[lit-ideas] Re: Inner Moral Law

  • From: Robert Paul <robert.paul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 01 Aug 2005 16:48:02 -0700

Just two points, and then I'm out of here.

The 'Ten Commandments' are a poor guide to any sort of 'universal morality,' if there is such a thing. They presuppose a society of a certain kind: one in which there is the institution of marriage; the institution of private property (and hence of ownership); and they were in fact addressed only to adult Israelite males. I grant that they are now often taken as a foundation for morality in general, but if we're concerned about framer's (or Framer's) intent, we might want to think twice about engraving them on granite tables at every freeway entrance.
It's my understanding that they make up part of the covenant between God and the people of Israel, in which there are rights and obligations on both sides: in return for their keeping the law, God would make the Israelites his chosen people. Both parties accused the other of reneging, non-performance, etc., as a reading of the 'Old Testament' will show.

This might suggest that these paradigms of moral instruction were followed for prudential reasons, not because those to whom they were addressed sought moral improvement.

Robert Paul
Reed College
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