‘An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals’ By David Hume begins with a general discussion on morals, in which the author specifies: 'The end of all moral speculations is to teach us our duty; and, by proper representations of the deformity of vice and beauty of virtue, beget correspondent habits, and engage us to avoid the one, and embrace the other.’ Thereafter continues enquiry on this head, beginning with the consideration of the social virtues, Benevolence and Justice. Many of the most used epithets belong to this, author says, like SOCIABLE, GOOD-NATURED, HUMANE, MERCIFUL, GRATEFUL, FRIENDLY, GENEROUS, or BENEFICENT. The author observes that social virtues are nothing but moral distinctions that arise from education, and were, at first, invented, and afterwards encouraged, by the art of governance, in order to render men polite, pliable and well mannered, and subdue their natural ferocity and selfishness, which could have caused hindrance to society. While examining the practice of morals by society, Hume observes a great difference between the way society deals with male and female on these aspects. If a man behaves with cowardice on one occasion, a contrary conduct reinstates him in his character. But if a woman forgets chastity, the greatest regard that can be acquired by that sex, by what action can the woman be reinstated to glory? Once her behavior has been dissolute, how can she assure us, that she has become her former respectable self?
In the chapter titled Qualities Immediately Agreeable To Ourselves, the degree of utility (or the lack of it) of each of these is discussed. For example where a man has no sense of value in himself, we are not likely to have any higher esteem of him. And ‘if the same person, who crouches to his superiors, is insolent to his inferiors (as often happens), this contrariety of behavior, instead of correcting the former vice, aggravates it extremely by the addition of a vice still more odious’. Next chapter, Qualities Immediately Agreeable To Others, examines those qualities that produce pleasure, because they are useful to society, or useful or agreeable to the person himself. Many of these are conventions, which could vary from society to society. For example, author says, ‘A Spaniard goes out of his own house before his guest, to signify that he leaves him master of all. In other countries, the landlord walks out last, as a common mark of deference and regard.’
He mentions that such principles, like, that all BENEVOLENCE is mere hypocrisy, friendship a cheat, public spirit a farce, fidelity a snare to procure trust and confidence; and that while all of us, at bottom, pursue only our private interest, we wear these fair disguises, in order to put others off their guard, and expose them the more to our wiles and machinations, or, that the most generous friendship, however sincere, is a modification of self-love, exist in society. He then goes on to argue, supporting their just existence.
Apart from other virtues is origin and nature of Justice, the author says, and marks out some differences. Like the importance of correct application of justice, whereby, a blemish, a fault, a vice, a crime is dealt differently, awarding them with different degrees of censure and disapprobation.
This is an eye opening book, it made me more aware of the unseen areas of social controls and desires. Virtues, desirable qualities of each one of us, though he says has a common origin, vices need not make a man anything other than a just object of regard and compassion: his betrayers alone deserve hatred and contempt. We can see here some of the hallmarks of modern justice.
‘70 Of The Most Motivational Quotes You Will Ever Find’ Compiled by Matthew Roberts of www.StayMotivated.info is a unique collection. One might have come across almost all intelligent quotes in this book, but in a different form, but what makes this a delectable one is the joy of seeing all those in a different light. For example, I know, there is no short cut to success, but it was nice to know that ‘there is no short cuts to anywhere worth going’. Seek, you shall find, people used to exhort, but this book quietly tells me, ‘you do not find what you do not seek’. Great expectations, I always wanted entertain, but I never realized its great significance, as I did when I read ‘seldom does an individual exceed his own expectations.’
On the whole this is an enjoyable set, tastefully compiled. I have studied few of them by heart and I find them useful to draw attention.
‘Famous Men of the Middle Ages’ By J. H. Haaren and A. B. Poland chronicles the time when the power of Rome was broken and tribes of barbarians who lived north of the Danube and the Rhine took possession of lands that had been part of the Roman Empire. Rise of Goths, Huns, Attila defeating the Roman Emperor Theodosius, Theodoric and the rise of Ostrogoths and the rule by Clovis are described. The reign of Justinian the Great, the rise of Islam, Charlemagne and going up to William the Conqueror, the book continue, narrating the main events of Europe. Peter the Hermit and the crusades, Kingdoms in France, Germany and Russia as well as the reign of kings of England till King Edward the Second finds mention in this book.
However scant information only is available about other parts of the world, though there is some mention of China, known as Cathay.
‘My Choice to Abuse Drugs’ by Erekose begins with author’s reflections on the inner meanings of life, triggered by watching an army of snails trying to step over a cigarette butt, which prompts him to compare humans as socially programmed beings, deserving the name ‘bio-mechanical dolls’. Drug use, which is just anther feature of bio-mechanical life, does not deserve to be labeled a crime. At most it may be a useless feature, but certainly, not all features of the modern democratic society need be useful to all.
The author then goes on to examine one of the most feared drug, heroin, and the damage it can cause. Curiously he observes that, rather than the dangers caused by the substance heroin, the users are constantly being affected by other dangers, like, substandard material, contaminated syringe etc.
I remember reading somewhere that the biggest effort for elimination of drugs is by alcohol industry. This is because that industry stands to benefit the most from a ban on drugs. As can be seen from sales figures, non-availability of drugs result directly in increased sales of hard liquor. The author thus suggest a heavy involvement of alcohol industry in financing the anti-drug propaganda, and spreading terrible stories like, drugs cause impotency, it invites schizophrenia, all based on incomplete scientific studies.
I found this an interesting book. The author’s contention is that it is not mere drug use that is leading to social health problems, but incorrect and dangerous use of drugs, and such misuse is dangerous for the society even in respect of a nondrug material. Therefore just because of this, drugs do not deserve to be hounded. ‘The most useless person in the world is not a criminal until killing, stealing or raping takes place. Everything else is a moral judgment of personal lifestyle, which should have no place in the laws of states which describe themselves as ‘impartial’, ‘democratic’ and ‘free’.’
Though I am not yet in agreement with what is said here, this certainly is food for thought.