Essays on ethics religion and society
But much in the Autobiography also suggests a less rational and perhaps even more powerful influence at work. Top of page Notes 1 J. He finds at this point, in other words, no evidence in the history of opinion to support a belief either in the dialectic process, by which thesis and antithesis produce a synthesis, or in half-truths which become supplementary and form a whole.
We were 12 weeks into a class that discussed a great variety of recent moral theories, none of which made the slightest reference to any sort of divine power or authority, but this made no difference.
Mill, Bentham, pp.
Dinwiddy, Bentham, trans. But they cannot be those rights inherent in human nature, with which we were born, rights that allow them to build and not merely destroy, as did the natural rights in the revolutionary era: 31 J. Heretics are not all of one sort: some reject the old religion totally and subscribe to another set of beliefs, some wish to abandon parts of the orthodox doctrine as excrescences or debasements or perversions, some question the definitions and doctrines and seek a re-definition. The new place of rights 31In reality, utilitarian argument had not even disappeared. James Mill warns of the inevitable correlation between rights and duties against the clamour of those ceaselessly claiming rights. His introduction of the aesthetic is also notable—it clearly reflects the response recorded in the Autobiography to narratives of great lives, and it brings Mill at this point curiously close to the school of Shaftesbury. One based on rights, on the other hand, starts from the subjects who are bearers of rights; it is intended as an instrument to serve individuals, as an aid to the development of projects vital to people; law, thus, is seen as the result of the initiative of individuals who model them as actions designed to make it and the society that results in its image; hence a subjectivised law. Since there is no set of rules that dictates right action in all situations, we can only say that the right thing is what the ideally wise and virtuous person would do. Every man, no matter what his class, would take the same detached, unimpassioned, and unbiased view of the consequences of each action. Jurisprudence and Political Theory, Oxford, , pp. The only possible place to situate a-legal prior to and contra-legal right without going back to the old metaphysical ways is in morality that, in Benthamite terms, overflows law, it was a beyond a circle with law but with a greater radius , but it was a positive reality, perceptible through the senses, a fact, if we reduce it to a morality existing in the social convictions of a given time and place: 32 J.
Basing himself on the idea of orders, and the sovereign from whom they emanated, was moreover important for someone, like him, formed in the first Enlightenment and who, in consequence, had a utopia to realize; the first half of his life, as with many of the men of the Enlightenment, was taken up with the reforming possibilities of despots.
It exists only because the society, or those who wield the powers of the society, wills that it should exist; and before it was so willed, it had no existence.
So while I encourage the reader to internalise a personal value system, it would be unrealistic to suppose that matters of ethics can be determined purely on the basis of rules and precepts.
He is, in short, not the type of heretic who rejects the whole religion, but the type who sees himself, not as a heretic, but as the exponent of the true faith, warped in its transmission by the narrowness of vision of the prophets before him.
Political reasons 19 J. Mill, "Jurisprudence", pp.
A brilliant student of Romanticism, Dr. But the particularist will point out that in the real world things are more complicated: the enjoyment of the sadist, for instance, is actually a further argument against an act of cruelty, not an argument in favor of it, or even a consideration that mitigates its badness.
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