Applying these rules to the 78 logically coherent actions produces 10 moral rankings. These rankings are outlined below, in order of decreasing morality.
Moral Actions (12 actions, Ranked 1 – 4)
Nonmoral Actions (26 actions, Ranked 5-8)
Immoral Actions (40 actions, Ranked 9 & 10)
- The Ideal (Moral intentions; Forethought taken; Moral outcome; No outside influences; Rule 2 applies) These actions represent the moral ideal. Their intentions are moral, forethought has been taken to eliminate misjudgment, neglect, and chance and hence have moral outcomes.
- Coincidentally Ideal (Moral intentions; No forethought taken; Moral outcome; No outside influences; Rule 2 applies). These actions are similar to the ideal, in that they have moral intentions whose outcomes were not altered by misjudgment, neglect, or chance. These actions, however, have had no forethought included, which introduces an element of doubt. The existence and influence of misjudgment, neglect, and chance can never be completely eliminated. In the case of The Ideal, forethought was taken to determine the existence of these factors and eliminate them. In this case, however, no such forethought was taken, which increases our doubt. The difference in moral value is slight.
- The Bittersweet (Moral intentions; Forethought taken; Moral, nonmoral, or immoral outcome; Outcome affected by chance; Rule 3 applies). These are those actions with moral intentions whose outcome has been influenced by chance, despite reasonable forethought. Since actors should not be held responsible for this level of chance, these actions are judged to be moral, according to their intentions, even if the outcome is nonmoral or immoral. The reasoning is that since the element of chance could not have been reasonably predicted or eliminated, we would still encourage this action to be taken in the future with the same intentions and forethought.
- The Fortunate (Moral intentions; No forethought taken; Moral outcome; Outcome affected by misjudgment, neglect, or chance, but not in a morally significant way; Rule 4 applies). These are actions where misjudgment, neglect, or chance played a rule due to lack of forethought, but did not affect the overall moral value of the outcome. Thus, in the case of actions with moral intentions, they still had moral outcomes, but only luckily so. Such actions are to be repeated, but with the addition of forethought to reduce the influence of the above factors, which could easily decrease the moral value of such actions.
- The Cautious (Nonmoral intentions; Forethought taken; Nonmoral outcome; No outside influences; Rule 2 applies). These are actions whose intentions have no moral value as perceived by the actor, and the actor takes efforts to ensure that such remains the case.
- The Simple (Nonmoral intentions; No forethought taken; Nonmoral outcome; No outside influences; Rule 2 applies). As with Cautious actions, though no forethought was taken. The lack of forethought is most likely due to the trivial nature of such actions, hence the title of “The Simple.”
- The Unforeseen (Nonmoral intentions; Forethought taken; Moral, nonmoral, or immoral outcome; Outcome affected by chance; Rule 3 applies). As with Bittersweet actions, though the intention was of nonmoral value. The actor is not held responsible, but due to the nonmoral value of the intentions, the act is neither encouraged nor discouraged.
- The Careless (Moral or nonmoral intentions: No forethought taken; Immoral outcome; Outcome affected by misjudgment, neglect, or chance; Rule 4 applies). Here actions with moral or nonmoral intentions have nonmoral outcomes due to the influence of preventable circumstances. Given the nonmoral outcome, there is no punishment or reward, and forethought is highly encouraged for future attempts at this action again, lest they become Criminally Negligent.
- The Criminally Negligent (Moral or nonmoral intentions, No forethought taken; Immoral outcome; Outcome affected by misjudgment, neglect, or chance; Rule 4 applies). As with The Fortunate, and the Careless, preventable circumstances have resulted in an immoral outcome. Since these influences could have been reduced by reasonable forethought, the actor is held responsible. Such actions should not taken again without forethought.
- The Fiendish (Immoral intentions; Rule 1 applies). All actions with immoral intentions fall into this lowest moral category.
The purpose of this paper was to construct a set of rules to analyze complex moral actions, taking into account intentions, means, consequences, and outside influences in the determination of an overall moral value. 78 logically coherent actions, based on the possible combinations of the atomic elements of a compound action, were analyzed through these rules and ranked according to moral value. The result was not entirely Intentionalist (where only intentions matter) or Consequentialist (where only consequences matter), but a combination, where other factors and responsibilities were a factor.
This paper leaves open many questions including: “What constitutes a simple moral act?” “What level of forethought should be considered reasonable?” “To what degree should we factor related consequences in judging the outcome of an action?” These questions were beyond the scope of this paper. The rules designed here are such that answers to the above questions would not invalidate them, but rather allow these rules to be incorporated into a larger moral framework.
Lastly, there is the issue of the validity of the nonmoral value. Arguments can be made such that all actions, however trivial, are either moral or immoral. While ultimate resolution of this question is out of the scope of this paper, the rules can be modified to account for no nonmoral actions. Actions can still have nonmoral intentions, as intentions are based upon perception and the actor can fail to perceive any moral value to their intended goal. The outcome, however, will be either moral or immoral, since this is an objective assessment. Elimination of all rules with nonmoral outcomes and applying the rules results in the same ranking enumerated above, but with the nonmoral classed actions (5-8) removed. Alternatively, “nonmoral” can be replaced with “moral value unknown” to acknowledge the limitations of human knowledge in moral assessments.
To Be Continued With ....References, Part 4.