Moral Science; a Compendium of Ethics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 487 pages of information about Moral Science; a Compendium of Ethics.

IV.-The CLASSIFICATION OF DUTIES is characteristic of different systems and different authors.  The oldest scheme is the Four Cardinal Virtues—­Prudence, Courage, Temperance, Justice.  The modern Christian moralists usually adopt the division—­Duties to God, to Others, to Self.

Moreover, there are differences in the substance of Morality itself, or the things actually imposed.  The code under Christianity has varied both from Judaism and from Paganism.

V.-The relationship of Ethics to POLITICS is close, while the points of difference of the two are also of great importance.  In Plato the two subjects were inseparable; and in Aristotle, they were blended to excess.  Hobbes also joined Ethics and Politics in one system. (See Chap, ii., Sec. 3.)

VI.-The relation of Ethics to THEOLOGY is variously represented in modern systems.  The Fathers and the Schoolmen accepted the authority of the Bible chiefly on tradition, and did not venture to sit in judgment on the substance of the revelation.  They, therefore, rested their Ethics exclusively on the Bible; or, at most, ventured upon giving some mere supplement of its precepts.

Others, in more modern times, have considered that the moral character of a revelation enters into the evidence in its favour; whence, morality must be considered as independent, and exclusively human, in its origin.  It would be reasoning in a circle to derive the moral law from the bible, and then to prove the bible from the moral law.

Religion superadds its own sanction to the moral duties, so far as adopted by it; laying especial stress upon select precepts.  It likewise calls into being a distinct code of duties, the religious duties strictly so called; which have no force except with believers.  The ‘duties to God,’ in the modern classification, are religious, as distinguished from moral duties.



1.  ETHICS, or Morality, is a department of Practice; and, as with other practical departments, is defined by its End.

Ethics is not mere knowledge or speculation, like the sciences of Astronomy, Physiology, or Psychology; it is knowledge applied to practice, or useful ends, like Navigation, Medicine, or Politics.  Every practical subject has some end to be served, the statement of which is its definition in the first instance.  Navigation is the applying of different kinds of knowledge, and of a variety of devices, to the end of sailing the seas.

2.  The Ethical End is a certain portion of the welfare of human beings living together in society, realized through rules of conduct duly enforced.

The obvious intention of morality is the good of mankind.  The precepts—­do not steal, do not kill, fulfil agreements, speak truth—­whatever other reasons may be assigned for them, have a direct tendency to prevent great evils that might otherwise arise in the intercourse of human beings.

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Moral Science; a Compendium of Ethics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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