Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy …

In vain we drew the picture of the nobler, happier, safer life of the nation, when men of all conditions voluntarily combined to undertake the great services, class cooperating with class, each bound to the other by new ties of friendship and kindliness, with all its different groups learning to discover their own special wants, to follow their own methods, and make their own experiments. In that way only, as we urged, could we replace the present dangerous and mischief-making strife with blessed fruitful peace, create a happier, better, nobler spirit amongst us all, destroy the old traffic and bargaining of the political market, destroy the fatal belief that one class might rightly prey upon another class, and that all property finally belonged to those who could collect the greater number of votes at the polls. That belief in the omnipotent vote, as we urged, was striking its roots deeper every year—it was the certain, the inevitable result of our party fighting for the possession of power. So long as the vote carried with it the unlimited undefined power of the majority, the giving away of property must always remain as the easiest means of purchasing the owners of the vote; and that belief in the final ownership of property being vested in the voter we could only fight, not by resisting here or there, not by denouncing this or that bit of excessive and wasteful expenditure, but by challenging the rightfulness and good sense of the whole system, by pointing to a truer, nobler, social life, and by resolutely standing on the plain broad principle of individual control over ourselves and our own property. It was in friendly voluntary cooperation, as free men and women, for all public wants and services; in taking each other's hands, in sharing our efforts; it was by destroying the belief in power, the belief in “pooling” property and faculties, the belief in the false right of some men to hold other men in subjection, and to use them as their material; in building up the belief in the true rights, the rights of self-ownership and self-guidance, apart from which everything tends to the confusion and corruption of public life—it was only so that we could ward off the coming danger and the inevitable strife. These great national services, that we had so lightly flung into the hands of our officials, were the true means of creating that higher and better national life, with its friendly interdependence, its need of each other, its respect for each other, which was worth over and over again all the political gifts and compulsions—though you piled them up in a heap as high as Pelion thrown on the top of Ossa. It was only so that the nation would find its true peace and happiness, and that the smoldering dread and hatred of each other could die out.

Virtues and vices and other essays in moral philosophy …


Virtues and Vices: And Other Essays in Moral Philosophy

There is very much more to be said as regards this matter of state power and state interference with the lives of men. I ought to point out the extravagance and bad management of state departments. It is not often that we see people spend the money that belongs to others either quite honestly or quite intelligently, and state departments are no exception to the rule. I ought to point out the jobbery and the stupidity that so often cling to state undertakings; the unfitness of the agents that governments are obliged to employ; the necessarily bad methods, whether by competition or official nomination, of selecting them; the unfitness of the universal systems which are applied to all parts of a nation, to those who ought by the very law of their being to be differing from each other, and yet are forced to be alike; the dull, heavy routine into which these undertakings fall within a few years after they have been commenced and have ceased to attract public attention–a routine only broken by the spasmodic revolutions in their management to which they are subject, when some flagrant abuse brings them now and again under the public eye. I ought to point out how reckless in all countries becomes the rivalry of the great political parties which hope to obtain the good things that go under the name of office; the increasing deterioration of the people when invited on all hands to judge everything from the one standpoint of their own immediate advantage; the inconsistency of what is said and done by each party, when acting as government or as opposition, and the hypocrisy that is begotten while they serve their own interests under the cloak of the interests of the people. I ought to point out how heavy and sore a discouragement for labor is the load of taxation, that is thrown upon the nation to support all the grand institutions, which politicians love to look at as their own handiwork; and I ought to show that the really successful nation in the industrial competition that is now springing up so fiercely between all nations will be the one that has fewest taxes, fewest officials, and fewest departments to support, and at the same time possesses the greatest power in its individual units to adapt themselves readily to the industrial changes that come so quickly in the present day. I ought to show you that all that encourages routine, dislike of change, dependence upon external authority and direction, is fatal to this habit of self-adaptation, and that this self-adaptation can only come where the free life is led. I ought to show that all great uniform systems–clumsy and oppressive as they must always be in their rude attempt to embrace every part of a nation–clumsy and oppressive, for example, as our education system and our Poor Law system are—are always tending (sometimes in very subtle and unsuspected ways) to stupefy and brutalize a nation in character; and, as far as the richer classes are concerned, to destroy those kindly feelings, that sympathy for the pains of others, and that readiness to help those who need help, which grow, and only can grow, on a free soil. If by official regulations you prescribe for me my moral obligations toward others, you may be sure that in a short time my own moral feelings will cease to have any active share in the matter. They will soon learn to accept contentedly the official limit you have traced for them, and to drowse on, unexercised because unrequired, within that limit. Indeed, I believe that if you only taxed us enough, for so-called benevolent purposes, you would presently succeed in changing all the really generous men into stingy men. Again I ought to show how all great uniform state systems are condemned by our knowledge of the laws of nature. It has been owing to the differences of form that come into existence that the ever-continuous improvement of animal and plant life has taken place; the better fitted form beating and replacing the less-fitted form. But our great uniform systems, by which the state professes to serve the people, necessarily exclude difference and variety; and in excluding difference and variety, exclude also the means of improvement. I ought to show how untrue is the cry against competition. I ought to show that competition has brought benefits to men tenfold–nay, a hundredfold–greater than the injuries it has inflicted; that every advantage and comfort of civilized life has come from competition; and that the hopes of the future are inseparably bound up with the still better gifts which are to come from it and it alone. I ought to show, even if this were not so, even if competition were not a power fighting actively on your side, that still your efforts would be vain to defeat or elude it. I ought to show that all external protection, all efforts to place forcibly that which is inferior on the same level as that which is superior, is a mere dream, born of our ignorance of nature's methods. The great laws of the world cannot change for any of us. There is but one way, one eternally fixed way, and no other, of meeting the skill, or the enterprise, or the courage, or the frugality, or the greater honesty that beats us in any path of life, whether it be in trade or in social life, in accumulating wealth or in following knowledge, in opening out new countries or in conquering old vices, and that way is to develop the same qualities in ourselves. The law is absolute, and from it there is no appeal. No Chinese walls, no system based upon exclusion and disqualification and suppression, can do this thing for us; can bring efficiency to a level with inefficiency, and leave progress possible. I ought to show how far more flexible, adaptive, and efficient a weapon of progress is voluntary combination than enforced combination; how every want that we have will be satisfied by means of voluntary combination, as we grow better fitted to make use of this great instrument; whether it be to provide against times of depression in trade and want of employment, of sickness, of old age; whether it be to secure to every man his own home and his own plot of ground; or to place within his reach the higher comforts and the intellectual luxuries of life.

Virtues and vices and other essays in moral philosophy

Nature has disseminated her blessings variously throughout this continent. Some parts of it are favorable to some things, others to others; some colonies are best calculated for grain, others for flax and hemp, others for cotton, and others for live stock of every kind. By this means a mutually advantageous intercourse may be established between them all. If we were to turn our attention from external to internal commerce, we should give greater stability and more lasting prosperity to our country than she can possibly have otherwise. We should not then import the luxuries and vices of foreign climes; nor should we make such hasty strides to public corruption and depravity.

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Seven Deadly Vices and Corresponding Virtues | to tell …

Last, let me glance at another class of actions, which are a matter of local rather than central government. You may ask me, “Ought not such a thing as riotous or indecent behavior in the streets to be punishable; and if so, on what grounds?” To which I can only reply that we must not confuse those offenses which are rightly punishable by the law of self-preservation, because they are aggressions by one man upon the faculties and actions of another man, with offenses which are committed in disregard of regulations laid down by those who are holders of property. Those who own the streets, whoever they may be–private owners, companies, or municipalities–may in virtue of such owning lay down such regulations as they think right, just as the directors of a railway company issue directions as to where men may smoke or not smoke. These regulations may be unwise and vexatious, but there is no element of wrong contained in them, because they are the conditions under which a certain thing is allowed by its owners to be used. But let us be careful neither to assume ownership, where it does not rightly exist, as the result of acquisition under a free system, nor to create it by any act of force. No municipality should have the right to seize property, and then for such property make such public regulations as it chooses. The moment that it takes property by force, and sets itself above the rights of individuals, its action assumes the character of a very dangerous and unjust monopoly. In the case where it acquires property, either by purchase or by free concession, it may, like any other private owner, make such regulations as it chooses; and so long, as it is not clothed with greater powers than the individual, a guarantee of a certain kind exists that these regulations will not be oppressive on account of the opposition and competition that could be and would be called out in consequence. Given a free people accustomed to voluntary combinations, and I doubt if there is much cause for fearing the oppression of any associated body, if only no extraordinary powers have been given to it. The resources which created it, can generally call its rival or its superior into existence.

Virtues and Vices: And Other Essays in Moral Philosophy by Philippa Foot and a great selection of similar Used, New and Collectible Books available now …

The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce

But I trust there is no danger that the prices of goods will rise much, if at all. The same Congress that put a stop to the importation of them, has also forbid raising the prices of them. The same committee that is to regulate the one, is also to regulate the other. All care will be taken to give no cause of dissatisfaction. Confide in the men whom you, and the rest of the continent, have chosen the guardians of our common liberties. They are men of sense and virtue. They will do nothing but what is really necessary for the security of your lives and properties.

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Chap. 5: The Amiable and Respectable Virtues – …

Then it was, as we may fondly imagine, that took place the clarifying of certain minds. Then it was that all verbiage and rhetoric were thrown on one side, and it was plainly said: “We, the majority, intend to govern. We care nothing for abstract reasoning or imaginary human rights. We are the strongest, and in virtue of that fact we will govern just as we choose. There shall be no law except our will,” then it was that the gathering mental reaction against governments came to a head, and the dynamiter with his creed of unorganized force against organized force was born. Then it was, while the great mass of the modern world waked and slept, toiled and feasted, in their unconsciousness, that the pains of travail began, and a new thing, hideous and terrible, came to the birth. From that hour, and thenceforth, the governments of Europe were face to face with a rival who should dispute with them their rights and their powers. The new claimant for the government of men was not impeded by any diffidence or modesty of temperament. He saw no reason why he should not rule as well as any other Giant Power. With a hideous leer upon his face, he turned to the governments and said: