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Right regulation of the actions of so complex a being as man, living under conditions so complex as those presented by a society evidently forms a subject matter unlikely to admit of specific statements throughout its entire range.The primary division of it–private conduct–necessarily dependent in part on the nature of the individual and his circumstances, can be prescribed but approximately; and guidance must, in most cases, be partly determined by a judicial balancing of requirements and avoidance of extremes.His formula for justice is summed up in these words: “Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.” The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.But the primary subject matter of ethics is conduct considered objectively as producing good or bad results to self or others or both.
And a further distinction is that induction has been more habitually brought in support of deduction.
Egoistic acts, as well as altruistic acts, in animals are classed as good or bad.
A squirrel which lays up a store of food for the winter is thought of as doing that which a squirrel ought to do; and, contrariwise, one which idly makes no provision and dies of starvation, is thought of as properly paying the penalty of improvidence.
Entrance on the first great division of public conduct–Justice–does, indeed, introduce us to conclusions which are in large degree definite.
Happily into this most important portion of ethics, treating of certain right relations between individuals, irrespective of their natures or circumstances, there enters the ruling conception of equity or equalness–there is introduced the idea of and the inferences reached acquire a certain quantitative character, which partially assimilates them to those of exact science.