Manual Wealth and Life (Routledge Revivals): A Study in Values

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Part I of the book deals with an attempt to provide an intelligible and consistent meaning for human value and welfare. Part II sketches the emergence of an economic science and its formal relations to ethics. Part III discusses the ethical significance of certain basic factors in the modern economic system, especially property and market processes.

Part IV is addressed to the notion of industrial peace and progress in the light of modern humanism, with especial regard to the new problems emerging in a world becoming conscious of its widening unity. How far is Equity Attainable? The Supply of Capital. See All Customer Reviews.

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Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Explore Now. Buy As Gift. Overview First published in , this book endeavours to trace and express the relations between economic and human values, between wealth and life.

Product Details Table of Contents. Average Review. But, if he is sensitive, he is eventually revolted by this pretentiousness and preciousness; he wants to know why he and others should keep up the pretence which wracks him with guilt and destroys his art. But in wondering this, he begins to lose faith in the values that have become central to his conception of his own activity. He begins to think that if poetry is no better than football, nothing can be better than anything else.

Once again, from a different starting point, he reaches the nihilistic conclusion that anything goes and that nothing counts. These psycho-pathologies are, of course, parodies. It has, in other words, a capacity not only to mislead intellectually but also to harm morally. Once the hierarchy of activities is seen to be no more than myth, both the poet and the footballer are in a better position. The division of human life into the higher and the lower pursuits is replaced by an understanding of human life as a single whole within which individuals make their pursuits whatever those may be higher or lower, according to the way in which they conduct themselves.

Instead of conceiving of oneself as a split personality—one person at the writing desk, another on the football pitch—one becomes able to see that the same person, the same life, is present in both places. But the burdens imposed by acknowledging these responsibilities—besides being morally proper—are more than matched by the relief which follows from the revelation that one is not, after all, a split personality. The shame and guilt engendered by the romantic illusion is replaced by an attention to standards in all forms of activity and a proper pride in everything that is well done.

The whole range of human life becomes something to be lived, rather than merely borne. The proponents of this ethical romanticism may side with Nietzsche, dismissing our normal morality as a slave mentality and replacing it by a boundless commitment to the highest non-moral standards of achievement. Or they may side with Augustine, dismissing worldly non-moral values as dross, and insisting that the only task for man is to keep a proper moral relation to his Creator.

But these two different kinds of romantics are fundamentally at one in their belief that moral and non-moral values are utterly disjoined from one another. They point out that a person may be, from a technical point of view, an excellent artist or craftsman or businessman or playwright, and may yet use this excellence to further some morally abominable aim. And they conclude that a person is bound to be torn, throughout his life, between committing himself thoroughly to the pursuit of technical excellence and committing himself thoroughly to the pursuit of moral excellence: one can try either to be a genius or to be a saint, but not both.

This ethical form of romanticism is particularly pervasive and persistent in philosophy faculties. Even modern Anglo-Saxon philosophers, who have done so much to demonstrate the intrinsic connection between reason and passion, nevertheless largely remain wedded to the romantic belief that there is an absolute disjunction between moral and non-moral values. Indeed, the romantic conception of morality as something standing completely apart from all other values and standards is so well ingrained that it has come to seem obvious: those who deny such a disjunction are therefore assumed to be talking about something other than morality as we know it.

That assumption is, however, an inherited prejudice rather than a rational argument.

Before we can accept it, we have to ask whether the romantic thesis is true to the facts. Does our morality in fact consist of standards and values which have nothing to do with our non-moral standards and values? Is each of us—as the romantic claims—a moral actor trying to live up to moral standards and, separately, a non-moral actor trying to live up to non-moral standards? A person may legitimately say that he has neglected aesthetic criteria when making a piece of machinery because his purpose was to create something useful rather than something beautiful.

But a person who says that he has neglected moral criteria when doing something, because his purpose was to do something beautiful or useful rather than something morally good, thereby shows that he does not understand the claim that a moral judgement makes upon him.

A morality is a set of judgements that may be defied but cannot be circumvented. Whether these judgements are roughly the same as those made by other groups of people at other times and places, is a matter for the historians and the anthropologists; I cannot give an answer. Nor do I have any confidence that I could prove the validity of the morality to which I subscribe if the whole of it were questioned by people from some other culture.

This easy acceptance of parochiality would no doubt horrify some philosophers. They would argue that a morality so circumscribed is not a morality at all; they would insist that a morality must involve duties, and they would say that duties cannot arise out of mere opinions. Putting their argument in the form of a question, they would ask why, if my morality were no more than a set of culturally based judgements, I was not willing to abandon it whenever abandonment grew convenient.

And they would ask what reason I had for holding any of my moral views if I could not provide a rational justification for them. These worries have arisen repeatedly in one form or another since the time of Plato; but they are groundless. The moral views held by any sane person are not a random collection; they are connected with, and are dependent on, one another.

So, too, with internal moral deliberation, my reason for holding to a certain judgement will be that it accords with the rest of my views. The fact, if it is a fact, that I cannot provide proof of the validity of the whole system of views does not deprive me of the ability to deliberate, argue, or conduct moral life. Nor does this inability to provide ultimate rational justification make me more likely to abandon my morality when abandonment would be convenient. A moral judgement is one that commends, permits or condemns independently of purpose.

As such, it carries with it the injunction to ignore convenience, and thereby itself provides me with sufficient grounds for not changing my mind in the face of inconvenience. Of course, as a matter of practice, I cannot guarantee that I will stick to my morality in the absence of any ultimate proof of its validity; but I could not guarantee such loyalty even if I did believe that there were an ultimate proof, since I might either change my mind about the validity of the proof itself or fail to do what I believe to be right. The point is merely that I can have something recognisable as a morality even if there is no such justification: I can have a set of views about what should be done, regardless of purpose; I can argue for any one of these views in terms of others; and I can recognise that each view, being superior to my purposes, carries with it a reason for loyalty in the face of inconvenience.

What is the scope of this morality? What do we make our moral judgements about? These questions matter because modern moral philosophy has been hampered by an excessively narrow conception of our morality. Indeed, ethical romanticism has been greatly assisted by the willingness of its adherents to ignore aspects of our morality which do not fit conveniently with their theories.

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Wealth and Life (Routledge Revivals): A Study in Values

Any satisfactory explanation of our morality needs to account for all the features of that morality, not just for some of them. What are these features? In the first place, we judge the actions of one person towards another. We believe that a person should keep his promises, that he ought to be just, that he ought to be beneficent, and that he ought to do these things for the right reasons.

Wealth and Life Routledge Revivals A Study in Values

But this is not the whole of our morality. We make moral judgements about things other than interpersonal relations.

Pluralist theory

One object of our moral concern, which has recently received a little overdue attention, is our relation to the animal kingdom. The attention happens to have been bestowed by utilitarians, and the topic has consequently been subject to a kind of planning blight: no one else will develop it. But one does not have to be a utilitarian to notice the facts. We think it wrong for a person to act in certain ways towards animals, or at any rate towards some animals; and the wrongness, here, is moral—the judgement has superiority over all purposes. If a person is in the habit of torturing a cat before breakfast, we would advise him to stop, not on the grounds that desistance would be more convenient for him or more useful for achieving his general purposes, but rather on the grounds that the practice is morally objectionable.

Any explanation of our morality needs to account for this view. Another aspect of our morality too often neglected by modern moral philosophers is our attitude towards creativity—human inventiveness. The position is surely similar when a person who has dedicated his life to the creation of new mathematics or the building of fine bridges is faced with a choice between spending the evening with his demanding, crippled mother, and leaving her alone in order to get on with his mathematics or bridge-building.

We think, of course, that the man has a duty to be kind to his mother; but we also recognise that there is a conflict between the fulfilment of this duty and the pursuit of his lifelong creative commitment. And the conflict is moral—superior to all purposes.


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Whether the man will receive some much-coveted prize for his work is irrelevant; indeed, we would despise him if he thought prizes comparable with the needs of his mother. Only the creativity itself is important enough to be set against the claims of filial duty. The case would be the same if the creativity in question were of aesthetic rather than intellectual or practical importance. And the problem, once again, has nothing to do with convenience.

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If the artist were merely saving himself the trouble of working rather late, or if he were hoping to make more money on the sale of the picture, we would think that he had no case for abandoning his mother. What causes the problem is that the art itself matters—matters enough to vie with his duty. Why, then, is it so often said that the pursuit of creativity has no moral importance?

The reason is that there is no convenient moral category into which such an activity can be put. One certainly cannot call it a duty: no one is blamed for failing to take up a career as an artist or a mathematician or a bridge-builder. Nor can one call it a right.

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To say that a person has a right to do something is to say either that others have a duty to help him to do it a positive right or that others have a duty not to prevent him doing it a negative right. That I do not in general have a positive right to do my mathematics is clear: nobody has a duty to help me do it.

And although I certainly do have a negative right to do it, this is merely part of my general negative right to spend my evenings as I choose, free from external influence. In short, I have less than a duty or a positive right to do my mathematics, but more than a merely negative right.

I have a claim to do it—a claim that can be set against my personal obligations. Since we have, at present, no term to describe such claims, I propose to invent one. As the name implies, a moral subjunctive is a judgement that has not quite attained the status of the moral imperative. And what characterises a subjunctive as moral is its capacity to stand against a moral imperative.