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The purpose of ethical theories

vbaculum
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1/7/2014 12:47:31 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Is it the purpose of an ethical theory to explain our moral impulses such as our aversion to rape and murder? An explaination of these would appear to me to fall under the purview of a biology or psychology, not ethics. I would think that an ethical theory should provide an explaination on the proper delineation of moral and immoral actions.
"If you claim to value nonviolence and you consume animal products, you need to rethink your position on nonviolence." - Gary Francione

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Rational_Thinker9119
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1/7/2014 1:32:10 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 12:47:31 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Is it the purpose of an ethical theory to explain our moral impulses such as our aversion to rape and murder? An explaination of these would appear to me to fall under the purview of a biology or psychology, not ethics. I would think that an ethical theory should provide an explaination on the proper delineation of moral and immoral actions.

There are no moral actions. Only desirable actions, and non-desirable actions.
whatledge
Posts: 210
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1/7/2014 2:02:40 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 12:47:31 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Is it the purpose of an ethical theory to explain our moral impulses such as our aversion to rape and murder? An explaination of these would appear to me to fall under the purview of a biology or psychology, not ethics. I would think that an ethical theory should provide an explaination on the proper delineation of moral and immoral actions.

Not all people have aversion to rape and murder, which is why it occurs. The purpose of an ethical theory is to provide sound reasons as to why people should behave a certain way. Some ethical theories put "reason" as the highest priority in this regard, while other pander to "feeling" (if it feels right, do it). In either case, the purpose is to give a explanation as to why we should behave one way or the other; especially in the context that "moral" is "what one ought to do."
vbaculum
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1/7/2014 3:48:37 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 1:32:10 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 1/7/2014 12:47:31 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Is it the purpose of an ethical theory to explain our moral impulses such as our aversion to rape and murder? An explaination of these would appear to me to fall under the purview of a biology or psychology, not ethics. I would think that an ethical theory should provide an explaination on the proper delineation of moral and immoral actions.

There are no moral actions. Only desirable actions, and non-desirable actions.

To increase pleasure and reduce suffering is by definition a moral act.
"If you claim to value nonviolence and you consume animal products, you need to rethink your position on nonviolence." - Gary Francione

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it
vbaculum
Posts: 1,274
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1/7/2014 3:50:41 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 2:02:40 PM, whatledge wrote:
At 1/7/2014 12:47:31 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Is it the purpose of an ethical theory to explain our moral impulses such as our aversion to rape and murder? An explaination of these would appear to me to fall under the purview of a biology or psychology, not ethics. I would think that an ethical theory should provide an explaination on the proper delineation of moral and immoral actions.

Not all people have aversion to rape and murder, which is why it occurs. The purpose of an ethical theory is to provide sound reasons as to why people should behave a certain way. Some ethical theories put "reason" as the highest priority in this regard, while other pander to "feeling" (if it feels right, do it). In either case, the purpose is to give a explanation as to why we should behave one way or the other; especially in the context that "moral" is "what one ought to do."

Yes, I agree with this.
"If you claim to value nonviolence and you consume animal products, you need to rethink your position on nonviolence." - Gary Francione

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it
Rational_Thinker9119
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1/7/2014 4:16:28 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 3:48:37 PM, vbaculum wrote:
At 1/7/2014 1:32:10 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 1/7/2014 12:47:31 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Is it the purpose of an ethical theory to explain our moral impulses such as our aversion to rape and murder? An explaination of these would appear to me to fall under the purview of a biology or psychology, not ethics. I would think that an ethical theory should provide an explaination on the proper delineation of moral and immoral actions.

There are no moral actions. Only desirable actions, and non-desirable actions.

To increase pleasure and reduce suffering is by definition a moral act.

It all depends on what definition you "desire" ;)
philochristos
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1/7/2014 10:20:44 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Different moral theories try to answer different questions. Some moral theories, like ethical egoism, and utilitarianism, try to given us a systematic way of telling whether an action is right or wrong.

Other moral theories, like divine command theory, or relativism, try to tell us where morals come from or how they are grounded.

Other moral theories, like emotivism, try to interpret the meaning of moral claims.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
1810929
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1/7/2014 10:47:45 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 10:20:44 PM, philochristos wrote:
Different moral theories try to answer different questions. Some moral theories, like ethical egoism, and utilitarianism, try to given us a systematic way of telling whether an action is right or wrong.

Other moral theories, like divine command theory, or relativism, try to tell us where morals come from or how they are grounded.

Other moral theories, like emotivism, try to interpret the meaning of moral claims.

I studied medical health; so I can't comment on other ethical theories that does not include health, living, blah blah blah that includes medical health in one way or another. However, this is my opinion that I somewhat question often. Other people's ethical principles are different to mine, even with the same educational background as me; does that mean my personal history judge my ethical principles more than my educational background? Then what is the POINT of learning ethical theories if we are not going to bind to the same ones as professionals?

For example, with euthanasia; ethically it is wrong to kill a person, even if it is what the person wants; where do we draw the line of stopping the suffering of a person from he/she is mentally unhealthy and requires therapy? Debates between many health professionals.

Ethical theories are just another theory that tries to make us think about our situations; however when it comes down to it, it is really your inner instincts that will guide you. Ethically, it is wrong to rape or murder a person according to the ethical theories of the society; however, your inner instincts may tell you otherwise.
philochristos
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1/7/2014 11:26:37 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 10:47:45 PM, 1810929 wrote:
Other people's ethical principles are different to mine, even with the same educational background as me; does that mean my personal history judge my ethical principles more than my educational background?

Not necessarily. People disagree on morality for a variety of non-moral reasons. For example, two people might agree that in general, you shouldn't kill people, but disagree on whether the unborn are people. That results in them taking different positions on the subject of abortion.

In the case of euthanasia, I think both sides adhere to the same morals. Those who are against euthanasia place a high value on human life. Those who are for euthanasia put a high value on compassion and elevating suffering. But in reality, they BOTH value human life, and they BOTH value compassion. These two morals come into conflict in the case of euthanasia, and it's really just a matter of choose the greater of two goods. People differ on euthanasia, not because they differ on the underlying moral principles, but because they differ on the weight they attribute to those moral principles.

If you think about it, meaningful debate is only possible if two people share some common premises. What makes moral debate possible and meaningful is the fact that we all do share common moral sentiments. We just disagree on the reasoning process we use to get to our conclusions, or we disagree on the facts informing our premises, or sometimes we don't take all things into consideration, etc. And, of course, sometimes we're just trying to justify what we really want to do, and it's our desire that drives us more than our morality. We try to shoehorn our morality to make it conform to our desires.

Then what is the POINT of learning ethical theories if we are not going to bind to the same ones as professionals?

Well, ideally, we'd have an argument over moral theories until we reached an agreement, and we'd all adhere to whatever conclusion we came up to. That's the purpose of debate--to weed out the bad ideas and try to discover the good ideas. Learning different moral theories helps refine your moral thinking and reasoning, even if you don't happen to agree with some moral theories.

For example, with euthanasia; ethically it is wrong to kill a person, even if it is what the person wants; where do we draw the line of stopping the suffering of a person from he/she is mentally unhealthy and requires therapy? Debates between many health professionals.

You just have to look at the arguments from each side and incline your belief in the direction of which case seems strongest to you. You don't have to be infallible to come to an informed decision, and the more informed you are, the more likely you are to form an opinion. As for me, I think euthanasia is a real moral dilemma in some cases, and I haven't resolved it in my own mind, so I can't tell you what I think is the right answer.

Ethical theories are just another theory that tries to make us think about our situations; however when it comes down to it, it is really your inner instincts that will guide you.

I agree with this. J. Budziszewski pointed out in one of his books (can't remember which) that we always attempt to refute moral theories by coming up with clear case counter-examples. For example, the typical way we attempt to refute utilitarianism is by conjuring up scenarios in which the greatest good for the greatest number of people is something that is clearly wrong, like the death of an innocent person. Notice instead of getting rid of the person, in conformity to utilitarianism, we get rid of the theory instead. That shows that when it comes down to it, we trust our moral intuitions more than we trust these attempts at systematizing morality.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
Noumena
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1/7/2014 11:32:04 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Control, mostly.
: At 5/13/2014 7:05:20 PM, Crescendo wrote:
: The difference is that the gay movement is currently pushing their will on Churches, as shown in the link to gay marriage in Denmark. Meanwhile, the Inquisition ended several centuries ago.
1810929
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1/8/2014 12:55:25 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 11:26:37 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/7/2014 10:47:45 PM, 1810929 wrote:
Other people's ethical principles are different to mine, even with the same educational background as me; does that mean my personal history judge my ethical principles more than my educational background?

Not necessarily. People disagree on morality for a variety of non-moral reasons. For example, two people might agree that in general, you shouldn't kill people, but disagree on whether the unborn are people. That results in them taking different positions on the subject of abortion.

In the case of euthanasia, I think both sides adhere to the same morals. Those who are against euthanasia place a high value on human life. Those who are for euthanasia put a high value on compassion and elevating suffering. But in reality, they BOTH value human life, and they BOTH value compassion. These two morals come into conflict in the case of euthanasia, and it's really just a matter of choose the greater of two goods. People differ on euthanasia, not because they differ on the underlying moral principles, but because they differ on the weight they attribute to those moral principles.

If you think about it, meaningful debate is only possible if two people share some common premises. What makes moral debate possible and meaningful is the fact that we all do share common moral sentiments. We just disagree on the reasoning process we use to get to our conclusions, or we disagree on the facts informing our premises, or sometimes we don't take all things into consideration, etc. And, of course, sometimes we're just trying to justify what we really want to do, and it's our desire that drives us more than our morality. We try to shoehorn our morality to make it conform to our desires.

Then what is the POINT of learning ethical theories if we are not going to bind to the same ones as professionals?

Well, ideally, we'd have an argument over moral theories until we reached an agreement, and we'd all adhere to whatever conclusion we came up to. That's the purpose of debate--to weed out the bad ideas and try to discover the good ideas. Learning different moral theories helps refine your moral thinking and reasoning, even if you don't happen to agree with some moral theories.

I thought about this; and you are right; while one person may not agree to an ethical principle, another will, and thus if one person isn't willing to support the patient with the same ethical principles, there are always other professionals to help them out. This just means we have to try to get away from being a sheep to ONE ethical principles; directly supporting the fact that there will always be several ethical principles for one issue.

For example, with euthanasia; ethically it is wrong to kill a person, even if it is what the person wants; where do we draw the line of stopping the suffering of a person from he/she is mentally unhealthy and requires therapy? Debates between many health professionals.

You just have to look at the arguments from each side and incline your belief in the direction of which case seems strongest to you. You don't have to be infallible to come to an informed decision, and the more informed you are, the more likely you are to form an opinion. As for me, I think euthanasia is a real moral dilemma in some cases, and I haven't resolved it in my own mind, so I can't tell you what I think is the right answer.

I guess you can never 100% support anything, unless you are extremely, undoubtedly sure about it. And again, you are right; the more informed you are, the more likely you are to form an opinion, and hopefully an informed decision can be made indirectly.

Ethical theories are just another theory that tries to make us think about our situations; however when it comes down to it, it is really your inner instincts that will guide you.

I agree with this. J. Budziszewski pointed out in one of his books (can't remember which) that we always attempt to refute moral theories by coming up with clear case counter-examples. For example, the typical way we attempt to refute utilitarianism is by conjuring up scenarios in which the greatest good for the greatest number of people is something that is clearly wrong, like the death of an innocent person. Notice instead of getting rid of the person, in conformity to utilitarianism, we get rid of the theory instead. That shows that when it comes down to it, we trust our moral intuitions more than we trust these attempts at systematizing morality.
Rational_Thinker9119
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1/9/2014 11:56:18 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 11:26:37 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/7/2014 10:47:45 PM, 1810929 wrote:
Other people's ethical principles are different to mine, even with the same educational background as me; does that mean my personal history judge my ethical principles more than my educational background?

Not necessarily. People disagree on morality for a variety of non-moral reasons. For example, two people might agree that in general, you shouldn't kill people, but disagree on whether the unborn are people. That results in them taking different positions on the subject of abortion.

In the case of euthanasia, I think both sides adhere to the same morals. Those who are against euthanasia place a high value on human life. Those who are for euthanasia put a high value on compassion and elevating suffering. But in reality, they BOTH value human life, and they BOTH value compassion. These two morals come into conflict in the case of euthanasia, and it's really just a matter of choose the greater of two goods. People differ on euthanasia, not because they differ on the underlying moral principles, but because they differ on the weight they attribute to those moral principles.

If you think about it, meaningful debate is only possible if two people share some common premises. What makes moral debate possible and meaningful is the fact that we all do share common moral sentiments. We just disagree on the reasoning process we use to get to our conclusions, or we disagree on the facts informing our premises, or sometimes we don't take all things into consideration, etc. And, of course, sometimes we're just trying to justify what we really want to do, and it's our desire that drives us more than our morality. We try to shoehorn our morality to make it conform to our desires.

Then what is the POINT of learning ethical theories if we are not going to bind to the same ones as professionals?

Well, ideally, we'd have an argument over moral theories until we reached an agreement, and we'd all adhere to whatever conclusion we came up to. That's the purpose of debate--to weed out the bad ideas and try to discover the good ideas. Learning different moral theories helps refine your moral thinking and reasoning, even if you don't happen to agree with some moral theories.

For example, with euthanasia; ethically it is wrong to kill a person, even if it is what the person wants; where do we draw the line of stopping the suffering of a person from he/she is mentally unhealthy and requires therapy? Debates between many health professionals.

You just have to look at the arguments from each side and incline your belief in the direction of which case seems strongest to you. You don't have to be infallible to come to an informed decision, and the more informed you are, the more likely you are to form an opinion. As for me, I think euthanasia is a real moral dilemma in some cases, and I haven't resolved it in my own mind, so I can't tell you what I think is the right answer.

I think the issue with euthenaisa is a no brainer. If someone is just going to live a life of suffering, and they want to be in peace and not suffer anymore, you would be an absolute monster not to pull the plug.


Ethical theories are just another theory that tries to make us think about our situations; however when it comes down to it, it is really your inner instincts that will guide you.

I agree with this. J. Budziszewski pointed out in one of his books (can't remember which) that we always attempt to refute moral theories by coming up with clear case counter-examples. For example, the typical way we attempt to refute utilitarianism is by conjuring up scenarios in which the greatest good for the greatest number of people is something that is clearly wrong, like the death of an innocent person. Notice instead of getting rid of the person, in conformity to utilitarianism, we get rid of the theory instead. That shows that when it comes down to it, we trust our moral intuitions more than we trust these attempts at systematizing morality.
Rational_Thinker9119
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1/9/2014 12:02:33 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I think that the difference is that one group values life no matter what, and another group only values life if it entails more good than bad. The former has more emotional appeal, but the latter has more of a rational appeal.
R0b1Billion
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1/9/2014 12:29:13 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 12:47:31 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Is it the purpose of an ethical theory to explain our moral impulses such as our aversion to rape and murder?

The answer is no - you have this completely backwards. Man is not a moral creature, man is a sinful creature. Plants and animals, being unintelligent (or at least not intelligent enough), have not the capability for immoral behavior. Immoral behavior is basically selfishness, pride, and indulgence. Now yes, animals are completely self-interested, but there is a major distinction here: this self-interest is instinctual and natural. This can be demonstrated by showing that lower life-forms operate harmoniously within their environment through their self-interested instinctual actions, while humans are quite the opposite. Humans have intelligence, which takes their actions out of the natural and into the artificial. A self-interested human does not act harmoniously with her environment, she acts to degrade her environment for her and everyone else in it, beit human, plant, or animal. Selfishness by humans is not instinctual, it is intelligent, and this intelligent selfishness is inherently destructive while instinctual, natural selfishness portrayed by lower life-forms is the opposite.

Therefore, to answer your question, the purpose of ethical theories is not to "explain our moral impulses," since those do not exist. The purpose of morality is to explain our immoral impulses, which are what really drives any intelligent creature. It's not a matter of what creature or who, it's simply a function of intelligence. Any creature that has sufficient intelligence breaks out of the natural and into the artificial, and gains both the privilege of a powerful brain and the responsibility of not using that powerful brain selfishly (immorally). I would fully expect that intelligent aliens (as intelligent as us, anyway) would have the same privileges and moral responsibilities we have. If they are significantly more intelligent (more privileged) then they would necessarily have even more moral responsibility - even more ways to be potentially harmful to themselves and others.

As far as what these immoral impulses are, I would direct you to the study of Jesus Christ. He is the greatest person that ever lived because he outlined these immoral impulses out so well (see "seven sins"). You can disregard the metaphysical garbage surrounding his activities.
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vbaculum
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1/9/2014 5:03:11 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/7/2014 4:16:28 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 1/7/2014 3:48:37 PM, vbaculum wrote:
At 1/7/2014 1:32:10 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 1/7/2014 12:47:31 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Is it the purpose of an ethical theory to explain our moral impulses such as our aversion to rape and murder? An explaination of these would appear to me to fall under the purview of a biology or psychology, not ethics. I would think that an ethical theory should provide an explaination on the proper delineation of moral and immoral actions.

There are no moral actions. Only desirable actions, and non-desirable actions.

To increase pleasure and reduce suffering is by definition a moral act.

It all depends on what definition you "desire" ;)

Well, if we desire that our definition be the true definition, and a words definition is defined by the way people use it, I think the definition I provided above would have to be the most "desirable" one.

I understand that there are a large number of people who say that conformity to their god's will is by definition moral. But conformity to another agents will is called "obedience", which isn't the same as morality - it's often quite the opposite - so I think that these usages of the word "moral" can be simply disregarded. All other uses of the word "moral" that people conventionaly employ involve the reduction of needless suffering. And, for what it's worth, these usages seem to hint at an implicit understanding of reason-based ethical principles which I contend are the true foundation of moral behaviour.
"If you claim to value nonviolence and you consume animal products, you need to rethink your position on nonviolence." - Gary Francione

THE WORLD IS VEGAN! If you want it
Rational_Thinker9119
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1/9/2014 5:27:02 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/9/2014 5:03:11 PM, vbaculum wrote:
At 1/7/2014 4:16:28 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 1/7/2014 3:48:37 PM, vbaculum wrote:
At 1/7/2014 1:32:10 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 1/7/2014 12:47:31 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Is it the purpose of an ethical theory to explain our moral impulses such as our aversion to rape and murder? An explaination of these would appear to me to fall under the purview of a biology or psychology, not ethics. I would think that an ethical theory should provide an explaination on the proper delineation of moral and immoral actions.

There are no moral actions. Only desirable actions, and non-desirable actions.

To increase pleasure and reduce suffering is by definition a moral act.

It all depends on what definition you "desire" ;)

Well, if we desire that our definition be the true definition, and a words definition is defined by the way people use it, I think the definition I provided above would have to be the most "desirable" one.

That's not how most people use it though, that's how you use it. Most people view morality as what comes from God, and sometimes pleasure is not good, and suffering is necessary for a greater good. There are plenty of different secular views of morality (Ulitarianism, Contractarianism ect..)

Why should anybody go with your definition?


I understand that there are a large number of people who say that conformity to their god's will is by definition moral.

Perhaps.

But conformity to another agents will is called "obedience", which isn't the same as morality - it's often quite the opposite - so I think that these usages of the word "moral" can be simply disregarded.

Well, actually, it has nothing to do with obedience. These moral truths would be grounded in God's nature. Thus, it would matter what he ordered, certain things would still be right or wrong. God's commandments would just be a reflection of his nature.

All other uses of the word "moral" that people conventionaly employ involve the reduction of needless suffering.

Again that is just desire. Nobody desires so suffer needlessly, so, this is why people want to reduce is. As I said, there is no morality, just what people desire, and people don't.

And, for what it's worth, these usages seem to hint at an implicit understanding of reason-based ethical principles which I contend are the true foundation of moral behaviour.

Reason depends on a "desired" framework in this context though. For example, in a land where we everyone has the goal to create the most round objects possible, and to never have needless edges, the person who builds the cube is unreasonable. However, without that framework, there is nothing unreasonable about that.
Rational_Thinker9119
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1/9/2014 5:30:08 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
If we all desired to suffer and to not feel pleasure, then pleasure would be "immoral". So, at the end of the day, it is all about desire. I see no reason to think morality actually exists.
whatledge
Posts: 210
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1/9/2014 9:47:08 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/9/2014 12:02:33 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
I think that the difference is that one group values life no matter what, and another group only values life if it entails more good than bad. The former has more emotional appeal, but the latter has more of a rational appeal.

Pretty much what the movie w;t was about. I think a lot of doctors think like the former, where it is counted as a "defeat" of medicine/science, if a patient dies.
whatledge
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1/9/2014 9:50:43 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/9/2014 5:30:08 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
If we all desired to suffer and to not feel pleasure, then pleasure would be "immoral". So, at the end of the day, it is all about desire. I see no reason to think morality actually exists.

Of course morality doesn't exist as a physical/natural law, ie God/nature isn't going to smite you for doing "evil." But it does exist as a rational concept (molded by ethical theories), which is what I think vbaculum means. I may be wrong though, he may appeal to an objective moral law.