Generally Speaking

On American morals

As I also have the habit, and have never been able to imagine how it could be connected with morality or immorality, I confess that I plunged with him deeply into an immoral life. In the course of our conversation, I found he was otherwise perfectly sane. He was quite intelligent about economics or architecture; but his moral sense seemed to have entirely disappeared. He really thought it rather wicked to smoke. He had no “standard of abstract right or wrong;” in him it was not merely moribund; it was apparently dead. But anyhow, that is the point and that is the test. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar. … The man who is silly enough to say, when offered a cigarette, “I have no vices,” may not always deserve the rapier-thrust of the reply given by the Italian Cardinal, “It is not a vice, or doubtless you would have it.” But at least the Cardinal knows it is not a vice; which assists the clarity of his mind.

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