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ness of virtue would for a moment admit that this was
so. It is not an abstract conformity of his acts wdth a
law that he pronounces valuable, but the \nrtuous state
of consciousness — the conscious direction of his will to
an end. The question at issue between Hedonists and
their opponents is "What in consciousness is intrinsi-
cally valuable : is it merely its pleasantness or is it also
a certain state of the will and a certain state of intel-
lect ? " There are three sides or aspects of all conscious-
ness — intellection, volition or conation, feeling. Tho
Hedonist isolates the feehng aspect of consciousness
from all the rest, and pronounces that m feeling nothing
is valuable but its pleasantness. The question is whether
these other aspects of consciousness must not also be
taken into consideration in determining the absolute
and the relative value of different states of conscious

1 Unless, indeed, it were held that the acts produced some effect
upon the Divine Consciousness.



39 ETHICS

being — whether the rightly directed state of will may
not have a value as well as pleasant feelmg, knowledge
as well as the pleasure which usually accompanies know-
ledge. If we were to conclude that this is so, we
should not in any way be giving up the position that
nothing but consciousness can be valuable in and for
itself.

I have tried in this chapter to show that there is no
satisfactory method of explaining away this ultimate
fact of consciousness that we do pronounce moral judge-
ments — judgements of a distinctive kind which cannot be
analysed or resolved into any other kind of judgement
or any other kind of conscious experience — into judge-
ments about the pleasantness of our conscious states
(which is of course a mere matter of sensibility) or into
mere desires which may happen to be stronger than
other desires. If we do pronounce such judgements,
that implies that we have distinct categories or notions
both of the good and of the right. If so, there must
be some distinctive faculty or capacity of our nature
which is capable of pronouncing such judgements. What
is the nature of that capacity ? That will be the sub-
ject of our next chapter.



CHAPTER III

THE MORAL CONSCIOTTSNESS



In the present chapter I propose to discuss the question
which is sometimes stated in the form, " What is the
moral faculty ? " The word laculty is sometimes
objected to for reasons which it would take too long to
point out now : it is associated with a particular kind



THE MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS 31

of obsolete Psychology usually condemned under the
name of the " faculty Psychology," which is supposed
to regard the different activities of the human mind as
wholly separate organs, as distinct from one another as
the different organs of the body, or more so, and to
forget the unity of the self to which all these activities
belong. Here the term is used to mean no more than
" capacity." If we do pronounce the distinctive moral
judgements of which I have been speaking, it is clear
that we must have a capacity of doing so : for it is
certain that we can do nothing that we had not pre\d-
ously a capacity for doing. The only question that can
be raised is : "To what part of our nature does this
capacity belong ? Whence come these moral judgements ?
What sort of psychical facts at bottom are they ? "
Among those who do in some sense or degree recognize
the distinctive character of our moral judgements, con-
sidered simply as psychical facts, there have been three
main answers to the question :

(1) There are those who regard them as due to a
particular kind of feeling or sensibility — a moral sense
comparable to the five bodily senses or to the sense of
beauty. The moral judgement merely expresses the
fact that such feelings are actually experienced. Moral
approbation and disapprobation are feelings of a par-
ticular kind, excited by the contemplation of certain
acts — our own or other people's.

(2) There are those who regard moral judgements as
springing from the intellectual part of our nature and who
speak of the moral faculty as Reason or Practical Reason.

(3) There are those who speak of the moral faculty
as something wholly sui generis — neither any kind of
feeling or emotion or any kind of thought or intellection,
and who refuse to call the moral faculty anything but
Conscience.



32 ETHICS

This last view may be set aside as being really un-
intelligible. It has hardly been explicitly maintained
by any writer of importance except the late Dr.
Martineau ; and, when his arguments are examined, it
will be found that all that he really means to insist upon
is the fact that our moral judgements are judgements
of a very distinctive character — sharply distinguishable
from judgements about ordinary matters of fact. This
is no doubt true and important, but it is not denied by
those who ascribe such judgements to the Reason or the
intellectual part of our nature. Because space and time
are different, and spacial properties are apprehended
by the intellect, it does not follow that our ideas of time
are derived from some faculty which is not intellect.
Practically, the choice Ues between the two first views.
It must not, of course, be supposed that either of these
schools necessarily deny the existence of what is popu-
larly called Conscience. It should be observed, how-
ever, that in ordinary language Conscience is usually
used to indicate not merely the facult}^ of knowing what
we ought to do but also the whole complex of emotions
and impulses which impel us to the doing of what we
know to be right or deter us from the doing of what we
know to be wrong. WTien we talk about Conscience
" remonstrating " or " rebuking " or " enjoining " or
" impelling," we clearly mean to imply some kind of
emotional impulse or desire as well as mere knowledge.
The question before us now is the question, " By means
of what faculty or activity or part of my natvire do I
know what I ought to do ? " Or, more strictly, the
question may be stated thus : "Is the consciousness
of right and wrong really knowledge at all or is it only
some kind of feeling or emotion ? "

The view that moral judgements are essentially rational
judgements was the view of Plato and of Platonists in



THE MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS 33

all ages — of the greatest Schoolmen, of the old English
Rationalists such as Cudworth, Cumberland, and Clarke,
of Kant and Hegel, and almost all modern Idealists. It
has generally been the view of those who emphasize
strongly the functions of Reason as distinct from sensible
experience in their general theory of knowledge, and
who emphasize and make much of the idea of moral
obligation. Those philosophers, on the other hand,
who tend towards Empiricism or Sensationalism — who
derive all knowledge from experience and for whom
experience practically means sensation — have usually
been inclined to idcntifj'^ our moral judgements with
some kind of feeling or emotion. If all knowledge is
derived from sensation, it is clear that the idea of right
and wrong cannot be derived from any other source.
Sometimes, as has already been pointed out, the only
feeling supposed to bo capable of influencing human
action has been held to be pleasure or the desire of it.
From this point of view there can hardly be said to be
a moral faculty or moral consciousness at all. The
theory of a " moral sense " quite distinct from ordinary
feelings of pleasure or pain or from any other emotion
was for the first time put forward by the third Lord
Shaftesbury, the famous author of the Character-
istics, and more systematically by the Ulster philo-
sopher, Francis Hutcheson. These two men are con-
sidered the founders of the " Moral Sense School "
(sometimes spoken of as the " sentimental school "),
but substantially the same view has often been main-
tained by others who do not actually use the term
'' Moral Sense."

The importance of the question is apt not to be
appreciated at first sight. If we have a faculty wliich
can appreciate the difference between right and wrong,
it may be suggested that it cannot matter what sort of

c



34 ETHICS

faculty it is. Whether you call it Reason or Sense
may seem to be Httle more than a question of names.
" A rose by any other name would smeU as sweet." It
is not recognized that to identify moral judgements with
any kind of feeUng must involve the total destruction
of their objective character. " The term Sense," says
Sidgwick, " suggests a capacity for feelings which may
vary from A to B without either being in error, rather
than a faculty of cognition ; and it appears to me
fundamentally important to avoid this suggestion. I
have therefore thought it better to use the term Reason
... to denote the faculty of moral cognition." ^ This
point may require a Uttle further explanation and
illustration.

When a colour-blind man sees a red rose and pro-
nounces it to be of the same colour as the neighbouring
grass-plot, it really is the same for him. He is guilty
of no error in his judgement, unless he mistakenly infers
that it will appear the same to normal-sighted persons.
Now, according to the moral sense school, when I pro-
nounce an action wrong, all that is really meant is that
it excites in my mind an " idea {i.e. a feeling) of dis-
approbation." But it is equally a fact that it may
excite a feeling of approbation in another man's mind.
A vivisectional experiment, for instance, will excite the
hvehest feelings of approbation in the mind of an ardent
student of Physiology, while it wiU excite a perfect
storm of disapproving feehng in the mind of a strong
Anti-vivisectionist. The point is not that there are no
means of settling authoritatively which is right and
which is wrong. On any view as to the nature of the
moral faculty there are undoubtedly considerable difier-
ences of opinion about ethical questions. But, upon the
" moral sense " view, it is perfectly meaningless to ask

^ Methods of Ethics, p. 34.



THE MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS 35

the question — as meaningless as to ask which is right,
the man who likes mustard or the man who dislikes it.
Mustard is not objectively nice or objectively nasty ;
the whole truth about the matter is that it is nice to
one person, nasty to another. Such judgements, we say,
are of merely " subjective " validity ; they represent the
pecuharities of certain minds, not truths which must be
equally true for all persons who are not in error about
the matter. If moral judgements were simply feelings
or emotions of a particular kind, they would be in
exactly the same case. They would represent mere
indi\idual likings or dislikings. There could be no ob-
jective truth about matters of right and WTong. And
this means that what we commonly call moral obligation
would be a mere delusion. " Without objectivity," in
the words of Edouard von Hartmann, " there is no
Morality." And yet the very heart of the moral con-
sciousness is precisely the con\dction that there is an
objective truth about the moral problem — that some
acts are right and others wrong, no matter whether
this or that person thinks so or not. This conviction
involves, be it observed, no claim to personal infalli-
biUty on the part of the individual making the judge-
ment. We may make mistakes about moral matters
as we may make mistakes in doing a sum, or in esti-
mating the rival claims of two scientific theories, or
about the guilt or imiocence of an accused person. But
ill these last cases it is universally admitted that there
is a truth about the matter. When a long multiplica-
tion sum is given out to a class of thirty small boys,
the answers will probably be found to difier. But the
whole form will agree that the diverse answers cannot
all be right. It never occurs to the most sceptical of
small boys to say to the Master : " No doubt the answer
is 336 for you and for the book, but I assure you that



36 ETHICS

for me these figures make 337." And nobody ever
thinks of doubting the objective truth of the multiphca-
tion-table because particular small boys make mistakes,
any more than they maintain that the question whether
A and B committed a murder is merely a question of
taste because juries, and even judges, occasionally
convict innocent persons. We have a deep-seated
conviction that it is even so with morals, however great
may be the difiiculty of pronouncing which course of
action is right in particular cases. It is often indeed
just when we are most in doubt what course of action
is right, that we are surest that there is a right course,
if only we could find it out. That is just what we mean
by saying that an action is right, or that it ought to be
done. We mean that every right-judging intelligence
would necessarily judge it to be right. We actually
think in this way, and the fact that we think so, and
cannot but think so, is the only reason we can have for
believing anything whatever to be true — whether in
Mathematics, in Science, or in morals.

It is therefore a matter of vital importance to Ethics
to maintain that the moral faculty is rational — that it
belongs to the intellectual part of our nature, and is
not a mere matter of feeling or emotion. The " distinc-
tiveness "of a " sense " or feeling can give it no sort of
superiority to other feelings. The feeling of self -dis-
approbation may be disagreeable, but the feeling occa-
sioned by the rack or the thumb-screw may be more
so : if anyone prefers to teU a lie and put up with the
disagreeable feeling of remorse, it is impossible to give
any reason why he should not do so. Hume saw quite
clearly that on the moral sense view Morality must
mean simply what other people feel about my conduct,
and he was quite willing to accept the consequence :
" Actions are not approved because they are moral :



THE MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS 37

they are moral because they are approved." The only
objectivity which could possibly be claimed for a moral
rule would be that it represents the opinion of the
majority, and the fundamental principle of the resulting
Ethic would be "■ Always shout with the largest crowd "
— unless indeed you happen to be so constituted as to
find the pleasure of self -approbation more satisfactory
than that of popularity with its attendant results.

In spite of Hume's exhibition of its real tendency, the
moral sense view or something like it has occasionally
been maintained in modern times even by writers who
do not really mean to acquiesce in its destructive con-
sequences.i But of late years the Moralists who reduce
all Morality to a mere matter of emotion are in general
quite aA\'are of what they are doing. And between
their position and that of the old Moral Sense School
there is this important difference. Hutcheson beheved
in a single, distinctively moral kind of feeling. Modem
Emotionahsts usually deny the existence of any such
single sui generis feehng. Sometimes they have reduced
all moral approbation to sympathy or altruistic emotion
in general ; ^ but the more recent upholders of the
emotional view refuse to identify moral approbation or
disapprobation with any one kind of emotion. They
regard it rather as a complex product or amalgam of
many different feelings or emotions — emotions closely
coimected with instincts which we have inherited from
our animal ancestors. In Dr. McDougall's recent book
on Social Psychology, for instance, it is insisted that it
has its roots in the maternal instinct and other kinds
of sympathetic or benevolent feeling, in the " sense of
kind " or the gregarious instinct, but also in resent-
ment, the imitative instinct, '' positive and negative

* e.(j. in Gizvcki and Coit's Manual of Ethical Philosophy.
^ This, to a large extent, is true of J. S. Mill.



38 ETHICS

self -feeling " — all these complicated by fusion with one
another.

It cannot be denied that the emotional view is at
the strongest when put in this way. In the hands of
modem Anthropologists and comparative Psychologists
the case becomes indefinitely stronger than it was in
the hands of the old " Moral Sense School " and their
modem imitators. Anthropology is the real trump-
card of the EmotionaHst in modem times. It is when
he turns from the question of what Morality noio is
(which he frequently forgets to examine) to the question
of its origin that he is able to present the most plausible
case. And it is quite impossible to deny that the above-
mentioned instincts and their accompanying emotions
really have much to do with the emergence of what we
call Morahty in a savage tribe. It cannot be denied
that when we see a squirrel making a hoard of nuts and
resenting any interference with it on the part of other
squirrels, we see the germs which in primitive man
developed into the idea of property and the moral
condemnation of stealing. It is impossible to deny
that punishment and the more primitive ideas about
justice have their origin in the instinct of revenge.
Marital jealousy has much to do with the growth of
Monogamy and the various moral rules associated with
it. And the social instincts which are exhibited in
rudimentary forms even by the lower animals seem
amply sufficient to account for that highest element in
savage morality which is constituted by devotion to
the interests of the famUy and the tribe. That these
instincts and emotions do to a very large extent ex-
plain why particular acts first came to be thought right
or wrong cannot be doubted. It may even be questioned
whether the notion of right and Avrong in general, as
it exists in very primitive minds, represents anything



THE MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS 39

more than these emotions, from which certain general
rules have been extracted by the savage himself or by
the modem investigator. The very essence of MoraHty,
as it presents itself to the developed human mind, is,
as we have seen, this notion of an objective standard.
But it is not easy to discover any such notion in the
most primitive forms of MoraHty. Certainly we can
only trace the barest germs of it in the mind of the
savage, as it is admittedly wanting in that of the
animal from which primitive man was evolved. But
even if it were to be estabhshed that such a notion was
wholhj absent from savage Morality, that would not
prove that our Morality is not something more. If it
could be shown that Socrates' parents and all the men
and women who had ever lived up to his time were
absolutely destitute of what we understand by a sense
of duty, that would not alter the fact that Socrates
possessed such a consciousness of duty, nor would it in
the smallest degree affect the validity of the concept.
All our higher intellectual notions have emerged gradu-
ally in the history of the race, just as they emerge
gradually in the development of the individual child.
The intellectual concept of Duty has gradually super-
vened upon the mere emotional impulses of primitive
man, just as a rational concept of Causality has gradu-
allj' taken the place of that mere " association of ideas "
which enables the lower animals and the youngest
infants to profit to some extent by their experiences.
Of course when it is suggested that Socrates may have
been the first man in whose consciousness the concept
of duty emerged, the matter is put in an exaggerated
way. In the intellectual w^orld, as in the physical.
Nature does not commonly make such violent leaps.
The notion of an objective Morahty can be discovered
in hterature that is much older than Socrates, and I



40 ETHICS

have no doubt that germs of it can be found in the
ideas even of very primitive savages — especially in the
most primitive notions of Justice. Still, it is important
to recognize that MoraHty as it existed in the savage
was mainly a matter of emotion, and that it is only
in the mind of the developed human being that the
notion can be discovered in a very exphcit form ; but
this admission throws no doubt whatever upon the truth
of the rationahstic theory. We do not doubt the
vaUdity of the multiplication-table because the lower
animals, and (it may be) some savages are incapable of
recognizing its truth.

There are certain ethical propositions which appeal
to the developed inteUigence as no less self-evidently
true than the proposition " two straight Hnes cannot
inclose a space " or " 2 + 2 = 4." What these proposi-
tions are is a further question which will be discussed in
our next chapter. I will only by anticipation say that
to my owTi mind such propositions as " a large amount
of good is intrinsically more valuable than a smaller,"
or (what is the same thing) "ought always to be promoted
in preference to a smaller." or, again, the proposition
that " pleasure is intrinsically more valuable than pain "
are instances of such immediate or a priori judgements.
When they are put into this abstract form, it is possible
that writers who are pledged to the emotional view of
MoraHty might deny that they found them self-evident ;
but it would not be difficult to show that they are
presupposed in the actual judgements which they pro-
nounce upon conduct. Still more easy would it be to
show from the writings of such men that they really
beheve in the objectivity of their own judgements. Such
writers as Professor Westermarck may theoretically
recognize that on their own view of the matter no such
objectivity can be claimed for them ; but on almost



THE MORAL CONSCIOUSNESS 41

every page of their writings they constantly Bpeak of a
liigher and lower Morahty ; and they never appear to
have any serious doubt that, where they differ, their
own civilized notions of Morahty are intrinsically higher
and truer than those of a savage. In that absolutely
unavoidable use of the terms "higher" and "lower"
they betray the existence in their own mind of that
very category of good the existence of which they deny
with their lips.

On the whole, then, I believe that RationaHsts are
right against the Moral Sense School or any other kind
of EmotionaUsm. At the same time Ethical Rational-
ists have often enormously exaggerated the purely
rational character of our own actual moral judge-
ments, and of the conduct which results from them.
Thus—

(a) It has sometimes been forgotten that, though the
judgement that an action is right comes from the Reason,
the action cannot be actually performed without a
desire. In some cases, no doubt, this desire is simply
what Sidgwick calls a " desire to do what is right and
reasonable as such." But this need not always be the
case, even with the actions that we commonly regard
as actions of the noblest type. We need not (with
Kant) declare that the action of a man who sacrifices
himself for liis wife and family from pure disinterested
affection possesses no moral value because it is not
done from a pure sense of duty. Moral Reason may
pronounce the act to be right and to possess high moral
value, though the agent may not consciously and
abstractly have reflected that it was his duty.

(6) It must not be supposed that even in determining
what ought to be done the best men are always guided
by a dehberate judgement of Reason. Men's ideas as
to the particular things which they ought to do are



42 ETHICS

largely dependent upon custom or authority, or, in
other cases, upon the influence of strong sympathetic
and other emotions ; but even in men little influenced
in their views as to what acts are right or ^VTong by
consciously rational reflection and chiefly dominated
by emotion, we can detect the notion of duty ; and
we can detect the presence of rational conceptions in
the moral consciousness of the commimity, even when
the individual rarely does more than passively acquiesce
in the ideal of his social environment. It is Reason
that gives him the idea of duty, though he may be
largely influenced by custom or feeling in judging what
particular things are his duty. The more conscious
and deliberate action of Reason comes in chiefly where
there is a conflict between one emotion and another, or
where some doubt has arisen as to whether the cus-
tomary standard of morality is valid. A man like St.
Francis of Assisi did not solve ethical problems by the
sort of abstract reflection which dominated the conduct
of Kant. He was chiefly influenced by such emotions
as gratitude to Christ and sympathy for his fellow-men ;
but he felt the inclination to selfishness, sloth, cowardice
as much as other men, and the unselfish emotions pre-
vailed over the selfish not simply (it is probable) because
they were natiu-ally stronger, but because he recognized


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