Ethics - John Dewey

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Ethics - John Dewey

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  • The Project Gutenberg eBook,Ethics, by John Dewey and JamesHayden Tufts

    This eBook is for the use ofanyone anywhere at no cost andwith almost no restrictionswhatsoever. You may copy it, giveit away or re-use it under the termsof the Project Gutenberg Licenseincluded with this eBook or onlineat

    Title: Ethics

    Author: John Dewey and James

  • Hayden Tufts

    Release Date: April 28, 2012[eBook #39551]

    Language: English

    Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


    E-text prepared by

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    Professor of Philosophy inColumbia University



    Professor of Philosophy in theUniversity of Chicago






    The significance of this text inEthics lies in its effort to awaken avital conviction of the genuinereality of moral problems and thevalue of reflective thought indealing with them. To this purposeare subordinated the presentation inPart I. of historic material; thediscussion in Part II. of the differenttypes of theoretical interpretation,and the consideration, in Part III., of

  • some typical social and economicproblems which characterize thepresent.

    Experience shows that the studentof morals has difficulty in gettingthe field objectively and definitelybefore him so that its problemsstrike him as real problems.Conduct is so intimate that it is noteasy to analyze. It is so importantthat to a large extent the perspectivefor regarding it has beenunconsciously fixed by earlytraining. The historical method of

  • approach has proved in theclassroom experience of the authorsan effective method of meeting thesedifficulties. To follow the morallife through typical epochs of itsdevelopment enables students torealize what is involved in theirown habitual standpoints; it alsopresents a concrete body of subject-matter which serves as material ofanalysis and discussion.

    The classic conceptions of moraltheory are of remarkableimportance in illuminating the

  • obscure places of the moral life andin giving the student clues whichwill enable him to explore it forhimself. But there is always dangerof either dogmatism or a sense ofunreality when students areintroduced abruptly to thetheoretical ideas. Instead of servingas tools for understanding the moralfacts, the ideas are likely to becomesubstitutes for the facts. When theyare proffered ready-made, theirtheoretical acuteness and clevernessmay be admired, but their practical

  • soundness and applicability aresuspected. The historicalintroduction permits the student tobe present, as it were, at the socialsituations in which the intellectualinstruments were forged. Heappreciates their relevancy to theconditions which provoked them,and he is encouraged to try them onsimple problems before attemptingthe complex problems of thepresent. By assisting in theirgradual development he gainsconfidence in the ideas and in his

  • power to use them.

    In the second part, devoted morespecifically to the analysis andcriticism of the leading conceptionsof moral theory, the aim accordinglyhas not been to instill the notions ofa school nor to inculcate a ready-made system, but to show thedevelopment of theories out of theproblems and experience of every-day conduct, and to suggest howthese theories may be fruitfullyapplied in practical exigencies.Aspects of the moral life have been

  • so thoroughly examined that it ispossible to present certainprinciples in the confidence thatthey will meet general acceptance.Rationalism and hedonism, forexample, have contributed toward ascientific statement of the elementsof conduct, even though they havefailed as self-inclosed and finalsystems. After the discussions ofKant and Mill, Sidgwick and Green,Martineau and Spencer, it ispossible to affirm that there is aplace in the moral life for reason

  • and a place for happiness,a placefor duty and a place for valuation.Theories are treated not asincompatible rival systems whichmust be accepted or rejected enbloc, but as more or less adequatemethods of surveying the problemsof conduct. This mode of approachfacilitates the scientific estimationand determination of the part playedby various factors in the complexityof moral life. The student is put in aposition to judge the problems ofconduct for himself. This

  • emancipation and enlightenment ofindividual judgment is the chief aimof the theoretical portion.

    In a considerable part of thefield, particularly in the politicaland economic portions of Part III.,no definitive treatment is as yetpossible. Nevertheless, it is highlydesirable to introduce the student tothe examination of these unsettledquestions. When the whole civilizedworld is giving its energies to themeaning and value of justice anddemocracy, it is intolerably

  • academic that those interested inethics should have to be contentwith conceptions already workedout, which therefore relate to whatis least doubtful in conduct ratherthan to questions now urgent.Moreover, the advantages ofconsidering theory and practice indirect relation to each other aremutual. On the one hand, as againstt h e a priori claims of bothindividualism and socialism, theneed of the hour seems to us to bethe application of methods of more

  • deliberate analysis and experiment.The extreme conservative maydeprecate any scrutiny of thepresent order; the ardent radicalmay be impatient of the critical andseemingly tardy processes of theinvestigator; but those who haveconsidered well the conquest whichman is making of the world ofnature cannot forbear the convictionthat the cruder method of trial anderror and the time-honored methodof prejudice and partisancontroversy need not longer

  • completely dominate the regulationof the life of society. They hope fora larger application of the scientificmethod to the problems of humanwelfare and progress. Conversely, ascience which takes part in theactual work of promoting moralorder and moral progress mustreceive a valuable reflex influenceof stimulus and of test. To considermorality in the making as well as todwell upon values alreadyestablished should make the sciencemore vital. And whatever the effect

  • upon the subject-matter, the studentcan hardly appreciate the full forceof his materials and methods as longas they are kept aloof from thequestions which are occupying theminds of his contemporaries.

    Teachers who are limited in timewill doubtless prefer to make theirown selections of material, but thefollowing suggestions present onepossible line of choice. In Part I., ofthe three chapters dealing with theHebrew, Greek, and moderndevelopments, any one may be taken

  • as furnishing an illustration of themethod; and certain portions ofChapter IX. may be found moredetailed in analysis than isnecessary for the beginner. In PartII., Chapters XI.-XII. may beomitted without losing the thread ofthe argument. In Part III., any one ofthe specific topicsviz., thepolitical state, the economic order,the familymay be consideredapart from the others. Someteachers may prefer to take Parts intheir entirety. In this case, any two

  • may be chosen.

    As to the respective shares of thework for which the authors areseverally responsible, while eachhas contributed suggestions andcriticisms to the work of the other insufficient degree to make the bookthroughout a joint work, Part I. hasbeen written by Mr. Tufts, Part Mr. Dewey, and in Part III.,Chapters XX. and XXI. are by Mr.Dewey, Chapters XXII.-XXVI. byMr. Tufts.

  • It need scarcely be said that noattempt has been made in thebibliographies to be exhaustive.When the dates of publication of thework cited are given, the plan hasbeen in general to give, in the caseof current literature, the date of thelatest edition, and in the case ofsome classical treatises the date oforiginal publication.

    In conclusion, the authors desireto express their indebtedness totheir colleagues and friends Dr.Wright, Mr. Talbert, and Mr.

  • Eastman, who have aided in thereading of the proof and with othersuggestions.



    I. INTRODUCTION 1 1. Definition andMethod:Ethicaland moral, specificp r o b l e m , 1;importance of genetics t u d y , 3. 2.Criterion of themoral:The moral

  • in cross section, the"what" and the"how," 5; the moralas growth, 8. 3.Divisions of thetreatment, 13.

    PART I


    II. EARLY GROUP LIFE 17 1. Typical facts ofgroup life:Primitive unity and

  • solidarity, 17. 2.Kinship andhousehold groups:The kinship group,21; the family orhousehold group, 23. 3. Kinship andfamily groups aseconomic andindustrial units:The land and thegroup, 24; movableg o o d s , 25. 4.Kinship and familygroups as political

  • bodies:Theircontrol over theindividual, 26; rightsand responsibility,27. 5. The kinshipor household as areligious unit:Totem groups, 30;ancestral religion, 31. 6. Age and sexgroups, 32. 7.Moral significanceof the group, 34.




    1. Three levels ofconduct:Conductas instinctive andgover