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is best which will in the long run bring into being the greatest possible amount of intrinsic goodness and the least intrinsic evil. For goodness of conduct we commonly use the term “virtue"; and for intrinsic good the most widely accepted name though one which is misleading to many is “happiness.” So we may say, in sum, that virtue is that
O manner of life that tends to happiness.
Objection is occasionally made that happiness is too vague a term, too elusive a concept, to be set forth as the ultimate aim of conduct. “Alas!” says Bradley, "the one question which no one can answer is, What is happiness?” But this is a palpable confusion of thought. If we mean by the question, "Wherein is happiness to be found, by doing what can we attain it?” then the answer is, indeed, uncertain in its completeness; it is precisely to answer it that we study ethics. Or if we mean, "What is the psychology of happiness?” the answer is as yet dubious; but it is irrelevant. Whatever its psychological conditions and the means to attain it, we know happiness when we have it. The puzzle is not to recognize it, but to get it. aBy happiness we mean the steady presence of what we have called intrinsic goodness and the absence of intrinsic badness; it is as undefinable oras (p. 354): "Then you think that pain is an evil and pleasure is a good, and even pleasure you deem an evil, when it robs you of greater pleasure than it gives, or causes pain greater than the pleasure. If, however, you call pleasure an evil in regard to some other end or standard, you will be able to show us that standard. But you have none to show. . . . And have you not a similar way of speaking about pain? You call pain a good when it takes away greater pains than those which it has, or gives pleasures greater than the pains.”
He then goes on to explain the need of morality,— to guide us, in the face of the foreshortening effects of our particular situation, to what will make for the greatest happiness in the long run (p. 356): “Do not the same magnitudes appear larger to your sight when near, and smaller when at a distance? . . . Now suppose happiness to consist in doing or choosing the greater, and in not doing or avoiding the less, what would be the saving principle of human life? Would not the act of measuring be the saving principle?"
as any ultimate element of experience, but as well known to us as blackness and whiteness or light and dark.
Take, as a typical moral situation, a case in which a thirsty man drinks polluted water. In the diagram the arrow represents the direction of the flow of time, and each of the ribbons below represents the stream of consciousness of an individual concerned - the uppermost being that of the thirsty man himself, the others those of his wife, children, or friends. The plus sign early in the drinker's stream of
experience stands for the plus value which drinking the water effects — the gratifying taste of the water and the allaying of the discomfort of thirst — real values, whose worth cannot be gainsaid. Following, in his own stream of experience, are a row of minus signs, indicating the undesirable penalties in his own life which follow - disease, pain, deprivation of other goods. No good accrues to others, unless the slight pleasure of seeing his thirst allayed. But evils follow in their experience: worry, sympathetic pain at his suffering, expense of doctor's bills, perhaps (which means deprivation of other possible goods), etc. It is clear at a glance that the positive good attained is not worth the lingering and widespread evils; and the act of drinking the polluted water, though to a very thirsty man a keen temptation, is immoral. Morality is thus an acting upon a right perspective of life. Personal morality considers the goods and evils in the one stream of consciousness, social morality the goods and evils in other conscious lives concerned. Between them they sum up the law and the prophets.
The best life for humanity is that which is, on the whole, felt best; not necessarily that which is judged best by this man or that, — for our judgments are narrow and misrepresent actual values, - but that which has had from beginning to end the greatest total of happiness. No other ultimate criterion for conduct can ever justify itself, and most theoretical statements reduce to this. To be virtuous is to be a virtuoso in life. All sorts of objections have been raised to this simple, and apparently pagan, way of stating the case; they will be considered in due time. The reader is asked to refrain from parting company with the writer, if his prejudices are aroused, until the consonance of this sketchy account of the basis of morality with Christianity and all idealism can be demonstrated.
H. Spencer, Data of Ethics, chaps. II, M. S. E. Mezes, Ethics, chap. IX. Leslie Stephen, Science of Ethics, chaps. II, IX. F. Thilly, Introduction to Ethics, chaps. IV, 7. F. Paulsen, bk. II, chap. I. J. S. Mill, Utilitarianism. B. P. Bowne, Principles of Ethics, chap. II. The classic accounts of a rational foundation of ethics are to be found by the discerning reader in Plato's Protagoras, Gorgias, and Republic (esp. bks. I, II, IV), and Aristotle's Ethics (esp. bks. I and II). For refinements in the definition of right and wrong, see G. E. Moore, Ethics, chaps. I-v; B. Russell, Philosophical Essays, I, secs. II, III. International Journal of Ethics, vol. 24, p. 293. Definitions of value without reference to pleasure or pain will be found in Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, vol. 11, pp. 29, 113, 141. An elaborate and careful discussion will be found in G. H. Palmer's Nature of Goodness.
THE MEANING OF DUTY
Why are there conflicts between duty and inclination?
IF virtue is simply conduct that makes most truly for happiness, why are not all but fools virtuous? The answer is, in a word, because what will bring about the greatest good in the long run, and to the most people, is not always what the individual desires at the moment. The two great temptations are the lure of the selfish and the lure of the immediate. To purchase one's own happiness at the expense of others, and to purchase present satisfaction by an act which will bring less good in the end - these are the cardinal
sins, and under these two heads every specific sin can be put. The root of the trouble is that, in spite of the superposition of conscience upon their primitive impulses, human organisms have not yet motor-mechanisms fully adjusted to their individual or combined needs. Some instincts are over-strong, others under-developed, none is delicately enough attuned to the changing possibilities of the situation. Our desires tug toward all sorts of acts which would prove disastrous either to ourselves or others. Many of our faults we commit "without realizing it”; we follow our impulses blindly, unconscious of their treachery. Other sins we commit knowingly, because in spite of warning voices we cannot resist the momentary desire. Readjustment of our impulses is always painful; it is easier and pleasanter to yield than to control.
Duty is the name we give virtue when she is opposed to inclination. She is the representative at the helm of our conduct of all absent or undeveloped impulses. The saints have no need of the concept; virtue to them is easy and agreeable; they have learned the beauty of holiness and have no unruly longings. Sometimes this happy adjustment of desire to need has been won by severe struggle; the dangerous impulses have been trained to come to heel through many a painful sacrifice. In other cases an approximation to this ideal state is the result of early training; by skillful guidance the growing boy or girl has had his safe impulses fostered and his perilous desires atrophied with disuse. The proverb, “Bring up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart therefrom,” has much truth in it. But no parent and no man himself can ever breathe quite safe; we can never tell when some submerged animal instinct will rise up
in us, stun all our laboriously acquired morality into inactivity, and bring on consequences that in any coolheaded moment we should have known enough to avoid.
Thus duty, although she is the truest friend and servant of happiness, figures as her foe. And some moralists, realizing vividly the frequent need of opposing inclination, have generalized the situation by saying that happiness cannot be our end. “Foolish Word-monger and Motive-grinder," shouts Carlyle, “who in thy Logic-mill hast an earthly mechanism for the Godlike itself, and wouldst fain grind me out Virtue from the husks of Pleasure, .. I tell thee, Nay! ... Is the heroic inspiration we name Virtue but some Passion, some bubble of the blood, bubbling in the direction others profit by? I know not; only this I know, If what thou namest Happiness be our true aim, then are we all astray. ... 'Happy,' my brother? First of all, what difference is it whether thou art happy or not! . . . 'Happiness our being's end and aim,' all that very paltry speculation is at bottom, if we will count well, not yet two centuries old in the world.” 1
1 Sartor Resartus : “The Everlasting No." Past and Present: “Happy."