Finding Direction:  Ethics – Definitions, Characteristics, and Principles 2.1.0

Carefully examine and analyze the details of this list of the characteristics, causes, and effects of moral Growth and moral Decay.  Spending some time thinking about each of these individually and about the pairings in the list will be a great help in understanding the complexity as well as the unity of the model itself.  We can come back to this list over and over.  We can apply each idea here in many ways.

By adopting Erich Fromm’s basic pattern to a discussion of everyday human attitudes and behaviors, we can see ethics in concrete ways.  The basic principles of the model of moral Growth and moral Decay are these:

Characteristics of Moral Growth

  • attraction to or love of life and its processes
  • love of others that moves out from the self to neighbors, strangers, and nature or all living things (even, as Aldo Leopold would argue, to the land itself, the air, and the waters)
  • willingness to risk action based on independence, freedom, responsibility, and personal choice

Characteristics of Moral Decay

  • attraction to and love of death, force, violence, mechanism, and power and their processes
  • absolutism, and extreme self-love and self-focus
  • authoritarianism, parasitic dependence, and fear

Phyllis Ballata

Without Words We Cannot Think

“All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. . . . The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”  Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), “The Land Ethic,” Sand County Almanac with Essays on Conservation from Round River (1949)


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