Why Morality?

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Abstract

This essay attempts to give a phenomenological answer to the question of why morality exists. To this end it examines various possible sources of an answer: morality itself, facts about humans and the world, feelings such as empathy or sympathy, emotions, feelings of pain and pleasure, and concludes that only feelings of respect and preciousness are adequate to entail moral obligation. As an example of an experience of preciousness, the essay presents an analysis of the feelings elicited in the face-to-face experience of another person as something precious, and finds the source of the elicited feelings to lie in a person’s autonomous self-movement, spontaneity, and unpredictability, in his or her conscious, cognizing gaze, and in the complex and unfathomable depth of his or her feelings. The preciousness of the individual human is what elicits the inclination and obligation to respect, protect, and foster human persons. The essay then sketches the sort of humanistic moral code to which morality so based gives rise, and briefly answers possible objections.

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