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Table of contents
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.1
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.2
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.3
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.4
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.5
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.6
FOOTNOTES
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.1
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.2
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.3
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.4
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.5
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.6
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.7
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.8
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.9
MARRIAGE-10.1
MARRIAGE-10.2
MARRIAGE-10.3
MARRIAGE-10.4
MARRIAGE-10.5
MARRIAGE-10.6
MARRIAGE-10.7
MARRIAGE-10.8
MARRIAGE-10.9
MARRIAGE-10.10
MARRIAGE-10.11
MARRIAGE-10.12
FOOTNOTES
THE ART OF LOVE-11.1
THE ART OF LOVE-11.2
THE ART OF LOVE-11.3
THE ART OF LOVE-11.4
THE ART OF LOVE-11.5
THE ART OF LOVE-11.6
THE ART OF LOVE-11.7
THE ART OF LOVE-11.8
THE ART OF LOVE-11.9
THE ART OF LOVE-11.10
THE ART OF LOVE-11.11
FOOTNOTES
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.1
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.2
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.3
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.4
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.5
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.6
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.7
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.8
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.9
FOOTNOTES
INDEX OF AUTHORS

 

 

But altogether outside theoretical morality, or the question of what 

people "ought" to do, there remains _practical morality_, or the question 

of what, as a matter of fact, people actually do. This is the really 

fundamental and essential morality. Latin _mores_ and Greek aethos both 

refer to _custom_, to the things that are, and not to the things that 

"ought" to be, except in the indirect and secondary sense that whatever 

the members of the community, in the mass, actually do, is the thing that 

they feel they ought to do. In the first place, however, a moral act was 

not done because it was felt that it ought to be done, but for reasons of 

a much deeper and more instinctive character.[258] It was not first done 

because it was felt it ought to be done, but it was felt it "ought" to be 

done because it had actually become the custom to do it. 

 

The actions of a community are determined by the vital needs of a 

community under the special circumstances of its culture, time, and land. 

When it is the general custom for children to kill their aged parents that 

custom is always found to be the best not only for the community but even 

for the old people themselves, who desire it; the action is both 

practically moral and theoretically moral.[259] And when, as among 

ourselves, the aged are kept alive, that action is also both practically 

and theoretically moral; it is in no wise dependent on any law or rule 

opposed to the taking of life, for we glory in the taking of life under 

the patriotic name of "war," and are fairly indifferent to it when 

involved by the demands of our industrial system; but the killing of the 

aged no longer subserves any social need and their preservation ministers 

to our civilized emotional needs. The killing of a man is indeed 

notoriously an act which differs widely in its moral value at different 

periods and in different countries. It was quite moral in England two 

centuries ago and less, to kill a man for trifling offences against 

property, for such punishment commended itself as desirable to the general 

sense of the educated community. To-day it would be regarded as highly 

immoral. We are even yet only beginning to doubt the morality of 

condemning to death and imprisoning for life an unmarried girl who 

destroyed her infant at birth, solely actuated, against all her natural 

impulses, by the primitive instinct of self-defense. It cannot be said 

that we have yet begun to doubt the morality of killing men in war, though 

we no longer approve of killing women and children, or even non-combatants 

generally. Every age or land has its own morality. 

 

"Custom, in the strict sense of the word," well says Westermarck, 

"involves a moral rule.... Society is the school in which men learn to 

distinguish between right and wrong. The headmaster is custom."[260] 

Custom is not only the basis of morality but also of law. "Custom is 

law."[261] The field of theoretical morality has been found so fascinating 

a playground for clever philosophers that there has sometimes been a 

danger of forgetting that, after all, it is not theoretical morality but 

practical morality, the question of what men in the mass of a community 

actually do, which constitutes the real stuff of morals.[262] If we define 

more precisely what we mean by morals, on the practical side, we may say 

that it is constituted by those customs which the great majority of the 

members of a community regard as conducive to the welfare of the community 

at some particular time and place. It is for this reason--i.e., because it 

is a question of what is and not of merely what some think ought to 

be--that practical morals form the proper subject of science. "If the word 


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