Letter: Moral issues even in private

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The Independent Online
Sir: Peter Jay - with such certainty - identifies a moral boundary: consenting people's private behaviour cannot raise moral issues (Letters 10 June). Well, that immediately rules out any moral qualms about abortion; and if we get together - in private - and torture the pet goat, why, that's no moral issue at all. Oops, silly me, perhaps my educational deficiency is coming out; I must take as read - I hope - that Jay's morally neutral behaviour excludes embracing animal suffering.

Still, if we got together - in private - and one of us, aged 16, in depression, consents to the rest killing her, or injecting addictive drugs, that raises no moral issue. Ah, wrong again, I trust (my moral illiteracy showing) for the Jay dictum must surely accept explanatory expansion over quite what counts as consent.

Reasoned consent in no doubt, animals excluded, a couple privately wallow in extramarital carnal delights, safely under Jay's moral neutrality assurance. Oops again! Even if spouses remain unaware of partners' infidelity, are we sure no harm is done, no moral issues raised?

The moral is not that private consensual assisted death, adultery, abortion and so on are never morally justified, but that they raise moral issues. Beware moral simplicities - maybe even this one.

PETER CAVE

London EC1

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