Outlines of the history of ethics
The nucleus of this little book is formed by an article on " Ethics " which I wrote some years ago for the Encyclopedia Britannica. I found that, in the opinion of persons whose judgment had weight with me, this article appeared likely to meet the needs of English students desirous of obtaining general knowledge of the history of ethical thought: I have, therefore, by the permission of Messrs. Black, the publishers of the Encyclopedia Britannica, re-printed it in this separate form.
In so doing, I have considerably altered and enlarged it: but, after some hesitation, I determined to adhere to the main outlines of the original article, according to which the chapter (IV.) dealing with the modern period is mainly confined to English Ethics, and only deals with foreign ethical systems in a subordinate way, as sources of influence on English thought.
I adopted this resolution, partly because it seemed to me that the merit of my article if it had any lay in a certain compact unity of movement which would inevitably be lost if I tried to include a treatment of French and German moralists on a scale correspond- ing to my treatment of English moralists: while at the same time a considerable portion of what I thus omitted appeared to me to have a distinctly subordinate interest for English readers as compared with what I included. I ought further to explain that, for somewhat similar reasons, I have taken pains to keep Ethics as separate as I conveniently could from Theology and Metaphysics, and also from Politics: this separation, however, is naturally less complete in some parts of the subject than in others; e.g., in dealing with the mediaeval period the relations of Ethics to Theology are necessarily more prominent than in the modern period.
Finally, I may perhaps say that I have aimed throughout at the greatest possible impartiality and " objectivity " of treatment; and in order better to attain this result, I have not attempted to deal with contemporary modes of ethical thought with which I have been engaged controversially except in a very brief and summary way. In the greater part of the book, i.e., in by far the larger part of Chapter 1 1., in almost all Chapter IV., and in some of Chapter III., my exposition is primarily based on my own study of the original authors.
Where this is not the case I have tried to guard myself against error by comparing different historians of philosophy, and referring to the original authors whenever this comparison left me doubtful. And throughout I have endeavoured to correct and supplement the results of my own study by comparing them with the views expressed in other historical works. I am especially indebted, as regards Chapter II. to Zeller's Geschichte der Griechischen Philosophic; but, in revising the chapter, I have also derived useful suggestions from Ziegler, Geschichte der Ethik, and from an excellent little book on Epicureanism by Mr Wallace.
The account of Christian morality in Chapter III. was naturally derived from sources too numerous to mention ; but for one or two statements in it, I am certainly indebted to Lecky's History of European Morals. The account of mediaeval ethics in the same Chapter was mainly composed, in the original article, by the aid of Neander and Wuttke; but in revising it I have had the valuable aid of Gass's Christliche Ethik. In the modern period I have derived suggestions from Jodl, Geschichte der Ethik, from the Principles of Morals by Wilson and Fowler, from a little book by Mr Fowler on Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, from another of the same kind on Hobbes by Mr Croom Robertson, and from Mr Sully's Pessimism; as well as from the comprehensive histories of philosophy by Ueberweg and Erdmann. I must also express my acknowledgement to friends and correspondents for advice that they have given me on various parts of the work: especially to Lord Acton; to R. D. Hicks, Esq., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; and to the Rev. Alexander Stewart, of Mains, Dundee, who has kindly aided me by reading through the proofs of the book.
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