To reach any conclusions about morality we have to be able to talk in the abstract. But we also have to tie it down to something concrete.
The problem is, when we discuss in abstraction we use reasoning, but when we try and make it concrete (i.e. apply it in some useful way) it becomes the sort of thing our instincts will make a judgment on. But our instinct ignores the little qualifiers that thought problems include in order to hone in on the issue.
If you are trying to debate whether the ends justify the means, you will quite rightly ask or be asked to provide an example. Let's say you do, and you go with the classic "Man's wife is dying, he has no money, he robs drug store for medicine". In the abstract, one would rationally argue that it is better to save a life than to not steal. But instinctively, we know that they choice is really between stealing, and finding another solution, that the person who robbed the store had other options.
Now maybe the thought problem includes lots of qualifiers and reaches the point where it is truly one action or the other. This creates two problems:
1) Our instinct is already biased against it.
2) It is now so convoluted that one could argue it never occurs in reality
The solution? I can't think of a particular form of argument that would work perfectly well for morality. I would say:
- Be aware of your instincts and what is driving them
- Be aware that if you are convinced of an abstract moral rule it could be because of an instinctual bias
- Most of all, you just have to take the time to think about it, and question every piece of it. This is the hardest, but I've been in arguments before where I wouldn't take a 2nd look at my preconception. You just end up arguing semantics and missing the broader perspective.
As a starter. But this is hardly a solution. There has to be a better way...
Let me see if I can clarify your problem. First, there is the definition, which is impossible to nail down because moral reality is full of infinites...
Second, Morality is based upon emotion, and emotional connectedness, first and foremost with ones family, and then with ones gentile group...For this reason, what is moral for one in relation to ones group, as morals as morals are a form of relationship, is not necessarily moral in regard to all other groups...
Third; the desire to rationalize morality is in search of a universal morality, but as the reference above to morality in relation to ones group suggests, morality has its milieu... If the milieu is destroyed as it was, in Rome, and Greece for example, then there is no culture or community to support morality, and the whole society feeds on itself until it caves in...The wise men know what is missing and they try to replace natural morality based upon natural relationships with a reasoned morality based upon a universal relationship...Ask: Can we have law without justice???Justice is moral, is it not; but the desire to control behavior without giving to each his due is common...
Fourth: There is no hypothetical morality, and people should not waste time finding one..If what is moral can never be clearly defined, then the same is true of the immoral... To rationalize morality requires a fixed form, and this is nonsense because the most moral people were primitives, and morality would never have served their purpose if it did not leave them essentially free in their own actions...As one English jurist said: There are no imaginary cases...Hypotheticals shine on a light on stupidity, and not on morality...Moral actions are the actions of moral people...That is what we should seek; but only consider how law works against communiites, and families which are the source of morality... There is no point in trying to rationalize morality which is naturally a result of emotional attachments, and is in most respects irrational...Morality is learned before all other knowledge, or not learned at all...Morality cannot be taught, nor rationalized...