NOTES ON ETHICS / MORALS
This book covers an array of thoughts for consideration regarding 'What is the right thing to do,' and 'How do we know when we have acted rightly?' which is the central problem of moral conduct.
This book covers an array of thoughts for consideration regarding 'What is the right thing to do,' and 'How do we know when we have acted rightly? which is the central problem of moral conduct.
Social Morality and Moral Virtue
Psychological Barriers to Morality
Personal Reflections on Morality
The following notes are a book in progress, and so are somewhat random at this stage. Because the study of ethics does not consist of hard and fast facts, these notes are especially open for discussion. Through such enquiring discussions, ethical understanding can be reached; and that understanding in itself can help us better live ethically.
What is the right thing to do is, I would think, the central problem of moral conduct. How do we know when we have acted rightfully? The history of ethical enquiry is in one way or another an attempt to answer this crucial question; and from an empirical standpoint, there is no one answer; but perhaps some truth to all the significant attempts at one (Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Schopenhauer, Benth- am and Mill, et al) Is right action then, all just a matter of personal opinion, temperament, culture, historical period? In a word, is it all relative?
I can no more answer this question adequately enough than the next moral enquirer. In which case it seems that every morally sensitive person must find his own answers with the guidance not only of wise men, but of his own moral sensibilities. Whether he is to follow Aristotle's median, or Kant's Moral Law, or Hume's sentiment or Schopenhauer's compassion or Jesus' Love, or Mill's Happiness Principle, and so forth, seems to be a matter of each individual's intellectual and sensitive bent.
So, what is left for the moral enquirer, or for the individual seeking an answer to his moral queries and quandaries if all that is worthwhile has been said already? To explore the language of ethics seems to be the one avenue left, and that enterprise got underway with Moore's seminal book Prin- cipia Ethica more than 50 years ago. What of the psychology of moral judgment which no moral phil- osopher has yet to delve into to any extent? Certainly psychologists (Plaget, for one) have ex plored the conceptual basis of moral judgment; but none to my knowledge has explored the psychology of morals with the critical lynx- eye of a philosopher.
SOCIAL MORALITY AND MORAL VIRTUE
 Social morality is subject to change and differentiation from one culture to another, from one en- vironment to another, from one person to another, from one time to another. Virtue is not subject to such changes.
 The phrase "moral excellence" is often interchanged with the word "virtue," thereby indicating that virtue is morality perfected, refined, infused with good judgment, excelling the norms of accep-
 The basis of virtue (moral excellence) is character. without a character favorably receptive to matters of right and good, one could hardly attain virtue, much less be even concerned to do so.
 When we say that it was the morally right thing to do, we usually mean the just, fair, honest, truthful, thing to do. We expect this of others, even though we are often disappointed. when we say (more rarely) it is the virtuous thing to do, we usually mean the truly sincerely motivated thing to do; which goes beyond respectability of moral right. It is not normally expected that a person has the noble motive and intention behind the deed.
 Perhaps it is true that moral virtue (or moral excellence) cannot be taught, as Plato and Aristotle taught long ago; but, as they also taught, it can be learned by those naturally disposed to right con- duct - learned by experience, by the example of others, by the moral exhortations of sages, the moral theories of philosophers, and by one's own continuing efforts and developing understanding.
 We say, "that was a good thing for you to have done," but do not necessarily mean that it was good of him; his motives might have been other than moral or caring.
PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIERS TO MORALITY
 What we feel as right follows more frequently from our desires or needs or opinions of the mo- ment than from moral consideration, however we may attempt to justify them on the grounds of mo-
 The particular threshold of each person's own egoistic and sensual vulnerability determines in large part the limitation of his moral development; and ever poses a threat to whatever latent moral courage he may possess.
 An act may be justifiable, but not morally right; as betraying a trust is considered morally wrong, though justifiable in the just defense of one's country note the appropriateness of the word 'just' as part of the word 'justifiable.' The justifiable act serves as the equitable exception and qualification to the strict rules and standards of morality.
 One who is in physical or psychological distress or want or confusion can have little or no thought of the subtleties of moral right.
 The relationship between moral virtue and happiness constitutes the heart of the study of prac- tical ethics. In which case, it could happen that a person loses much materially, socially, interperson- ally, and yet still retain a modicum or happiness, well-being, if for no other reason than his moral integrity remains intact. it is not likely that such a person would experience a mental breakdown, or meltdown for reasons or causes beyond his will. (Epictetus)
 Right conduct has ever to contend with man's irrational side: his fears: needs, passions, impulses, drives. urges- all the churnings and burnings of his vital emotional nature. It even has to contend with the movements of love and compassion; not to mention pride. Virtue does not have an easy go of it.
Erasmus, in his incisive little book, The Praise of Folly, has this to say regarding my remark:
"How much more of passions than of reason [did God assign to man]? Well, the proportions run
about one pound to half an ounce. Besides. he Imprisoned reason in a cramped corner of the
head, and turned over all the rest of the body to the emotions. After that he instated two most
violent tyrants, as It were, In opposition to reason: anger, which holds the citadel of the
breast, and consequently the very spring of life, the heart; and lust, which rules a broad empire
lower down, even to the privy parts. How much reason is good for against these twin forces,
the ordinary life of men sufficiently reveals when reason and it Is all she can do shouts out
her prohibitions until she is hoarse and dictates formulas of virtue. But the passions simply bid
their so-called king go hang himself, and more brazenly roar down the opposition, until the
man, tired out as well, willingly yields and knuckles under."
"The strongest oaths are straw to the fire i' the blood"?
This conflict between virtue and emotion is specifically strong in matters of the erotic drive; in which case moral right easily loses all significance up against the psycho-physical pressures to satisfy this underlying necessity after all, the male and female must get together if for no other reason than to propagate the race. In which case, if a lie is to be told, it will be told; if a confidence is to be broken, then so it will be. Commitments, promises, loyalties, family friendships, are mostly "straw to the fire i' the blood" (Shakespeare)
And here is Shakespeare's shattering indictment to sexual lust gone wrong:
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
 It takes a strong will and sound judgment bent on doing the right thing no matter how the combustion of emotion rage against them. When we're seething with resentment, jealousy, suspicion, anger, to name a few "fires in the blood," our impulse is normally to relieve them by striking out without thought, or concern, of the consequences...and then we usually are in deep-watered trouble. Our moral integrity can be a buttress against such impulses; but it has to be well-developed relatively free from the urgings of our ego-sensuality.
 "I've done my share," instead of "my duty." What is the difference? "Share" has an element of good will to it; "duty" is more compulsory.
 Acting on impulse can be morally induced, immorally induced, or amorally induced. It's acting of the sudden without thought. The more moral-minded one is, the more likely and impulse will act with spontaneous understanding toward the right thing to do. The less moral-minded one is, the less likely impulse will lead him aright all around.
 If you (a moral idealist) from your earliest years, had such experience as not wanting to hurt others' feelings, not wanting to take advantage of them, preferred right to money even to ridicule; have felt something wrong with sex outside of marriage ... etc. then know that you are idealistically moral.
 Courtesy is the key to successful social relationships; consideration to successful intimate relationships.
 For psychology or psychiatry to disregard the moral and spiritual sides of men and woman is as if a surgeon closed an incision with a band-aid.
PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON MORALITY
 Why should I be moral? Because, for one thing, my self-respect depends on, and demands it of me. I couldn't bear to be thought a liar, a cheat, a self-seeker, a hypocrite, an egotist, a man who can be bought. I grant that these motives are more self-regarding than moral, but they nonetheless has been a strong incentive to my becoming morally-minded over the years.
Further, my moral-mindedness has been importantly conducive to smoother social and personal relationships. since trust between people results from moral conduct. Again it is immensely satisfy- ing, gratifying, to have such respect for moral right that nothing, however adverse to my security. will make me swerve from it.
 I know I can be just, sympathetic, compassionate, generous, considerate, and so forth; and yet still be very proud; in which case, I tend to be imperious, impatient, resentful, always having to get in the last word, irritable, spiteful, critical of others. This seems to imply to me that goodness not only requires a considerable reduction of one's ego-pride. but that it is something more than simply being a moral or ethical person.
[3 The other day, a young woman declaimed that she makes it a point now to keep her word as well as keep secrets. I asked her why? She said that she lost too many friends by not keeping her word or secrets. This is related to my reason many years ago in deciding to tell the truth; I didn't want to get caught in a lie; it was too much of an embarrassment for me. This reason certainly was a self-directed motive and not a moral one; and it was a long time afterwards before I began to develop the proper moral motive for truthtelling, namely. the feeling that I did not want to take advantage of, nor hurt another by deception.
1. Moral goodness, moral virtue, moral obligation, moral duty are the four basic motives for acting morally.
2. A person who acts from moral goodness or moral obligation is motivated primarily intuitively, by loving-kindness or benevolence. A person who acts from moral virtue or from moral duty is motivated primarily by principle, by reason. Both types of motives are not mutually exclusive; meaning, that a morally good person could just as well act from virtue or duty; and so with a morally excellent or duteous person could act from loving-kindness or benevolence. That which distinguishes both individuals as moral-minded is that their main concern is the right act is done for the benefit of the recipient of that act.
3. A morally good person differs from a morally excellent person (virtuous) inasmuch as the latter acts with practical wisdom, the former with practical understanding. In which case the virtuous person would hardly make a mistake in his moral choice, whereas the morally good person could very well err in his moral choice.
4. A further distinction to be made is that between the naturally good person and the morally good person. The morally good person is necessarily naturally good; the naturally good person is not necessarily a moral person; in which case, the latter would more than likely compromise his goodness under temptation or duress, whereas the former would not.
5. One answer to the question, "What is the morally right thing to do?" is to follow the "wisdom of the species" which has come to us through ages of practical experience. Moderation and courtesy are two such elements of this wisdom.