The Obsolescence of Ethics:

“Ours is an age where ethics has become obsolete. It is superceded by science, deleted by philosophy and dismissed as emotive by psychology. It is drowned in compassion, evaporates into aesthetics and retreats before relativism. The usual moral distinctions between good and bad are simply drowned in a maudlin emotion in which we feel more sympathy for the murderer than for the murdered, for the adulterer than for the betrayed, and in which we have actually begun to believe that the real guilty party, the one who somehow caused it all, is the victim, and not the perpetrator of the crime.”

-political science professor Robert Fitch, from a 1959 article entitled The Obsolescence of Ethics

I had a friend ask where they could get a copy  of this work, and much to my regret, I had to let them know it was out of print.   This kind of truth-telling deserves to be, no, it desparately needs to be highlighted in our day and age.  As I searched the internet for more hide or tail of Robert and his writings, I came across an obituary-tribute to him in The Nation.  The last paragragh I offer here as a possible explanation as to why its so hard to find Robert Fitch’s work even on so democratized a medium as the Internet:

“For all his truth-telling, Bob was ostracized not only by the progressive establishment in New York but also by academia, which found him not only too outspoken, but too polymath as well. Universities like well-behaved specialists, not rude questioners. Though his material situation improved somewhat in recent years, he lived most of his life on very little money. His major sources of income were freelance writing fees, small book advances, and the sweatshop wages enjoyed by adjunct faculty (which is what you call a temp worker with a PhD). As Guttenplan, the former Village Voice editor who introduced me to Bob, wrote just after his death: “[It’s a] scandal that they scrape the barrel to give these so-called genius grants to third-rate conventional fakers when Bob Fitch, a man who did his own thinking and his own research, and who came up with truly original insights about some pretty important topics—urban planning, organized labor, critical journalism—had to live like a luftmensch.”

Much to my regret, I’d fallen out of touch with Bob in recent years, and had just resolved to reverse that. I missed his mind—and, though he could be a prickly character at times, his warmth. RIP, Bob. They don’t make many like you.”

I would have to agree: they don’t make many like him.  RIP, Mr. Fitch.

 

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