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Title: On the Ethics of Naturalism
Author: Sorley, W. R. (William Ritchie)
Language: English
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       *       *       *       *       *


                Shaw Fellowship Lectures, 1884


                            ON THE
                     ETHICS OF NATURALISM

                              BY
                      W. R. SORLEY, M.A.

    FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE; AND EXAMINER IN
          PHILOSOPHY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH


                 WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
                    EDINBURGH AND LONDON
                         MDCCCLXXXV


                    _All Rights reserved_



PREFATORY NOTE.


The Deed of Foundation of the Shaw Fellowship provides that "it
shall be in the power of the Senatus Academicus of the University of
Edinburgh to require the holder of the Shaw Philosophical Fellowship,
during the fourth or fifth year of his tenure of it, to deliver in
the University of Edinburgh a course of Lectures, not exceeding four,
on any of the subjects for the encouragement of the study of which
the Fellowship has been founded." The following pages consist of four
lectures delivered in the University of Edinburgh, in accordance with
this provision, in the month of January 1884.

Since their delivery, the argument of the lectures has been revised,
and in some places enlarged. I have also thought it better to modify
their original form by dividing the discussion into chapters.

                                                    W. R. S.



  CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.

  ETHICS AND ITS PROBLEMS.
                                                                      PAGE
  1. Connection of ethics with theoretical philosophy,                   1
      (_a_) Dependence of ethical on theoretical points of view,         1
      (_b_) Ethics necessary to complete philosophy,                     3
  2. The inquiry into the ethical end,                                   5
      (_a_) Fundamental,                                                 5
      (_b_) Implies a new point of view,                                 7
      (_c_) Distinct from other ethical questions,                       9
          (α) From the inquiry into the methods of ethics,              10
          (β) From moral psychology and sociology,                      13
  3. Scope of the present inquiry,                                      14


  PART I.

  THE INDIVIDUALISTIC THEORY.

  CHAPTER II.

  EGOISM.

  Definition of Naturalism,                                             20
  Psychological hedonism,                                               21
  1. Its theory of action ambiguous,                                    22
      Referring to--
      (_a_) Actual consequences of action,                              23
      (_b_) Or its expected consequences,                               23
      (_c_) Or its present characteristics,                             24
  2. Ethical inferences from this theory,                               25
  3. Transition from psychological to ethical hedonism,                 31
  4. Possible objections considered,                                    37


  CHAPTER III.

  THE TRANSITION TO UTILITARIANISM.

  1. Difference of the standpoints of individual and State,             41
  2. Connection between egoism and utilitarianism according to Bentham, 45
      (_a_) Utilitarianism not a political duty,                        46
      (_b_) Nor a moral duty,                                           47
      (_c_) Nor insisted on as a religious duty,                        49
      (_d_) Nor sufficiently motived in private ethics,                 50
  3. Exhaustive character of Bentham's treatment from his point of
      view,                                                             51
      (_a_) The religious sanction (Paley),                             53
      (_b_) Limits of the political sanction,                           54
      (_c_) Uncertainty of the social sanction,                         55
      (_d_) And of the internal sanction so far as a result of the
         social,                                                        56
  4. Mill's logical defence of utilitarianism,                          57
      (_a_) Distinction of kinds of pleasure,                           58
      (_b_) Ambiguities in his proof,                                   60
  5. Actual transition to utilitarianism,                               62
      (_a_) Recognition of sympathy,                                    64
      (_b_) The idea of equality,                                       69
  6. The two sides of utilitarian theory without logical connection,    73
  7. Summary of the ethical consequences of psychological hedonism,     75


  CHAPTER IV.

  MORAL SENTIMENT.

  1. A uniform psychological theory not supplied by the opponents of
      ethical hedonism,                                                 78
  2. The non-hedonistic theory of action,                               84
  3. Ethics made to depend on the moral sense,                          89
      (_a_) As harmony of impulses,                                     90
      (_b_) As a separate sensitive faculty,                            92
      (_c_) As an internal law,                                        100
  4. The ethics of moral sentiment a mediating theory,                 105


  PART II.

  THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION.

  CHAPTER V.

  THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF MORALITY.

  1. General characteristics of the theory of evolution,               107
      An assertion of the unity of life,                               109
      Primarily historical, but capable of ethical application,        110
  2. The development of morality,                                      116
      (_a_) Historical psychology,                                     116
          Its difficulties,                                            117
          Its result,                                                  123
      (_b_) Development of society,                                    124


  CHAPTER VI.

  EVOLUTION AND ETHICAL THEORIES.

  Bearing of the theory of evolution,                                  126
  1. On theories depending on moral sentiment or intuition,            127
      (_a_) Ethical value of moral sentiments affected by their
          origin,                                                      130
      (_b_) Organic character of moral sentiments,                     132
          Resultant attitude of evolutionism to intuitionism,          133
  2. On egoism: relation of egoism to altruism,                        134
      (_a_) Social nature of the individual,                           135
      (_b_) Limits to conciliation of egoism and altruism,             141
          (α) Continued existence of competition,                      142
          (β) Different and conflicting degrees of altruism,           143
          (γ) Altruism of interest and altruism of motive,             143
          (δ) Weakness of altruistic feelings,                         146
      (_c_) Tendency of evolution opposed to egoism,                   148
          Evolution not the basis of psychological hedonism,           148
          Nor of ethical hedonism,                                     150
  3. On utilitarianism,                                                152
      Modification of the utilitarian method,                          153
      And of its principle,                                            155
      Evolutionist objections to utilitarianism,                       155
          (_a_) As prescribing an unprogressive ideal,                 156
          (_b_) As a theory of consequences,                           160
          (_c_) As related solely to sensibility,                      161


  CHAPTER VII.

  HEDONISM AND EVOLUTIONISM.

  1. Alliance of evolutionism and hedonism,                            164
      (_a_) From interpreting greatest happiness by the laws of
          life,                                                        164
      (_b_) From interpreting life by pleasure,                        165
  2. Evolutionist argument for concomitance of life and pleasure,      167
  3. Objections to this argument,                                      168
      (_a_) That life cannot bring more pleasure than pain,            169
          (α) From the negative nature of pleasure,                    171
          (β) From the facts of human life,                            172
      (_b_) That the evolution of life does not uniformly tend to
          pleasure,                                                    172
          (α) Incompleteness of the evolutionist argument,             173
          (β) The pessimist doctrine that life tends to misery,        175
              (_aa_) The hypothesis of the unconscious,                176
              (_bb_) The nature of volition,                           177
              (_cc_) The facts of human progress,                      179
                  Individual progress,                                 179
                  Social progress,                                     181
  4. The psychological analysis of pleasure and pain in relation
      to evolutionist ethics,                                          186
      (_a_) The subjective nature of pleasure and pain,                187
      (_b_) The conditions of pleasure and pain,                       190
      (_c_) Application of the theory of evolution,                    197


  CHAPTER VIII.

  THE EVOLUTIONIST END.

  Necessity of inquiring into the ethical end suggested by the theory
      of evolution,                                                    201
  1. Adaptation to environment,                                        203
      (_a_) As the end for present conduct,                            207
          Opposed to progress,                                         207
          Does not fully represent evolution,                          209
      (_b_) As describing the ultimate condition of life,              210
          Resultant absolute code,                                     211
          (α) Abstract principles of social relation,                  212
          (β) Personal end only defined as adaptation,                 213
          (γ) Cannot be shown to lead to happiness,                    213
      (_c_) Insufficiency of adaptation as evolutionist end,           217
  2. End suggested by the tendency to variation,                       221
      (_a_) Prescribes self-development rather than self-preservation, 222
      (_b_) Standard for measuring development found in complexity
          of act and motive,                                           227
          (α) Antinomy between social and individual ends,             231
          (β) Psychological defects,                                   232
  3. Development or increase of life as the end,                       236
      (_a_) Subjective standard: most persistent impulses,             242
          Cannot define life without an objective standard,            244
      (_b_) Objective standard: defined in two ways,                   247
          (α) Conformity to the type,                                  248
              Which can be reduced to--
          (β) Abundance and variety of vital power,                    251
              That is, to the subjective standard,                     253
  Summary as to the evolutionist end,                                  256
      (_a_) Difficulty of reconciling individual and social ends,      256
      (_b_) Hedonistic interpretation of evolution not possible,       257
      (_c_) No independent ethical ideal,                              259


  CHAPTER IX.

  ON THE BASIS OF ETHICS.

  1. Principles involved in theory of evolution,                       263
  2. Unsuccessful application of these principles to ethics,           264
      (_a_) The principles being treated empirically,                  265
      (_b_) No logical transition having been effected from efficient
          to final cause,                                              267
  3. Difference between causality and teleology,                       269
  4. Reference to self-consciousness implied in evolution,             277
      (_a_) Attempt to trace the genesis of self-consciousness,        278
      (_b_) Attempt to trace morality from reflex action,              283
  5. The unity of self-consciousness,                                  284
      (_a_) As making possible the transition from knowledge to
          morality,                                                    284
      (_b_) As determining the character of the ethical end,           286
      (_c_) As showing that the realisation of the end must be
          progressive,                                                 291



THE ETHICS OF NATURALISM.



CHAPTER I.

ETHICS AND ITS PROBLEMS.


[Sidenote: 1. Connection of ethics with theoretical philosophy.]

[Sidenote: (_a_) Dependence of ethical on theoretical points of view]

[Sidenote: (_a_) teleological,]

[Sidenote: (_b_) jural,]

[Sidenote: (_c_) empirical:]

It is a common remark that a writer's ethical doctrine is throughout
conditioned by his attitude to the problems of theoretical
philosophy. The main lines of dispute in questions of ethics may
be regarded as prolongations of the controversies which arise in
metaphysics and psychology. The Realism or Idealism which marks a
speculative system reappears in its ethics, whilst differences in the
psychological analysis of mental states, or concerning the relation
of pleasure to desire, are grounds of distinction between schools
of moralists. And not only are the special controversies of ethics
decided in different ways, but the scope of the whole science is
differently conceived, as the speculative standpoint changes. Thus,
not for one school only, but for a whole period in the history
of reflection, ethics was regarded as an inquiry into the highest
human good. Opposed schools agreed in looking from this point of
view, however much they might differ from one another in defining
the nature of that highest good. At other times, according to the
prevailing view, to investigate and systematise the rules of conduct
has exhausted the scope of ethics--controversies being carried on as
to the nature of those rules, and their source in external authority
or in the internal revelation of conscience. Again, ethical inquiry
has been apparently identified with the analysis and history of
the moral affections and sentiments; while a purely external point
of view seems to be sometimes adopted, and ethics held to be an
investigation of the historical results of action, and of the forms,
customary and institutional, in which those results find permanent
expression.

[Sidenote: to be connected by philosophy.]

These different ways of looking at the whole subject proceed from
points of view whose effects are not confined to ethics, but may be
followed out in other lines of investigation. They correspond to
ideas which dominate different types of thought and form different
philosophical standpoints. The first starts from a teleological
conception of human nature, as an organism consciously striving
towards its end. The second assimilates ethics to a system of
legal enactments, and is connected with the jural conceptions of
theology and law. The two last are concerned to show that the
subject-matter of ethics are facts which have to be treated by the
ordinary inductive and historical methods. These different points
of view, however, are to be regarded as complementary rather than
as conflicting, although their complete synthesis must be worked
out in the region of general philosophy, and not on purely ethical
ground. Philosophy has thus to deal with the notions which determine
the scope and character of ethical thought; and in this way it
must necessarily pass from the purely speculative to the practical
point of view. If it is the business of philosophy to bring into
rational order the material supplied by experience, cosmical and
anthropological, it cannot be without bearing on the function of man
as a source of action in the world. The question, What are the ends
man is naturally fitted to attain? or--if we prefer so to express
it--What are the ends he ought to pursue? is not merely as natural
as the question, What can a man know of the world and of himself?
But the two questions are inseparably connected. To know man is to
know him not only as a thinking but also as an active being; while to
solve the problem of the ends of man implies knowledge both of his
nature and of the sphere of his activity.

[Sidenote: (_b_) Ethics necessary to complete philosophy.]

Much distrust is often expressed of metaphysics. But it is not denied
that the philosophy--whether metaphysical or not--in which our
most comprehensive view of the world finds its reasoned expression,
cannot neglect that aspect of things in which man is related to his
surroundings as a source of action. Recent ethical literature is
itself a proof of this fact. In its speculative developments, both
realistic and idealistic, the philosophy of the present day has made
the endeavour to connect its conceptions of the world of thought and
nature with the ends contemplated as to be realised in the realm of
action. Whatever difficulties may be involved in the transition from
the "is" to the "ought to be," it is yet implied that the transition
requires to be made, not merely in order that human activity may be
shown to be rational, but that reason itself may be justified by
leaving nothing outside its sphere.

We must make no attempt, therefore, to draw a line of absolute
separation between the first two of the three questions in which,
as Kant says,[1] all the interests of our reason centre. The "What
ought I to do?" of ethics is for ever falling back on the "What can I
know?" of metaphysics. The question of practice must accordingly be
treated throughout in connection with the question of knowledge. If
we use Kant's distinction between speculative and practical reason,
we must always bear in mind that it is the same reason which is in
one reference speculative, in another practical.[2] We are not at
liberty to assume with Butler[3] that "morality ... must be somewhat
plain and easy to be understood: it must appeal to what we call
common-sense." Nor may we presuppose, as Hutcheson did,[4] that it is
a subject "about which a little reflection will discover the truth."
The question must be looked upon not so much as one of immediate
practical as of scientific interest, and reason is to be regarded as
the only court of appeal.

[Sidenote: 2. The inquiry into the ethical end]

[Sidenote: (_a_) fundamental,]

The form just quoted, in which Kant states the problem, is not
altogether free from ambiguity. "What ought I to do?" may be taken
to signify, What means should I adopt for the attainment of some end
presupposed, perhaps unconsciously, as the end to be sought? But
it is evident, not only that this is not what Kant himself meant
by the question, but that, as thus put, it necessarily implies a
further and deeper question. Not the discovery of the means, but the
determination of the end itself--the end which cannot be interpreted
as a mere means to some further end--is the fundamental question of
ethics. It is only by misconception that this can be thought to be
a trivial question. To say, as a recent scientific writer does,[5]
"that happiness in one disguise or another is the end of human life
is common ground for all the schools," is either to ignore what the
schools have taught,[6] or else to use the word "happiness" merely
as another name for the highest good. But, even were it still the
case, as it was in the time of Aristotle, that nearly all men were
agreed as to the name of the highest good, and that the common
people and the cultured alike called it happiness, the difference as
to what they meant by the term would still remain. To say that the
ethical end is happiness is, to use Locke's terminology, a "trifling
proposition"; for in so doing we merely give it a name[7]--and one
which the controversies of philosophy have surrounded with confusion.
That the end is happiness in any definite sense, for example, as the
greatest balance of pleasure over pain, _may_ be perfectly true, but
stands very much in need of proof. That happiness is the highest
ethical end can be assumed as true only when "happiness" is nothing
more than an abbreviated expression for "the highest ethical end."

[Sidenote: (_b_) implies a new point of view,]

A difficulty of a more radical kind meets us, at the very outset
of our inquiry, in the distinctively ethical notion expressed by
the word "ought." Various attempts have been made to surmount or
circumvent this difficulty; and some of these will come under
consideration in the sequel. The very notion of conscious activity
contains the idea of bringing about something which does not yet
exist. It involves a purpose or end. The notion "ought," it is true,
means more than this: it implies an obligation to pursue a definite
end or conform to definite rules, regarded generally as coming from
an authoritative source. In this clear and full sense, "oughtness"
or duty is a comparatively recent notion, foreign to the classical
period of Greek ethics. The force and definiteness belonging to the
modern conception of it are due to the juridical aspect which the
Stoic philosophy, Roman law, and Christian theology combined to
impress upon morality. But even the notion of purpose or end implies
a "preference" of the end sought: the state to be realised is looked
upon as "better" or "more to be desired" than the existing state.
We may ask for the reason of this superior desirableness; but the
answer must soon fall back upon the assertion of something held to be
desirable in itself. The question which we are always asking, and
cannot help asking, "Why is such and such an end to be pursued by
me?" or "Why ought I to follow such and such a course of conduct?"
must soon lead to the assertion of an ultimate end.

[Sidenote: the transition to which requires investigation;]

This end, therefore, must not be sought for some ulterior end, nor
desired as a means to satisfy any other desire. But it is still
necessary to inquire into the way in which the end, held to be
ultimate in a practical regard, stands related to the constitution
of man and his environment. And the question to which I would draw
attention, as the fundamental problem of ethics, is, What is that
which men have variously called happiness, the highest good, the
ethical end? or, more precisely, How can a transition be made from
the notions of theoretical philosophy to the determination of that
ethical end? No assumption is made, at starting, as to the nature
of this end, or the manner of arriving at it. It may be a transient
state of feeling, or a permanent type of character; or it may by its
very nature defy exact definition,--the idea itself being perfected
as its realisation is progressively approached. In any case it
requires to be brought into connection with the ultimate conceptions
of thought and existence.

This question of the ethical end _or_ highest good is thus
fundamental in ethical science, and upon it all other questions in
ethics finally depend. But it is easy to see that it does not cover
the whole field, and that the other points of view already referred
to have a legitimate application. Ethics has not only to determine
the end, but to apply it to practice, and so to decide as to what
is right or wrong in particular actions, and virtuous or vicious in
character. And, in addition to the two questions thus implied--the
question as to the ethical end, and that as to the application of it
to practical affairs--there is another department of inquiry which
has had a place assigned to it in most ethical systems, and which has
a right to be regarded as belonging to ethics. We may investigate
the place, in the individual and the community respectively, both of
the sentiments and ideas and of the social institutions and customs
through which morality is manifested; and this inquiry covers the
twofold ground of what may be called moral psychology and moral
sociology.

[Sidenote: (_c_) distinct from other ethical questions:]

Of these three questions, the first forms the subject of inquiry
in the following pages. It seems to me that a great part of the
obscurity which surrounds ethical argument is due to confounding
these different questions. It is true that no one of them is
without bearing on the others; but it is none the less necessary,
in discussing any one of them, to keep its distinctness from those
others well in view. In inquiring into the foundation on which the
ethical end is based, I do not intend to develop a code of rules for
practical conduct or a theory of human virtue; nor shall I attempt
to trace the origin and nature of moral sentiments and ideas, or of
the social institutions and customs connected with morality. If these
subjects have to be introduced at all, it will be only in so far as
they may be thought to decide, or tend to decide, the question more
immediately in view.

[Sidenote: (α) from inquiry into the methods of ethics.]

[Sidenote: Limitation of this inquiry]

[Sidenote: (_aa_) from necessity of investigating all logical
alternatives,]

Thus it forms no part of the present inquiry to follow out the
application to conduct of different ethical ends, or to exhibit the
different practical systems to which different ends naturally lead.
It might seem indeed, at first sight, as if the development of their
practical consequences might solve the question as to the nature of
the ends themselves. If we assume certain possible and _primâ facie_
reasonable ethical ends, and then see what codes of morality they
will yield, surely (it may be thought) that one which affords the
most consistent and harmonious code for the guidance of life will be
the end to be sought in preference to all others. But in order that
the criticism of what Professor Sidgwick has called the methods of
ethics may be able to answer the question as to the end or principle
of ethics, certain conditions must first be complied with. In the
first place, it is necessary that the ends or principles whose
applications to conduct are to be examined must not be uncritically
accepted from the fluctuating morality of common-sense nor from the
commonplaces of the schools, but must be shown to be "alternatives
between which the human mind" is "necessarily forced to choose when
it attempts to frame a complete synthesis of practical maxims, and to
act in a perfectly rational manner."[8]

[Sidenote: (_bb_) from more than one self-consistent code being
possible,]

But although this requisite is complied with, it will still
remain possible, in the second place, that two or more of the
assumed principles may yield systems of practical rules perfectly
self-consistent, and yet inconsistent with one another.[9] It
would be very hard indeed to show that both the theory of Egoistic
Hedonism, and what is generally called Utilitarianism, do not
succeed in doing so: and thus the examination of methods is not of
itself sufficient to settle the question of the end of conduct. And
since--to quote Mr Sidgwick[10]--it is "a fundamental postulate of
ethics that either these methods must be reconciled and harmonised,
or all but one of them rejected," it follows that the criticism of
methods leads naturally up to an independent criticism of principles,
unless indeed it can be shown that one method only yields a
consistent code of practical rules.

[Sidenote: (_cc_) from its assumption that the true end must give
perfectly consistent rules.]

Even in this case, however, if it led to the adoption of the end
in question, it must be borne in mind that the postulate would be
implied that the true ethical end must be able to yield a consistent
and harmonious system of rules for practical life. Without altogether
denying this postulate, it yet seems to me that it stands in need
of qualification. For in different circumstances, and at different
stages of individual and social development, the application of the
same ethical end may naturally produce different and conflicting
courses of conduct. We must not start with any such assumption as
that the rationality of the end consists in some sort of mathematical
equality which ignores alike the different environment with which one
age and another surround different generations, and the different
functions which one individual and another have to perform in the
social whole. We must leave open the possibility that what is right
now may be wrong in another age; we must remember that everybody may
not count for one, and that some people may count for more than one;
we must admit that we may have sometimes to do to others what we
would not that others should do to us. The only consistency we have
a right to demand must leave room for such a variety of different
conditions as to be, by itself, a very insecure guide.

From the difficulty of complying with the above conditions, it
seems practically impossible for the criticism of ethical methods to
decide the question of the ethical end. Even if the application to
conduct of every important end has been taken account of, we are met
with the difficulty that two or more mutually antagonistic though
self-consistent practical codes may probably have been developed,
while we are not even justified in assuming that inability to yield
a system which will fit the complex circumstances of life in a
perfectly harmonious manner is sufficient ground for rejecting an end
shown in some other way to be reasonable.

[Sidenote: (β) distinct from moral psychology and sociology.]

The last department of ethics referred to--that which has to do with
the origin and nature of moral sentiments and social customs--has a
bearing on the question of the end of conduct in some respects more
important than the investigation of ethical methods. For, whereas the
latter expressly assumes certain ends as _primâ facie_ reasonable,
the former inquiry, on the contrary, is now frequently understood
to be able, without presupposing any ethical relations whatever,
to trace the way in which, from primitive feelings and customs,
morality itself has been evolved. The psychological side of ethical
inquiry has always had an important place with English moralists.
At times, indeed, the question of the "moral faculty" has excited
so much interest as to divert attention from the nature of morality
itself. Moral truth has been supposed to be something known and
indisputable, the only question being how we came to know it. But the
psychology of ethics, reinforced by the knowledge sociology gives of
the development of morality, rises now to larger issues. It attempts
to show the genesis of the moral from the non-moral, to account thus
for the origin of ethical ideas, and even to determine what kinds of
ends are to be striven after. In this way, a theory of the origin
and growth of moral sentiments and institutions is made to render
important help to more than one of the theories which will fall to be
considered in the sequel.

[Sidenote: 3. Present inquiry limited]

[Sidenote: to theories depending on the human constitution,]

The present Essay has to inquire into the way in which we may
determine what the end of human conduct is,--into the basis of
ethics, therefore. But I do not propose to offer an exhaustive
investigation of all the theories which have been or may be started
in solution of the problem. On the contrary, I will begin by
excluding from the inquiry all theories which seek the basis of
ethics in something outside the constitution of man as a feeling
and reasoning agent:[11] not because I contend that all such
theories are _primâ facie_ unreasonable, but because it is at any
rate the more obvious course to seek to determine the function of an
organism by studying its inner constitution, than by having regard
to something which is external to it, and does not act upon and
modify it as a necessary part of its environment. It is only when
this method has been tried and has failed that we should seek outside
us for some guide as to the part we ought to play in the universe.
For this reason I shall not take into consideration the views of the
basis of ethics which find it in positive law either divine or human,
except in so far as they are shown to follow from the nature of man.
It is not necessary for me to deny that the source of all moral
obligation may be the will of God, or the commands of the sovereign,
or the opinion of society, and that the highest moral ideal may be
obedience to such a rule. But theories of this kind make ethics
merely an application of positive theology, or of legislation, or of
social sentiment, and seem only to have an appropriate place when we
have failed to find an independent basis for action.

The question which remains to be put may be expressed in these terms:
Can we find in human nature (taken either alone or in connection with
its environment) any indications of the end of human conduct, or, in
other words, of the principle on which human beings "ought" to act?
and if so, in what direction do these indications point, and what is
their significance? The answer to this question will thus necessarily
depend on the view we take of the constitution of man and his
relation to his environment. And I purpose to bring this discussion
within the necessary limits by considering the ethical consequences
of one only of the two views into which philosophical opinion is
divided.

[Sidenote: and here to ethics of Naturalism,]

[Sidenote: as distinguished from Rational ethics.]

[Sidenote: Naturalism either individualistic]

[Sidenote: or historical.]

Now the fundamental principle of division in philosophical opinion
lies in the place assigned to reason in human nature.[12] According
to one theory, man is essentially a sensitive subject, though able
to reason about his sensations--that is, to associate, compound, and
compare them. He is supposed to be built up of sense-presentations
associated with feelings of pleasure and pain. Recipient of external
impressions which persist in idea and are accompanied by pleasure or
pain on his part, and thus followed by other ideas and impressions,
man's mental constitution is explained without attributing to reason
any spontaneous or productive function.[13] The other view differs
from this in attributing spontaneity to reason--making it, in one way
or another, the source of forms of thought, principles, or ideas. The
former may be called the Naturalistic, the latter the Rationalistic
view of man: from that follows a Naturalistic or Natural ethics, from
this a Rationalistic or Rational ethics. Into both these theories, in
a theoretical as well as in an ethical aspect, the historical turn
of thought which has characterised recent inquiry has introduced a
profound modification. On the basis of Naturalism, we may either look
upon man as an individual distinct from other individuals, as was
done by Epicurus and Hobbes and the materialists of the eighteenth
century, or we may consider the race as itself an organism, apart
from which the individual is unintelligible, and look upon human
nature as having become what it now is through a long process of
interaction between organism and environment, in which social as well
as psychical and physical facts have influenced the result. This is
the view to the elaboration of which Comte and Darwin and Spencer
have in different ways contributed.[14] What makes the historical
method of importance philosophically, is not the mere fact that it
traces a sequence of events in time, but the fact that, by doing
so, it is able to look upon each link in the chain of events as
necessarily connected with every other, and thus to regard as a
system--or, rather, as an organism--what previous empirical theories
had left without any principle of unity.

[Sidenote: Rationalism either individualistic]

[Sidenote: or universalistic.]

A similar movement of thought has introduced a like modification
into the Rationalistic theory. According to older doctrines, the
individual reason is mysteriously charged with certain _à priori_
principles which are to us laws of knowledge and of action; whereas
the form of Rationalism which is now in the ascendant resembles the
theory of natural evolution in this, that as the latter finds the
race more real than the individual, and the individual to exist only
in the race, so the former looks upon the individual reason as but a
finite manifestation of the universal reason, and attempts to show
the principles or constitutive elements of this universal reason
or consciousness in their logical or necessary connection--leaving
open to empirical investigation the way in which they have gradually
disclosed themselves in the individual human subject, and in the
expression of the collective life of the race. Thus, as Natural
Ethics is divided into an individualistic and an historical view,
a similar distinction might be made in Rational Ethics, though in
this case it would be more difficult to follow out the distinction
in detail; and many ethical systems cannot be said to have kept
consistently either to one side of it or to the other.

In the following discussion I shall investigate the ethical theory
which is founded on the basis of Naturalism--working out and
criticising in somewhat greater detail that form of the theory which,
from the agreement it lays claim to with the results of modern
science, plays so important a part in contemporary philosophical
thought.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Werke, ed. Hartenstein (1867), iii. 532.

[2] Cf. Kant, Werke, iv. 237.

[3] Sermons, v., towards the end.

[4] Essay on the Passions and Affections, p. iv.

[5] W. H. Rolph, Biologische Probleme, zugleich als Versuch zur
Entwicklung einer rationellen Ethik, 2d ed., p. 21.

[6] Not to mention Kant, the consistent opponent of every
eudæmonistic principle, or the doctrines of a political idealist such
as Mazzini (see Life and Writings (1867), iv. 223), reference may be
made to a writer like W. K. Clifford, who looks from the scientific
point of view, and yet holds that "happiness is not to be desired for
its own sake."--Lectures and Essays (1879), ii. 121, 173.

[7] "Auch dieser Begriff [Glückseligkeit] ist an sich ein bloss
formaler, der jede beliebige materiale Bestimmung zulässt."--Zeller,
Ueber Begriff und Begründung der sittlichen Gesetze (1883), p. 23.

[8] Methods of Ethics, book i. chap. i. § 5, 3d ed., p. 11.

[9] "The rule, 'Let every one care for me,' is quite as simple, and,
in a logical point of view, defines conduct as consistently and
reasonably as the rule, 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'"--Leslie
Stephen, Science of Ethics (1882), p. 73.

[10] Methods of Ethics, I. i. 3, p. 6.

[11] The difference between Aristotle and Kant in ethics is sometimes
expressed (see Trendelenburg, Hist. Beiträge zur Phil., iii. 171
ff.) as if it consisted in the fact that the former investigated
human nature in order to find its τέλος (~telos~), whereas the latter
sought the standard of action in a transcendental ground. There is
reason for this distinction in Kant's manner of statement. But both
may be regarded as investigating human nature. Their difference
rather consists in the different position and function assigned to
reason in man. It is because Kant is for the moment looking upon
reason as something distinct from human nature that he says that
"the ground of obligation is to be sought, not in the nature of man
or in the circumstances in the world in which he is placed, but _à
priori_ simply in the notions of pure reason" (Werke, iv. 237). His
"metaphysical" view of ethics, however, follows from the rational
constitution of the human subject and his experience, and does not
depend on any source that really "transcends" the reason of man.

[12] Opinion is also divided according to the place assigned to
reason in the world,--this principle of division corresponding almost
exactly with the former.

[13] Thus it is the object of Helvétius's first _discours_ "De
l'esprit" to prove that physical sensibility and memory are the only
productive causes of our ideas.

[14] Comte, by connecting ethics with biology; Darwin and Spencer, by
the doctrine of evolution.



PART I.

THE INDIVIDUALISTIC THEORY.


CHAPTER II.

EGOISM.


[Sidenote: Definition of Naturalism.]

It is difficult to give an exact definition or even description of
what I have called the "natural" view of man. Perhaps it may be
best defined, negatively, as the view which denies to reason any
spontaneous or creative function in the human constitution. For this
definition, if it still leaves the positive description wanting,
will at least make the classification into "natural" and "rational"
exhaustive and mutually exclusive. At the same time it is to be
noted that, on the theory of Naturalism, reason is not supposed to
be excluded from all share in determining questions of conduct or
the choice of ends. It would, indeed, be impossible to have even
the pretence of an ethical theory without a certain use of reason.
But its function, in this case, is limited to the merely formal one
of bringing different presentations (or objects) and feelings into
connection, and comparing the different states of mind thus formed
with one another, not with a reason-given standard.

[Sidenote: Psychological hedonism.]

Since the function of reason is thus restricted, and its competency
to supply an end for, or principle of, action is denied, we must
seek this end either in the feelings of pleasure and pain which
accompany both sensory and motor presentations,--perceptions, that
is to say, and actions,--or in the more complex, or apparently
more complex, emotions of the mind. And the latter may either be
themselves reducible to feelings of pleasure or pain accompanying
presentations directly pleasurable or painful, and thence transferred
by association to other presentations, or they may be regarded as
somehow motives to action which may be or ought to be followed on
their own account. The Individualistic Theory, therefore, is not
necessarily hedonistic. It admits of a twofold view of the "natural"
man: one which looks upon him as in essence a pleasure-seeking,
pain-avoiding animal; another which regards him as having a variety
of impulses, some of which are not directed to his own pleasure or
avoidance of pain.

[Sidenote: 1. Its theory of action]

[Sidenote: ambiguous,]

[Sidenote: referring to]

The former view--psychological hedonism, as it is called--claims
to be an exhaustive analysis of the motives of human conduct,
perfectly general indeed, but yet valid for every case of action.
It denies the possibility of a man acting from any other principle
than desire of pleasure or aversion from pain. The theory is, that
it is a psychological law that action is motived by pleasure and
pain, and that nothing else has motive-power over it. If, then, one
pleasure (or avoidance of pain) is chosen in preference to another,
it must be either by chance,--an alternative which has no ethical
significance--no significance, that is, for the guidance of voluntary
conduct,--or because the one course promises, or seems to promise,
the attainment of a greater balance of pleasure than the other, or
is actually at the time more pleasant than that other. Thus the
view that pleasure is the _only_ motive of human action is really
identical, for ethical purposes, with the theory loosely expressed
in the law that action follows the _greatest_ pleasure.[15] I say
"loosely expressed"; for the law as thus stated really admits of
three quite different interpretations, not always distinguished with
the precision which such subjects require.

[Sidenote: (_a_) actual consequences of action,]

[Sidenote: or (_b_) its expected consequences,]

[Sidenote: or (_c_) its present characteristics.]

(_a_) In the first place, the law might mean that action always
follows the course which, as a matter of fact, will in the long-run
bring the greatest balance of pleasure to the agent. It is evident
that there is no ground in psychology for maintaining this view. Yet
it is a fair interpretation of the "law" of psychological hedonism,
as commonly stated; and it is at least an admissible supposition
that this meaning of the phrase has not been without effect upon
the uses to which the law has been put by some of its upholders.
The second interpretation of the law--namely (_b_), that action is
always in the direction which seems to the agent most likely to
bring him the greatest balance of pleasure, whether it actually
brings it or not--is the sense in which it appears to have been most
commonly taken when expressed with any degree of accuracy. It is in
this sense that--in language which ascribes greater consistency to
men's conduct than it usually displays--"interest" is asserted by
the author of the 'Système de la nature' to be "the sole motive of
human action."[16] The same view is adopted by Bentham;[17] and both
James Mill and John Stuart Mill identify desire with pleasure, or an
"idea" of pleasure, in terms which are sufficiently sweeping, if not
very carefully weighed;[18] while the will is said to follow desire,
or only to pass out of its power when coming under the sway of
habit.[19] Still another meaning may, however, be given to the "law"
of psychological hedonism, according to which the doubtful reference
to the manifold pleasures and pains, contemplated as resulting from
an action, is got rid of, and (_c_) the agent is asserted always to
choose that action or forbearance which is actually most pleasant,
or least painful, to him at the time--taking account, of course,
of imaginative pleasures and pains, as well as of those which are
immediately connected with the senses. It is in this interpretation
of its law that psychological hedonism seems to be most capable of
defence, and in this sense it has been more than once stated and
defended.[20]

[Sidenote: 2. Ethical inferences from this theory,]

The ethics of the form of Naturalism which is now under examination
must be inferred from the "law" that human action follows the
greatest pleasure, in one or other of the above meanings which that
law admits of. The law is the datum or premiss from which we are
to advance to an ethical conclusion. The "right" is to be evolved
from the pleasurable; and the pleasurable, consequently, cannot be
made to depend upon the right. It is certainly true of the conduct
of most men, "that our prospect of pleasure resulting from any
course of conduct may largely depend on our conception of it as
right or otherwise."[21] But this presupposes that there is a right
independent of one's own pleasure, and therefore does not apply to
an ethics based on the simple theory of human nature put forward by
psychological hedonism.

[Sidenote: (_a_) in its first meaning,]

[Sidenote: (_b_)in its second meaning:]

[Sidenote: private ethics and legislation,]

[Sidenote: (_c_) in its third meaning.]

It is scarcely necessary to discuss the first alternative (_a_),
as no psychologist would seriously maintain it. A society composed
of men constituted in the way it supposes men to be constituted,
would be a collection of rational egoists, omniscient in all that
concerned the results of action, and each adopting unerringly at
every moment the course of conduct which would increase his own
pleasure the most. The conduct of any member of such a society
could only be modified when--and would always be modified when--the
modified conduct actually brought pleasurable results to the agent:
never so as to make him prefer the public good to his own. The
second alternative (_b_) admits of such modification taking place
only when it seems to the individual that this modified action will
produce a greater balance of pleasure or smaller balance of pain
than any other course of action. Under this theory an individual
might indeed prefer the public good or another man's good to his
own, but only through his being deceived as to the actual results of
his course of action. Ethics as determining an end for conduct is
put out of court; though the statesman or the educator may modify
the actions of others by providing appropriate motives. If the "two
sovereign masters, pain and pleasure," "determine what we shall do,"
it is hardly necessary for them also "to point out what we ought to
do."[22] The end is already given in the nature of action, though an
enlightened understanding will teach men how the greatest balance of
pleasure may be obtained. We can only get at a rule prescribing an
end by changing our point of view from the individual to the state.
It is best for the state that each individual should aim at the
common happiness; but, when we talk of this as a moral duty for the
individual, all we can mean is that the state will punish a breach
of it. In the words of Helvétius,[23] "pain and pleasure are the
bonds by which we can always unite personal interest to the interest
of the nation.... The sciences of morals and legislation can be
only deductions from this simple principle." According to Bentham's
psychology, a man is necessitated by his mental and physical nature
to pursue at every moment, not the greatest happiness of the greatest
number, but what seems to him his own greatest happiness. And what
the legislator has to do is, by judiciously imposed rewards and
punishments, especially the latter, to make it for the greatest
happiness of each to pursue the greatest happiness of all.[24] As
distinguished from this "art of legislation," "private ethics"
consists only of prudential rules prescribing the best means to an
end predetermined by nature as the only possible end of human action:
it "teaches how each man may dispose himself to pursue the course
most conducive to his own happiness."[25] The consequences to the
theory of action of the third alternative (_c_) are similar: it only
states the law with more appearance of psychological accuracy. If
a man always follows that course of action which will give him at
the time the greatest (real and imaginative) satisfaction, it is
impossible for us to infer from his nature an ethical law prescribing
some other end, without admitting a fundamental contradiction in
human nature; while to say that he ought to seek the end he always
does and cannot help seeking, is unnecessary and even unmeaning.
Modification of character may of course be still brought about,
since the kinds of action in which an individual takes pleasure
may be varied almost indefinitely. But the motive made use of in
this educative process must be personal pleasure; and the end the
legislator has in view in his work must be the same,[26] though it
is often quietly assumed that for him personal pleasure has become
identified with the wider interests of the community.

[Sidenote: Result of this ambiguity,]

[Sidenote: ethical hedonism.]

The different significations of which it admits show that the
psychological law that action follows the greatest pleasure is by no
means so clear as it may at first sight appear. Probably it is the
very ambiguity of the law that has made it appear to provide a basis
for an ethical system. When it is said that greatest pleasure is the
moral end of action, this "greatest pleasure" is looked upon as the
greatest possible balance of pleasurable over painful states for the
probable duration of life: on the egoistic theory, of the life of the
individual; on the utilitarian theory, of the aggregate lives of all
men or even of all sentient beings. But when it is said that greatest
pleasure is, as a matter of fact, always the motive of action, it is
obvious that "greatest pleasure" has changed its signification. For
if the same meaning were kept to, not only would the psychological
law as thus stated be openly at variance with facts, but its validity
would render the moral precept unnecessary. It is even unmeaning to
say that a man "ought" to do that which he always does and cannot
help doing.[27] On the other hand, if the double meaning of the
phrase had been clearly stated, we should at once have seen the
hiatus in the proof of egoistic hedonism--the gap between the present
(or apparent) pleasure for which one does act, and the greatest
pleasure of a lifetime for which one ought to act--as well as the
additional difficulty of passing from egoism to utilitarianism. If
greatest apparent pleasure--or greatest present pleasure--is by an
inexorable law of human nature always sought, how can it be shown
that we ought to sacrifice the apparent to the real--the present
pleasure that is small to the greater future pleasure? If the
individual necessarily pursues his own pleasure, how can we show that
he ought to subordinate it to the pleasures of the "greatest number"?

[Sidenote: 3. Transition from psychological to ethical hedonism.
Right action will imply]

[Sidenote: (_a_) correct estimate of consequences of action,]

[Sidenote: (_b_) and corresponding strength of feeling.]

It is a matter of fact, however, that the psychologists who maintain
that action follows the greatest pleasure--meaning by that, greatest
apparent or greatest present pleasure--have in their ethics made the
transition to an enlightened Egoism, or even to Utilitarianism. The
nature of the transition thus requires to be more clearly pointed
out. If the former interpretation of the law of psychological
hedonism could be accepted, and a man's motive for action were always
what seemed to him likely to bring him the greatest pleasure on the
whole, ethics--what Bentham calls private ethics--could be reduced
(as Bentham finally reduces it) to certain maxims of prudence. To
be fully acquainted with the sources of pleasure and pain, and to
estimate them correctly, would imply possession of the highest
(egoistic) morality. If men could be made to think rightly as to what
their greatest pleasure consisted in, then right action on their
part--that is to say, the pursuit of their greatest pleasure--would
(according to Bentham's psychology) follow as a matter of course.
Right conduct, however, is not so purely an affair of the intellect
as this would make it. Indeed, Bentham's psychological assumption
requires only to be plainly stated for its inconsistency with
the facts of human action to become apparent. The "video meliora
proboque, deteriora sequor" expresses too common an experience to be
so easily explained away. The impulses by which action is governed
are not always in accordance with what the intellect decides to
be best on a survey of the whole life and its varied chances. In
judging the consequences of action, a future good is compared with a
present, regardless of the mere difference of time by which they are
separated. But the springs which move the will are often at variance
with the decisions of the understanding; and many men are unable to
resist the strength of the impulse to act for the pleasure of the
moment, though they foresee that a greater future satisfaction would
follow from present self-denial.

It would seem, then, that the facts of experience are sufficient to
show that a man's conduct does not always follow the course which
he thinks likely to bring him the greatest pleasure on the whole.
But the view that a man always acts for what is most pleasant--or
least painful--at the time cannot be dismissed so easily. It is not
enough simply to point to the facts of human action in order to show
that this hypothesis is inconsistent with them. If we instanced the
self-restraint in which so many pass their lives from day to day, it
might perhaps be answered that there is a persistent idea of duty, or
love of reputation, or fear of social stigma, the repression of which
would be more painful than the restraint it puts upon other impulses.
Even the martyr who deliberately parts with life itself for the
sake of an ideal, may be said to choose death as the least painful
course open to him at the time. It should be borne in mind, however,
that Professor Bain, the most thorough psychologist of Bentham's
school, refuses to admit this line of defence for psychological
hedonism, and holds that, in actions such as those referred to,
men are really carried out of the circle of their self-regarding
desires.[28] But my present purpose is not to discuss the merits
of any such psychological theory, but rather to investigate its
ethical consequences. And for this purpose the question requires to
be put, how a passage is effected from psychological hedonism to an
egoistic--and even to a utilitarian--theory of ethics.

[Sidenote: The postulate that action can be rationalised]

[Sidenote: involves these conditions,]

If a man always acts for his greatest present pleasure, real and
imaginary, it seems a far step to say that he "ought" to act--or in
any way to expect that he will act--at each moment for the greatest
sum of pleasure attainable in the probable duration of his life.
But on reflection, this may turn out to follow if we postulate that
conduct can be rationalised. What is meant by this egoistic "ought"
may be said to be simply that to the eye of reason the pleasure of
any one moment cannot be regarded as more valuable than the equal
pleasure of any other moment, if it is equally certain; and that
therefore to act as if it were is to act unreasonably. Man fails in
acting up to reason in this sense, because his action is not motived
by reason, but directly by pleasure and pain; and not by a mere
estimate of pleasure and pain, but by pleasure and pain themselves.
The psychological hedonist must maintain that the estimates of future
pleasure and pain only become motives by being not merely recognised
(intellectually) but felt (emotionally)--that is, by themselves
becoming pleasurable or painful. If the Egoist calls any action
irrational, it cannot be because the motive which produced it was not
the greatest pleasure in consciousness at the time. It can only be on
the ground that the greatest pleasure in consciousness at the time
is likely to lead to a sacrifice of greater pleasure in the future;
and this must be due either to intellectual misapprehension or to
the imagined fruition of future pleasure not being strong enough to
outweigh the pleasure which comes from a present stimulus, and to the
imagined fruition of the more distant being weaker than that of the
less distant pleasure. It is owing to a defect of the imagination
on a man's part that even with complete information he does not act
"up to his lights"--irrational action being partly a consequence of
insufficient acquaintance with the normal results of conduct, partly
due to defective imagination. Were a man's imagination of future
pleasure and pain as strong as his experience of present pleasure and
pain, and did he correctly appreciate the results of his conduct,
then his action would, of psychological necessity, harmonise with the
precepts of egoistic hedonism.

[Sidenote: the latter of which]

[Sidenote: is inconsistent with the nature of voluntary action.]

Egoistic hedonism may therefore, in a certain sense, be said to be a
"reasonable" end of conduct on the theory of psychological hedonism;
it is the end which will be made his own by that ideally perfect man
whose intellect can clearly see the issues of conduct, and whose
imagination of the future causes of sensibility is so vivid that the
pleasure or pain got from anticipating them is as great as if they
were present, or only less lively in proportion as there is a risk of
their not being realised. Conversely it would seem that only that man
can act "reasonably" in whom imagination of pleasure (or of pain) is
already of equal strength with the actual experience of it. But, if
the "pleasures of the imagination" are as strong as those of sense or
of reality, the latter obviously become superfluous; and it follows
that the ideally perfect man is left without any motive to aim at the
real thing, since he can obtain as much pleasure by imagining it. The
cultured hedonist must, it would seem, be able to--

                    "Hold a fire in his hand
        By thinking on the frosty Caucasus,
        Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite
        By bare imagination of a feast."

So far as feeling or motive to action goes, no difference must exist
for him between reality and imagination. And thus, although we may
admit that, on this psychological basis, conduct when rationalised
agrees with that prescribed by egoistic hedonism, yet it can only be
rationalised by a development of the strength of the imagination,
which would make the feeling which it brings with it as strong as
that which accompanies a real object, and hence take away the motive
for the pursuit of the latter. The discrepancy between representation
and presentation which is necessary for the state of desire,[29]
is no longer present. Hedonism vindicates its rationality only on
conditions which imply the futility of action altogether. It is not
merely that the attainment of the hedonistic end in practical conduct
implies a strength of imagination of which no one is capable, but
the conditions of acting both rationally and hedonistically, are
conditions which would paralyse all activity.

[Sidenote: 4. Possible objections to preceding argument:]

The foregoing argument may perhaps be objected to on two grounds. On
the one hand, it may be said that it ignores the vast complexity of
human motive, and treats action as if it were a simple and abstract
thing. On the other hand, we may be reminded of the fact that, while
all men act for pleasure, the moral quality of their conduct does not
depend on this fact, but on the _kind_ of things in which they take
pleasure.

[Sidenote: (_a_) complexity of motive; but it is psychological
hedonism which ignores this.]

So far as the first objection is concerned, it seems to me that
the fault belongs to the psychological theory of human action, the
ethical consequences of which are under investigation. It is this
theory which asserts that, however interwoven the threads of impulse,
aversion, and habit may be, their most complex relations can be
reduced to the formula, "greatest pleasure, or least pain, prevails."
It is not necessary, indeed, that every action should be the
conscious pursuit of a pleasurable object already before the mind in
idea. But the theory, if consistently carried out, implies that the
action which follows in the line of a previously formed habit, does
so because the discomfort or pain of breaking through the habit would
be sufficient to counter-balance any satisfaction that might result.
The objection, therefore, of excessive simplicity or "abstractness,"
is one which cannot have greater force than when urged against the
theory of psychological hedonism.

[Sidenote: (_b_) difference in kind of pleasurable objects;]

[Sidenote: but this involves a reference to something else than
pleasure,]

[Sidenote: which psychological hedonism does not admit of.]

Further--and this is the second objection--the above analysis may
be considered by some not to have taken sufficient account of the
difference in the objects in which a human being can take pleasure,
and of the fact that the moral quality of men differs, not according
as they act for pleasure or not, but according to the kind of actions
and sufferances in which they find pleasure. There can be no doubt
of the importance of this distinction for questions of practical
morals. The man in whom "selfishness takes the shape of benevolence,"
as it did in Bentham, is infinitely better than the man in whom it
retains the form of selfishness. But the consideration is important
just because it goes on the implied assumption that the hedonistic
is not the chief aspect of conduct, and that there is a difference
between courses of action more fundamental than the pleasurable or
painful feeling attendant on them. If the principles on which the
objection is founded were consistently adhered to and followed out,
they would make not pleasure, but something else--that, namely,
by which pleasures differ from one another in kind--the ethical
standard. But if, in ultimate analysis, it is the pleasure felt or
expected that moves to action, it would seem that there is no way
in which the conclusion of the preceding argument can be avoided.
If pleasure is the motive, it must be _quâ_ pleasure--that is to
say, either the greatest apparent pleasure, or the greatest present
pleasure, is the motive. If difference of quality be admitted, we
are introducing a determining factor other than pleasure. Certain
kinds of pleasure may be better than others for the race or for the
state. But these differences must be reducible to terms of individual
pleasure admitting of purely quantitative comparisons, before they
become motives to action.[30] From the point of view of the whole,
we may say that one action leads to a greater sum of pleasure than
another. But, in judging the action of individuals, all that we can
say of it is, that to one man one class of actions gives pleasure,
to another another: each man is equally following the course of
action which either (_a_) will bring, or (_b_) seems to him likely
to bring, the greatest pleasure, or (_c_) is actually most pleasant
at the time. From the nature of the individual we can evolve no end
beyond egoistic hedonism. And even this end can only be made his
at each occurrence of action (assuming the first alternative (_a_)
to be incorrect) by enlightening his intellect so that (_b_) will
correspond with the actual greatest pleasure, or by also enlivening
his imagination of future pleasures and pains so that (_c_) will
correspond with it; and this, as has been shown, could only be
effected under conditions which are inconsistent with the principles
of human action.

FOOTNOTES:

[15] Meaning by "greatest pleasure," greatest balance of pleasure
over pain, and thus inclusive of the meaning "least pain." It is the
expression in terms of feeling of the statement sometimes preferred,
that "action follows the line of least resistance"--a statement to
which no exception can be taken, nor any importance allowed, till it
be translated into definite psychological language.

[16] "Ainsi lorsque nous disons que _l'intérêt est l'unique mobile
des actions humaines_, nous voulons indiquer par là que chaque
homme travaille à sa manière à son propre bonheur, qu'il place dans
quelqu'objet soit visible, soit caché, soit réel, soit imaginaire, et
que tout le système de sa conduite tend à l'obtenir."--Système de la
nature (1781), i. 268.

[17] "On the occasion of every act he exercises, every human being is
led to pursue that line of conduct which, according to his view of
the case taken by him at the moment, will be in the highest degree
contributory to his own greatest happiness."--Constitutional Code,
book i. § 2; Works, ix. 5. The continued existence of the species is,
Bentham thinks, a conclusive proof of this proposition.

[18] Thus, according to James Mill, "the terms 'idea of pleasure'
and 'desire' are but two names; the thing named, the state of
consciousness is one and the same. The word Desire is commonly used
to mark the idea of a pleasurable sensation when the future is
associated with it."--Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind,
J. S. Mill's edit., ii. 192; cf. Fragment on Mackintosh (1835), p.
389 f. To the same effect J. S. Mill says: "Desiring a thing and
finding it pleasant, aversion to it and thinking of it as painful,
are phenomena entirely inseparable, or rather two parts of the same
phenomenon; in strictness of language, two different modes of naming
the same psychological fact."--Utilitarianism, 7th ed., p. 58.

[19] "Will is the child of desire, and passes out of the dominion of
its parent only to come under that of habit."--Utilitarianism, p. 60.

[20] Thus Jonathan Edwards says: "When I say that the Will is as the
greatest apparent good, or (as I have explained it) that volition has
always for its object the thing which appears most agreeable, it must
be carefully observed, to avoid confusion and needless objection,
that I speak of the _direct_ and immediate object of the act of
volition, and not some object to which the act of will has only an
indirect and remote respect."--On the Freedom of the Will, part i. §
2; Works, i. 133. The matter is put still more clearly by the late
Alfred Barratt: "Action does not always follow knowledge. Of course
not: but the doctrine [Hedonism] does not require that it should; for
it says, not that we follow what _is_ our greatest possible pleasure,
or what we know or 'think' to be so, but what at the moment of action
is most desired."--Mind, vol. ii. 173; cf. Physical Ethics, p. 52 ff.
So Mr Stephen, Science of Ethics, p. 47: "It is more accurate to say
that my conduct is determined by the pleasantest judgment, than to
say that it is determined by my judgment of what is pleasantest." The
negative side of the same view was expressed by Locke in his doctrine
that action is moved by the most pressing uneasiness (Essay, II. xxi.
29, 31), and distinguished by him from the former view (b), that the
"greater visible good" is the motive (II. xxi. 35, 44).

[21] Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, 3d ed., p. 40.

[22] Bentham, Principles of Morals and Legislation, chap. i., Works,
i. 1. With this statement may be compared the assertion of Helvétius:
"Il semble que, dans l'univers moral comme dans l'univers physique,
Dieu n'est mis qu'un seul principe dans tous ce qui a été.... Il
semble qu'il ait dit pareillement à l'homme: ... Je te mets sous la
garde du plaisir et de la douleur: l'un et l'autre veilleront à tes
pensées, à tes actions; engendreront tes passions, exciteront tes
aversions, tes amitiés, tes tendresses, tes fureurs; allumeront tes
désirs, tes craintes, tes espérances, te dévoileront des vérités; te
plongeront dans des erreurs; et après t'avoir fait enfanter mille
systèmes absurdes et différens de morale et de législation, te
decouvriront un jour les principes simples, au développement desquels
est attaché l'ordre et le bonheur du monde moral."--De l'esprit, III.
ix, Œuvres (ed. of 1818), i. 293.

[23] De l'homme, concl. gén., Œuvres, ii. 608.

[24] Cf. Système de la nature, i. 120: "La politique devrait être
l'art de régler les passions des hommes et de les diriger vers le
bien de la société."

[25] Bentham, _op. cit._, chap. xix. (xvii. in the reprint of 1879),
§ 20; Works, i. 148.

[26] Cf. Bentham, Works, ix. 5.

[27] Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, I. iv. 1, 3d ed., p. 41; cf. Green,
Prolegomena to Ethics, p. 9: "To a being who is simply a result of
natural forces, an injunction to conform to their laws is unmeaning."

[28] Cf. The Emotions and the Will, 3d ed., p. 293 ff.

[29] Cf. Sully, Outlines of Psychology, p. 577.

[30] Cf. J. Grote, 'Utilitarian Philosophy,' p. 20, note: "One kind
of pleasure may be, systematically, to be preferred to another, but
it must be because the pleasures classified under it generally exceed
those under the other in intensity, or some other of the elements of
value."



CHAPTER III.

THE TRANSITION TO UTILITARIANISM.


[Sidenote: 1. Different standpoints of individual and state]

It still remains possible, of course, to fix an ethical end in some
other way than by studying individual human nature. We may, for
instance, looking from the point of view of the community, fix its
greatest happiness, instead of his own, as the individual's end. But
the difficulty then arises of persuading the individual--or, indeed,
making it possible for him--to regard this impersonal goal as the
end of his conduct. For this purpose, Bentham seemed to look to the
exercise of administrative control which, by a system of rewards
and punishments, will make the greatest happiness of the individual
coincide so far as possible with that of the community.[31] J. S.
Mill, on the other hand, with his eyes turned to the subjective
springs of action, saw in the gradual growth of sympathetic pleasures
and pains the means by which an individual's desires would cease to
conflict with those of his neighbours.

It is in some such way that the transition is made from Egoism to
Utilitarianism. The transition is made: Bentham and his school are
an evidence of the fact. But it is not therefore logical. It is,
indeed, important to notice that we only pass from the one theory to
the other by changing our original individualistic point of view.
Having already fixed an end for conduct regardless of the difference
between the individual at the time of acting and at subsequent times,
we proceed to take the much longer step of ignoring the difference
between the agent and other individuals. The question is no longer,
What is good or desirable for the person who is acting? but, What is
best on the whole for all those whom his action may affect--that is
to say, for the community?

[Sidenote: cannot be logically connected]

[Sidenote: through analogy of state to individual.]

[Sidenote: Difference between one's own pleasure and the pleasure of
others]

But while it is comparatively easy to see how this transition
is effected as a matter of fact, it is difficult to establish
any logical connection between its different stages, or to offer
any considerations fitted to convince the individual that it is
reasonable for him to seek the happiness of the community rather than
his own. Only that conduct, it may seem, can be reasonable which
directs and perfects the natural striving of each organism towards
its own pleasure. We may, of course, let our point of view shift from
the individual to the social "organism." And in this case, if the
"natural" end of each human being is his own greatest pleasure, the
end of the community, or organised body of pleasure-seekers, will
naturally be concluded to be the greatest aggregate pleasure of its
members. Thus, if we can hypostatise the community, and treat it as
an individual with magnified but human wants and satisfactions, then,
for this leviathan, the ethical end will correspond to what is called
Utilitarianism or Universalistic Hedonism. But, when we remember
that the community is made up of units distinct from one another
in feeling and action, the difficulty arises of establishing it as
the natural end, or as a reasonable end, for each of these units to
strive after the greatest pleasure of all. For it is evident that the
pursuit of the greatest aggregate pleasure may often interfere with
the attainment by the individual of his own greatest pleasure. On the
other hand, the self-seeking action of the individual may no doubt
lead to a loss of pleasure on the whole; but then it is not his own
pleasure that is lost, only other people's. To the outsider--as to
the community--it may seem irrational that a small increase in the
pleasure of one unit should be allowed at the expense of a loss of
greater pleasure on the part of other units. But it seems irrational
only because the outsider naturally puts himself in the place of
the community; and neither takes account of the fact that to the
individual agent there is a fundamental difference between his own
pleasure and any one else's pleasure: for him the former is, and the
latter is not, pleasure at all.[32]

[Sidenote: overlooked in arguing from egoism to utilitarianism.]

This fundamental difference seems to be overlooked when the attempt
is made to argue logically from egoistic psychology (or even from
egoistic ethics) to utilitarianism. Indeed, the hiatus in logical
proof is often only concealed by a confusion of standpoints; and
J. S. Mill, while emphasising the distinction between modern
Utilitarianism and the older Epicureanism, has even allowed his
official "proof" of utilitarianism--such proof, that is, as he
thinks the principle of Utility to be susceptible of--to rest on the
ambiguity between individual and social happiness.

[Sidenote: 2. Connection between egoism and utilitarianism according
to Bentham:]

[Sidenote: (_a_) Utilitarianism not a political duty,]

This ambiguity does not seem to have been consistently avoided
even by Bentham. For the most part, indeed, nothing can exceed
the clearness with which he recognises the twofold and possibly
conflicting interests involved in almost every action. There is the
interest of the agent, and the interest of others whom his action
may affect. And he also holds that, in the case of divergence of
interests, the individual will act for his own. "The happiness of the
individuals," he says,[33] "of whom a community is composed,--that
is, their pleasures, and their security,--is the end, and the sole
end, which the legislator ought to have in view--the sole standard
in conformity to which each individual ought, as far as depends upon
the legislator, to be _made_ to fashion his conduct. But whether it
be this or anything else that is to be _done_, there is nothing by
which a man can ultimately be _made_ to do it, but either pain or
pleasure"--that is, of course, his own pain or pleasure. Here, then,
ethical Utilitarianism and psychological Egoism are both plainly
involved. A man, it is said, can only pursue general happiness by its
being identical with his own happiness. And as it is evident, and
admitted, that these two happinesses often diverge in the courses
of action naturally leading to them, a man can only be beneficent,
rather than selfish, through some artificial arrangement which makes
beneficence to be for his interest:[34] in plain language (since
rewards are only of exceptional applicability), through his being
punished for not being beneficent.[35] But, as Bentham clearly shows,
many cases of action cannot be safely touched by the legislator's
art. Such cases "unmeet for punishment" include not only the actions
which are beneficial or neutral in their results, but also actions
hurtful to the community, though they may elude such vigilance as the
state can contrive, or their restraint by punishment inflicted by the
state may constitute a greater evil than the offence.[36] _Probity_
may be exacted by the "persons stated and _certain_" who happen to be
political superiors: except in rare instances, positive _beneficence_
can not. Utilitarian conduct, therefore, is not a "political duty,"
because it is not fully enforced by definite punishment. The "art
of legislation" is indeed said to teach "how a multitude of men,
composing a community, may be disposed to pursue that course which
upon the whole is the most conducive to the happiness of the whole
community, by means of motives to be applied by the legislator."[37]
But the means here indicated are such as cannot fully compass the
attainment of the end. For the motives applied by the legislator
either cannot reach a large part of the extra-regarding conduct of
individuals, or could only reach it by entailing greater evils than
those they would be used to prevent.

[Sidenote: (_b_) nor a moral duty,]

[Sidenote: (_c_) nor insisted on as a religious duty,]

But if utilitarian conduct is not a political duty, it may seem
evident that it is at least a moral duty. Now a moral duty is said
by Bentham[38] to be "created by a kind of motive which, from the
_un_certainty of the _persons_ to apply it, and of the _species_ and
_degree_ in which it will be applied, has hardly yet got the name of
punishment: by various mortifications resulting from the ill-will of
persons _un_certain and variable,--the community in general; that is,
such individuals of that community as he whose duty is in question
shall happen to be connected with." In plain language, then, moral
duty simply means the ill-will of a man's neighbours which follows
his conduct in so far as that conduct affects them disagreeably.
Such ill-will on the part of a man's neighbours may result from
success or from failure on his part, from a breach of etiquette, from
refusal to sacrifice to the caprice of those neighbours the wider
good of the society whom his conduct affects (but to whom it may
be unknown), from deception or from telling the truth. In a word,
the duty--that is, the punishment--is entirely uncertain: not only
as regards the persons applying it, its nature and its amount, but
also as regards the kind of actions to which it applies. They will
be actions unpleasant to the people who inflict the punishment, but
not necessarily hurtful to the common weal: since the immediate
effects of an action are easily recognised, while its wider and
more lasting consequences are neither so apparent nor appeal so
surely to the interest of those who are cognisant of the action
and immediately affected by it. Moral duty, therefore, as Bentham
defines it, depending on, or rather identical with, the ill-will
of one's neighbours, is indefinite and limited in its nature, and
can command or sanction no such definite and wide-reaching rule for
conduct as that a man should always act for the greatest happiness of
the greatest number of people whom his action may affect. Utilitarian
conduct, therefore, is neither a political duty nor a moral duty;
nor does Bentham follow Paley in insisting upon it as a religious
duty "created by punishment; by punishment expected at the hands
of a person _certain_--the Supreme Being." And "if he persists in
asserting it to be a duty--but without meaning it to be understood
that it is on any one of these three accounts that he looks upon it
as such--all he then asserts is his own internal _sentiment_; all he
means then is that he feels himself _pleased_ or _displeased_ at the
thoughts of the point of conduct in question, but without being able
to tell _why_. In this case he should e'en say so; and not seek to
give an undue influence to his own single suffrage, by delivering it
in terms that purport to declare the voice either of God, or of the
law, or of the people."[39]

[Sidenote: (_d_) nor sufficiently motived in private ethics,]

[Sidenote: which can be reduced to prudence.]

This plain piece of advice which Bentham gives to Blackstone is
not often neglected by himself. The motive, he once said, of his
own exceptional devotion to the interests of the community was
that it pleased him. "I am a selfish man," he wrote, "as selfish
as any man can be. But in me, somehow or other, so it happens,
selfishness has taken the shape of benevolence."[40] But when the
matter is thus brought back from the regions of political, moral,
and religious duty, to the individual ground of "private ethics,"
we have still to refer to Bentham's own discussion of the question,
"What motives (independent of such as legislation and religion may
chance to furnish) can one man have to consult the happiness of
another?"[41] Bentham at once replies--and indeed the answer on his
principles is obvious enough--that there is no motive which always
continues _adequate_. But yet there are, he says, "no occasions
in which a man has not some motives for consulting the happiness
of other men." Such are "the purely-social motive of sympathy or
benevolence," and "the semi-social motives of love of amity and love
of reputation." A man is directly moved to promote the happiness of
others through the sympathetic feelings which make the happiness of
others in some degree pleasurable to himself; and he is indirectly
moved to promote their happiness through his desire of their
friendship and good opinion. So far, therefore, it is quite true that
"private ethics"--or what Bentham regards as such--"concerns every
member--that is, the happiness and the actions of every member of
any community that can be proposed."[42] It certainly concerns their
happiness, but only in so far as this is a means to the happiness
of the agent. So that when Bentham says that "there is no case in
which a private man ought not to direct his own conduct to the
production of his own happiness and of that of his fellow-creatures,"
he should rather say that a man will[43] only direct his conduct to
the happiness of his fellow-creatures in so far as such action leads
to his own happiness. Private ethics, therefore, has to do with the
happiness of others only so far as this reacts on the happiness
of self; or, as Bentham ultimately defines it, in terms to which
no exception can be taken: "Private ethics teaches how each man
may dispose himself to pursue the course most conducive to his own
happiness by means of such motives as offer of themselves."[44]

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 3. Bentham's treatment exhaustive from his point of view.]

Under Bentham's hands "private ethics" is thus reduced to prudence,
at the same time that the author has failed to show why the general
happiness is to be aimed at by the individual as a religious or
political or moral duty. Nor is this failure due to any lack of skill
in following out the consequences which his premisses involved. The
arguments used against him have thus an equally valid application to
all who adopt the same general line of thought. For Bentham appears
to have seen as clearly as any of his disciples the difficulty of
bringing the egoistic basis of his theory of human nature into
harmony with the universal reference required by his ethics. And the
criticism already offered of the way in which Bentham attempts to
bring about this connection may be shown not to be restricted to his
special way of putting the case.

It is necessary to remember that throughout this chapter we are
looking from the individual's point of view, and inquiring how far it
is possible to work from it in the direction of utilitarianism. Now
it is admitted that, in pursuing his own happiness, he is sometimes
led, and may be led on the whole, to neglect the general happiness.
A sufficient reason for following the latter--or an obligation to do
it--can therefore only come either from the supreme power or from
one's fellow-men, and from the latter either as organised in the
State, and expressing themselves by its constituted authorities,
or else by the vaguer method of social praise and blame. Bentham's
classification of the possible sources or kinds of duty into
religious, political, and moral [or social], is therefore a natural
consequence of the individualistic system.

[Sidenote: (_a_) The religious sanction,]

[Sidenote: relied on by Paley,]

[Sidenote: inverts the relation between ethics and theology.]

The first of these possible sources of duty is indeed only mentioned
by Bentham, and then passed by. And yet it might seem that the
religious sanction is a more efficient motive-power than the social,
while it applies to regions of conduct which legal enactment cannot
reach. Without question, the operation of such a motive is capable of
bringing egoistic conduct into harmony with utilitarianism, or with
any other principle of action to which the sanction may be attached.
"Private happiness is our motive, and the will of God our rule,"
says Paley;[45] and in this case such conduct will be obligatory as
the rule may arbitrarily determine; while, whatever it may be, there
will be a strong enough motive to follow it. The whole fabric of a
moral philosophy such as Paley's, therefore, rests on two theological
propositions--that God has ordained the general happiness as the
rule of human conduct, and that He will punish in another life those
who disregard that rule. The basis of morality is laid in a divine
command enforced by a divine threat. Perhaps it will be generally
agreed that Bentham acted wisely in not laying stress on this
application of the "religious sanction." Even those least inclined
to theological agnosticism would reject any such rough-and-ready
solution of the problem which deals with the relation of morality
to the divine nature. Paley's method of treatment, they would say,
inverts the relation in which theism stands to morality. The divine
will cannot be thus arbitrarily connected with the moral law. It can
be conceived to approve and sanction such an object as the happiness
of mankind only when God is first of all regarded as a moral
being, and the happiness of mankind as an object of moral action.
If any relation of consequence can be asserted between them, the
general happiness is to be regarded as a moral duty first, and only
afterwards as a religious duty.

[Sidenote: (_b_) Limits of the political sanction.]

When he comes to the political sanction, Bentham's treatment wants
nothing in respect of fulness, and even those who do not agree
with his estimate of the infelicific character of many existing
institutions and enactments will admit that even the best-intentioned
legislator cannot make utilitarian conduct a political duty. We must
bear in mind here, also, the effect which individual desires and
opinions have not only on social judgments, but also on statute-law.
In arguing on the relation of the individual to the State, we are
too ready to forget that the State is represented by a legislator
or body of legislators, and that we can never assume that in their
cases private interest has already become identified with the
larger interests of the community.[46] For were this the case, the
accusation of class-legislation or private interest would not be
heard so often as it is.

[Sidenote: (_c_) Uncertainty of the social sanction,]

A modern disciple of Bentham would thus be compelled, just as
Bentham himself was, to make utilitarianism neither a political nor
religious but a "moral" duty, enforced by and founded on the shifting
and uncertain punishments or sanctions of society--what Professor
Bain describes as "the unofficial expressions of disapprobation
and the exclusion from social good offices."[47] But as a logical
proof of utilitarianism, this means is, if possible, weaker than the
preceding; for social opinion, though of somewhat wider applicability
than legal enactment, has probably been, for the most part, in even
less exact correspondence than it with the general happiness. The
social sanction is strict on indifferent points of etiquette, does
not consult the general interests of mankind on points of honour, and
is lenient towards acts that the utilitarian moralist condemns.[48]

[Sidenote: (_d_) and of the internal sanction so far as a result of
the social.]

Professor Bain, however, advances from the external disapprobation to
an internal sanction--looking upon conscience as one of the powers
which inflicts punishment, and lies at the source of the feeling of
obligation. But if conscience is only "an ideal resemblance of public
authority, growing up in the same individual mind, and working to the
same end," it can, as little as its archetype, point to the maxim
of utilitarianism. According to Professor Bain, it is through this
sentiment--at first a mere imitation of external authority--that the
individual becomes a law to himself, on recognising the utilities
that led to the imposition of the law.[49] But on this theory, in so
far as conscience continues to point to the conduct impressed upon it
by its external pattern, it fails to correspond with the utilitarian
maxim. If, on the other hand, it is modified by the comprehensive
and unselfish view of the effects of conduct which utilitarianism
demands, it must be at the expense of correcting its original
edicts, and so far discrediting its authoritative claims.

[Sidenote: Value of the social sanction]

[Sidenote: apart from logical proof of utilitarianism.]

The "social sanction" would be of much greater service if used to
show how a solidarity is brought about between the interests and
feelings of the individual and those of his neighbours, from which
the utilitarian maxim may be arrived at by a generalisation of his
principle of conduct as modified by the social impulse. But this
would not constitute a logical justification of utilitarianism: it
would show how the principle has been arrived at, but without giving
a sufficient reason to the individual for adopting it. And this is
really the tendency of much recent discussion--of Professor Bain's
theory of conscience as a reflex of the external order, of George
Grote's analysis of the moral sentiment, and of Mill's doctrine of
the progressive identification of the individual's feelings with
those of his neighbours through the gradual increase of sympathetic
pleasures and pains: for it was to this source that Mill looked for
the practical solution of the antinomy between his psychological and
ethical theories, though he himself tried to pass from one position
to the other by means of the "highway in the air" constructed by his
own logic.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 4. Mill's logical defence of utilitarianism:]

Mill's attempt to pass by a logical method from psychological
hedonism to utilitarianism is an instructive commentary on the
difficulties which beset the transition. His work may be described
as a vindication of the utilitarian morality, first, from the charge
of sensualism; and secondly, from that of selfishness. And it is
largely owing to his polemic that utilitarianism is no longer looked
upon as either a sensual or a selfish theory. It is not sensual,
unless, indeed, the pleasures of most men are of a sensual kind. So
far from being selfish, it is almost stoical in the subordination of
individual desires it enjoins. But Mill wished to do more than clear
the character of utilitarian ethics. He wished to show a logical
reason for utilitarians pursuing elevated pleasures rather than base
ones, and to demonstrate the connection of his moral imperative with
the principles which the school he belonged to laid down for human
motives. In both these respects his failure is conspicuous.

[Sidenote: (_a_) distinction of kinds of pleasure,]

[Sidenote: determined by authority,]

[Sidenote: either can be reduced to difference of quantity, or leads
to non-hedonistic standard;]

In the former endeavour, he went against Bentham by attempting to
draw a distinction in kind amongst pleasures--a distinction not
reducible to quantitative measurement. A higher degree of quality in
the pleasure sought was to outweigh any difference in its amount or
quantity. With this modification, utilitarianism is made to require
a subordination of the lower or sensuous nature to the higher or
intellectual nature. Pleasure, indeed, is still the end; but the
"higher" pleasure takes precedence over the "lower," irrespective
of the amount of pleasant feeling that results. Pleasure is still
the standard, but not the ultimate standard; for a further appeal
has to be made to the criterion that distinguishes one pleasure from
another, not as merely greater or less, but as higher or lower. As is
well known, Mill did not look either to the action or to the feeling
itself for this criterion. To have done so would have implied an
acknowledgment that pleasure was no longer regarded as the ultimate
standard. He found the criterion of superiority simply in the
opinion people of experience have about the relative desirability
of various sorts of pleasure. But such a criterion only pushes the
final question of the standard one step farther back. Those people
of experience to whom Mill refers--who have tried both kinds of
pleasure, and prefer one of them[50]--can they give no reason for, no
account of, their preference? If so, to trust them is to appeal to
blind authority, and to relinquish anything like a science of ethics.
But, if Mill's authorities can reflect on their feelings, as well as
feel, they can only tell us one or other of two things. Either the
so-called "higher" pleasure is actually, as pleasure, so preferable
to that called "lower," that the smallest amount of the one would be
more pleasurable than the largest amount of the other; or else the
higher is called higher, and is to be preferred to the lower--even
although the latter may be greater as pleasure--because of a quality
belonging to it over and above its character as pleasant feeling.
The former verdict would be in the first place paradoxical, and, in
the second place, would give up Mill's case, by reducing quality to
a quantitative standard. Besides, it would be no valid ground of
preference for men in general; since the pleasure of various actions
and states differs according to the susceptibility of the subject.
According to the latter verdict, the characteristic upon which the
distinction of quality depends, and not pleasure itself, becomes the
ethical standard.

[Sidenote: (_b_) ambiguities in his proof of utilitarianism.]

In respect of his main contention, that utilitarianism is a theory of
beneficence, and not of prudence or of selfishness, Mill emphasised
even more strongly than Bentham has done the distinction between the
egoism which seeks its own things, and the utilitarianism according
to which everybody counts for one, and nobody for more than one.
But when he attempted to connect this doctrine logically with the
psychological postulates of his school, he committed a double error.
In the first place, he confused the purely psychological question
of the motives that influence human conduct with the ethical
question of the end to which conduct ought to be directed; and, in
the second place, he disregarded the difference of end there may
be for society as a collective whole, and for each member of the
society individually. "There is in reality," he says,[51] "nothing
desired except happiness;" and this psychological theory is too
hastily identified with the ethical principle that happiness alone
is desirable, or what ought to be desired and pursued. Moreover,
"no reason," he says, "can be given why the general happiness is
desirable, except that each person, so far as he believes it to be
attainable, desires his own happiness." And this admission, which
seems as good as saying that no reason at all can be given why the
individual should desire the general happiness, is only held to be
a sufficient reason for it, through assuming that what is good for
all as an aggregate is good for each member of the aggregate: "That
each person's happiness is a good to that person, and the general
happiness, therefore, a good to the aggregate of all persons."[52]

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Imperfect coherence of ethical and theoretical philosophy.]

It may appear strange to offer the preceding as the logical basis
of an ethical principle which has had so wide and, on the whole,
beneficial an influence as utilitarianism. The explanation is to
be found in the want of full coherence which often exists, and
is nowhere commoner than in English ethics, between an author's
practical view of life and the foundation of psychology or
metaphysics with which it is connected. It would certainly be wrong
to imagine that Bentham's self-denying labours rested on a confusion
of standpoints, or that Mill's moral enthusiasm had no other support
than a logical quibble. To both of them, and to many others,
utilitarianism was an ethical creed influencing their lives, which
was scarcely connected with the attempt to justify it logically. Such
reasons in its favour as they adduced were rather after-thoughts for
the defence of their creed than the foundations on which it was built.

[Sidenote: 5. Actual transition to utilitarianism.]

The formula of utilitarianism cannot be expressed as the conclusion
of a syllogism or of an inductive inference. It seems rather to
have been arrived at by the production--or the recognition--of a
sympathetic or "altruistic" sentiment, which was made to yield a
general principle for the guidance of conduct This process involves
two steps, which are consecutive and complementary, although the
positions they connect are not necessarily related. The first step is
to overcome the selfish principle of action in the individual; the
second to generalise it and obtain a principle for the non-selfish
action that results. Mill seems to be the only recent writer who,
in making this transition, adheres strictly to the psychological
hedonism distinctive of his school. He looks to the influence of
education in increasing the feeling of unity between one man and his
neighbours, till individual action becomes merged in altruistic or
social action. "The social state," he says, "is at once so natural,
so necessary, and so habitual to man, that, except in some unusual
circumstances, or by an effort of voluntary abstraction, he never
conceives himself otherwise than as a member of a body."[53] This
is perfectly true, but does not imply a sublation of selfishness. A
man "never conceives himself otherwise than as a member of a body;"
but it does not follow from this that he will subordinate his own
interests to the interests of the other members when the two clash.
In cases of conflict the individual often tends to sacrifice the
good of his neighbours to his own good; and he may do so although he
fully recognises the social consequences of action, just because he
still remains at the ethical standpoint which treats private good
as superior to public. It is true, as Mill contends, that, "in an
improving state of the human mind, the influences are constantly on
the increase, which tend to generate in each individual a feeling of
unity with all the rest; which feeling, if perfect, would make him
never think of, or desire, any beneficial condition for himself, in
the benefits of which they are not included."[54] But this is not
sufficient to connect the two antagonistic poles of Mill's system.
It starts with assuming the notion of an "improving state" of the
human mind, as determined according to an ethical standard not yet
arrived at; and it gives no valid account of the means by which
the improvement is to be brought about. It is prophetic of a time
when the motives of human nature will have been so modified that
the antagonism between self and others will be no longer felt; but
it offers no practical solution of the antinomy suited to present
circumstances.

[Sidenote: (_a_) recognition of Sympathy]

[Sidenote: as disinterested, by Bain,]

The basis of the ethical sentiment by which the desires and actions
of a man are to be brought into harmony with those of his fellows
is investigated in a more thorough manner by Professor Bain and by
George Grote. But both of these writers stand on a somewhat different
platform from the strict psychological hedonism which Mill never
relinquished. Thus Grote enumerates as "elementary tendencies of
the mind," which ethical sentiment presupposes, and out of which it
is compounded, self-regarding tendencies, sympathetic tendencies,
benevolent affections, malevolent affections, and (though in a
smaller degree) love and hatred of those who cause pleasure and
pain to others;[55] and this without interpreting sympathy, in the
way that Mill does, as having for its end the pleasures which come
with the gratification of the sympathetic impulse, or the removal of
the pain caused by its restraint. As Professor Bain argues, this
position of Mill's "is tenable only on the ground that the _omission_
of a disinterested act that we are inclined to, would give us so much
_pain_ that it is on the whole for our comfort that we should make
the requisite sacrifice. There is plausibility in this supposition."
But "the doctrine breaks down when we try it upon extreme cases....
All that people usually suffer from stifling a generous impulse
is too slight and transient to be placed against any important
sacrifice."[56] In recognising sympathy as a "purely disinterested"
impulse,[57] Mr Bain breaks loose at an important point from the
psychology of Bentham. He is indeed only kept from a complete break
with it by the position he ascribes to sympathy as outside of the
ordinary sphere of voluntary action. Above all things, it would seem
to be necessary that nothing should conflict with "our character as
rational beings, which is to desire everything exactly according to
its pleasure-value."[58] But sympathy obviously "clashes with the
regular outgoings of the will in favour of our pleasures;" so that it
ought to be placed outside voluntary action, and regarded simply as
"a remarkable and crowning instance of the Fixed Idea."[59]

[Sidenote: without being applied to determine the ethical end,]

It is owing to its exclusion, as a fixed idea, from the sphere of
voluntary conduct, that sympathetic appropriation of the feelings
of others has little or no place assigned it by Professor Bain,
when he goes on[60] to describe the way in which the moral opinions
of men have actually originated. They have, he holds, a twofold
source--the one arising from the necessity for public security, the
other being of sentimental origin. The former makes society ordain
those acts and services required for its own preservation. The
latter leads to the confusion of this necessary element of morality
with the sentimental likes and dislikes which may be characteristic
of different people. These are "mixed up in one code with the
imperative duties that hold society together;" and it is only when
"we disentangle this complication, and refer each class of duties to
their proper origin," that we can "obtain a clear insight into the
foundations of morality."[61] Morality, therefore, is that which is
imposed by society for its own preservation and security, and which
is sanctioned by the punishments of society either in its "public
judicial acts," or "by the unofficial expressions of disapprobation
and the exclusion from social good offices."[62] Of this external
law the moral sense or conscience is merely a subjective mirror
or copy. The duty of unselfishness is not connected with the
disinterested impulse of sympathy, but is traced to the external
order of society, which has found it necessary to restrain the
self-seeking action of individuals--a restraint which has come to be
transferred to the consciences of the members of the society.

Mr Bain's theory falls back in this way upon external authority, just
as Bentham's did; and, for the same reasons, they are neither of
them able to prescribe the utilitarian principle of conduct. But, in
his assertion of the disinterested nature of sympathy, Mr Bain has
introduced--though he has not himself utilised--a fruitful principle,
by means of which a basis of moral sentiment may be found by means of
which it is possible to escape from ethical as well as psychological
egoism.

[Sidenote: and by Grote.]

This element of sympathy is most fully recognised in the instructive
analysis of ethical sentiment by the late George Grote. At the same
time, Grote does not, like Adam Smith, for instance, attempt to
evolve the material characteristics of approbation and disapprobation
from this source. The mere putting of one's self in the place of a
spectator--or in that of the patient--instead of that of the agent,
is only a formal change, which will modify our judgments or feelings
without accounting for their actual content. But a uniform formal
element in all ethical sentiment is, according to Grote, a man's
"constant habit of viewing and judging of circumstances around
him," both from the point of view of the agent and from that of the
patient.[63] This twofold position is occupied by every individual.
He is an agent, and in that position his own interests and feelings
are separate from, and often at variance with, those of others. But
he is also a patient in respect of the actions of others, and in
that position his interests and his feelings are commonly in unison
with those of the majority. Hence a man is led constantly to adopt
ideally the point of view which is not actually his own at the time,
so that "the idea of the judgment which others will form becomes
constantly and indissolubly associated with the idea of action in
the mind of every agent." In every community, certain actions are
visited with the admiration, esteem, and protection of the society;
certain other actions with the opposite feelings and results: so that
there arises "an association in my mind of a certain line of conduct
on the part both of myself and of any other individual agent, with
a certain sentiment resulting from such conduct, and excited by it,
in the minds of the general public around us. It is a sentiment of
_regulated social reciprocity_ as between the agent and the society
amongst which he lives." And this sentiment, when enforced by a
sanction, constitutes the complete form of ethical sentiment.

As a complete explanation of the moral sentiments and judgments of
men, this theory does not seem to be above criticism. It requires
not only an association between every personal action and the
feelings--sympathetically imagined by the agent--with which the
action will be regarded by others, but it also implies that this
association has become so inseparable that the feeling appears as
an individual or personal one, distinguished by the subject from
other sentiments which he has on consciously imagining himself in
the position of others. But it is referred to here as illustrating
what we find in Mill, and, in a different way, in Professor Bain,
that the first real step towards the utilitarian standard is to make
the individual pass somehow or other to a standpoint outside his own
nature. In Mill this is done mainly by the assertion of the social
nature of man, in Grote by showing how a moral sentiment may be
arrived at by the combined action of sympathy and association.

[Sidenote: (_b_) The idea of Equality]

[Sidenote: necessary to regulate sympathy;]

The further influence required in the transition to utilitarianism
is the idea of equality. The best expression of utilitarian doctrine
followed soon after the assertion of the equal rights of men which
signalised the politics of the end of last century in the French and
American revolutions. Bentham was permeated by the spirit of this
movement, however far he might be from accepting its abstractions
about natural rights. In his hands, too, utilitarianism was a
political rather than an ethical doctrine. "Everybody to count
for one and nobody for more than one" follows naturally from the
phrase, "the greatest happiness of the greatest number." Without
this assertion of the necessity of an equal distribution, there is
no safeguard against sympathy being restricted and partial in its
operation. Indeed the feeling of sympathy in itself is naturally
strongest towards those with whom one is in most frequent relation,
or connected by numerous associative ties; and if left to itself,
it might therefore be expected to give rise to the extended
selfishness of class or family interest, only relieved by a spasmodic
humanitarianism. This tendency is corrected by the dogma of human
equality, which had been formulated as a juridical maxim in the Roman
_Jus Gentium_, but afterwards passed into a political creed, and
found vent in the literature of the eighteenth century and in the
public events which marked its close.

[Sidenote: influence of the idea on Bentham.]

The change which this notion of human equality--passed through has
been traced by Sir Henry Maine. "Where the Roman jurisconsult had
written 'æquales sunt,' meaning exactly what he said, the modern
civilian wrote 'all men are equal' in the sense of 'all men ought to
be equal.' The peculiar Roman idea that natural law coexisted with
civil law and gradually absorbed it, had evidently been lost sight
of, or had become unintelligible, and the words that had at most
conveyed a theory concerning the origin, composition, and development
of human institutions, were beginning to express the sense of a great
standing wrong suffered by mankind."[64] Now Bentham, however far
he may have been from trusting to the system of 'natural law,'[65]
was certainly not beyond the influence of the idea of human equality
which it carried in its train; and, from his own point of view, he
laboured to defend it. In assimilating this idea, utilitarianism has
preserved one of the best results of the old "law of nature," without
the ambiguity with which it had formerly been used,[66] if in a sense
which admits of a somewhat narrow and abstract interpretation.

It is true that this does not give exactly the result which is
usually described as utilitarianism. I have spoken of the notion of
equality as the regulator of sympathy--a canon in accordance with
which the sympathetic impulse is to be guided. Sympathy impels us
to relieve the pains and increase the pleasures of our fellow-men.
The principle of equality dictates that this sympathetic activity is
to be directed to the happiness of all men equally. Every one whom
our conduct may be made to affect is to count as a unit, and a unit
only. The distribution is not to be according to kinship of blood
or social ties, though it is so much more in our power to promote
the happiness of those closely connected with us, that it may fairly
occupy a larger share of our thought and energy than the happiness
of other people does. Utilitarianism carries the application of the
principle of equality still farther, by looking upon self as a unit
whose happiness is to be regarded as of exactly equal value with that
of any one else. With every individual reduced to the same ethical
worth, happiness is declared to be the end of moral action, and
equality of distribution the rule for deciding between the claims of
competing individuals.

[Sidenote: 6. The two sides of utilitarian theory not logically
connected.]

It seems to me, therefore, that utilitarianism is a theory compounded
out of two quite different elements. On the one side the basis of the
theory has been laid by Bentham and Mill in a naturalistic psychology
which looks upon pleasure as the only object of desire. To this
there is superadded the idea of equality, which is the distinctively
ethical element in the theory. But it is only by confusion that
the idea of equality--which Bentham expresses by the proposition
that the happiness of one man is to count for no more than the
happiness of another--can be supposed to be derived from the same
theory of human nature as that which identifies pleasure and desire.
Utilitarianism only becomes a practicable end for individual conduct
when psychological hedonism has been given up. It is futile to say
that one ought to pursue the greatest happiness of the greatest
number, unless it is possible for the individual to act for something
else than his own pleasure--that is, for an end which is for him
not pleasure at all. In a word, utilitarianism, while maintaining
that the only thing worth desiring is pleasure, must at the same
time admit that pleasure is not the only object that can be or is
desired: otherwise, it can never advance from the egoistic to the
universalistic form.

This view receives confirmation from the way in which utilitarianism
is held by the most eminent of living moralists. In the 'Methods
of Ethics,' the tradition of Bentham is expressly united with the
doctrines of Butler and Clarke. Professor Sidgwick agrees with
Bentham, and the long line of moralists from Epicurus downwards,
in maintaining the doctrine of ethical hedonism, that pleasure is
the only thing ultimately desirable; but, with Butler, he rejects
the psychological hedonism, according to which pleasure is the only
object of desire. So far from these two positions being inconsistent,
it is only through the second that the first can be held in its
universalistic form. The problem is, however, how to unite them. In
Professor Sidgwick's theory, they are connected by the application
of the ethical maxims of benevolence and equity, which an exhaustive
examination of ethical intuitions has left standing as axioms of
the practical reason. Though utilitarianism, therefore, is still
adhered to, it is on an expressly Rational ground, not on the basis
of Naturalism.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 7. Summary of ethical consequences of psychological
hedonism:]

In this and the previous chapter, I have looked at human nature from
the point of view of psychological hedonism, and have endeavoured to
show what ethical principles that theory leads to, or is consistent
with. The theory does not deny that there is a great diversity
of capacities and interests in man. But it holds that, so far as
concerns conduct, they admit of being brought under one general
law--that every action is subject to the rule of the "two sovereign
masters, pleasure and pain." It is evident, therefore, that if ethics
is to be connected at all with psychology--if what ought to be
done is in any degree what can be done--the end of conduct must be
hedonistic. The psychological fact cannot indeed be without more ado
turned into a moral imperative. Yet this much may be admitted, that
if this interpretation of action leaves room for ethics at all, the
end prescribed can be nothing else than pleasure, or the avoidance of
pain.

[Sidenote: (_a_) no logical connection with utilitarianism;]

The question, therefore, was how to determine the pleasure which
is to be sought? And I have tried to show, in the chapter just
concluded, that utilitarianism does not admit of being logically
arrived at from this point of view. It may indeed, under certain
circumstances,[67] be the guide of political or social enactments;
but these can only be made to bear upon the conduct of individuals
by the sanctions which the State or Society has at its command. The
individual can have as his maxim of conduct an end which corresponds
with utilitarianism in two events only: when he is so constituted
as to find his pleasure in the greatest aggregate pleasure of
mankind, or when the political and social sanctions are so complete
and searching as to make his individual interest and the collective
interest coincide. The former event is unfortunately too rare to be
taken into account in establishing a theory; the latter would imply
an interference with individual liberty so impracticable that it
is not contemplated even in the most comprehensive of socialistic
schemes.

[Sidenote: (_b_) admits of rational egoism]

[Sidenote: only under impossible conditions.]

Hedonism in psychology, therefore, means egoism in ethics. But
even this theory, as the previous chapter has shown, has its own
difficulties to meet. The antagonism of individual and universal has
not yet been got rid of. The difficulty is no longer caused by the
conflict between one man and his neighbours: it is the difference
between the feeling and action of a moment, and the sum of feelings
and actions which makes up a lifetime. It is true that, if we
admit that pleasure is the only thing worth pursuing, and that by
"pleasure" a man means "his own pleasure," there is so far no reason
for preferring the pleasure of one moment to that of another, except
as more certain or of greater amount or degree;[68] but this is to
start with ascribing a value to pleasure, and not with the simple
fact that pleasure is desired. If psychological hedonism is our
starting-point--and we give to the theory the interpretation that
has the greatest verisimilitude--it is the greatest present pleasure
that rules. And, although the man of reflection will no doubt attempt
to estimate the future pleasure at its true value in comparison
with the pleasure actually present, this can never have full effect
upon his will. It has been shown, indeed, that the realisation of
egoistic hedonism is not merely unattainable from the point of view
of psychological hedonism, but that it would involve conditions
inconsistent with the nature of desire.

FOOTNOTES:

[31] Professor Bain distinguishes with greater clearness than his
predecessors, first, legal duty, or that the contravention of which
is punished by the ministers of the state; secondly, moral duty,
enforced by the unofficial punishment of social disapprobation; and
thirdly, the conduct which society leaves to individual choice,
without censuring either its commission or omission. Moral duty is
further distinguished by him from the meritorious, or conduct which
society encourages by approval, without censuring its omission.

[32] Mr Gurney's attempt (Mind, vii. 349 ff.) to rationalise the
utilitarian "ought" depends upon the assumption that the individual
feels a desire (not only for his own, but) for other people's
pleasure (p. 352). From the point of view of the psychological
hedonist, however, this desire is only secondary and derivative,
depending upon the fact that it increases the pleasure of the
subject. "Your pleasure," the psychological hedonist would say,
"is desired by me _quâ_ my pleasure." If, on the other hand, it is
admitted that the individual has other ends than his own pleasure,
there seems no ground in psychological fact for limiting these ends
to something aimed at because pleasurable to others. From this point
of view the first step in the establishment of an ethical theory
would be an attempt to find a principle of unity in the various ends
actually aimed at by individuals, and recognised by them as "good."
This is made by Professor Sidgwick, who, while allowing that "it is
possible to hold that the objective relations of conscious minds
which we call cognition of Truth, contemplation of Beauty, Freedom of
action, &c., are good, independently of the pleasures that we derive
from them," maintains that "we can only justify to ourselves the
importance that we attach to any of these objects by considering its
conduciveness, in one way or another, to the happiness of conscious
(or sentient) beings" (Methods of Ethics, iii. xiv. 3, 3d ed., p.
398). But Mr Sidgwick's Utilitarianism depends on a Rational view of
human nature which is beyond the scope of the present discussion. See
below, p. 74.

[33] Principles of Morals and Legislation, chap. iii. § 1; Works, i.
14.

[34] As Paley put it, with characteristic plainness of statement, "We
can be obliged to nothing, but what we ourselves are to gain or lose
something by."--Moral and Political Philosophy, book ii. chap. ii.

[35] Cf. Bain, Emotions, p. 264: "I consider that the proper
meaning or import of these terms [Morality, Duty, Obligation, or
Right] refers to the class of actions enforced by the sanction of
_punishment_."

[36] Bentham, Principles of Morals and Legislation, chap. xix.
(xvii.), § 9 ff; Works, i. 144 ff.

[37] Ibid., § 20, p. 148.

[38] Fragment on Government, chap. v.; Works, i. 293. Cf. Principles
of Morals and Legislation, ch. iii. § 5, p. 14, where the Moral
Sanction is said to proceed from "such _chance_ persons in the
community as the person in question may happen in the course of his
life to have concerns with."

[39] Bentham, Fragment on Government, _loc. cit._

[40] Works, xi. 95; cf. J. Grote, Utilitarian Philosophy, p. 137.

[41] Principles of Morals and Legislation, ch. xix. (xvii.), § 7 ff.

[42] _Loc. cit._, § 8, p. 144.

[43] "Ought" is inappropriate here according to Bentham's principles,
since there is no question of punishment inflicted by a political or
social or religious superior.

[44] _Loc. cit._, § 20, p. 148.

[45] Moral and Political Philosophy, book ii. chap. iii.

[46] This is clearly recognised by Bentham: "The _actual_ end [as
distinguished from the right and proper end] of government is,"
he says, "in every political community, the greatest happiness of
those, whether one or many, by whom the powers of government are
exercised."--Constitutional Code, book i., Introd., § 2; Works, ix. 5.

[47] The Emotions and the Will, p. 264.

[48] Cf. Bain, The Emotions and the Will, p. 287. Professor Bain says
(Emotions, p. 276 n.), "we ought to have a written code of public
morality, or of the duties imposed by society, over and above what
parliament imposes, and this should not be a loosely written moral
treatise, but a strict enumeration of what society requires under
pain of punishment by excommunication or otherwise,--the genuine
offences that are not passed over." This would certainly be very
desirable, were it not from the nature of the case impracticable.
Popular judgment as to a man's conduct,--what society imposes,--is
one of the things most difficult to predict: it is under the
influence of most heterogeneous causes, personal, industrial,
religious, political, &c. I do not think, for instance, that any one
could safely undertake to describe exactly the kind of actions which
will infallibly call forth the censure of British public opinion, or
that of the smaller and intersecting groups into which society is
divided.

[49] Emotions, p. 288.

[50] I have spoken, for simplicity's sake, as if there were two kinds
of pleasure easily distinguishable. But the question is really much
more complicated.

[51] Utilitarianism, p. 57.

[52] Ibid., p. 53.

[53] Utilitarianism, p. 46. But no statement of the sociality of man
could be more explicit or satisfactory than that of Butler, Sermons,
i.

[54] Utilitarianism, p. 48.

[55] Fragments on Ethical Subjects (1876), p. 6.

[56] The Emotions and the Will, 3d ed., p. 295.

[57] Ibid., p. 111; cf. Mind, viii. 55: "The important exceptions to
the law of Pleasure and Pain are (1) Fixed Ideas, (2) Habits, and (3)
Disinterested action for others."

[58] Emotions, p. 438.

[59] Emotions, p. 121.

[60] Ibid., p. 271 ff.

[61] Ibid., p. 273.

[62] Ibid., p. 264.

[63] Fragments on Ethical Subjects, p. 8 f.

[64] Ancient Law, 8th ed., p. 93.

[65] Principles of Morals and Legislation, chap. ii. § 14 n.

[66] The ambiguity of the phrase is explained in an interesting
way in Sir H. Maine's account of the change from its juridical to
a political or ethical meaning. In some writers it seems to have a
third and still different signification. We must thus distinguish
(1) the juridical meaning, originating in the Roman "law common to
all nations," which had arisen through the "constant _levelling_ or
removal of irregularities which went on wherever the prætorian system
was applied to the cases of foreign litigants," modified subsequently
by the Greek conception of ἰσότης (~isotês~). (2) The political
meaning, that all men ought to be equal, arose from the preceding.
But its notion of "ought" seems often to depend on an idea of the
constitution of nature according to which all men are actually born
equal--not only in rights, soon to be obscured by human convention,
but also in power or faculty, afterwards unequally developed by
education. Hence (3) the natural meaning. The doctrines of evolution
and heredity have made this view seem as strange to us now as it
would have done to the Romans from whom it was illegitimately
derived. Yet at one time it seems to have been assumed, almost
without question, that there is but little difference in the natural
endowments of different men. This assumption lay at the basis of
Hobbes's political theory--Leviathan, I. xiii. p. 60,--was stated
in a more guarded form by Locke--On Education, § 1; Works, ed. of
1824, i. 6,--and adopted almost without qualification by Helvétius,
who, carrying out Locke's metaphor of the soul as, at birth, a
"tabula rasa," afterwards written over with the pen of experience,
says: "Quintilien, Locke, et moi, disons: L'inégalité des esprits
est l'effet d'une cause connue, et cette cause est la différence de
l'éducation"--the causes of the existing inequality being afterwards
stated as twofold: first, the difference of environment, which may be
called chance; and secondly, the difference of strength in the desire
for instruction.--De l'homme, II. i., III. i., IV. xxii.; Œuvres, ii.
71, 91, 280. (Quintilian's statement, however, is even more guarded
than Locke's. Cf. Opera, ed. Spalding, i. 47.)

[67] That is, when (1) the legislature accurately expresses
the average feeling of all the members of the State; or (2)
the legislators happen to be fully intelligent people in whom
"selfishness" has taken the shape of benevolence.

[68] Although, as is well known, propinquity was held by Bentham to
be an independent ground of distinction and preference.--Principles
of Morals and Legislation, chap. iv, sect. 2.



CHAPTER IV.

MORAL SENTIMENT.


[Sidenote: 1. A uniform theory such as psychological hedonism]

Psychological hedonism possesses the merit of offering a simple and
uniform theory of mental action. It may admit conflicting accounts of
the kinds of action and sufferance which actually give men pleasure
and pain,--a point on which, for example, Hobbes and J. S. Mill
differ widely. But it has one general formula for the relation of
feeling to action, which has been precise and clear enough to attract
many psychologists. The ethical consequences of the theory have,
indeed, turned out--if the argument of the preceding chapters is
valid--to be neither so obvious nor so satisfactory as its adherents
have commonly supposed. But it must nevertheless be admitted that, if
psychology shows pleasure to be, as a matter of fact, the constant
end of action, it will be useless--even if it is not impossible--for
ethics to prescribe any other end.

[Sidenote: not supplied by the opponents of ethical hedonism,]

The opponents of ethical hedonism have thus uniformly insisted that
the theory which makes pleasure the end and motive of all conscious
activity is imperfect; and this psychological question has been the
battle-field of many of the controversies, at any rate, of English
ethics. Psychological hedonism has not, however, been confronted by
the English moralists with an opposed theory of equal simplicity,
nor can the controversy be said to have led to a thorough analysis
of action. The psychological investigation has, in most cases,
been carried no farther than the ethical interests at stake seemed
to require; and the predominance of these interests has perhaps
prevented the inquiry from being carried out with complete freedom
from preconception on either side.

A uniform theory under which our various particular desires might
be brought may, indeed, be said to have been suggested by Butler.
He meets the hedonistic proposition that all desire is for personal
pleasure, by the doctrine that no particular desire has pleasure as
its end, since all pleasure presupposes a previous desire in the
satisfaction of which it consists.[69] This theory, which may have
been derived from Plato,[70] and was afterwards used by Schopenhauer
to prove the negative nature of pleasure and consequent worthlessness
of life, is, however, a generalisation which cannot be made to
include the whole facts to be taken account of.[71] Many pleasures
occur independently of any precedent desire. And what Butler had
to show--and was really concerned to show--was that desire was not
exclusively directed to objects thus independently found to be
pleasurable: the contradictory, that is to say, and not the contrary,
of psychological hedonism.

[Sidenote: in maintaining the reality of non-hedonistic activity.]

For this purpose Butler pointed to the whole class of affections
which, although they may also tend to private interest, have an
immediate reference to the good of others; and, in addition to
these, he contended for an original principle of benevolence towards
others in human nature, as well as of self-love or care for one's
own interests and happiness. This latter, he held, so far from being
the sole principle of action, implied the existence of a number of
particular passions and affections, directed immediately to external
objects--the satisfaction of these desires giving pleasure, though
pleasure was not the end they aimed at. Voluntary action is thus not
brought under any common rubric; for, at the same time that the calm
principle of self-love is directed to the agent's greatest pleasure,
the object of hunger, for example, is said to be not pleasure but
food, that of benevolence not personal pleasure but the good of
others.

[Sidenote: Non-hedonistic action generalised by Herbart,]

[Sidenote: from the tendency of ideas to self-realisation.]

The attempt to give unity to the non-hedonistic view of desire has
come from a different quarter. Uninfluenced by the exigencies of
ethical controversy, which formed the entire motive of Butler's
investigation, Herbart and his school have worked out a theory of
desire, which has many points of comparison with that of Butler.
However much they may differ from the English moralist--of whose
existence they are mostly ignorant--they are at one with him in
rejecting the maxim of psychological hedonism, _nihil appetimus nisi
sub specie boni_; and their differences from him are largely due
to their having gone further in their analysis of the facts, and
endeavoured to bring them under a general principle.

Butler's view of the object of desire is distinguished from the
Herbartian chiefly in two respects. In the first place, he identifies
that object with the external or real thing, whereas Herbart is
careful to point out that it is a presentation or idea. In the
second place, while Butler is content to postulate an original
tendency of our nature towards certain objects, Herbart attempts
to get behind this tendency, and explain the phenomena of striving
from the interaction of presentations. Over and above the ordinary
hypothesis of natural realism, Butler's theory implies a sort of
pre-established harmony between our active tendencies and things
outside the mind, in virtue of which some of these things do, and
some do not, attract our desires. Herbart, on the other hand,
attempts nothing less than a complete genetic account of mental
phenomena, explaining the facts of presentation, desire, and feeling
through "the persistence of presentation in consciousness and their
rise into clearer consciousness."[72] The phenomena of desire and
feeling are both accounted for by this mechanism of impelling and
inhibiting forces.[73]

[Sidenote: This tendency recognised in the doctrine of fixed ideas]

It would be beyond the scope of this Essay to examine the above view
of the active side of mental phenomena. For present purposes it is
enough to draw attention to the fact that the common deduction of
the phenomena of desire and will from the feelings of pleasure and
pain is not the only "scientific" theory of human action, and that
it is rejected on its merits by writers who have no hankering after
what the psychological hedonist would call the mystical element of
free-will. It is of interest to note, too, that Professor Bain,
in whose works the traditions of psychological hedonism find
their most careful expression, has modified the doctrine so as
to allow of desire of pleasure and avoidance of pain explaining
less than had been formerly required of them. Outside the circle
of hedonistically-determined motives, he recognises the influence
of the presentation or idea as a self-realising element in the
individual consciousness, apart from its pleasurable or painful
characteristics.[74] Those "fixed ideas," as Mr Bain calls them,
tend both to persist in the mind, and to project themselves into
action, independently of pleasure and pain--or at least with a force
which is out of proportion to the pleasure they bring. As has been
already seen, it is by means of this doctrine that he explains "the
great fact of our nature denominated sympathy, fellow-feeling, pity,
compassion, disinterestedness."[75] To the same category belongs
"much of the ambition and the aspirations of human beings.... A
certain notion--say of power, wealth, grandeur--has fixed itself in
our mind and keeps a persistent hold there." It is asserted, indeed,
that the action of such fixed ideas "perverts the regular operation
of the will which would lead us to renounce whatever is hopeless or
not worth the cost." And, certainly, their admission among mental
phenomena seems to imply the superposition of a new theory of action
upon the old theory of psychological hedonism. There is no disguising
the importance of the modification thus introduced. The name "fixed
idea" is misleading if it be taken to imply that persistency and
tendency to action are properties belonging to a certain class of
ideas only. Mr Bain's doctrine is founded on the hypothesis of the
identity of the nervous centres which function in representation
and in sensation, and is therefore valid of all representations
or ideas. The characteristics of persistency, and of tendency to
action, are therefore normal characteristics of presentations,
though they may belong in an unusual degree to some ideas from
the relation these hold to the dominant cluster of ideas in the
individual consciousness. And if we thus attribute to all ideas
without exception the tendency to self-realisation, and recognise--as
we must--the relation of mutual assistance or inhibition which ideas
bear to one another in virtue of their being "presented" to the same
subject, we have granted the material out of which, in Herbart's
skilful "Mechanik des Geistes," the phenomena of feeling and desire
are woven.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 2. The non-hedonistic theory of action.]

The view of individual human nature, which holds that all its desires
are not directed to personal pleasure, thus claims consideration.
With its less restricted theory of action, this doctrine may
seem to offer a larger means of determining the appropriate end
of human conduct. In particular, the suggestion naturally occurs
that the ethical end will, on this theory, be something else than
pleasure.[76] But there is, nevertheless, no contradiction in
holding--as Mr Sidgwick does--that although other objects than
pleasure are actually desired, there is nothing else which can be
held to be ultimately desirable, or the tendency to which can be said
to have moral worth.

[Sidenote: Difficulty of unifying the various impulses it implies,]

The ethical barrenness of psychological hedonism has been seen to
result from its narrow and inflexible view of human nature. But
theories such as those now to be considered have, in an ethical
regard, to overcome a difficulty of another kind in the variety of
impulses which they admit upon the stage. The "objects" to which
these impulses or desires relate have as yet received no further
characterisation than that they are objects of desire. And the
difficulty of finding a principle by which some order of precedence
or value amongst them may be determined is just, in other words, the
difficulty of obtaining a moral standard.

[Sidenote: so as to determine a standard for action.]

The question does not ordinarily arise in the above form, because
the moral standard is commonly taken for granted, and the various
impulses, affections, and dispositions are made to derive their
ethical rank from their relation to that standard. But this method is
obviously inappropriate when the standard is still to be ascertained,
its determination being the object of inquiry. And it may seem that
the constitution of man contains in itself a means of distinguishing
the moral value of its various elements, or of the actions to which
they lead, and thus furnishing a moral standard or end for conduct.
This purpose seems to have been to some extent, though not quite
clearly, kept in view by the writers who, in last century, contended
against the selfish theory which had been so crudely enunciated by
Hobbes. They attempted to show that selfishness was not the only, nor
even the most prominent, principle of action; and, from the system of
diverse principles which they found implanted in human nature, they
endeavoured to work out a theory of conduct.

[Sidenote: This attempted by the English moralists,]

[Sidenote: but along with a utilitarian criterion,]

[Sidenote: and with egoistic arguments.]

Especially amongst the later English moralists--Adam Smith, for
instance--the question of the end or standard came almost to drop
out of sight in the midst of the controversy regarding the nature
of the "moral sense" or "moral faculty"--the way, that is, in which
we become aware of the difference between right and wrong. But in
Shaftesbury, Butler, and Hutcheson--the writers who formulated this
doctrine of the moral sense--the attempt is made to connect a theory
of the criterion of morality with the source of our knowledge of it.
Shaftesbury and Hutcheson both looked upon social welfare or the
general happiness as the end of moral conduct, and the criterion in
accordance with which moral character is ascribed to actions; at the
same time that their main contention was for the immediateness of the
"sense" by which we perceive these moral qualities. And they sought
to establish the connection of the two doctrines by means of the
benevolent feelings--which they held to be original and independent
of private interest--and their immediate approval by the reflex or
moral sense of the individual man. Similar ideas appear in Butler, at
the same time that he tended to make conscience or the moral sense
the standard of morality, as well as the source of our knowledge of
it. They, as well as he, however, found it necessary to come back
from the social or political to the individual point of view. Even
if their conception of "the good" was not evolved from the nature
of the individual man, their philosophical standpoint required them
to leave broader ground, and show it to be the individual's natural
goal. And in doing this, their constant tendency is to revert to
egoistic arguments--demonstrating the complete harmony of virtue and
interest, or attempting to prove to the individual that his own
happiness consists in the exercise of the social affections. Thus
Shaftesbury tries to show, by an empirical collection of results,
that to have the "natural" (or social) affections too weak, or the
private affections too strong, is a source of misery,[77] as well as
the chief source of vice; and that, largely owing to the pleasure of
virtuous action, it is "to the private interest and good of every
one to work to the general good."[78] Hutcheson, again, devotes a
large portion of his most mature work to allay the suspicion "that in
following the impulse of our kind affections and the moral faculty
we are counteracting our interests, and abandoning what may be of
more consequence to our happiness than either this self-approbation
or the applauses of others;"[79] while Butler, referring to virtuous
conduct, says, in a well-known passage, that "when we sit down in
a cool hour we can neither justify to ourselves this or any other
pursuit, till we are convinced that it will be for our happiness, or
at least not contrary to it."[80] Opposed as the whole school were to
the selfish theory of human action, they never spoke of any sacrifice
of private happiness as a thing to be looked for, or in any way taken
into account, in conduct which is the result of calm deliberation.
It is difficult, therefore, to avoid the judgment passed upon them
by Schleiermacher, that "the English school of Shaftesbury, with all
their talk about virtue, are really given up to pleasure."[81]

[Sidenote: 3. Ethics may be made to depend on the moral sense.]

At the same time, their writings constantly suggest a theory of
morals which is neither obliged to adopt off-hand a utilitarian
criterion of virtue, nor forced to fall back upon the egoistic
sanctions of personal pleasure and pain. Their psychological theory
points to an ethical doctrine in which pleasure is neither the sole
end of action, nor its sole motive. They do not, indeed, make quite
clear the transition from the psychological to the ethical point
of view; and critics are still fond of confronting Butler with the
objection he anticipated--Why ought I to obey my conscience? The
apparent _petitio principii_ of Butler's answer, Because it is the
law of your nature, is due to the way in which the teleological
standpoint is introduced. The purpose of which (according to Butler)
man is the vehicle or realising organism is spoken of as a law
externally imposed, and deriving its authority, not from its own
nature, but from the nature of its origin.

[Sidenote: Different views of the nature of the moral sense.]

There would seem to be one way only to surmount the difficulty
arising from the variety of impulses of which the nature of man is
made up, and that is by consistently following out the teleological
point of view. But what, the question is, is the final or
comprehensive end to which human nature points amidst this diversity
of objects of striving? The doctrine of the "moral sense" attempts
to answer the question. Now this moral sense may either be regarded
as not itself a separate faculty, but simply an expression for the
harmony of human tendencies; or it may be looked upon as a separate
and superior capacity, which, again, may either be interpreted in
terms of sense, or of the understanding--the former interpretation
leading to its identification with pleasure, the latter to its being
conceived as law.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: (_a_) The harmony of impulses. Shaftesbury's theory.]

These different methods were attempted by the English moralists--the
first, however, to a less extent than the others. But it inspired
much of Shaftesbury's work, though it cannot be said to have been
consistently developed by him. The conflict of impulses in man
was too obvious a fact not to be apparent even in Shaftesbury's
roseate view of life. He recognised, indeed, not only private
or self-affections, promoting the good of the individual, and
"natural" or social affections, which led to the public good, but
also "unnatural affections," which tended to no good whatever.[82]
The reference to consequences is thus made prominent at once.
The last class of affections is condemned outright because of
its infelicific results; while an attempt is made to prove from
experience that the courses of conduct to which the two former lead
coincide. Shaftesbury contended for a real organic union between the
individual and society; but, when he came to establish its nature,
he made it consist in an asserted harmony of interests, while the
obligation to virtue was allowed to rest on its conduciveness to
personal pleasure. He sometimes spoke of virtue as identical with the
harmonious development of the affections of the individual man;[83]
but he expressly defined it as consisting in the individual "having
all his inclinations and affections ... agreeing with the good of
his kind or of that system in which he is included, and of which he
constitutes a part."[84] And the two views can only be connected by
proving that the harmonious development of an individual's affections
will lead to the good of the species: the proof of this depending
on a one-sided summation of consequences. Shaftesbury does, indeed,
throw out the idea that both the self-affections and the "natural" or
social affections become self-destructive when carried out so as to
interfere with one another. But this, again, has only the previous
calculus of the results of conduct to support it. He cannot show
that the contradiction in the conception of a completely solitary
being belongs also to the conception of a judiciously selfish
being. The latter being loses the pleasures of virtuous action;
but perhaps he may gain greater pleasures in their room. He does
not develop his whole nature; but if that nature contains totally
infelicific passions, the development of the whole nature is not to
be recommended.

Thus Shaftesbury is unable to reach a conception of man's nature
as a harmony of impulses just on account of the external point of
view which makes him treat it as an aggregate, though he contends
that it is an organism. His ingenious and subtle account of the
relations between the individual and society does not really go to
the root of the matter, because, after all, it remains a calculus
of the results of action, not an analysis of its nature. And his
view of the affections constituting the individual system leaves
them wanting in the unity of organic connection. An effort is made,
however, to supply this defect by means of the reflex affections
called the "moral sense," to which he ascribes an oversight over the
other affections and their resultant actions. In what way, then, must
we regard the nature of this faculty and the important functions
assigned to it?

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: (_b_) A separate faculty. Hutcheson.]

[Sidenote: Two questions regarding it:]

It was left to Shaftesbury's disciple, Francis Hutcheson, to
elaborate with thoroughness this conception of the moral sense as
a separate faculty. Hutcheson did not make any important addition
to the ideas of Shaftesbury and Butler. But he worked them out
more systematically; and in his last work, the 'System of Moral
Philosophy,' the protest against the egoism of Hobbes has found
expression in a complete theory of human nature, in which the
"moral sense" is supreme, and the ends of conduct independent of
self-interest. Hutcheson, too, keeps more closely than either of his
immediate predecessors to the way of looking at human nature which
is spoken of in this volume as "naturalistic." He rejects even more
decidedly than Shaftesbury--much more so than Butler--any creative
function of reason in determining the constitution and direction of
the moral sense.[85] The questions thus arise--(_a_) What is the
moral sense when not regarded as a rational determination of the
ends of conduct? and (_b_) To what determination of ends or other
distinction between right and wrong in action does it lead? On both
these points there is a difference between his early 'Inquiry into
the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue' (1725), and the more
mature 'System,' published in 1755, eight years after his death.

[Sidenote: (α) Nature of this faculty: not reason;]

[Sidenote: at first defined as feeling of pleasure or pain,]

Hutcheson is in earnest with the rejection of reason as a creative
force. The moral sense is not, he says, a source of new ideas.
Its objects are received in the ordinary ways by which, through
"sensation and reflection," we come by our knowledge.[86] But just
as we have a sense of beauty in the forms of sensible objects, so
there is a moral sense given us from which, in the contemplation
of our actions, we derive "still nobler pleasures" than those of
physical sensation. This moral sense is "a determination of our minds
to receive amiable or disagreeable ideas of actions."[87] So far,
therefore, it seems to be simply a pleasure in the contemplation of
certain actions which, we say, have "an immediate goodness." "By
a superior sense," says Hutcheson, "which I call a moral one, we
perceive pleasure in the contemplation of such actions in others,
and are determined to love the agent (and much more do we perceive
pleasure in being conscious of having done such actions ourselves)
without any view of further natural advantage from them."[88] The
significance of this position is easily seen. It is not only meant
to give a criterion of moral action; it is also a short cut to the
conclusion that virtue is for our private interest. The disquieting
suspicion that morality may involve a sacrifice of individual
happiness "must be entirely removed, if we have a moral sense and
public affections, whose gratifications are constituted by nature
our most intense and durable pleasures."[89] The elaborate analysis
of conduct and enumeration of the pleasures which various affections
and actions bring in their train, which Hutcheson gave in his latest
work, were thus unnecessary as long as the position was maintained
that the moral sense is emphatically a pleasure or pain, and that the
pleasures it gives are the most intense and durable we have.

There was only an apparent contradiction in this theory which
placed the test of morality in a pleasure consequent upon moral
action, and yet held that such actions were not performed from
interested motives. In the spirit of Butler's psychology, Hutcheson
contends[90] that virtue is pleasant only because we have a natural
and immediate tendency towards virtuous action; our true motive is
"some determination of our nature to study the good of others;" and
this, although not always immediately pleasant in itself, is yet
succeeded by the calm satisfaction of the moral sense. The real
weakness of Hutcheson's position is the fatal one that he cannot show
that it corresponds with facts; that the pleasures incidental to the
moral sense outweigh all others. Indeed, he defends his opinion in
their favour only, in a way which reminds one of Mill's method in the
'Utilitarianism,' by making every juror stand aside unless he has
pledged himself to morality.[91] It is open to any one, however, to
hold that the pleasures of benevolent action and the "relish" of the
moral sense are not of sufficient hedonistic value to make up for
the restraints they put upon conduct and the enjoyments they oblige
one to forego. Even if this position be not correct, it is merely a
mistake in estimating doubtful quantities. The man who chooses the
smaller pleasure will be the loser by his mistake; but we cannot say
that the selfish man is to blame for not being benevolent, because
the pleasures of benevolence and the moral sense are greatest, any
more than we could blame the benevolent man for not being selfish,
if selfishness should turn out on the whole to leave a greater
hedonistic balance at the individual's credit.

[Sidenote: afterwards spoken of as a judgment,]

[Sidenote: but this judgment allowed to depend on feeling.]

A more objective determination of the moral sense is afterwards given
by Hutcheson. Without professedly changing ground, he ceases to speak
of it as a mere feeling of pleasure, and calls it a judgment of
approbation or disapprobation. "It is," he says,[92] "a natural and
immediate determination to approve certain affections and actions
consequent upon them; or a natural sense of immediate excellence
in them, not referred to any other quality perceivable by our
other senses or by reasoning." Nor is this judgment of approbation
consequent upon the feeling of pleasure the affection or action
produces in us. The action is not "judged good because it gains to
the agent the pleasure of self-approbation, but it gains to him this
pleasure because it was antecedently good, or had that quality which,
by the constitution of this sense, we must approve."[93] But, in
attempting to make clear the nature of this judgment, Hutcheson seems
to return, though not in so many words, to his earlier position.
To seek a basis for the judgment in reason would have been to make
the "moral sense" what Kant afterwards made it, simply practical
reason. This, however, would have been a "metaphysic of ethics"
inconsistent with Hutcheson's whole position. He had always opposed
the narrowly intellectual view of morality in Clarke and Wollaston,
and he had no conception of the function of reason which would admit
of an interpretation of the judgment of approbation by an appeal
to a rational determination, depending upon an idea conceived as
inherent in the human constitution, and to be realised in action.
The judgment, therefore, is referred to a "taste or relish"[94]
for certain affections and actions, and this he takes no pains to
distinguish from pleasure.

The analogy he seeks to draw between the moral sense and our other
powers does not really favour a distinction of it from pleasure. "To
each of our powers," he says, "we seem to have a corresponding taste
or sense, recommending the proper use of it to the agent, and making
him relish or value the like exercise of it by another. This we see
as to the powers of voice, of imitation, designing, or machinery,
motion, reasoning; there is a sense discerning or recommending the
proper exercise of them."[95] That is to say, besides the sense of
hearing, which has to do with sounds, there must needs be another
sense which has to do with our way of hearing sounds; besides the
sense of sight, which has to do with form and colour, there must
needs be another sense which has to do with our way of perceiving
form and colour; and so with every other activity, especially those
which proceed from our "highest powers." A doctrine such as this sets
no limits to the manufacture of additional senses. The whole view of
human nature upon which it proceeds is one of meaningless complexity,
which serves the one good purpose only of showing how much ethics has
suffered from a defective psychology.

The mental objects or presentations which are distinguished from
one another by the difference of their characteristic qualities,
and which we therefore call colours, or sounds, or movements, are
accompanied by varying degrees of pleasurable or painful feeling;
and it is possible to hold that the moral sense is a name for such
feelings following in the train of those complexes of presentations
to which we give the name of actions, or of those other recurring
complexes we call affections. This, practically, was the position
with which Hutcheson started in the 'Inquiry.' Benevolence pleased us
and selfishness pained us; just as the taste of sugar was pleasant,
and that of wormwood disagreeable. Perhaps Hutcheson departed from
this theory, because he saw that if conduct was made a matter of
taste, there would be no sufficient reason for condemning selfishness
any more than an unusual taste. He therefore relinquished, or seems
to have relinquished, the view of the moral sense as a feeling of
pleasure or pain; and under the influence, no doubt, of Butler,
spoke of it as a judgment of approbation or disapprobation. But he
fell back on his original theory by making this judgment depend on
"a taste or relish," which only lends itself to interpretation as a
peculiar feeling of pleasure.

[Sidenote: (β) The objects of the moral sense: first said to be
actions;]

[Sidenote: afterwards to be affections;]

The reflex nature of the moral sense is brought out more distinctly
in the 'System' than in the 'Inquiry.' In his earlier work, Hutcheson
had spoken of it as directly related to _actions_. But it was more
consistent with his maturer thought to regard it as having to do
with mental powers or "affections" in the first instance, and with
actions only indirectly or mediately. "The object of this sense,"
he says,[96] "is not any external motion or action, but the inward
affections or dispositions;" and this is made by him to account for
the discrepancy which the deliverances of the moral sense show in
regard to actions. It "seems ever to approve and condemn uniformly
the same immediate objects, the same affections and dispositions;
though we reason very differently about the actions which evidence
certain dispositions or their contraries." This distinction is
applied with unlimited confidence in its efficacy. By means of it
he would explain the most fundamental differences in the moral code
of men and nations. Thus people unacquainted with the industrial
improvements which give the character of permanence to property,
may "see no harm in depriving men of their artificial acquisitions
and stores beyond their present use,"--that is to say, "no evil may
appear in theft."[97]

But it is more important in another respect; for it enables the
author to avoid the difficulty of finding any principle according
to which the moral sense may be related to the empirical content of
action. As long as the moral sense was simply spoken of as a feeling
of pleasure, it could be conveniently regarded as the consequent
of external actions. But if it is an internal sense distinct from
pleasure, it is easier to relate it to what he calls our internal
powers or affections than to action. The moral sense, then, is to
be the regulator of all our powers; and by means of it Hutcheson
attempts to reduce human nature to a scale of morality.

[Sidenote: but its grounds of preference]

[Sidenote: mainly depend not on the nature of the affection, but on
its objects.]

It is to be noted that, in the classification he offers,[98]
what are commonly called the virtues of candour, veracity, &c.,
are not accounted virtues at all, but only immediately connected
with virtuous affections: these are identified with the "kind" or
benevolent affections, directed to the happiness of sentient beings.
Within the latter there are two grounds of preference: the deliberate
affections are preferred to the passionate; those which are more
extensive in the range of their objects to the less extensive.
With regard to the former ground of preference, the "moral sense"
of the community has perhaps undergone some modification since
Hutcheson's time, and looks upon enthusiasm with less suspicion than
it formerly did. The other ground of preference ascribed to the
moral sense refers not so much to the affection itself--which is
the direct or immediate object of the moral sense--as to the way in
which the affection is applied, the number of the objects to which
it is directed. The affection of benevolence is the same in nature
whether its object be wide or restricted; though difference in this
respect profoundly influences the actions to which it leads. The
object approved or most approved by the moral sense is therefore,
according to Hutcheson, utilitarian conduct, or rather, as he would
say, the calm disposition leading thereto.[99] In this way he obtains
a principle for determining the morality of actions; but only through
the arbitrary assertion that this principle is immediately approved
by the moral sense. The connection of the moral sense with an object
such as universal benevolence could only be made out by showing
a rational, or at any rate an organic union between individual
sentiment and social wellbeing; and Hutcheson, like Shaftesbury,
has no conception of attempting this in any other way than the
traditional one of exhibiting the personal advantages of benevolent
conduct, and the disadvantages that accompany selfishness.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: (_c_) Third view of the moral sense.]

[Sidenote: Butler.]

[Sidenote: Conscience an authoritative law,]

Both Shaftesbury and Hutcheson were often led astray by a tendency
to interpret facts as they wished them to be, rather than as they
were. Their view of the consequences of action was coloured by their
optimism. Butler, too, in spite of the difference in his general
attitude to the value of human life, was not altogether free from
a similar error. He thinks that Shaftesbury "has shown beyond all
contradiction that virtue is naturally the interest of happiness,
and vice the misery of such a creature as man."[100] But, in view of
particular exceptions, or of any one not being convinced of "this
happy tendency of virtue," he thinks it necessary to emphasise the
"natural authority of the principle of reflection." Conscience is,
he holds, a part of our inward nature; but it differs from the other
parts of our nature inasmuch as it is not related immediately to an
external object, but to the actions dealing with such objects, and
to the dispositions leading to those actions. It is a principle of
"reflex approbation or disapprobation," which is said to have equal
respect to both public and private good. This tendency, however,
would seem to be ascertained empirically. The deliverances of
conscience are immediate judgments as to the morality of actions and
affections (for Butler speaks of it as referring to both equally);
and its reference to the ends which those actions or the exercise of
these affections may ultimately tend to would, therefore, seem to be
indirect.[101] Butler was careful, moreover, not to speak of it as
an æsthetic or sensitive faculty, but as a judgment. It is not a
feeling of pleasure, but the revelation of law.

[Sidenote: and the criterion of morality.]

The approval of conscience is thus made the criterion of morality.
But a difficulty arises as to the way in which we are to regard the
authority which conscience is said to carry along with it. Butler's
utterances here commonly imply a teleological reference to an end
implanted in human nature, and to be discovered by observing that
nature--the realisation of the end being obligatory, because it is
shown to be the purpose which the author of nature had in view in
making man as he is.[102] The authority of conscience thus seems to
be derived from the divine purpose which it displays. It carries
within itself a claim to obedience; but the justification of this
claim depends on a theological basis. And hence the question of
the nature and origin of conscience is at once raised, in order to
determine the legitimacy of its claim to be, rather than any other
part of our constitution, a divinely-implanted guide.

[Sidenote: Teleological and jural views not reconciled, nor fully
developed.]

But more than one current of thought runs through Butler's ethical
treatise. The theological reference is sometimes so used as to
make the obligation to morality, and even the nature of morality,
depend on the will of God: though hardly according to Paley's crude
method of seeking in the external revelation of the divine command
a means of uniting the divergent interests of the individual and
of society. In general, Butler's ruling idea is the idea of the
system or unity of human nature, for which he was largely indebted
to Shaftesbury's revival of the Platonic conception. Conscience is
regarded by him as the expression of this unity. But its nature is
never more deeply probed. Its deliverances are justified now by
its supernatural mission, and now by the more prosaic fact that it
leads to our individual interest[103]--at any rate, "if we take in
the future"--while it could not be recommended as a guide if it
did not.[104] On one side, therefore, Butler tends to a form of
theological utilitarianism, such as was common in his own day, and
was afterwards formulated by Paley.[105] On the other hand, his
ethics more naturally allies itself with a different theory, in which
the moral law is conceived as having its source in practical reason,
and the naturalistic basis of ethics is definitely abandoned.

[Sidenote: 4. The ethics of moral sentiment a mediating theory;]

[Sidenote: explanation of its facts attempted by theory of evolution.]

On the whole, it would appear that the psychological ethics worked
out by Shaftesbury and his school occupies an insecure position
between the view discussed in the two preceding chapters and that
which ascribes to reason a function in the formation of objects of
desire. Shaftesbury and his followers tried to strike out a middle
course between the theory that ends of action may be determined by
reason, and that which looks upon all desires as being desires for
objects as pleasurable. They made the attempt to found a system of
ethics on human nature, and they held that that nature could not be
accounted for by the simple psychological analysis of the Epicurean
school as then represented by Hobbes. On the other hand, they did
not see their way to adopt the "rational" ethics only known to them
in the abstract form it had received at the hands of Clarke and
Wollaston. But their own theory of human nature requires a principle
of harmony and co-ordination among the various impulses which they
were unable to give a satisfactory account of. It may seem, however,
that the idea of the development of man with which we are now
familiar, may enable us to overcome the difficulties which formerly
appeared insurmountable--showing the unity of human nature, and the
tendency of its activity. The general course of evolution, to which
all life has been subject, is thought to have brought about a harmony
between individual and social feelings, as well as between individual
and social interests, and thus to have removed the obstacles in
the way of founding morality on the basis of Naturalism. It is,
therefore, of importance to examine with care the ethical bearings of
the theory of evolution.

FOOTNOTES:

[69] "The very idea of an interested pursuit necessarily presupposes
particular passions or appetites; since the very idea of interest or
happiness consists in this, that an appetite or affection enjoys its
object."--Sermons, Pref.; cf. Serm. xi.

[70] Phil., 31 ff.; cf. Gorg., 495 f.; Rep., ix. 585.

[71] Cf. Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, I. iv. 2, 3d ed., p. 44.

[72] Herbart, Psychologie als Wissenschaft, § 104, Werke, vi. 74;
cf. Waitz, Lehrbuch der Psychologie als Naturwissenschaft, § 40, p.
418: "It is not difficult to recognise the basis of desire in the
presentations brought forward by reproduction, and, at the same time,
held back by an inhibition."

[73] With Herbart's doctrine may be compared Mr H. Spencer's view
of the genesis of feeling and voluntary action, Principles of
Psychology, 2d ed., part iv. chaps. viii. and ix.

[74] Cf. note to James Mill's Analysis, ii. 383 f.

[75] The Senses and the Intellect, 3d ed., p. 344; cf. Mental and
Moral Science, pp. 90, 91.

[76] "If there be any principles or affections in the mind of man
distinct from self-love, that the things those principles tend
towards, or the objects of those affections are, each of them in
themselves eligible to be pursued upon its own account, and to be
rested in as an end, is implied in the very idea of such principle or
affection."--Butler, Sermons, Pref.

[77] Inquiry concerning Virtue, II. i. 3.

[78] Ibid., II. ii., conclusion.

[79] System of Moral Philosophy, i. 99.

[80] Sermons, xi.

[81] Kritik der bisherigen Sittenlehre (1803), p. 54.

[82] Inquiry, II. i. 3.

[83] Inquiry, II. i. 3; II. ii. 2.

[84] Ibid., II. i. 1.

[85] "What is Reason but that sagacity we have in prosecuting any
end? The ultimate end proposed by the common moralists is the
happiness of the agent himself, and this certainly he is determined
to pursue from instinct. Now may not another instinct towards the
public, or the good of others, be as proper a principle of virtue as
the instinct toward private happiness?"--Hutcheson, Inquiry, p. 115.

[86] Cf. System, i. 97; Inquiry, p. 124.

[87] Inquiry, p. 124.

[88] Ibid., p. 106.

[89] Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections,
with Illustrations on the Moral Sense (1728), p. xix.

[90] Cf. Inquiry, p. 140 ff.

[91] Introduction to Moral Philosophy, translated from the Latin, 2d
ed., 1753, p. 43; cf. Essay on the Passions and Affections, &c., p.
128.

[92] System, i. 58.

[93] System, i. 53.

[94] Ibid., i. 59.

[95] System, i. 59.

[96] System, i. 97.

[97] System, i. 93.

[98] System, i. 68 ff. With this may be compared the elaborate
classification of motives, according to their moral quality, in Dr
Martineau's 'Types of Ethical Theory,' ii. 176 ff.

[99] System, i. 50.

[100] Sermons, Pref.

[101] Although it is not "at all doubtful in the general, what course
of action this faculty or practical discerning power within us,
approves.... It is ... justice, veracity, and regard to the common
good."--Dissertation on Virtue.

[102] Sermons, ii. iii.

[103] Sermons, iii. v.

[104] Ibid., xi.

[105] Cf. Jodl, Geschichte der Ethik, i. 192.



PART II.

THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION.


CHAPTER V.

THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF MORALITY.


[Sidenote: 1. General characteristics of the theory of evolution:]

To relinquish the individualistic theory of ethics does not
necessarily imply a recourse to evolution. It may still be possible
to rest the foundation of ethics on the state, without that view of
the growth of the community and of its connection with the individual
which the theory of evolution involves. This, as has already been
pointed out, was, in part, what Bentham did; while an attempt--in
some respects more elaborate still--to deduce morality from society
was made by Hobbes. The theory of Bentham, and of his successor
Professor Bain, is indeed partly individualistic, partly social.[106]
In the former reference, ethics becomes a theory of prudence; in
the latter, a part of legislation. With Hobbes, on the other hand,
the identification of individual and social interests is supposed
to be brought about by the absolute necessity, in order to personal
security, of a supreme political power, into the hands of which all
men have agreed to transfer their rights to all things. But both
Hobbes and Professor Bain might have avoided obvious difficulties had
they had the theory of evolution to assist them, and had they thought
themselves justified in making use of it.[107] For want of it the
former has to explain morality and its binding force by means of the
fiction of an "original contract"; while the latter has to account by
the associations of a few years for the harmony of feeling between
the individual and the whole, and for the good of the community
coming to be so faithfully reflected in the consciences of its
members. The theory of evolution, by its doctrine of the hereditary
transmission of acquired modifications, gives a scientific basis for
this existing solidarity between man and society.

The great consensus of opinion amongst those who are best qualified
to judge--amongst those who alone are qualified to judge--may be
regarded as having established the claim of the theory of evolution
to give the most satisfactory account of all forms of natural life.
And it may seem only advancing the theory a step further, or only
developing one of its applications, to make it yield a complete
explanation of human nature, mental as well as physical. If ethics,
then, is to be founded on a "natural" basis, no theory would seem to
be complete which leaves evolution out of account.

[Sidenote: an assertion of the unity of life;]

In general, the theory of evolution is an assertion of the unity of
life, or, in its widest form, of the unity of existence. Progressive
modifications and hereditary transmission of such modifications
are, it is contended, sufficient to explain the different forms
and species which life now manifests. The assumption is specially
discarded that there are fixed differences between kinds of living
things making it impossible for them all to have developed from
simple germs, originally of like constitution, which have, in the
course of time, become more heterogeneous and complex, and so given
rise to the wealth of organic life. But this general doctrine, held
(wholly or in part) in modern times by Kant, Wolff, and Lamarck,
needed to be supplemented by a definite view of the way in which
the progressive modifications took place; and this required to be
established as a really operative cause, before evolution could
receive scientific proof. This more special element of the theory
was Darwin's contribution to the subject. Evolution, he showed,--and
herein consists his theoretical advance on Lamarck,--has taken place
by the "natural selection" of organisms, so modified as to fit them
for survival in the struggle for existence. Organisms in which
advantageous modifications have been produced tend to survive, and
to transmit their modified structure to descendants, while organisms
in which such modifications have not been produced, are less able to
preserve their life and to hand it on to successors. Older types, it
is true, remain, but only in circumstances in which their continued
existence does not seriously interfere with the organisms which, in
the struggle for life, have developed a structure better suited to
their environment: when more perfect and less perfect forms cannot
exist together, only the better adapted survive.

[Sidenote: in first instance, historical;]

[Sidenote: but implies a teleological aspect, which may have ethical
consequences.]

The theory of evolution is thus primarily the history of an order of
sequent facts and relations. It is an account of the origin or growth
of things, which attempts to explain their nature and constitution
by showing how they have come to be what they are. But, in so doing,
it naturally reveals the method and tendency of this order. And it
is by means of this its teleological aspect that we see how it may
be possible for it not merely to trace the development of historical
facts, such as the feelings and customs of men, but at the same
time to make a more real contribution to ethics by pointing out the
course of action to which human nature is adapted. It does not,
like the old teleology, attempt to show that each thing has been
formed with the design of subserving some particular purpose. On the
contrary, it reverses this way of looking at things. The fitness of
an organism to fulfil any definite end comes to be regarded as the
result not of a conscious design, independent of the environment, but
of the modifications produced on the organism through the necessity
laid upon it by its surroundings of adapting itself to them or
else disappearing. What the theory does show is, that adaptation
to environment is necessary for life, and that organisms unable to
adapt themselves pass away. Adaptation to environment will thus be
implied in, or be an essential means towards, self-preservation
and race-preservation, self-development and race-development. And
should this preservation or development be looked upon as the end of
conduct, the adaptation to environment it implies may help to define
and characterise the end.

Again: when an organism adapts itself to its environment, it does so
by some modification being produced in its structure corresponding
to the modified function required by the conditions of life. In this
way, one organism increases in complexity in a certain direction,
while another organism, in different circumstances, also develops
a more complicated structure, though one of a different kind. Thus
organisms, alike to begin with, become heterogeneous in nature
through exposure to different surroundings. At the same time, by
constant interaction with their environments, they become more
definite and coherent in structure. Incipient modifications are
developed and defined in different ways by different circumstances,
and the parts of a living being are brought into closer reciprocal
relations, and thus welded into a coherent organic whole. This
is what Mr Spencer means when he says that evolution implies a
transition from "an indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a definite
coherent heterogeneity":[108] the whole process being interconnected
in such a way that these different aspects of it--definiteness,
coherence, heterogeneity--increase together and imply one another. By
this the inference would appear to be suggested that, if conduct is
to harmonise with the conditions of evolution, this characteristic
feature of it must be recognised in the ethical end.

[Sidenote: Distinction of its historical and ethical aspects.]

In saying this, I am perhaps anticipating results. But it is well to
show at the outset how the essentially historical inquiry carried
out by the evolutionists may suggest conclusions which are ethical
in their nature. To some, indeed, it will appear superfluous to have
spent even a sentence in suggesting a _primâ facie_ case for the
ethical importance of evolution. If there is one subject more than
another, it may be thought, which has secured a place for itself in
the scientific consciousness of the day, it is the evolution-theory
of ethics. Without question, the phrase has been received into the
scientific vocabulary; but there is a good deal, even in the official
literature on the question, to make one doubt whether it is always
used with a distinct conception of its meaning. When reference is
made to the "ethics of evolution," no more is sometimes meant--though
a great deal more should be meant--than an historical account of the
growth of moral ideas and customs, which may provide (as Mr Stephen
expresses it) "a new armoury wherewith to encounter certain plausible
objections of the so-called Intuitionists." This, however, would only
affect the ethical psychology of an opposed school. The profounder
question still remains, What bearing has the theory of evolution,
or its historical psychology and sociology, on the nature of the
ethical end, or on the standard for distinguishing right and wrong in
conduct? The answer to this question will be the "reconstruction"
and "deeper change" which Mr Stephen holds to be necessary.[109] It
is the ambiguity of the subject--or rather its twofold range--which
has made the application of evolution to ethics look so obvious,
and made a discussion of the easier question frequently do duty
for a solution of the more difficult. The ethical writings of the
evolutionists, indeed, often confuse the problems of history and
theory in a way which presents the same difficulty to the critic as
the works of the corresponding school in jurisprudence. In both, the
writers seem disinclined fairly to put to themselves the question as
to the kind of subjects to which so fruitful a method as that which
has fallen into their hands is appropriate: what its conditions are,
and whether it has any limits at all. Every one is now familiar with
the evils of hypothetical history, and with the iniquity of the
proverbial philosophic offence of constructing facts out of one's
inner consciousness. The historical jurists deserve no little credit
for the thoroughness with which this has been enforced by them;
perhaps, too, the same lesson may be learned from the facts of the
development of morality. But it may be questioned whether we are
not at the present time more apt to confuse fact and theory in the
opposite way: whether the science of law is not sometimes lost sight
of in the history of legal institutions, and ethics in danger of
being identified with the development of moral sentiments and customs.

We may naturally expect the theory of evolution to throw light on
such questions as the growth of moral feelings and ideas, and of
the customs and institutions in which morality is expressed and
embodied. But to show the process morality has passed through in
the individual mind and in society still leaves the question as to
the end of conduct unanswered. It is necessary, therefore, to keep
clearly before us the distinction between the historical and the
ethical problem, if we would successfully attack the subject of the
bearing of the theory of evolution on this fundamental question of
ethics. To the theory of evolution we are indebted for the opening
up of a new field of investigation--the historical treatment of
conduct. But it is one thing to describe the way in which men have
acted in the past: to determine the end for their action now is quite
a different problem; and there is no reason why the distinction
should be overlooked. The interest which belongs to the history of
morality is not solely nor mainly due to its bearing on questions
beyond the historical sphere. That its results will not be without
relation--and that of an important kind--to questions of theory may
well be expected. But it can only tend to confusion if we treat the
development of morality, in the human mind and in society, from a
preconceived attitude--dogmatic or agnostic--towards the central
problem of ethics.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 2. The development of morality: (_a_) historical
psychology.]

The way in which the theory of evolution is applied to ethical
psychology is easy enough to understand in principle, though complex
and obscure in many of its details. We have only to postulate that
mental as well as bodily traits admit of modification, and that
modifications once produced can be transmitted to descendants,[110]
and it at once follows that sentiments and ideas leading to actions
which promote life will be encouraged and developed by natural
selection. Thus parental and filial feelings, once originated, may
have been developed through those families and tribes in which they
were strongest, presenting a more united, and therefore stronger,
front against hostile influences. The feelings of tribal sympathy
and patriotism, too, may have had a similar history. Those races in
which they were strongest would, other things being equal, obtain
the mastery over and exterminate other races in which they were
relatively weak. The compactness of the community would even be
promoted by that fear of the political and of the religious control
in which the feeling of obligation is said to have had its root.
In general, benevolence and sympathy amongst a people give it a
solidarity from which it derives a stronger position, so that in turn
the benevolent and sympathetic feelings gain free scope to develop
and expand.

[Sidenote: Its difficulties: the origin of new feelings,]

[Sidenote: and of the moral consciousness;]

But the working out of this theory is not without its own
difficulties. In the first place, the factor in the theory of
evolution which can be most clearly traced--the principle of natural
selection--is not itself a source of change or of the production
of new results. It is only the means by which advantageous changes
are preserved and disadvantageous changes passed by. The initiative
in these changes comes either from the unequal pressure of the
environment or from some tendency to vary in the organism itself.
Now, if we suppose certain moral relations and the feelings
corresponding to them to exist in a society, and to tend to greater
certainty and fulness of life on the part of those who possess them,
such relations and feelings will be favoured by the operation of
natural selection, and will gradually be assimilated into the tissue
of the social organism. But this does not account for the origin of
morality generally nor of any particular moral relation; it merely
shows how, having been somehow originated, it has naturally come
to persist. There are thus really two points to be considered in
tracing the development of moral ideas--the question of origin and
the question of persistence. The latter is accounted for by natural
selection; the former must be brought under the obscure laws of
variation, laws so obscure that variations in nature are frequently
spoken of as if they took place by chance. These two questions
are involved at each stage in the progress of morality. But it is
at the initial stage that the question of origin is of greatest
importance: when the attempt is made to show how, in the course of
time, and by the aid of purely physical and biological laws, feelings
and conduct, from being merely natural and reflex, have acquired a
moral character--when, in a word, the moral is being evolved out of
the non-moral. A difficulty comes to the front here which scarcely
arises when we are simply tracing the various phases through which
the moral consciousness has passed, and the various forms in which
moral conduct and feelings have expressed and embodied themselves.
The latter subject is obviously within the scope of the theory of
evolution, if that theory applies to the processes of the human mind
and society as well as to those of external nature. And, although
each stage involves a modification to be accounted for not by natural
selection, but by the laws of variation, yet the variation is within
facts of the same order, and creates no more difficulty than the
successive modifications of living tissue which have been implied
in the evolution of organic nature. But the transition from the
non-moral to the moral is a transition to a different order of facts
or--perhaps we should rather say--to a different way of looking at
facts, and should not be assumed to be a process of the same kind and
explicable by the same method of investigation as the passage from
one fact to the similar fact which immediately follows it. It may be
compared, perhaps, to the transition from the sphere of inorganic
matter to that of life. At the same time, it is frequently maintained
that we unduly limit the application of the law of evolution if we
deny its power to show how morality has developed out of customs
and institutions whose origin can be traced to purely natural or
non-moral causes. And, for present purposes, it is sufficient to have
pointed out that this does not necessarily follow from the admission
that evolution applies to mental and social processes as well as
to the facts of external nature. It is not my object to criticise
any doctrine of the development of morality; but, starting with the
position taken up with regard to it by the theory of evolution, to
inquire what conclusions it may lead to as to the end of action.

[Sidenote: the development of feelings apart from natural selection.]

A further difficulty has to be met by the theory of the development
of morality, which is in a sense complementary of the initial
difficulty encountered in differentiating the moral from the
non-moral. This further difficulty awaits it at a subsequent stage
of development when the extension and refinement of moral feeling
seem to have gone on in circumstances where there is no room for
natural selection to work. Thus it has been admitted that the feeling
of sympathy, and the habitual exercise of mutual good offices among
members of a community, strengthen that society, and make it fit to
prevail in the struggle for existence over other similar societies,
the members of which are not so much at one amongst themselves in
feeling and in act.

But as benevolence and sympathy widen, and become less closely
connected with a definite association of individuals, such as the
family or tribe, and there ceases to be a particular body to the
welfare of which these social feelings contribute, the operation of
the law of natural selection becomes less certain. This law only
tends to conserve and perfect the feelings in question, in virtue of
the fact that the associations to whose good they lead are successful
in the struggle for life over other associations the members of which
are not animated by like feelings. The one association lives and
expands, while the others are unable to maintain themselves against
the encroachments of their neighbours, and thus fall to pieces. The
law of natural selection, therefore, comes into play only when there
are competing organisms struggling against one another for the means
of subsistence and development. Not only is it the case, therefore,
that the sympathy which aids the weak who are unable to take care of
themselves, does not seem to be of the kind that would contribute
to success in the struggle for existence; but the more general and
catholic our sympathies are, the less will the law of evolution
help to preserve and develop them--because the less will they tend
to promote the welfare of one rival association rather than that of
another. Thus the growth of really unrestricted sympathy with men
as men cannot have been promoted in this way. The "enthusiasm of
humanity" which animated the early Christians, the self-renouncing
brotherhood of Buddha, the φιλανθρωπία (~philanthrôpia~) attributed
to men like Xenocrates[111] who had freed themselves from the
aristocratic prejudices of Athens, the "caritas generis humani" of
the Stoics,--such feelings as these could not have been encouraged,
any more than they could have been produced, by the operation of
natural selection. For, however much they tend to elevate the human
character, and to promote human happiness, they do not advance the
welfare of one body of men to the exclusion of some other competitor
in the struggle for existence.[112]

But, although the law of natural evolution cannot account, by
survival of the fittest, for any progress made by universal
benevolence, yet it may explain the value ascribed to the feeling
of benevolence, when its object is the family or the community.
Besides--as has already been pointed out--natural selection always
implies an initiative got from elsewhere: it does not itself produce
modifications; it only chooses out favourable ones and adds them
together when produced. It always implies an independent modification
of the organism; its part is to select the modifications best
fitted to promote life. Hence the mere fact of benevolence being
universalised is not in itself an anomaly on the theory of natural
selection, any more than is the fact of its being extended from the
family to the tribe. Only, the latter extension is one which it
perpetuates, the former is not. No aspect of the theory of evolution
seems able to account for an extension of the feeling of universal
benevolence among different people or throughout different societies.
This feeling has neither tended to promote the welfare of the race
animated by it to the exclusion of other competing races--for there
are no competing races whom it could affect--nor can it be shown that
it makes the individuals possessing it fitter to wage successful war
against opposing forces, than other individuals.[113]

[Sidenote: Its result: shows the social nature of the individual.]

Apart from such special difficulties, however, comparative psychology
has shed a new light on the mental structure of the individual.
The facts it brings forward show that the nature of the individual
man cannot be explained without taking into account the relations
in which he stands to society by birth, education, and business.
He is, from the first, surrounded by, and dependent upon, other
individuals, and by a set of established usages and institutions
which modify his life; and he is connected with these in such a way
that it is impossible to consider him as merely acted upon by them
and influencing them in turn. He has been produced by, and has become
a part of them. His physical and mental structure bears the marks of
the same influences as those by which his so-called environment has
been formed. He is cell in the "tissue" of which the body social
is composed. This was partly recognised, it is true, before the
theory of evolution had been elaborated. But the organic nature of
the social union is confirmed by that theory, and erected into a
scientific view of human life.

[Sidenote: (b) Development of society.]

Now the various sentiments which bring one man into mental union with
others act with greatest facility when men are connected with one
another by some definite mutual bond such as that which forms the
family, the clan, or the nation. The individual's feeling of sympathy
with his neighbours both promotes this social union and depends upon
it. But it is characteristic of the theory of evolution to put the
external aspect first--the social customs and institutions--and to
evolve from them the corresponding sentiments and ideas. Not word
or thought or power, it holds, is to be regarded as the origin of
morality: "Im Anfang war die That." The whole composed of these units
bound together by reciprocity of feeling and function is termed the
"social organism"; and what has been called moral sociology shows the
way in which the outward forms which express and embody morality have
grown up and become part of it.

In this connection, the theory of natural evolution traces the
process by which, from the rudimentary beginnings of society, the
members composing it have gradually become more coherent amongst one
another, related in definite ways instead of merely by chance, and
more differentiated in function. Certain rudimentary forms--such as
the family (in its rudest structure)--and the corresponding instincts
are presupposed. And from this basis the origin of institutions
and customs, political, religious, and industrial, is traced. In
developing these various customs and institutions, along with the
corresponding sentiments, the course of social evolution has had
the effect of gradually bringing out and cultivating those feelings
and tendencies in the individual which promote the welfare of the
organism, while other individual tendencies, hostile to social
welfare, have been repressed. Not sympathy and benevolence only,
but honesty, temperance, justice, and all the ordinary social
and personal virtues, may have their natural history traced in
this way--by showing how they have contributed to the life of the
individual, or of the society, or of both.[114] Through the operation
of purely natural laws, the wicked are "cut off from the earth,"
while the "perfect remain in it" and leave their possessions to their
children. This is an obvious result of natural selection. For those
communities are always fittest to survive in which each member, in
feeling and in act, is most at one with the whole. The _tendency_ of
evolution seems to be to produce not merely an ideal but an actual
identification of individual and social interests, in which each man
finds his own good in that of the state.

FOOTNOTES:

[106] The social basis of ethics is emphasised by Professor Bain in
his Practical Essays (1884), p. 155: "'How is society to be held
together?' is the first consideration; and the sociologist--as
constitution-builder, administrator, judge--is the person to
grapple with the problem. It is with him that law, obligation,
right, command, obedience, sanction, have their origin and their
explanation. Ethics is an important supplement to social or political
law. But it is still a department of law. In any other view it is a
maze, a mystery, a hopeless embroilment."

[107] Without denying that it is possible to apply the theory of
evolution to mind, Professor Bain holds that, as a fact, moral
sentiment has not become organic and hereditary--"that there are no
moral instincts properly so called."--The Emotions and the Will, 3d
ed., p. 56.

[108] First Principles, 4th ed., p. 380.

[109] Science of Ethics, p. vi.

[110] It would seem that the transmission of mental qualities only
takes place in the form of modified physical structure (cf. G. H.
Lewes, Problems of Life and Mind, 1st series, i. 164). But, if we
regard it as established that every mental change has a structural
modification corresponding to it, the possibility of mental evolution
and inheritance presents no new difficulty.

[111] Ælian, V. H., xiii. 30.

[112] If conscience has no other function than that assigned to it by
Clifford, Lectures and Essay, ii. 169, "the preservation of society
in the struggle for existence," then it can never reach universal
benevolence or prescribe "duties towards all mankind."

[113] A difficulty of another kind is suggested by Professor
Bain, who holds that the "pleasure of malevolence" is not only a
real element in the human constitution, but greater than would be
naturally called forth by the conditions and course of development.
"It is remarked by Mr Spencer," he says, "that it was necessary for
the progress of the race that destructive activity should not be
painful, but on the whole pleasurable. In point of fact, however,
the pleasure of destruction has gone much beyond what these words
express, and much beyond what is advantageous to the collective
interest of animals and of human beings alike. The positive delight
in suffering has been at all stages too great."--The Emotions and
the Will, p. 66. So far from adopting this argument, however, I must
confess myself still amongst the unconvinced regarding the "pleasure
of malevolence."

[114] This subject is carefully discussed in Mr Stephen's 'Science of
Ethics.'



CHAPTER VI.

EVOLUTION AND ETHICAL THEORIES.


[Sidenote: Bearing of the theory of evolution on previous ethical
theories.]

Before going on to inquire into the positive contributions to
ethics which the theory of evolution has to offer, it is necessary
to consider the relation it bears to the preceding individualistic
systems of morals. It was by way of investigations in psychology and
in the theory of society, that it first began to influence ethical
thought. And, at first sight, it appeared to come as a natural ally
of one of the opposed schools, dreaded by the side it opposed,[115]
welcomed with open arms by that favoured with its friendship. But
since the first shock of pained and pleased surprise, there have
been rumours of dissension in the allies' camp; and the distribution
of parties has now become a matter of difficulty. The doctrine of
evolution, first seized upon for rebutting the arguments of the
intuitional moralists, has been found to transform rather than to
destroy their system; and the utilitarianism in whose interests the
new controversial weapon was employed, seems to have been subjected
to a parallel process of transformation. The bearing of evolution on
egoism may appear to be even more fundamental. For the inheritance
by an individual of the qualities acquired by his ancestors may be
thought to establish scientifically the theory of the unity of the
race, and, in doing so, to make the selfish system of conduct an
anachronism.

[Sidenote: 1. On theories depending on moral sentiment or intuition.]

It is not necessary to examine at any length the application of
evolution to the theories which construct ethical principles on the
basis of moral sentiment, because these theories have been found
either to resolve themselves into a subtle form of egoistic hedonism,
or else to rest their ethical system on a teleological conception,
which transcends the "naturalistic" view of man. Evolution has its
own explanation to give of the seemingly intuitive character of moral
ideas--showing how their immediate necessity for the individual of
the present day may be reconciled with their empirical origin in the
mental history of the race. It attempts thus to supplant both egoism
and intuitionism by the same doctrine of the organic union between
individuals.

The phenomena of conscience and the moral sentiments had been brought
forward to show that the origin of morality was independent of the
experience of the pleasurable or painful results of action: that
certain actions and traits of character were immediately approved
and pronounced to be right by the individual conscience, and certain
others as inexplicably but infallibly disapproved and pronounced to
be wrong. This phenomenon of moral approbation or disapprobation had
indeed been thought by some--as has been already seen--to be only
a special feeling of pleasure or pain. Even as such, however, it
pointed to a peculiar harmony or sympathy between the feelings of
the individual and the fortunes of society. For the pleasure or pain
of the individual was seen to be excited by actions and dispositions
which might be shown to involve the common interests, but were
without relation to his own.

[Sidenote: Origin and history of moral sentiments and intuitions
traced by evolution.]

Even on the "empirical" interpretation of them, such facts of the
individual mind were in need of explanation; and the theory of
evolution has taken in hand to show how the pre-established harmony
grew up. The results of this explanation are, of course, not put
forward as explaining the facts away, or depriving them of reality,
but as enabling us to see their true place and bearing in the
economy of human nature. In tracing the origin and history of the
"altruistic" and "moral" sentiments of the individual, the theory of
evolution has this end in view. It offers--so it is often said--terms
of compromise between the "intuitional" and the "empirical"
psychology of morals. It will admit the immediate and intuitive
character in the individual of the sentiments which older empiricism
had tried to make out to be composite, growing up in each person out
of the materials afforded by his environment, and the experiences
to which he was subjected. The theory of evolution contends for an
empiricism on a larger scale, which will more closely connect the
individual with the race, and both with their environment.

[Sidenote: Bearing of this on their validity:]

The question thus arises, What bearing has this psychological or
"psychogonical" theory on the ethical validity of moral intuitions
and sentiments? It certainly does not follow that they are of no
moral value, merely because their origin can be traced to simpler
elements of experience. They would lose ethical importance only if
it were first of all shown that their validity depended on their
not being derived from, or compounded out of, other elements. As
Professor Sidgwick says, "Those who dispute the authority of moral or
other intuitions on the ground of their derivation, must be required
to show, not merely that they are the effects of certain causes,
but that these causes are of a kind that tend to produce invalid
belief."[116]

But what the theory of evolution has to determine with regard to
moral intuitions or sensibilities would seem to be not so much their
ethical validity or invalidity, as the range and manner of their
ethical application. It attempts to show that particular moral
beliefs or feelings have been originated and formed by certain
external customs belonging to the conditions of social or family
life. These customs have impressed themselves upon the mental
structure, and reappear in the individual in the shape of organic
tendencies to certain actions, or classes of actions, and of aversion
to other actions, accompanied by a corresponding mental sentiment--or
judgment--of approbation or disapprobation. Thus the individual
comes instinctively to feel--or to judge,--"A ought to be done," "B
ought not to be done." Now the evolutionist, as I conceive, does
not proceed to infer that such judgments are invalid because he has
shown how they originated--does not conclude (to use Mr Sidgwick's
words) that "_all_ propositions of the form 'X is right' or 'good,'
are untrustworthy;" but he does ask in what way the history of these
judgments affects their application.[117]

[Sidenote: (_a_) different social conditions from which they may have
resulted,]

(_a_) He recognises, in the first place, that all such judgments are
the natural result of a certain social condition, and that there
is, therefore, some probability that the same kind of social state
could not continue to exist were those moral judgments habitually
disregarded in conduct. They have resulted from a certain state
of society, and have been assumed--after insufficient experience,
perhaps--to be required for the stability of that state, so that
every action opposed to these moral judgments will probably tend
to weaken social bonds. But the evolutionist's conclusions are not
restricted to such generalities. He may show that certain moral
judgments or sentiments have had their origin from the habits of
union between individuals, and of respect for the rights of property,
which have obtained in every relatively permanent society, and which
may therefore be inferred to be probably necessary for the continued
existence of any community; that certain other sentiments or
intuitions have descended to present individuals from customs which
have not been so universal in the history of societies, although the
communities possessing them have shown greater power of vitality
than those in which they were absent; while others, again, may be
traced to institutions which, from their occasional and unprogressive
character, may be shown to be neither necessary nor beneficial.

[Sidenote: and consequent difference in their value for conduct;]

The evolutionist will therefore contend that different degrees
of value for the regulation of conduct belong to different
moral intuitions or classes of them. If one class is habitually
disregarded, he may assert that historical evidence goes to show
that society will fall to pieces, and the life of man become, in
the expressive words of Hobbes, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and
short." The disregard of another class will probably lead to a more
precarious existence, or one less filled with the experiences which
make up life; while opposition to a third class, so far from being
hurtful or dangerous, may remove unnecessary restrictions, and aid
the development both of the individual and of society.

[Sidenote: (_b_) their organic character.]

(_b_) There is a second point which will also be recognised by the
evolutionist. Although these intuitions have been derived, they
are now organic, and their disappearance from the human mind as
instinctive tendencies towards or against action can only be slow
and painful. The process must involve a certain amount of loss: at
the same time, it is not a process that can be easily avoided. As
soon as the reason of the instinctive tendency is inquired into, it
is weakened as instinct. We pass from the action itself to the end
it is fitted to subserve; and, if the instinctive action is not the
most appropriate, or has hurtful results, we have already reached the
stage in which the instinct is checked, and begins to yield to action
directed by a principle. Yet it dies out only gradually, and, so to
speak, after a struggle. Nor does it seem possible to assert with
confidence, as mitigating this struggle, that the strongest impulses
will always be those which are necessary or advantageous to the
existence of society. For it is a common experience that the moral
intuitions which lead to conduct that has ceased to serve a purpose,
and the internal sanctions which follow disregard of them, are often
even more powerful than those which protect such virtues as justice
or veracity.

[Sidenote: Resultant attitude of evolutionism to intuitionism.]

From the preceding argument it follows that it cannot be held that
moral intuitions are invalid because evolved. The evolutionist
will certainly go very far wrong, as Mr Sidgwick points out, if
he maintains that a "general demonstration of the derivedness
or developedness of our moral faculty is an adequate ground for
distrusting it." Instead of holding that, if we succeed in tracing
the origin of an intuition, it is thereby discredited, he will admit
that the mere fact of our possessing any moral intuition shows that
the habits of action from which it was derived have been permanent
enough to leave their traces on the mental structure, and that the
conduct to which it leads, like the custom from which it came, will
not destroy society, but, on the contrary, will probably tend to its
permanence. The general attitude of the evolution-theory to moral
intuitions is therefore, after all, very similar to that which Mr
Sidgwick has reached as a result of his elaborate examination of
the maxims of common-sense. It is an attitude of trust modified by
criticism. In both an appeal is made from the axioms themselves: in
the one case, to their historical genesis and the facts in which
they originated; in the other, to the searching test of logical
consistency, and their capability of being applied to conduct. But
the theory of evolution, if it succeeds in tracing the origin of our
moral intuitions, does seem to involve the abandonment of the old
intuitional method which accepted them as rules of conduct from which
no appeal could be taken.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 2. Bearing of the theory of evolution on egoism.]

The theory of evolution transforms intuitionism by the way in which
it connects the individual with the race. Its first effect upon
egoism is similar. The nature of the individual man as now exhibited
is widely different from that which the older individualistic theory
used to deal with. The latter is typified by the marble statue
to which Condillac[118] compares the percipient subject, as yet
unaffected by sense-impressions. The variety of mental life which
is actually met with is accounted for by the different kinds of
experiences different men pass through; and the consequent difference
in the sources of pleasure and pain accounts for the diverse lines of
activity which human beings follow out. But the theory of evolution
shows that human nature is infinitely varied, not only through the
variety of circumstances, but through the variety of inherited
dispositions. One individual is not merely connected with others
through considerable similarity of experience built upon an equally
characterless basis; but he is organically related to all the members
of the race, not only bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh,
but mind of their mind. He is connected with others by a thousand
subtly interwoven threads of emotion which enter into his life, and
unite his desires and activities with the functions of the larger
organism of which he is a member.

[Sidenote: Relation of egoism to altruism as affected by it: (_a_)
nature of the individual social,]

[Sidenote: but not completely social.]

The theory of evolution has thus an important contribution to make
to the question of the relation between egoism and altruism. It
has remained for it to show historically how the individual is so
connected with the community that the good, or the pleasure, of the
one cannot be considered apart from that of the other. From the
non-evolutionist point of view it was always open to show how the
individual depended on society, how his wants could only be supplied
by it, and how the security and happiness of every one were bound up
with those of his fellows. The individualistic theory was thus able
to give all sorts of egoistic reasons why people should indulge in
what is now called altruistic conduct. Self was seen to be "a poor
centre for a man's actions," and only chosen by the short-sighted
person, who thereby missed both the good to himself that followed
from his neighbours' wellbeing, and the peculiar pleasure of sympathy
and benevolent action. But the theory of evolution has shown how the
two things have developed together in the race: first, the actual
solidarity between the individual and the whole; and secondly, the
subjective reflection of the same fact, sympathy with the feelings
of others. When we ask, therefore, whether it is our own pleasure
(or good) or that of others that we ought to aim at, we are pointed
to the gradual obliteration of the distinction between the interest
and feelings of the individual and those of the whole. Were this
completely accomplished, there need be no more question about the
matter. If conduct with an egoistic motive or aim always resulted
in altruistic equally with egoistic effects, and if altruistic
conduct had always egoistic equally with altruistic consequences,
it would even then be little more than vain subtlety to ask whether
egoism or altruism was to be the real end of conduct. But if, in
addition to the identity of interests, there were also an identity
of motive or feeling,[119] the question would be no longer in place
at all. For there would cease to be either a subjective distinction
in motive between egoism and altruism, or an objective distinction
in the courses of conduct to which they led. And it is just because
this identification is manifestly incomplete--because neither the
interests nor the desires of the individual harmonise with any degree
of exactness with those of his fellows--that we must examine how far
the conception of the social organism is a true expression for the
connection of individuals.

[Sidenote: Difference between the individual and social organisms]

At most, the theory of organic evolution can make out that there
is a tendency towards the identification of the interests of the
individual with those of society. It cannot demonstrate a complete
identification. The community has indeed been called an organism,
and the individual spoken of as a cell in the tissue of which it is
composed; but we must avoid pressing this analogy to the point of
breaking. Among so many points of similarity between society and an
individual organism, there is one essential distinction,--the social
organism has no feelings and thoughts but those of its individual
members--the conscious centre is in the unit, not in the whole;
whereas, when we regard the individual organism and its constituent
members, consciousness is seen to exist only in the whole, not in
each several unit. The absence of a "social sensorium"[120] should,
therefore, make us hesitate to identify the ends of individual with
those of collective action. Every cell in the individual body has
a life-history of its own, besides partaking of the life of the
organism; and, did it possess the reason which "looks before and
after," it might probably adopt an egoistic attitude, and object to
the subordination of its private interests to the good of the whole.
In the same way, the many individual lives which make up the social
organism--since each of them possesses a separate consciousness--are
apt to disregard the life of the larger whole whose members they are.
Now what the theory of utilitarianism requires is, that the happiness
or pleasurable consciousness of the community or of the race, not
that of the individual, be made the end; and those who make egoism
the end of ethics, commonly maintain that the general happiness is
the end of politics.[121] The individual is not indeed required to be
entirely unselfish or "altruistic" in action. He is not altogether
forbidden to seek his own things, nor enjoined to seek only the
things of others; and evolutionist utilitarianism, indeed, would tell
him to seek his own happiness in the happiness of the community. But
the obvious remark must be borne in mind, that society, the social
organism, cannot experience happiness. However it may resemble the
individual organism in the manner of its growth, the modes of its
activity, and even its relation to its component members, yet it
cannot feel pleasure or pain as an individual does. The "happiness of
the community" does not mean the happiness of the social organism,
but is only a concise formula for the aggregate happinesses of the
individuals composing it.

[Sidenote: in respect of feeling.]

When it is said, therefore--either as a political or an ethical
theory--that the happiness of society is the end for conduct, the
end prescribed is altruistic rather than social. Its object is not
an organism, but an aggregate of individuals. A certain organisation
of society may lead to an increase in this aggregate happiness, and
so be necessary for the attainment of the end; but if the end is
happiness, the social organism and its wellbeing are no longer the
thing cared for, but the greatest aggregate of pleasures on the part
of its members.

[Sidenote: Theory of obligation simplified, if universalistic end
arrived at.]

So long, therefore, as the end is pleasure, it must have reference
to individuals. The utilitarian may try to persuade the agent to
seek the pleasures of others as if they were his own--requiring
him thus to seek his end out of himself, and the circle of his own
pleasures. And, while we continue to hold pleasure to be the end,
the evolution-theory can go no further than this. It seemed to have
made out an organic unity between different individuals, through
which it might be possible to effect a reconciliation between the
rival ethical principles of egoism and altruism. But the feeling of
pleasure is just the point where individualism is strongest, and in
regard to which mankind, instead of being an organism in which each
part but subserves the purposes of the whole, must rather be regarded
as a collection of competing and co-operating units. It is true that
the social factor in the individual life is brought into scientific
cognisance by the theory of evolution. It shows the way in which
his interests and feelings depend upon others. And if, through the
influence of a political standpoint, or of some intuition of reason,
a universalistic ethics has been already arrived at, it can bring
forward the organic union of individual and society as a means of
enforcing the social end upon the individual agent. In this way the
theory of evolution makes a contribution to ethics at a critical
point where the individualist theory failed. For ethics must not rest
content with pointing out an end for conduct or standard of morality,
without giving a reason to the individual why he should make this
end his own--that is, developing a doctrine of obligation. In many
current theories, notably in the common forms of utilitarianism, the
two things are not necessarily connected, since the standard is fixed
from the point of view of the whole, and obligation has reference to
the individual. The development of morality may appear to show how
the two standpoints can be connected. If it could be made out that
the happiness of the community and of the individual are identical,
a standard of morality which made the aggregate happiness the end
might be regarded as carrying its own obligation within itself:
politics and ethics would (on the hedonistic theory) be harmonised.
And, in so far as evolution has brought the individual and society
into closer reciprocal dependence, it has lessened the practical
difficulty of bringing about this conciliation, or--to speak with the
utilitarians--of making the standard of morality supply a doctrine
of obligation. At present, however, the course of human development
is far from having reached the point at which actual harmony between
the race and each member of it is established; and it would therefore
still be a subject for inquiry whether the theory of evolution could
provide a basis for moral obligation, even were the moral standard or
the end for conduct satisfactorily established. But, in determining
this latter question, we find that the above psychological and
sociological investigations have no longer the same degree of value
as before. In the theory of obligation, every fact brought forward by
evolution to show the harmony of individual and social welfare makes
the way easier for establishing the reasonableness of the pursuit
of social ends by the individual. But from these facts of past
development we have also to determine an end for present and future
action. And this question cannot be solved merely by showing how
morality has developed, though that development may form an important
part of the evidence from which our conclusions are to be drawn.

[Sidenote: (_b_) Limits to complete conciliation of egoism and
altruism:]

[Sidenote: (α) continued existence of competition;]

The harmony of interests and the harmony of feelings required for
the empirical reconciliation of egoism and altruism is a condition
which needs only to be stated to show how far it is from being
realised in present circumstances. The constant struggle involved in
the course of evolution throws doubt even on its ultimate attainment.
The rule has always been that the better-equipped organism asserts
and maintains its supremacy only by vanquishing the organisms which
are not so well equipped. Conflict and competition have been constant
factors in development. The present circumstances of the individual
have been determined for him by the war of hostile interests between
different communities, and between different members of the same
community; and his mental inheritance has been largely formed by
the emotions corresponding to this rivalry. Perhaps the necessity
for conflict has diminished with the advance of evolution; but it
is still sufficiently great to make competition one of the chief
formative influences in industrial and political life. And the causes
from which the struggle of interests arises are so constant--the
multiplication of desires and of desiring individuals keeps so well
in advance of the means of satisfying desires--that it is doubtful
whether the course of evolution is fitted to bring about complete
harmony between different individuals. It would almost seem that the
"moving equilibrium" in human conduct, in which there is no clash of
diverse interests, cannot be expected to be brought about much before
the time when the physical factors of the universe have reached the
stage in which evolution ends.

[Sidenote: (β) different and conflicting degrees of altruism;]

Besides, it does not do to speak as if the only alternative to egoism
were a comprehensive altruism. Man is a member of a family, a tribe,
a nation, the race. His altruism, therefore, may take the narrow
form of family feeling, or it may extend to tribal feeling, or to
patriotism, or even rise to devotion to humanity. And these do not
merely supplement one another: they are often conflicting principles
of conduct. Action for the sake of the family may frequently be most
unsocial; the keen patriot ignores the rights of other peoples;
the "citizen of the world" is too often a stranger to the national
spirit. Further, when civilisation grows complex, the same man is a
member of many intersecting societies--a church, a trade, a party
organisation[122]--and has to balance the claims which each of
these has upon him. The sublation of egoism would still leave to be
determined the different shares which these various social wholes
have in a man's sympathies, and their different claims upon his
conduct.

[Sidenote: (γ) the altruism of interest and the altruism of motive;]

Any theory of society will show how the good of the individual is
not merely a part of the good of the whole, but reacts in various
ways upon the organism of which he is a member. But, in the case of
any one individual, the results of acts done for his own good (or
pleasure), and the results of those done for the good (or pleasure)
of the whole, do not correspond with any exactness, and often widely
diverge. If, then, the individual is consciously aiming at his own
good (or pleasure), it is--if we look from the point of view of
individualistic ethics--only an incidental and fortuitous result of
the action when it promotes the common good. When we recognise the
social factor in the individual, this judgment must be modified. The
evolution-theory shows how he has become so constituted that much
that pleases him individually, must of necessity benefit society at
large. But there are obvious limits to the harmony. The pleasure or
interest of the individual is often the reverse of advantageous to
society. It may be the case that in seeking his own private ends, he
is yet, to use the words of Adam Smith, "led by an invisible hand
to promote an end which was no part of his intention."[123] But,
if so, the end is invisible as well as the hand that points to it.
And the good of society can be said to be the natural and uniform
consequence of the individual's action, only when he consciously
makes it his end. In a word, the true altruism--or, as we might call
it, using a word appropriated to another purpose--the true socialism
is when the good of others or of society is pursued for its own
sake; and this is to be distinguished from the false or imperfect
altruism, in which the same outward result is aimed at, because it
is seen to be the most prudent way of promoting one's own good.
Thus Mr Spencer's elaborate argument[124] to show that conduct of
purely egoistic tendency, equally with conduct of purely altruistic
tendency, is insufficient and self-destructive, does not reach beyond
the external results of action, and leaves it possible for both end
and motive to be still egoistic. If "morality is internal,"[125]
the discussion proves no ethical proposition at all. The egoism of
external prudence may indeed be transcended by recognising that the
pleasures and pains of others are sources of sympathetic feeling
in ourselves. But a subjective or emotional egoism remains. And if
the fact that we "receive pleasure from the pleasure of another
man"[126] is our reason for seeking his pleasure, we shall cease to
seek it when a means of greater pleasure offers. In human life as at
present constituted, no secure principle of conduct can be based on
the agreement of individual with social good; for, if they diverge,
as they often do, there is no standard left for determining their
competing claims.

[Sidenote: (δ) altruistic feelings weak,]

It will not do to divide all men, as Mr Stephen seems to do,[127]
into two classes, typified by the reasonable and therefore
sympathetic man who has struck a bargain with society to take "common
stock of pains and pleasures," and the systematically selfish man
who "must be an idiot." For most men belong to neither of those two
classes: their bargain with society has not been fully completed, and
can be withdrawn from temporarily when circumstances make withdrawal
convenient, though this process cannot be carried on indefinitely
without greatly weakening the sympathetic feelings. The majority
of men are neither entirely sympathetic nor yet "systematically
selfish": they are unsystematically sympathetic and unsystematically
selfish. Such men have the sensibilities that give "leverage"
to the moralist.[128] But it is futile to tell them to be more
sympathetic, or entirely sympathetic. For sympathetic feelings cannot
be produced at will: they can only come with that slow modification
of the character brought about by conduct. Shall we then say that
a man should in all cases of conduct prefer the pleasure of the
whole or of others to his own pleasure? If a man were to do so,
then perhaps, by consistent self-abnegation, altruism might become
pleasant, and both the man himself and his descendants become
more sympathetically constituted? This perfection of altruistic
sympathies is looked forward to by Mr Spencer as characteristic of a
subsequent--the final--stage of evolution. When that period comes,
men will compete with one another for the few remaining opportunities
of self-sacrifice.[129] At present, Mr Spencer argues, pure altruism
is suicidal. The individual whose sympathetic nature is undeveloped
may, however, go further, and ask what right we have to say that "the
moral law" is "conformity to the conditions of social welfare,"[130]
rather than to those of individual welfare? Evolution, it would seem,
does not suffice to prove this proposition, which appears, on the
contrary, to be a survival of the social or political way of looking
at things inherited from the utilitarian theory. But the point to be
proved is why I ought to adopt this standpoint when considering what
the end of my action is to be. And this point stands in need of proof
here as much as in utilitarianism, and seems almost equally destitute
of it.

[Sidenote: and may be restrained by reflection.]

Feelings leading to altruistic conduct are undoubtedly possessed by
the average man at his present stage of development. Yet the being
who is able to reflect on the feelings possessed by him, and compare
the characteristics of different emotional states, and the activities
following from them, has already before him the possibility of
transcending them. He is able to estimate their value in terms of
simpler--or of other--feelings; and the man who rigorously does so by
the test of personal pleasure and pain manifests the spirit of the
egoistic hedonist--a spirit which the theory of empirical evolution
does not seem able to exorcise.

[Sidenote: (_c_) Tendency of evolution to supplant egoism. Evolution
not the basis of psychological hedonism,]

At the same time the _tendency_ of the evolution-theory is not to
support but to supplant egoism. Neither the basis of psychological
hedonism on which egoism is usually made to rest, nor the independent
arguments which have been urged for its ethical theory, are drawn
from the facts of development. The theory of evolution may, indeed,
be made to suggest that non-hedonistic action has arisen out of
hedonistic: "That all affections are generated by association
with experienced pleasure--only that the association is mainly
_ancestral_ in the case of 'affections' proper. The dim remembrance
of ancestral pleasures, the force of ancestral habit, produces that
propension of which Butler speaks, disproportionate to (distinct)
expectation and (personal) experience of pleasure."[131] But this
view will be rejected by the pure egoist,[132] who must maintain
that the pain of acting contrary to ancestral habit would in every
case be greater than the expected pleasure foregone by following
it. According to the view suggested, all deliberate volition would
still be regarded as hedonistically determined, though other motives
than pleasure may affect action through having been inherited
from cases of ancestral conduct in which they tended to personal
pleasure. Even were it shown, however, that altruistic conduct has
been developed out of egoistic, the fact of its development would
not alter its present characteristic. If action now is not always
moved by pleasure and pain alone, it becomes a question of merely
historical interest to trace its genesis to conduct to which our
ancestors were hedonistically impelled. The fact remains that the
original simplicity of motive has been broken into, and something
else than personal pleasure admitted to have sway. But it does not
seem to have been made out that action in the early stages of human
life was completely egoistic, any more than that it is so now. "From
first to last," as Mr Spencer puts it,[133] self-sacrifice seems to
have been involved in the preservation of each successive generation
of individuals. We inherit propensities to action which have been
evolved from an initial stage in which there was no conscious
distinction between egoism and altruism, though both tendencies
were present and were necessary for the continued existence of the
species. The feelings inherited by the egoistic hedonist are assessed
by him at their pleasure-value. But such feelings would never have
been acquired by his ancestors, had they tested each germinal emotion
in the same way, and so restrained self-sacrifice for offspring and
fellow-men. Perhaps they did not clearly see or realise what their
pleasure consisted in, or accurately distinguish it from family or
tribal welfare; but, through this deficiency of imagination, the
feelings were able to grow and perpetuate themselves, which have
tended to the preservation and consolidation of society.

[Sidenote: nor of ethical hedonism.]

Nor can we gather from evolution any ethical argument leading to
egoism as the principle or end for conduct; and it is worthy of
remark that the proof attempted by the late Mr Barratt is unaffected
by his recognition of the theory of evolution as applied to mind,
depending on definitions and axioms which hold (if at all) for
the individual man. Pleasure is defined by him as "that state of
consciousness which follows upon the unimpeded performance (as such)
of its function by one or more of the parts of our organism;"[134]
and the good is forthwith identified with pleasure, by its being
shown that it is a "state of consciousness," and that it "results
from the due performance of function (as such)."[135] But the
"due[136] performance of function" is itself a state or states
of consciousness; and in it, not in any sequent or concomitant
circumstances, the good may consist. The good, we may say, is not
pleasure, but the ἐνέργεια (~energeia~) of which pleasure is only the
consequent or completion. This is not a mere question of words. For
"due performance of function" cannot be measured by the resultant
or accompanying feeling of pleasure: the most perfect functioning,
just because it has become habitual, has often the slightest
accompaniment of pleasant feeling. The way in which the argument
is put in 'Physical Ethics' is thus well fitted to bring out the
fundamental antithesis between ethical systems according as they
place the good in the active element of function, or in the passive
element of pleasurable feeling which accompanies functioning. The
theory of evolution seems to have led many of the writers who have
applied it to ethics to the other side of the antithesis than that
adhered to by Mr Barratt. They recognise ethical value as belonging
to "due performance of function," rather than to the pleased states
of consciousness which follow; and in this way their theory leads
them beyond hedonistic ethics.[137]

[Sidenote: 3. Bearing of the theory of evolution on utilitarianism]

It has been argued that the theory of evolution is, in tendency,
hostile to the egoistic principle. Had egoism been consistently
recognised and acted upon during the course of human development,
the features of social life which most promote co-operation and
progress would never have become persistent. But the same objection
cannot be urged against universalistic hedonism. It is true that
this has not been the end consistently aimed at in the past. Those
from whom our social instincts are inherited cannot be credited with
having had either the general happiness or social evolution in view.
Society and institutions furthering the common good were not the
work of primitive utilitarians plotting for the greatest happiness
of the greatest number. They have come down to us from times when
social organisation was forced upon men by the rude logic of facts
which exterminated tribes in which the bond of union was weak;
and they have been gradually modified by the pressure of external
circumstances and the growing influence of mental conceptions of
what is best. But the adoption of general happiness as the end of
action would not have had the same effect on social evolution, as the
adoption of personal happiness as the end would have had. It would
have aided and not have hindered the growth of the feeling of unity
among the members of a tribe or state, as well as have led to the
recognition of the individual as subordinate to the social organism.
It may thus seem quite natural to look to utilitarianism as giving
the end for reflective action, and yet to hold along with it what is
loosely called the ethics of evolution.

[Sidenote: has led to its modification]

[Sidenote: in method,]

But this first attitude of evolution to utilitarianism was not fitted
to be permanent; and the "start"[138] Mr Spencer got on being classed
with anti-utilitarians must have been repeated in the experience
of other moralists as they found themselves drifting from their
ancient moorings. Mr Spencer's difference from the utilitarians is
not such as to lead him to reject or modify their principle. He
maintains, as strongly as they do, that "the ultimately supreme end"
is "happiness special and general."[139] But he disagrees with them
in method, holding that, owing to the incommensurability of a man's
different pleasures and pains, and to the incommensurability of the
pleasures and pains of one man with those of others, coupled with the
indeterminateness of the means required to reach so indeterminate an
end, happiness is not fitted to be the immediate aim of conduct.[140]
But another method is open to us. For "since evolution has been,
and is still, working towards the highest life, it follows that
conforming to those principles by which the highest life is achieved,
is furthering that end."[141] It is possible "to deduce, from the
laws of life and the conditions of existence, what kinds of action
necessarily tend to produce happiness, and what kinds to produce
unhappiness."[142] Greatest pleasure, that is to say, is the end. But
it is so impossible to compare different kinds of pleasure, different
people's pleasure, and different means for obtaining a maximum of it,
that it is not a practical end for aiming at. No doubt is expressed
that greatest happiness is the ultimate end; although no good reason
is given for holding that it is. But it is an indeterminate end, and
needs to be interpreted by the course of evolution which is held to
tend to it. It is not too much to say, therefore, that Mr Spencer is
only nominally a utilitarian. His ethical principles are not arrived
at by an estimate of the consequences of action, but by deduction
from the laws of that "highest life" which is now in process of
evolution. This alliance between evolutionism and hedonism will be
examined in the following chapter. At present it is necessary to
consider the reasons which have led other evolutionists to look upon
the new morality as superseding the utilitarian end.

[Sidenote: and in principle.]

[Sidenote: (_a_) Ideal of utilitarianism objected to as
unprogressive.]

Mr Spencer's "dissent from the doctrine of utility, as commonly
understood, concerns," he tells us,[143] "not the object to be
reached by men, but the method of reaching it." In other writers,
however, the theory of evolution has not only supplanted the method
of utilitarianism, but also led to a modification of its principle.
The objections they have taken to it may perhaps be summed up by
saying that they consider utilitarianism to look upon conduct
from a mechanical, instead of from an organic point of view. It
prescribed conduct to a man as if he were a machine with a certain
kind and quantity of work to turn out. His nature was looked upon
by it as fixed, and his social conditions as unvarying; and the
ideal set before him was therefore unprogressive--something that
he was to do or to get, not something that he was to become. "If
consistently applied," it has been recently argued, "utilitarianism
seems irrevocably committed to a stereotyped and unprogressive
ideal."[144] According to Mr Stephen, it "considers society to be
formed of an aggregate of similar human beings. The character of
each molecule is regarded as constant." It can, therefore, give a
test which is "approximately accurate" only, which does not allow
for the variation of character and of social relations.[145] To
the same effect Miss Simcox maintains that it "might pass muster
in a theory of social statics, but it breaks down altogether if we
seek its help to construct a theory of social dynamics."[146] These
writers do not seem to have made it quite clear, however, in what
way utilitarianism assumes a stationary condition of human nature,
and so formulates conduct in a way unsuited to a progressive state.
To say simply that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is
the end, is not in itself inconsistent with a progressive state of
human nature. It is true that, in all the enthusiasm for and belief
in progress to be seen in a writer such as J. S. Mill, there is a
constant goal always set to it in the possible maximum of pleasant
feeling. It would not have been inconsistent for him, however, to
look upon human nature as capable of developing new susceptibilities
for pleasure. Progress is made by increasing the amount of pleasure
actually got. And so far, the ideal itself is certainly fixed, while
progress consists in its gradual realisation. But there is no special
virtue in having an ideal which is itself progressive. A progressive
ideal simply means an ideal which is incompletely comprehended, and
the comprehension of which proceeds gradually with its realisation.
At any time the definition of such an ideal can only be tentative:
with the actual assimilation of character to it, the intellect comes
to grasp its nature with increasing clearness. I do not myself think
that we can expect to have more than such a tentative and progressive
comprehension of the moral ideal of humanity. But we must not take
objection to a theory because it gives at once a clear and definite
view of the final end of conduct: though we must not refrain from
inquiring how the end is known.

[Sidenote: Force of the objection when attempt made to interpret
greatest happiness,]

[Sidenote: by showing the way in which men can obtain happiness,]

But the bearing of the objection to utilitarianism becomes apparent
when we try to give some definite meaning to the end greatest
happiness. If we are content to receive it as simply a very
general--or rather abstract--expression for our ideal, nothing need
be said, except to put the question, which has been already asked,
How we came by such an ideal? The difficulty arises when we attempt
to apply the ideal to practice. With men of fixed character in an
unchanging society, our way might be comparatively clear. But,
when both character and social relations vary, and their variation
extends to susceptibility to pleasure and pain, and depends on the
actions adopted to obtain the end, utilitarianism may well appear
to be without a principle by which to determine between different
kinds of conduct. To an objection similar to this, but taken from the
old point of view, that we have no time before acting to sum up the
pleasurable and painful consequences of our actions, Mill replied
that there had been "ample time--namely, the whole past duration
of the human species"[147]--in which to estimate the felicific
results of conduct. The variability of faculty and function makes
this answer lack convincing power. Yet, perhaps, we are apt at
present to disregard the real value of this collective experience
of the race. True, human nature is not a constant; yet certain of
its qualities are persistent and constant enough not to leave us
in doubt as to whether, say, murder and theft are beneficial or
injurious to happiness. There are at least certain actions, and,
still more, certain abstentions, upon which human security--the basis
of happiness--depends. But it would seem that those "secondary laws"
may be more properly regarded as conditions of life than means to
pleasure.

[Sidenote: and a maximum of it.]

The difficulty, however, comes most clearly to the front when we
attempt to define the maximum, and that not for an individual or
generation only, but for the race. It is not happiness merely, but
greatest happiness, that is the utilitarian end. Is there any way,
then, of determining how the maximum of happiness is to be obtained
for generations whose characters, though inherited from present
individuals, may be modified almost indefinitely? The very existence
and numbers of these future generations are problematic; and Mill,
as is well known, spent much of his energy in trying to convince
the present generation to restrict the numbers of the next. Even on
the fundamental question as to whether happiness is to be obtained
by the restriction of desires or by the satisfaction which leads to
their recurrence and increase, no principle can be extracted from
utilitarian ethics. The theory of evolution has shown how desires
may be uprooted in the character of the race, though they remain to
the end in the present individuals; but in each case utilitarianism
would require us to sum up and estimate the relative advantages of
renunciation and satisfaction,--a problem which the modifiability of
human character seems to make impracticable. Thus, even if certain
rules of living may be ascertained, and justified by the utilitarian
principle, it would seem that the end of greatest happiness for
the race of man, or the sentient creation generally, must remain
"abstract." There seems no principle through which it may be applied
to conduct--no hope of an accurate estimate of results--when the
variability of the individual and of social relations is taken into
account.

[Sidenote: (b) Objection to utilitarianism as a theory of
consequences;]

Connected with this is the assertion that morality must have an
inward, not an external standard. The evolutionists are inclined
to condemn utilitarianism as a theory of consequences, dealing
solely with work produced. According to Mill, "utilitarian moralists
have gone beyond almost all others in affirming that the motive
has nothing to do with the morality of the action, though much
with the worth of the agent."[148] And this seems to be just what
evolutionism objects to. Even the worth of the agent is, according to
utilitarianism, only a tendency to perform the actions called moral:
"a good or a bad disposition" is said to be "a bent of character from
which useful or from which hurtful actions are likely to arise."[149]
Against this view Mr Stephen maintains that "the attempt to secure
an absolute and immutable moral law in its external shape must be
illusory. The moral law can be stated unconditionally when it is
stated in the form 'Be this,' but not when it is stated in the form
'Do this.'"[150] This, however, appears to express the matter in a
way not free from difficulty. The organic view of conduct will object
not only to considering action apart from character, but also to
considering character apart from action. We must treat conduct as a
whole: and, in order to do so, we must treat it as both arising out
of and forming character; and we must treat character not as mere
potentiality, but as it realises itself in conduct. The weakness of
the utilitarian theory is its method of treating actions merely in
respect of their results: the evolutionist must show how results are
connected with motives,--how character and conduct are different
aspects of a whole.

[Sidenote: (c) and as related solely to sensibility,]

[Sidenote: of which there is no common measure.]

The difference of the evolutionist view from utilitarianism comes
out at another point. The latter places the standard and test of
conduct in its effects on the sensibility. The best is that which
brings most pleasure. Utilitarians are now, for the most part, ready
to admit that, to be in earnest with their theory, they must reject
Mill's attempt to distinguish qualities among pleasures. "If morality
is to be defined by happiness, we must, of course, allow all kinds
of happiness to count, and to count equally so far as they are
actually equal. We must reckon the pleasures of malevolence as well
as those of benevolence."[151] Of his own pleasures--of the relative
amounts of pleasure he gets from various sources--each man is the
final judge. One man prefers "push-pin" to poetry, another poetry to
"push-pin"; and neither has a right to call the other mistaken. If
we are to aim at the greatest maximum pleasure, therefore, we must
not strive for what are commonly called "high" pleasures rather than
"low" pleasures, except as greater in intensity. If we must have a
standard, the judgment of the φρόνιμος (~phronimos~) for which Mill
contended must be superseded by the judgment of the average man. If
pleasure is the only end, and satisfaction is simply another name
for it, then it is plainly incorrect to say that "it is better to
be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be
Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied."[152] As has been urged
from the evolutionist point of view, "there is no common measure of
happiness to enable us to say that the more perfect being enjoys
more of it than the less."[153] There seems one way only in which
utilitarianism can bring its moral ideal into harmony with the
upward tendency claimed for itself by evolutionist ethics--and that
is, by maintaining that the pleasures incident to what are regarded
as the higher functions are the pleasures which excel others in
respect of "fecundity": they are the source of future pleasures,
and are frequently inexclusive even in their present enjoyment. The
difficulty in making this assertion is just that these "higher"
pleasures are but slightly appreciated by the majority of men, and
can hardly be said to be pleasures for them at all. But here the
theory of evolution, whose adherents have been acting the part of
the candid friend to utilitarianism, must come to its aid, and admit
that human nature may be so modified in the future as to allow of the
"highest" becoming also the "greatest" of pleasures. The argument in
the mouth of the utilitarian is perhaps a somewhat arbitrary one,
since it could be applied equally well to any class of pleasures.
The notion of "higher," as applied either to conduct or to pleasure,
has been accepted from current moral opinion. But the theory of
evolution has set itself to explain this notion, and to develop a
theory of morality in harmony with its own scientific positions, and
free from the defects which it has found in other systems. How far
it contributes to the determination of the ethical end will form the
subject of investigation in the following chapters.

FOOTNOTES:

[115] Cf. Miss Cobbe, in 'Darwinism in Morals, and other Essays'
(1872), p. 5.

[116] Methods of Ethics, III. i. 4, 3d ed., p. 211.

[117] Cf. Professor F. Pollock, "Evolution and Ethics"--Mind, i. pp.
335 ff. Apart from the bearing of a utilitarian test on inherited
instincts, to which Mr Pollock refers, I have tried to show what
meaning they will have for the evolutionist who judges them solely
from the point of view of his theory.

[118] Traité des sensations, Œuvres (1798), vol. iii.

[119] It is to a condition of this sort that a phrase such as
Clifford's "tribal self" (Lectures and Essays, ii. 111) would apply.

[120] Cf. Spencer, Principles of Sociology, i. 479.

[121] Cf. Barratt, "Ethics and Politics"--Mind, ii. 453 ff.

[122] Cf. Stephen, Science of Ethics, p. 113.

[123] Wealth of Nations, book iv. ch. ii.

[124] Data of Ethics, chap. xiii.

[125] Stephen, Science of Ethics, p. 155; cf. Spencer, Data of
Ethics, p. 120.

[126] Stephen, Science of Ethics, p. 226.

[127] Science of Ethics, p. 263.

[128] Cf. Ibid., p. 442.

[129] Data of Ethics, p. 253

[130] Science of Ethics, p. 349.

[131] F. Y. Edgeworth, Old and New Methods of Ethics (1877), p. 11.

[132] Cf. A. Barratt, Mind, iii. 280.

[133] Data of Ethics, chap. xii.

[134] Physical Ethics, p. 12.

[135] Ibid., p. 17.

[136] In the word "due" an idea of worth is involved. Probably
Mr Barratt meant by "due performance" one which made the faculty
correspond with its medium (cf. Physical Ethics, p. 9); but this
introduces a new standard of value.

[137] The transition involved in passing from "pleasure" to
"performance of function" or "life" as the end of conduct, may be
illustrated by the following passage from Mr Pater's 'Marius the
Epicurean' (1885, i. 163): "Really, to the phase of reflection
through which Marius was then passing, the charge of 'hedonism,'
whatever its real weight might be, was not properly applicable at
all. Not pleasure, but fulness of life, and 'insight' as conducting
to that fulness--energy, choice and variety of experience--including
noble pain and sorrow even--loves such as those in the exquisite
old story of Apuleius; such sincere and strenuous forms of the
moral life, as Seneca and Epictetus--whatever form of human life,
in short, was impassioned and ideal: it was from this that the
'new Cyrenaicism' of Marius took its criterion of values. It was a
theory, indeed, which might rightly be regarded as in a great degree
coincident with the main principle of the Stoics themselves, and a
version of the precept 'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with
all thy might'--a doctrine so widely applicable among the nobler
spirits of that time; and as with that its mistaken tendency would
lie in the direction of a kind of idolatry of mere life, or natural
gift or strength--_l'idolâtrie des talents_."

[138] "The note in question greatly startled me by implicitly
classing me with anti-utilitarians. I have never regarded myself as
an anti-utilitarian."--Mr Spencer's letter to J. S. Mill, printed in
Bain's Mental and Moral Science, p. 721.

[139] Data of Ethics, p. 173; cf. p. 30.

[140] Ibid., pp. 154, 155.

[141] Ibid., p. 171.

[142] Letter to J. S. Mill, in Data of Ethics, p. 57.

[143] Letter to J. S. Mill, in Bain's Mental and Moral Science, p.
721.

[144] J. T. Punnet, "Ethical Alternatives"--Mind, x. 95.

[145] Science of Ethics, p. 363.

[146] Natural Law: An Essay in Ethics (1877), p. 101.

[147] Utilitarianism, p. 34.

[148] Utilitarianism, p. 26.

[149] Ibid., p. 27 n.

[150] Stephen, Science of Ethics, p. 385.

[151] Ibid., p. 361.

[152] Mill, Utilitarianism, p. 14.

[153] Simcox, Natural Law, p. 101.



CHAPTER VII.

HEDONISM AND EVOLUTIONISM.


[Sidenote: 1. Alliance of evolutionism and hedonism effected in two
ways:]

The alliance between Evolutionism and Hedonism may be arrived at
from either of the two points of view which are being brought into
connection: may be either an attempt to bring the hedonistic end into
the definite region of law revealed by the evolution of life; or may
result from the endeavour to give clearness and persuasiveness to an
ethical end which evolution itself seems to point to.

[Sidenote: (_a_) greatest happiness to be obtained by conforming to
laws of life or of evolution;]

The former point of view is represented in Mr Spencer's rejection
of empirical utilitarianism, and substitution for it of a practical
end which is not enunciated in terms of pleasure. Happiness is still
regarded by him as the supreme end; but the tendency to it is not
to be adopted as the end in practical morality. There are certain
conditions to social equilibrium which "must be fulfilled before
complete life--that is, greatest happiness--can be obtained in any
society."[154] Thus the form of "rational utilitarianism" which he
endeavours to establish "does not take welfare for its immediate
object of pursuit," but "conformity to certain principles which,
in the nature of things, causally determine welfare."[155] Having
deduced "from the laws of life and the conditions of existence what
kinds of action necessarily tend to produce happiness, and what kinds
to produce unhappiness," we are to recognise these deductions "as
laws of conduct ... irrespective of a direct estimation of happiness
or misery."[156] The assumption is thus distinctly made that the
tendency of life is to happiness, and that the laws of its evolution
yield practical principles by following out which the greatest
happiness may be obtained, without attempting the impossible task of
estimating directly the felicific and infelicific results of conduct.

[Sidenote: (_b_) ethical end of evolution interpreted by pleasure.]

Starting with the evolutionist point of view, but with an opposite
estimate of the relative value for practice of the ends supplied by
evolutionism and by hedonism, a like identification of them might
seem advisable. The "increase of life" to which evolution tends
may be regarded as not merely an account of the actual process of
existence, but as a principle of action for a conscious being. In
this way some such ethical imperative as "Be a self-conscious agent
in the evolution of the universe"[157] may be formulated. Yet as
the "evolution of the universe" is a somewhat large conception,
and its laws are not clear to every one, it may seem necessary that
the end should be explained by translation into better-known terms.
And this may be done if the conduct which promotes life most is, at
the same time, the conduct which increases pleasure most. In this
way, although the ultimate end is life, or, in vaster phrase, "the
evolution of the universe," the practical end is pleasure. The moral
value of conduct will depend on its tendency to increase the balance
of pleasure over pain. The ethics of evolution will be reduced to
hedonism.

This way of determining the evolutionist end is put forward as
a logical possibility rather than as representing the views of
any party. The contribution which the theory of evolution has to
offer towards the determination of the ethical end, has not yet
received that definite expression which would justify our passing
by any logical interpretation of it, on the ground of its not
being actually adopted by ethical writers. Yet it would seem that
the above point of view is not altogether foreign to evolutionist
morality. The preservation or development of the individual--or of
the race--which is put forward as an expression both for the actual
course of evolution and the subjective impulse corresponding to it,
is often assumed to agree at each step with the desire for pleasure,
and, when the stage of reflective consciousness is reached, to be
identical with the pursuit of a maximum of pleasure.[158] In this
way it is assumed that the preservation and development of life tend
always to pleasure, and that the end or tendency of evolution is
being fulfilled when the greatest pleasure is wisely sought. It is
therefore necessary to inquire how far the correspondence between
life and pleasure, or between development and pleasure, actually
holds, that we may see whether it is possible for the one to take the
place of the other in determining the end for conduct.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 2. Evolutionist argument for concomitance of life and
pleasure.]

Now it is argued, from the point of view of evolution, that, taking
for granted that pleasure motives action, the organisms in which
pleasurable acts coincided with life-preserving or health-promoting
acts must have survived in the struggle for existence at the
expense of those organisms whose pleasurable activity tended to
their destruction or to the hindrance of their efficiency.[159] The
assumption in this argument, in addition to the constant postulate
of natural selection, is simply that pleasure is a chief motive of
action; the conclusion to which it leads is, that there is a broad
correspondence between life-preserving and pleasurable acts--that the
preservation and development of life are pleasurable. It is necessary
to examine with care the validity of this important argument with
reference to the attacks that may be made on it from the pessimist
point of view; and, if its doctrine of the correspondence of life
and pleasure is not entirely erroneous, to inquire further whether
this correspondence can be made to establish an end for conduct, in
accordance with the theory of evolution, by measuring life in terms
of pleasure.

[Sidenote: 3. Objections to this argument:]

What then is to be said of the supposed "conflict between Eudæmonism
[Hedonism] and Evolutionism" which v. Hartmann[160] opposes to the
optimist doctrine that evolution has tended to make life and pleasure
coincide?

The problem of Pessimism resolves itself into two questions which
admit of being kept distinct: (_a_) The first is, Does life on
the whole give, or can it give, a balance of pleasure? This is
the fundamental question of the value of life as put by those,
whether optimists or pessimists, who assume that "value" means
"pleasure-value." If it be answered in the negative, the hedonistic
ideal must be the reduction of the adverse balance to the zero-point
of feeling striven after by Eastern ascetics, but, to all appearance,
obtained only and most easily by death.[161] (_b_) The second
question is, Does the evolution of life lead to an increase of
pleasure and diminution of pain? This is the question brought into
prominence in recent discussions, and of most importance for the
present inquiry; and upon an affirmative answer to it Evolutionist
Hedonism is plainly dependent. To both questions v. Hartmann gives an
answer in the negative.

[Sidenote: (_a_) that life cannot bring more pleasure than pain;]

(_a_) If the pessimist view of life is correct, Mr Spencer
holds,[162] then "the ending of an undesirable existence being the
thing to be wished, that which causes the ending of it must be
applauded." And this is so far true, though not necessarily true in
the way Mr Spencer thinks. For this undesirable existence cannot,
perhaps, be brought to a final conclusion merely by ending the
individual life: this would only leave room for other individuals
to fill the vacant places. Annihilation is the end not directly for
the individual, but for the race. Not life itself, according to
Schopenhauer, but the will to live, is to be killed in the individual
man. Even this code of morals, Hartmann thinks, is a remnant of
the false, pre-evolutionist individualism, and would hinder the
course of the universe, by leaving the game to be played out by the
remaining individuals whose wills were not strong enough to curb or
kill themselves. It is a mistake to think that the will to live which
pulses through all existence can be annihilated by the phenomenal
individual. The individual's duty is not to seek for himself the
painlessness of annihilation or passionless Nirwâna, but to join in
the ceaseless painful striving of nature, and, by contributing to the
development of life, to hasten its arrival once more at the goal of
unconsciousness. The self-destruction, not of the individual will,
but of the cosmic or universal will, is the final end of action.

Apart from the metaphysical view of things with which this estimate
of the value of life is connected, and which may be regarded perhaps
as its consequent rather than its cause,[163] the pessimist doctrine
has a double foundation, in psychology and in the facts of life.

[Sidenote: (α) from the negative nature of pleasure,]

Psychologically, it seems to be best supported by Schopenhauer's
doctrine of will or desire as an incessant painful striving, pleasure
being merely the negative of this pain, and always coming short of
completely satisfying it. But this position involves a double error
in psychological analysis, and is relinquished even by Hartmann,
though he still regards pleasure as in all cases satisfaction of
desire. Desire is itself merely a secondary or derived fact in human
nature, consequent on the inhibition of volitional energy.[164] The
pleasures we call passive are independent of it; and those which
attend upon activity, but are not themselves part of the end of
action, are also enjoyed without being striven after in order to
satisfy a want. Further, it is a mistake to look upon the pleasure
of attainment as a mere negation of the pain of desire. The painful
element in desire comes from the inhibition of the attempted
realisation of an ideal object. In unsatisfied desires, it is true,
the pain is in proportion to the strength of the restrained longing.
But, if the inhibition is overcome, the pain is not equal to the
strength of the desire, but only to the amount of opposition that has
to be conquered in satisfying it. Hence, not only are there other
pleasures than those of satisfied desire, but even the pleasure got
from such satisfaction is something more than a mere recompense for
the pain accompanying the desire.

[Sidenote: (β) from the facts of human life;]

The support got by pessimism from the facts of human life is
more difficult to estimate at its true value. It is obvious that
pleasure and pain are intermingled in almost every experience; and
the proportion in which they are mixed varies greatly in different
circumstances and according to the susceptibilities of different
persons. If we ask a number of people whether life is on the whole
pleasant to them, not only do we receive a variety of answers which
it is hard to sum up and average, but the answers we get are apt
to reflect the feeling of the moment rather than to represent an
impartial estimate of the pleasure and pain of a lifetime. Thus
experience seems unable to give us a trustworthy answer as to the
average pleasure-value of life; but, if its verdict is correct, that
to some life is pleasant, though to many painful, this shows that a
surplus of pain does not follow from the nature of life, and thus
destroys the position of thoroughgoing pessimism, which looks upon
this as the worst of all possible worlds.

[Sidenote: (_b_) that the evolution of life does not tend to
pleasure.]

(_b_) It may still be maintained, however--and this is the position
which chiefly concerns us here--that the course of evolution does
not tend to increase the pleasure in life at the expense of the pain
in it, and that, therefore, even although pleasure and evolution may
both of them be possible ends of conduct, they are ends which point
in different directions and lead to different courses of action.

[Sidenote: (α) Incompleteness of the evolutionist argument.]

It is necessary for the evolutionist who holds that the development
of life does not tend to increased pleasure, to meet the argument
already adduced[165] to show their correspondence. Nor does that
argument seem to be altogether beyond criticism. To compare progress
or development with pleasure, we ought to know exactly what is
meant by both terms. Yet it is impossible to have a clear notion of
progress without an idea of the end to which it tends, and this has
not yet been obtained. It is largely on account of the difficulty
of obtaining such an idea that some evolutionists seem to have been
driven to measure progress in terms of pleasure, just as, owing to
the difficulty of estimating and summing up pleasures, some hedonists
have been induced to measure them by the progress of evolution. What
we have now to see is whether the correspondence assumed between
progress and pleasure actually exists. And, to avoid the tautology of
saying that progress is increase of life, we must judge of it simply
by empirical observation of the nature of human activity and of the
course of human affairs.

Now the attempted identification of pleasurable and life-promoting
activities rests on an incomplete account of the motives and results
of action. For, in the first place, even admitting that pleasure and
avoidance of pain are the only motives to action, the influence of
natural selection has not prevented actions hurtful to life being
sometimes accompanied by pleasant sensations. Its tendency to do
so has been much more effective in the lower orders of animal life
than in the higher. The latter, especially man, possess the power of
representing ideal states in the imagination, and are thus able to
avoid actions hurtful to life, although these actions are pleasant
at the time. For the hurtful consequences of the action may be so
vividly represented in idea as to outweigh the influence of the
present pleasure which could be got from its enjoyment.[166]

And further, the analysis of volition involved in the argument seems
to be insufficient. For there are other springs of action to be
taken account of than pleasure and its opposite. Habit, imitation,
and interests of a more comprehensive kind than desire of pleasant
feeling, are all motives to action. It is true that pleasure is
always felt in the successful performance of an action, and it is
also true that the inhibition of will is always painful; but it
is none the less incorrect to look either upon the pleasure that
follows from the action, or the pain that would be the result of
its inhibition as, in ordinary cases, the motive. It is motives of
a different kind than pleasure, such as imitation[167] and the
influence of ideal ends, which most often lead to progress. And
the progress that is due to such motives cannot be measured by its
effect in increasing pleasure, nor assumed to make pleasure and
life correspond. Other activities less advantageous in nature in
all respects but this, might, so far as the reasoning goes, lead to
equal or to more pleasurable consequences. At the best, therefore,
the above argument only proves a general tendency towards the
coincidence of pleasurable actions with actions which promote life;
it does not show that the increase of life can be accurately measured
by pleasure. The process of natural selection might kill off all
organisms whose desires led them normally to action hurtful to life.
But sufficient evidence has not been brought forward to show that
it is fitted to produce an exact proportion between progress and
pleasure.

[Sidenote: (β) The pessimist doctrine that life tends to misery:]

[Sidenote: (_aa_) the hypothesis of the unconscious;]

Hartmann, however, attempts to strike a more fundamental blow than
this at the presupposition involved in the argument for evolutionist
hedonism. For he contends that, throughout all life, the great pulse
of progress is neither, on the one hand, desire for pleasure, nor,
on the other, the more complex and varied motives just referred to,
but that it is the incessant striving towards fulness of life by a
universal unconscious will, which is manifested in all things, and
which is for ever pressing onwards towards conscious realisation,
regardless of the increase of pain which the course of evolution
implies. But this hypothesis of unconscious will is not a justifiable
metaphysical principle got at by the analysis of experience, and
necessary for its explanation, though lying beyond it. It is a
"metempirical," or rather mythical, cause interpolated into the
processes of experience. Hence the antagonism in which it stands to
psychological fact: its disregard of the effect of pleasure as a
powerful motive in volition; and its neglect of the obvious truth
that function so reacts upon organ that all actions have simply
by continuance a tendency to be performed with greater ease, and
therefore to yield in their performance increase of pleasure. The
smoothness and precision with which it works may, indeed, lead to
a function being performed unconsciously, and thus without either
pain or pleasure. But the normal exercise of conscious activity is
uniformly pleasurable.[168]

[Sidenote: (_bb_) the nature of volition;]

While giving up Schopenhauer's doctrine of the merely negative
character of pleasure, Hartmann yet contends that "eternal limits"
are set by the very nature of volition, which make it impossible
to have a world with more pleasure in it than pain. But his
arguments[169] come very far short of proving his case. For, in the
first place, to say that the stimulation and wearying of the nerves
imply the necessity of a cessation of pleasure as well as of pain,
is to confuse complete states of consciousness with the subjective
feeling which accompanies each state. It is not true that one ever
becomes weary of pleasure: to talk as if there were one class of
nerves for pleasure, and another for pain, is absurd. But every
mental state, however pleasurable to start with, tends to become
monotonous, wearisome, or painful. Pleasure thus requires a change
from one mental state to another: to say that it requires a change
from pleasure to something else is a contradiction in terms. It is
the objects or activity that require to be varied, not the feeling
of pleasure. Again, in the second place, it is true that pleasure
is to be regarded as indirect _in so far as_ it is entirely due
to the cessation of a pain, and not to instantaneous satisfaction
of will. But it does not do to regard the pleasure as altogether
indirect when, although the cessation of a pain is necessary for its
production, it is itself something more than this cessation. The
inhibition of will often prevents the realisation of an object which
is very much more than a recompense in pleasurable quality for the
pain of the restraint; and although the pleasure only arises from
the removal of this painful state of inhibition, there is a direct
and positive gain over and above the gratification of having pain
removed. In the third place, Hartmann argues that the satisfaction
of will is often unconscious, whereas pain is _eo ipso_ conscious.
But, even admitting the reality of unconscious will or desire, which
this argument involves, it does not follow that pleasure and pain are
differently affected in regard to it. If pain is _eo ipso_ conscious,
so also is pleasure; if the satisfaction of unconscious desire gives
no pleasure, neither does the absence of such satisfaction give
pain.[170] It is true, as Hartmann adds in the fourth place, that
desire is often long and the joy of satisfaction fleeting; but this
refers not so much to mental pleasures as to those connected with
physical appetite. Of them it is true that

        "These violent delights have violent ends,
        And in their triumph die."

But in the higher pleasures with more permanent objects of pursuit,
although the desire may be long-continued, the pleasure does not
disappear in the moment of gratification.

It would seem, therefore, that the pessimist psychology, in treating
pleasure in a different way from pain, mistakes the true nature
of both as simply "polar extremes"[171] of feeling, and prevents
the argument being faced which has been brought forward to show the
increasing correspondence of pleasure and life.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: (_cc_) the facts of human progress:]

The failure of the psychological argument makes the whole burden of
the proof of pessimism rest upon the argument from historical facts.
And the attempt has been definitely made to show, from observation
of the course of human affairs, that the progress of the world
tends to misery. It is necessary, therefore, to ask whether it can
be established that the facts included under the vague term "human
progress" have a normal tendency either to increase pleasure or to
act in the opposite way. Now progress is a characteristic both of the
individual and of society; but pleasure only belongs to the former,
so that an answer to the question whether individual progress tends
to increase the surplus of pleasure over pain, still leaves unsettled
the question as to the effect of social progress.

[Sidenote: individual progress;]

It seems evident that both the physical and mental development of the
individual imply greater adaptability to, and correspondence with,
the external world, and that, on account of this development, there
is less unpleasant friction between outer and inner relations, and
means are at hand for obtaining objects of desire with less exertion
than formerly. But, at the same time, the increase of knowledge and
of skill always implies not merely the means of satisfying old wants,
but the creation of new ones: we see more of the evil in the world
than our forefathers did, and there are more avenues by which it
can approach us, if we have also more effective means for avoiding
what we dislike. And, although knowledge brings with it not only the
pleasure of gratified curiosity, but that recognition of a universal
order which frees the mind from the evils bred by a belief in the
fickleness of nature, yet this all-pervading sense of law has so
regulated our beliefs and methods of research that science itself may
seem to have lost the peculiar freshness of interest that belonged
to its earlier stages; while the feelings called forth by a vision
of the divine presence in the world, find but a poor substitute
in the sublime region of "cosmic emotion." Further, the widening
of the sympathetic feelings and their consequent activities, and
the refinement of the whole sensitive nature by which it responds
more quickly and accurately to emotional stimuli, have made the
present generation more susceptible to both pain and pleasure than
its predecessors. But Hartmann's argument that the duller nervous
system of the savage races (Naturvölker) makes them happier than the
civilised (Culturvölker),[172] leaves out of sight the new sources of
pleasure as well as pain that are opened up to a refined sensibility.
According to Hartmann, the æsthetic sensibilities may be a source
of painless pleasure: yet even their cultivation cannot be said to
be matter of pure gain to their possessors; for the pain of discord
is to be set against--in his opinion, it outweighs--the pleasure of
harmony. On the whole, then, it would appear that the evolution of
the individual leads to greater possibilities both of pleasure and of
pain. The refinement of the intellectual and emotional nature opens
up wider ranges of both kinds of feeling; and we are driven to look
mainly to the improvement of the social environment for the means of
increasing pleasure and diminishing pain.

[Sidenote: social progress:]

[Sidenote: industrial,]

But to estimate the hedonistic value of social progress is a still
more difficult task than the preceding. For the march of affairs has
often little regard to its effect on the happiness of the greater
number of people concerned. Industrially, it may be thought that
the increase in the amount of wealth produced affords a vastly
greater means of comfort and luxury. Yet, it is doubtful whether
this increase has always been sufficient to keep pace with the
growth of population; and it is certain that every society whose
territory is limited, must, when its numbers have increased beyond
a certain point, begin to experience the diminishing returns which
nature yields for the labour expended upon it. Indeed, the tendency
to an excess in the rate of increase of population over that of
means of subsistence is one of the chief causes which make it so
difficult to assert that civilisation tends to greater happiness.
But, even although the average quantity of wealth be greater now than
before, it must be remembered that wealth is measured by its amount,
whereas happiness depends on the equality with which that amount
is distributed.[173] Yet the present industrial _régime_ tends to
the accumulation of immense wealth in a few hands, rather than to
its proportionate increase throughout the community. The industrial
progress which increases the wealth of the rich, has little to
recommend it if it leaves the "labouring poor" at a starvation-wage.

        "And what if Trade sow cities
          Like shells along the shore,
        And thatch with towns the prairie broad
          With railways ironed o'er,"--

if the population can be divided into plutocrats and proletariate?
Moreover, the very nature of economic production seems to imply an
opposition between social progress and individual wellbeing. For
the former, in demanding the greatest possible amount of produce,
requires an excessive and increasing specialisation of labour.
Each worker must perform that operation only to which he has
been specially trained, or which he can do best. And in this way
industrialism tends to occupy the greater part of the waking hours
of an increasing proportion of human lives in the repetition of a
short series of mechanical movements which call out a bare minimum
of the faculties of the worker, dwarf his nature, and reduce his
life to a mere succession of the same monotonous sensation.[174] In
spite, therefore, of immense improvements in the general conditions
of wellbeing, it is still difficult to say that the happiness of the
average human life has been much increased by the march of industrial
progress.

[Sidenote: and political.]

A more hopeful view may, perhaps, be taken of the effect of political
progress. The increase of popular government gratifies the desire for
power, and, in some cases, even tends to a more efficient management
of affairs. Still more important in its effect on happiness is
the greater security for life and property which the gradual
consolidation of political control has brought about. It would seem,
too, that the harsher features of the struggle by which this advance
takes place have been modified; and that the war of politics has
abated in fury more than the war of trade. On the whole, therefore,
the tendency of modern political rule appears to be towards an almost
unmixed gain in respect of happiness,--by the security it affords for
life and property, by its wide distribution of political power, and
by the room it gives for individual freedom. Yet the last of these
results--in the _laissez-faire_ system of industrialism to which it
has led, and which, in spite of many modifications, is still in the
ascendant--has effects of a more doubtful character.

This mere reference to one or two of the leading features of
progress would not be sufficient to support a thesis either as to
its beneficial or baneful tendency. But evidence enough has been
led to show that the effects on pleasure of individual and social
development are of a mixed kind,--that culture and civilisation
have neither the tendency to misery which Hartmann follows Rousseau
in attributing to them,[175] nor, on the other hand, that steady
correspondence with increasing pleasure which would be required to
establish the position of evolutionist hedonism.

[Sidenote: Necessity of choosing between evolutionism and hedonism.]

It follows, therefore, that, without adopting a pessimist view, we
must still make our choice between evolutionism and hedonism. The
course of evolution--so far as experience helps us to understand
it--cannot be measured by increase of pleasure. Nothing is said here
to show that it is not perfectly consistent to hold that the moral
feelings and ideas, the customs to which they have given rise, and
the institutions in which they are embodied, have been produced by
the ordinary laws of evolution, and yet to maintain that the moral
end for reflective beings is the hedonistic or utilitarian end. It
may be possible, that is to say, to be an evolutionist in psychology
and sociology, at the same time that one is a hedonist in ethics. But
it is not allowable to adopt pleasure as the end, and yet speak of it
as determined by evolution. Evolution can determine no such end until
it be shown that the progress it connotes implies a proportionate
increase of pleasure.

Such is the conclusion to which we are led by a consideration of the
bearings of evolution upon the increase of pleasure and pain. But
this argument requires to be supplemented by the more satisfactory
method of an independent analysis of pleasure in relation to the
development of human nature; and from this analysis we may hope to
discover how far the theory of evolution is consistent with the
ethics of hedonism.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 4. The psychological analysis of pleasure and pain in
relation to the ethics of evolution.]

The relative and transient nature of pleasure has been urged as an
objection against any form of hedonism by many philosophers since
the time of Plato. And the argument has of late years been brought
forward in a way which shows that the calculus of "pleasures" and
"pains" which Bentham's ethics implies is much less certain and
easy than its author supposed. This has been made clear both by the
subtle analysis carried out by the late Professor Green, and by
Professor Sidgwick's examination of the difficulties which beset the
"hedonistic calculus." It does not appear, however, to have been made
out that the nature of pleasure proves hedonism to be impossible as
the end of conduct. But it may, perhaps, appear that the case is
altered when we consider the matter in the light of the evolutionist
form of hedonism now under examination, and estimate from this point
of view the ethical bearings of the psychological analysis of feeling.

[Sidenote: (_a_) The purely subjective nature of pleasure;]

[Sidenote: its connection with objective states of mind,]

[Sidenote: through which it may be made the end of conduct.]

The difficulty of defining pleasure or pain is not the same as the
difficulty or impossibility of defining any elementary sensation.
For the latter is connected in definite ways with other similar
sensations, can be compared and associated with them, and by
such association go to make up an object or thing. But pleasure
and pain are neither objects nor parts of objects: they cannot
be distinguished from or associated with the impressions of the
senses so as to constitute an object. They can only be spoken of
as an affection of the percipient and active subject, different
in kind both from the objects it knows and the acts it performs:
each can only be defined as the opposite of the other. Pleasure and
pain are not real phenomena with a distinguishable existence of
their own, like sensations, conceptions, or actions; they have no
trace of objectivity whatever, but are, as Hamilton puts it,[176]
"subjectively subjective": "pleasure is not a fact, nor is pain a
fact, but one fact is pleasurable, another painful."[177] Pleasure,
therefore, is a mere feeling of the subject, concomitant with the
sensory or motor presentations which, by reason of their presence
to consciousness, we call objects or actions. It is not something
by itself which we can choose rather than something else, as we may
select a peach instead of an apple. It can only be made the end of
conduct in an indirect way. We must aim not at pleasure _per se_, but
at objects which we have reason to believe will be accompanied by
pleasurable feeling. Pleasure and pain, as it has been urged,[178]
are not quantities that can be added and subtracted. It is not the
pleasurable or painful feeling, but the perceptional or cognitive
elements in the mental state of which it is an element, that admit of
plurality and measurement. But we may foresee that one mental state
will be accompanied by pleasurable, another by painful feeling, and,
on that account, we may choose the former. In a great number of cases
we are further able to make a quantitative estimate, and to say that
the pleasurable feeling accompanying one object or action is more
intense than that accompanying another, and thus to choose one object
rather than another, not merely because one is pleasurable while the
other is painful, but (in cases where both are pleasurable) because
it is supposed that the one will yield more intense or more prolonged
pleasure than the other. If this be true, the purely subjective
nature of pleasure does not make it impossible for it to be taken
as the practical end of conduct for the individual--however inexact
and tentative many of its estimates must be--though it will shortly
appear that its nature unfits it to be the end on the theory of
evolution.

The difficulty arises when we attempt to interpret, by means of
pleasure, the increase and development of life to which the course
of evolution tends, and which is sometimes put forward as the end
which the evolution-theory prescribes for conduct. And the difficulty
also meets us when we seek to explain the conception of a maximum of
pleasures as the end, by means of the conception of evolution.

As long as we are content to look upon human nature as consisting
of constant sources of activity and enjoyment, and having fixed
susceptibilities for pleasure and pain, it is easy to adopt the
increase of pleasure and diminution of pain as our aim. But the
case is altered when we take into consideration the fact that man's
actions and sensibilities are subject to indefinite modification.
Pleasure, as we have seen, is a feeling of the subject dependent upon
the objects, sensory and motor, present at any time to consciousness.
These objects alone can be our end; but we may aim at certain of
them rather than others, simply on account of their pleasurable
accompaniment. It may happen, however, that an object or action at
one time pleasurable becomes painful at another time, and that what
is now painful ceases to be so and becomes pleasurable. In this case
our course of action, if motived by pleasure, would have to be
entirely changed, our practical ethics revised and reversed. And,
although no sudden alteration such as this ever takes place, the
theory of evolution shows that a gradual modification of the kind is
going on.

[Sidenote: (_b_) The conditions of pleasure and pain:]

The conditions of pleasure and pain, physiological and psychological,
are matter of dispute; and the dispute is complicated by the
confusion of the physiological with the psychological problem.
It will be evident, however,--if only we keep different things
clear of each other,--that both kinds of explanation are possible,
and that they are distinct from one another. The question of the
nervous antecedents and concomitants of feeling is one thing, and
quite distinct from the question which now arises of the mental
antecedents or concomitants of feeling. And here the theories which
have attempted a generalisation of the phenomena are, in the light
of recent inquiry, mainly two: the theory that pleasure follows,
or is the sense of, increase of life, and that which holds it to
be the concomitant of unimpeded conscious functioning or of medium
activities.

[Sidenote: (α) Pleasure not definable as the sense of increased
vitality;]

The former theory[179] might be put forward as indicating how it is
possible to institute a connection between pleasure and evolution.
But it has been already shown that neither the actual facts of life,
nor the tendencies to action, can be so interpreted as to make their
nature and development correspond, with any degree of exactness,
with pleasure and its increase.[180] Nor is it possible to make out
that every pain corresponds to a loss of vitality, every pleasure
heightens it. On the contrary, the assertion that pleasure-giving
actions and life-preserving actions coincide, is due to a hasty
generalisation which cannot include all the facts. That it holds
throughout a considerable extent is true. Pleasure is, at any rate,
a usual accompaniment of the normal processes of the development of
life; and pain reaches its climax in death. But yet there is a broad
margin of experience for which the generalisation is incorrect. There
are numerous cases of painful and pleasurable sensations which cannot
be shown to be, respectively, destructive of, and beneficial to,
vitality. As Mr Bain, who always keeps the facts in view, admits,
with regard to the feelings connected with the five senses, "we
cannot contend that the degree of augmented vital energy corresponds
always with the degree of the pleasure."[181] The same discrepancy
may be observed in more complex experiences. The effort after a
fuller life, whether physical or mental, even when its ultimate
success is not doubtful, may bring more pain than pleasure; while the
life which never strains its powers towards the limits of endurance,
may experience almost uninterrupted pleasure: but such pleasure is
the sure herald of the process of degeneration.

[Sidenote: (β) may be held to depend on medium or normal functioning.]

The theory that pleasure follows increased vitality, and pain
decreased vitality, is supplemented or opposed in modern psychology
by the theory that feeling depends on function: that pleasure is the
concomitant of medium activities,[182] or of conscious functioning,
which is unimpeded and not overstrained[183]--pain accompanying the
opposite condition. The objection urged against this view, that it
leaves the so-called "passive pleasures" out of account, seems to be
made without sufficient consideration of what is meant by attributing
passivity to pleasure. All that such an expression can denote, would
appear to be that, in the pleasurable experience referred to, no
exercise of the muscles is implied, not that such an experience can
take place without any conscious activity on the part of the subject.
At the same time, the theory that pleasure in all cases depends
upon function, must be admitted to be obliged to call in the aid of
hypothesis in order to explain all the facts. If the generalisation
required by the theory can be made out, it must be by emphasising
the fact that feeling is never properly regarded as purely passive,
but implies subjective reaction; and by supposing that the variation
of feeling between pleasure and pain depends on a difference in the
character of this subjective reaction. At the same time, the complete
accuracy of this generalisation is not of vital importance here, as
it is mainly with the feeling which manifestly results from activity
or functioning that we are concerned.

[Sidenote: Modification of pleasurable characteristics of objects]

Whether pleasure depends upon increase of vital energy, or upon
unimpeded or medium functioning, it must be subject to modification
along with the conditions under which life may continue and increase,
or the modes of activity which may be carried on without opposition
and in moderation. This constant modification of the objects in
which one takes pleasure, or which give one pain, is, indeed, a fact
which must be admitted by any theory of feeling. A state of mind may
be at first pleasurable; but, if it be long-continued, the pleasure
will give way to the pain of monotony. The same is true of a painful
state of mind: its continuance does not prolong the same intensity
of painful consciousness, but the sensibility becomes dulled and
the pain diminishes. The transition is still more striking in the
case of motor activities. In learning to walk, or to ride, or to
play any instrument, the first experiences are those of painful
effort. Gradually, however, the co-ordinations of movement required
entail less and less pain, till the feeling passes over into its
opposite, and we have a pleasurable sense of successful effort and
well-adapted functioning. But, just as pain gave way to pleasure, so
pleasure itself subsides, the action becomes merely reflex and passes
out of consciousness altogether, unless it be so long continued as
to produce fatigue--that is, pain. Habit, as Dumont remarks,[184]
intensifies perceptions, but weakens pleasure and pain.

[Sidenote: suggests that feeling depends on objective intensity.]

These are psychological facts--not mere theories--which hold true
even of the individual experience. But they have led psychologists
to the theory, supported by a vast amount of direct experiment, that
there is no object or action which can be said to be absolutely and
in itself either pleasant or painful.[185] The feeling of pleasure
or pain accompanying the object is a function of its intensity in
relation to the subject. This proposition cannot, indeed, be fully
demonstrated regarding each simple sensation: to the emotions
into which intricate relations of perceptions enter, it does not
apply, till their complexity has been reduced. Some sensations and
perceptions are certainly felt as painful in any intensity in which
they are distinctly present to consciousness. But, although this
is a real difficulty, it does not seem insuperable. The instances
which Mill cites[186] to throw doubt on the generalisation that
quality of feeling depends on intensity are unfortunately chosen for
his purpose. For--to take his example--the taste of rhubarb is to
many not painful but pleasant; and, indeed, every case of acquired
taste shows that pleasure and pain can be modified through habit and
custom, and suggests that, even in the case of those sensations which
are painful in any form we have been able to experience them, there
is a degree of intensity below which they would, if experienced, be
pleasant. Experiment has proved of the majority even of sensible
qualities, and analogy leads us to conclude of all, that there is a
degree in which each may be pleasant, and a degree in which each
may be painful, and, between them, a--real or imaginary--zero-point
of feeling, where there is neither pleasure nor pain. This must, it
is true, be received as a hypothesis only; but it is a hypothesis
which is suggested by a wide range of facts, and which is able to
include even those facts with which it is seemingly inconsistent,
by supposing that could their intensity be indefinitely diminished
without their passing out of consciousness, these sensations would
reach a point after which they would be felt as pleasant and not as
painful. Further, experiment shows that this dividing-point which
separates the two poles of feeling is not always placed at the same
degree of intensity, that it differs not only for every object,
but for each individual subject as well, and that it undergoes
modification in the course of the subject's development.[187]

What is true of sense-perception is still more evident regarding
those experiences in which the activity of the subject is more
obviously involved. As any function may, if carried beyond a certain
degree of intensity, be painful, so any function consistent with life
may be a source of pleasure.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: (_c_) Application of the theory of evolution:]

[Sidenote: any conduct consistent with conditions of life will come
to be pleasurable;]

From the preceding discussion two things may be inferred: first, the
dependence of pleasure and pain on the subject-activity, whether the
activity be that of perception or of what is specifically called
action; and secondly, the modification of pleasure and pain, and
transition from one to the other, along with the modification of
that subject-activity. To the application of both these conclusions
there may be limits; but their general accuracy does not seem
doubtful. What the doctrine of evolution adds to this is its
proof of the indefinite modifiability of human function. "It is
an essential principle of life," Mr Spencer wrote,[188] before he
had arrived at his general theory of evolution, "that a faculty to
which circumstances do not allow full exercise diminishes; and that
a faculty on which circumstances make excessive demands increases;"
and to this we must now add, "that, supposing it consistent with
maintenance of life, there is no kind of activity which will not
become a source of pleasure if continued; and that therefore
pleasure will eventually accompany every mode of action demanded
by social conditions."[189] It is, he holds, a "biological truth,"
that "everywhere faculties adjust themselves to the conditions
of existence in such wise that the activities those conditions
require become pleasurable."[190] The vast periods of time over
which evolution stretches are scarcely needed to show how pleasure
may be made to follow from almost any course of action consistent
with the continuance of life. The change of habits which often
takes place in the history of a nation, and even in the life of an
individual, makes this sufficiently obvious. But, if we still think
of making attainment of pleasure the end of conduct, the doctrine of
evolution must give us pause. It has been already argued that, given
certain sources of, and susceptibilities for, pleasure, the course
of evolution has not been such as to produce an exact coincidence
between them and the actions which further life. But it would seem
that, given habits of acting which are consistent with the conditions
of life, and which are systematically carried out, these will not
fail to grow pleasant as the organism becomes adapted to them. At the
best, it is difficult enough to say, even for the individual, whether
one imagined object or course of action will exceed another in
pleasurable feeling or not. But, when we remember that function and
feeling may be modified indefinitely, it is impossible to say what
course of conduct will produce the greatest amount of pleasure for
the race. Taking in all its effects, we cannot say that one way of
seeking pleasure is better--that is, will bring more pleasure--than
another. Bearing in mind the modifications which evolution produces,
it seems impossible to guide the active tendencies of mankind towards
the goal of greatest pleasure, except by saying that the greatest
pleasure will be got from the greatest amount of successful, or of
unrestrained, or of medium activity.

[Sidenote: maximum pleasure only definable in terms of life.]

If, then, we have been seeking to define the evolutionist end by
interpreting it in terms of pleasure, it appears that we have only
succeeded in making the round of a circle: pleasure as the end is
seen to be only definable as life or activity, although it was
adopted as the end in order that by its help we might discover what
life or activity meant as the end for conduct. We may, perhaps, still
be able to hold to a form of hedonism, if we turn our attention from
the race to a small portion of present mankind. In spite of the
modifiability of function and its parasite feeling, we may still be
able to say that such and such a course of action is likely to bring
most pleasure to the individual or even to the family. But we cannot
extend such a means of interpreting the ethics of evolution to the
race, where the possibility of modification is indefinitely great,
and the pain incurred in initiating a change counts for little in
comparison with its subsequent results. If we continue to look from
the evolutionist point of view, the question, What conduct will on
the whole bring most pleasure? can only be answered by saying that
it is the conduct which will most promote life--an answer which
might have been more satisfactory had it not been to give meaning
to this end "promotion of life" that it was interpreted in terms of
greatest pleasure. The evolution-theory of ethics is thus seen to
oscillate from the theory which looks upon the _summum bonum_ as
pleasure, to that which finds it in activity. It contains elements
which make it impossible for it to adhere to the former alternative.
The comprehensiveness of its view of life makes it unable to adopt
pleasure as the end, since pleasure changes with every modification
of function. And it has now to be seen whether the empirical method
of interpretation to which it adheres will allow of its notion of
life or activity affording a satisfactory end for conduct.

FOOTNOTES:

[154] Data of Ethics, p. 171.

[155] Data of Ethics, p. 162.

[156] Ibid., p. 57.

[157] Cf. A. Barratt, in Mind, ii. 172 n.

[158] As illustrating this I may refer to G. v. Giźycki, Philosophische
Consequenzen der Lamarck-Darwin'schen Entwicklungstheorie (1876),
p. 27: "Wir haben oben die Erhaltung und Förderung des Lebens des
Individuums und der Gattung als das eine Ziel der Einrichtung des
geistigen Organismus gekennzeichnet." P. 58: "Auf das Streben nach in
sich befriedigtem psychischen Leben [that is to say, pleasure] sind
alle animalen Organismen angelegt." In his popular essay, 'Grundzüge
der Moral' (1883), Dr Giźycki's principle and method are utilitarian.
With the above may be compared Guyau, Esquisse d'une morale sans
obligation ni sanction (1885), p. 15: "L'action sort naturellement
du fonctionnement de la vie, en grande partie inconscient; elle
entre aussitôt dans le domaine de la conscience et de la jouissance,
mais elle n'en vient pas. La tendance de l'être à persévérer dans
l'être est le fond de tout désir sans constituer elle-même un désir
déterminé."

[159] Spencer, Data of Ethics, p. 82 f; Principles of Psychology,
§ 125, 3d ed., i. 280; Stephen, Science of Ethics, p. 83. The
simplicity of this argument will be appreciated if we consider the
difficulty Comte experienced in trying to reach a similar conclusion.
See Positive Philosophy, Miss Martineau's translation, ii. 87 ff.

[160] Cf. Phänomenologie des sittlichen Bewusstseins, pp. 701, 708.

[161] Cf. Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, 3d ed., p. 127.

[162] Data of Ethics, p. 26.

[163] Cf. Vaihinger, Hartmann, Dühring und Lange (1876), p. 124.

[164] Cf. Sully, Pessimism, p. 216.

[165] See above, p. 167 f.

[166] Cf. Fiske, Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy (1874), ii. 332 f.

[167] "Imitation," according to Kant (Grundlegung zur Met. d. Sitten,
Werke, iv. 257), "has no place at all in morals;" and this is true
if the naked law of duty--or respect for it--is the sole ethical
motive. But if morality consists in the attainment of an ideal which
is being gradually realised in man, moral value will not be denied to
the motive which leads the individual to fashion his own nature after
that in which morality has attained more complete realisation.

[168] See the concluding pages of this chapter.

[169] Philosophie des Unbewussten, 6th ed., p. 660 ff.

[170] Cf. Sully, Pessimism, p. 226 n.

[171] Cf. J. Ward, Journal of Speculative Philosophy, xvi. (1882),
377.

[172] Phil. d. Unbewussten, p. 747.

[173] Bentham, Theory of Legislation (by Dumont, 1876), p. 103 ff.
Wundt, Physiologische Psychologie, 2d ed., p. 469, finds in this
an instance of Weber's law. Thus, the man with £100 receives the
same pleasure on receipt of £1, as the possessor of £1000 does on
receiving £10. As Wundt remarks, however, this is only true within
certain limits. Sixpence may give more pleasure to a beggar who is
never far from the starvation-point, than the clearing of a million
to Baron Rothschild. Further than this, the law only states an
"abstract" truth. For the susceptibility to pleasure is not only
very different in different individuals, but this difference depends
on many other circumstances than the amount of wealth already in
possession,--such as original emotional susceptibility, &c.

[174] Cf. Comte, Positive Philosophy, ii. 144.

[175] Phän. d. s. B., p. 640.

[176] Lectures on Metaphysics, ii. 432.

[177] L. Dumont, Théorie scientifique de la sensibilité, 2d ed., p.
83; cf. F. Bouillier, Du plaisir et de la douleur, 2d ed., p. 29 ff.
Reference may also be made to the leading psychological text-book.
"Das Gefühl," says Volkmann (Lehrbuch der Psychologie, § 127, 3d ed.,
ii. 300), "ist nämlich keine eigene Vorstellung neben den anderen
(es gibt keine eigenen 'Gefühlsvorstellungen'), ja überhaupt gar
keine Vorstellung." Professor Bain's view is different, but does
not altogether prevent him from acknowledging the subjectivity of
feeling: "Without intellectual images clearly recollected, we do not
remember feelings; the reproduction of feeling is an intellectual
fact, and the groundwork is intellectual imagery."--Emotions, p. 63.

[178] Cf. Green, Introduction to Hume, ii. § 7.

[179] Cf. Spinoza, Ethica, iii. 11, schol.; Hobbes, Leviathan, i. 6,
p. 25; Bain, The Senses and the Intellect, p. 283. Professor Bain's
statement is carefully guarded: "A very considerable number of the
facts may be brought under the following principle--namely, that
states of pleasure are connected with an increase, and states of pain
with an abatement, of some, or all, of the vital functions."

[180] As Mr Spencer allows, Psychology, § 126, i. 284: "In the case
of mankind, then, there has arisen, and must long continue, a deep
and involved derangement of the natural connections between pleasures
and beneficial actions, and between pains and detrimental actions."

[181] The Senses and the Intellect, p. 286. The Law of Conservation
is incomplete, Mr Bain holds, and must be supplemented by the Law of
Stimulation (p. 294).

[182] Spencer, Psychology, § 123, i. 277: "Generally speaking,
then, pleasures are the concomitants of medium activities, where
the activities are of kinds liable to be in excess or in defect;
and where they are of kinds not liable to be excessive, pleasure
increases as the activity increases, except where the activity is
either constant or involuntary."

[183] Hamilton, Lectures, ii. 440: "Pleasure is the reflex of the
spontaneous and unimpeded exertion of a power of whose energies
we are conscious. Pain, a reflex of the overstrained or repressed
exertion of such a power." Cf. Aristotle, Eth. N., vii. 12, p. 1153 a
14, x. 4, p. 1174 b 20.

[184] Théorie scientifique, p. 78.

[185] Cf. Wundt, Physiol. Psych., p. 470; Fechner, Vorschule der
Aesthetik, ii. 243 f.

[186] Exam. of Hamilton's Philosophy, 5th ed., p. 559.

[187] See Fechner, _loc. cit._

[188] Social Statics, p. 79.

[189] Data of Ethics, p. 186.

[190] Mind, vi. 85.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE EVOLUTIONIST END.


[Sidenote: Want of harmony between evolutionism and hedonism.]

In showing the important bearing which evolution has on the causes
of pleasure, the argument of the preceding chapter has also made
clear that the ends of evolutionism and of hedonism cannot be made
to explain one another. The theory which starts with a maximum of
pleasure as the ultimate end, but points to the course of evolution
as showing how that end is to be realised, is confronted by the
fact that the development of life does not always tend to increased
pleasure, and that the laws of its development cannot therefore be
safely adopted as maxims for the attainment of pleasure. The same
objection may be taken to the method of interpreting the evolutionist
end by means of the pleasurable results of conduct. The two do not
correspond with that exactness which would admit of one doing duty
for the other as a practical guide. And a further difficulty has been
shown to stand in the way of this method. For, on coming to analyse
pleasure, we find that it may, by habituation, arise from any--or
almost any--course of conduct which the conditions of existence admit
of. The evolutionist, therefore, can have no surer idea of greatest
pleasure--even although this may not be a very sure one--than that
it will follow in the train of the greatest or most varied activity
which harmonises with the laws of life.

[Sidenote: Necessity of investigating independent evolutionist end.]

We must therefore forsake the method of eclecticism, and inquire
whether the theory of evolution can make any independent contribution
towards determining an end for conduct. We are frequently told that
it prescribes as the end "preservation," or "development," or "the
health of the society." But to obtain a clear meaning for such
notions, we must see what definite content the theory of evolution
can give them,--without considering, at present, the grounds for
transforming them into ethical precepts. Now, it may be thought--and
the suggestion deserves careful examination--that we may find in the
characteristics of evolution itself[191] an indication of the end
which organisms produced by and subject to evolution are naturally
fitted to attain. These characteristics must therefore be passed
under review, that their ethical bearings may be seen.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 1. Adaptation to environment: necessary for life;]

1. The first condition of development, and even of life, is
correspondence between an organism and its environment. The waste
implied in the processes which constitute the life of an organised
body has to be supplied by nutriment got from surrounding objects.
It requires food, air, light, and heat in due proportions in order
that its various organs may do their work. When these circumstances
change, either it adapts itself to the new conditions or death
ensues. Thus "we find that every animal is limited to a certain
range of climate; every plant to certain zones of latitude and
elevation,"[192]--though nothing differs more among different species
than the extent of an organism's adaptability to varying conditions.
A definite organism and a medium suitable to it are called by Comte
the two "fundamental correlative conditions of life"; according to Mr
Spencer they constitute life. "Conformity" is absolutely necessary
between "the vital functions of any organism and the conditions in
which it is placed." In this conformity there are varying degrees,
and "the completeness of the life will be proportionate to the
completeness of the correspondence."[193] Even when life is not
altogether extinguished, it is impeded by imperfect adaptation.
Where external circumstances make the attainment of nourishment
difficult and precarious, life is shortened in extent, and, within
its limits, more occupied with simply maintaining its necessary
functions--less full, varied, and active. The same holds good whether
the external circumstances are natural or social,--applies equally
to those whose energies are exhausted in the production of a bare
livelihood from a niggard soil and unpropitious climate, and to
those who, under changed conditions, feel the hardship of adapting
themselves to a new social medium.

[Sidenote: spoken of as the ethical end;]

[Sidenote: defines the notion of self-preservation.]

Shall we say, then, that the end of human conduct is adaptation
to environment? This seems to be the position taken up by some
evolutionists. In the language of von Baer,[194] "the end of ends
is always that the organic body be adapted to the conditions of the
earth, its elements and means of nutriment;" and Mr Spencer holds
"that all evil results from the non-adaptation of constitution to
condition."[195] The hedonism which Mr Spencer definitely accepts
as his ethical principle prevents him, indeed, from fully adopting
the theory of human action which von Baer seems to regard as the
result of the doctrine of evolution. Yet complete adaptation of
constitution to condition is held by him to be characteristic of that
perfect form of life to which evolution tends, and the laws of which
are to be our guides in our present imperfect social condition. In
working out his theory of ethics, he describes acts as "good or bad
according as they are well or ill adjusted to ends," identifying
the good with "the conduct furthering self-preservation," and the
bad with "the conduct tending to self-destruction."[196] The notion
of self-preservation thus introduced is naturally suggested as the
end subserved by the activity of an organism being adjusted to
surrounding conditions. Self-preservation, therefore, rather than
adaptation to environment, will be regarded as the end, with which
adaptation will be connected as the essential means.

This notion of self-preservation has played a remarkable part in
ethical and psychological discussion since the time of the Stoics.
It withdraws attention from the relative and transient feeling of
pleasure to the permanence of the living being. Thus, with the
Stoics, the notion of self-preservation was accompanied by an
ethics hostile to indulgence in pleasure; while, on the other hand,
in Spinoza and in Hobbes, pleasure was recognised as the natural
consequence of self-preserving acts--the former defining it as
a transition from less to greater perfection, the latter as the
sense of what helps the vital functions. The theory of evolution
has, of course, not only its distinctive contribution to make to
the connection between self-preservation and pleasure--a subject
already referred to,--but also shows how an increasing harmony has
been produced between acts which tend to self-preservation and
those which tend to social-preservation. With Mr Spencer these two
points are united. His doctrine that the "conduct which furthers
race-maintenance evolves hand-in-hand with the conduct which
furthers self-maintenance"[197] is preliminary to the establishment
of the proposition that the highest life is one in which egoistic
and "altruistic" acts harmonise with one another and with external
conditions: "the life called moral is one in which this moving
equilibrium reaches completeness or approaches most nearly to
completeness."[198]

[Sidenote: Self-preservation and social-preservation.]

As has been already pointed out,[199] it is not the case, in
the present state of human life, that egoistic and altruistic
tendencies, even when properly understood, always lead to the
same course of conduct; and even the theory of evolution does not
do away with the necessity for a "compromise" between them. But,
even had the theory of evolution overcome the opposition between
the individual and social standpoints, much would still remain to
be done for the purpose of constructing a system of ethics, or
determining the ethical end. It seems better, therefore, to pass
over at present the conflict of competing interests. According to
Pascal, "the entire succession of men, the whole course of ages,
is to be regarded as one man always living and always learning."
And this is a suggestion which the theory of evolution only states
more definitely, though it cannot completely vindicate it. On this
supposition, self-preservation _is_ social-preservation, and the
possibly divergent interests of the individual and the whole are left
out of account. The end for the race then is, according to the theory
most explicitly stated by von Baer, a state of "moving equilibrium":
and to this state of affairs we are at least, Mr Spencer holds,
indubitably tending. In the final stage of human development, man
will be perfectly adapted to the conditions of his environment, so
that, to each change without, there will be an answering organic
change. The ideal which seems to be held up to us is that of a time
in which there will be no more irksome fretting in the machinery
of life, and circumstances will never be unpropitious, because the
organism will never be wanting in correspondence with them.

[Sidenote: (_a_) As the end for present conduct: opposed to progress;]

If this adaptation be adopted as the practical end for conduct
under present conditions, and not merely as describing a far-off
ideal to which we are supposed to be tending, man may continue to
manifest a law of progress, but its initiation will be from external
conditions. If "adaptation to environment" is consistently made the
end, activity will have to be restricted to suiting one's powers
to an external order of nature, and desire will have to be curbed
when it does not bring the means of satisfaction along with it.
"Bene latere" will again be an equivalent for "bene vivere," and
happiness will have to be sought in withdrawal from the distractions
of political life, and in the restriction of desire. It is strange
to see the theory which is supposed to be based upon and to account
for progress, returning in this way to an ideal similar to that in
which the post-Aristotelian schools took refuge amid the decline of
political and intellectual life in Greece. The end which Stoic and
Epicurean alike sought in complete emancipation from the conditions
of the external world,[200] is now, in more scientific phrase, made
to consist in complete harmony with these conditions. But, in their
practical results, the two theories would seem scarcely to differ. It
is not astonishing, therefore, if this gospel of renunciation finds
little favour among practical men in our day. It is seen that, if a
man has not wants, he will make no efforts, and that, if he make no
efforts, his condition can never be bettered. Thus social reformers
have often found that the classes they have tried to elevate did not
feel the evil of their lot as their benefactors saw it, and they have
had to create wants before attempting to satisfy them.[201] And the
practical tendency finds its counterpart in speculative opinion, so
that, whereas Epicurus placed happiness in freedom from wants, modern
hedonism usually considers a man the happier the more wants he has
and is able to supply.[202]

[Sidenote: does not fully represent the theory of evolution.]

This practical tendency brings out the truth that it is not only by
the subordination of self to circumstances, and the restriction of
desire to present means of satisfaction, that the required harmony
between outer and inner relations can be brought about. The other
alternative is open: circumstances may be subordinated to self. For
this latter alternative the theory of evolution seems really to leave
room as much as for the former. It is excluded only when a one-sided
emphasis is laid on the necessity of adaptation to environment. For
evolution implies a gradually increasing heterogeneity of structure
as the prelude to perfect agreement with circumstances: "the limit
of heterogeneity towards which every aggregate progresses is the
formation of as many specialisations and combinations of parts as
there are specialised and combined forces to be met."[203] The end
of evolution is a correspondence between inner and outer which is
not produced by the easy method of both being very simple, but
which is consistent with, and indeed requires, the complexity and
heterogeneity produced in both by constant interaction.[204] The
greater this complexity, the more filled with sensation, emotion, and
thought life is, the greater is what Mr Spencer calls its "breadth."
But, if "adaptation" is still regarded as expressing the end, then,
the more perfect this adaptation is, the less room seems left for
progress, and the end of human conduct is placed in a state of moving
equilibrium in which action takes place without a jar and without
disturbing the play of external conditions.[205]

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: (_b_) As describing the ultimate condition of life,]

This end of "adaptation" is looked upon by Mr Spencer not as
representing the conduct prescribed by morality in present
circumstances, but as describing the ultimate condition of human
life. As such, it is the foundation of his Absolute Ethics--that
"final permanent code" which "alone admits of being definitely
formulated, and so constituting ethics as a science in contrast with
empirical ethics."[206] The "philosophical moralist," he tells us,
"treats solely of the _straight_ man. He determines the properties of
the straight man; describes how the straight man comports himself;
shows in what relationship he stands to other straight men; shows
how a community of straight men is constituted. Any deviation
from strict rectitude he is obliged wholly to ignore. It cannot be
admitted into his premisses without vitiating all his conclusions.
A problem in which a _crooked_ man forms one of the elements is
insoluble by him."[207]

[Sidenote: complete correspondence with environment.]

[Sidenote: Resultant absolute code of ethics]

[Sidenote: (α) lays down abstract principles for relation of
individual to society;]

[Sidenote: (β) farther only defines end of conduct as adaptation;]

How, then, are we to conceive the nature or conduct of the "straight
man"? To begin with, it is made clear that his dealings are only with
straight men; for there are no "crooked men" in the ideal community.
"The coexistence of a perfect man and an imperfect society is
impossible; and could the two coexist the resulting conduct would not
furnish the ethical standard sought."[208] "The ultimate man is one
in whom this process [of adaptation to the social state] has gone so
far as to produce a correspondence between all the promptings of his
nature and all the requirements of his life as carried on in society.
If so, it is a necessary implication that there exists an ideal code
of conduct formulating the behaviour of the completely-adapted man in
the completely-evolved society." This is the code of Absolute Ethics,
whose injunctions alone are "absolutely right," and which, "as a
system of ideal conduct, is to serve as a standard for our guidance
in solving, as well as we can, the problems of real conduct."[209]
At the outset, we were required to "interpret the more developed
by the less developed;" [210] the conclusion sets forth that the
less developed is to be guided by the more developed, the real by
the ideal. Now, ethics "includes all conduct which furthers or
hinders, in either direct or indirect ways, the welfare of self
or others."[211] Thus Absolute Ethics, like Relative Ethics, has
two divisions, personal and social. As to the latter, Mr Spencer
formulates certain principles of justice, negative beneficence, and
positive beneficence,[212] which describe the harmonious co-operation
of ideal men in the ideal state. These principles may perhaps be
capable of a modified application to the present state of society,
in which there is a conflict of interests: although Mr Spencer's
representation of them--which is still, however, incomplete--suggests
the belief that they are not so much guides which the ideal gives to
the real, as suggestions for the construction of a Utopia gathered
from the requirements of present social life. But, supposing the
"harmonious co-operation" of individuals to be thus provided for,
what is the personal end? and what, it might be added, is the social
end, if society has any further function than regulating the relation
of its units to one another? Absolute ethics does not seem to be able
to give much guidance here. "A code of perfect personal conduct,"
we are told, "can never be made definite."[213] There are various
types of activities, all of which may belong to lives "complete
after their kinds." But yet "perfection of individual life" does
imply "certain modes of action which are approximately alike in all
cases, and which, therefore, become part of the subject-matter of
ethics." We cannot lay down "precise rules for private conduct,"
but only "general requirements." And these are: to maintain the
balance between waste and nutrition, to observe a relation between
activity and rest, to marry and have children.[214] This is "how the
straight man comports himself." Apart, therefore, from the suggestion
thrown out that a man's function may be the realisation of a type of
activity complete after its kind--a suggestion to be considered in
the sequel--all that we can say of the "completely-adapted man" would
seem to be that he will be adapted to his circumstances.

[Sidenote: (γ) cannot be shown to lead to happiness.]

We have a right to demur if the pleasures of the final condition of
equilibrium be held up to our imagination as a reason for aiming at
it. That it is "the establishment of the greatest perfection and
most complete happiness,"[215] seems an unwarrantable assumption.
Yet it is through this assumption that an apparent harmony between
Mr Spencer's hedonistic ethics and his view of the tendency of
evolution is brought about. It is not at all certain that the result
of perfectly adapted function is great increase of pleasure. It
is true that all the pains of disharmony between inner desire or
feeling and outer circumstances would, in such a case, disappear;
but with them also there would be lost the varied pleasures of
pursuit and successful struggle. It cannot even be assumed that
other pleasures would continue as intense as before. For, as acts
are performed more easily, and thus with less conscious volition,
they gradually pass into the background of consciousness, or out of
consciousness altogether; and the pleasure accompanying them fades
gradually away as they cease to occupy the attention. "Where action
is perfectly automatic, feeling does not exist."[216] The so-called
passive pleasures might still remain. But the fact of effort being
no longer necessary for the adjustment of inner to outer relations
might have the effect of making the "moving equilibrium" still called
"life" automatic in every detail. Indeed, if the suggestions of the
'First Principles' are to be carried out, it would seem that the
moving equilibrium is "a transitional state on the way to complete
equilibrium,"[217] which is another name for death.[218] So far,
therefore, from heightened pleasure being the result of completely
perfect adjustment of inner to outer relations, this adjustment would
seem to reach its natural goal in unconsciousness--a conclusion which
may commend itself to those of Mr Spencer's disciples who take a less
optimist view of life than their master.

It seems evident, therefore, that to take adaptation to environment,
or self-preservation as interpreted by adaptation, as the end of
conduct, is to adopt an end which cannot be shown to be desirable
on the ground of yielding a maximum of happiness or pleasure. And
it is almost with a feeling of relief that one finds Mr Spencer's
confidence in the tendency of evolution so far shaken as to admit
of his saying that "however near to completeness the adaptation
of human nature to the conditions of existence at large, physical
and social, may become, it can never reach completeness."[219]
"Adaptation to environment" must, at any rate, be kept quite distinct
from any theory of ethics which takes pleasure as the end of life;
and it cannot consistently determine any result as of ethical value
on account of its pleasurable consequences. The goal it sets before
us, and in which human progress ends, is conformity with an external
order. The modification of these external conditions by human
effort is to be justified ethically by the opportunity it gives for
bringing about a fuller agreement between the individual or race and
its environment. The result is a stationary state of human conduct,
corresponding with, or a part of, that general "equilibration" to
which, according to Mr Spencer, all evolution tends. But this theory,
which places the goal of conduct in what seems to be the actual
tendency of evolution, gains no real support from this apparent
harmony of ethics with general philosophy. It may be granted that
the evidence of physical laws goes to show that the evolution of
the solar, or even stellar, system is towards a condition in which
the "moving equilibrium" will at last pass into a form in which
there is no further sensible motion, and the concentration of matter
is complete. But to infer from this that the theory which places
the end of conduct in a similar equilibrium shows the harmony of
morality with the tendency of existence in general, would really
involve a confusion of the two different meanings of "end." The end
or termination of all things may be equilibrium, motionlessness, or
dissolution, but this is no reason why the end or aim of conduct
should be a similar equilibrium.

Indeed, to say that we ought to promote the end of evolution, and
that this end is annihilation, is inconsistent with the postulate
always implied by the ethics of evolution--the postulate that
conduct should promote evolution because life is desirable,[220] and
increase of life comes with the progress of evolution. Nor is it of
any assistance to reply to this by saying that the dissolution in
which evolution ends may be only the prelude to another process of
evolution in which life will gradually progress till it again reaches
equilibrium. For, in the first place, this is only a problematical
suggestion--is not, to speak in Mr Spencer's language, "demonstrable
_à priori_ by deduction from the persistence of force," as the
tendency of present evolution to equilibrium is held to be; and
secondly, the new process, if it were to come about, would have
to begin again the slow ascent from the lowest rung of the ladder
of existence: so that, in aiding evolution towards the goal of
equilibrium, we should be only guiding it to the old starting-point
which has now, after many a painful struggle, been left far behind.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: (_c_) Insufficiency of adaptation as evolutionist end:]

[Sidenote: tendency to variation in all organisms,]

But further, it would seem that the theory of evolution itself is not
fairly represented by a view which emphasises the fact of adaptation
to environment to the exclusion of that of variation. The latter is
as necessary to progressive development as the former. Adaptation
to environment might seem to be most nearly complete when organism
and environment were both so simple as to be hardly separate. The
polype, which is scarcely different from the sea-water it inhabits,
might seem by correspondence with its medium to be near the maximum
of adaptation, though at the very beginning of life. It may be solely
because the environment is subject to numerous changes that the
organism of simple structure cannot maintain life. But it is only
through its own inherent power of variation that progress in organic
life is possible. Perfect correspondence with the environment was
not reached by simple organisms, not only on account of the want of
uniformity in their surroundings, but also because there is in every
organism a tendency to variation through which the modifications are
produced which natural selection takes hold of. Did organisms not
tend to vary in function and structure, no progressive modification
would be possible. Those fittest to live would be selected once for
all, and all but those adapted to the environment weeded out.

It is not necessary for our present purpose to have any definite
theory of the obscure laws by which this variability is
governed.[221] It is enough that natural selection requires the
striking out of new modifications as well as the transmission of
those already produced.[222] It may be the fact that variation is,
in the last resort, due to changes in surrounding circumstances,
to the unequal incidence of external forces upon a finite
aggregate.[223] But, with living bodies as now constituted, it has,
at any rate as proximate cause, a twofold source. It may be due to
the direct effect of external forces, or it may be caused by the
energy stored up in the organism in growth.[224]

[Sidenote: consciously directed in man.]

In man the outgo of this force is conscious; and, by means of his
conscious or intelligent volition, governed by interests of various
kinds, he can anticipate and modify the action of natural selection.
The law that the fittest organism survives may perhaps work in man
as in the lower animals, if only we give a wide enough meaning to
"fittest," so as to admit even of the weak being made fit through the
sympathy and help of the strong. Natural selection becomes dependent
upon variations of a kind different from those in the merely animal
world, so that its practical effect may be in some cases apparently
reversed. We thus see how it is that even Darwin holds that in
moralised societies "natural selection apparently effects but
little,"[225] at the same time that we may not be inclined to deny
the truth of Schäffle's contention[226] that, although circumstances
differ, the law of action remains the same. Schäffle points out how,
as we rise in the scale of life, especially as it is manifested in
human society, the organisation becomes more delicate, and other than
merely natural facts have to be taken account of, so that the fittest
to live in the new social and intellectual environment is no longer
the man of greatest physical strength and skill.

The theory of natural selection as applied to the ordinary spheres
of plant and animal life, may perhaps, for some purposes, neglect
consideration of the fact that it presupposes a tendency to variation
in the organisms whose growth it describes. But, when the variation
in the behaviour of the organism becomes conscious and designed,
there is thereby produced a preliminary indication or determination
of the lines on which natural selection is to work. And, before the
theory of evolution can give a full account of the ethical in man, it
must distinguish consciously-determined from merely natural action,
and give an analysis of what is implied in the former. We must bear
in mind that it may be the case that the ground and possibility of
progress and of the efficiency of ideal ends in human conduct--which
"adaptation to environment" has been unable logically to explain or
leave room for--are to be found in this differentiating fact of
conscious activity. But we must first of all see whether, from the
empirical characteristics of variation, we can extract an ethical end
or any guide for conduct.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 2. End suggested by this tendency to variation]

[Sidenote: (_a_) prescribes self-development rather than
self-preservation,]

2. "The lower animals," says a writer on biology, "are just as well
organised for the purposes of their life as the higher are for
theirs. The tape-worm is relatively quite as perfect as the man,
and distinguished from him by many superior capabilities."[227] It
is incorrect to look upon the evolution of animal life as working
upon one line, so that the different kinds of living beings can be
arranged, as it were, in an order of merit, in which the organisation
of the higher animal plainly excels that of the lower. The conditions
of life are manifold and various enough to permit of the existence of
many species equally perfect in relation to their environments. The
fact that we are still able to speak of one species or one animal as
higher than another, is not owing to the one being better adapted to
its environment than the other, but is supposed rather to be due to
the higher forms having "their organs more distinctly specialised for
different functions."[228] Even Mr Spencer, for whom equilibrium is
the goal of life, implicitly admits that "adaptation" alone is not
the end of human action, by his doctrine that the degree of evolution
may be measured by the complexity of the adjustments it effects
between organism and environment. The end, therefore, it may be
said, is no longer the mere "self-preservation" found in adaptation
to environment, but the "self-development" which implies temporary
disharmony between organism and surroundings.

For "self-preservation" and "self-development," though frequently
spoken of as identical, are really distinct and often opposed
notions--the former denoting a tendency to persist in one's present
state of being, while the latter implies more or less change. It may
be held, however, that for an organism such as man to persist in
his state of being, implies modification of his faculties, and that
this modification involves development. For any organism to exist
apart from change is, of course, impossible. Life is only known to
us as a series of changes. But that change does not necessarily mean
development or "change to a higher condition." Degradation is as
well known a fact as development; and between the two, there is room
for a state of existence of which it is difficult to say whether it
improves or deteriorates. And whatever may be intended by the phrase,
"self-preservation" points to a state of this kind rather than to an
improving condition. The notion of "self-development" has therefore
a richer content than that of "self-preservation"; but just on this
account it cannot be explained by a reference to the nature of things
as they are.

[Sidenote: thus taking account of variability]

It is true that self-development can only go on by a continuous
process of adjustment; but it is also necessary for it that this
tendency to adaptation should be continually hindered from becoming
complete or lapsing into equilibrium. It is here that the function
of variation comes in. On the one side there is this tendency to
vary after a fashion often without any apparent regard to external
conditions; on the other side, there is the action of the external
conditions selecting and favouring those variations which bring the
organism into closer correspondence with them. The wide range over
which the theory of natural selection applies is due to the fact
that the environment is never uniform and never constant, so that
modifications on the part of the organism have a chance of suiting
its varied and changing character. Its changes, moreover, are often
the result not so much of any absolute alteration in external
circumstances, as of a new relation between them and living beings
having been brought about. For the enormous reproductive faculty
of most organisms makes them multiply so rapidly as to press ever
more and more closely against the limit of subsistence, and thus to
produce competition for the means of living. Hence the fresh lines
of development originated by each organism have to be tested by
their correspondence with a constantly changing medium. The altered
circumstances give the modifications which organisms are for ever
striking out an opportunity of perpetuating themselves.

[Sidenote: which complicates the tendency to correspondence with
environment,]

By each new variation the existing relation between organism and
environment is disturbed. The variation may, however, prove its
utility at once by a more exact correspondence than before with
the requirements of external conditions. But, in what are called
the higher grades of life, variations from the type are sometimes
not immediately useful, although they may ultimately become
most advantageous.[229] Were it not for the remarkable power of
persistence possessed by the higher animals, the modified organism
would be unable to hold its own. The great majority of such eccentric
or extraordinary variations do, as a matter of fact, soon disappear,
because unable to prove their utility. But others of them, either by
the power they give the organism to mould circumstances to itself,
or by their appropriateness to the greater complexity which comes
with the increased number of living organisms, and the more delicate
readjustment it requires, prove themselves to be fitter to live than
if no variation had taken place and the preceding state of relative
equilibrium had been maintained. The higher adjustment of life to
its surroundings, which marks each stage of advancing evolution, had
its beginning in the rupture of the original simpler harmony that
previously existed.

[Sidenote: especially in human conduct.]

If we compare human conduct with that of animals lower in the organic
scale, it becomes evident that there is a broad difference between
the two in this, that actions in the former are purposed, performed
with a definite end in view; whereas, in the latter, they seem to be
the blind result of impulse, and there are slight, if any, traces of
purpose. In activity of the latter kind, natural selection works in
the ordinary way by choosing for survival the animals which behave so
as best to suit their environment. But actions done with a view to an
end may anticipate the verdict of this natural law. The agent may see
that conduct of a particular kind would conduce to the promotion of
life, while conduct of a different kind would render him less fit to
live; and, as a consequence, the former action may be chosen. In this
way development may be anticipated, and the present order of affairs
may be disturbed, more or less forcibly, in order to bring about a
foreseen better state of things.

We are thus able to see more clearly how it is that the theory of
evolution may be thought to give rise to two different ethical ends.
The first of these is the theory already criticised, "adaptation to
environment," which corresponds to the notion of self-preservation.
But this end, as we have seen, only takes one side of the theory of
evolution into consideration--neglects the tendency to variation
which evolution postulates, and which, in the higher organisms,
becomes purposed. The other end which seems to be suggested by the
theory of evolution takes account of this tendency to variation, and
may be said to correspond to the notion of self-development; but
this end it is harder to define. Adaptation we can easily understand
by a reference to the environment to which life is to be adapted.
This involves a knowledge of the conditions of the environment, but
nothing more. Development can be measured by no such standard. On
the one hand it implies an independent, or relatively independent,
tendency to variation. On the other hand, however, it is necessary
that the disharmony with environment, in which this tendency to
variation may begin, should not be excessive and should not be
permanent; for without a certain amount of adaptation to environment
no organism can live. The extent of initial disharmony which is
possible, or is useful, varies according to the versatility of the
faculties of each individual organism, and to its place in the
scale of being; but throughout all existence it is true that want
of adaptation beyond a certain varying degree is fatal: "a mode of
action entirely alien to the prevailing modes of action, cannot
be successfully persisted in--must eventuate in death of self, or
posterity, or both."[230]

[Sidenote: (_b_) Standard for measuring development]

By what standard, then, can we measure development? We have
already seen, from the "formula," as it is called, or definition,
of evolution, that it implies an advance to a state of increased
coherence, definiteness, and heterogeneity, by the double process
of differentiation of parts, and integration of these parts into a
whole by the formation of definite relations to one another. The
notions of coherence amongst parts and of increased definiteness of
function and structure are easily understood. But the heterogeneity
postulated is a more complex notion,--has, in the first place, a
double reference, "is at the same time a differentiation of the parts
from each other and a differentiation of the consolidated whole from
the environment;"[231] and secondly, is manifested in living beings
in increased complexity of every kind--of structure, form, chemical
composition, specific gravity, temperature, and self-mobility.[232]
Can we then apply this at once to ethics, and say that the most
developed--that is, the most moral--conduct is that which is most
definite, coherent, and heterogeneous? This doctrine has at least the
merit of not leaving out of sight so fundamental a characteristic
of evolution as the tendency to variation; and, without being
consistently held to, it is the burden of much of Mr Spencer's 'Data
of Ethics,' where it is illustrated and defended with great ingenuity.

[Sidenote: found in degree of complexity of act and motive.]

That moral conduct is distinguished by definiteness and
coherence--that it works towards a determinate end, and that its
various actions are in agreement with one another and parts of
a whole--may be admitted. But this is at most a merely formal
description of what is meant by morality in conduct. To say that
conduct must be a coherent whole, and must seek a determinate end
by appropriate means, leaves unsettled the question as to what this
end should be, or what means are best fitted to attain it. But, when
we go on to say that as conduct is more varied in act,[233] more
heterogeneous in motive,[234] it is higher in the moral scale,
we seem to have got hold of something which may be a guide for
determining the ethical end. The mark of what is higher in evolution,
and consequently in morality, will be greater heterogeneity or
complexity.[235]

[Sidenote: Difficulties of the theory:]

This conclusion follows from an attempt not merely to treat "moral
phenomena as phenomena of evolution," but also to find the "ultimate
interpretations" of ethics "only in those fundamental truths which
are common to all" the sciences, physical, biological, psychological,
sociological.[236] Now the fundamental truths which these sciences
have in common are those only which are most abstract. But as we
pass from mere relations between matter and motion to life, and
from life to self-consciousness, we have something different from
these fundamental truths with the addition of certain others not
fundamental: we find that things are not merely more complex; but
are changed in aspect and nature. Even though it be true that the
new phenomena may still admit of analysis into the old simpler
terms, and that life, mind, and society may be interpreted as
redistributions of matter and motion,[237] it must yet at least be
admitted that the change passed through is one similar to those which
Mill compared to chemical composition: the new compound differs
fundamentally in mode of action from the elements out of which it was
formed. Now, in saying that the most complex adjustments of acts to
ends are the highest kinds of conduct, and that we should be guided
by the more complex in preference to simpler motives, this obvious
difficulty is passed over. It is true that Mr Spencer, in chapters
rich in suggestion, and filled with skilfully chosen illustrations,
has passed in review the various aspects of conduct according as we
look at it from the point of view of the physical environment, of
life, of mind, or of society. But when these different aspects are
brought together and compared, it becomes clear that the attempt to
judge conduct by reference to the "fundamental truth" that evolution
implies an advance towards greater complexity, must necessarily end
in failure.[238]

[Sidenote: (α) antinomy produced by it between the social and
individual ends;]

In the first place, there is a notable discrepancy between the
biological and the sociological aspect. For the complete development
of the individual life implies that every function should be
fulfilled, and that its fulfilment should interfere with the
performance of no other function. "The performance of every function
is, in a sense, a moral obligation." "The ideally moral man ... is
one in whom the functions of all kinds are duly fulfilled,"--that is
to say, "discharged in degrees duly adjusted to the conditions of
existence."[239] A fully evolved life is marked by multiplicity and
complexity of function. And, if from the individual we pass to the
social organism, we find that the same truth holds. The state, or
organised body of individuals, has many functions to perform; but it
can only perform them in the most efficient way through the functions
of its individual members being specialised. From the social point
of view, therefore, the greatest possible division of labour is a
mark of the most evolved and perfect community. And this division
of labour implies that each individual, instead of performing
every function of which he is capable, should be made to restrict
himself to that at which he is best, so that the community may be
the gainer from the time and exertion that are saved, and the skill
that is produced, by the most economic expenditure of individual
talent. Thus social perfection appears to imply a condition of
things inconsistent with that development of one's whole nature
which, from the biological point of view, has just been defined as a
characteristic of the ideally moral man. It seems, indeed, inevitable
that any such abstract preliminary notion of development as that
which would test it by increase of complexity must fail in such a
case as this where there is no question between the competing claims
of two phenomena on the same level, but where harmony is wanted
between the different aspects the same phenomena present when looked
at from the point of view of the individual and from the point of
view of the whole.

[Sidenote: (β) its psychological aspect]

[Sidenote: confounds complexity of structure with indirectness of
origin,]

There is still greater difficulty in applying this criterion, when
we come to the psychological aspect of morality--the aspect most
prominent in modern philosophy from the revival of independent
ethical speculation till the time of Kant. According to Mr Spencer,
"the acts characterised by the more complex motives and the more
involved thoughts, have all along been of higher authority for
guidance."[240] But the later or more advanced in mental evolution
is not always more complex in structure; for it is a characteristic
of mental development that the processes by which a result has
been arrived at gradually disappear on account of the diminished
attention they receive, so that there remains what is, so far as
psychical structure is concerned, a simple mental state. Complexity
of structure and indirectness of origin are thus really two different
characteristics of states of mind, which frequently go together, but
frequently part company.[241] When Mr Spencer, accordingly, goes on
to say[242] that "for the better preservation of life the primitive
simple presentative feelings must be controlled by the later-evolved
compound and representative feelings," he is really passing to a
different standard without giving up the former. The sympathy with
injured Zulus or Afghans which would be approved by Mr Spencer[243]
may be a more indirect, representative, or re-representative feeling,
than the sentiments which led to British invasion, and, as such, may
be more to be commended. But it would be rash to say that sympathy
with the "British interests" supposed to be at stake--interests of
commerce, and of the balance of political power, as well as those
arising from the subtle effect of national prestige--is less complex
than the feeling of sympathy with a people dispossessed of its
territory. The latter feeling may be more indirect or representative,
as implying an imaginative appropriation of the circumstances of
another community; but, so far as structure is concerned, it is
composed of far fewer and simpler component elements than the feeling
for British interests.

[Sidenote: neither of which can serve as an ethical standard.]

Nor, on the other hand, can we allow ourselves to take refuge in the
conclusion that, if the more complex emotion cannot be held to be
better morally, then that which is later in evolution may at least
be regarded as of higher authority than the earlier evolved feeling.
According to Mr Spencer, the man who obtains by fraud the money to
support his family is to be condemned, because, although we admit the
claim his family have upon him, "we regard as of superior authority
the feelings which respond to men's proprietary claims--feelings
which are re-representative in a higher degree and refer to more
remote diffused consequences."[244] But were this the ground of
distinction, we ought also to regard the feelings prompting a man
to distribute his fortune in any foolish enterprise "as of superior
authority" to those which prompt him to support his family, if only
the former are "re-representative in a higher degree," and their
consequences more "remote" and "diffused." Many of the greatest
evils which infect social life and warp the moral feelings of
men, are evils which are only possible as the result of a highly
advanced civilisation and a refined and delicate organisation of
the mind. The factitious sentiments raised by a subtle casuistry
with the effect of confusing the ordinary distinctions of right and
wrong are, in almost all cases, more indirect and re-representative
than the feelings in harmony with the moral consciousness of the
community which they set aside in the individual conscience. So
obvious, indeed, are objections of this kind--objections, that is
to say, taken from the impossibility of so applying the criterion
as to construct a workable system of morals--that Mr Spencer
virtually relinquishes his own theory, talking of it as true only
"on the average,"[245] and even allowing that it is in some cases
suicidal.[246]

As it cannot be held that the more complex in evolution is of greater
authority than the less complex, nor that the later in evolution has
such authority over the earlier, we must admit that the so-called
"fundamental characteristics" of evolution, which find a place in
its definition or "formula," are unable to determine its value in an
ethical regard. The richness of life, physical, intellectual, and
social, has indeed been produced only as the result of a long course
of development, and by the assimilation of many various elements
into a complex organisation; but its value cannot be measured either
by the test of mechanical complexity, or by the length of time it
has taken to evolve. We must therefore seek some other method of
giving a meaning to evolution in the region of moral values; and we
find Mr Spencer himself really falling back in his discussion on
the more general answer to our question, that the end of evolution
is life: "evolution becomes the highest possible when the conduct
simultaneously achieves the greatest totality of life in self,
offspring, and fellow-men."[247] Since it appears, then, that the
characteristic of complexity or variety is as unsatisfactory a
criterion of morality, as the notion of "adaptation to environment"
was found to be, we must ask for some further interpretation of the
notion of "development" or "increase of life" when regarded as the
end of conduct.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: 3. Further attempt to define development or increase of
life as the end.]

[Sidenote: Biological definition of life insufficient.]

3. The ethics of evolution--in whatever form we have as yet found
it--has always proceeded on the assumption that life is desirable,
and that it has a value which makes its pursuit and promotion a
reasonable moral end. How this fundamental ethical assumption[248]
is to be justified, I do not at present inquire. But the question
must now be faced--What is meant by "life" when we say that
its "increase" or "development" is the moral end, and speak of
its "greatest totality" in a way that implies that it admits of
quantitative measurement? The biological definition of life is
itself matter of dispute. But, even were such a definition as that
proposed by Mr Spencer agreed to, it would be insufficient to provide
a standard for human conduct. The very generality which may make it
fit to stand as a definition, or at least abstract description, of
life, renders it at the same time incapable of serving as a criterion
by which the various modes of the manifestation of life may be
judged. One point, however, generally emphasised by the theory of
evolution, may be admitted. The life which human conduct "ought" to
increase is not merely that of one individual man, but the whole
life of the community--"self, offspring, and fellow-men"--with which
the individual life is bound up. Evolution has shown how the growth
of the individual has been so dependent upon that of the whole body
of society that it is impossible to separate their interests. At
the same time, no complete identity has been brought about, and it
remains one of the greatest difficulties of any empirical theory to
harmonise their competing claims. For argument's sake, however, and
to admit of the quality of the end being investigated apart from
considerations as to the method of distribution, the question may be
discussed as if natural selection had produced complete solidarity
between the life of the individual and that of the race.

What criterion have we, then, of the development of human nature or
life? The answer at once suggests itself that the higher evolution
of life can be accurately measured by the amount of pleasure got
by living beings. But this view has been examined in the preceding
chapter, and found to be unsupported by sufficient evidence; so that
we are driven to seek for some non-hedonistic criterion that will
give meaning to the phrase "development" or "increase of life," when
prescribed as the ethical end.

[Sidenote: Health as the end either used to interpret pleasure,]

Nor is the matter made any clearer by saying that the "health" of
society is the end we ought to promote.[249] This has been put
forward as an interpretation of the hedonistic principle, which
brings that principle into accord with the theory of evolution.
As such, however, it seems open to fatal objections. Given as
an explanation of "pleasure," it falls back upon the notion of
"life"; for health can only be defined as that which conduces to
continued and energetic life. Further than this, there is a special
difficulty in adopting health as the proximate end where pleasure
is the ultimate end. Even if we could assert that health always
leads to pleasure, it is not evident that it is better known, or
more easily made the end, than pleasure. For of present pleasure
we have a standard in our own consciousness from which there is no
appeal. And, although the value of a series of pleasures is much
harder to estimate, there is also no slight difficulty in saying
what will promote the efficiency or health of an organism. Besides,
the question arises whether health really corresponds with pleasure;
and this is, in another form, the question which has been already
answered in the negative,--whether life can be measured by pleasure.

[Sidenote: or falls back on the notion of life.]

On the other hand, if "health" is to be taken not as an explanation
of or means to pleasure, but as a substitute for the notion of
"life," then we hardly get beyond our original terms. "Health" must
be interpreted simply as that which leads to strong and continued
life: so that the only information to be got from the new term is
that the life we are to promote must be vigorous and long; and this
was already implied in saying that it is the increase or development
of life that is the end. It will not do to identify the notion
with the mere balance of physiological functions which, in common
language, appropriates to itself the term "health." We must include
the health of the soul as well as the health of the body, and the
health of society as well as the health of the soul. The balance of
mental and social, as well as of physiological, functions, is implied
in the complex life of whose evolution we form a part. To say that we
are to promote this balance of various functions, is to say nothing
more than that we are to promote the life into which physical and
mental and social factors enter. The attempt to arrive at an end for
conduct, by consideration of the characteristics of evolution, has
been made without success. It has been found, too, that "development"
or "increase of life" does not admit of translation into the language
of hedonism: and the question thus arises, how we are to define this
end, which we are unable to interpret in terms of pleasure.

[Sidenote: Ways of determining increase of life or natural good,]

What meaning can be given to the notion "increase of life" as the
end of conduct, without interpreting life in terms of pleasure? Can
we, the question may be put, reach a "natural" good as distinct from
"sensible good" or pleasure? We must discard at the outset any such
"rational" view of nature as gave colour to the Stoic doctrine by
identifying nature with the universal reason. And we must equally
avoid the doctrine that reason regulative of conduct is manifested
in the constitution of man either in a distinct faculty, such as
"conscience," or in the due regulation of the various impulses.
Trendelenburg's teleological conception of human nature, for
instance, implies a rational element which could not be got from
the causal sequence traced by evolution.[250] For he determines the
essence of man by reference to the inner end of his constitution,
and postulates an organic unity of impulses which, in the form of
conscience, protests against self-seeking action on the part of any
single impulse. But no other hierarchy of motives can be admitted
here than that produced by the natural law of evolution; and this
law can only show how one impulse, or class of impulses, has become
more authoritative, by showing how it has become stronger or more
persistent: the other methods of evolving this authority on the
basis of naturalism, do so by means of the pleasurable or painful
consequences of motives and actions.

[Sidenote: either subjective or objective.]

There are two ways in which, on most or all ethical theories, the
attempt may be made to distinguish "good" from "bad" conduct. We
may either look to a subjective motive or impulse as giving the
means of distinction, or we may test conduct by its conformity
with an objective standard. If we like to make use of the terms
self-preservation and self-development, then these may refer either
to the subjective impulse which urges man to preserve or develop
his life, or to some objective standard for estimating actions
according as they actually tend to prolong life or enrich it. Both
these possibilities are open to the theory of evolution. Although
the subjective impulse is, of course, a property of the individual,
it may be the result of the whole course of social development, and
thus take in others as well as self in the range of its application.
It is therefore necessary to examine both methods of determination
with some care, especially as we are in no little danger of reaching
an illusory appearance of conclusiveness by allowing the subjective
standard to rest on the objective, and the objective, in turn, on the
subjective.

[Sidenote: (_a_) Subjective standard: most persistent impulses;]

To begin with the subjective side. It may be thought that we can
point to some impulse, tendency, motive, or class of motives in
the individual mind by following which the evolution of life will
be promoted, and that we are thus able to solve the question of
practical ethics, though our conception of what the evolution of life
connotes may still be in want of exact definition. As already pointed
out, such an impulse (unless it depends on an objective standard)
must carry its own authority with it by its strength or persistency.
The case would, of course, be perfectly simple, if we could assert
that the carrying out of all impulses in one's nature was to be
approved as tending to the development of life. Could this assertion
be made, there might be no difficulty in ethics, or rather, there
might be no ethics at all, because there would be no difficulty in
conduct. It is obvious, however, that the development of one natural
tendency often conflicts with that of another in the same individual,
as well as with the tendencies of other individuals. The course of
evolution has no doubt tended to modify, though it has not rooted
out, the impulses which are most prejudicial to individual and social
welfare. But the increase of wants as well as satisfactions which it
has brought about in human nature, makes it doubtful whether it has
on the whole tended to diminish the conflict of motives.

[Sidenote: implies distinction between permanent and transient self;]

Again, when it is said that a man should "be himself," or that this
is his "strongest tendency,"[251] there is an implicit reference
to a distinction between a permanent and a transient, or a better
and a worse self, and it seems to be imagined that this distinction
can be reduced to difference in degrees of strength. But evolution
has not enabled us to obviate Butler's objection to taking the
"strongest tendency"--meaning by this the tendency which is at any
time strongest--as representing "nature." For it is an undeniable
fact that the tendency which for a time is the strongest--it may even
be that which is strongest throughout an individual life--frequently
leads to a diminution of vital power on the part of the agent, as
well as to interference with the free exercise of the vital powers
of others. Some advantage is gained, perhaps, by substituting for
"strongest" the nearly equivalent phrase "most persistent" tendency.
All those impulses which have in the past served to promote life
have been chosen out and stored up as a sort of permanent basis for
the human fabric; whereas other impulses, not so advantageous in
their effects, have a less permanent influence, though they are not
less real. The more regular or persistent class of impulses may,
therefore, (the idea is) be taken as representing the course of the
evolution by which they have been produced.

[Sidenote: but includes non-moral impulses in the former,]

To a large extent this distinction of two classes of impulses is
justified. There seems no doubt that the social, and what are usually
termed moral, feelings have a tendency to return into consciousness
after any temporary depression or exclusion, which is not shared
by some of the feelings with which they most commonly conflict.
Other impulses, not usually classed as moral, no doubt share this
characteristic of persistency or recurrence. "The wish for another
man's property," says Darwin, "is as persistent a desire as any that
can be named." The selfish feelings have obviously this persistent
character. But an evolutionist may perhaps maintain that it is one
of the defects of ordinary moral opinion that it depreciates the
necessity and value for life of the selfish feelings, just because
they are so strong as to stand in need of no encouragement. And it
is not necessary that the evolutionist morality should agree at all
points with ordinary moral opinion or moral intuition. It recognises,
or ought to recognise the agency of immoral as well as moral forces,
admitting that it is by the action of both of these that man as he is
at present has been produced, although the principle of the survival
of the fittest has tended, though by no means uniformly, towards the
elimination of the immoral factor. We may admit, therefore, that
there is a pressure on the will of the average individual towards
certain kinds of conduct rather than others, or, put more precisely,
that while all acts are performed in consequence of pressure on the
will, the pressure towards certain kinds of acts is a permanent force
which, although overcome for the time, always tends to reassert
itself, while the tendency towards other acts inconsistent with these
is more intermittent and variable, and does not reassert itself
in the same way. But this subjective experience is so limited in
accuracy and extent as to be an unfit test of morality.

[Sidenote: is restricted to previous habits of acting,]

[Sidenote: and cannot define nature of morality.]

In the first place, selfish conduct is as necessary for the
preservation and development of man as "altruistic" conduct, and must
therefore have given rise to an equally great and persistent pressure
on the will: so that the subjective criterion of persistency leaves
untouched what is often regarded as the most difficult question of
morals, the balance of social and individual claims. In the second
place, this subjective tendency is only a recurrence of antecedent
advantageous characteristics, and does not lead us beyond the _status
quo_, so that, if any progress is to be made in the future, it will
be only possible through the pressure of new external conditions: no
function is left for any ethical ideal which points beyond past and
present habits of action. In the third place, subjective tendency
only enables us to say generally that some acts or tendencies are
more persistent than others, without giving any further description
of what sort of acts these are. Were these tendencies or impulses a
perfect guide to conduct, this defect would be of little practical
consequence. It would prevent our having a definite ethical theory
only in circumstances in which no ethical theory would be likely
to be asked for. But the line between the more and less persistent
motives is a narrow and shifting one. The impulses which are the
residua of advantageous ancestral actions are counteracted by other
impulses, residua of actions which would not be counted as moral,
though we inherit tendencies to them because they formed a real
part of our ancestral activity. We therefore stand in need of some
characteristic by which to distinguish the one class of tendencies
from the other. And as the only subjective characteristic is that of
strength or persistency, and this has been found insufficient, an
objective standard is shown to be necessary.

[Sidenote: Thus subjective standard acknowledged to depend on]

The impossibility of the subjective test doing duty alone without
support from some objective criterion, is practically acknowledged by
the writer who has discussed this part of the subject with greater
penetration than any other investigator on the same lines. "The
average man," it is said, "feels the pressure upon his own individual
will of all the unknown natural sequence of motive which caused his
ancestors to do on the whole more often the right thing than the
wrong"[252]--or, as we must read it without objective assumption, "to
do on the whole more often one class of acts than another." The right
must be defined simply as that to which this "special feeling in the
subject is directed," and it therefore becomes necessary "to discover
what descriptions of acts inspire this feeling."[253] Thus, with
greater facility than would be permitted to a critic, we are made to
pass from the subjective to the objective method of determination.

[Sidenote: (_b_) Objective standard:]

The question, What is right? is thus relinquished for the question,
What is good? Good is said to be of three kinds--natural, sensible,
and moral. But as by sensible good is meant pleasure,[254] and
pleasure is not the end, and as by moral good is meant "the pursuit
of natural good under difficulties,"[255] it follows that natural
good is the end we seek. We have thus to determine, as exactly
as may be, this objective standard called natural good. It is
interpreted in two ways, which, however, may be "not necessarily
inconsistent": (α) "the perfection of the type as it is," and (β)
"the absolute abundance and variety of vital power."[256]

[Sidenote: (α) Conformity to the type.]

[Sidenote: The type defined as what best serves its purpose]

This phrase, "the perfection of the type as it is," is somewhat
misleading. When "the perfection of the type" is said to be the end,
we naturally regard the type as something that needs to be brought to
perfection, and _ex hypothesi_ is not perfect at present, or "as it
is." But if "the perfection of the type _as it is_" is the standard,
this implies, unless the standard itself is faulty, that the type is
already perfect, and, therefore, that the perfection spoken of is
the characteristic of a thing which conforms to the type, and not
something to which the type has to conform. This interpretation is
confirmed by the fact that imperfection is defined as "only departure
from the class type."[257] Plainly, then, the objective standard
meant is conformity to the type. What, then, is the type? Concerning
things made by art the answer is easy. The type, as Mr Stephen puts
it, represents the "maximum of efficiency,"[258] or, as we may say,
is that which most fully realises the purpose for which the thing
was formed. The best bow is that which shoots truest and farthest
with a relatively small expenditure of strength by the archer; that
which best realises the purpose of a bow is the typical bow. A
similar explanation of types may be given regarding animals modified
by artificial selection. The typical pointer or hunter can be defined
from this teleological point of view; and, as long as people lived
in the belief that all things were made for man, it was natural to
fix the type of each class by reference to the human purpose it
could best subserve. So also, as long as people think that, whether
all things were made for man or not, all things may be made use of
by him, there will be a tendency towards the same anthropomorphic
interpretation of types. If, then, the typical products of art, and,
to a large extent, the typical products of nature, are those which
best serve human purposes, or best correspond with human ideals, how
shall we define the typical man himself--the type which it is our
perfection to conform to? "Every reasoning agent," it may perhaps
be allowed,[259] "represents a certain type;" but the type can no
longer be defined merely as "maximum of efficiency," for it is the
end or purpose of this efficiency which now requires determination.
In defining the typical man, we must have no idea of final cause or
purpose which is not rooted in the nature of his organism.

How, then, shall we now determine the type in conformity to which
perfection consists?[260]

[Sidenote: or as the normal,]

[Sidenote: or as what has strongest vitality or aids development,
that is,]

The first answer to this seems to be, that the type is what is
normal,--"what we have learned to regard as the normal development
of objects belonging to" the class.[261] But the normal may have
either of two meanings--it may, in the first place, mean the usual
or customary. This, however, would make the typical man mean the
ordinary or average man; and the ideal of conformity to the type
would be reduced to doing the customary thing, and not trying to be
better than one's neighbours. But it is evident that this stationary
morality does not represent properly what is fundamental in the
theory of evolution: "whatever other duties men may acknowledge,
they do not look upon it as a duty to preserve the species _in
statu quo_."[262] If natural science teaches one thing more clearly
than another, it is that the type, like the individual, is not
permanent, but the subject of gradual modifications. If the type
is what is normal, we must mean by "normal" something else than
customary. But the only other meaning of the word seems to imply a
reference to a rule--either a rule imposed from without, or an inner
constitution or order. If the former alternative is adopted, then
we may use another definition of Mr Stephen's, and say that "the
typical organism is ... that organism which is best fitted for all
the conditions of life, or, in other words, which has the strongest
vitality;"[263] and thus have to fall back either on the notion of
"adaptation to environment," or on that of "strongest vitality"--the
notion we are seeking to interpret. If the other meaning, which the
reference to a rule may convey, be adopted, then we are met by the
fact that the inner order or constitution which is to be our guide,
can (from our present empirical point of view) mean nothing different
from the line of development. And as we have already seen that it
is unsatisfactory to interpret this as equivalent to adaptation
to environment, or to increase of definiteness, coherence, and
heterogeneity, this principle of conformity to the type is reduced to
the general principle which we have been attempting to define more
exactly--increase of life.

[Sidenote: (β) Abundance and variety of vital power,]

[Sidenote: which falls back on the subjective standard.]

Thus the first determination of natural good as "perfection of the
type" is seen to reduce itself to the second, "absolute abundance
and variety of vital power." For the additional statement, which
makes the highest excellence consist in "conformity to the type as
it is going to be, but as, except in a few chosen specimens, it is
not yet discernible to be,"[264] is unsatisfactory. For to those
"few chosen specimens" the end would seem to be simply to remain as
they are--a conclusion which is hardly consistent for a writer who
regards morality as a continual progress towards a higher life, a
process of "climbing."[265] And, for the generality of men, there
must be some standard for determining what is "going to be," and for
certifying that the "few chosen specimens" have realised this state
in its perfect form. Thus "conformity to the type as it is going
to be," equally with "perfection of [conformity to] the type as it
is," seems to be but another way of saying "abundance and variety
of vital power," or, more fully stated, "the possession of abundant
faculties, active and passive, fully developed, and in regular and
equal exercise."[266] The question thus comes to be how we are to
determine this "abundance of faculties." We cannot do so by reference
to such characteristics as increase in the number and complexity of
these faculties; for a criterion of this kind, as we have seen, is of
no assistance in deciding the most fundamental ethical questions.
To say that these faculties must be "regular and equal" in their
exercise, is to give a merely formal canon. For how the equality
and regularity are to be brought about,--which faculties are to be
supreme and which subordinate--what meaning equality can have in
view of the admitted diversity in a man's nature,--are questions
left altogether undetermined. And to describe the ideal or perfect
universe as one in which there is no conflict or collision,[267] is
to give a description which is negative as well as merely formal.
We are thus obliged to fall back on a subjective criterion, and say
that the abundant life which it is the end of conduct to promote
is a man's strongest tendencies, or the greatest number of these.
Natural good is determined by "preferring out of all the rudimentary
possibilities existing in nature, the combination that harmonises
the greatest number of the strongest tendencies."[268] We set out,
be it remembered, to obtain a characterisation of those acts to
which the most persistent tendencies of human nature lead us; and
the conclusion we have arrived at is, that they are the acts which
harmonise the greatest number of the strongest tendencies. The
objective standard is thus reduced to the subjective standard, which
it was brought in to explain and support.

[Sidenote: Strongest tendencies the result of past activities,]

Now these strongest tendencies, in the harmonious play of which
natural good or perfection is said to consist, are themselves the
result of the courses of conduct which have been most vigorous
and successful in ancestral organisms, and they may therefore,
perhaps, be taken as a survival and index of the antecedent state
of human nature. The realisation--or, rather, continuation--of
human nature as it has been and is, seems thus to be the ideal
which empirical evolution is able to set before conduct,--with this
formal modification, that, while the various impulses are, so far as
possible, to have free play given them, they should be developed in
a harmonious manner. It seems doubtful how far this tendency towards
harmony is properly suggested by, or consistent with, evolution,
which has implied a ceaseless struggle of opposing forces. At any
rate, evolution does not seem competent to give any principle of
relative subordination between the various impulses, such as might
add reality to the formal principle of harmony. But what it is
essential to lay stress on here is, that the only end which empirical
evolution seems able to establish is conformity to human nature as it
is--the tendencies in it which are strongest and most persistent.

[Sidenote: and thus give no ideal for progress.]

We thus see that the attempt to explain on empirical grounds what
is meant by positing "life," or "increase and variety of life,"
as the end of action, is practically reduced to making the most
persistent impulses of human nature the guide of conduct. But these
impulses, it has been shown, are only the survival or remnant of
past stages in the course of development, not anticipations of
future stages: so that evolution is in this way incapable of giving
an ideal of progress as the end for conduct, and the last word it
seems able to give us as a guide for action is that we should tread
in the places where the footprints of ancestral conduct have left
the deepest impress. The ideal of such a system is summed up in
the new Beatitude, "Blessed is he that continueth where he is." It
is probably just because the empirical aspect of evolution seems
so little able to yield an end for human conduct corresponding to
the actual course of evolution--which has been progress--that no
thorough attempt has been made to develop a system of morals from the
principle just reached. It is true that systems have been worked out
by moralists who have taken human nature as their standard, and that
Trendelenburg, at any rate, expressly includes historical development
in his conception of man. But both Trendelenburg and a moralist like
Butler (who has as yet no conception of the gradual modifications of
human character and tendencies produced by evolution) have a view
of human nature essentially distinct from that which has been called
the "naturalistic" view.[269] For both assume a definite rational
organisation of impulses similar to that taught in Plato's analogy
between the individual man and a political constitution, so that the
whole nature, or human nature as a whole, cannot be identified with
the impulses which strength at any time makes most persistent, but
depends upon the rational allotment of function and measure to each.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: Summary.]

[Sidenote: Difficulty of reconciling individual and social ends.]

In summing up the argument of the preceding chapters, it is necessary
to refer again to the discussion carried on in chapter vi. on the
relation between egoism and altruism as affected by the theory of
evolution. This discussion was not inserted in order to throw an
additional obstacle in the way of obtaining an ethical end from the
empirical theory of evolution. It is an integral part of an attempt
to estimate the ethical value of the evolution-theory. The antinomy
between the individual and social standpoints cannot be solved by
a theory of morality which does not recognise that the individual,
in his rational nature, is not opposed to other individuals, but
in reality one with them. The theory of evolution certainly seems
to go a long way towards establishing the unity of the individual
with the race, and in substituting an organic connection between
them, in place of the almost contingent reciprocal relations spoken
of in earlier empirical theories. But when we come to inquire into
this unity of organic connection, attempting still to keep to the
purely empirical point of view, we find that the old difficulties
return, that it must be recognised that the connection is empirically
incomplete, and that it gives way at the very places where a firm
basis for the theory of morals is required. It was in this way that,
quite apart from this opposition between the individual and the
whole, the empirical character of the theory prevented our getting
from it any clear and consistent notion of the ethical end it leads
to.

[Sidenote: Hedonistic interpretation of evolution not possible.]

It appeared at first that the ethics of evolution, when interpreted
empirically, might be easily reconciled with the older theory of
hedonism, by identifying life with pleasure--holding that the
highest or most evolved life is that which contains most pleasure,
and that increase of pleasure is therefore the end of conduct. In
this way the end of evolutionism would be reduced to the end of
utilitarianism. Some utilitarians, on the other hand, sought to get
rid of the difficulties of their calculus, by the assumption that
the greatest pleasure would be found by following the direction of
evolution. But, around both points of view, and the correspondence
they assumed to exist between pleasure and evolution, special
difficulties were seen to gather. Any hedonistic theory might be
met by the assertion that life is essentially a painful experience,
and pleasure unattainable; and although the grounds on which this
assertion was made seemed to be distinctly erroneous, and hedonism
did not appear to be an impossible theory of conduct, yet a similar
objection told with greater force against the combination of
evolutionism and hedonism. For it holds the double position that the
end is to promote life, and that life is to be promoted by adding to
pleasure; or else, that the end is pleasure, but that pleasure is to
be got by following evolution. It postulates, therefore, that the
progress of life tends, and tends even in a proportionate degree,
to the increase of pleasure. Yet we could obtain no proof that this
progress does, as a matter of fact, increase pleasure in any regular
way. On the contrary, the facts of experience seemed to show that
life and pleasure do not advance proportionately, nor even always
concomitantly. But a still more important and fundamental objection
to the hedonistic form of evolutionism was deduced from the nature
of pleasure itself; for it can be modified indefinitely, and always
follows in the wake of function. Thus the sole intelligible account
we can give of what conduct will bring the greatest pleasure is, that
it is the conduct which calls forth the greatest amount of successful
energising, that which employs the greatest number and the strongest
of the human faculties. Hence, instead of being able to measure life
by pleasure, we were driven to interpret pleasure in terms of life.

[Sidenote: No independent ethical ideal afforded by the theory of
evolution.]

And perhaps at first sight it seemed that the theory of evolution
could lead us beyond the pleasure-basis of older Naturalism. But,
when the matter was examined more closely, without departing from the
empirical point of view, it was found that the notions put forward
were unsatisfactory, that they did not represent the progressive
nature of the course of evolution, and that their apparent force
fell away before logical analysis. It became evident, in the first
place, that no appropriate end of human conduct could be derived
from the nature of evolution in general. It is true that adaptation
to environment is necessary for life; but to put forward such
adaptation as the end for action, is to set up a practical goal which
corresponds but ill with the facts from which it professes to be
taken, making the theory which is supposed to account for progress
establish no end by pursuit of which progress becomes possible for
human action. Further than this, it neglects a factor in evolution
as necessary to it as is adaptation to environment--the element,
namely, of variation. A theory which took the latter as well as the
former of these factors into account seemed, in the next place, to
be given by those general characteristics which are said to mark all
progress--increase of definiteness, coherence, and heterogeneity.
But from these, again, it was found impossible to elicit a coherent
and consistent rule for determining right and wrong in conduct, or
a definite end for action: they were too abstract and mechanical to
suit the living organism of human conduct; and we were thus driven
back on the more general statement that "life" or the "increase of
life" is the end after which we should strive. In inquiring into the
meaning which could be given to this end, without interpreting it
as pleasure, it was found, after tracing it through various forms
of expression, that it reduced itself to making a man's strongest
and most persistent impulses both standard and end. And this proved
to be not only an uncertain and shifting guide for conduct, but
an imperfect representation of what was to be expected from a
progressive, because evolutionist, ethics. For these persistent
impulses could only be regarded as the survival of past activities,
and consequently, contained no ideal beyond that of continuing in
the old paths, and re-treading an already well-beaten course. Just
as from the external end of adaptation to environment, so from this
internal or subjective principle, no ideal for progress, nor any
definite end of action, could be obtained.

It would appear, therefore, that the theory of evolution--however
great its achievements in the realm of natural science--is almost
resultless in ethics. It only remains now to inquire whether this
want of competency to determine practical ends may not be due to the
superficiality of the ordinary empirical interpretation of evolution,
which has hitherto been adhered to.

FOOTNOTES:

[191] Taking evolution in its widest sense, since the theory of
evolution does not "imply some intrinsic proclivity in every species
towards a higher form."--Spencer, First Principles, App. p. 574;
Principles of Sociology, i. 106.

[192] Spencer, Principles of Biology, i. 73.

[193] Ibid., i. 82.

[194] Reden (1876), ii. 332.

[195] Social Statics (1850), p. 77.

[196] Data of Ethics, p. 25.

[197] Data of Ethics, p. 16.

[198] Ibid., p. 71.

[199] See above, chap. vi. p. 137 ff.

[200] Zeller, Phil. d. Griechen, 3d ed., III. i. 454, 470.

[201] Lassalle's tirade against the "verdammte Bedürfnisslosigkeit"
of the German workman is a case in point.

[202] Lange, Gesch. d. Materialismus, 2d ed., ii. 458.

[203] Spencer, First Principles, p. 490.

[204] An aspect of Mr Spencer's ethical theory which will be
considered in the sequel: p. 228 ff.

[205] Cf. A. Barratt, Physical Ethics, p. 294, where morality is
placed in "reasonable obedience to the physical laws of nature."

[206] Data of Ethics, p. 148.

[207] Social Statics, quoted in Data of Ethics, p. 271.

[208] Data of Ethics, p. 279.

[209] Ibid., p. 275.

[210] Data of Ethics, p. 7.

[211] Ibid., p. 281.

[212] These are examined by Mr F. W. Maitland, in an incisive
criticism of "Mr H. Spencer's Theory of Society," Mind, viii. 354
ff., 506 ff.

[213] Data of Ethics, p. 282.

[214] Ibid., p. 283.

[215] First Principles, p. 517.

[216] Spencer, Psychology, § 212, i. 478.

[217] First Principles, p. 489.

[218] "A complete equilibrium of the aggregate is without life, and
a moving equilibrium of the aggregate is living."--Principles of
Sociology, i. 106.

[219] Data of Ethics, p. 254.

[220] Spencer, Data of Ethics, p. 26.

[221] Darwin, Origin of Species (1859), pp. 43, 131, 466.

[222] Spencer, Biology, i. 257.

[223] First Principles, p. 404 f.

[224] Cf. Clifford, Lectures and Essays, i. 101.

[225] Descent of Man, 2d ed., p. 137, cf. pp. 198, 618; cf. A. R.
Wallace, Contributions (1870), p. 330.

[226] Vierteljahrsschrift f. wiss. Phil., i. (1877), 543 ff.

[227] Rolph, Biol. Probl., p. 33.

[228] Darwin, Origin of Species, p. 336.

[229] Thus Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 51, speaking of the "advantage
to man" it must have been "to become a biped," says: "The hands and
arms could hardly have become perfect enough to have manufactured
weapons, or to have hurled stones and spears with a true aim, as long
as they were habitually used for locomotion and for supporting the
whole weight of the body; or, as before remarked, as long as they
were especially fitted for climbing trees." The hands had to lose
their dexterity for the latter purposes before they could acquire
the more delicate adjustments necessary for skill in the former. The
transition was of course a gradual one; but the initial variations
required would seem to have been at first unfavourable to man's
chances in the struggle for existence, though it was through them
that he rose to his place at the summit of the organic scale.

[230] Spencer, Data of Ethics, p. 280.

[231] Spencer, Biology, i. 149.

[232] ibid., i. 144.

[233] Spencer, Data of Ethics, p. 71: "Briefly, then, if the conduct
is the best possible on every occasion, it follows that as the
occasions are endlessly varied the acts will be endlessly varied
to suit--the heterogeneity in the combination of motions will be
extreme."

[234] Spencer, Data of Ethics, p. 106: "The acts characterised by the
more complex motives and the more involved thoughts, have all along
been of higher authority for guidance."

[235] Cf. Clifford, Lectures and Essays, i. 94 f., where a similar
definition is given in answer to the question, "What is the meaning
of _better_?"

[236] Spencer, Data of Ethics, p. 63.

[237] Cf. Spencer, First Principles, p. 566.

[238] So far as the following criticism may appear to apply to Mr
Spencer, and not merely to a possible way of defining moral conduct,
it is necessary to bear in mind the words of his preface to the 'Data
of Ethics': "With a view to clearness, I have treated separately some
correlative aspects of conduct, drawing conclusions either of which
becomes untrue if divorced from the other."

[239] Spencer, Data of Ethics, p. 75 f.

[240] Data of Ethics, p. 106.

[241] Although Mr Spencer holds that representativeness varies as
definiteness, and measures complexity, including that complexity
implied by increasing heterogeneity.--Principles of Psychology, ii.
516 f.

[242] Data of Ethics, p. 113.

[243] Cf. Principles of Sociology, ii. 725.

[244] Data of Ethics, p. 123.

[245] Data of Ethics, pp. 107, 129.

[246] Ibid., p. 110.

[247] Data of Ethics, p. 25; cf. Lange, Ges. d. Mat., ii. 247.
Lange's statement is noteworthy: "Die menschliche Vernunft kennt kein
anderes Ideal, als die möglichste Erhaltung und Vervollkommnung des
Lebens, welches einmal begonnen hat, verbunden mit der Einschränkung
von Geburt und Tod."

[248] The "endeavour to further evolution, especially that of
the human race," is put forward as a "new duty" by Mr F. Galton,
Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (1883), p. 337.

[249] Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 121; Stephen, Science of Ethics,
p. 366. Earlier than either of these writers, Dr Hutchison Stirling
suggested Health as a practical principle to be set against the
anarchy of individualism. But with him, it is not an empirical
generalisation of the tendency of evolution. It is as "the outward
sign of freedom, the realisation of the universal will," that "health
may be set at once as sign and as goal of the harmonious operation
of the whole system--as sign and as goal of a realisation of
life."--Secret of Hegel, ii. 554.

[250] Naturrecht auf dem Grunde der Ethik, 2d ed., 1868.

[251] Cf. E. Simcox, Natural Law, p. 97.

[252] Simcox, Natural Law, p. 86.

[253] Ibid., p. 87.

[254] Ibid., p. 90.

[255] Ibid., p. 99.

[256] Simcox, Natural Law, p. 104.

[257] Ibid., p. 87.

[258] Science of Ethics, p. 76.

[259] Science of Ethics, p. 74.

[260] Even were we to succeed in getting a satisfactory view of the
type, we should still have to leave room for the individuality of
each person, which is such that his function must differ in a manner
corresponding to his peculiar nature and surroundings (cf. Lotze,
Grundzüge der praktischen Phil., p. 13 f.)

[261] Simcox, Natural Law, p. 88.

[262] Ibid., p. 100.

[263] Science of Ethics, p. 120.

[264] Simcox, Natural Law, p. 104.

[265] Ibid., p. 103.

[266] Ibid., p. 89; cf. J. T. Punnet, Mind, x. 91: "What the
progress-principle makes its aim and end is not complexity, but the
highest and choicest fruits of complexity--the harmonious unfolding
of all the latent capacities of man."

[267] "Of real tendencies"--Natural Law, p. 98. But what tendencies
are not real?

[268] Natural Law, p. 98.

[269] Cf. Trendelenburg, Naturrecht, p. 45: "Von der philosophischen
Seite kann es kein anderes Princip der Ethik geben als das
menschliche Wesen an sich, d. h., das menschliche Wesen in der Tiefe
seiner Idee und im Reichthum seiner historischen Entwickelung. Beides
gehört zusammen. Denn das nur Historische würde blind und das nur
Ideale leer."



CHAPTER IX.

ON THE BASIS OF ETHICS.


The peculiarity of the conclusion we have reached is, that the theory
which is used to explain the nature of progress, seems unable to give
any canon or end for conduct which points out the way for progressive
advance. The view of human nature became unsatisfactory just at the
critical point--when we attempted to get at a knowledge of its end
or final cause, which would give unity and purpose to action. To say
that the end is increase of life or function appeared a merely formal
notion unless we defined life as pleasure, while pleasure itself
was found to be unintelligible except as performance of function.
This uncertainty seems to indicate a certain superficiality in the
ordinary empirical way of looking at evolution.[270]

[Sidenote: 1. Principles involved in the theory of evolution.]

The principles involved in the theory of evolution are, in brief,
as follows. In the first place, it shows that there is a tendency,
brought about by natural selection, for organisms to harmonise with
or become adapted to their environment--a tendency, that is to
say, towards unity of organism and environment, and, in so far as
external conditions are uniform, towards a general unity of life.
In the second place, the theory implies variation in organisms,
produced either by the unequal incidence of external forces, or by
the spontaneous action of the organism, or by both causes combined.
The mere increase in the number of living organisms leads to a
modification of the conditions of life by which new variations are
encouraged. And this tendency to variation in organisms--not merely
the diversity of external environment--is perpetually complicating
the conditions which the former tendency, that towards unity, helps
to bring into harmony. It thus happens that there is, in the third
place, a continual process of readjustment and oscillation between
the tendency towards unity and that towards variety, which, through
opposition and conciliation, produces continuity in nature. Each
newly formed unity between organism and environment is broken by a
new variation of the organism or of the environment, which further
complicates the problem to be solved by the unifying process, and
gives scope for a more intricate and more comprehensive readjustment.
Unity, Variety, and Continuity are thus the three principles implied
in the theory of evolution.[271]

[Sidenote: 2. Unsuccessful application of these principles to ethics;]

It is from these principles that the attempt has been made to show
the ethical bearing of evolution. The first of them, Unity, is
represented in the theory that would make adaptation to environment
the end of conduct; and the second is represented ethically in
the doctrine suggested by Mr Spencer, that the degree of morality
depends on the degree of complexity in act and motive. But both of
these views are obviously one-sided, even from the point of view of
empirical evolution. Taken together, the principles on which they
depend make up that law of continuous and progressive advance which
may be regarded as expressing the essential characteristic of the
theory. And from this more general and accurate expression of it,
we might have expected to have been able to elicit the contribution
which evolution has to make to the determination of the ethical end.
But after examining the various forms which it may take, we have
been unable to obtain from it a principle of action.

[Sidenote: (_a_) the principles being treated as derived from
experience,]

In inquiring into the reason which has made the theory of evolution
seemingly so barren in its ethical consequences, the first point
which requires attention is that the characteristics of Unity,
Variety, and Continuity are treated by it not as principles involved
in development, but as theories inferred from, or superinduced upon,
the facts of development. We are led by facts to suppose certain
hypothetical laws--namely, that organisms tend to harmony with their
environment, but that there are certain causes promoting variation,
and, consequently, that the history of all life is that of a
continuous process towards more comprehensive uniformities, passing
always into more intricate variations. Additional facts are compared
with these hypothetical causes, and, by their ability to explain such
facts, the hypotheses are raised to the position of laws of nature,
and are confidently applied to account for new phenomena of the same
kind. But when we pass beyond facts lying immediately on the plane
of those from which our laws have been gathered, it is to follow an
insufficient analogy if we interpret them by theories only shown to
belong to the former order. And this becomes still more obvious when
the change is not merely to a different order of facts, but to a
different way of looking at facts, as is the case in the transition
from the point of view of knowledge to that of action.

[Sidenote: not as depending on a principle implied in experience;]

But there is another way in which the principles of Unity,
Variety, and Continuity may be regarded. Instead of being simply
generalisations gathered from experience and depending upon it,
they may be founded on a principle which is itself the basis of the
possibility of experience. Of course, no one would think of denying
that it is to the accumulated mass of experienced facts that these
laws owe their prominence in modern scientific opinion, and their
acceptance by the judgment of the best scientists. But the process by
which a man has been led to lay hold of such principles is one thing;
their logical position in relation to experience quite another. Our
definite recognition of the laws may very well be the result of
experience, at the same time that the principle of Continuity is
presupposed in our having experience at all. As long as we kept to
the ground from which we started, and did not attempt to get beyond
the categories of causality and reciprocity, our progress might
seem to be easy enough. Although their logical relations may be
misconceived, the laws are, of course, actually there, in experience:
their application to the successive phenomena of nature remains the
same, and may be duly apprehended. The extension of facts into laws
is explained by the scientific imagination, and we do not stay to
inquire into the conditions on which the scientific imagination
works and has applicability to experience. But, when we try to
pass from efficient cause to the notion of purpose or of morality,
we find ourselves driven back on the fundamental constitution of
knowledge, and see that it is only through the unifying and relating
action of a self-conscious subject that knowledge is possible or
things exist for us at all. And this is the reason why we are able
to say that the Unity or Continuity of nature is a principle or law
of experience.[272] Were that principle not involved in knowledge,
there would be no world of nature for us at all. The empirical
interpretation of evolution, which has been hitherto adopted, has
made the negative side of this truth sufficiently evident: it has
shown that we cannot, on empirical ground, reach the end or purpose
of human nature. The question thus arises, whether what may be called
the "metaphysical" or "transcendental" interpretation of evolution
can show the reason of this defect and suggest a remedy.

[Sidenote: (_b_) no logical transition being effected from efficient
to final cause.]

The insufficiency of the empirical way of looking at things is seen
most clearly when we attempt to make the transition just referred
to, and determine an end for conduct. It seems often to be thought
that, in pointing out the tendency of affairs, we are, at the same
time, prescribing the end towards which human endeavour ought to
be directed. Now, it is very difficult to say how far an empirical
method enables us to anticipate tendencies of this kind at all. Even
from the historical point of view the conditioning circumstances are
so complicated that it is by no means easy to predict the result of
their combination. It is argued, however, by Schäffle,[273] that we
are at least able to see as far as the next stage in the series of
historical progress, and this is thought to lead to the conclusion
that we should make this next stage of development our end: further
than it we cannot see, and therefore need not provide. If, then, we
have no ultimate end for conduct, at least we need never be without
a proximate end--and one which is always changing with the course of
events. Instead, therefore, of saying that we should take no thought
for the morrow, the contention would seem to be that we should live
for the morrow but take no thought for the day after. But here the
altered point of view is scarcely concealed. From the discussion of
efficient causes we proceed all at once to decide upon ends or final
causes. We have shown (let it be granted) that, taking account of
the present position and mode of action of the forces we are able to
examine, they will modify the present state of affairs in a certain
known manner. To-day we are in state A; to-morrow we shall be in, or
well on the way towards, state Ab; therefore, runs the conclusion,
implied or expressed, we ought to make Ab our end. But this is more
than a fallacy due to the confusion of the two meanings of "end." The
conclusion to which it leads is inconsistent with, or at least shows
the one-sidedness of, the premisses from which it was drawn. For, if
Ab is really the next term in the series of historical progress, our
making it our end can neither help nor hinder its realisation. If, on
the other hand, there is really a meaning in our making the world-end
our own, then we cannot bring that end, the realisation of which is
conceived as still in the future, under the category of efficient
causality, and say with confidence that it is the next stage in the
course of events.

[Sidenote: 3. Difference between causality and teleology.]

The idea does not work itself out in the same way as an efficient
cause works in the processes of nature. We might indeed
speak--perhaps with some intelligible meaning--of the tendency of
evolution becoming conscious in man, and then working towards its own
realisation as a fixed idea. So far as the simpler representations
are concerned, this mode of action has been clearly illustrated
in Mr Bain's writings; and the characteristic is not limited to
the less complex kinds of mental objects. The idea is, in its own
nature, a force tending both to exist in consciousness and to realise
itself through the motor energies.[274] Consciousness of an end is
a motive to action. Thus the notion of final cause includes that of
efficient cause; but the two are not convertible. The idea of an end,
being conceived by reason, cannot be described simply as a tendency
become conscious. It has passed into the region in which various
conceptions are, or may be, competing against one another, and the
resultant is decided on upon grounds which may be called subjective
since they proceed from conscious determination. However the laws of
this conscious determination may be expressed, they are not to be
identified with the natural sequence of events as it may be conceived
to exist independently of the individual consciousness. What seems
the tendency of things may be altered or modified upon some ground
of preference by the conscious subject. In passing therefore to the
working out of a rational or mental idea--such as is implied in the
conception of an end--we can no longer fully represent our notions by
means of the determined temporal succession called causality.

[Sidenote: These notions unconnected by empiricism,]

Thus the empirical standpoint leaves the case incomplete. A man
might quite reasonably ask why he should adopt as maxims of conduct
the laws seen to operate in nature. The end, in this way, is not
made to follow from the natural function of man. It is simply a mode
in which the events of the world occur; and we must, therefore,
give a reason why it should be adopted as his end by the individual
agent. To him there may be no sufficient grounds of inducement to
become "a self-conscious agent in the evolution of the universe."
From the purely evolutionist point of view, no definite attempt has
been made to solve the difficulty. It seems really to go no deeper
than Dr Johnson's reply to Boswell, when the latter plagued him to
give a reason for action: "'Sir,' said he, in an animated tone, 'it
is driving on the system of life.'"[275] When any further answer is
attempted now to the question, it appears to be on hedonistic grounds.

[Sidenote: even with the assistance of hedonism.]

But it is not certain that the next stage of development will bring
more pleasure along with it than the present. Enough has already been
said of the difficulties and uncertainties which surround any attempt
to interpret evolution as tending constantly to increased pleasure.
It may be thought, however, that, if neither optimism nor pessimism
is the conclusion to which we are led, the modified doctrine of what
is called Meliorism may be accepted. And this theory--which holds
that the world is improving, that the balance of good over evil, or
that of pleasure over pain, is on the increase--might seem to form
a convenient support to the present doctrine. For it may appear to
follow from it that, if the next stage in the world-process--that
towards which evolution is tending--is known, then we should make
it our end to accelerate this stage, as it will be one which brings
with it a better state of affairs than the present. But not even the
most enthusiastic "meliorist" has tried to show anything more than
that his doctrine holds true in general, and that, although progress
has many receding waves, the tide of human happiness is rising. But
we cannot tell how great these receding waves may be; nor may we
say that our action can have no power to check them. It follows,
therefore, that, in judging of any special and temporary movement
of events (and it is not pretended that our anticipatory knowledge
of the future can extend far), we cannot assume that the second
stage will be better than the first, or that voluntary modification
of it--if that be possible--might not improve both the immediate
result and its later consequences. It becomes necessary, therefore,
to compare the value of the two by the directly pleasurable effects
they may be expected to have, so that we are driven back to test the
course of evolution by reference to some other principle. The further
we go in examining an empirical theory, the clearer does it become
that it can make no nearer approach to the discovery of an ethical
end, than to point out what courses of action are likely to be the
pleasantest, or what tendencies to action the strongest: while this
can only be done within certain limits. The doctrine of evolution
itself, when added to empirical morality, only widens our view of the
old landscape--does not enable us to pass from "is" to "ought," or
from efficient to final cause, any more than the telescope can point
beyond the sphere of spatial quantity.

[Sidenote: New point of view introduced by teleology]

We are endeavouring to get at the idea or end of human nature in an
impossible way when we attempt to reach it on purely empirical lines,
and think that, if we work long enough on them, we are sure to come
to it. In the same way it was formerly thought by physiologists that,
if we thoroughly examined the brain with microscope and scalpel, we
should come upon the seat of the soul at last, while psychologists
were fain to believe that, in addition to all our presentations
of objects, we had also a presentation of the subject or thinking
being. The mistake of both was in imagining that the soul was a thing
amongst other things, or a presentation amongst other presentations,
instead of the subject and condition of there being either things or
thoughts at all. Of a similar character is the attempt to get at an
end or final cause without leaving the point of view of efficient
causality. Were it successful, it would reduce final cause to
mechanism. To look upon man or upon nature as manifesting an end
implies an idea or notion of the object as a whole, over and above
the mutual determination of its various parts, and thus necessitates
the contemplation of it "as though an understanding contained the
ground of the unity of the multiplicity of its empirical laws."[276]
It is the attempt to get at an external purpose for objects of
experience that has made teleology be looked upon askance by men of
science. A conception of this kind went far to vitiate physics in
the middle ages, till it was, with justice, strictly excluded from
the scientific interpretation of nature by the leaders of modern
philosophy.[277] But teleology does not stand or fall with this
external form of it, which takes its illustrations from the products
of the factory, not from the manifestations of life,[278] and which
is really only mechanism misunderstood.

[Sidenote: necessary in considering life,]

The conception of an end is forced upon us in considering life,
because then it is necessary to take account of the being as
organised, and therefore as a whole. In the investigation of nature,
on the other hand, things may be apprehended without relation to
the conception of the whole; and teleology, therefore, seems to be
unnecessary. The notion of purpose, it is often said, is essential
to biology, but out of place in physical science. But when we
look on the world as a whole, the notion of end or purpose is
introduced, and the functions of its various parts conceived from a
new point of view. And the end of an organism can only be partially
understood, when that organism is conceived as a whole apart from
its environment. It is only a partial manifestation or example of
the more perfect reality in which things are to be regarded as not
merely conditioned and conditioning, but as revelations of purpose.
But, although the notion of purpose cannot be dispensed with in
considering organic nature, the teleological notions we form of
living things are imperfect and "abstract." Thus the organism is
often, more or less explicitly, judged by its utility for some human
purpose. In these cases the end is clearly an external and dependent
one. And, when the adaptation of its parts is spoken of in relation
to its type or perfect form, a conception is involved over and above
what can be inferred from the nature of the organism in itself. The
notion of the end depends upon a rational ideal, which passes beyond
the causal interrelation of parts to the conception of the organism
as a whole, whose function is necessarily related to its environment.

[Sidenote: and life directly known only as self-conscious.]

Our knowledge of the ends of the lower animals is really much more
imperfect than our knowledge of the human end. For the only life
we really know is self-conscious life, and that we are unable to
attribute to them. We know their life only by conjecture, our
knowledge of it being but an abstraction from our own consciousness.
The ethical, as Trendelenburg puts it,[279] is the higher stage of
the process, a lower stage of which is the organic. The purpose,
which is conceived as blind or unconscious in nature, becomes
conscious and voluntary in man. But our notion of the former
is simply an abstraction from the free and conscious purpose
which characterises our own activity. The conception of life is
only known to us as--is only--an element or moment in our own
self-consciousness. And life which is not self-conscious can only
be judged in relation to the self-consciousness which contains in
itself the explanation both of life and of nature. The germ of truth
in the old mechanical teleology may perhaps be seen in this way. For
it had right on its side in so far as it referred everything to the
self-consciousness manifested in man; it was mistaken only in so far
as it made things relative to his needs and desires. The teleological
anthropomorphism which judges all things according to their
correspondence with human purposes, must be transcended, equally
with the speculative anthropomorphism which frames the unseen world
in the likeness of the phenomena of our present experience. But to
attempt to escape from what is sometimes called anthropomorphism--the
reference of the nature and purpose of things to self-consciousness,
as expressive of the ultimate reality--is to attempt to escape from
thought itself, and makes one's thinking from the beginning void and
contradictory.

[Sidenote: 4. Reference to self-consciousness implied in evolution,]

Now this reference to self has been omitted in our consideration
of empirical evolution. We have taken the purely objective ground
of science, and we have admitted what science has told us of how
all sorts of things came to be,--how man appeared on the earth,
gradually adapted himself to his surroundings and modified them--how
sentiments expanded, customs grew, and one institution developed
out of another. But science shows us all this only as an external
process of events in space and time--a process in which the
preceding determines each succeeding state, and all parts are united
together. It does not show us the process from the inside. And, in
the end, it can do no more than point towards, without reaching,
the comprehensive idea of a whole, by reference to which idea all
the members of the whole are determined, in such a way that it is
insufficient to look upon one as causing another, and with the others
making up the aggregate; since each member only exists for the sake
of the whole, and the idea of the whole precedes the parts which
constitute it.[280] The teleological conception thus necessarily
leads us beyond the ordinary categories of science, by which all
things are conceived as connected causally in space and time. But the
scientific theories that we have been discussing do not recognise
this altered point of view; and, without giving any justification
for the change of standpoint, lay down the moral law that we ought
to aim at the realisation of something which can only be described
as a mental conception or idea. Here a double change in point of
view is involved. We are no longer considering a process going on
outside us, in which the reference to self may be fairly ignored, but
we put ourselves in relation to this external order: and we do so,
not merely as cognitive, but as active--as the potential source of
actions which we say "ought" to be performed by us.

[Sidenote: (_a_) made clear in the attempt to trace the genesis of
self-consciousness.]

The assumption involved in the former change is that made by
comparative or evolutionist psychology, when it attempts to play the
part of a theory of knowledge. The development of impressions and
ideas is made to pass upwards to more complicated stages, till it
reaches the point at which the individual, conceived as determined
by external forces and reacting upon them, becomes conscious
of itself as a subject of knowledge and source of action. This
transition from the category of causality to self-consciousness is,
in some systems--that of Mr Spencer, for example--either concealed
or held to with no firm grasp. Throughout his objective treatment
of psychology, it would seem that Mr Spencer is evolving mind or
self-consciousness out of the process in which simple relations of
matter and motion form the lowest stage, and reflex action is that
which approaches most nearly to having mental characteristics. And,
from this objective point of view, he speaks of his philosophy as
an interpretation of "the detailed phenomena of life, mind, and
society, in terms of matter, motion, and force."[281] But when he
discusses the subjective side, he admits that it is entirely unique
and _sui generis_,[282] and adopts what is known as the "two aspects"
theory--the theory that mind cannot be accounted for as derived from
matter, any more than matter can be accounted for as derived from
mind, but that they are both phases of one ultimate and unknown
reality.[283] This admission involves a practical acknowledgment
that it is impossible to arrive at consciousness or at subjectivity
by a process of natural development. We must, it affirms, postulate
two aspects or phases of existence, or two lines of development,
connected probably in their ultimate reality, but, as known to us,
distinct from one another, and without mutual influence.

[Sidenote: Reference to self-consciousness,]

The doctrine that a reference to self-consciousness is implied in
experience, may perhaps be made clearer by considering a criticism
to which it has recently been subjected by an able psychological
writer. Professor W. James writes as follows:--

    "The doctrine of the post-Kantians, that all knowledge
    is also self-knowledge, seems to flow from this
    confusion [between the psychologist's standpoint
    and the standpoint of the feeling upon which he is
    supposed to be making his report]. Empirically, of
    course, an awareness of self accompanies most of
    our thinking. But that it should be needed to make
    that thinking 'objective' is quite another matter.
    'Green-after-red-and-other-than-it' is an absolutely
    complete object of thought, ideally considered, and
    needs no added element. The fallacy seems to arise
    from some such reflection as this, that since the
    feeling _is_ what it feels itself to be, so it must
    feel itself to be what it _is_--namely, related to each
    of its objects. That the last _is_ covers much more
    ground than the first, the philosopher here does not
    notice. The first _is_ signifies only the feeling's
    inward quality; the last _is_ covers all possible facts
    _about_ the feeling,--relational facts, which can only
    be known from outside points of view, like that of the
    philosopher himself."[284]

[Sidenote: though not itself a part of experience,]

[Sidenote: logically implied by experience.]

Now it seems to me that the real confusion here is between the
point of view of experience, and the point of view of reflection
on experience, and that it is not the "post-Kantians" who confuse
the two points of view. The "post-Kantians"--by whom Professor
James means T. H. Green and the writers commonly associated with
him--habitually occupy the latter standpoint. They do not hold
that "all knowledge is also self-knowledge," in the sense that
"an awareness of self accompanies most [or all] of our thinking."
When we have this empirical "awareness of self," our object is
the more or less distinct contents of perception, &c., which make
up the empirical ego. But this knowledge of the empirical ego,
equally with knowledge of external nature, implies logically the
action of self-consciousness. When we reflect upon experience, one
constant element is seen to be implied in it--the reference to a
subject of knowledge and feeling. Certainly "post-Kantians" do not
imagine--as Professor James seems himself to imagine and to think
they do--that a feeling feels itself, or an object knows itself.
"Green-after-red-and-other-than-it" is for them, as for him, if not
"an absolutely complete object of thought," yet relatively complete.
It may be apprehended alone as a part of experience. But reflection
on experience shows that it, like any other object of thought,
depends upon a knowing subject. The "post-Kantians" do not assert
that knowing an object involves for the individual knower actual
consciousness of what his knowledge implies, any more than they would
say that the "plain man" is already a metaphysician. But they hold
that reflection on experience shows that self-reference, or reference
to a subject, is a logical condition of there being experience
at all. So far from confusing the two standpoints, they require
carefully to emphasise their difference, lest the actual content of a
state of consciousness in the individual man be held to be equivalent
to the grounds or conditions of that state of consciousness.

The reason why there is even an apparent plausibility in the
attempt to get at a natural development of self-consciousness, is
that the reference to self is, from the outset, implicitly, but
logically, assumed in tracing the sequence of events which forms
the subject-matter of the theory of evolution, while the course of
development does nothing more than render its implication explicit.
Self-consciousness is not something that exists apart from the
world of known and knowable objects, any more than it is itself a
special department of this world of objects distinguishable from, and
determined by, its surroundings. It is, on the contrary, the supreme
condition of the world of objects having any existence whatever.
It is only through objects being brought into relation with the
identical and permanent subject of knowledge, that there is unity in
nature, or, in other words, that there is a known world of nature or
experience at all. The evolution of mind or self-consciousness out of
experience is, therefore, not merely to be rejected as a problem too
intricate for psychological analysis. It is a mistake to think that
it is a possible problem at all; for it attempts to make experience
account for and originate the principles on which its own possibility
depends.

[Sidenote: (_b_) made clear in the attempt to trace morality from
reflex action.]

But it is the second change in point of view which needs special
emphasis here--the change from the point of view of science to
that of morality. Taken in its bare form, this is perhaps little
more than a confusion of thought. The fact of things being of a
certain constitution, and of their progress tending in a certain
direction, cannot of itself supply a law for the exercise of our
activity. But the view is associated with a theory of the nature
of human action which seeks to bring it into the strict line of
natural development. Just as empirical psychology attempted to
treat self-consciousness as a stage in the evolution of experience
or knowledge, so the empirical theory of morality, aided by the
doctrine of evolution, tries to show how the action which is called
moral has been developed out of purely physical or reflex action.
But this theory of the development of moral action is really open to
the same objection as that which was urged against the theory which
evolves self-consciousness from the unconscious. The objection to the
latter was, that experience, itself constituted by consciousness, is
made to produce the condition of its own possibility; and a similar
confusion is involved in attempting to develop moral action out of
merely physical or reflex action. The only case of true psychical or
conscious action is that in which there is a conscious determination
of end and means; and action of this kind implies the same relation
to self-consciousness as that by which knowledge is constituted.
The relation is, however, manifested in a different way: it is not
an apprehension of the manifold of impression into the unity of
consciousness, but the externalisation of self-consciousness in
realising a conceived end or idea. Now, in so far as physical and
psychical facts are phenomena of experience--and they have no other
existence, at least none that can have any intelligible meaning given
to it--they presuppose self-consciousness; for it is only in relation
to it that experience is possible. That is to say, their existence
logically implies a reference to a subject whose active externalising
manifestation is the determination of means and end which constitutes
moral (as distinguished from merely natural) action. So far,
therefore, from our being able to trace the development of moral
action from the simpler phenomena of natural action, we find that
these, in their most rudimentary form, by virtue of their being
phenomena of experience, imply and receive their reality from the
self-consciousness which is the differentiating quality both of
knowledge and of moral action.

[Sidenote: 5. The unity of self-consciousness:]

[Sidenote: (_a_) as making possible the transition from knowledge to
morality;]

From this it follows that, although, empirically, the change
from the point of view of science to that of morality is a
transition to a different order of facts, yet the passage may
be possible transcendentally through self-consciousness. For in
self-consciousness we reach the element of identity between knowledge
and action. It is, therefore, of importance to understand the
nature of this self-conscious activity in relation to knowledge
and to action. If the fundamental characteristic of knowledge is
the bringing into relation to consciousness, then all conscious
action has this characteristic; for it determines self towards some
particular line of activity--that is to say, towards an object or end
which is thereby related to consciousness. Action therefore, we may
say, is knowledge. And in the same way, on the other hand, since the
relating to consciousness which constitutes knowledge can only be
regarded as originated by the subject, it follows, conversely, that
knowledge is action.[285] "We act," says Spinoza, "only in so far as
we know or understand." Action is but one aspect or manifestation of
that which, in another aspect or manifestation, is knowledge. But
the aspect of self-consciousness we call knowledge and that we call
action are different from one another. In the former the relating
to consciousness in the definite forms of thought and perception is
the prominent thing. In the latter it is the realising energy of the
self-conscious subject. The ordinary distinction between knowledge
and action is therefore correct, if not pushed to the extent of
making an absolute separation between them: in the former we idealise
the real, in the latter we realise the ideal. But they are at one in
this, that both involve self-conscious activity.

[Sidenote: (_b_) as determining the character of the ethical end,]

The self-consciousness which in one relation is knowledge, in
another action, is thus the fundamental fact of human nature; and
on it, therefore, the ethical end must be based, if that end can
be disclosed by the nature of man, and is to express what is most
fundamental in his nature. Now, as knowledge finds its completion
when all things are connected with one another and the subject in a
definite system of relations, the end of completed self-conscious
activity cannot be different. In their final perfection, as in their
fundamental nature, the two are at one. As Kant puts it,[286] the
speculative and the practical reason are reconciled in the notion of
end. However virtue may differ from knowledge in the processes of
ordinary experience, the distinction only belongs to their finite
realisation. An intuitive understanding, or understanding which, in
knowing, creates the objects of knowledge, is the highest conception
of reason. Yet the very notion of a finite self implies that neither
such knowledge nor such activity belongs to it. In knowledge and
action, as properties of the ultimate self-consciousness, human
beings only participate. It is only by means of the laborious methods
of observation and inference that they approach the intuition of all
things as a unity in which perfect knowledge consists; and, in the
same way, it is only by the gradual volitional adaptation of means
to end that they are able, in some measure, to contribute to the
realisation of self-consciousness in the world.

[Sidenote: as self-realisation,]

An end can only be made our own when conceived as necessary for
realising or completing our idea of self. Conscious volition
only follows a conceived want, or recognition that the self as
imagined--the ideal self--is not realised in the actual self. The
action is towards a fuller working out of the idea of self; and the
end may therefore, in all cases of conscious action, be said to be
self-realisation, though the nature of this end differs according
to each man's conception of self. This may be expressed, as Green
expresses it, by saying that "self-satisfaction is the form of
every object willed; but ... it is on the specific difference of
the objects willed under the general form of self-satisfaction
that the quality of the will must depend."[287] It appears to
me, however, that this statement requires to be guarded by an
explanation. The self-satisfaction sought must not be looked upon as
a feeling,--for if it is, it can only be interpreted psychologically
as pleasure--but as simply conscious self-realisation. And this
self-realisation is the objective consciousness of an attained
end, which is accompanied by, but is not the same as, the feeling
of pleasure. Self-realisation is the end, not the pleasurable
feeling which follows it; self-satisfaction, not the "pleasure of
self-satisfaction." In this way, the common experience "that the
objects with which we seek to satisfy ourselves do not turn out
capable of satisfying us,"[288] might be expressed by saying that
the method adopted for the realisation of self is often found in its
result to lead to incomplete, or even to illusory, self-realisation.

The question thus arises, What is the true self that is to be
realised, and what is meant by the realisation of it? The will that
wills itself is as bare a notion in ethics, as the thought that
thinks itself is in metaphysics. The "good will," which Kant rightly
held to be the only ultimate good, never altogether escaped this
formality in Kant's own treatment of it. His idea of humanity as a
realm of ends was limited by his formal conception of the function
of reason, though it suggests the way by which the mere tautology
of will may be transcended. It is of the essence of a finite will
that its end is different from the realisation of the end. But the
rationality of the will implies that it must aim at nothing less
than the harmonious articulation of its whole activity in the unity
of self-consciousness.

[Sidenote: but as transcending egoism;]

It has been argued above that both knowledge and morality are
expressions of self-conscious activity: in it these different
manifestations find an element of fundamental identity. But it may be
maintained, further, that this "unity of self-consciousness" is not
merely the unity of the different states of an individual, but that
it is an element which transcends the difference by which concrete
individuals are distinguished from one another. If this view can be
carried out, it seems to lead us to attribute to other men something
more than a "similar consciousness"[289] to our own, and to make us
look on all self-conscious beings as sharing in, or manifesting,
in various imperfect ways, one identical self-consciousness. From
this point of view, self-realisation would be established as no mere
individual end. The first law of morality would be not the "natural"
impulse for each to take care of himself in the struggle for life,
but, on the contrary, the sublation of that distinction between the
particular ego and other individuals which would admit of the one
using the others as mere means to his own advancement. His true end
is the same as theirs: the realisation of the self-consciousness
in which both partake--its realisation, that is to say, not in
one individual only, but wherever it is manifested.[290] This is
the rationale of what the empirical theory of evolution tries to
establish by pointing to the growing harmony in feeling and interest
between the individual and society. What evolution really shows is
the gradual manifestation in actual volition of the identity of
nature in all men.[291] I do not say that this fundamental identity
of nature does away with all conflict between self-realisation in
one's self and in others; but it does much, if it establishes the
principle that the realisation of one's own nature involves the
realisation of that of others. As Schäffle says, "the moral law is
the direction of the will to the genuinely human as humanity;" and
"this is a transcendental element embedded in the hearts of all
men--though in its basis only, for it is developed and ripened in the
course of history."[292] And the more fully self-consciousness is
realised, the clearer does it become that its complete realisation
implies that "kingdom of ends" spoken of by Kant, in which all
self-conscious beings are at once subjects and sovereign.

[Sidenote: (_c_) as showing that the realisation of the end must be
progressive.]

Further, self-realisation in both its aspects--as individual and as
social--is necessarily progressive. It is only at the highest stage
of its development that nature becomes the organ of intelligence and
morality.[293] And, just as knowledge expresses itself through the
forms of space and time, and, therefore, by gradual colligations of
facts, so the conscious determination of activity is manifested in
the world in an order of consecutive acts, and is therefore subject,
in its manifestation, to the laws of temporal succession. It is the
part of a system of metaphysics--at any rate, it does not belong to
the present inquiry--to show how reason manifests itself in space
and time, and how, through the rationality of this manifestation,
everything in space is and acts only in relation to its environment,
and through it, to the rest of the world, and how each event in time
is the result of preceding events, and determines those which follow
it. What it thus shows the necessity of is the process of evolution;
and it is because this process is determined by reason that the world
is the object of knowledge and the sphere of moral action. Evolution
is thus not the foundation of morality, but the manifestation of the
principle on which it depends. Morality cannot be explained by means
of its own development, without reference to the self-consciousness
which makes that development possible. However valuable may be the
information we get from experience as to the gradual evolution of
conduct, its nature and end can only be explained by a principle that
transcends experience.

                 THE END.

  PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS.

FOOTNOTES:

[270] The empirical interpretation of evolution is that adopted by
the majority of evolutionists, but is not essential to the truth of
the theory. A protest against it is entered by Mr Wallace, though in
the somewhat crude form of postulating supernatural interference for
the production of certain classes of phenomena (cf. Contributions to
the Theory of Natural Selection, p. 359), at the same time that his
conception of nature does not seem to differ otherwise from that of
Häckel.

[271] The reference in the above to Kant, Werke, iii. 438 ff., is
obvious; but it is nevertheless a true account of the principles
involved in the theory of evolution.

[272] Cf. Stirling, Secret of Hegel, ii. 615: "One grand system,
unity of type, all this must be postulated from the very constitution
of human reason; but from the very constitution of experience as
well, it can never be realised in experience."

[273] Bau und Leben des socialen Körpers, ii. 68.

[274] Cf. Fouillée, Critique des systèmes de morale contemporains, p.
13 ff.

[275] Boswell's Life of Johnson, chap. liv.

[276] Kant, Werke, v. 187 (Kr. d. Urt., Einl. iv.)

[277] Descartes, Princ. phil., iii. 3, i. 28; Bacon, De augm., iii.
5, Novum organum, ii. 2.

[278] Cf. Kant, Werke, v. 387 (Kr. d. Urt., § 65).

[279] Historische Beiträge zur Philosophie, iii. 165.

[280] Cf. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik, iii. 228.

[281] First Principles, § 194, p. 556.

[282] Principles of Psychology, § 56, i. 140.

[283] Ibid., §§ 272, 273, i. 624 ff.

[284] Mind, ix. 21.

[285] From "action" in this its ultimate meaning as equivalent to
origination by the subject, it is necessary to distinguish "action"
as a phenomenon in the external world. The latter is one of the
modes in which the relation of objects is known to us, the former a
characteristic of knowing. The active nature of knowledge is worked
out in an interesting way in Professor S. S. Laurie's 'Metaphysica
nova et vetusta,' by "Scotus Novanticus" (1884).

[286] Werke, iii. 538; cf. Adamson, Philosophy of Kant, p. 138.

[287] Prolegomena to Ethics, p. 161.

[288] Prolegomena to Ethics, p. 165.

[289] Sidgwick, "Green's Ethics," Mind, ix. 180.

[290] This is implied in Hegel's well-known imperative, "Be a person
and respect others as persons."--Phil. d. Rechts, p. 73.

[291] Thus Höffding maintains that "the highest ethical idea" is "the
idea of the human race as a realm of personalities."--Grundlage der
humanen Ethik (aus dem dänischen), p. 74.

[292] Bau und Leben des socialen Körpers, i. 173.

[293] Cf. H. Siebeck, Philosophische Monatshefte, xx. 340.


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