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´╗┐Title: A Handbook of Ethical Theory
Author: Fullerton, George Stuart
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Handbook of Ethical Theory" ***






We are all amply provided, with moral maxims, which we hold with more or
less confidence, but an insight into their significance is not attained
without reflection and some serious effort. Yet, surely, in a field in
which there are so many differences of opinion, clearness of insight and
breadth of view are eminently desirable.

It is with a view to helping students of ethics in our universities and
outside of them to a clearer comprehension of the significance of morals
and the end of ethical endeavor, that this book has been written.

I have, in the Notes appended to it, taken the liberty of making a few
suggestions to teachers, some of whom have fewer years of teaching behind
them than I have. I make no apology for writing in a clear and
untechnical style, nor for reducing to a minimum references to
literatures in other tongues than our own. These things are in accord
with the aim of the volume.

I take this opportunity of thanking Professor Margaret F. Washburn, of
Vassar College, and Professor F. J. E. Woodbridge, of Columbia
University, for kind assistance, which I have found helpful.

G. S. F. New York, 1921.




1. The Point in Dispute.
2. What Constitutes Substantial Agreement?
3. Dogmatic Assumption.

4. The Codes of Communities: Justice.
5. The Codes of Communities: Veracity.
6. The Codes of Communities: the Common Good.

7. The Moralists.
8. Epicurean and Stoic.
9. Plato; Aristotle; the Church.
10. Later Lists of the Virtues.
11. The Stretching of Moral Concepts.
12. The Reflective Mind and the Moral Codes.



13. The Dogmatism of the Natural Man.
14. The Awakening.

15. Inductive and Deductive Method.
16 The Authority of the "Given."

17. How the Moralist should Proceed.
18. The Philosopher as Moralist.

19. The Appeal to Reason.
20. The Appeal to Reason Justified.



21. The Background of Actions.
22. Man's Nature.
23. How Discover Man's Nature?

24. The Struggle with Nature.
25. The Conquests of the Mind.
26. The Conquest of Nature and the Well-being of Man.

27. Man is Assigned his Place.
28. Varieties of the Social Order.
29. Social Organization.
30. Social Order and Human Will.



31. Impulse.
32. Desire.
33. Desire of the Unattainable.
34. Will.
35. Desire and Will not Identical.
36. The Will and Deferred Action.

37. Consciously Chosen Ends.
38. Ends not Consciously Chosen.
39. The Choice of Ideals.

40. The Object as End to be Realized.
41. Human Nature and the Objects Chosen.
42. The Instincts and Impulses of Man.
43. The Study of Man's Instincts Important.
44. The Bewildering Multiplicity of the Objects of Desire, and the Effort
    to Find an Underlying Unity.

45. Complex Ends.
46. Intention.
47. Motive.
48. Ethical Significance of Intention and Motive.

49. Feeling.
50. Feeling and Action.
51. Feeling as Object.
52. Freedom as Object.

53. The Irrational Will.
54. One View of Reason.
55. Dominant and Subordinate Desires.
56. The Harmonization of Desires.
57. Varieties of Dominant Ends.
58. An Objection Answered.
59. This View of Reason Misconceived.
60. Another View of Reason.



61. What is the Social Will?
62. Social Will and Social Habits.
63. Social Will and Social Organization.
64. The Social Will and Ideal Ends.
65. The Permanent Social Will.

66. Custom.
67. The Ground for the Authority of Custom.
68. The Origin and the Persistence of Customs.
69. Law.
70. Public Opinion.

71. The Community.
72. The Community and the Dead.
73. The Community and the Supernatural.
74. Religion and the Community.
75. The Spread of the Community.



76. The Apparent and the Real Social Will.
77. The Will of the Majority.
78. Ignorance and Error and the Social Will.
79. Heedlessness and the Social Will.
80. Rational Elements in the Irrational Will.
81. The Social Will and the Selfishness of the Individual.

82. Reasonable Ends.
83. An Objection Answered.
84. Reasonable Social Ends.
85. The Ethics of Reason.
86. The Development of Civilization.

87. Man's Multiple Allegiance.
88. The Appeal to Reason.
89. The Ethics of Reason and the Varying Moral Codes.



90. What is it?
91. Varieties of Intuitionism.
92. Arguments for Intuitionism.
93. Arguments against Intuitionism.
94. The Value of Moral Intuitions.

95. What is Egoism?
96. Crass Egoisms.
97. Equivocal Egoism?
98. What is Meant by the Self?
99. Egoism and the Broader Self.
100. Egoism not Unavoidable.
101. Varieties of Egoism.
102. The Arguments for Egoism.
103. The Argument against Egoism.
104. The Moralist's Interest in Egoism.

105. What is Utilitarianism?
106. Bentham's Doctrine.
107. The Doctrine of J. S. Mill.
108. The Argument for Utilitarianism.
109. The Distribution of Happiness.
110. The Calculus of Pleasures.
111. The Difficulties of Other Schools.
112. Summary of Arguments for Utilitarianism.
113. Arguments against Utilitarianism.
114. Transfigured Utilitarianism.

I. _Nature_
115. Human Nature as Accepted Standard.
116. Human Nature and the Law of Nature.
117. Vagueness of the Law of Nature.
118. The Appeal to Nature and Intuitionism.

II. _Perfection_
119. Perfection and Type.
120. More and Less Perfect Types.
121. Perfectionism and Intuitionism.

III. _Self-realization_
122. The Self-realization Doctrine.
123. The Doctrine Akin to that of Following Nature.
124. Is the Doctrine More Egoistic?
125. Why Aim to Realize Capacities?
126. The Problem of Self-sacrifice.
127. Self-satisfaction and Self-sacrifice.
128. Can Moral Self-sacrifice be a Duty?
129. Self-sacrifice and the Identity of Selves.
130. Questions which Seem to be Left Open.

131. The Significance of the Title.
132. Evolution and the Schools of the Moralists.
133. The Ethics of Individual Evolutionists.

134. The Philosophy of the Pessimist.
135. Comment on the Ethics of Pessimism.

136. Kant.
137. Hegel.
138. Nietzsche.



139. The Doctrine Supported by the Other Schools.
140. Its Method of Approach to Problems.
141. Its Solution of Certain Difficulties.
142. The Cultivation of Our Capacities.

143. Duties and Virtues.
144. The Negative Aspect of the Moral Law.
145. How Can One Know the Moral Law?

146. Good and Bad; Right and Wrong.
147. Duty and Obligation.
148. Reward and Punishment.
149. Virtues and Vices.
150. Conscience.

151. What is Meant by the Term?
152. The Virtues of the Individual.
153. Conventional Morality.

154. The Aim of the State.
155. Its Origin and Authority.
156. Forms of Organization.
157. The Laws of the State.
158. The Rights and Duties of the State.

159. What is Meant by the Term.
160. Our Method of Approach to the Subject.
161. Some Problems of International Ethics.
162. The Other Side of the Shield.
163. The Solution.
164. The Necessity for Caution.

165. Sciences that Concern the Moralist.
166. Ethics and Philosophy.
167. Ethics and Religion.
168. Ethics and Belief.
169. The Last Word.







1. THE POINT IN DISPUTE.--Is there an accepted content of morals? Can we
use the expression without going on to ask: Accepted where, when, and by

To be sure, certain eminent moralists have inclined to maintain that men
are in substantial agreement in regard to their moral judgments. Joseph
Butler, writing in the first half of the eighteenth century, came to the
conclusion that, however men may dispute about particulars, there is an
universally acknowledged standard of virtue, professed in public in all
ages and all countries, made a show of by all men, enforced by the
primary and fundamental laws of all civil constitutions: namely, justice,
veracity, and regard to common good. [Footnote: _Dissertation on the
Nature of Virtue._] Sir Leslie Stephen, writing in the latter half of
the nineteenth, tells us that "in one sense moralists are almost
unanimous; in another they are hopelessly discordant. They are unanimous
in pronouncing certain classes of conduct to be right and the opposite
wrong. No moralist denies that cruelty, falsity and intemperance are
vicious, or that mercy, truth and temperance are virtuous." [Footnote:
_The Science of Ethics_, chapter i, Sec. 1.]

In other words, these writers would teach us that men are, on the whole,
agreed in approving, explicitly or implicitly, some standard of conduct
sufficiently definite to serve as a code of morals. But that there is
such a substantial agreement among men has not impressed all observers to
the same degree. Locke, who wrote before Butler, based his arguments
against the existence of innate moral maxims upon the wide divergencies
found among various classes of men touching what is right and what is
wrong. [Footnote: _Essay Concerning Human Understanding_, Book I,
chapter iii.] The historian, the anthropologist and the sociologist
reinforce his reasonings with a wealth of illustration not open to the
men of an earlier time. They present us with codes, not a code; with
multitudinous standards, not a single standard; with what has been
accepted here or there, at this time or at that; and we may well ask
ourselves where, amid this profusion, we are to find the one and
acceptable code.

generous in our interpretation of what constitutes substantial agreement;
we may deny significance to all sorts of discrepancies by relegating them
to the unimpressive class of "disputes about particulars." Such an
impressionistic indifference to detail may leave us with something on our
hands as little serviceable as a composite photograph made from
individual objects which have little in common, a blur lacking all
definite outline and not recognizable as any object at all. No man can
guide his conduct by the common core of many or of all moral codes. Taken
in its bald abstraction, it is not a code or anything like a code. Who
can walk, without walking in some particular way, in some direction, at
some time? Who can mind his manners without being mannerly in accordance
with the usages of some race or people?

Those who content themselves with enunciating very general moral
principles may, it is true, be of no little service to their fellow-men;
but that is only because their fellow-men are able to supply the details
that convert the blur into a picture. Some twenty-four hundred years ago
Heraclitus told his contemporaries "to act according to nature with
understanding"; we are often told today that the rule of our lives should
be "to do good." Had the ancient Greek not possessed his own notions of
what might properly be meant by nature and by understanding, did we not
ourselves have some rather definite conception of what actions may
properly fall under the caption of doing good, such admonitions could not
lead to the stirring of a finger. Who would appeal to his physician for
advice as to diet, if he expected from him no more than the counsel to
eat, at the proper hours, enough, but not too much, of suitable food?

If, then, we confine our admonitions to the group of abstractions which
constitute the universally acknowledged standard of virtue when all the
individual differences which characterize different codes have been
ignored, we preach what, taken alone, no man can live by, and no
community of men has ever attempted to live by. If we leave it to our
hearers to drape our naked abstractions with concrete details, each will
set to work in a different way. The method of the composite photograph
seems unprofitable in attempting to solve the problem of morals.

3. DOGMATIC ASSUMPTION.--There is, however, a second way by which the
variations which characterize different codes may come to be relegated to
a position of relative insignificance. We may assume that our own code is
the ultimate standard by which all others are to be judged, and we may
set down deviations from it to the account of the ignorance or the
perversity of our fellowmen. So regarded, they are aberrations from the
normal, and only true code of conduct; interesting, perhaps, but little
enlightening, for they can have little bearing upon our conception of
what we ought to do.

A presumption against this arbitrary assumption that we have the one and
only desirable code is suggested the unthinking acceptance of the
traditional by those who are lacking in enlightenment and in the capacity
reflection. Is it not significant that a contact with new ways of
thinking has a tendency, at least, to make men broaden their horizon and
to revise some of their views?

In other fields, we hope to attain to a capacity for self-criticism. We
expect to learn from other men. Why should we, in the sphere of morals,
lay claim to the possession of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing
but the truth? Why should we refuse to learn from anyone? Such a position
seems unreasoning. It puts moral judgments beyond the pale of argument
and intelligent discussion. It is an assumption of infallibility little
in harmony with the spirit of science. The fact that a given standard of
conduct is in harmony with our traditions, habits of thought, and
emotional responses, does not prove to other men that it is, not one of a
number of accepted codes, but in a quite peculiar sense acceptable, a
thing to put in a class by itself--the class into which each mother puts
her own child, as over against other children.

Moreover, such an unreasoned assumption of superiority must make one
little sympathetic in one's attitude toward the moral life of other
peoples. Into the significance of their social organization, of their
customs, their laws, one can gain no insight. Their hopes, their fears,
their strivings, their successes and their failures, their approval and
disapproval of their fellows, their peace of conscience and their
remorse, must leave us cold and aloof.

It is not profitable for us to assume at the outset that the differences
exhibited in the moral judgments of individuals or of peoples are of
minor significance. They are facts to be dealt with in the light of some
theory. An ethical theory which ignores them must rest upon a narrow and
insecure foundation. It is exposed to assault from many quarters. It may,
in default of better means of defence, be compelled to take refuge behind
the blind wall of dogmatic assertion. On the other hand, a theory which
gives them frank recognition, and strives to exhibit their real
significance in the life of the individual and of the race, may be able
to show lying among them the golden cord of reason which saves them from
the charge of being incoherent facts. It may even lead us back to a
conservatism no longer unreasoning, but rationally defensible and
conscious of its proper limits. The blindly conservative man seems to be
faced with the alternative of stagnation or revolution. The rationally
conservative may regard the development of the moral life as a Pilgrim's
Progress, not without its untoward accidents, but, in spite of them, a
gradual advance toward a desirable goal.



4. THE CODES OF COMMUNITIES: JUSTICE.--In view of the existing tendency
in the average man, and even in some philosophers, to pass lightly over
the diversities exhibited by different codes, it is well to cast a brief
preliminary glance at the content of morals as accepted, both by
communities of men, and by their more reflective spokesmen, the
moralists. Let us first take a look at the codes of communities.

We have seen that Butler viewed justice, veracity and regard to common
good as virtues accepted among men everywhere. But we may also see, if we
look into his pages, that he neglected to point out that there may be the
widest divergencies in men's notions of what constitutes justice,
veracity and common good. And men differ widely on the score of the
degree of emphasis to be laid upon their observance.

Take justice. Where men possess a code, written or unwritten, that may
properly be called moral, we expect of them the judgment that guilt
should be punished. But what shall be accounted guilt? What shall be the
measure of retribution? Who shall be fixed upon as guilty?

As to what constitutes guilt. We have only to remind ourselves that the
Dyak head-hunter is not condemned by his fellows, but is admired;
[Footnote: WESTERMARCK, _The Origin and Development of the Moral
Ideas_, London, 1906, I, chapter xiv.] that the fattening and eating
of a slave may, in a given primitive community, be accounted no crime;
[Footnote: WESTERMARCK, _op. cit._ II, chapter xlvi.] that
infanticide has been most widely approved, and that not merely in
primitive communities, for Greece and Rome, when they were far from
primitive, practiced certain forms of it with a view to the good of the
state; [Footnote: _Ibid._, I, chapter xvii.] that the holding of a
fellow-creature in bondage, and exploiting him for one's own advantage,
even under the lash, was, until recently, not a crime in the eye of the
law even in the most civilized states. On the other hand, it may be a
crime to eat a female opossum. [Footnote: _Ibid._, I, chapter iv, p.
124.] The impressive imperative: Thou shalt not! appears to bear
unmistakable reference to time and circumstance.

And what is the natural and proper measure of punishment? The ancient and
primitive rule of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth suggests the
figure of the scales, the impartially meting out to each man of his due.
It is obviously a rule that cannot be applied in all cases. One cannot
take the tooth of a toothless man, or compel a thievish beggar to restore
fruit which he has eaten. We should be horrified were any serious attempt
made to make the rule the basis of legislation in any civilized state
today, but men have not always been so fastidious. Approximations to it
have been incorporated into the laws of various peoples.

But all have modified it to some degree, and the modifications have taken
many forms--the punishment of someone not the criminal, compensation in
money or in goods, incarceration, and what not. Nor have the
modifications been made solely on account of the difficulty of applying
the rule baldly stated. Other influences have been at work.

Thus, in the famous Babylonian code, the man who struck out the eye of a
patrician lost his own eye in return, and his tooth answered for the
tooth of an equal--but the rule was not made general. [Footnote: 5
HOBHOUSE, _Morals in Evolution,_ I, chapter iii, Sec 3; New York,
1906.] In state after state it has been found just to treat differently
the patrician, the plebeian, the slave, the man, the woman, the priest.
In the very state to which Butler belonged, benefit of clergy could be
claimed, up to relatively recent times, by those who could read. The
educated criminal escaped hanging for offences for which his illiterate
neighbor had to swing. [Footnote: _Ibid.,_ Sec. 11.]

Nor is there any clear concensus of opinion touching the question of who
shall be selected as the bearer of punishment. If a man has injured
another unintentionally, shall he be held to make amends? It has seemed
just to men that he should. [Footnote: WESTERMARCK, chapter ix.] That one
man should be made responsible for the misdeeds of another, under the
principle of collective responsibility, has commended itself as just to a
multitude of minds. Not merely the sins of the fathers, but those of the
most distant relations, those of neighbors, of fellow-tribesmen, of
fellow-citizens, have been visited upon those whose sole guilt lay in
such a connection with the directly guilty parties. This is not a
sporadic phenomenon. Among the ancient Hebrews, in Babylonia, in Greece,
in the later legislation of Rome, in medieval and even in modern Europe,
the principle of collective responsibility has been accepted and has
seemed acceptable. Asia, Africa and Oceania have cast votes for it. So
have the Americas. [Footnote: WESTERMARCK, I, chapter ii; DEWEY AND
TUFTS, _Ethics_, New York, 1919, Part I, chapter ii.]

5. THE CODES OF COMMUNITES: VERACITY.--As to veracity: It has undoubtedly
been valued to some degree, and with certain limitations, by tribes and
nations the most diverse in their degrees of culture. Did men never speak
the truth they might well never speak at all. But to maintain that
absolute veracity has at all times been greatly valued would be an
exaggeration. The lie of courtesy, the clever lie, the lie to the
stranger, have been and still are, in many communities both uncivilized
and more advanced, not merely condoned, but approved. With the defence
which has been made of the doctrines of mental reservation and pious
fraud students of church history are familiar. In diplomacy and in war
today highly civilized nations find deceptions of many sorts profitable
to them, nor are such generally condemned. [Footnote: WESTERMARCK, II,
chapters xxx and xxxi.]

What modern government does not employ secret service agents, and value
them in proportion to the degree of skill with which they manage to
deceive their fellows, while limiting the exercise of professional good
faith to their intercourse with their paymaster? The secret service agent
of transparent frankness, who could not bear to deceive his neighbor,
would not hold his post for a day. He would be a subject for Homeric

Moreover, if the question may be raised: what constitutes justice? may
one not equally well ask: what constitutes veracity or its opposite?
Where does the silence of indifference shade into purposed concealment,
and the latter into what is unequivocally deception? At what point does
deception blossom out into the unmistakable lie? One may take advantage
of an accidental misunderstanding of what one has said; one may use
ambiguous language; one may point instead of speaking. Between going
about with a head of glass, with all one's thoughts displayed as in a
show-case to every comer, and the settled purpose to deceive by the
direct verbal falsification, there is a long series of intermediate
positions. The commercial maxim that one is not bound to teach the man
with whom one is dealing how to conduct his business, and the lawyer's
dictum that the advocate is under no obligation to put himself in the
position of the judge, obviously, will bear much stretching.

6. THE CODES OF COMMUNITIES: THE COMMON GOOD.--Nor are the facts which
confront us less perplexing when we turn to that "regard to the common
good" which Butler finds to be acknowledged and enforced by the primary
and fundamental laws of all civil constitutions. Whether we look at the
past or view the present, whether we study primitive communities or
confine ourselves to civilized nations, we see that common good is not,
apparently, conceived as the good of all men, however much the words
"justice" and "humanity" may be upon men's lips.

Has any modern state as yet succeeded in incorporating in its civil
constitution such provisions as will ensure to all classes of its
subjects any considerable share in the common good? Slaves and animals,
said Aristotle, have no share in happiness, nor do they live after their
own choice. [Footnote: _Politics_, iii, 9.] The pervading unrest of
the modern economic community is due to the widespread conviction that
the existing organization of society does not sufficiently make for the
happiness of all. Some states with a high degree of culture have not even
made a pretence of having any such aim. They have deliberately legislated
for the few. [Footnote: The "citizens" of the ancient Greek state were a
privileged class who legislated in their own interest. Let the reader
look into Plato's _Laws_ and Aristotle's _Politics_ and see how
inconceivable the cultivated Greek found what is now the ideal of a
modern democracy. "Citizens" should own landed property, and work it by
slaves, barbarians and servants. They should not be "ignoble" mechanics
or petty traders. Compare the spirit of Froissart's _Chronicles_, in
the Middle Ages. See what Bryce (_South America_, New York, 1918,
chapters xi and xv) says about the position of the Negro in our Southern
states, and of the Indians in South American republics.]

Even where the avowed aim is the common good of all, states have assumed
that some must be sacrificed for others. Certain individuals are selected
to die in the trenches in the face of the enemy, that others may be
guaranteed liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Grotius, the famous
jurist of the seventeenth century, has been criticized for holding that a
beleaguered town might justly deliver up to the enemy a small number of
its citizens in order to purchase immunity for the rest. How far do the
cases differ in principle? "Among persons variously endowed," wrote
Hegel, "inequality must occur, and equality would be wrong." [Footnote:
Hegel, _The Philosophy of Right_, translated by Dyde, London, 1896,
p. 56.] Commonwealths of many degrees of development have recognized
inequalities of many sorts, and have treated their subjects accordingly.

"For diet," said Bentham with repellent frankness, "nothing but self-
regarding affection will serve." Benevolence he considered a valuable
addition "for a dessert." He had in mind the individual, and he did
injustice to individuals in certain of their relations. But how do things
look when we turn our attention to the relations between states? Does any
state actually make it a practice to treat its neighbor as itself? Would
its citizens approve of its doing so?

The Roman was compelled to formulate a _jus gentium_, a law of
nations, to deal with those who held, to him, a place beyond the pale of
law as he knew it. [Footnote: See SIR HENRY MAINE, _Ancient Law_,
chapter iii.] Many centuries have elapsed since pagan philosophers taught
the brotherhood of man, and since Christian divines began to preach it
with passionate fervor. Yet civilized nations today are still seeking to
find a _modus vivendi_, which may put an end to strife and enable
them to live together. The _jus gentium_, or its modern equivalent,
is, alas! still in its rudiments.

To obviate misunderstanding at this point, it is well to state that, in
adducing all the above facts, I do not mean to argue that it is abnormal
and an undesirable thing that the scales of justice should, at times, be
weighted in divers ways. I am not maintaining that the distribution of
common good should proceed upon the principle of strict impartiality.
What is possible and is desirable in this field is not something to be
decided off-hand. But the facts suffice to illustrate the truth that the
discrepancies to be found in the codes of different communities can
scarcely be dismissed as unimportant details. They are something far too
significant for that.



7. THE MORALISTS.--If, from the codes, or the more or less vague bodies
of opinion, which have characterized different communities, we turn to
the moralists, we find similar food for thought.

But who are the moralists? Can we put into one class those who preach a
short-sighted selfishness or a calculating egoism and those who urge upon
us the law of love? Those who recommend a contempt of mankind, and those
who inculcate a reverence for humanity? Those who incline to leave us to
our own devices, telling us to listen to conscience, and those who draw
up for us elaborate sets of rules to guide conduct? The histories of
ethics are rather tolerant in herding together sheep and goats. And not
without reason. Those whom they include have been in a sense the
spokesmen of their fellows. Their words have found an echo in the souls
of many. They are concerned with a rule of life, and their rule of life,
such as it is, rests upon some principle which has impressed men as being
not wholly unreasonable.

In taking a glance at what they have to offer us, I shall not go far
afield, and shall exercise a brevity compatible with the purpose of mere
illustration. To the moralists of ancient Greece, and, to a lesser
degree, to those of the Roman Empire, to the Christian teachers who
succeeded to their heritage in the centuries which followed, and to the
more or less independent thinkers who made their appearance after the
Reformation, we can trace our ethical pedigree. For our purpose we need
seek no wider field. Here we may find sufficiently notable contrasts of
opinion to disturb the dogmatic slumber of even an inert mind. The most
cursory glance makes us inclined to accept with some reserve Stephen's
claim that "the difference between different systems is chiefly in the
details and special application of generally admitted principles."

8. EPICUREAN AND STOIC.--Thus, Aristippus of Cyrene advised men to grasp
the pleasure of the moment rather than to await the more uncertain
pleasure of the future; but he also counselled, for prudential reasons,
the avoidance of a conflict with the laws. Such advice takes cognizance
of the self-love of the individual, and is not self-love reasonable?
Nevertheless, such advice might be given by a discouraged criminal of a
reflective turn of mind, on his release from prison, to a comrade not yet
chastened by incarceration. Epicurus praises temperance and fortitude,
but only as measures of prudence. He praises justice, but only in so far
as it enables us to escape harm, and frees us from that dread of
discovery that haunts the steps of the evil-doer. His more specific
maxims, do not fall in love with a woman, become the father of a family,
or, generally, go into politics, smack strongly of the rule of life
recommended to Feuillet's hero, Monsieur de Camors, by his worldly-wise
and cynical father.

Contrast with these men the Stoics, whose rule of life was to follow
Nature, and to eschew the pursuit of pleasure. Man's nature, said
Epictetus, is social; wrongdoing is antisocial; affection is natural.
[Footnote: _Discourses_, Book I, chapter xxiii--a clever answer to
Epicurus.] Said Marcus Aurelius, it is characteristic of the rational
soul for a man to love his neighbor. The cautious bachelor imbued with
Epicurean principles would find strange and disconcerting the Stoic
position touching citizenship: "My nature is rational and social; and my
city and country, so far as I am Antoninus, is Rome, but so far as I am
a man, it is the world. The things then which are useful to these cities
are alone useful to me." [Footnote: _Thoughts_, Book VI, 44;
translated by GEORGE LONG.]

9. PLATO; ARISTOTLE; THE CHURCH.--No more famous classification of the
virtues--those qualities of character which it is desirable for a man to
have, and which determine his doing what it is desirable that he should
do--has ever been drawn up than that offered us by Plato: Wisdom,
Courage, Temperance and Justice. [Footnote: For PLATO's account of the
virtues see the _Republic_, Book IV, and the _Laws_, Book I.]
It is interesting to lay beside it the longer list drawn up by Aristotle,
and to compare both with that which commended itself to the mind of the
mediaeval churchman.

With Aristotle, the virtues are made to include: [Footnote:
_Ethics_; I refer the reader to the admirable exposition and
criticism by SIDGWICK, _History of Ethics_, London, 1896, chapter
ii, Sec 10-12; compare ZELLER, _Aristotle and the Earlier
Peripatetics_, English translation London, 1897, Volume II, chapter

  Decorous Wit

and it is suggested that, although scarcely a virtue, a sense of shame is
becoming in youth.

We find the Christian teachers especially recommending: [Footnote: See
SIDGWICK'S sympathetic account of the Churchman's view of the virtues,
_loc_. _cit_., chapter iii.]

  Alienation from the "World"
  Alienation from the "Flesh"

and their lists of the "deadly sins" they select from the following:

  Languid Indifference.

Could there be a more striking contrast than that between the mediaeval
code and those of the great Greek thinkers? Plato recommended as virtues
certain general characteristics of character much admired by the Greek of
his day. Aristotle accepted them and added to them. He has painted much
more in detail the gifts and graces of a well-born and well-situated
Greek gentleman as he conceived him. The personage would cut a sorry
figure in the role of a mediaeval saint; the mediaeval saint would wear a
tarnished halo if endowed with the Aristotelian virtues.

The one ideal, the Greek, breathes an air of self-assertion; the other
one of self-abnegation. Benevolence, Purity, Humility and Unworldliness
are not to be found in the former; Justice, Courage and Veracity appear
to be missing in the latter. Wisdom, insight, has given place to the
Obedience appropriate to a man clearly conscious of a Law, not man-made,
to which man feels himself to be subject.

Indeed, the discrepancy between the ideals is such that Aristotle's
virtuously high-minded man would have been conceived by the mediaeval
churchman to be living in deadly sin, as the very embodiment of pride and
arrogance. We find him portrayed as neither seeking nor avoiding danger,
for there are few things about which he cares; as ashamed to accept
favors, since that implies inferiority; as sluggish and indifferent
except when stimulated by some great honor to be gained or some great
work to be performed; as frank, for this is characteristic of the man who
despises others; as admiring little, for nothing is great to him. His
pride prevents him from harboring resentment, from seeking praise, and
from praising others. This Nietzschean hero would attract attention upon
any stage: "The step of the high-minded man is slow, his voice deep, and
his language stately, for he who feels anxiety about few things is not
apt to be in a hurry; and he who thinks highly of nothing is not
vehement." [Footnote: _Ethics_, Book IV, chapter in, 19, translation
by R. W. BROWNE, London, 1865.]

To be sure, virtues not on a given list may be found in, or read into,
some of the writings of the man who presents it. It would be absurd to
maintain that the mediaeval churchman had no regard for justice, courage
and veracity, as he would define them, or that Plato and Aristotle were
wholly deaf to the claims of benevolence. Nevertheless, the variations in
the emphasis laid on this virtue or on that, or in the conception of what
constitutes this virtue or that, may yield ideals of character and of
conduct which bear but a slight family resemblance. Imagine St. Francis
of Assisi lowering his voice, slowing his step, and cultivating "high-
mindedness," or striving to make himself a pattern of decorous wit.

10. LATER LISTS OF THE VIRTUES.--The codes proposed by the moralists of a
later time are numerous and widely scattering. It is impossible to do
justice to them in any brief compass. A very few instances, selected from
among those most familiar to English readers, must suffice to indicate
the diversity of their nature.

Hobbes [Footnote: _Leviathan_, chapter xv.], deeply concerned to
discover some _modus vivendi_ which should put a check upon strife
between man and his fellow-man, and save us from a life "solitary, poor,
nasty, brutish and short," recommends among other virtues:

  Requital of benefits
  A moderate degree of forgiveness
  The avoidance of pride and arrogance.

Locke [Footnote: _Essay_, Book IV, chapter iii, Sec. 18; _Of Civil
Government_, Book II, chapter ii.], who believes that moral principles
must be intuitively evident to one who contemplates the nature of God and
the relations of men to Him and to each other, thinks it worth while to
set down such random maxims as:

  No government allows absolute liberty.
  Where there is no property there is no injustice.
  All men are originally equal.
  Men ought not to harm one another.
  Parents have a right to control their children.

Hume, [Footnote: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Sec 6,
Part I] whose two classes of virtues comprise the qualities immediately
agreeable or useful to ourselves and those immediately agreeable or
useful to others, offers us an extended list. He puts into the first

  Good Sense, etc.
  Order, etc.

In the second class he includes:


Manifestly, the lists may be indefinitely prolonged. Why not add to the
first class the pachydermatous indifference to rebuffs which is of such
service to the social climber, and, to the second, taste in dress and the
habit of not repeating stories?

Thomas Reid lays stress upon the deliverances of the individual
conscience, when consulted in a quiet hour. Nevertheless he proposes five
fundamental maxims: [Footnote: _On the Active Powers of Man_, Essay
V, chapter i.]

  We ought to exercise a rational self-love, and prefer a greater to a
    lesser good.
  We should follow nature, as revealed in the constitution of man.
  We should exercise benevolence.
  Right and wrong are the same for all in the same circumstances.
  We should venerate and obey God.

With such writers we may contrast the Utilitarians and the adherents of
the doctrine of Self-realization, [Footnote: These will be discussed
below, chapters xxv and xxvi.] who lay little stress upon lists of
virtues or duties, but aim, respectively, at the greatest happiness of
the greatest number, and at the harmonious development of the faculties
of man, regarding as virtues such qualities of character as make for the
attainment, in the long run, of the one or the other of these ends.

11. THE STRETCHING OF MORAL CONCEPTS.--The instances given suffice to
show that the moralists speak with a variety of tongues. The code of one
age is apt to seem strange and foreign to the men of another. Even where
there is apparent agreement, a closer scrutiny often reveals that it has
been attained by a process of stretching conceptions. Take for example
the so-called "cardinal" virtues [Footnote: From _cardo_, a hinge.
These virtues were supposed to be fundamental. The name given to them was
first used by AMBROSE in the fourth century A.D. See SIDGWICK, _History
of Ethics_, chap, ii, p. 44.] dwelt upon by Plato. The Stoics, who
made use of his list, changed its spirit. Cicero stretches justice so as
to make it cover a watery benevolence. St. Augustine finds the cardinal
virtues to be different aspects of Love to God. The great scholastic
philosopher of the thirteenth century, St. Thomas, places in the first
rank the Christian graces of Faith, Hope and Charity, but still finds it
convenient to use the Platonic scheme in ordering a list of the self-
regarding virtues taken from Aristotle. Thus may the pillars of a pagan
temple be utilized as structural units in, or embellishments of, a
Christian church.

Our own age reveals the same tendency. Thomas Hill Green, the Oxford
professor, follows Plato. But with him we find wisdom stretched to cover
artistic creation; we see that courage and temperance have taken on new
faces; and justice appears to be able to gather under its wings both
benevolence and veracity. [Footnote: _Prolegomena to Ethics_, Book
III, chapter iii, and Book IV, chapter v.] A still wider divergence from
the original understanding of the cardinal virtues is that of Dewey, who
conceives of them as "traits essential to all morality." He treats, under
temperance, of purity and reverence; he makes courage synonymous with
persistent vigor; he extends justice so as to include love and sympathy;
he transforms wisdom into conscientiousness. [Footnote: DEWEY AND TUFTS,
_Ethics_, pp. 404-423.]

This variation in the content of moral concepts may be illustrated from
any quarter in the field of ethics. Cicero's circumspect "benevolence"
advances the doctrine that "whatever one can give without suffering loss
should be given even to an entire stranger." Among such obligations he
reckons: to prohibit no one from drinking at a stream of running water;
to permit anyone who wishes to light fire from fire; to give faithful
advice to one who is in doubt; which things, as he naively remarks, "are
useful to the receiver and do no harm to the giver." [Footnote: De
Officiis, Book I, chapter xvi.]

Compare with this the admonition to love one's neighbor as oneself;
Sidgwick's "self-evident" proposition that "I ought not to prefer my own
lesser good to the greater good of another;" [Footnote: The Methods of
Ethics, Book III, chapter xiii, Sec 3.] Bentham's utilitarian formula,
"everybody to count for one, and nobody for more than one." The
admonition, "be benevolent," may mean many things.

12. THE REFLECTIVE MIND AND THE MORAL CODES.--Even the cursory glance we
have given above to the moral codes of different communities and those
proposed by individual moralists must suffice to bring any thoughtful man
to the consciousness that they differ widely among themselves, and that
the differences can scarcely be dismissed as insignificant. A little
reflection will suffice to convince him, furthermore, that to treat all
other codes as if they were mere pathological variations from his own is
indefensibly dogmatic.

On the other hand, the differences between codes should not be unduly
emphasized. The core of identity is there, and, although in its bald
abstractness it is not enough to live by, it is vastly significant,
nevertheless. If there were not some congruity in the materials, they
would never be brought together as the subject of one science. Unless
"good," "right," "obligation," "approval," etc., or the rudimentary
conceptions which foreshadow them in the mind of the most primitive human
beings, had a core of identity which could be traced in societies the
most diverse, there would be no significance in speaking of the
enlightened morality of one people and the degraded and undeveloped
morality of another. There could be no history of the development of the
moral ideas. Collections of disparate and disconnected facts do not
constitute a science, nor are they the proper subject of a history.

As a matter of fact, we all do speak of degraded moral conceptions, of a
perverted conscience, of a lofty morality, of a fine sense of duty; we do
not hesitate to compare, i. e., to treat as similar and yet dissimilar,
the customs, laws and ethical maxims of different ages and of different
races. This means that we have in our minds some standard, perhaps
consciously formulated, perhaps dimly apprehended, according to which we
rate them. The unreflective man is in danger of taking as this standard
his own actual code, such as it is; of accepting, together with such
elements of reason as it may contain, the whole mass of his inherited or
acquired prejudices; the more reflective man will strive to be more
rationally critical.





 13. THE DOGMATISM OF THE NATURAL MAN.--In morals and in politics it
seems natural for man to be dogmatic, to take a position without
hesitation, to defend it vehemently, to maintain that others are in the

This is not surprising. We are born into a moral environment as into an
all-embracing atmosphere. From the cradle to the grave, we walk with our
heads in a cloud of exhortations and prohibitions. From our earliest
years we have been urged to make decisions and to act, and we have been
furnished with general maxims to guide our action. When, therefore, we
approach the solution of a moral problem, we do not, as a rule, acutely
feel our fitness to solve it, even though we may be judged quite unfit by

This unruffled confidence in one's possession of an adequate supply of
indubitable moral truth may be found in men who differ widely in their
degree of intelligence and in the extent of their information. Some
individuals seem born to it. We may come upon it in the ethical
philosopher; we may meet it in the man of science, who knows that it has
taken him a quarter of a century to fit himself to be an authority in
matters chemical or physical, but who wanders in his hours of leisure
into the field of ethics and has no hesitation in proposing radical
reforms. But it is more natural to look for the unwavering confidence
which knows no questionings among persons of restricted outlook, who have
been brought into contact with but one set of opinions. It is
characteristic of the child, of the uncultivated classes in all
communities, of whole communities primitive in their culture and
relatively unenlightened.

14. THE AWAKENING.--Manifestly, even the beginnings of ethical science
are an impossibility where such a spirit prevails. Where there are no
doubts, no questionings, there can be no attempt at rational

Fortunately for the cause of human enlightenment there are forces at work
which tend to arouse men from this state of lethargy. Horizons are
broadened, new ideas make their appearance, there is a conflict of
authorities, the birth of a doubt, and, finally, a more or less
articulate appeal to Reason.

Even a child is capable of seeing that paternal and maternal injunctions
and reactions are not wholly alike, and it sets them off against each
other. Nor have all the children in the home precisely the same nature.
One is temperamentally frank and open, but unsympathetic; another is
affectionate, and prone to lying as the sparks fly upward. The virtues
and vices are not spontaneously arranged in the same order of importance
by children, and differences of opinion may arise. Nor does it take the
child long to discover that the law of its own home is not identical with
that of the house next door. At school the experience is repeated on a
larger scale; many homes are represented, and, besides that, two codes of
law claim allegiance, the code of the schoolboy and that of the master.
They may be by no means in accord.

And when, in college, the student for the first time seriously addresses
himself to the task of the study of ethics as science, he comes to it by
no means wholly unprepared. He has had rather a broad experience of the
contrasts which obtain between different codes. He is familiar with the
code of the home, of the school, of the social class, of the religious
community, of the civil community. There sit on the same benches with him
the sensitively conscientious student who doubts whether it is a
permissible deception of one's neighbor to apply a patch to an old
garment so skillfully that it will escape detection; the sporting
character who takes it to be the mutual understanding among men that
truth shall not be demanded of those who deal in horses and dogs; the
youth from Texas who claims that the French philosopher, Janet, cannot be
an authority on morals, since he asserts that he who cheats at cards must
feel a burning shame. With the ethics of the ancient Hebrews, of the
Greeks, of the Romans, our young moralist has had the opportunity to
acquire some familiarity, and he can compare them, if he will, with the
Christian ethics of his own day. He knows something of history and
biography; he has read books of travel, and has some acquaintance with
the manners and customs of other peoples. Were he given to reflection, it
ought not to surprise him to find a Portuguese sea-cook maintaining that
it is wrong to steal, except from the rich; or to learn that a Wahabee
saint rated the smoking of tobacco as the worst possible sin next to
idolatry, while maintaining that murder, robbery, and such like, were
peccadilloes which a merciful God might properly overlook.

Material for reflection he has in abundance--and he often remains
relatively dogmatic and unplagued by doubt. But only relatively so; and
only so long as the claims of conflicting authorities are not forced upon
his attention, rendered importunate in the light of discussion, made so
familiar as to seem real and substantial. It is the tendency of the
widening of the horizon to arouse men to reflection, to stimulate to
criticism. From such criticism the science of ethics has its birth.

What is true of the individual is true of men in the mass. The blind life
of social classes long laid in chains by custom and tradition may come to
be illuminated by new ideas, and passive acquiescence may give way to
active participation in social endeavor. Nor can primitive peoples remain
wholly primitive except in isolation. With the increased intercourse
between races and peoples, men are brought to a clear consciousness that
the accepted in morals is manifold and diverse; the next step is to
question whether it is, in any given instance, of unquestionable
authority; thus do men become ripe for the search for the



15. INDUCTIVE AND DEDUCTIVE METHOD.--Professor Henry Sidgwick has defined
a method of ethics as "any rational procedure by which we determine what
is right for individual human beings to do, or to seek to realize by
voluntary action." [Footnote: _The Methods of Ethics_, Book I,
chapter i, Sec I.]

He points out that many methods are natural and are habitually used, but
claims that only one can be rational. By which he means that the several
methods of determining right conduct urged by the different schools of
the moralists must be reconciled, or all but one must be rejected.
[Footnote: _Ibid_., chapter i, Sec  3.]

In this chapter I shall not discuss in detail the schools of the
moralists and the specific methods which characterize them. I am here
concerned only with the general distinction between the scientific
methods of deduction and induction, and its bearing upon ethical

How do we discover that, in an isosceles triangle, the sides which
subtend the equal angles are equal? We do not go about collecting the
opinions of individuals upon the subject, nor do we consult the records
of other peoples, past or present. We do not measure a great number of
triangles and arrive at our conclusion after a calculation of the
probable error of our measurements. The appeal to authorities does not
interest us; that measurements are always more or less inaccurate, and
that all actual triangles are more or less irregular, we freely admit,
but we do not regard such facts as significant. We use a single triangle
as an illustration, and from what is given in, or along with, that
individual instance, we deduce certain consequences in which we have the
highest confidence. Here we follow the method of deduction. We accept a
"given," with its validity we do not concern ourselves; our aim is the
discovery of what may be gotten out of it.

In the inductive sciences the individual instance has an importance of
quite a different sort. It is not a mere illustration, unequivocally
embodying a general truth to which we may appeal directly, treating the
instance as a mere vehicle, in itself of little significance. Individual
instances are observed and compared; uniformities are searched for; it is
sought to establish general truths, not directly evident, but whose
authority rests upon the particular facts that have been observed and

It is a commonplace of logic that both induction and deduction may be
employed in many fields of science. We may attain by inductive inquiry to
more or less general truths, which we no longer care to call in question,
and which we accept as a "given," to be exploited and carried out in its
consequences. Indeed, we need not betake ourselves to science to have an
illustration of this method of procedure. In everyday life men have
maxims by which they judge of the probable actions of their fellow-men
and in the light of which they direct their dealings with them. Such
maxims as that men may be counted upon to consult their own interests
have certainly not been adopted independently of an experience of what,
on particular occasions, men have shown themselves to be. But, once
adopted, they may be treated as, for practical purposes, unquestionable;
men are concerned to apply them, not to substantiate them. In so far, men
reason from them deductively and pass from the general rule to the
particular instance.

16. THE AUTHORITY OF THE "GIVEN."--Obviously the "given," in the sense
indicated, may possess, in certain cases, a very high degree of
authority, and, in others, a very low degree.

In the case of the mathematical truth referred to above, men do not, in
fact, find it necessary to call in question the "given," though they may
be divided in their notions touching the general nature of mathematical
evidence and whence it draws its apparently indisputable authority. In
certain of the inductive sciences, as in mechanics, physics and
chemistry, generalizations have been attained in which even the critical
repose much confidence. In other fields men are constantly making general
statements which are promptly contradicted by their fellows, and are
drawing from them inferences the justice of which is in many quarters
disallowed. There are axioms and axioms, maxims and maxims. The
confidence felt by a given individual in a particular "given" does not
guarantee its acceptance by all men of equal intelligence. Where,
however, the evidence upon which a disputed "given" is based is
forthcoming, there is, at least, ground for rational discussion.

Not a few famous writers have treated moral truths as analogous to
mathematical. [Footnote: See the chapter on "Intuitionism," Sec 90, note.]
To take here a single instance. Sidgwick, in his truly admirable work on
"The Methods of Ethics," maintains [Footnote: Book III, chapter xiii, Sec
3.] that "the propositions, 'I ought not to prefer a present lesser good
to a future greater good,' and 'I ought not to prefer my own lesser good
to the greater good of another,' do present themselves as self-evident;
as much (_e.g._) as the mathematical axiom that 'if equals be added
to equals the wholes are equals.'"

But it is one thing to claim that we are in possession of a "given" with
ultimate and indisputable authority; it is another to convince men that
we really do possess it. Locke's efforts at deduction fall lamentably
short of the model set by Euclid. "Professor Sidgwick's well-known moral
axiom, 'I ought not to prefer my own lesser good to the greater good of
another,' would," writes Westermarck, [Footnote: _Op_. _cit.,_
Volume I, chapter i, p. 12.] "if explained to a Fuegian or a Hottentot,
be regarded by him, not as self-evident, but as simply absurd; nor can it
claim general acceptance even among ourselves. Who is that 'Another' to
whose greater good I ought not to prefer my own lesser good? A fellow-
countryman, a savage, a criminal, a bird, a fish--all without
distinction?" To Bentham's "everybody to count for one and nobody for
more than one" may be opposed Hartley's preference of benevolent and
religious persons to the rest of mankind. [Footnote: _Observations on
Man_, Part II, chapter iii, 6.]

The fact that men eminent for their intellectual ability and for the
breadth of their information are, in morals, inclined to accept, as
ultimate, principles not identical, and thus to found different schools,
would seem to indicate that, to one who aims at treating ethics as a
science, principles, as well as the deductions from them, should be
objects of closest scrutiny. They should not be taken for granted. The
history of ethical theory appears to make it clear that the "given" of
the moralist is not of the same nature as that of the geometer.

The ethical philosopher cannot, hence, confine himself to developing
deductively the implications of some principle or principles assumed
without critical examination. He must establish the validity even of his
principles. This we should bear in mind when we approach the study of the
different ethical schools.



17. HOW THE MORALIST SHOULD PROCEED.--The above reflections on method
suggest the materials of which the moralist should avail himself in
rearing the edifice of his science.

(1) Evidently he should reflect upon the moral judgments which he finds
in himself, the moral being with whom he is best acquainted. He should
endeavor to render consistent and luminous moral judgments which, as he
finds, have too often been inconsistent and more or less blind.

(2) He should take cognizance of his own setting--of the social
conscience embodied in the community in which he lives.

(3) And since, as we have seen, the significance, either of the
individual conscience, or of the social conscience revealed in custom,
law and public opinion, can hardly become apparent to one who does not
bring within his horizon many consciences individual and social, he
should enlarge his view so as to include such. The moralists, in our day,
show an increasing tendency to pay serious attention to this mass of
materials. They do not confine their attention to the moral standard
which this man or that has accepted as authoritative for him, nor to that
accepted as authoritative in a given community. They study _man_--
man in all stages of his development and in material and social settings
the most diverse.

(4) Nor should the student of ethics overlook the work which has been
done by those moralists who have gone before him. He who has studied
descriptive anatomy is aware of the immense service which has been done
him by the unwearied observations of his predecessors; observations which
have been put on record, and which draw his attention to numberless
details of structure that would, without such aid, certainly escape his
attention. Ethics is an ancient discipline. It has fixed the attention of
acute minds for many centuries. He who approaches the subject naively,
without an acquaintance with the many ethical theories which have been
advanced and the acute criticisms to which they have been subjected, will
almost certainly say what someone has said before, and said, perhaps,
much better. The valor of ignorance will involve him in ignominious

(5) It is evident that the moralist must make use of materials offered
him by workers in many other fields of science. The biologist may have
valuable suggestions to make touching the impulses and instincts of man.
The psychologist treats of the same, and exhibits the work of the
intellect in ordering and organizing the impulses. He studies the
phenomena of desire, will, habit, the formation of character. The
anthropologist and the sociologist are concerned with the codes of
communities and with the laws of social development. The fields of
economics, politics and comparative jurisprudence obviously march with
that cultivated by the student of ethics.

18. THE PHILOSOPHER AS MORALIST.--In all these sciences at once it is not
possible for the moralist to be an adept. The mass of the material they
furnish is so vast that the ethical writer who starts out to master it in
all its details may well dread that he may be overcome by senility before
he is ready to undertake the formulation of an ethical theory.

It does not follow, however, that he should leave to those who occupy
themselves professionally with any of these fields the task of framing a
theory of morals. He must have sufficient information to be able to
select with intelligence what has some important bearing upon the problem
of conduct, but there are many details into which he need not go. It is
well to note the following points:

(1) A multitude of details may be illustrative of a comparatively small
number of general principles. It is with these general principles that
the moralist is concerned. The anthropologist may regard it as his duty
to spend much labor in the attempt to discover why this or that act, this
or that article of food, happens in a given community to be taboo to
certain persons. The student of ethics is not bound to take up the
detailed investigation of such matters. Human nature, in its general
constitution, is much the same in different races and peoples. The
influence of environment is everywhere apparent. There are significant
uniformities to be discovered even by one who has a limited amount of
detailed information. "Those who come after us will see nothing new,"
said Antoninus, "nor have those before us seen anything more, but in a
manner he who is forty years old; if he has any understanding at all, has
seen by virtue of the uniformity which prevails all things which have
been and all that will be." [Footnote: _Thoughts_, XI, 1. London,
1891, translated by GEORGE LONG.] Which is, to be sure, an overstatement
of the case, but one containing a germ of truth.

(2) We find, by looking into their books, that men most intimately
acquainted with the facts of the moral life as revealed in different
races and peoples may differ widely in the ethical doctrine which they
are inclined to base upon them. Not all men, even when endowed with no
little learning, are gifted with the clearness of vision which can detect
the significance of given facts; nor are all equally capable of weaving
relevant facts into a consistent and reasonable theory. The keenness and
the constructive genius of the individual count for much. And breadth of
view counts for much also. We have seen that ethics touches many fields
of investigation, and the philosopher is supposed, at least, to let his
vision range over a broad realm, and to grasp the relations of the
different sciences to each other. He is, moreover, supposed to be trained
in reflective analysis, and of this ethical theory appears to stand in no
little need.

(3) Finally, the mere fact that ethics has for so many centuries been
regarded as one of the disciplines falling within the domain of the
philosopher is not without its significance. One may deplore the tendency
to base ethics upon this or that metaphysical doctrine, and desire to see
it made an independent science; and yet one may be compelled to admit
that it is not easy to comprehend and to estimate the value of many of
the ethical theories which have been evolved in the past, without having
rather an intimate acquaintance with the history of philosophy. The
ethical teachings of Plato, of Aristotle, of St. Thomas, of Kant, of
Hegel, of Green, lose much of their meaning when taken out of their
setting. The history of ethical theory is blind when divorced from the
history of philosophy, and with the history of ethical theory the
moralist should be acquainted.

The philosopher has no prescriptive right to preempt the field of ethics.
Many men may cultivate it with profit. Nevertheless, he, too, should
cultivate it, not independently and with a disregard of what has been
done by others, but in a spirit of hearty cooperation, thankfully
accepting such help as is offered him by his neighbors.



19. THE APPEAL TO REASON.--The proper aim of the scientific study of
ethics appears to be suggested with sufficient clearness by what has been
said in the chapters on the accepted content of morals.

Where individuals take up unreflectively the maxims which are to control
their conduct, human life can scarcely be said to be under the guidance
of reason. Where, moreover, the codes of individuals clash with each
other or with the social conscience of their community, and where the
codes of different communities are disconcertingly diverse, planful
concerted action with a view to the control of conduct appears to be
impracticable. Historical accident, blind impulse and caprice, cannot
serve as guides for a rational creature seeking to live, along with
others, a rational life.

"The aim of ethics," says Sidgwick, [Footnote: _The Methods of
Ethics_, Book I, chapter vi, Sec 1.] "is to render scientific--i.e.,
true, and as far as possible systematic--the apparent cognitions that
most men have of the rightness or reasonableness of conduct, whether the
conduct be considered as right in itself, or as the means to some end
conceived as ultimately reasonable." The use here of the word
"cognitions" calls our attention to the fact that, when men say, "this is
right, that is wrong," they mean no more than, "this I like, that I do
not like"; and the use of the word "apparent" indicates that the
judgments expressed may be approved by the man who makes them, and yet be
erroneous. The appeal is to an objective standard; there is a demand for

That most men recognize, in some cases dimly, in some cases clearly and
explicitly, that the appeal to such a standard is justifiable, can
scarcely be denied. Between "I choose" and "I ought to choose," between
"the community demands," and "the community ought to demand," men
generally recognize a distinction when they have attained to a capacity
for reflection.

It has, however, been denied that the appeal is justifiable, and denied
by no mean authority. "The presumed objectivity of moral judgments,"
writes Westermarck, [Footnote: 2 _The Origin and Development of the
Moral Ideas_, chapter i, p. 17.] "being a chimera, there can be no
moral truth in the sense in which this term is generally understood. The
ultimate reason for this is, that the moral concepts are based upon
emotions, and that the contents of an emotion fall entirely outside the
category of truth. But it may be true or not that we have a certain
emotion, it may be true or not that a given mode of conduct has a
tendency to evoke in us moral indignation or moral approval. Hence a
moral judgment is true or false according as its subject has or has not
that tendency which the predicate attributes to it. If I say that it is
wrong to resist evil, and yet resistance to evil has no tendency whatever
to call forth in me an emotion of moral disapproval, then my judgment is
false." The conclusion drawn from this is that there are no general moral
truths, and that "the object of scientific ethics cannot be to fix rules
for human conduct"; it can only be "to study the moral consciousness as a

20. THE APPEAL TO REASON JUSTIFIED.--The words of so high an authority
should not be passed over lightly. One is impelled to seek for their
proper appreciation and their reconciliation with the judgment of other
moralists. Such can be found, I think, by turning to two truths dwelt
upon in what has preceded: the truth that the moralist should not assume
that he is possessed of a "given" analogous to that of the geometer--a
standard in no need of criticism; and the equally important truth that
the moralist cannot hope to frame a code which will simply replace the
codes of individual communities and will prescribe the details of human
conduct while ignoring such codes altogether.

But it does not seem to follow that, because the moralist may not set up
an arbitrary code of this sort, he is also forbidden to criticize and
compare moral judgments, to arrange existing codes in a certain order as
lower and higher, to frame some notion of what constitutes progress. He
may hold before himself, in outline, at least, an ideal of conduct, and
not one taken up arbitrarily but based upon the phenomena of the moral
consciousness as he has observed them. And in the light of this ideal he
may judge of conduct; his appeal is to an objective standard.

Thus, he who says that it is false that it is right to reduce to slavery
prisoners taken in war may, if he be sufficiently unreflective, have no
better reason for his judgment than a feeling of repugnance to such
conduct. But, if he has risen to the point of taking broad views of men
and their moral codes, he may very well assert the falsity of the
statement even when he feels no personal repugnance to the holding of
certain persons as slaves. His appeal is, in fact, to such a standard as
is above indicated, and his condemnation of certain forms of conduct is
based upon their incompatibility with it.

Hence, a man may significantly assert that certain conduct is objectively
desirable, although it may not be desired by himself or by his community.
He may judge a thing to be wrong without _feeling_ it to be wrong.
Whether anything would actually be judged to be wrong, if no one ever had
any emotions, is a different question. With it we may class the question
whether anything would be judged to be wrong if no one were possessed of
even a spark of reason. There is small choice between having nothing to
see and not being able to see anything. [Footnote: That, in the citation
above given, WESTERMARCK'S attention was concentrated upon the extreme
position taken by some moralists touching the function of the reason in
moral judgments seems to me evident. He is far too able an observer to
overlook the significance of the diversity of moral codes and the meaning
of progress. He writes: "Though rooted in the emotional side of our
nature, our moral opinions are in a large measure amenable to reason. Now
in every society the traditional notions as to what is good or bad,
obligatory or indifferent, are commonly accepted by the majority of
people without further reflection. By tracing them to their source it
will be found that not a few of these notions have their origin in
sentimental likings and antipathies, to which a scrutinizing and
enlightened judge can attach little importance; whilst, on the other
hand, he must account blamable many an act and omission which public
opinion, out of thoughtlessness, treats with indifference." Vol. I, pp.
2-3. See also his appeals to reason where it is a question of the
attitude of the community toward legal responsibility on the part of the
young, toward drunkenness, and toward the heedless production of
offspring doomed to misery and disease, pp. 269 and 310.]

An appeal, thus, from the actual to the ideal appears to be possible.
And, since the natural man, unenlightened and unreflective, is not more
inclined to show himself to be a reasonable being in the sphere of morals
than elsewhere, it seems that there is no little need of ethical science.
Its aim is to bring about the needed enlightenment. Its value can only be
logically denied by those who maintain seriously that it is easy to know
what it is right to do. Do men really hold this, if they are thoughtful?





21. THE BACKGROUND OF ACTIONS.--In estimating human actions we take into
consideration both the doer and the circumstances under which the deed
was done. Actions may be desirable or undesirable, good or bad, according
to their setting. How shall we judge of the blow that takes away human
life? It may be the involuntary reaction of a man startled by a shock; it
may be a motion of justifiable self-defence; it may be one struck at the
command of a superior and in the defence of one's country; it may be the
horrid outcome of cruel rapacity or base malevolence.

Nor are the emotions, torn out of their context, more significant than
actions without a background. They are mental phenomena to be observed
and described by the psychologist; to the moralist they are, taken alone,
as unmeaning as the letters of the alphabet, but, like them, capable in
combination of carrying many meanings. Anger, fear, wonder, and all the
rest are, as natural emotions, neither good nor bad; they are colors,
which may enter into a picture and in it acquire various values.

In morals, when men have attained to the stage of enlightenment at which
moral estimation is a possible process, they always consider emotions,
intentions, and actions in the light of their background. We do not
demand a moral life of the brutes; we do not look for it in the
intellectually defective and the emotionally insane; nor do we expect a
savage caught in the bush to harbor the same emotions, or to have the
same ethical outlook, as the missionary with whom we may confront him.
The concepts of moral responsibility, of desert, of guilt, are emptied of
all significance, when we lose sight of the nature, inborn or acquired,
of the creature haled before the bar of our judgment, and of the
environment, which on the one hand, impels him to action, and, on the
other, furnishes the stage upon which the drama of his life must be
played out to the end.

Hence, he who would not act as the creature of blind impulse or as the
unthinking slave of tradition, but would exercise a conscious and
intelligent control over his conduct, seems compelled to look at his life
and its setting in a broad way, to scrutinize with care both the nature
of man and the environment without which that nature could find no
expression. When he does this, he only does more intelligently what men
generally do instinctively and somewhat at haphazard. He seeks a rational
estimate of the significance of conduct, and a standard by which it may
be measured.

22. MAN'S NATURE.--Moralists ancient and modern have had a good deal to
say about the nature of man. To some of them it has seemed rather a
simple thing to describe it. Its constitution, as they have conceived it,
has furnished them with certain principles which should guide human
action. Aristotle, who assumed that every man seeks his own good,
conceived of his good or "well-being" as largely identical with "well-
doing." This "well-doing" meant to him "fulfilling the proper functions
of man," or in other words acting as the nature of man prescribes.
[Footnote: _Politics_, i, 2. See, further, on _Man's Nature_,
chapter xxvi.] To the Stoic man's duty was action in accordance with his
nature. [Footnote: MARCUS AURELIUS, _Thoughts_, v, 1.] Butler,
[Footnote: _Sermons on Human Nature_, ii] many centuries later,
found in man's nature a certain "constitution," with conscience naturally
supreme and the passions in a position of subordination. This
"constitution" plainly indicated to him the conduct appropriate to a
human being.

Such appeals to man's nature we are apt to listen to with a good deal of
sympathy. Manifestly, man differs from the brutes, and they differ, in
their kind, from each other. To each kind, a life of a certain sort seems
appropriate. The rational being is expected to act rationally, to some
degree, at least. In our dealings with creatures on a lower plane, we
pitch our expectations much lower.

And the behavior we expect from each is that appropriate to its kind. The
bee and the ant follow unswervingly their own law, and live their own
complicated community life. However the behavior of the brute may vary in
the presence of varying conditions, the degree of the variation seems to
be determined by rather narrow limits. These we recognize as the limits
of the nature of the creature. It dictates to itself, unconsciously, its
own law of action, and it follows that law simply and without revolt.

When we turn to man, "the crown and glory of the universe," as Darwin
calls him, we find him, too, endowed with a certain nature in an
analogous sense of the word. He has capacities for which we look in vain
elsewhere. The type of conduct we expect of him has its root in these
capacities. Human nature can definitely be expected to express itself in
a human life,--one lower or higher, but, in every case, distinguishable
from the life of the brute. It means something to speak of the physical
and mental constitution of man, that mysterious reservoir from which his
emotions and actions are supposed to flow. We feel that we have a right
to use the expression, even while admitting that the brain of man is, as
far as psychology is concerned, almost unexplored territory, and that the
relation of mind to brain is, and is long likely to remain, a subject of
dispute with philosophers and psychologists.

23. HOW DISCOVER MAN'S NATURE?--Nevertheless, in speaking of the nature
of any living creature, we are forced to remind ourselves that the
original endowment of the creature studied can never be isolated and
subjected to inspection independently of the setting in which the subject
of our study is found. Who, by an examination of the brain of a bee or of
an ant, could foresee the intricate organized industry of the hive or the
anthill? The seven ages of man are not stored ready-made in the little
body of the infant. At any rate, they are beyond the reach of the most
penetrating vision. In the case of the simple mechanisms which can be
constructed by man a forecast of future function is possible on the basis
of a general knowledge of mechanics. But there is no living being of
whose internal constitution we have a similar knowledge. From the
behavior of the creature we gather a knowledge of its nature; we do not
start with its nature as directly revealed and infer its behavior. That
there are differences in the internal constitution of beings which react
to the same environment in different ways, we have every reason to
believe. What those differences are in detail we cannot know. And our
knowledge of the capacities inherent in this or that constitution will be
limited by what we can observe of its reaction to environment.

Sometimes the reaction to environment is relatively simple and uniform.
In this case we feel that we can attain without great difficulty to what
may be regarded as a satisfactory knowledge of the nature of the creature
studied. The conception of that nature appears to be rather definite and
unequivocal. When it is once attained, we speak with some assurance of
the way in which the creature will act in this situation or in that. If,
however, the capacities are vastly more ample, and the environment to
which this creature is adjusted is greatly extended, the difficulty of
describing in any unequivocal way the nature of the creature becomes
indefinitely greater.

Is it possible to contemplate man without being struck with the breadth
and depth of the gulf which separates the primitive human being from the
finished product of civilization? What a difference in range of emotion,
in reach of intellect, in stored information, in freedom of action,
between man at his lowest and man at his highest! Can we describe in the
same terms what is natural to man everywhere and always?

For the filthy and ignorant savage, absorbed in satisfying his immediate
bodily needs, standing in the simplest of social relations, taking
literally no thought for the morrow, profoundly ignorant of the world in
which he finds himself, possessing over nature no control worthy of the
name, the sport and slave of his environment, it is natural to act in one
way. For enlightened humanity, acquainted with the past and forecasting
the future, developed in intellect and refined in feeling, rich in the
possession of arts and sciences, intelligently controlling and directing
the forces of nature, socially organized in highly complicated ways, it
is natural to act in another way. And to each of the intermediate stages
in the evolution of civilization some type of conduct appears to be
appropriate and natural.

Whither, then, shall we turn for our conception of man's nature? Shall we
merely draw up a list of the instincts and impulses which may be
observable in all men? Shall we say no more than that man is gifted with
an intelligence superior to that of the brutes? To do this is, to be
sure, to give some vague indication of man's original endowment. But it
can give us little indication of what it is possible for man, with such
an endowment, and in such an environment as makes his setting, to become.
And what man becomes, that he is.

If man's nature can be revealed only through the development of his
capacities, it is futile to seek it in a return to undeveloped man. The
nature of the chicken is not best revealed in the egg. And, as man can
develop only in interaction with his environment, we must, to understand
him, study his environment also.



24. THE STRUGGLE WITH NATURE.--It is not possible to disentangle from
each other and to consider quite separately the diverse elements which
enter into the environment of man and which influence his development.
His environment is two-fold, material and social; but his material
setting may affect his social relations, and it is social man, not the
individual as such, that achieves a conquest over nature. However, it is
possible, and it is convenient, to direct attention successively upon the
one and the other aspect of his environment.

At every stage of his development, man must have food, shelter, some
means of defense. If they are not easily obtainable, he must strain every
nerve to attain them. Are his powers feeble and his intelligence
undeveloped, it may tax all his efforts to keep himself alive and to
continue the race in any fashion. The rules which determine his conduct
seem rather the dictates of a stern necessity than the products of
anything resembling free choice.

He who is lashed by hunger and haunted by fear, who cannot provide for
the remote future, but must accept good or ill fortune as the accident of
the day precipitates his lot upon him, lives and must live a life at but
one remove from that of the brute. In such a life the instincts of man
attain to a certain expression, but intelligence plays a feeble part. The
man remains a slave, under dictation, and moved by the dread of immediate
disaster. For an interest in what is remote in time and place, for the
extension of knowledge for its own sake, for the development of
activities which have no direct bearing upon the problem of keeping him
alive and fed, there can be little place. One must be assured that one
can live, and live in reasonable security and physical well-being, before
the problem of enriching and embellishing life can fairly present itself
as an important problem. One must be set free before one can deliberately
set out to shape one's life after an ideal.

Not that a severe struggle with physical nature is necessarily and of
itself a curse. It may call out man's powers, stimulate to action, and
result in growth and development. Where a prodigal nature amply provides
for man's bodily necessities without much effort on his part, the result
may be, in the absence of other stimulating influences giving rise to new
wants, a paralyzing slothfulness, an animal passivity and content. This
may be observed in whole peoples highly favored by soil and climate, and
protected by their situation from external dangers. It may be observed in
certain favored classes even in communities which, by long and strenuous
effort, have conquered nature and raised themselves high in the scale of
civilization. The idle sons of the rich, relieved from the spur of
necessity, may undergo the degeneration appropriate to parasitic life. In
the midst of a strenuous activity adapted to call out the best
intellectual and moral powers of man, they may remain unaffected by it,
incapable of effort, unintelligent, slothful, the weak and passive
recipients of what is brought to them by the labor of others.

But the struggle with physical nature, sometimes a spur to progress and
issuing in triumph, may also issue in defeat. Nature may be too strong
for man, or, at least, for man at an early stage of his development. She
may thwart his efforts and dwarf his life. It was through no accident
that the Athenian state rose and flourished upon the shores of the
Aegean; no such efflorescence of civilization could be looked for among
the Esquimaux of the frozen North.

25. THE CONQUESTS OF THE MIND.--Physical environment counts for much, but
the physical environment of man is the same as that of the creatures
below him who seem incapable of progress. It is as an intelligent being
that he succeeds in bringing about ever new and more complicated
adjustments to his environment.

From the point of view of his animal life in many respects inferior to
other creatures--less strong, less swift, less adequately provided with
natural means of defense, less protected by nature against cold, heat and
the inclemencies of the weather, endowed with instincts less unerring,
less prolific, through a long period of infancy helpless and dependent--
man nevertheless survives and prospers.

He has conquered the strong, overtaken the swift, called upon his
ingenuity to furnish him with means of defence. He has defied cold and
heat, and we find him, with appliances of his own devising, successfully
combating the rigors of Arctic frosts and the torrid sun of the tropics.
Intelligence has supplemented instinct and has guaranteed the survival of
the individual and of the race.

It has even protected man against himself, against the very dangers
arising out of his immunity from other dangers. A gregarious creature,
increasing and multiplying, he would be threatened with starvation did
not his intelligent control over nature furnish him with a food-supply
which makes it possible for vast numbers of human beings to live and
thrive on a territory of limited extent. Moreover, he has compassed those
complicated forms of social organization which reveal themselves in
cities and states, solving problems of production, transportation and
distribution before which undeveloped man would stand helpless.

And from the problem of living at all he has passed to that of living
well. He has created new wants and has satisfied them. He has built up
for himself a rich and diversified life, many of the activities of which
appear to have the remotest of bearings upon the mere struggle for
existence, but the exercise of which gives him satisfaction. Thus, the
primitive instinct of curiosity, once relatively aimless and
insignificant, has developed into the passion for systematic knowledge
and the persistent search for truth; the rudimentary aesthetic feeling
which is revealed in primitive man, and traces of which are recognizable
in creatures far lower in the scale, has blossomed out in those elaborate
creations, which, at an enormous expense of labor and ingenuity, have
come to enrich the domains of literature, music, painting, sculpture,
architecture. Civilized man is to a great extent occupied with the
production of what he does not need, if need be measured by what his
wants are at a lower stage of his development. But these same things he
needs imperatively, if we measure his need by his desires when they have
been multiplied and their scope indefinitely widened.

the successful exploitation of the resources of material nature is of
enormous significance to the life of man. It may bring emancipation; it
offers opportunity. One is tempted to affirm, without stopping to
reflect, that the development of the arts and sciences, the increase of
wealth and of knowledge, must in the nature of things increase human

One is tempted, further, to maintain that an advance in civilization must
imply an advance in moralization. Man has a moral nature which exhibits
itself to some degree at every stage of his development. What more
natural to conclude than that, with the progressive unfolding of his
intelligence, with increase in knowledge, with some relaxation of the
struggle for existence which pits man against his fellow-man, and
subordinates all other considerations to the inexorable law of self-
preservation, his moral nature would have the opportunity to show itself
in a fuller measure?

When we compare man at his very lowest with man at his highest such
judgments appear to be justified. But man is to be found at all sorts of
intermediate stages.

His knowledge may be limited, the development of the arts not far
advanced, his control over nature far from complete, and yet he may live
in comparative security and with such wants as he has reasonably well
satisfied. His competition with his fellows may not be bitter and
absorbing. The simple life is not necessarily an unhappy life, if the
simplicity which characterizes it be not too extreme. In judging broadly
of the significance for human life of the control over nature which is
implied in the advance of civilization, one must take into consideration
several points of capital importance:

(1) The multiplication of man's wants results, not in happiness, but in
unhappiness, unless the satisfaction of those wants can be adequately
provided for.

(2) The effort to satisfy the new wants which have been called into being
may be accompanied by an enormous expenditure of effort. Where the effort
is excessive man becomes again the slave of his environment. His task is
set for him, and he fulfills it under the lash of an imperious necessity.
The higher standard may become as inexorable a task-master as was the

(3) It does not follow that, because a given community is set free from
the bondage of the daily anxiety touching the problem of living at all,
and may address itself deliberately to the problem of living well, it
will necessarily take up into its ideal of what constitutes living well
all those goods upon which developed man is apt to set a value. A
civilization may be a grossly material one, even when endowed with no
little wealth. With wealth comes the opportunity for the development of
the arts which embellish life, but that opportunity may not be embraced.
Man may be materially rich and spiritually poor; he may allow some of his
faculties to lie dormant, and may lose the enjoyments which would have
been his had they been developed. The Athenian citizen two millenniums
ago had no such mastery over the forces of nature as we possess today.
Nevertheless, he was enabled to live a many-sided life beside which the
life of the modern man may appear poor and bare. It is by no means self-
evident that the good of man consists in the multitude of the material
things which he can compel to his service.

(4) Moreover, it does not follow that, because the sum of man's
activities, his behavior, broadly taken, is vastly altered, by an
increase in his control over his material environment, the result is an
advance in moralization. An advance in civilization--in knowledge, in the
control over nature's resources, in the evolution of the industrial and
even of the fine arts--does not necessarily imply a corresponding ethical
advance on the part of a given community. New conditions, brought about
by an increase of knowledge, of wealth, of power, may result in ethical

What constitutes the moral in human behavior, what marks out right or
wrong conduct from conduct ethically indifferent, we have not yet
considered. But no man is wholly without information in the field of
morals, and we may here fall back upon such conceptions as men generally
possess before they have evolved a science of morals. In the light of
such conceptions a simple and comparatively undeveloped culture may
compare very favorably with one much higher in the scale of civilization.

In the simplest groups of human beings, justice, veracity and a regard to
common good may be conspicuous; the claim of each man upon his fellow-man
may be generally acknowledged. In communities more advanced, the growth
of class distinctions and the inequalities due to the amassing of wealth
on the part of individuals may go far to nullify the advantage to the
individual of any advance made by the community as a whole. The social
bonds which have obtained between members of the same group may be
relaxed; the devotion to the common good may be replaced by the selfish
calculation of profit to the individual; the exploitation of man by his
fellow-man may be accepted as natural and normal. It is not without its
significance that the most highly civilized of states have, under the
pressure of economic advance, come to adopt the institution of slavery in
its most degraded forms; that the problem of property and poverty may
present itself as most pressing and most difficult of solution where
national wealth has grown to enormous proportions. The body politic may
be most prosperous from a material point of view, and at the same time,
considered from the point of view of the moralist, thoroughly rotten in
its constitution.

It is well to remember that, even in the most advanced of modern
civilizations, whatever the degree of enlightenment and the power enjoyed
by the community as a whole, it is quite possible for the individual to
be condemned to a life little different in essentials from that of the
lowest savage. He whose feverish existence is devoted to the nerve-
racking occupation of gambling in stocks, who goes to his bed at night
scheming how he may with impunity exploit his fellow-man, and who rises
in the morning with a strained consciousness of possible fluctuations in
the market which may overwhelm him in irretrievable disaster, lives in
perils which easily bear comparison with those which threaten the
precarious existence of primitive man. To masses of men in civilized
communities the problem of the food supply is all-absorbing, and may
exclude all other and broader interests. The factory-worker, with a mind
stupefied by the mechanical repetition of some few simple physical
movements of no possible interest to him except as resulting in the wage
that keeps him alive, has no share in such light as may be scattered
about him.

The control of the forces of nature brings about great changes in human
societies, but it may leave the individual, whether rich or poor, a prey
to dangers and anxieties, engaged in an unequal combat with his
environment, absorbed in the satisfaction of material needs, undeveloped,
unreflective and most restricted in his outlook. Of emancipation there
can here be no question.

And a civilization in which the control of the forces of nature has been
carried to the highest pitch of development may furnish a background to
the darkest of passions. It may serve as a stage upon which callous
indifference, greed, rapacity, gross sensuality, play their parts naked
and unashamed. That some men sunk in ignorance and subject to such
passions live in huts and have their noses pierced, and others have taken
up from their environment the habit of dining in evening dress, is to the
moralist a relatively insignificant detail. He looks at the man, and he
finds him in each case essentially the same--a primitive and undeveloped
creature who has not come into his rightful heritage.



27. MAN IS ASSIGNED HIS PLACE.--The old fable of a social contract, by
virtue of which man becomes a member of a society, agreeing to renounce
certain rights he might exercise if wholly independent, and to receive in
exchange legal rights which guarantee to the individual the protection of
life and property and the manifold advantages to be derived from
cooperative effort, points a moral, like other fables.

The contract in question never had an existence, but neither did the
conversation between the grasshopper and the ant. In each case, a truth
is illustrated by a play of the imagination. Contracts there have been in
plenty, between individuals, between families, between social classes,
between nations; but they have all been contracts between men already in
a social state of some sort, capable of choice and merely desirous of
modifying in some particular some aspect of that social state. The notion
of an original contract, lying at the base of all association of man with
man, is no more than a fiction which serves to illustrate the truth that
the desires and wills of men are a significant factor in determining the
particular forms under which that association reveals itself.

No man enters into a contract to be born, or to be born a Kaffir, a
Malay, a Hindoo, an Englishman or an American. He enters the world
without his own consent, and without his own connivance he is assigned a
place in a social state of some sort. The reception which is accorded to
him is of the utmost moment to him. He may be rejected utterly by the
social forces presiding over his birth. In which case he does not start
life independently, but is snuffed out as is a candle-flame by the wind.
And if accepted, as he usually is in civilized communities, he takes his
place in the definite social order into which he is born, and becomes the
subject of education and training as a member of that particular

28. VARIETIES OF THE SOCIAL ORDER.--The social order into which he is
thus ushered may be most varied in character. He may find himself a
member of a small and primitive group of human beings, a family standing
in more or less loose relations to a limited number of other families; he
may belong to a clan in which family relationship still serves as a real
or fictive bond; his clan may have its place in a confederation; or the
body politic in which he is a unit may be a nation, or an empire
including many nationalities.

His relations to his fellow-man will naturally present themselves to him
in a different light according to the different nature of the social
environment in which he finds himself. The community of feeling and of
interests which defines rights, determines expectations, and prescribes
duties, cannot be the same under differing conditions. Social life
implies cooperation, but the limits of possible cooperation are very
differently estimated by man at different stages of his development. To a
few human beings each man is bound closely at every stage of his
evolution. The family bond is everywhere recognized. But, beyond that,
there are wider and looser relationships recognized in very diverse
degrees, as intelligence expands, as economic advance and political
enlightenment make possible a community life on a larger scale, as
sympathy becomes less narrow and exclusive.

It is not easy for a member of a community at a given stage of its
development even to conceive the possibility of such communities as may
come into existence under widely different conditions. The simple,
communistic savage, limited in his outlook, thinks in terms of small
numbers. A handful of individuals enjoy membership in his group; he
recognizes certain relations, more or less loose, to other groups, with
which his group comes into contact; beyond is the stranger, the natural
enemy, upon whom he has no claim and to whom he owes no duty.

At a higher level there comes into being the state, including a greater
number of individuals and internally organized as the simpler society is
not. But even in a highly civilized state much the same attitude towards
different classes of human beings may seem natural and inevitable. To
Plato there remained the strongly marked distinctions between the
Athenian, the citizen of another Hellenic community, and the barbarian.
War, when waged against the last, might justifiably be merciless; not so,
when it was war between Greek states. [Footnote: Republic, Book V.] Into
such conceptions of rights and duties men are born; they take them up
with the very air that they breathe, and they may never feel impelled to
subject them to the test of criticism.

It is instructive to remark that neither the speculative genius of a
Plato nor the acute intelligence of an Aristotle could rise to the
conception of an organized, self-governing community on a great scale. To
each it seemed evident that the group proper must remain a comparatively
small one. Plato finds it necessary to provide in his "Laws" that the
number of households in the State shall be limited to five thousand and
forty. Aristotle, less arbitrarily exact, allows a variation within
rather broad limits, holding that a political community should not
comprise a number of citizens smaller than ten, nor one greater than one
hundred thousand. [FOOTNOTE: PLATO, _Laws_, v. ARISTOTLE,
_Ethics_, ix, 10.] That a highly organized state, a state not
composed of a horde of subjects under autocratic control, but one in
which the citizens are, in theory, self-governing, should spread over
half a continent and include a hundred millions of souls, would have
seemed to these men of genius the wildest of dreams. Yet such a dream has
been realized.

29. SOCIAL ORGANIZATION.--The social body of which man becomes, by the
accident of birth, an involuntary member, may stand at any point in the
scale of economic evolution. It may be a primitive group living from hand
to mouth by the chase, by fishing or by gathering such food as nature
spontaneously produces. It may be a pastoral people, more or less
nomadic, occupied with the care of flocks and herds. It may be an
agricultural community, rooted to the soil, looking forward from seed-
time to harvest, capable of foresight in storing and distributing the
fruits of its labors. It may combine some of the above activities; and
may, in addition, have arrived at the stage at which the arts and crafts
have attained to a considerable development. In its life commerce may
have come to play an important role, bringing it into peaceful relations
with other communities and broadening the circle of its interests. That
human societies at such different stages of their development should
differ greatly in their internal organization, in their relations to
other communities, and in the demands which they make upon the
individuals who compose them, is to be expected. Some manner of life,
appropriate to the status of the community, comes to be prescribed. The
ideal of conduct, whether unconsciously admitted or consciously embraced
and inculcated, is not the same in different societies. The virtues which
come to be prized, the defects which are disapproved, vary with their

Moreover, the process of inner development results in differentiation of
function. Clearly marked social classes come into existence, standing in
more or less sharply defined relations to other social classes, endowed
with special rights and called to the performance of peculiar duties.

Man is not merely born into this or that community; he is born into a
place in the community. In very primitive societies that place may differ
little from other places, save as such are determined by age or sex. But
in more highly differentiated societies it may differ enormously, entail
the performance of widely different functions, and prescribe distinct
varieties of conduct.

"What will be the manner of life," said Plato, [Footnote: Laws, vii.]
"among men who may be supposed to have their food and clothing provided
for them in moderation, and who have entrusted the practice of the arts
to others, and whose husbandry, committed to slaves paying a part of the
produce, brings them a return sufficient for living temperately?"

His ideal leisure class is patterned after what he saw before him in
Athens. He conceives those who belong to it to be set free from sordid
cares and physical labors, in order that they may devote themselves to
the perfecting of their own minds and bodies and to preparation for the
serious work of supervising and controlling the state. Their membership
in the class defined their duties and prescribed the course of education
which should fit them to fulfill them. It is not conceived that the
functions natural and proper to one human being are also natural and
proper to another in the same community.

The flat monotony which obtains in those simplest human societies,
resembling extended families, where there is scarcely a demarcation of
classes, a distinction of occupations and a recognition of private
property in any developed sense, has given place in such a state to sharp
contrasts in the status of man and man. Such contrasts obtain in all
modern civilized communities. Man is not merely a subject or citizen; he
is a subject or citizen of this class or of that, and the environment
which molds him varies accordingly.

30. SOCIAL ORDER AND HUMAN WILL.--We have seen that the material
environment of a man, the extent of his mastery over nature and of his
emancipation from the dictation of pressing bodily needs, is a factor of
enormous importance in determining what he shall become and what sort of
a life he shall lead. That his social setting is equally significant is
obvious. What he shall know, what habits he shall form, what emotions he
shall experience in this situation and in that, what tasks he shall find
set before him, and what ideals he shall strive to attain, are largely
determined for him independently of his choice.

To be sure, it remains true that man is man, endowed with certain
instincts and impulses and gifted with human intelligence. Nor are all
men alike in their impulses or in the degree of their intelligence.
Within limits the individual may exercise choice, reacting upon and
modifying his environment and himself. But a moment's reflection reveals
to us that the new departure is but a step taken from a vantage-ground
which has not been won by independent effort. The information in the
light of which he chooses, the situation in the face of which he acts,
the emotional nature which impels him to effort, the habits of thought
and action which have become part of his being--these are largely due to
the larger whole of which he finds himself a part. He did not build the
stage upon which he is to act. His lines have been learned from others.
He may recite them imperfectly; he may modify them in this or in that
particular. But the drama from which, and from which alone, he gains his
significance, is not his own creation.

The independence of the individual in the face of his material and social
environment makes itself more apparent with the progressive development
of man. But man attains his development as a member of society, and in
the course of a historical evolution. It was pointed out many centuries
ago that a hand cut off from the human body cannot properly be called a
hand, for it can perform none of the functions of one. And man, torn from
his setting, can no longer be considered man as the proper subject of
moral science.

It is as a thinking and willing creature in a social setting that man
becomes a moral agent. To understand him we must make a study of the
individual and of the social will.





31. IMPULSE.--Commands and prohibitions address themselves to man as a
voluntary agent. But it seems right to treat as willed by man much more
than falls under the head of conscious and deliberate volition. We do not
hesitate to make him responsible for vastly more; and yet common sense
does not, when enlightened, regard men as responsible for what is
recognized as falling wholly beyond the direct and indirect control of
their wills.

Motions due to even the blindest of impulses are not to be confounded
with those brought about by external compulsion. They may have the
appearance of being vaguely purposive, although we would never attribute
purpose to the creature making them. The infant that cries and struggles,
when tormented by the intrusive pin, the worm writhing in the beak of a
bird,--these act blindly, but it does not appear meaningless to say that
they act. The impulse is from within.

Some impulses result in actions very nicely adjusted to definite ends.
Such are winking, sneezing, swallowing. These reflexes may occur as the
mechanical response to a given stimulus. They may occur without our being
conscious of them and without our having willed them.

Yet such responses to stimuli are not necessarily unconscious and cut off
from voluntary control. He who winks involuntarily when a hand is passed
before his eyes may become conscious that he has done so, and may, if he
chooses, even acquire some facility in controlling the reflex. One may
resist the tendency to swallow when the throat is dry, may hold back a
sneeze, or may keep rigid the hand that is pricked by a pin. That is to
say, actions in their origin mechanical and independent of choice may be
raised out of their low estate, made the objects of attention, and
brought within the domain of deliberate choice.

Furthermore, many actions which, at the outset, claimed conscious
attention and were deliberately willed may become so habitual that the
doer lapses into unconsciousness or semi-unconsciousness of his deed.
They take on the nature of acquired reflexes. The habit of acting appears
to have been acquired by the mind and then turned over to the body, that
the mind may be free to occupy itself with other activities. The man has
become less the doer than the spectator of his acts; perhaps he is even
less than that, he is the stage upon which the action makes its
appearance, while the spectator is his neighbor. The complicated bodily
movements called into play when one bites one's nails had to be learned.
It requires no little ingenuity to accomplish the act when the nails are
short. Yet one may come to the stage of perfection at which one bites
one's nails when one is absorbed in thought about other things. And one
may learn to slander one's neighbor almost as mechanically and
unthinkingly as one swallows when the throat is dry.

When we speak of man's impulses, we are using a vague word. There are
impulses which will never be anything more. There are impulses which may
become something more. There are impulses which are no longer anything
more. Impulses have their psychic aspect. At its lower limit, impulse may
appear very mechanical; at its upper, one may hesitate to say that desire
and will are wholly absent. It is not wise to regard impulse as lying
wholly beyond the sphere of will.

32. DESIRE.--At its lower limit, desire is not distinguished by any sharp
line from mere impulse. Is the infant that stretches out its hands toward
a bright object conscious of a desire to possess it? Or does the motion
made follow the visual sensation as the wail follows the wound made by
the pin? At a certain stage of development the phenomena of desire become
unmistakable. The idea of something to be attained, the notion of means
to the attainment of an end, the consciousness of tension, may stand out
clearly. The analysis of the psychologist, which finds in desire a
consciousness of the present state of the self, an idea of a future
state, and a feeling of tension towards the realization of the latter,
may represent faithfully the elements present in desire in the higher
stages of its development, but it would be difficult to find those
elements clearly marked in desire which has just begun to differentiate
itself from impulse. There may be a desire where there can scarcely be
said to be a self as an object of consciousness; one may desire where
there is no clear consciousness of a future state as distinct from a
present one.

Moreover, the consciousness of desire may be faint and fugitive, as it
may be intense and persistent. Desire is the step between the first
consciousness of the object and the voluntary release of energy which
works toward its attainment. This step may be passed over almost
unnoticed. The thought of shifting my position when I feel uncomfortable
may be followed by the act with no clear consciousness of a tension and
its voluntary release. The mere thought, itself but faintly and
momentarily in consciousness, appears to be followed at once by the act,
and desire and will to be eliminated. It does not follow that they are
actually eliminated; they may be present as fleeting shadows which fail
to attract attention.

If, however, the desire fails to find its immediate fruition, if it is
frustrated, consciousness of it may become exceedingly intense. There is
the constant thought of the object, a vivid feeling of tension, of a
striving to attain the object. Desire may become an obsession, a torment
filling the horizon, and the volition in which it finds its fruition
stands forth as a marked relief. This condition of things may be brought
about by the inhibition occasioned by the physical impossibility of
attaining the object; but it may also be brought about by the struggle of
incompatible desires among themselves. The man is drawn in different
directions, he is subject to various tensions, and he becomes acutely
conscious that he is impelled to move in several ways and is moving in

I have used the word "tension" to describe the psychic fact present in
desire. I have done so for want of a better word. Of the physical basis
of desire, of what takes place in the brain, we know nothing. With the
psychic fact, the feeling of agitation and unrest, we are all familiar.
Of the tendency of desire to discharge itself in action we are aware. A
desire appears to be an inchoate volition--that which, if ripened
successfully and not nipped in the bud, would become a volition. It may
be looked upon as the first step toward action--a step which may or may
not be followed by others. It does not seem out of place to call it a
state of tension, of strain, of inclination. In speaking, thus, we use
physical metaphors, but they do not appear out of place.

33. DESIRE OF THE UNATTAINABLE.--But if a desire may be regarded as an
unripe act of will, an inchoate volition, how is it that we can desire
the unattainable, a sufficiently common experience? I may bitterly regret
some act of my own in the past; I may earnestly wish that I had not
performed it. But the past is irrevocable. Hence, the desire for the
attainment of what is in this case the object, a different past, can
hardly be regarded as even a preparatory step toward attainment.

In this case it can not, and were all desires directed upon what is in
the nature of the case wholly unattainable by effort, it would occur to
no one to speak of desire as a first step toward action. But normally and
usually desires are not of this nature. They usually do constitute a link
in the chain of occurrences which end in action. Did they not, they would
have little significance in the life-history of the creature desiring.
With the appearance of free ideas, with an extension of the range of
memory and imagination, objects may be held before the mind which are not
properly objects to be attained. Yet such objects are of the kind which
attract or repel, i.e., of the kind which men endeavor to realize in
action. They cannot be realized; we do not will to realize them; but we
should will to do so were they realizable. The psychic factor, the
strain, the tension, is unmistakably present. Real desire is revealed,
and common speech, as well as the language of science, recognizes the

This general attraction or repulsion exercised by objects, in spite of
the fact that the objects may not appear to be realizable, is not without
significance. The hindrance to realization may be an accidental one; it
may not be wholly insuperable. The presence of a persistent desire may
result in persistent effort, which may ultimately be crowned by success.
Or it may show itself as a permanent readiness for effort. Were every
frustrated desire at once dismissed from consciousness, the result would
show itself in a passivity detrimental to action in general. Where the
object is intrinsically an impossible one, persistent desire is, of
course, futile. The dog baying at the cat in the tree is the prey of such
a desire, but he does not realize it, or he might discontinue his
inefficacious leaps. The man tormented by his unworthy act in the past is
quite aware of the futility of his longings. His condition is
psychologically explicable, but to a rational being, in so far as
rational, it is not normal.

Normally, desire is the intermediate step between the recognition of an
object and the will to attain it. The most futile of desires may be
harbored. The imaginative mind may range over a limitless field, and give
itself up to desires the most extravagant. But indulgence in this habit
serves as a check to action serviceable to the individual and to the
race. As a matter of fact, desire is usually for what seems conceivably
within the limit of possible attainment. The man desires to catch a
train, to run that he may attain that end; his mind is little occupied
with the desire to fly, nor does his longing center upon the carpet of
Solomon. To the desirability of dismissing from the mind futile desires
current moral maxims bear witness.

34. WILL.--The natural fruition of a desire is, then, an act of will; the
tension is normally followed by that release of energy which makes for
the attainment of the object or end of the desire.

The question suggests itself, may there not be present, even in blindly
impulsive action, something faintly corresponding to desire and will?
That there should be an object in the sense of something aimed at, held
in view as an idea to be realized, appears to be out of the question. But
may there not be a more or less vague and evanescent sense of tension,
and some psychic fact which may be regarded as the shadowy forerunner of
the consciousness of the release of tension which, on a higher plane,
reveals itself as the consciousness of will? There may be: introspection
is not capable of answering the question, and one is forced to fall back
upon an argument from analogy. Blindly impulsive action and action in
which will indubitably and consciously plays a part are not wholly
unlike, but they differ by a very wide interval. The interval is not an
empty gap, however, for, as we have seen, all volitions do not stand out
upon the background of our consciousness with the same unmistakable
distinctness. There are volitions no one would hesitate to call such. And
there are phenomena resembling volition which we more and more doubtfully
include under that caption as we pass own on the descending scale.

Naturally, in describing desire and volition we do not turn to the
twilight region where all outlines are blurred and indistinct. We fix our
attention upon those instances in which the phenomena are clearly and
strongly marked. They are most clearly marked where desire does not, at
once and unimpeded, discharge itself in action, but where action is
deferred, and a struggle takes place between desires.

The man is subject to various tensions, he is impelled in divers
directions, he hesitates, deliberates, and he finally makes a decision.
During this period of deliberation he is apt to be vividly conscious of
desire as such--as a tension not yet relieved, as an alternation of
tensions as the attention occupies itself, first with one desirable
object, then with another. And the decision, which puts an end to the
strife, is clearly distinguished from the desires as such.

In the reflective mind, which turns its attention upon itself and its own
processes, the distinction between desire and will seems to be a marked
one. But it is not merely the developed and reflective mind which is the
seat of deliberation. The child deliberates between satisfying its
appetite and avoiding possible punishment; it reaches for the forbidden
fruit, and withdraws its hand; it wavers, it is moved in one direction as
one desire becomes predominant, and its action is checked as the other
gains in ascendency. Deliberation this unmistakably is. And deliberation
we may observe in creatures below the level of man; in the sparrow,
hopping as close as it dares to the hand that sprinkles crumbs before it;
in the dog, ready to dart away in pursuance of his private desires, but
restrained by the warning voice of his master. This is deliberation. Such
deliberation as we find in the developed and enlightened human being it
is not. That, however, there is present even in these humble instances,
some psychic fact corresponding to what in the higher mind reveals itself
as desire and volition, we have no reason to doubt.

35. DESIRE AND WILL NOT IDENTICAL.--I have had occasion to remark that
the modern psychologist draws no such sharp line between desire and
volition as the psychologist of an earlier time. That some distinction
should be drawn seems palpable. It is not without significance that
immemorial usage sanctions this distinction. The ancient Stoic's quarrel
was with the desires, not with the will. The will was treated as a master
endowed with rightful authority; the desires were subjects, often in
rebellion, but justly to be held in subjection. And from the days of the
Stoic down almost to our own, the will has been treated much as though it
were an especial and distinct faculty of man, not uninfluenced by desire,
but in no sense to be identified with it,--above it, its law-giver,
detached, independent, supreme. This tendency finds its culmination in
that impressive modern Stoic, Immanuel Kant, who desires to isolate the
will, and to emancipate it altogether from the influence of desire.

Recently the pendulum has swung in the other direction. It has been
recognized that will is the natural outcome of desire, and that without
desire there would be no will at all. It has even been maintained that
will _is_ desire, the desire "with which the self identifies
itself." [Footnote: See, for example, GREEN, _Prolegomena to
Ethics_, Sec 144-149.]

To this last form of expression objection may be made on the score of its
vagueness. What does it mean for the self to "identify" itself with a
desire? And if such an identification is necessary to will, can there be
volition or anything resembling volition where self-consciousness has not
yet been developed? It is very imperfectly developed in young children,
and in the lower animals still less developed, if at all; and yet we see
in them the struggle of desires and the resultant decision emerging in
action. If we call a volition in which consciousness of the self has
played its part "volition proper," it still remains to inquire how
volitions on a lower plane are to be distinguished from mere desires.

What happens in a typical case of deliberation and decision? Two or more
objects are before the mind and the attention occupies itself with them
successively. Tensions alternate, wax strong and die away, only to
recover their strength again. Finally the attention fixes upon one object
to the exclusion of others, the strife of desires come to an end, and
there is an inception of action in the direction of the realization of
that particular desire. The desire itself is not to be confounded with
the decision; the tension, with its release. The psychic fact is in the
two cases different. The decision brings relief from the strain. It
cannot properly be called a desire, not even a triumphant desire,
although in it a desire attains a victory and its realization has begun.

Such a victory not all desires, even when most intense and prolonged, are
able to attain. We have seen that the desire for the unattainable may
amount to an obsession, and yet it will not ripen into an act of
volition. The release of the tension in incipient action does not come.
The bent bow remains bent. From the sense of strain in such a case one
may be freed, as one is freed from the desires which succumb during the
process of deliberation, by the occupation of the attention with other
things. But the desire has been forgotten, not satisfied. It may at any
time recur in all its strength.

We cannot more nearly describe the psychic fact called decision. Just as
we cannot more nearly describe the psychic fact to which we have given
the name "tension." Although the nervous basis of the phenomena of desire
and will are unknown, we can easily conceive that, during desire, and
before desire has resulted in the release of energy which is the
immediate forerunner of action, the cerebral occurrence should be
different from that which is present when that release takes place. Nor
should it be surprising that the psychical fact corresponding to each
should be different.

The view here set forth does not confuse desire and will, making will
indistinguishable from desire, or, at least, from certain desires. On the
other hand, it does not separate them, as though they could not be
brought within the one series of occurrences which may properly be
regarded as a unit. It has the advantage of making comprehensible the
mutual relations of impulse, desire, and will. Blind impulse discharges
itself in action seemingly without the psychic accompaniments which
distinguish desire and will. But all impulse is not blind impulse, and
desiring and willing admit of many degrees of development. To deny will
to creatures lower than man, as some writers have done, is to misconceive
the nature of the process that issues in action. We are tempted to do it
only when we compare will in its highest manifestations with those
rudimentary foreshadowings of it which stand at the lower end of the
scale. But even in man we can discern blind impulse, dimly conscious
desires which ripen into as dimly recognized decisions, and, at the very
top of the scale, conscious decisions which follow deliberation, and are
the resultant of a struggle between many desires.

For ethical science it is of no little importance to apprehend clearly
the relation of decision to desire. Moral rules aim to control human
conduct, and conduct is the expression of the whole man. If we have no
clear conception of the desires which struggle for the mastery within
him, and of the relation of his decisions to those desires, in vain will
we endeavor to influence him in the direction in which we wish him to

36. THE WILL AND DEFERRED ACTION.--It remains to speak briefly of one
point touching the nature of will. It has been suggested that the
decision is the psychic fact corresponding to the release of nervous
energy which relieves the tension of desire. It is the beginning of
action, of realization. But what shall we say of resolves which cannot at
once be carried out in action? Of decisions the realization of which is
deferred? I may long debate the matter and then determine to pay a bill
when it comes due next month. The decision is made; but, for a time, at
least, nothing happens. How can I here speak of the beginning of action?

The action does not at once begin, yet it is, in a sense, initiated. The
struggle of conflicting considerations has ceased; the man is "set" for
action in a certain direction. For the time being the matter is settled,
and only an external circumstance prevents the resolve from being carried
out. The psychic factor is widely different from that of mere desire, and
is not recognized to be different from that present in volition which at
once issues in action.



37. CONSCIOUSLY CHOSEN ENDS.--Our volitions, deliberate, less deliberate,
and those verging upon what scarcely deserves the name of volition, weave
themselves into complicated patterns, which find their expression in long
series of the most varied activities. The nature of the pattern as a
whole may be determined by the deliberate selection of an end, and to
that the other choices which enter into the complex may be subordinate.

Thus, a man may decide that he can afford to give himself the pleasure of
a long walk through the country before taking the train at the next town.
During the course of the ramble he may make a number of more or less
conscious decisions not incompatible with the purpose he originally
embraced--to take this bit of road or that, to loiter in the shade, to
climb a hill that he may enjoy a view, to hasten lest he find himself too
late in arriving at his destination. These decisions may require little
deliberation; they spring into being at the call of the moment, are not
preceded by deliberation, and leave little trace in the memory. They may
be made semi-consciously, and while the mind is largely occupied with
other things, with thoughts of the past or the future, with other scenes
suggested by the landscape, or with the flowers which skirt the road.
Nevertheless, we would not hesitate to call them decisions.

May we apply the word in speaking of the single steps made by the
traveler as he advances? His feet seem to move of themselves and to make
no demands at all upon his attention.

Yet it is not strictly true to say that they move of themselves. They are
under control, and the successive steps follow upon each other not
without direction. They serve as expressions of the will to take the
walk, and they are adjusted to the end consciously held in view. That
attention is not fixed upon the individual steps does not remove them
from the sphere of the voluntary, in a proper sense of the words. They
are expressions of the man's will, even if they be not the result of a
conscious series of deliberations and decisions. Whether we shall use the
term decision in connection with the single step is rather a question of
verbal usage than of the determination of fact. We have seen that
decisions shade down gradually, from those quite unmistakable and
characteristic, to occurrences far less characteristic and more
disputable. The consciousness of deliberation and decision does not
disappear abruptly at some point in the series. It fades away, as the
light of day gradually passes, through twilight, into the shades of
night. And actions not directly recognizable as consciously voluntary may
be obviously under voluntary control. They weave themselves, with actions
more palpably voluntary and higher in the scale, into those complicated
patterns determined by the conscious selection of an end. As long as they
serve their purpose, and require no effort, they may remain inconspicuous
and unconsidered. But, as soon as a check is met with, attention is
directed upon them and they become the subject of conscious voluntary

38. ENDS NOT CONSCIOUSLY CHOSEN.--In the above illustration the end
which determines the character of a long chain of actions has been
deliberately chosen. It is a consciously selected end. When, however, we
contemplate critically the lives of our fellow-men, we seem to become
aware of the fact that many of them act in unconsciousness of the
ultimate end upon which their actions converge. The attention is taken up
with minor decisions, and takes no note of the permanent trend of the

Thus, the selfish man may be unaware of the significance of the whole
series of choices which he makes in a day; the malicious man may not
realize that he is animated by the settled purpose to injure his
neighbors; one may be law-abiding without ever having resolved to obey
the laws through the course of a life. If called upon to account for this
or that subordinate decision, each may exhaust his ingenuity in assigning
false causes, while ignoring the permanent attitude of the will revealed
in the series of decisions as a whole and giving them what consistency
they possess.

Hence, the choice of ends, as well as the adoption of means to the
attainment of ends, may reveal itself either in conscious deliberate
decisions, or in the working of obscure impulses which do not emerge into
the light. Even in the latter case, we have not to do with what is wholly
beyond the sphere of intelligent voluntary control. The selfish man may
be made aware that he is selfish; the malicious man, that he is
malicious; and each may deliberately take steps to remedy the defect

When we understand the word "will" in the broad sense indicated in the
preceding pages, we see that a man's habits may justly be regarded as
expressions of the man's will. That, through repetition, his actions have
become almost automatic does not remove them from the sphere of the
volitional. That he does not clearly see, or that he misconceives, the
significance of his habits, and may acquiesce in them even though they be
injurious to him, does not make them the less willed, so long as he
follows them. It is only when he actively endeavors to control or modify
a habit that he may be said to will its opposite.

39. THE CHOICE OF IDEALS.--Nor is it too much to bring under the head of
willing the attitudes of approval and disapproval taken by man in
contemplating certain occurrences, actual or possible, which lie beyond
the confines of the field within which he can exercise control. The field
of control, direct and indirect, is as we have seen a broad one, but it
has its limits, and many of the things he would like to see accomplished
or prevented lie without it.

A man's will may be set upon the preservation of his health, he may
strive to attain that end, and circumstances may condemn him to a life of
invalidism. He would be healthy if he could, but his strivings are
overruled. Or he may earnestly pursue the attainment of wealth, and may
end in bankruptcy. He has the will to be rich, but that will is

It is the same when we consider his attitude toward the decisions and
actions of other men. By mere willing he cannot condition another's
choice. But by willing he can often influence indirectly the volitions of
his fellows. He can enlighten or misinform, persuade or threaten, reward
or punish. In many ways he can weight the scale of his neighbor's mind.
But such influences are not all-powerful, and only within limits can we
bend other wills to follow a course prescribed for them by our own.

Nevertheless, even beyond those limits, the attitude of a man's mind
toward the actions of his neighbor may be a volitional one. His will may
be for them or against them; he may approve or disapprove, command or
prohibit. We know quite well that commands and prohibitions laid upon
children and servants will not always be effective, yet we issue general
commands and prohibitions, as though assuming unlimited control. It is
quite in accordance with usage to speak of a man as willing an end, even
where it is clearly recognized that the will to attain does not guarantee
attainment. The man does what he can; could he do more he would do so; in
his helplessness the attitude of the will persists unchanged.

It is obvious that, in this large sense of the word "will," we may speak
of a man as continuing to will or to approve a given end, even when he is
not willing or approving anything, in a narrower sense of the words, at
this or that moment. We speak of a man as inspired by the permanent will
to be rich, although at many times during the day, and certainly during
his hours of sleep, no act of volition with such an end in view has an
actual existence.

No man always thinks of the permanent ends which he has selected as
controls to his actions. They are selected, they pass from his mind, and,
when they recur to it again, the selection is reaffirmed. But, whether he
is actually thinking about the ends in question or not, the settled trend
of his will is expressed in them.

This settled trend of the will, even when scarcely recognized by the man
himself, may be vastly more significant than the passing individual
decision, although the latter be accompanied by clear consciousness. In
certain cases the latter is a true exponent of character, but not
infrequently it is not. It may be the result of a whim, of an irrational
impulse little congruous with a man's nature. It may be the outcome of
some misconception and in contradiction with what the man would will, if
enlightened. The individual volition appears only to disappear; it may
leave no apparent trace. The permanent will indicates a habit of mind, a
way of acting, which may be expected to make its influence felt with the
persistency of that which exerts a steady pressure. To refuse it the name
of will seems arbitrary and unjustifiable.

In the permanent will is expressed the _character_ of the man. This
character is reflected in his _ideals_. Sometimes ideals are clearly
recognized and deliberately chosen. Sometimes a man is little aware of
the nature of the ideals which control his strivings. He may be said to
choose, but to choose more or less blindly. But, whether he chooses with
clear vision or without it, he may choose well or ill.



40. THE OBJECT AS END TO BE REALIZED.--The expression "the object before
the mind in desiring and willing" is not free from ambiguity. It may be
used in referring to the idea, the psychic fact, which is present when
one desires or wills. Or it may be used to indicate the future fact which
is the realization of the idea, that which the idea points to as its end.

The idea and the end are, of course, not identical, but they are related.
The idea mirrors the end, foreshadows it. In the attempt to explain a
voluntary act we may turn either to the one or to the other; we may
regard the idea as the efficient cause which has resulted in the act, or
we may account for the act by pointing out the end it was purposed to
attain. There is no reason why we should not recognize both the efficient
cause and the final cause, or end.

The latter has been the subject of more or less mystification. How, it
has been asked, can an end, which does not, as yet, exist, be a cause
which sets in motion the apparatus that brings about its own existence?
[Footnote: See JANET, _Les Causes Finales_, Paris, 1901, p. 1, ff.]

The difficulty is a gratuitous one. It lies in the confusion of the final
cause or end, with the efficient cause. When we realize that the
expression "final cause" means simply that which is purposed, or accepted
as an end, objections to it fall away. That, in desire and will, in all
their higher manifestations, at least, there is consciousness of an end,
there can be no question.

If we attempt to give more than a vague physical explanation of actions
due to blind impulse, we are compelled to refer to the idea, the psychic
fact present, as efficient cause. Not so when we are concerned with
actions of a higher order. We constantly refer such actions to the ends
they have in view. We regard them as satisfactorily explained when we
have pointed out the end upon which they are directed.

To the moralist it is of the utmost importance to know what ends men
actually choose, and what they may be induced to choose. He is concerned
with conduct, which is intelligent and purposive action. Conduct may be
studied without entering upon an investigation of the efficient causes,
whether physical or mental, which are the antecedents of action of any
kind. Such matters one may leave to the physiologist and the

Accordingly, when I speak of "the object" in desiring and willing, I
shall use the word to indicate the end held in view, that toward which
the creature desiring or willing strives.

41. HUMAN NATURE AND THE OBJECTS CHOSEN.--What objects do men actually
desire and will to attain? To give a detailed account of them appears to
be a hopeless and profitless task.

I take up my pen, I write, I turn to a book; I look at my watch, change
my position, stretch, walk up and down, speak to some one who is present,
smile or give vent to irritation; I sit down to a meal, eat of this dish
rather than of that, go out to visit a place of amusement, respond to the
appeal of the beggar in the street--in short, I fill my day with a
thousand actions the most diverse, which follow each other without

Each of these actions may be the object of desire and will. No novel,
however realistic, however prolix in its descriptions, can give us more
than the barest outlines of the course of life followed by the personages
it attempts to portray. A touch here, a touch there, and a character is
indicated. No more, for more would be intolerable.

It is significant, however, that the few points touched upon can serve to
give an idea of a character. Not-withstanding their diversity, volitions
fall into classes; it is quite possible to indicate in a general way the
kind of choices a given creature may be impelled to make. They are a
revelation of the nature of the creature choosing. That beings differing
in their nature should be impelled to different courses of action can
surprise no one. Cats have no temptation to wander in herds; the
exhibition of pugnacity in a sheep would strike us with wonder.

To every kind of creature its nature: and, although individuals within a
kind differ more or less from one another, we look for approximation to a
type. So it is with man. The expression "human nature," so much in the
mouths of certain moralists ancient and modern, although somewhat vague,
is not without its significance. To it we refer in passing a judgment
upon individual human beings, and we regard as abnormal those who vary
widely from the type.

42. THE INSTINCTS AND IMPULSES OF MAN.--In sketching for us the outlines
of this distinctively human nature, the psychologist proceeds to an
enumeration of the fundamental instincts and general innate tendencies of
man, and he draws up a list of the emotions which correspond to them. He
mentions the instincts of flight, repulsion, curiosity, pugnacity, self-
abasement, self-assertion, the parental instinct, the instinct of sex,
the instinct for food, that for acquisition, etc. He points out that man
is by nature open to sympathy, is suggestible, and has the impulse to
play. In such instincts and inborn general tendencies, blending and
reinforcing or opposing and inhibiting one another, he sees the forces
which give their direction to desire and will; which select, out of all
possible objects, those which are to become objects for man.

It is not necessary here to discuss the nature of instinct, to
distinguish between an instinct and a more general inborn tendency, or to
attempt a complete list of the instincts and inborn tendencies of man.
Nor need I ask whether every choice made by a human being can be traced,
directly or indirectly, to one or more of the instincts and other
tendencies given in the above or in any similar list. In explaining the
individual choices which men make, or the desires to which they are
subject, there is much scope for the ingenuity of the psychologist.

But of the significance for human life of the impulses mentioned there
can be no question. What would the life of a man be if he could feel no
fear or repulsion? Could there be a development of knowledge in the
absence of curiosity? How long would the race endure if the parental
instinct were wholly lacking? What would become of a man who never
desired food? Could a human society of any sort exist if there were no
sympathy or tender feeling, no impulse to seek the company of other men?
It is men, such as they are, endowed with the qualities which distinguish
man, who associate themselves into communities, and the customs and laws
of such reflect the fundamental impulses in which they had their origin.

43. THE STUDY OF MAN'S INSTINCTS IMPORTANT.--That a careful study of
human nature is of the utmost importance to the moralist is palpable. He
must not prescribe for man a rule of conduct which it is not in man to
follow. He must not set before him, as inducements to actions, objects
which it is impossible for him to desire and, hence, to choose.

To be sure, the main traits of human nature were pretty well recognized
many centuries before the modern science of psychology had its birth. Had
they not been, man could not have had rational dealings with his fellow-
man; could not effectively have persuaded and threatened, rewarded and
punished, and, in short, set in motion all the machinery which is at the
service of one man when he wants to influence the conduct of another. But
moralists ancient and modern have made serious blunders through an
imperfect understanding of the impulses natural to man; and the modern
psychologist, without claiming to be a wholly original or an infallible
guide, may be of no little service in helping us to detect them.

Thus, it was possible for as shrewd an observer of man as Aristotle to
explain the affection of a man for his child by regarding it as an
extension of self-love, the child being, in a sense, a part of the
parent. [Footnote: _Ethics_, Book VIII, chapter xii.] Aristotle's
quaint explanation of the fact that maternal affection is apt to be
stronger than paternal is an error of a kindred nature. [Footnote:
_Ibid_., Book IX, chapter vii.] And the ancient egoists, [Footnote:
See the answer to Epicurus in the _Discourses of Epictetus_,
translated by LONG, London, 1890, pp. 69-70.] in setting before man their
selfish and anti-social ideal of human conduct, made their appeal, not to
the whole man, but only to a part of him. The normal man, whether savage
or civilized, whether ancient or modern, cannot desire a life filled only
with the objects which they set before him. Nor is the modern moralist,
or as he prefers to style himself, "immoralist," Nietzsche, [Footnote: A
sketch of Nietzsche's doctrine is given later, see chapter xxix.] guilty
of less gross a blunder. He rails at morality as commonly understood,
calling it "the morality of the herd," and he recommends isolation, the
repression of sympathy, and a contempt for one's fellows. To be sure, the
"herd" is a scornful, rhetorical expression,--what Bentham would have
called a "question-begging epithet,"--for men do not, properly speaking,
live in herds; but they do normally live in human societies of some sort,
and they have the instincts and impulses which fit them to do so. The
repression of such instincts and impulses does violence to their nature,
and he who advocates other than a social morality should advocate it for
some creature other than man. Man is a social creature, and, among the
objects of his desire and will, he must give a prominent place to some
which are distinctively social.

TO FIND AN UNDERLYING UNITY.--The mere enumeration of the characteristics
which have been adduced as instincts or fundamental innate tendencies of
man is enough to reveal the truth that man is not merely the subject of
_desire_, but of _desires_; that is to say, his impulses are
directed upon objects widely different from each other.

And when we call to mind that the concepts of the instincts and
fundamental tendencies of human nature, as thus enumerated, are products
of abstraction and generalization--are general notions gathered from the
numberless concrete instances of desire and will furnished by our
observation--we are forced to realize that the objects which individual
men set before themselves in desiring and willing are really endlessly

All men are not equally moved by fear, anger, repulsion, tender emotion,
or sympathy. Nor do all men find the same things the objects of their
fear, anger, repulsion, and the rest. The desire for food is an
abstraction; in the concrete, this man eagerly accepts an oyster, and
that one turns from it in disgust. In order to deal successfully with our
fellow-man, we must not merely know man. We must know men.

Furthermore, not only do individuals set their affections upon different
objects, but the same person at different stages of his development
desires widely different things. What is a temptation to the boy has no
attraction for the man. What fills the savage with longings may inspire
in the product of a high civilization no other feeling than repulsion.

And what is true of the individual is true of men in the mass. The
objects of desire and of endeavor are not the same in communities of all
orders. Each kind of man has its own nature, which differs in some
respects from that of each other kind, and dictates what shall be, for
this or that man, an object of desire and will. No two men desire
precisely the same thing in all particulars. Yet each is a man, and is
endowed with the usual complement of human instincts.

The process of abstraction and generalization which resulted in the
above-mentioned list of the elements which enter into the constitution of
human nature is, nevertheless, not without its uses. It serves to order,
to some extent, at least, the bewildering variety of the phenomena
presented to us when we view the broad field of the desires and volitions
of all sorts and conditions of men. Men's choices fall into _kinds_;
there is similiarity in difference. We do not approach an unknown man
with the feeling that he is a wholly unknown quantity. He is, at least, a
man, and we know something of men. We have _some_ notion how to go
at him.

But the ordering of the motley multiplicity of men's desires by a
reference to the fundamental instincts of man stops far short of a
complete unification. We are left with a number of distinct and
apparently irreducible impulses and tendencies on our hands. If it is
useful to go so far, may it not be much more useful to go still farther?

Aristotle divided things eligible into those eligible in themselves and
those eligible for the sake of something else. How it would illuminate
the field of action, if it were discovered that men ultimately desire but
one thing, and choose all other things on account of it! Would the
discovery not facilitate immensely our dealings with our fellows,
suggesting new possibilities of control? A notorious instance of the
attempt to conjure away the bewildering diversity in men's desires and
choices lies in the selection of pleasure as the one thing eligible in
itself, the unique ultimate object of human action. Of this object we
have, so far, taken no account.



45. COMPLEX ENDS.--I may desire to clear my throat and may do so. The
action is a trivial one, is over in a moment, and is forgotten. On the
other hand, I may desire to spend my summer on the sea-coast, to grow
rich in business, to attain to high social position, or to satisfy
political ambition.

When the object is of this complicated description, there may easily be
elements in it which, considered alone, I should not desire at all.

The summer on the New Jersey coast may make for health. But it may entail
mosquitoes, uncomfortable rooms, unaccustomed food, the lack of wonted
occupations, and a distasteful association at close quarters with
neighbors not of one's choosing. The road to wealth is an arduous one.
The envied social station may imply the swallowing of many rebuffs. The
way of the politician is hard.

One may desire, _on the whole_, one of these objects, or a thousand
like them; but there are, obviously, many things comprised in the whole,
or unavoidably bound up with it, that cannot attract, and are not
eligible for their own sake.

46. INTENTION.--An object chosen and realized may bring in its train an
indefinite series of consequences foreseen or unforeseen.

The striking of a match to light a candle may result in an unforeseen and
disastrous conflagration. The overmastering desire to grow rich may have
its fruit in an excessive application to business, the neglect of the
family and of the duties of citizenship, and in hard and, perhaps,
unscrupulous dealings. These things may be foreseen and accepted as
natural accompaniments of the end chosen. But there may also be entailed
shattered health, overwhelming anxieties, and the distress of seeing
one's sons, brought up in luxury and without incentive to effort, victims
to the dangers which menace the idle rich.

Whether such consequences might have been foreseen and provided against
or not, it is true that they are frequently not foreseen with clearness.
They certainly form no part of the intention of the man who bends his
energies to the attainment of wealth. He does not deliberately intend to
injure his health, to lose the affection of his family, to leave behind
him degenerate children. He does intend to get rich, if he can.

How many of the elements contained in the object chosen, or so bound up
with it that they must be accepted along with it, may fairly be said to
fall within the intention of the chooser? There may easily be dispute
touching the latitude with which the word intention may be used. Some
things a man sees clearly to be inseparably connected with the object of
his choice; some he is less conscious of; some he overlooks altogether.
It does not seem unwarranted to maintain that the first of the three
classes of things, at least, may be said to be intended. When Dr.
Katzenberger, in his desire to get across the road without sinking in the
mire, used as a stepping-stone his old servant Flex, who had fallen down,
his complete intention was not simply to cross the road unmuddied. It was
to cross the road unmuddied by stepping on Flex.

Evidently the intention--the whole object--gives some revelation of the
character of a man. Many men may will to avoid the mud; but not all of
these can will to avoid it by stepping upon a fellow-man.

47. MOTIVE.--The stepping upon a fellow-man with whom one is on good
terms can scarcely be regarded as a thing desirable in itself. If it is
desired, it is because of the complex in which it is an element. Some
other element or elements may exert the whole attractive force which
moves desire and will. In other words, some things are chosen for the
sake of others.

When we have discovered that for the sake of which any object is chosen,
we have come upon the _Motive_. The intention may be said to embrace
the whole object as foreseen. The motive embraces only a part of it, but
the vital part, the part without which the object would not be desired
and willed.

dispute among moralists as to the ethical significance of intention and
motive. Bentham maintains that "from one and the same motive, and from
every kind of motive, may proceed actions that are good, others that are
bad, and others that are indifferent." He gives the following
illustration: [Footnote: _Principles of Morals and Legislation_,
chapter x, Sec 3.]

"1. A boy, in order to divert himself, reads an inspiring book; the
motive is accounted, perhaps, a good one; at any rate, not a bad one. 2.
He sets his top a-spinning: the motive is deemed at any rate not a bad
one. 3. He sets loose a mad ox among a crowd: his motive is now, perhaps,
termed an abominable one. Yet in all three cases the motive may be the
very same: it may be neither more nor less than curiosity."

In criticizing this citation I must point out that curiosity is not,
properly speaking, an object of choice at all. I have used the word
"object" to indicate what is chosen, not to indicate the psychic fact
present at the time of the choice. And I have said that the motive is the
vital part of the object.

Hence curiosity should not be called the motive. No man chooses curiosity
as an object, either in the abstract or in the concrete. Curiosity is a
fundamental impulse of human nature; we may elect to satisfy the impulse
in any given instance; in other words, we may choose the appropriate

In the case of the boy letting loose the bull in the crowd, the object is
to see what will happen under the given circumstances. This is what
appeals to the boy. Something else might have appealed to him in
performing the action. He might have had the deliberate wish to injure
certain persons present against whom he harbored resentment. Or his
sympathies might have been with the bull, which had been the victim of
bad treatment, and to which he wished to grant its liberty. Were the
crowd in question a band of ruffians intent upon lynching, he might have
been moved by the desire to assist, in a somewhat irregular way, in the
re-establishment of law and order. But even if his real object is only to
see what will happen, there is no reason to put it on a par with the
object in view when a boy spins a top. "To see what will happen" is the
vaguest of phrases, and covers a multitude of disparate objects. He who
does things to see what will happen has, at least, a very general
knowledge of the kind of thing likely to happen, if a given experiment is
made. A boy does not hold his finger in the candle-flame to see what will
happen. He who does things to see what will happen, in really complete
ignorance of what is likely to happen, may be set down as too much of a
fool to be the subject of moral judgments.

It is obvious that an act may be done with many different objects in
view--I mean real objects, motives. I give money to a beggar whose case
is one to inspire pity. My motive, my "vital" object, may be to relieve
the man. But it may equally well be to get rid of him, to gratify my
self-feeling by becoming the dispenser of bounty, or to inspire
admiration in the onlooker. The intention, as I have used the word above,
is to relieve the beggar, with such consequences of the act as may be
foreseen at the time. Within the limits of this intention, the motive may
vary widely, and may, in a given instance, be either admirable or

It may be claimed, in answer to this, that the real intention is, in
every case, what I have called the motive; that, in the first case, it
was to relieve suffering; in the second, to get rid of an annoyance; in
the third to satisfy vanity; in the fourth, to be admired.

The word "intention," thus used, is equivalent to "motive." Popular usage
gives some sanction to this confusion of the words. We say of a man who
has done a questionable act: "His intentions were good," or, "His motives
were good." Still, popular usage does not always regard the two
expressions as equivalent. To revert to the case of the unhappy Flex. It
does not seem inappropriate to say that the use of a man as a stepping-
stone was a part of his master's intention. It does appear inappropriate
to call it the motive or a part of the motive of the whole transaction.

Intention and motive are convenient words to designate the whole object
chosen and the part of the object which accounts for the choice of the
whole. That it is important to distinguish between the two is palpable.

The intention gives some indication of character. We know something about
a man when we know what kinds of objects he will probably set before
himself as aims. But we know more when we know why he chooses these
objects rather than others; when we can analyze the complex and can
discover just what elements in it attract him.

With an increase of our knowledge comes an increased power of control.
Until we know a man's motives, we do not really know the man; and until
we know the man, our efforts to influence him must be rather blind.

The search for motives appears to carry us in the direction of the
systematization and simplification of the embarrassing wealth of objects
which are actually the goal of human desires and volitions. Man may
desire a boundless variety of objects. His motives in desiring them may,
conceivably, be comparatively few.

It should be apparent that both intention and motive have ethical
significance. We have our opinion of men capable of harboring certain
intentions. But we recognize that some men may harbor them with better
motives than others. And we can see that a man's intention may be bad,
and yet his motive, considered in itself, be good. How we are to rate the
man, morally, becomes rather a nice question.



49. FEELING. [Footnote: See the notes on this chapter at the end of this
volume.]--Two men may recognize with equal clearness the presence of a
danger. That recognition may evoke in the one a violent emotion of fear,
and in the other little or no emotion. Two men may be treated with
indignity. The one fumes with rage; the other remains calm. It is well
recognized that men may be susceptible to emotion in general, or to
certain specific emotions, in varying degrees. Knowledge is not always
accompanied by a marked manifestation of emotion. Thoughts may be clear,
but cold. There are, however, natures whose intellectual processes are
steeped in emotion. Such men live in an atmosphere of agitation.

Lists of the emotions which correspond to the instincts and fundamental
impulses of man have been drawn up. In them we find mentioned fear,
disgust, wonder, anger, elation, tender feeling, and so forth; phenomena
which, by earlier writers, were classified as "passions," and to which we
may conveniently give the name "feeling." We constantly speak of our
emotions as our "feelings," and we contrast the man of feeling with the
coldly intellectual mind in which emotion is at a minimum.

But it is not alone to such specific emotions as those above-mentioned
that we apply the term feeling. Thoughts are agreeable or disagreeable,
pleasurable or painful. So are emotions. The agreeableness or
disagreeableness, pleasantness or painfulness, which are the
accompaniments of thoughts and emotions, have been called by modern
psychologists their feeling-tone. It is not out of harmony with common
usage to give them the name of feelings. In so doing we contrast them
with knowledge and assimilate them to emotion.

Whether every sensation and every thought gives rise to an emotion of
some sort is matter for dispute, as is also the question whether every
sensation, thought and emotion is tinged with some degree of pleasurable
or painful feeling. In the absence of conclusive evidence, it is open to
us to assume that some feeling is always present where there is mental
activity of any kind. The feeling may be so faint and evanescent as to
escape detection, but this does not prove that it is absent.

50. FEELING AND ACTION.--Emotions and feelings of pleasure and pain are
the normal accompaniments of the exercise of the instincts and impulses
of creatures that desire and will. Within limits, we appear to be able to
take them as an index of the strength of the desire and the vigor of the
effort at attainment.

An act of cruelty is perpetrated. I see it, and it leaves me, perhaps,
cold and unmoved. In such case, it is hardly expected of me that I should
take energetic measures to have the evil-doer punished. The man whose
face flushes, whose brows descend, whose teeth come together, whose fists
clench, whose heart beats thickly, at the recognition of an insult, is,
as a rule, the man from whom we look for vigorous efforts at retaliation.
The apathetic creature who _feels_ no resentment is usually expected
to swallow the indignity. The child who jumps for joy at the sight of a
new doll is supposed to desire it eagerly, and to be ready to make
efforts to obtain it.

But it is only within limits that this relation between feeling and
action holds. Men of little emotion may be resolute and prompt to action.
Their desires, as evinced by their actions, may be persistent and
effective. Nor need the individual fix his choice upon the particular
object that arouses in him the most feeling. A man may see his fellow-
creature destitute, and may shed tears over his pitiable lot. But he will
not bequeath his money to him. He will leave it to his son, for whom,
perhaps, he has no respect and has come to have little affection. And he
may leave it to him with regret, knowing that it will be dissipated in
ways which he cannot approve. It has been pointed out with justice that
the exercise of many instincts may be accompanied with little feeling;
and we are all aware of the fact that, as action becomes habitual,
emotion tends to evaporate and the pleasure of effort and attainment is
apt to be reduced to a minimum.

51. FEELING AS OBJECT.--It is well to keep in mind the distinction
between feeling as a psychic fact present in the mind of the creature
desiring and willing, and feeling as the object of desire and will. A man
in a rage is the victim of a storm of feeling. The thought of the injury
he has received and the desire for retaliation by no means exhaust the
contents of his mind. But the passion which shakes him is not his
_object_; that object is revengeful action.

Nevertheless, feeling may be made the object of desire and will. One may
attend a religious or political meeting with the deliberate view of
arousing in one's self certain complex emotions. Poe's gruesome tales are
read for the sake of the thrill which is produced by the perusal.
Probably the desire for excitement, for the experiencing of certain vivid
emotions, has no little to do with the attraction exercised by certain
criminal professions. The burglar desires the booty, but he may desire
something more.

Emotions have, as we have seen, their "tone" of pleasure or pain. They
are agreeable or the reverse, and it is palpable that men do not, as a
rule, deliberately make them the object of desire and will in
indifference to the fact that they are pleasant or are painful. We do not
normally wish to attain to states of mind in which remorse plays a
prominent part; we do not aim to revel in shame; we do not seek to be
haunted with fear. Pleasurable emotions are desired, where desire is set
on emotions at all; and painful emotions are regarded by the mind as
unwelcome guests. At any rate, this appears to be the rule, and to
characterize the man whom we regard as normal.

This being the case, it seems natural to ask whether, when we embrace the
_intention_ of producing in ourselves a given emotion, our
_motive_ may not be narrower in scope, namely, the attainment of
pleasure? and, when we wish to rid the mind of any emotion, our
_motive_ may not be the avoidance of pain?

The adoption of this view would give to the feelings of pleasure and pain
a unique importance. They would be accepted as the only ultimate objects
of desire and will. By many they have been thus accepted. It has been
insisted that objects of every description are chosen only as they arouse
some feeling; and that those which promise pleasant feeling are sought
and those which entail pain are avoided. The general recognition of the
primacy of pleasure and pain over our other feelings, over the specific
emotions mentioned above, is indicated by the fact that ethical writers
of eminence sometimes make pleasure and pain synonymous with feeling in
general, passing over other feelings, as though it were not important for
the moralist to take them into consideration. The dispute whether the
proper course for human action to take is prescribed by reason or is
dictated by feeling often resolves itself into the problem whether we
should be guided by reason, or by a consideration of pleasure to be
attained or pain to be avoided.

52. FREEDOM AS OBJECT.--The acceptance of pleasure and pain as the
ultimate motives of human action seems, at first sight, to be of
inestimable assistance to us in threading our way through the labyrinth
of diverse choices made by creatures that desire and will.

But only at first sight. Even if it be true that every creature seeks
only to attain pleasure and to avoid pain, and uses the means it finds to
hand in the attainment of these ends, the endless diversity of the means
remains as a thing to reckon with. The knowledge that all men desire
pleasure does not help us a whit in dealing with men, unless we know what
things will give pleasure to this man or to that. All men may desire
pleasure; but it remains true that what gives pleasure to the spendthrift
gives pain to the miser; what appeals to the glutton disgusts a man of
refined tastes. If all men were alike and precisely alike, and if their
natures were very simple and remained unchanged, the problem of the
distribution of pleasures would be vastly simplified.

Whether the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain may be regarded
as the only ultimate ends proper to man will be discussed later.
[Footnote: See chapter xxv.] Here, it is important to insist that so
general a formula gives us little useful information touching the set of
the will either of classes of men or of individuals. This we can attain
to only as a result of the study of the complex nature of man as revealed
in the choices which he actually makes. The ends of man are many and
various; some of these ends are accidental, palpably means for the
attainment of other ends more fundamental, and for them other means of
attaining the same ends may be substituted. But other ends, and they are
by no means to be reduced to a single class, appear to belong to the very
nature of man. In seeking them he is giving expression to the impulses
which make him what he is.

In so far as these impulses find an unimpeded expression the man is free;
otherwise he is under restraint. Without rendering here a final decision
upon the importance of the role played in human life by pleasure and
pain, one feels impelled to ask the question whether the goal of a man's
endeavors may not best be described as _freedom_? Not freedom in the
abstract, freedom to do anything and everything, but freedom to live the
life appropriate to him as man, and as a man of a given type. That this
freedom is limited in a variety of ways, by his material environment, by
the clashing of impulses within himself, by the conflict of his desires
with the will of the social organism in which he finds his place, is
sufficiently palpable.



53. THE IRRATIONAL WILL.--As dreams do not consist of an insignificant
medley of elements drawn from the experiences of waking life, but, in
spite of their fantastic character, bear some semblance of ordered
reality, so the impulses of even the most unintelligent and inconsequent
of human beings are not wholly chaotic, but differ only in the degree of
their organization from those of the most rational and far-seeing.

Where there is even a glimmer of intelligence, ends are recognized and
means to their attainment are chosen. Ends are compared, and the
preference is given to some over others. But, with all this, there may be
much incoherence and planlessness. Men can live somehow without looking
far into the future, or keeping well in mind the lessons to be learned
from the past. They can manage to exist in the face of no little short-
sighted impulsiveness and inconsistency. But it is palpable that they
cannot, under such circumstances, live as they might live were they more
truly rational.

The individual deficient in foresight and control may, it is true, be
carried along and defended from disaster by the presence of these
qualities in the greater organism of which he is a part. The infant is a
parasite upon society; it is provided for independently of its own
efforts. The child would soon come to grief were its ends not chosen by
others and its conduct kept under control. And a vast number of persons
not children are in much the same position. There is foresight and
rational purpose somewhere; they profit by it; but of foresight and
rational purpose they themselves possess but a modicum.

Where breadth of view is lacking, where the future is unforeseen or
ignored and the past is forgotten, where desires arise and impel to
action in relative independence of one another, the man seeks today what
tomorrow he rejects. We can scarcely say that the man chooses. He is the
scene of independent choices, varied and inconsistent. He is the victim
of caprice, and appears to us largely the creature of accident, a prey to
the impulse which happens to be in his mind at the moment. From such a
man we cannot look for an adherence to distant aims, and the marshalling
of the proper means to their attainment. He cannot count upon himself,
and he cannot be counted upon. That he can play no significant role in
such stable organizations as the state and church is obvious. His desires
may be many and varied, but they converge upon no one end. We set him
down as irrational.

54. ONE VIEW OF REASON.--Concerning the part played by reason or
intelligence in the active life of man there has been no little dispute.

It has been maintained, on the one hand, that reason or intelligence
serves its whole purpose in holding before the mind all its impulses and
desires, revealing their interrelations, and making possible an
enlightened and deliberate choice from among them. Where the horizon is
thus extended and mental clarity reigns, the attention can roam unimpeded
over the whole field, consider the objects of desire in their true
relations and compare them with one another. Congruous desires can
reinforce each other; conflicting desires can be brought face to face,
and the one or the other can deliberately be dismissed; fundamental and
dominant desires may assert their supremacy, and give their stamp to far-
reaching decisions which exercise a control over minor decisions and
favor or repress a multitude of desires and volitions.

The attainment of perfect rationality in this sense is an ideal never
completely realized. No man can hold before his mind all his impulses and
desires, see them in their true relations to each other, and come to a
decision which will do complete justice to all. But the ideal may be

The reason, in this case, resembles the presiding officer of a
deliberative assembly, who insists that all the members shall be heard
from, all proposals seriously considered, and that the ultimate decision
shall justly represent the true will of the deliberative body as a whole.
The specious but fallacious argument is, in the debate, revealed in its
true nature; the obstinate insistence of the individual is not allowed to
prevail; the loud voice is recognized to be a loud voice and nothing
more; fugitive gusts of passion exhaust themselves; the permanent and
fundamental will of the assembly is revealed in the final vote. It is
claimed that, in such a mind, the result is a harmonization and
unification of the multiplicity of the desires and purposes which, in a
mind less rational, jostle one another without control, and refuse to
fall into an ordered system. That the decisions of a rational mind reveal
both a unity and a harmony not evinced by a mind short-sighted and
impulsive cannot be denied. But it is well to understand clearly what is
meant by such unity and harmony.

55. DOMINANT AND SUBORDINATE DESIRES.--Wherever a group of desires fall
into a system and work together toward a common end, we have unity. Such
a system may be short-lived, comparatively poor in content, and of no
great significance for a man's life as a whole. It may come into
competition with another similar system, and be displaced by it. An
interest that has dominated our minds for a time, and controlled our
desires and volitions, may readily give place to different choices. I may
successively bend all my energies upon the winning of a game, the doing
of a successful stroke of business, the defeat of a social rival, the
success of a philanthropic undertaking. There is no normal human being
who does not exhibit such limited volitional units. The most idle and
purposeless of vagrants, the most scatter-brained school-boy, the most
volatile coquette, may, for a time, be dominated by some desire which
calls into its service other desires and thus realizes some chosen end.

Such volitional units do not, however, go far toward unifying the efforts
of a life. It is only when some dominant and deep-seated desire, oft
recurring, not easily displaced by others, sweeps into its train the
other desires of a man, establishing a sovereignty and exacting
subservience, that such an effect is accomplished. Then the lesser units
fall into a significant relation to each other as constituent elements in
the greater unit. The life, as such, may be said to have a purpose; it
strives toward a single goal.

Whatever bears upon the attainment of such a dominant purpose may,
however trivial in itself, acquire a vital importance and be eagerly
desired. To a man of mature mind there can be little interest in hitting
a small ball with a stick, abstractly considered. Nor is the dropping of
a bit of paper into a box with a slit in it an action in itself
calculated to stir profound emotion. But if the hitting of the ball in
the right way marks the critical point in winning an eagerly contested
game of golf, the interest in it may be absorbing. And if the bit of
paper is an offer of marriage committed to the post, the hand may tremble
and the heart leap in the breast. A dominant desire may create or
reinforce other desires to a degree to which it is not easy to set

56. THE HARMONIZATION OF DESIRES.--And it may actively repress other
desires or cause them to dwindle and disappear. A man possessed by a
devouring ambition may resolutely scorn delights to which he would
otherwise be keenly susceptible, or he may simply ignore them without
effort. The attention, fixed upon some chosen end, and busied with the
means to its attainment, may leave them unheeded. Finding no place in the
volitional pattern that occupies the mind, they are cast aside and soon

In so far, hence, as the desires of a man tend to fall thus into groups
converging upon a single end, we find not merely unity but harmony. The
volitional pattern is of a given kind, and the colors which enter into it
are selected.

When, however, we speak of the desires of a rational mind as harmonized,
we do not mean that incompatible desires are reconciled. One cannot laugh
and drink at the same time, nor can the desire for luxurious ease be made
to fall upon the neck of the desire for attainment through strenuous
effort. The final harmony attained resembles in some respects the peace
enforced by the violent character depicted by Mark Twain, who would have
peace at any price, and was willing to sacrifice to it the life and limb
of the opposing party. The cessation of strife does not imply the
satisfaction of all parties to a contest; nor does the fact that a life
is controlled by a ruling motive, which reinforces or calls into being
certain desires and robs others of their insistence, imply that by any
device all the desires which man has, still less all that he, as a human
being, might have, can find their satisfaction. Harmony is obtained at
the price of the suppression of many desires; but, where a mind is
strongly dominated by a comprehensive volitional unit, the price may be
paid without much regret.

57. VARIETIES OF DOMINANT ENDS.--Obviously, the comprehensive and
harmonious volitional complexes which may come to characterize different
minds may be of very different complexion. Peace of mind, the bubble
reputation, the amassing of a fortune, a happy domestic life,
humanitarian effort, the perfecting of one's character--each may become
the controlling end which furthers or inhibits individual desires and
emotions. Or the ends may be such as to appear to most men far more
insignificant. To the collection of first editions or the heaping
together of bric-a-brac a man may sacrifice his financial security and
the welfare of his family. Naturally, the moralist cannot put all such
ends upon the same level; but, from the point of view of the
psychologist, the processes which take place in the minds thus unified
and harmonized are essentially the same.

58. AN OBJECTION ANSWERED.--To the position that it is reason or
intelligence that brings about this unity and harmony an objection may be
brought. It may be claimed that breadth of information and clarity of
vision are quite compatible with highly inconsistent action revealing the
temporary dominance of a succession of incongruous desires.

_Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor_, confessed the Latin
poet. Have we not seen men of the highest intelligence, gifted with
foresight, quite capable of grasping the relation of means to ends,
nevertheless subject to the baleful influence of momentary desires which
drive them hither and thither like a rudderless bark at the mercy of the
wind and tide? How does it happen that their intelligence does not help

To this we may answer that it is not the same thing to possess
intelligence and to use it. One may be supplied with information and
quite capable of taking long views and embracing inclusive ends--and the
attention may be so preoccupied with the desire of the moment, that the
voices of others are stifled. In so far as this is the case, the man can
not, at the time, be said to be reasonable or intelligent. He has
information, and acts as if he were ignorant; his choices do not issue as
a resultant of his desires as a whole; there is no resultant; the single
desires make their influence felt separately.

To be sure, an insistent and oft-recurring desire may introduce a good
deal of unity and harmony into life, even where long views are not taken
and there is little intelligence. The stupid egoist may become rather a
consistent egoist, and increasingly so as he grows older. His desires and
volitions may converge upon an end of which he is very imperfectly
conscious; incompatible desires may come to be repressed. But this does
not refute the position that, when reason or intelligence is supreme, the
attention is directed upon a wide range of desires, they are weighed in
the light of each other, and the ultimate decision is no longer blind,
but fairly expresses the permanent push of the man's nature. Even where a
desire or group of desires, unilluminated by intelligence, seems so
insistent as to take on something of this character, complete unity and
harmony of action may be lacking, due to the short-sightedness of the
methods employed to attain to the chosen goal. Blind desires may easily
defeat their own ends; wealth does not necessarily accumulate in
proportion to a man's miserliness; the ardent but unenlightened
philanthropist may do his fellow-man more harm than good. Long views are
of no little service in weeding out inconsistent actions and introducing
order and unity into life.

59. THIS VIEW OF REASON MISCONCEIVED.--In the above view of the function
of reason or intelligence it has not been represented as issuing commands
to perform certain actions rather than others, nor as furnishing motives
not in some way related to the impulses and desires of man. It has been
treated, literally, as the presiding officer of a public assembly, who
insists that every voice shall be heard; that all proposals shall be
weighed and compared with one another; that the consequences of all shall
be clearly foreseen. Its function is enlightenment; the driving force
which impels to action of any sort has been found in the impulses and the

It is possible to set this view forth in terms which make it highly

Thus Hume, who has a weakness for shocking the susceptibilities of the
conservative and the sober-minded, startles us with the remark that
"Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions." [Footnote:
A Treatise of Human Nature, iv, Sec 3.] This doctrine, taken as the average
reader is almost inevitably impelled to take it, seems worthy of instant
reprobation. It appears to degrade the rational in man and to exalt the
blind and irrational.

But it is not fair to the doctrine to set it forth in such terms. There
is no small difference between random and fugitive desires and those more
fundamental desires that express truly the nature of a man. Desires
organized and harmonized gain great strength, and are enabled to overcome
and expel from the mind erratic impulses, the obedience to which may
easily be followed by regret. Action taken without a clear foresight of
consequences, with an imperfect conception of the relation of means to
ends, is blind and irrational action. Reason, as bringing enlightenment,
as making possible deliberation, as turning the incoherent clamors of a
mob of inconsistent desires into the authoritative voice of an orderly
deliberative assembly, is not a faculty to be lightly regarded.

Nor should it be forgotten that, neither to the plain man, nor to the
moralist, do desires all stand upon the same level. He who bends his
intellectual energies to the satisfaction of his greed, his avarice, his
longing for revenge, may fairly be said to be prostituting his mind to
the service of passion. But is it a proper use of language to describe as
the slave of his passions the man whose thought is set upon the
enlightenment of mankind, the alleviation of suffering, the service of a
state, the attainment of a noble character? Were Socrates, St. Francis,
Abraham Lincoln, Wilberforce, Thomas Hill Green, the slaves of their
passions? Yet these men were moved by certain dominant desires, and their
unswerving pursuit of their goal was made possible only by the reason
that harmonized their lives and substituted deliberate purpose for random

The doctrine, then, that the reason is to be likened rather to the
presiding officer of a deliberative assembly, concerned only to give
every voice a fair hearing, than to a legislator issuing commands
independently, may be so stated as not to shock the sober-minded.

And the doctrine recommends itself in showing that reason and inclination
or desire are not enemies. The possession of reason must lead to the
suppression of some desires--those incompatible with a comprehensive
purpose deliberately embraced; but the desires and the reason or
intelligence work together to a common end. On this view, it is not the
rational man who is divided against himself; it is the short-sighted, the
impulsive, the inconsistent, the irrational man. He is the prey of
warring desires whose strife leads to no permanent peace under the
guidance of reason.

60. ANOTHER VIEW OF REASON.--To certain minds this view of reason as the
arbiter and reconciler of man's impulses and desires does not appeal.

Thus, Kant, whose doctrine will be more fully considered later,
[Footnote: Chapter xxix.] holds that man's reason promulgates a law which
takes no account of the impulses and desires of man. Thus, also, Henry
Sidgwick, who differs from Kant in making the attainment of happiness the
goal of human endeavor, and who, consequently, is not tempted to
disregard the desires of man, yet refers to the reason independently
certain maxims, which he regards as self-evident, touching our own good
and the good of our neighbor. [Footnote: _The Methods of Ethics_,
chapter iii.]

There are certain considerations which appear to favor the view that the
reason is a faculty which may be regarded as an independent law-giver. A
man may be possessed of great intelligence; he may be well-informed,
acute in his reasonings, and consistent in his strivings to attain some
comprehensive end, which, on the whole, appears congruous to his nature,
such as it is. Yet we may regard him as highly unreasonable. Judged by
some higher standard which we look upon as approved by reason, he is
found to fall short. Is reason, then, synonymous with intelligence? Or is
it something more--the source of an ultimate standard of action,
intuitively known, and by which all man's actions must be judged? Upon
this question light will be thrown in the pages following.





61. WHAT IS THE SOCIAL WILL?--The social will is not a mysterious entity,
separate and distinct from all individual wills. It is their resultant.
The resultant of two or more physical forces is a force; it has a
character and may be described. The resultant of individual wills in
interaction is a will with a given character which it is of no small
importance for the moralist to comprehend. This will presents aspects
closely analogous to those presented by the will of the individual.

Thus, to begin with, a community of men may be said to will a vast number
of things which have never been made by the members of the community the
object of conscious reflection. It may unthinkingly move along the groove
made for it by tradition. It may be intellectually upon so low a plane
that even the possibility of acting in other ways does not occur to it.
Nevertheless, ways of action thus unthinkingly pursued cannot properly be
said to be beyond the voluntary control of the community. A new situation
may draw attention to the fact that they are unsatisfactory, lead to
critical examination, to inhibition, to deliberate change. Between the
passive acceptance of actions prescribed by tradition and deliberate
conscious choice in the presence of recognized alternatives there is no
clear line of demarcation.

Under the pressure of circumstances or with the gradual increase of
information and intelligence the traditional may undergo slight
modifications which scarcely rank as conscious departures from what has
been passively accepted. The algebraic sum of such departures may, with
the lapse of time, come to be by no means insignificant, yet no
individual may have exercised in any considerable degree conscious
reflection or shown in any large measure freedom of choice.

On the other hand, the social will may, at times, reveal itself in
deliberate decisions, preceded by much conscious deliberation, and
initiating wide departures from established usage. The presence of new
enemies or a diminution of the food-supply may awake a primitive
community from its lethargy, leading it to modify its habits and adjust
itself to new conditions. A barbarous horde may set out upon a career of
conquest, and may introduce revolutionary changes into its manner of
life. A civilized nation may come to the conclusion that, in the course
of human events, it has become necessary for it to dissolve the bands
which have held it to another nation; it may frame for itself an
independent constitution, embodying new ideals and prescribing a new form
of corporate life.

But, as in the case of the individual, so in that of the community, the
tendency to fall again into a rut is always apparent. Laws, once enacted,
lend a passive resistance to change, even when they no longer serve well
the ends they were intended to serve. The independence of thought and
action revealed in the adoption of new constitutions are not conspicuous
in their maintenance. Man collective, as well as man individual, falls
into habits, and he commits to his unthinking self what was wrought out
by himself as thinking and consciously choosing. Passive acceptance of
the traditional again wins the day and becomes a ruling factor in action.
[Footnote: "It is indisputable that much the greatest part of mankind has
never shown a particle of desire that its civil institutions should be
improved since the moment when external completeness was first given to
them by their embodiment in some permanent record." MAINE, _Ancient
Law_, chapter ii.]

This tendency to mechanization should not surprise us, for we meet with
the phenomenon everywhere. The man who says, "Good-by" today does not
mean "God be with thee," and the "Gruss Dich Gott" of the Bavarian
peasant is very properly translated by the American child as "Hallo." The
traditional tends to lose or to alter its meaning, but it continues to
serve a purpose. A community without traditions, without settled ways of
acting, followed, for the most part, without much reflection, would be in
the position of a man without habits either good or bad. Human life as we
know it could not go on upon such a basis. The rule has, at times, its
inconveniences; but it leads somewhere, at least; whereas he who plunges
into the unexplored forest may find every step a problem, and may come
even to doubt whether any step is a step in advance.

62. SOCIAL WILL AND SOCIAL HABITS.--Within the province of the social
will fall what may not inaptly be called the habits of a community--ways
of acting acquired largely without premeditation and followed to a great
extent through mere inertia. The province of the social will is a broad
one. Deliberate choices; those half-conscious choices analogous to the
unheeded expressions of preference which fill the days of the individual;
impulses and tendencies which scarcely emerge into the light--all are
expressions of the social will.

In the next chapter I shall distinguish between customs proper and social
habits in a broader sense. But, in discussing the general problem of the
relation of habit to will, it is not necessary to mark the distinction.

Some habits rest upon us lightly; some are inveterate. Of some we are
well aware; others have to be pointed out to us before we recognize that
we have them. Some we approve, some we disapprove, to some we are
indulgent or indifferent. All these peculiarities are found in the
relation of the social will to social habits. It may recognize them,
approve of them, encourage them. It may pay them little attention. It may
disapprove them and strive to repress them. Will has brought them into
being; it is will that maintains them; it is will that must modify or
suppress them.

As a matter of fact, all communities do tend to change their habits, some
more slowly, some more rapidly. And for its habits we hold a community
responsible. Common sense refers them to its will, and exercises approval
or disapproval. This it would not do were the practices upon which
judgment is passed recognized as beyond the control of will altogether.

63. SOCIAL WILL AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION.--Under the general heading of
the habits of a society it is not out of place to discuss its social and
political organization.

The fact that there never was an original social contract, made with each
other by men solitary and unrelated, with the deliberate intent of
putting an end to the war of all against all, does not signify that the
social state in which men find themselves is a something with which the
human will has had, and has, nothing to do.

Social and political organization are the result of a secular process,
but behind that process, as moving and directing forces, stand the will
and the intelligence of man. The social and political organization of a
community is not the creation of any single generation of men. Each
generation is born into a given social setting, as the individual is born
into the setting furnished by the community. This social setting, the
heritage of the community from the past, may be compared to a great
estate brought together by the efforts of a man's ancestors, and
transmitted to him to hold intact, to add to, to squander, as he may be
inclined. It is a product attained by man's nature in its struggle with
environment, and that product may be modified by the same forces that
made it what it is.

Into this heritage the generation of men who compose a community at any
given time may enter with little thought of its significance, with no
information, or with false information, touching the manner of its coming
into being, and with small inclination to do anything save to leave
unchanged the institutions of which it finds itself possessed.
Nevertheless, the forms under which societies are organized are subject
to the social will, and, if disapproved, are modified or abolished. Some
change is taking place even where there is apparent immobility, as
becomes evident when the history of institutions is followed through long
periods of time. The utmost that can be said is that, where intelligence
is little developed and energy at a low ebb, the social will may bear the
stamp of passive acceptance of the inherited, rather than exhibit a
tendency to innovation. _Will_ it remains, but we may hesitate to
describe it as a _free will_.

It is at times forced upon our attention with unmistakable emphasis that
the forms of social and political organization are under voluntary
control. Momentous changes may be made deliberately, and with full
consciousness of their significance. Among the more progressive nations
in our day the duty of introducing innovations appears to be generally
recognized: constitutions are amended; the status of social classes is
made the object of legislation; even the domain of the family is invaded,
as in legislation touching marriage and divorce. Men appear to feel
themselves free to will deliberately the end that shall be served by the
mechanism of the state, and to adapt that mechanism to the attainment of
the end chosen.

64. THE SOCIAL WILL AND IDEAL ENDS.--The social will, like the wall of
the individual, may manifest itself in decisions which it is obviously
impossible to carry out to a completely successful issue. A community has
a power of control over its members, but that control has its limits.
Even a man's actions cannot be completely controlled by the community of
which he is a part. There are always individuals who violate rules, and
to whom, as it would seem, no motive can be presented which is adequate
to keep them in the rut prescribed by society.

Still less can the social will exercise full control over men's thoughts
and feelings. Influenced to some degree they may be. A man may be kept in
ignorance, or furnished with information calculated to determine his
thought in a given direction. His emotions may be played upon; he may be
exhorted, rewarded, punished. But thoughts and feelings are not open to
direct inspection; they may be concealed or simulated. Much more readily
than actions can they withdraw themselves from control.

Nevertheless, the social will may, and does, ignore all such limitations
to its powers. Laws are not passed to regulate the changes of the
weather, which palpably fall outside the province of the law; but they
are passed to regulate the actions of men, which normally fall within it;
that is, which can, to a very significant degree, be influenced by the
attitude of the social will. For the same reason laws may even take
cognizance of men's thoughts. Of the accidental limitations of its power
of control within the general sphere in which it has a meaning to speak
of control, the social will is not compelled to take cognizance. It may
set itself to encourage or repress certain types of character and
conduct, and take measures to attain the end it has selected. That the
measures taken should sometimes prove inadequate does not alter the fact
of the choice of an end, nor does it obscure the revelation of the trend
of the social will.

Thus, a community may be said to will that its members shall not be
guilty of violence; it may will to live at peace with other communities;
it may will to conquer and subjugate. Whether, in each case, the will
shall be completely realized or not, may not be determined by the mere
fact of its willing. Nevertheless, the permanent volitional attitude may
be unmistakably present, and may reveal itself in strivings toward the
chosen goal. To describe this attitude as no more than wishing is
manifestly to do it an injustice.

65. THE PERMANENT SOCIAL WILL.--The social will may be regarded as
something permanent. Its existence is not confined to those moments in
which collective decisions are being made. The will to be one which
constitutes a group of human beings a nation is not at all times actively
exercised, but the settled disposition to action looking toward that end
may be always present and ready to be called into action. An autocracy
remains such when its irresponsible head is making no decisions; and a
democracy is not such only while elections are being held or the
legislature is sitting. The organization of a society, the whole body of
the usages which it accepts and approves, are revelations of the social
will. That will does, it is true, give expression to itself in a series
of actual decisions more or less conscious and deliberate, but it is far
more than any such series of decisions. It is a disposition, rooted in
the past and reaching into the future. It is a guarantee of decisions to
come, of whose nature we may make some forecast.

The permanent social will constitutes the _character_ of a
community. Our study of the will of the individual prepares us for the
recognition of the fact that communities may be but dimly aware of their
own character, and may be quite unable to give an unbiased account of the
ideals which animate them.



66. CUSTOM.--We have seen above that even the forms of political and
social organization may justly be regarded as an expression of the social
will. Such forms are the result of past choices, and their acceptance in
the present is evidence of present choice.

Between the organization of a society and its customs proper we may
distinguish by comparing the former to structure and the latter to
function in the case of any organism. But we must bear in mind that,
here, structure has been built up by, and is in process of modification
by, the same forces that exhibit themselves in function. It would not be
wholly out of place to describe a people as having the custom of being
ruled by hereditary chiefs, of choosing their monarchs, or of governing
themselves through elected representatives. Forms of organization are
handed down to successive generations by the same social tradition that
transmits customs of every description.

Customs are public habits which are, on the whole, approved by a
community. They are ways of acting which are regarded as normal and
proper. Where the authority of custom is evoked, pressure is brought to
bear upon the individual to adjust himself to the will of the community.

A community, like an individual, may have habits which it does not
approve. Such may be tolerated, although disapproved; or active efforts
may be made to set them aside. Some habits may be regarded with
comparative indifference, although professedly held in condemnation. The
individual, in following such habits, may claim that they are not
unequivocally condemned by the community, and he is not conscious of the
weight of displeasure which visits the violation of the will of the
community when unequivocally expressed.

In simple and primitive societies custom prescribes to the individual his
course of life in the minutest detail. It possesses the authority of the
dictator. In societies upon a higher level it may leave to him some
discretion in deciding upon the details of his daily life, while still
exercising a paramount control over the general trend of his actions.

Thus the will of the community, expressed in custom, determines what the
members of the community _ought_ to do, and it takes measures to
enforce obedience to its decisions. Is it surprising that the names which
have been given to the science which treats of man's rights and duties,
_morals, ethics_ (_mores, ethica, Sitten_), should reflect this
truth? It would be an inadequate statement to maintain that the science
of morals is no more than a systematic exposition of the customary in
human societies. It is not an inadequate statement to assert that, in
many societies, custom has, in fact, furnished the ultimate and complete
standard of obligation, and that in all societies it is of enormous
significance in moulding men's notions of right and wrong.

67. THE GROUND FOR THE AUTHORITY OF CUSTOM.--Habits are as essential to a
society as they are to an individual human being. Without them, society
could not live. In any social state--and no man can live except in a
social state--there must be cooperation. How can there be cooperation if
there are no social habits upon which men may count in their dealings
with one another?

Try to conceive all the tacit mutual conventions, the unconscious
adaptations to custom, which guide our daily lives, suspended for twenty-
four hours. When should one rise in the morning? How should one dress?
What and how should one eat? Of business there could be no question, nor
could there be cooperation in pleasures. Public order there could not be,
for there would be no public worthy of the name. Protection of life and
limb would be the creature of accident. Between civility and insult there
would be no recognizable distinction. In short, men could not behave
either well or ill, for there would be no rule to follow or to violate,
nothing to expect, and, hence, no ground for disappointment.

In such a chaotic condition no society of men has ever lived. No actual
state of anarchy has ever been complete, nor could it be, and endure. A
"reign of terror" is a reign of law in comparison with such a dissolution
of all the bonds which knit man to man. When we pass from one community
to another, we find one set of public habits exchanged for another. Some
sets impress us as better, some as worse. But there is no set which is
not better than none. It makes it possible for men to live, if not to
live well.

Customs are, then, a necessity. It is equally necessary that they should,
in general, have binding force for the individual. But there are customs
good and bad. The individual may fall into habits which he, upon
reflection, concludes to be injurious to him, and which others see
clearly to be injurious. A community sufficiently enlightened to
criticize itself at all, may come to disapprove some of its customs and
may endeavor to abolish them.

This means that a new act of the social will may set itself in opposition
to the social will already crystallized into custom. In a given instance,
and where there are differences of opinion, it may be a nice question
whether the new or the old should be regarded as the authoritative
expression of the social will.

customs are, in general, to be regarded as expressions of the social
will, it might be assumed that their purposive character and social
utility should be a sufficient explanation of their coming into being.
But the matter is not so simple. A man may fall into habits which are no
indication of what he regards as useful to him. Such habits have not been
formed independently of his will, and yet they may appear to be
purposeless, or even detrimental. Who wishes to have the inveterate habit
of cracking the joints of his fingers or of biting his finger-nails? What
purpose do such habits serve?

Although the social utility of customs, taken generally, is easily
apparent, yet there are many customs which seem inexplicable upon such a
principle. Why, for example, should the king of a primitive community be
prohibited from sleeping lying down? or why should it be forbidden that
he gaze upon the sea? [Footnote: _Encyclopedia Britannica_, Eleventh
edition, article "Taboo."] The origin of such customs is hidden in
obscurity. That their adoption was not without its reason, we may assume.
That the reason was a reasonable one cannot be maintained. It seems
probable, however, that it at some time seemed reasonable to some one.
The persistence of habit, social as well as individual, would account for
the perpetuation of the custom long after the occasion which gave rise to
it had been forgotten.

69. LAW.--Between custom and law, taken generally, it is by no means easy
to draw a sharp distinction, although, in some instances, the
distinction, may be clearly marked. In primitive communities, laws
reduced to writing, and administered by persons deliberately chosen for
that end, may be wholly lacking; and yet who would say that such
communities do not live under the reign of law in a broad sense of the
term? A course of life is prescribed to the individual; failure to come
up to the standard meets with punishment.

Nevertheless, as social life rises in the scale and as communities become
developed, custom and law become differentiated. The latter stands out
upon the background of the former as something more sharply defined.
Penalties and the method of their infliction are more exactly fixed. Not
all violations of what is customary are taken up into the legal code as
punishable offences, although they meet with that indefinite measure of
punishment entailed by social disapproval.

Those public habits which it seems to a community it is of especial
importance to preserve and enforce come to be embodied in laws. The
selection is a matter of more or less deliberate choice, and is an
expression of will. The choice is not, normally, an arbitrary one. The
laws of a people are, unless accident has intervened, the outcome and
expression of its corporate life. For their ultimate authority they rest
upon the acquiescence of the social will. Laws contrary to deep-seated
and widely accepted custom are not apt to be regarded as of binding
force. They are felt to be tyrannous, and are obeyed, if at all,
unwillingly, and because of pressure from without.

In a later chapter [Footnote: Chapter XX.] I shall dwell upon the fact
that the accidental may play a very significant role in law. In given
instances the laws of a community may be, not the outcome of its will in
any sense, but something imposed upon it. Such laws cannot but be felt to
be oppressive and a restriction of freedom.

Laws, like customs, may cease to have a significance, and they may be
modified or allowed to fall into desuetude. There is, however, much
conservatism, as all who are familiar with legal usage know. And laws may
fail of their purpose. They may aim to diminish crime, and their
undiscriminating severity may foster crime. So may the individual select
an end, fall into error in his choice of means, and, as a result of
experience, resolve to substitute for such means others which are better
adapted to carry out his purpose.

70. PUBLIC OPINION.--Public opinion is manifestly a force broader and
more vague than established custom, and still broader than law. Public
opinion may approve or condemn what no law touches, and it makes its
influence felt beyond the sphere of what is customary.

Where customs and laws come to be imperfect expressions of the social
will, they may stand condemned by public opinion. In such a case their
authority is undermined and violations of them are condoned. Where public
opinion is strongly against a law; the law becomes ineffective. The
conservatism of law is such that a law may be allowed to stand unchanged,
and yet may fail to be carried into effect. Juries may refuse to convict,
or the unpalatable infliction of punishment may be avoided by granting to
the judge a wide discretion in pronouncing sentence.

The gradual development of a strong public sentiment may lead to the
passage of new laws, not based upon previously established customs, but
deliberately framed with a view to the public weal. Old customs may be
modified and new customs may be introduced. That the recommendations of
public opinion extend beyond the sphere of the customary is manifest. It
is not the custom of most men to leave any large part of their estate to
public charity. Except in the case of the very rich, the failure to do so
is not, as a rule, expressly condemned. Yet such bequests are approved,
the testators are praised, and the attitude of public opinion has no
small influence upon the conduct of individuals. Again, extreme self-
sacrifice is not customary; it is exceptional; and yet shining examples
of unselfishness excite a warm sympathy. The expression of this sympathy
is not without its influence.

Public opinion is more palpably an expression of the actual social will
than are custom and law. We have seen that the last two may represent, in
given instances, rather the inherited will of the past than the living
will of the present. But when we call public opinion an expression of the
social will we cannot mean that it necessarily reflects the sentiment of
all the members of a given community.

In primitive communities custom may be a public habit which embraces all,
or nearly all, individuals. Public opinion may scarcely have a separate
existence. In communities more developed, some individuals may disapprove
and refuse to follow many customs which are characteristic of the society
to which they belong. Laws are not approved by all, and, in progressive
states, there is usually some agitation which has as its object the
repeal of old laws or the passage of new ones. In communities where there
is independence of thought, public opinion is usually divided.

Furthermore, the communities to which civilized men belong are not
homogeneous aggregations of units. There is the public opinion which
obtains within single groups within the state. The adherents of a
religious sect may have notions peculiar to themselves of the conduct
proper to the individual, and such notions may extend far beyond what is
actually prescribed by the tenets of the sect. The several trades and
professions, the social classes, neighborhoods, even lesser voluntary
associations of men, such as clubs, may be pervaded by a public sentiment
which varies with each group. When we speak of public opinion generally
we have in mind something broader, a resultant. But the public sentiment
of the lesser groups cannot be ignored. The individual feels himself
especially influenced by the opinions of those most nearly associated
with him.

Under the head of public opinion it is convenient to speak of the
opinions of moral teachers who have influenced the race. Such a thinker
may enunciate truths far in advance of the opinions of his fellows. His
teachings are not, hence, fairly representative of the social will as it
reveals itself in his time. But the sentiments of the more enlightened
never are completely in accord with those of the mass of their fellows.
They are not mere aberrations from the social will; they are its
forerunners. The moralist and the religious teacher initiate new choices,
which may become the choices of large bodies of men. From them proceed
influences which have their issue in new expressions of the social will,
characterizing whole societies, and giving birth to new customs, new
laws, and a new form of public opinion. One can scarcely imagine what
China would be without her Confucius; or the Arabic world, with Mahomet



71. THE COMMUNITY.--It is difficult to state with absolute exactness what
constitutes a community.

We may define it as a group of human beings associated in a common life,
depending upon and cooperating with each other. This definition will
apply, to be sure, to lesser groups within a tribe or state; and even to
a collection of tribes or states in so far as such enter into alliances
and cooperate to their mutual advantage. As, however, the bond of union
is, in the former case, subordinate to the higher authority of a larger
group (for the family is subject to the tribe or state); and as, in the
latter case, the bond of union is a relatively loose one, and evidently
subordinate to that which binds the citizens of individual states, the
community proper may be regarded as that group which is characterized by
a relatively great degree of inner coherence and by relative external

The type of such communities is, among the more primitive peoples, the
tribe, and among the more developed, the state. The authority of such
groups over their own members is, theoretically, paramount, although it
may be suspended or abolished by the exertion of force from without.

Such a community may be said to be inspired by a social will expressed in
its customs, its laws and the public opinion prevalent in it. Its members
may be said to be sharers in the social will of the community. Their
participation in it is marked by their being endowed with rights and
charged with duties.

It has not been characteristic of communities generally that all who find
their place in them should be like sharers in the social will. The
distinction has been made between the citizen, who enjoys the fullest
rights and may, perhaps, directly take part in the government of the
state, and those who, while _in_ the state, are not _of_ it, as
they do not enjoy citizenship. Where slavery, in any of its forms, has
prevailed, the distinction between those who are significant factors in
determining the social will, and those who have not this prerogative, has
been very marked. Social classes have often enjoyed, even before the law,
privileges of great moment. Women have, as a rule, not been treated as
citizens, and have been refused a share in the government of the
community. Children are cared for and are protected, but political rights
are denied them. Their status before the law is a peculiar one. The
mentally defective, both in primitive communities and in developed ones,
stand in a relation to the community peculiar to themselves. They are not
excluded from it; they are accorded rights; but they are assigned in the
community a place of their own. Wherever we look, we find inequality. The
sharers in the social will do not share equally, nor do they share in the
same way. This is true of communities of every description, but the
differences are more marked in some than in others.

72. THE COMMUNITY AND THE DEAD.--It is not merely of the living human
beings which compose a community that the social will takes cognizance.
Other wills are made participants in the body of rights and duties
peculiar to the community.

In many communities the dead are still counted among its members. They
are conceived as affecting its welfare, and as demanding services from
the living. Duties towards the dead are a well-recognized division of the
sum of a man's obligations in communities the most diverse in their
character. In some, they occupy a very prominent place; in no community
are they wholly overlooked. A striking illustration of the recognition by
the social will of the rights of the dead is to be found in the whole
modern law of testamentary succession. The will expressed by a man while
he is alive is given effect as though he were still in the flesh and
insisted upon the fulfillment of his desire. It appears to work as a
permanent factor in the community life, making its influence felt for
generations. Witness its influence in charitable foundations, in the law
of entail, and the like.

73. THE COMMUNITY AND THE SUPERNATURAL.--Nor is it merely in recognizing
the wills of the dead that the social will extends its sphere beyond the
community of living human beings. To primitive man, and to man far from
primitive, his social environment has not seemed to be limited to the
living and the dead who have, or who have had, an undeniable and
unequivocal place in the community.

The part played in the life of man by supernatural beings of various
orders has been a most significant one. Demons and gods, spirits of a
lower or of a higher order, have occupied his mind and have influenced
his actions. Such beings have been conceived to be, sometimes, malevolent
and needing to be placated, sometimes, benevolent and fit objects of
gratitude. Their wills man has regarded as forces to be taken into
account, a something to which the individual and the community must
adjust themselves.

Man's relation, or supposed relation, to such beings has been a source of
classes of duties upon which great stress has been laid. The influence of
this admission of supernatural beings into the circle of those directly
concerned in the community life has found its expression in the
organization of the state, in custom, in law, in public opinion. We know
little of a community when we overlook this factor.

Between magic and religion it is not easy to draw a sharp line,
especially when we view religion in the lower stages of its development.
In both we have to do with what may be called the supernatural. Magic has
been defined as the employment of mechanical means to attain the desired
end. In religion, when it so far develops that its specific character
seems clearly revealed, we have left the sphere of the mechanical.

The distinction between the mechanical and the spiritual is familiar to
us in our dealings with our fellow-men. In such dealings we may employ
physical force. On the other hand, we may appeal to their intelligence
and their emotions, and thus influence their action. In so far as we do
not make such an appeal, we deal with our fellows, not as though they
belonged to our social environment, but to our physical.

At the lowest stages of his development, man does not distinguish clearly
between persons and things. This means that he cannot distinguish clearly
between his material environment and his social. But the distinction
becomes gradually clearer, and it is, in the end, a marked one. Religion
becomes differentiated from magic. To confound religion, in its higher
developments, with magic is an inexcusable confusion.

74. RELIGION AND THE COMMUNITY.--The denotation of the term religion is a
broad one, and there will probably always be dispute as to the justice of
its extension to this or to that particular form of faith. But it seems
clear that it is typical of religion to extend what may not unjustly be
called the social environment of man.

Will is recognized other than the wills of the human beings constituting
the community. To the part played by such wills a very great prominence
may be given.

States may be theocratic, as among the ancient Hebrews; or church and
state may share the dominion, or struggle between themselves for the
supremacy, as in Europe in the Middle Ages; or the state may be
theoretically supreme in authority and yet maintain and lend authority to
a church. Even where church and state are, in theory, quite divorced--a
modern conception--the church with its ordinances and prescriptions, its
sacred days, its ceremonial, its educational institutions, remains a very
significant factor in the social environment of man. Religious duties
have at all times and in all sorts of societies been regarded as
constituting an important aspect of conduct. They color strongly the
_mores_ of the community. Whole codes of morals may be referred to
the teachings of certain religious leaders. They claim their authority on
religious grounds.

The great significance of the role played by religion in the sphere of
morals is impressed upon one who glances over the works of those writers
who have approached the subject of ethics from the side of anthropology
or sociology. A review of the facts has even tempted one of the most
learned to seek the origin of morals almost wholly in religion.
[Footnote: WUNDT, _Ethics_, Vol. I. "The Facts of the Moral Life";
see chapters ii and iii. English Translation, London, 1897.]

That religion should play an important part in giving birth to or
modifying moral codes is not surprising. Man adjusts himself to his
social environment as he conceives it. If the community of wills which he
recognizes includes the wills of supernatural beings, it is natural that
the social will which finds its expression in the organization of the
state, in custom, in law and in public opinion, should be modified by
such inclusion.

Nor is it surprising that the supernatural element should, at times,
dwarf and render insignificant the other elements which enter into the
social will. It may seem to man the all-important factor in his life.

Within the human community some individuals count for much more than do
others. There are those who scarcely seem to have any voice in
contributing to the character and direction of the social will. Others
are influential; and, in extreme cases, the wills of the few, or even
that of a single individual, may be the source of law for the many. If
men come to the conclusion that the weal and woe of the community are
dependent upon the will of the gods, or of God, they will unavoidably
give frank recognition to that will above others, and such recognition
will dictate conduct. The gods of Epicurus, leading a lazy existence in
the interstellar spaces, indifferent to man and in no wise affecting his
life, could scarcely become the objects of a cult. But the God of the
Mahometan, of the Jew, or of the Christian, is a ruler to be feared,
loved, obeyed. His will is law, and is determinative of conduct.

75. THE SPREAD OF THE COMMUNITY.--So far I have been speaking of the
community properly so called, of the single group of human beings living
its corporate life. But such groups do not normally remain in isolation.
As the isolation of the group diminishes, as contacts between it and
others become more numerous and more important, the necessity of
conventions controlling the relations of groups becomes more pressing.

This implies the development of a broader social will, inclusive of the
social wills of the several communities. This social will may be very
feeble, and the bond between men belonging to different communities may
be a weak one; or it may be vigorous, and furnish an intimate bond. The
savage, to whom those beyond the pale of his tribe or small confederation
are mere strangers, and probably enemies, stands at the lower limit of
the scale; the trader, to whom the stranger is co-partner in a mutually
profitable transaction, stands higher; the Stoic philosopher,
cosmopolitan in thought and feeling, rating the claims of kindred and
country as less significant than the bonds which unite all men in virtue
of their common humanity, marks the other extreme. The spread of the
social will grows marked as man rises in the scale of civilization.
Barriers are broken down and limits are transcended.

This broader social will, like the narrower, reveals itself in the
organization of society. We find confederations of tribes or states;
alliances temporary or relatively permanent. And the broader social will
modifies customs, gives birth to systems of law, and encourages the
development of an inclusive humanitarian sentiment.

It does not necessarily obliterate old distinctions. The family,
neighborhood, kindred, have their claims even under the most firmly
organized of states; but those claims are limited and controlled. Even
so, the broader social will may come to regard states as answerable for
their decisions. International law remains to the present day what has
aptly been called a pious wish. But public opinion prepares the way for
law; and all states, whatever be their real aims, now attempt to justify
their actions by an appeal to the more or less nebulous tribunal of
international public opinion. In this they recognize its claim to act as
arbiter. Within the jurisdiction of a state, the motto, "my family, right
or wrong," would not be a maxim approved in a court of justice.
International law is made a mock of by the frank enunciation of the
maxim, "my country, right or wrong." Hence, such frankness is, in
international relations, not encouraged.

The more or less skillfully made appeal to the moral sense of mankind--to
the broader social will as public opinion--implies a certain recognition
of its authority, or, at least, of its influence. Whether this is a
definite step toward the granting of a real authority to the broader
social will, an authority which will curb impartially the selfishness of
individual states, it remains for the future to decide.





distinguish between the apparent and the real social will. We may begin
by pointing out that the question "apparent to whom?" is a pertinent one.

The social will is brought to bear upon the individual through a variety
of agencies. The family, the neighborhood, the church, the trade or
profession, the political party, the social class--all these have their
habits and maxims. They tend to mold to their type those whom they count
among their members. The pressure which they bring to bear is felt as a
sense of moral obligation. Naturally, individuals with different
affiliations will be sensible of the pressure in different ways, and may
differ widely in their conceptions of the obligations actually laid upon
the individual by the will of the greater organism of which he is a part.

But even he who rises above minor distinctions and takes a broad view of
society is forced to recognize that the distinction between the apparent
and the real social will may be a most significant one.

We have found the expression of the social will in custom, law and public
opinion. This is just; but the statement must be accepted with

There are instances in which neither the organization of the state, nor
the laws according to which it is governed, can be considered as in any
sense an expression of the social will. An autocracy, established by
force, and ruling without the free consent of the governed, is an
external and overruling power. It may be obeyed, but it is not consented
to. Nor is any body of law or system of government imposed upon a subject
people by an alien and dominant race a fair exponent of the social will
of the people thus governed. Custom and public opinion are at variance
with law. However just and enlightened the government, as judged from the
standpoint of some other race or nation, its control must be felt as
oppressive by those upon whom it is imposed. Traditions felt to be the
most sacred may be violated; moral laws, as understood by those thus
under dictation, may be transgressed by obedience to the law of the land.

Where custom, law and public opinion are more nearly the spontaneous
outcome of the life of a community, they may with more justice be taken
as expressions of the social will of that community as it is at the time.
Yet, even here, we must make reservations.

The organization of a state represents rather the crystallized will of
the past than the free choice of the present. To be sure, it is accepted
in the present; but this is little more than the acquiescence of inertia.
And public opinion may be at variance both with custom and with law long
before it succeeds in modifying either. What is the actual social will of
a community during the interval?

The past may be felt as exercising a certain tyranny over the present.
That the present cannot be cut wholly loose from it is manifest, but how
far should its dependence be accepted? In the past there have been
historical causes for the rise of dictatorships, of oligarchies, of
dominant social classes. The men of a later time inherit such social
institutions, may accept them as desirable, or may feel them as
instruments of tyranny. Shall we say that they represent the actual
social will of the community until such time as they are done away with
by a successful revolution? Or shall we say that they are in harmony with
the apparent social will only, and really stand condemned?

77. THE WILL OF THE MAJORITY.--Our own democratic institutions rest upon
the theory that the social will is to be determined by the majority vote.
To be sure, we seem to find it necessary to limit the application of this
doctrine, and to seek stability of government by fixing, in certain cases
rather arbitrarily, the size of the majority that shall count. [Footnote:
See the Constitution of the United States, Article V.] But the doctrine,
taken generally, does seem in harmony with the test of rationality
developed above. [Footnote: Chapter xvi.] It aims at the satisfaction of
many desires--at what may be termed satisfaction _on the whole_.

Nevertheless, it is possible to question whether the vote of the majority
represents, in a given instance, the actual will of the community.

No one knows better than the practical politician how the votes of the
majority are obtained. No one knows better than he that, in the most
democratic of communities, it is the wills of the few that count. The
organization of a party, clever leadership, the command of the press, the
catching phrases of the popular orator, the street procession, the brass
band, the possession of the ability to cajole and to threaten--these play
no mean role in the outcome, which may be the adoption of a state policy
of which a large proportion of the majority voting may be quite unable to
comprehend the significance. Shall we say, in such a case, that the will
of the majority was for the ultimate end? Or shall we say that the vote
was in pursuance of a multitude of minor ends, many of which had but an
accidental connection with the ultimate end?

78. IGNORANCE AND ERROR AND THE SOCIAL WILL.--The apparent will of the
community appears to be, in large measure, an accidental thing. That is
to say, men will what they would not will were they not hampered by
ignorance and error, and were they not incapable of taking long views of
their own interests.

The decisions of the social will may be the outcome of ignorance and

Where it is thought necessary to punish the accidental homicide in order
to appease the ghost of the dead man, which might otherwise become a
cause of harm, the course of justice, if one may call it such, deviates
from what the enlightened man must regard as normal. The belief that sin
is an infection, communicable by heredity or even by contact, must lead
to similar aberrations of primitive justice. Animals, and even material
things, have, and not by peoples the most primitive, been treated as
rational, responsible and amenable to law. This seems to do the brutes
more than justice. On the other hand, the philosophical tenet of the
Cartesians, which denied a mind to the brutes, resulted in no little
cruelty. The treatment of drunkards, and of the mentally defective, has,
at times, been based upon the notion that they are possessed by god or
demon, and, hence, have a right to peculiar consideration, or may be
treated with extreme rigor.

It is worth while to follow up the above reference to the Cartesians by a
reference to St. Augustine. Trains of reasoning based upon theological or
philosophical tenets have more than once given rise to aberrations of the
moral judgment.

The intellectual subtlety of Augustine betrays him into magnifying to
enormous proportions the guilt of the boyish prank of stealing green
pears from the garden of a neighbor, inspired by the agreeable thought of
the irritation which would be caused by the theft. The pears were not
edible, and were thrown to the pigs, which circumstance seduces this
father of the Church into the reflection that the sin must have been
committed for no other end than for the sake of sinning. A greater crime
than this he cannot conceive.

Many years after the event, in writing his Confessions, he expresses in
unmeasured terms his horror of the deed, filling seven chapters
[Footnote: _Confessions_, chapters iv-x.] with his reflections and
lamentations: "Behold my heart, O God, behold my heart, upon which thou
hadst mercy when in the depths of this bottomless pit." "O corruption! O
monster of life and depth of death! Is it possible that I liked to do
what I might not, simply and for no other reason than because I might

Saint as he was, Augustine would have made a sorry schoolmaster. It is
evident that the enlightened mind cannot regard schoolboys as unique
monsters of iniquity for making a raid on an orchard.

The community whose decisions are made under the influence of erroneous
preconceptions undoubtedly wills, but its will is determined by the
accident of ignorance. It is to be likened to the man who, in unfamiliar
surroundings, takes the wrong road in his desire to get home. He chooses,
but he does not choose what he would if he knew what he was about.

79. HEEDLESSNESS AND THE SOCIAL WILL.--Numberless illustrations might be
given of the fact that, not merely ignorance and error, but also a short-
sighted heedlessness plays no small part in introducing elements of the
accidental and irrational into the social will. The man who spends freely
with no thought for the morrow is not more irrational than the state that
permits a squandering of its resources, and wakes up too late only to
discover that it has lost what cannot easily be replaced.

The life of the community is a long one, and calls for long views of the
interests of the community. These are too often lacking. Heedlessness and
indifference are a fertile source of abuses. In which case, the will of
the community resembles that of the impulsive and erratic man, who has
too little foresight and self-control to consult consistently his own
interests. We may say that he desires his own good on the whole, but we
cannot say that he desires it at all times. Future goods disappear from
his view. His choices clash. His actual will at any given moment appears
to be the creature of accident. So it may be with the community.

80. RATIONAL ELEMENTS IN THE IRRATIONAL WILL.--The actual social will, as
revealed in custom, law and public opinion, often appears, thus, highly
irrational, and we may be justified in distinguishing between it and the
real will which we conceive of as struggling to get itself expressed.
Nevertheless, in justice to custom, law and public opinion, we must look
below the surface of things. Even where the decisions of the community
seem most irrational, and where there appears to be little consciousness
of the ends pursued by the real will, the discriminating observer may see
that pure irrationality does not prevail. The individual may show by his
actions that he has comprehensive ends, and may yet not be distinctly
aware of them. So may a community of men.

"The true meaning of ethical obligations," says Hobhouse, [Footnote:
_Morals in Evolution_, New York, 1906, p. 30.] "--their bearing on
human purposes, their function in social life--only emerges by slow
degrees. The onlooker, investigating a primitive custom, can see that
moral elements have helped to build it up, so that it embodies something
of moral truth. Yet these elements of moral truth were perhaps never
present to the minds of those who built it. Instead thereof we are likely
to find some obscure reference to magic or to the world of spirits. The
custom which we can see, perhaps, to be excellently devised in the
interests of social order or for the promotion of mutual aid is by those
who practice it based on some taboo, or preserved from violation from
fear of the resentment of somebody's ghost." It is not wholly irrational
that, in the laws of various peoples, an allowance should be made for the
sudden resentment which flames up when wrong has been suffered, and that
an offence grown cold should be treated more leniently than one which is
fresh and the smart caused by which has not had time to suffer
diminution. Society has to do with men as they are. It is its task to
bend the will of the individual into conformity with the social will.
That resentment for wrongs suffered is an important element in the
establishment of order in the community can scarcely be denied, nor is it
wholly unreasonable, men being what they are, for the community to make
some concessions to the natural feeling of the individual. Moreover, the
offender caught in the act is indubitably the real offender; and settled
animosities are more injurious to the social order than are fugitive
gusts of passion.

And if it is true that the arbitrary laws of hospitality, as recognized
by some primitive and half-civilized communities, are reinforced by the
superstitious fear of the stranger's curse, it is none the less true that
they serve certain social needs. The fact that hospitality tends to
decline when it becomes superfluous is sufficient to indicate its social

Again, collective responsibility--the making of a man responsible for the
delinquencies of those connected with him, even when he could in no way
have prevented the evils in question--appears to modern civilized man, in
most instances, [Footnote: Only under normal conditions. We have recently
had abundant opportunity to see that in time of war civilized nations
have no scruples in making the innocent suffer with the guilty, or even
for the guilty.] an irrational thing. Yet men are actually knit into
groups with common interests and accustomed to cooperation. To treat them
as wholly independent units, responsible only to some higher organization
such as the state, is to overlook actual relationships which have no
small influence in determining the course of their lives. Within each
lesser group the members can and do encourage or repress given types of
action beneficial or the reverse. Is it irrational for the larger group
to set such influences to work by holding the lesser group responsible in
its collective capacity? In China the principle has worked with some
measure of success as an instrument of order for many centuries. In an
enlightened society some better method of attaining order may obtain, but
it would be a mistake to assume that there is nothing behind the
principle of collective responsibility save the unintelligent attempt to
satisfy resentment by striking indirectly at the offender through those
connected with him, or the mental confusion that identifies the culprit,
through mere association of ideas, with other members of the group to
which he belongs.

then, often some reason to be discovered even in what appears at first
sight to be wholly irrational. But no small part of the irrationality of
the actual social will must be set down, in the last instance, to that
peculiar form of irrationality in the individual or in groups of
individuals which we call selfishness.

That some degree of inequality should be necessary in communities of men,
in view of the differentiation of function implied in cooperative effort,
may be admitted. How far the inherited organization or the existing
environment of a given community may make it necessary, in the interests
of all, to grant a large measure of power or prerogative to a single
individual, or to the few, is fair matter for investigation. But the most
cursory glance at the pages of history, the most superficial survey of
the present condition of mankind, must make it evident that a far-seeing
and enlightened social will has not been the determining factor in
bringing into existence many of the institutions which are accepted by
the actual social will of a given epoch.

Neither Alexander the Great nor Napoleon can be regarded as true
exponents of the social will. The rule of the oligarchy is based upon
selfish considerations. The institution of slavery overrides the will of
the bondsman in the interests of his possessor. The perennial struggle
between the "haves" and the "have nots"--the rich and the poor--is,
unfortunately, carried on by those engaged in it with a view to their own
interests and not with a view to the good of society as a whole.

That those to whom especial opportunities are, by the accident of their
position, open, or by whom special rights are inherited, should accept
the situation as right and proper is not to be wondered at. All rights
and duties have their roots in the past, and conceptions of what is
feasible and desirable are always influenced by tradition. While from the
standpoint of the real social will anomalous and accidental it is
nevertheless psychologically explicable and natural that the mediaeval
knight should be bound by the rules of chivalry only in his dealings with
those of his own rank; that the murder of a priest should be regarded as
a crime of a special class; that benefit of clergy should be extended to
a limited number of those guilty of the same offence; that the lists of
the deadly sins should, in an age dominated by the monastic idea, smack
so strongly of the cloister.

Natural it is, and, perhaps, inevitable, that such expressions of the
social will should make their appearance. They have their place in the
historic evolution of society. But they betray the fact that man is
imperfectly rational. They cannot be regarded as expressions of the
permanent rational will which belongs to man as man.



82. REASONABLE ENDS.--We have seen in the chapter on "Rationality and
Will," that we cannot consider a man rational unless his choices are
harmonized and converge upon some comprehensive end. It has been hinted,
furthermore, that not all comprehensive ends can be described as
reasonable or rational.

A child may be consistently disobedient to its parents, and, given
parents of a certain kind, it may find its life highly satisfactory. A
man may consistently be a bad neighbor, and may harbor the conviction
that, on the whole, he gains by it. A miser may be consistent; he may
come to joy in denying himself luxuries and even comforts, repaid in the
consciousness of an increasing store. The philosophical egoist may reason
with admirable consistency, and may habitually act in accordance with his
convictions, leading, for him, a very endurable life.

All these may be intelligent, even acutely intelligent, and may reason
clearly and well. Nevertheless, men generally refuse to consider their
behavior reasonable. There are ends which we regard as rational, and
others which we condemn as irrational.

It is not enough, hence, that a man's volitions should be intelligently
harmonized and unified. His will must be adjusted to ends which
themselves can be judged rational.

And in deciding whether the ends he chooses are rational or not, we
proceed just as we do in judging the rationality of his individual
choices. If the latter are made in the light of information, if their
significance is realized, if they converge upon some comprehensive end
and do not merely clash and defeat one another, we have seen that they
are made under the guidance of reason or intelligence. The individual
volitions are congruous with the permanent set of the man's will. They
are judged by their background, by their harmony with the "pattern" which
is revealed in the man's volitional life.

Even so, each such volitional pattern, the harmonized and unified will of
the individual as directed upon some comprehensive end, is judged to be
rational or not according as it does or does not accord with the ends
pursued by the social will. Individuals, whose wills are thoroughly
unified and harmonized by the dominant influence of given chosen ends,
may be thoroughly out of harmony with the chosen ends of the larger
organism of which they are a part. They may be out of harmony with each
other. Considered alone, each may display an internal order and unity.
Taken together they may be seen to be in open strife.

We have found the social will to be something relatively permanent and
moving with more or less consistency toward certain comprehensive ends.
That the ends chosen by given individuals may be very much out of harmony
with these is palpable. The deliberate idler, the whole-hearted epicure,
the habitually untruthful man, the miser, the cold egoist--these and such
as these are condemned in enlightened communities. Their lives do not
help to further, but serve to frustrate, the ends approved by the social
will. In so far they may be regarded as consistently irrational.

83. AN OBJECTION ANSWERED.--Consistently irrational! it may be exclaimed;
how can that be? is not a far-sighted consistency the very mark of
rational choice?

The difficulty is only an apparent one. Many forms of consistency may
indicate a certain degree of rationality, and yet too slight a degree to
win approval. There is such a thing as a narrow consistency. He who
devotes his life to the purpose of revenge, may live consistently, but he
loses much. A bitter and angry life is not a desirable thing, even from
the standpoint of the individual.

But why should we limit ourselves to the standpoint of the individual, in
judging of the rationality of ends? There are those to whom it appears
self-evident that this should be done; those to whom it does not seem
reasonable for a man to do anything by which he, on the whole, loses;
those who deny the reasonableness of self-sacrifice in any form. This
doctrine will be examined later. [Footnote: See Sec 102 and 128.]

Here it is enough to point out that men do not actually limit the notion
of rationality in this way. In every, even moderately, rational life some
desires must be suppressed. All desires cannot be satisfied. Why should
it not be regarded as rational and reasonable that, to attain the
comprehensive ends of the social will, certain ends consistently chosen
by certain kinds of individuals should deliberately be denied?

As a matter of fact, men generally do so regard it. They employ the terms
rational and irrational, reasonable and unreasonable, to indicate the
harmony or lack of harmony between the individual and the social will. We
call the man unreasonable who insists upon having his own way regardless
of his fellows; and this, even in instances in which his fellows cannot
punish him for his selfish attitude.

It is not a matter of accident that this should be so. The analogy
between the relation of separate volitions to the dominant ends which
control action on the part of the individual, and the relation of the
ultimate choices of individuals to the ends pursued by the social will,
is a close one. In the well-ordered mind the clash of conflicting desires
is reduced to a minimum. In a well-ordered community the conflict of
individual wills is also reduced to a minimum. In each case, we are
concerned with the work of reason, and judgments as to rationality and
irrationality are equally in place.

84. REASONABLE SOCIAL ENDS.--The will of the individual, when affirmed to
be rational or irrational, is, therefore, referred to the background of
the social will. But the social will is more or less different in
different communities, and in the one community at different stages of
its development. Is there any measure of the degree of rationality of the
social will itself? is there any standard to which its different
expressions may be referred?

We may criticise a community as we criticise an individual man even when
he is taken as abstracted from his social setting. The man's choices may
be blind, conflicting, wayward, and ill-adapted to serve his interests
taken as a whole. In the last chapter we saw that a community may
resemble such a man. It may be ignorant, superstitious, short-sighted,
and in conflict with itself. The social will as actually revealed may be
an imperfect and inconsistent thing. Here enlightenment and inner
harmonization are called for, to set the social will free.

But even where the will of a community is something more definite and
consistent than this, it may be condemned by the moral judgment of the
enlightened. An appeal may be made from the will of the community in the
narrower sense to that of the larger community. The limits of nation,
race and religion may be transcended, and we may appeal to humanity as
such, refusing to recognize the will of any lesser unit as really
ultimate. He who occupies the one standpoint is apt to speak of defending
his legitimate rights, or of extending to subject races the blessings of
civilization. He who takes his stand upon the other may talk of lust of
dominion, or desire for economic advantage. The one may use the term
righteous indignation; the other, the word anger. The moral judgment
passed upon an act depends upon the concept under which men manage to
bring it. What is approved by the tribal ethics may be abhorrent to the
ethics of humanity.

But the larger social will, so far as it has gotten itself expressed at
all, seems to remain something vague and indefinite. It is appealed to as
rational; but how indicate clearly the end which it sets before itself
and the obligations which it lays upon mankind?

The difficulty of describing in detail the ultimate ends of the real
social will has led some writers to speak in terms of exaggerated
vagueness. The mere idea in a man "of something, he knows not what, which
he may and should become" can give little guidance to action; nor can one
aim with much confidence at a goal of which "we can only speak or think
in negatives." [Footnote: _Prolegomena to Ethics_, Sec Sec 192, 172,
180. But GREEN is not always so indefinite. He is on the right track. He
reverences the social will and the historical development of the social

But it is not necessary to speak in this way. We may form some conception
of the real, rational social will, without being compelled to know all
that man is capable of becoming and without being able to forecast the
details of his environment in the distant future.

We may attain to our conception by determining clearly the nature of the
aims man sets before himself in proportion to his growing rationality. We
can see in what direction man moves as he develops and becomes
enlightened. From this standpoint, the aims of the rational social will
appear to be as follows:

(1) The harmonious satisfaction of the impulses and desires of man.

(2) Such an unfolding of his powers as will increase their range and
variety, broaden man's horizon, and give him an increased control over
erratic impulses.

(3) The bringing about of a social state in which the will of each
individual within a community counts for something, and not merely the
will of a chosen few.

(4) The broadening of the conception of what constitutes a community, so
that ever increasing numbers are regarded as having claims that must be

(5) The taking into consideration of the whole of life; the whole life of
individuals and of communities, so that the insistent present shall not
be given undue weight, as against the future.

85. THE ETHICS OF REASON.--The doctrine of the Rational Social Will might
very properly be called the Ethics of Reason. It is not to be confounded
with the so-called "tribal" or "group" ethics. To be sure, it has to do
with man as a social being; but this is characteristic of ethical systems
generally. Man is a social being; he is one essentially, and not
accidentally. That he should be a member of a tribe, or of any lesser
group than the whole body of sentient and reasonable beings, may not
unjustly be regarded as an historical accident, as a function of his
position in the scale of development.

In judging the doctrine of the rational social will, bear in mind the

(1) It rests upon the basis of the impulsive and volitional nature of

(2) It recognizes reason in the individual, and declares that only so far
as he is rational is he the proper subject of ethics at all. Erratic and
uncontrolled impulse knows no moral law.

(3) It sees reason in the customs, laws and public opinion of the tribe
or the state, while recognizing a higher tribunal before the bar of which
all these are summoned.

(4) It appeals to the reason of the race--the reason appropriate to the
race as enlightened and freed from the shackles of local prejudice and
restricted sympathy.

(5) It recognizes that man can give expression to his nature, can satisfy
his desires and exercise his reason, only as aided by his physical and
social environment. It emphasizes the necessity of a certain reverence
for the actual historical development of human societies, with their
institutions. Such institutions are the embodiment of reason--not pure
reason, but reason struggling to get itself expressed as it can. He who
would legislate for man independently of such institutions has left the
solid earth and man far behind. He is suspended in the void.

86. THE DEVELOPMENT OF CIVILIZATION.--Civilizations differ; some are more
material, laying stress upon man's conquest of his material environment.
Others exhibit a greater appreciation of idealistic elements, the pursuit
of knowledge for its own sake, the cultivation of the fine arts, the
development of humanitarian sentiment. For civilization in general it is
not necessary to advance an argument. But there are elements in many
civilizations which the thoughtful man may feel called upon to defend.

Civilization, taken generally, scarcely needs a labored justification
because it is only in a civilization of some kind or other that we can
look for a guarantee of the broad social will, for the reign of reason.
Undeveloped man is at the mercy of nature; he is the sport of history.
Where developed man can raise his voice, man possessed of power and
capable of taking broad views of things, the rule of reason may be set
up. A deliberate attempt may be made to recognize many wills, harmonize
discords. Order may be brought out of chaos, and the limits of the realm
within the borders of which order reigns may be indefinitely extended.

Such is the general ethical justification for the rise of a civilization.
It is an expression of, and an instrument for the realization of, the
broader social will. That a given civilization may be imperfect in both
respects has been made clear in the last chapter. In the light of the
general justification for civilization many questions may be raised
touching this or that element in civilizations as we observe them.

Thus, it may be pointed out that as man progresses in civilization he
calls into being a multitude of new wants, many of which may have to
remain unsatisfied. [Footnote: Compare chapter xxx, Sec 142.] It may be
asserted that literature, art and science are, in fact, cherished as
though they were ends in themselves, and not means called into existence
to serve the interests of man. Absorbing as it may be to him, how can the
philologist prove that his science is useful to humanity either present
or prospective? How shall the astronomer, who may frankly admit that he
cannot conceive that nine tenths of the work with which he occupies
himself can ever be of any actual use to anyone, justify himself in
devoting his life to it? Shall a curiosity, which seems to lead nowhere,
be satisfied? And if so, on what ground?

Moreover, every civilization recognizes that some wills are to be given a
more unequivocal recognition than others. Inequality is the rule. A man
does not put his own children upon a level with those of his neighbor.
Even in the most democratic of states men do not stand upon the same
level. In dealing with our own fellows we do not employ the same weights
and measures as in dealing with foreigners. Who loses his appetite for
his breakfast when he reads that there have been inundations in China or
that an African tribe has come under the "protection" of a race of
another color? The white man has added to his burden--the burden of
economic advantage present or prospective--and we find it as it should
be. Finally, when we bring within our horizon the "interests" of humbler
sentient creatures, we see that they are unhesitatingly subordinated to
our own. Some attention is paid to them in civilized communities. They
are recognized, not merely by custom and public opinion, but, to some
degree, even by law. Men are punished for treating certain animals in
certain ways. But why? Have the animals rights? There is no topic within
the sphere of morals upon which moralists speak with more wavering and
uncertain accents. [Footnote: See chapter XXX, Sec 141.]

I know of no way in which such problems as the above can be approached
other than by the appeal to reason, as reason has been understood in the
pages preceding. The reign of reason implies the recognition of all
wills, _so far as such a recognition is within the bounds of
possibility_. The escape from chaos lies in the evolution of the
enlightened social will. Man must be raised in the scale, in order that
he may have control; control over himself, over other men, over the
brutes. And he cannot rise except through the historical evolution of a
social order. This implies the development of the capacities latent in

To decide that any of his capacities shall be allowed to remain dormant
may threaten future development. To cut off certain arts and sciences as
not palpably serving the interests of man is a dangerous thing. To ignore
the actual history of man's efforts to become a rational being, and to
place, hence, all wills upon the one level, is to frustrate the desired
end. It is not thus that the reign of reason can be established.



87. MAN'S MULTIPLE ALLEGIANCE.--We have seen that each man has his place
in a social order. This order is the expression and the embodiment of the
social will, which accepts him, protects him, gives him a share in the
goods the community has so far attained, recognizes his individual will
in that it accords to him rights, and prescribes his course of conduct,
that is, defines his duties or obligations.

The social will is authoritative; it issues commands and enforces
obedience. With its commands the individual may be in sympathy or he may
not. But upon obedience the social will insists, and it compasses its
ends by the bestowal of rewards or the infliction of punishment. The
moral law to which man thus finds himself subject is something not wholly
foreign to the nature of the individual. It has come into being as an
expression of the nature of man. That nature the individual shares with
his fellows.

Obedience to the social will would be a relatively simple matter were
that will always unequivocally and unmistakably expressed, and did all
the members of a community feel the pressure of the social will in the
same manner and to the same degree. But the whole matter is indefinitely
complicated by what may be called man's multiple allegiance.

Organized societies do not consist of undifferentiated units. They are
not mere aggregates, both are highly complex in their internal
constitution. A conscientious man may feel that he owes duties to
himself, to his immediate family, to his kindred, to his neighborhood, to
his social class, to his political party, to his church, to his country,
to its allies, to humanity. The social will does not bring its pressure
to bear upon the man who holds one place in the social order just as it
does upon him who holds another.

Nor are the injunctions laid upon a man always in harmony. The demands of
family may seem to conflict with those of neighborhood or of profession;
duties to the church may seem to conflict with duties to the state;
patriotism may appear to be more or less in conflict with an interest in
humanity taken broadly. That the individual should often approach in
doubt and hesitation the decision as to what it is, on the whole, his
duty to do, is not surprising. Nor is it surprising that individuals the
most conscientious should find it impossible to be at one on the subject
of rights and duties. Two men may agree perfectly that it is right to "do
good," and be quite unable to agree just what good it is right to do now,
or with whom one should make a beginning.

88. THE APPEAL TO REASON.--Were there no appeal save to the social will
as it happens to make its pressure felt upon this person or that, in this
situation or that, there could be no issue to dispute. Dispute would be
useless and sheer dogmatism would prevail. But there is such an appeal
and men do make it, where they are in any degree enlightened. It is the
appeal to Reason.

He who says: "I have especial rights, just because I am Smith, and so has
my father, because he is my father," has no ground of argument with
Jones, who says: "I have especial rights because I am Jones, and so has
my father, because he is my father." Upon such a basis, or lack of basis,
all discussion becomes fatuous. But if Smith and Jones agree that duties
to self should only within limits be recognized, and that duties to
family have their place upon the larger background of the will of the
state, they may, at least, begin to talk.

The multiple allegiance of the individual does not mean that a man is
subject to a multitude of independent masters whose several claims have
no relation to one another. An appeal may be made from lower to higher.

We have seen that, in the organization of a given society, the social
will may be imperfectly expressed. It may come about that the place in
the social order assigned to a man cramps and pains him, or forces him to
exertions which seem intolerable. He may passively accept it, or he may
set himself in opposition to the social will as it is, appealing to a
better social will. The fact that an individual finds himself out of
harmony with given aspects of the social will characteristic of his age
and country is no proof that he desires to set himself up in opposition
to the social will in general.

In a given instance, he may be, from the standpoint of existing law, a
criminal. Yet he may reverence the law above his fellows. His aberrations
need not be arbitrary wanderings, prompted by selfish impulses. He may
leave the beaten track because he does not approve of it, which is a very
different thing from disliking it. Some will judge him to be a pestilent
fellow; some will rate him as a reformer, a prophet, perhaps a martyr.
Neither judgment is of the least value so long as it reflects merely the
tastes or prejudices of the individual. Each must justify itself before
the bar of reason, if it would have a respectful hearing. A reason must
be given for conservatism and a reason must be given for reform.

advantages may be claimed for the ethical doctrine I have been

(1) It gives a relative justification to the varying moral codes of
communities of men in the past and in the present. A code may, even when
imperfect from some higher point of view, fit well a community at a given
stage of its development. It may be a man's duty to obey its injunctions,
even where they are not seen to be the wisest possible. One reason for
bowing to custom is that it _is_ custom; one reason for obeying laws
is that they _are_ laws. They embody the permanence and stability of
the social will, and have a _prima facie_ claim to our reverence.

(2) In recognizing the social will as something deeper and broader than
the will of the individual, as having its roots in the remote past and as
reaching into the distant future, it admits the futility of devising
utopian schemes which would bless humanity in defiance of the actual
expressions of the social will revealed in the development of human
societies. The whim of the individual cannot well be substituted for the
settled purpose of the community--a purpose ripened by generations of
experience, and adjusted to what is possible under existing conditions.

(3) On the other hand, it distinguishes between lower and higher ethical
codes, or codes lower or higher in certain of their aspects. It sets a
standard of comparison; it recognizes progress towards a goal.

(4) And, in all this, it does not appear to decide _arbitrarily_
either what is the goal of man's moral efforts or what means must be
adopted to attain to it. It rests upon a study of man; man as he has
been, man as he is, in all the manifold relations in which he stands to
his environment, physical and social.

There are other ethical theories in the field, of course. Some of them
are advocated by men of original genius and of no little learning. Some
deserve more attention than others, but all should have a hearing, at
least. A close scrutiny will often reveal that advocates of different
theories are by no means so far apart as a hasty reading of their works
would suggest. Writers the most diverse may assist one to a comprehension
of one's own theory. Its implications may be developed, objections to it
may be suggested, its strong points may stand revealed. By no means the
least important part of a work on ethics is its treatment of the schools
of the moralists. If it be written with any degree of fairness, it may
contain what will serve the reader with an antidote to erroneous opinions
on the part of the writer. To a study of the most important schools of
the moralists I shall now turn.





90. WHAT IS IT?--"We come into the world," said Epictetus, "with no
natural notion of a right-angled triangle, or of a quarter-tone, or of a
half-tone; but we learn each of these things by a certain transmission
according to art; and for this reason those who do not know them do not
think that they know them. But as to good and evil, and beautiful and
ugly, and becoming and unbecoming, and happiness and misfortune, and
proper and improper, and what we ought to do and what we ought not to do,
who ever came into the world without having an innate idea of them?"
[Footnote: _Discourses_, Book II, chapter xi, translation by GEORGE
LONG.] Seneca adds his testimony to the self-luminous character of moral
truth: "Whatever things tend to make us better or happier are either
obvious or easily discovered." [Footnote: _On Benefits_, Book VII,
chapter i.]

With the general spirit of these utterances the typical intuitionist is
in sympathy, although he need not assent to the doctrine of innate ideas,
nor need he hold that all moral truths are equally self-evident. There
are intuitionists of various classes, and there are sufficiently notable
differences of opinion. Still, all intuitionists believe that some moral
truth, at least, is revealed to the individual by direct inspection
(_intueor_), and that we must be content with such evidence and must
not seek for proof. It may be maintained that our moral judgments--or
some of them--are the result of "an immediate discernment of the natures
of things by the understanding." and appeal may be made to the analogy
furnished by mathematical truths. [Footnote: This appeal has been made by
famous intuitionists from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth--
Cudworth, More, Locke, Clarke, Price, Whewell.]

91. VARIETIES OF INTUITIONISM.--Forms of intuitionism have been
conveniently classified as Perceptional, Dogmatic and Philosophical.
[Footnote: SIDGWICK, The Methods of Ethics, Book I, chapter viii, Sec 4.]
To this nomenclature it may be objected that the term "dogmatic" carries
with it a certain flavor of disapprobation, and predisposes one to the
assumption of a critical attitude, while the term "philosophical" has the
reverse suggestion, and smacks of special pleading. While admitting that
there is something in the objection, I retain the convenient terms,
merely warning the reader to be on his guard.

(1) Perceptional Intuitionism falls back upon the analogy of perception
in general. I seem to perceive by direct inspection that my blotter is
green, and that my penholder is longer than my pencil. I do not seek for
evidence; I do not have recourse to any chain of reasonings to establish
the fact. And I am concerned here with facts, not with some general
proposition applicable to many facts. Even so, I may maintain that, in
specific situations, the rightness or wrongness of given courses of
action may be perceived immediately.

He who accepts the spontaneous deliverances of his conscience, when
confronted with the necessity of making a decision, as revelations of
moral truth, may be called a perceptional intuitionist. The deliverances
must, however, be spontaneous and immediate, not the result of reasoning.
If a man reasons, if he falls back upon general considerations, if he
looks into the future and weighs the consequences of his act, and, as a
result, decides what he ought to do, he is no longer a perceptional

The perceptional intuitionist, consistently and unreservedly such, is
rather an ideal construction than an actually existing person. Most men,
on certain occasions, are inclined to say, "I feel this to be right, and
will do it, although I cannot support my decision by giving reasons."
Many men are, at times, tempted to maintain that a given course of action
is evidently right and should be followed irrespective of consequences.
But this is not the habitual attitude even of men very little gifted with
reflection, and it is highly unsatisfactory to those who have the habit
of thinking.

Primitive man supports his decisions by an appeal to custom. Civilized
man turns to custom, to law, or to general principles of some sort, which
he accepts as authoritative, and which he regards as having a bearing
upon the particular instance in question. That individual decisions
should be capable of some sort of justification by the adduction of a
reason or reasons is generally admitted. No sane man would maintain the
general proposition that the consequences of acts should be wholly
disregarded in determining whether they are or are not desirable.

(2) Thus, Perceptional Intuitionism gives place to what has been called
Dogmatic Intuitionism--to the doctrine that certain general moral rules
can be immediately perceived to be valid. The application of such general
rules to particular instances implies discrimination and the use of

Here decisions are not wholly unsupported. Reasons may be asked for and
given. In answer to the question: Why should I say this or that? it may
be said: Because the law of veracity demands it. In answer to the
question: Why should I act thus? it may be said: Because it is just, or
is in accordance with the dictates of benevolence. The general rule is
accepted as intuitively evident, but it is incumbent upon the individual
to use his judgment in determining what may properly fall under the
general rule.

But there are rules and rules. It is not easy to draw a sharp line
between Perceptional Intuitionism and Dogmatic, just as it is not easy in
other fields to distinguish sharply between knowledge given directly in
perception, and knowledge in which more or less conscious processes of
inference play a part. Do I perceive the man whom I see, when I look into
a mirror, to be behind the mirror or in front of it? Do I perceive the
whereabouts of the coach which I hear rattling by my window, or does
reasoning play its part in giving me information? And if I follow my
conscience in not withholding from the cabman the small customary fee in
addition to his fare, am I prompted by an unreasoned perception of the
rightness of my act, or am I influenced by general considerations--the
thought of what is customary, the belief that gratuities should not be
withheld where services of a certain kind are rendered, etc.?

Even so, it is difficult to draw a sharp line between Dogmatic
Intuitionists and Philosophical, or to regard Dogmatic Intuitionists as a
clearly defined class of any sort. A man may accept it as self-evident
that a waiter should receive ten per cent of the amount of his bill; a
woman may find it obviously proper that an old lady should wear purple.
Those little given to reflection may accept such maxims as these without
attempting to justify them by falling back upon any more general rule. We
all find about us human beings who have their minds stored with a
multitude of maxims not greatly different from those adduced, and who
find them serviceable in guiding their actions. But thoughtful men can
scarcely be content with such a modicum of reason, and they distinguish
between ultimate principles and minor maxims which stand in need of
justification by their reference to principles.

The intuitional moralists by profession draw this distinction. We find
them setting forth as ultimate a limited number of ethical principles of
a high degree of generality. It is obvious that, the more general the
principle, the more room for conscious reasoning in its interpretation
and application. The man to whom it appears as in the nature of things
suitable that the waiter should receive his ten per cent is relieved from
many perplexities which may beset the man who feels assured only of the
general truth that it is right to be benevolent.

A glance at a few of the moralists who are treated in the history of
ethics as representative intuitionists reveals that they are little in
harmony as touching the particular moral intuitions which they urge as
the foundation of ethics.

Thus, John Locke maintains that from the idea of God, and of ourselves as
rational beings, a science of morality may be deduced demonstratively; a
science: "wherein I doubt not but from self-evident propositions, by
necessary consequences, as incontestible as those in mathematics, the
measures of right and wrong might be made out to anyone that will apply
himself with the same indifferency and attention to the one, as he does
to the other of those sciences." [Footnote: _Essay Concerning Human
Understanding_, Book IV, chapter iii, Sec 18.]

Among Locke's self-evident propositions or moral axioms we find: where
there is no property there is no injustice; no government allows absolute
liberty; all men are originally free and equal; parents have the power to
control their children till they come of age; the right of property is
based upon work, but is limited by the supply of property left for others
to enjoy. [Footnote: See above, chapter iii, Sec 10.]

These axioms cannot be identified with Samuel Clarke's four chief rules
of righteousness, which inculcate: piety toward God, equity in our
dealings with men, benevolence, and sobriety. [Footnote: _A Discourse
concerning the Unalterable Relations of Natural Religion_, Prop. I.]
Richard Price gives us still another choice, in dwelling upon our
obligation as regards piety, prudence, beneficence, gratitude, veracity,
the fulfillment of promises, and justice. [Footnote: _A Review of the
Principal Questions and Difficulties in Morals_, chapter vii.] And
Whewell, emulating the performance of Euclid, tried to build up a system
of morals upon axioms embodying the seven principles of benevolence,
justice, truth, purity, order, earnestness, and moral purpose. [Footnote:
_The Elements of Morality_, Book III, chapter iv.]

These moralists press the analogy of mathematical truth. It must be
confessed, however, that a row of text-books on geometry, with so
scattering and indefinite a collection of axioms, would do little to
support one another; and little to convince us that they represented a
coherent and consistent body of truth in which we might have
unquestioning faith.

(3) It is not unnatural that some thoughtful intuitionists, dissatisfied
with a considerable number of independent moral principles, should aim at
a further simplification. Such a simplification Kant finds in the
Categorical Imperative, or unconditional command of the Practical Reason:
"Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it
should become a universal law." [Footnote: _Fundamental Principles of
the Metaphysic of Morals_, Sec 2.] And Henry Sidgwick, refusing to
regard all intuitions as of equal authority, selects two only as
ultimately and independently valid--that which recommends a far-seeing
prudence, and that which urges a rational benevolence. [Footnote: _The
Methods of Ethics_, Book III, chapter xiii, Sec 3.] Those who make their
ultimate moral rules so broad and inclusive base upon them the multitude
of minor maxims to which men are apt to have recourse in justifying their
actions. Whether their doctrine may be called philosophical in a sense
implying commendation is matter for discussion.

92. ARGUMENTS FOR INTUITIONISM.--What may be said in favor of

(1) It may be urged that it is the doctrine which appeals most directly
to common sense, and that it is found reasonably satisfactory in practice
by men generally.

Intuition appears to be, in fact, man's guide in an overwhelming majority
of the situations in which he is called upon to act. In the face of the
concrete situation he _feels_ that he should say a kind word, help a
neighbor, stand his ground courageously, speak the truth, and a thousand
other things which a moralist might, upon reflection, approve.

That he "feels" this does not mean merely that he is influenced by an
emotion. We constantly employ the word to indicate the presence of a
judgment which presents itself spontaneously and for which men cannot or
do not seek support by having recourse to reasons.

He who, without reflection, affirms, "this action is right," has framed a
moral judgment. He has in a given instance distinguished between right
and wrong, although he has not raised the general problem of what
constitutes right and wrong. He has exercised the prerogative of a moral
being, though not of a very thoughtful one.

We have seen above, that perceptional intuitionism tends to pass over
into dogmatic intuitionism of some sort, even in the case of minds little
developed. The egoistic rustic may defend his selfishness by citing the
proverb, "my shirt is closer to me than my coat." If he does so, it means
that a doubt has been suggested, a conflict of some sort called into
being. Were such conflicts, causing hesitation and deliberation, of very
frequent occurrence, life could scarcely go on at all. Conversation would
be impossible were no word placed and no inflection chosen without
conscious reference to the rules of grammar. No man could conduct himself
properly in a drawing-room or at a table, were his mind harking back at
every moment to the instructions contained in some volume on etiquette.
He who must justify every act by reflection is condemned to the jerkiest
and most hesitant of moral lives. Perceptional moral intuition must stand
our friend, if there is to be a flow of conduct worthy of the name.

There are, however, occasions for checking the flow by reflection. Then
men are forced to think, and we find them appealing to custom, citing
proverbs, quoting maxims, taking their stand upon principles. Recourse
may be had to generalizations of a very low or of a very high degree of

But low or high, it is upon intuitions that men actually fall back in
justifying their actions. Benevolence, justice, honesty, truthfulness,
purity, honor, modesty, courtesy, and what not, are intuitively perceived
to be right, and an effort is made to bring the individual act under some
one of these headings. The mass of men, even in enlightened communities,
do not feel impelled to justify these general moral maxims, to reduce
them to a harmonious system, or to reconcile with each other the
different lists of them which have been drawn up. They find it possible
in practice to resolve most of their doubts by an appeal to this maxim or
to that. From such doubts as refuse to be resolved they are apt to turn
away their attention. But the moral life goes on, and to intuitions it
owes its guidance.

As to the few who reduce the moral intuitions to a minimum, and, like
Kant and Sidgwick, end with one or two ultimate intuitional moral
principles, we may say that they, like other men, are compelled, in the
actual conduct of life, to turn to intuitions of lower orders. All sorts
of moral intuitions are actually found helpful by all sorts of men.

(2) To the minds of men differing in their education and traditions, and
at different stages of intellectual and moral development, very different
moral judgments spontaneously present themselves. It is not a matter of
accident that this man may "feel" an action to be right, and that man may
"feel" it to be wrong. There is evident adaptation of the judgments to
history and environment. They spring into being because the men are what
they are and are situated as they are.

It is this adaptation that renders the moral intuitions serviceable in
carrying on the actual business of life. It is more complete, the less
abstract the moral intuitions which come into play. Plato, who in his
"Laws" enters very minutely into the question of the permissible and the
forbidden in the life of the citizens of his ideal state, finds it
necessary to leave some things to the judgment of the individual. Thus,
he finds it impossible to determine exhaustively what things are, and
what things are not, worthy of a freeman. He leaves it to the virtuous to
give judgments "in accordance with their feelings of right and wrong."
[Footnote: Book XI; see the account of the occupations permissible to the
landed proprietor.] The intuitions of the mediaeval saint, of the upright
modern European, of the virtuous Chinaman, would have impressed him as
without rhyme or reason. He appealed to the Greek gentleman, whose sense
of propriety was Greek, and might be expected to be adjusted to the

(3) The intuitive judgment of a sensitive moral nature may often be more
nearly right than moral judgments based upon the most subtle of

It is not hard to find, with a little ingenuity, apparent justification
for actions which the consciences of the enlightened condemn at first
sight. Scarcely any action may not be brought under some moral rule, if
one deliberately sets out to do so. A narrow selfishness is defended as
caring for one's own; a refusal of aid to the needy is justified by a
reference to the evils of pauperization; patriotism becomes the excuse
for hatred, wilful blindness and untruthful vilification. To the
sophistries of those who would thus make the worse appear the better, the
intuitive judgment of the moral man opposes its unreasoned conviction.
That the conviction is not supported by arguments does not prove that it
is not a just one.

93. ARGUMENTS AGAINST INTUITIONISM.--What may be urged against

(1) It may be pointed out that such considerations as the above
constitute an argument to prove the value of moral intuitions, and not
one to prove the value of intuitionism as an ethical theory. That moral
intuitions are indispensable may be freely admitted even by one who
demurs to the doctrine that intuitionism in some one of its forms may be
accepted as a satisfactory theory of morals.

(2) Perceptional Intuitionism, at least, cannot be regarded as embodying
a rational theory or furnishing a science of any sort. Its one and only
dogma must be that whatever actions reveal themselves to this man or that
as right, are right, and there is no going behind the judgment of the

Shall we say to men: "In order to know what is right and what is wrong in
human conduct, we need only to listen to the dictates of conscience when
the mind is calm and unruffled"? [Footnote: THOMAS REID, _Essays on the
Active Powers of Man_, v, Sec 4.] As well say: "The right time is the
time indicated by your watch, when you are not shaking it." If men are to
keep appointments with each other, they must have some other standard of
time than that carried by each man in his vest-pocket.

Perceptional Intuitionism ignores the fact that consciences may sometimes
disagree, and that there may be a choice in consciences. The consistent
perceptional intuitionist is, however, scarcely to be found, as has been
said above; and we actually find those, some of whose utterances read as
though the authors ought to be adherents of such a school, dwelling upon
the desirability of the education of the conscience, i.e., upon the
desirability of acquiring a capacity for having the right intuitions. In
other words, they tell us to follow our noses--but to make sure that they
point in the right direction. [Footnote: See THOMAS REID, _Essays on
the Active Powers of Man_, iii, Part 3, Sec 8] In which case the
determination of the right direction is not left to perceptional

(3) The Dogmatic Intuitionist has difficulties of his own with which to
cope. It is not enough to possess a collection of valid and authoritative
rules. The rules must be applied; there is room for the exercise of
judgment and for the possibility of error. Error is not excluded even
when the rule appears to be at only one or two removes from the
individual instance; where the rule is one of great generality the
problem of its application becomes correspondingly difficult. The
interpretation of the rule is not given intuitively with the rule. This
means that the rule must, in practice, be supplemented.

Always and everywhere, a straight line appears to be the shortest
distance between two points. What is meant by shortness hardly seems to
be legitimate matter for dispute. But the man convinced that he ought to
pay his workman a fair wage, and that he ought to do his duty by his son,
may be in no little perplexity when he attempts to define that fair wage
or that parental duty. If he turns for advice to others, he will find
that history and tradition, time, place and circumstance, very
perceptibly color the advice they offer.

The application of the general rule is, hence, quite as important as the
rule. There is no such thing as conduct in the abstract. Let us admit
that benevolence is morally obligatory. How shall we be benevolent? Shall
we follow Cicero, and give only that which costs us nothing? or shall we
emulate St. Francis? The general rule may be a faultless skeleton, but it
is, after all, only a skeleton, and it cannot walk of itself.

Again. The dogmatic intuitionist has quite a collection of rules by which
he must judge of his actions. They are severally independent and
authoritative. Suppose an act appears to be commanded by one rule and
forbidden by another? Who shall decide between them? Prudence and
benevolence may urge him in opposite directions. Benevolence and justice
may not obviously be in harmony. The rule of veracity may seem, at times,
to prescribe conduct which will entail much suffering on the part of the
innocent. To what court of appeal can we refer the conflicts which may
arise when ultimate authorities disagree? He who, in war time, can
conscientiously shoot a sentry, but cannot conscientiously lie to him,
may, later, have his misgivings, when the Golden Rule knocks at the gate
of his mind.

(4) Nor does he leave all difficulties behind him, who abandons Dogmatic
Intuitionism and takes refuge in Philosophical.

Kant's maxim needs a vast amount of interpretation. As it stands, it is
little more than an empty formula. What I can wish to be the law of the
universe must depend very much upon what I am. The lion and the lamb do
not thirst for the same law. To the quarrelsome heroes of Walhalla a
world of perpetual fighting and feasting must seem a very good world, in
spite of knocks received as well as given. Kant's fundamental maxim
scarcely appears to be a moral rule at all, unless we make it read: "Act
on a maxim which a _wise and good man_ can will to be a universal
law." But how decide who is the wise and good man?

The philosophical intuitionist who accepts more than one ultimate moral
rule must face the possibility that he will meet with a conflict of the
higher intuitions to which he has had recourse. Shall his intuitions be
those recommending a rational self-interest and a rational benevolence?
Can he be sure that the two are necessarily in accord? Can there be a
rational adjustment of the claims of each? Not if there be no court of
appeal to which both intuitions are subject. [Footnote: With his usual
candor, SIDGWICK admits this difficulty. He leaves it unresolved. See,
_The Methods of Ethics_, in the concluding chapter.]

Furthermore, between the philosophical and the dogmatic intuitionist
serious differences of opinion may be expected to arise. He who makes,
let us say, benevolence the supreme law naturally allows to other
intuitions, such as justice and veracity, but a derivative authority. It
appears, then, that there may be occasions on which they are not valid.
To some famous intuitionists this has seemed to be a pernicious doctrine.

"We are," writes Bishop Butler, "constituted so as to condemn falsehood,
unprovoked violence, injustice, and to approve of benevolence to some
preferably to others, abstracted from all consideration, which conduct is
likeliest to produce an overbalance of happiness or misery." [Footnote:
Dissertations appended to the "Analogy," II, _Of the Nature of
Virtue_. Cf. DUGALD STEWART, _Outlines of Moral Philosophy_, Part
2, Sec 348.]

Butler thought that justice should be done though the heavens fall; the
philosophical intuitionist must maintain that the danger of bringing down
the heavens is never to be lost sight of. But this doctrine that there
are intuitions and intuitions, some ultimately authoritative and others
not so, raises the whole question of the validity of intuitions. How are
we to distinguish those that are always valid from others? By intuition?
Intuition appears to be discredited. And if it is proper to demand proof
that justice should be done and the truth spoken, why may one not demand
proof that men should be prudent and benevolent? One may talk of "an
immediate discernment of the nature of things by the understanding" in
the one case as in the other. If error is possible there, why not here?

94. THE VALUE OF MORAL INTUITIONS.--It would not be fair to close this
chapter on intuitionism, an ethical theory competing with others for our
approval, without emphasizing the value of the role played by the moral

They are the very guide of life, and without them our reasonings would be
of little service. They should be treated gently, gratefully, with
reverence. To them human societies owe their stability, their capacity
for an orderly development, the smooth working of the machinery of daily
life. Their presence does not exclude the employment of reasoning, but
they furnish a basis upon which the reason can occupy itself with profit.
They are a safeguard against those utopian schemes which would shatter
our world and try experiments in creation out of nothing.

Nevertheless, he who busies himself with ethics as science must study
them critically and strive to estimate justly their true significance. He
may come to regard them, not as something fixed and changeless, but as
living and developing, coming into being, and modifying themselves, in
the service of life. Does he dishonor them who so views them?



95. WHAT IS EGOISM?--Egoism has been defined as "any ethical system in
which the happiness or good of the individual is made the main criterion
of moral action," [Footnote: _Encyclopedia Britannica_, 11th
edition.] or as "the doing or seeking of that which affords pleasure or
advantage to oneself, in distinction to that which affords pleasure or
advantage to others." [Footnote: _Century Dictionary_.]

It may strike the average reader as odd to be told that such definitions
bristle with ambiguities, and that it is by no means easy to draw a sharp
line between doctrines which everyone would admit to be egoistic, and
others which seem more doubtfully to fall under that head. "Happiness,"
"good," "advantage," "self," all are terms which call for scrutiny, and
which set pitfalls for the unwary.

96. CRASS EGOISMS.--We may best approach the subject of what may properly
be regarded as constituting egoism, by turning first to one or two
"terrible examples."

No one would hesitate to call egoistic the doctrine of Aristippus, the
Cyrenaic, the errant disciple of Socrates. He made pleasure the end of
life, and taught that it might be sought without a greater regard to
customary morality than was made prudent by the penalties to be feared as
a consequence of its violation. Where the centre of gravity of the system
of the Cyrenaics falls is evident from their holding that "corporeal
pleasures are superior to mental ones," and that "a friend is desirable
for the use which we can make of him." [Footnote: Diogenes Laertius,
_Lives of the Philosophers,_ "Aristippus," viii.]

The doctrine of the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, is as
unequivocally egoistic.

"Of the voluntary acts of every man," he writes, [Footnote:
_Leviathan,_ Part I, xiv.] "the object is some good to himself;" and
again, [Footnote _Ibid_. xv.] "no man giveth, but with intention of
good to himself; because gift is voluntary; and of all voluntary acts the
object is to every man his own good."

He leaves us in no doubt as to the sort of good which he conceives men to
seek when they practice what has the appearance of generosity. Contract
he calls a mutual transference of rights, and he distinguishes gift from
contract as follows:

"When the transferring of right is not mutual, but one of the parties
transferreth, in hope to gain thereby friendship, or service from
another, or from his friends, or in hope to gain the reputation of
charity or magnanimity, _or to deliver his mind from the pain of
compassion_, or in hope of reward in heaven, this is not contract but
gift, free gift, grace, which words signify the same thing." [Footnote:
_Ibid_. I, xiv. The italics are mine. It was thus that Hobbes
accounted for his giving a sixpence to a beggar: "I was in pain to
consider the miserable condition of the old man; and now my alms, giving
him some relief, doth also ease me." _Hobbes_, by G. C. ROBERTSON,
Edinburgh, 1886, p. 206.]

There is a passage from the pen of the British divine, Paley, which
appears to merit a place alongside of the citations from Hobbes, widely
as the men differ in many of their views. It reads:

"We can be obliged to nothing but what we ourselves are to gain or lose
something by; for nothing else can be a 'violent motion' to us. As we
should not be obliged to obey the laws, or the magistrate, unless rewards
or punishments, pleasure or pain, somehow or other, depended upon our
obedience; so neither should we, without the same reason, be obliged to
do what is right, to practice virtue, or to obey the commandments of
God." [Footnote: _Moral Philosophy,_ Book II, chapter ii.]

97. EQUIVOCAL EGOISM?--The above is unquestionably egoism. The man who
accepts such a doctrine and consistently walks in the light must be set
down as self-seeking. But self-seeking, as understood by different men,
appears to take on different aspects. Shall we class all those who
frankly accept it as man's only ultimate motive with Aristippus and
Epicurus and Hobbes?

Thomas Hill Green writes: "Anything conceived as good in such a way that
the agent acts for the sake of it, must be conceived as his own good."
[Footnote: _Prolegomena to Ethics,_ Sec 92.] The motive to action is,
he maintains, always "some idea of the man's personal good." [Footnote: Sec
Sec 95, 97.] He does not hesitate to say that a man necessarily lives for
himself; [Footnote: Sec 138.] and he calls "the human self or the man"
[Footnote: Sec 99.] a self-seeking ego, a self-seeking subject, and a self-
seeking person. [Footnote: Sec Sec 98, 100, 145.]

Were Green's book a lost work, only preserved to the memories of men by
such citations as the above, the author would certainly be relegated to a
class of moralists with which he had, in fact, little sympathy.

But the book is not lost, and by turning to it we find Green continuing
the first of the above citations with the words: "Though he may conceive
it as his own good only on account of his interest in others, and in
spite of any amount of suffering on his own part incidental to its
attainment." He is willing to grant the self-seeking ego an eye single to
its own interests, but he is careful to explain that: "These are not
merely interests dependent on other persons for the means to their
gratification, but interests in the good of those other persons,
interests which cannot be satisfied without the consciousness that those
other persons are satisfied." [Footnote: Sec 199.]

When Hobbes gave an account of "the passions that incline men to peace,"
[Footnote: _Leviathan,_ I, xiii.] he made no mention of the social
nature of man. That nature Green conceives to be so essentially social
that the individual cannot disentangle his own good from the good of his
fellows. To live "for himself," since that self is a social self, means
to live for others. May this fairly be called egoistic doctrine?

98. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE SELF?--It is sufficiently clear that the
happiness, or good, or advantage, or interests of the individual or self
may mean many things. It is equally clear that in our interpretation of
all such terms our notions of the nature of the self will play no
inconsiderable role. What is the self?

In his famous chapter on the Consciousness of Self, [Footnote:
_Psychology,_ New York, 1890, I, chapter x.] William James
enumerates four senses of the word. With three of these we may profitably
occupy ourselves here. He calls them the Material Self, the Social Self
and the Spiritual Self.

The innermost part of the material self he makes our body, and next to
it, in their order, he places our clothes, our family, our home, and our
property. They contribute to our being what we are in our own eyes, we
identify ourselves with them, and we experience "a sense of the shrinkage
of our personality" when even the more outlying elements, such as our
possessions, are lost. "Our immediate family," he writes, "is a part of
ourselves. Our father and mother, our wife and babes, are bone of our
bone and flesh of our flesh. When they die, a part of our very selves is
gone. If they do anything wrong, it is our shame. If they are insulted,
our anger flashes forth as readily as if we stood in their place."

It is obvious that the limits of the material self, as above understood,
may be indefinitely extended. There are men who feel about their country
as the average normal man feels about his home; and doubtless the
suffering of a stray beggar tugged at the heart of St. Francis as the
misfortune of wife or child does in the case of other men. How far abroad
our "interests" are to be found, and just what "interests" we shall
regard as intimately and peculiarly our own, depends upon what we are.

The Social Self James describes as the recognition a man gets from his
mates: "We are not only gregarious animals, liking to be in the sight of
our fellows, but we have an innate propensity to get ourselves noticed,
and noticed favorably, by our kind." Men certainly regard their fame or
honor as to be included among their interests, and they may value and
seek to obtain the good opinion of a very little clique or of a much
wider circle.

By the Spiritual Self is meant our qualities of mind and character--"the
most enduring and intimate part of the Self, that which we most verily
seem to be." Our interest in these it is impossible to overlook, and
their cultivation and development may become a ruling passion.

James's illuminating pages make clear that he who speaks of the advantage
or interest of the individual may have in mind predominantly any one of
these aspects of the Self, or all of them conjointly. The Self as he
conceives it may be a narrow one, or it may be a very broad one.

99. EGOISM AND THE BROADER SELF.--It may with some plausibility be
maintained that he who lives for himself may not properly be regarded as
an egoist and called selfish, if his Self is sufficiently expanded. May
it not, theoretically, include as much of the universe as is known to
man? And where can a man seek ends of any sort beyond this broad field?
On this view, all men are, in a sense, self-seeking, but only those are
reprehensibly self-seeking who have narrow and scanty selves.

But common sense and the common usage of speech do not sanction such
statements as that a man necessarily lives for himself and that all men
are self-seeking. It is justly recognized that some men with broad
interests--of a sort--are self-seeking, and that some others with great
limitations are not.

He who has property scattered over four continents and watches with
absorbing interest all movements upon the political and economic stage
may nevertheless be a thorough-going egoist. The breadth of his horizon
will not redeem him. One may look far afield and live laborious days in
the pursuit of fame, and be egoistic to the back-bone, although one's
interests, in this case, include even the contents of the minds of
generations yet unborn. One may forego many pleasures and concentrate all
one's efforts upon the attainment of intellectual eminence or of a
virtuous character, and yet seem to have a claim to the name of egoist.

That even the pursuit of virtue may take an egoistic turn has frequently
been recognized: "Woe betides that man," writes Dewey, "who having
entered upon a course of reflection which leads to a clearer conception
of his own moral capacities and weaknesses, maintains that thought as a
distinct mental end, and thereby makes his subsequent acts simply means
to improving or perfecting his moral nature." [Footnote: _Ethics_,
chapter xviii, Sec 3, p. 384.] He characterizes this as one of the worst
kinds of selfishness. The task set himself by the egoist who aims at
outshining his fellows in an unselfish self-forgetfulness would seem to
be a particularly difficult one; yet we have all met persons who appear
to be animated by some such desire.

100. Egoism not Unavoidable.--On such cases as the above the common
judgment can hardly be in doubt. But there are cases more questionable.
Was Hobbes really self-seeking when he gave the sixpence to the old
beggar? Is it egoism that leads the young mother to give herself the
exquisite pleasure of feeding and caring for her babes? or that induces
the patriot to die for his country? To be sure, both the babes and the
fatherland may fall within the limits of the self, as the psychologist
has broadly defined it.

But they fall within it only in a sense. No doctrine of the mutual
inclusion of selves can obliterate the distinction between self and
neighbor, and make my neighbor _merely_ a part of myself. The common
opinion of mankind is not at fault in basing upon the distinction between
selves the further distinction between egoism and altruism. Whatever
interests the egoist may have, his ultimate motive to action
_cannot_ be the recognition of the desire or will of another. Such
can be the motive of the altruist.

Human motives are of many sorts, and just what they are it is not always
easy to discover. Cornelia, in exhibiting her "jewels," may have been
puffed up with pride. When Cyrano de Bergerac threw, with a noble
gesture, his purse to the players, his "Mais quel geste!" reveals that he
was a player himself and was "showing off." There may be spectacular
patriots, who are willing to suffer the extreme penalty for the sake of a
place in history. But all maternal affection is not identical with pride;
all generous impulses cannot be traced to vanity; all patriotism is not
spectacular; nor is the motive to the relief of suffering necessarily the
removal of one's own pain. It is one thing to hire Lazarus not to exhibit
himself in his shocking plight on our front porch, and it is a distinctly
different thing to be concerned about the needs of Lazarus _per se_.

It is obvious, then, that it is only by a straining of language that one
can say that man necessarily lives for himself, or is unavoidably self-
seeking. He who makes such statements overlooks the fact that, even if is
true that, in a sense, a man's self may be regarded as coextensive with
all that interests him, it is equally true that different selves are
mutually exclusive and that the good of one may serve as the ultimate
motive in determining the action of another. The ethnologist is compelled
to recognize altruistic impulses in men primitive and in men civilized:
"Of the doctrine of self-interest as the primary and only genuine human
motive, it is sufficient to say that it bears no relation to the facts of
human nature, and implies an incorrect view of the origin of instinct."
[Footnote: HOBHOUSE, _Morals in Evolution_, p. 16]

101. Varieties of Egoism.--The egoist may set his affections upon
pleasure, and become a representative of Egoistic Hedonism, the variety
of egoism normally treated as typical and made the subject of criticism
in ethical treatises. But there is nothing to prevent him from making his
aim, not so much pleasure, as self-preservation; or from taking as his
goal wealth, power, reputation, intellectual or moral attainment, or what
not. [Footnote: Thus, Hobbes made his end self-preservation; Spinoza
takes much the same position; Nietzsche makes that which is aimed at,

So long as the motives which impel him to get, to avoid, to be, or to do,
something, do not include, except as means to some ulterior end, the
desire or will of his fellow-man, there appears no reason to deny him the
title of "Egoist." Nor need we deny him the title because he may be
unconscious of his egoism. There are unconscious egoists who are wholly
absorbed in the individual objects which are the end of their strivings.
They may be quite unaware that they are ruled by self-interest, when it
is clear to the spectator that such is the case. [Footnote: James,
_Psychology_, Vol. I, chapter x, pp. 319-321; a baby is
characterized as "the completest egoist."] But the philosophical egoist
must rise to a higher plane of reflection.

There are, thus, egoisms of many sorts, and they may urge men to very
different courses of conduct. Some of them may pass over more naturally
than others into forms of doctrine which are not egoistic at all. He who
aims at a maximum of pleasure for himself is likely to remain an egoist;
he whose ambition is to be a patron of science or a philanthropist, may,
it is true, remain within the circle of the self, but it is quite
possible that his ulterior aim may come to be forgotten and his real
interest be transferred to the enlightenment of mankind or to the relief
of suffering.

It is especially worthy of remark that in judging a system of doctrine we
must take it as a whole, and not confine ourselves to a few utterances of
the man who urges it, however unequivocal they may appear when taken in
isolation. He whose motive to action is always some idea of his own
personal good is an egoist. But a philosopher may hold that human motives
are always of this sort, and yet reveal unmistakably, both in his life
and in his writings, that he is not really an egoist at all. In which
case, we may tax him with more or less inconsistency, but we should not
misconceive him.

102. THE ARGUMENTS FOR EGOISM.--So much for the forms of egoism. It
remains to enquire what may be urged in favor of the doctrine, and what
may be said against it.

(1) It has been urged that egoism is inevitable. This, to be sure, can
scarcely be regarded as an argument that a man _ought_ to be an
egoist, for there seems little sense in telling a man that he ought to do
what he cannot possibly help doing. But the argument may be used to deter
us from advocating some other ethical doctrine.

"On the occasion of every act that he exercises," says Bentham, "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." [Footnote: _The
Constitutional Code_. Introduction, Sec 2.]

From this we might conclude, not only that every man is an egoist, but
also that every man is at all times a prudent and calculating egoist--
which seems to flatter grossly the drunkard and the excited man laying
about him in blind fury. But one may hold that egoism is inevitable
without going so far. [Footnote: Psychological Hedonism, the doctrine
that "volition is always determined by pleasures or pains actual or
prospective," need not be thus exaggerated. See SIDGWICK's _Methods of
Ethics_, I, iv, Sec 1.]

(2) The egoistic ideal may be urged upon us on the ground that it
addresses itself to man as natural and reasonable.

Thus, the Cyrenaics saw in the fact that we are from our childhood
attracted to pleasure, and, when we have attained it, seek no further, a
proof that pleasure is the chief good. [Footnote: _Diogenes
Laertius_, II, "Aristippus," Sec 8.] Paley maintains that, when it has
been pointed out that private happiness has been the motive of an act,
"no further question can reasonably be asked." [Footnote: _Moral
Philosophy_, II, Sec 3.] Our citations from Hobbes and Bentham and Green
reveal that these writers never think of giving reasons why a man should
seek his own good.

And various moralists, who do not make self-interest the one fundamental
principle which should rule human conduct, are evidently loath to make of
it a principle subordinate to some other. Bishop Butler, who maintains
that virtue consists in the pursuit of right and good as such, yet holds
that: "When we sit down in a cool hour, we can neither justify to
ourselves this nor any other pursuit till we are convinced that it will
be for our happiness, or at least not contrary to it." [Footnote:
_Sermon_ XI.] Clarke, who dwells upon the eternal and immutable
obligations of morality "incumbent on men from the very nature and reason
of things themselves" teaches that it is not reasonable for men to adhere
to virtue if they receive no advantage from it. [Footnote: _Boyle
Lectures_, 1705, Prop. I.]

The moral here seems to be that, whatever else a man ought to do, he
ought to seek his own advantage--real self-sacrifice cannot be his duty.
This conviction of the unreasonableness of self-sacrifice reveals itself
in another form in the doctrine that morality cannot be made completely
rational unless a reconciliation between prudence and benevolence can be
found; [Footnote: SIDGWICK, _The Methods of Ethics_, concluding
chapter, Sec 5.] and in the labored attempts to show that the good of the
individual must actually coincide with that of the community. [Footnote:
_E. g._ GREEN, _Prolegomena to Ethics_, Sec Sec 244-245. Aristotle
tries to prove that he who dies for his country is impelled by self-love.
He does what is honorable, and thus "gives the greater good to himself."
_Ethics_, Book IX, chapter viii.] It may be questioned whether the
same conviction did not lurk in the back of the mind of that sternest of
moralists, Kant, who denied that happiness ought to be sought at all, and
yet found so irrational the divorce of virtue and happiness that he
postulated a God to guarantee their union. [Footnote: _The Critique of
the Practical Reason_, chapter ii.]

Thus, moralists of widely different schools agree in recognizing that
self-interest is a principle that should not be placed second to any
other. The confessed egoist only goes a step further in recognizing it as
a principle that has no rival. And that men generally are inclined to
regard egoism as not unnatural seems evinced by the fact that for
apparently altruistic actions they are very apt to seek ulterior egoistic
motives, while, if the action seems plainly egoistic, they seek no

Does, then, anything seem more natural than egoism? and, if natural, may
it not be assumed to be proper and right?

(3) Finally, it may be urged that he who serves his own interests at all
intelligently has, at least, a comprehensive aim, and does not live at
random. In so far, egoism appears to be rational in a sense dwelt on
above; [Footnote: Sec Sec 55-56] it harmonizes and unifies the impulses and
desires of the man.

103. THE ARGUMENT AGAINST EGOISM.--What may be said against egoism?

(1) Enough has been said above to show that egoism is not inevitable, but
that men actually are influenced by motives which cannot be regarded as
egoistic. It is, hence, not necessary to dwell upon this point.

(2) As to the naturalness of egoism. Both the professional moralist and
the man in the street may hesitate to admit that a man should neglect his
own interests, and may find it natural that he should cultivate them
assiduously. But it is only the exceptional man who maintains that he
should have nothing else in view.

There are individuals so constituted that self-interest makes to them a
peculiarly strong appeal. Others, more social by nature, may be misled by
psychological theory to maintain that a man's chief and only end is his
own "satisfaction." [Footnote: See below, chapter xxvi, 3.] Still others,
realizing that both one's own interests and the interests of one's
neighbor are natural and seemingly legitimate objects of regard, are
perplexed as to the method of reconciling their apparently conflicting
claims, and are betrayed into inconsistent utterances.

But it is too much to say that the professional moralist and the plain
man normally regard pure egoism with favor and find it natural. In spite
of our cynical maxims and our inclination to seek for ulterior motives
for apparently altruistic acts, we abhor the thorough-going egoist, and
we are not inclined to look upon the phenomena, let us say, of the family
life, as manifestations of self-seeking.

It is worth while to remark that, even if the approach to the Cyrenaic
ideal were so common as not to seem wholly unnatural, that would not
prove that it ought to be embraced; it is natural for men to err, but
that does not make error our duty.

(3) By the moral conviction of organized humanity, as expressed in
custom, law, and public opinion, egoism stands condemned. Neither in
savage life nor among civilized peoples, neither in the dawn of human
history nor in its latest chapters, do we find these agencies encouraging
every man to live exclusively for himself. Egoistic impulses are
recognized, in that reward and punishment are allotted, but the end urged
upon the attention of the individual is the common good, not his own
particular good.

The social conscience has always demanded of the individual self-
sacrifice, even to the extent of laying down his life, on occasion, for
the public weal. And the enlightened social conscience does not regard a
man as truly moral whose outward conformity to moral laws rests solely
upon a basis of egoistic calculation. The very existence of the family,
the tribe, the state, is a protest against pure egoism. Were all men as
egoistic as Aristippus seems to have professed to be, a stable community
life of any sort would be impossible.

(4) The argument that egoism is rational at least in so far as it
introduces consistency into actions and unifies and harmonizes desires
and impulses deserves little consideration. Any comprehensive end will do
the same, and many comprehensive ends may be very trivial. One may make
it the aim of one's life to remain slender, or may devote all one's
energies to the amelioration of the social position of bald-headed men.
He who counsels deliberate egoism does not recommend it merely on the
score that it leads to consistent action. He does it on the ground that
the end itself appeals to him as one that ought to be selected and will
be selected if a man is wise. That the interest of the individual is in
this sense a matter of obligation, is something to be proved, not

104. THE MORALIST'S INTEREST IN EGOISM--It has been worth while to treat
at length of egoism because the doctrine takes on more or less subtle
forms, and its fundamental principle, self-interest, has a significance
for various ethical schools which are not, or are not considered,
egoistic. Men have been vastly puzzled by the moral claims of the
principle of self-interest, both plain men and professional moralists.

That prudence is not the only fundamental virtue, most men would be ready
enough to admit; but is it properly speaking, a virtue at all?
_Ought_ I, for example, to try to make myself happy? Suppose I do
not want to be happy, what is the source of the obligation?

Butler tells me that interest, one's own happiness, is a manifest
obligation; [Footnote: _Dissertation on the Nature of Virtue_, Sec 8;
_Sermons_ III and XI.] Bentham, a writer of a widely different
school, informs me that "the constantly proper end of action on the part
of any individual at the moment of action is his real greatest happiness
from that moment to the end of his life." [Footnote: BENTHAM,
_Memoirs_, Vol. X of Bowring's Edition, Edinburgh, 1843, p. 560.] On
the other hand, Hutcheson teaches me that I am under no obligation to be
good to myself, although I am under obligation to be good to others:
"Actions which flow solely from self-love, and yet evidence no want of
benevolence, having no hurtful effects upon others, seem perfectly
indifferent in a moral sense." [Footnote: _An Enquiry concerning Moral
Good and Evil_, Sec 3, 5.] Which means that intemperance is blameworthy
only so far as it is against the public interest.

May I, should I, on occasion, sacrifice myself? Thoughtful men generally
recognize self-sacrifice, not only as possible, but as actual, and
believe it to be at times a duty. But the moralist gives forth here an
uncertain sound.

Self-interest and benevolence have been left to fight out their quarrel
in a court without a judge to decide upon their conflicting claims;
[Footnote: See Sec 102, the citations from Butler and Clarke.] self-
sacrifice has been enjoined; [Footnote: KANT, see, later, chapter xxix.]
it has been declared impossible; [Footnote: See, above, the position of
Green, Sec 97; cf., below, Sec 126.] it has been denied that it can ever
be a duty; [Footnote: FITE, _An Introductory Study of Ethics_, chapter
vii, Sec 5.] the kind of self-sacrifice in question has been regarded as
significant. [Footnote: SIDGWICK, _The Methods of Ethics_,
Introduction, Sec 4.]

He who has rejected as unworthy of serious consideration the naive egoism
of an Aristippus or an Epicurus is not on that account done with egoism,
by any means. [Footnote: The question of self-sacrifice recurs again in
chapter xxvi, 3.]



105. WHAT IS UTILITARIANISM?--The division of things desirable into those
desirable in themselves, and those desirable for the sake of something
else, is two thousand years old. Those things which we recognize as
desirable for the sake of something else, we call useful.

What we shall regard as useful depends in each case upon the nature of
the end at which we aim. If our aim is the attainment of pleasure, the
preservation of life, the harmonious development of our faculties, or any
other, we may term useful whatever makes for the realization of that end.

Hence, we can, by stretching the application of the word, call
utilitarian any ethical doctrine which sets an ultimate end to human
endeavor and judges actions as moral or the reverse, according to their
tendency to realize that end, or to frustrate its realization. As the
ends thus chosen may be very diverse, it is obvious that widely different
forms of utilitarian doctrine may come into being.

It is, however, inconvenient to stretch the term, "utilitarianism" in
this fashion. Certain forms of doctrine which, in its wider sense, it
would include, have come to be known under names of their own; and,
besides, the especial type of utilitarianism advocated by Bentham and
John Stuart Mill appears to have a claim upon the appellation which they
set in circulation. Common usage has thus limited the significance of the
word, and we naturally think of the doctrine of these men when we hear it
uttered. It is in this sense that I shall use it.

"The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the
Greatest Happiness Principle," writes Mill, "holds that actions are right
in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to
produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and
the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure."
This means, he adds, "that pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only
things desirable as ends; and that all desirable things ... are desirable
either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the
promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain." [Footnote:
_Utilitarianism_, chapter ii. In the pages following, when I leave
out a reference to pain in discussing the utilitarian doctrine, it will
be for convenience and for the sake of brevity. The intelligent reader
can supply the omissions. ]

The pleasure here intended is not the selfish pleasure of the individual.
Utilitarianism is not Cyrenaicism. The goal of the utilitarian's
endeavors is the general happiness, in which many individuals
participate. The moral rules which control and direct the strivings of
the individual derive their authority from their tendency to serve this

106. BENTHAM'S DOCTRINE.--Most uncompromising is the utilitarianism set
forth in the writings of Mill's master, that most benevolent and
philanthropic of men, Jeremy Bentham. He is true to his principles and he
makes no concessions.

He regards that as in the interest of the individual which tends to add
to the sum total of his pleasures or to diminish the sum total of his
pains. And he understands in the same sense the interest of the
community. [Footnote: _Principles of Morals and Legislation_,
chapter i, Sec 5.] That which serves that interest he sets down as
"conformable to the principle of utility." What is thus conformable he
declares ought to be done, what is not conformable ought not to be done.
Right and wrong he distinguishes in the same manner. "When thus
interpreted," he insists, "the words _ought_, and _right_ and
_wrong_, and others of that stamp, have a meaning; when otherwise,
they have none" [Footnote: _Ibid_., i, 10.]

Of differences in quality between pleasures Bentham takes no account. In
his curious and interesting chapter entitled "Value of a Lot of Pleasure
or Pain, how to be Measured," he enumerates the circumstances which
should determine the value of a pleasure or a pain. They are as follows:
[Footnote: _Ibid_., chapter iv.]

1. Its intensity. 2. Its duration. 3. Its certainty or uncertainty. 4.
Its propinquity or remoteness. 5. Its fecundity. 6. Its purity. 7. Its

The first four of these characteristics call for no comment. By the
fecundity of a pleasure Bentham understands its likelihood of being
followed by other pleasures; by its purity, the likelihood that it will
not be followed by pains. The characteristic "extent" marks off
utilitarianism from egoism, for it has reference to the number of persons
affected by the pleasure or the pain. The greater the number, the higher
the value in question. The greatest number of pleasures of the highest
value, as free as possible from admixture with pains, is the goal of the
endeavors of the utilitarian. Naturally, when the interests of many
persons are taken into account, the question of the principle according
to which "lots" of pleasure are to be distributed becomes a pressing one.
Bentham decides it as follows: "Everybody to count for one, and nobody
for more than one." [Footnote: See the discussion of Bentham's dictum in
its bearings on justice, J. S. Mill, _Utilitarianism_, chapter v.]
In other words, the distribution should be an impartial one.

At first sight, this account of the relative desirability of pleasures
and undesirability of pains seems sensible enough. Men do desire
pleasure, and they undoubtedly approve the preference given to pleasures
more intense, enduring, certain, immediate, fruitful in further
pleasures, free from painful consequences, and shared by many, over those
which have not these characteristics:

  "_Intense, long, certain, speedy, fruitful, pure_--
    Such marks in _pleasures_ and in _pains_ endure.
  Such pleasures seek, if _private_ be thy end:
    If it be _public_, wide let them _extend_.
  Such _pains_ avoid, whichever be thy view;
    If pains _must_ come, let them _extend_ to few."

[Footnote: _Principles of Morals and Legislation_, chapter iv, i,

These mnemonic lines may well strike many readers as embodying a very
good working rule of common-sense morality; as paying a proper regard to
prudence and to benevolence as well. But there are passages in Bentham
calculated to shake such acquiescence. He writes:

"Now pleasure is in _itself_ a good; nay, even setting aside
immunity from pain, the only good: pain is in itself an evil, and, indeed
without exception, the only evil; or else the words good and evil have no
meaning. And this is alike true of every sort of pain, and of every sort
of pleasure." [Footnote: _Ibid_., chapter x, 10.]

"Let a man's motive be ill-will; call it even malice, envy, cruelty; it
is still a kind of pleasure that is his motive: the pleasure he takes at
the thought of the pain which he sees, or expects to see, his adversary
undergo. Now even this wretched pleasure, taken by itself, is good: it
may be faint; it may be short; it must at any rate be impure: yet, while
it lasts, and before any bad consequences arrive, it is as good as any
other that is not more intense." [Footnote: _Ibid_, note.]

Reflection upon such passages may well lead a man to ask himself:

(1) Is it, after all, the consensus of human opinion that pleasure is the
only good and pain the only evil?

(2) Are some pleasures actually regarded as more desirable than others,
solely through the application of the standard given above?

(3) Can the pleasure of a malignant act properly be called _morally_
good at all?

107. THE DOCTRINE OF JOHN STUART MILL.--Bentham's purely quantitative
estimate of the value of pleasures has aroused in many minds the feeling
that he puts morality upon a low level. [Footnote: In justice to Bentham
it must be borne in mind that his prime interest was not in ethical
theory, but in legislative reform. His doctrine, such as it was, and
applied as he applied it, was a tool of no mean efficacy. Bentham must
count among the real benefactors of mankind.] Mill attempts an
improvement upon his doctrine. "It is quite compatible with the principle
of utility," he writes, "to recognize the fact that some _kinds_ of
pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. It would be
absurd that, while in estimating all other things quality is considered
as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to
depend on quantity alone." [Footnote: _Utilitarianism_, chapter i.]

Thus, Mill distinguishes between higher pleasures and lower, and he gives
a criterion for distinguishing the former from the latter: "Of two
pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience
of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral
obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure." He refers
the whole matter to the judgment of the "competent;" and, in accordance
with that judgment, decides that: "It is better to be a human being
dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied
than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different
opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The
other party to the comparison knows both sides." [Footnote: _Ibid_.]

That some pleasures may properly be called higher than others moralists
of many schools will be ready to admit, but to Mill's criterion of what
proves them to be higher they may demur. Of the delight that a fool takes
in his folly a wise man may be as incapable as a fool is of the enjoyment
of wisdom. With mature years men cease to be competent judges of the
pleasures of boyhood. To each nature, its appropriate choice of
pleasures. That human beings at a given level of intellectual and
emotional development actually desire certain things rather than certain
others does not prove that those things are desirable in any general
sense. It does not prove that men _ought_ to desire them. For that
proof we must look in some other direction; and a critical scrutiny of
the pleasures which moralists ancient and modern have generally accepted
as "higher" reveals a common characteristic which explains their being
thus classed together much better than the appeal to Mill's criterion.
[Footnote: See chapter xxx, Sec 142.]

As has often been pointed out, Mill, while defending Utilitarianism,
really passes beyond it, and his doctrine tends to merge in one widely
different from that of Bentham. For the "Greatest Happiness Principle" he
virtually substitutes the "Highest Happiness Principle." But he scarcely
realizes the significance of his substitution, and he gives an inadequate
account of the significance of higher and lower.

108. THE ARGUMENT FOR UTILITARIANISM.--We have seen above that Bentham
maintains that such words as "ought," "right" and "wrong" have no meaning
unless interpreted after the fashion of the utilitarian. He admits that
his "principle of utility" is not susceptible of direct proof, but claims
that such a proof is needless. [Footnote: Principles of Morals and
Legislation, chapter i, 11.]

Accepting it as a fact revealed by observation that the actual end of
action on the part of every individual is his own happiness as he
conceives it, he appears to have passed on without question to the
further positions, that the _proper_ end of action of the individual
is his own greatest happiness, and, yet, his _proper_ end of action,
as a member of a community, is the greatest happiness of the community.
[Footnote: See the paper entitled "Logical Arrangements, Employed as
Instruments in Legislation" etc., _Memoirs_, Bowring's Edition,
Volume X, page 560.]

The second of these positions cannot be deduced from the first, nor can
the third be inferred from the other two. Bentham appears to have taken
the "principle of utility" for granted; but one coming after him and
scrutinizing his work can scarcely avoid raising the question of the
justice of his assumption. That happiness is the only thing desirable,
and that the happiness of all should be the object aimed at by each, are
propositions which seem to stand in need of proof.

Such proof Mill attempted to furnish. [Footnote: He does not regard his
doctrine as provable in the usual sense; but he adduces what he regards
as "equivalent to proof." _Utilitarianism_, chapter i. ] He argues
as follows:

"The only proof capable of being given that an object is visible, is that
people actually see it. The only proof that a sound is audible, is that
people hear it; and so of the other sources of our experience. In like
manner, I apprehend, the sole evidence it is possible to produce that
anything is desirable, is that people do actually desire it. If the end
which the utilitarian doctrine proposes to itself were not, in theory and
practice, acknowledged to be an end, nothing could ever convince any
person that it was so. No reason 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. This, however, being a fact, we
have not only all the proof the case admits of, but all which it is
possible to require, that happiness is a good: that each person's
happiness is a good to that person, and the general happiness, therefore,
a good to the aggregate of all persons. Happiness has made out its title
as _one_ of the ends of conduct, and, consequently one of the ends
of morality." [Footnote: _Utilitarianism_, chapter iv.]

That happiness is the _only ultimate_ end, Mill regards as
established by the argument that other things, for example, virtue,
though they come to be valued for themselves, do so only through the fact
that, originally valued as means to the attainment of happiness, they
become, through association, valued even out of this relation, and thus
treated as a part of happiness. [Footnote: _Ibid._]

The defects in Mill's argument have made themselves apparent, not merely
to the opponents of utilitarianism, but even to its advocates. [Footnote:
SIDGWICK, _The Methods of Ethics_, Book III, chapter xiii, Sec 5] We
cannot say that things are desirable in any moral sense, simply because
they are desired. In a loose sense of the word, everything that is or has
been desired by anyone is desirable--it evidently can be desired. When we
say no more than this, we say nothing. But when we call a course of
action desirable we mean more than this; and we are compelled to admit
that a multitude of desirable things are not generally desired. This is
the burden of the lament of every reformer.

Furthermore, it does not appear to follow that, because his own happiness
is a good to each member of a community, the happiness of all must
likewise be a good to each severally. A community in which every man
studies his own interest may conceivably be a community in which no man
regards it as desirable to consult the public weal. That the general
happiness is desirable, in a loose sense of the word, is palpable fact;
it is obvious that it can be desired, for some persons do actually desire
it. But that it is desirable in any sense cannot be inferred from the
fact that all men desire something else, namely, their own individual

We must, then, look further for the proof of the utilitarian principle.
Henry Sidgwick, that admirable scholar and most judicial mind, falls back
upon certain intuitions which, he conceives, present themselves as
ultimate and unassailable. He writes:

"Let us reflect upon the clearest and most certain of our moral
intuitions. I find that I undoubtedly seem to perceive, as clearly and
certainly as I see any axiom in Arithmetic or Geometry, that it is
'right' and 'reasonable' for me to treat others as I should think that I
myself ought to be treated under similar conditions, and to do what I
believe to be ultimately conducive to universal Good or Happiness."

And again: "The propositions, 'I ought not to prefer a present lesser
good to a future greater good,' and 'I ought not to prefer my own lesser
good to the greater good of another,' do present themselves as self-
evident; as much (e. g.) as the mathematical axiom that 'if equals be
added to equals the wholes are equal.'" [Footnote: _The Methods of
Ethics_, concluding chapter, Sec 5, and Book III, chapter xiii, Sec 3.]

Whether these intuitions will be accepted as furnishing an indisputably
sound basis for utilitarianism will depend upon one's attitude toward
intuitions in general and the list of intuitions one is inclined to
accept. It is significant that Sidgwick does not accept as self-evident
such subordinate propositions as, "I ought to speak the truth." He
regards their authority as derived from the Greatest Happiness Principle.

109. THE DISTRIBUTION OF HAPPINESS.--The man who accepts the Greatest
Happiness Principle as the sole basis of his ethical doctrine is faced
with the problem of its application in detail. The "greatest good of the
greatest number" is a vague expression. What is properly understood by
"the greatest number"? and upon what principle shall "lots" of happiness
be assigned to each? Very puzzling questions arise when we approach the
problem of the distribution of pleasures and the calculation of their
values. Let us look at them.

I. Who should be considered in the Distribution?

(1) Shall we aim directly at the happiness of all men now living? or
shall we content ourselves with a smaller number? Certainly, with
increasing intelligence and broadening sympathies, men tend toward a more
embracing benevolence.

(2) Shall we admit to the circle generations yet unborn? and, if so, how
far into the future should we look?

(3) Should we make a deliberate attempt to increase the number of those
who may share the common fund of happiness, by striving for an increase
in the number of births? This end has been consciously sought for divers
reasons. The ancestor-worship of China has made the Chinaman eagerly
desirous of leaving behind him those who would devote themselves to him
after he has departed this life. Nations ancient and modern have
endeavored to strengthen the state by providing for an increase in its
population. Shall a similar end be pursued for the ethical purpose of
widening the circle of those who shall live and be happy? Most ethical
teachers do not appear to have regarded this as a corollary to the
doctrine of benevolence.

(4) Shall we enlarge the circle so as to include the lower animals? As
Bentham expressed it: The question is not, "Can they _reason_? nor,
Can they _talk_? but, Can they _suffer_?" [Footnote: _Principles of Morals
and Legislation_, chapter xvii, Sec 4.]

II. How should the "lots" of happiness be measured?

(1) Should everybody count as one, and nobody as more than one? in other
words, should strict impartiality be aimed at?

Dr. Westermarck's striking reply to the argument for impartiality as
urged by Professor Sidgwick has already been quoted. [Footnote: See
chapter v, Sec 16.] Let the reader glance at it again.

It must be confessed that to put one's parents, one's children, one's
neighbors, strangers, foreigners, the brutes, all upon the same level, is
contrary to the moral judgment of savage and civilized alike. It would
seem contrary to the sentiments which lie at the root of the family, the
community, and the state. Nor have we reason to look forward to any
future state of human society in which such lesser groups within the
broad circle of humanity will be done away with, though they tend to
become less exclusive in their demands upon human sympathy.

(2) Suppose that the greatest sum of happiness on the whole could be best
attained by an unequal distribution--by making a limited number very
happy at the expense of the rest. Would this be justifiable? It would be
in harmony with the Greatest Happiness Principle, though not with the
principle of the greatest happiness equally shared.

III. The question of the distribution of happiness in the life of the
individual is not one to be ignored. If we are concerned only with the
quantity of happiness, may we not take as the ethical precept "a short
life and a merry one"--provided the brief span of years be merry enough,
and there be no objection to the choice on the score of harm to others?

This problem is closely analogous to that of the distribution of
pleasures to those who compose the "greatest number" taken into account.
There we were concerned with the shares allotted to individuals; here we
are concerned with the shares assigned to the different parts of a single
life. In the attempt to solve the problem, Bentham's criteria of
intensity, certainty, purity, etc., might naturally be appealed to.

110. THE CALCULUS OF PLEASURES.--Nor are the problems which meet us less
perplexing when we pass from questions of the distribution of pleasures
to that of the calculus of pleasures. How are delights and miseries to be
weighed, and reasonably balanced?

(1) Men desire pleasure, and they desire to avoid pain. The two seem to
be opposed. But men constantly accept pleasures which entail some
suffering, and they avoid pains even at the expense of some pleasure.
Are, however, pleasures and pains strictly commensurable? How much
admixture of pain is called for to reduce the value of a pleasure to
zero? and how much pleasure, added to a pain, will make the whole
emotional state predominantly a pleasurable one? A disagreeable taste and
an agreeable odor may be experienced together, but they cannot be treated
as an algebraic sum. If we do so treat them, we seem to fall back upon
the assumption that the mere fact that the heterogeneous complex is
accepted or rejected is evidence that its ingredients have been measured
and compared. This is an ungrounded assumption.

(2) Undoubtedly men prefer intense pleasures to mild ones, and those
long-continued to those which are fleeting. But what degree of intensity
will overbalance what period of duration? Here, again, we appear to be
without a unit of measure, both in the case of pleasures and of pains.

(3) Obviously, he who would distribute pleasures with impartiality must
take into consideration the natures and capacities of the recipients. All
are not susceptible of pleasure in the same degree, nor are all capable
of enjoying the same pleasures. It is small kindness to a cat to offer it
hay; nor will the miser thank us for the opportunity to enjoy the
pleasures of liberality. The gift which arouses deep emotion in one man,
will leave another cold. The diversity of natures would make the calculus
of pleasures, in any accurate sense of the expression, a most difficult
problem, even if such a calculus were admissible in the case of a single
individual. [Footnote: This difficulty has not been overlooked by the
Utilitarian, see BENTHAM, _Principles of Morals and Legislation_,
chapter vi.]

III. THE DIFFICULTIES OF OTHER SCHOOLS.--It would be unjust to the
utilitarian not to point out that those who advocate other doctrines must
find some way of coping with the difficulties which embarrass him.

Thus, the egoist may ignore duties to others, but he cannot free himself
from the problems of the distribution of happiness in his own life and of
the calculus of pleasures. The intuitionist, who, among other precepts,
accepts as ultimate those enjoining upon him justice and benevolence, may
well ask himself toward whom these virtues are to be exercised, and
whether the claims of all who belong to the class in question are
identical in kind and degree. If they are not, he must find some rule for
estimating their relative importance. He who makes it his moral ideal to
Follow Nature, to Strive for Perfection, or to Realize his Capacities,
must determine in detail what conduct, self-regarding and other-
regarding, the acceptance of such aims entails. Only the unreflective can
regard the utilitarian as having a monopoly of the difficulties which
face the moralist. The vague general statement that we should strive to
render others happy--a duty recognized by men of very different schools--
never frees us from the perplexities which arise when it is asked: What
others? With what degree of impartiality? When? By what means? But that
such questions can be approached by a path more satisfactory than that
followed by the utilitarian, there is good reason to maintain. [Footnote:
See, below, chapter xxx, Sec Sec 140-142.]

summarize what may be said for utilitarianism, and what may be said
against it. It may be argued in its favor:

(1) That it appears to set as the aim of human endeavor, an intelligible
end, and a fairly definite one. Everyone has some notion of what
happiness means, and is not without ideas touching the way to seek his
own happiness, or to contribute to that of others.

(2) The end is one actually desired by men at all stages of intellectual
and moral development. Men are impelled to seek their own happiness, and
there are few who do not feel impelled to take into consideration, to
some degree, at least, the happiness of some others.

(3) The general happiness is not merely desired by some men, but it is
felt to be _desirable;_ that is, it is an end not out of harmony
with the moral judgments of mankind. It makes its appeal to the social
nature of man; it seems to furnish a basis for the exercise of
benevolence and justice.

(4) The utilitarian's clear recognition of the general happiness as the
ultimate end of human endeavor, and his insistence that institutions,
laws and moral maxims must be judged solely by their fitness to serve as
means to that end, have made him an energetic apostle of reform, and
intolerant of old and passively accepted abuses. His insistence upon the
principle of impartiality in the distribution of happiness has made him a
champion of the inarticulate and the oppressed. Whatever one may think of
his abstract principles, the general character of the specific measures
he has advocated must meet with the approval of enlightened moralists of
very different schools.

113. ARGUMENTS AGAINST UTILITARIANISM.--Against utilitarianism as an
ethical theory various objections have been brought or may be brought.

(1) Objection may be taken to the utilitarian assumption that the only
ultimate object of desire is pleasure or happiness.

It was pointed out forcibly by Bishop Butler in the eighteenth century
that men desire many things besides pleasure. Man's desires are an
outcome of his nature, and that results in "particular movements towards
particular external objects"--honor, power, the harm or good of another.
[Footnote: _Sermons_, Preface, Sec 29; cf. Sermon XI.] To be sure, "no
one can act but from a desire, or choice, or preference of his own," but
this is no evidence that what he seeks in acting is always pleasure.
Particular passions or appetites are, Butler ingeniously argues,
"necessarily presupposed by the very idea of an interested pursuit; since
the very idea of interest or happiness consists in this, that an appetite
or affection enjoys its object."

Here we find our attention called to a very important truth, the
significance of which there is danger of our overlooking. Pleasure or
happiness is not something that can be parcelled up and handed about
independently of the nature of the recipient. It is not everyone who can
desire everything and feel pleasure in its attainment. That the objects
of desire and will are many, and that the strivings of conscious
creatures have in view many ends, and vary according to the impulsive and
instinctive endowments of the creatures in question, has been well
brought out in the admirable studies of instinct which we now have at our
disposal. The most ardent devotee of pleasure must recognize, that only
certain pleasures are open to him; that, such as they are, they are a
revelation of his nature and capacities; that pleasures, if sought at
all, cannot be secured directly, but only as the result of a successful
striving for objects not pleasures, which bring pleasure as their
accompaniment. He who would have the pleasure of eating must desire food;
and neither food, nor the eating of food, can be regarded as, _per
se_, pleasure. The pleasure of the brooding hen is beyond the reach of
man, who, however pleasure-loving, cannot desire to sit upon eggs, and so
must forego the pleasure which, in the case of the bird, crowns that

Such considerations as the above have led some moralists to define, as
the end of desire, not pleasure, but self-satisfaction. Every desire, it
is pointed out, strives to satisfy itself in the attainment of its
appropriate object. With the attainment of the object, the desire has
produced its proper fruit and ceases to be. It is admitted that the
satisfaction of desire is accompanied by pleasure, but it is denied that
the pleasure may be properly called the object of the desire, or regarded
as calling it into being: "The appetite of hunger must precede and
condition the pleasure which consists in its satisfaction. It cannot
therefore have that pleasure for its exciting object." [Footnote: GREEN,
_Prolegomena to Ethics_, Book III, chapter i, Sec 161. See also Book
II, chapter ii, Sec 131; Book III, chapter i, Sec Sec 154-160.]

At the same time it is conceded that the idea of a pleasure to be
attained may "reinforce" the desire for an object, may "intensify the
putting forth of energy," and may tend "to sustain and prolong any mode
of action." [Footnote: _Prolegomena to Ethics_, Sec 161; DEWEY,
_Ethics_, chapter xiv, Sec 1, p. 271; MCDOUGALL, _Social
Psychology_, London, 1916, p. 43.] It is further conceded that
pleasures may be consciously aimed at, but it is urged that this does not
result in true self-satisfaction, and is evidence of the existence of
unhealthy desires. [Footnote: _Prolegomena to Ethics_, Sec 158; DEWEY,
_Ethics_ p. 270.]

The utilitarian is not wholly helpless in the face of such objections. He
may argue that, if it is difficult to see how a pleasure which is the
result of a desire may cause the desire, it is equally difficult to see
how it may prolong, reinforce or intensify it. And he may maintain that,
although the pursuit of pleasure, in certain forms, is calculated to
defeat its own aim and is undoubtedly unhealthy, this need not be the
case if one's aim be the true utilitarian one--the happiness of all. The
direct attack upon his Greatest Happiness Principle which consists in the
objection that, if pleasure is the only object of desire, a sum of
pleasures, as not being a pleasure, cannot be desired, [Footnote:
_Prolegomena to Ethics_, Sec 221.] he can put aside with the remark
that no far-reaching and comprehensive aim can be realized at one stroke.
I can desire a long and useful life; this cannot be had all at once. I
can desire a long life full of pleasures; this cannot be enjoyed all at
once either. But each can certainly be the object of desire.

But, when all is said, it remains true that the contention of those, who
distinguish sharply between the satisfaction of desire and the attainment
of pleasure, is of no little importance. It calls our attention to the
following truths:

(a) We have definite instincts and impulses which tend to satisfy
themselves with their appropriate objects.

(b) At their first exercise, our aim could not have been the pleasure
resulting from their satisfaction, for that could not have been foreseen.

(c) Although, after experience, the attainment of pleasure may come to be
our aim in the exercise of many activities, and may often, as far as we
can see, be a natural and not unwholesome aim; it is by no means evident
that, even when we are experienced and reflective, the exercise of our
faculties comes to be regarded _only_ as a means to the attainment
of pleasure.

(d) The hedonist, in maintaining that pleasure is the only ultimate
object of desire, appears, thus, to be committed to the doctrine that the
satisfaction of all other desires is subordinated to the satisfaction of
the desire for pleasure. For this position he can furnish no adequate
proof. Self-evident the doctrine is not.

(e) It is incumbent upon him, as a moralist, to prove, not merely that
all other satisfactions are, but also that they _ought_ to be
subordinated to the satisfaction of the desire for pleasure. This he
appears to assume without proof.

(2) We have seen above [Footnote: See Sec 108.] that the fundamental
principle of utilitarian hedonism, as against egoistic, namely, the
making the Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number the object of the
endeavors of each individual, has not been satisfactorily established by
leading utilitarians. Bentham assumes the principle; Mill advances a
doubtful argument; Sidgwick falls back upon intuitions which all will not
admit to be indubitable. To his assertion: "Reason shows me that if my
happiness is desirable and a good, the equal happiness of any other
person must be equally desirable," [Footnote: _The Methods of
Ethics_, Book III, chapter xiv, Sec 5.] the doubter may reply: Desirable
to whom? to him or to me?

(3) Finally, it may be objected that the consistent utilitarian, in
making pleasure, abstractly taken, the only ultimate good, and in
regarding as the sole criterion of right actions their tendency to
produce pleasure, really tears pleasure out of its moral setting

Thus Bentham's contention [Footnote: Sec 106, above.] that the pleasure a
man may derive from the exercise of malice or cruelty is, "taken by
itself," good--while it lasts, and before any bad consequences have set
in, as good as any other that is not more intense--derives what
plausibility it has, from an ambiguity in the word "good." Pleasure,
taken by itself, is undoubtedly pleasure, whatever be its source. To
affirm this is mere tautology. And, if we chose to make "good" but a
synonym for pleasure, we remain in the same tautology when we affirm that
every pleasure is a good. But Bentham assumed that good in this sense and
moral good are the same thing.

His assumption is not borne out by the moral judgments of mankind. Even a
cursory view of those moral judgments as revealed in customs, laws and
public opinion makes it evident that, under certain circumstances,
pleasure is regarded as, from a moral standpoint, a good, and, under
other circumstances, an evil. Torn out of its setting, it is simply
pleasure, a psychological phenomenon like any other, with no ethical

Take the case of the pleasure enjoyed by the malignant man. It may be
intense, if he be peculiarly susceptible to such pleasure. The pain
suffered by his victim may conceivably be less intense. Both may die
before the "bad consequences," that is to say, other pains, arrive. There
may be no spectators. Is, in such a case, the pleasure one to be called a
"good"? Can it _be approved?_ No reflective moralist would maintain
that it can. Which means that the moralists, in all ages, have meant by
"good" something more than pleasure, taken abstractly, and that Bentham's
assumption may be regarded as an aberration.

114. TRANSFIGURED UTILITARIANISM.--It is possible to hold to a
utilitarianism more circumspect and less startling than Bentham's. It is
possible, while maintaining that pleasure is the only thing that an
experienced and reasonable being can regard as ultimately desirable, to
maintain at the same time that it is rash for any man to attempt to seek
his own happiness, or to strive to promote the general happiness, without
taking into very careful consideration the instincts and impulses of man
and the nature of the social organization which has resulted from man's
being what he is. One may argue that the experience of the race is, as a
rule, a safer guide than the independent judgment of the individual; and
that, in the secular endeavor to compass the general happiness, it has
discovered the paths to that goal which may most successfully be
followed. Thus, one may distrust Utopian schemes, recognizing the
significance of custom, law, traditional moral maxims, and public
opinion, and yet remain a utilitarian.

But he who does this must still answer the preceding objections. He must
prove: (1) That pleasure is the only thing ultimately desirable; (2) that
each is under obligation to promote the pleasure of all; (3) that its
mere conduciveness to the production of a preponderance of pleasure makes
an action right, even though the pleasure be a malicious one, as in the
illustration above given.

Still, his doctrine has become less startling, and he has moved in the
direction of a greater harmony with the moral judgments of men generally.
The conduct he recommends need not, as a rule, differ greatly from that
recognized as right by moralists of quite different schools.

Such a utilitarian may easily pass over to a form of doctrine which is
not utilitarian at all. Thus, Sidgwick asks whether there is a measurable
quality of feeling expressed by the word "pleasure," which is independent
of its relation to volition, and strictly undefinable from its
simplicity--"like the quality of feeling expressed by 'sweet,' of which
also we are conscious in varying degrees of intensity;" and he answers:
"For my own part, when the term (pleasure) is used in the more extended
sense which I have adopted, to include the most refined and subtle
intellectual and emotional gratifications, no less than the coarser and
more definite sensual enjoyments, I can find no common quality in the
feelings so designated except some relation to desire or volition."
[Footnote: _The Methods of Ethics_, Book II, chapter ii, Sec 2, 4th
Edition. SIDGWICK never appreciably modified this opinion, which is most
clearly expressed in the Edition quoted.]

When we seek, then, to "give pleasure," are we doing nothing else than
giving recognition to the desire and will of our neighbor? What has
become of the Greatest Happiness Principle? Has it not dissolved into the
doctrine of the Real Social Will?




115. HUMAN NATURE AS ACCEPTED STANDARD.--The three doctrines, that the
norm of moral action is to follow nature, that it is to aim at the
attainment of perfection, and that it is the realization of one's
capabilities, have much in common. They may conveniently be treated in
the same chapter.

Early in the history of the ethics we find the moralist preaching that it
is the duty of man to follow nature, and branding vice as unnatural and,
hence, to be abhorred.

The word "nature," thus used, has had a fluctuating meaning. Sometimes
the thought has been predominantly of human nature, and sometimes the
appeal has been to nature in a wider sense.

Aristotle, who finds the "good" of man in happiness or "well-being,"
points out that this is something relative to man's nature. The well-
being of a man he conceives as, in large part, "well-doing," and well-
doing he defines as performing the proper functions of a man. [Footnote:
_Nichomachean Ethics_, Book I, chapters iv, vii, viii.] If we ask
him what is proper or natural to man, he refers us to what man, when
fully developed, becomes: "What every being is in its completed state,
that certainly is the nature of that thing, whether it be a man, a house,
or a horse." [Footnote: _Politics_, i, 2.] He conceives man's
nature, thus, as that which it is in man to become. Toward this end man
strives; and it is this which furnishes him with the law of his action.

But, it may be asked, how shall this end be defined in detail? Individual
men, who arrive at mature years, are by no means alike. Some we approve;
some we disapprove. We evidently appeal to a standard by which the
individual is judged. The appeal to the nature of man helps us little
unless we can agree upon what we may accept as a just revelation of that
nature--a pattern of some sort, divergence from which may be called
unnatural, and is to be reprobated.

Neither Aristotle, nor those who, after him, took human nature as the
moral norm, were without some conception of such a pattern. They kept in
view certain things that men may become rather than certain others. They
accepted as their standard a type of human nature which tends, on the
whole, to realize itself more and more in the course of development of
human communities. But as different human societies differ more or less
in the characteristics which they tend to transmit to their members, in
the kind of man whom they tend to form, we find the ideal of human
nature, with which we are presented, somewhat vague and fluctuating.
Different traits are dwelt upon by different moralists. Still, the
appeals to human nature have a good deal in common; upon man's rational
and social qualities especial stress is apt to be laid.

116. HUMAN NATURE AND THE LAW OF NATURE.--"Every nature," said Marcus
Aurelius, [Footnote: _Thoughts_, translated by George Long, viii,
7.] "is contented with itself when it goes on its way well; and a
rational nature goes on its way well, when in its thoughts it assents to
nothing false or uncertain, and when it directs its movements to social
acts only, and when it confines its desires and aversions to the things
which are in its power, and when it is satisfied with everything that is
assigned to it by the common Nature."

In the last clause the Stoic turns from the contemplation of man's
nature, taken by itself, and dwells upon the nature of the universe,
which he conceives to be controlled by reason. He thus gains an added
argument for the obligations laid upon man by his own nature. He writes:

"Every instrument, tool, vessel, if it does that for which it has been
made, is well, and yet he who made it is not there. But in the things
which are held together by Nature there is within and there abides in
them the power which made them; wherefore the more is it fit to reverence
this power, and to think that, if thou dost live and act according to its
will, everything in thee is in conformity to intelligence." [Footnote:
_Ibid_ vi, 40.]

The law of man's nature is, thus, regarded as a part of the law of
Nature--"We are all working together to one end, some with knowledge and
design, and others without knowing what they do." [Footnote: _Ibid_,
vi, 42.] And, this being the case, man may take pattern, when he is
inclined to fall below the standard of duty appropriate to him, by
considering humbler creatures: "Dost thou not see the little plants, the
little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in
order their several parts of the universe? And art thou unwilling to do
the work of a human being? And dost thou not make haste to do that which
is according to thy nature?" [Footnote: Ibid, v, 1. ] The delinquent is,
hence, judged guilty, not merely of derogation from his high estate, but
also of impiety. [Footnote: Ibid, ix, 1. ]

117. VAGUENESS OF THE LAW OF NATURE.--The question of the influence of
religious belief upon a theory of morals I shall discuss elsewhere.
[Footnote: See chapter xxxvi.] Here it is only necessary to point out
that, if there is vagueness in the appeal to human nature, it can
scarcely be dissipated satisfactorily by simply turning to Nature in a
broader sense. Shall we, when in doubt as to human behavior, copy that of
the brutes? The industry of some humble creatures it seems edifying to
dwell upon; but from the fact that bees are stung to death by their
sisters in the hive, or that the spider is given to devouring her mate,
we can hardly draw a moral lesson for man.

The appeal to a Law of Nature so often made in the history of ethical
speculation has furnished but a vague and elusive norm. He who makes it
is apt to fall back upon the moral intuitions with which he is furnished,
and to pack a greater or less number of them into his notion of Natural
Law. [Footnote: See SIR HENRY MAINE'S fascinating chapters on the "Law of
Nature," Ancient Law, chapters in and iv. The innumerable appeals to the
Law of Nature contained in Grotius's famous work on the "Law of War and
Peace" are very illuminating. ]

In Cicero, Nature becomes fairly garrulous to man on all matters of
deportment: "Let us follow Nature, and refrain from whatever lacks the
approval of eye and ear. Let attitude, gait, mode of sitting, posture at
table, countenance, eyes, movement of the hands, preserve the
becomingness of which I speak." [Footnote: _De Officiis_, i, 35,
translated by Peabody,]

118. THE APPEAL TO NATURE AND INTUITIONISM.--The moralists who urge us
to follow nature, whether human nature or Nature in a wider sense, we
may, hence, regard as intuitionists of a sort. Those who emphasize human
nature evidently depend upon their moral intuitions to give them
information as to its characteristics. It is intuition that paints for
them their pattern. They do not take man as they actually find him; they
call for the suppression of some traits, and the exaggeration of others.

Nor are those who appeal to Nature in a wider sense less guided by moral
intuitions. The appeal is never made without restrictions and
limitations. No one dreams that the bird, the ant, the spider, the bee,
can be regarded as satisfactory teachers of morals to human beings. Each
may be occupied in putting in order its corner of the universe; but the
order attained is not a human order, and there is in it much that is
revolting to the moral judgments of mankind. Man must have a standard of
his own. He listens to Nature only when she tells him what he already

As a form of intuitionism the doctrine of following.. nature may be
criticised in much the same way as other forms. One great merit it has.
It calls attention to the fact that ethics is a discipline which has no
significance abstracted from the nature of man. It appears absurd to say
that man ought to do what it is not in man, under any conceivable
circumstances, to do. And, like other forms of intuitionism, it has the
merit of avoiding that short-circuiting which may easily prove seductive
to the egoist or the utilitarian. He who accepts as his end either his
own happiness or that of men generally may easily be induced to take
short cuts to that end, and pay little attention to moral maxims as such.
He may treat lightly that great system of rules and observances by which
men are guided in their relations with one another, and which prevent
human societies from relapsing into a chaos.

On the other hand, the follower of nature, like other intuitionists, may
easily be thrown into perplexity by the fact that what seems to him
natural, and, hence, right, may not be approved by other men. He cannot
_prove_ that he is right and they are wrong. He appears condemned to
take refuge in subjective conviction, that is, in mere dogmatism.


119. PERFECTION AND TYPE.--When we speak of a thing as more or less
perfect, we commonly mean that it is more or less perfect in its kind. A
good saw makes a poor razor; a good chair, a more than indifferent bed. A
bee crushed by a blow, a bird with a broken wing, we regard as imperfect.
But it scarcely occurs to us to ask ourselves whether the bee is more or
less perfect than the bird, or the bird than the spider. Swift's
Houyhnhnms at their best could not be either perfect horses or perfect
men. They were creatures with a perfection of their own, and one
appropriate to their hybrid nature.

To every creature its own perfection. This principle men seem to assume
tacitly in their judgments. They set up a standard for each kind, and
they conceive the individual to attain or to fall short, according to the
degree of its approach to, or of its divergence from, the allotted

If we take perfection in this sense--and we usually have no other sense
in mind in our judgments of perfection--the doctrine that it is the
whole duty of man to strive to attain to perfection is none other than
the doctrine that it is his duty to follow nature, his proper nature as
man. And any difficulties which may legitimately be urged upon the
attention of the moralist who recommends the following of nature may with
equal justice be urged upon the attention of him who exhorts us to aim at

Thus, if it is doubtful just what nature demands of us, it seems no less
doubtful what obligations are laid upon us when we make perfection our
goal. That goal cannot mean for each man simply the developing to the
utmost of all the capacities which he possesses. There are men rich in
the possibilities of sloth, of indifference to future good, of egoism,
even of malignant feeling. Nor does the average man furnish the pattern
of perfection. The perfectionist does not regard the average man as the
embodiment of his ideal. He seeks to better him.

That, in striving to attain perfection, a man should remain a man, with
essentially human characteristics, seems evident. But what sort of a man
he should be is not as clear. Until we are in a position to give some
reasoned account of what we mean by perfection as an ideal, and to show
that it is a desirable goal for man, we appear to be setting up but a
vague end for human endeavor, and to be assuming intuitively that it is a
desirable end.

120. MORE AND LESS PERFECT TYPES.--So much for perfection as synonymous
with the ideal human nature of which ancient and modern moralists have
treated. It appears, however, possible to use the word "perfection" in a
somewhat different sense.

Man is not merely man; he is a living being, and there are living beings
of many orders. The plants, the simpler forms of animal life, the brutes
which we recognize as standing nearer to us, and man may, from this point
of view, be referred to the one series. Some members of this series we
characterize as lower, and others we speak of as higher in the scale.

Now, such designations as higher and lower cannot be applied
indiscriminately. There is little sense in the assertion that a bit of
string is higher than a straight line, or a hat than a handkerchief. Some
significant basis of comparison must be present. Things must be
recognized as approximating to or diverging from an accepted standard in
varying degrees.

Such a basis of comparison is present when some objects possess the same
qualities in a more marked degree than do others. But this is not the
only possible basis of comparison. We may assume that the possession of
certain qualities marks a creature as higher, and that the creature which
has them not, or has them imperfectly developed, thereby stamps itself as
being of a lower order.

Something like this appears to determine our judgments when we assign to
various creatures their place in the scale of living beings. We do not
mean that the higher possess to a greater degree all the capacities
possessed by the lower. Many things which the plant does man cannot do at
all; and, among the animals, those which we recognize as higher may be
lacking in many capacities present in a marked degree in the lower. In
ranking one living creature as higher, and, thus, as more perfect, than
another, we assume that the "nature" of the one, with its various
capacities and lacks of capacity, is, on the whole, of more _worth_
than the "nature" of another.

It might be maintained that, in his estimate of the worth of different
kinds of beings man is influenced by his partiality for the distinctively
human, rating creatures as lower or higher in proportion to their
divergence from or approximation to his own type. Undoubtedly this plays
a part in men's judgments. We are partial to ourselves. And yet judgments
of perfection and imperfection cannot wholly be explained on this

"I think we must admit without proof," writes Professor Janet, [Footnote:
The Theory of Morals, Book I, chapter iii, English translation, New York,
1883, p. 48.] a brilliant apostle of the doctrine of perfection, "that
things are good, even independently of the pleasure which they give us,
in themselves and by themselves, because of their intrinsic excellence.
If anyone were to demand that I should prove that thought is worth more
than digestion, a tree more than a heap of stones, liberty than slavery,
maternal love than luxury, I could only reply by asking him to
demonstrate that the whole is greater than one of its parts. No sensible
person denies that, in passing from the mineral kingdom to the vegetable
kingdom, from this to the animal kingdom, from the animal to man, from
the savage to the enlightened citizen of a free country, Nature has made
a continual advance; that is to say, at each step has gained in
excellence and perfection."

One is naturally impelled to ask from what point of view things so
disparate as the mineral, the plant, the brute, man, thought and
digestion, liberty and slavery, can be compared with one another at all,
and referred to any sort of a series. What is, in its essence, this
excellence or perfection of which we have more shining evidence as we go
up in the scale? Janet identifies it with intensity of being, with
activity. The greater the activity, the greater the perfection.

To the identification of perfection and activity we may hesitate to
assent. It does not seem clear that there is greater activity manifested
in a snail than in a burning house, in maternal love than in furious
hate, in quiet thought than in passion. Yet it seems significant that
judgments of worth do not appear out of place in comparing such things.

121. PERFECTIONISM AND INTUITIONISM.--Taking into consideration all that
is said above, it seems not unreasonable to conclude:

(1) That in speaking of the perfection of any creature we very often
judge it only by the standard set by its own type. We regard it as a good
specimen of its kind.

(2) But when we use perfection in a wider sense, we judge different types
after the standard furnished by the distinctively human.

(3) And we take as our standard of the human the "pattern" man held in
view by those who urge us to follow nature.

But why should this pattern man be assumed to be better or worthier than
a man of a different sort? He who finds in him a greater exhibition of
activity may with equal justice address to himself the question: Why is
activity, in itself, of value? The one question, like the other, looks
for its answer in the dictum of some intuition. What may be said for, and
what against, intuitions, we have already considered. [Footnote: See
chapter xxiii]


122. THE SELF-REALIZATION DOCTRINE.--The ethical school which makes the
realization of the capacities of the self the aim of moral action has for
a generation, especially in England and America, had the support of many
acute and scholarly minds. The doctrine, often spoken of as the Neo-
Kantian or the Neo-Hegelian, may be said to be influenced by Kant, so far
as concerns metaphysical theory, but its ethical character is more
properly Hegelian and suggests in many particulars that great German
philosopher's "Philosophy of Right."

We may conveniently take as the protagonist of the school the Oxford
scholar, Thomas Hill Green, whose "Prolegomena to Ethics" has had,
directly and indirectly, a powerful influence upon the minds of the men
of our generation.

We find the doctrine of self-realization, as set forth by Green, to be as

(1) In all desire some object is presented to the mind as not yet real,
and there is a striving to make it real, and thus to satisfy, or
extinguish, the desire. [Footnote: Prolegomena to Ethics, Sec 131.]

(2) Self-consciousness knits the desires into a system, and thus attains
to the conception of "well-being," which implies the satisfaction of
desire in general, and not merely of this or that desire. [Footnote:
Prolegomena to Ethics, Sec 128.]

(3) "Good" is that which satisfies some desire. Any good at which an
agent aims must be his own good; and "true good" is nothing else than
"permanent well-being." [Footnote: Prolegomena to Ethics, Sec Sec 190, 92,

(4) A desire is determined by the nature of the creature desiring; man
can attain satisfaction only in the realization of his capacities. His
true good lies only in their complete realization--in his becoming all
that it is in him to become. [Footnote: Prolegomena to Ethics, Sec
Sec 171-2, 180.]

(5) But man is a social being, and has an interest in other persons than
himself. Hence his complete self-satisfaction implies the satisfaction of
his social as well as of his other impulses. That is, his true good
includes the good of others. [Footnote: Prolegomena to Ethics, Sec Sec 199-

(6) We can only discover what our "capacities" are by observing them as
so far realized, and thus gaining the idea of future progress. The
ultimate end is unknown to us. [Footnote: Prolegomena to Ethics, Sec 172.]

(7) But we see enough to recognize that man's capacities can be realized,
his self-satisfaction intelligently sought, only in a social state based
upon the notion of the common good. The right reveals itself in the
actual evolution of society. [Footnote: Ibid., Sec Sec 172-76, 205.]

realization doctrine has much in common with the doctrine of following
nature. Thus:

1. It evidently does not recommend the realization of all the capacities
of the individual as such, but holds in view a "pattern" man.

2. This is social man, the true representative of human nature as
conceived by the ancient Stoic. Green holds before himself "the ideal of
a society in which everyone shall treat everyone else as his neighbor, in
which to every rational agent the well-being or perfection of every other
such agent shall be included in that perfection for which he lives."
[Footnote: Prolegomena to Ethics, Sec 205.] The same thought was more
pithily expressed by Marcus Aurelius in the aphorism that "what is good
for the hive is good for the bee."

3. We find, too, the analogue of that wider appeal to nature which
suffused the Stoic doctrine with religious feeling. In the above brief
recapitulation of the steps in the self-realization doctrine I have
omitted this aspect, as I wished to confine myself to the ethical
doctrine pure and simple. But Green conceives of the Divine Consciousness
as already having before it the consummation toward which man strives in
his efforts at self-realization; he regards man as working toward the
attainment of a Divine Purpose. The self-realizationist may prefer,
sometimes, to use language more abstract. He may say: "Man's
consciousness of himself as a member of society involves a reference to a
cosmic order." [Footnote: MUIRHEAD, The Elements of Ethics, Book I,
chapter in, Sec 10.] But the difference of language scarcely carries with
it a substantial difference of thought. [Footnote: "Though the
philosopher as such may shun the term 'God' on account of its
anthropomorphic associations, and may prefer to speak of the 'conscious
principle,' or of the 'universal self,' yet the latter has in substance
the same meaning as the former." FITE, _An Introductory Study of
Ethics_, chapter xiii, Sec 4.]

4. As the appeal to human nature, or to nature in a broader sense, left
the norm for the guidance of human actions somewhat vague, so the appeal
to the principle of self-realization seems to leave one without very
definite guidance. There may easily arise disputes touching what
capacities are to be realized, and in what degree.

124. IS THE DOCTRINE MORE EGOISTIC?--One difference between the
principles of following nature, striving to attain to perfection, and
aiming at self-realization seems to force itself upon our notice. On the
surface, at least, the last doctrine appears to stand out as more
distinctly egoistic. The very name has an egoistic flavor; the doctrine
bases itself upon the satisfaction of desire; nor do its advocates
hesitate to emphasize that the satisfaction sought is the satisfaction of
the agent desiring. In the chapter on Egoism [Footnote: Chapter xxiv.] I
have cited some utterances which sound egoistic, and such citations might
be multiplied.

Nevertheless, from this egoistic root springs a flower which disseminates
the perfume of a saintly self-abnegation. How is this seeming miracle

The transition is brought about through a chain of reasoning which is
subtle and ingenious in the extreme. Must we not admit that in all
purposive action--the only action with which the moralist need concern
himself--there is a striving to realize or satisfy desire in the
attainment of some object? And if the desires of a mind or self converge
upon some object, does not its realization imply the satisfaction or
realization of the desires of that mind or self? Furthermore, if our
desires have as their root our capacities--for we can desire nothing that
it is not in us to desire--is not the realization of desire the
realization of capacity? Does it not follow, hence, that every mind or
self, in all purposive action, is striving, either blunderingly or with
far-sighted intelligence, to attain to self-satisfaction, which means, to
the realization of its capacities? Finally, as men are by nature social
creatures, how can a man fully realize his capacities without becoming a
truly unselfish being? Unselfishness appears to be the inevitable goal of
the strivings for self-satisfaction of an unselfish self.

125. WHY AIM TO REALIZE CAPACITIES?--This reasoning appears highly
satisfactory in two very different ways. It seems, on the one hand, to
stop the mouth of the egoist, who insists that his own advantage is his
only proper aim. It assures him that he is throughout seeking his own
advantage, when he aims at self-realization. On the other hand, it
assures the man to whom egoism appears repellant and immoral, that self-
realization implies that one must love one's neighbor as oneself. The
immemorial quarrel between self-love and benevolence appears to be
adjusted to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.

Is the reasoning unassailable? There are two steps in it which appear to
demand a closer scrutiny. One is the transition from desire to capacity;
the other, the assumption that he who follows an unselfish impulse may
properly be said to aim at self-satisfaction, and to exercise no self-

As to the first. Our desires may have their roots in our capacities, but
desires and capacities are, nevertheless, not the same thing.

Men do actually strive to realize their desires--a desire is nothing else
than such a striving for realization or satisfaction. But it cannot be
said that men generally strive to realize their capacities, except to the
limited degree in which their capacities may happen to be expressed in
actual desires. Capacities may lie dormant, and the man in whom they lie
dormant need not on that account feel dissatisfied, as does the man whose
desires are not realized. Self-realization, as understood by the school
of thinkers which advocates it, implies much more than the satisfaction
of desire. It implies the multiplication of desires and their
satisfaction. On what ground shall we persuade the contented egoist, who
has but a handful of commonplace desires and finds it possible to satisfy
most of them, that it is better to call into being a multitude of wants
many of which will probably remain unrealized? He may point out that the
divine discontent is apt to leave the idealist and the reformer as lean
as Cassius. All of which does not prove that the self-realizationist is
not right in exhorting men to develop their capacities in the direction
of the pattern which he holds in view; but it does seem to prove that the
path to self-realization, in this sense, is not necessarily the path to
self-satisfaction. "The good" has come to mean more than that which
satisfies desire. How shall we persuade men that it is their duty to make
this good their end?

126. THE PROBLEM OF SELF-SACRIFICE.--As for the second point. He who
makes his moral aim self-satisfaction can scarcely be expected to
advocate self-sacrifice.

Accordingly, we find among self-realizationists, a tendency to repudiate
altogether what may properly be called self-denial. "Anything conceived
as good in such a way that the agent acts for the sake of it," said
Green, [Footnote: Prolegomena, Sec 92.] "must be conceived as his own
good." "A moment's consideration will show," writes Professor Fite, in
his clear and attractive book, [Footnote: An Introductory Study of
Ethics, chapter viii, Sec 5.] "that, for self-sacrifice in any absolute
sense, no ground of obligation is conceivable. Unless I am in some way
interested in the object [Footnote: I.e., unless I desire the object.]
whose attainment is set before me as a duty, it seems to be
psychologically impossible that I should ever strive for it."

Now we do seem compelled to concede that, unless a man desires an end, he
cannot will that end. Anything that is selected as an end, and striven
for, must be desired. And the attainment of the end implies, of course,
the satisfaction of that particular desire. But, admitting all this, is
not the question left open whether some desires may not be sacrificed to
others; and whether, indeed, a whole extensive system of desires may not,
on occasion, be sacrificed to a single desire? In this case, may not the
transaction properly be called self-sacrifice? Suppose the desire to
serve one's neighbor, if satisfied, prevents the realization of a
multitude of other desires of the same agent. Is it certain that its
satisfaction does not imply self-denial?

127. SELF-SATISFACTION AND SELF-SACRIFICE.--The argument to prove that it
is not really self-sacrifice may follow divers paths.

Thus, it may be argued that, since the proper end of a rational being is
his own permanent good, the sacrifice of such goods as do not conduce to
this end is not self-sacrifice. Sensual pleasures, the satisfaction of
vanity or ambition, the accomplishment of a vengeful purpose, an
excessive preoccupation with one's own interests as contrasted with those
of others--such things as these, it is claimed, do not permanently
satisfy. That the so-called man of pleasure is a man upon whom pleasures
pall, and that he who seeks too earnestly to save his own life is apt to
lose it, has been reiterated by a long line of professional and lay
moralists from Buddha to Tolstoi. The refuge from the discontent arising
out of the attempt to quench one's thirst by sipping at transient
delights has always been found in altruism under some guise. The self-
realizationists may claim that certain things are given up in order that
other things more permanently satisfying to the self may be attained, and
may deny that this is any renunciation of self-satisfaction. [Footnote:
GREEN, op. cit., Sec 176.]

Again. It may be argued that men's interests do not conflict as widely as
is commonly supposed. To be sure, two men may have to struggle with each
other for the pleasure of eating a given apple, of making a pecuniary
profit, of obtaining a coveted post, of being the first authority in a
given science or art, of securing the affections of a particular woman.
Here one man's loss seems to be another man's gain. But two men may enjoy
seeing a child eat an apple, or a deserving man profit, or their common
candidate win the election, or their favorite artist honored, or their
beloved nephew accepted by the lady of his choice. If one desires certain
things, and certain things only, there seems no reason why one's desires
should not be in harmony with those of others.

The things best worth having, it is claimed, do not admit of being
competed for. [Footnote: GREEN, _Prolegomena to Ethics_, Sec Sec 244-
245.] If my aim is unselfish devotion to humanity, how can I lose if my
neighbor attains in the same running? Do virtuous men, in so far as they
are virtuous, stand in each other's light? Are there not as many prizes
as there are competitors? As long as I remain in this field I may seek
self-satisfaction without scruple. I satisfy another's desire in
satisfying my own. By benevolence I lose nothing.

The list of things which one may forego without self-sacrifice has been
made a long one. Even the realization of capacities highly valued by
cultivated men has been brought into it:

"No conflict," writes Professor Seth, [Footnote: _A Study of Ethical
Principles_, Part II, chapter ii, Sec 4, Edinburgh, 1911, p. 286.] "is
possible between the ends of the individual and those of society. The
individual may be called upon to sacrifice, for example, his opportunity
of esthetic or intellectual culture; but in that very sacrifice lies his
opportunity of moral culture, of true self-realization."

128. CAN MORAL SELF-SACRIFICE BE A DUTY?--To this position one is tempted
to demur until two questions have found a satisfactory answer:

1. Is it true that there is no sacrifice of self-realization or self-
satisfaction, properly so called, where all other desires and impulses
are sacrificed to the one desire to do right?

2. Is it not conceivable, at least, that obedience to an unselfish
impulse may result even in the sacrifice of the opportunities of moral
culture in general? Can it, then, be called self-realization?

Touching the first question it may plausibly be maintained that the
desires of the self are many and various, and that the satisfaction of an
altruistic impulse may imply the sacrifice of so many of them that the
self may very doubtfully be said to attain to permanent satisfaction when
the impulse is realized. Aristotle's hero, who, in dying for his country,
chooses the more "honorable" for himself, [Footnote: _Ethics_, Book
IX, chapter viii, Sec 12.] can hardly be said in that one act to have
accomplished a state of permanent satisfaction or well-being for the self
whose being was, in that act, brought to an abrupt termination. Certain
Stoics seem to have taught that virtue is its own adequate reward and
that nothing else matters; but this has not been the verdict of moralists
generally. Paley, who writes like an unblushing egoist, [Footnote: See Sec
96.] we may pass over; but even Kant, a thinker of a very different
complexion, appears to regard the mere doing of a right act as not a
sufficient reward for the doer. He looks for the act to be crowned with
happiness in a life to come, thus saving it from being mere self-

The second question one approaches with some hesitation. "No moralist,"
writes Professor Sidgwick, [Footnote: _The Methods of Ethics_,
Introduction.] "has ever directed an individual to promote the virtue of
others except in so far as this promotion is compatible with, or rather
involved in, the complete realization of virtue in himself." It appears
rash to admit to be a duty that which as high an authority as Sidgwick
maintains no moralist has ever ventured to advise. Still, it is
permissible to adduce an illustration taken from actual life, and to ask
the reader to form his opinion independently.

A girl, anxious to provide her younger sister with a better lot, enters a
factory and gives up her life to labor of a monotonous and mind-
destroying character, amid sordid and more or less degrading
surroundings. The act is a heroic one, but is it clear that it conduces
to the self-realization, not of the sister, but of the agent herself? The
influence of surroundings counts for much. High impulses may, under such
pressure, come to be repressed.

"Capacity for the nobler feelings," writes Mill, [Footnote:
_Utilitarianism_, chapter iii] "is in most natures a very tender
plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but by mere want of
sustenance; and in the majority of young persons it speedily dies away if
the occupations to which their position in life has devoted them, and the
society into which it has thrown them, are not favorable to keeping that
higher capacity in exercise. Men lose their high aspirations as they lose
their intellectual tastes, because they have not time or opportunity for
indulging them; and they addict themselves to inferior pleasures, not
because they deliberately prefer them, but because they are either the
only ones to which they have access, or the only ones they are any longer
capable of enjoying."

In other words, one may put oneself into a situation in which self-
realization appears to be made a most difficult and problematic goal. Nor
does it seem inconceivable that one should do this for the sake of
another's good. Hence, even if we restrict the meaning of the word "self-
sacrifice" to the sacrifice of the "real" or moral self, the
impossibility of self-sacrifice scarcely appears to have been proved; the
impossibility of a conflict between the ends of the individual and of
society does not appear to be indubitably established.

upon any other grounds than those adduced above? One line of argument
remains open to us. We may maintain that, while two bodies are two
because they occupy two portions of space, two minds, as not in space,
cannot thus be held apart, and we may conclude that "the many individuals
composing the race are not really many, but one." [Footnote: Fite, _An
Introductory Study of Ethics_, chapter xii.] I suppose that he who can
take this position will find it natural to argue that any act which
serves the interests of any self must be regarded as serving the
interests of every self, and thus cannot be considered as sacrificing the
interests of any self.

To these transcendental heights, however, comparatively few will be able
to climb. To men generally it will still appear that Peter's love to Paul
is not identical with Peter's love to Peter; and that Peter may act in
such a way that, on the whole, he loses, while Paul gains. That the
interests of Peter and Paul, as developed social beings and members of a
civilized community, are less likely to be in conflict than those of
their primitive cave-dwelling forerunners may be freely conceded. But
from such relative harmony to a complete identity of interests seems a
far cry.

130. QUESTIONS WHICH SEEM TO BE LEFT OPEN.--Evidently, the self-
realization doctrine is a great advance upon the doctrine of following
nature. The self-realizationist realizes that man's nature is in the
making, and he is not blind to the difficulty of the task of determining
just what the real demands of human nature are.

This leads to his laying much stress upon the gradual development of
systems of rights and duties as they emerge under the actual conditions
to which human societies are subjected in the course of their evolution.
He reads history with comprehending eyes, and reverences the human reason
as crystallized in social institutions. Hence, the divergence of the
moral standards which obtain in different ages and among different
peoples does not seem to him a baffling mystery. He can find a relative
justification for each, and yet hold to an ideal in the light of which
each must be judged.

It may be questioned, however, whether the edifice which he erects can be
based wholly upon the appeal to the self which ostensibly furnishes the
groundwork of the doctrine. We may ask whether such an appeal can:

(1) Prescribe to the individual in what measure his various capacities
should be realized.

(2) Show that it is reasonable to awaken dormant capacities, and thus
multiply desires.

(3) Justify social acts which certainly appear to be self-sacrificing,
and which the moral judgments of men generally do not hesitate to



131. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TITLE.--The title, "The Ethics of
Evolution," seems to assume that the evolutionist, frankly accepting
himself as such, must be prepared to join some school of the moralists
different from other schools, and basing itself upon evolutionary

That the ethical views of individuals and of communities of men may
undergo a process of evolution or development is palpable. The ethical
notions of the child are not those of the man, nor are the moral ideas of
primitive races identical with those of races more advanced
intellectually and morally.

But it is one thing to maintain that morals may be in evolution in
individuals and in communities, and quite another to hold that the
acceptance of the doctrine of evolution, broadly taken, forces upon one
some new norm by which human actions may be judged. It was possible for
as ardent an evolutionist as Huxley to hold that evolution and ethics are
not merely independent, but are actually at war with one another, the
competitive struggle for existence characteristic of the one giving place
in the other to a new principle in which the rights of the weak and the
helpless attain express recognition. [Footnote: HUXLEY, _Evolution and
Ethics_, New York, 1894. See, especially, the _Prolegomena_.] And
Sidgwick, that clearest of thinkers, maintains [Footnote: _The Methods
of Ethics_, Book I, chapter vi, Sec 2.] that we have no reason to assume
that it is our duty as moral beings simply to accelerate the pace in the
direction already marked out by evolution.

It should be remembered that the word evolution may be used equivocally.
It is not evident that all evolution is in the direction of a life, brute
or human, that we commonly recognize as higher. There is retrogression,
as well as progress, where such retrogression is favored by environment.
We may call this, if we please, _devolution_. Were the conditions of
his life very unfavorable, man could not live as he now lives; and,
indeed, were they sufficiently unfavorable--for example, if the earth
cooled off to a certain point--he could not live at all, but would have
to give place to a lowlier creature better fitted to the conditions. Must
the man who foresees this end approaching strive to hasten its arrival,
or should he oppose it? In a decadent society, to come nearer to the
problems which concern us in ethics, must a man strive to realize the
social will expressed in progressive decadence? Should he hasten the
decline of the community?

That those who study man as a moral being, like those who study man in
any of his other aspects, will be more or less influenced in their
outlook by the broadening of the horizon which results from a study of
what the students of the evolutionary process have to tell us, may be
conceded. But when we admit this, we do not necessarily have to look for
a new norm by which to judge conduct. We seem, rather, forced to ask
ourselves how this broadening of the horizon affects the norms which have
heretofore appealed to men as reasonable. To be sure, any evolutionist
has, in the capacity of a moralist, the right to suggest a new norm. But,
in that case, he must, like any other moralist, convince us that it is a
reasonable one.

suggested the norms discussed above, no one would think of as greatly
influenced in their ethical teaching by the doctrine of evolution. Locke,
Price, Butler and Sidgwick; Aristippus and Epicurus; Paley and Hobbes;
Bentham and Mill; Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius; Janet, Green, and the
rest, no one would be inclined to class simply as evolutionary moralists.
Some of them never thought of evolution at all. How would it affect their
standards of right and wrong were evolution expressly taken into account?
Would the standards have to be abandoned? Or would the men, as broader
men, merely have to revise some of their moral judgments?

(1) It might be supposed that the acceptance of evolutionary doctrine
would bring into being a grave problem for the intuitionist, at least. If
the body and mind of man are products of evolution, must we not admit as
much of man's moral intuitions? Then why not admit that these may be
replaced some day by other moral intuitions to be evolved in an unknown

He who reasons thus should bear in mind that Sidgwick, who by no means
repudiated the doctrine of evolution, was an intuitionist, and placed his
ultimate moral intuitions on a par with such mathematical intuitions as
that two and two make four. If all intuitions are a product of evolution,
Sidgwick might claim that the moral intuitions he accepts fare no worse
than those elementary mathematical truths which we accept without
question and without reflection. And he might maintain that an appeal to
evolution need cast no greater doubt upon ultimate moral truth than upon
mathematical. If intuitionism in all its forms is to be rejected, it
seems as though it must be done upon some other ground than an appeal to

(2) As to the egoist. It is not easy to see how the appeal to evolution
need disconcert him. Should he be so foolish as to maintain that egoism
is always, in fact, necessary and unavoidable on the part of every living
creature, he might easily be refuted by a reference to the actual life of
the brutes, where altruism can be shown to play no insignificant role.
But if he simply maintains that the only _reasonable_ principle for
a man to adopt is egoism, he may continue to do so. He makes the self and
its satisfactions his end. How can it concern him to learn how the self
came to be what it is, or what it will be in the distant future? He
panders to the present self; he may assume that it will be reasonable to
pander at the appropriate time to the self that is to be, whatever its

(3) The utilitarian remains such whether he makes the greatest good of
the greatest number to consist in pleasure or in some other end, such as
self-preservation. Some utilitarians, who have been inclined to emphasize
the good of man, rather than to extend even to the brutes the goods to be
distributed, may be influenced to extend the sphere of duties, if they
will listen to the evolutionist, who cannot well leave out of view
humbler creatures. [Footnote: "Thus we shall not go wrong in attributing
to the higher animals in their simple social life, not only the
elementary feelings, the loves and hates, sympathies and jealousies which
underlie all forms of society, but also in a rudimentary stage the
intelligence which enables those feelings to direct the operations of the
animal so as best to gratify them." HOBHOUSE, _Ethics in Evolution_,
chapter i, Sec 4.]

He may broaden his sympathies. But this need not compel him to abandon
his fundamental doctrine.

(4) A very similar conclusion may be drawn, when we consider the
influence of an acceptance of the doctrine of evolution upon those who
would turn to man's nature, to perfection, or to self-realization, as
furnishing the norm of human conduct.

A Marcus Aurelius could, with little reference to evolution, accept man's
nature, or Nature in the wider sense, as marking out for man the round of
his duties. A modern Darwinian might fall back upon much the same
standard, while clearly conscious of the fact that man's nature is not
something unchangeable, and while inclined to view Nature in general with
different eyes from those of the Roman Stoic. No sensible evolutionist
would maintain that a creature of a given species should act in defiance
of all the instincts of creatures of that type, merely on the ground that
species may be involved in a process of progressive development.

Nor need the perfectionist abandon his perfectionism in view of any such
consideration. He who measures perfection by the degree of activity
exercised in action, may admit that the coming man will be more perfect
than it is possible for any man to be now; but that need not prevent him
from holding that it is man's present duty to aim at the only perfection
possible to him, he being what he is. Similar reasoning will apply to any
other conception of perfection likely to be adopted, consciously or
unconsciously, by any adherent of the school in question.

As for the self-realizationist, a very little reflection seems sufficient
to reveal that the maxim that it is man's duty to become all that it is
in him to become is in no wise refuted by the claim that man may, in the
indefinitely distant future, become much more than many people have
supposed or now suppose.

(5) There remains the doctrine of the Rational Social Will as furnishing
the norm of conduct. I have tried to show that this doctrine must rest
upon broad views of man and of man's environment. It is the very essence
of the rational will to take broad views, to consider the past, the
present, and the future. Surely the adherent of this school may let the
evolutionist work in peace, may thank him for any helpful suggestions he
has to offer, and may develop his own doctrine with little cause for
uneasiness at the thought that information given him may refute his
fundamental principle.

However, it is not out of place for him to point out, if revolutionary
measures of any sort are suggested by this or that evolutionist, that
ethics is a discipline which is concerned with what men have to do, here
and now. It must take into consideration what is advisable and feasible.
Utopian schemes which break violently with the actual order of things and
the normal development of human societies may be suggested by
evolutionists, as they have been suggested by men who were not
evolutionists at all. They are not to be taken much more seriously in the
one case than in the other.

133. THE ETHICS OF INDIVIDUAL EVOLUTIONISTS.--Such considerations seem to
make it evident that the acceptance of the doctrine of evolution should
have no other influence upon us as moralists than that of making us take
broad views of man and of his environment. It still remains to find a
norm of conduct, and evolutionists, like other men, may develop ethical
systems which are not identical. It is worth while here to touch very
briefly upon the suggestions of one or two individual evolutionists.
Those who speak of the ethics of evolution are very apt to have such in

Thus, Darwin, whose study of the lower animals led him to believe that
the social instincts have been developed for the general good rather than
for the general happiness of the species, defines the "good" as "the
rearing of the greatest number of individuals in full vigor and health,
with all their faculties perfect, under the conditions to which they have
been subjected." The "greatest happiness principle" he regards as an
important secondary guide to conduct, while making social instinct and
sympathy primary guides. [Footnote: _The Descent of Man_, chapter
iv, concluding remarks. ]

Spencer maintains that the evolution of conduct becomes the highest
possible when the conduct "simultaneously achieves the greatest totality
of life in self, in offspring, and in fellow-men." "The conduct called
good," he writes, "rises to the conduct conceived as best, when it
fulfills all three classes of ends at the same time." But life he does
not regard as necessarily a good. He judges it to be good or bad
"according as it has or has not a surplus of agreeable feeling." Hence,
"conduct is good or bad according as its total effects are pleasurable or
painful." [Footnote: _The Data of Ethics,_ chapter in, Sec Sec 8 and 10.

To be sure, Spencer criticises the utilitarians, and thinks little of the
Benthamic calculus of pleasures. He believes that we should substitute
for it something more scientific, a study of the processes of life. In
his earlier writings he appears to be largely in accord with the
intuitionists in judging of conduct, regarding intuitions as having their
origin in the experiences of the race. Nor does he ever seem inclined to
break with intuitionism completely. But, as we have seen above (Sec 108),
there appears to be nothing to prevent a utilitarian from being an
intuitionist of some sort, as well.

Stephen, in his clear and beautifully written work on morals, also
accepts the general happiness as the ultimate end of reasonable conduct;
and he, too, criticizes the current utilitarianism. He writes: "This, as
it seems to me, represents the real difference between the utilitarian
and the evolutionist criterion. The one lays down as a criterion the
happiness, the other the health of society." [Footnote: _The Science of
Ethics_, London, 1882, chapter ix, 12.] By which, of course, he does
not mean merely physical health, but such a condition of vigor and
efficiency as carries with it a promise of continued existence and well-
being in the future.

It is not necessary to multiply instances. It can readily be seen that
all three of the writers cited are utilitarians, and the last two are
what have been characterized as hedonistic utilitarians. That they
suggest this or that means of best attaining to the desired goal does not
put them outside of a school which embraces men of many shades of



134. THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE PESSIMIST.--With philosophy in general this
volume has little to do; but as pessimism is not the doctrine of normal
men generally, but is apt to be identified in our minds with the
teachings of certain of its leading exponents, it may be well to give, in
briefest outline, the type of reasonings upon which the pessimist may
take his stand.

Schopenhauer held that the one World-Will, which manifests itself in all
nature, inorganic and organic, and is identical with the will of which
each man is conscious in himself, is a "will to live." When the World-
Will becomes conscious, as it does in man, the will to live is
consciously asserted. But the will to live is essentially blind and
unreasoning, or it would not do anything so stupid as to will life of any
sort. He writes:

"Only a blind will, no seeing will, could place itself in the position in
which we behold ourselves. A seeing will would rather have soon made the
calculation that the business did not cover the cost; for such a mighty
effort and struggle, with the straining of all the powers, under constant
care, anxiety and want, and with the inevitable destruction of every
individual life, finds no compensation in the ephemeral existence itself,
which is so obtained, and which passes into nothing in our hands."
[Footnote: _The World as Will and Idea_, translated by HALDANE and
KEMP, London, 1896. _On the Vanity and Suffering of Life_. Volume
III, p. 390.]

The basis of all will, says Schopenhauer, is need, deficiency, and,
hence, pain. He dwells at length upon the misery of life, and the
desirability of a release from life. The refuge of suicide at once
suggests itself, but is rejected by Schopenhauer on the ground that the
destruction of the individual cannot prevent the One Will from
manifesting itself in other individuals. Curiously enough he appears to
approve of suicide by starvation, as indicating a renunciation of the
will to live. But his general recommendation is asceticism, renunciation
of the striving for pleasure, the voluntary acceptance of pain. Through
this the Will is to be taught to apprehend its own nature, and, thus, to
deny itself. How a general asceticism on our part will rob the one
universal Will, revealed in the mineral, vegetable and animal worlds, of
its nature, and still its strivings, the great pessimist does not

At this point, von Hartmann, who may fairly be called Schopenhauer's
pupil, takes up the tale. He suggests that it is conceivable that a
universal negation of the will may be obtained, if the preponderating
part of the actual World-Will should come to be contained in the
conscious minds that resolve to will no more. This he thinks may
neutralize the whole, and put an end to existence, which is unavoidably
an evil, and implies a preponderance of pain. [Footnote: _Philosophy of
the Unconscious_, "Metaphysic of the Unconscious," chapter xiv.]

135. COMMENT ON THE ETHICS OF PESSIMISM.--On the metaphysics of the
pessimists I shall make no comment save that there appears to be here
sufficient vagueness to satisfy the most poetical of minds. But the
following points in the ethics of pessimism should be noted:

(1) Pleasure and pain are made the measure of the desirability or
undesirability of existence.

(2) It is assumed that pleasure and pain are measurable; and that they
may be quantitatively balanced against one another in such a way that
this or that mixture of them may be declared by an enlightened man to be,
on the whole, desirable or the reverse.

(3) It is claimed that the balance must necessarily incline to the side
of pain, and hence, that life is not worth living.

(4) It follows from all this that it is our duty to aim, not necessarily
directly, but in some manner, at least, at the destruction of life

(5) I beg the reader to observe that the above doctrine rests upon
assumptions which seem to be made without due consideration. Thus:

(a) It is by no means to be assumed without question that pleasure and
pain alone are the measure of the desirable. They are not the only things
actually desired; and, if we assert that they alone are desirable, we
fall back upon a dubious intuition.

(6) The quantitative relations of pleasures and pains are legitimate
subjects of dispute, as we have seen in earlier chapters in this volume.
When is one pleasure twice as great as another? How can we know that
three pleasures counterbalance a pain? Is it by the mere fact that we
_will_ as we do, in a given instance? Then how prove that we will as
we do, because of the equivalence of the pleasure to the pain?

(c) Who shall decide for us whether life is--not desired, it is
admittedly that, as a rule,--but, also, _desirable_?

May the man who denies it rest his assertion upon such general
considerations as that satisfaction presupposes desire, and that desire
implies a lack, and, hence, pain? The famous author of "Utopia" pointed
out long ago that the pains of hunger begin before the pleasure of
eating, and only die when it does. Shall we, then, regard a hearty
appetite as a curse, to be mitigated but not wholly neutralized by a
series of good dinners?

To be sure, the pessimists do not depend wholly upon such general
arguments, but point out in great detail that there is much suffering in
the world, and that the fulfillment of desire, when it is attained, often
results in disillusionment. But the fact remains that life, such as it
is, is desired by men and other creatures generally; desired not as an
exception, and under a misapprehension, but, as a rule, even by the
enlightened and the far-seeing.

Is not the desirable what is desired by the rational will? We have seen
that the rational social will does not aim at the suppression of desires
generally, but only at the suppression of such desires as interfere with
broader satisfactions. Viewed from this stand-point, the pessimist's
"denial of the will to live" appears as an expression of the accidental
or irrational will. It is not an expression of the nature of man, but of
the nature of the pessimist.

(6) It is, perhaps, worth while to point out that there is nothing to
prevent a given pessimist from being an intuitionist, an egoist, a
utilitarian (of a sort), or an adherent of one of the other schools above
discussed. He may assume intuitively that life is undesirable; in view of
its undesirability he may act, either taking himself alone into
consideration, or including his neighbor; he may invoke the doctrine of
evolution; he may even, if he chooses, call it self-realization to
annihilate himself, for he may argue that a will that comes to clear
consciousness must see that it must be its own undoing. It is hardly
necessary to point out, however, that the pessimist, as such, should not
be in any wise confounded with the moralists discussed in the five
chapters preceding.



136. KANT.---It is impossible, in any brief compass, to treat of the many
individual moralists, some of them men of genius and well worthy of our
study, who offer us ethical systems characterized by differences of more
or less importance. When we refer a man to this or that school and do no
more, we say comparatively little about him, as has become evident in the
preceding chapters. As we have seen, it has been necessary to class
together those who differ rather widely in many of their opinions. Here,
I shall devote a few pages to three men only, partly because of their
prominence, and partly because it is instructive to call attention to the
contrast between them in their fundamental positions. I shall begin with

Kant held that the human reason issues "categorial imperatives," that is
to say, unconditional commands to act in certain ways. The motive for
moral action must not be the desire for pleasure, but solely the desire
to do right.

He makes his fundamental rule abstract and formal: "So act that you could
wish your maxim to be universal law." As no man could wish to be himself
neglected when in distress, this law compels him to be benevolent, and a
new form of the fundamental rule is developed: "Treat humanity, in
yourself or any other, as an end always, and never as a means." [Footnote:
_Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals_, Sec 2.]

Now Kant, although he maintains that it is not a man's duty to seek his
own happiness--a thing which natural inclination would prompt him to do--
by no means overlooks happiness altogether. He thinks that virtue and
happiness together constitute the whole and perfect good desired by
rational beings. The attainment of this good must be the supreme end of a
will morally determined. [Footnote: _Dialectic of the Pure Practical
Reason_, chapter ii.] We are morally bound to strive to be virtuous
ourselves and to make others happy.

Still, each man's happiness means much to him; and Kant, convinced that
virtue _ought_ to be rewarded with happiness, holds that our world
is a moral world, where God will reward the virtuous. If we do not assume
such a world, he claims, moral laws are reduced to idle dreams.
[Footnote: Ibid.]

Such utterances as the last may well lead the utilitarian to question
whether Kant was quite whole-hearted in his doctrine of the unconditional
commands of the practical reason of man. They appear to be not
independent of all consideration of human happiness.

I shall not ask whether Kant was consistent. Great men, like lesser men,
seldom are. But, in order that the contrast between his doctrine and
those of the two writers whom I shall next discuss may be brought out
clearly, I shall ask that the following points be kept well in mind:

(1) Kant was an out-and-out intuitionist. He goes directly to the
practical reason of man for an enunciation of the moral law.

(2) Moral rules of lesser generality, such as those touching benevolence,
justice and veracity, he traces to the practical reason, making them
independent of all considerations of expediency. Thus he defends the body
of moral truth accepted by so many of his fellow-moralists.

(3) His "practical reason" speaks directly to the individual. Kant looked
within, not without. We may call him an ethical individualist. Socrates,
when on trial for his life, listened for the voice of the divinity within
him. He needed no other.

137. HEGEL.--In strongest contrast to the individualism of Kant stands
the doctrine of Hegel. To the latter, duty consists in the realization of
the free reasonable will--but this will is identical in all individuals,
[Footnote: _The Philosophy of Right_, Sec 209] and its realization
reveals itself in the customs, laws and institutions of the state. From
this point of view the individual is an accidental thing; the ethical
order revealed in society is permanent, and has absolute authority. It is
true, however, that it is not something foreign to the individual; he is
conscious of it as his own being. In duty he finds his liberation.
[Footnote: _Ibid_., Sec Sec 145-149]

But what is a man's duty? "What a man ought to do," says Hegel,
[Footnote: _Ibid_., Sec 150] "what duties he should fulfill in order
to be virtuous, is in an ethical community easy to say--the man has only
to do what is presented, expressed and recognized in the established
relations in which he finds himself."

In other words, he ought to do just what his community prescribes! This
seems, taken quite literally, a startling doctrine.

It would be a wrong to Hegel to take him quite literally, for he
elsewhere [Footnote: _Ibid_., Introduction.] makes it plain that he
by no means approves of all the laws and customs that have obtained in
various societies. Still, he exalts the law of the state and regards any
opposition to it on the authority of private conviction as "stupendous
presumption." [Footnote: Op. _cit_., Sec 138.] This is a serious
rebuke to the reformer. The individual must, according to Hegel, look for
the moral law outside of himself--of himself as an individual, at least.
He must find it in the State.

138. NIETZSCHE.--Again a startling contrast: after Hegel, Nietzsche--the
voice of one crying in the wilderness, exquisitely, passionately, but
scarcely with articulate scientific utterance. A prophet of revolt and
emancipation; a cave-dweller, who would flee organized society and the
refinements of civilization; the rabid individualist, to whom the
community is the "herd," and common notions of right and wrong are
absurdities to be visited with scorn and denunciation. He makes a strong
appeal to young men, even after the years during which the carrying of
one's own latch-key is a source of elation. He appeals also to those
perennially young persons who never attain to the stature which befits
those who are to take a responsible share in the organized efforts of
communities of men.

With Nietzsche the man, his suffering life, and the melancholy eclipse of
his brilliant intellect, ethics as science is little concerned. In
Nietzsche the marvellous literary artist it can have no interest. These
things are the affair of literature and biography.

Here we are concerned only with his contribution to ethics. Just what
that has been it is more difficult to determine than would be the case in
a writer more systematic and scientific. But he makes it very clear that
he repudiates the morals which have been accepted heretofore by moralists
and communities of men generally.

He confesses himself an "immoralist." He despises man as he is, and hails
the "Superman," a creature inspired by the "will to have power" and free
from all moral prejudices, including that of sympathy with the weak and
the helpless.

"Full is the world of the superfluous," he sings in his famous dithyramb,
[Footnote: _Thus Spake Zarathustra, I, xi_. It is a pity to read
NIETZSCHE in any translation. His diction is exquisite. But those who can
only read him in English may be referred to the translations of his works
edited by LEVY. New York, 1911.] "marred is life by the many-too-
many."... "Many too many are born; for the superfluous ones was the State
devised."..."There, where the State ceaseth--there only commenceth the
man who is not superfluous."

Man, says Nietzsche, should regard himself as a "bridge" over which he
can pass to something higher. [Footnote: _Ibid._, Prologue, and I,
IV, XI, _et passim_.] Upon the fact that the Superman may have the
same reason for regarding himself as a "bridge" as the most commonplace
of mortals, and may begin anew with loathing and self-contempt, he does
not dwell. Yet, as long as progress is possible, man may always be
regarded as a "bridge." The reader of Nietzsche is tempted to believe
that hatred and contempt must always be the predominant emotions in the
mind of the "superior" man. Darwin, who knew much more about man and
nature than did our passionate poet, was still able to regard man as "the
crown and glory of the universe." Not so, Nietzsche.

Those who have read little in ethics are inclined to attribute to
Nietzsche a greater measure of originality than he can reasonably claim.
More than two milleniums before him, Plato conceived an ideal Republic in
which moral laws, as commonly accepted, were to be set aside. Marriage
was to be done away with; births were to be scientifically regulated;
children were to be taken from their mothers; sickly infants were to be
destroyed. In Sparta the committee of the elders did not permit the
promptings of sympathy and the cries of wounded maternal love to
influence the decision touching the life or death of the new-born.

Here was an attempt at bridge-building, but it was conceived as a
scientific matter, to be taken in hand by the State, and for the good of
the State. But Nietzsche would destroy the State. His Superman appears as
individualistic as a "rogue" elephant, a few passages to the contrary
notwithstanding. Are we to regard him as a mere lawless egoist, or as
something more? We are left in the dark. [Footnote: See the volume,
_Beyond Good and Evil,_ "What is Noble?" Sec 265.] But we note that
Nietzsche disagrees with most moralists, in that he refuses to regard
Caesar Borgia as a morbid growth. [Footnote: _Ibid., The Natural
History of Morals,_ Sec 197. DOSTOIEVSKY'S genius has portrayed for us
an admirable Superman in the person of the Russian convict Orloff. See
his _House of the Dead_, chapter v.]

The Superman has always been with us, in somewhat varying types. From
Alexander the Great to Napoleon, and before and after, he adorns the
pages of history. Attila, among others, may enter his claim to
consideration. It remains for the serious student of ethics to estimate
scientifically his value as an ethical ideal, and to judge how far this
type of character may profitably be taken as a pattern. Nietzsche stands
at the farthest possible remove from Hegel. Does he, as an individualist,
stand within hail of Kant? It scarcely seems so. When we examine Kant's
"practical reason," in other words, the moral law as it revealed itself
to Kant, we find that it had taken up into itself the moral development
of the ages preceding. Kant's practical reason, his conscience, to speak
plain English, was not the practical reason of, for example, Aristotle.
The latter could speak of a slave as an "animated tool," and could
believe there were men intended by nature for slavery. Kant could not. In
theory an individualist, the Sage of Konigsberg stands, in reality, not
far from Hegel. He does not break with the past. But Nietzsche is revolt





confidently the Ethics of Reason, or the Ethics of the Rational Social
Will, because there is so little in it that is really new. It only makes
articulate what we all know already, and strives to get rid of certain
exaggerations into which many men who reason, and who reason well, have
unwittingly fallen.

The fundamentals of the doctrine have been exhibited in Parts V and VI of
this volume, and the exaggerations alluded to have been treated in Part
VII. Hence, I may speak very briefly in indicating how the Ethics of
Reason finds a many-sided support in schools which appear, on the
surface, to be in the opposition.

It is evident, to begin with, that the Ethics of the Social Will cannot
dispense with Moral Intuitions, but must regard them as indispensable;
as, indeed, the very foundation of the moral life. That the individual
may, and if he is properly equipped for the task, ought, to examine
critically his own moral intuitions and those of the community in which
he finds himself, and should, with becoming modesty and hesitation, now
and then suggest an innovation, means no more than that he and the
community are not dead, but are living, and that progress is a
possibility, at least.

As for the Egoist, unless he is an absurd extremist, we must admit that
he says much that is worth listening to. Was not Bentham quite right in
maintaining that if all A's interests were committed to B, and all B's to
A, the world would get on very badly? A charity that begins at the planet
Mars would arrive nowhere. The Ethics of Reason has room for a very
careful consideration of the interests of the self. But it may object to
the position that the moral mathematician may regard as the only
important number the number One.

With the Utilitarian our doctrine need have, as we have seen, no quarrel.
Did not that learned, enlightened, and most fair-minded of utilitarians,
Sidgwick, ultimately resolve the happiness which men seek into anything
which may be the object of the mind in willing? Did not a critical
utilitarianism resolve itself into the doctrine of the Rational Social
Will? Why take less critical utilitarians as the only exponents of the
school? Besides, is there any reason why the social will should be blind
to the fact that men generally do desire to gain pleasure and to avoid
pain? It is only the exaggeration of this truth that we need to combat.

To Nature, properly understood, we can enter no objection. Who objects to
Perfection as a "counsel of perfection?" Can the Social Will object to a
man's striving to Realize his Capacities--under proper control, and with
a regard to others? The Pessimist is an unhealthy creature, and the
Social Will represents normal and healthy humanity. Here we have
disparity. But to Evolution our doctrine offers no opposition. It is only
by a process of development that the Actual Social Will has come to be
what it is; and the Rational Social Will looks to a further development
under the guidance of reason.

The fact is that thoughtful men belonging to different schools tend to
introduce into their statement of their doctrines modifying clauses; and
in the end we find them not as far apart as they seemed at the beginning.
The tendency is, I think, in the direction of the recognition of the
Rational Social Will. This doctrine belongs to nobody in particular; it
is the. common property of us all. It contains little that is startling.

140. ITS METHOD OF APPROACH TO PROBLEMS.---He who looks to the Rational
Social Will for guidance is given a compass which may be of no small
service to him. For example:

(1) He will see that moral phenomena are not to be isolated. He will
accept the historic order of society and judge man and his emotions and
actions in the light of it. He will never feel tempted to say, with
Bentham, that the pleasure which has its roots in malice, envy, cruelty,
"taken by itself, is good." [Footnote: _Principles of Morals and
Legislation,_ chapter x, Sec 10, note.]

He will simply say, it is pleasure. That it is, of course; but he will
maintain that nothing "taken by itself" is either good or bad, from the
moralist's point of view. The cruel man may will to see suffering, and
may enjoy it. The moral man may hold that the cruel man, his act of will,
and his pleasure, should all be snuffed out, in the interest of humanity,
as an unmitigated evil.

(2) The advocate of the Rational Social Will recognizes, as do many
adherents of other schools, that the social will, as expressed at any
given time, is only relatively rational; that men must live in their own
day and generation, although they can, to some degree, reach beyond them;
and that some differences of opinion as to the relative values of
virtues, and the goodness of characters, are to be expected.

(3) Furthermore, he is in a position to explain how a man may be
"subjectively" right and yet "objectively" wrong. The man's character may
be such that it is, on the whole, to be approved by the Rational Social
Will. He may be animated by the desire to adjust himself to that will.
And yet, the accident of ignorance, the accident of prejudice not
recognized by himself as such, may lead him to do what he thinks right
and what those more enlightened recognize to be wrong.

141. ITS SOLUTION OF CERTAIN DIFFICULTIES.--Perhaps it would be better
for me to give this section a heading more nearly like the last. I aim
only to give the reader a point of view from which he can approach the
problem of a solution.

Take the problem which has come up before in the form of the distribution
of pleasures. [Footnote: See Sec 109.] He who dwells, not so much upon
pleasure, as upon the satisfaction of desire and will, must state it
differently, but the problem is much the same. What degree of recognition
should be given to the will of each individual, or to the separate
volitions and desires in the life of the individual? Should everybody
count for one? Should every desire or group of desires receive
recognition? Is no distinction to be made in the intensity of desires?
And how many individuals shall we include in our reckoning?

Light seems to be shed upon this complicated problem or set of problems
when we hold clearly before ourselves what the task of reason is in
regulating the life of man individually and collectively. Its function is
to bring order out of chaos and strife; to substitute harmony and
planfulness for accident; to introduce long views in the place of
momentary impulses; to prevent the barter of permanent good for a mess of

Reason must accept the impulses and instincts of man as it finds them,
and do what it can with them. It cannot ignore them. Slowly,
civilizations, to some degree rational, have come into being. In so far
as they are rational, they are justified. Keeping all this in view we may
say, tentatively:

(a) The principle, "everybody to count for one, and nobody for more than
one," must be interpreted as an expression of the conviction that no will
should be _needlessly_ sacrificed.

Reason is bodiless, except as incorporated in human societies, and these
must have their historic development. Can we do away with the special
claims of family, of neighborhood, of the state? They have their place in
the historic rational order. But the whispered "everybody to count for
one" may help us to realize that such special claims cannot take the
place of all others.

(b) Shall a deliberate attempt be made to enlarge the circle of those who
are to share in the social will, not merely by diminishing the number of
deaths, but by promoting the number of births? States have attempted it
often enough. I can only say that, if this be attempted, it should not be
attempted in ways that ignore the historical development of society, with
its social and moral traditions.

(c) Why not justify our attitude toward the brutes by maintaining that
they have, theoretically, rights to recognition, in so far as such
recognition does not interfere with the rights of man in the rational
social order? The brutes outnumber us, to be sure. We are in a hopeless
minority. But were this minority sacrificed, there would be no rational
social order at all--no right, no wrong; nothing but the clash of wills
or impulses which reason now strives to harmonize as it can. [Footnote:
See chapter xxi]

(d) When we turn to the problem of the distribution of satisfactions in
the life of the individual, we find ready to hand a variety of unwise
saws--"A short life and a merry one," and the like.

How should the individual choose his satisfactions? Merely from the
standpoint of the individual? What is _desirable_? Not _desired_,
by this man or by that, but _desirable, reasonable_?

It is an open secret that the house of mirth lacks every convenience
demanded of a permanent residence, and that those who breathlessly pursue
pleasure are seldom pleased. Nor do men, when they stop to think, want
their lives to be very short.

And, in any case, this question of the distribution of satisfactions in
the life of the individual does not concern the individual alone. Is the
man who wants a short life and a merry one an "undesirable" from the
standpoint of the Rational Social Will? Then he should be suppressed. The
manner of distribution of even his own personal satisfactions is not his
affair exclusively. Every ordered society has its notions touching the
type of man which suits its ends.

(e) But shall we, in making up our minds about the "satisfaction on the
whole" which busies the rational individual or the rational community,
take no account at all of the intensity of pleasures and of pains, the
eagerness with which some things are desired and the feebleness of the
impulsion toward others? May not the intense thrill of a moment more than
counterbalance "four lukewarm hours?" Are we not, if we take such things
into consideration, back again face to face with something very like the
calculus of pleasures--that bugbear of the egoist and of the utilitarian?

It would be foolish to maintain that man, either individually or
collectively, places all desires upon the same level. No man of sense
holds that every desire should count as one. On the other hand, no man of
sense pretends to have any accurate unit of measurement by which he can
make unerring estimates of desirability.

Fortunately, he is not compelled to fall back upon such a unit. Even if
he was born yesterday, the race was not. He is born into a system of
values expressed in social organization and social institutions. It is
the resultant of innumerable expressions of preference on the part of
innumerable men. It is a general guide to what, on the whole, man wants.

It is, then, foolish for him to raise such questions as, whether it is
not better to aim at intense happiness on the part of the few, to the
utter ignoring of the mass of mankind. Such questions the Rational Social
Will has already answered in the negative.

142. THE CULTIVATION OF OUR CAPACITIES.--Finally, we may approach the
question whether it is reasonable to awake dormant desires, to call into
being new needs; which, satisfied, may be recognized as a good, but
which, unsatisfied, may result in unhappiness. [Footnote: Compare chapter
xxi, Sec 86.]

A little cup may be filled with what leaves a big one half empty. It is
easy to find grounds upon which to congratulate the "average" man. All
the world caters to him--ready-made clothing is measured to fit his
figure, and it is sold cheap; the average restaurant consults his taste
and his pocket; the average woman just suits him as a help-mate; he is
much at home with his neighbors, most of whom diverge little from the
average. Why strive to rise above the average--and fall into a divine

May one not say much the same of a community? Why should it strive to
attain to new conquests, to awaken in its members new wants and strain to
satisfy them? Does it seem self-evident that it is reasonable, in
general, to multiply desires with no guarantee of their satisfaction?

I know no way of approaching the solution of this problem save from the
standpoint of the Rational Social Will. We are confronted with the
general problem of the desirability of civilization, with all that that
implies. The life of man in some rather primitive societies has seemed in
certain respects rather idyllic. The eating of the fruit of the tree, and
the consequent opening of the eyes, has, time and again, seemed to result
in disaster.

But was the idyllic life not an accidental thing, due to a fortuitous
combination of circumstances, rather than to man's intelligent control of
a larger environment? Civilization of some sort seems inevitable. Have we
any other guarantee that we can make it, in the long run, rational, than
a many-sided development of man's capacities? And must we not exercise a
broad faith in the value of enlightenment, increase of knowledge,
farsightedness, the cultivation of complex emotions, even at the risk of
some waste of effort and some suffering to certain individuals?

Perhaps this is as good a place as any to say a word about the
significance of the terms "higher" and "lower," when used in a moral
sense. We have seen that John Stuart Mill made much of the distinction in
his utilitarianism. Bentham appears to sin against the enlightened moral
judgment in holding that, quantities of pleasure being the same, "push-
pin is as good as poetry."

When we realize that the worth of things may be determined from the
standpoint of the Rational Social Will, we can easily understand that
some occupations and their accompanying pleasures should be rated higher
than others, however satisfactory the latter may seem to certain
individuals. It is not unreasonable to rate the pleasure of scientific
discovery as higher than the pleasure of swallowing an oyster; and that,
without following Bentham in falling back upon a quantitative standard,
or following Mill in maintaining that pleasures, as pleasures, differ in
kind. [Footnote: See chapter xxv, Sec 107.]



143. DUTIES AND VIRTUES.--We saw, at the very beginning of this volume
[Footnote: Chapter i, Sec 2.] that a single moral law, so abstractly stated
as to cover the whole sphere of conduct, must be something so vague and
indeterminate as to be practically useless as a guide to action. The
admonition, "do right," does not mean anything in particular to the man
who is not already well instructed as to what, in detail, constitutes
right action. Nor do we make ourselves more intelligible, when we say to
him "be good."

It seems to mean something more when we say "act justly" or "be just";
"speak the truth," or "be truthful." And the more we particularize, the
more we help the individual confronted with concrete problems--the only
problems with which life actually confronts us.

This is as it should be. Duties and virtues are expressions of the
Rational Social Will, and that will is a mere abstraction except as it is
incorporated, with a wealth of detail, in human societies. It would be
hard for the small boy to classify, under any ten commandments, the
innumerable company of the "don'ts" which he hears from his mother during
the course of a week. He can leave such work to the moralist. But he is
receiving an education in the moral law, as an expression of the social
will, through the whole seven days.

If we wish, we can emphasize the _moral law_, and dwell upon the
_duties_ of man. On the other hand, we may lay stress upon the
_virtues_, and point to _ideals_. The Greek made much of the
virtues; the Christian moralist had more to say of man's duties. In the
end, there need be little discrepancy in the results. I make the same
recommendation, whether I say to a man, Speak the truth! or whether I say
to him, Be truthful!

It may be claimed that shades of difference make themselves apparent,
where one emphasizes the law and another points to an ideal. Perhaps they
do, in most minds. It certainly sounds more conceited to say: "I am
trying to be virtuous," than to say: "I am trying to do my duty." On the
other hand, the admonition, "Be truthful," appears to leave one a little
latitude. We take the truthful man, so to speak, in the lump. If he has a
strong bias toward truth-speaking, and is felt to be reliable, on the
whole, it is not certain that we should rob him of his title on the
ground of one or two lapses for which weighty reasons could be urged. The
admonition: "Speak the truth!" seems more uncompromising; and yet he who
prefers this legal form may maintain that it is a general admonition
addressed to men of sense who are supposed to be able to exercise reason.

144. THE NEGATIVE ASPECT OF THE MORAL LAW.--Why does the Moral Law, on
the surface at least, appear to be so largely negative? As we look back
upon our early youth, our days appear to be punctuated with punishments.
When we attain to years of discretion, this is not the case, with most of
us, at least.

But when we turn to the law, in our own society or in others, we find
prohibitions and penalties everywhere. Of rewards little is said. Is the
social will meant to be chiefly inhibitory? Is it a check to the action
of the individual?

(1) The negative aspect of the moral law is, to a considerable degree, an
illusion. The social will takes us up into itself and forms us. In our
early youth we are acutely conscious of the process. A vast number of the
things a boy wants to do are things that do not suit the social will at
all. He wants to break windows; he wants to fight other boys; he wants to
be idle; his delight is in adventures not normally within the reach of,
or suited to the taste of, the citizens of an ordered state. It is little
wonder that the boy regards the moral law as a nuisance and the state as
a suitable refuge for those suffering from senile decay.

There are individuals who scarcely get beyond this stage. They remain,
even in their later years, at war with the state. From time to time, we
seize them and incarcerate them. That the law _forbids_ and
_punishes_, they never forget. It is chiefly for such that the
criminal law exists. They are in the state, but they are not of it. They
have small share in the heritage of the civilized man.

For most of us there comes a time when most prohibitions are little
thought of. It has been maintained, that the law is negative partly for
the reason that positive duties are too numerous to be formulated. But
how numerous are the things that ought not to be done which normal men
never think of doing! At this moment, I could swallow a pen, taste the
ink in the ink-well, throw my papers from the window, hurl the porcelain
jar on the chimney-piece at the cat next door, swing on the chandelier. I
am conscious of no constraint in not doing these things. Why? I have
become to some degree adjusted to the type which the social will strives
to produce.

(2) And, having become so far adjusted, I recognize that the social will
is distributing rewards most lavishly. The whole organism of society is
its instrument. Work is found for me, and I am paid for it. If I am
industrious and dependable, I am recompensed. If I am truthful, I am
believed, which is no little convenience. If I am energetic and
persevering, I may grow rich or be elected to office. If I am courteous,
I am liked and am treated with courtesy.

Every day I am paid, in the ordinary course of things, according to my
deserts. Why should society work out an extraordinary system of rewards
for those whom it is already rewarding automatically?

In some cases, recourse is had to extraordinary rewards. We give prizes
to children in the schools; we give medals to soldiers for distinguished
service; we confer honorary degrees upon men for a variety of reasons. In
monarchical countries and in their colonies, the man who earns an
extraordinary reward may even pass it on, in the shape of a title, to his
descendants, as though it were original sin. But the giving of
extraordinary rewards to all ordinary, normal persons would be too much.

The man who markedly offends against the moral law is not an ordinary,
normal person. He is not adjusted to the social will. It is natural that
he should attract especial attention. Thus the "Thou shalt not!" is given
prominence. To this I might add, that punishments are cheaper and easier
than extraordinary rewards. Pains are sharper than pleasures, and are
easily inflicted.

(3) It is worthy of remark that, with the evolution of morality, it tends
to become positive. The enlightened moral man recognizes, not merely the
actual social will, but also the Rational Social Will. He may feel it his
duty to do much more than society formally demands of him.

145. HOW CAN ONE KNOW THE MORAL LAW?--This question has already been
answered in chapters preceding. Every man has three counsellors: (1) The
"objective" morality of his community--custom, law, and public opinion,
which certainly deserve to be taken very seriously; (2) his moral
intuitions, which may be of the finest; and (3) his reason, which
prevents him from making decisions without reflection.

Can a man who listens to these three counsellors be sure that he is right
in a given decision? The sooner a man learns that he is not infallible
and impeccable, the better it will be for him, for his neighbor, and for
the world at large.



146. GOOD AND BAD; RIGHT AND WRONG.--As a rule, men reflect little
touching the moral terms which are on their lips every day. It is well
worth while to take some of them up and to turn them over for

We may use the terms "good" and "bad," "right" and "wrong," in a very
broad sense. A "good" trick may be a contemptible action; the "right" way
to crack a bank-safe may be the means to the successful commission of a
crime. Evidently, the words, thus used, are not employed in a moral

When we pass judgments from the moral point of view, we concern ourselves
with men and with their actions, and measure them by the standard of the
social will. Men and actions are "good," when they can meet the test.
Actions are "right" or "wrong," when they are in accordance with the
dictates of the moral law, or are at variance with them. That an act may
be both right and wrong, when viewed from different standpoints, even on
moral ground, we have seen in Chapter XXX. A man may mean to do right,
and may, through ignorance or error, be guilty of an act that we condemn.
To the intelligent, confusions are here unnecessary. But the history of
ethics is full of confusions in just this field.

147. DUTY AND OBLIGATION.--Verbal usage sometimes justifies the use of
one of these words, and sometimes that of the other. We say: I did my
duty; we do not say: I did my obligation. But this is a mere matter of
verbal expression, and we are really concerned with two names for the
same thing.

(1) There has been much dispute as to whether the sense of duty or moral
obligation can or cannot be analyzed. It has been declared unanalyzable
and unique. Some think this a point of much importance which imparts a
peculiar sacredness to the sense of duty.

There appears no reason why this position should be taken. No one has
been able to analyze into its ultimate sensational elements the peculiar
feeling one has when one is tickled. But this does not make the feeling
sacred or awe-inspiring. The authority of the sense of duty must be
looked for in another direction--and authority it has.

(2) I have spoken of the "sense" of duty. We all recognize that, when we
are faced with a duty, a feeling is normally present. But the whole
argument of this volume has maintained that man is not to be treated only
as the subject of emotions. He is a rational being. In some persons
feeling is very prominent; in others it is less so. It is quite
conceivable that, in a given case, a man capable of reflection should
recognize that he is confronted with a duty, and yet that he should feel
no impulse to perform it. Did no one ever feel any such impulse, the
whole system of duties, the whole rational order of society itself, would
dissolve and disappear.

Fortunately, the normal man does feel an impulse to perform duties
recognized as such. And in the case of those exceptional persons who do
not, society strives to supply surrogates, extraordinary impulses based
upon a system of rewards and punishments. This is a mere supplement, and
could never keep alive a society from which the sense of duty had

Duty _is_ sacred. It is the very foundation of every rational
society. It does not greatly concern ethics whether the impulse, which
makes itself felt in men who want to do their duty, can or cannot be
analyzed. But it is all-important that they should feel the impulse.

(3) Can a man do more than his duty? Is it the duty of everyone to be,
not merely a good, average, honest, faithful, law-abiding citizen, but to
go far beyond this and be conspicuously a saint?

It should be remembered that we are concerned with the connotation
properly to be given to a word in common use.

A certain amount of goodness the social will appears to demand of men
rather peremptorily. Its demands seem to vary somewhat with the
exigencies of the times--for example, in peace and in war. It does not
make the same demands of all men. From those to whom much has been given--
wealth, education, social or political influence,--much is required.
From certain persons it appears to be glad to get anything. If they keep
out of the police-court, it is agreeably surprised.

I have no desire to dissuade anyone from the arduous pursuit of
sainthood; but I submit that the word "duty," as sanctioned by usage,
implies but a limited demand, and takes cognizance of character and
environment. He who comes up to this moderate standard is not condemned;
but he is free to go farther and to become as great a saint as he
pleases. In which case, we admire him. Those who, in the past, have
spoken of "counsels of perfection," have drawn upon a profound knowledge
of human nature and of human societies.

148. REWARD AND PUNISHMENT.--We saw in the last chapter (Sec 144) that it
is something of a criticism upon man and upon societies of men that
extraordinary rewards have to be given and that punishments must be

More attention has been paid to punishments than to rewards, and the
question touching the proper aim of punishment in a civilized state has
received much discussion. The study of the history of the infliction of
punishment is suggestive, but it does not shed a clear light. The social
will has not always been a rational social will, and some of its
decisions may be placed among the curiosities of literature. Still, they
may serve the purpose of the traditional "terrible example."

Should we, in punishing, aim at the prevention of crime? Are punishments
to be "deterrent"? Under this head we must consider, not merely the
criminal himself, but also those who are in more or less danger of
becoming criminals, though they have, as yet, committed no known crime.

Should the aim of punishment be the reformation of the criminal?

Should we punish merely that "justice" be done? He who steals and eats
fruit is visited with punishment, in the course of nature, if the fruit
is unripe. But he suffers equally if he eats his own fruit, under like
conditions. This seems a blind punishment. Should we visit pain upon him
for the theft, merely because it is a theft, and without looking abroad
for any other reason?

Light appears to be thrown upon these problems when we reflect that
punishment is an instrument, employed by the Rational Social Will, in
pursuance of its ends.

(1) It is desirable that men should be deterred from committing crime. If
this cannot be done save by the infliction of punishment, then let men be
punished. But be it remembered that punishment is a regrettable
necessity, and that the occasions for the infliction of penalties may
greatly be diminished by the amelioration of the organism of society.
There is the born criminal, as there is the born inmate of an asylum for
the insane. But there is also the manufactured criminal; the product of
the slum, the victim of ignorance, the prey of the walking-delegate, the
sufferer from over-work and undernourishment, the inhabitant of the
filthy and overcrowded tenement, the man robbed of his self-respect, who
has no share in the sweetness and light of civilization. A society that
first manufactures criminals and then expends great sums in punishing
them is, in so far, not rational.

(2) It is desirable that the criminal should be reformed and returned to
society as a normal man. But this is not the one and only aim of the
social will. The whole flock should not be sacrificed to the one black
sheep, as some sentimental persons appear to believe. There is room here
for the exercise of judgment and of some cool calculation.

(3) As for the demand that a given pain shall be inflicted for a given
wrong done, irrespective of any gain to anybody, and irrespective of
consequences,--it appears to carry one back to ancient and primitive law.

Undoubtedly many punishments have been inflicted in the past to satisfy
the sense of resentment. [Footnote: It may be objected that we are not
concerned here with resentment but with the satisfaction of "justice."
Men's notions of the "justice" of punishments have been touched upon in
chapter ii, Sec 4. Plato suggests, in his Laws, that the slave who steals a
bunch of grapes should receive a blow for every grape in the bunch. This
has an agreeably mathematical flavor of exactitude. But what shall be
done to the man who steals half of a ham or a third of a watermelon?]
Undoubtedly the same is true of the present. Can anything be said in
favor of this impulse? It plays no small part in the life of humanity.

We feel that a bad man _ought_ to be punished. We harbor a certain
resentment against him. The resentment of the individual for personal
injuries we recognize to be wrong. It is not impartial, and it is apt to
be excessive and unreasoning. Public order demands that it be refused

But is the--we must admit, somewhat more disinterested--resentment of the
community a rational thing? Have men, collectively, no whims, no
prejudices? When a trial is deferred, and public indignation has cooled
off, how do the chances of the prisoner compare with those he enjoyed
just after the commission of the crime? And yet something may be said for
public resentment. It has a certain driving-power. It may be questioned
whether either our desire to deter men from crime, or our benevolent
interest in the criminal, would be quite sufficient to enforce law, if
all sense of resentment against the law-breaker were lacking. Its
usefulness as an instrument of the social will appears to give it a
certain justification. But it also suggests that even public resentment
should not be given free rein.

Before leaving the subject of reward and punishment, it may be well to
say a word touching our use of the terms _credit_ and _discredit_, _merit_
and _demerit_.

We do not give a man credit for an action, we do not think of him as
meritorious, merely because he has done right. Who thinks of praising the
young mother for feeding and washing her first-born? Who shakes the hand
of the Sunday-school teacher and congratulates him upon having stolen
nothing for a week? But the waif from the gutter who wanders through a
department-store and resolutely takes nothing, emerging exhausted with
the struggle, we slap upon the back and call a little man.

Our notions of credit and merit are bound up with our notions of
extraordinary rewards. The creditable action, the meritorious man, have a
certain claim upon us, if only the claim of special recognition. Any man
who makes a notable step forward deserves credit, whatever his actual
position upon the moral scale. He who only "marks time" upon a relatively
high level may be a good man, but we do not give him credit for the act
normally to be expected of him. The recognition of merit is a part of the
machinery of moralization.

149. VIRTUES AND VICES.--One swallow, said Aristotle, does not make a
spring, nor does one happy day make a happy life. Elsewhere he draws our
attention to the fact that one good action does not constitute a virtue.

We may define the virtues as those relatively permanent qualities of
character which it is desirable, from the moral point of view, that a man
should have. The vices are the corresponding defects. I shall not attempt
to draw up a list of the virtues. For a variety of lists, exhibiting
curious and interesting diversities, I refer the reader back to Chapter
III, Sec Sec 9-11.

The Rational Social Will aims to build up a social order which shall do
justice to the fundamental impulses and desires of man, a social and
rational creature. The stones which it must build into its edifice are
human beings. If the human beings are mere lumps of soft clay, incapable
of holding their shape or of bearing any weight, the walls cannot rise.
And a human being may be satisfactory in one respect, and far from
satisfactory in another. No one of us is wholly ignorant of the qualities
desirable in our building-material. Custom, law and public opinion are
there to indicate what qualities have, in fact, proved, on the whole, not
detrimental. Our intuitions help us in forming a judgment. Rational
reflection is of service.

But one thing is very evident. Nowhere is it made clearer than in the
study of the virtues and vices, that the moralist cannot consider the
phenomena, with which he occupies himself, in a state of isolation.

Is courage a virtue? Is, then, the man who is willing to take the risk of
breaking a bank, or holding up a stage-coach, in so far virtuous? Is
perseverance a virtue? Is, then, the woman, who holds out to the bitter
end in her desire to have the last word, in so far virtuous? Is justice a
virtue? Then why not be virtuous in demanding the pound of flesh, if it
is the law--as it once was?

Certain qualities of character have been recognized as, _on the
whole_, and _generally_, serviceable to the social will. But a
man is not a quality of character, and qualities of character are
sometimes gathered into strange bundles. It is of men that the state is
composed; of thinking, feeling men. We cannot isolate qualities of
character, and assess their value in their isolation.

150. CONSCIENCE.--We are all forced to recognize that conscience has its
dual aspect. It is characterized by _feeling_; and the feeling is
seldom blind, or, at least, wholly blind; conscience implies a
_judgment_ that something is right or wrong.

(1) The feeling is, to be sure, very often in the foreground. Those who
say, "My conscience tells me that this is wrong," often mean little more
than, "I feel that it is wrong."

But the word "feeling" is an ambiguous one. It is used to cover all sorts
of intuitive judgments as well as mere emotions. The man who takes the
time to reflect upon his feeling of the rightness or wrongness of an
action can often discover some, perhaps rather vague, reason for his
feeling proper.

(2) In other words, he may come upon an intuitive judgment. And the
thoughtful man who talks about his conscience is rarely satisfied with a
blind intuition; he wants to be sure he is right, and he thinks the whole
matter over.

(3) The feeling and the judgment are not necessarily in accord. The
feeling may lag behind an enlightened judgment. On the other hand, the
feeling of repugnance to acting in certain ways may be a justifiable
protest against a bit of intellectual sophistry.

(4) So much ought to be admitted by everyone who holds that conscience
may be blunted or may be enlightened. Consciences vary indefinitely. Some
we set down as hopelessly below the average; others we reverence as
refined and enlightened. The social worker makes it his aim to "awaken"
conscience, to cultivate it, to bring it up to a high standard. No
practical moralist regards the conscience of the individual as something
which must simply be left to itself and treated as sacred, no matter what
its character.

(5) The above sufficiently explains some of the puzzles which confront
the man who reverences conscience and yet studies the consciences of his
fellow-men. He finds that the individual conscience is not an infallible
guide-post pointing to right action; that it is not a perfect time-
keeper, in complete accord with the watches of other men.

"It's a turrible thing to have killed the wrong man," said the
conscience-stricken illicit distiller in his mountain fastness. "I never
seen good come o' goodness yet; him as strikes first is my fancy," said
the dying pirate in "Treasure Island." Augustine, passing over much worse
offences, exhausts himself in agonies of remorse over a boyish prank.
[Footnote: See chapter xx, Sec 78.] Seneca draws up a list of the most
horrifying crimes, and decides that ingratitude exceeds them all in
enormity. [Footnote: _On Benefits_, i, 10.]

(6) It appears to be quite evident that consciences ought to be
standardized, and that the standard should be made a high one. The true
standard is the one set by the Rational Social Will. It is as much a duty
to have a good conscience as it is to obey the conscience one has.



151. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM?--Men collected into groups and organized
in various ways we call states, and we treat a state as a unit. We look
upon it as having rights and as owing duties both to individuals and to
other states. There are individuals whom we are apt to regard as
representatives of the state; as instruments, rather than as men--
executive officers, legislators, official interpreters of its laws,
whether good or bad. For states and their representatives we often have
especial moral standards, differing more or less from those by which we
judge human beings merely as human beings. It is with the morality of the
latter that I am here concerned.

To be sure, all human beings are to be found in states, or in that
rudimentary social something which foreshadows the state. To talk of the
morality of the isolated individual is nonsense. Morality is the
expression of the social will; and if we think of even Robinson Crusoe as
a good man, it means that we apply to him social standards. Had he not
been moralized, he would have killed and eaten Friday, when the latter
made his appearance.

We must, then, take the individual as we find him in the state, but it is
convenient to consider his morality separately from the ethics of the
state, its institutions and its instruments.

152. THE VIRTUES OF THE INDIVIDUAL.--What moral traits have we a right to
look for in the individual man? What sort of a man is it his duty to be?

Evidently, men's duties must vary somewhat according to the type of the
society to which they belong, and to their definite place in that
society. Still, certain general desirable traits of character unavoidably
suggest themselves. To attempt a complete list seems futile, but the most
salient have been dwelt upon by the moralists of many schools, and for
centuries past.

Does it not appear self-evident that a man should be law-abiding, honest,
industrious, truthful, and capable of unselfishness? Should he not have a
regard for his health and efficiency? Should he not aim to develop his
capacities, and in so far to diminish the dead mass of ignorance and bad
taste which weighs down society?

Of marital fidelity, with all that that implies--personal purity, the
good of one's children, a fine sense of loyalty--it is scarcely necessary
to speak. No man, betrothed or married, can be sure that he will not meet
tomorrow some woman whom the unprejudiced would judge to be more
attractive than the one to whom he has bound himself. Shall he remain
unprejudiced--a floating mine, ready to explode at any accidental
contact? Away with him! He has, in the eyes of the scientific moralist,
"too much ego in his cosmos." Those babble of "affinities" who know
little, and care less, about the long and arduous ascent up which mankind
has toiled, in the effort to attain to civilization.

And what shall we say of such things as religious duties, of
cheerfulness, of good manners, of personal cleanliness? Of religious
duties I shall speak elsewhere. [Footnote: Chapter xxxvi.] As to
cheerfulness and good manners, it is only necessary to reflect upon the
baleful influence exercised upon the young--who have here my entire
sympathy--by a bilious and depressing piety, or by those who are rudely
and superciliously moral.

Cleanliness deserves some special attention, on account of the fact that
it has perplexed even thoughtful scholars to discover why society has
come to regard it as a duty at all. [Footnote: The chapter on cleanliness
by Epictetus is a homily, and not a philosophic argument. See,
_Discourses_, Book IV, chapter xi.] That, if society does regard
cleanliness as important, it should be the duty of the individual to keep
himself and his house clean presents no problem. He has no right to make
himself gratuitously offensive, and gratuitously offensive he will be, if
he is a dirty fellow. But why does anyone object to his being a dirty
fellow? The prejudice in favor of cleanliness does not appear to be
universal--witness the Eskimo and various other peoples.

We have learned that the social will has its foundation in the
fundamental impulses and instincts of man. An admirable scholar has
suggested that the ultimate root of the regard for cleanliness which more
or less characterizes civilized societies may be traced to some such
primitive and inexplicable impulse to cleanliness as we observe, for
example, in the cat. [Footnote: WESTERMARCK, _Origin and Development of
the Moral Ideas_, chapter xxxix.] It must be admitted that it is far
more marked in the cat than in the human being. A kitten is much more
fastidious than is a baby, and a grown cat would tolerate no powder or

But, assuming that such an instinct exists, even in weak measure, it
might easily develop with the development of society. And, as man is a
rational being, capable of discovering a connection between cleanliness
and hygiene, the duty of cleanliness would acquire a new authority. Dirt
becomes no longer merely distasteful; it is recognized as a danger.

153. CONVENTIONAL MORALITY.--There are virtues--taking the traits of
character indicated by the names broadly and loosely, and making
allowance for all sorts of variations within wide limits--which appear to
be recognized as such very generally. Bishop Butler regarded justice,
veracity and regard to common good as valued in all societies. Certainly
they have served as expressions of the social will in many societies,
ancient and modern, primitive and highly civilized.

We have seen that the forms under which they appear are not independent
of the degree and kind of the development of the society we may happen to
be contemplating. [Footnote: See chapter ii.] And we have realized that
man is born into a world of ready-made duties which are literally forced
upon his attention. He finds himself a member of a family, somebody's
neighbor, a resident in a town or village, allotted to a social class, an
employer or an employee, a citizen of a state. Justice, veracity and a
regard for common good appear to have their value in all these relations;
but the manner of their interpretation is not independent of the
relations, and the relations with their appropriate demands are
relatively independent of the individual will. One cannot ignore these
demands and fall back, independently, upon metaphysical theory.
Aristotle's claim that a man cannot be unjust to his own child, because
the child is a part of himself, and a man cannot be unjust to himself,
[Footnote: _Ethics_, Book V, chapter vi, Sec 7.] excites our
curiosity. It does not elicit our approval.

It is because the vast majority of our duties are so unequivocally thrust
upon us that I have been able to touch so lightly, in the last section,
upon the duties of the individual. Why dilate upon what everybody knows?
Is it not enough to set him thinking about it?

And, in helping him to think, the reference to the virtue of cleanliness
has its value. Cleanliness is prized by those who know little of hygiene.
If a society cannot be happy without cleanliness, for whatever reason, is
it not the duty of the individual to be clean? But _how_ clean
should he be?

There are virtues--I use the word here broadly to cover approved habits--
which seem to have a very direct reference to chronology and geography.
They are _conventional virtues_; they suit a given society, and
satisfy its actual social will. A Vermont housekeeper in an _igloo_
would be an intolerable nuisance. Imagine an unbroken succession of New
England house-cleanings with the inhabitants of the house sitting in
despair in the snow outside.

Those who live north of the Alps are sometimes criticized for dipping
Zwieback into their tea. Those who live south of the Alps eat macaroni in
ways revolting to other nations. A very pretty Frenchwoman, devouring
snails after the approved fashion of the locality, has driven me out of
an excellent restaurant. And the world opens its eyes in wonder when it
sees the well-bred Anglo-Saxon dispose of his asparagus.

There is a little-recognized virtue called toleration. St. Ambrose was a
wise man when he advised St. Augustine to do, when in Rome, as the Romans
do. Of course, he did not mean this to apply to robbery or to murder. He
was giving an involuntary recognition to the doctrine that there are
conventional virtues, worthy of our notice, as well as virtues of heavier
caliber and wider range.



154. THE AIM OF THE STATE.--He who has resolved to devote but a single
chapter to the Ethics of the State must deliberately sacrifice nine-
tenths, at least, of the material--some of it very good material, and
some of it most curious and interesting--which has heaped itself together
on his hands in the course of his reading and thinking. I have resolved
to write only the one chapter. The State is the background of the
individual, the scaffold which supports his moral life. Without it, he
may be a being; but he is scarcely recognizable as a _human_ being.
It has made the individual what he is, and it is the medium in which he
can give expression to the nature which he now possesses.

Plato maintains that the object of the constitution of the state is the
happiness of the whole, not of any part. [Footnote: _Republic_, II.
It must be borne in mind that both Plato and Aristotle had the Greek
prejudice touching citizenship. Their "citizenship" was enjoyed by a
strictly limited class.] Aristotle, in his "Politics," maintains that it
is the aim of the state to enable men to live well. Sidgwick defines
politics as "the theory of what ought to be (in human affairs) as far as
this depends on the common action of societies of men." [Footnote: _The
Methods of Ethics_, chapter ii.] We may agree with all three, and yet
leave ourselves much latitude in determining the nature of the
organization of, and the limits properly to be set to the activities of,
the State as such. Shall the State only strive to repress grave
disorders? or shall it take a paternal interest in its citizens, making
them virtuous and happy in spite of themselves?

155. ITS ORIGIN AND AUTHORITY.--In Parts III to VI we have seen how and
upon what basis the State has grown up. It is an organism, something that
lives and grows. It is not a machine, deliberately put together at a
definite time by some man or some group of men. The "social contract"
fanatic may have read history, but he has not understood it. Of
psychology he has no comprehension at all.

Herodotus, at some of whose stories we smile, was a wiser man. He writes:
"It appears certain to me, by a great variety of proofs, that Cambyses
was raving mad; he would not else have set himself to make a mock of holy
rites and long-established usages. For, if one were to offer men to
choose out of all the customs in the world such as seemed to them the
best, they would examine the whole number, and end by preferring their
own; so convinced are they that their own usages far surpass those of all
others." [Footnote: _The History of Herodotus_, Book III, chapter
xxxviii, translated by GEORGE RAWLINSON, London, 1910.]

This may be something of an over-statement, for men in one state have
shown themselves to be, within limits, capable of learning from men in
another. But only within limits. Those things which give a state
stability--and without stability we are tossed upon the waves of mere
anarchy--have their roots in the remote past. Strip a man of his past,
and he is little better than an idiot; strip men within the State of
their corporate institutions and ideals, of their loyalties and emotional
leanings, and we have on our hands a mob of savages, something much below
the tribe proper, knit into unity of purpose by custom and tribal law.

The State has its origin in man as a creature desiring and willing, and
at the same time endowed with reason. Its authority is the authority of
reason. Not reason in the abstract, with no ground to stand upon, and no
material for its exercise; but reason as incorporate in institutions and
social usages; reason which takes cognizance of the nature of man, and
recognizes what man has already succeeded in doing.

Where shall we look for a limit to the authority of the State? Surely,
only in the Reason which makes it possible for the State to be. The State
must not defeat its own object.

156. FORMS OF ORGANIZATION.--The special science of politics enters in
detail into the forms of organization of the State. The ethical
philosopher must content himself with certain general reflections.
Everyone knows that States have been organized in divers ways; and that
their citizens, under much the same form of political organization, have
been here happy and contented, and there in a state of ferment. The form
of government counts for something; but its suitability to the population
governed, and the degree of enlightenment and discipline characteristic
of the population, count for much more. It is not every shoe that fits
every foot, and there are feet that are little at home in shoes of any

Monarchies of many sorts, aristocracies, oligarchies, democracies, even
communisms, have been tried; and all, save the last, have managed to hold
their own with some degree of success.

It is easy to bring objections against each form of government, just as
it is easy to say something specious in its favor.

Are the eldest sons of a few families peculiarly fitted by nature to be
governors of the State? Look at history, and wake up to common sense. Of
the divine right of kings I shall not speak, for the adherents of the
doctrine are in our day relegated to museums of antiquities. And have the
members of aristocracies been carefully bred with a view to their
intellectual and moral superiority, as we breed fine varieties of horses
and dogs? Have those who have had their share in oligarchies been
peculiarly wise and peculiarly devoted to the common good? The communist
makes two fatal mistakes. He shuts his eyes to history, and he overlooks
the fact that there is such a thing as human nature.

There remains democracy. Of this, Herodotus, already quoted as a man of
sense, has his opinion. He makes a shrewd Persian, in a political crisis,
thus address his fellow-conspirators:

"There is nothing so void of understanding, nothing so full of
wantonness, as the unwieldy rabble. It were folly not to be borne, for
men, while seeking to escape the wantonness of a tyrant, to give
themselves up to the wantonness of a rude unbridled mob. The tyrant, in
all his doings, at least knows what he is about, but a mob is altogether
devoid of knowledge; for how should there be any knowledge in a rabble,
untaught, and with no natural sense of what is right and fit? It rushes
wildly into state affairs with all the fury of a stream swollen in the
winter, and confuses everything. Let the enemies of the Persians be ruled
by democracies; but let us choose out from the citizens a certain number
of the worthiest, and put the government into their hands." [Footnote:
_Op. cit._ Book III, chapter lxxxi.]

To be sure, we, who belong to a modern, enlightened democracy, would
resent being called "a rude unbridled mob," and being likened to the
populace of ancient Persia. But those of us who reflect recognize the
dangers that lurk in the "psychology of the crowd"; and we are all aware
that, after a popular vote, it is quite possible to discover that few,
except a handful of office-holders, have gotten anything that they really
want. Democracy is not a panacea for all political evils, and there are
democracies of many kinds.

Still, when all is said, it seems as though the Rational Social Will, the
ultimate arbiter of every moral State, should give its authority to a
democratic form of government, rather than to another form. Every
individual will has a _prima facie_ claim to recognition.

But the Rational Social Will can never forget that human nature is in
process of development, and that each nation, at a given time, is a
historical phenomenon. The Rational Social Will is too enlightened to
drape an infant in the raiment appropriate to a college graduate. It is
only an intemperate enthusiasm that is capable of that.

157. THE LAWS OF THE STATE.--The State allots to individuals, and to the
lesser groups of human beings, of which it is composed, _rights_,
and it prescribes to them _duties_. Upon its activities in this
sphere I can touch only by way of illustration, and for the sake of
making clear the nature of the functions of the State.

(1) To whom shall the State grant a share in the formulation and
execution of its laws? Once, in communities very enlightened, in their
own peculiar way, women, children, slaves, mechanics, petty traders, and
hired servants were deemed quite unfit to be entrusted with such
responsibilities. [Footnote: See ARISTOTLE'S _Politics_.]

With us, the position of woman has changed. Slavery, in a technical
sense, has been abolished. The mechanic and the petty trader are much in
evidence at "primaries." Hired servants are by some accused of being
tyrants. Children, and defectives who are grossly and palpably defective,
we bar from elections, and we also reject some criminals.

The times have changed, and our notions of the right of the individual to
an active share in the State have changed with them. The expression of
the social will has undergone modification, and I think we can say that
it is, on the whole, modification in the right direction.

To be sure, the court of last resort is the _Rational_ Social Will.
What is best for the State, and, hence, for those who compose it? What is
practicable in the actual condition in which a given state finds itself
at a given time? It seems too easy a solution of our problems to seek
dogmatic answers to our questionings by having recourse to the "natural
light," that ready oracle of the philosopher, Descartes.

(2) There are certain classes of rights which civilized states generally
guarantee to their citizens with varying degrees of success. They make it
the duty of their citizens to respect these rights in others.

(a) The laws protect life and limb. Much progress has been made in this
respect in the last centuries past. I own no coat of mail; and, when I
walk abroad, I neither carry a sword nor surround myself with armed

(b) They protect private property. To be sure, the "promoter" may prey
upon my simplicity; and the state itself does not recognize that I have
any absolute right to my property, any more than it recognizes that I
have an absolute right to my life.

It may send me into the trenches. It may take from me what it will in the
form of taxes. It may even forbid me to increase my income by using my
property in ways which will make me insupportable to my neighbors. But it
will not allow my neighbor, who is stronger than I, to take possession of
my house without form of law. It will even allow me to dispose of my
property by will, after my death.

I suggest that those, to whom this right appears to be rooted in the very
nature of things, and not to be a creation of the State, called into
being at the behest of the social will in a certain stage of its
development, should read and re-read what Sir Henry Maine has to say
about testamentary succession, in his wonderful little book on "Ancient
Law." [Footnote: See chapters vi and vii.]

The State has not always treated a man as an individual, directly and
personally responsible to the state. It has treated him as a member of a
family or some other group; a being endowed, by virtue of his position,
with certain rights, and burdened with certain duties. A being who, when
he drops out of being, is automatically replaced by someone else who is
clothed upon with both his rights and his responsibilities.

Our conceptions have changed. The lesser groups within the State have to
some degree lost their cohesion, and the bond between the individual, as
such, and the state has been correspondingly strengthened. But many
traces of the old conception make themselves apparent. The law compels me
to provide for my wife and children; and, if I die intestate, the law by
no means assumes that my property is left without a claimant.

Have we been moving in the right direction, as judged by the standard of
the Rational Social Will? We think so. But it is well to bear in mind
what Herodotus said about the madness of Cambyses, and the prejudice men
have in favor of their own customs. No state is a mere aggregate of
unrelated individuals. Men are set in families, and the State seems to be
composed of groups within groups. How far the State should recognize the
will of the individual, as over against the claims of the lesser groups
to which he may belong, is a nice question for the Rational Social Will
to settle.

(c) The law must regulate marriage and divorce. Matters so vital to the
interests of society cannot be left at the mercy of the egoistic whims of
the individual. But to what law shall we have recourse? It seems highly
irrational to have forty-eight independent authorities upon this subject
within the limits of a single nation. And, if we turn the matter over to
the churches, we discover that we have committed it to the care of one
hundred and eighty, or more, sects. Add to this, that a state of any sort
cannot be set upon its feet without some difficulty, while any
enterprising man or woman can call a sect into existence any day. There
is a new adherent for sectarian eccentricities born every minute. Surely,
here is a field for the activities of the Rational Social Will.

(d) To paternalism of some sort the modern State, as law-giver, seems
hopelessly pledged. If we ignore this we are simply closing our eyes. The
State seems to be justified in educating its citizens, in protecting
children and women against exploitation, in protecting the working
classes, in stamping out infectious diseases. We are not even allowed to
expectorate when and where we will, a privilege enjoyed by the merest

(e) In one respect the paternalism of our own State has lagged behind
that of certain others. We do little to secure to a man a decent privacy,
or to safeguard his personal dignity. The newspaper reporter is allowed
to rage unchecked, to unearth scandals in private families, and to cause
great pain by printing the names of individuals.

I have known, in Europe, a man, after a difference of opinion touching
the ventilation of a railway carriage, to break a window with his elbow
and to apply to his fellow-passenger an offensive epithet. The court made
him pay a dollar and a half for breaking the window and six dollars for
giving himself the pleasure of being insulting.

Which was the greater offense? Herodotus would expect this question to be
answered in accordance with the prejudices of the person giving the

158. THE RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF THE STATE.--The State evidently has rights
over its citizens, and may enforce these rights through the infliction of
punishment. It as evidently has duties. A given state may not be
answerable to any actual given power. Our own State is in such a position
at the present time--there is no other state strong enough to call it to

But this does not free it from duties. No state is anything more than a
brute force, except as it incorporates, in some measure, the Rational
Social Will. And states that fall far short, as judged by this standard,
may overstep their rights and ignore their duties, whether they are
dealing with individuals or with other states.

In punishing, the State should punish rationally. [Footnote: See chapter
xxxii, Sec 148.] And it should not demand of its subjects what will degrade
them as moral beings. "We all recognize," said a pure and candid soul,
"that a rightful sovereign may command his subjects to do what is wrong,
and that it is then their duty to disobey him." [Footnote: Sidgwick,
_Methods of Ethics_, III, vi.]

But how discover what demands are just? It is the whole argument of this
volume that no man should venture an opinion upon this subject without
having come to some appreciation of what is meant by the Rational Social
Will. Man, his instincts, the degree of his intelligence and self-
control, the history of the development of human societies, cannot be
ignored. It is the weakness of good men, endowed with a high degree of
speculative intelligence, to construct Utopias, and to tabulate the
"rights of man," or, as Bentham well expressed it, to make lists of
"anarchical fallacies." [Footnote: See _Works_, Bowring's Edition,
Volume II.] Thus, some may, with Plato and Aristotle, advocate
infanticide. The Greek city-state was a crowded little affair, and in
danger of over-population. Some may propose radical measures to increase
the population. To France and Argentina, in our day, such an increase
appears highly desirable. May any and every method be embraced which
seems adapted to avert a given evil or to attain to a desired end? It is
instructive to note that Francis Galton, the father of "eugenics,"
proposed to leave morals out of the question as "involving too many
hopeless difficulties." [Footnote: Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition,
article, "Sociology."] But do men live well who leave morals out of the

The man who falls back upon intuition alone, in his advocacy of the
abolition of capital punishment, may be expected to maintain next that a
state, in going to war, should stop short at the point where the lives of
its citizens are put in jeopardy. Why kill a good man, when it is wrong
to kill a bad one?

It must be admitted that the State and its representatives enjoy some
rights and duties not accorded to individuals. The State may condemn men
to death or to imprisonment; it may take over property; it may make
itself a compulsory arbiter between individuals. On the other hand, its
representatives are not always as free as are private persons. The
individual, if he is a generous soul, may freely forego some of his
advantages and may seek only a fair fight with an opponent. It is
doubtful whether the duty the State owes to its citizens permits of
chivalry. Certainly strong states do not hesitate to attack weak ones;
nor do many hesitate to combine against one, on the score of fair play.
And a private man may temper justice with mercy in ways forbidden to a



159. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM.--I am almost tempted to avoid the
discussion of this thorny subject by simply referring the reader to what
has been said already on "The Spread of the Community," and developed in
the chapters on "The Rational Social Will" and "The Individual and the
Social Will." [Footnote: See Sec 75 and chapters xxi-xxii.]

He who confines himself to generalities avoids many difficulties and can
assure himself of the approval of many. Who, condemns justice and
humanity in the abstract? Who can wax eloquent in his condemnation of
freedom? Who finds the Christian Church on his side, when he advocates
rapacity and the oppression of the helpless, without entering into

On the other hand, who wishes to view his country with a cold
impartiality, and to place its interests exactly on a par with the
interests of other lands? Who, save the Chinaman himself, thinks it as
important that a Chinaman should have enough to eat as that an American
or an Englishman should? Was not the turpitude, that excluded the
Chinaman from Australia, traced to the two deadly sins of undue diligence
and sobriety? [Footnote: Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, article,
"Australia."] As for freedom, men of certain nations regard it as the
highest virtue to be willing to die for it--their own freedom, be it
understood,--while they regard the same desire for freedom on the part of
their colonists as a moral obliquity to be extirpated, root and branch.

That the historian and the sociologist should find much to say touching
the relation of nations to each other and to subject peoples goes without
saying. But the cynic may maintain with some plausibility that the
moralist's chapter on International Ethics must be as void of content as
the traditional chapter on "Snakes in Ireland." In this the cynic is
wrong, as usual; but it is instructive to listen to him, if only that we
may intelligently refute him.

It is not always easy for an individual to determine just what he owes to
his family, to his neighbors, or to his country. Is it surprising that it
should be difficult for men to determine just what one country, or what
one race, owes to another? This is the subject of international ethics.
He who treads upon this ground should walk gingerly, and not feel too
sure of himself. But there is no reason why the moralist should not put
upon paper such reflections as occur to him. He cannot say anything more
devoid of reason than much that is said by others.

The great Grotius, in writing on international law, in the seventeenth
century, drew his illustrations chiefly from Greeks and Romans long dead.
He had much more recent material ready to hand. But he well knew that he,
who would induce another to give him calm and dispassionate attention,
must not begin by treading on the toes of his listener. I shall strive to
profit by his example. It is best to say only what each man can apply to
his neighbor. We are all sensitive in this field.

160. OUR METHOD OF APPROACH TO THE SUBJECT--We have seen (Sec 80) that
rational elements are to be found even in the irrational will, if one
will look below the surface.

Is it rational for the mother to place before all else the interests of
the hairless, toothless and, apparently, mindless little creature that
she clasps to her breast? The very existence of society depends upon her
having the feeling that prompts her to do it. Is it rational to favor
one's neighbor, to be proud of one's native town, which may be a poor
sort of a town? Is it rational to be patriotic, even when one's state is
not much of a state?

We have seen that the Rational Social Will incorporates itself in
societies very gradually, and that it draws into its service lesser
groups of many descriptions. He who detaches himself from these lesser
groups is not a man. He is the mere outline of a man--the "featherless
biped" of the philosopher. It is not of such that a state can be made.

It is the duty of the state to prevent a man from shrinking into being
the mere member of some lesser group, but it is not its duty to
obliterate what is human in him. And the Rational Social Will must see to
it that he does not, on the other hand, forget, in a blind and irrational
patriotism, that he is a human being with a capacity for human
sympathies--sympathies extending far beyond the limits of any state.
Except when they are under the influence of strong passion, I think we
may say that men in civilized states, at least, have already shown
themselves amenable to the influence of the Rational Social Will in this
direction. It must be confessed that that influence has, as yet, been

The approach to the subject of international ethics must lie in the
recognition that men are set in families, in neighborhoods, in towns or
cities, in states; and are yet human beings with a capacity for
respecting and loving those who belong to none of these particular
organizations. My advice to the man who wishes to abuse his fellow-man is
to do it quickly, and before he is acquainted with him. If he gets to
know him well, he will probably find something lovable in him, and he
will lose the pleasure of being malicious.

161. SOME PROBLEMS OF INTERNATIONAL ETHICS.--The man who reads history
finds, sometimes, things to inspire him; and sometimes, things that are
depressing. He sees that the family must expand into the clan, that the
clan must come into contact with others, that the state must rise, and
that some interrelation of states is an inevitable necessity. He sees
that man's increase in insight, in diligence, in enterprise, must make
him reach out and trade with his fellow-man.

He sees also conquest, with the subjugation of peoples; he sees trade
extended by force, and under the smoke of cannon; he sees a peaceful
economic penetration, which ends in protectorates and annexations, in
defiance of the will of those who do not want to be either protected or

What is rational is real, and what is real is rational, said Hegel.
[Footnote: _The Philosophy of Right_, Preface, and see Sec Sec 351 and
347.] He further maintained that civilized nations may treat as
barbarians peoples who are behind them in the "essential elements of the
state"; and also that, in a given epoch, a given nation is dominant, and
"other existing nations are void of right."

Hegel has long been dead, and is turned to dust. He always was as dry as
dust, even when he was alive, but he was a great man. But the famous
Englishman, Sir Thomas More, wrote more engagingly; and does he not tell
us, in his "Utopia," that any nation's holding unused a piece of ground
needed for the nourishment of other people is a just cause of war?

Such doctrines should be most comforting to us Americans. They appear to
teach us that we are, at present, the chosen people; that the rights of
other peoples are as the rights of the Hivites, the Hittites, and all the
rest; that we are justified in taking what we please, for who is there to
withstand us?

Yet ethical Americans shake their heads over such philosophies, and some
of them even speak slightingly of philosophers. This, in spite of the
fact that great men seldom talk pure nonsense, except when carried away
by excitement, as all men may be, at times. If what they say sounds to us
wholly unmeaning, it is probable that we have not fully understood the
voice that speaks within them. What can be said in their defense? and
what can be said in, at least, partial defence of the actual historical
procedure of the nations? They have not been wholly composed of
criminals, and they must possess at least the rudiments of a moral sense.

(1) We have seen that the state maintains its right as against those who
belong to it by controlling, not by destroying, the lesser groups which
exist within the state. Such a control appears to be demanded by the
Rational Social Will, but it often frustrates the will of the individual.

(2) We have seen that the spread of the community is inevitable, and
that, in the interests of rationality, it is desirable.

(3) We have seen that, even in the family, all the members are not
equally free agents. The small boy is not consulted touching the amount
of his punishment, nor can he dictate where it shall be laid on. And the
state does not give to all the individuals in it equal political rights,
nor guarantee to them an equal share of influence. This is desirable, on
the whole, in the interests of the whole, but grave abuses may easily
come into being.

(4) We have seen that the greater whole guarantees to individuals rights,
and assigns to them duties. In so far as it is rational, it cannot do
this arbitrarily. To have recourse to metaphysical abstractions is
futile. Shall we say, without hedging, that a man has a right to the
fruits of his labor, or that first occupation gives a right to the soil?
Then, shall the man who is too weak to work be refused a right to the
ownership of a coat? Or must the discoverer of a continent prove a real
occupancy, by performing the ridiculous task of the abnormal center of
the mythical mathematical infinite circle, by being everywhere at the
same time?

(5) We have seen that the human community, taking the words in a broad
sense, will spread, and already has spread, beyond the limits of several
nationalities. It is in the interest of human society that it should do
so. It is rational, in the sense of the word everywhere used in this
book. But the nations continue to exist, and they often cultivate
selfishly national interests. So do families cultivate selfishly family
interests. So does the egoist selfishly dig about and fertilize the
number One.

(6) It requires little acuteness to see that some communities of men are
miserable exponents of the social will. They are deplorably governed.
Read Slatin's fascinating book, "Fire and Sword in the Soudan,"--it is
better than any novel,--and ask yourself what becomes of the social will
or of rationality of any sort under the rule of a Mahdi. Is it not the
duty of the nations to combine and to relieve suffering humanity?

(7) There are theorists who maintain that, in the nature of things, the
soil belongs to nobody. We find, in the actual state of things, it
usually belongs to somebody, unless it is so poor that it is not worth
owning at all. But it may belong to somebody who can make little more use
of it than an infant can of a gold watch. A handful of Indians, wandering
over a great tract of country in which they chase game in the intervals
of time during which they chase and scalp one another, may have an
immemorial, although unrecorded, title to the land.

Shall they be permitted to keep back settlers from more or less civilized
and densely populated countries? Settlers eager to cultivate the land and
to make it support many, where before it supported few, and supported
those few miserably?

And shall the natural resources of great regions of the earth be
permitted to lie fallow merely because the actual inhabitants are too
ignorant and too indolent to want to produce anything and to trade? He
who finds his happiness in idleness, bananas, and black wives who can be
beaten with impunity, has little interest in international traffic, with
such blessings as it is supposed to bring.

The world is filling up. The losses due to war and pestilence, said no
less an authority than Darwin, are soon made up. There is something
terrifying in what the very modern science of geography has to tell us
about the rapidity with which the remaining part of the earth's surface,
available for the nourishment of man, is being exhausted. What problems
will face the Rational Social Will in the none too distant future?

162. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SHIELD.--We have seen that something can be
said for the philosopher. The Rational Social Will does not appear to
give carte blanche to the man who wishes to remain ignorant, idle, cut
off from the family of the nations, the possessor of great tracts of land
which he will not develop, the cruel oppressor of such as he finds within
his power. It tends to deal with him, wherever it finds him, as an
enlightened nation treats the idle, the vicious and the irresponsible
within its own borders.

Undoubtedly civilization has made some advance in the course of the
centuries. When the world is at peace, the stranger is not normally an
outlaw. I have sojourned in the cities of many of the nations of Europe
and have made excursions into Africa and Asia. Nowhere have I been
compelled to ask for the protection of an American consul. It has been
recognized that I had rights, although an American. And the ability to
sign my name has procured me a supply of money.

Notwithstanding all this, it is depressing to read of the dealings of the
nations with each other, and with backward peoples--who have been well
defined as peoples who possess gold-mines, but no efficient navy. Is it
not generally taken for granted that it is the duty of more powerful and
more enlightened nations to take the backward nations in hand, to exploit
their resources, and, incidentally, to exploit _them_?

Not that international law has not counted for something. To be sure
Hegel reduced it to the level of "a good intention," [Footnote: _The
Philosophy of Right_, Sec Sec 330-333.] but it has counted for something.
Descartes and Spinoza could, with impunity, be heretics in little
Holland. Switzerland has for centuries been the refuge of the oppressed.
But we cannot forget that our highest authority, Captain Mahan, declared,
in 1889, that certain rights of neutrals were "forever secured,"
[Footnote: _The Influence of Sea Power upon History_, Boston, 1908,
chapter ii, p. 84.] and he has since stood revealed as a false prophet, a
mere man making a guess. International law is a capital thing--when it is
not put under a strain, and when no nation is too powerful.

The depressing thing is that rapacity and oppression become glorified,
when the cloak of patriotism is thrown over their shoulders. I drew my
illustrations in the last section from wild Indians and from African
savages. But there are nations in all stages of their development. How
"backward" must a nation be to give us the right to rule over it by
force? No people were more ingenious than the ancient Romans in finding
plausible reasons for the wars which it pleased them to wage. This has
never been a lost art. Men's enemies are, like the absent, always in the
wrong; and those are apt to become enemies, in whose defeat some
substantial advantage is to be looked for.

163. THE SOLUTION.--The very title seems a presumption. Who may dogmatize
in matters so involved? I make no pretentions to giving a clear vision of
"yonder shining light," but I venture to hint at the general direction in
which one is to seek the little wicket gate.

The only ethical solution of our problem appears to lie in the frank
recognition of the fact that the groups of men, called nations, may be as
brutal egoists as are individual persons, and in the earnest attempt to
avoid the baleful influence of such egoism.

Man _is_ his brother's keeper. But that does not give him the right
to keep his brother in chains, nor to use him for selfish ends. This is
as true of nations as it is of individuals, of families, of religious
orders, or of unions, whether of employers or of employees.

It is certainly true of nations. It is only as having a place in, and as
being an instrument of, the great organism of humanity aimed at by the
Rational Social Will, that the individual, the family, the tribe, the
nation, have any ethical justification for being at all. Sometimes it is
very profitable for the individual, or for some group of human beings, to
disallow this obligation to be moral. We treat the individual as a
robber; why not admit that there are robber nations?

I feel like reiterating that it is a great thing to be young; to live in
that Golden Age in which one still believes what one sees in print, and
still is moved by the honeyed words of statesmen. When one is old, and
has enjoyed some breadth of culture, one has read the newspapers of many
lands, and has met a certain number of statesmen, usually with a start of

It is borne in upon one--a matter touched upon in the last chapter--that
it appears to be generally accepted that the state and its
representatives may adopt a peculiar variety of ethics. Certainly
statesmen feel justified in doing for their country what they, as
gentlemen, would never dream of doing for themselves. They talk of
justice, when they would scoff at such justice within the borders of
their own states; they talk of humanity, and they have in mind the
economic advantage of their own peoples; they speak of protection and
Christianization, when they mean economic exploitation or strategic
superiority. As for truth, the less said about that subject the better.

I know of only one way in which the determination of a nation to aid in
the general realization of the Rational Social Will can be tested. Does
it, in dealing with other nations, civilized or backward, propose what is
palpably to its own advantage, or is it evidently disinterested? It is
thus that we judge a man, when we wish to fix his ethical status; it is
thus that the Rational Social Will judges a nation. The language in which
the proposals are made is a matter of no moment. It may fairly be called
professional slang, and can quickly be acquired, even by men of mediocre
intelligence, in any diplomatic circle.

164. THE NECESSITY FOR CAUTION.--Shall a man, then, eschew patriotism,
and become a citizen of the world, as though he were a Stoic philosopher?
By no means. As well eschew the family or the neighborhood. But let him
not, in his patriotism, forget that he is a man. Here, as everywhere, he
is called upon to exercise judgment. This is a burden which he can never
throw off. He must pay the penalty of being a rational human being. As an
instrument of the Rational Social Will the state must be kept up. It is
his duty to see that it is done. His cat has an easier task; she may
sleep her life away in peace.

We hear much of the brotherhood of man and of artificial barriers. The
barriers are not all artificial, and they cannot be swept away with a

Races and peoples are formed upon the model of their own immemorial past.
They have their institutions, their traditions, their loyalties, their
standards of living. What is tolerable to one man is wholly intolerable
to another. To compel men to live together in intimacy, when centuries of
training have made them antipathetic, is sheer cruelty.

Men may be brothers, but there are big brothers and little brothers. I do
not refer to physical bulk. I refer to the development of intelligence,
to the degree and kind of culture, which has been attained. There are
little brothers still at the stage of development at which it is natural
for human beings to drool. Shall we have them sit up to the table and
serve them with the complete dinner, enlivening it with intellectual

Between incontinently doing this, and relegating the little brothers to a
nursery where they will be treated with cruelty and starved in our
interests, some persons seem to think there is no middle course. In their
enthusiasm for humanity, they forget that the brotherhood of man may be
made as ridiculous as the eight-hour day. Between eight hours of the
creative work of a Milton and eight hours of the dawdling done by a lazy
housemaid, there is no relation save that both may be measured by a

These enthusiasts forget much. Men are not alike; they do not want to be
alike; they do not want to live together in close intimacy, when they
have little in common; they reverence different things; as a rule, they
would rather be somewhat unhappy after their own fashion, than be happy
under compulsion, after the fashion of someone else.

We have, thus, on the one hand, the enthusiasts who would at once sound
the trump and announce the millenium, feeding the lion and the sucking
calf out of the same dish and on the same meat. We have, on the other,
those who are eager to take on their shoulders the white man's burden--to
enclose in a coop, as if they were chickens, the greater part of the
human race, allaying the discontent of the imprisoned by pointing out to
them that, although their freedom of movement is limited, they are
growing fat, and that they should show their gratitude by laying eggs.

Surely, there must be some middle course. Patience and caution are
virtues. Surely, it is possible to accept the existing organism of
society, to love one's country, and yet to strive to respect the freedom
of others. It is not easy for a true patriot to do this, but it seems to
be what the Rational Social Will demands of him.

The moralist who reads history carefully is not wholly discouraged. He
may look forward to some time, in the more or less distant future, when
there may be a union of the nations in the interests of all men; when the
gross egoism of the hypertrophied patriot may be curbed; when the
mellifluous language of the statesman may mean more than did the pious
letter which Nero wrote to the Roman Senate, after he had murdered his



165. SCIENCES THAT CONCERN THE MORALIST.--There are certain sciences that
the Moralist must lay under contribution very directly, and yet he seems
to be able to make little return to those who cultivate them, at least in
their professional capacity.

He must ask aid from the biologist, the psychologist, the anthropologist.
They help him to a comprehension of what man is; and, hence, of what it
is desirable that man should strive to do. But these men seldom come to
the moralist for advice. They appear to be able to work without his help.

There are, however, other sciences in which the moralist feels that he
has more of a right to meddle, however independent they may regard

Take, for example, politics or economics, or the very modern and
rudimentary science of eugenics. The man who cultivates political science
may know much more than do most moralists about states and their forms of
organization; about legislative, executive and judicial functions; about
the probable effects of the centralization or decentralization of
authority; about what may be expected, in a given case, from a
restriction or extension of the franchise; about the creation and
maintenance of a military establishment and the building up of an
efficient civil service. The economist may be a monster of learning and a
master in ingenuity on all problems touching the creation and
distribution of wealth.

But the political scientist and the economist, however able, share our
common humanity. A man's outlook is more or less apt to be bounded by the
limits of the science of his predilection. The several sciences, broader
or more specialized, rest, in the minds of most men, upon foundations
which are taken for granted. It is too much to expect that every sermon
should begin as far back as the Garden of Eden. "Practical" politics and
economics do not, as a rule, go so far back.

The transition from practical politics and economics to ethical problems
may be made at any time. No man was shrewder than Machiavelli, and the
moral sense of mankind has rebelled against him and made him a byword. A
state, desirous of maintaining itself, may palpably violate in its
institutions, inherited from the past, a social will grown more rational,
more conscious of its rights and more articulate. Then the appeal is made
to right and justice in other than the traditional forms. It may, in a
given instance, be wrong to create wealth; existing forms of its
distribution may be iniquitous. The ultimate arbiter in all such matters
must be the Ethical Man.

Human society is indefinitely complex. Many specialists must occupy
themselves with its problems. A technical question in this field may
always be carried over to moral ground. He who undertakes to make this
transition without having made a fairly thorough study of ethics appears
to be working in the dark. His assumptions have been questioned, or have
been abandoned. Who shall furnish him with a new basis for his special

Ethics is a basal science. It justifies, or it refuses to justify, those
specialists who concern themselves with men in societies. It is a very
old science and has interested men vastly. I have spoken above of
eugenics as a new science. Only in its modern form is it new. Plato
cultivated it intemperately when he wrote his "Republic"--but he saw that
his "Republic" would not do, and he wrote his "Laws." He stood condemned
by Ethics.

Usually men who occupy themselves seriously, and in a broad way, with man
in society, have adopted, consciously or unconsciously, some ethical
doctrine. But this is often done without due consideration, and without a
sufficient knowledge of what has been said by the great thinkers of the
past. It is for this reason that I have treated at such length in this
volume of the schools of the moralists.

166. ETHICS AND PHILOSOPHY.--It should be observed that in developing the
Ethics of the Rational Social Will, or the Ethics of Reason--the doctrine
advocated in this volume--I have not depended upon a particular

I see no reason why a Realist or an Idealist, a Monist or a Dualist, one
who holds to an immediate perception of an external world or one who
regards our acquaintance with it as a matter of inference, should refuse
to go with me so far. Nor do I see any reason why a believer in God, one
who bows at the shrine of Mind-Stuff, or one who refuses to commit
himself at all upon such matters, should enter a demurrer. The
Parallelist and the Interactionist, however widely they differ touching
the relation of mind and body, may here fall upon one another's necks and
shed tears of brotherly affection.

That it is proper for the philosopher to interest himself in ethics, I
have maintained. [Footnote: See chapter vi, Sec 18.] He is supposed to be a
critical and reflective man, and to take broad views of human affairs.
Such views are needed when one comes to the study of ethics.

I am forced to admit that some philosophers, when they have written on
ethical subjects, have said certain things to which the critical moralist
cannot readily assent. He who maintains that certain human intuitions--
which it may even appear impossible to reconcile with each other--are
inexplicably and infallibly authoritative, seems to leave us without so
much as the hope of ever attaining to ultimate rationality. [Footnote:
See chapter xxiii.]

And there are philosophers who would persuade us that, unless we accept
all the religious or theological doctrines which have appeared to them
acceptable, we rob man of every incentive for being moral at all. If God
is not going to repay him with interest for the pains which he gives
himself, does he not play the part of a dupe in being good? We have seen
that this was palpably the position of Paley. [Footnote: Chapter xxiv, Sec
96.] If God will not reconcile, ultimately, benevolence and self-
interest, proclaimed Reid, man "is reduced to this miserable dilemma,
whether it is best to be a fool or a knave." [Footnote: _Essays on the
Active Powers of Man_, Essay III, Part III, chapter viii. It would be
absurd to believe that either Paley or Reid lived down to the level of
his doctrine. Both were very decent men, and capable of
disinterestedness.] Some of the utterances of Kant and of Green seem to
point in the same direction, but both have made it abundantly plain that
they, personally, and whatever their intellectual perplexities, were
moved by something much higher than egoism. [Footnote: See chapters xxiv,
Sec 97; xxvi, 3; and xxix.]

I mean to say very little about philosophy in this volume. I wish to keep
to ethics, a science old enough and strong enough to stand upon its own
feet. But it would be wrong not to underline one or two points in this
connection, if only to obviate misunderstanding:

(1) There is nothing wrong in a man's wishing to earn the heaven in which
he believes. It is not wrong for him to wish to be happy on earth and in
the body. But if the desire for his own happiness, either here or
hereafter, is the _only_ motive that can move him, he is not a good
man. Prudence may be a virtue, generally speaking; but it is no
substitute for benevolence. The man who is _only_ prudent is no fit
member of any society of rational beings anywhere.

(2) Men are often better than their words would indicate. Paley talks as
if he were a cad; Reid flounders; Kant, noble as are many of his
utterances, sometimes gives forth an uncertain sound. Yet no one of these
men was personally selfish.

And yet all of these men assumed that morality is endangered unless there
is a God to repay men for being good. Why did they insist so strenuously
upon this, and incorporate it into their philosophy? We must, I think, go
beneath the surface to find the real reason; and when we have discovered
it, we cannot regard them in an unfavorable light.

They felt, I believe, that good men _ought_ to be made happy; that
this is rational, if anything is. So far, they are quite in accord with
the doctrine of the Rational Social Will. And they saw no other way of
guaranteeing a complete rationality than in holding to a theistic

(3) This means that their real motives were not selfish and personal.
This is admirably brought out when we turn to Green. It is too much to
expect that many of my readers have read his "Prolegomena to Ethics,"
which is repetitious, tedious, and rather vague, though it is inspired by
a fine spirit and has the great merit of having influenced, directly or
indirectly, a number of able writers to produce excellent works on
ethics. [Footnote: I need only to refer to the text-books by Muirhead,
Mackenzie, Dewey and Fite.]

Green dwells, with infinite repetition, upon the presence in man "of a
principle not natural," which is identical in all men, and which, in
some way that he does not explain, holds the world of our experiences
together, being itself not in time or in space. The disciple of Paley or
Reid or Kant will search his pages in vain for any indication that this
"principle" performs or can perform any of the functions of the God
believed in by the above-mentioned philosophers. Nevertheless, it is the
source of an ardent inspiration to Green, who relieves the baldness of
the appellation "principle," by calling it, sometimes, "self-
consciousness," sometimes, "reason." It does not appear to promise Green
anything, so his devotion to it may be regarded as disinterested.
However, he owes to it inspiration.

Philosophers find their inspiration in very different directions. The
philosopher, as such, sometimes rather objects to the word, "God."
[Footnote: See chapter xxvi, Sec 123, note.] But he may feel much as men
generally feel toward God, when he contemplates his "Conscious
Principle," or his "Idea," or the "Substance" which he conceives as the
identity of thought and extension, or, for that matter, "Mind-Stuff" or
the "Unknowable." That other men may not see that he has anything in
particular to be inspired about, or that he can hope for anything in
particular for himself or for other men, does not rob him of his
inspiration, and that may affect his life deeply.

It is, hence, not a matter of no importance to ethics what manner of
philosophy it pleases a man to elect. One's outlook upon the great world
may repress or may stimulate ethical strivings, may narrow or may broaden
the ethical horizon. It is something to feel, even rather blindly, that
one has a Cause. For myself, I think it is better to have a Cause that
seems worth while, even when rather impartially looked at. But, of this,
more in the next section.

(4) Whatever one thinks of such matters, it is well to come back to the
fact that, nevertheless, ethics stands upon its own feet. Even if Paley,
and Reid, and Kant, and Green, and many others, are in the wrong, the
doctrine of the Rational Social Will stands sure. It is wrong to be
selfish; it is wrong to be untruthful; it is wrong to be unjust. It is
wrong for individuals, and it is wrong for nations. The man, or the group
of men, that does wrong, is irrational. It stands condemned.

167. ETHICS AND RELIGION.--I regret having to speak, in this book, about
religion at all, just as I regret having to refer to the philosophers.
But it would be folly to omit all reference to religious duties. They
have played quite too important a part in the life of the family, of the
tribe, of the state; and that not merely here and there, but everywhere,
in societies of all degrees of development, in recent centuries and in
times of a hoary antiquity. Those interested in the classics have read
the remarkable little book, "The Ancient City," by Fustel de Coulanges.
As schoolboys we were brought up on the pious Aeneas. All Christians have
some knowledge of the theocratic state of the Hebrews, and we know
something of the history of Christian Europe. The anthropologist gives us
masses of information touching the religious duties of all sorts and
conditions of men.

There are those who rid themselves easily of the problem of religious
duties. They simply deny that there are any. And there are those--the
classes overlap--who easily shuffle off duties to the family and to the
state. They regard it as their function to ignore and to destroy.

(1) I cannot think the matter is so simple. There always have been
religious duties generally recognized, as a matter of fact. The boldest
and most gifted of thinkers, who have not hesitated to call into being
Utopian schemes for an ideal state, such men as Plato and More, have
thought that the ideal state must have a religion. And the modern
scientist has gravely raised the question whether the state can maintain
itself, if all religious beliefs, with their inspirations and their
restraints, die out. [Footnote: McDougall, _Social Psychology_,
chapter xiii.]

The moralist, who accepts religious duties, has a difficult task. It is
not enough for him to say that men have religious duties "in general,"
just as it is not enough for him to say that they have political duties
"in general." On the other hand it would be the height of presumption for
him to endeavor to tell every man what he should do in detail. He does
not feel it his duty to tell every man whom he should marry, or for whom
he should vote at each election. Still, it does seem as though the
moralist ought to do more than tell a man vaguely that he has religious

(2) Why not follow the analogy suggested by duties to the family, the
neighborhood, the state?

States have their religions, sometimes unequivocally and unmistakably,
and sometimes not so palpably. The religion of a people has, as a rule,
its roots far back in the history of that people. Its religion has
influenced in many subtle ways its institutions, its emotions, its
habits, its whole outlook upon life.

Even where, as with us, state and church have been, in theory, wholly
sundered, there has been no question, up to the present, of the
disappearance of a religion. The United States has been regarded as a
Christian nation, inspired by ideals and addicted to customs only
explicable by a Christian past.

The fact that it is so is somewhat obscured to us. For this there are two
causes. The first is, that the American, who is a freeman, possesses and
exercises a fatal ingenuity in the creation of a multitude of sects out
of practically nothing. Still, most of these sects have more in common
than some of their adherents suppose. They spring, as a rule, from a
Christian root. The second is, that our land has been the goal of the
greatest migration ever recorded in human history. Most of those who have
come to us have, so far, come from nations in some sense Christian, but
they have brought with them very diverse traditions, and some appear to
object to traditions altogether.

Nevertheless, I think we may be called a Christian nation, and if we
follow the analogy above suggested--that of the relations of men to the
state and to lesser organisms within the state--it would appear that it
is the duty of an American to recognize himself as a Christian rather
than as a Mahometan or a Pagan. If he does recognize this, he will feel
himself under certain obligations which are independent of his personal
tastes and proclivities.

(3) For one thing, he will recognize that a religion is not a thing to be
stripped off and drawn on as one changes a suit of clothes.

A woman may regret that her infant has red hair. She will not, on that
account, as a rule, exchange him surreptitiously for another. Men do not
commonly repudiate their fathers because they are not rich or are growing
old. A good citizen may regret that his country has seen fit to enter
into a given war, but he will not, therefore, give aid or comfort to the

He who is capable of lightly repudiating his religion resembles the man
who is capable of discarding his wife, when he sees the first grey hair.
Those who do such things are apt to be men who fill their whole field of
vision with their rights, and can find no place there for their duties.
Nor should it be overlooked that the man, who is capable of lightly
discarding his wife, is the man as capable of supplying her place with a
worse. Even so, he who easily throws off his religion is usually the man
who easily replaces it with some superstition, scientific or merely
whimsical, at which other men wonder.

Men lament sometimes over the fact that the task of the foreign
missionary is a hard one. Were it really an easy one, there would be no
stability in human societies, for there would be no stability in human
nature. The man of light credulity is the man who easily takes on new
faiths; not the man to whom tradition and loyalty mean something.

(4) It seems to follow, as a corollary, that the religion in which a man
has been brought up has the first claim upon him. I accept this without

But this does not mean that the claim is in all cases final and valid.

There may be cases in which it seems to be the duty of a man to leave his
wife, to disinherit a child, to transfer his allegiance from one state to
another. Such cases are recognized as justifiable by men who are
thoughtful and disinterested. But the same men also recognize that, were
such disruptions of the bonds which unite men in communities the rule and
not the exception, it would mean the destruction of the community.
Similarly, it may become the duty of a man to transfer his allegiance
from one church to another.

Are not religions, rationally compared, of different values? Have there
not been religions indisputably on a moral level lower than that of the
community which they represent? Undoubtedly.

And there have been governments so bad that the only refuge has seemed to
lie in revolution. It should be remembered, however, that revolutions can
be resorted to too lightly; and that evolution, where possible, is
preferable to revolution, whether in things secular or in things
religious. It is always easier to tear down than it is to build up. Nor
does anyone, save the anarchist, tear down through wanton love of
destruction. Even he is apt to feel called upon to give some sort of a
vague excuse for his violence.

It will be observed that I have all along spoken, not merely of religion,
but of the Church. I have done this because religion is a social
phenomenon. It has its institutions, and cannot live without them.

It cannot be denied that individual philosophers have evolved religious
philosophies; it cannot be denied that solitary individuals, as such,
have felt religious emotions. How much of this is due to the fact that
there have been religions and churches, I do not believe that they
themselves have realized.

But, if religion is to be a vital force of any sort in a state, holding
up ideals and stimulating the emotion that helps to realize them, it must
be incorporated in an institution or in institutions. You cannot remove
the rose and keep the perfume. Even the memory of it tends to vanish. A
religious man without a church is like a citizen without a state. A
citizen without a state is a man who makes the effort to keep step, and
to walk in single file, all alone.

(5) Having said so much for Religion and for the Church, it is right that
I should refer to some things that may be said on the other side.

It may be claimed that men of science have a tendency to turn away from
religion and to grow indifferent to or to deny religious duties. In this
there is some truth, although notable exceptions to the rule may be

But I have known many men of learning in two hemispheres, in some cases
rather intimately. With the utmost respect for their learning and for
their mental ability, I am still bound to say that I have found them
quite human. Some of them--among the greatest of them--have been so
absorbed in their special fields of investigation, that they have not
merely given scant attention to religion and to religious duties, but
have done scant justice even to their own family life or to the state.
And all have not been equally broad men, capable of seeing clearly the
part which religion has played in the life of humanity.

To this I must add that the impartial objectivity with which the scholar
is supposed by the layman to view things is something of a chimera. In
saying this I criticize no one more severely than I criticize myself.
This may be taken as my apology for the utterance. Have we not seen, not
many years since, that, in the feeling aroused by an international
conflict, some scores of great scholars on the one side found it possible
to write and to sign a series of statements diametrically opposed to a
series drawn up and signed by some scores of equally famous scholars on
the other? Was either group walled in hopelessly by sheer ignorance? It
is easy to take lightly matters about which one does not particularly

There is another objection brought against religion and the church which
seems to be more significant. Is there not a danger that an interest in
these may hamper freedom of thought and encourage an undue conservatism?

It should be borne in mind that religion and the church are not the only
forces that make for conservatism. Family affection is conservative; the
law is conservatism itself, and men feel that it should not be lightly
tampered with. How impartial and how ready to introduce innovations
should men be in any field? Changes of certain kinds, though they may
have no little bearing upon our comfort, do not threaten the existence of
either state or church. Could someone devise a scheme by which the
periodical visits of the plumber could be avoided, we should all welcome
it, and have no fear of the consequences.

Other innovations may bring in their train consequences more momentous.
What men deeply care about, they cling to, and the question which
confronts us is a very broad one. Does humanity, on the whole, gain or
lose by a given degree of conservatism? An increase of knowledge is by no
means the only thing that makes for civilization. Men may be highly
enlightened, and yet rotten to the very core. How much of the ballast of
conservatism and of loyalty to tradition is it well to throw overboard in
the interest of accelerated motion? Those who, in our judgment, throw
overboard much too much we have taken to deporting.

(6) Here it will very likely be objected: In all this you are advocating
sheer Pragmatism! Are we to accept God and look for a life to come,
extending the spread of the community after the fashion suggested in
Chapter XIX, and broadening the outlook for a future and more perfect
rationality, for no better reason than that it is our whim? Shall we
_believe_ and join ourselves with other _believers_, for no
better reason than that something happens to tempt our will?

I beg the reader, if he will be just to my thought, to follow me here
with close attention.

168. ETHICS AND BELIEF.--Under this heading I must call attention to
several points.

(1) I deny that I advocate Pragmatism at all. The views which I advocate
are so many thousand years older than Pragmatism, that it seems unjust to
them, at this late date, to compel them to take on a new name, and to be
carried about in swaddling clothes in the arms of the philosophers, after
they have been functioning as adults in human communities from time

(a) That abounding genius and most lovable man, William James, realizing,
as many lesser men did not realize, that the truth contained in such
views was in danger of being lost sight of by many, wrote, with
characteristic vivacity and unerring dramatic instinct, the little volume
called "Pragmatism." It is with no lack of appreciation of the services
he has rendered, that I venture to call attention to the fact that he
has, in certain respects, failed to do justice to those views.

(b) Pragmatism has received attention partly on account of the
exaggerations of which it has been guilty. These have repelled some men
of sober mind. It appears to be maintained that we can play fast and
loose with the world, and make it what we will. I have criticized this
elsewhere,9 and shall not do so now. I shall only say here that I do not
believe that so able a man of science as William James meant all that he
said to be taken quite literally. He was gifted with a sense of humor.
This, some lack.

(c) Men of genius are apt to be strongly individualistic and impatient of
restraints. We have seen that there is such a thing as a public
conscience and a private conscience. The latter is only too often a
whimsical thing. Pragmatism appears to teach that any individual, as
such, has a moral right to adopt any hypothesis live enough to appeal to
his individual will. One has only to call to mind the extraordinary
assortment of guests collected by Signer Papini in his novel pragmatic
"hotel." [Footnote: _Ibid_.] Can such, by any human ingenuity, be
moulded into anything resembling an orderly community?

(d) In a later work, Professor James, realizing that religion and
theology are not identical, and strongly desirous of promoting religion,
deals severely with theology and the theologians. [Footnote: _Varieties
of Religious Experience_, Lecture xviii.]

One truth has been seen, but has not another been treated with some
injustice? Is it not inevitable that reflective men, who cherish beliefs,
should endeavor to give a more or less clear and reasoned account of
them? What degree of success is to be looked for, and what emphasis
should be laid upon such attempts, are questions which will probably
divide men for a long time to come.

(2) Hence, I do not advocate Pragmatism at all, but I agree with it in so
far, at least, as to recognize that belief is a phenomenon which concerns
the will. That it is so is a commonplace of psychology; and it was
recognized dimly long before the psychologist, as such, came into being.

That it is so is rather readily overlooked where the evidence for certain
beliefs is undeniable and overpowering. I seem forced to believe that I
am now writing. I do not seem forced in a similar manner to accept a
particular metaphysical doctrine or a given system of theological dogma.
Intelligent men appear to be able to discuss such matters with each other
and to agree to disagree. If they are tolerant, they can do this good-
temperedly. It is worth while to keep several points clearly in mind:

(a) Beliefs are not a matter of indifference. Some evidently lead to
palpable and speedy disaster. If I elect to believe that I can fly, and
leave my window-sill as lightly as does the sparrow I now see there, it
is time for my friends to provide me with an attendant.

Other beliefs are not of this character. And that they will lead to
ultimate disaster of any sort to myself or to others seems highly

(b) What may be called scientific evidence may be adduced for different
beliefs with varying degrees of cogency. Hegel tries to distinguish
between the authority of the state and that of the church by attributing
to the former something like infallibility. He maintains that religion
"believes," but that the state "knows." [Footnote: The Philosophy of
Right, Sec 270.]

We have had abundant reason to see that the state does not _know_,
but _believes_, and that it is very often mistaken in its beliefs.
Nevertheless, it does its best to keep order, to be as rational as it
can, and to look a little way ahead. I think it ought to be admitted that
it concerns itself with matters more _terre-a-terre_ than does the
church; and that it ought not to be taken as a general truth that the
state should take its orders from the church. It has to do with matters
which, like our daily bread, must be assured, if certain other matters
are to be considered at all. In so far Hegel was right. There are those
who forget this, and talk as if metaphysical systems and religious
beliefs should be forced upon men in spite of themselves, either by sheer
force of windpower or with the aid of the police.

To this it may be added that beliefs range from an unshakable and
unthinking conviction to that degree of acquiescence which can scarcely
be distinguished from mere loyalty. It remains to be proved that the
latter may not come under the head of belief, and is something to be
condemned. [Footnote: More than thirty years ago, while I was the guest
of Henry Sidgwick at Cambridge, England, I asked him how it was that he,
the President of the British Society for Psychical Research, had never,
in his presidential addresses, expressed a belief in the phenomena
investigated. He answered that if the word "belief" were taken broadly
enough to express a willingness to look into things, he might be said to
believe. No more candid soul ever breathed.]

(c) Beliefs, being phenomena which concern the will, are at the mercy of
many influences. Is there any scientific evidence open to the parallelist
in psychology which is not also open to the interactionist? Is the
conviction that one's country is in the right a mere matter of scientific
evidence? Are the enlightened adherents of a given sect wholly ignorant
of the tenets and of the arguments of another?

I maintain that tradition and loyalty have their claims. They are not the
only claims that can be made, but they are worthy of serious
consideration. Man is man, whether he is dealing with things secular or
with things religious.

To see that such claims are recognized everywhere we have only to open
our eyes. It is absurd to believe that all the adherents of a political
party are influenced only by the logical arguments published in the
newspapers. A newspaper that lived on logic alone would starve to death.
It is ridiculous to believe that all the members of a church are induced
to become such only by the arguments of the theologians, many of which
arguments the mass of the members are not in a position to comprehend at

And learned men are men, too. The philosopher who really kept himself
free from all prepossessions would, if he did much serious reading,
probably epitomize in his own person a large part of the history of
philosophy, falling out of one system and into another, like an acrobat.
But he is usually caught young and influenced by some teacher, or he is
carried away by some book or by the spirit of the times. As he is not an
abnormal creature, he acts like other men, becoming an adherent of a
school, or, if he is ambitious, starting one.

(d) We have seen that the individual has duties toward the state. We have
also seen that the state has duties toward the individual. The state
should not make it practically impossible for him to be a loyal citizen.
A somewhat similar duty appears to be incumbent upon the church.

A church that forces upon all of its members, as a condition of
membership, intricate and abstract systems of metaphysics; a church that
does not teach good-will toward men, but makes walls of separation out of
slight differences of opinion; a church that lags behind the moral sense
of the community in which it finds itself; a church that starves the
religious life; these, and such as these, must expect to lose adherents.
It is not that men reject them; it is that they reject men.

Those who read history have no reason to think that men, except here and
there and under exceptional circumstances, will cease to regard religious
duties as duties. I have not ventured to offer any detailed solution of
the problem of loyalty to the church. But neither have I ventured to
offer any detailed solution of the problem of loyalty to the state. In
the one case, as in the other, I suggest as guides tradition, intuition
and reflective reasoning. I can only counsel good sense and some degree
of patience. It may be said: You do not solve the difficulty for the
individual. I admit it. Such difficulties every thinking man must meet
and solve for himself.

169. THE LAST WORD.--Those persons, whether students, or teachers, who
dislike this final chapter, may omit it, without detriment to the rest of
the book. The doctrine of the Rational Social Will is not founded upon
this chapter. The latter is a mere appendix.

I regret that, in a work in which I have wished to avoid disputation, I
have felt compelled to touch upon religious duties at all. But they have
played, and still play, so significant a role in the history of mankind,
that the omission could scarcely have been made. You are free to take
them or leave them; but you are not free to take or leave the Rational
Social Will as the Moral Arbiter of the Destinies of Man.


1. CHAPTERS I TO III.--The notes in a book of any sort are rarely read,
except by a few specialists, and by them not seldom with a view to
refuting the author. I shall make the following as brief as I may. But I
do wish to give some of my readers--all will not be equally learned--an
opportunity to get acquainted with a few books better than this one. This
first note is not addressed to the learned, and some will find it

I intend to mention here a handful of books which any cultivated man may
read with profit, and re-read with profit, if he has already read them.
They can be collected gradually at a relatively slight expense, and it is
a pleasure to have them in one's library. The list may easily be
bettered, and may be indefinitely lengthened. I mention only books for
those who are accustomed to do their reading in English.

It is hardly necessary to say that I do not advise all this reading in
connection with the first three chapters of this book. But, as those
chapters are concerned with the accepted content of morals as recognized
by individuals and communities, I have a good excuse for bringing the
list in here. Many other good books, not in the list, are referred to
later in the volume, in other chapters.

It is very convenient to have within one's reach some such book as
Sidgwick's _History of Ethics_. The only fault to find with Sidgwick
is that he has made his book too short, and has not given enough
references. But he is admirably fair and sympathetic, as well as clear
and interesting.

He, who would dip more deeply into the Greek moralists, can read the
accounts of the ancient egoists, Aristippus and Epicurus, in the _Lives
of the Philosophers_ by that entertaining old gossip, Diogenes
Laertius. The translation in Bohn's edition will serve the purpose.

As for the greatest of the Greeks--a keen pleasure, intellectual and
aesthetic, awaits the man who turns to Plato's _Republic_ and his
_Laws_. Jowett's great translation is in every public library. And
we must read Aristotle's _Nichomachean Ethics_ and his _Politics_.
Here little attention is given to artistic form; but the preternatural
acuteness of the man is overpowering. If we would understand some
of the reasons which induced Plato and Aristotle to write of the state
as they did, we can turn to chapter xiv of Grote's _Aristotle_.

With certain later classical moralists most of us are more or less
familiar. Seneca, in his work _On Benefits_, gives a good picture of
the moral emotions and judgments of an enlightened man of his time. He
was a great favorite with Christian writers later. Cicero's work, _De
Officiis--On Duties_--it is best known under the Latin title, is very
clear and very clever. It is, in its last half, full of "cases of
conscience." I venture to suggest to the teacher of undergraduates who
find ethics a dry subject, that he give them a handful of Cicero's
"cases" to quarrel over. Doing just this has brought about something
resembling civil war in certain classes of my undergraduates. It has done
them good, and it has vastly entertained me. But each teacher must follow
his own methods. We can none of us dictate.

How many of us have drawn inspiration from the noble reflections
contained in the _Thoughts_ of Marcus Aurelius and in the
_Discourses_ of Epictetus, those great Stoics! The unadorned
translations of George Long will serve to introduce us to these.

To get a good idea of how the moral world revealed itself to a Father of
the Church in the fifth century, we have only to turn to that most
fascinating of autobiographies, the _Confessions_ of St. Augustine.
His _City of God_ is too long, though interesting. Augustine's
thought influenced the world for centuries. Then we may take a long jump
and come down to St. Thomas, the great Scholastic of the thirteenth
century. To get acquainted with him, we may turn to the English versions
by Rickaby, _Aquinas Ethicus_. Those of us who are smugly satisfied
at belonging to the twentieth century must remind ourselves that there
were great men in the thirteenth, and that many among our contemporaries
are still listening to them. We Protestant teachers of philosophy are
sometimes in danger of forgetting this. A strictly fresh century and a
strictly fresh egg cannot claim to be precisely on a par.

I do not think that I shall add the modern moralists to this list. There
are a great many of them, and many of them are very good. But they are
discussed at length in Part VII, which deals with the schools of the
moralists. Citations and references are there given. I think, however,
that I ought to add here that I should regard an ethical collection
incomplete that did not include at least one of the comprehensive works
on morals lately offered us by certain sociologists. Westermarck's
wonderful book--a mine of information--on _The Origin and Development
of the Moral Ideas_, or the admirable book by Hobhouse, _Morals in
Evolution_, will serve to fill the gap.

Information regarding editions of all the books I have mentioned can be
had in most public libraries, or from any good publisher and book-seller.

As for the reading to accompany these Chapters, I-III, I suggest looking
over the chapters by Westermarck and Hobhouse, indicated in foot-notes.
He who would realize how men have differed in their moral outlook on life
might read the lives of Aristippus, Epicurus and Zeno, in Diogenes
Laertius; or follow the account, in Sidgwick's _History of Ethics_,
of Aristotle's teaching, as compared with the ethics of the Church.

2. Chapters IV to VII.--These chapters on ethics as science and on
ethical method do not appear to me to call for extensive notes. Several
foot-notes are given which might be followed up. I think it would be a
very good thing for the student to read chapters i and vi in Sidgwick's
admirable work, The _Methods of Ethics_.

3. Chapters VIII to X.--To undertake to give any adequate list of
references on the chapters which treat of man's nature and of his
material and social environment would take us quite too far afield. I
merely suggest looking up the articles on "Anthropology" and "Sociology"
in the _Encyclopedia Britannica._ References are given there. And
one should not overlook Darwin's great book on _The Descent of Man_.
It will never be rendered superfluous, although the men of our day
criticize it in detail. A recent work of value is "Heredity and
Environment in the Development of Men," by Professor Edwin Grant Conklin,

4. Chapters XI to XVI.--Here my notes must be somewhat more detailed, for
we are on quite debatable ground. At any rate, there is much dispute,
between men of unquestionable ability, on the one side and on the other.
I may be pardoned for thinking that the general argument of these
chapters is reasonable and sound.

In commenting upon Chapter XI, I suggest that the reader look up what
Hobhouse has to say on impulse, desire and will, in his volume, _Morals
in Evolution_; also that he consult the same topics in James'
_Psychology_. McDougall's _Social Psychology_ might be read
with much profit.

Some admirable writers have a repugnance to using the word "volition" in
speaking of the brutes. I cannot help thinking that this is a dispute
touching the proper use of a word, rather than that any important
distinction in _kind_ is marked. Some human volitions stand out very
clearly as such. There are free ideas present, there is the tension of
desires, there is deliberation, and there is clearly conscious choice, or
the final release of tension. But how many of the decisions--I see no
objection to the word,--which we make during the course of a day, are of
this character! It would be difficult to set a lower limit to volition.

Muirhead, who writes, in his _Elements of Ethics_, clearly and well
of desires, emphasizing the presence of "tensions," follows the Neo-
Hegelian tradition in speaking of will. He describes it as the act by
which the attention is concentrated upon one object of desire, and he
calls the act of choice the _identifying of oneself_ with one object
or line of action.

Naturally, it is not easy to think of the bee or the ant or the spider,
perhaps not even of the cat or dog, as "identifying itself" with some
object of desire. I suggest that the reader, after a perusal of Muirhead,
reflect upon what Hobhouse has to say of the lower animals; or that he
look up Miss Washburn's book on _The Animal Mind_, (second edition,
1918), where a really serious study of the brute is undertaken.

On Chapter XII, I find no comment necessary. As to Chapter XIII, I
recommend to the reader a reading or re-reading of the fascinating pages
in which James treats of instinct in his _Psychology_. And let him
look up the same subject in McDougall's _Social Psychology_. At the
same time, I enter a note of warning against reading even such good
writers uncritically. There is no little dispute in this field. Dr. H. R.
Marshall's volume _Mind and Conduct_ gives an unusually thoughtful
account of instinct (N. Y., 1919).

Comment on Chapter XIV is not imperatively necessary. But I must speak
with detail of Chapter XV, for the best of men quarrel when they come
upon this ground:

Sec 49. The psychologist takes into his mouth no word more ambiguous than
"feeling." It may be used to indicate any mental content whatever--John
Stuart Mill could speak of consciousness as composed of a string of
feelings. Herbert Spencer divided conscious processes into "feelings" and
"relations between feelings." James obliterates the distinction, and
finds it possible to speak of "a feeling of _and_, a feeling of
_if_, a feeling of _but_," etc. (_Psychology_ I, p. 154,

Some writers do not distinguish between emotions and feelings. Thus,
Darwin, in his _Descent of Man_, calls pleasure and pain "emotions."
Marshall (_op. cit._, chapter ii) makes emotions, and even
intuitions, "instinct-feelings." Dewey, in his _Ethics_ (p. 251),
appears to treat emotions as synonymous with feelings. Gardiner, in his
interesting and careful study, _Affective Psychology in Ancient Writers
after Aristotle_ (_Psychological Review_. May, 1919), treats of
"what are popularly called the feelings, including emotions."

On the other hand, in ethical writings the word, "feelings," very often
means no more than pleasure and pain. Thus, _Seth_ (_A Study of
Ethical Principles_, p. 63), makes feelings synonymous with pleasure
and pain. Muirhead (_Elements of Ethics_, p. 46), says, "by feeling
is meant simply pleasure and pain"; and to have "interest" in, he defines
as to have pleasure in (p. 46).

This narrowing of the meaning of the word on the part of ethical writers
is, perhaps, natural. The hedonistic moralists made pleasure and pain the
only ultimate reasonable stimulants to action. Many moralists opposed
them (see, later, Chapters XXIV and XXV). So pleasure and pain became
"the feelings," _par excellence_. Both Dewey and Alexander sometimes
speak as if, by the word "feeling," we meant no more than pleasure and
pain. So does Kant.

The modern psychologist sometimes distinguishes pleasure and pain from
"agreeableness" and "disagreeableness." Marshall, a high authority on
pleasure and pain, refuses to draw the distinction (_op. cit._, Part
III. chapter vi). But he also refuses to call pleasure and pain
sensations, regarding them as "qualifications of our sensations," like
intensity, duration, and the like.

Are pleasures, as pleasures, alike? and are pains, as pains, alike?
Jeremy Bentham refused to distinguish between kinds of pleasures. On the
other hand, John Stuart Mill did so (see Chapter XXV in this volume); and
S. Alexander, in his work entitled _Moral Order and Progress_,
maintains that pleasures differ in kind, and cannot be compared merely in
their intensity (see page 202).

The whole matter is complicated enough, and there is occupation for the
most disputatious. But I do not think that these disputes very directly
affect the argument of my chapter.

Sec 50. That there is a relation between feeling and action, but that the
two are by no means nicely adjusted to each other, has been recognized in
many quarters.

Darwin, discussing the mental and moral qualities of man, points out that
the satisfaction of some fundamental instincts gives little pleasure,
although uneasiness is suffered if they are not satisfied. Seth (_op.
cit._, p. 64) says that feelings "guide" action; and he claims that
the energy of a moving idea lies in the feeling which it arouses (p. 70).
On the quantity of emotion, and its relation to action, see Stephen, The
Science of Ethics, ii, iii, 25.

Sec 51. It appears to be repugnant to Green to admit that feeling--
pleasure--can be the direct object of action; and he denies roundly that
a sum of pleasures can be made an object of desire and will at all
(_Prolegomena to Ethics_, Sec 221; see Sec 113 of this book). Moreover,
he maintains, and in this Dewey follows him, that the making of pleasure
an object is evidence of the existence of unhealthy desires. I cannot but
think this, taken generally, an exaggeration. Of course, what is called
"a man of pleasure" is a pretty poor sort of a thing.

Sec 52. In this section I do not touch at all upon the immemorial dispute
concerning what has been called "the 'freedom' of the will."

Indeed, I leave it out of this book altogether. The moralist must, I
think, assume that man has natural impulses and is a rational creature.
Those who are interested in the problem above mentioned, may turn to my
_Introduction to Philosophy_, chapter xi, Sec 46, where the matter is
discussed, and references (in the corresponding note) are given.

Chapter XVI.--The matter of this chapter appears, clear enough, but it
may be well to give a few references touching the two conceptions of the
functions of Reason.

Men of quite varying views have inclined to the doctrine which appeals to
me. I think it is to be gotten out of Hegel. Green, who is much
influenced by him, takes, as the rational end of conduct, a "satisfaction
on the whole," which implies a harmonization and unification of the
desires (see, in this book, Chapter XXVI, Sec 122). Spencer, in his
_Study of Sociology_, defines the rational as the consistent.
Stephen, in his _Science of Ethics_, chapter ii, Sec 3, says: "Reason,
in short, whatever its nature, is the faculty which enables us to act
with a view to the distant and the future." He claims that rationality
tends to bring about a certain unity or harmony. Hobhouse, _Morals in
Evolution_, (pp. 572-581), says that reason harmonizes the impulses.

The champions of the opposite view are the intuitionists proper--such men
as Kant, Reid, Price, even Sidgwick. To judge of their doctrine--they
were great men, be it remembered, and worthy of all respect--I suggest
that the reader wait until he has read the chapter on _Intuitionism_
in this volume, Chapter XXIII.

5. CHAPTERS XVII TO XIX.--What is said in Chapter XVII seems too
obviously true to need comment. Indeed, it may be questioned whether the
chapter is not full of platitudes. But even platitudes are overlooked by
some; and there is some merit in arranging them systematically. Besides,
they may serve as a spring-board.

As to Chapter XVIII, I suggest reading chapter vii, of Westermarck's book
on _The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas_. It is entitled
_Customs and Laws as Expressions of Moral Ideas_.

For Chapter XIX, one may read Hobhouse, _Morals in Evolution_, Part
I, chapter vi, where he shows how the mere "group morality" gradually
gives place to a wider morality in which the concept of humanity plays a
part. In the same work, Part II, chapters i and ii, the author treats of
religious or sub-religious ideas as affecting conduct. Compare
Westermarck, _op. cit._, chapter xl. See, also, _The Ancient
City_, by Fustel de Coulanges.

6. CHAPTERS XX TO XXII.--What is said in Chapter XX may be well
reinforced by turning to Hobhouse (_op. cit._), Part I, chapter iii,
where he traces the gradual evolution of rational morality in the field
of justice. See, also, Westermarck, (_op. cit._) chapters ix and x,
i. e., "The Will as the Subject of Moral Judgment and the Influence of
External Events," and "Agents under Intellectual Disability." In the last
chapter referred to, animals, drunkards, idiots, the insane, etc., come
on the stage. The chapter is full of curious information.

In Chapter XXI (Sec 86), I have spoken of the hesitating utterances of
moralists touching any duties we may owe to the brutes. I suggest that
before anyone dogmatize in detail on this subject he read with some care
such a comprehensive work as Miss Washburn's _The Animal Mind_. The
book is admirable. Chapters x and xliv of Westermarck's work are
instructive and entertaining on this subject. Hegel disposes of the
animals rather summarily. See his _Philosophy of Right_, Sec 47.
Sidgwick, _The Methods of Ethics_, Book III, chapter iv, 2, is well
worth consulting. See in my own volume, Chapter XXX, Sec 141.

For Chapter XXII, I give no references. I appeal only to the common sense
of my reader.

7. Chapters XXIII to XXIX.--For the chapters on the Schools of the
Moralists, XXIII to XXIX, I shall give briefer notes than I should have
given, were the chapters not already so well provided with foot-notes.

So far as the first four of these chapters are concerned, I shall assume
that enough has been said, drawing attention only to two points which
concern Chapter XXIII.

It is very interesting to note that one of our best critics of
intuitionism, Hemy Sidgwick, was himself an intuitionist. His _Methods
of Ethics_ deserves very close attention. Again Intuitions are often
spoken of as if they had been shot out of a pistol, and had neither
father nor mother. To understand them better it is only necessary to read
chapter viii of Dr. H. R. Marshall's little book, _Mind and
Conduct_, which shows how difficult it is to mark intuitions off
sharply, and to treat them as if they had nothing in common with reason.

Those interested in the ethics of evolution, treated in Chapter XXVII,
should not miss reading the fourth chapter of Darwin's _Descent of
Man_. Huxley's essay, _Evolution and Ethics_, might be read. The
"Prolegomena" to the essay is, however, much more valuable than the essay
itself. Spencer's general theory of conduct is best gathered from his
_Data of Ethics_, which was reprinted as Part I of his _Principles
of Ethics_. The volume by C. M. Williams, entitled, _A Review of
Evolutionary Ethics_, gives a convenient account of a dozen or more
writers who have treated of ethics from the evolutionary standpoint. It
is well not to overlook what Sidgwick has to say of evolution and ethics;
see _The Methods of Ethics_, Book I, chapter ii, Sec 2.

As for Chapter XXVIII, on "Pessimism," it is enough, I think, to refer
the reader to Book IV, in Schopenhauer's work on _The World as Will and
Idea_. The Book is entitled _The Assertion and Denial of the Will to
Live, where Self-consciousness has been Attained_. See also his
supplementary chapters, xlvi, on "The Vanity and Suffering of Life," and
xlviii, "On the Doctrine of the Denial of the Will to Live." For the
doctrine of von Hartmann, see chapters xiii to xv, in the part of his
work entitled, _The Metaphysic of the Unconscious_.

For the chapter on Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche, I shall give but a few
references, though the literature on these writers is enormous. The
English reader will find T. K. Abbott's translation of Kant's ethical
writings a very convenient volume (third edition, London, 1883). The
translation of Hegel's _Philosophy of Right_, by S. W. Dyde (1896),
I have found good, where I have compared it with the original. The word
"Right" in the title is unavoidably ambiguous, for the German word means
both "right" and "law." Hegel is dealing, in a sense, with both. I have
indicated, in a foot-note, that Nietzsche ought to be read in the
original. He is a marvellous artist.

Perhaps I should add that Nietzsche will be read with most pleasure by
those who do not attempt to find in his works a system of ethics. I
recommend to the reader, especially, his three volumes: _The Genealogy
of Morals_; _Beyond Good and Evil_; and _Thus Spake Zarathustra_;
(New York, 1911).

8. CHAPTERS XXX TO XXXVI.--I shall not comment on Chapter XXX. It is
sufficiently interpreted by what has been said earlier in this book. Nor
do I think that Chapter XXXI needs to be discussed here. I need only say
that many moralists have commented upon the negative aspect of the moral
law. It will be remembered that the "demon" of Socrates--a dreadful
translation--was a negative sign. I do not think that those who have
dwelt upon the negative aspect of morality have reflected sufficiently
upon the moral organization of society. We are put to school unavoidably
as soon as we are born.

I shall not dwell upon Chapters XXXII and XXXIII. Here I appeal merely to
the good sense of the reader.

But Chapter XXXIV demands more attention. He who is ignorant of history,
and has come into no close contact with the organization and functioning
of any state other than his own, is as unfit to pass judgment upon states
generally, as is the man who has never been away from his native village
to pass judgment upon towns generally--towns inhabited by various peoples
and situated in different quarters of the globe. His lot may, it is true,
happen to be cast in a good village; but how he is to tell that it is
good, I cannot conceive. He has no standard of comparison.

Fortunately, his ignorance is not as harmful as it might be. The Rational
Social Will, which is penetrated through and through with traditions
wiser than the whims of the individual, carries him along upon its broad
bosom, and makes decisions for him.

The sociologist and the political philosopher should be consulted, as
well as the historian, by one who would make a satisfactory list of books
touching the subject of this chapter. But the moralist may be allowed to
suggest a few titles, some of them very old ones. Plato's _Republic_
is fascinating, and Aristotle's _Politics_ is the shrewdest of
books. But compare the state as conceived by these men with our notions
of a modern democracy! More's _Utopia_ is a delight. To get back to
earth and see what _history_ means to a state, and to its
constitution and laws, read Sir Henry Maine's _Ancient Law_. States
are not made in a day, although, under abnormal conditions, governments
may be upset, and new ones set up, within twenty-four hours. After such
unhistorical proceedings, one can scarcely expect "fast colors." One or
two washings will suffice to show what was there before.

He who has a weakness for the operatic can peruse Rousseau's _Social
Contract_ and the _Declaration of the Rights of Man_ published in
the great French Revolution. As an antidote, I suggest Bentham's essay on
_Anarchical Fallacies_.

But reading will do little good--even historical reading--unless one
also thinks. It is wonderful how much knowledge a man may escape, if he
is born under the proper star. I once knew an undergraduate in an
American university, who attended compulsory chapel for more than three
years, and who still thought that the Old Testament was a history of the
Ancient Romans.

There is quite too much to say about Chapters XXXV and XXXVI. The only
thing to do is to say nothing. I shall touch upon just one point in each
chapter. I venture to beg the teacher, when he treats of International
Ethics, to read in class, with his students, those pages in which Sir
Thomas More describes the principles upon which the Utopians conducted
their wars. Remember that Sir Thomas was not merely a statesman, but, by
common consent, a learned, a great, and a good man. Mark the reaction of
the undergraduate mind.

The one matter upon which I shall comment in Chapter XXXVI, is the
question of belief as an object of approval or of censure. Westermarck
states (_The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas_, Volume I,
chapter viii, p. 216), that neither the Catholic nor the Protestant
Church regarded _belief, as such_, as an object of censure. Yet each
was willing to punish heresy. The point is most interesting, and I hazard
an explanation. The churches were organizations with a definite object.
They made use of reward and punishment. This was reasonable enough,
abstractly considered. However, doctrine was the affair of the
theologian. Now the theologian, like the philosopher, is a man who
assumes that he is concerned with _proofs_, and with proofs only. If
a thing is _proved_, how can a man _help_ believing it? Only if
he _will_ not, which is sheer obstinacy or perversity. Let him,
then, be punished on account of his defective character (see Westermarck,
I, chapter xi, p. 283).

I think the apparent quibbling here can be gotten rid of by recognizing
the truth emphasized in Sec Sec 167-168, namely, that logical proofs play
but a subordinate part in the adoption or rejection of beliefs touching a
vast number of matters both secular and religious. If we can influence
men's emotions, we can influence their beliefs. Both State and Church
have this power. It is a power that can be abused. But it is, on the
whole, a good thing that men's beliefs can thus be influenced. There
would be no stability in human society could they not. Every ignorant
man--and many men are ignorant--would be at the mercy of every clever
talker; and he would change his beliefs every day. As men act on beliefs,
this means that he would zig-zag through life to the detriment of all
orderly development. I beg the reader, learned or unlearned, to put aside
prepossessions, and to look at things as they are in this field.

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