Moral laws has been written with the conviction that ethics is truly a science; not, indeed, a natural science or a merely descriptive one, but a normative science of ideal principles. While the method of presentation is new, the substance of this book is no novel discovery; it is an interpretation of the results of centuries of reflection by the wisest minds of the race. Truth is no modern convention, but the co-operative achievement of all who think. Little stress is laid, however, on some points which have been discussed often enough to very little profit, such as the problem of hedonism versus formalism. An attempt is made, rather, to discover the universal moral laws which rise above the quarrels about less important and less fruitful details.
The central idea of the book is that the moral life is a rational life. Goodness is not mere convention, or mores, nor mere fulfillment of instinctive needs, but, rather, a control of our social behavior and our instinctive tendencies by rational laws. As a defense of reason, the book is not intended to be entertaining; it is intended to be clear, logical, and true to experience. The specific Moral Laws are offered as attempts to embody these qualities in an ethical theory. The success or failure of the attempts should be measured, not by the reader's agreement with what is said, but by the degree to which it leads the reader to think clearly, logically, and empirically about moral life.
Most of the book was written during the author's Sabbatical leave in Germany. This was done deliberately, in order that material not easily accessible in . . .