By Dennis Smith (auth.)
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Additional resources for Barrington Moore: Violence, morality and political change
However, there is a recurring relationship among freedom, reason and morality. In any particular epoch freedom is defined through rational analysis of the obstacles which existing social forms present to the realisation of the goals and values possessed by members of that society. The limits upon man's potential for freedom in any epoch are determined by the level of reason achieved since the latter is a precondition for the assumption of moral responsibility without which freedom is meaningless.
Meanwhile, in the field of sociology there was a continuation of Montesquieu's attempt to discover through reason the conditions under which decent societies came into being. In Scotland moral philosophers such as David Hume and Adam Ferguson were turning to social science. 7). Gladys Bryson describes the general approach of the Scottish philosophers as being 'a kind of rough, common-sense empiricism. 17). Such procedures were employed in attacks upon prevailing myths such as that concerning the origins of contemporary political arrangements embodied in the fiction of the social contract.
Both styles of theorising, Moore believes, impose too much rigidity upon thought and weaken the sense that social arrangements are the product of human choices. In this latter respect there is an echo of Adam Ferguson's notion of 'man the artificer'. The choices people make, stresses Moore, are made within limits imposed by the stage of social development, the functional necessities of life in society and abiding characteristics of human nature. However, it is profoundly misleading, in Moore's opinion, to deny or diminish the human capacity for choice by using theories which bestow a governing power upon 'Culture', 'Capitalism' or the inevitable tendencies of 'History'.