Saint Augustine                                           The Augustinian Paradigm

The Account of Morality




















The following discussion paints a picture of what is meant by the term 'morality' as used in Augustinian knowledge theory. It is not a complete definition of the term since morality is a department of rational scientific knowledge and must be defined within that framework.

Morality divides into God's morality or righteousness, the morality of the Kingdom of God, and cultural  morality as it applies to Western culture.


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The Morality of God

 In the Augustinian System knowledge is the guide to action and knowledge is founded on experience. Morality is a branch of knowledge and its basis is the theoretical solutions to the set of problems of experience which are recognised as having a moral meaning.  The following discussion surveys the field of study as a precursor to a full study for the purposes of moral  theory formulation.  In speaking of morality and moral behaviour the survey is useful to outline what is meant by the terms in the Augustinian context, in advance of specialist studies to explain the theory of morality.

In any field of study a justification of theory is necessary, which explains why it is needed.  Knowledge defines correct, acceptable, and useful behaviour and is to be distinguished from opinions and ideologies which are intuitive motivations.

To see intuitive motivations in action the history of the 19th  and 20th centuries provides a number of important examples. The French Revolution was, at the outset, regarded as a great advance in social thinking, and recognised by progressive thinkers everywhere as a glorious episode in human history. Unfortunately the motivation to political change was based on the intuitive ideas of the Romantic movement, and not on knowledge which would have defined best behaviours.

Intuitive thinking provides no basis for agreement and the Revolution was frustrated by conflicting and confusing ideas. Within a few years it had degenerated into a bloodbath. Revolutionaries, with no knowledge to guide them, invented their own ideology which attempted to justify their appalling behaviours by blaming their victims.  This unhappy ideology became a prime input to the national socialist and communist ideologies, and the mass murder solution was later repeated on  much larger scales. Intuition as the basis for group behaviour is extremely dangerous.

Knowledge methodology offers  the only basis for the production of true solutions which are acceptable and effective in reality. If the West is to avoid repetitions of the violent struggles of the 20th century, it can only be through a better methodological approach to personal and social morality.



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The Moral Universe

Love is an emotion which is expressed as goodwill and empathy.  Of itself it does not imply specific action. Morality, or righteousness, is the practice of love and requires the positive furtherance of the best interests of the loved individual or the group.

As an example, parental love requires the consideration of the best interests of their child, which is a moral imperative. The parents may have a formal system of rules and practices to be applied in the raising of their child.  In the parental understanding, the best interests of their child require restrictions and refusals as well as supporting and giving. Inasmuch as the childís best interests are achieved it is a moral approach to child rearing.

In the same way the morality of God is a practical system of love which may be studied and understood by human beings. Expressed as the Moral Law it defines the fundamental conditions of the Creation.



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The Moral System

God has constructed a formal system of moral rules and practices in the Moral universe to govern the development of self-creating lifeforms. The Moral System applies to God as the Infinite Spirit and to the Persons of the Holy Trinity as well as the institutions and living constituents of the Creation. There are no exemptions.

The fundamental  morality of Creation is given by the Principle of Self-creation. Life is free to define and create itself. The first act of creation included the separation of the evolving will of created beings from the infinite power of God and the Moral Law defines the conditions which govern the exercise of power by the will.

Since the principle of self-creation requires adequate power to effect itself  the Moral System is committed to giving the individual access to the Infinite Power of the Spirit in the form of Knowledge. Knowledge is the vehicle through which power is given, or restored, to the creation.

The world is a Teaching System and the intellect and the culture represent the learning achievements of the individual and the group. The acquisition of knowledge is, of necessity, a slow and ordered process and the power available to developing individuals and groups to solve their problems and achieve their objectives is always inadequate to their needs.

The morality of the Creation requires that no individual suffers through, or is limited by, lack of power to achieve his or her ends. In the case of a self-creating system non-interference is in the best interest of the participants, unless that interference is requested in the form of assistance with a problem beyond the current powers of the participants to solve.

In addition to the power to solve problems and overcome difficulties, God offers assistance in the forms of Providence and Protection. God offers the required assistance only if this is specifically requested.  However, the request by itself is insufficient if the assistance is not really expected.  The request must be accompanied by the belief that the assistance will be given.

Furthermore, the request must be in the best interests of all concerned. Morality is concerned with the best interest of all. The exception is when the moral purposes of two individuals clash, in which case the assistance is given to the individual who believes most strongly that it will happen as requested.



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The Reflective System

It would be generally accepted that the observable reality is consistent with the human understanding of it and this is because the human understanding has been made to conform to the world as observed.

The world the individual and the group sees in experience reflects their beliefs.   However, beliefs must be distinguished from understandings in general. Beliefs are understandings on which one is prepared to act. Beliefs govern behaviour. As an example, an individual may understand Communism and Christianity.  He does not believe in Communism but does believe in Christianity and he acts in a manner consistent with his Christian beliefs and not in conformity with his understanding of Communism. Beliefs, therefore, are truth judgments relating to understandings which govern behaviour.

There is, in religion, a claim that the world, as the culture or the individual observes it, is, by design, consistent with the set of beliefs of the observer. An individual who is violent believes in violence as a possibility of behaviour and reality reflects to him a world of experience in which violence is a fact of reality and possibly the norm.  The same is allegedly true of all forms of behaviour, whether good or antisocial, of both individuals and human groups including states. One lives in the world one has judged to be true and therefore the world one believes in.

A special case is the individualís morality in relation to God. An individual with a poor opinion of God gets, in the reflective process, a God that conforms to that opinion. Similarly, a individual who does not believe that God exists lives in a world of experience in which there is no god. The theist who believes in God as a Loving Father lives in, and experiences, the family of God. 

Kant asserted that the immoral individual lives in a private mental world in which unconventional belief and unethical behaviour are the norms.  The Reflection theory asserts that experience of reality as given by the Teaching System reflects that undesirable belief and behaviour. The individual actually lives in a reality in which the possibilities implied in his or her beliefs are manifested in personal experience.

The system of reflection includes moral beliefs, which implies that the good and bad moral experiences of individuals and groups are the consequences of their moral achievements. If bad experiences occur the cause lies in poor moral beliefs. This claim, understandably, provokes political controversy when applied, for example, to the victims of National Socialist and Communist regimes but politics is not a good arbitrator of truth or morality.

When seen against the motivation of God to give to His creation every good thing that individuals could desire for themselves, bad experience is an anomaly and must be treated as such. The implication is that if the world as experienced is unsatisfactory,  beliefs, as the cause, are also unsatisfactory.

The Teaching system shows the individual or the group the problems and faults of the developing intellect or culture by reflection and experience. The opportunity is then given for some change to be made to those beliefs as the prerequisite to changing and improving individual or group experience of the world.



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The Morality of the Kingdom of God


Personal or individual morality

In a self-creating system the beliefs,  purposes and objectives of any member of that system reveal the morality  of that individual. The morality of a self-creating individual is a function of his or her self-definition and may be seen by the individual as conforming to group standards, religious or secular, or being in their best interest. This individual morality may conform to or contradict the rules of the Moral Universe.

Moral problems are reflections of poor moral beliefs.  An individual who has a perfect moral understanding has no moral problems, and the Chinese proverb, ' Think no evil, speak no evil, do no evil' may be seen to indicate the morally perfect way. Entry into the Kingdom of God does not appear to be a possibility for those who see violence and other immoralities as solutions to problems.

The requisite for entry into the Kingdom of God is an intellect founded on love and morality. The moral individualís behaviour conforms to the rule that other people, as brothers and sisters, must be treated as he or she would want to be treated if the position was reversed. Rabbi Hillelís rule is that one should not do anything to another that you would not want them to do to you.



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Cultural morality

The state is, in part, an instrument for giving effect to practical behavioural standards. The state itself may or may not be ethical or moral. Where states depart significantly from morality they become criminal enterprises. The example is the National Socialist state. 

Cultures, as the societal equivalent of intellects, are subject to many of the problems that afflict individual psyches. The recourse to wars is a cultural derangement. The prime example is the history of August, 1914, in which declarations of war in quick succession by many states set in motion the First World War. Such behaviour was no more than cultural lunacy.

Warfare between states has been seen to be unethical and attempts were made, at the founding of the United Nations Organisation, to control and prevent international violence, but without much success.

States which permit unrestricted abortions, the killing of disabled persons, and enforced euthanasia are immoral, and are subject to the same judgements that were applied to national socialism. 

Governments and politicians are often seen as the driving forces behind abuses of power and cultural deterioration but they usually reflect the moral standards of their societies. Political cynicism is a symptom of decaying moral standards in the society generally.

The traditional approaches to the problems of cultural evil and immorality do not work. Wars, for example, result in the abandonment of truth and morality by both sides and there are no winners. Moral individuals are sucked into immoral activities and are forced to be immoral. War to end wars has no currency nowadays. 

Leo Tolstoy set out the problem in the 19th century [ viz. The Kingdom of God is Within You] and while his judgments and solutions are difficult to accept, his problem definition is still valid. There is much work to be done in determining and enforcing the necessary moral standards and ethical limitations of states. 

The problem of cultural immorality is of concern to the Augustinian theory since the world and its cultures are seen as part of the development process that is intended to produce eternally living beings in the Kingdom of God.

The culture is founded on objective knowledge and it gives form and content to the set of developing intellects within that culture. Bad cultures produce bad intellects. Conversely, a moral culture can produce, through education, a more moral population.

Humanity may be seen as comprising individuals at all stages of moral development, from amorality through various stages of submorality, to a good standard of morality. Progress is the norm in Western Culture and instantaneous moral solutions are neither possible or desirable, since progress is based on learning. 

As an example, in the early medieval period barons and knights all had private fortifications and armies and were constantly at war with each other. Over a period of two or three hundred years this warrior culture was pacified and replaced by the rule of law enforced by the central authority. Intelligently devised and applied solutions do work. 

The ultimate solution seems to lie in a rational and moral worldwide civilisation in which immorality no longer exists. This achievement depends, in the first instance, on rational knowledge and effective education. Laws, based on knowledge and rigorously enforced, can bring about desired changes.


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A Theory of Morality as Knowledge

The accumulated moral experience of humanity is extensive and extending. The Moral Knowledge Project represents a purpose to formally learn from this experience and to produce a theory of morality which as knowledge defines the best moral behaviours, both intellectual and practical and which offers strategies for corrective programmes which are also moral. History, as a discipline, has much to contribute to this study. 


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Morality as Wisdom

St.Augustine advises believers in God to love and trust God and then do what they want to do. The underlying thought is that God will intervene to ensure that no bad consequences follow from the individual's actions or He will frustrate bad behaviours in some harmless way. For believers in God it is good advice. For others it is useless and possibly dangerous.

An alternative strategy, often seen as the appeal to conscience, is to put the moral problem to the Inner Light, also known as Wisdom, and to follow the guidance given. This applies to immediate moral problems and not to future moral policies, which are the subject of moral knowledge processes. This is again open to abuse but it works for those who really need and want the best advice.



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