Morality and Society

  • A. J. M. Milne


2.1.1 Morality consists of virtues which there is an obligation to cultivate and practice, of principles upon which there is an obligation to act, and of rules which there is an obligation to follow. ‘Obligation’ is the primary moral concept. To say that something is a moral matter is to say that there is an obligation concerning it. It is a matter which must be attended to, irrespective of convenience, expediency or prudence. Not to attend to it would be wrong. An objection to this emphasis upon ‘obligation’ is that it takes no account of the moral achievements of saints and heroes.1 Not so: saintliness and heroism are displayed in acts which ‘go beyond the call of duty’. But there must be duty before there can be acts which go beyond its call. The concepts of ‘saintliness’ and of ‘heroism’ presuppose the concept of ‘obligation’. Saints and heroes do more than is morally required of them. But, in order to identify and appreciate the ‘more’ which they do and their achievements in doing it, we must know what is morally required of them: that is, what their obligations are.2


Moral Agent Common Interest Instrumental Action Free Rider Moral Rule 
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Copyright information

© A. J. M. Milne 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. M. Milne
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DurhamUK

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