There was a time when morality was most often used with reference to sex; now it has widened out again and is understood to be also about honesty and obedience to the law, which Gillian Shephard proposes should be taught systematically in the schools. The New Statesman has a different list; it believes that Britain's moral stature, which it regards as high, comes from "tolerance, flexibility, international-mindedness and a love of personal freedom" and declares that the object of all moral action is "the good life". Good - now there's a word.
In the 1970s, the Oxford philosopher John Wilson invented a lot of new words like phil, emp, gig and krat to identify the various stages of a person's moral awareness, starting at the bottom with those whose behaviour depended on what their mothers or teachers had told them, then on what others thought of them, then on their own rational convictions, at which point they would have become morally autonomous beings. For some reason, Wilson's vocabulary never caught on. If it had, we would soon be hearing the left complaining that Mrs Shephard's curriculum had too much phil and not enough krat.
Nicholas BagnallReuse content