Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

Theories of Justice and Moral Behavior

Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

Theories of Justice and Moral Behavior

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The Importance of Moral Behavior

The concepts of moral behavior, ethics, and justice have been addressed by psychologists, economists, philosophers, profits, and others. The fundamental principle of morality is that it must be useful for the society. A more moral society is more successful than a less moral society. In the former society, people will be able to work better through better collaboration, attain higher satisfaction, and face fewer social problems than in the latter society. Moral virtues strengthen individuals and their societies. Non-virtuous people are punished while virtuous people are held in high regard. Hume (1777) wrote "If usefulness, therefore, be a source of moral sentiment, and if this usefulness be not always considered with a reference to self; it follows, that everything, which contributes to the happiness of society, recommends itself directly to our approbation and goodwill. Here is a principle, which accounts, in great part, for the origin of morality; And what need we seek for abstruse and remote systems, when there occurs one so obvious and natural." Similarly, Arrow (1974) notes "Certainly one way of looking at ethics and morality, a way that is compatible with this attempt at rational analysis, is that these principles are agreements, conscious or, in many cases, unconscious, to supply mutual benefits. ... Societies in their evolution have developed implicit agreements to certain kinds of regard for others, agreements which are essential to the survival of the society or at least contribute greatly to the efficiency of its working. It has been observed, for example, that among the properties of many societies whose economic development is backward is a lack of mutual trust.... And it is clear that this lack of social consciousness is in fact a distinct economic loss in a very concrete sense, as well of course as a loss in the possible well-running of a political system."

The Role of Reason and Reasoning versus Instinct and Emotions

Discussing superstition and justice, Hume (1777) states: "Those who ridicule vulgar superstitious, and expose the folly of particular regards to meat, days, places, postures, apparel, have an easy task; while they consider all the qualities and relations of the objects, and discover no adequate cause for that affection or antipathy, veneration or horror, which have so mighty an influence over a considerable part of mankind." He goes on to further say "But there is this material difference between superstition and justice, that the former is frivolous, useless, and burdensome; the latter is absolutely requisite to the well-being of mankind and existence of society."

In search of the foundations of morals, scholars have often debated the relative importance of reason and sentiment. Hume (1777) notes:

"There has been a controversy started of late, much better worth examination, concerning the general foundations of Morals; whether they be derived from Reason, or from Sentiment; whether we attain the knowledge of them by a chain of argument and induction, or by an immediate feeling and finer internal sense..." "...Iam apt to suspect, they may, the one as well as the other, be solid and satisfactory, and that reason and sentiment concur in almost all moral determinations and conclusion. The final sentence, it is probable, which pronounces characters and actions amiable or odious, praise-worthy or blamable...; that which renders morality an active principle and constitutes virtue our happiness, and vice our misery; it is probable, I say, this final sentence depends on some internal sense of feeling, which nature has made universal in whole species. For what else can have an influence of this nature? But in order to pave the way for such a sentiment, and give a proper discernment of its object, it is often necessary, we find, that much reasoning should precede, that nice distinctions made, just conclusions drawn..."

However, Sen (2009) emphasizes the importance of reason for moral behavior and justice and notes that some type of reason, however defective, is the foundation of our prejudices and this reason must be confronted by good reason to reach appropriate agreements between parties. …

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