Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hazlitt's "The Foundations of Morality" on PDF from FEE now

I wanted to mention the E-book, “The Foundations of Morality” (2010), by Henry Hazlitt, from the Foundation for Economic Education, at Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, pdf link here.  The book comprises 26 chapters and runs close to 300 pages including romans.
The author generally is following a libertarian foundation for morality, and at one point notes that the center of moral behavior is the ability to hold back on immediate pleasure or gain for the self, for greater good for both the self and others farther in the future.  A lot of it has to do with the cognitive ability to “see around corners”.

The author seems to discuss utilitarianism, as Bentham defined it (the way we studied it in high school government class in 1961). 


Chapter 14, “The Problem of Self-Sacrifice” will need careful attention.  Hazlitt does not deny that such an idea as “duty” exists, and that societies generally may rightfully expect individuals to take personal risks to save or otherwise help others in some situations.  He does not deny that in exceptional circumstances an ultimate sacrifice can be expected.  But “sacrifice” is more likely to be expected when some greater general good comes from it.   Giving money to panhandlers probably doesn’t qualify.  But willingness to work in dangerous neigjborhoods or take on risky jobs, like police officer or fireman (even as a volunteer) or in military service, may well be appropriate for many people at points in their lives.  Some risk taking and exposure to “sacrifice” may give the appearance to others of having “skin in the game” and make one more credible later when pursuing one’s own goals.  Most of us can’t get anywhere in life without these experiences at some points.  Trump's claim of sacrifice last summer when confronted by Khzir Khan was quite shocking. 
Hazlitt seems willing to accept the idea that morality involves a lot more than just answering for one's own deliberate choices. 


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