Vatican Saying 15

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This Saying begins with a keen insight of common human behavior: we all tend to appreciate and approve of moral values that are similar to ours. Sharpening the focus of the observation even more, Epicurus suggests that we do so whether we are virtuous (and our moral values sound, and the object of broader societal approbation) or not. This is as true as it is disparaging. The implication is that wicked people find a way to rationalize and accept their own moral standards, however dubious they might be, and even extend the same acceptance of immorality to others, similarly wicked.

In a gesture of ethical liberalism, Epicurus recommends that we should be more generous, more open-minded. We ought to appreciate the moral values of our neighbors, of the social circle that surrounds us, even if they are different from ours. The only limiting qualification that Epicurus sets is that all this is possible provided our neighbors are lenient, too.

This ties in with the Epicurean notion of justice, whose cornerstone is the mutual pledge neither to harm nor to be harmed. Beyond physical harm alone, civil society relies on moral pluralism. Its members must not only accept those moral values that are like their own but, most critically, they must be willing to also accept those that are not.

The limiting qualification Epicurus imposes also holds true: it is virtually impossible to extend pluralist generosity to the radical and intolerant. The reciprocity that is required for the prevention of physical violence is also required for the cohesion of civil society.

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