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behef is in the strictest sense a postulate of Morahty.

3. The behef in God is not a postulate of Morality in
such a sense that the rejection of it involves a denial of
all meaning or vahdity to our moral judgements, but the
acceptance or rejection of this behef does materially
affect the sense which we give to the idea of obhgation.
The behef in the objectivity of moral judgements imphes
that the moral law is recognized as no merely accidental
element in the construction of the human mind, but as
an ultimate fact about the Universe. This rational de-
mand cannot be met by any merely materialistic or natu-
ralistic Metaphysic, and is best satisfied by a theory which
explains the world as an expression of an intrinsically


righteous rational Will, and the moral consciousness as
an imperfect revelation of the ideal towards which that
Will is directed. The belief in God may be described as
a postulate of Morality in a less strict or secondary sense.

4. So far from Ethics being based upon or deduced
from Theology, a rational Theology is largely based upon
Etliics : since the moral Consciousness supplies us with
all the knowledge we possess as to the action, character,
and direction of the supreme Will, and forms an im-
portant element in the argument for the existence of such
a WiU.

5. We must peremptorily reject the view that the
obligation of Morality depends upon sanctions, i.e. re-
ward and punishment, in tliis life or any other. But, as
the beUef in an objective moral law naturally leads up
to and requires for its full justification the idea of God,
so the idea of God involves the belief in Immortality if
the present life seems an inadequate fulfilment of the
moral ideal. In ways which need not be recapitulated,
we have seen that it is practically a belief eminently
favourable to the maximum influence of the moral ideal
on Hfe.

The whole position may perhaps be still more simply
summed up. It is possible for a man to know his duty,
and to aichieve considerable success in doing it, without
any beUef in God or Immortality or any of the other
behefs commonly spoken of as religious ; but he is
likely to know and do it better if he accepts a view of
the Universe which includes as its most fundamental
articles these two beliefs. It must not be supposed, of
course, that no other boUefs taught in the historical
religions are of any importance for the moral life. In
particular the concrete embodiments which all the
higher Religions have attempted to give to the moral
ideal in the great reUgious personalities which they
reverence, in their sacred books and religious institutions,


represent the most powerful of the spiritual influeiices
by which the moral life of the individual soul is awakened,
sustained, and developed. That this is pre-eminently
true of Christ ianit}^ will hardly be denied. In no other
Religion does the influence of the Founder's character
count for so much. It would be obviously beyond the
scQ-pe of this book to examine the actual truth or the
actual influence of the moral ideals embodied in any
particular ReHgion, or of the other behefs with which
those ideals are associated. Such a task belongs to
Theology, or the Philosophy of Religion ; but one of
the most important data upon which the Theologian has
to proceed is supplied by Ethics or Moral Philosophy, or
rather by the contents of that moral consciousness which
it is the business of the Moral Philosopher to analyse.
It will be enough to say here that it is a condition of the
acceptance of any rehgious system as the highest and
truest that the moral ideal with which it presents us is
in harmony with the deliverances of the developed and
enlightened moral consciousness. A reasonable defence
of the claim that Christianity is the final or (as Hegel
called it) " the absolute Religion " would be largely
occupied with the attempt to show that it satisfies this
condition in a way which no other of the historical
Religions can succeed in doing.


The course of study to be recommended to the student who
wishes to follow up his reading of this Uttle book must depend a
good deal upon the extent of his ambition. Ethics is a branch of
Philosophy in wlxich some knowledge of the past history of the
subject is of especial importance, and yet it is one in which the newer
books do not necessarily imply much acquaintance with the older.
It should be recognized that a thorough insight into the subject
is hardly possible without some knowledge of general philosophy,
and the more metaphysical writers — especially Kant, the most
famous of all ethical writers — will be found difficult, and perhaps
not fully intelligible, without some such knowledge. It should be
added that most of the great philosophers deal with Ethics inci-
dentally. Spinoza's Ethics, though it bears that title, realh- contains
a whole metaphysic, and the strictly ethical part can hardly be
read to much advantage by itself.

Elementary Text-Books. — Mackenzie, Manual of Ethics ; Muir-
head, Ehments of Ethics ; d'Arcy (Bishop of Down), A Short Study
of Ethics ; Seth, A Study of Ethical Principles. The first three
works are more or less " Hegelian " in tendency ; the last repre-
sents another type of Idealistic Philosophy. The student may begin
with one of these. But there is something to be said for reading
at once, as classical representatives of the two traditional ways of
thinking on the subject, Butler's Fifteen Sermons and Mill's Utili-
tarianism, together with the first chapter of Lecky's History of
European Morals, which contains a short sketch of the historj' of
ethical thought, and then going on to one or more of the longer
works — for instance, Sidgwick and Grote (see below). Green should
certainly be included in any serious course of study, but it is well
to postpone him till the student has acquired some "clear knowledge
of the questions at issue.

The Older Moral Philosophy. — Anyone who wishes to trace
the development of Moral Philosophy should read Hobbes, Levia-
than (early chapters) ; Cudworth, Treatise concerning Eternal arul
Immutable Morality ; Clarke, Boyle Lectures on The Being and Attri-
butes of God (second part); Locke', Essay, Bk. I. chap, iii.; Shaftesbury,
Inquiry concerning Virtue; Hutcheson, Inquiry concerning Moral
Good and Evil ; Hume, Inquiry concerning Morals ; Bishop Butler,
Fifteen Sermons ; Reid, Inquiry into the Human Mind ; Price, Beview



oj the Principal Qiiestions in Morals. The last is one of the best
of the older moraUsts ; his thought is singularly like that of Kant
at his best, without his absurdities and exaggerations.

Sidgwick's short History of EUiics may be strongly recommended.

Modern Writers. — J. S. MiU, Utilitarianism ; Sidgwick, The,
Methods of Ethics ; John Grote, Examination of the Utilitarian
Philosophy ; Moore, Principia Ethica ; Taylor, The Problem of
Conduct ; Gizycki and Coit, Manual of Ethical Philosophy ; Paulsen,
System of Ethics (Eng. trans.) ; Rashdall, The Theory of Good and

More Metaphysical Writers. — Kant, Theory of Ethics (the
more important ethical writings translated by Abbott) ; Green, Pro-
legomeTia to Ethics ; Bradley, Ethical Studies.

Representatives of Evolutionary or Naturalistic Ethics. —
Spencer, Principles of Ethics ; LesUe Stephen, Science of Ethics ;
Alexander, Moral Order and Progress ; Westermarck, Origin and
Development of Moral Ideas (chiefly an anthropological enquiry into
the history of morality) ; McDougaU, Social Psychology. L. T.
Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, gives a much more philosophical
view of the development of Morality than Westermarck, if based on
lees original research : his view of Ethics can hardly be called
"naturalistic." As a criticism of the more naturahstic writers,
Sorley's Ethics of Naturalism may be mentioned. Cf. also Sidgwick,
The Ethics of T. H. Green, Herbert Spencer and Martineau.

This list does not pretend to be more than introductory, and
many writers of great importance are deliberately omitted, as a
long list is apt to be confusing to the beginner. Further references
to the modem hterature of the subject will be found in the author's
Theory of Good and Eml. Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, contains very
full lists of modern books.

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Online LibraryHastings RashdallEthics → online text (page 8 of 8)