Action and re-action.

Action and result.

Murder or manslaughter.

In a practical way we could (and sometimes do) judge what is happening around us in moral terms.

The intent leads us to make a decision and based on that decision we may act.

I will add two other items: the act has a consequence/result and after we hear of the consequence we may also justify it in some way or another.

There is no flow on effect except in one area: action – consequence.

Having an intent does not mean you will make a decision.

Making a decision is by no means a trigger to act.

Knowing a consequence does not prompt justification.

The justification will only sometimes inform further intent.

I would argue that intent, decision, action and justification lie mostly in our power (not entirely, as societal norms will have shaped us within our specific culture). What your mama taught you may still get you lynched in another culture.

Based on the above I would also argue that consequence lies mostly outside of our power, just like gravity and other forces of nature. We could react with bewildered anger if we are told off for an accidental tipping over of a glass of water on the carpet. It’s not like we actually planned, decided and executed that accident! But we are the ones being told off for it!

With so much of the result out of our control, and with our tenuous (at best) control over the other moral steps, how are we to make sense of principles and norms, commandments and admonitions?


I happen to be reasonably good with the positive type of moral guidance: love one another, do unto others etc. I don’t do so well with the negative type: don’t lie, don’t covet, don’t…

Probably because the negative commands are very restrictive at the same time they are prescriptive. There is no leeway. And yet for my purposes leeway is required.

Most of the time my purpose is maintaining a relationship. Toxic or not, helpful or not, if my intent is to maintain a relationship, then on analysis of the relationship I make certain decisions and this in turn reduces the number of actions I can take. Once I also act, spinning prayer wheels, I await the consequence. If I guessed right then the relationship I have chosen to maintain is secure for yet another period of time, until the next action is required.

Then, and especially if the relationship is not exactly helpful, I spend the longest time justifying it. I may use my beloved wish for control, I may rationalize the other’s behaviour, I may dream of the curt words I would say if I wanted to break the relationship.

Comfortable? No.

I am good at figuring out what the other person needs (not wants!). Which means that most of the time I guess right. Relationship maintained. Control secured. Rationale typed up in triplicate.

Don’t lie. I am a bad liar. But I can withhold, avoid and evade the truth with the best of them.

Exhausting? You bet!


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