1 F.H. Bradley, Ethical Studies pp. 5-6.

2 Ibid. pp. 6-7.

3 A. C. Ewing, "Subjectivism and Naturalism in Ethics" reprinted in Readings in Ethical Theory p. 125.

4 Henry Sidgwick, "The Methods of Ethics," reprinted in Readings in Ethical Theory , p. 143.

5 Bernard Gert, The Moral Rules, p. 209.

6 Ibid. p. 211.

7 F.H. Bradley, op. cit. p. 8.

8 P. F. Strawson, "Ethical Intuitionism," reprinted in Readings in Ethical Theory, p. 250.

9 Sir David Ross, Chapter II of The Right and the Good reprinted in Readings in Ethical Theory, p. 184.

10 Von Hippel, The Role of Natural Law in the Legal Decisions of the German Federal Republic, p. 109.

11 Consider the following supporting argument of Samuel Clarke (from British Moralists Volume 2 p. 8):

...if there be no such thing as Good and Evil in the Nature of Things, antecedent to all Laws, then neither can any one Law be better than another, nor any one thing whatever, be more justly established, and enforced by Laws, than the contrary; nor can any reason be given, why any Law should ever be made at all: But all Laws equally, will be either arbitrary and tyrannical, or frivolous and needless, because the contrary might with equal Reason have been established, if before the making of the Laws, all things had been alike indifferent in their own Nature.
Here is a more recent supporting argument from Leo Strauss (from Natural Right and History p. 2):
To reject natural right is tantamount to saying that all right is positive right, and this means that what is right is determined exclusively by the legislators and the courts of the various countries. Now it is obviously meaningful, and sometimes even necessary, to speak of "unjust" laws or "unjust" decisions. In passing such judgments we imply that there is a standard of right and wrong independent of positive right and higher than positive right: a standard with reference to which we are able to judge of positive right.

12 Heinrich Rommen, The Natural Law in Decisions of the Federal Supreme Court and of the Constitutional Courts in Germany p. 5.

13 The Machinery of Freedom p. 183.

14 It would make more sense, and I think it would be true, if he said: "As a moral philosopher, I actually agree with the libertarian theory of rights, but, to be persuasive to more people, I pretend to be a utilitarian. And since I am pretending to be a utilitarian who judges the morality of all actions according to their long-range consequences, I have to be an economist so I can predict what the consequences will be."

15 This is an example that David Friedman uses to show that the nonaggression principle sometimes leads to unacceptable results. See The Machinery of Freedom pp. 171-173.

16 Michael Gazzaniga, The Social Brain: Discovering the Networks of the Mind, p. 156.

17 William F. Allman, in The Stone Age Present p. 216, notes:

Further evidence that the brain is specially wired to enjoy music comes from people who suffer brain damage from a stroke and are afflicted with "amusia" — an inability to recognize familiar melodies and loss of musical ability— even though other mental abilities are left unimpaired. The wiring up of the brain's musical knowledge begins very early in life and, like language, is "tuned" to a particular culture. Six-month-old infants possess a rudimentary ability to perceive that a musical chord contains a "sour" note that is atonal. By age one, North American children are better at remembering a melody when the tune is created from notes in a scale found in conventional Western music, as opposed to melodies written from a more exotic scale used in Indonesia.

18 Frans de Waal, Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals, p. 216.

19 Similarly, homosexuals who feel no sexual attraction toward the opposite sex should be able to figure out that they owe their existence to the fact that most people are heterosexuals who do feel sexually attracted to the opposite sex. Homosexuals should not regard heterosexuals as brainwashed dupes of cultural mythologists. And amoralists should not regard people who have consciences as victims of delusions.

20 Robert Hare, Psychopathy, p. 7. Cited in The Brighter Side of Human Nature, p. 308 by Alfie Kohn.

21 Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child.

22 William F. Allman, The Stone Age Present pages 93—95. Allman continues on p. 95 with the following facts:

For most people, the facial muscles involved in shaping the face when they are experiencing emotions are not under conscious control. Only 10 percent of us, for instance, can voluntarily pull the corners of the mouth down to make the prototypically human "sad" face. The rest of us can make this face only while also moving the muscles near the chin, which is a giveaway for a phony expression. Likewise, only 15 percent of people can voluntarily raise their eyebrows at the center of their forehead to duplicate the forlorn look of grief and distress.

23 In children raised under their mother's care, empathy develops between 15 and 18 months of age. In children raised from infancy by a series of strangers, as in a daycare center, the capacity for empathy may fail to develop. See "New Light on Daycare Research" by Barbara Hattemer in Who Will Rock the Cradle?

24 James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrnstein, Crime and Human Nature, p. 200.

25 Adam Smith expressed it this way (British Moralists Volume 1 p. 257):

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with more exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.

26 Frances Hutcheson likened benevolence to gravity in this respect (British Moralists Volume 1 p. 130):

This universal Benevolence toward all Men, we may compare to that Principle of Gravitation, which perhaps extends to all Bodys in the Universe; but, like the Love of Benevolence, increases as the Distance is diminish'd, and is strongest when Bodys come to touch each other.

27 It is fortunate that our emotions operate this way. As Frances Hutcheson explained op. cit. p. 129:

Now because of the vast Numbers of Mankind, their distant Habitations, and the Incapacity of any one to be remarkably useful to vast Multitudes; that our Benevolence might not be quite distracted with a multiplicity of Objects, whose equal Virtues would equally recommend them to our regard; or become useless, by being equally extended to Multitudes at vast distances, whose Interests we could not understand, nor be capable of promoting, having no Intercourse of Offices with them; Nature has more powerfully determin'd us to admire, and love the moral Qualities of others which affect our selves, and has given us more powerful Impressions of Good-will toward those who are beneficent to our selves. This we call Gratitude. And thus a Foundation is laid for joyful Associations in all kinds of Business, and virtuous Friendships.

28 Denise Foley, "The Hero in All of Us" in Prevention August 1985 p. 76:

Research indicates that the distress of another person elicits a response 80 to 90 percent of the time in children in their first years of life. In the earliest years, most children will simulate the distress themselves, often seeking comfort from a parent. Later—as young as 18 months old—the child will try to help, touching the distressed person, offering advice, a favorite toy or bring a parent to help.

29 Ibid p. 78.

30 Ibid p. 77.

31 Ibid p. 75:

We take care of infants who certainly do nothing to deserve it. They're not attractive. They wake you in the middle of the night. They urinate on you. They vomit on you. And yet we love and care for them.

32 Edmond Cahn, The Sense of Injustice pp. 24-25.

33 Ibid. p. 26.

34 Michael Levin, Why Race Matters p. 169.

35 Ibid. p. 170.

36 F. A. Hayek pointed out (in Law, Legislation and Liberty Volume 1 p. 72) that moral action has historically preceded moral philosophy:

Long before man had developed language to the point where it enabled him to issue general commands, an individual would be accepted as a member of a group only so long as he conformed to its rules. Such rules might in a sense not be known and still have to be discovered, because from "knowing how" to act, or from being able to recognize that the acts of another did or did not conform to accepted practices, it is still a long way to being able to state such rules in words.

37 The sex drive, unlike moral habits, increases dramatically at puberty, after the child's brain is almost fully developed and "hard-wired." Unlike the conscience, which is awakened and formed in childhood through explicit training, sexual desire is awakened automatically by hormones acting on the pre-existing sexual orientation of the child's brain.

38 Rather than let the general argument of this essay get mired in a lengthy digression about the moral sense, I have included a detailed explanation of the moral sense in Appendix A. There I attempt to answer all the questions that skeptics have raised against it.


Go back to the table of contents.

Go back to Libertarian Essays by Roy Halliday.

This page was last updated on January 1, 2003.
This site is maintained by Roy Halliday. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send them to royhalliday@mindspring.com.