Philosophy of conduct - PDF book by George Trumbull Ladd

Philosophy of conduct 

Philosophy of conduct

a treatise of the facts, principles, and ideals of ethics

The number of voluminous works dealing with man's moral life and moral development which have recently appeared has been by no means inconsiderable. Among these, some have been especially noteworthy, both for the array of phenomena which they have marshalled and also for the scientific spirit and method which have characterized their treatment of these phenomena. It is difficult to say how much this fact discloses as to the revival of a more profound and vital interest in the study of morality — properly so-called.

 Doubtless, the history of the evolution of the race on the side of manners and morals arouses in many minds only the same kind of curiosity as that to which the sciences of biology and anthropology are so vigorously ministering, all over the scientific world, at the present time. But such interest is by no means necessarily the equivalent of that which is demanded by the kind of inquiry upon which I have entered in this volume. 

For this inquiry proposes at least to raise, even if it cannot completely answer, the more ultimate problems of conduct as our experience forces them upon the reflective thinking of mankind. I have, therefore, called this treatise of human moral life and moral development a " Philosophy of Conduct." The title must not, however, be understood as though my proposal were to write a book on Ethics with only scanty regard for the actual facts of conduct, or for the current opinions of mankind respecting the significance and the value of these facts. 

As the introductory chapters expressly explain, and as the procedure and conclusions of the entire treatise make clear, I consider the " high-and-dry " a priori method wholly unsuitable to ethics. Indeed, I may confidently appeal to all my previous work to show that such a method is unsuitable for adequate treatment of any of the various branches of philosophy, even the most purely metaphysical. 

For philosophy itself is the investigation and interpretation of the sum total of human experience with all its implicates — by the method of critical, harmonizing, and synthetic reflective thinking. Ethics especially, however metaphysical it may become, must always remain practical. 

For ethics has its roots in facts of experience, and its fruitage must be an improvement of experience. The experience with which it deals is of conduct; that is to say, the whole circle of morality lies within the practical life. And yet, the experience of man's moral being and moral evolution is also of such a nature as to demand a philosophical treatment throughout; for until fact is transcended the ethical is not reached.

 As I have clearly shown in this book, merely empirical ethics, which is without metaphysics, leaves the mind in a region where all that has regard to the highest principles and more ultimate sanctions of conduct is darkened, if not wholly obscured, by doubt, confusion, and bewilderment. I have therefore aimed to give this treatise some special claim upon those who wish for a more fundamental discussion of ethical problems than has been customary of late; yet to conduct the discussion in the modern method and with due regard for all the interests involved. This aim has been realized in the following particular ways. 

In Part First, the nature of the Moral Self, or of man as equipped for the life of conduct, has been described as this nature appears in the light of psychological science, both individual and ethnic. Here the attempt has been made to adjust according to the actual known facts the conflicting claims of those who regard man's moral life throughout as a sort of divine, and once for all ready-made endowment and of those who, on the other hand, assume to explain morality as the result of a psychophysical, or an economic, or even a purely physiological evolution. 

This attempt has resulted in an analysis of man's ethical consciousness which is, so far as I am aware, at the same time more thorough and more modern than that at- tempted in any other similar treatise. In Part Second^ which treats the Virtuous Life, it has been my aim to show how, in spite of the bewildering variety of opinions and practices which has always existed, there is still, and, so far as can be discovered, always has been, a very substantial agreement touching the characteristic traits and habitual practices of the " good man." 

This agreement does not, however, favour any of the more current theories of the moralists regarding the true nature and unity of the virtues; or regarding the nature and obligations of the so-called " Moral Law." But the argument, as based upon these facts of agreement, does lead to another conception, at once more subtly and delicately ideal and yet more truly and unchangeably real, of both the nature of virtuous living, and of the laws and principles whose dominion and rational rights such living acknowledges, and to which it yields obedience and offers allegiance.

If one consults the wisdom of the ages it will be found nearly unanimous in the opinion that, of all inquiries the most important are those which concern the right and wrong forms of human conduct. As a matter of fact, however, multitudes of men, through considerable periods of their lives, seldom deliberate, or even consciously propose these inquiries. 

Necessities of a physical kind seem to compel them to a daily walk along well-defined paths of action; and where these necessities are less powerful, the established social customs that environ them leave comparatively little room for the more independent exercise of any individual's judgment. But perhaps more than all else, the habits they have themselves formed through years of an activity which, in accordance with a well-known psychological law, has now become a passive submission, ward off attacks from any stimulus that would make imperative or attractive the question: How shall I act at the present moment? 

In a word, physical necessity, social convention, and individual habit combine to answer for most men, as though they were matters of course, all ordinary questions of ethical import. And so the multitude not only eat, drink, and sleep, and go the daily round of tasks or pleasures, but they also discharge many of the higher social and political functions without much intelligent and serious debate as to the quality or the consequences of their conduct.

 As a matter of fact, however, nearly or quite all of this same multitude do at certain times somewhat carefully weigh important problems of more definite ethical import. And the questions which the wisdom of the ages considers so important are themselves the questions of the ages. It is not the wise alone that have raised and answered these moral problems with more or less self-conscious feeling and judgment. 

The common people have opinions, with a show of reasons attached, upon matters of conduct. Even fools are not always lacking in a sort of cunning dialectic, or in somewhat systematic rationalism, upon such matters. It is, to be sure, chiefly when the problems of conduct are brought to mind as objectified in the concrete behaviour of some fellow actor in life's drama toward themselves that their ethical emotions are most stirred and their ethical judgments are most clear-sighted and emphatic. It is when some other bow than the one held in their own hands has speeded the arrow that men question and hotly resent the deed which has caused them the painful sting, the dangerous wound. 

Above all other occasions do they experience a lively arousement of moral consciousness when the misdeed has not only hurt them as individuals but has also been a notable breach of the established customs of society. The multitude is made more reflectively moral by feeling themselves to be in some way injured or inconvenienced through the action of individuals who disregard the customary morality. But beyond all this, and deeper down, lie the questions concerning right conduct to which the wise have a reference, and to which most men at some time in their lives give at least a passing consideration.

Some contents:


The Problem of Conduct important — Character of this Problem — Nature of Ethical Discussion — Distinctions recognized by Ethics — Ethics as involving the Ideal — And the Conception of "the Ought " — Definition of Ethics — Ethics as Practical 3


Different Ways of approaching the Problem of Conduct — The Three Methods of Ethics— The Psychological Method — "Data of Ethics'* so-called — Necessity of Interpretation — Need of Psychology — The Historical Method — Combination of Methods necessary — The Speculative Method — Division of the Subject 19

Ancient and modern Conception of Ethics — Titles like " good " and " bad " as applied to Conduct — Consciousness and the Good — Degrees of the Good, and their Measurement — The Hedonistic Conception — Value of Discipline — Instrumental and final Good — Conception of "the Good-in-Itself " — Classification of Goods — The common Element — Development of the Conception of the Morally Good— The Ideal Good 34

the book details :
  • Author: George Trumbull Ladd
  • Publication date:1902
  • Company: New York: Scribner

  • Download 33 MB

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