Moral Sense
by James Q. Wilson

Men are more concerned than women are with the morality of rights--justice. This could be because justice determines when it is legitimate to use force, and it is men who are more likely to use force. When force is called for, it is men who are usually expected to apply it. So men have greater need to understand the rules of justice than women do.

The rules and the basic rights that can be deduced from the concept of moral agency are only a few, and they do not provide answers to all moral questions. Nonetheless, these rules and basic rights define justice and completely delimit the legitimate use of force. It is important to learn these rules and to think about their consequences when you are sober and unbesieged until you have instilled them into your character so firmly that you will remember them and act in accord with them later when other emotions are making it hard for you to think straight. Unless you train yourself and develop your sense of justice in this way when it is not under stress, it is apt to be overpowered by other natural emotions in critical situations involving human conflict, when it is most needed.

I was disappointed that Wilson seems unaware of the great work that the Scottish Enlightenment philosophers have done with regard to the moral sense.

Year Read: 1995


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