Ethics and the A Priori: Selected Essays on Moral Psychology by Michael Smith

By Michael Smith

This quantity features a sequence of essays concerning the nature of trust and wish, the prestige of normative judgment, and the relevance of the perspectives we tackle either those issues to the debts we provide of our nature as loose and dependable brokers. The lengthy awaited assortment includes probably the most influential of Michael Smith's essays written over a interval of fifteen years and should be of curiosity to scholars in philosophy and psychology.

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Extra info for Ethics and the A Priori: Selected Essays on Moral Psychology and Meta-Ethics (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy)

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Every day there are formed a great many of those transitory minor ideas of which I have just been speaking; but very few of them to all appearance seem endowed with vitality and destined to acquire a preponderating influence. Whatever be the ideas suggested to crowds they can only exercise influence on condition that they assume a very absolute, uncompromising, and simple shape. They present themselves then in the guise of images, and are only accessible to the masses under this form. These imagelike ideas are not connected by any logical bond of analogy or succession, and may take each other's place like the slides of a magic-lantern which the operator withdraws from the groove in which they were placed one above the other.

Judgments accepted by crowds are merely judgments forced upon them and never judgments adopted after discussion. In regard to this matter the individuals who do not rise above the level of a crowd are numerous. The ease with which certain opinions obtain general acceptance results more especially from the impossibility experienced by the majority of men of forming an opinion peculiar to themselves and based on reasoning of their own. §3. The Imagination of Crowds. Just as is the case with respect to persons in whom the reasoning power is absent, the figurative imagination of crowds is very powerful, very active and very susceptible of being keenly T H E CROWD: A STUDY OF THE POPULAR M I N D 35 impressed.

All founders of religious or political creeds have established them solely because they were successful in inspiring crowds with those fanatical sentiments which have as result that men find their happiness in worship and obedience and are ready to lay down their lives for their idol. This has been the case at all epochs. Fustel de Coulanges, in his excellent work on Roman Gaul, justly remarks that the Roman Empire was in no wise maintained by force, but by the religious admiration it inspired.

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