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Intellectual and Moral Anarchy in American Sociaty


We live in a state verging on anarchy. We have a government that does not govern. We have a government, but no governing purpose. The level of politics is low; so too is the level of citizenship. Why? Why have we become a fragmented and lawless society—a society no longer united by standards of civilized conduct? Why do youth complain of alienation, of lack of identity? Why do they say their education is without relevance? What forces have undermined the moral consensus on which this nation was founded, and what was that moral consensus? This essay seeks to answer these questions.

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* This essay is a revision of my article, “The Crisis of Our Times,” which was printed in the Congressional Record, July 31, 1968 (Extension of Remarks), pp. E7150–E7157.

1 Ginzburg v. United States, 383 U. S. 463, 491, 492 (1966).

2 According to Justice Douglas, masochists and homosexuals are nothing more than “somewhat offbeat, non-conformist and odd.” Their desires, he says, are just as legitimate as those of normal people. And after placing the word normal between quotation marks, he goes so far as to suggest that to prefer the mode of life of one to that of another is merely a matter of personal “taste.” But having thus boldly proclaimed his moral relativism, Justice Douglas humbly concludes: “How can we know enough to probe the mysteries of the subconscious of our people and say that this is good for them and that is not” (Ibid., 489, 491).

3 Marcuse Herbert et al. , A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston, 1965). See his concluding essay entitled, “Repressive Tolerance,” and my essay, “The Temptation of Herbert Marcuse,” Review of Politics, October, 1969.

4 Devlin Patrick, The Enforcement of Morals (New York, 1965), p. 9.

5 See Gropsey Joseph, “The Moral Basis of International Action,” in Goldwin Robert A. (ed.), America Armed (Chicago, 1961), p. 72.

6 See Minogue Kenneth R., The Liberal Mind (New York, 1968), p. 83.

7 See Clor Harry M., Obscenity and Public Morality (Chicago, 1969).

8 Minogue, op. cit., p. 83.

9 Devlin, op. cit., pp. 11, 13.

10 One need not be an ethical absolutist to reject moral relativism. See Wheelwright Philip, A Critical Introduction to Ethics (3rd ed., New York, 1959), chapter 2.

Three major categories of moral relativism may be noted: cultural(or sociological), individualistic (or psychological), and linguistic. Examples of cultural relativists are: Benedict Ruth, Patterns of Culture (New York, 1946), and Herskovits Melville J., Cultural Anthropology (New York, 1955). Meanwhile the social sciences are dominated by logical positivism. This doctrine holds that moral judgments express no proposition which can be either true or false; they are merely emotive utterances expressing the subjective state of the speaker. Thus, to say, “You acted wrongly in stealing that money,” is to utter nothing more than the factual statement, “You stole that money”; it merely evinces the speaker's moral disapproval. See Ayer A. J., Language, Truth and Logic (New York, 1946), pp. 107112. Accordingly, the social sciences are behaviorcdly oriented. See Berelson Bernard (ed.), The Behavioral Sciences Today (New York, 1963), p. 3, who says: “The ultimate end [of the behavioral sciences] is to understand, explain, and predict human behavior in the same sense in which scientists understand, explain, and predict the behavior of physical forces or biological factors or, closer to home, the behavior of goods and prices in the economic market.”

For the writings of behaviorists in political science, see Ulmer S. Sidney (ed.), Introductory Readings in Political Behavior (Chicago, 1961).

For critiques of behavioralism and of moral relativism (the two are inseparable), see Storing Herbert J. (ed.), Essays on the Scientific Study of Politics (New York, 1962); and Ward Leo R. (ed.), Ethics and the Social Sciences (Notre Dame, 1959).

11 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, chapters 5 (end), 6.

12 Erich Roll, Elements of Economic Theory, cited in Wheelwright Philip, A Critical Introduction to Ethics (rev. ed.: New York, 1949), p. 302.

13 See Glendon Schubert, “Is There a Public Interest Theory,” and Sorauf Frand, “TheConceptual Muddle,” in Friedrich Carl (ed.), The Public Interest NOMOS, V; New York, 1962; Truman David, The Governmental Process (New York, 1953), chapters 2 and 11; Gross Bertram, The Legislative Struggle (New York, 1953), chapter 1; Lasswell Harold, Politics: Who Gets What, When, How (New York, 1936), chapter 1; Bentley Arthur, The Process of Government (Chicago, 1908), chapters 11 and 15.

14 The statement that values are relative to culture does not logically entail the assertion that the values of one culture are neither better nor worse than those of another. This is admitted by Stace W. T., a professed relativist, in The Concept of Morals (New York, 1962), pp. 1316.

15 Fulbright J. William, Old Myths and New Realities (New York, 1964). Consistent with Hobbes, Fulbright suggests that “life and peace” are the ultimate values (pp. 75–76). Consequently, the Senator denies that the nation-state is an object of ultimate loyalty, by which I suppose he means political loyalty (p. 139). If so, we may wonder whom or what the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee represents. He cannot represent the American “ideology,” which he regards as a “luxury” we cannot afford (pp. 77, 141)—an ideology he calls a system of “myths” (p. 7). But what Senator Fulbright regards as the “new realities” are those seen from the perspective of old Hobbes modified by neo-Freudian psychology. (Note the authorities cited by Fulbright, many of whom share his moral or cultural relativism which is so clearly implied on pp. 6–7 and 9–10.)

16 See Fulbright's Senator preface to Frank Jerome D., Sanity and Survival (New York, 1968), p. x.

17 New York Times, August 22, 1968.

18 Op. cit., p. 67.

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