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Katie van Schaijik

A short post about moralizing

Jan. 23 at 11:16am

A lively—not to say heated—facebook exchange yesterday got me reflecting on the problem of moralizing.  What is it, and what's wrong with it, exactly?

Speaking as "a recovering moralizer," and without trying to be comprehensive about it, I'll say that it generally involves two things:

1) Presumption

2) Busy-bodying

The moralizer in one way or another sets himself up as teacher and superior.  He presumes to instruct others he has no business instructing.

So, I am not moralizing if I give my children moral instruction.  They are my children.  Instructing them belongs to the parental job descrption.  If I try it with a neighbor, though, I can expect a retort, "Who made you Pope?"

The moralizer also typically busy-bodies.  He concerns himself with other people's business.  He trespasses on "sovereign terrain."  Picture someone who lives in a rundown house next door, who hasn't mown his lawn in years, coming onto to your property to point out that your herb garden needs to be watered.  The "due response" is not to try to justify yourself and explain why your garden isn't watered, it's to tell him to go away and mind his own business.

Notice that none of this has anything to do with upholding moral values, or defending the objectivity of the moral realm.  


 

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