Dan‐Cohen, Harmful Thoughts: Essays on Law, Self, and Morality

In bringing the selfish system to trial, I begin with enquiring how far the advocates for it admit man to be a social being. Rousseau excepted, I know no writer but who acknowledges in man an appetite for society; and I am willing to believe that a morose and solitary disposition influenced him more to form that opinion, than reason or experience. An inclination to communicate thoughts and sentiments and to express wishes and wants, is inherent in the human race. For that end was the blessing of speech bestowed on man; and hence books without end. An appetite to be esteemed by our fellow-creatures will readily be admitted by my opponents, as being selfish. Is any thing more natural than to wish well to our benefactors, and ill to our enemies? These gentlemen probably will also admit, that to retaliate upon the latter is equally natural. If so, is not a grateful return to a benefactor, also natural? If a man can act with the sole view of doing mischief to his enemy, what is it in nature that bars him from acting with the sole view of doing good to his friend? A late French writer, pinched with this argument, finds it necessary to deny that there is in man any such principle as benevolence. He discards by the lump good will to others, parental affection, and even love between the sexes. He holds the expression improper, observing that the expression ought to be, . This, it must be acknowledged, is arguing consequentially, however absurdly. Yet with great assurance he condemns the English writers as being strangely bewildered about morality.

Harmful thoughts : essays on law, self, and morality

They are willing to distort law, righteousness, and justice in order to help the prosecution, behind which there is a political antipathy towards actions that are not wrongful, sometimes on the pretext that destroying people's lives may be a "social good."Judicial Moralism as the generalization of intentions into all of morality, although just as vicious as the "strict liability" generalization of actions over intentions, has historically been much more common.


Essays on Law, Self, and Morality - Princeton University …

Get this from a library! Harmful thoughts : essays on law, self, and morality. [Meir Dan-Cohen]

Hart's concern in (1963) was to investigate the legal status of a class of actions that are considered immoral by communal standards but result in no harm to others. This work was written in response to Lord Patrick Devlin's attack on the Wolfenden Report of 1957, which had argued that because no public harm issued from homosexual relations between private, consenting adults, it ought to not be illegal in England any longer. Hart agreed with the report that without an external harm committed, the law's legitimate scope could not enforce some conception of communal moral standards against the private affairs of consenting adults. Yet he did allow that the harm principle was too narrow: the state could have a compelling interest to intervene in protecting a citizen from him or herself or when the citizen's actions contend with standards of public decency. Fundamentally, however, Hart argued that moral facts and values change, that the proposition that any deviation from a society's shared morality threatens its continued existence is unsustainable when faced with the simple fact of the continuous evolution of social norms.