Monday, September 03, 2007

Moral Object Solutions.

Apparently My Blog is being read in heaven; no seriously. I got two replies to the Double Effect post from John Paul II (check the comments on the post) I do get an impressive audience. I wonder if it is a wireless link?

I’d thought I’d have another go thinking about moral objects.

What is a moral object?

One of the big problems in understanding morality is an understanding of the concept of the “moral object“. I’ve gone looking around on the web and have been mulling over Veritatis Splendor and most explanations seem to go give a partial understanding of the subject. I also feel that Veritatis Splendor may confuse the terminology a bit. Thinking about the matter a bit more, I feel that the military may have some useful ideas in helping us understand the moral object a bit easier.

The target of a military endeavour is called the objective. The objective is the thing to which military activities are directed. Military endeavours are usually divided into two different types of objectives: The strategic and the tactical.

The strategic objective is the purpose to which all military operations are directed. Principally they are the defeat of the enemy or a lessening of its power. Broadly speaking it is why military operations are constituted in the first place. The tactical objectives and the targets which have to be achieved--either in the form of possession, neutralisation or destruction--that have to be achieved in order to achieve the strategic objective. Now the strategic objective can be thought of analogous to the idea of intent while the tactical objective can be thought of as the objective of an act.

Notice that there are two different types of objectives. Intended objectives and objectives of acts. Both acts and intents have objectives but they are fundamentally different in their natures. The intended objective is a state we wish to achieve, this state may come about passively without us doing anything while an the objective of an act is a state we wish to achieve by our active participation.

This objective can be considered from many different perspective but when considered against a moral standard the objective can be thought of as a moral objective. The moral object can therefore be thought of as the classification of an object with respect to its relation to God’s moral law. Example: Let’s say A wants to murder B. The object of A’s intent is the unjust death of B. As it is never licit to murder, the object of A’s intent can be thought of as contrary to God’s law and therefore is categorically evil. A’s intent has an evil moral object. Broadly speaking bad intentions and bad acts have are bad moral objects, while good intentions and acts have the opposite. Moral theologians have also made the distinction in the following terminology:

The finis operis: the end of the operation , similar to the concept of the tactical objective,
The finis operantis: the end of the agent similar in concept to the strategic objective.

Personally, I think that the terminology doesn’t emphasise the distinction enough, so I ‘m suggesting a different terminology be used. (I’m open to suggestions of a better terminology).

Finis operis: Corporeal object.
Finis operandis: Intended object.

I want to be clear that by corporeal object, I mean human acts including thoughts; for thinking is a human action even though it is not strictly corporeal.

Now human acts can be considered as being directed towards a specific corporeal object. Human action is the ontic realisation of the corporeal object: The thing willed is made real by the act.

Now why does all this matter?

At any given point or place the universe as we know it exists in a certain ontic state. By ontic state I mean the bits and pieces that make up our universe have a specific relation to one another. The universe as it was on June 22nd 3.05pm exactly was in a different ontic state to what it was on Feb 12 1987 at 11.37 am.

Now the intent concerns itself with the nature of the ontic state, or the type of state the particular individual would like to see exist. The object of intent is a particular ontic state; while the corporeal object realised, is an active alteration of the ontic state: the act generates a particular ontic state. The important point being is that the corporeal object and the intended object are not the same. Sometimes the corporeal object is congruent with the intended object sometimes it is not: the corporeal object--with the contingent assistance of circumstance--is a means of attaining the intended object.

I think a change in terminology is important because ill will in discussions on moral matters frequently hinge on definitions, the current definitions are not precise enough. More tomorrow.