Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Churchill on the Appearance of Moral Right

From Winston S. Churchill, The River War (1899) ch. 1:
Few facts are so encouraging to the student of human development as the desire, which most men and all communities manifest at all times, to associate with their actions at least the appearance of moral right.  However distorted may be their conceptions of virtue, however feeble their efforts to attain even to their own ideals, it is a pleasing feature and a hopeful augury that they should wish to be justified.  No community embarks on a great enterprise without fortifying itself with the belief that from some points of view its motives are lofty and disinterested.  It is an involuntary tribute, the humble tribute of imperfect beings, to the eternal temples of Truth and Beauty.
It is also, I would argue, a great flaw.  People look for ways to justify self-interest and in the process, delude themselves about their motives.

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