When Talking About Morality, Start With Natural Law, by Matt D’Antuono

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Our society is very confused about what we ought to do and why we ought to do it.

By Matt D’Antuono, National Catholic Register, 7/22/19 

Matt D’AntuonoAs I discuss philosophical questions with my high school students, I find that they tend to gravitate toward ethical dilemmas and “What-would-you-do-in-this-situation” type conversations. It is generally easier for them to relate to practical questions than to more abstract, metaphysical questions about the nature of existence. However, what I try to impress on my students is the fact that there has to be a basis for making ethical decisions in the first place, and that basis has its own foundation in the nature of reality. It seems to come as something of a surprise to them that there is a rational way of thinking about morality, and it is not just a question of what we think or feel is right, let alone the fact that there might be real moral standards. Evidence of this fact is that they often start off sentences about morality by saying, “I feel like…” However, when they really get into a discussion, they will begin to disagree and argue with one another, which implies that there is a rational way of talking about these issues whether they realize it or not.

I do not think it is too drastic to say that there is a lot of moral confusion today, both about what is right and wrong and what is the nature of right and wrong. In other words, we tend to be very confused as a society about what we ought to do and why we ought to do it. Worst of all, though, is that we do not know we are confused. As Plato said, “The most damaging thing about stupidity is its self-satisfaction.” The first step in learning is realizing that you don’t know. Peter Kreeft has said, “There are two kind of people in the world: the fools who think they are wise and the wise who know they are fools.”

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