Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a fascinating individual whose unorthodox ideas and passionate prose caused a flurry of interest in 18 century France. Rousseau's greatest work were published in 1762. His natural political philosophy echoes the way of Lao Tzu.
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a fascinating individual whose unorthodox ideas and passionate prose caused a flurry of interest in 18th century France. Rousseau's greatest work were published in 1762 -The Social Contract. Rousseau society itself is an implicit agreement to live together for the good of everyone with individual equality and freedom. However, people have enslaved themselves by giving over their power to governments which are not truly sovereign because they do not promote the general will. Rousseau believed that only the will of all the people together granted sovereignty. Various forms of government are instituted to legislate and enforce the laws. He wrote, “The first duty of the legislator is to make the laws conformable to the general will, the first rule of public economy is that the administration of justice should be conformable to the laws.” His natural political philosophy echoes the way of Lao Tzu: “The greatest talent a ruler can possess is to disguise his power, in order to render it less odious, and to conduct the State so peaceably as to make it seem to have no need of conductors.” Rousseau valued his citizenship in Geneva where he was born, and he was one of the first strong voices for democratic principles. “There can be no patriotism without liberty, no liberty without virtue, no virtue without citizens; create citizens, and you have everything you need; without them, you will have nothing but debased slaves, from the rulers of the State downwards.” In the civil order, there can be any sure and legitimate rule of administration, men being taken as they are and laws as they might be. In this inquiry we shall endeavor always to unite what right sanctions with what is prescribed by interest, in order that justice and utility may in no case be divided. We enter upon this task without proving the importance of the subject. We shall be asked if we are the prince or the legislator, to write on politics. We answer that we am neither, and that is why we do so. If I were a prince or a legislator, I should not waste time in saying what wants doing; I should do it, or hold my peace. As we were born citizens of a free state, and a member of the sovereign, we should feel, however feeble the influence of our voice can have on public affairs, the right of voting on them makes it our duty to study them: and we are happy, when we reflect upon governments, to find the inquiries always furnish us with new reasons for loving that of our own country. Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks he the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? We do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question can be answered. If we took into account only force, and the effects derived from it, “as long as a people is compelled to obey, and obeys, it does well; as soon as it can shake off the yoke, and shakes it off, it does still better; for, regaining its liberty by the same right as took it away, either it is justified in resuming it, or there was no justification for those who took it away.” But the social order is a sacred right which is the basis of all other rights. Nevertheless, this right does not come from nature, and must therefore be founded on conventions. Before coming to that, we have to prove what has just been asserted. The most ancient of all societies, and the only one that is natural, is the family: and even so the children remain attached to the father only so long as they need him for their preservation. As soon as this need ceases, the natural bond is dissolved. The children, released from the obedience they owed to the father, and the father, released from the care he owed his children, return equally to independence. If they remain united, they continue so no longer naturally, but voluntarily; and the family itself is then maintained only by convention. This common liberty results from the nature of man. His first law is to provide for his own preservation, his first cares are those which he owes to himself; and, as soon as he reaches years of discretion, he is the sole judge of the proper means of preserving himself, and consequently becomes his own master. The family then may be called the first model of political societies: the ruler corresponds to the father, and the people to the children; and all, being born free and equal, alienate their liberty only for their own advantage. The whole difference is that, in the family, the love of the father for his children repays him for the care he takes of them, while, in the state, the pleasure of commanding takes the place of the love which the chief cannot have for the peoples under him. The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty. Hence the right of the strongest, which, though to all seeming meant ironically, is really laid down as a fundamental principle. But are we never to have an explanation of this phrase? To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will at the most, an act of prudence. In what sense can it be a duty? Suppose for a moment that this so-called “right” exists. Maintained that the sole result is a mass of inexplicable nonsense. For, if force creates right, the effect changes with the cause: every force that is greater than the first succeeds to its right. As soon as it is possible to disobey with impunity, disobedience is legitimate; and, the strongest being always in the right, the only thing that matters is to act so as to become the strongest. But what kind of right is that which perishes when force fails? If we must obey perforce, there is no need to obey because we ought; and if we are not forced to obey, we are under no obligation to do so. Clearly, the word “right” adds nothing to force: in this connection, it means absolutely nothing. Obey the powers that be. If this means yield to force, it is a good precept, but superfluous: we can answer for its never being violated. All power comes from god, we admit; but so does all sickness: does that mean that we are forbidden to call in the doctor? A brigand surprises me at the edge of a wood: must we not merely surrender my purse on compulsion; but, even if we could withhold it, are we in conscience bound to give it up? For certainly the pistol he holds is also a power. Let us then admit that force does not create right, and that we are obliged to obey only legitimate powers. In that case, my original question recurs. Since no man has a natural authority over his fellow, and force creates no right, we must conclude that conventions form the basis of all legitimate authority among men. If an individual, “can alienate his liberty and make himself the slave of a master, why could not a whole people do the same and make itself subject to a king?” There are in this passage plenty of ambiguous words which would need explaining; but let us confine ourselves to the word alienate. To alienate is to give or to sell. Now, a man who becomes the slave of another does not give himself; he sells himself, at the least for his subsistence: but for what does person sell itself? A king is so far from furnishing his subjects with their subsistence that he gets his own only from them. Do subjects then give their persons on condition that the king takes their goods also? It will be said that the despot assures his subjects civil tranquillity. Granted; but what do they gain, if the wars his ambition brings down upon them, his insatiable avidity, and the vexations conduct of his ministers press harder on them than their own dissension's would have done? What do they gain, if the very tranquillity they enjoy is one of their miseries? Tranquillity is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in? To say that a man gives himself gratuitously, is to say what is absurd and inconceivable; such an act is null and illegitimate, from the mere fact that he who does it is out of his mind. To say the same of a whole people is to suppose a people of madmen; and madness creates no right. Even if each man could alienate himself, he could not alienate his children: they are born men and free; their liberty belongs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it. Before they come to years of judgment, the father can, in their name, lay down conditions for their preservation and well-being, but he cannot give them irrevocably and without conditions: such a gift is contrary to the ends of nature, and exceeds the rights of paternity. It would therefore be necessary, in order to legitimize an arbitrary government, that in every generation the people should be in a position to accept or reject it; but, were this so, the government would be no longer arbitrary. To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. Finally, it is an empty and contradictory convention that sets up, on the one side, absolute authority, and, on the other, unlimited obedience. Is it not clear that we can be under no obligation to a person from whom we have the right to exact everything? Does not this condition alone, in the absence of equivalence or exchange, in itself involve the nullity of the act? For what right can my slave have against me, when all that he has belongs to me, and, his right being mine, this right of mine against myself is a phrase devoid of meaning? The victor having, as they hold, the right of killing the vanquished, the latter can buy back his life at the price of his liberty; and this convention is the more legitimate because it is to the advantage of both parties. But it is clear that this supposed right to kill the conquered is by no means deducible from the state of war. Men, from the mere fact that, while they are living in their primitive independence, they have no mutual relations stable enough to constitute either the state of peace or the state of war, cannot be naturally enemies. War is constituted by a relation between things, and not between persons; and, as the state of war cannot arise out of simple personal relations, but only out of real relations, private war, or war of man with man, can exist neither in the state of nature, where there is no constant property, nor in the social state, where everything is under the authority of the laws. War is a relation, not between man and man, but between state and state, and individuals are enemies only accidentally, not as men, nor even as citizens, but as soldiers; not as members of their country, but as its defenders. Finally, each state can have for enemies only other states, and not men; for between things disparate in nature there can be no real relation. Furthermore, this principle is in conformity with the established rules of all times and the constant practice of all civilized peoples. Declarations of war are intimations less to powers than to their subjects. The foreigner, whether king, individual, or people, who robs, kills or detains the subjects, without declaring war on the prince, is not an enemy, but a brigand. Even in real war, a just prince, while laying hands, in the enemy's country, on all that belongs to the public, respects the lives and goods of individuals: he respects rights on which his own are founded. The object of the war being the destruction of the hostile state, the other side has a right to kill its defenders, while they are bearing arms; but as soon as they lay them down and surrender, they cease to be enemies or instruments of the enemy, and become once more merely men, whose life no one has any right to take. Sometimes it is possible to kill the state without killing a single one of its members; and war gives no right which is not necessary to the gaining of its object. These principles are not those of grotius: they are not based on the authority of poets, but derived from the nature of reality and based on reason. The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest. If war does not give the conqueror the right to massacre the conquered peoples, the right to enslave them cannot be based upon a right which does not exist. No one has a right to kill an enemy except when he cannot make him a slave, and the right to enslave him cannot therefore be derived from the right to kill him. It is accordingly an unfair exchange to make him buy at the price of his liberty his life, over which the victor holds no right. Is it not clear that there is a vicious circle in founding the right of life and death on the right of slavery, and the right of slavery on the right of life and death? Even if we assume this terrible right to kill everybody, we maintain that a slave made in war, or a conquered people, is under no obligation to a master, except to obey him as far as he is compelled to do so. By taking an equivalent for his life, the victor has not done him a favor; instead of killing him without profit, he has killed him usefully. So far then is he from acquiring over him any authority in addition to that of force that the state of war continues to subsist between them: their mutual relation is the effect of it, and the usage of the right of war does not imply a treaty of peace. A convention has indeed been made; but this convention, so far from destroying the state of war, presupposes its continuance. So, from whatever aspect we regard the question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive. It will always be equally foolish for a man to say to a man or to a people: “I make with you a convention wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I shall keep it as long as I like, and you will keep it as long as I like.” Even if we granted all that we have been refuting, the friends of despotism would be no better off. There will always be a great difference between subduing a multitude and ruling a society. Even if scattered individuals were successively enslaved by one man, however numerous they might be, we still see no more than a master and his slaves, and certainly not a people and its ruler; we see what may be termed an aggregation, but not an association; there is as yet neither public good nor body politic. The man in question, even if he has enslaved half the world, is still only an individual; his interest, apart from that of others, is still a purely private interest. If this same man comes to die, his empire, after him, remains scattered and without unity, as an oak falls and dissolves into a heap of ashes when the fire has consumed it We suppose men to have reached the point at which the obstacles in the way of their preservation in the state of nature show their power of resistance to be greater than the resources at the disposal of each individual for his maintenance in that state. That primitive condition can then subsist no longer; and the human race would perish unless it changed its manner of existence. But, as men cannot engender new forces, but only unite and direct existing ones, they have no other means of preserving themselves than the formation, by aggregation, of a sum of forces great enough to overcome the resistance. These they have to bring into play by means of a single motive power, and cause to act in concert. This sum of forces can arise only where several persons come together: but, as the force and liberty of each man are the chief instruments of his self-preservation, how can he pledge them without harming his own interests, and neglecting the care he owes to himself? This difficulty, in its bearing on the present subject, may be stated in the following terms: “the problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before.” This is the fundamental problem of which the social contract provides the solution. The clauses of this contract are so determined by the nature of the act that the slightest modification would make them vain and ineffective; so that, although they have perhaps never been formally set forth, they are everywhere the same and everywhere tacitly admitted and recognized, until, on the violation of the social compact, each regains his original rights and resumes his natural liberty, while losing the conventional liberty in favor of which he renounced it. These clauses, properly understood, may be reduced to one - the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community; for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others. Moreover, the alienation being without reserve, the union is as perfect as it can be, and no associate has anything more to demand: for, if the individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical. Finally, each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over whom he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has. If then we discard from the social compact what is not of its essence, we shall find that it reduces itself to the following terms: “each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” At once, in place of the individual personality of each contracting party, this act of association creates a moral and collective body, composed of as many members as the assembly contains votes, and receiving from this act its unity, its common identity, its life and its will. This public person, so formed by the union of all other persons formerly took the name of city, and now takes that of republic or body politic; it is called by its member's state when passive. Sovereign when active, and power when compared with others like itself. Those who are associated in it take collectively the name of people, and severally are called citizens, as sharing in the sovereign power, and subjects, as being under the laws of the state. But these terms are often confused and taken one for another: it is enough to know how to distinguish them when they are being used with precision. This formula shows us that the act of association comprises a mutual undertaking between the public and the individuals, and that each individual, in making a contract, as we may say, with himself, is bound in a double capacity; as a member of the sovereign he is bound to the individuals, and as a member of the state to the sovereign. But the maxim of civil right, that no one is bound by undertakings made to himself, does not apply in this case; for there is a great difference between incurring an obligation to yourself and incurring one to a whole of which you form a part. Attention must further be called to the fact that public deliberation, while competent to bind all the subjects to the sovereign, because of the two different capacities in which each of them may be regarded, cannot, for the opposite reason, bind the sovereign to itself; and that it is consequently against the nature of the body politic for the sovereign to impose on itself a law which it cannot infringe. Being able to regard itself in only one capacity, it is in the position of an individual who makes a contract with himself; and this makes it clear that there neither is nor can be any kind of fundamental law binding on the body of the people not even the social contract itself. This does not mean that the body politic cannot enter into undertakings with others, provided the contract is not infringed by them; for in relation to what is external to it, it becomes a simple being, an individual. But the body politic or the sovereign, drawing its being wholly from the sanctity of the contract, can never bind it, even to an outsider, to do anything derogatory to the original act, for instance, to alienate any part of it, or to submit to another sovereign. Violation of the act by which it exists would be self-annihilation; and that which is it nothing can create nothing. As soon as this multitude is so united in one body, it is impossible to offend against one of the members without attacking the body, and still more to offend against the body without the members resenting it. Duty and interest therefore equally oblige the two contracting parties to give each other help; and the same men should seek to combine, in their double capacity, all the advantages dependent upon that capacity. Again, the sovereign, being formed wholly of the individuals who compose it, neither has nor can have any interest contrary to theirs; and consequently the sovereign power need give no guarantee to its subjects, because it is impossible for the body to wish to hurt all its members. We shall also see later on that it cannot hurt any in particular. The sovereign, merely by virtue of what it is, is always what it should be. This, however, is not the case with the relation of the subjects to the sovereign, which, despite the common interest, would have no security that they would fulfil their undertakings, unless it found means to assure itself of their fidelity. In fact, each individual, as a man, may have a particular will contrary or dissimilar to the general will which he has as a citizen. His particular interest may speak to him quite differently from the common interest: his absolute and naturally independent existence may make him look upon what he owes to the common cause as a gratuitous contribution, the loss of which will do less harm to others than the payment of it is burdensome to himself; and, regarding the moral person which constitutes the state as a persona ficta, because not a man, he may wish to enjoy the rights of citizenship without being ready to fulfil the duties of a subject. The continuance of such an injustice could not but prove the undoing of the body politic. In order then that the social compact may not be an empty formula, it tacitly includes the undertaking, which alone can give force to the rest, that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free; for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence. In this lies the key to the working of the political machine; this alone legitimizes civil undertakings, which, without it, would be absurd, tyrannical, and liable to the most frightful abuses. The passage from the state of nature to the civil state produces a very remarkable change in man, by substituting justice for instinct in his conduct, and giving his actions the morality they had formerly lacked. Then only, when the voice of duty takes the place of physical impulses and right of appetite, does man, who so far had considered only himself, find that he is forced to act on different principles, and to consult his reason before listening to his inclinations. Although, in this state, he deprives himself of some advantages which he got from nature, he gains in return others so great, his faculties are so stimulated and developed, his ideas so extended, his feelings so ennobled, and his whole soul so uplifted, that, did not the abuses of this new condition often degrade him below that which he left, he would be bound to bless continually the happy moment which took him from it for ever, and, instead of a stupid and unimaginative animal, made him an intelligent being and a man. Let us draw up the whole account in terms easily commensurable. What man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting; what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possesses. If we are to avoid mistake in weighing one against the other, we must clearly distinguish natural liberty, which is bounded only by the strength of the individual, from civil liberty, which is limited by the general will; and possession, which is merely the effect of force or the right of the first occupier, from property, which can be founded only on a positive title. We might, over and above all this, add, to what man acquires in the civil state, moral liberty, which alone makes him truly master of himself; for the mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while obedience to a law which we prescribe to ourselves is liberty. But I have already said too much on this head, and the philosophical meaning of the word liberty does not now concern us. Each member of the community gives himself to it, at the moment of its foundation, just as he is, with all the resources at his command, including the goods he possesses. This act does not make possession, in changing hands, change its nature, and become property in the hands of the sovereign; but, as the forces of the city are incomparably greater than those of an individual, public possession is also, in fact, stronger and more irrevocable, without being any more legitimate, at any rate from the point of view of foreigners. For the state, in relation to its members, is master of all their goods by the social contract, which, within the state, is the basis of all rights; but, in relation to other powers, it is so only by the right of the first occupier, which it holds from its members. The right of the first occupier, though more real than the right of the strongest, becomes a real right only when the right of property has already been established. Every man has naturally a right to everything he needs; but the positive act which makes him proprietor of one thing excludes him from everything else. Having his share, he ought to keep to it, and can have no further right against the community. This is why the right of the first occupier, which in the state of nature is so weak, claims the respect of every man in civil society. In this right we are respecting not so much what belongs to another as what does not belong to ourselves. In general, to establish the right of the first occupier over a plot of ground, the following conditions are necessary: first, the land must not yet be inhabited; secondly, a man must occupy only the amount he needs for his subsistence; and, in the third place, possession must be taken, not by an empty ceremony, but by labor and cultivation, the only sign of proprietorship that should be respected by others, in default of a legal title. In granting the right of first occupancy to necessity and labor, are we not really stretching it as far as it can go? Is it possible to leave such a right unlimited? Is it to be enough to set foot on a plot of common ground, in order to be able to call yourself at once the master of it? Is it to be enough that a man has the strength to expel others for a moment, in order to establish his right to prevent them from ever returning? How can a man or a people seize an immense territory and keep it from the rest of the world except by a punishable usurpation, since all others are being robbed, by such an act, of the place of habitation and the means of subsistence which nature gave them in common?. We can imagine how the lands of individuals, where they were contiguous and came to be united, became the public territory, and how the right of sovereignty, extending from the subjects over the lands they held, became at once real and personal. The possessors were thus made more dependent, and the forces at their command used to guarantee their fidelity. The peculiar fact about this alienation is that, in taking over the goods of individuals, the community, so far from despoiling them, only assures them legitimate possession, and changes usurpation into a true right and enjoyment into proprietorship. Thus the possessors, being regarded as depositaries of the public good, and having their rights respected by all the members of the state and maintained against foreign aggression by all its forces, have, by a cession which benefits both the public and still more themselves, acquired, so to speak, all that they gave up. This paradox may easily be explained by the distinction between the rights which the sovereign and the proprietor have over the same estate, as we shall see later on. It may also happen that men begin to unite one with another before they possess anything, and that, subsequently occupying a tract of country which is enough for all; they enjoy it in common, or share it out among themselves, either equally or according to a scale fixed by the sovereign. However the acquisition is made, the right which each individual has to his own estate is always subordinate to the right which the community has over all: without this, there would be neither stability in the social tie, nor real force in the exercise of sovereignty. This shall end this essay by remarking on a fact on which the whole social system should rest: i.e., That, instead of destroying natural inequality, the fundamental compact substitutes, for such physical inequality as nature may have set up between men, an equality that is moral and legitimate, and that men, who may be unequal in strength or intelligence, become every one equal by convention and legal right.
David Herbert Lawrence As a twentieth century novelist, essayist, and poet, David Herbert Lawrence brought the subjects of sex, psychology, and religion to the forefront of literature. One of the most widely read novels of the twentieth century, Sons and Lovers, which Lawrence wrote in 1913, produces a sense of Bildungsroman1, where the novelist re-creates his own personal experiences through the protagonist in (Niven 115). Lawrence uses Paul Morel, the protagonist in Sons and Lovers, for this form of fiction. With his mother of critical importance, Lawrence uses Freud's Oedipus complex, creating many analyses for critics. Alfred Booth Kuttner states the Oedipus complex as: “the struggle of a man to emancipate himself from his maternal allegiance and to transfer his affections to a woman who stands outside the family circle” (277). Paul's compromising situations with Miram Leivers and Clara Dawes, as well as the death of his mother, display the Oedipus complex throughout Sons and Lovers. At an adolescent age, Paul's oedipal love towards his mother is compromised by a young lady named Miram Leivers. This profound situation puts Paul to the emotional test of Oedipal versus physical love. As Kuttner goes on to state: “Paul's admiration for his mother know no bounds; her presence is always absorbing. Often at the sight of her, `his heart contracts with love'” (278). Paul's maternal relationship defines the Oedipus complex. Miram pulls Paul away from his mother, while Paul's mother, Gertrude, sees Miram as a threat to her son. Paul, even though Miram is around, still will not commit totally to her because of the strong ties between mother and son. Paul says to his mother, “I'll never marry while I've got you - I won't…” (Lawrence 240). Lawrence wrote frequently of Paul's love belonging to his mother and only his mother (212). Though Miram Leivers could not truly find Paul's heart, another woman named Clara Dawes provides more stress on Paul's maternal relationship. Although Paul loved Clara, he still kept his attraction toward his mother. “Everything he does is for her, the flowers he picks as well as the prizes he wins at school. His mother is his intimate and his confidant” (Kuttner 278). Clara tried desperately to win Paul over, but her social sophistication was too much for him. Paul tells his mother: “I don't want to belong to the well-to-do middle class. I like my common people the best. I belong to the common people” (Lawrence 250). Clara shows frustration with Paul because of his maternal devotion. Again Lawrence displays the Oedipus complex through Paul to his mother, “And I shall never meet the right woman as long as you live” (341). Paul's Oedipal love would be tested once more by him dealing with the death of his mother. Paul, though, was tough enough in handling this dilemma. R.P. Draper recognizes the loss of Paul's mother as: Their special, private, intimate grief over the impossible dream, and the magnificence of the woman, and the devotional quality of Paul's love, render the deathbed scenes poignant and innocent (292). The verification of Kuttner's statement is seen as Lawrence has Paul react to her death in this manner: “my love - my love - oh, my love! My love - oh, my love!” (384). Lawrence also writes of Paul's continuing love for his mother: “Looking at her, he felt he could never, never let her go. No!” (385). Kuttner Implies: “But death has not freed Paul from his mother. It has completed his allegiance to her. For death has merely removed the last earthly obstacle to their ideal union” (280). The love that Paul feels towards his mother would never die. He loves her just as much when she died as he did when she was still alive. Paul continues life having a maternal devotion that no other woman would ever be able to fill. Throughout the novel, Paul is seen as one who lives for his mother. Mark Spilka explains: “For if Paul has failed in his three loves, he has drawn from them the necessary strength to live” (293). Sons and Lovers were written with Lawrence almost defining the Oedipus complex through Paul. With this in mind, Kuttner gives this insight about the novel: Sons and Lovers possesses this double quality to a high degree. It ranks high, very high as a piece of literature and at the same time embodies a theory which it illustrates and exemplifies with a completeness that is nothing less than astonishing (277). Psychologists of today still accept the Oedipus complex as a viable explanation for the love and fascination that male children display towards their mothers. Lawrence successfully created an educational novel as well as an easily readable and interesting novel. Literary critics tend to speculate that Sons and Lovers were written by Lawrence as somewhat of an autobiography centering Paul's life on his own. Whether or not this is true will never be determined, though it will continue to remain a favorite topic for critical analysis for years to come.
Duty and Reason as the Ultimate Principle: Kant Kant claims that only actions from duty have moral worth. In other words, actions from motives other than duty deserve no positive moral evaluation. I like and agree with Kant's view because I believe that a good will makes a good person. I also believe we have all been put on this earth to do our duty. We should do our duty just for duty alone; we should not be concerned about anything else. I will begin by discussing Kant's distinction between what is good merely as a means to an end and what is intrinsically good, or good in it. A good will is not good because of what it accomplishes; it is good through its willing alone. Contrary to some people's belief, to be healthy, wealthy, or happy does not guarantee that a person is morally praiseworthy. Many people object to this statement because these characteristics are good features of human nature and benefits of a good life. However, they have value only under appropriate conditions, since they may be used either for good or for evil. For example, Hitler had all these characteristics, but he had an ill will. Thus, he was undeniably not a good person. Therefore, these characteristics do not make the possessor a good person. I will use Bill Gates as another rebuttal to the objection I mentioned earlier. Bill Gates has been the richest man in America for a few years. He undoubtedly has more money than he will ever spend, but just recently has started to donate some of his money to charity. Some people would say he donates money because he has a good will, and, therefore, he is a morally good person. But did Bill Gates really donate money because he had a good will? No, I feel he gave money to charity because of social pressure, not a good will. He would have started donating much earlier if he would have had a good will. However, it wasn't until he and Microsoft started to get a bad, greedy reputation that he started to donate his money. Therefore, Bill Gates did not donate because of a good will, and is not a morally good person for doing so. A good will is easily distinguished from one that acts from an indirect inclination, doing the right thing merely as a means to an end, for a selfish purpose. For many people, the difficult thing is to distinguish a good will from a will that has a direct inclination to do something that is right. For instance, it is not surprising that many people think if you are helping others because you have love in your mind, you have moral virtue. However, Kant does not believe this is true. There are people so sympathetically constituted that without any motive of selfishness they find an inner satisfaction in spreading joy and helping others. Many of us look at these people as having moral virtue. I must admit I was one of these people before I understood and took a liking to Kant's view. To Kant, having a natural inclination to do what coincides with duty is not the same thing as acting from duty. Only if someone acts without any inclination, from the sake of duty alone, does his or her action have genuine moral worth. Kant's moral theory states that actions are morally right in virtue of their motives, which must derive from duty, not inclination. The clearest examples of morally right action are precisely those in which an individual's determination to act in accordance with duty overcomes his or her evident self-interest and obvious desire to do otherwise. In such a case, Kant argues, the moral value of the action can only reside in a formal principle or maxim, the general commitment to act in this way because it is one's duty. Thus, he concludes, Duty is the necessity to act out of reverence for the law. This brings about an interesting question. What should we do today, if tomorrow is the end of the world? Should we execute all the criminals who are on death row, or would this be a selfish, inappropriate action? Kant would say, and I agree, that if tomorrow is the end of the world, it is our duty to execute all criminals sentenced to death. If we do not, we will not have performed our duty to do so. I do not believe this act is selfish or inappropriate because it is not done out of hate or rage, simply duty. This view to do your duty is commonly used in the military today. According to Kant, then, the ultimate principle of morality must be a moral law conceived so abstractly that it is capable of guiding us to the right action in application to every possible set of circumstances. So the only relevant feature of the moral law is its generality, the fact that it has the formal property of universalizability, by virtue of which it can be applied at all times to every moral agent. For this chain of reasoning about our ordinary moral concepts, Kant derived as a preliminary statement of moral obligation the notion that right actions are those that practical reason would will as universal law. A categorical imperative unconditionally demands performance of an action for its own sake; it has the form Do A. It states, Act in such a way that the maxim of your will can always become a universal law. That is, each individual agent regards itself as determining, by its decision to act in a certain way that everyone, including itself, will always act according to the same general rule in the future. I believe this expression of the moral law provides a concrete, practical method for evaluating particular human actions. Consider, for example, the case of someone who contemplates relieving a financial crisis by borrowing money from someone else, promising to repay it in the future while in fact having no intention of doing so. The maxim of this action would be that it is permissible to borrow money under false intentions if you really need it. But making this maxim into a universal law would be clearly self-defeating. The entire practice of lending money on promise presupposes honest intention to repay; if this condition were universally ignored, the false promises would never be effective as methods of borrowing. Since the universalized maxim is contradictory in and of itself, no one could will it to be law, and Kant concluded that we have a perfect duty not to act in this manner. Kant supposed that moral obligations arise even when other people are not involved. For example, killing yourself whenever you feel like it could never be a moral rule. It could not be universalizable because everyone would be dead. Since it would be contradictory to universalize the maxim of taking one's own life if it promises more misery than satisfaction, we have a duty to ourselves not to commit suicide. Kant offered another categorical imperative stating, Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of the other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end. This places more emphasis on the unique value of human life as deserving of our ultimate moral respect. This imperative can be applied to the cases I mentioned earlier. For instance, violating a duty by making a false promise (or killing myself) would be to treat another person (or myself) merely as a means for getting money (or avoiding pain), and violating a duty by refusing to offer benevolence (or neglecting my talents) would be a failure to treat another person (or myself) as an end in itself. In conclusion, only a morally good will makes a morally good person, and only actions from duty have moral worth. Kant's view has opened my eyes and has inspired me to do my duty in life. He gives people a simple way to evaluate whether their actions are morally good. A person should simply ask himself or herself whether their actions could be universalizable. If they could not be universalizable, then they are not moral.
1. Draper, R.P. “D.H. Lawrence on Mother Love.” Essays in Criticism 8 (1958): 285-289.
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