The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent

My political, social and spiritual comment for the week:

The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent, by John Erskine (1915)

tl;dr (excerpts)

• When the wise man brings his list of our genuine admirations, will intelligence be one of them?

• “Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever.”
Here is the casual assumption that a choice must be made between goodness and intelligence….

• …as a race we seem as far as possible from realising that an action can intelligently be called good only if it contributes to a good end; that it is the moral obligation of an intelligent creature to find out as far as possible whether a given action leads to a good or a bad end; and that any system of ethics that excuses him from that obligation is vicious.

• We make a moral issue of an economic or social question, because it seems ignoble to admit it is simply a question for intelligence.

• In the philosopher’s words, we curse the obstacles of life as though they were devils. But they are not devils. They are obstacles.

• But the lover of intelligence must be patient with those who cannot readily share his passion. (Damn. Ed.)

• Meanwhile he continues to find his virtues by successive insights into his needs. Let us cultivate insight.


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