with others. This implies that "systems thinking" will allow for a "morality of consequences" which will, in turn, allow better personality integration and more positive human interaction.



This does not imply that one must "judge not." Whenever anyone acts on less than the highest morality, everyone is less well off. It is important to recognize when the highest principles are being neglected, particularly if one person neglects regularly. It may be possible to remove a stress that is preventing such a person from acting optimally. Since the morality of consequences is a developmental achievement, further maturation may be required. Educational interventions usually would be appropriate if the subject were developmentally ready.



Usually, education refers to providing the experience and information necessary to make wise decisions. Occasionally, more severe interventions will need to be made, although still with an educational purpose. The most enlightened people will be willing to apply negative social consequences when necessary to communicate effectively with the subject. Although only last resorts, non-communicative restraints, social exclusions (imprisonment), and even execution, remain alternatives to be considered. However, it could well be that the importance of human dignity to the long-range well being of humanity may never be outweighed by the imposition of the most severe sanctions. As society develops, even minor infringements of human rights and civil liberties (as these are continually refined and expanded) will become virtually unnecessary, at least with respect to adults.



Moral judgments apply to all human decision-making units, including groups, business organizations, nations, religions, and cultures -- as well as individuals. Thus, the morality of consequences is the basis of the developmental approach to evaluating societies outlined in chapter four.



An accurate assessment of the moral competence of the people with whom one deals is necessary to the appropriate determination of one's own course of action. In this sense, moral judgments are no different from any other assessment one makes of environmental conditions relevant to the choices one's disposal: we assess, not to condemn, but to choose wisely.







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