PAPER NO. 6

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THE GOOD

The Source of Unity in Each and Among All

  1. Ethics is rational.

    1. Ethics is concerned with giving a rational justification for the answer to the question “What is the good?”
    2. Ethics assumes choice; choice assumes values; values assume the highest value, which is the good (the summum bonum).
    3. All things are not valued the same. Some things are chosen as means to an end; some are chosen for their own sake. What is chosen for its own sake is the end in itself, man’s chief end, the good.
  2. Ethics is teleological.

    1. The good is not virtue; virtue is the means to the good.
    2. The good is not happiness; happiness is the effect of possessing what is believed to be the good.
    3. The good is not a being or a person. The good is achieved by choice. The good is by and for persons.

      Without the good as the end in itself, ethics splits into focus on duty (deontology) or pleasure (hedonism) and all consequent fragmentation.

  1. Ethics is grounded in metaphysics (the nature of being).

    1. The good for a being is according to the nature of that being.

      The good for a man, for a horse, or for a sheep is according to the nature of each.

  1. Man by nature thinks. Human beings are a union of mind and body. Man has sense impressions through the body, as do all animals. Yet man has more than animals. Thinking is cognitive, using concepts, judgments and arguments. Reason in itself is the laws of thought. Therefore, man is a rational animal.
  1. Ethics assumes epistemology (basic things are clear to reason).

    1. It is clear to reason that God the Creator exists—that there must be something eternal and that only some is eternal: that matter exists and matter is not eternal; that the soul exists and the soul is not eternal—and that man is a rational being made in the image of God.
    2. It is clear that the good is one: it is the source of unity within each person and between all persons.

      Human nature is a unity of diversity. All aspects of human nature are ordered, from the universal (common to all) to the particular (unique in each).

      Human nature is formally one and the same in all human beings. To deny human nature in oneself is to deny it in all others.

  1. It is clear that the good for man as a rational being is the use of one’s reason to the fullest, to understand the nature of things. The natures of things created reveal the nature of God the Creator. Therefore, the good for man as a rational being is the knowledge of God.
  1. Ethics in philosophy and theology are the same.

    1. The good and the moral law revealed in general revelation are the same in special revelation (Scripture) and in Historic Christianity (summed up in the Westminster Standards of 1648).

      Eternal life (the good, the end in itself) is knowing God (John 17:3).

      Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, in all that by which he makes himself known, in all his works of creation and providence (SCQ 1, 101; WCF 4.1, 5.1).

  1. The moral law is written on the hearts of all men (Romans 2:14-15, Deuteronomy 30:11-14); it is structured into human nature.

The moral law given in Scripture (the Decalogue) is the same in content as the natural moral law given in general revelation and is derivable from it.

  1. The moral law is clear, comprehensive and critical; it is the means to achieve the good, which is corporate, cumulative and communal. The good is achieved when the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).

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