The graph maps the affective levels from the state of tolerance to moral obligation. The graph should not be read as a necessary ordering in ethical or moral value.  The moralist would hold to such ordering but other ethicists would disagree, and on different questions, would see the optimal good in any of the other possibilities.


Much of the ethical discussion today is in the language of rights. Rights come into the affective level between tolerance and respect. Mere tolerance does not achieve Rights. Respect is required before anyone can speak of rights and be understood. According to different theories, Rights can be taken to a higher level of absolute commitment, or even higher to moral obligation. In my view this move would be a mistake.  Absolute commitment would deny that there would be circumstances where it is good for some rights to trump other rights. Equality of rights is an ideal, but if we are to allow the widest inclusion of rights, some rights, conditionally, must take precedence over other rights, to allow that other rights are not extinguished.


Similarly, moral obligations in the Western tradition sounds like the highest good. However, the negative side of Puritanism has demonstrated that anything worshipped, in absolute terms, quickly turns into a false god who demands absolute obedience for a perfect good which can never be delivered in a life time.


This is very different to mundane, ordinary, obligations to which are ethically normative among human beings today.


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Neville Buch (Pronounced Book) Ph.D. is a certified member of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland). Since 2010 he has operated a sole trade business in history consultancy. He was a Q ANZAC 100 Fellow 2014-2015 at the State Library of Queensland. Dr Buch was the PHA (Qld) e-Bulletin, the monthly state association’s electronic publication, and was a member of its Management Committee. He is the Managing Director of the Brisbane Southside History Network.

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