Practical Ethics
by William DeWitt Hyde
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The interest of our friend should be our interest; his welfare, our welfare; his wish, our will; his good, our aim.—If he prospers we rejoice; if he is overtaken by adversity, we must stand by him. If he is in want, we must share our goods with him. If he is unpopular, we must stand up for him. If he does wrong, we must be the first to tell him of his fault: and the first to bear with him the penalty of his offense. If he is unjustly accused we must believe in his innocence to the last. Friends must have all things in common; not in the sense of legal ownership, which would be impracticable, and, as Epicurus pointed out, would imply mutual distrust; but in the sense of a willingness on the part of each to do for the other all that is in his power. Only on the high plane of such absolute, whole-souled devotion can pure friendship be maintained.


The true friend is one we can rely upon.—Our deepest secrets, our tenderest feelings, our frankest confessions, our inmost aspirations, our most cherished plans, our most sacred ideals are as safe in his keeping as in our own. Yes, they are safer; for the faithful friend will not hesitate to prick the bubbles of our conceit; laugh us out of our sentimentality; expose the root of selfishness beneath our virtuous pretensions. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." To be sure the friend must do all this with due delicacy and tact. If he takes advantage of his position to exercise his censoriousness upon us we speedily vote him a bore, and take measures to get rid of him. But when done with gentleness and good nature, and with an eye single to our real good, this pruning of the tendrils of our inner life is one of the most precious offices of friendship.


The chief blessing of friendship is the sense that we are not living our lives and fighting our battles alone; but that our lives are linked with the lives of others, and that the joys and sorrows of our united lives are felt by hearts that beat as one.—The seer who laid down so severely the stern conditions which the highest friendship must fulfill, has also sung its praises so sweetly, that his poem at the beginning of his essay may serve as our description of the blessings which it is in the power of friendship to confer:

A ruddy drop of manly blood The surging sea outweighs; The world uncertain comes and goes, The lover rooted stays. I fancied he was fled, And, after many a year, Glowed unexhausted kindliness Like daily sunrise there. My careful heart was free again,— Oh, friend, my bosom said, Through thee alone the sky is arched, Through thee the rose is red, All things through thee take nobler form And look beyond the earth, The mill-round of our fate appears A sun-path in thy worth. Me too thy nobleness has taught To master my despair; The fountains of my hidden life Are through thy friendship fair.


A relation so intimate as that of friendship offers constant opportunity for betrayal.—Friends understand each other perfectly. Friend utters to friend many things which he would not for all the world let others know. And more than that, the intimate association of friendship cannot fail to give the friend an opportunity to perceive the deep secrets of the other's heart which he would not speak even to a friend, and which he has scarcely dared to acknowledge even to himself.

This intimate knowledge of another appeals strangely to our vanity and pride; and we are often tempted to show it off by disclosing some of these secrets which have been revealed to us in the confidence of friendship. This is the meanest thing one person can do to another. The person who yields to this basest of temptations is utterly unworthy ever again to have a friend. Betrayal of friends is the unpardonable social sin.


We cannot find people who in every respect are exactly to our liking.—And, what is more to the point, we never can make ourselves exactly what we should like to have other people intimately know and understand. Friendship calls for courage enough to show ourselves in spite of our frailties and imperfections; and to take others in spite of the possible shortcomings which close acquaintance may reveal in them. Friendship requires a readiness to give and take, for better or for worse; and that exclusiveness which shrinks from the risks involved is simply a combination of selfishness and cowardice. Refusal to make friends is a sure sign that a man either is ashamed of himself, or else lacks faith in his fellow-men. And these two states of mind are not so different as they might at first appear. For we judge others chiefly by ourselves. And the man who distrusts his fellow-men, generally bases his distrust of them on the consciousness that he himself is not worthy of the trust of others. So that the real root of exclusiveness is the dread of letting other people get near to us, for fear of what they might discover. Exclusiveness puts on the airs of pride. But pride is only a game of bluff, by which a man who is ashamed to have other people get near enough to see him as he is pretends that he is terribly afraid of getting near enough to others to see what they are.


Effusiveness.—Some people can keep nothing to themselves. As soon as they get an experience, or feel an emotion, or have an ache or pain, they must straightway run and pour it into the ear of some sympathetic listener. The result is that experiences do not gain sufficient hold upon the nature to make any deep and lasting impression. No independence, no self-reliance, no strength of character is developed. Such people are superficial and unreal. They ask everything and have nothing to give. The stream is so large and constant that there is nothing left in the reservoir. Friendship must rest on solid foundations of independence and mutual respect. With great clearness and force Emerson proclaims this law in his Essay on Friendship: "We must be our own before we can be another's. Let me be alone to the end of the world, rather than that my friend should overstep, by a word or a look, his real sympathy. Let him not cease an instant to be himself. The only joy I have in his being mine, is that the not mine is mine. I hate where I looked for a manly furtherance, or at least a manly resistance, to find a mush of concession. Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo. The condition which high friendship demands is ability to do without it. There must be very two, before there can be very one. Let it be an alliance of two large formidable natures, mutually beheld, mutually feared, before yet they recognize the deep identity, which, beneath these disparities, unites them."


If we refuse to go in company there is nothing left for us but to trudge along the dreary way alone.—If we will not bear one another's burdens, we must bear our own when they are heaviest in our unaided strength; and fall beneath their weight. Here as everywhere penalty is simply the inevitable consequence of conduct. The loveless heart is doomed to drag out its term of years in the cheerless isolation of a life from which the light of love has been withdrawn.


The Family.

Thus far we have considered our fellow-men as units, with whom it is our privilege and duty to come into external relations. These external relations after all do not reach the deepest center of our lives. They indeed bind man to man in bonds of helpfulness and service. But the two who are thus united remain two separate selves after all. Even friendship leaves unsatisfied yearnings, undeveloped possibilities in human hearts. However subtle and tender the bond may be, it remains to the last physical rather than chemical; mechanical rather than vital; the outward attachment of mutually exclusive wholes, rather than the inner blending of complemental elements which lose their separate selfhood in the unity of a new and higher life. The beginning of this true spiritual life, in which the individual loses his separate self to find a larger and nobler self in a common good in which each individual shares, and which none may monopolize;—the birthplace of the soul as of the body is in the family. The nursery of virtue, the inspirer of devotion, the teacher of self-sacrifice, the institutor of love, the family is the foundation of all those higher and nobler qualities of mind and heart which lift man above the level of sagacious brutes.


The family a common good.—Membership in the family involves the recognition that the true life of the individual is to be found only in union with other members; in regard for their rights; in deference to their wishes; and in devotion to that common interest in which each member shares. Each member must live for the sake of the whole family. Children owe to their parents obedience, and such service as they are able to render. Parents, on the other hand, owe to children support, training, and an education sufficient to give them a fair start in life. Brothers and sisters owe to each other mutual helpfulness and protection. All joys and sorrows, all hopes and fears, all plans and purposes should be talked over, and carried out in common. No parent should have a plan or ambition or enthusiasm into which he does not invite the confidence and sympathy of his child. No child should cherish a thought or purpose or imagination which he cannot share with father or mother. It is the duty of the parent to enter sympathetically into the sports and recreations and studies and curiosities of the child. It is the duty of the child to interest himself in whatever the father and mother are doing to support the family and promote its welfare. Between parent and child, brother and sister, there should be no secrets; no ground on which one member lives in selfish isolation from the rest.

The basis of right marriage.—These relations come by nature, and we grow into them so gradually that we are scarcely conscious of their existence, unless we stop on purpose to think of them. Marriage, or the foundation of a new family, however, is a step which we take for ourselves, once for all, in the maturity of our conscious powers. To know in advance the true from the false, the real from the artificial, the genuine from the counterfeit, the blessed from the wretched basis of marriage is the most important piece of information a young man or woman can acquire. The test is simple but searching. Do you find in another, one to whose well-being you can devote your life; one to whom you can confide the deepest interests of your mind and heart; one whose principles and purposes you can appreciate and respect: one in whose image you wish your children to be born, and on the model of whose character you wish their characters to be formed; one whose love will be the best part of whatever prosperity, and the sufficient shield against whatever adversity may be your common lot? Then, provided this other soul sees a like worth in you, and cherishes a like devotion for what you are and aim to be, marriage is not merely a duty: it is the open door into the purest and noblest life possible to man and woman. Complete identification and devotion, entire surrender of each to each in mutual affection is the condition of true marriage. As "John Halifax" says in refusing the hand of a nobleman for his daughter, "In marriage there must be unity—one aim, one faith, one love—or the marriage is imperfect, unholy, a mere civil contract, and no more." This necessity of complete, undivided devotion of each to each is, as Hegel points out, the spiritual necessity on which monogamy rests. There can be but one complete and perfect and supreme merging of one's whole self in the life and love of another. Marriage with two would be of necessity marriage with none. If we apprehend the spiritual essence of marriage we see that marriage with more than one is a contradiction in terms. It is possible to cut one's self up into fragments, and bestow a part here and a part there; but that is not marriage; it is mere alliance. It brings not love and joy and peace, but hate and wretchedness and strife.

A true marriage never can be dissolved.—If love be present at the beginning it will grow stronger and richer with every added year of wedded life. How far a loveless marriage should be enforced upon unwilling parties by the state for the benefit of society is a question which it is foreign to our present purpose to discuss. The duty of the individual who finds himself or herself in this dreadful condition is, however, clear. There is generally a good deal of self-seeking on both sides at the basis of such marriages. Getting rather than giving was the real though often unsuspected hope that brought them together. If either husband or wife will resolutely strive to correct the fault that is in him or her, ceasing to demand and beginning to give unselfish affection and genuine devotion, in almost every case, where the man is not a brute or a sot, and the woman is not a fashion-plate or a fiend, the life of mutual love may be awakened, and a true marriage may supersede the empty form. Not until faithful and prolonged efforts to establish a true marriage within the legal bonds have proved unavailing; and only where adultery, desertion, habitual drunkenness, or gross brutality and cruelty demonstrate the utter impossibility of a true marriage, is husband or wife justified in seeking to escape the bond, and to revert to the lower, individualistic type of life.


In the family we are members one of another.—The parent shows his loyalty to the child by protecting him when he gets into trouble. The loyal brother defends his brothers and sisters against all attacks and insults. The loyal child refuses to do anything contrary to the known wishes of father and mother, or anything that will reflect discredit upon them. The loyal child cares for his parents and kindred in misfortune and old age; ministering tenderly to their wants, and bearing patiently their infirmities of body and of mind which are incidental to declining powers. The loyal husband and wife trust each other implicitly in everything; and refuse to have any confidences with others more intimate than they have with each other. Not that the family is narrow and exclusive. Husband and wife should each have their outside interests, friendships, and enthusiasms. Each should rejoice in everything which broadens, deepens, and sweetens the life of the other. Jealousy of each other is the most deadly poison that can be introduced into a home. It is sure and instant death to the peace and joy of married life.

Other relations should always be secondary and external to the primary and inner relation of husband and wife to each other.—It should be the married self; the self which includes in its inmost love and confidence husband or wife; not a detached and independent self, which goes out to form connections and attachments in the outer world. Where this mutual trust and confidence are loyally maintained there can be the greatest social freedom toward other men and women and at the same time perfect trust and devotion to each other. This, however, is a nice adjustment, which nothing short of perfect love can make. Love makes it easily, and as a matter of course. Loyalty is love exposed to strain, and overcoming strain and temptation by the power which love alone can give.


Loyalty to the family preserves and perpetuates the home.—Home is a place where we can rest; where we can breathe freely; where we can have perfect trust in one another; where we can be perfectly simple, perfectly natural, perfectly frank; where we can be ourselves; where peace and love are supreme. "This," says John Ruskin, "is the true nature of home—it is the place of peace; the shelter, not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt, and division. In so far as it is not this, it is not home; so far as the anxieties of the outer life penetrate into it, and the unknown, unloved, or hostile society of the outer world is allowed to cross the threshold, it ceases to be home; it is then only a part of the outer world which you have roofed over and lighted fire in. But so far as it is a sacred place, a vestal temple, a temple of the hearth watched over by household gods, before whose faces none may come but those whom they can receive with love,—so far as it is this, and roof and fire are types only of a nobler shade and light,—shade as of a rock in a weary land, and light as of a Pharos on a stormy sea; so far it vindicates the name and fulfills the praise of home."


The individual must drop his extreme individualism when he crosses the threshold of the home.—The years between youth and marriage are years of comparative independence. The young man and woman learn in these years to take their affairs into their own hands; to direct their own course, to do what seems right in their own eyes, and take the consequences of wisdom or folly upon their own shoulders. This period of independence is a valuable discipline. It develops strength and self-reliance; it compels the youth to face the stern realities of life, and to measure himself against the world. It helps him to appreciate what his parents have done for him in the past, and prepares him to appreciate a home of his own when he comes to have one. The man and woman who have never known what it is to make their own way in the world can never be fully confident of their own powers, and are seldom able to appreciate fully what is done for them.

Many an exacting husband and complaining wife would have had their querulousness and ingratitude taken out of them once for all if they could have had a year or two of single-handed conflict with real hardship. Independence and self-reliance are the basis of self-respect and self-control.

At the same time this habit of independence, especially if it is ingrained by years of single life, tends to perpetuate itself in ways that are injurious to the highest domestic and family life. Independence is a magnificent foundation for marriage; to carry it up above the foundation, and build the main structure out of it, is fatal. The insistence on rights, the urging of claims, the enforcement of private whims and fancies, are the death of love and the destruction of the family. Unless one is ready to give everything, asking nothing save what love gives freely in return, marriage will prove a fountain of bitterness rather than of sweetness; a region of storm and tempest rather than a haven of repose. Within a bond so close and all-embracing there is no room for the independent life of separated selves. Each must lose self in the other; both must merge themselves in devotion to a common good; or the bond becomes a fetter, and the home a prison. Unless one is prepared to give all to the object of his love, duty to self, to the object of his affections, and to the blessed state of marriage demands that he should offer nothing, and remain outside a relation which his whole self cannot enter. Independence outside of marriage is respectable and honorable. Independence and self-assertion in marriage toward husband or wife is mean and cruel. It is the attempt to partake of that in which we refuse to participate; to claim the advantages of an organism in which we refuse to comply with the conditions of membership. Not admiration, nor fascination, nor sentimentality, nor flattered vanity can bind two hearts together in life-long married happiness. For these are all forms of self-seeking in disguise. Love alone, love that loses self in its object; love that accepts service with gladness and transmutes sacrifice into a joy; simple, honest, self-forgetful love must be the light and life of marriage, or else it will speedily go out in darkness and expire in death.

Of the deliberate seeking of external ends in marriage, such as money, position, family connections, and the like, it ought not to be necessary to say a word to any thoughtful person. It is the basest act of which man or woman is capable. It is an insult to marriage; it is a mockery of love; it is treachery and falsehood and robbery toward the person married. It subordinates the lifelong welfare of a person to the acquisition of material things. It introduces fraud and injustice into the inmost center of one's life, and makes respect of self, happiness in marriage, faith in human nature forever impossible. The deliberate formation of a loveless marriage is a blasphemy against God, a crime against society, a wrong to a fellow being, and a bitter and lasting curse to one's own soul.


Self-sufficiency fatal to the family.—The shortcoming which most frequently keeps individuals outside of the family, and keeps them incomplete and imperfect members of the family after they enter it, is the self-sufficiency which is induced by a life of protracted independence. Marriage is from one point of view a sacrifice, a giving-up. The bachelor can spend more money on himself than can the married man who must provide for wife and children. The single woman can give to study and music and travel an amount of time and attention which is impossible to the wife and mother. Such a view of marriage is supremely mean and selfish. Only a very little and sordid soul could entertain it. There are often the best and noblest of reasons why man or woman should remain single. It is a duty to do so rather than to marry from any motive save purest love. Marriage, however, should be regarded as the ideal state for every man and woman. To refuse to marry for merely selfish reasons; or to carry over into marriage the selfish individualistic temper, which clings so tenaciously to the little individual self that it can never attain the larger self which comes from real union and devotion to another—this is to sin against human nature, and to prove one's self unworthy of membership in society's most fundamental and sacred institution.

The child who sets his own will against his parent's, the mother who thrusts her child out of her presence in order to pursue pleasures more congenial than the nurture of her own offspring, the man who leaves his family night after night to spend his evenings in the club or the saloon, the woman who spends on dress and society the money that is needed to relieve her husband from overwork and anxiety, and to bring up her children in health and intelligence, do an irreparable wrong to the family, and deal a death blow to the home.


Self-obliteration robs the family of the best we have to give it.—The man who makes himself a slave; goes beyond his strength; denies himself needed rest and recreation; grows prematurely old, cuts himself off from intercourse with his fellow-men in order to secure for his family a position or a fortune: the woman who works early and late; forgets her music, and forsakes her favorite books; gives up friends and society; grows anxious and careworn in order to give her sons and daughters a better start in life than she had, are making a fatal mistake. In the effort to provide their children with material things and intellectual advantages they are depriving them of what even to the children is of far more consequence—healthy, happy, cheerful, interesting, enthusiastic parents. To their children as well as to themselves parents owe it to be the brightest, cheeriest, heartiest, wisest, completest persons that they are capable of being. Children also when they have reached maturity, although they owe to their parents a reverent regard for all reasonable desires and wishes, ought not to sacrifice opportunities for gaining a desired education or an advantageous start in business, merely to gratify a capricious whim or groundless foreboding of an arbitrary and unreasoning parent. Devotion to the family does not imply withdrawal from the world outside. The larger and fuller one's relations to the world without, the deeper and richer ought to be one's contribution to the family of which he is a member.


To have no one for whom we supremely care, and no one who cares much for us; to have no place where we can shield ourselves from outward opposition and inward despair; to have no larger life in which we can merge the littleness of our solitary selves; to touch other lives only on the surface, and to take no one to our heart;—this is the sad estate of the man or woman who refuses to enter with whole-souled devotion into union with another in the building of a family and a home.—The sense that this loneliness is chosen in fidelity to duty makes it endurable for multitudes of noble men and women. But for the man or woman who chooses such a life in proud self-sufficiency, for the sake of fancied freedom and independence, it is hard to conceive what consolation can be found. Thomas Carlyle, speaking of the joys of living in close union with those who love us, and whom we love, says: "It is beautiful; it is human! Man lives not otherwise, nor can live contented, anywhere or anywhen. Isolation is the sum-total of wretchedness to man. To be cut off, to be left solitary; to have a world alien, not your world; all a hostile camp for you; not a home at all, of hearts and faces who are yours, whose you are! It is the frightfullest enchantment; too truly a work of the Evil One. To have neither superior, nor inferior, nor equal, united manlike to you. Without father, without child, without brother. Man knows no sadder destiny."


The State.

Out of the family grew the state. The primitive state was an enlarged family, of which the father was the head. Citizenship meant kinship, real or fictitious. The house or gens was a composite family. Houses united into tribes, and the authority of the chieftain over his fellow-tribesmen was still based on the fact that they were, either by birthright or adoption, his children. The ancient state was the union of tribes under one priest and king who was regarded as the father of the whole people.

Disputes about the right of succession, and the disadvantage and danger of having a tyrant or a weakling rule, just because he happened to be the son of the previous ruler, led men to elect their rulers. There are to-day states like Russia where the hereditary monarch is the ruler: states like the United States where all rulers are elected by the people; and states like England where the nominal ruler is an hereditary monarch, and the real rulers are chosen by the people.


The function of the state is the organization of the life of the people.—Men can live together in peace and happiness only on condition that they assert for themselves and respect in others certain rights to life, liberty, property, reputation, and opinion. My right it is my neighbor's duty to observe. His right it is my duty to respect. These mutual rights and duties are grounded in the nature of things and the constitution of man. They are the conditions which must be observed if man is to live in unity with his fellow-men. It is the business of the state to define, declare, and enforce these rights and duties. And as citizens it is our duty to the state to do all in our power to frame just laws; to see that they are impartially and effectively administered; to obey these laws ourselves; to contribute our share of the funds necessary to maintain the government; and to render military service when force is needed to protect the government from overthrow. To law and government we owe all that makes life endurable or even possible: the security of property; the sanctity of home; the opportunity of education; the stability of institutions; the blessings of peace; protection against violence and bloodshed. Since the state and its laws are essential to the well-being of all men, and consequently of ourselves; we owe to it the devotion of our time, our knowledge, our influence, yes, our life itself if need be. If it comes to a choice between living but a brief time, and that nobly, in devotion to country, and living a long time basely, in betrayal of our country's good, no true, brave man will hesitate to choose the former. In times of war and revolution that choice has been presented to men in every age and country: and men have always been found ready to choose the better part; death for country, rather than life apart from her. So deep was the conviction in the mind of Socrates that the laws of the state should be obeyed at all costs, that when he had been sentenced to death unjustly, and had an opportunity to escape the penalty by running away, he refused to do it on the ground that it was his duty to obey those laws which had made him what he was and whose protection he had enjoyed so many years. To the friend who tried to induce him to escape he replied that he seemed to hear the laws saying to him, "Our country is more to be valued and higher and holier far than father or mother. And when we are punished by her, whether with imprisonment or stripes, the punishment is to be endured in silence; and if she sends us to wounds or death in battle, thither we follow as is right; neither may anyone yield or retreat or leave his rank, but whether in battle or in a court of law, or in any other place, he must do what his city and his country order him; or he must change their view of what is just; and if he may do no violence to his father or mother, much less may he do violence to his country." To do and bear whatever is necessary to maintain that organization of life which the state represents is the imperative duty of every citizen. This duty to serve the country is correlative to the right to be a citizen. No man can be in truth and spirit a citizen on any other terms. And not to be a citizen is not to be, in any true and worthy meaning of the term, a man.


Love of country, or patriotism, like all love places the object loved first and self second.—In all public action the patriot asks not, "What is best for me?" but, "What is best for my country?" Patriotism assumes as many forms as there are circumstances and ways in which the welfare of the country may be promoted. In time of war the patriot shoulders his gun and marches to fight the enemy. In time of election he goes to the caucus and the polls, and expresses his opinion and casts his vote for what he believes to be just measures and honest men. When taxes are to be levied, he gives the assessor a full account of his property, and pays his fair share of the expense of government. When one party proposes measures and nominates men whom he considers better than those of the opposite party, he votes with that party, whether it is for his private interest to do so or not. The patriot will not stand apart from all parties, because none is good enough for him. He will choose the best, knowing that no political party is perfect. He will act with that party as long as it continues to seem to him the best; for he must recognize that one man standing alone can accomplish no practical political result. The moment he is convinced that the party with which he has been acting has become more corrupt, and less faithful to the interests of the country than the opposite party, he will change his vote. Self first, personal friends second, party third, and country fourth, is the order of considerations in the mind of the office-seeker, the wire-puller, the corrupt politician. Country first, party second, personal friends third, and self last is the order in the mind of the true citizen, the courageous statesman, the unselfish patriot.


In return for serving our country we receive a country to serve.—The state makes possible for us all those pursuits, interests, aims, and aspirations which lift our lives above the level of the brutes. Through the institutions which the state maintains, schools, almshouses, courts, prisons, roads, bridges, harbors, laws, armies, police, there is secured to the individual the right and opportunity to acquire property, engage in business, travel wherever he pleases, share in the products of the whole earth, read the books of all nations, reap the fruits of scholarly investigation in all countries, take an interest in the welfare and progress of mankind. This power of the individual to live a universal life, this participation of each in a common and world-wide good, is the product of civilization. And civilization is impossible without that subordination of each to the just claims of all, which law requires and which it is the business of the state to enforce.


Organization involves a multitude of offices and public servants. Many of these offices are less onerous and more lucrative than the average man can find elsewhere. Many offices give a man an opportunity to acquire dishonest gains.—Hence arises the great political temptation which is to seek office, not as a means of rendering useful and honorable service to the country, but as a means to getting an easy living out of the country, and at the public expense. The "spoils system," which consists in rewarding service to party by opportunity to plunder the country: which pays public servants first for their service to party, and secondly for service to the country: which makes usefulness to party rather than serviceableness to the country the basis of appointment and promotion, is the worst evil of our political life. "Public office is a public trust." Men who so regard it are the only men fit for it. Office so held is one of the most honorable forms of service which a man can render to his fellow-men. Office secured and held by the methods of the spoils system is a disgrace to the nation that is corrupt enough to permit it, and to the man who is base enough to profit by it.


Betrayal of one's country and disregard of its interests is treason.—In time of war and revolution treason consists in giving information to the enemy, surrendering forts, ships, arms, or ammunition into his hands; or fighting in such a half-hearted way as to invite defeat. Treason under such circumstances is the unpardonable sin against country. The traitor is the most despicable person in the state; for he takes advantage of the protection the state gives to him and the confidence it places in him to stab and murder his benefactor and protector.

The essential quality of treason is manifested in many forms in time of peace. Whoever sacrifices the known interests of his country to the interests of himself, or of his friends, or of his party, is therein guilty of the essential crime of treason. Whoever votes for an appropriation in order to secure for another man lucrative employment or a profitable contract; whoever gives or takes money for a vote; whoever increases or diminishes a tax with a view to the business interests, not of the country as a whole, but of a few interested parties; whoever accepts or bestows a public office on any grounds other than the efficiency of service which the office-holder is to render to the country; whoever evades his just taxes; whoever suffers bad men to be elected and bad measures to become laws through his own negligence to vote himself and to influence others to vote for better men and better measures, is guilty of treason. For in these, which are the only ways possible to him, he has sacrificed the good of his country to the personal and private interests of himself and of his friends.


True and false ambition.—The service of the country in public office is one of the most interesting and most honorable pursuits in which a man can engage. Ambition to serve is always noble. Desire for the honors and emoluments of public office, however, may crowd out the desire to render public service. Such a substitution of selfish for patriotic considerations, such an inversion of the proper order of interests in a man's mind, is the vice of political ambition. The ambitious politician seeks office, not because he seeks to promote measures which he believes to be for the public good; not because he believes he can promote those interests more effectively than any other available candidate: but just because an office makes him feel big; or because he likes the excitement of political life; or because he can make money directly or indirectly out of it. Such political ambition is as hollow and empty an aim as can possess the mind of man. And yet it deceives and betrays great as well as little men. It is our old foe of sentimentality, dressed in a new garb, and displaying itself on a new stage. It is the substitution of one's own personal feelings, for a direct regard for the object which makes those feelings possible. It is a very subtle vice: and the only safeguard against it is a deep and genuine devotion to country for country's sake.


A state in which laws were broken, taxes evaded, and corrupt men placed in authority could not endure.—With the downfall of the state would arise the brigand, the thief, the murderer, and the reign of dishonesty, violence, and terror.

The individual, it is true, may sin against the state and escape the full measure of this penalty himself. In that case, however, the penalty is distributed over the vast multitude of honest citizens, who bear the common injury which the traitor inflicts upon the state. The man who betrays his country, may continue to have a country still; but it is no thanks to him. It is because he reaps the reward of the loyalty and devotion of citizens nobler than himself.

Yet even then the country is not in the deepest sense really his. He cannot enjoy its deepest blessings. He cannot feel in his inmost heart, "This country is mine. To it I have given myself. Of it I am a true citizen and loyal member." He knows he is unworthy of his country. He knows that if his country could find him out, and separate him from the great mass of his fellow-citizens, she would repudiate him as unworthy to be called her son. The traitor may continue to receive the gifts of his country; he may appropriate the blessings she bestows with impartial hand on the good and on the evil. But the sense that this glorious and righteous order of which the state is the embodiment and of which our country is the preserver and protector belongs to him; that it is an expression of his thought, his will and his affection;—this spiritual participation in the life and spirit of the state, this supreme devotion to a beloved country, remains for such an one forever impossible. In his soul, in his real nature, he is an outcast, an alien, and an enemy.



Regard for others, merely as individuals, does not satisfy the deepest yearnings of our social nature. The family is so much more to us than the closest of ties which we can form on lines of business, charity, or even friendship; because in place of an aggregate of individuals, each with his separate interests, the family presents a life in which each member shares in a good which is common to all.

The state makes possible a common good on a much wider scale. Still, on a strict construction of its functions, the state merely insures the outward form of this wider, common life. The state declares what man shall not do, rather than what man shall do, in his relations to his fellow-men. To prevent the violation of mutual rights rather than to secure the performance of mutual duties, is the fundamental function of the state. Of course these two sides cannot be kept entirely apart. There is a strong tendency at the present time to enlarge the province of the state, and to intrust it with the enforcement of positive duties which man owes to his fellow-men, and which class owes to class. Whether this tendency is good or bad, whether it is desirable to enforce social duties, or to trust them to the unfettered social conscience of mankind, is a theoretical question which, for our practical purposes, we need not here discuss.

No man liveth unto himself. No man ought to be satisfied with a good which is peculiar to himself, from which mankind as a whole are excluded. No man can be so satisfied. Ignorance, prejudice, selfishness, pride, custom, blind men to this common good, and prevent them from making the efforts and sacrifices necessary to realize it. But the man who could deliberately prefer to see the world in which he lives going to destruction would be a monster rather than a man.

This common life of humanity in which each individual partakes is society. Society is the larger self of each individual. Its interests and ours are fundamentally one and the same.—If the society in which we live is elevated and pure and noble we share its nobleness and are elevated by it. If society is low, corrupt, and degraded, we share its corruption, and its baseness drags us down. So vital and intimate is this bond between society and ourselves that it is impossible when dealing with moral matters to keep them apart. To be a better man, without at the same time being a better neighbor, citizen, workman, soldier, scholar, or business man, is a contradiction in terms. For life consists in these social relations to our fellows. And the better we are, the better these social duties will be fulfilled.

Society includes all the objects hitherto considered. Society is the organic life of man, in which the particular objects and relations of our individual lives are elements and members. Hence in this chapter, and throughout the remainder of the book, we shall not be concerned with new materials, but with the materials with which we are already familiar, viewed in their broader and more comprehensive relationships.


In each act we should think not merely "How will this act affect me?" but "How will this act affect all parties concerned, and society as a whole?"—The interests of all men are my own, by virtue of that common society of which they and I are equal members. What is good for others is good for me, because, in that broader view of my own nature which society embodies, my good cannot be complete unless, to the extent of my ability, their good is included in my own. Hence we have the maxims laid down by Kant: "Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature." "So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of another, in every case as an end, never as a means only." Or as Professor Royce puts the same thought; "Act as a being would act who included thy will and thy neighbor's will in the unity of one life, and who had therefore to suffer the consequences for the aims of both that will follow from the act of either." "In so far as in thee lies, act as if thou wert at once thy neighbor and thyself. Treat these two lives as one."

The realization of the good of all in and through the act of each is the social ideal.—In everyday matters this can be brought about by simply taking account of all the interests of others which will be affected by our act. In the relations between employer and employee, for instance, profit sharing is the most practical form of realizing this community of interest. Such action involves a co-operation of interests as the motives of the individual act.

The larger social ends, such as education, philanthropy, reform, public improvements, require the co-operation of many individuals in the same enterprise. The readiness to contribute a fair share of our time, money, and influence to these larger public interests, which no individual can undertake alone, is an important part of our social duty. Every beneficent cause, every effort to rouse public sentiment against a wrong, or to make it effective in the enforcement of a right; every endeavor to unite men in social intercourse; every plan to extend the opportunities for education; every measure for the relief of the deserving poor, and the protection of homeless children; every wise movement for the prevention of vice, crime, and intemperance, is entitled to receive from each one of us the same intelligent attention, the same keenness of interest, the same energy of devotion, the same sacrifice of inclination and convenience, the same resoluteness and courage of action that we give to our private affairs.

Co-operation, then, is of two kinds, inward and outward: co-operation between the interests of others and of ourselves in the motive to our individual action; and co-operation of our action with the action of others to accomplish objects too vast for private undertaking.—Both forms of co-operation are in principle the same; they strengthen and support each other. The man who is in the habit of considering the interests of others in his individual acts will be more ready to unite with others in the promotion of public beneficence. And on the other hand the man who is accustomed to act with others in large public movements will be more inclined to act for others in his personal affairs. The reformer and philanthropist is simply the man of private generosity and good-will acting out his nature on a larger stage.


Public spirit is the life of the community in the heart of the individual.—This recognition that we belong to society, and that society belongs to us, that its interests are our interests, that its wrongs are ours to redress, its rights are ours to maintain, its losses are ours to bear, its blessings are ours to enjoy, is public spirit.

A generous regard for the public welfare, a willingness to lend a hand in any movement for the improvement of social conditions, a readiness with work and influence and time and money to relieve suffering, improve sanitary conditions, promote education and morality, remove temptation from the weak, open reading-rooms and places of harmless resort for the unoccupied in their evening hours, to bind together persons of similar tastes and pursuits—these are the marks of public spirit; these are the manifestations of social virtue.

Politeness is love in little things.—Toward individuals whom we meet in social ways this recognition of our common nature and mutual rights takes the form of politeness and courtesy. Politeness is proper respect for human personality. Rudeness results from thinking exclusively about ourselves, and caring nothing for the feelings of anybody else. The sincere and generous desire to bring the greatest pleasure and the least pain to everyone we meet will go a long way toward making our manners polite and courteous.

Still, society has agreed upon certain more or less arbitrary ways for facilitating social intercourse; it has established rules for conduct on social occasions, and to a certain extent prescribed the forms of words that shall be used, the modes of salutation that shall be employed, the style of dress that shall be worn, and the like. A due respect for society, and for the persons whom we meet socially, demands that we shall acquaint ourselves with these rules of etiquette, and observe them in our social intercourse. Like all forms, social formalities are easily carried to excess, and frequently kill the spirit they are intended to express. As a basis, however, for the formation of acquaintances, and for large social gatherings, a good deal of formality is necessary.


The complete expression and outgo of our nature is freedom.—Since man is by nature social, since sympathy, friendship, co-operation and affection are essential attributes of man, it follows that the exercise of these social virtues is itself the satisfaction of what is essentially ourselves.

The man who fulfills his social duties is free, for he finds an open field and an unfettered career for the most essential faculties of his nature. The social man always has friends whom he loves; work which he feels to be worth doing; interests which occupy his highest powers; causes which appeal to his deepest sympathies. Such a life of rounded activity, of arduous endeavor, of full, free self-expression is in itself the highest possible reward. It is the only form of satisfaction worthy of man. It is in the deepest sense of the word success. For as Lowell says:

All true whole men succeed, for what is worth Success's name, unless it be the thought, The inward surety to have carried out A noble purpose to a noble end.


Instead of regarding society as a whole, and self as a member of that whole, it is possible to regard self as distinct and separate from society, and to make the interests of this separated and detached self the end and aim of action.—This temptation is self-interest. It consists in placing the individual self, with its petty, private, personal interests, above the social self, with the large, public, generous interests of the social order.

From one point of view it is easy to cheat society, and deprive it of its due. We can shirk our social obligations; we can dodge subscriptions; we can stay at home when we ought to be at the committee meeting, or the public gathering; we can decline invitations and refuse elections to arduous offices, and at the same time escape many of the worst penalties which would naturally follow from our neglect. For others, more generous and noble than we, will step in and take upon themselves our share of the public burdens in addition to their own. We may flatter ourselves that we have done a very shrewd thing in contriving to reap the benefits without bearing the burdens of society. There is, as we shall see, a penalty for negligence of social duty, and that too most sure and terrible. Self-interest is the seed, of which meanness is the full-grown plant, and of which social constraint and slavishness are the final fruits.


Lack of public spirit is meanness.—The mean man is he who acknowledges no interest and recognizes no obligation outside the narrow range of his strictly private concerns. As long as he is comfortable he will take no steps to relieve the distress of others. If his own premises are healthy, he will contribute nothing to improve the sanitary condition of his village or city. As long as his own property is secure he cares not how many criminals are growing up in the street, how many are sent to prison, or how they are treated after they come there. He favors the cheapest schools, the poorest roads, the plainest public buildings, because he would rather keep his money in his own pocket than contribute his share to maintain a thoroughly efficient and creditable public service. He will give nothing he can help giving, do nothing he can help doing, to make the town he lives in a healthier, happier, purer, wiser, nobler place. Meanness is the sacrifice of the great social whole to the individual. It is selfishness, stinginess, and ingratitude combined. It is the disposition to receive all that society contributes to the individual, and to give nothing in return. It is a willingness to appropriate the fruits of labors in which one refuses to bear a part.


The officious person is ready for any and every kind of public service, providing he can be at the head of it. There is no end to the work he will do if he can only have his own way.—He wants to be prime mover in every enterprise: to be chairman of the committee; to settle every question that comes up; to "run" things according to his own ideas. Such people are often very useful. It is generally wisest not to meddle much with them. The work may not be done in the best way by these officious people; but without them a great deal of public work would never be done at all. The vice, however, seriously impairs one's usefulness. The officious person is hard to work with. Men refuse to have anything to do with him. And so he is left to do his work for the most part alone. Officiousness is, in reality, social ambition; and that again as we saw resolves itself into sentimentality;—the regard for what we and others think of ourselves, rather than straightforward devotion to the ends which we pretend to be endeavoring to promote. Officiousness is self-seeking dressed up in the uniform of service. The officious person, instead of losing his private self in the larger life of society, tries to use the larger interests of society in such a way as to make them gratify his own personal vanity and sense of self-importance.


All meanness and self-seeking are punished by lack of freedom or constraint; though frequently the constraint is inward and spiritual rather than outward and physical.—We have seen that to the man of generous public spirit society presents a career for the unfolding and expansion of his social powers. To such a man society, with its claims and obligations, is an enlargement of his range of sympathy, a widening of his spiritual horizon, and on that account a means of larger liberty and fuller freedom.

To the mean and selfish man, on the contrary, society presents itself as an alien force, a hard task-master, making severe requirements upon his time, imposing cramping limitations on his self-indulgence, levying heavy taxes upon his substance; prescribing onerous rules and regulations for his conduct.

By excluding society from the sphere of interests with which he identifies himself, the mean man, by his own meanness, makes society antagonistic to him, and himself its reluctant and unwilling slave. Serve it to some extent he must; but the selfishness and meanness of his own attitude toward it, makes social service, not the willing and joyous offering of a free and devoted heart, but the slavish submission of a reluctant will, forced to do the little that it cannot help doing by legal or social compulsion.

To him society is not a sphere of freedom, in which his own nature is enlarged, intensified, liberated; and so made richer, happier, nobler, and freer. To him society is an external power, compelling him to make sacrifices he does not want to make; to do things he does not want to do; to contribute money which he grudges, and to conform to requirements which he hates. By trying to save the life of self-interest and meanness, he loses the life of generous aims, noble ideals, and heroic self devotion.

By refusing the career of noble freedom which social service offers to each member of the social body, he is constrained to obey a social law which he has not helped to create, and to serve the interests of a society of which he has refused to be in spirit and truth a part.

This living in a world which we do not heartily acknowledge as our own; this subjection to an authority which we do not in principle recognize and welcome as the voice of our own better, larger, wiser, social self,—this is constraint and slavery in its basest and most degrading form.



Hitherto we have considered things, relations, persons, and institutions outside ourselves as the objects which together constitute our environment.

The self is not a new object, but rather the bond which binds together into unity all the experiences of life. It is their relation to this conscious self which gives to all objects their moral worth. Every act upon an object reacts upon ourselves. The virtues and vices, the rewards and penalties that we have been studying are the various reactions of conduct upon ourselves. This chapter then will be a comprehensive review and summary of all that has gone before. Instead of taking one by one the particular reactions which follow particular acts with reference to particular objects, we shall now look at conduct as a whole; regard our environment in its totality; and consider duty, virtue, and self in their unity.


The duty we owe to ourselves is the realization of our capacities and powers in harmony with each other, and in proportion to their worth as elements in a complete individual and social life.—We have within us the capacity for an ever increasing fullness and richness and intensity of life. The materials out of which this life is to be developed are ready to our hands in those objects which we have been considering. One way of conduct toward these objects, which we have called duty; one attitude of mind and will toward them which we have called virtue, leads to those completions and fulfillments of ourselves which we have called rewards. Duty then to self; duty in its most comprehensive aspect, is the obligation which the existence of capacity within and material without imposes on us to bring the two together in harmonious relations, so as to realize the capacities and powers of ourselves and of others, and promote society's well being. In simpler terms our fundamental duty is to make the most of ourselves; and to become as large and genuine a part of the social world in which we live as it is possible for us to be.


The habit of seeking to realize the highest capacities and widest relationships of our nature in every act is conscientiousness. Conscience is our consciousness of the ideal in conduct and character. Conscience is the knowledge of our duty, coupled as that knowledge always is with the feeling that we ought to do it.—Knowledge of any kind calls up some feeling appropriate to the fact known. Knowledge that a given act would realize my ideal calls up the feeling of dissatisfaction with myself until that act is performed; because that is the feeling appropriate to the recognition of an unrealized yet attainable ideal. Conscience is not a mysterious faculty of our nature. It is simply thought and feeling, recognizing and responding to the fact of duty, and reaching out toward virtue and excellence.

The objective worth of the deliverances and dictates of the conscience of the individual, depends on the degree of moral enlightenment and sensitiveness he has attained. The conscience of an educated Christian has a worth and authority which the conscience of the benighted savage has not. Since conscience is the recognition of the ideal of conduct and character, every new appreciation of duty and virtue gives to conscience added strength and clearness.

The absolute authority of conscience.—Relatively to the individual himself, at the time of acting, his own individual conscience is the final and absolute authority. The man who does what his conscience tells him, does the best that he can do. For he realizes the highest ideal that is present to his mind. A wiser man than he might do better than this man, acting according to his conscience, is able to do. But this man, with the limited knowledge and imperfect ideal which he actually has, can do no more than obey his conscience which bids him realize the highest ideal that he knows. The act of the conscientious man may be right or wrong, judged by objective, social standards. Judged by subjective standards, seen from within, every conscientious act is, relatively to the individual himself, a right act. We should spare no pains to enlighten our conscience, and make it the reflection of the most exalted ideals which society has reached. Having done this, conscience becomes to us the authoritative judge for us of what we shall, and what we shall not do. The light of conscience will be clear and pure, or dim and clouded, according to the completeness of our moral environment, training, and insight. But clear or dim, high or low, sensitive or dull, the light of conscience is the only light we have to guide us in the path of virtue. In hours of leisure and study it is our privilege to inform and clarify this consciousness of the ideal. That has been the purpose of the preceding pages. When the time for action comes, then, without a murmur, without an instant's hesitation, the voice of conscience should be implicitly obeyed. Conscientiousness is the form which all the virtues take, when viewed as determinations of the self. It is the assertion of the ideal of the self in its every act.


Character the form in which the result of virtuous conduct is preserved.—It is neither possible nor desirable to solve each question of conduct as it arises by conscious and explicit reference to rules and principles. Were we to attempt to do so it would make us prigs and prudes.

What then is the use of studying at such length the temptations and duties, the virtues and vices, with their rewards and penalties, if all these things are to be forgotten and ignored when the occasions for practical action arrive?

The study of ethics has the same use as the study of writing, grammar, or piano-playing. In learning to write we have to think precisely how each letter is formed, how one letter is connected with another, where to use capitals, where to punctuate and the like. But after we have become proficient in writing, we do all this without once thinking explicitly of any of these things. In learning to play the piano we have to count out loud in order to keep time correctly, and we are obliged to stop and think just where to put the finger in order to strike each separate note. But the expert player does all these things without the slightest conscious effort.

Still, though the particular rules and principles are not consciously present in each act of the finished writer or musician, they are not entirely absent. When the master of these arts makes a mistake, he recognizes it instantly, and corrects it, or endeavors to avoid its repetition. This shows that the rule is not lost. It has ceased to be before the mind as a distinct object of consciousness. It is no longer needed in that form for ordinary purposes. Instead, it has come to be a part of the mind itself—a way in which the mind works instinctively. As long as the mind works in conformity with the principle, it is not distinctly recognized, because there is no need for such recognition. The principle comes to consciousness only as a power to check or restrain acts that are at variance with it.

It is in this way that the practical man carries with him his ethical principles. He does not stop to reason out the relation of duty and virtue to reward, or of temptation and vice to penalty, before he decides to help the unfortunate, or to be faithful to a friend, or to vote on election day. This trained, habitual will, causing acts to be performed in conformity to duty and virtue, yet without conscious reference to the explicit principles that underlie them, is character.

It is chiefly in the formation of character that the explicit recognition of ethical principles has its value. Character is a storage battery in which the power acquired by our past acts is accumulated and preserved for future use.

It is through this power of character, this tendency of acts of a given nature to repeat and perpetuate themselves, that we give unity and consistency to our lives. This also is the secret of our power of growth. As soon as one virtue has become habitual and enters into our character, we can leave it, trusting it in the hands of this unconscious power of self-perpetuation; and then we can turn the energy thus freed toward the acquisition of new virtues.

Day by day we are turning over more and more of our lives to this domain of character. Hence it is of the utmost importance to allow nothing to enter this almost irrevocable state of unconscious, habitual character that has not first received the approval of conscience, the sanction of duty, and the stamp of virtue. Character, once formed in a wrong direction, may be corrected. But it can be done only with the greatest difficulty, and by a process as hard to resolve upon as the amputation of a limb or the plucking out of an eye.

The greater part of the principles of ethics we knew before we undertook this formal study. We learned them from our parents; we picked them up in contact with one another in the daily intercourse of life. The value of our study will not consist so much in new truths learned, as in the clearer and sharper outlines which it will have given to some of the features of the moral ideal. The definite results of such a study we cannot mark or measure. Just as sunshine and rain come to the plants and trees, and then seem to vanish, leaving no visible or tangible trace behind; yet the plants and trees are different from what they were before, and have the heat and moisture stored up within their structure to burst forth into fresher and larger life; in like manner, though we should forget every formal statement that we have read, yet we could not fail to be affected by the incorporation within ourselves in the form of character of some of these principles of duty and virtue which we have been considering. It has been said: "Sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny."


Pleasure not a reliable guide to conduct.—The realization of capacity brings with it pleasure. The harmonious realization of all our powers would bring harmonious and permanent pleasure or happiness. Pleasure is always to be welcomed as a sign of health and activity. Other things being equal, the more pleasure we have the better. It is possible however to abstract the pleasure from the activity which gives rise to it, and make pleasure the end for which we act. This pursuit of pleasure for pleasure's sake is delusive and destructive. It is delusive, because the direct aim at pleasure turns us aside from the direct aim at objects. And when we cease to aim directly at objects, we begin to lose the pleasure and zest which only a direct pursuit of objects can produce. For instance, we all know that if we go to a picnic or a party thinking all the while about having a good time, and asking ourselves every now and then whether we are having a good time or not, we find the picnic or party a dreadful bore, and ourselves perfectly miserable. We know that the whole secret of having a good time on such occasions is to get interested in something else; a game, a boat-ride, anything that makes us forget ourselves and our pleasures, and helps us to lose ourselves in the eager, arduous, absorbing pursuit of something outside ourselves. Then we have a glorious time.

The direct pursuit of pleasure is destructive of character, because it judges things by the way they affect our personal feelings; which is a very shallow and selfish standard of judgment; and because it centers interest in the merely emotional side of our nature, which is peculiar to ourselves; instead of in the rational part of our nature which is common to all men, and unites us to our fellows.

Duty demands not the hap-hazard realization of this or that side of our nature. Yet this is what the pursuit of pleasure would lead to. Duty demands the realization of all our faculties, in harmony with each other, and in proportion to their worth. And to this proportioned and harmonious realization, pleasure, pure and simple, is no guide at all. Hence, as Aristotle remarks, "In all cases we must be specially on our guard against pleasant things and against pleasure: for we can scarce judge her impartially." "Again, as the exercises of our faculties differ in goodness and badness, and some are to be desired and some to be shunned, so do the several pleasures differ; for each exercise has its proper pleasure. The pleasure which is proper to a good activity, then, is good, and that which is proper to one that is not good is bad." "As the exercises of the faculties vary, so do their respective pleasures."

To the same effect John Stuart Mill says that the pleasures which result from the exercise of the higher faculties are to be preferred. "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied, than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied." Whether it is possible to stretch, and qualify, and attenuate the conception of pleasure so as to make it cover the ideal of human life, without having it, like a soap-bubble, burst in the process, is a question foreign to the practical purpose of this book. That pleasure, as ordinarily understood by plain people, is a treacherous, dangerous, and ruinous guide to conduct, moralists of every school declare. Pleasure is the most subtle and universal form of temptation. Pleasure is the accompaniment of all exercise of power. When it comes rightly it is to be accepted with thankfulness. We must remember however that the quality of the act determines the worth of the pleasure; and that the amount of pleasure does not determine the quality of the act. A pleasant act may be right, and it may be wrong. Whether we ought to do it or not must in every case be decided on higher grounds.

To the boy who says, "I should like to be something that would make me a great man, and very happy besides—something that would not hinder me from having a great deal of pleasure"—George Eliot represents "Romola" as replying, "That is not easy, my Lillo. It is only a poor sort of happiness that could ever come by caring very much about our own narrow pleasures. We can only have the highest happiness, such as goes along with being a great man, by having wide thoughts, and much feeling for the rest of the world as well as for ourselves; and this sort of happiness often brings so much pain with it that we can only tell it from pain by its being what we would choose before everything else, because our souls see it is good. And so, my Lillo, if you mean to act nobly and seek to know the best things God has put within reach of men, you must learn to fix your mind on that end, and not on what will happen to you because of it. And remember, if you were to choose something lower, and make it the rule of your life to seek your own pleasure and escape from what is disagreeable, calamity might come just the same; and it would be calamity falling on a base mind, which is the one form of sorrow that has no balm in it, and that may well make a man say—It would have been better for me if I had never been born."


The unscrupulous man acts as he happens to feel like acting.—Whatever course of conduct presents itself as pleasant, or profitable, or easy, he adopts. Anything is good enough for him. He seeks to embody no ideal, aims consistently at no worthy end, acknowledges no duty, but simply yields himself a passive instrument for lust, or avarice, or cowardice, or falsehood to play upon. Refusing to be the servant of virtue he becomes the slave of vice. Disowning the authority of duty and the ideal, he becomes the tool of appetite, the football of circumstance. Unscrupulousness is the form of all the vices of defect, when viewed in relation to that absence of regard for realization of self, which is their common characteristic.


The exclusive regard for self, in abstraction from those objects and social relationships through which alone the self can be truly realized, leads to formalism.—Formalism keeps the law simply for the sake of keeping it. Conscientiousness, if it is wise and well-balanced, reverences the duties and requirements of the moral life, because these duties are the essential conditions of individual and social well-being. The law is a means to well-being, which is the end. Formalism makes the law an end in itself; and will even sacrifice well-being to law, when the two squarely conflict.

Extreme cases in which moral laws may be suspended.—The particular duties, virtues, and laws which society has established and recognized are the expressions of reason and experience declaring the conditions of human well-being. As such they deserve our profoundest respect; our unswerving obedience. Still it is impossible for rules to cover every case. There are legitimate, though very rare, exceptions, even to moral laws and duties. For instance it is a duty to respect the property of others. Yet to save the life of a person who is starving, we are justified in taking the property of another without asking his consent. To save a person from drowning, we may seize a boat belonging to another. To spread the news of a fire, we may take the first horse we find, without inquiring who is the owner. To save a sick person from a fatal shock, we may withhold facts in violation of the strict duty of truthfulness. To promote an important public measure, we may deliberately break down our health, spend our private fortune, and reduce ourselves to helpless beggary. Such acts violate particular duties. They break moral laws. And yet they all are justified in these extreme cases by the higher law of love; by the greater duty of devotion to the highest good of our fellow-men. The doctrine that "the end justifies the means" is a mischievous and dangerous doctrine. Stated in that unqualified form, it is easily made the excuse for all sorts of immorality. The true solution of the seeming conflict of duties lies in the recognition that the larger social good justifies the sacrifice of the lesser social good when the two conflict. One must remember, however, that the universal recognition of established duties and laws is itself the greatest social good; and only the most extreme cases can justify a departure from the path of generally recognized and established moral law.

These extreme cases when they occur, however, must be dealt with bravely. The form of law and rule must be sacrificed to the substance of righteousness and love when the two conflict. As Professor Marshall remarks in the chapter of his "History of Greek Philosophy" which deals with Socrates, "The highest activity does not always take the form of conformity to rule. There are critical moments when rules fail, when, in fact, obedience to rule would mean disobedience to that higher law, of which rules and formulae are at best only an adumbration."

There is nothing more contemptible than that timid, self-seeking virtue which will sacrifice the obvious well-being of others to save itself the pain of breaking a rule. There is nothing more pitiful than that self-righteous virtue which does right, not because it loves the right, still less because it loves the person who is affected by its action, but simply because it wants to keep its own sweet sense of self-righteousness unimpaired. Mrs. Browning gives us a clear example of this "harmless life, she called a virtuous life," in the case of the frigid aunt of "Aurora Leigh":

From that day, she did Her duty to me (I appreciate it In her own word as spoken to herself), Her duty, in large measure, well-pressed out, But measured always. She was generous, bland, More courteous than was tender, gave me still The first place,—as if fearful that God's saints Would look down suddenly and say, 'Herein You missed a point, I think, through lack of love.'


Just as continuity in virtue strengthens and unifies character and makes life a consistent and harmonious whole; so self-indulgence in vicious pleasures disorganizes a man's life and eats the heart out of him.—Corrupt means literally broken. The corrupt man has no soundness, no solidity, no unity in his life. He cannot respect himself. Others cannot put confidence in him. There is no principle binding each part of his life to every other, and holding the whole together. The other words by which we describe such a life all spring from the same conception. We call such a person dissolute; and dissolute means literally separated, loosed, broken apart. We call him dissipated; and dissipated means literally scattered, torn apart, thrown away.

These forms of statement all point to the same fact, that the unscrupulous pleasure-seeker, the selfish, vicious man has no consistent, continuous, coherent life whatever. "The unity of his being," as Janet says, "is lost in the multiplicity of his sensations." His life is a mere series of disconnected fragments. There is no growth, no development. There is nothing on which he can look with approval; no consistent career of devotion to worthy objective ends, the fruits of which can be witnessed in the improvement of the world in which he has lived, and stored up in the character which he has formed.



In the last chapter we saw that the particular objects and duties which make up our environment and moral life are not so many separate affairs; but all have a common relation to the self, and its realization. We saw that this common relation to the self gives unity to the world of objects, the life of duty, the nature of virtue, and the character which crowns right living.

There is, however, a deeper, more comprehensive unity in the moral world than that which each man constructs for his individual self. The world of objects is included in a universal order. The several duties are parts of a comprehensive righteousness, which includes the acts of all men within its rightful sway. The several virtues are so many aspects of one all-embracing moral ideal. The rewards and penalties which follow virtue and vice are the expression of a constitution of things which makes for righteousness. The Being whose thought includes all objects in one comprehensive universe of reason; whose will is uttered in the voice of duty; whose holiness is revealed in the highest ideal of virtue we can form; and whose authority is declared in those eternal and indissoluble bonds which bind virtue and reward, vice and penalty, together, is God.


Communion with God is the safeguard of virtue, the secret of resistance to temptation, the source of moral and spiritual power.—Our minds are too small to carry consciously and in detail; our wills are too frail to hold in readiness at every moment the principles and motives of moral conduct. God alone is great enough for this.

We can make him the keeper of our moral precepts and the guardian of our lives. And then when we are in need of guidance, help, and strength, we can go to him, and by devoutly seeking to know and do his will, we can recover the principles and reinforce the motives of right conduct that we have intrusted to his keeping; and ofttimes we get, in addition, larger views of duty and nobler impulses to virtue than we have ever consciously possessed before. Just as the love of father or mother clarifies a child's perception of what is right, and intensifies his will to do it, so the love of God has power to make us strong to resist temptation, resolute to do our duty, and strenuous in the endeavor to advance the kingdom of righteousness and love.

Into the particular doctrines and institutions of religion it is not the purpose of this book to enter. These are matters which each individual learns best from his own father and mother, and from the church in which he has been brought up. Our account of ethics, however, would be seriously incomplete, were we to omit to point out the immense and indispensable strength and help we may gain for the moral life, by approaching it in the religious spirit.

Ethics and religion each needs the other.—They are in reality, one the detailed and particular, the other the comprehensive and universal aspect of the same world of duty and virtue. Morality without religion is a cold, dry, dreary, mass of disconnected rules and requirements. Religion without morality, is an empty, formal, unsubstantial shadow. Only when the two are united, only when we bring to the particular duties of ethics the infinite aspiration and inspiration of religion, and give to the universal forms of religion the concrete contents of human and temporal relationships, do we gain a spiritual life which is at the same time clear and strong, elevated and practical, ideal and real.


Just as God includes all objects in his thought, all duties in his will, all virtues in his ideal; so the man who communes with him, and surrenders his will to him in obedience and trust and love, partakes of this same wholeness and holiness.—Loving God, he is led to love all that God loves, to love all good. And holiness is the love of all that is good and the hatred of all that is evil.

Complete holiness is not wrought out in its concrete relations all at once, nor ever in this earthly life, by the religious, any more than by the moral man. Temptations are frequent all along the way, and the falls many and grievous to the last. But from all deliberately cherished identification of his inmost heart and will with evil, the truly religious man is forevermore set free. From the moment one's will is entirely surrendered to God, and the divine ideal of life and conduct is accepted, a new and holy life begins.

Old temptations may surprise him into unrighteous deeds; old habits may still assert themselves, old lusts may drift back on the returning tides of past associations; old vices may continue to crop out.

In reality, however, they are already dead. They are like the leaves that continue to look green upon the branches of a tree that has been cut down; or the momentum of a train after the steam is shut off and the brakes are on.

God, who is all-wise, sees that in such a man sin is in principle dead; and he judges him accordingly. If penitence for past sins and present falls be genuine; if the desire to do his will be earnest; He takes the will for the deed, penitence for performance, aspiration for attainment. Such judgment is not merely merciful. It is just. Or rather, it is the blending of mercy and justice in love. It is judgment according to the deeper, internal aspect of a man, instead of judgment according to the superficial, outward aspect. For the will is the center and core of personality. What a man desires and strives for with all his heart, that he is. What he repents of and repudiates with the whole strength of his frail and imperfect nature, that he has ceased to be.

Thus religion, or whole-souled devotion to God, gives a sense of completeness, and attainment, and security, and peace, which mere ethics, or adjustment to the separate fragmentary objects which constitute our environment, can never give. The moral life is from its very nature partial, fragmentary, and finite. The religious life by penitence and faith and hope and love, rises above the finite with its limitations, and the temporal with its sins and failings, and lays hold on the infinite ideal and the eternal goodness, with its boundless horizon and its perfect peace. The religious life, like the moral, is progressive. But, as Principal Caird remarks, "It is progress, not towards, but within, the infinite." Union with God in sincere devotion to his holy will, is the "promise and potency" of harmonious relations with that whole ethical and spiritual universe which his thought and will includes.


The reward of communion with God and comprehensive righteousness of conduct is spiritual life.—The righteous man, the man who walks with God, is in principle and purpose identified with every just cause, with every step of human progress, with every sphere of man's well-being. To him property is a sacred trust, time a golden opportunity, truth a divine revelation, Nature the visible garment of God, humanity a holy brotherhood, the family, society, and the state are God-ordained institutions, with God-given laws. Through the one fundamental devotion of his heart and will to God, the religious man is made a partaker in all these spheres of life in which the creative will of God is progressively revealed. All that is God's belong to the religious man. For he is God's child. And all these things are his inheritance.

To the religious man, therefore, there is open a boundless career for service, sacrifice, devotion and appropriation. Every power, every affection, every aspiration within him has its counterpart in the outward universe. The universe is his Father's house; and therefore his own home. All that it contains are so many opportunities for the development and realization of his God-given nature.

To dwell in active, friendly, loving relation to all that is without; to be

wedded to this goodly universe In love and holy passion,

to be heirs with God of the spiritual riches it contains: this is life indeed. "The gift of God is eternal life."

Religion is the crown and consummation of ethics.—Religion gathers up into their unity the scattered fragments of duty and virtue which it has been the aim of our ethical studies to discern apart. Religion presents as the will of the all-wise, all-loving Father, those duties and virtues which ethics presents as the conditions of our own self-realization. Religion is the perfect circle of which the moral virtues are the constituent arcs. Fullness of life is the reward of righteousness, the gift of God, the one comprehensive good, of which the several rewards which follow the practice of particular duties and virtues are the constituent elements.


The universal will of God, working in conformity with impartial law, and seeking the equal good of all, often seems to be in sharp conflict with the interests of the individual self.—If his working is irresistible we are tempted to repine and rebel. If his will is simply declared, and left for us to carry out by the free obedience of our wills, then we are tempted to sacrifice the universal good to which the divine will points, and to assert instead some selfish interest of our own. Self-will is, from the religious point of view, the form of all temptation. The ends at which God aims when he bids us sacrifice our immediate private interests are so remote that they seem to us unreal; and often they are so vast that we fail to comprehend them at all. In such crises faith alone can save us—faith to believe that God is wiser than we are, faith to believe that his universal laws are better than any private exceptions we can make in our own interest, faith to believe that the universal good is of more consequence than our individual gain. Such faith is hard to grasp and difficult to maintain; and consequently the temptation of self-will is exceedingly seductive, and is never far from any one of us.


Sin is short-coming, missing the mark of our true being, which is to be found only in union with God.—Sin is the attempt to live apart from God, or as if there were no God. It is transgression of his laws. It is the attempt to make a world of our own, from which in whole or in part we try to exclude God, and escape the jurisdiction of his laws. All wrong-doing, all vice, all neglect of duty, is in reality a violation of the divine will. But not until the individual comes to recognize the divine will, and in spite of this recognition that all duty is divine, deliberately turns aside from God and duty together, does vice become sin.


Devotion to God as distinct from or in opposition to devotion to those concrete duties and human relationship wherein the divine will is expressed, is hypocrisy.—"If a man say I love God and hateth his brother he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen."

Pure religion begins in faith and ends in works. It draws from God the inspiration to serve in righteousness and love our fellow-men. If faith stop short of God, and rest in church, or creed, or priest; if work stop short of actual service of our fellow-men, and rest in splendor of ritual or glow of pious feeling, or orthodoxy of belief; then our religion becomes a vain and hollow thing, and we become Pharisees and hypocrites.


The wages of sin is death.—The penalty of each particular vice we have seen to be the dwarfing, stunting, decay, and deadening of that particular side of our nature that is effected by it. Intemperance brings disease; wastefulness brings want; cruelty brings brutality; ugliness brings coarseness; exclusiveness brings isolation; treason brings anarchy. Just in so far as one cuts himself off from the moral order which is the expression of God's will; just in so far as there is sin, there is privation, deadening, and decay. As long as we live in this world it is impossible to live an utterly vicious life; to cut ourselves off completely from God and his order and his laws. To do that would be instant death. The man who should embody all the vices and none of the virtues, would be intolerable to others, unendurable even to himself. The penalty of an all-round life of vice and sin would be greater than man could endure and live. This fearful end is seldom reached in this life. Some redeeming virtues save even the worst of men from this full and final penalty of sin. The man, however, who deliberately rejects God as his friend and guide to righteous living; the man who deliberately makes self-will and sin the ruling principle of his life, is started on a road, which, if followed to the end, leads inevitably to death. He is excluding himself from that sphere of good, that career of service and devotion, wherein alone true life is to be found. He is banishing himself to that outer darkness which is our figurative expression for the absence of all those rewards of virtue and the presence of all those penalties of vice which our previous studies have brought to our attention. "Sin, when it is full-grown, bringeth forth death." "The wages of sin is death."



Abstinence, total, 14-16

Adulteration, 47

Affectation, 86, 87

Alcibiades, on personal appearance, 22

Ambition, true and false, 164

Amusement, 28; seeking, 30

Animals, 98

Anxiety, 63

Aristotle, on friendship, 137; on pleasure, 187

Arnold, M., on insincerity, 105; on "quiet work," 39

Art, 89

Asceticism, 12

Bashfulness, 106

Beauty, 90, 92; how to cultivate the love of, 91; ideal of, 89

Benevolence, 118

Betrayal, 141

Betting, a form of gambling, 78

Brothers, duties of, 145

Browning, Mrs. E. B., on self-centered virtue, 192

Browning, Robert, on strength, 72; on love, 115

Building and loan associations, 42

Caird, John, on morality and religion, 198

Carelessness, 68, 69

Carlyle, Thomas, on human fellowship, 156; on work, 32

Character, 182, 184

Charity, 118

Cheating, 48

Childhood, 40

Children, duty of, to their parents, 145

Civilization rests on law, 161

Coleridge, S. T., on kindness to animals, 101

Confidence, 56

Conflict of duties, 191

Conscience, absolute authority of, 181

Conscientiousness, 180, 182

Constraint, 176

Co-operation, 170; two kinds of, 171

Co-ordination, 60

Courage, 73, 75; moral, 74

Cowardice, moral, 76; the shame of, 79

Craik, Mrs. D. M., on marriage, 147

Cruelty, 102, 103

Cynicism regarding appearance, 21

Death, the wages of sin, 202

Debility, the penalty of neglected exercise, 31

Debt, 43

Devotion of husband and wife, 152

Discord, 64

Disease, 17, 18

Dishonesty, 49

Dissipation, 193

Dissoluteness, 193

Divorce, 148

Dress, 19, 20, 21

Drink, 9

Drunkenness, 13

Dude, the, 23

Duties, conflict of, 191

Duty, 2, 187

Economy, 42

Effusiveness, 142

Eliot, George, on sympathy, 110; on happiness, 188

Emerson, R. W., on friendship, 140, 143

Energy, the value of superfluous, 26

Ennui, 30

Enjoyment, the only true, 86

Epicurus, on the duty of friends, 139

Equivalence in trade, 46

Ethics, 1

Ethics and religion, 196

Example, responsibility for, 15

Exchange, 46

Excitement, 27

Exclusiveness, 142

Exercise, necessity of, 25

Faith, 200

Falsehood, the forms of, 57

Family, the, 144

Fastidiousness, 23

Fellowship, 104

Food, 9

Foolhardiness, 77

Forgiveness, 130

Formalism, 190

Fortune, 70

Freedom is complete self-expression, 173

Friendship, 137

Gambling, 78

Games, value of, 26

Gluttony, 13

God, 194

Golden Rule, the, 107

Gossip, the mischievousness of, 57

Habit, 3

Harmony, 90

Hegel, on duty in personal relations, 2

Heredity, 51

Hill, Octavia, on benevolence, 120

Holiness, 196

Home, 149, 150

Honesty, 47

Hospitality, 105

Husband and wife, 149

Hypocrisy, 105, 201

Ideal of Beauty, 89

Idleness, 33

Independence, 150, 151, 152

Indorsing notes, 50

Indiscriminate charity, 125

Individualism, 150, 153, 154

Industry, 35

Isolation, 143

Janet, Paul, on dissipation, 193

Justice, 128

Kant, on humanity an end, 106; on importance of social relations, 109; on a lie, 59; on universality as test of conduct, 169

Keats on beauty, 93

Kindness, 100

Knowledge, 53

Law, uniformity of, 70

Laziness, the slavery of, 37; leads to poverty, 39

Lenity, 134, 135; its effect on the offender, 135

Life insurance, 42

Loneliness, 156

Love, 106, 107, 108, 111

Lowell, J. R., on success, 173

Loyalty, 148

Luxury, the perversion of beauty, 93

Lying, 58, 59

Marriage, 146, 153

Marshall, J., on conformity to rule, 191

Martineau, on censoriousness, 58

Maudsley, on hereditary effects of dishonesty, 51

Meanness, 51, 174, 175, 177

Mill, John Stuart, on pleasure, 187; unity with fellow-men, 108

Miserliness, 44, 45

Moral courage, 74

Moroseness, 29

Morris, William, on simplicity of life, 92

Nature, 81

Neatness, 20

Niggardliness, 124

Notes, indorsement of, 50

Obtuseness, 86, 87

Officiousness, 176

Old age, provision for, 40

Opium habit, 16

Orderliness, 66

Organization, the function of the state, 157

Overwork, the folly of, 38

Parents, duties of, to children, 145

Party, political, 160

Patriotism, 160

Peace, 198

Perfection, 90

Place for everything, 65

Plato, on virtue and vice, 6; refutation of the Cynic, 22; on obedience to laws, 159

Pleasure, 71, 186

Politeness, 172

Politician, and statesman, 161

Potter, Bishop, on giving, 119

Poverty, the causes of, 117

Pride, 142

Prigs, 182

Procrastination, 62

Profit-sharing, 170

Property, 40

Prudence, 61

Public spirit, 171

Punishment, the function of, 128; good for the wrong-doer, 129

Quackery, 49

Raffling, a form of gambling, 78

Red-tape, 68

Reformation, 131

Reformer, 170

Religion, 195, 198

Religion and ethics, 196, 199

Reward of virtue, 4

Rich, the idle, 33

Rights, our own, 50; of others, 158

Royce, J., on regarding others as persons, 107, 169

Rules, 183, 191

Ruskin, John, on the home, 150; on truth, 54

Saving, systematic, 41, 43

Savings-banks, 42

Scandal, the mischievousness of, 57

Scott, Sir Walter, on deceit, 56

Selfishness, 112; the penalty of, 115

Self-indulgence, 192

Self-interest, 174

Self-obliteration for the sake of family, 154, 155

Self-realization, 179

Self-righteousness, 192

Self-will, 200

Sentimentality, 113, 114

Severity, 133, 135; effect of, on the offender, 135

Shakespeare, on music, 95

Simplicity of life, 92

Sin, 201

Sisters, duties of, 145

Slavery, 178

Slovenliness, 22, 23

Social ideal, 170

Society, 167

Social responsibility, 15

Socrates, on obedience to law, 159

Soft places, to be avoided, 36

Space, 65

Speculation, a form of gambling, 79

Spencer, Herbert, on abundant energy, 27; on deficient energy, 29

Spendthrift, the, 45

Spinoza, on the difficulty of excellence, 97

Spiritual life, the reward of righteousness, 198

"Spoils system," 162

Sports, value of, 26

Stagnation, 87

State, developed out of the family, 157

Statesman and politician, 161

Stealing, 48

Stoicism, 71, 110

Strength, the secret of, 72

Strife, the penalty of selfishness, 115

Success, 173

Superiority to fortune, the secret of, 71

Sympathy, 123

System, 66, 67

Temperance, 10-15

Temptation, 5

Terence, oneness of individual with humanity, 106

Time, 60

Tobacco, 16, 17

Trade, importance of learning a, 34

——, equivalence in, 46

Tranquillity, 39

Treason, 163

Truth, 53, 54

Ugliness, 94

Unscrupulousness, 189

Vengeance, 131, 132

Veracity, 55

Vice, 5

Virtue, 3

Vulgarity, akin to laziness, 96

Wastefulness, 44, 45

Wealth, 36

Well-being, the conditions of, 118

Whitman, Walt, on the feelings of animals, 99

Whittier, J. G., on acting contrary to convictions, 79

Wife, and husband, 149

Woman's sphere, 34

Wordsworth, on books, 53; on courage, 75; on the influence of Nature, 82, 83, 84; on neglecting Nature, 85; on cruelty to animals, 102

Work, 32, 35


The following words appear with and without hyphens. They have been left as in the original.

life-long lifelong Profit-sharing profit sharing Red-tape red tape short-coming shortcoming wrong-doer wrongdoer wrong-doers wrongdoers wrong-doing wrongdoing

The following corrections were made to the text:

page 13: Alcoholic[original has Alchoholic] drink produces

page 15: moderate use of alcoholic[original has alchoholic] drinks

page 28: form of recreation becomes indispensable[original has indispensaable]

page 55: that we withhold[original has withold] the truth

page 58: the worst pest that infests[original has invests]

page 62: for to-morrow we die.[original has comma]

page 70: by invariable laws.[original has comma] Every event

page 101: give it the reasonable[original has resonable] attention

page 106: letters, or philanthropy[original has philanthrophy] or social problems

page 113: on hand wherever[original has whereever] there is a chance

page 122: THE REWARD.[original has comma]

page 133: the offender which metes[original has meets] out to him

page 148: demonstrate the utter impossibility[original has impossibilty]

page 177: with which he identifies[original has indentifies] himself

page 191: we may withhold[original has withold] facts in violation

page 197: falls many and grievous[original has grevious] to the last

page 198: in principle and purpose identified[original has indentified] with

page 206: index entry for Gluttony was put in alphabetic order[original has it listed after Gossip]

page 206: Hypocrisy, 105, 201[original has 105-201]

page 206: Marriage, 146, 156[original has viii and ix listed as well—page viii is blank and page ix does not exist]

page 207: Obscenity, viii[entry removed because page viii is blank]

page 207: Parents, duties of, to children, 145[reference to page vi removed—page vi is part of the outline]

page 207: Purity, viii[entry removed because page viii is blank]

page 207: index entries for Reformer and Religion separated and semi-colon removed[original has Reformer, 170; Religion, 195, 198]

page 207: Sensuality, ix[entry removed because there is no page ix]

page 207: Sexual passions, vii[entry removed—page vii is part of the outline]

In the index, there is an entry for "Craik, Mrs. D. M." Her name is not mentioned in the book, but she is the author of "John Halifax, Gentleman" which is referenced on page 147.


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