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What is the Object of Moral Judgements?

A moral judgement as distinguished from a factual judgement is a judgement upon the action of an individual that can be evaluated as good or bad, right or wrong. Obviously it is a judgement upon the voluntary action of the individual.

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Voluntary actions and habitual actions are objects of moral judgement. Non-voluntary actions are excluded from the scope of moral judgements. Habitual actions are objects of moral judgements, because they are the results repeated voluntary actions.

Thus ultimately only voluntary actions are judged to be right or wrong. Whatever has not willed has no moral worth.

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A question may be raised:

Do we judge an act by its motives or consequences? Moral judgements are not passed upon all kinds of action, but only upon conduct. But conduct or willed action has two aspects. It is will and it is action, it involves an internal factor and external factor.

There is a lot of controversy between hedonists and intuitionists. Hedonists regard consequences as the object of moral judgement. Intuitionists regard motive as the object of it. The view is wrong. The idea as the end is the real motive. It induces the self to act. It is the end of action.

On the otherhand, Kant says: “The effect of our action can not give them moral worth.” But Ler says that rightness or wrongness of an act depends very much upon the motive for which it is done.

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Now, the question is to the motive or consequence of a voluntary action is the object of moral judgement which of them determines its moral quality. When there is a harmony between the inner motive and the outer consequence as a foreseen and desired.

The consequence is the out manifestation of the inner motive. The motive or the idea of the end aimed at is undoubtedly the object of moral judgement. The consequence also is the object of moral judgement in so far as it realizes the inner motive. But sometimes it is found that, the motive from which it is done is good, but the consequence turns out to be bad.

For example: when a surgeon performing an operation of a patient no doubt his motive is good i.e., to cure the patient. But the means he adopts is not good for the patient.

According to Johnson an action to be considered as good or bad depends on the motive from which it is done. If I find (throw) half-a-crown to a begger with an intention to break his head and he picks it up and buys victuals (food) with it, the physical effect is good, but with respect to me, the action is very wrong, because my motive is bad. Thus when there is a conflict between the inner motive and the outer consequence the moral quality of an action is determined by the inner motive and not by the consequence.

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Now, a question may be raised, is motive or intention the object of moral judgement?

Some take motive as a spring of action, which persuades the agent to act for dissuading him from acting. Therefore, he regards intention as the object of moral judgement. He says explicitly that all motives are morally colourless, because they are all of the same kind – all pleasure seeking and pain-shunning.

Similarly, J.S. Mill also holds that motive in the sense of spring of action or feeling of pleasure and pain, is not the object of moral judgement.

But that intention, or the end or aim of action is the object of moral judgement. He says, ‘the morality of the action depends entirely upon the intention that is, upon what the agent wills to do. But the motive, that is feeling which makes him will so to do, when it makes, no difference in the act, makes none in the morality. But this view is wrong. The motive is the end or aim of action. It is the final cause of action. It is not the efficient cause. It does not move the self to act from behind. It induces the self to act.

Therefore, motive in this sense, is the object of moral judgement. But the feeling of pleasure and pain, which are spring of action are never the objects of moral judgement. They are morally colourless as Bentham says. So far Bentham is right, but Bentham and Mill take the word ‘Motive’ in a wrong sense.

The motive is the idea of the end chosen by the self. It is a part of the intention. Intention includes the idea of the end and the means chosen by the self. Is motive alone the object of moral judgement? Is an action right if its motive is right? Or an action is right if its intention is good.

Sometimes the end chosen is good, but the means employed for the attainment of the end are bad. So intention is the idea of the end and the means. Should such an action have a good end though bad means be regarded as right? Does the end justify-the means? It is said that St. Crip in used to steal let her from the rich to make shoes for the poor. Can his action be justified? Evidently we can not regard his conduct as right because though his motive was good, he employed immoral means. A merchant adopts under hand means to gain wealth. His motive is gain which is not wrong, but adopts the wrong means. This makes his action wrong.

Thus we come to the conclusion that intention is the object of moral Judgement. It includes the motive or the idea of the end as well as the idea of the means. An action is good if its intention is good, in otherwords, if the end as well as the means adopted is good. The end never justifies the means. Thus the motive alone does not determine the moral quality of an action.

Intention is the object of moral judgement. It is intention including motive that determines the moral quality of an action. An action is right when the intention of the agent is good. An action is bad or wrong when the motive or the end and the means are good; an action is wrong if either of them is “bad.

We may distinguish between the outer and the inner intention of an action. If a begger comes to you; you help him in order to remove the painful feeling from your mind, which is excited by the sight of his distress, your outer intention is to help the man in distress, but your inner intention is to remove your painful feeling.

The inner intention of an action is an object of moral judgement. An intentrorris the end that is definitely adopted as an object of will together with the means, which are consented to by the agent as necessary for the realization of the end. The intention as a whole, rather than the motive or the idea of the end is the object of moral judgement.

Is Intention or Character the Object of Moral Judgement?

Intention is not an isolated mental phenomenon. Intention is the expression of the character. We pass moral judgements on the character of a person when we want to determine his moral worth. But we do not determine the moral quality of an action by considering the character of the agent, because a person of good character has not always a good intention and similarly a person of bad character may not have necessarily a bad intention always.

So it is better to hold that intention is the object of moral judgement. Intention of the agent determines the moral quality of an action. It is wrong to hold that character is the object of moral judgement. It determines the moral worth of a person, but not of his particular actions. The moral quality of an action is always determined by the intention of the agent. The ideal or rational self is the subject of moral judgement. The spectator or the judge in a person is the ideal self.

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