Morality Matters

“Morality matters because we believe that there are other and more human ways of living than instinctual gratification tempered by regret. It matters because we believe that some essentials – love, marriage, parenthood – are so central to our being that we seek to endow them with as much permanence as is given to us in this unpredictable and transitory life. It matters because we must not abdicate our responsibility for those we brought into being by failing to provide them with a stable, caring environment within which to grow to maturity. It matters because we believe there are other routes out of the Hobbesian state of nature – the war of all against all – than by creating a Leviathan of a state. It matters because as long as humanity has thought about such things, we have recognised that there are achievements we cannot reach without the collaborative bonds of civil society and the virtues that alone make such a society possible. Morality matters, finally, because despite all fashionable opinion to the contrary, we remain moved by altruism. We are touched by other people’s pain. We feel enlarged by doing good, more so perhaps than by doing well, by material success. Decency, charity, compassion, integrity, faithfulness, courage, just being there for other people, matter to us. They matter to us despite the fact that we may now find it hard to say why they matter to us. They matter to us because we are human and because, in the words of Victorian philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore, we are worth what we are willing to share with others. These truths, undervalued for a generation, are the cultural climate change we now need. They are about to become vital again, and not a moment too soon.”

Morality, Chapter 22, p. 315