Are there any thoughts (with no action) that are morally/ethically wrong?


Hoping your boss would die because he makes you work hard-

Hoping a wealthy relative would hurry up and die so you can inherit-

Hoping an athlete opposing your favorite team would be injured-

Imagining/fantasizing about committing a really awful crime (I mean bad, baaaad stuff)-

Are any thoughts like these or any other morally wrong by themselves, without any accompanying action whatsoever?

I think I say no, but I had a moment when I was wishing for the opposing QB to get knocked out of the game, and then I felt guilty about that thought.

No. The only measure for the morality of something that makes any sense to me is the degree to which it harms (or helps) other people. A thought, unacted upon and unexpressed, cannot neither help nor harm any other person, and therefore carries no moral weight.

I agree, but why did I feel guilty about that thought?

You felt guilty because you know you would feel really, really bad if something did happen to the person you wished the bad thing on.

You felt guilty because you are a practitioner of magical thinking. If you thought it, and then it happened, then you must have contributed to it, even against all reason to the contrary.

I agree that there is no moral weight to thoughts, provided they don’t go any further than thoughts.

I would also like to draw a slight distinction between wishing for something to happen, and thinking about how you might make it happen. Both have no moral weight if that’s as far as it goes, but the second is more likely to resonate in your conscience if that thing does happen.

If “morally/ethically” are taken to mean the generally accepted meaning for them in our modern society, let’s say, last 500 years or so, then no.

Morality and Ethcism deals with social behavior, not mental processes.

You could ask if those examples are an example of neurotic behavior or mental illness, but that’s outside the scope of your question.

Growing up as a Christian (non-denominational), I was taught that sins committed in the heart and mind alone are still sins, so if you think about doing something sinful, you have already committed the act.

I don’t personally believe this, but I do think that there are at least a good percentage of Christians who do believe that one should strive only to have sinless thoughts, and should repent/ask forgiveness when sinful thoughts occur.

I actually think that a thought can be evil. If I really, genuinely want to torture you to death but the only thing that stops me is a fear of getting caught and not any moral reluctance then that imo is an evil thought, for example. A person can be evil without necessarily doing anything evil.

I would say that aggressively hurtful thoughts can be (very slightly!) dangerous. I think that they can end up having an effect on one’s perceptions. They can alter one’s core personality.

There is (in my opinion) a kind of “physical exercise” function to thoughts. If you practice a thought often enough, it becomes second nature. If you think hateful thoughts, you, yourself, become a more hate-filled person.

I think that the sort of driver who curses, and flips the bird, and honks, and hates other drivers is slightly more likely to lose self control and do something stupid or dangerous with his car. I certainly don’t think there is anything like a direct cause-and-effect link: human behavior is vastly more complex than that! But I think there is a weak correlation between bad thoughts and bad behaviors.

Much comes down to the question, what do you want in your head, anyway? I don’t want hate and anger inside me, even if it turned out that they were absolutely harmless in every possible way.

Trinopus (curses like a stereotypical drill sergeant while driving…)

I am kinda-sorta with Trinopus here–the moral/ethical value attached to evil thoughts is entirely and solely bound up with whether or not habitual thinking in those veins makes you more likely to commit evil actions.

Maybe, maybe not. There was probably a reason behind all that “Thou shalt not covet” stuff. Why tempt karma?

But then, some days I think the only thing really stopping me from going ‘postal’ is the logistics - the folks that really need it are too far apart and hard to find. :mad:

Our thoughts do have an effect on how we act.

For example, if i honestly hold hateful/negative beliefs towards a segment of the population (gays/jews/poor/etc) Im not going to act in the same way as someone who simply doesnt hold my views.

I know when I am caught up in a spiral of anger and resentment inside my own head, even though I never act on the feelings, by the time I am done I feel very drained physically and mentally. So from that perspective it is a bad idea because it is self destructive. Even if you don’t act on destructive thoughts, they are largely still self destructive in their own ways.

I was a kid in the late 1970s, growing up in Green Bay, and I was a big Packer fan. The Packers were terrible, and their arch-rival team, the Chicago Bears, had a future Hall of Famer in Walter Payton. Payton would run roughshod over the Pack, and I remember actually praying that he’d break his leg. When Payton died young of liver disease, I felt horrible about that.

Witness Jimmy Carter, a devout Christian, who famously stated (in an interview in Playboy, of all places) that, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”

I would argue that morals and ethics are socially constructed and so only have meaning within the social realm, i.e. anything that doesn’t involve interactions with others lies outside the purview of morality.

That said, I would also argue that there are some thoughts that are *unhealthy *or *dangerous *in that they are likely to lead to committing immoral or unethical acts, or lead to unhappiness or other negative effects for the thinker.

Yes, according to at least some Christian traditions, a sin can be committed by thought only, without manifesting it by behavior.
See , section “Internal Sins”

A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.
Mohandas Gandhi

If one intentionally engages in sinful thoughts than yes.

And how does one unintentionally engage in “sinful” thoughts?