Thus, there are grounds to suggest that morality is indeed the product of an entirely natural condition: self preservation.

Of course, one may in turn counter this response with the somewhat hackneyed observation that, if Scrooge is in fact pressed by selfish concerns, he is at least doing the right thing, albeit for the wrong reason. For sure, this line of thought, which emphasises consequences over motives, would curry favour with the utilitarian tradition of moral philosophy. But it would receive little sympathy from the duty-based standpoint of those, like Immanuel Kant, who give the force behind the action precedence over its results. More, it does nothing to contradict the point that Scrooge’s motivations are less than honourable. As such, I retain that Scrooge presents sufficient evidence of a selfish morality.

There is at least one further, and perhaps more critical challenge to my selection of Scrooge, however. The manner of his redemption is, if driven by fear alone, unlikely to be sustainable.

Now, presuming that Dickens intended to present a definitive transformation, and not some temporary condition, Scrooge’s change must have been stimulated by something other than simply fear. This takes us back to the argument that his moral makeover involved a sort of awakening of his better, if not to say authentic, self. Where my use of Scrooge appears to unravel becomes, then, centred upon the apparent evidence that his choice derived at least in part from a genuine good.

This counterpoint is more difficult to defend, although it is not without weakness.

Yes, it is reasonable to argue that Dickens seeks to present a lasting redemption where Scrooge is concerned; and that redemptive longevity requires a great deal more than fear to maintain it. But, if this is the case, I would contend that morality is, at the very least, a mixed concept which demands some degree of egoism to function.

In this sense, ethical reasoning must surely play host to rather dubious bedfellows in the shape of fear and self-preservation.

This partial rejoinder is lent further support by once again looking at Scrooge’s actions. In as much as he chooses to abandon his miserly ways, he also chose to accept the wretched lifestyle which nourished and fostered these very qualities. And, whereas the abandonment of his avaricious mindset is brought about by supernatural intervention, his decision to embrace such a hollow set of values only requires his free will. This begs the question of which of these is the more authentic choice: the one influenced by paranormal agents or the one driven by simple human bidding?

I leave the reader to draw his own conclusions where the concept of selfish morality and Scrooge’s place in this argument are concerned. Whether simply self-serving, wholly virtuous or an adulteration of the two, the mainspring of moral action continues to demand our attention. In a world beset with weighty ethical questions, I can think of few better puzzles to pursue.

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