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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

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The task before us, as ethical beings, now begins to take shape. It
is to preserve I he force of ethical conviction that; springs up naturally
out of infantile dependence and the need lor inhibition and repression
in early life, but to sec that it is applied, under the correctives of
reason and experience, to provide the most ellieient and the most
desirable moral framework for living. This will undoubtedly mean
radical changes in the early upbringing of children, as well as in the
methods of education and in accepted religions and codes of ethics.
For instance, sociologists reali/e that existing othico-religious systems
often contain a large dement of psychological compensation: they
compensate for the miseries of this world with the bliss of a world to
come, they compensate for ignorance of fact with certitude of feeling,
they compensate for actual imperfections of ethical practice by set-
ting up impossible ethical ideals. This is not wordy hypocrisy; it
is a primitive method of self-defence against a hard and difficult
Again, it is becoming clear that harshness of punishment in early
life tends to the development of a morally vindictive super-ego: other
methods are required for the development of a character where the
aggressive arid sadistic impulses arc kept subordinate*. The most
difficult lesson to learn is that irrational and intolerant certitude is
undesirable. We have; seen how this applies to truth: the lesson is
difficult there also, but science has learned it. It will be even more
difficult to learn in ethics: but it must be learned if we are to emerge
from psychological barbarism. To cling to certitude is to prolong an
infantile reaction beyond the period when it is necessary. To become
truly adult, we rmist learn to boar the burden of incertitude.
Another serious difficulty is how to arouse strong ethical feeling on
important moral issues. It is easy to feel strongly about sexual
behaviour, because almost inevitably certain components of the
sexual impulse become repressed in early life -so easy, in fact, that
4tmorality*5 is often used to mean sexual morality alone. But it
is rnxich harder to feel strongly about social problems such as
malnutrition or unemployment, because the connection with the re-
pressive mechanism is not so automatic. 1 lowever, through educa-
tion and general social attitude such problems could be linked with a
strong feeling about the wrongness of cruelty, a feeling which in its
turn is readily generated by the repression of the aggressive impulses.
In addition, of course, the child's natural sense of sympathy can be
appealed to and strengthened, and primitive feelings of aggression can
be sublimated and canalized into constructive activities. But any
strong emotional sense of absolute wrongness can only be introduced