George A. Blair

Copyright © 1985

NOTE: The first five chapters of this book are identical with Human Conduct, and so the contents link to the chapters of that book.


This is a scientific and objective approach to ethics. First, it establishes that everyone in fact believes that morals are objective, and that all moral codes derive from "Do not deliberately act as if you weren't what you really are."

First, the general implications of this are developed, discussing why people feel necessitated to obey this command, and secondly its implications for the choice one makes rather than the act itself one performs: how morality depends on one's knowledge of one's reality, and is modified by constraints on one's freedom.

Then, the book explores the foundations of economics and business and draws out the implications in ethics of the various realities discovered.



Part One: General Principles
Chapter 1: The Moral Command
1.1. A science of ethics?
1.1.1. A self-contradictory moral position
1.2. The two basic observable facts
1.3. The question to investigate
1.4. Observed characteristics of the fact
1.4.1. How to use the observed data
1.5. Association from early training
1.6. Social pressure
1.6.1. Examples of "immoral=inhuman"
Chapter 2: The Real Issue
2.1. The true moral norm
2.1.1. A note on "natural-law" ethics
2.1.2. The moral command
2.2. The real issue
2.2.1. The problem
2.2.2. The reason people are afraid of immorality
Chapter 3: The Consequences
3.1. Can this theory be scientific?
3.2. Evidence dealing with life after death
3.3. Nature of the life after death
3.3.1. Relation of this theory to others
3.3.2. Happiness and enjoyment
3.3.3. No forgiveness
3.3.4. The afterlife and God Theological note on salvation
3.4. The meaning of life
3.4.1. God as the "real" goal of life?
Chapter 4: Freedom and Responsibility
4.1. The choice as free
4.1.1. Characteristics of free choice
4.2. The general moral rule
4.3. Morality and emotions
4.3.1. Morality and emotional problems
4.3.2. Habits: virtues and vices
4.4. Responsibility
4.4.1. Responsibility and guilt
Chapter 5: Moraliity and Knowledge
5,1, Morality and knowledge: conscience
5.1.1. Clear and unclear conscience
5.1.2. Clearing an unclear conscience
5.2. Act and situation
5.2.1. The motive
5.2.2. The means
5.2.3. Side effects
5.2.4. The Principle of the double Effect
Part Two: Applications to Economic Life and Business
Chapter 6: Myths at the Foundations of Economics
6.1. How ethics is applied
6.2. The Seven Great Myths
6.2.1. First myth: we are autonomous
6.2.2. Second myth: we are all equal
6.2.3. Third myth: perpetual dissatisfaction
6.2.4. Fourth myth: price reflects value
6.2.5. Fifth myth: economics is mathematical
6.2.6. Sixth myth: necessities are very valuable
6.2.7. Seventh myth: economics is amoral, not normative
Chapter 7: Self-Determination and Rights
7.1. The foundation of economics
7.1.1. Ways people relate to others
7.2. Rights in general
7.2.1. Claiming a right
7.2.2. Kinds of rights
7.2.3. Against whom the right exists
7.2.4. Defending a right
7.2.5. Coerrcion
7.2.6. Dehumanization
7.2.7. Inalienable rights
7.2.8. Discrimination Equality of opportunity A couple of controversial human rights
Chapter 8: The Social Relationship
8.1. Cooperation
8.1.1. Motivating cooperation Characteristics of a sanction
8.1.2. Totalitarianism Police states
8.1.3. Punishment and its justice
8.1.4. Authority
8.1.5. Common goal and common good
8.2. Morality and society
8.2.1. Responsibility in a society
8.3. Civil society
8.3.1. Its necessity
8.3.2. The Principle of Subsidiarity
8.3.3. The Principle of Least Demand
8.4. Justice
8.5. A note on "Christian civil society"
Chapter 9: Ownership
9.1. Self-determination and economics
9.1.1. The right of ownership
9.1.2. A human right?
9.1.3. Initial acquisition of property Limitations on the claim
9.1.4. Claims against others' property Equal distribution
9.2. Communism
Chapter 10: Transactions and Values
10.1. Where we begin
10.2. Self-determination and values
10.2.1. Comparison of values
10.2.2. Values vs. necessities
10.3. Transactions
10.3.1. Exchanges involving necessities
10.3.2. Service
10.3.3. Value, cost, and price
10.3.4. Money
10.3.5. Production
Chapter 11: The Firm and the Consumer
11.1. The entrepreneur
11.2. Advertising
11.2.1. Government's role
11.2.2. Advertising in "the professions"
11.3. Providing the service
11.3.1. Depriving classes of citizens
11.3.2. Malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance Bankruptcy
11.3.3. Forbidding services
11.4. Pricing the service
11.4.1. Service, price, and necessity
11.4.2. The market Monopolies
Chapter 12: Employer and employee
12.1. Employees
12.1.1. Employees and Marxism
12.2. Work as a necessity
12.2.1. Hiring and wages "Equal pay for equal work" Government's role in wages
12.2.2. Wages, Marx, and "surplus value"
12.3. Employer and authority
12.3.1. Expert employees
Chapter 13: The complex firm
13.1. Firm and employee
13.2. The firm's common goal and common good
13.2.1. Potential employees and hiring Employment and the government
13.2.2. The firm and actual employees Commitment Cooperativeness Dangers in the work Working conditions
13.2.3. Unions Government's role
13.3. The entrepreneur in a complex firm
13.3.1. The single entrepreneur
13.3.2. Multiple entrepreneurs The corporation
13.4. Bureaucracy
13.5. Footnote on macroeconomics


Just a word or two before we begin. If you're looking for a book on "values clarification" in the ethical field, I'm afraid you'll have to look elsewhere. If you want a book on the history of ethical theory, this is not your book. If you want "discussions" on the issues which lay out both sides of controversial topics, and leave it up to you to make up your mind, then don't bother reading this. This book lays out what the facts are in the moral aspect of the health-care field.

"What nonsense!" you say. "Who are you to say that you "know what the facts are" and can presume to tell other people what they should do!" There are no "facts" in ethics, anyway—if there is such a thing as a "fact" that can be absolutely known at all."

Oh yes? Is that a fact? Is it a fact that there are no facts in ethics? How do you know? And who are you to presume to tell me that there aren't? And what do you mean by "presume"? That it's somehow wrong of me to dare to say that my position is correct and that anyone who disagrees with it is wrong?

But how can you say that? Aren't you trying to tell me that my position is wrong? Isn't it wrong of you to dare to say that, based on your own principles? How do you know that it's an absolute fact that no one can know absolute facts? (You seem to know this one.)

The moral disease I discuss at the beginning of the book is a symptom of the intellectual disease that is infecting our whole culture: that no one "really knows" the actual facts, and that everyone "has a right to his own opinion"—meaning that you're "dissing" someone, somehow, if, instead of saying, "I disagree with you," you say, "Nope. Things aren't that way. You're mistaken."

That attitude kills learning. All it means is that we "share" our opinions, and if you happen to like mine, you'll adopt it. But if it doesn't grab you, then you'll stand on your "right" to your own opinion, and denounce me as a sinner for claiming that I'm objectively right and you're objectively wrong.

But that position is sustainable only if it is objectively true that no position is objectively true—in which case, that position (that no position is objectively true) isn't true. So it's not a wise position, it's a stupid one, not because I disagree with it, but because it disagrees with itself. And it's not a tolerant position, because it refuses to tolerate anyone who knows what he's talking about; it's not open-minded, but closed-minded, because it insists, "I've got a right to my opinion, so don't bother me with facts!"

Besides, you yourself know at least one fact that can't be doubted by anyone: There is something, meaning that there's not just absolutely nothing at all. Try to deny it. There's the denial, and that's something, and you know it. Doubt it. There's the doubt, and that's something, and you know it. Disagree with it. There's the disagreement. No matter what you do, you know with absolute certainty this fact, and you also know that it's certain for anyone, because no matter who denies it, there's the denial, which is something.

So we can know facts; we can find evidence that shows that one position is correct and its opposite is incorrect. Hold onto that. There are no "facts for" someone. You may or may not know what the fact is, but a fact is a fact is a fact.

So don't tell me I can't come up with the facts in ethics. Challenge me to do it. The rest of the book is an attempt to meet the challenge. Sometimes I may not succeed; but don't kill the attempt before I even start by declaring without any evidence that it can't be done.

[For more on this see Modes of the Finite, Part One, Section 1, Chapter 1 and following.]

Feast of St. Alphonsus Liguouri,
August 1, 1996