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Leaving aside this last statement, which is an irrelevant untruth, we probably feel an instinctive sympathy with Carlyle, and a sort of shame that we should have thought of happiness as the goal of conduct. Carlyle goes so far in his tirades as to call our happiness-morality a“pig-philosophy," which makes the universe out to be a huge "swine's trough” from which mankind is trying to get the maximum “pigs' wash.” Again he calls it a “Mechanical Profit-and-Loss theory.” In such picturesque language he embodies a point of view which in milder terms has been expressed by many.
But to say that we must often oppose inclination in the name of duty is by no means to say that we must do what in the end will make against happiness. The trouble with inclination and passion is precisely that they are often ruiners of happiness. The very real and frequent opposition of desire and duty is no support of the view that duty is irrelevant to happiness, but quite consistent with the rational account of morality — that dates at least back to
- the ancient Greeks - which shows it to be the means to man's most lasting and widespread happiness.
Must we deny that duty is the servant of happiness?
We may go on to point out various flaws in the doctrine, of which Carlyle is one of the extreme representatives, that the account of morality as a means to happiness is immoral and leads to shocking results.
(1) The plausibility of the doctrine rests largely on its confusion with the very different truth that we should not make happiness our conscious aim. It is one of the surest fruits of experience that happiness is best won by forgetting it; he that loses his life shall truly find it. To think much of happiness slides inevitably over into thinking too much of present happiness, and more of one's own than others' happiness; it leads to what Spencer properly dubs "the pursuit of happiness without regard to the conditions by fulfillment of which happiness is to be achieved.” Carlyle is practically on the right track in bidding us think rather of duty, of work, of accomplishment. But that is far from denying that these aims have their ultimate justification in the happiness they forward. In order that remote ends may be attained, it is often necessary to cease thinking of them and concentrate the mind upon immediate means. To acquire unconsciousness of manner, the last thing to do is to aim directly for it; to acquire happiness, the worst procedure is to make it one's conscious quest. Yet in the former case the attainment of the ease of manner sought, and in the latter case the attainment of the happiest life for one's self and those whom one's action affects is the touchstone which at bottom determines the method to be adopted. The proper method, we contend, is — morality. It is the method that Carlyle recommends. So that in practice we agree with him, while parting with him in theory.
(2) Carlyle evidently has in mind usually the thought that it is one's own happiness only that is put up as the end by the moralists he opposes. This was pure misunderstanding, however, or perversity. Other men's happiness has intrinsic worth (or is intrinsic worth, for the word and the phrase are synonymous) as truly as mine; and morality is concerned quite as much with guiding the individual toward the general good as toward his own ultimate welfare. To this point we must return, merely mentioning here the fact that no reputable moralist now preaches the selfish theory.
(3) A part of Carlyle's ammunition consists in the slurring connotations which have grown up about the word "pleasure," and even the word “happiness.” Because of the practical need of opposing immediate in the interests of remoter good, the various words that designate intrinsic and imme.
diate value have come to have a less worthy sound in our ears than those words which indicate control for the sake of more widespread or lasting interests — such as "pru
dence," “duty,” and “virtue.” Moreover, the word “pleasures” commonly connotes the minor goods of life in contrast with the great joys, such as the accomplishment of some worthy task or the service of those we love. Again, it commonly connotes things passively enjoyed, rather than the active joys of life, which are practically more important. So that to condemn "pleasure” as an end arouses our instinctive sympathy. A "pleasure" is any bit of immediate good, however involved with pain, however transitory, and dangerous in its effects. “Happiness" generally refers to a more permanent state of satisfaction, including comparative freedom from pain; a stable and assured state of intrinsic worth, good to reflection as well as to sense. Pleasures are easy enough to get, but this safe state of happiness, full of rich positive worth, and immune from pain both in action and in moments of retrospect, is far from easy. Hence it is better to use the word “happiness” for our goal than the word "pleasure.” Carlyle, however, takes “happiness" in the lower sense and rejects it in favor of what he calls "blessedness." This gives him the advantage of seeming to have a new and superior theory. But when we ask what "blessedness” is, it is apparent that it can be nothing but what we call “happiness," or the living of life in such a way as to lead to happiness.
(4) There is another important practical insight underlying the protests of Carlyle and those of his ilk, namely, that it pays to disregard the minor ills and discomforts of life and keep our thoughts fixed on the big things. These minor ills do not matter much as they pass; they are transient, and usually leave little pain for reflection. It is the fear of them, the complaining about them, the shrinking
from them, the attending to them, that constitutes the greater part of their badness. Carlyle has the same practical common sense that the Christian Scientists show; but, as in their case, he lets his practical wisdom confuse his theoretical insight.
Sympathize, then, as we all must with these anti-happiness preachers, we may point out that their intuitions are quite compatible with a sane view of the ultimate meaning of morality. If morality does not exist for human welfare, what is it good for? And what else can welfare ultimately be but happiness ? Other proposed ends we shall presently consider. But the happiness-account of morality leads to no dangerous laxity. If any eudæmonistic moralists have lived loosely, it was because they did not realize what really makes for happiness or had not strength of will to cleave to it, not because they saw happiness as the criterion. An immature perception of this as the criterion without a full recognition of its bearings may have misled some; it is possible to see a general truth clearly and yet evaluate wrongly in concrete situations. But the converse of the truth that morality makes for happiness is the truth that the way to attain happiness is morality. No lesson could be more salutary. Correct concrete evaluations are more important than correct abstract generalizations, and Carlyle is nearly always on the right side in the former. But his influence would have been still more wholesome if he had added to his sound sermonizing a sane and clearly analyzed theory.
Does the end justify the means?
Our account of morality may be called the eudæmonistic account, from the Greek eudæmonia, happiness, or the teleological account, from telos, an end. It asserts, that is, that morality is to be judged by the end it subserves; that end is happiness. We have seen the sort of protest that arises with respect to the word “happiness.” We may now note a danger that arises from the use of the concept “end”; it finds expression in the familiar proverb, “The end justifies the means.” Conduct is to be judged by the end it subserves; therefore, if the end is good any means may be used to attain it. This has been the defense of much wrongdoing. The Jesuits who lied, slandered, cheated, and murdered, to promote the interests of the Church, the McNamara brothers, who dynamited buildings and bridges as a means toward the final end of attaining for laborers a just share of the fruits of their labor, the suffragettes who have been burning private houses, sticking up mail-boxes, and break
windows, have justified their crimes by reference to the great ends they expected thereby to attain. What shall we say to this plea?
(1) The motto means: Conduct in itself undesirable may be justified if the end attained is important enough to warrant it. In every case, then, the question must arise: Is the end to be attained worth the cost? To justify means that are intrinsically bad, it must be shown that the end attained is so good as to overbalance this evil. Was the advancement of the Church worth the cost in human suffering, estrangement, and bitterness that the Jesuits exacted? Is the advancement of labor interests worth the destruction of property and life, the fostering of class-enmity and of moral anarchism that the criminal wing of the I. W. W. stands for? Are votes for women worth the similar evils which British suffragettes are drifting into? Sometimes a cause is so important that almost any act is justified in its advancement. But such cases are rare, at least in modern life. Always there must be a balancing of good and evil. And the trouble with the attitude of mind which we have illustrated is that the end sought is usually not so all-important as to