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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ethical values and political theory Jampolsky, Lyman

Abstract

In this dissertation, we have argued that liberty -freedom - is not only good but essential to what we regard a civilized life. We began with an examination of both the absolutistic and relativistic aspects of ethical doctrine. This examination revealed the expediency of accepting judgements based on sufficient reason rather than judgements made in accordance with ultimate principles, as guides to human conduct. In accepting the relativistic doctrine of value we illustrated the fact that there are many value-systems, and that the value-system we accept is basic to our way of life. Acceptance is strictly a matter of preference. We concluded our discussion of ethical theory by establishing as our generic end of action "the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people". This end of action we designated to mean a set of properties in accordance with which we make our evaluations. These evaluations become the postulates of our value-system: good and evil are only meaningful when judged in accordance with them. Furthermore, we found that these properties are contained within the framework of political and economic democracy. Over the long stretch of five thousand years of human history, democracy, as we know it, has prevailed for only a century or two, and that brief span coincides with the period of capitalist development. Logic suggests that democracy and individual freedom are closely bound up with capitalism, at least in its earlier stages of development before economic control becomes too highly centralized. But the freedom we have achieved is not due entirely to the operation of the laws of laissez-faire Capitalism. Even a Capitalist system in its simple form, with reasonable economic equality, could not provide all the freedom that we enjoy. Since it would operate without any government intervention, it would to some extent be governed by the law of the tooth and fang, and the weak would suffer at the hands of the strong. Cosequently, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the government has intervened more and more to protect the weak and the unfortunate. Although in so doing it has enlarged the sum total of human freedom, such legislation is to some extent a departure from the principles of laissez-faire capitalism. In arguing that the political and economic aspects of democracy are necessary characteristics of a just social order, we illustrated how political equality can be achieved, as in a Capitalistic order, and social justice remain as far away as ever. In this case, one type of privilege (economic) has been substituted for another (political). We also found it perfectly feasible to assume that some people may prefer equality in the distribution of wealth to political liberty. But here again, as in the case of Marxian Socialism, economic equality is gained by sacrificing political democracy. Thus, we endeavoured to achieve simultaneously, within the same system, both political liberty and social security, or equality. To achieve this end, we advocated a gradual transition from Capitalism to Democratic Socialism.

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