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His formula for justice is summed up in these words: “Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.” The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.But the primary subject matter of ethics is conduct considered objectively as producing good or bad results to self or others or both.
The first reply is that in that chief division of ethics treating of justice, it furnishes aid both as verifying conclusions empirically drawn and as leading to certain unaccepted conclusions of importance.
If it be said that throughout the final divisions of ethics, dealing with beneficence, negative and positive, the conclusions must, as above implied, be chiefly empirical; and that therefore here, at any rate, the doctrine of evolution does not help us; the reply is that it helps us in general ways though not in special ways.
Those who have not read the first division of this work will be surprised by the above title.
But the chapters “Conduct in General” and “The Evolution of Conduct” will have made clear to those who have read them that something which may be regarded as animal ethics is implied.
In the first place, for certain modes of conduct which at present are supposed to have no sanction if they have not a supernatural sanction, it yields us a natural sanction–shows us that such modes of conduct fall within the lines of an evolving humanity–are conducive to a higher life, and are for this reason obligatory.
In the second place, where it leaves us to form empirical judgments, it brings into view those general truths by which our empirical judgments should be guided–indicates the limits within which they are to be found.
Beyond serving to reinforce the injunctions of beneficence, by adding to the empirical sanction a rational sanction, the contents of Parts V and VI have these claims to attention: First, that under each head there are definitely set down the various requirements and restraints which should be taken into account: so aiding the formation of balanced judgments.
Second, that by this methodic treatment there is given a certain coherence to the confused and often inconsistent ideas on the subject of beneficence, which are at present lying all abroad.
But when, leaving this all-important division, the injunctions of which are peremptory, and take no cognizance of personal elements, we pass into the remaining divisions–Negative and Positive Beneficence–we enter a region in which the complexities of private conduct are involved with the complexities of relations to the no less complex conduct of those around: presenting problems for the solution of which we have nothing in the nature of measure to guide us, and must commonly be led by empirical judgments.