zondag 27 december 2009

Foundations of morality: conclusie

In de vorige blogpost heb ik het boek The Foundations of Morality (terecht) de hemel ingeprezen. Hier vind je het gehele concluderende hoofdstuk, dat hopelijk als teaser zal fungeren opdat je het zou lezen. Indien niet, dan heb je toch alweer de conclusie gelezen en kan je daarmee ook al verder
1. Summary
Let us see whether we can summarize briefly some of the main propositions of the ethical system at which we have arrived.
  1. Morality is not an end we pursue purely for its own sake. It is a means to ends beyond itself. But because it is an indispensable means we value it also for its own sake.
  2. 2. All human action is undertaken in order to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory state. The conduct we call moral is the conduct we consider likely to lead to the most satisfactory situation in the long run.
  3. 3. To say that we seek to maximize our satisfactions in the long run is only another way of saying that we seek to maximize our happiness and well-being.
  4. Though actions must be judged by their tendency to promote long-run happiness and well-being, it is a mistake to apply this utilitarian criterion directly to an act or decision considered in isolation. It is impossible for anyone to foresee all the consequences of a particular act. But we are capable of judging the consequences of following established general rules of action—of acting on principle.
  5. There are several reasons why we should abide by established general rules rather than attempt to make an ad hoc decision in each case. We must abide by an accepted code of rules (even if these are not the best imaginable) so that others may be able to depend on our actions and so that we may be able to depend on the actions of others. Only when each can guide his own course by this mutual expectation can we achieve adequate social cooperation. Moreover, the particular set of rules of conduct embodied in our existing moral tradition, the morality of "common sense," is based on thousands of years of human experience and millions of individual judgments and decisions. This traditional moral code may not be perfect, or adequate to deal with every new situation that can arise. Some of its rules may be vague or otherwise defective, but it is on the whole a marvelous spontaneous social growth, like language, a consensus arrived at by humanity over the centuries, that the individual may justly regard with feelings approaching reverence and awe. His general rule of conduct should be always to abide by the established moral rule unless he has a good reason to depart from it. He should not refuse to follow it merely because he cannot clearly understand the reason for it.
  6. Ethical progress depends not merely on adherence to existing moral rules, however, but on the constant refinement, improvement, and perfection of such rules. Yet any wholesale attempt to "transvalue all values" would be presumptuous and foolish. The best any individual (or perhaps even a whole generation) can hope to do is to modify the moral code and moral values in a few comparatively minor particulars.
  7. Philosophical ethics has much to learn from a study of the principles of law and jurisprudence on the one hand, and of the rationale of manners on the other. It has also much to learn from theoretical economics. Both ethics and economics study human actions, choices, and valuations, though from different points of view.
  8. Philosophical ethics is an effort to understand the rationale behind the existing moral code and to discover the broad principles or criteria by which existing moral rules can be tested or better moral rules framed. What are some of these principles of criteria? Should moral rules be framed primarily to promote the long-run happiness of the individual or the long run happiness of society? The question assumes a false antithesis. Only a rule that would do the first would do the second, and vice versa. The society is the individuals that compose it. If each achieves happiness, then the happiness of society is necessarily achieved.
  9. Of course if each seeks his happiness at the expense of others, then each must frustrate the achievement of happiness by others, and so each must frustrate the achievement of happiness by all, including himself. It follows from this that no man should be allowed to treat himself as an exception. All moral rules must be universalizable, and applied impartially to all.
  10. This universalizability can and should be reconciled with considerable particularity. This follows not only from the necessary division and specialization of labor, and the fact that each person has a particular vocation and job, but from the fact that each person is a citizen of a particular country, a resident of a particular neighborhood, a member of a particular family, andvso on. So a "universal" rule may often take the particularized form that every man has a duty to his own job, his own wife, his own son, etc., and not necessarily to other jobs, wives, or sons.
  11. The minimum purpose of moral rules is to prevent conflict and collision between individuals. The broader purpose is to harmonize our attitudes and actions so as to make the achievement of everyone's aims as far as possible compatible. This purpose can be realized when these rules are not only such as to enable us to anticipate and to depend upon each other's behavior, but when they promote and intensify our positive cooperation with each other. Thus Social Cooperation is the heart of morality, and the means by which each of us can most effectively supply his own wants and maximize his own satis- factions. It is only the division and combination of labor that has made possible the enormous increase in production, and hence in want-satisfaction, in the modern world. Society is based on an economic system in which each of us devotes himself to furthering the purposes of others as an indirect means of furthering his own.
  12. Thus "egoism" and "altruism" coalesce, and the antithesis between the "individual" and "society" disappears. In fact, the appropriate moral attitude (and perhaps the dominant atti- tude of the typical moral man) is neither pure egoism nor pure altruism but mutualism, consideration both for others and for oneself, and often the failure to make any distinction between one's own interests and the interests of his family or loved ones, or of some particular group of which he feels himself to be an integral part.
  13. Because social cooperation is the great means of achieving nearly all our ends, this means can be thought of as itself the moral goal to be achieved. Our dominant moral rules can therefore be aimed at achieving or intensifying this social co-operation rather than aimed directly at achieving happiness. As no two people find their happiness or satisfactions in precisely the same things, social cooperation has the great advantage that no unanimity with regard to value judgments is required to make it work.
  14. The so-called "sacrifices" that the moral rules sometimes call for are in the overwhelming main merely temporary or apparent sacrifices that the individual makes in the present in order to secure a greater gain in the future. The occasions on which the rules call for a real sacrifice by the individual are so rare that for most of us they never arise at all—say, the risk or actual surrender of his life. They are mainly confined to persons in certain special positions or vocations—soldiers, policemen, doctors, the captain of a sinking ship, etc. The sacrifices that a mother makes for her child, or any of us for our loved ones, are seldom regarded as sacrifices at all.
  15. Immoral action is nearly always short-sighted action. If it occasionally helps an individual to achieve some immediate particular end that he might not have achieved without it, it is usually at the cost, even to him, of some more important or enduring end. And immorality can achieve even these minor successes only to the extent that it is rare and exceptional, and confined to a tiny minority. A corrupt or immoral society is ultimately an unhappy or dying society.
  16. Asceticism (but not self-discipline) is a perversion of morality. The distinction between asceticism and self-discipline is that the first tends to undermine our health, shorten our life, and destroy our happiness, while the second tends to build up our health, prolong our life, and increase our happiness. Selfdiscipline and self-restraint are not practiced as ends in themselves, but as means to increase one's happiness in the long run and to promote social cooperation.
  17. Ethical propositions are not true or false in the sense that existential propositions are true or false. Ethical rules are not descriptive, but prescriptive. But though not true or false in the existential sense, ethical propositions can be valid or invalid, consistent or inconsistent, logical or illogical, rational or irrational, intelligent or unintelligent, justified or unjustified, expedient or inexpedient, wise or unwise. True, ethical judgments or propositions, though they must always take facts into consideration, are not themselves purely factual but valuative. But this does not mean that they are arbitrary or merely "emotive" (in the derogatory sense in which that adjective is used by positivists and, indeed, for which it seems to have been coined). Ethical rules, judgments, and propositions are attempts to answer the question: What is the best thing to do?
  18. Morality is autonomous. While religion often serves as a force that strengthens adherence to moral rules, the appropriate moral rules themselves, and the nature of our duties and obligations, have no necessary dependence on any theological doctrine or religious belief.
This list of propositions does not, of course, aim to be complete. It is set down only to remind the reader of the general outlines of the system; the propositions are numbered merely for convenience of reference.

2. Cooperatism
It will be convenient to give the system of ethics set forth in this book a distinctive name. It can, of course, be fitted into several very broad existing classifications. It is eudaemonic, because it regards the end of action as the promotion of the greatest happiness and well-being in the long run. And it conceives of happiness in its broadest sense, as synonymous with the greatest possible harmonization and satisfaction of human desires. But many ethical systems, from the time of Epicurus and Aristotle, have been eudaemonic in their end. We need a term to describe this one more specifically.
This system is also teleotic,1 because it judges actions or rules of action by the ends they tend to bring about, and defines "right" actions as actions that tend to promote "good" ends. But the majority of modern ethical systems (with a few exceptions such as Kant's doctrine of the Categorical Imperative and duty- for-duty's sake) are more or less teleotic.
The system outlined in the previous chapters is also a form of Utilitarianism, insofar as it holds that actions or rules of action are to be judged by their consequences and their tendency to promote human happiness. But to apply this term to our system could easily be misleading. This is not only because it has become in some quarters a term of disparagement (because of its supposed purely sensual hedonism, or because early Utilitarianism made the tendency to produce pleasure or happiness the test of an act rather than of a rule of action) but because the term is applied indiscriminately to so wide a variety of diverse systems. Any rational ethical system must be in some respects utilitarian, if we take the term merely to mean that it judges rules of action by the ends they tend to promote. A philosophical critic has enumerated "Thirteen Pragmatisms." An acute analysis would probably distinguish at least as many utilitarianisms. There are "hedonistic" utilitarianism, "eudaemonic" utilitarianism, "ideal" or "pluralistic" utilitarianism, "agathistic" utilitarianism, direct or ad hoc utilitarianism, indirect or rule utilitarianism—and various combinations of these. If the system set forth here is to be called utilitarianism, then it would have to be called eudaemonic-mutualistic-rule-utilitarianism to distinguish it from other brands. But this would be hopelessly cumbrous and not too enlightening.
I should like to suggest, in fact, that the word Utilitarianism itself is beginning to outlive its usefulness.
There are two possible names for the system of ethics outlined in this book. One is Mutualism. This underlines the dominant attitude that it suggests, as contrasted with pure "egoism" or pure "altruism." But the name which I think on the whole preferable is Cooperatism, which underlines the type of actions or rules of action that it prescribes, and so emphasizes its most distinctive feature.
It may be thought that logically a name should describe the ultimate goal of the system, or of the conduct that it prescribes, which is to maximize human happiness and well-being. But this felicitism or eudaemonism, as I have already pointed out, has been an implicit or explicit element of many ethical systems since the days of Epicurus. What has hitherto been insufficiently recognized is that social cooperation is the indispensable and foremost means to the realization of all our
individual ends.
Thus social cooperation is the essence of morality. And morality, as we should constantly remind ourselves, is a daily affair, even an hourly affair, not just something we need to think about only in a few high and heroic moments. The moral code by which we live is shown every day, not necessarily in great acts of renunciation, but in refraining from little slights and meannesses, and in practicing little courtesies and kindnesses. Few of us are capable of rising to the Christian commandment to "love one another," but most of us can at least learn to be kind to one another— and for most earthly purposes this will do almost as well.

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