Man, Morals and Society: A Psycho-Analytical Study

Man, Morals and Society: A Psycho-Analytical Study

Man, Morals and Society: A Psycho-Analytical Study

Man, Morals and Society: A Psycho-Analytical Study

Excerpt

As I write, the intending traveller in Great Britain is confronted with a stern notice asking `Is your journey really necessary?', while the would-be shopper encounters the no less forbidding question `Do you really need it?' In the atmosphere of austerity in which we live this same appeal to our conscience can be moulded into a thousand different forms and fitted to as many different desires, needs, and occasions--whenever in fact our satisfactions involve a raid upon the all too exiguous supply of common goods. An author is certainly not entitled to regard himself as beyond the range of this appeal. In the preparation and writing of a book he is using his own time and energies in a perhaps unprofitable manner. The printing and publication of the book require the help of many skilled collaborators and a considerable supply of paper--as we are beginning to realize, one of the most precious commodities of civilization. Finally he makes demands upon the purse and patience of his readers, both of which could perhaps be used to better purpose.

It is only right and proper that scruples of this sort should make themselves felt with particular insistence if the book in question is concerned with ethics. It is ridiculous to write a book on ethics if the very production of it is unethical. And are there not already so many books on the subject, by so many writers of eminence, past and present, that any additional treatment must be at the best superfluous and at the worst a mere dishing up of what others, for the most part better qualified, have often said before? It is only too likely that these objections apply in some measure to the present book. And yet it has seemed to me that there is a sense in which a book of this sort might hope to qualify as `really necessary' within the meaning of that urgent war-time question. In the first place it appears to be pretty generally agreed that the failure of our civilization to solve so many of its greatest problems, and above all its involvement in two world wars within a quarter of a century, makes it more than ever necessary that we should think seriously about fundamental moral problems. In spite . . .

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