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It may be defined as human conduct in so far as it is freely subordinated to the ideal of what is right and fitting.
This ideal governing our free actions is common to the race.
Various facts are adduced, which, it is alleged, show that morality is, in point of fact, capable of dissociation from religion.
It is urged (1) that the most primitive peoples do not connect their religious beliefs with such moral code as they possess; and (2) that even where the moral consciousness and the religious system have reached a high degree of development, the spheres of religion and morality are sometimes regarded as separate.
In much recent ethical philosophy it is strenuously maintained that right moral action is altogether independent of religion.
Such is the teaching alike of the Evolutionary, Positivist, and Idealist schools.
Morality is antecedent to ethics : it denotes those concrete activities of which ethics is the science.Yet making allowance for all such diversities, it may be said that the common voice of the race proclaims it to be right for a man to reverence big parents ; to care and provide for his children; to be master of his lower appetites ; to be honest and just in his dealings, even to his own damage; to show benevolence to his fellows in time of distress; to bear pain and misfortune with fortitude.And only within comparatively recent years has anyone been found to deny that beyond this a man is bound to honour God and to prefer his country's interests to his own.She teaches that in our present state there is a certain obscurity in reason's vision of the moral law, together with a morbid craving for independence impelling us to transgress it, and a lack of complete control over the passions ; and that by reason of this inherited taint, man, unless supported by Divine aid, is unable to observe the moral law for any length of time. is so delicate, so fitful, so easily puzzled, obscured, perverted, so subtle in its argumentative methods, so impressionable by education, so biassed by pride and passion, so unsteady in its course, that in the struggle for existence amid the various exercises and triumphs of the human intellect, the sense is at once the highest of all teachers yet the least luminous" (Newman, "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk", in section onconscience ).Newman has admirably described from the psychological point of view this weakness in our grasp of the moral law : "The sense of right and wrong . In dealing with this subject, however, it is further necessary to take account of the historical argument.
And, finally, his actions even if in accordance with the moral law, will be based not on the obligation imposed by the Divine will, but on considerations of human dignity and on the good of human society.