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Mr. William M. Salter of Chicago, lectured before a large audience in Sanders Theatre last evening on "What Ethics can do for Us."
Ethics deal with ideal conceptions; not with what men actually do, but with what they should do, and much as we may regret it, moral ideas do not depend on fact but on what should be. So the first service of ethics is the enlarging of our philosophy. Ethics cannot take the place of all philosophy but it can endow us with the great gift of moral truth.
The second service of ethics is to abolish the feeble optimism of religion. Men come to think that beneficence exists behind all wrong, but how differently religion shapes itself when ethics comes to its help, showing right and wrong in their true colors, and impressing upon men their duty in putting down evil. With a religion of this kind life becomes serious and moral indifference comes to an end. To the ethical believer God is the strengthener of the conscience not the soother.
A third service of ethics is to give us a clear insight into social questions. Some economists say that only on the supposition that self-interest is the ruling human motive, is the greater part of economical laws founded. It is not difficult to see the inevitable result of the system of self interest, the weakest perishing, the strongest leading a life of little more than nervous prosperity. The problem is to bring to the hearts of men the fact that disregard of ethics is the cause of earthly misery. Social disorder can be changed to happiness; there is a way out; ethics gives no plans, but only principles, the principle of generosity instead of self-love. Ethics does not prophecy but affirms, it does not give us a mere longing but a sure hope.
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