The present lexicon is not like one of the usual kind. A lexicon is usually historical in nature. This lexicon is only partly so. It does two other things. Firstly, it takes up a number of moral terms from day-to-day life, and defines them by visualizing a variety of situations in which they may be used, and seeing in what sense or senses they are used there. Secondly, it takes up a number of moral terms which may be used to designate a whole lot of situations with which we may be confronted directly or indirectly, and defines them by referring to those features in the given situations which have led us to designate them in that way. As a result, this lexicon not only takes a look at the history of moral philosophy; it also takes a direct look at our moral life.
R. K. Gupta (b. 1930) taught philosophy at St. Stephen's college, University of Delhi for more than three decades. After taking his master's degree from the same College, he obtained his doctorate from the University of Bonn. He was a Fellow of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the University of Mainz. His publications include: Studien zur Ethik; Towards Purity of Morals; Exercises in Conceptual Understanding; and Social Action and Non-Violence. He has published a large number of articles in learned journals in India and abroad. He has also translated Martin Heidegger's Was ist Metaphysik? into English. At present he is a Fellow of Indian Council of Philosophical Research.
There are numerous dictionaries of philosophy. I have had (a look at a few of them, And find that, broadly speaking, what is done in them is twofold., Firstly, one makes a list of people who have made an important contribution to the subject, and then mentions something about their life and work. Secondly, one makes a list of terms, which have acquired 'the status of being technical terms, and then mentions the main sense or senses, in which they have been used in the history of the subject. I (The present short moral lexicon, a lexicon of moral philosophy, began just like that; there was no pre-planning. I But, looking back, I find that by and large I have done three things in it.
(1) There are some terms which I have taken from the history of moral philosophy, and then mentioned some sense or senses which I understand them to have there. These terms include, among others, ’moral absolutism', ’moral relativism’, ’moral intuitionism', 'moral utilitarianism', 'moral autonomy', 'moral heteronomy', moral descriptivism', 'moral non—descriptivism', 'moral end', 'moral means', 'moral law', 'karmayoga', 'satyagraha', 'naturalistic fallacy', 'categorical imperative', and 'hypothetical imperative'. Thus what I have done in the first place is of historical nature and is akin to what is done in the dictionaries of philosophy, which I have had a look at.
(2) There are many more terms which I have taken from our day-to-day life, and then defined them by bringing before my mind or visualizing a variety of situations in which they may be used and seeing exactly in what sense or senses they are used there. These terms include, among others, 'a morally commendatory act', 'a morally condemnatory act', 'a morally permissible act', ’a morally impermissible act', ’a morally justified act', ’a morally un— justified act', 'acting responsibly', 'acting irresponsibly', 'being corrupt', 'being a bully', ’being humane', 'cruelty', 'discrimination', 'nepotism', 'moral (or righteous) indignation', 'oppression', 'terrorism', ’tyranny', and ’vandalism'.
(3) There are practically as many terms which I have used to signify or designate a whole lot of moral situations with which I have found myself being confronted directly or indirectly, and defined them by simply mentioning that feature in those situations which has led me to use those terms to signify or designate those situations. What has exactly happened here is this: (i) I have found myself being confronted with a whole lot of moral situations directly or indirectly; (ii) I have used certain terms to signify or designate those situations; and (iii) I have defined these terms by simply mentioning that feature in those situations which has led me to use these terms to signify or designate those situations. The terms which I define in this third place include, among others, 'a morally illogical act', ’a morally coercive act', 'a morally communal or collective act', 'a morally evasive or self-excusing act', ’a morally non-con- sequences-bothering act', 'moral chance', 'moral slip', 'moral pomposity or exhibitionism', ’a morally ignorant act', 'a morally ignorance-pretending act', and 'a morally determinedly ignorant act'.
Thus the present short moral lexicon is indeed in some way different from the dictionaries of philosophy, which I have had a look at. It is like them in being historically informative, although not to the same extent whether in re- spect of the number of terms defined or in respect of the number of senses of these terms mentioned (for the present purpose, in the moral field). But it is unlike them in being informative about the various moral terms which I have taken from our day-to-day life, and about the various terms which I have used to signify or designate various moral situations with which I have found myself being confronted directly or indirectly.
Now, somebody may raise an objection against the method which I have adopted in doing what I have done under the above—mentioned second head. He may say: why not just consult some good word-dictionary, like Oxford English Dictionary or Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary, for defining the terms which I have included under this head, for defining most of these terms even if not all of them, rather than adopt the tedious method, to say the least, which I have adopted for doing so? What after all is the point of adopting the method which I have adopted, rather than consulting some good word-dictionary, for the purpose? Now, I do not deny that I have indeed consulted a few good word-dictionaries. I would not also like to deny that the definition of some of the terms which I have arrived at through following my method may well tally with the definition of these terms as obtained from a good word-dictionary. However, I am afraid that I have not investigated whether that is actually the case. But what I do find is that the definition of some of the terms which I have arrived at through following my method does not tally with the definition of these terms as obtained from this or that good word-dictionary. Let me take a couple of examples in this connection. (i) Shorter Oxford English Dictionary would define a person’s being corrupt as his inducing somebody else to act dishonestly, or his perverting somebody else’s integrity by bribery or favour. As distinguished from this, according to the definition of a person’s being corrupt which I have arrived at through following my method, to adopt just one manner of speaking for the time being: not only is the person who induces somebody else to act dishonestly corrupt, but also the person who gets or allows himself to be induced to act dishonestly is corrupt; and, interestingly, not only is the person who induces somebody else to act dishonestly corrupt, but also the person who induces somebody else to act honestly is corrupt (and likewise the person who gets or allows himself to be induced to act honestly is corrupt). (See my definition of ’Being corrupt', no. 67.) (ii) Again, Shorter Oxford English Dictionary would define cruelty with reference to or in terms of a person’s infliction of pain on somebody else, or his taking delight in or being indifferent to somebody else’s pain. As distinguished from this, according to the definition of cruelty which I have arrived at through following my method: (a) a person is cruel not merely when he inflicts pain but also when he inflicts death, and not merely when he inflicts pain or death on somebody else but also when he does so on himself; (b) not all cases of infliction of pain or death on somebody else or on one’s own self are cases of cruelty; infliction of pain or death on somebody else or on one’s own self does not constitute a case of cruelty when that is done in their own interest; (c) a person is cruel when he inflicts pain on somebody else or on himself and enjoys it; (d) a person is cruel when he inflicts death on some- body else and enjoys it; and (e) a person is cruel when he is indifferent to or enjoys somebody else’s infliction of pain or death on his own self or another person. (See my definition of ’cruelty’, no. 88.) Let me be so bold as to say here that when the definition of a term (such as I have included under my second head under consideration) as found in a word-dictionary is in any way different from the definition of that term as arrived at through following the method which I have employed (namely the method of bringing before one’s mind or visualizing a variety of situations in which the term to be defined may be used and seeing the sense or senses in which it is used there); then the definition of that term as found in a word-dictionary would obviously need to be amended in an appropriate manner.
It is clear that, concerning the application of the method which I have employed in defining terms included under my second head under consideration, two questions have A to be asked, namely: (1) have I been able to bring before my mind or visualize all the various situations in which the term to be defined may be used?; and (2) have I been able to see correctly the sense or senses in which that term is used in those situations? It is also clear, as I see it, that what is needed here, as far as possible, to ensure things going all right, is one’s own further observation, imagination and reflection, and one’s subjecting the results of one’s work to other people’s inspection. And if I am justified in saying this, then it is clear once more that the pursuit of knowledge is a continuing and cooperative undertaking.
Now, concerning what I have done in the above-mentioned third place in this lexicon, I think that there is not likely to be any difficulty about one’s being confronted with those various moral situations directly or indirectly; it is simply a matter of correctly reporting one’s experience in that connection. Again,. I think that there is not likely to be any difficulty about the definition of the various terms which I have used to signify or designate those various situations; it is simply a matter of correctly mentioning in the definition the feature in those situations which has led me to use those terms to signify or designate those situations. However, in the course of discussions which I have had with other people on this lexicon, dissatisfaction has been expressed about some of the terms which I have used to signify or designate some of the situations. The greatest amount of dissatisfaction has been expressed about the term ’a morally illogical act', which I have used to signify or designate a person’s following or violating a moral law on the basis or as a result of some fallacious reasoning or defective logic. (See my definition of ’A morally illogical act', no. 24.) One has simply somehow felt that it is not a very happy term. Needless to say, I would be more than glad to have a better term for the purpose which I have clearly mentioned. And what I have said here about this term, I would like to say about other terms as well about which dissatisfaction has been or may be expressed.
It will be seen that a lexicon bf this kind is bound to be open-ended for all practical purposes. At one time I had thought that I would not be defining more than fifty terms. But slowly and gradually it has grown to its present size. For the time being I have put a stop more or less arbitrarily. I have indeed enjoyed doing what I have done under my above-mentioned first head, but it is the kind of thing which is being done all the time and certainly more completely. I would very much like that the kind of thing which I have done under my above-mentioned second and third heads would further grow in the course of time. This, I would like to say, would be a measure of our taking note of our abundant moral life, of our life which is steeped in moral experience, even though not to the extent as in sensible experience.
Dr. Kapil Raj has suggested that what I have done under my above—mentioned second and third heads may be called an inventory of moral experiences. I am grateful to a number of people in the preparation of this lexicon. My wife was the first person to have a look at several of the definitions. Her silence, as contrasted with her possible condemnation, encouraged me to go on. Dr. Alok Bhalla read the next increased lot and made detailed comments. He was insistent on the need of examples. I entirely owe my second definition of the term ‘moral concealment’ to him. St. Stephen's College Philosophy Society devoted quite a few of its weekly meetings to discussing some of the definitions. Dr. K.P. Shankar and Mr. R.S. Nanda, not merely at the Society meetings but also in the course of our frequent discussions otherwise, have been relentless critics of the whole undertaking. (But, fortunately, this has not prevented them from helping me with several individual definitions.) I have always looked forward to our encounters, embodying frank criticism with the warmth of personal relationship (yet another example of our abundant moral life to which I have alluded in the preceding paragraph). I have defined the terms ‘morally impractical’ and ‘being prudish’ on the suggestion of Professor Arindam Chakrabarti and after a discussion with him. Professor Hermann Wolfgang Muller has read the complete lexicon. I have spent two full days in his lovely house in Weissenthurm discussing it practically definition by definition. A discussion with him always gives me confidence. ‘He will see where I have accepted his suggestions and where I have not done so. Professor Muller has also read a part of the preface. Both of us are firmly of the view, which I have expressed above, that the pursuit of knowledge is a continuing and cooperative undertaking; and we are disturbed when we see this attitude disappearing in the emerging rat-race. I cannot help mentioning here his excellent work on Kant, Ethik als Wissenschaft und Rechtsphilosophie nach Immanual Kant (Wurzburg: Konigshausen und Neumann, 1992), which should become accessible to non-German readers as well. Professor Karl- Otto Apel, Professor Jurgen Grzesik and Professor Thomas I M. Seebohm have read most of the lexicon, and I have very much kept in mind what they have had to say in writing this preface.
Besides, I am grateful to Indian Council of Philosophical Research, as whose Fellow I have completed this lexicon. Further, I am grateful to Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which enabled me to spend two months in Ger- many, and this enabled me to discuss the lexicon with various people and to give it the final touches. Still further, I am grateful to American Studies Research Centre, A Hyderabad, where I was able to spend sometime and to present the idea of the lexicon at a seminar for discussion;
I am grateful to my friend Dr. David Baker for checking, the entire manuscript from the point of language. Regrettably, however, at a few places, I have stuck to my own rather shabby formulation despite his efforts to improve it.
Last but not least, it is a matter of great pleasure for me to express my deep gratitude towards Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya and Dr. Mercy Helen for the very keen interest which they have consistently taken in the execution and publication of this work.
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