Groups must be identified by their collective goals, or purposes. This is how groups function, otherwise, their is no reason for groups to exist.
Individuals, on the other hand, don't have to have a reason to exist, as the individual is to be the "end" in himself. The individual must have the right to life and liberty, otherwise, his life is not his own. He becomes the slave to a "moral oughtness".
Therefore, while groups, such as the Church may demand "moral oughts", they must give room for individual choice, otherwise the "moral ought" has lost any values to it's "moral oughtness". Choice is the determinitive "end" of moral value. The individual must make the choice about moral value, not the Church.
A few posts ago, I wrote on the issue of abortion. I challenged my friend's post about "pro-life" on the basis of evolution. Evolution does not grant that life begins at conception, but at choice. Choice is the determinitive "end" of morality. The individual must choose how he will live his life. Will he obey the laws of his land, as a abiding and peaceful citizen, or will he become a criminal, a renagade? The "pro life" movement says that a person who chooses abortion has "sinned" against God, irregardless of what has been considered lawful according to the Constitution. So, the "Pro-Life Movement" has a "moral demand" over and above the legal requirements of Constitutional government.
Laws are what define moral behavior in a given society. Not every group will adhere to the same standards. But, in a liberal society, choice must be free association of chosen groups that uphold the individuals chosen values. Churches understand "the law" in their doctrines and their standards of behavior that supercede Constitutional government. This helps define the Church over against the Constiutional government..
The conservative church holds to a morality based on deontological ethics, meaning that "God's law" is to be upheld because it is "God's law". What is considered "good" is what God wills, not good in itself. Humans, then, are ends to "God's will". "Good" is not defined by universal consensus, but by "sacred texts". It is an ethics based "outside of" the individual. It is a moral demand or "oughtness".
On the other hand, virtue and consequential ethics have different values regarding what is good. Virtue ethics, is determined by the individual's character. What is "good" is not an outside form, but an inside agreement as to what is "the good". The virtue ethicist would play out the "inside character" based on whether one believed that there was an objective standard whereby "morality" or "the good" could be judged.
The Church would judge man's character again on an "outside text" or an organizational goal. The individual himself would not be granted moral choice, but demanded to behave according to an approved "standard"! Obedience to that standard of behavior or goal becomes the judgemnt of the individual's character, as to "Christian character". The atheist/agnostic would agree that virtue is within the individual, but would not agree that the standard is determined by "the Church", but on social contract. The individual, himself, must choose his values within a free society, and be allowed to play these out in his life. Character then, is defined by what is "natural" to that particular person.
The social contract forms a society by agreement. The Constitution is the 'standard that the West holds to be of value in maintaining a free society. Constitutional standards are created to protect the society from anarchy or from abuses of power. These are not hierarchal in nature, but are to be "democratic" in intent. Our government is "not sent from above", but granted from below. It is the political sphere where men adhere to the same standards of behavior because this is our cultural value, civilized behavior. Civilized behavior is expected to be ethical, or moral because it regards another's boundary.
Consequentialism would value the end as an ultimate, by whatever means. This position is utilitarian and does not value the human as an ultimate value, but the goal. There are no standards for behavior in this ethical frame. So, while the deontological sees the "moral ought" as ultimate value, isn't this really consequentialist in the Church's view of "ends"? The secular humanist would value the human, not the ends as ultimate value.
God cannot be the ultimate end, because "God" cannot be understood apart from human speculation. And ends, canot be based on what cannot be agreed upon, unless one wants to live under oppressive rule of "Tradition" or Text, as defined by an "outside source".
Virtue of character means that the human being, himself determines his own values and he allows that same liberty to others. The individual chooses to make his life's choices within a free society of free assosiciation, not moral demands of "oughtness". In such a society, there is liberty of conscience, and free debate as to ultimate ends, because each individual chooses his life, as to happiness!
So, I don't value the Church or God as to an end, because the human distinction of choice is dissolved before authoritative demands of obedience of one kind or another. Life must be enjoyed as an offering IF one want to value Chruch or God, at all. Otherwise, life is dissolved of independent value, because life becomes consumed by something "other" or "outside" of life itself. And the individual ceases to "exist" in all practical terms, because he is determined, instead of a Moral Agent.
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