Ethics, by P. H. Nowell-Smith (London: Penguin Books, 1954)
[Nevertheless, although a man cannot see or hear or in any way 'witness' his own seeing or hearing, he can observe his own listening; for 'observe' here means 'attend to'. ...This sort of observing is not analogous to seeing and is not infallible, and it therefore gives no support to the searchlight theory of introspection.] 'not infallible' u/l: How can you tell?
[his vicious condition is one to be remedied by education, medical treatment, psycho-analysis or whatever means the wit of man can devise; it does not call for moral condemnation.] : Certainly it does call for moral condemnation.
[There would be no incompatibility between an action's being 'self-determined' and its being predictable or characteristic of the agent; for 'self-determined' would mean 'determined by his motives and character', as opposed to 'forced on him by circumstances or other people'.] : This assumes that 'character' remains unchanged. Choice is certainly determined by character; but is character predictable?
[...two lists, the one of moral traits, the other of non-moral. Cowardice, avarice, cruelty, selfishness, idleness would go into the first list; clumsiness, physical weakness, stupidity, and anaemia into the second.] : Rāga and dosa go into the first list, but moha (stupidity) is put in the second. Why?
[Even when it is known that a certain type of conduct, for example homosexuality, is not amenable to penal sanctions or moral disapproval, it is difficult to persuade people that it is not morally wrong.] : Is this simply a matter of language? The majority of people regard queers with emotional horror.
[A wicked character can be improved by moral censure and punishment; and if we really thought that a man was so bad as to be irremediable we should, I think, cease to blame him.] : Therefore a bad man is more to be blamed than a very bad man.
[But both he and the wicked man differ from the addict or compulsive in that the latter will respond neither to threats nor to encouragement.] : This is simply a matter of degree.
[Now since a moral principle is a disposition to choose, a man cannot be said to have a certain moral principle if he regularly breaks it, and we discover what a man's moral principles are mainly by seeing how he in fact conducts himself.] : This is a muddle. A man cannot be said to 'break' a moral principle.
[Moreover the logic of practical language is adapted to the practice of ordinary men, not to that of mental paralytics.] : Practical language, then, has its philosophical limitations.
p. 313/37- 314/-2
[But the one thing he cannot do is to try to alter his conception of the Good Life; for it is ultimately by reference to this conception that all his choices are made.] : If you define the conception of the Good Life as the conception by ultimate reference to which all choices are made, it is a mere tautology to say that one cannot choose to alter this conception. But it does not follow that there is such a conception: all that is implied is that upon any occasion of chioce the degree of reflexion or self-criticism involved is limited. If there really was the conception of the Good Life we should have to conclude that the limit of the degree of self-criticism was fixed at a certain point. But this is evidently not so. A limit is only reached when successive reflexive regressions reveal no fresh attitude. This will tell us something about the nature of pro and con attitudes, but not about the Good Life. The ethical limit is reflexion for its own sake.
[We may ask what 'we' mean by a certain word; but we do not all mean the same thing and, if we did, it would be impossible to understand why it is that, in a philosophical dispute, which is concerned with the meanings of words that are the common property of everybody, the points made by the protagonists on each side seem to their opponents so absurd, and far-fetched.] 'in a philosophical...everybody' noted: This excludes from philosophy any concept for which there is no adequate word.