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Moore starts by examining how many new ideas are attacked and ridiculed before they eventually find acceptance in society. He then lays out his thesis of the New Ethics, arguing that humans are simply individual sentient beings, existing alongside a number of other sentient beings, differing only in degree, not in kind. Moore asserts that the Golden Rule, which he calls The Great Law, is applicable to all beings, regardless of their species membership. He contends that the New Ethics is an ethical consequence of Darwin's theory of evolution, which established that all beings are related to each other and that it rejected the anthropocentric belief that non-human animals were produced for the benefit of humans.
Moore then explores human attitudes towards others, looking at both their treatment of other humans and other animals. He laments how humans have become masters over the earth, but have not recognized their responsibilities towards their fellow beings, instead becoming butchers by harming the beings they have duties towards, such as through vivisection, hunting and slaughtering them for food. Moore then criticizes what he considers to be the most common objection to the New Ethics thesis: that it is necessary for humans to exploit others to provide for their needs and desires; he argues that the objection is egotistical because it fails to consider the perspective of the victims. Moore also criticises the claim that humans are required to kill other animals to prevent overpopulation, as well as the use of the survival of the fittest and an appeal to nature as objections against the New Ethics. Moore then sketches the evolutionary development of society—highlighting people such as Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin who have made significant contributions to human progress—and making a case for socialism and the women's movement. He concludes the book by asserting that the popularity or unpopularity of a proposition has no bearing on its truth or falsity and describing his dream of a future celestial civilization where humans are no longer savages and they instead live in justice and brotherhood with every sentient being.
In The Novel and the New Ethics, literary critic Dorothy J. Hale investigates how the contemporary emphasis on literature's social relevance sparks a new ethical description of the novel's social value that is in fact rooted in the modernist notion of narrative form. This "new" ethics of the contemporary moment has its origin in the "new" idea of novelistic form that Henry James inaugurated and which was consolidated through the modernist narrative experiments and was developed over the course of the twentieth century. In Hale's reading, the art of the novel becomes defined with increasing explicitness as an aesthetics of alterity made visible as a formalist ethics. In fact, it is this commitment to otherness as a narrative act which has conferred on the genre an artistic intensity and richness that extends to the novel's every word."The Novel and the New Ethics will be of interest to anyone working in literature, from the nineteenth century to contemporary fiction. But moral philosophers and those interested in the ethical character—or potential—of literature should also find much to enlighten them. Dorothy Hale's approach is undogmatic, her prose sprightly and clear, her judgments fair but shrewd—and, most important, they are not just asserted, but justified." (Source: www.sup.org)