Now it is plain that such consequences as these conflict sharply with common-sense notions of morality. If we had been obliged to accept Psychological Egoism, in any of its narrower forms, on its merits, we should have had to say: 'So much the worse for the common-sense notions of morality!' But, if I am right, the morality of common sense, with all its difficulties and incoherences, is immune at least to attacks from the basis of Psychological Egoism.
the importance of this story in relation to the evidence for the ostensibly supernormal physical phenomena of Spiritualism. From 1869 onwards Sidgwick began to be associated with Myers in a common interest in psychical research. In the very ...
I will begin this paper by stating in rough outline what I consider to be the relevance of psychical research to philosophy, and I shall devote the rest of it to developing this preliminary statement in detail.
Sense-perception is a hackneyed topic, and I must therefore begin by craving your indulgence. I was moved to make it the subject of this evening's lecture by the fact that I have lately been reading the book in which the most important of the late Professor Prichard's scattered writings on Sense-perception have been collected by Sir W. D. Ross. Like everything that Prichard wrote, these essays are extremely acute, transparently honest, and admirably thorough. I shall not attempt here either to (...) expound or to criticize Prichard, but he may be taken to be hovering, perhaps somewhat disapprovingly, in the background during the lecture. (shrink)
IN a letter to the Editor of MIND, Mr. G. T. Bennett of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, points out a stupid slip which I made on page 499 of MIND, N.S., No. 124. In illustrating Mr. Johnson's analysis of the subsumptive syllogism in my review of his Logic, Part II., I took as a major premise the proposition “Everything with sides and angles is equiangular, if equilateral”. This is, of course, ridiculously false, as Mr. Bennett points out. A figure made of (...) four equal jointed rods could be pushed into many different shapes. I want to make it quite clear that this is a slip.of my own, and that nothing of the kind occurs in Mr. Johnson's book. Of course, for purposes of illustration, it is a matter of indifference whether we choose false propositions or true ones, so that no injustice has been done to Mr. Johnson's theory. But I am not going to pretend that I did not think this proposition to be true at the moment when I wrote it down. I am sorry to have been so careless, and I should be still more sorry if anyone should have ascribed the carelessness to Mr. Johnson himself and not to his reviewer. I must thank Mr. Bennett for pointing out the mistake. (shrink)
Fifty or sixty years ago anyone fluttering the pages of one of the many magazines which then catered for the cultivated and intelligent English reader would have been fairly certain to come upon an article bearing somewhat the same title as that of the present paper. The author would probably be an eminent scientist, such as Huxley or Clifford; a distinguished scholar, such as Frederic Harrison or Edmund Gurney; or a politician of cabinet rank, such as Gladstone or Morley. Whichever (...) side he might take, he would write with the moral fervour of which Englishmen at that time had an inexhaustible supply. Nowadays the so-called “conflict between Religion and Science,” which was then appetizingly hot from the oven, has acquired something of the repulsiveness of half-cold mutton in halfcongealed gravy. There seems to be a widespread opinion that Sir Arthur Eddington and Sir James Jeans, with some highly technical and not readily intelligible assistance from Professor Whitehead, have enabled the lion to lie down with the lamb. Well, I have no wish to pipe a discordant note in this scene of Messianic harmony. But I cannot help reflecting that psychology, anthropology, and psychical research have made considerable advances as well as mathematical physics; and that they seem prima facie much more likely to be relevant to religion. Even the ordinary common sense of the lawyer and the historian may still have something useful to say on such topics. (shrink)
Ethics, in the sense in which that word is used by philosophers, may be described as the theoretical treatment of moral phenomena. I use the phrase “moral phenomena” to cover all those facts and only those in describing which we have to use such words as “ought,” “right and wrong,” “good and evil,” or any others which are merely verbal translations of these.
At the present time Tribunals, appointed under an Act of Parliament, are engaged all over England in dealing with claims to exemption from military service based on the ground of “conscientious objection” to taking part directly or indirectly in warlike activities. Now it is no part of the professional business of moral philosophers to tell people what they ought or ought not to do or to exhort them to do their duty. Moral philosophers, as such, have no special information, not (...) available to the general public, about what is right and what is wrong; nor have they any call to undertake those hortatory functions which are so adequately performed by clergymen, politicians, leader-writers, and wireless loudspeakers. But it is the function of a moral philosopher to reflect on the moral concepts and beliefs which he or others have; to try to analyse them and draw distinctions and clear up confusions in connection with them; and to see how they are inter-related and whether they can be arranged in a coherent system. Now there can be no doubt that the popular notions of “conscience” and “conscientious action” are extremely vague and confused. So I think that, by devoting this paper to an attempt to elucidate them, I may succeed in being topical without being impertinent. (shrink)