By Sidney Axinn
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Extra resources for A Moral Military
What advantages does religion have in such a view? The advantages are the assertion of the limits of man and the hope of absolute good in the world. The ability to express these matters poetically may, on occasion, be a basis for maintaining sanity. ”28 To have a way of referring to a standard beyond that of one’s government, or of any immediate human demand, is to have something most valuable morally. 29 That it is taken symbolically creates the disadvantage of not giving precise direction but also adds the advantage of applying its ideas broadly.
What can be said about the moral history of the ten people on the island? We might say that they need a bill of rights to prevent the taking of life merely for amusement. Suppose that they had killed these weaker individuals not merely for amusement but for the safety of the rest of the population. Would that have made the killing moral? Had these individuals been sacrificed to the gods of agriculture so that the population of the island would not starve, would we approve of the morality? Is it morally justifiable to sacrifice a few individuals so that others, perhaps many others, may live?
Kant’s rule sets the boundaries to acceptable styles but offers no method for picking the best or perfect moral style—and none exists. Individual dignity or freedom consists in the need and the ability to be responsible for one’s own moral style. That does not mean that anything goes or that you can choose whatever you like. Some choices violate the categorical imperative, the rule of universality, and are therefore not moral. That’s the meaning of moral. But this limit still leaves choices of styles to individual judgment.