Practical Morality with the subtitle: Or, a guide to men and manners. This is Jordan B. Peterson style moral advice for the youth back in 1848. It was written by Lord Chesterfield as advice to his son on how to behave in the world, and certainly on how not to behave. A large part of the book is amusing descriptions of bad behavior, bad habits, and sorry situations people will get entangled in when not knowing correct manners. Here is some from the chapter of the book on awkwardness:
When an awkward fellow first comes into a room, it is highly probable that his sword gets between his legs and throws him down, or makes him stumble at least; when he has recovered this accident, he goes and places himself in the very place of the whole room where he should not; there he soon lets his hat fall down, and in taking it up again, throws down his cane; in recovering his cane his hat falls the second time; so that he is a quarter of an hour before he is in order again. If he drinks tea or coffee, he certainly scalds his mouth and lets either the cup or the saucer fall and spills the tea or coffee in his breeches. At dinner his awkwardness distinguishes itself particularly, as he has more to do; there he holds his knife, fork, and spoon, differently from other people; eats with his knife to the great danger of his mouth, picks his teeth with his fork, and puts his spoon, which has been in his throat, twenty times, into the dishes again.
The book has a second part Maxims and Moral Reflections written by Duke De La Rochefoucault. This part is a collection of many short verses, such as:
Had we no faults ourselves, we should take less
pleasure in observing those of others.
Envy is destroyed by true friendship and coquetry
by true love.
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On august 27, 1928, a number of the largest and most powerful nations signed a pact that declared that they condemned recourse to war for the settlement of international differences, and renounced it as an instrument of national policy. The world had just witnessed the horrors of the WWI and it was clear that war would never lead to anything. In this book by Gerald Vann published in 1939, modern warfare is described as stripped of all its romantic glamour. With the flow of information through modern communication, the horrors of war will make it increasingly difficult to initiate war, the author reasons. The disadvantages of going to war will be so overwhelming, that overthrowing one’s own warmongering leader will always be preferable.
Morality and War describes a moral foundation for conflict solving in the modern world – just before the world went into a even more terrifying war. From the book:
There is nothing romantic about war to-day; and it is evidence alike of the power of propaganda and of the ability of human beings to close their eyes to realities that it should still be possible to think that there is. For the civilized man, war is simply the last repellent resort when all civilized means have failed. He will accept it therefore as he would accept any other unwelcome but necessary task ; hut he will refuse to shroud its realities in a mist of false pageantry ; and he will refuse to surrender his personality to the depersonalizing influences which it may unleash. Civilized society will not admit the notion that war is a biological necessity. To be civilized means precisely to have achieved control of the instincts. The aggressive instincts which may indeed find an outlet in war, need not do so ; and it is part of the evolution of the human personality to ensure that they shall not. War is only permissible, we remind ourselves, as an instrument rationally employed for the enforcing of law ; that result cannot be achieved by a war which is simply a sub-human surrender to uncontrolled biological urges. The days have gone by when war might be extolled as the sport of kings.
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Time and The Child with the subtitle A Study of Morality and Reality is a peculiar work by E. Graham Howe, published in 1934 after being delivered as five lectures at the Home and School Council of Great Britain. I have a weakness for the independent thinkers, the ones who associates freely and draws on any experiences life have dealt them. E. Graham Howe is such a one. This book is about the children and how to train them for life, but it is so much more. It is about time, philosophy, the nature of reality and morality. Moreover, the book is illustrated with some interesting infographics to make the concepts more understandable. This is from the introduction to the book:
The unbiased study of reality is a hard matter and a difficult discipline, but it should not be beyond us. It would seem
to be the criterion of all teaching, if it is to be good, that it should set itself to understand and obey the law which is behind and within all the movement of life’s experience. Rightly understood, this is the whole purpose of the scientific method. However honest we may be in the way in which we carry out this method, the fact remains that in the end we must certainly fail to gain any completeness of understanding. But this itself is good for our discipline. By teaching us the lesson of humility, it may further serve to prove that in life we are engaged in the service of a mystery, rather than an act of mastery.
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An Introduction to Ethics by William Lillie was first published in 1948 and is now in the Public Domain. An Introduction to Ethics is thorough textbook on moral and ethical philosophy for both laymen and students, meaning it can be read by non-scholars. The main theme is the 20th Century moralists, their contribution to the discussions of moral and ethic philosophy. From the book:
Ethics is primarily a part of the quest for truth and the motive for studying it is the desire for knowledge. In this respect it is more akin to philosophical subjects than the natural sciences where the practical applications are many and attractive. We naturally want to know the truth about things, and ethics aims at finding out the truth about something that is both interesting and important-the rightness and wrongness of human conduct. There is no guarantee that the man who understands by means of ethical study the difference between right and wrong will necessarily follow the right. A theatre audience is always amused at the unlettered man in a modern comedy who tries to save his scholarly brother from choosing evil courses by reminding him that he won a university prize in moral philosophy ! In spite of the teaching of Socrates that knowledge is virtue it is commonly recognized that a mere knowledge of ethical principles is not sufficient to keep anyone in the paths of virtue. It has already been said that the example of good men’s lives and the training of practical experience are likely to be more effective influer.ces in producing good conduct.
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The Third Morality is a work by Gerald Heard, first published in 1937, now in the Public Domain. Heard was a modern philosopher and author of more than 20 books. He was a close friend of Aldous Huxley and a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Heard, among other spectacular activities, formed an informal research group to look into developing group-mindedness or group communications. The members of this group later became some early developers of the computer industry in California. One of Gerald Heard main interests was morality and The Third Morality is his take on modern morality. From the book:
This book is called the third Morality because in man’s history he has had three main moralities, three general ideas of conduct based on the three world-pictures he has so far made. The first world-picture, and its resultant morality, was Anthropomorphism, the belief that the universe was the expression of individual persons, and then of one such supreme person. The second world-picture was Mechanomorphism, the belief that the universe could be explained as a huge machine. Men have tried to act on that-for as you believe things to be, so you must try to behave but it has never worked. You cannot make a true morality from the belief that the universe is nothing but a machine.
Nevertheless, until this generation, Mechanomorphism has been the accepted world-picture, even among the religious, and the majority of men today are trying still to act in accordance with that picture, because they are sure that it is true. This attempt so to act-however inconsistent and however unethical must then be classified as the Second Morality. It is a Morality which has never really succeeded in functioning, but it must be recognized as a phase. The Third Morality is the gradually defining impress which is to-day beginning to be made by the third world-picture, that world-picture which is now taking the place of Mechanomorphism. The following essay attempts to trace in outline the conduct indicated to us by this third world-picture, that conduct which must finally take form as the Third Morality.
The New Morality is written by Durant Drake and published back in 1929. For long I have thought about posting Public Domain books here on the ethic and moral topics. I have collected a small library of books of high quality, and here is the first one on the series.
Durant Drake was concerned about the problem of happiness and morality. He understood “the new morality” as the consciously aim to secure the maximum of attainable happiness for mankind, much as other philosophers defines utilitarianism. In this book he outlines “the new morality” has been a concept in the entire history of ideas, but only espoused by a few since the great thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Morever, Drake draws lines to our genetics and the animal kingdom to find the roots for our moral behavior. From the book:
Why should we be moral? What is the good of morality? No questions that could be asked touch us more closely. And while few have been given more confused and confliaing replies, few are really capable of simpler and more certain answer. The first point to note is the discovery by genetic psychology that human morality has its roots far back in the lives of our pre-human ancestors. It is the product, as are our instincts and bodily organs, of millions of years of natural selection. And since this stern process results, in general, in the survival of the fittest structures, and types of behaviour, we may be pretty sure, a priori, that morality, like our various bodily organs, has survived, persisted, developed because of its usefulness.
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