A historical introduction to ethics - PDF book by Thomas Verner Moore

A historical introduction to ethics

A historical introduction to ethics

The present work, which is now laid before the public, was commenced as a series of lectures to the Newman Club at the University of California. These were delivered during the fall and winter of 1908. They were afterwards considerably modified and constituted a part of the course in the Introduction to Philosophy given by the author at the Catholic University of America. 

The material has again been worked over and developed into an independent work, which the author hopes will be of service as an introduction to the study of ethics. The nature of the work is indicated by the title. It is "A Historical Introduction to Ethics." It is, therefore, neither a History of Ethics nor a Textbook of Ethics. Was it a history of ethics it would have been necessary to consider many philosophers who are not even mentioned?
 An arrangement of systems in historical order would have been chosen, and the logical classification of ethical theories which has here been adopted would necessarily have been abandoned. Was it a textbook of ethics a number of special problems, which it has not considered, would have been worked up into a general outline covering the entire field of ethical speculation? 

What, it may be asked, is the special value of a historical introduction to ethics? It is the author's opinion that the true approach to an understanding of the science of ethics is first to be sought in the history of the theories of morals. While this is true of ethics, it is not true of the sciences in general. Logic and psychology, physics and chemistry, for example, may well be studied with no more than passing references to questions of historical interest.

 This does not mean that a knowledge of the history of these sciences is useless, but simply that it is possible to study them apart from their history. Ethics, however, differs from most sciences. In its field of thought one great problem towers above the rest, and in comparison to the supreme importance of this problem, all other questions sink into comparative insignificance. This problem is ^ that of the knowledge of good and evil. 

It is the great problem of the standard of morality. To teach the student one solution to this problem and leave him in ignorance of all the others would not suffice beyond the short time that he remained within the narrow confines of his own school. As soon as his mind came in contact with other minds, he would find himself in the greatest perplexity about the most serious problem of life: the distinction between good and evil. If, however, one attempts to treat this great question at all adequately, it is necessary to enter into the history of moral theories; and thus a historical introduction to ethics becomes almost indispensable. 

The study of ethics is the most important step in the philosophical solution of the riddle of existence. What the student, therefore, demands above all from his course in ethics is an ideal of life. A superficial knowledge of the pros and cons for a number of the minor problems of right and wrong will never take the place of a deeper insight into the greatest question that confronts the mind of man; namely, what is the value of life, what is the end of man?

 At the same time the minor problems of morality, such as the concepts of virtue and law, the analysis of the special virtues, and so forth, should not be neglected. 

A number of such problems can be and in the present work have been considered in their historical setting and in their connection with the one great problem of ethical speculation. In the analyses of the various systems of morals, the author has tried to represent each moralist's own thought impartially and accurately. 

The attempt has been made to assure the student that the account given really represents the actual philosophy of the moralist in question, and not the author's distorted view of his opinions. To accomplish this result quotations and citations have been given in great abundance. So extensive, indeed, have been the quotations that the work presents to some extent the advantages of a source-book, while it lacks the fragmentary character from which no source-book can escape. 

The criticism of moral systems constitutes a special section. In this way, the repetition of objections that hold against a number of systems has been avoided. In the classroom, however, the author has departed from this plan. Students require and often request some kind of criticism before the lecturer passes from one system to another. 

The best plan in actual practice is to indicate the chief lines of criticism in concluding the analysis of an author, and toward the end of the course to summarize the various systems, giving a general and special criticism of the theories of morality. The collection of the points of criticism into one division, while having special advantages in a printed work, need not interfere with the carrying out of the above method in practice, for it is a very easy matter to turn from one part of a book to another. 

In the choice of the types of ethical theory scarcely any two men would agree, and the author can scarcely hope to escape the accusation of most serious omissions. Some of these omissions will, however, be pardoned by one who bears in mind that the present work does not pretend to be a history of ethics, that the number of types must be relatively few, lest the student be lost in a maze of detail, and that the author can only hope to introduce the student to the field of ethical speculation.


Preliminary Notions i

I. Epicurus II
II. The Revival of Utilitarianism i6
III. Altruism as Exemplified by Bentham and Mill ... 22
IV. Utilitarianism and Evolution 32
V. The Ethics of Nature and Custom 40

I. The Ethics of the Moral Sense 47
II. The Ethics of Sympathy 55
III. The Stoic Ethics of Instinct 60
IV. The Ethics of Intuition 66
V. The Ethics of Reason: The Autonomous Ethics of
Kant 72
VT. The Ethics of Reason: Functional Ethics. Socrates. 82
VII. The Eihics of Reason: Functional Ethics. Plato . . 8g
VIII. The Ethics of Reason: Functional Ethics. Aristotle. 96
IX. The Ethics of Reason: Functional Ethics. St. Thomas Aquinas 105
I. General Criticism 121
II. Criticism of the Systems of Conditionate Morality. 130
III. Criticism of the Systems of Absolute Morality . . 140
Conclusion. The Ethical Ideal 147

the book details :
  • Author: Thomas Verner Moore
  • Publication date: 1915
  • Company: American Book Co

  • Download 5 MB


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