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Serial: The Princeton review.
Title: Rationality, Activity and Faith [Volume 2, July-Dec 1882; pp. 58-86]
Author: James, William
Article URL: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moajrnl/acf4325.3-01.010/86
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THE PRINCE TON RE VIEW.. explain a given should except by reference to a still deeper should. The moral judgment is irreducible, and independent of all judgments of fact. It applies to the subjective interests as well as to the phenomena which they measure. Not only is it best for my social interests to keep my promise, but best for me to have those interests, and best for the cosmos to have this me. Like the old woman in the story who described the world as resting on a rock, and then explained that rock to be supported by another rock, and finally when pushed with questions said it was "rocks all the way down," he who believes this to be a radically moral universe must hold the moral order to rest either on an absolute and ultimate should or on a series of shoulds "all the way down." The practical difference between this sort of moralist and one who makes moral judgments tributary to facts is enormous. The materialist when his moral feelings are at war with the facts about him is always free to seek harmony by toning down the sensitiveness of the feelings. Being mere data, neither good nor evil in themselves, he may pervert them or lull them to sleep by any means at his command. Truckling, compromise, time-serving, capitulations of conscience, are conventionally opprobrious names for what, if successfully carried out, would be on the materialist's principle by far the easiest and most praiseworthy mode of bringing about that harmony between inner and outer relations which is all he means by good. The absolute moralist, on the other hand, when his interests clash with the world is not free to gain harmony by sacrificing the ideal interests. According to him these latter should be as they are and not otherwise. Resistance then, poverty, martyrdom if need be, tragedy in a word, such are the solemn feasts of his inward faith. Not that the contradiction between the moralist and materialist occurs every day. In commonplace matters all moral schools agree. It is only in the lonely emergencies of life that our moral creed is tested. Then routine maxims fail and we fall back on our Gods. It cannot then be said that the question Is this a moral world? is a meaningless and unverifiable question because it deals with something non-phenomenal. Any question is full of meaning to which, as here, contrary answers lead to contrary behavior. And it seems as if in 82