The Quarrel With Morals

quarrelmoralsmain"He is not a moral man," a friend of mine said, in reference to a prominent attorney of our mutual acquaintance. It took me aback for a moment. Not because I questioned the assessment. Rather, because it opens the door to a flood of the kind of jokes people love to make about lawyers ... often enough, with good reason.

What struck me was the great sadness with which my friend, himself an attorney, made his statement. It was not an accusation, but a sad recognition that a man vested with playing a prominent part in some of the most crucial legal questions of our time was not, at bottom, basing his decisions and participation on any deep-down commitment to eternal principles or abiding truths. He just does, presumably, "what he thinks is right."

Many -- maybe most -- would be hard-pressed to find fault with that. Trouble is, it makes right and wrong less about right and wrong and more about feelings and instincts. My morality, then, is not about anything bigger than myself. My decisions are no longer grounded in truth, because there is no such thing as "truth." There's just what I feel. What I think. What I decide.

In the end, then, the great decisions of life come down not to integrity, but arrogance. Pride. I lay those questions at the altar of my own ego.

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