Knowledge, Life and Reality: An Essay in Systematic Philosophy

By Trumbull Ladd George | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE MORALLY GOOD: ITS KINDS (THE VIRTUES) AND ITS UNITY

THE intimations which were brought forward at the close of the last chapter require to be further explained and defended. To accomplish this end, two lines of investigation need to be pursued. One of these consists in the study of the evolution of moral judgments as embodied in certain conceptions and principles which are esteemed to be of a more or less extended, if not quite universal, application. The other subjects these same conceptions and principles to a speculative process in which their real significance is made clear, and the basis in Reality on which they repose is disclosed. Only in this way can philosophy decide upon the place and value of moral ideals in the system of nature, or as essential "moments" in the Being of the World. For philosophy insists upon asking questions which the so-called science of ethics, whether pursued by the methods of descriptive history or from the evolutionary and explanatory points of view, cannot decide. Whence, in the last analysis come the sanctions and the ideals of man's unfolding moral life; and is not the Universe itself ethical to the core?

When we compare the development of moral judgments, as applied to forms of external conduct, with the development of moral judgment as applied to typical forms of the inner life, we note a marked difference in the results. There is far greater variety in customs, as judged from the ethical point of view, than in the motives, or conscious states of emotion, desire, and intention, out of which actions are supposed materially to spring. That the morally progressive part of the race has evolved a fairly consistent and notably uniform doctrine of

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