The rational good - Leonard Hobhouse - PDF ebook

The rational good

The rational good - Leonard Hobhouse
The rational good - Leonard Hobhouse

From the introduction:
What is Good, we have often been told, is the easiest thing in the world to know and the most difficult thing to do. Unfortunately, the truth will not compress itself to an epigram, and a facile antithesis is usually misleading. To deal plainly with himself is perhaps enough for a man in ninety-nine cases, but the hundredth, if he still deals plainly, will present a real difficulty. 

Moreover, the ninety-nine cases are, or appear to be, so easy because the man lives and moves and acts in a society with defined standards, established relations, express or implied understandings un- der which he has himself grown up and to which his sense of right and wrong has adapted itself. He knows in the ordinary case what is expected of him, and he expects nothing else of himself. If these standards are assumed, private conduct becomes a matter of their application, and it is true that this is, in any ordinary case, simple enough. 

But suppose the social standards themselves to be called into question. By what standard shall they be judged? Here is a question which is so far from simple that the plain man recoils from it. Why question the wisdom of our ancestors, the system which has workers? — not perfectly perhaps, but still, hasi worked — and has made us what we are? Let us do our duty in that state of life to which it shall please God to call us, and be thankful that we are members of a stable community with stations provided for all respectable people to fill. 

Unfortunately, we can not dispose of the question in this manner. Our standards criticize themselves. We have spoken of defined and recognized rules which are not difficult to apply. But if we look closely into the network of current ideas of conduct we shall find not one standard but several. 

There are codes of law and custom, good manners and good taste, partly supplementing, partly correcting one another. In particular, behind the code of ordinary respectable society are principles higher and more austere, intolerant of much which the working standard allows.

In large measure, these principles are embodied in the Churches' teaching and in that sense belong to the officially recognized tradition. The shifts and devices by which they are accommodated to the working standard form the familiar theme of the satirist, and do not concern us for the moment. 

Our point is merely that while it may be quite easy to apply the everyday standard to his particular case, and equally easy as an intellectual exercise to apply an ideal standard, he may find in the result that what is permitted by one code is repudiated, if he takes it seriously, by the other, and his real difficulty is to answer the question: under which Lord? 

Now the same question at the bottom confronts society as a whole. It lives on a certain tradition. It has its network of institutions, customs, and un-understanding. But it also contains germs and possibilities of a different life. 

The time is past when men in the mass simply took the established order for granted. They react upon it freely and seek avowedly to mould it to their own ideals. But again, there are more ideals than one, and between them what is to decide? The established order sits serenely while the ideals wrangle over the succession. Indeed, to some of them, it may apply the wit of Charles II: " They will never kill me, James, to make you king." It must be admitted that ideals may attract the fanatics, the ill-balanced, and the mischief-makers. 

Violence is met by violence, and the question of right and wrong becomes an issue between numbers and organization, perhaps in the last resort between the bomb and the machine gun.

the book details :
  • Author: Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse, FBA was an English liberal political theorist and sociologist, who has been considered one of the leading and earliest proponents of social liberalism. His works, culminating in his famous book Liberalism, occupy a seminal position within the canon of New Liberalism
  • Publication date:  1921
  • Company: New York: H. Holt and Company

  • Download  The rational good - PDF book - 4.6 MB

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