The Principles of Ethics

The Principles of Ethics

Read FREE!

The Principles of Ethics

The Principles of Ethics

Read FREE!

Excerpt

Historically, the moral life did not begin by laying down general principles of conduct, but by forming codes of concrete duties. Duties to parents, children, neighbors, tribe, etc., were the concrete forms in which the moral nature first manifested itself, and in which also it still finds its chief expression. In this respect the moral life is the analogue of the mental life. The latter also did not begin with abstract speculative principles, or with theories of knowledge, but with specific acts of knowing. In both alike the knowledge of principles was second and not first; and in both alike principles were implicit from the beginning.

But the development both of the individual life and of historical and geographical knowledge serves to disturb the naïve and instinctive forms with which the moral life begins. Other peoples are discovered with customs different from ours. Reflection also serves to detect many arbitrary or inconsistent features in prevailing codes. Conscience is invoked to ratify oppression, superstition and nonsense. Finally, experience shows that the right . . .

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