The Moral Clarity Book: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists

Progress is society’s backdrop. If you believe in progress you believe in the possibility of everyone prospering. Without it, your gain is another’s loss.

It matters then if people believe in progress or not. 

If society cannot change for the better, if human nature can’t improve, then we are stuck in a state of nature. Ideals are nothing but cant and delusion.

People often steer clear from a moral view of the world.  “Don’t be judgmental,” is now an eleventh commandment, says Susan Neiman, an American philosopher, in her influential new book. Being too certain is often associated with bigotry and small-mindedness.

In a world motivated by a consumption and petty self-interest, a moral purpose can, however, give dignity to lives.

Ms. Neiman thinks people yearn for this sense of moral purpose. And that they want to influence how the world works, not just be influenced by it.

Morals can shape people for the better and should guide people. Not power and wealth and an economy’s needs.

Moral sensibility is why some people will suffer for a cause, and why self sacrifice for principles can be so powerful.

People can distinguish between right and wrong. The way the world is and the way it ought to be.

Ms Nieman’s Moral Clarity book does a wonderful job of showing why morals matter and how to think clearly about them.

Sometimes, however imperfectly, progress is possible.

Dignity requires us to have ideals, Ms. Neiman says, to love them for their own sake. But it is not necessary that that love will be returned.

There is not a stalk choice between Utopia and degeneracy.

Moral progress is neither guaranteed nor is it hopeless.

Instead, it is up to us.

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