The Puritan Smile: A Look toward Moral Reflection

By Robert Cummings Neville; Naomi Neville | Go to book overview

6
Moral Discernment and
the Reality of Value

This moral sense — if the understanding be well informed, exercised at liberty, and in an extensive manner, without being restrained to a private sphere — approves the very same things which a spiritual and divine sense approves; and those things only; though not on the same grounds, nor with the same kind of approbation. Therefore, as that divine sense is agreeable to the necessay nature of things, as already shown; so this inferior moral sense, being so far correspondent to that, must also so far agree with the nature of things.

It has been shown, that this moral sense consists in approving the uniformity and natural agreement there is between one thing and another. So that, by the supposition, it is agreeable to the nature of things. For therein it consists, viz. a disposition of mind to consent to or like, the agreement of the nature of things, or the agreement of the nature and form of one thing with another. And certainly, such a temper of mind is more agreeable to the nature of things than an opposite temper.

— Jonathan Edwards


I. The Metaphysics of Moral Discernment

The arguments advanced in the previous chapters have assumed, as we do in practise, that there are real values in the world and that we can discern them with enough accuracy to dispute about them and to sacrifice our "life, fortune, and sacred honor" for them. Notice that the assumption has two sides, that things themselves have real worth and that we are to some degree appreciative of that worth. There would be no point to claiming that the values of things are real if that could not be appreciated, and it would be self-contra

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