strict father morality

Topics: Morality, Ethics, Moral Pages: 32 (12309 words) Published: January 14, 2014
In this chapter and the next, we will see that two different models of ideal family life can motivate corresponding sets of metaphorical priorities, each of which constitutes a distinct moral system. Let us begin with the following model of an ideal family, a model which Americans should find familiar. Different individuals may have somewhat different versions of it, but in its major outlines it is an important part of American mythology. Some of the variations on the model will be discussed at the end of the chapter. The Strict Father Family

The Strict Father model takes as background the view that life is difficult and that the world is fundamentally dangerous. As Oliver North said repeatedly in his testimony to Congress, "The world is a dangerous place." Survival is a major concern and there are dangers and evils lurking everywhere, especially in the human soul. Here is the model: A traditional nuclear family, with the father having primary responsibility for supporting and protecting the family as well as the authority to set overall family policy. He teaches children right from wrong by setting strict rules for their behavior and enforcing them through punishment. The punishment is typically mild to moderate, but sufficiently painful. It is commonly corporal punishment – say, with a belt or a stick. He also gains their cooperation by showing love and appreciation when they do follow the rules. But children must never be coddled, lest they become spoiled; a spoiled child will be dependent for life and will not learn proper morals. The mother has day-to-day responsibility for the care of the house, raising the children, and upholding the father's authority. Children must respect and obey their parents, partly for their own safety and partly because by doing so they build character, that is, self-discipline and self-reliance. Love and nurturance are a vital part of family life, but they should never outweigh parental authority, which is itself an expression of love and nurturance – tough love. Self-discipline, self-reliance, and respect for legitimate authority are the crucial things that a child must learn. A mature adult becomes self-reliant through applying self-discipline in pursuing his self-interest. Only if a child learns self-discipline can he become self-reliant later in life. Survival is a matter of competition, and only through self-discipline can a child learn to compete successfully. The mature children of the Strict Father have to sink or swim by themselves. They are on their own and have to prove their responsibility and self-reliance. They have attained, through discipline, authority over themselves. They have to, and are competent to, make their own decisions. They have to protect themselves and their families. They know what is good for them better than their parents, who are distant from them. Good parents do not meddle or interfere in their lives. Any parental meddling or interference is strongly resented. I should say at the outset that, though I have used the term "Strict Father" to name the model given, there are variants of the model that can be used by a strict mother as well. There are many mothers, especially tough single mothers, who function as strict fathers. But the model is an idealization, and is intended here only as that. I believe it is a cognitively real idealized model, that is, a model that Americans grow up knowing implicitly. There are variations on it and I will discuss some of them below.

The Strict Father model presupposes a folk theory of human nature that I will call "folk behaviorism": People, left to their own devices, tend simply to satisfy their desires. But, people will make themselves do things they don't want to do in order to get rewards; they will refrain from doing things they do want to do in order to avoid punishment. This is used in the Strict Father model on the assumption that punishment for violating strict moral rules and...
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