"It is difficult to say what effects have followed from this effort to talk ourselves out of having a moral sense. We may have abetted, by excusing, the few who have no moral sense; we may have harmed vulnerable children who ought to have received surer guidance from family and neighborhoods; we may have promoted self-indulgence when we thought we were only endorsing freedom. I am tempted to say that people who have persuaded themselves to embrace non-moral standards should not be surprised if young people who have heard these ideas grow up taking drugs, cheating on tests, and shooting their enemies. I am tempted to say this, but I cannot do so with complete confidence. It is no easy task to assess the influence of bad ideas on human conduct; in any event, it is not the task of this book to make that assessment. It is the task of this book, however, to make us ask whether the mirror that modern skepticism has held up to mankind's face reflects what we wish to see. Do we really want to have the utterly malleable, slightly cynical, superficially tolerant, wholly transparent human nature that we claim we have? Are we prepared for the possibility that by behaving as if no moral judgments were possible we may create a world that more and more resembles our diminished moral expectations? We must be careful of what we think we are, because we may become that."
- From The Moral Sense by James Q. Wilson
[Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin at Unsplash]