Moral values; a study of the principles of conduct

9780217262064: Moral values; a study of the principles of conduct

This historic book may have numerous typos and missing text. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. Not indexed. Not illustrated.1918 Excerpt: ... MORAL VALUES CHAPTER I THE SCOPE AND AIM OF ETHICS I. The Field Of Ethics What is the field of ethics? What are the special facts which it undertakes to examine and explain? This is naturally the first inquiry raised by one entering upon the study of the problems of morality. The question may be answered in a preliminary way by the statement that the field of ethics is the field of conduct. But as all conduct is not commonly regarded as of moral significance, that portion of conduct with which ethics deals must be more exactly defined. First of all, ethical conduct may be distinguished from such activity as is seen in the processes of nature. To these we ascribe no moral quality. It is true that we call them good or bad according as they serve or oppose our interests, but it is obvious that these terms are not used here in their moral sense. It is, however, a striking fact that in the earlier stages of civilization men often treated the objects of nature as if they were morally responsible, and even inflicted legal punishments upon them. The Athenians had a special tribunal for the trial of inanimate things, and Plato in the Laws recognizes that a kind of guilt may attach to them. Even in modern civilization traces of the same idea have continued in legal codes to a very recent date.1 Such primitive animism is still seen in the anger with which children, and occasionally older persons, treat the inanimate 1 Cf. Westermarck, The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, Vol. I, PP-360-264. objects which have caused them pain or injury. Reflection, however, unhesitatingly excludes all activity of unconscious objects from the field of moral conduct. There is also general agreement that the actions of animals are not properly moral. The mediaeval practice of p...

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