Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural ..

 Henry Home, Lord Kames, Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion [1779]

Loyalty: An Essay on the Morality of Relationships …

This reasoning might be illustrated by many apt analogies. I shall mention but one. Veracity, and a disposition to believe what is affirmed for truth, are corresponding principles, which make one entire branch of the human nature. Veracity would be of no use were men not disposed to believe; and, abstracting from veracity, a disposition to believe, would be a dangerous quality; for it would lay us open to fraud and deceit. There is precisely the same correspondence betwixt the hoarding appetite and the sense of property. The latter is useless without the former; witness animals of prey, who having no occasion for property, have no notion of it. The former again, without the latter, is altogether insufficient to produce the effect for which it is intended by nature.

Sketches of Man, edition 2d, Vol. IV. page 20. [From the sketch on the “Principles and progress of morality,” , vol. 4, bk. 3, sketch 2.]

Loyalty: An Essay on the Morality of Relationships eBook: George P

The historian Henry Steele Commager expressed a similar view in an article in the New York Review of Books, October 1972. Comparing the U.S. war in Vietnam to the Confederacy’s war to preserve slavery and Germany’s war of aggression in World War II, he wrote, “Why do we find it so hard to accept this elementary lesson of history, that some wars are so deeply immoral that they must be lost, that the war in Vietnam is one of these wars, and that those who resist it are the truest patriots.” Cited in Neil Jumonville, Henry Steele Commager: Midcentury Liberalism and the History of the Present (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), p. 177. Of course, the peace movement’s quest was to prevent the war and stop the war, irrespective of American victory or defeat.

Helo, Ario. “The historicity of morality: Necessity and necessary agents in the ethics of Lord Kames.” , 27 (2001): 239–55.

Even supposing that the elephants were our equals in intelligence, their life differs from ours so fundamentally that trying to infer their perspective from our own experience is bound to miss the mark in many ways. For one thing, as a rule elephants have poor vision — but their sense of smell is exquisite, revealing a whole olfactory landscape that we are contentedly closed off to. Also, they do not fall romantically in love (that we know of; that their behavior indicates). Think how many other aspects of our lives are profoundly influenced by good sight and deep eros, and ask yourself what might loom equally large in an elephant’s world that we ourselves would have very little grasp of. And of course there are a variety of other differences — where they live, how they live, the fact that from birth to death a female (unless something has gone wrong) will be alone and after a certain point a male mostly will. How might these things shape a psyche?

David Hume,  (1739; reprint, ed. David Fate Norton and Mary Beth Norton, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 3.2.1, pp. 307–11.


Relation between Law and Morality or Ethics

And here we must pause a moment, to indulge some degree of admiration upon this part of the human system. Man is evidently intended to live in society; and because there can be no society among creatures who prey upon one another, it was necessary, in the first place, to provide against mutual injuries. Further, man is the weakest of all creatures separately, and the very strongest in society; therefore mutual assistance is the chief end of society; and to this end it was necessary, that there should be mutual trust and reliance upon engagements, and that favours received should be thankfully repaid. Now, nothing can be more finely adjusted than the human heart, to answer these purposes. It is not sufficient that we approve every action that is essential to the preservation of society: it is not sufficient, that we disapprove every action that tends to its dissolution. Approbation or disapprobation merely, is not sufficient to subject our conduct to the authority of a law. These sentiment shave in this case the peculiar modification of duty, that such actions are what we ought to perform, and what we are indispensably bound to perform. This circumstance converts into a law, what without it can only be considered as a rational measure, and a prudential rule of conduct. Nor is any thing omitted to give it the most complete character of a law. The transgression is attended with apprehension of punishment, nay with actual punishment; as every misfortune which befals the transgressor is considered by him as a punishment. Nor is this the whole of the matter. Sympathy is a principle implanted in the breast of every man; we cannot hurt another without suffering for it, which is an additional punishment. And we are still further punished for our injustice or ingratitude, by incurring the aversion and hatred of all men.

The Moral Instinct - The New York Times

It is a truth universally admitted, that no man thinks so highly of himself or of another, for having done a just, as for having done a generous action: yet every one must be sensible, that justice is to society more essential than generosity; and why we should place the greater merit upon the less essential action, may appear unaccountable. This matter deserves to be examined, because it discloses more and more the science of morals; and to this examination we shall proceed, after making some further observations upon the subject of the preceding chapter.