Ethics for Today

berdyaev-memeThree new factors have appeared in the moral life of man and are acquiring an unprecedented significance.

Ethics must take account of three new objects of human striving.

  1. Man has come to love freedom more than he has ever loved it before, and he demands freedom with extraordinary persistence. He no longer can or wants to accept anything unless he can accept it freely.
  2. Man has grown more compassionate than before. He cannot endure the cruelty of the old days, he is pitiful in a new way to every creature—not only to the least of men but also to animals and to everything that lives. A moral consciousness opposed to pity and compassion is no longer tolerable.
  3. And, finally, man is more eager than ever before to create. He wants to find a religious justification and meaning for his creativeness. He can no longer endure having his creative instinct repressed either from without or from within.

At the same time other instincts are at work in him, instincts of slavery and cruelty, and he shows a lack of creativeness which leads him to thwart it and deny its very existence. And yet the striving for freedom, compassion and creativeness is both new and eternal.

Therefore the new ethics is bound to be an ethics of freedom, compassion and creativeness.[1]

[1] Nikolai Berdyaev, Destiny of Man. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1948 153.