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Keywords:

  • causal reciprocities;
  • moral codes;
  • systems;
  • zones;
  • Arthur Bentley;
  • John Dewey;
  • Joseph Fletcher;
  • David Hume;
  • Immanuel Kant

Abstract

Traditional moral theory usually has either of two emphases: virtuous moral character or principles for distributing duties or goods. “Zone morality” introduces a third: families and businesses are systems created by the causal reciprocities of their members. These relations embody the duties and permissions of a system's moral code. Core systems satisfy basic interests and needs; we move easily among them, hardly noticing that moral demands vary from system to system. Moral conflicts arise because of discord within or among systems but also because morality has three competing sites: personal attitudes and practices (benevolence or hostility), the moral codes of systems, and regulative principles that enhance social cohesion. A strong church or central government reduces conflict by imposing its rules. A democracy responds by encouraging persons and systems to participate in forums where claims are made; it promises fairness by requiring that all satisfy its legal procedures.