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to have doubts in his o^^^l mind as to the morality of
war, of gambling, of sport, of vivisection, or when a
Christian and a Mahometan dispute as to the morahty
of Polygamy, it is usually upon the balance of advan-
tages and disadvantages that the argument turns.

4. It can hardly be disputed that the great majority
of accepted moral rules can be justifietl on the ground
of their tendency to promote a maximum of pleasure and
a minimum of pain ; and, though primitive man was
not as much of a Utilitarian as the older Utilitarian
writers supposed, the social ill effects of murder (at least
within the tribe), stealing, assault, and the hke are too



56 ETHICS

obvious not to have formed both to the social and to
the individual consciousness part at least of the ground
why these things were regarded as wrong. Much of
primitive morahty originated in instincts which on the
whole were conducive to tribal well-being (whether or
not this was perceived), or in superstitious behefs about
Totems and Taboos which may or may not have had
good social effects ; but certain rules were too obviously
conducive to social welfare for their tendency not to be
observed. Still more obvious is this utihtarian justi-
fication when we consider the causes why some primitive
moral rules have survived to the present time, while a
thousand other savage ideas have been abandoned as
baseless superstitions. In other cases the social utility
of the traditional rule reveals itself on reflection, although
it may not have the original ground for its adoption,
e.g. rules against the marriage of near kin. The more
modern Utihtarian Morahsts would often insist upon the
effects of natural selection in promoting the survival of
the tribe whose Morahty was most Utilitarian. From
these facts the Utihtarian would argue that our actual,
accepted Morality really owes its origin to Utihtarian
considerations, and that these same considerations are
the real ground for acting upon instincts and tradi-
tional rules, though they -will occasionally require us
to act in opposition to them where they have been
discovered not to be socially useful, or where they have
lost the social utihty which they once possessed.

5. Still more clearly evident is the appeal to conse-
quences in our actual judgements, when the moral rules
put forward as self-evident actually colhde with one an-
other — the precept of humanity, for instance, with that
of veracity. It seems self-evident that I ought to speak
the truth, and equally self-evident that I ought to save
life. What is to be done when I can only speak the
truth at the cost of taking life {e.g. blurting out bad



THE MORAL CRITERION 57

news to a sick man), and can only save life at the cost
of a lie ? Whatever expedient may be adopted for
solving such problems, the existence of these colUsions
is a final refutation of the claim of such rules to be
absolutely true and finally valid deliverances of the
Moral Reason. Reason does not contradict itself.

6. The supposed exceptionless rules of conduct put
forth by at least one class of Intuitionists generally
turn out on reflection to admit of a good many excep-
tions which are practically recognized by the most
conscientious persons. Few people will agree with Kant
as to the duty of pointing out to the would-be murderer
the whereabouts of his intended victim if the truth
could only be concealed by means of a lie. It may be
doubted whether English Criminal Law would not even
pronounce a man who did so to be an accessory before
the fact, and therefore equally guilty with the murderer.
The most logical Intuitionists are men of the Tolstoi
stamp who really do hold, and (as far as they can) act
upon the principle that we must never resist force by
force, never arrest a thief, must literally give to him
that asketh up to one's last pemiy and so on. But
for this view it is impossible to claim the general assent
to which Intuitionists are fond of appealing. Most
plain men and most intuitionist philosophers do recog-
nize exceptions; and yet, as to what the exceptions
are, there is no general consensus, while in innumerable
cases the individual himself will often find no self-
evident guidance in his own heart. And in practice,
whenever the legitimacy of such exceptions is disputed,
they are usually defended by pointing to the pernicious
social consequences which would in particular cases
result from the application of the usual rule.

7. But there remains a more formidable difficulty
than any that has been mentioned. How are we going
to distinguish between an act and its consequences ?



58 ETHICS

Some consequences are included in the meaning of the
act. Divest an act of all the consequences, and nothing
really remains behind. What would be the sense of
asking whether drunkenness would still be wTong if it
did not make a man thick in his speech, unsteady in
his gait, erratic in his conduct, incoherent in his thoughts,
and so on. Drunkenness deprived of all these conse-
quences would not be drunkenness at all. And if we
are to consider some of these consequences, why not all
the consequences so far as they can be foreseen ? If
the drinking of alcohol in large quantities had none of
these effects, it would be as innocent as water-drinking.
In a rough-and-ready way we can of course distinguish
between the consequences which do and those which
do not fall within our conception of the act. But that
arises merely from arbitrary definitions and the con-
ventions of language. The more immediate conse-
quences are commonly included in the conception of
an act, while remote consequences are excluded.

How purely conventional is the distinction between a
rule subject to exceptions and a rule which has no excep-
tions may be illustrated by the difference between the
case of lying and the case of murder. MoraHsts Hke
Kant have supposed themselves bound to condemn all
lying because there is no general consensus that legi-
timate Hes — the untruths told by detectives to deceive
criminals, or in war to deceive the enem3^ or by the sick
man's relative to save his life — are not Hes. The con-
demnation of murder appears to have no exceptions
because there is an established convention that lawful
killing is no murder, however much variety of opinion
there may be as to the circumstances which remove
killing from the category of murder.

If to drink alcohol to the point of stupefaction once
in a lifetime were found to be an effectual prophylactic
against (say) cancer, small-pox, and typhoid-fever, we



THE MORAL CRITERION 59

should still perhaps say that the act was an act of
drunkenness, but that in that case drunkenness would
be right. There is hardly any act now called wrong
about which we might not theoretically be com-
pelled to reconsider our verdict if a sufficiently
revolutionary discovery were made as to its ultimate
consequences. When we saj', as we often quite reason-
ably do say, that we feel such an act would always be
wrong no matter what its consequences, we really pre-
suppose some knowledge of the actual nature of things ;
we often do know sufficiently for practical purposes
that no good consequences could actually result which
would be sufficient to neutralize the bad ones which we
clearly discern. Nobody can rid himself of much know-
ledge, derived from experience, as to the effects of
different courses of action sufficiently to pronounce that
completely a priori, isolated judgement upon the Tight-
ness or wrongness of an act which the thorough -going
Intuitionist declares that he ought to pronounce and to
regard as final and irreversible. When he condemns
human sacrifice, he really assumes such a knowledge of
the nature of things as makes it unreasonable to suppose
that the sin of an individual or a nation could be
expiated or the consequences of divine anger deflected
by such a course. No sane man ever does really pro-
nounce upon the morality of an act in entire abstraction
from its consequences, and when once it is admitted
some consequences must be considered, there is no
logical stopping until we have considered all the conse-
quences which we have any reason to believe will result
from the act ; though the necessities of practical action
constantly require us to decide and act when we have
satisfied ourselves that the nearer consequences are
good, and have no reason to suspect that the remoter
ones will be bad.

The more the attempt to distinguish between the act



60 ETHICS

and its consequences is examined, the more impracticable
it will, I believe, be found, and the more hopeless the
endeavour to pronounce upon the morahty of the act

I without reference to such foreseen or foreseeable con-
sequences. So far Intuitionism must be regarded as
an impossible and obsolete mode of ethical thought ;
and it is seldom consistently maintained at the present
day even by those who show more or less hesitation in
actually embracing the utilitarian f)osition that acts
are right or wrong according as they do or do not tend
to promote the greatest quantity of good. To my own
mind it is plain that so far the Utihtarian is absolutely

^' and incontrovertibly right. But this doctrine is, as has
been explained, only one side of the Utihtarian system
as expounded by its acknowledged representatives, by
men hke Hume, Bentham, and Mill. The other side of
that system consists in the doctrine that the good means
simply the pleasant. We have akeady examined the
attempt to prove this doctrine by the theory known as
psychological Hedonism ; but we have also seen that,
though this hedonistic Psychology is false, its refutation
does not necessarily involve the abandonment of Hedo-
nism, Though we can desire and pursue other things
besides pleasure, it may still be held that, if we do so,
we are fools for our pains. It may still be held that
pleasure is the only true or reasonable or right object
of desire or end of action — that pleasure is the only
good. Now this doctrine may mean one of two things ;
it may mean simply that good and pleasure mean the
same thing, or (what is much the same position) that
there is no real meaning or validity in the judgement
that one end ought to be pursued rather than another.
This view I have attempted to combat in the onh^ way
in which any doctrine about ends can be combated — by
showing that it does not correspond with the facts of
consciousness. We do use the words " good " and



THE MORAL CRITERION 61

" right," and attach a definite meaning to them ; nor
can the notions wliich they imply be resolved into any
simpler or more ultimate notions. In the present
chapter I have further attempted to show that to pro-
nounce an act rigid means at bottom to say that it is a
means to something which we recognize as good or (more
strictly) that it is a means to the greatest attainable
good. But still the question remains, "What is this
good, or (if the good consists in more elements than
one) what ends of action or objects of desire or kinds
of consciousness are ultimately good, and in what pro-
portion do they contribute to the ideal or supremely
good life ? " Now in answer to that question it is still
possible for an objector to allege that nothing presents
itself to him as ultimately good except pleasure and
pleasure measured quantitatively. And such is the
position actually adopted in the most defensible form
which Hedonism has assumed in recent times — the
rationalistic Hedonism of which the late Professor Henry
Sidgwick is the typical representative. It will be weU
to examine this system a little further.

So long as we are asking the questions, " What is right,
what is duty, why should I do my duty ? " Professor
Sidgvtick gives substantially the answer that would be
given by the Intuitionist. He frequently adopts, and
identifies himself with, the language of stern Apostles of
Duty hke Butler or Kant. We have, he recognizes, an
ultimate, unanalysable category of Duty or Right which
comes from our Reason ; and, on reflection, it further
appears that it is right or reasonable for us to promote
the good for all human beings. The fact that it is my
duty is a sufficient reason for doing it ; the good man will
do his duty for duty's sake or (what is the same thing,
in other words) because he sees that it is reasonable for
him to do so. More in detail there are three precepts which
Sidgwick recognizes as strictly self-evident axioms —



62 ETHICS

1. That I ought to promote my own greater good
rather than my own lesser good (Axiom of Prudence).

2. That I ought to promote the greatest good on the
whole (Axiom of Rational Benevolence).

3. That, in the distribution of good, I ought, so far as
my action can secure it, to regard one man's good as
being equally valuable \vith the hke good of another ac-
cording to the Benthamite maxim, " Everyone to count
for one, nobody for more than one." (Axiom of Equity.)

But when he goes on to ask, " What is this good which
I ought to promote and to distribute equally ? " Sidg-
wick's answer is the old Utilitarian answer — " The
greatest quantum of pleasure." Are we prepared to
accept this view as to the ultimate end of life. If not,
what can we say against it ?

1. Now in the first place it should be observed that
in the system of Sidgwick no attempt is made to show
that the doctrine can be proved by the hedonistic
Psychology or any other facts of experience. Frankly
and avowedly the system rests upon an intuition — as
much so as any Anti- utilitarian system that was ever
invented. Sidgwick fully recognizes that the proposi-
tion " Pleasiu'e is good " is as much an a priori or imme-
diate judgement as the proposition " Virtue is good " or
" Virtue and pleasure are both good." As the proposi-
tion can only be supported by an appeal to an ultimate
judgement of our Reason or moral Consciousness, so in
the last resort it can only be refuted by showing that
it does not really correspond to the actual verdict of
our Moral Consciousness. The final reason for denying
that pleasure as the only good is that most of us do not
really think so. But of course it is not likely that
anyone to whom Hedonism commends itself as plausible
will be convinced by merely setting up one alleged
" intuition " to contradict another alleged intuition.
" Questions of ultimate ends," as is admitted by the



THE MORAL CRITERION 68

Utilitarian J. S. Mill, " are not capable of proof in the
ordinary acceptation of the term." ^ But what we can
do is (a) to show some of the logical difficulties which
are involved in one's opponent's position, and (6) to
contend that the position is not supported by that
" general consensus of mankind " to wliich he himself
appeals in defence of it. This I shall proceed to do.

2. The great difficulty of all Hedonism which pro-
fesses to support, and not to undermine, the ordinary
notions about Duty or moral obligation is to find a
reason why I should promote other people's pleasure
rather than my o\ra ; except of course in so far as my
own tastes or the efficiency of the police or the like
may chance to bring about a coincidence between my
own interest and that of the general pubhc. Sidgwick ^
contends that the reason for my doing so is that it
seems intrinsically unreasonable (or wrong) that a
smaller amount of good should be promoted rather
than a larger — no matter whether that good be mine or
another person's. Men possess a Reason %Ahich tells
them that not to do so would be unreasonable, and
some of them are endowed with a " desire to do what
is right and reasonable as such," which sometimes in-
duces them actually to do the reasonable thing even

^ Utilitarianism, p. 52.

2 I pass over another side of Professor Sidgwick's view — his
admission of the partial rationality of Egoism, involving a
"Dualism of the Practical Reason," which, he (hinks, can only be
removed by assuming the truth of theological postulates, i.e. of
God and Immortality. It can, I believe, be shown that all Egoism
(whether the good be conceived of as Pleasure or anything else)
is absolutely and irredeemably irrational, since it involves a con-
tradiction. Good means "ought to be pursued," and Egoism
makes it reasonable for me to assert that " my good is the only
thing that ought to be pursued," while it pronounces that my
neighbour is right in denying that proposition and in asserting
that his pleasure is the only thing to be pursued. Therefore con-
tradictory propositions are both true. But I must not further
develope this point, which no one has pushed home so thoroughly
as Mr. Moore in his brilliant Principia Ethica, pp. 99-103.



64 ETHICS

at the cost of their own good {i.e. pleasure) rather than
the unreasonable. The act is reasonable and right ;
but Sidgwick will not say that such conduct is in itself
good. The consequences of the act are good, i.e. the
other people's pleasure which is promoted ; but there
is nothing good or intrinsically valuable in the act
itself, in the state of mind from which it results, in the
desires or motives which inspire it. Moral conduct, in
such cases, implies absolute self-sacrifice. Morahty is,
as Thrasymachus in the Repubhc contended, wholly
and entirely " another's good " — no good at all to the
agent. Now I do not think this position involves any
actual logical contradiction ; but it does involve what
may be called a psj^chological contradiction. The state
of mind which it postulates in a good man acting (with
full reahsation of this meaning) upon Sidgwickian prin-
ciples is an impossible state of mind, or at all events
one so rare that it might fairly be described as patho-
logical. If a man really cares about being reasonable,
is it conceivable that he should at the bottom of his
heart believe it a matter of no importance at all whether
he is reasonable or not — that he should think it an
advantage indeed to somebody else, but a matter of
no importance and (if it involves him in painful conse-
quences) a dead loss to himself ? If he reaUy did regard
Morahty or character or goodness as a completely value-
less asset, would he any longer care whether his conduct
was reasonable or not ? As a matter of fact, the con-
viction that there is such a thing as duty, that one kind
of conduct is intrinsically reasonable or right and
another kind of conduct is intrinsically unreasonable or
WTong, has almost invariably gone along with the con-
viction that right conduct, or the character or disposition
which results in right conduct, is in and for itself a good
and the greatest of goods. The strongest conviction of
those who have been most influenced by the desire



THE MORAL CRITERION 65

that their conduct should be rational or right has been
that Virtue is " its own exceeding great reward " — not
necessarily its only reward, but that it is really worth
having in and for itself.

It is impossible to give any satisfactory reason for
preferring the general pleasure to one's own unless we
regard Morality as an end-in-itself, and an end of more
value than pleasure. And if it is an end-in-itself for
me, it must be regarded as an end-in-itself for others
also. We shall thus have to include moral Well-being
or " the good will " in our conception of the end or
good which it is the duty of each to promote for all.

Thus, if the inner logic of Sidgwick's rationalistic
UtiHtarianism be followed out, it will be found to have
transformed itself into a system which may perhaps
still be called Utilitarianism, but which has ceased to be
Hedonism, The end or good or Well-being the ten-
dency to promote which will mark out acts as right or
wrong, will no longer be simple pleasure, but goodness +
pleasure, even supposing we still insist that goodness
means nothing but the disposition to promote pleasure
— or rather pleasure and the willingness to promote
pleasure — for others. In this way, no doubt, most
of the practical objections to Utilitarianism will be
removed. The more glaring discrepancies between
logical Utilitarianism and the moral ideal recognized by
most good men will disappear. The most obvious of
all these discrepancies is perhaps to be found in the
fact that the ordinary moral consciousness does not
treat all pleasure as exactly on a level. I have already
pointed out that, so long as we regard pleasure as our
only end, it is impossible to recognize difEerences in the
quality of pleasures, which are not ultimately resolvable
into difEerences of quantit3\ It is otherwise when we
regard Morality as an end-in-itself, even if we still
regarded Morality as consisting in nothing but Bene-



66 ETHICS

volence, or rather Benevolence guided by Justice. For
if Goodness in the sense of Altruism be regarded as
good in itself, we shall be able to recognize the superior
value of those pleasures which have in them an altruistic
element. We shall be able to regard the pleasures
which actually consist in or include the exercise of
altruistic emotions — the pleasures of benevolence, of
family afiection, of friendship, the pleasures which con-
sist in any form of useful activity — as superior to
merely selfish or sensual pleasures, as superior in them-
selves and not merely on account of their efiects. More-
over, we shall be able to a considerable extent to justify
the superiority which we instinctively accord to those
pleasures which arise from the exercise of our higher
faculties — intellectual, sesthetic, emotional — as compared
with those which spring from the mere satisfaction of
bodily appetites. For in a rough and general way it
will hardly be doubted that the social efiects of such
indulgence are better than those which result from
indulgence in sensual pleasures. The artist, the man of
letters, the discoverer do benefit the world, however
little as individuals they may be directly influenced by
philanthropic motives. Even if the man who indulges
in such pleasures confines himself to the enjoyment of
what others produce, the cultivation of these higher
tastes will in general make him a more useful and
valuable member of society than the man who has no
pleasures but those of sport or athletics, or eating and
drinking. At the very least he will be much less Hkely
to indulge in pleasures which are socially pernicious.
Even the most selfish dilettante does help to create a
demand for pictures, books, good music, and the hke,
which have more tendency to create pleasure for others
than the enjoyments of the mere sensuahst. Moreover,
from this point of view w^e can even pronounce some
pleasures to be bad — bad in themselves and not merely



THE MORAL CRITERION 67

for their external effects — that is to say, any pleasures
which actually involve the gi^^ng pain to others, or
which are inconsistent with that cultivation in himself
of moral character which we have agreed to recognize
as a good of superior value to pleasure. And we may
incidentally remark that even from the point of view
which we have now reached, Ave can see a reason for
condemning suicide — at least in the vast majority of
cases — in a way which was impossible so long as we re-
garded pleasure as the only end of action. If goodness
be an end in itself, life will not lose all its value the
moment it has ceased to yield to the individual a net
balance of pleasure over pain.

3. The position that the good or end of life consists
simply in these two elements — goodness + pleasure — is
a perfectly possible one. It was quite exphcitly held, for
instance, if not alwa3^s consistently, by Kant. It is not
possible to urge against it any fundamental objection
from the point of view of logic or internal consistency
such as we have been able to urge against the attempt
to combine the view that pleasure is the onl}^ good with
a recognition of the duty of preferring the general
pleasure to one's own. The question remains whether,
after all, this is the real verdict of our moral conscious-
ness. To begin with, let us look once more at the ques-
tion of higher and lower pleasures. High-minded
Hedonists are fond of arguing that the preference for
higher pleasures can be justified bj" their superior
pleasantness : but this does not correspond to what we
really feel about them. Very often, I tliink, we should
recognize that the lower pleasure, considered merely as a
pleasure, -would be the more mtense ; and j-et we prefer,
and feel that it is reasonable to prefer, the higher. The
higher pleasures are frequently mixed with a good deal of
pain — those pleasures of symj^athy, for instance, upon
the value of which amiable Hedonists are so fond of en-


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