Leighton, J. A. “Ethics, Sociology, and Personality.” The Philosophical Review 15, no. 5 (1906): 494. https://doi.org/10.2307/2177755
THE determination in general terms of the nature of the ‘highest good' or 'intrinsic good’ of the meaning of ‘conscience' and 'obligation,' the definition of types of 'virtue,’ the discussion of the relations of 'egoistic' and 'altruistic' tendencies in human action, etc., are all without doubt indispensable elements of ethical theory. Nevertheless, the doubt is legitimate as to whether such general philosophical concepts in ethics can have much value in application to the problems of the concrete ethical life unless they are supplemented and enriched by investigations of a much more empirical and historical character. And when one further considers that no single concept of the highest good or supreme ethical end that is either generally accepted or scientifically irrefutable has yet been attained, the further doubt may arise as to whether after all there may not be something in the nature of the subject-matter that makes it impossible to frame a self-coherent concept of the 'good' which shall at the same time carry the qualities of rational objectivity and compulsion, and be applicable to the indefinite variety and complexity of actual life.
That such a central concept or principle would be of the greatest practical value as well as theoretical significance, if it were possible of achievement, will hardly be questioned. It is the business of ethics to render systematic and rational, so far as may be possible, the actual principles of valuation that congruential judgment. A careful observer of our social life will scarcely deny that, after many centuries of ethical investigation, confusion and even serious inconsistency still obtain in the ethical judgments of occidental civilization. There are, for example, inconsistencies between private morality and business morality, between private morality and political morality, etc. Perhaps shining examples of such confusion are the present status of social judgment on the marriage and divorce problem, and on the so-called problem of 'tainted wealth.'
Is it possible to define a system of universal or objective types of ethical valuation, and, if not, is there for ethical investigation a limiting concept or indefinable ultimate? If there be such an ultimate shall we find it in the individual or in society? Or is this antithesis between society and the individual a false one? If the ethical ultimate be not wholly definable, is it still possible to give this limiting concept some concrete filling? And, if this be possible, by what method or from what point of approach may we best gain content for our concept? To discuss in outline these problems is the purpose of the present paper.
Now, of course, we must begin with the fact of morality, with the actual existence of the ethical life for and in self-conscious beings capable of self-determined, self-directed action. Moral action may not always be done with self-conscious deliberation and choice, but moral judgment always presupposes the possibility of self-conscious activity. Hence the starting point for the interpretation and systematization of ethical value-judgments must be found in these judgments themselves as actual attitudes of living persons. We must start from our own ethical experience, however confused and inconsistent it may seem, and whatever course of investigation we may pursue, its final term must be our own reinterpreted and clarified judgments. But it does not require a large acquaintance with the past, or much reflection on social evolution, to convince one that one's immediate judgments are in very great part resultants of social tradition. The confusion in contemporaneous ethical judgments is in part due to the application of traditional schemes of valuation to novel situations which have arisen through the rapid alteration of economic, scientific, and other conditions of social existence. Our civilization has undergone great modification through the agency of industrial, political, and intellectual factors that have worked on morality both directly and indirectly. The personal attitude in an ethical situation is determined by a complexity of factors. It is in part the resultant of the cumulative effects on the individual of past social situations and institutions, i.e., of that complex set of conditions denominated 'social heredity,' and in part the resultant of the natural and biological factors of individuality. Furthermore, the social aspects of every ethical situation present also a very complex problem for analysis. The social heritage of customs and maxims, of institutions and tendencies, that is tied up with every critical ethical situation seems to stand over against the individual with mandatory or prescriptive powers. But this social heritage is itself subject to alteration by the reactions of individuals as well as by change in economic, political, and other conditions of man's existence as a social and historical being.
In view of the exceeding great complexity of many critical ethical situations for the individual, we may rightly assert that the possibility of applying an inherited principle of moral judgment to new cases depends on a resemblance between the present situation and a multiplicity of other situations differing in the components of time, place, and history, as well as on an identity of mental character in different individuals. In short, the validity of generic types of moral judgments and the rational authority of social judgments on human conduct involve both a spiritual identity of nature among differing individuals and a continuity of moral and social evolution. It is clear that every specific type and single case of moral judgment, when reflectively considered, presents a complex sociological and historical problem. Hence a critical consideration of the rational foundation of specific ethical values would seem to be impossible without a comparative social and historical analysis of actually existing moral judgments. It is at this point that the treatment of ethics as a department of sociology gives promise of fruitfulness for practice. And there can be no doubt that the treatment of ethical problems from the standpoint of social evolution has thrown much light on the origin, mutation, and present meaning of moral ideas. The great bulk of generally recognized ethical judgments and commonly accepted maxims of conduct has asocial reference and their history is intertwined with the history of society. The continuity and the variation in ethical ideas keep step with the continuity and variation of civilized institutions as a whole. We are told that 'the crimes of Clap ham are chaste in Martaban' because Clap ham and Martaban belong to entirely different types of social evolution. Spartans exposed weak infants to death because the practice was indispensable to the permanence and well-being of their military type of society. For the same reason savage tribes practice female infanticide today and lying is not a vice in military societies of the more primitive type. We in Christendom make efforts to preserve and protect the lives of the weak, the incurably ailing, the mentally unsound, because our social type is the result of a compromise between the 'struggle for existence ‘type and the type engendered by primitive Christianity as an ethics of universal sympathy. Nietzsche would tell us that the latter type was originated and enforced by the many week to keep the stronger few in subjection.
It is evident that our current notions of justice, honesty, personal integrity, chastity in and out of the marriage relation, etc., have reference to the well-being of a type of social organization into whose composition there have entered in its long evolution many diverging strains of biological impulse, of persisting social types inherited from Greece, Rome, Judaea, primitive Germanic society, etc. And the evolution of our type of morality has been modified from time to time by the physical environment, and above all by the alteration of economic and intellectual conditions. Leslie Stephen somewhere says that if lying were beneficial to society then lying would be a virtue. It was a virtue in militant societies of more primitive type. From this standpoint one may explain stealing, scalp-taking, infanticide, and sexual promiscuity, under certain social conditions as virtues. It is only the full extension of this method when some writers maintain that the one remaining task for a scientific ethics is to trace the genesis of ethical feelings and ideas in the individual, and to interpret their values in terms of the actual social structure in its historical evolution and its present functioning. And, in the execution of this work, which we may call the 'sociology of ethics,' of course the social psychological concepts of 'imitation,' 'suggestion,' etc., will play a most important role. The awakening of the individual mind to a consciousness of obligation can be explained psycho-genetically in terms of suggestion and imitation working through command and punishment, prescription, and example. Imitation has been well defined as the motor aspect of sympathy, and sympathy is perhaps the most powerful and persistent factoring moral development. There can be no question that the contents of the moral consciousness in the individual can be shown to be for the most part of social origin. The outcome of such a completely sociological treatment of moral feelings and ideas would be, of course, the recognition of the thoroughgoing relativity of all actual moral feelings and ideas.
And yet, although the method of approach just mentioned is of the utmost value in the study of the facts of morality, both in their existing forms and in their genesis, I would maintain that there is a distinct field for ethics independent of sociology. Sociology is the comprehensive science of the principles or laws of social structure and of its evolution. There is in any well-organized society minimal framework of institutions on which the continued existence of this society depends. And, on the other hand, inasmuch as a society at any time consists of living individuals in relation to one another, the institutional framework of society is in constant evolution. Sociology investigates the fundamental structure of social institutions and traces out the principles of their mutation, and one may regard the term ' social institutions, ‘taken in its widest sense, as inclusive of the generally established and accepted principles of action current in a given society. ‘Moral principles' are socially recognized standards of action. They are enforced by law and social opinion. They are transmitted by social tradition either in the form of explicit laws or in the more indefinite form of customary social opinion. And ethics, of course, includes amongst its data and problems these socially accepted or moral types of value-judgment. But the study of codified social morality forms only a part and, indeed, I would maintain, the peripheral part of the area of ethical enquiry. Of course, every attitude of an individual living in society has a social aspect. And many, perhaps most, of the actions of individuals are determined by socially valid or moral standards. But beyond these accepted social values are the critical attitudes of self-conscious persons. The individual spirit is an originating center of ethical judgment and action, and for ethics the reflective individual, capable of independent insight and self-determining action in the light of his own rational insight, should be the center of primary consideration and ultimate reference. Ethics is in part a comparative historical science, but it should find and investigate its fundamental problems, not only by emphasis of the institutional or social aspect of the individual, but as well by reference to the individual himself as the source of ethical value judgments. It is a sociological problem as to how institutional morality is evolved and maintained. It is, par excellence, an ethical problem as to how in a changing or relatively stable social structure, as the case may be, the individual may realize and express personal values. There are, it seems to me, three distinct levels of moral activity alike in the history of the race and of the individual. First is the purely reflex or unconscious social or tribal morality of unreflecting selves who are simply passive organs of the ' tribal self.' At this level men unthinkingly obey the conventional or customary morality of their clan, tribe, city, or nation. Their moral ideas are reverberations of tribal judgments of custom and utility. The passage from this first level to the second level is mediated by the conflict which ensues between the desires and interests of the individual and the morality of tribal custom. In and through this conflict self-conscious rationality is engendered. The second principal level of morality is that in which the individual consciously and reflectively identifies his own interests and standards of action with those of society. At this level the self becomes aware of the rationality of social or institutional morals. He has gained an insight into the rationale of custom. He finds a larger life for himself through action in harmony with the social responsive., with mind objectified in moral institutions. But there now arises the consciousness of the imperfect rationality of existing customary moral institutions, and the transition from the second to the third level of moral activity is mediated by the discovery of a gap and, sometimes, of a conflict between the principles and results of actual social morality and spontaneously generated ideals of life that transcend convention, or, other words, by the failure of current valuations and practices to meet the ideal demands of the higher personal spirit.
At the third and highest level of morality the personal spirit fulfils the demands of the second level in so far as these are noting contradiction with the personal and spiritual values that transgenderizing social conventions. But at this level the given customary and institutional system of values ceases to be ultimately authoritative and determinative. The ideals or values affirmed by the rational self-conscious spirit are indeed social as well as individual. But the distinction has now arisen, never tube obliterated, between the social as given and as ideal, between the moral life as gigabel and as Aufgabe. Historically ethical reflection, i. e., a rational consideration of the principles of human conduct, has always arisen just where the social structure and its principles of customary morality have ceased to be authoritative and normative for the individual. In short, reflective ethics begins with the discovery of a rational self-consciousness in the individual. It was so in Greece, in Judaea, and at the beginnings of the modern world, in the Renaissance and Reformation. We may then have, with reference to the earlier stages of moral evolution in the race, a sociology of customary morality, and the general principles of such a science will be applicable to the practical problems of our own time in so far as primitive types tend to persist and reappear in the moral development of each succeeding generation. But the sociological method fails to be adequate just where reflective ethics begins, since this is precisely the point where the individual person becomes an independent center and source of ethical valuation. The very inception of ethical reflections the cessation of absolute social authority, and the theory of society fails at this point to illuminate the ethical problem, since it is not primarily concerned with the individual as a principle of ethical valuation. In approaching this problem one must not confuse the reflective and self-conscious person, who, as rational, recognizes over individual meanings in thought and in social action, with the merely natural individual as an unthinking center of desire and impulse. No doubt the relation of the individual to society is an important problem for systematic ethics as well as for politics. But the rational person, as I understand him, is always socialized, and personal values must include what are commonly distinguished as individual and social values. I mean by personal values all feelings and practical affirmations of intrinsic values which issue from and inhere in rational, self-conscious, individuals. In this sense the affirmation of self-sacrifice in the interests of science or of humanity is just as truly a personal value as the affirmation of an impulse to aesthetic activity in the face of a filial obligation.
Hence the scope of ethics is wider than that of the scientific study of social morals. The latter arises from the consideration of maxims and judgments which, however they may have originated, now prevail through the authority of the social will, and as such may be recognized by the individual will as rational or irrational. Its principles refer to generalized social types of action, i.e., to a certain set of principles of practical Jud Menand obligation that have come to prevail by reason of their actual or supposed indispensableness to the maintenance and development of the social organization. In other words, the empirical study of morals is chiefly concerned with socially authoritative principles of action. Ethics, on the other hand, includes the consideration of all intrinsic personal valuations or goods, some of which, as, for example, aesthetic enjoyment or philosophical contemplation, may have no obvious social reference whatsoever. When we pass beyond the standpoint of customary morality to the finer nuances of ethical thinking and feeling, we enter a realm of intrinsic values that can neither be fully explained from, or conceived in, terms of anything other than the inner reactions of rational persons to situations that call for conscious deeds. These personal reactions may be classified in three series, according as the attitudes refer predominantly to the doer's own inner condition as the determining end, or to the psychical states of other personalities, or to seemingly impersonal goods, such as art, science, etc. These three series of values refer to distinguishable types of intrinsic goods and, although they need not be mutually exclusive, their contemporaneous attainment may be incompatible for many individuals in certain situations of their lives. A social or impersonal end may claim precedence over a private end, etc. My own aesthetic culture may conflict with filial obligations, or my work as philosopher or scientist may conflict with both aesthetic culture and filial duty. Nevertheless, these three types of goods alike refer to value-judgments of persons. Ultimately their goodness derives from no other source than personal affirmations of value made in the light of rational consideration. In this sense all ethical valuation is a personal judgment, and there is no intrinsic worth whose norm can be found outside a personal attitude.
In this connection the comparative historical interpretation of ethical judgments, as recorded in action and in literature, with reference to the concept of personality as ultimate source of valuation, furnishes valuable illustrative material and suggestion for a theory of ethics that shall do full justice to the concrete character of self-conscious personality and shall allow fuller scope to individual diversity in the evolutionary movement of civilization. A comparative consideration of the ethical role of individuality in history must deliver us from rigid dogmatic conceptions of a single highest good or type of obligation definable in exact terms. We see that the highest 'good' is a purely formal concept. Ethics must become relativistic and Ideological in content when it is recognized by a thoroughgoing comparative criticism that the final center of valuation is personality in evolution.
The comparative study of personal valuations in history will prove most suggestive when it is made with chief reference to the transformation of personal values that find utterance in critical and significant epochs of spiritual evolution and in the lives of men of world-historical spiritual significance. How instructive, for instance, it is to compare the self-consciousness which expresses itself in the feeling for honor amongst men like Dante and Petrarch with the attitude of representative mediaeval men, such as St. Bernard or St. Francis of Assisi, to study the clash of two partly antithetical systems of value in Savonarola, and to compare the genial and Epicurean worldliness of a Montaigne with the rigorism of a Pascal! What an instructive contrast maybe drawn between Dante as the last great expression of mediaeval views of life and Goethe as a supreme representative of modern humanism, etc.! This historical material, of course, will furnish illustration and suggestion for that tentative system of value-judgments which it must be the aim of ethics to establish only insofar as there is some recognizable identity or continuity amongst ethical values now and then, and some degree of spiritual community of personal life traceable through the historical mutations of society. Every great historical ethical theory has expressed and summed up some potent and vital phase in the concrete spiritual evolution of man. Ethics must continue the endeavor to interpret and systematize intrinsic value-judgments with reference to their evolution.
The point I wish to make is that, since the past from which our general types of morality derive is a recorded past accessible to us and no longer, as for primitive man, a vanished and unknowable past, we can make progress in ethical insight by reflectively bringing our existent types of moral judgment into relation with their forebears.
The Nicomachean ethics of Aristotle remains a model for ethical investigation to-day. In this work we find a systematic exposition and classification of the actual values that were normative for the best type of Greek in the best days of Greek civilization. What is needed to-day in ethics is a similarly empirical and systematic treatment of intrinsic values, but with reference to their historical evolution. The latter reference is absent from Aristotle, since he, like Greek thinkers generally, was devoid of the historical sense. Indeed, for the Greeks a definite historical consciousness scarcely existed, whereas history weighs on us as a burden which we hardly know how to lighten and certainly cannot cast off without due consideration. Let me illustrate this point very briefly. The controlling ethical notion in Greek life can perhaps be described as that of the fullest harmony of the intellectual and the sensuous elements in man. The fundamental aim was to realize and enjoy to the full all the natural capacities of action and feeling. Not until the decay of civic life began in the Greek city-states did the antithesis between rationalism and hedonism appear in marked form. Primitive Christianity sharpened this antithesis. The sense-life was despised and regarded as altogether inimical to the realization of the highest good. The latter was conceived in supernatural, otherworldly terms, and in time, with the admission of the growing tide of pessimistic revolt against nature and of a Manichaean dualism into Christianity, the antithesis became complete. Here we have, then, a well-nigh complete trans-valuation of values in contrast with those of classic Greek life, although not without an infusion of Greek elements, especially in Augustine's notion of the 'Highest Good,' the cardinal virtues, and the general mediaeval notion of the hierarchy of virtues and duties. Since the Renaissance the tide has been setting in the reverse direction towards a definition of ethical goods in terms of immanent and purely human ends, but with a stronger emphasis on the worth of the individual than one finds in classical Greek ethics. To-day ethical valuations are a more or less confused blending of Christian super-naturalistic or transcendent ideals with naturalistic and immanent conceptions of individual and society, strongly colored by the modern democratic movement.
In some directions there undoubtedly has been reached, since the time of Aristotle, a clarification and deepening of ethical values. Justice perhaps affords the best illustration of the universalization of an ethical value. Our idea of justice not only has a vastly wider application, but it also has a deeper and richer content, than that of the Greek. And the Greek ideal of friendship has been deepened and widened by the Christian notion of love into the ideal of a fuller social sympathy and beneficence. But in other respects, ethical value-judgments are confused and narrow. Notwithstanding much fuss and talk about art, one does not find any widespread appreciation of the personal worth of beauty in nature, poetry, and the fine arts. The utility of science is generally recognized, but hardly the ethical quality of unstinted devotion on the part of scholar and investigator. The Greek love of Sinopia is not widely regarded among us as conferring ethical worth on persons.
The comparative study of typical and significant personal valuations at critical turning points in the evolution of ethical thought must, of course, be interpreted in the light of the rational value judgments of persons under the actual conditions of the ethical life today. A comparative enquiry such as I have suggested would be meaningless were its outcome the submission of living problems and principles to past types of valuation. The results of such an historical investigation gain actual significance and application only insofar as they are taken up into a living ethical consciousness. On the other hand, our present instinctive and unreflecting intuitions have had a history, and are, in part at least, the resultants of moral evolution. No further progress in the direction of reflective harmony in the principles of conduct is possible without an understanding of their history. And, insofar as the inconsistency and confusion of our intuitive value judgments is due to warring elements of moral tradition, to understand the past is to be freed from it.
The critical study of the historical mutations of ethical values in the course of civilization most clearly points to the individual person as a center of origination and an ultimate criterion of those value-judgments in which conventional morals are transcended and higher levels of ethical insight established. No form of historical conflict goes deeper or is more frequently recurrent than that between customary morality and a deeper insight on the part of individuals.
The very confusion which obtains to-day in contrast with the greater simplicity and clearness of primitive Christian or mediaeval ethics witnesses the truth of this principle. Just as the chaotic individualism of the Sophistic period was the precondition of a deeper and more rational ethical self-consciousness among the Greeks, so it is to-day. The last word of comparative historical ethics seems to be that in the inner nature of self-conscious personalities, and here alone, can be found the unfailing spring of ethical insight. Personality is an ultimate and irreducible principle for ethics. The latter discipline forgets the conditions of its birth and the specific character of its problems when it becomes merely a department of sociology. There exists outside the rational individual no institution of society or demonstrable principle of abstract reason that can be regarded as an ultimate and universal source of ethical judgments or final standard of authority.
The rational self, then, is a limiting concept for ethical investigation. All psychological and historical analyses of goods, values, or ideals must have reference to selves from which they derive and in which they are realized. Hence the objectivity of ethical values or ideals cannot be grounded in the existing social order. A ground for ethical objectivity can only be found in a universal spiritual essence or principle manifested in and sustaining the multiplicity of individuals. And here metaphysics takes up the tale. The more radical ethical tendencies of contemporary literature, for example, the 'over-man' of Nietzsche, the poetry of Browning and Whitman, Ibsen's dramas, etc., and many minor currents that might be named, are vaguely indicative of the search for a fuller and more consistent recognition of the scope of personality. Whatever be the further value of these recent movements in literature, one principle they enforce and illustrate, viz.: That a primary condition for the fuller development of a spiritual individuality is, on the one hand, the systematization and simplification of social morality as embodied in law, custom, and sentiment, and, on the other hand, the clear distinction between this field and the undefined and indefinable field of action for the development of personality. Historically speaking, the greatest step in the spiritual evolution of man was the discovery and affirmation of inherent individual or personal values by Socrates, Jesus, and others.
Progress in ethical knowledge and practice depends on the recognition that that judgment or attitude alone has untrustworthy which flows from the inner personality. The outcome of the growth of personality in rational self-consciousness is a deepening of the sense of personal worth. This is the only intrinsic end which a teleological ethics can recognize, and when confusion exists or conflict arises between personal tendencies, the ultimate standard must be the principle of restitution, at higher levels, of personal harmony, which, of course, will generally be found to involve a social reference.
Hand in hand with the deepening of the sense of the inherent worth of conscious personality there goes a widening of the scope for individual development. A rationally constituted society must give play and opportunity for individuality, and it is better able to do so when there is, on the one hand, a clearer and more systematic knowledge of the indispensable minimal principles of social and constitutional life, i. e., of social morality, and, on the other hand, a deeper insight into the nature of personal values.
The outcome of recognizing the fundamental distinction and relation between the social framework of conduct and the inward and personal nature of intrinsic values, must be the admission that there is no absolute standard of ethical valuation outside the reflective affirmations of persons. It follows that 'goods' are many in kind and have no common measure except their relations to conscious selves. It is true, of course, that all individual values have a possible social aspect. It is also true that social organization and life are instruments for the actualization of personal values. Hence those principles of social morality which are necessary to stable and harmonious social organization are relatively high teleological values. There are social qualities, not definable in terms of law or maxim, that are nevertheless normal conditions of the highest personal or ethical development, and that possess still higher value than the well-defined principles of institutional morality, since they are conditions of that harmonious intercommunication of persons which seems to be an integral aspect of the highest good. Such social qualities are the urbanity of manners, the refined perceptions, and feelings indispensable to the fullest friendships, etc. Many pleasures, too, such as those of aesthetic enjoyment and social recreation, and even those of physical well-being and recreation, have high ethical value, since under normal conditions they promote the personal life. On the other hand, crises may arise when these pleasures, and even the exercise of the finer social qualities, must be foregone simply because they interfere with a good affirmed by a person to be at the time and place of greater worth, as, for example, a scientific investigation or a political reform.
There is, then, no objective and unfailing touchstone of ethical values. The generic concept of 'the highest good' can only be defined formally as a maximum system of personal and social values determinable by individual experience. Hence the 'good ‘must always involve an individual and seemingly contingent element, irreducible to the categories of actual social morality and not fully definable in its concrete character. It is doubtful if any common predicate can be established for things that are good except that of relation to a conscious self. Society may furnish both means for the actualization of personal values and stimulus for their affirmation. But some of these values at least originate from the in derivable and inexplicable depths of the individual nature. Every individual who lives in part by reflective ethical insight is not necessarily a social innovator, critic, or rebel on a large scale. But every such individual is in possession of an over-social or transcendent factor in actual society.
It might seem that the outcome of the above argument is really to reduce practical ethics to anarchy, and to leave no scope for objective ethical theory over and above sociology or social philosophy. But this is not the case. Notwithstanding the contingent and rationally irreducible element of the good as personal experience, there is a basis of common over-individual structure and tendency in individual spirits. The very existence of society and of science are evidence of this. Not only do individuals possess a common reason, but, through their very individualities, they embody in diverse proportions and relations common tendencies of feeling and action. In matters of justice, truth-telling, self-control, there is a general tendency common to civilized men. And the ethical life of a conscious and rational individual represents a series of oscillations about certain fundamental normative tendencies of action. Intrinsic ethical worth belongs only to persons. But the individual wins inner depth and harmony of spirit through choice and action in the direction of over-individual or rational tendencies. There are types or general standards of personal valuation which undergo mutation and development in the direction of clearness and harmony by the immanent activity of reason itself. The evolution of types of ethical value-judgments the evolution of personality itself; and this means the evolution of psychic individuality through the instrumentality of reason. Ethical valuations are practical judgments of selves that are moving in the direction of an ideal spiritual type at once concretely individual and ideally social.
Hence an ethics on a comparative or historical basis will not have the endless task of registering a chaos of atomistic and unrelated affirmations of worth, but of tracing, in the shifting and oscillation of personal values from Greece and Judaea to the Mediaeval world, and from the Mediaeval world through the Renaissance to the present time, certain general tendencies of ethical movement that become more clearly defined and articulated in the course of moral evolution. Such an ethics should enable us more rationally to harmonize and control our actual ethical judgments. It may furnish methods by which concrete judgments can be made in the light of certain type-forms. From a concrete historical study of the actual evolution of ideals of conduct we may more definitely learn how justice, truth-telling and truth-doing, benevolence, contingencies., may be defined with reference to specific situations. And, on the other hand, since ethical judgments appear in the light of this enquiry as practical expressions of an historical reason, working in and through individuals, or as phases in the conscious and reflective evolution of personal life towards greater harmony and permanence of type, the relativity of ethical judgments, revealed by comparative history, is at the same time interpreted in terms of the dynamic ethical universal embodied in the movement of the personal life through reason towards fuller reasonableness.
The movement of personality under the direction of reasonableness carries us over into metaphysical ethics. The nature of personality as the principle of reflective ethical valuation involves its ultimate relations in and to the cosmos. The rational self as the center of judgment and action in terms of objective or universal values must be more than a member of a given social historical order. The reflective person cannot finally render account to himself for the principles of his own practical judgments without making reference to his place as a center of rational activity in a system which must be rational or spiritual. The ultimate centers of ethical judgment and action are persons, and, since persons judge and act in accordance with rational principles, they must be members of a rational order. Ultimately the principles of ethical valuation express the actual relations of persons to the world-order.
On the other hand, such a world-order, to afford place and function for ethical personality, must be itself active and moving. It must be a dynamic, spiritual cosmos in which the social and historical evolution of persons is an integral element. Historical ethics leads to metaphysics, but the type of metaphysics must in turn be such as to take account of ethical development.