The social ethics of Norman Mattoon Thomas
Sample, Tex Sherwood
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Statement of the Problem The problem of the dissertation is to analyze the implicit and explicit ethical principles and moral norms in the social thought of Norman Mattoon Thomas, six-time Socialist Party candidate for President of the United States and a former Presbyterian clergyman. Method The method is two-fold, historical and analytical. In chapters and sections dealing with formative influences and developments in Thomas' thought it is historical. In searching for norms and principles it is analytical. Procedure Chapter II traces the formative influence in the development of Thomas' thought down to the time when he rejected absolute pacifism in the early 1920's. Other changes in his thought are handled in the following appropriate chapters. Chapter III discusses Thomas' views on human nature, human freedom, the place of ethics and the role of religion in social ethics. Chapters IV through VII analyze the principles and norms in Thomas' positions respectively on human rights and civil liberties, the economic order, the state, and war and peace. Chapter VIII attempts to place the norms emerging from the previous chapters into a conceptual scheme. Moreover, it demonstrates that Thomas' social ethics is decidedly American and bears the firm imprint of Christian ethics. Chapter IX outlines the broad framework of Thomas' social strategy and discusses the problem of compromise as it relates to it. This chapter is used to illustrate points previously made and to suggest that Thomas' contribution to American life must be seen in his impact upon the social and cultural ethos. Chapter X outlines the conclusions of the dissertation. Conclusions 1. This analysis of the thought of Norman Thomas has revealed an ethical system composed of two fundamental principles and a composite of six norms which exist in a nexus of tension and interpenetration. The two fundamental principles are: (a) each person ought to be treated as an end in himself, and (b) means ought to be consistent with the ends chosen. The cooperative commonwealth is an ethical composite made up of the norms of peace, plenty, freedom, justice, equality, and cooperation-fraternity. 2. This ethical system is found throughout Thomas' views on civil liberties, the economic order, the state, and war and peace. Moreover, the system is a coherent one for a moral approach to social issues. 3. The social ethics of Norman Thomas is central in his thinking and is the major determinative factor in his views. Moreover, his posture as a "moral man" rather than a "political man" is his major contribution to American life. 4. Basic changes in the thought of Norman Thomas are closely related to his religious and ethical views. This is shown in his becoming a socialist and an absolute pacifist. It is equally demonstrated in his later rejection of absolute pacifism and his views on Russia. 5. Thomas is emphatically American as an advocate of the American democratic faith. 6. Thomas' social thought reflects the firm imprint of Christian ethics although he is no longer able to accept the Christian God. 7. The lasting contribution of Norman Thomas to social ethics is not in creative thought, but in himself. His is not a seminal mind, but for more than fifty years he has been the conscience of America, questioning her certainties, her goals, and her means for achieving them. He has placed before her people the vision of the cooperative commonwealth, of a new day of peace, plenty, and freedom which will end the darkness of exploitation, war, and want.
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