Moral Science; a Compendium of Ethics Part 32

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Under the Legal Sanction, are included; (A) Forbearance from (specified) injuries; as (a) Intentional injury--crimes, (b) Injury not intentional--wrongs, repaired by Damages or Compensation. (B) The rendering of services; (a) Fulfilling contracts or agreements; (b) Reciprocating anterior services rendered, though, not requested, as in filial duty; (c) Cases of extreme or superior need, as parental duty, relief of dest.i.tution.

Under the Popular Sanction are created duties on such points as the following:--(1) The Etiquette of small societies or coteries. (2) Religious orthodoxy; Sabbath observance. (3) Unchast.i.ty; violations of the etiquette of the s.e.xes, Immodesty, and whatever endangers chast.i.ty, especially in women. (4) Duties of parents to children, and of children to parents, beyond the requirements of the law. (5) Suicide: when only attempted, the individual is punished, when carried out, the relatives.

(6) Drunkenness, and neglect of the means of self-support. (7) Gross Inhumanity. In all these cases the sanction, or punishment, is social; and is either mere disapprobation or dislike, not issuing in overt acts, or exclusion from fellowship and the good offices consequent thereon.]

[Footnote 2: Optional Morality, the Morality of Reward, is exemplified as follows:--

(A) A liberal performance of duties properly so called. (_a_) The support of aged parents; this, though to a certain extent a legal duty, is still more a virtue, being stimulated by the approbation of one's fellows. The performance of the family duties generally is the subject of commendation. (_b_) The payment of debts that cannot be legally recovered, as in the case of bankrupts after receiving their discharge.

These examples typify cases (1) where no definite law is laid down, or where the law is content with a minimum; and (2) where the law is restrained by its rules of evidence or procedure. Society, in such cases, steps in and supplies a motive in the shape of reward.

(B) Pure Virtue, or Beneficence; all actions for the benefit of others without stipulation, and without reward; relief of distress, promotion of the good of individuals or of society at large. The highest honours of society are called into exercise by the highest services.

Bentham's principle of the claims of superior need cannot be fully carried out, (although he conceives it might, in some cases), by either the legal or the popular sanction. Thus, the act of the good Samaritan, the rescue of a ship's crew from drowning, could not be exacted; the law cannot require heroism. It is of importance to remark, that although Duty and n.o.bleness, Punishment and Reward, are in their extremes unmistakably contrasted, yet there may be a margin of doubt or ambiguity (like the pa.s.sing of day into night). Thus, expressed approbation, generally speaking, belongs to Reward; yet, if it has become a thing of course, the withholding of it operates as a Punishment or a Penalty.]

[Footnote 3: The conditions that regulate the authoritative enforcement of actions, are exhaustively given in works on Jurisprudence, but they do not all concern Ethical Theory. The expedience of imposing a rule depends on the importance of the object compared with the cost of the machinery. A certain line of conduct may be highly beneficial, but may not be a fit case for coercion. For example, the law can enforce only a _minimum_ of service: now, if the case be such, that a minimum is useless, as in helping a ship in distress, or in supporting aged parents, it is much, better to leave the case to voluntary impulses, seconded by approbation or reward. Again, an offence punished by law must be, in its nature, definable; which, makes a difficulty in such cases as insult, and defamation, and many species of fraud. Farther, the offence must be easy of detection, so that the vast majority of offenders may not escape. This limits the action of the law in unchast.i.ty.]

[Footnote 4: See, on the method of Sokrates, Appendix A.]

[Footnote 5: In setting forth, the Ethical End, the language of Sokrates was not always consistent. He sometimes stated it, as if it included an independent reference to the happiness of others; at other times, he speaks as if the end was the agent's own happiness, to which, the happiness of others was the greatest and most essential means. The first view, although not always adhered to, prevails in Xenophon; the second appears most in Plato.]

[Footnote 6: 'What Plato here calls the Knowledge of Good, or Reason,--the just discrimination and comparative appreciation, of Ends and Means--appears in the Politikus and the Euthydemus, under the t.i.tle of the Regal or Political Art, as employing or directing the results of all other arts, which are considered as subordinate: in the Protagoras, under the t.i.tle of art of calculation or mensuration: in the Philebus, as measure and proportion: in the Phaedrus (in regard to rhetoric) as the art of turning to account, for the main purpose of persuasion, all the special processes, stratagems, decorations, &c., imparted by professional masters. In the Republic, it is personified in the few venerable Elders who const.i.tute the Reason of the society, and whose directions all the rest (Guardians and Producers) arc bound implicitly to follow: the virtue of the subordinates consisting in this implicit obedience. In the Leges, it is defined as the complete subjection in the mind, of pleasures and pains to right Reason, without which, no special apt.i.tudes are worth, having. In the Xenophontic Memorabilia, it stands as a Sokratic authority under the t.i.tle of Sophrosyne or Temperance: and the Profitable is declared identical with, the Good, as the directing and limiting principle for all human pursuits and proceedings.' (Grote's Plato, I., 362.)]

[Footnote 7: 'Indeed there is nothing more remarkable in the Gorgias, than the manner in which. Sokrates not only condemns the unmeasured, exorbitant, maleficent desires, but also depreciates and degrades all the actualities of life--all the recreative and elegant arts, including music and poetry, tragic as well as dithyrambic--all provision for the most essential wants, all protection against particular sufferings and dangers, even all service rendered to another person in the way of relief or of rescue--all the effective maintenance of public organized force, such as ships, docks, walls, arms, &c. Immediate satisfaction, or relief, and those who confer it, are treated with contempt, and presented as in hostility to the perfection of the mental structure.

And it is in this point of view, that various Platonic commentators extol in an especial manner the Gorgias: as recognizing an Idea of Good superhuman and supernatural, radically disparate from pleasures and pains of any human being, and incommensurable with, them; an Universal Idea, which, though it is supposed to cast a distant light upon its particulars, is separated from them by an incalculable s.p.a.ce, and is discernible only by the Platonic telescope.' (Grote, _Gorgias_)]

[Footnote 8: There is some a.n.a.logy between the above doctrine and the great law of Self-conservation, as expounded in this volume (p. 75).]

[Footnote 9: Aristotle and the Peripatetics held that there were _tria genera bonorum_: (1) Those of the mind _(mens sana)_, (2) those of the body, and (3) external advantages. The Stoics altered this theory by saying that only the first of the three was _bonum_; the others were merely _praeposita_ or _sumenda_. The opponents of the Stoics contended that this was an alteration in words rather than in substance.]

[Footnote 10: This also might truly be said of the Epicureans; though with them it is not so much _pride_, as a quiet self-satisfaction in escaping pains and disappointments that they saw others enduring. See the beginning of Lucretius' second book, and the last epistle of Epicurus to Idomeneus.]

[Footnote 11: This was a later development of Stoicism: the earlier theorists laid it down that there were no graduating marks below the level of wisdom; all shortcomings were on a par. _Good_ was a point, _Evil_ was a point; there were gradations in the _praeposita_ or _sumenda_ (none of which were _good_), and in the _rejecta_ or _rejicienda_ (none of which were _evil_), but there was no _more or less good_. The idea of advance by steps towards virtue or wisdom, was probably familiar to Sokrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus; the Stoic theories, on the other hand, tended to throw it out of sight, though they insisted strenuously on the necessity of mental training and meditation.]

[Footnote 12: This theory (taken in its most general sense, and apart from differences in the estimation of particular pleasures and pains), had been proclaimed long before the time of Epicurus. It is one of the various theories of Plato: for in his dialogue called Protagoras (though in other dialogues he reasons differently) we find it explicitly set forth and elaborately vindicated by his princ.i.p.al spokesman, Sokrates, against the Sophist Protagoras. It was also held by Aristippus (companion of Sokrates along with Plato) and by his followers after him, called the Cyrenaics. Lastly, it was maintained by Eudoxus, one of the most estimable philosophers contemporary with Aristotle. Epicurus was thus in no way the originator of the theory: but he had his own way of conceiving it--his own body of doctrine physical, cosmological, and theological, with which it was implicated--and his own comparative valuation of pleasures and pains.]

[Footnote 13: The soul, according to Epicurus, was a subtle but energetic compound (of air, vapour, heat, and another nameless ingredient), with its best parts concentrated in the chest, yet pervading and sustaining the whole body; still, however, depending for its support on the body, and incapable of separate or disembodied continuance.]

[Footnote 14: Aristot. De Coelo. II.a.12, p. 292, 22, 6, _5_. In the Ethics, Aristotle a.s.signs theorizing contemplation to the G.o.ds, as the only process worthy of their exalted dignity and supreme felicity.]

[Footnote 15: Xenophon Memor. I. 1--10; IV. 3--12.]

[Footnote 16: These exhortations to active friendship were not unfruitful. We know, even by the admission of witnesses adverse to the Epicurean doctrines, that the harmony among the members of the sect, with common veneration for the founder, was more marked and more enduring than that exhibited by any of the other philosophical sects.

Epicurus himself was a man of amiable personal qualities: his testament, still remaining, shows an affectionate regard, both for his surviving friends, and for the permanent attachment of each, to the others, as well as of all to the school. Diogenes Laertius tells us--nearly 200 years after Christ, and 450 years after the death of Epicurus--that the Epicurean sect still continued its numbers and dignity, having outlasted its contemporaries and rivals. The harmony among the Epicureans may be explained, not merely from the temper of the master, but partly from the doctrines and plan of life that he recommended. Ambition and love of power were discouraged: rivalry among the members for success, either political or rhetorical, was at any rate a rare exception: all were taught to confine themselves to that privacy of life and love of philosophical communion, which alike required and nourished the mutual sympathies of the brotherhood.]

[Footnote 17: Consistently with this view of happiness, Epicurus advised, in regard to politics, quiet submission, to established authority, without active meddling beyond what necessity required.]

[Footnote 18: Locke examines the Innate Principles put forth, by Lord Herbert in his book _De Veritate_, 1st, There is a supreme governor of the world; 2nd, Worship is due to him; 3rd, Virtue, joined with Piety, is the best Worship; 4th, Men must repent of their sins; 5th, There will be a future life of rewards and punishments. Locke admits these to be such truths as a rational creature, after due explanation given them, can hardly avoid attending to; but he will not allow them to be innate. For, First, There are other propositions with, as good a claim as these to be of the number imprinted by nature on the mind.

Secondly, The marks a.s.signed are not found in all the propositions.

Many men, and even whole nations, disbelieve some of them.

Then, as to the third principle,--virtue, joined with piety, is the best worship of G.o.d; he cannot see how it can be innate, seeing that it contains a name, virtue, of the greatest possible uncertainty of meaning. For, if virtue be taken, as commonly it is, to denote the actions accounted laudable in particular countries, then the proposition will be untrue. Or, if it is taken to mean accordance with G.o.d's will, it will then be true, but unmeaning; that G.o.d will be pleased with what he commands is an identical a.s.sertion, of no use to any one.

So the fourth proposition,--men must repent of their sins,--is open to the same remark. It is not possible that G.o.d should engrave on men's minds principles couched on such uncertain words as Virtue and Sin.

Nay more, as a general word is nothing in itself, but only report as to particular facts, the knowledge of rules is a knowledge of a sufficient number of actions to determine the rule. [Innate principles are not compatible with Nominalism.]

According to Lord Herbert, the standard of virtue is the _common notions_ in which, all men agree. They are such, as the following,--to avoid evil, to be temperate, in doubtful cases to choose the safer course, not to do to others what you would not wish done to yourself, to be grateful to benefactors, &c. _Conscience_ is what teaches us to carry out those principles in practice. It excites joy over good actions, and produces abhorrence and repentance for bad. Upon it, our repentance of mind and eternal welfare depend. (For an account of Lord Herbert's common notions, see Appendix B., Lord Herbert of Cherbury.)]

[Footnote 19: In this respect, Butler differs from both Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. With Shaftesbury, the main function of the moral sense is to smile approval on benevolent affections, by which an additional pleasure is thrown into the scale against the selfish affections. The superiority of the 'natural affections' thus depends on a double pleasure, their intrinsically pleasureable character, and the superadded pleasure of reflection. The tendency of Shaftesbury is here to make benevolence and virtue identical, and at the same time to impair the disinterested character of benevolence.]

[Footnote 20: With this view, we may compare the psychology of Shaftesbury, set forth in his 'Characteristics of Men, Manners, and Times.' The soul has two kinds of affections--(1) _Self-affection_, leading to the 'good of the private,' such as love of life, revenge, pleasure or apt.i.tude towards nourishment and the means of generation, emulation or love of praise, indolence; and (2) _Natural affections_, leading to the good of the public. The natural or spontaneous predominance of benevolence is _goodness_; the subjection of the selfish by effort and training is _virtue_. Virtue consists generally in the proper exercise of the several affections.]

[Footnote 21: Butler's definition of conscience, and his whole treatment of it, have created a great puzzle of cla.s.sification, as to whether he is to be placed along with the upholders of a 'moral sense.'

Shaftesbury is more explicit:

'No sooner does the eye open upon figures, the ear to sounds, than straight the Beautiful results, and grace and harmony are known and acknowledged. No sooner are _actions_ viewed, no sooner the human affections discerned (and they are, most of them, as soon discerned as felt), than straight an inward eye distinguishes the _fair_ and _shapely_, the _amiable_ and _admirable_, apart from the _deformed_, the _foul_, the _odious_, or the _despicable_' 'In a creature capable of forming general notions of things, not only the outward beings which offer themselves to the sense, are the objects of the affections, but the very actions themselves, and the affections of pity, kindness, and grat.i.tude, and their contraries, being brought into the mind by reflection, become objects. So that, by means of this _reflected sense_, there arises another kind of affection towards these affections themselves, which have been already felt, and are now become the subject of a new liking or dislike.' What this 'moral sense' approves is benevolence, and when its approval has been acted upon, by subjecting the selfish affections, 'virtue' is attained.]

[Footnote 22: It is instructive to compare Mandeville's _a priori_ guesses with, the results of Mr. Maine's historical investigation into the condition of early societies. The evidence shows that society originated in the family system. Mandeville conjectured that solitary families would never attain to government; but Mr. Maine considers that there was a complete despotic government in single families. 'They have neither a.s.semblies for consultation nor _themistes_, but every one exercises jurisdiction over his wives and children, and they pay no regard to one another.' The next stage is the rise of _gentes_ and tribes, which took place probably when a family held together instead of separating on the death of the patriarch. The features of this state were chieftainship and _themistes_, that is, government not by laws, but by _ex post facto_ decisions upon cases as they arose. This gradually developed into customary law, which was in its turn superseded, on the invention of writing, by written codes. Maine's Ancient Law, Chap. V.]

[Footnote 23: It is perhaps worth while to quote a sentence or two, giving the author's opinion on the theory of the Moral Sense. 'Against every account of the principle of approbation, which makes it depend upon a peculiar sentiment, distinct from every other, I would object, that it is strange that this sentiment, which Providence undoubtedly intended to be the governing principle of human nature, should, hitherto have been so little taken notice of, as not to have got a name in any language. The word Moral Sense is of very late formation, and cannot yet be considered as making part of the English tongue. The word approbation has but within these few years been appropriated to denote peculiarly anything of this kind. In propriety of language we approve of whatever is entirely to our satisfaction--of the form of a building, of the contrivance of a machine, of the flavour of a dish of meat. The word conscience does not immediately denote any moral faculty by which we approve or disapprove. Conscience supposes, indeed, the existence of some such faculty, and properly signifies our consciousness of having acted agreeably or contrary to its directions. When love, hatred, joy, sorrow, grat.i.tude, resentment, with so many other pa.s.sions which are all supposed to be the subjects of this principle, have made themselves considerable enough to get t.i.tles to know them by, is it not surprising that the sovereign of them all should hitherto have been so little heeded; that, a few philosophers excepted, n.o.body has yet thought it worth while to bestow a name upon it?']

[Footnote 24: ADAM FERGUSON (1724-1816), is not of sufficient importance in purely Ethical theory to demand a full abstract. The following remark on his views is made by Professor Veitch:--'Ferguson, while holding-with Reid that the notion of Rightness is not resolvable into utility, or to be derived from sympathy or a moral sense, goes a step beyond both. Reid and Stewart in the inquiry which he raises regarding the definite nature and ground of Rightness itself.' The following is his definition of Moral Good:--'Moral good is the specific excellence and felicity of human nature, and moral depravity its specific defect and wretchedness.' The 'excellence' of human nature consists in four things, drawn out after the a.n.a.logy of the cardinal virtues: (1) _Skill_ (Wisdom); (2) _Benevolence_, the princ.i.p.al excellence of a creature destined to perform a part in social life (Justice); (3) _Application of mind_ (Temperance); (4) _Force_, or energy to overcome obstacles (Fort.i.tude). Regarding the _motives_ to virtue, either virtue is its own reward, or divine rewards and punishments const.i.tute a sanction; but, in any case, the motive is our own happiness. All the virtues enumerated are themselves useful or pleasant, but, over and above, they give rise to an additional pleasure, when they are made the subject of reflection.]

[Footnote 25: 'The theory which, places the standard of morality in the _Divine nature_ must not be confounded with that which, places it in the arbitrary will of G.o.d. G.o.d did not create morality by his will; it is inherent in his nature, and co-eternal with himself; nor can he be conceived as capable of reversing it.' The distinction here drawn does not avoid the fatal objection to the simpler theory, namely, that it takes away the moral character of G.o.d. The acts of a sovereign cannot, with, any propriety, as Austin has shown, be termed either legal or illegal; in like manner, if G.o.d is a moral lawgiver, if 'he is accountable to no one,' then 'his duty and his pleasure are undistinguishable from each other,' and he cannot without self-contradiction be called a moral being. Even upon Mr. Mansel's own theory, it is hardly correct to say that 'G.o.d did not create morality by his will.' Morality involves two elements--one, rules of conduct, the other, an obligation to observe them. Now, the authority or obligatoriness of moral laws has been made to depend upon the will of G.o.d, so that, prior to that will, morality could not exist. Hence the only part of morality that can be co-eternal with G.o.d, is simply the rules of morality, without their obligatoriness, the salt without its savour. The closing a.s.sertion that G.o.d cannot reverse morality, may mean either that it would be inconsistent with his immutability to reverse the laws he had himself established, or that he is compelled by his nature to impose certain rules, and no others. The first supposition is a truism; the second is not proved. For, since Mr.

Mansel has discarded as a fiction any 'absolute law of duty,' it is hard to conjecture whence he could derive any compulsory choice of rules. Why G.o.d commands some things in preference to others--whether from a regard to the happiness of all his creatures, or of some only; whether with, a view to his own glory, or from conformity with some abstract notion--has been much disputed, and it is quite _conceivable_ that he may not adopt any of those objects.]

[Footnote 26: For help in understanding Kant's peculiar phraseology and general point of view, the reader is referred to the short exposition of his Speculative Philosophy in Appendix B.]

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