Why Be Moral? is designed as a textbook for beginners. It is also intended for all concerned with understanding ethics.
It emphasizes fundamental questions about the nature of:
It examines persisting issues:
Insights into problems in individual and in social ethics are enriched by comparative parallel treatment by chapters.
Since many topics, and the field as a whole, have been explored more fully here, the author regards Why Be Moral? Also as a sourcebook to which he often refers in other books and articles dealing with ethics.
About the Author:
Archie J. Bahm (Ph.D., University of Michigam), Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, University of New Mexico, student and teacher of ethics for forty years, brings insights from Asian as well as Western philosophies and practices into the present work.
He was Fulbright Research Scholar in Buddhist Studies, University of Rangoon, 1955-56, and Fulbright Research Scholar in the History of Indian Philosophy, Banaras Hindu University, 1962-63.
His teaching sociology for twelve years contributed deeper understanding of psychological, social and cultural (including cultural lag) factors in both individual and social ethics.
He is author of twenty books, some translated into Tamil, Japanese, and Spanish. Two are devoted to ethics: What Makes Acts Right? (1958) Ethics as a Behavioral Science. (1974) Two have chapters of ethics: Philosophy: An Introduction. (1953) The Philosopher's World Model. (1979)
ETHICS? What's that?
Crime rates are increasing, with no end to such increases in sight. The power of traditional religions to inspire moral conduct continues to decline, with nothing visible to stop such decline. Wars, i.e., little wars, persist even when there is no world war; and military budgets grow despite capacities for overkill. Politicians, legislators, administrators, police and judges seem ever tempted by bribery, and exposes of corruption in "the highest places" create doubts about whether honesty in government is possible.
Industrial pollution, planned obsolescence, misleading advertizing, deceptive labeling, crooked insurance adjusting, unfair wages, crime syndicates, illegal gambling, forced prostitution, highjacking, tax loopholes for the wealthy and faked claims by welfare clients all exemplify prevailing trends. Distrust extends from government and the military to news media, clergy, authors, teachers, parents (anyone over thirty), other races, men (chauvinist male pigs), and now women (as I write, a report has reached me that several local women have beaten up a man). Few areas in life remain untouched by growing demoralization. Are we being sucked into a moral vacuum? Is this our way to the end of ethics?
If we look to scientists for help, we find many of them claiming helplessness and innocence. Some say that "Science is, or ought to be, completely value-free. So it cannot, and ought not, deal with values or ethics. Pure Scientists are responsible for theories, but not for their applications, whether constructive or destructive." Some scientists, namely, anthropologists, have reached, and teach, a conclusion: cultural relativism, including moral relativism. "Rights and wrongs are relative to cultures; there are no universal rights or wrongs."
Recent philosophies, such as Existentialism, advocate relativism of the moment. Idealizing "authenticity" as not permitting one's existenz , or momentary act of will, to be imposed upon by any-thing, not by laws of government, not by laws of logic or reasoning, not by mores, not by other wills (Hell is other people), and not even by one's own previous promises. To admit submission to any ethical principle would be "to be inauthentic." Is ethics ending in the name of "authenticity"?
Rights and duties are correlative; that is, if one person has a right, then other persons have duties to respect that right. But after World War II, some rebellious youths proclaimed "a new freedom," namely, "freedom from responsibility." This means freedom from duties. What then happens to the correlative rights? Is this another way of ending ethics?
But both those who dispair at demoralization and those who gloat over destroying a moral trap do not understand ethics.
Misunderstanding of ethics is widespread, and much of it is culturally induced. Confusions abound at many levels. A major purpose of this volume is to help clear up some of these confusions.
The end, the goal, or the purpose of ethics is to attain what is best. Acts are right because they are intended to produce the best results for oneself in the long run. A self is naturally and essentially social, something which selfish people often overlook. Any adequate self-interest theory must show how self-interests are sometimes best served through social interests.
Why be moral? Because this is what you most want to be. That is, you want what is best for yourself. This is what you want most. Ethical principles are discovered, and moral practices are designed, in the first place, as ways of behaving which are most conducive to attaining what is best. This is the end, the proper end, of ethics. Why, then, do we develop dislikes for moral rules, standards, laws and institutions? First, we do not know the reasons for, i.e., the goods anticipated from, establishing them. If we knew the benefits expected for all, including ourselves, we would have less cause for dissent.
Secondly, institutions develop cultural lag. Laws designed to solve one problem often remain on the books long after the problem itself has disappeared. When formalism sets in and then disorganization, people suffer compulsions without receiving benefits. Then institutions, designed to make life better, actually make it worse. Failure to keep our institutions efficient is an evil, and to consent to such inefficiency is itself immoral. We ought to dislike deficient mores and institutions. Why? Because they function as immoralities. Moral rules, standards, laws and institutions them- selves ought to be accepted or rejected depending upon whether or not they serve the end of ethics.
At stake in the foregoing are two views of ethics. The first claims that ethics consists of undesirable duties imposed upon us by others. The second holds that ethics consists of internal interests which naturally seek fulfillment and the wise choices and prudent actions which aim at maximizing such fulfillment. On this view, ethics is concerned with what is good and how to get it, or with what one ought to do in order to get the most- out of life.
The first view originates, unfortunately, in early childhood, when loving parents protect their children from harm by restrictions, the reasons for which the children do not understand. They learn that ethics means "Don't do this. Stop doing that. Do as I tell you. Go to bed now." Children who advance to Sunday School some-times find religious ethics also stated in negative terms: "Thou shalt not. ..." Schools with regulations, empty streets with stop signs, police who apprehend us for violating laws we did not know existed, add to our education that ethics consists of "Don'ts," of laws, of commands, and of demands made upon us by other people, often by people we do not know, such as ancient religious writers, distant legislators, administrators, specialists.
When negativity of commands combined with a negative con-sciences seem to demand duties and responsibilities without benefit of rights and privileges, "ethics" is a word for something evil, and something to be avoided or evaded, when we cannot rid ourselves of it altogether.
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