Moral Third

Moral Third

The Moral Third is a specific form of the Third; the Third being a function that helps to resolve or transcend binary oppositions and polarities e.g. ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’.

The Moral Third is based in the desire to repair and restore the world, to make it “lawful” based on dignity and respect for each other’s rights and needs. It conceives of a way out of "kill or be killed" impasses where only one can live. This capacity for holding in mind the other develops in the child through the experience that others recognize our needs in a reliable way, or they acknowledge failures and violations of expectation. (see Secure Attachment-Glossary).

That sense of a “lawful world” then extends to the larger world where we expect to give and receive certain kinds of respect and acknowledgment of each other’s humanity. When two people, or a community, are in conflict or get stuck within violent reactivity they need a third position to help them into a space of negotiation or reflection or understanding. The principled basis for that position comes from the recognition of the commonality of all humans despite differences. The psychological basis is the empathic connection to other's suffering that arises when dissociation, fear of the other or repudiation of their humanity does not interfere. This recognition of suffering or violation of lawfulness becomes the basis for the social position of witnessing, as when the world acknowledges wrongdoing or injuries. Orienting to the Moral Third supports action to negotiate differences and respect the other, the stranger, the opponent. Violations of other's humanity are acknowledged. Ultimately the orientation to the Moral Third describes a position in which the gap between beliefs and actions grows smaller.

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