February 11, 2014
Lack of Trust in Morality
John F. Kennedy once said, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” Morality is defined as principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. For the most part everyone has a basic understanding of what morality is. Throughout Joan Didion’s essay, On Morality, the question of trust between the particular and the abstract is brought up several times. Joan Didion argues that morality cannot always be back up. Just because someone made a moral decision does not mean it was actually the right decision. The main subject in the essay is the lack of trust Joan Didion has with morality. The author’s main purpose was to write about morality in an abstract way. Her article was written in 1965 in The American Scholars magazine.
At the beginning of the essay, the author describes a place that is hot, sticky and completely uncomfortable. As it happens Joan Didion starts off in Death Valley, a place where morality has been tested multiple times. Didion describes her physical discomfort to illustrate her intellectual discomfort with the word morality. However, the author introduces her concept of the particulars. Her first story, which happens to be in Death Valley, portrays a driver, and a very young girl who had gotten into a drunken car accident the night before. It is stated, “You can’t just leave a body on a highway, it’s immoral” (Didion, 158). In this story, a nurse drove the girl to the nearest doctor, 185 miles across the valley and her husband, a talc miner, stayed on the highway with the man’s body. In this instance, Joan does not mistrust morality because this example was so specific. In this example, the couple did what was right and they used the golden rule of doing onto others what you would want done onto you. It is obvious that as long as people follow what they believe is the...
Cited: Didion, Joan. “On Morality.” The Presence of Others. 3rd ed. Ed. Andrea A. Lunsford and
John J. Ruszkiewicz. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000. 179-184.
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