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PROBLEMS OF CONDUCT
AN INTRODUCTORY SURVEY OF ETHICS
A.M. (Harvard) Ph.D. (Columbia)
Associate Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of Religion at Wesleyan University
BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
TO THE DEAR TWO WHOSE INTEREST IN PROBLEMS OF CONDUCT FIRST AWAKENED MINE AND WHOSE EAGERNESS TO KNOW AND DO REMAINS UNDIMMED BY THE YEARS MY FATHER AND MY MOTHER
This book represents in substance a course of lectures and discussions given first at the University of Illinois and later at Wesleyan University. It was written to meet the needs both of the college student who has the added guidance of an instructor, and of the generalreader who has no such assistance. The attempt has been made to keep the presentation simple and clear enough to need no interpreter, and by the list of readings appended to each chapter, to make a self directed further study of any point easy and alluring. These references are for the most part to books in English, easily accessible, and both intelligible and interesting to the ordinary untrained reader or undergraduate. Some articles from the popular reviews have been included, which, if not always authoritative, are interesting and suggestive.
The function of the instructor who should use this as a textbook would consist, first, in making sure that the text was thoroughly read and understood; secondly, in raising doubts, suggesting opposing views, conducting a discussion with the object of making the student think for himself; and, thirdly, in adding new material and illustration and directing the outside readings which should supplement this purposely brief and summary treatment. The books to which reference is made in the lists of readings, and other books approved by the instructor, should be kept upon reserved shelves for the constant use of the class in the further study of questions suggested by the text or raised in the classroom.
It will be noticed that the disputes and the technical language of theorists have been throughout so far as possible avoided. The discussion of historical theories and isms' is unnecessarily bewildering to the beginner; and the aim has been rather to keep as close as possible to the actual experience of the student and the language of everyday life. Far more attention is given than in most books on ethics to concrete contemporary problems. After all, an insight into the fallacies of the reasoning of the various ethical schools, an ability to know what they are talking about and glibly refute them, is of less importance than an acquaintance with, and a firm, intelligent attitude toward, the vital moral problems and movements of the day. I have prayed to be saved from academic abstractness and remoteness, and to go as straight as I could to the real perplexities from which men suffer in deciding upon their conduct. The purpose of a study of ethics is, primarily, to get light for the guidance of life. And so, while referring to authors who differ from the views here expressed, I have sought to impart a definite conception of relative values, to offer a thread for guidance through the labyrinth of moral problems, and to effect a heightened realization of the importance and the possibilities of right living.
It is necessary, indeed, in order to justify and clarify our concrete moral judgments, that we should reach clear and firmly grounded conclusions upon the underlying abstract questions. And the habit of laying aside upon occasion one's instinctive or habitual moral preferences and discussing with open mind their justification and rationality is of great value to the individual and to society. Hence the first two Parts of this volume take up, as simply as is consonant with the really intricate questions involved, the history of the development of human morality and the psychological foundation of moral obligations and ideals. The exposition of the meaning of right and wrong there unfolded serves as a basis for the sound solution of the confused concrete issues, private and then public, which are discussed in the remainder of the volume.
An introductory outline of any subject must inevitably be superficial. To explain all the discriminations that are important to the specialist, to justify thoroughly all the positions taken, to do adequate justice to opposing views, would require ten volumes instead of one. And though there is a crying need of scholarly and elaborate discussion of the endless problems of morality, there is a prior need for the student of surveying the field, seeing what the problems are, how they are related, and what is approximately certain. The impression left by many ethical treatises, that everything is matter for dispute and no moral judgments are reliable, seems to me unfortunate; I have preferred to incur the charge of dogmatism rather than to fall into that error to offer a clear cut set of standards, to which exception will be taken by this critic or that, rather than to hold out to the student a chaos of confused possibilities.
No originality of viewpoint is claimed for this book. Its raison d'etre is simply to provide a clearer, more concrete, and more concisely comprehensive view of the nature of morality and its summons to men than has seemed to me available. I have drawn freely upon the thoughts of ethical teachers, classic and contemporary. These ideas are, or ought to be, common property; and it has been impracticable to trace them to their sources and offer detailed acknowledgment. Nothing has been presented here that has not first passed through the crucible of my own thinking and experience; and where the sparks came from that kindled each particular thought I am sure I do not know.
Portions of chapters xxi and xxix have appeared in the Forum and North American Review respectively; to the editors of these periodicals my thanks are due for permission to reprint.
MlDDLETOWN, CONN, August 3, 1914.
INTRODUCTORY. What is the field of ethics? Why should we study ethics?
PART I. THE EVOLUTION OF MORALITY
CHAPTER I. THE ORIGIN OF PERSONAL MORALITY... How early in the evolutionary process did personal morality of some sort emerge? What were the main causes that produced personal morality? How far has the moralizing process been blind and how far conscious?
CHAPTER II. THE ORIGIN OF SOCIAL MORALITY... How early was social morality developed? By what means was social morality produced? How has morality been fostered by the tribe?
CHAPTER III. OUTWARD DEVELOPMENT-MORALS... What is the difference between morals and non-moral customs? What, in general, has been the direction of moral progress? What definition of morality emerges from this? Is moral progress certain?
CHAPTER IV. INWARD DEVELOPMENT-CONSCIENCE... What are the stages in the history of moral guidance? Out of what has conscience developed? What is conscience now? What is the value of conscience?
CHAPTER V. THE INDIVIDUALIZING OF CONSCIENCE... Why did not the individualizing of conscience occur earlier? What forces made against custom-morality? Conservatism vs. radicalism. What are the dangers of conventional morality?
CHAPTER VI. CAN WE BASE MORALITY UPON CONSCIENCE... What is the meaning of "moral intuitionism"? Do the deliverances of different people's consciences agree? If conscience everywhere agreed in its dictates, could we base morality upon it? What is the plausibility of moral intuitionism?
PART II. THE THEORY OF MORALITY
CHAPTER VII. THE BASIS OF RIGHT AND WRONG... What is the nature of that intrinsic goodness upon which ultimately all valuations rest? What is extrinsic goodness? What sort of conduct, then, is good? And how shall we define virtue?
CHAPTER VIII. THE MEANING OF DUTY... Why are there conflicts between duty and inclination? Must we deny that duty is the servant of happiness? Does the end justify the means? What is the justification of justice and chivalry?
CHAPTER IX. THE JUDGMENT OF CHARACTER... Wherein consists goodness of character? Can we say, with Kant, that the only good is the Good Will? What evils may go with conscientiousness? What is the justification of praise and blame? What is responsibility?
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