is strong stuff. It borders not only on heresy, but also on the
brink of irrespon-sibility, and has within it more than a twinge
of the crackpot. How, one may ask, can one take evidence such as
has been cited, twist if full around, and come out with the bad as
good, the immoral as a sign of health, and the unethical as a sign
of growth? And, one may ask, isnít this a rather extraordinary
manipulation of data, or perhaps even a highly irresponsible and
dangerous distortion of fact? How can one do this? The answer is
simple. One can work from a different set of premises, because it
may not be necessary to subscribe to only one set of premises when
attempting to understand the behavior in question. Within the
premises of young people what is being said is indeed a
distortion, and within their premises what is being said may be a
reprehensible and reproachable analysis.
But since there are other premises upon which
understanding might be based, we can question whether it is wise
to stay only within the customary frame if reference when
interpreting the behavior under consideration.
The conclusion that todayís behavior is
immoral and unethical is, as I see it, based on a premise
consisting of three parts:
- That a sound system of ethics has existed.
- That this system of ethics was composed of good values.
- That the values making up this system are the prime tenets
by which man should live.
Within this three part premise it follows
logically, that the behavior does not demonstrate these values,
and that man is acting in a most improper, immoral and unethical
fashion. But, it is possible we should hold this premise suspect
and it is possible that there may be more than what most people
see in the kind of behavior now called immoral.
If by now our opinions differ, probably it is
because of our premises. There is no denying that basic ethical
systems have existed, nor that values have stemmed from them. But
from another angle of observation, we can question that a sound
system of ethics composed of a fine set of values has operated in
manís time on earth, and from another angle of observation one
would have to doubt the permanent worth of some of the values
which have been a part of ethical systems by which man has lived.
For purposes of discussion, let this position
be posed: (a) That the data of history do not support the premise
that a sound system of ethics has existed. (b) That a different
frame of reference allows one to interpret the behavior,
distressing so many - as good behavior, as healthy behavior, as a
part of the laws of nature, and as a heartening sign of manís
growth toward being a truly human organism.
To support this position, one must demon-strate
that a sound system of ethics has not existed, and must present a
framework for understanding manís behavior which buttresses the
assertions made. But first, one must explain what is meant by a
sound system of ethics.
Let us assume that a sound system of ethics
must be based on the character of the human organism and must,
when practiced to its fullest extent, assure that human life will
continue to exist. And, let us assume that a sound system of
ethics must not require man to behave in a manner contrary to his
nature. It must be built on what man is. It must not be based on
principles contrary to the accumulated knowledge of man the
organism; and let us assume that a sound system of ethics allows
one, without equivocation, or exception, to denote what is ethical
and moral and what is unethical and immoral.
Some will say the position offered falls with
this definition of a sound system of ethics; because, they will
say, we have a system of ethics within which we can unequivocally
know what is right or wrong behavior. And, some will say the
behavior under discussion is evidence that manís basic nature is
breaking through, and that we have failed to inculcate into todayís
people those moral values that unquestionably keep manís baser
impulses controlled. To this it can be said, they may be right - -
- right, that is, if this sinful conception of manís nature is
correct. But beyond this, one can say - - there are other
conceptions of man.
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