A blupete Essay

Greed, Morals and Charity, Part 8 to blupete's Essay
"On The Nature Of Man"

We now here deal with the problems of right conduct. This requires additional study in a philosophical area known as ethics, and, believe me, on the subject of ethics there is no lack of material. Ethics deals with the "study and evaluation of human conduct in the light of moral principles, which may be viewed as the individual's standard of conduct or as a body of social obligations and duties." The theories range all over the place: from that of pure conscience, a moral awareness of right and wrong which has been imprinted in each of us due to the Divine Will; to an innate sense (e.g., Rousseau); or to the set of values derived from individual experience (e.g., John Locke and John Stuart Mill).

Personally, I subscribe to a theory known as the moral sentiment theory. It was developed by Shaftesbury (1671-1713), Hume (1711-76), and Smith (1723-1790). As against Hobbes (1588-1679), who was of the view that people were disinterested in virtue, Shaftesbury, et al., maintained that people had a natural moral sense; they gain a specific feeling of pleasure in good actions.

But to discuss: Our subject under this head on the basis of the moral sentiment theory, or the branch of philosophy known as ethics, may be putting our subject on too high a plane. While it must be questioned whether a person of average intelligence could make money the chief object of his thoughts, the fact of the matter is, a good reputation is a valuable commodity in the market. As Holmes said, "I value a man mainly for his primary relations with truth."

Charity begins at home. If we all subscribed to that English proverb, then there wouldn't be too much need for public, or external charity. Those in a family unit are those who are best able to weigh the worthiness of another family member's need for charity. External charity, charity to a stranger, will come about because of instinctual feelings of pity, or if you like on account of the Shaftesburian theory of moral sentiment. But, on whatever the basis on which one wishes to consider the question of charity, to be borne in mind is the caution of John Stuart Mill: "As for charity, it is a matter in which the immediate effect on the persons directly concerned, and the ultimate consequence to the general good, are apt to be at complete war with one another."


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Peter Landry

2011 (2020)