What is your response to Arthur F. Holmes' proposal to the issue of legislating morality?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In his book, Approaching Moral Decisions, Dr. Holmes conducts a thorough and erudite examination of the question of ethics. Certainly, his point that moral practices "vary and depend on human needs and social conditions" is valid, as is his cogent observation that attitudes and practices regarding morals are essentially "noncognititve responses" rather that the results of rational direction. (16) In addition, the point that there are "universal areas of value in principle" is relevant, indeed--such principles as life and health, marriage and family, and economic sufficiency--although the last two are in question nowadays.

In accord with Dr. Holmes, there are some moral beliefs that have been created from reason, such as the concept that murder is wrong.  However, most ethical judgments are not "empirically veritable."  For instance, in the twentieth century reformist groups believed that drinking alcoholic beverages was morally wrong and was able to have drinking such liquids made illegal with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. But, it was impossible to legislate this equivocable morality and the results were disastrous. Therefore, in a multicultural country such as the United States, it is extremely difficult as Dr. Holmes contends to assign legality to moral behaviors other than those that are not formed from rational activity.