|SOME ETHICAL ASPECTS OF MENTAL ECONOMY|
STATE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
TO be economical of one's powers makes for efficiency; to be prodigal, makes for inefficiency. To be efficient in life is the highest ethics. To be inefficient because of prodigality is to be immoral.
It will be observed that in this discussion I follow the Aristotelian conception of ethics as a practical science, rather than as a theoretical science. The object of the discussion is to consider certain modes of mental life, to evaluate them, and to offer a few guiding suggestions for the proper conduct of life.
Professor Paulsen has compared this view of ethics with the science of medicine, which he says, "instructs us to solve the problems of corporeal life, to the end that the body may perform all its functions in a healthy manner during its natural existence; while ethics, basing itself on the knowledge of human nature in general, especially of its spiritual and social side, aims to solve all the problems of life so that it may reach its fullest, most beautiful and most perfect development. We might, therefore," he concludes, "call ethics universal dietetics, to which medicine, and all the other technologies, like pedagogy, politics, etc., are related as special parts, or as auxiliary sciences." ("A System of Ethics," p. 2.) The purpose of ethics, then, is "to determine the end of life, or the highest good, and to point out the way or the means of realizing it."
This much by way of definition is given preliminary to my discussion of mental economy as a phase of ethics, in order to justify my treatment when I seem to digress from the immediate consideration of right and wrong and to discuss questions which might properly be also catalogued under pedagogy or mental hygiene.
All will agree that no life is most nobly lived unless it has secured the complete unfoldment of the richest inheritances bequeathed by ancestry; unless it has appropriated environment in such a way as to secure the limits of individual advancement; unless it has rendered the utmost possible service to society. To fail in these particulars is to be prodigal and uneconomical. To be uneconomical is to be unethical. The world is full of work to be done, problems to be solved, which are of proportions never before assumed. To meet these duties and responsibilities requires the highest products of intellectual evolution, keen and broad sympathies, and vigorous, sustained will-impulses.
To live completely and ethically, every one should accomplish more