LEV462 ... moral rules, unlike moral principles, require exceptions. John Stuart Mill stated it most concisely: “It is not the fault of any creed, but of the complicated nature of human affairs, that rules of conduct cannot be so framed as to require no exceptions, and that hardly any kind of action can safely be laid down as either always obligatory or always condemnable.” Smith and Sosa, Mill’s Utilitarianism, Wadsworth, 1969, p. 165. In his book, Generalization in Ethics, Marcus G. Singer clarifies the distinction between principles and rules. Rules, as we have seen, allow exceptions. They state what is usually right or wrong, but there are occasions when it is not only justified, but imperative to break a moral rule. In A.I. Meldon, ed., Essays in Moral Philosophy, University of Washington, 1958, p. 165. In some situations, a parent should steal milk for his starving child. Moral principles, on the other hand, allow no exceptions. They are also deeper than and the source of moral rules. Thus, we often speak of the principle underlying a certain rule which determines its scope and justifies exceptions to it. Ibid, 160. Moral principles are not only more fundamental than rules; they are also more general and comprehensive. It follows that principles are necessarily more abstract than rules. Ibid. 169. Given these conditions, it is clear that moral principles will not be nearly as numerous as moral rules. What are some moral principles? Kant's categorical imperative is such a principle: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Bobbs-Merrill, 1959, p. 39. In other words, when faced with an ethical choice, we must ask the question, “What if everyone in a similar situation were to do that?” The categorical imperative, thus, warns the individual not to make an exception of himself and not to set himself above the moral law. There are exceptional situations, but no person is an exception. The Torah, the five books of Moses, speaks strongly on this point. None is above the law. Not the powerful and not the King. Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Even the poor, for whom the Torah has immense compassion, are not to be favored at the expense of justice. Exodus 23:3, Leviticus 19:15. This truth also implies that no principle, no nation, and no religion is above the moral law.
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