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a positive scheme of distribution could not be set up by society, the problem then was to curb injustice. If people did not know how to weigh exact justice, they could nevertheless feel and feel keenly the more gross forms of injustice imposed upon them. They tried to curb this gross injustice by indirect means, by gradually enforcing prohibitions against those underhanded and upperhanded practices that produced the grossly unjust division of give-and-take in the social order.
The Christian religion unwittingly gave the ideal of justice a black eye by condemning the doctrine of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It failed to distinguish between retributive justice and distributive justice; it failed to caution that it condemned only the retributive justice. The ideal of social justice, that is, distributive justice, further suffered because it was long kept in the background, while retributive justice occupied the foreground, of attention. Society through its governmental agencies punished those who violated its laws. The spirit of this punishment was long one of revenge, of what was called retribution. The courts in which this retribution was meted out were called courts of justice. Everything seemed to conspire to cause people to think of justice solely in terms of retributive justice. When one reads the history of crime and punishment and reviews how society through its courts and penal institutions dealt with offenders, it may be readily appreciated why the ideal of social justice was obscured and people thought of justice so largely in terms of revenge, of retribution, and of enforced atonement for crimes committed.
We are slowly growing away from the practice of retributive justice. We do not have as strong a tendency as formerly toward revenge, toward "getting even." Society treats offenders less and less on the basis of revenge. However, it is not easy for some people to get away from the practice, so clearly does it appear to them to be only fair and right that they should get “even” when someone harms them. Such persons miss the drift of the newer conceptions. It is not that such acts are unfair, that it is not just to get even, to strike back, but that there should not be any harm, any striking at all. It is not the conception of justice that is changing here; it is the social ideals in another sphere of thought and feeling that are changing. It is in its conception of social welfare that society is
gaining newer and better ideals. The newer ideal is that we do not want any antisocial acts or strife to be committed and harmful things to be created in the social order and distributed, even if justly divided. We do not wish to recognize such negative products of our social life as fruits to be distributed at all. The newer conception is to rid the social order of such harmful, negative fruits, suppress them, and bend all our energies toward organizing and directing the activities of the members of society into cooperative forms of social endeavor to serve positive forms of human welfare and apply the rule of social or distributive justice to the division of this work and its benefits. Thus there is a place in the social order only for social or distributive justice.
The moral code does not consist of a mere rambling accumulation of prohibitions but is a growth in a definite direction. It grows in the direction of the goal of social justice. The growth of the code may be represented by the diagram below, in which the
Even - handed methods
space between the converging lines represents the relative extent of unjust distribution caused by the use of unprohibited underhanded and upperhanded methods. The converging lines and narrowing area represent the growth of the moral code, each new prohibition moving society nearer to the goal of social justice—the goal where there shall finally be established prohibitions against the use of all underhanded and upperhanded methods, leaving only even-handed methods. Then the burdens and benefits of the organized effort in the social order would be distributed according to the positive rule called justice, the equilibrium of give-and-take. The course of evolution is long, and hence seemingly slow of movement. "The problem for man and society is not to reach the goal but to be sure that they are traveling in the right direction. That means life and growth. There is room for the building up of the moral code by additional prohibitions through many, many centuries to come, during which society with a clearer vision of the goal of social justice and a richer moral code will ever be moving toward that goal.
In this ideal of social justice we have a criterion to test right and wrong, new and disputed thou shalt-nots in the ethical code. Let us now further contrast this view with that of a summum bonum as a criterion. According to the latter view we have some ideal of human well-being which constitutes a supreme end, such as pleasure, energism, self-realization, perfectionism, happiness, loyalty, and so on. Now, so goes the argument, as this is what human beings should seek—what they live for—they should use every means to gain such supreme forms of human satisfaction. Of course, if a group of people co-operates to attain any of these conceived forms of welfare, there is labor to be performed and satisfactions to be enjoyed, and these must be distributed in some way. The question arises, Who is to assume the burdens and who is to enjoy the fruits ? Shape then this very process of division in such a way as to promote the creation of this conceived highest good. In some cases withhold satisfactions in order to coerce the recalcitrant or indifferent members to bend their efforts in the cause of the highest good. In other cases hold out great shares of the fruits of the joint work of all as prizes to persuade the indifferent or obstinate members. If they, seeing these proffered shares and wanting still more, persist in withholding their especially needed services, then, to persuade them to put forth their efforts in the interest of the highest good, make the prizes greater, even colossal if need be. Such a scheme of distribution is ethical according to this summum bonum view. The very criterion of ethical rules of division is whether or not they so direct the process of distribution as to serve to the greatest extent the promotion of the summum bonum. The process of apportioning the burdens and blessings of the social order is subordinated to the process of producing the benefits.
(To be concluded)
SOCIOLOGY AS ETHICS
EDWARD CARY HAYES
University of Illinois
A philosophy is almost as necessary to civilized society as a language. The philosophy that civilized society must have is an ethics—not this or that particular ethics but some ethics or otherthat is to say, some generally accepted idea or ideas adapted to give direction and momentum to life.
The ethics of yesterday was largely based on legalistic religion, on the thought of divine law enforcible by rewards and punishments here and hereafter. Today the fear of hell and hope of heaven and belief in the intervention of “special providence” in behalf of the good man and in disfavor of the bad man play greatly diminished rôles in the control of life. Moreover, deeply as we may regret it, we cannot fail to observe that the sense of divine companionship which so refined and ennobled some lives and developed such staunch ethical reliability has tended to fade out of the social consciousness as anthropomorphic conceptions of God have been replaced by philosophic pantheism or agnosticism. Religious ethics was for a time reinforced by “moral philosophy”; but moral philosophy like that of Kant was unscientific and is now discredited and for most minds dead.
Look at Germany! Neither the religion of Luther nor the philosophy of Kant guides her life. Her national policy exhibits a more than barbarous unmorality. And moral disintegration is by no means peculiar to Germany. A large part of our own popular fiction consists in the subtlest advocacy of a pseudo-scientific unmorality. If a critic raises his voice in defense of the “midVictorian" decencies and sanctities he is greeted with a chorus
* Selections from the two opening chapters of a forthcoming book.
* Kant taught the absolutism of moral law, and Professor Dewey thinks that his influence has degenerated into a prop for the unmoral absolutism of Prussian government.
of scoffs and jeers. We are assured that nothing is wrong that is “natural,” that in nature there is no higher and no lower, that altruism is only a form of selfishness, and that reason has no precedence over the instincts that we share with the beasts. Among “the intellectuals," "the emancipated," "the enlightened youth,' ” the leaders and makers of our future, great numbers are moving rapidly and with gathering momentum toward an abyss not wholly unlike that into which Germany has fallen. That abyss is no less deep and dark and noisome because with us unmorality takes the form of private rather than national individualism.
Now if this doctrine of “the emancipated” is a true statement of the facts of human existence, and if the moral distinction between right and wrong is an old wives' nursery fable designed to scare a juvenile and timorous humanity, outgrown by the men of a scientific age, or if it is an invention devised and perpetuated in the interest of the many weak in order to bind the strong and is an insult to the right and might of supermen--if moral restraints are only an attempt to curb the "natural" current of full, free, and rich life, then we cannot hide the fact from an adult and scientific world, and we may as well plunge at once into the mêlée of ravening beasts and let nonsurvival take the hindmost.
But does that “doctrine of the emancipated" present a true or a false conception of human life? That is the sole question. Are ravening individualism and ruthless war of groups the method of survival for creatures capable of rational organization? Are the characteristic values of human experience obtainable by the unregulated operation of instincts which we share with animals that have not evolved to the level of gregarious life? Are those values obtainable by the operation of any instincts undirected by reason, or do instincts stimulated and guided by the conclusions of reason yield a richer life than irrational impulses do? If so what are the conclusions of adequately enlightened reason that afford the necessary guidance to instinctive promptings? Does the realization of the biggest net total of human values require the subordination of this or that particular instinct to the harmonious totality of experience? Does it even require the organization of the activities of individuals into a regulated system of co-operation ? And is it