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THE MORAL AND SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CONCEPTION OF PERSONALITY

Introduction WHEN Hegel wanted to find a formula to express man's duty regarded from an abstract and legal point of view, he used the words 'Be a person and respect others as persons'; and he used person in this context because it was originally a legal term and appropriate to a sphere in which the sanctity of personal rights is guarded against assault, though provision is not yet made for the positive unfolding of personal powers in the wider life of social institutions. But the same words might be taken to express the modern ethical ideal of right relationships between men as men, even where they are not bound to one another in definite legal communities. The greatest political movement of modern times opens with an assertion of the rights inherent in humanity as such. The greatest religious movements of the last century contain the same belief in the absolute value of individual human being : and if humanity is only worshipped as such by a small clique, the God of the greatest religions is the God of all humanity, of whose existence the brotherhood of man is a corollary,

1 The Rechtsphilosophie turns of course on the passage from Recht to Sittlichkeit, from law as a negative coercive force to social order as the realization of freedom. See e.g. p. 49 [in Lasson's edition).

The greatest ethical systems of thought in recent times lend sanction to the long struggle to maintain the unity of human feeling against all divisions of class, nation, race, and colour; the spirit both of political revolution and of universal religion-so often twin forms of one ideabreathes in Kant's precept to treat humanity as an end and never as a means. In this conception of humanity as made up of persons each valuable in himself, each bound to the rest by reciprocal rights and duties, the historian of conduct and ethical beliefs finds the most real evidence of progress. For the difference between this civilization in which we live and earlier stages of man's development is not so much that we hold altogether different states of mind to be good or bad. Like ourselves primitive man seems to have valued kindness, courage, and justice. He differs from us mainly on two points, in the extent of personal responsibility, and the range of moral obligation: he has neither so definite a conception of himself as a person with duties, nor so wide a respect for others as persons with rights. The two deficiencies are compiementary. On the one hand the guilty are punished with the innocent and the blood feud pursues indefinitely the wearisome cycle of murder. Nor was it till the eighteenth century that in France the children of a political prisoner were excluded from the punishment which fell on their parents; nor perhaps till the nineteenth century that the visitation of the father's sins upon the children was regarded the more definitely as unjust in proportion as the proofs of such visitation were accumulated. On the other hand conduct regarded as perfectly outrageous towards another member of the group to which a man belonged himself might be permissible when some stranger was affected. Progress here has consisted

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