Psycho-Analysis and Ethics

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Professor Morris Ginsberg
Professor Morris Ginsberg (1889 – 1970)
Professor Cecil Alec Mace
Professor Cecil Alec Mace (1894 – 1971)
Conway Memorial Lecture
Conway Memorial Lecture
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Delivered at Conway Hall 25 April 1952. Chaired by Professor C A Mace and presented by Professor Morris Ginsberg.
Abstract

Attempts to derive an ethical theory from psycho-analysis have failed, largely because “P.A.” is descriptive, concerned with psychological fact (or at least with theories about what is psychological fact), and is not prescriptive. It is not effective in dealing with the concept of ‘ought,’ with the search for principles of distributive justice, and with the issue of the logical validity of moral judgments. In other words, it is inadequate philosophically.

However, it can help in the general study of morality by: 1) Examining the psychological causes of differences in moral codes 2) Clarifying oral experience by helping to purge attitudes of fear and anger.

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