ABILITY and INABILITY— (NATURAL and MORAL)
ABILITY and INABILITY— (NATURAL and MORAL).
Ability, Natural—power to act, characteristic of a living being, implying
possession of vital organ or mental faculty, and presence of conditions
requisite. Inability—the negation of either of these, consequent on loss of
power or lack of opportunity. The distinction applies equally to organic and to
Moral Ability is sufficiency of ethical motive for fulfilment of all ethical
law. Moral Inability is deficiency in ethical motive, consequent on want of
harmony between personal inclination and personal obligation.
The reference to "moral inability" introduces
to the relations of Philosophy and Theology. Natural Ethics
maintains adequacy of power requisite for personal
responsibility notwithstanding moral disorder. Christian Ethics,
proceeding from this position, emphasises moral disorder,
maintains man's inability to effect escape from it, and at the
same time discovers Divine intervention for deliverance.
The moral ability of natural ethics involves these things—knowledge
of moral law; power of understanding to decide upon the application of such law
in varying circumstances; motive forces impelling to action, thereby giving
occasion for self-government; and willpower, or inherent power of rational
self-control, by restraint of impulse, reflection on duty, rational
determination, and subsequent action. What is here meant by "inability" is
persistence of disinclination to act in accordance with moral law, consequent upon
disturbed harmony of the moral nature. In Christian ethics this has its
counterpart in the doctrine of Grace, or Divine Salvation, by direct action of
the moral influence of the Divine Spirit. On its philosophical side, see
Principal Shairp on "The Moral Dynamic" (Studies in Poetry and Philosophy, p.