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mental difference in feeling there would be no such thing as morality. There might conceivably be a world in which consciousness should exist without any agreeable or disagreeable qualities; in such a world nothing would matter; all acts would be equally indifferent. Or there might be a world in which all experiences were equally pleasurable or painful; in such a case all acts would be equally good or equally sad; there would be no ground for choice. One might in any of these hypothetical worlds be driven by mechanical impulse or fitful whim to do this or that, but there would be no rational basis for preference. Such, however, is not the case. Comparative valuation is possible; all secondary goods and evils arise, all morality, all art and religion and science have their wellspring in this brute fact, this primordial parting of the ways between the more and the less desirable phases of possible conscious life.)
Morality of an elementary type would exist on this level even without the further complications of actual life. At least a very important art would arise; whether or not we should call it morality is a mere matter of definition. For a choice between alternative immediately felt goods would arise, and the problem of how to get the better kinds of experience and avoid the worse would demand solution. Every bit of plus value added to experience would make the world so much the brighter, as would every bit of pain avoided.
There are, to be sure, the mystical optimisms and pessimisms to be reckoned with, the sweeping assertions of certain schools and individuals that everything is equally good or equally bad. Such undiscriminating formulas are either the mere objectification of a mood, of some unusual period of ecstasy or sorrow, a blind outcry of thanksgiving or of bitterness, or they are the clumsy expression of some practical truth, as, the wisdom of acquiescence, and the futility of preoccupation with evil. But taken seriously and liter
ally such statements are simply untrue to the facts and blur our fundamental perceptions. If actually accredited, either would lead to quiescence; if everything were equally good or evil all striving would be meaningless, one might as well jump from a housetop or walk into the fire. But as a matter of fact such mystical assertions are indulged in only in the inactive moments of life, and mean no more than a lyric poem or a burst of music. Every one in his practical moments acknowledges tacitly, at least, the difference between the intrinsic goodness and badness of experiences. A life of even delight or even wretchedness, or of colorless indifference, is not inconceivable, but it is not the lot of any actual human beings.
The larger quarrel between optimists and pessimists need not, for our purposes, be settled. Life may be a very good thing, on the whole, or a very bad thing. The only point we need to note is that it is at any rate a varying thing. Some experiences are more worth having than others. Moral theory needs no further admission to find its foothold. Nor do we need to discuss the problem of evil. It may be that all pain has its ultimate uses, that nothing is "really" bad, if we take that to mean that all evil has a necessary existence as a means to a good otherwise unattainable and worth the cost. But however useful as a means evil may be, it is none the less evil and regrettable. It is not good qua pain. If the same amount of good could be obtained without the preliminary evil, it were better to skip it. In short, the existence of different values in immediate experience is indisputable; we may call them for convenience intrinsic goodness and badness.
What is extrinsic goodness?
But there is a radically different sense of the words "good" and "bad"; namely, that in which we say that a thing is good for this or that. This is the kind of goodness
the things about us have; they are good for the production of intrinsic goodness (as we are using that phrase), which is always (so far as we know) something produced in living organisms. To put the same truth in other terms, things are good or bad only with respect to their effect upon our conscious experience. Primitive man, indeed, imagines inanimate things as having intrinsic goodness or badness, i.e., as feeling happy or unhappy, benevolent or malignant. We still speak of a serene sky, an angry storm-cloud, a caressing breeze, and in a hundred ways read our affective life into material objects. But we now recognize all these ascriptions as cases of the pathetic fallacy, poetically significant but literally untrue. Animism, which looms so large in primitive religion, consists in thus objectifying into things the emotions they arouse in us. In reality all of these affective qualities exist in us, not in the outer objects; so far as our epithets have an objective truth they describe not the content of the objects, but their function in our lives. When we speak of delicious food, beautiful pictures, ugly colors, we mean strictly that these objects are such as to arouse in us certain peculiar pleasant or unpleasant feelings. So that apart from the existence of consciousness there would be no goodness or badness at all.
1 We also occasionally speak of things as being "good for" something else when that something else is not a good or a means to a good (see preceding footnote); as, "sunshine is good for weeds." But as applied to evils, the phrase "good for" more often means "good to abolish"; as, "hellebore is good for weeds." These usages illustrate the ambiguity of all our common ethical terms. To consider them here would be, however, needlessly confusing. The two senses of the term "good" mentioned in the text are the only senses we need to bear in mind for the purposes of ethics.
2 I am fully aware of the widespread current distaste for the word "consciousness," with its idealistic associations. The term seems to me too useful to discard; but I wish to point out that, as I use it, it involves no metaphysical viewpoint, but is equally consonant with idealism or realism of any sort.
3 The neo-realists would prefer to say, perhaps, "apart from the existence of organisms," and this may be an exacter phrase; we may have
It is the existence of felt goodness, intrinsic goodness, and its opposite, that allows us to attribute to objects another kind of goodness or badness, according as they are calculated to produce in us the former kind. This kind of goodness and badness we may call extrinsic.
It is only by thus attributing a sort of goodness and badness to senseless objects that we can aim for and avoid the good and bad phases of conscious life. In themselves these conscious moments are largely unnamable and inexpressible. There are, as it is, dumb objectless ecstasies that are of transcendent sweetness; but we do not usually know how to reproduce them, and for the most part we have to overlook these goods in our ideals and aim only for those that we can associate with recognized outer stimuli. For practical purposes we think rather in terms of outer objects than of our states of experience; nature has had need to make men but very slightly introspective. And so it is that this derived use of our eulogistic and disparaging terms plays a larger part than its primary application. But the essential point to note is that "goodness" and "badness" in the first instance refer to the fundamental cleavage between the affective qualities of experience, and only secondarily and by metonymy apply to objects in the physical world which affect our conscious states.
The next point to note is that our conscious experiences and activities themselves have not only their intrinsic value, as they pass, but an extrinsic value, as means toward future pleasures and pains that remain out of connection with that interrelated stream of experience to which we usually limit the term "consciousness." On the other hand, may it not be that God, and angels, or other disembodied beings, have consciousness, and intrinsic goodness, without having organisms? Of course, for all we know, the world about us may be chock full of pleasures and pains. But for practical purposes, and so far as our morality is concerned, either the statement in the text or the suggested equivalent is true. The point is, that the foundation of morality is in us - whether you call us in the last analysis consciousnesses or organisms.
intrinsic values. Each phase of experience has its own worth, while it lasts, and also has its results in determining future phases with their varying degrees of worth. Our reveries, our debauches, our sacrifices are good or bad in their effects as well as in themselves. Thus all experience has a double rating; acts are not only pleasant, agreeable, intrinsically desirable, but also wise, prudent, useful, virtuous, i.e., extrinsically desirable. These extrinsic values usually bulk much larger in the end than the first transitory intrinsic value; but our natural tendency is to forget them and guide our action by immediate values. Hence the need of a continual disparagement of the latter, and the many means men have adopted of emphasizing the importance of the former. Yet, after all, our concern for the extrinsic value of acts has to do only with means to ends; and unless acts tend to produce intrinsic goodness somewhere they are not extrinsically good. There is no sense in sacrificing an immediate good unless the alternative act will tend in its ultimate effects to produce a greater good, or unless the act sacrificed would have brought, after its present intrinsic good, some greater intrinsic evil. The sacrifice of a good for no greater good is asceticism or fanaticism. From this there is no ultimate salvation but by referring all acts to the final touchstone asking which will produce in the end the greatest amount of intrinsic good and the least intrinsic evil.
What sort of conduct, then, is good? And how shall we define virtue?
We are brought thus to the conception of an art which shall not only teach us which of two immediate, intrinsic, goods is the better, but shall consider all the near and remote consequences of acts, and direct us to that conduct which will produce most good in the end. That sort of behavior
1 The impossibility of finding any other ultimate basis for our conception of moral "good" or "bad" is well expressed by Socrates in Plato's Protag