A study in moral problems by B. M Laing ( 1922) PDF Book

A study in moral problems by  B. M Laing PDF Book

study in moral problems

Throughout the following chapters there runs one central problem and upon it, all the arguments converge. It is the problem of the relationship between human action and natural law. It is an old one and one that has been dealt with by eminent thinkers: Kant and Lotze are but two. On account of the development of science with its insistence upon the reign of universal law, it has become in modern times a very important problem because of its bearing upon moral and social effort. The freedom that is somehow implied in morality has to be reconciled with the rigidity and uniformity that characterize natural law. That problem must be and is here regarded as a fundamental one because it lies at the basis of all the more specific moral problems like evil, social conflicts, conflicts of values, the instability and uncertainty of moral progress and moral achievement; and because its solution will point a way to a solution of these difficulties.

A discussion of the general problem of the relation between freedom and mechanism or natural law tends accordingly to take the character of studies in morality, though at the same time it becomes quite clear that metaphysical questions arise and cannot be avoided, while yet within the present limits they cannot be very adequately discussed.

There arise questions about the structure of the universe and the nature of reality, as well as about the meaning of natural causality and natural conditions. Such questions demand full discussion, but at the moment that must be left aside, and only a reference can be made to certain points in these questions that are relevant to ethical studies, for they create difficulties as regards method. It has, for instance, been very generally held that the possibility of beginning with cause and of working up to purpose is extremely doubtful. The disparateness of natural cause and moral purpose, of natural law and moral law, renders such a procedure impossible.

There is an insuperable difficulty in effecting a transition from laws that describe how things and people do act to laws that prescribe how people should act. One type of law cannot be derived from the other. Ethics, in consequence, can never be purely inductive; and there remains a fundamental distinction between ethics and the inductive sciences. This view, however, may be questioned; and, by questioning it, it becomes possible to give a very intelligible account of human action and to obtain a clear explanation of many moral difficulties.

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