The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas - Vol. 1

By Edward Westermarck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
THE WILL AS THE SUBJECT OF MORAL JUDGMENT AND THE INFLUENCE OF EXTERNAL EVENTS

HOWEVER obvious it may be to the reflecting moral consciousness that the only proper object of moral blame and praise is the will, it would be a hasty conclusion to assume that moral judgments always and necessarily relate to the will. There are numerous facts which tend to show that such judgments are largely influenced by external events involved in, or resulting from, the conduct of men.

Some peoples are said to make no distinction between intentional and accidental injuries. Most statements to this effect refer to revenge or compensation.

Von Martius states that, among the Arawaks, "the blood- revenge is so blind and is practised so extensively, that many times an accidental death leads to the destruction of whole families, both the family of him who killed and of the family of the victim";1 and, according to Mr. Im Thurn, the smallest injury done by one Guiana Indian to another, even if unintentional, must be atoned by the suffering of a similar injury.2 Adair, in his work on the North American Indians, says that they pursued the law of retaliation with such a fixed eagerness, that formerly if a little boy shooting birds in the high and thick cornfields unfortunately chanced slightly to wound another with his childish arrow, "the young vindictive fox was excited by custom to watch his ways with the utmost earnestness, till the wound was returned in as equal a manner

____________________
1
von Martius, Beiträge zur Ethnographie Amerika's, i. 693sq.
2
Im Thurn, Among the Indians of Guiana, p. 214.

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