The Sources of Morality

31 Pages Posted: 26 May 2017

See all articles by Michael Quinlan

Michael Quinlan

The University of Notre Dame Australia

Date Written: November 15, 2011


There is much confusion about morality, God, Christianity and conscience today. This confusion is unfortunately not limited to non-Christians but exists within and between the various Christian denominations. This paper seeks to dispel some of that confusion by considering the sources of morality, that is, where morality comes from. The paper first examines some current approaches to morality before considering the natural law as a source of morality. Next the paper considers whether there is really one ultimate source of morality - the Christian Trinitarian God. The paper then considers the sources by which we can know the content of morality: reason and the natural law, revelation, the scriptures, Tradition, the Church and, because of its centrality to popular consideration of morality, conscience. The paper concludes by arguing that morality must be considered as part of a holistic study of the Christian Trinitarian God, of scripture, Tradition and of the Church and its sacraments. Although, in its discussion of the Church as a source of morality, the paper will briefly consider the constitutive elements of morality which have historically been termed “sources” of morality (the object chosen, the end or intention and the circumstances of the action) it takes a more foundational approach to the identification of the sources of morality.

Keywords: morality, God, Christianity, conscience, source, reason, natural law, revelation, scripture

JEL Classification: Z12, Z18

Suggested Citation

Quinlan, Michael, The Sources of Morality (November 15, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Quinlan (Contact Author)

The University of Notre Dame Australia ( email )

Sydney, NSW 2000

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