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unnecessarily bewildering to the beginner; and the aim has been rather to keep as close as possible to the actual experience of the student and the language of everyday life. Far more attention is given than in most books on ethics to concrete contemporary problems. After all, an insight into the fallacies of the reasoning of the various ethical schools, an ability to know what they are talking about and glibly refute them, is of less importance than an acquaintance with, and a firm, intelligent attitude toward, the vital moral problems and movements of the day. I have prayed to be saved from academic abstractness and remoteness, and to go as straight as I could to the real perplexities from which men suffer in deciding upon their conduct. The purpose of a study of ethics is, primarily, to get light for the guidance of life. And so, while referring to authors who differ from the views here expressed, I have sought to impart a definite conception of relative values, to offer a thread for guidance through the labyrinth of moral problems, and to effect a heightened realization of the importance and the possibilities of right living.
It is necessary, indeed, in order to justify and clarify our concrete moral judgments, that we should reach clear and firmly grounded conclusions upon the underlying abstract questions. And the habit of laying aside upon occasion one's instinctive or habitual moral preferences and discussing with open mind their justification and rationality is of great value to the individual and to society. Hence the first two Parts of this volume take up, as simply as is consonant with the really intricate questions involved, the history of the development of human morality and the psychological foundation of moral obligations and ideals. The exposition of the meaning of right and wrong there unfolded serves as a basis for the sound solution of the confused concrete issues, private and then public, which are discussed in the remainder of the volume.
An introductory outline of any subject must inevitably be superficial. To explain all the discriminations that are important to the specialist, to justify thoroughly all the positions taken, to do adequate justice to opposing views, would require ten volumes instead of one. And though there is a crying need of scholarly and elaborate discussion of the endless problems of morality, there is a prior need for the student of surveying the field, seeing what the problems are, how they are related, and what is approximately certain. The impression left by many ethical treatises, that everything is matter for dispute and no moral judgments are reliable, seems to me unfortunate; I have preferred to incur the charge of dogmatism rather than to fall into that error -to offer a clear-cut set of standards, to which exception will be taken by this critic or that, rather than to hold out to the student a chaos of confused possibilities.
No originality of viewpoint is claimed for this book. Its raison d'être is simply to provide a clearer, more concrete, and more concisely comprehensive view of the nature of morality and its summons to men than has seemed to me available. I have drawn freely upon the thoughts of ethical teachers, classic and contemporary. These ideas are, or ought to be, common property; and it has been impracticable to trace them to their sources and offer detailed acknowledgment. Nothing has been presented here that has not first passed through the crucible of my own thinking and experience; and where the sparks came from that kindled each particular thought I am sure I do not know.
Portions of chapters XXI and XXIX have appeared in the Forum and North American Review respectively; to the editors of these periodicals my thanks are due for permission to reprint.
PREFACE TO EDITION OF 1920
THE new aspects given to many problems by the Great War, the success of the Prohibition and Woman's Suffrage movements, and the perplexities of the reconstruction era through which the peoples of Europe and America are rather blindly groping their way, have made it desirable to revise many pages of this volume.
In adding new references to the bibliographies it has been difficult to choose between so many valuable recent publications. It has seemed wise, however, not to make the reading-lists too long; and the author has had to exercise a somewhat arbitrary judgment in deciding which books and magazine-articles will probably, on the whole, be most useful to the average reader.
This is not the first time that considerable revision has been made; and it is the intention of the author and publishers to keep the book abreast of the best thought of the times. Any criticisms or suggestions to that end by readers of the volume will be gratefully received.
September 30, 1920