One aim of ethical reflection is to guide human conduct in moral directions. To be sure, ethicists differ as to which particular behaviors or attitudes are moral. And there is a variety of current ethical methods proposed for relating ethical reflection and conduct. Joseph Fletcher urges what he calls neocasuistry, Robert Springer calls for a flexible use of traditional casuistry, and Paul Ramsey uses a method designated as mixed agapism.¹ Of these methods, it is important to note that all three share at least the assumption that ethical reflection must concern itself with the problematic situations confronting contemporary man. While only Fletcher can be called a situation ethicist, all three men are concerned with guiding moral conduct in situations. This is common to each of their methods.
From the standpoint of guiding conduct, however, there is a certain problem with a situation-centered ethical method. For it cannot, or at least does not, account for how persons in situations perceive the ethical reflection which is to guide them in their dilemmas. For instance, an ethic of love might be perceived in quite contrary ways—as a morality of free affection without remorse, or as a morality of egalitarian treatment without regard for personal affection. Moreover, it is possible also that a love ethic could be construed contrary to the intention of the ethicist advocating that ethic. Now one might assume that careful ethical communication can preclude any gross misunderstandings between the intention of an ethicist and the comprehension of a moral agent. Joseph Fletcher seems to have difficulty in this regard,² however, and an ethicist as attentive to the use of words as Paul Ramsey claims to have been misunderstood even by fellow ethicists.³ So ethicists do experience problems in moral communication.
As situation-centered ethicists have experienced problems in how people perceive their moral advocation, it is questionable how effective a guide to moral conduct their ethics can really be. If moral agents do not understand ethical principles clearly, the possibility of their acting in accordance with those principles is quite diminished. This is not to say that if an agent clearly comprehends an ethic he always will act according to it. This is to say that if he does comprehend it the possibility of such conduct then will be enhanced.
What can any ethicist do to insure that his admonitions will be comprehended clearly? Situation-centered ethicists have expressed no formal concept of moral communication and few notions of the moral patterns in which moral agents think. Were ethicists to have some clear idea of the assumptions and convictions of moral agents with whom they were dealing, it would be easier to communicate ethical norms and maxims, for an ethic then could be related to an agents moral presuppositions. Ethical admonition could be relevant to that agent, and the possibility of an agents comprehension of a norm and acting in accordance with it thereby would be increased. Yet given the plethora of moral viewpoints in current American culture, how can an ethicist possibly know the moral perspectives held by any given audience? …
¹ Joseph Fletcher. Moral Responsibility: Situation Ethics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967), pp. 27-28; Robert Springer, Conscience, Behavioral Science, and Absolutes, in Absolutes in Moral Theology, ed. Charles Curran (Washington, D.C.: Corpus Publications, 1968); Paul Ramsey, Deeds and Rules in Christian Ethics (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1967), pp. 104-22.
² Note the varied interpretations of (and thus responses to) Fletchers notion of situation ethics in Harvey Co, ed., The Situation Ethics Debate (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1968), pp. 23-49.
³ Ramsey (n. 1 above), p. 20, n. 20.
T. J. Bachmeyer is assistant professor of theology and personality science at St. Francis School of Pastoral Ministry, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Sociocultural Speciation and Human Aggression by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The subject of human aggression has been a recurrent topic in the literature of the behavioral sciences,¹ but it was not until ethologists² and their popularizers³ began reformulating the question that aggression became one of the most controversial issues in the field of the studies of man. Despite all the concern, so far the controversy has generated more heat than light. In general, ethologists claim that aggression is a universal behavioral trait in the animal kingdom and that it has potentially positive survival value for man. The proponents of this position like to dispose of those who disagree with them as naive modern American optimists,⁴ while their critics hint that the ethological position leads to a reactionary, fascist attitude toward human relations.⁵ The fact is that the study of aggression at the human level almost inevitably leads to evaluative implications, and once that point is reached objectivity is difficult to maintain.
The goal of this paper is not to participate in this controversy, except perhaps indirectly. What will be attempted is a clarification of one of the central theses of the ethologists, which will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the dynamics of aggression among human beings. …
¹ See L. F. Richardson, Statistics of Deadly Quarrels (London: Stevens & Sons, 1960); A. H. Buss, The Psychology of Aggression (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1961); L. Berkowitz, Aggression: A Social Psychological Analysis (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1962).
² J. D. Carthy and F. J. Ebling, eds., The Natural History of Aggression (London: Academic Press, 1964); Konrad Lorenz, On Aggression (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966).
³ R. Ardrey, African Genesis (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1961), and The Territorial Imperative (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1966); Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1967), and The Human Zoo (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1969); A. Storr, Human Aggression (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1968); Arthur Koestler, The Place of Value in a World of Facts (paper delivered at the Fourteenth Nobel Symposium, Stockholm, September 1969).
⁴ Storr, p. 18.
⁵ M. F. A. Montagu, ed., Man and Aggression (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 57, 64, 90.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is associate professor of human development in the Committee on Human Development and in the College, University of Chicago.
The Brains Generation Gap: Some Human Implications by Paul D. MacLean
There is a saying that something does not exist until you give it a name.¹ There has, of course, always been a gulf between generations, but call it by any other name, none would be more expressive for our times than the generation gap. As with the familiar spark plug, the word gap implies a critical distance. Too wide or small a gap, and the whole social engine breaks down. The ever-critical need for an evolving and thriving society is just the right gap for sparking constructive ideas. For those of us on the older side, the problem is not just the gap but also the gas mixture. The bright spark of youth is making this increasingly clear. In calling for a cultural tune-up, young people insist that it is pollution from the mixture of outworn political, social, and commercial ideas that primarily destroys our environment, poisons human relationships, and threatens atomic blistering of the whole world. They also point out that the twentieth-century doctrine that businesses and institutions must either continue to grow or perish no longer makes sense. It is somewhat like saying, I want a tumor.
It is my purpose here to call attention to another generation gap that applies to the human brain. It is a gap that is generally unfamiliar to young and old alike. Yet it exists in everyone of us, and, adding to countless generations, makes the familiar generation gap seem insignificant by comparison. And it is an extremely critical gap because learning to recognize it, understand it, and live with it may be more crucial than anything else to worthwhile survival. …
¹ Harley C. Shands, Outline of a General Theory of Human Communication, in Essays in Semiotics, ed. J. Kristeva, J. Rey-Debove, D. J. Umiker (The Hague: Mouton & Co., 1971), pp. 343-81.
Paul D. MacLean, M.D., is chief of the Laboratory of Brain Evolution and Behavior, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
The recent discussions in Zygon concerning the relationship between facts and norms have provided for a clarification and sharpening of many of the issues.¹ It is my desire to clarify several of the issues still further. …
¹ Zygon, vol. 4 (March 1969 and September 1969).
George B. Wall is associate professor of philosophy at Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas.
Some Remarks on Walls A Fact Is a Fact Is a Fact by Stephen C. Pepper
Professor George B. Walls article A Fact Is a Fact Is a Fact raises a number of issues which, as he says, seem to need further clarification. Walls position, as I read the article, is a qualified form of a descriptive value theory. Facts are relevant to values, and declarative sentences (true or false) can be made about values in connection with the relevant facts. He does not take an emotivists position that value judgments are in the nature of commands, wishes, persuasions, and the like, neither true nor false. He singles out particularly a number of types of normative judgments that are dependent on facts and consequently true if they comport with the facts. For instance, if it is a fact that a person holds an inconsistent norm, it necessarily follows that the norm is inadequate. Also, if it is a fact that a norm … requires action inconsistent with natural law …, and it is assumed that any adequate norm must be empirically possible, then, again, it necessarily follows that the norm is inadequate. And so also with a person holding at the same time norms inconsistent with each other. The consequence of holding norms like the above types is that value judgments based on them will turn out to be factually false in some way, thus revealing their inadequacies. …
Stephen C. Pepper, who was invited to comment on Walls manuscript, sent these remarks shortly before he died on May 1, 1972. He was Mills Professor of Intelligence and Moral Philosophy and Civil Polity Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley.
A Suggestion for an Interdisciplinary Approach to Ethics by May Leavenworth
Every ethical theory presupposes some conception of the evaluating self (whether the author acknowledges it or not). Where the theories differ is in the content of this conception and in the role played by this concept in the theory as a whole. In my previous publications in this journal I have used the term alienated self to denote a particular conception of the self which, it was my contention, played the role in certain ethical theories of excluding, or at least severely limiting, the use of science in ethics. It has been brought to my attention that I was not sufficiently clear in defining that term. At least, my critic George Wall¹ does not seem to have grasped my meaning. Therefore, one goal of this paper will be to make clearer what I meant by the alienated self, and how the adoption of a different conception of the self, a type of naturalistic conception, can free ethics from authoritarian restrictions. …
¹ George B. Wall, A Fact Is a Fact Is a Fact, Zygon 8 (1973): 128-32.
May Leavenworth is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the City University of New York and a part-time lecturer at Lehman College, New York.
The Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST) by Robert Brungs
The Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST) is an interfaith and interdisciplinary organization. Formed under the Missouri Nonprofit Corporation Act and tax-exempt pursuant to Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, ITEST is made up chiefly, but not exclusively, of professional people and scholars who are concerned with an interdisciplinary search for values in a context of cultural upheaval. Although open to all faiths, the institute is frankly Christian in outlook and approach. Diverse in concerns and attitudes as well as academic backgrounds, its members come from the physical and life sciences (chemistry, physics, biochemistry, biology, environmental studies, atmospheric sciences, geology), the behavioral disciplines (psychology, psychopharmacology, psychiatry, sociology), the healing arts (surgery, genetic counseling, obstetrics, internal medicine), as well as the liberal humanities and the traditionally normative studies of theology, philosophy, and law. …
Robert Brungs, S.J., is director of the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology, Saint Louis, Missouri.
Editors Note:The … stories about ITEST and the Engadiner Kollegium are a continuation of the intent to provide Zygon readers with information on other institutions working to relate religion and science. We first published two comprehensive stories on the institutions currently publishing Zygon: CASIRAS in the September 1972 issue and IRAS in the March 1973 issue. There are dozens of related institutions.
For nearly three thousand years, man, so far as he belonged to the Judeo-Christian orbit, conceived himself to have been created in the image of God. He believed that this happened in two steps. He was formed from dust, to which he is fated to return. He was animated by the spirit of God in direct contact. This did not turn him into a god nor establish his equality with God. Collectively it made him, in the Jewish tradition, Gods chosen people; in Christianity, with its greater emphasis on the individual, it enabled him to become the son of God as promised by Christ to his followers, provided they strove spiritually towards that status and lived up to it in their moral obligations.
During the last three hundred years that image had become badly shaken through an increasing secularization of human cultural life, a spreading agnosticism and atheism. It received a final blow through the proclamation of the Death of God, accepted today even by some theologians who find themselves with a logos without a God.
At the same moment when Friedrich Nietzsche announced the death of God, he offered to his contemporaries the image and ideal of Superman. He did so confronting them with the image of the last man, the man of bourgeois smugness and complacency, of whom he drew a devastating caricature. It also was an attempt to counteract a rising nihilism which, he felt, was about to take hold completely of the mind of Western man, a prophecy which proved to be only too true, as it manifested itself in the philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre and in the mood which led to the atrocious annihilations in the two world wars.
At the same time, the dualism between mind and matter, body and soul, which had been reinforced by Rene Descartes, became heavily weighted in favor of matter and the body, mind and soul being assigned the role of an epiphenomenon. Yet this did not do away with the dualism, neither epistemologically, nor morally, nor in practical action. Of this, the physician, unless he is a mere technician, is made aware most painfully everyday in his practice. This is particularly true for the psychotherapist who so often is at a loss whether to attribute the woes of his patient to an organic, physiological, or to a psychological, mental cause. Yet, in psychotherapy he has to help his patient to face himself in depth, to find his identity, and form a comprehensive image of himself, to which he has to live up with all the moral obligations which this entails. The psychotherapist can render such a service satisfactorily only when he himself has formed a comprehensive image of man, free from narrow moral, racial, national, denominational, and political prejudices.
To Search for a Comprehensive Image of Man
It is this that set Balthasar Staehelin to search for a comprehensive image of man with all the moral obligations which such an image would impose. Staehelin, to introduce him, teaches psychiatry and psychosomatics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and is engaged in psychotherapeutic private practice. In the search for a new image of man, Staehelin was guided by the experience gained in his psychotherapeutic practice. …
Erich F. Steinthal is a practicing physician in Newburgh, New York.
The Crack in the Cosmic Egg: Challenging Constructs of Mind and Reality by Joseph Chilton Pearce, reviewed by Robert T. Francoeur