The Ideal-G. E. Moore 1903

Chapter VI: The Ideal

Principia Ethica-G. E. Moore 1903

§ 110.
The title of this chapter is ambiguous. When we call a state of things ideal we may mean three distinct things, which have only this in common: that we always do mean to assert, of the state of things in question, not only that it is good in itself, but that it is good in itself in a much higher degree than many other things. The first of these meanings of ideal is (1) that to which the phrase The Ideal is most properly confined. By this is meant the best state of things conceivable, the Summum Bonum or Absolute Good. It is in this sense that a right conception of Heaven would be a right conception of the Ideal: we mean by the Ideal a state of things which would be absolutely perfect. But this conception may be quite clearly distinguished from a second, namely, (2) that of the best possible state of things in this world. This second conception may be identified with that which has frequently figured in philosophy as the Human Good, or the ultimate end towards which our action should be directed. It is in this sense that Utopias are said to be Ideals. the constructor of an Utopia may suppose many things to be possible, which are in fact impossible; but he always assumes that some things, at least, are rendered impossible by natural laws, and hence his construction differs essentially from one which may disregard all natural laws, however certainly established. At all events the question What is the best state of things which we could possibly bring about? is quite distinct from the question What would be the best state of things conceivable? But, thirdly, we may mean by calling a state of things ideal merely (3) that it is good in itself in a high degree. And it is obvious that the question what things are ideal in this sense is one which must be answered before we can pretend to settle what is the Absolute or the Human Good. It is with the Ideal, in this third sense, that this chapter will be principally concerned. Its main object is to arrive at some positive answer to the fundamental question of Ethics—the question: What things are goods or ends in themselves? To this question we have hitherto obtained only a negative answer: the answer that pleasure is certainly not the sole good.

§ 111.
I have just said that it is upon a correct answer to this question that correct answers to the two other questions, What is the Absolute Good? and What is the Human Good? must depend; and, before proceeding to discuss it, it may be well to point out the relation which it has to these two premises.

(1) It is just possible that the Absolute Good may be entirely composed of qualities which we cannot even imagine. This is possible, because, though we certainly do know a great many things that are good-in-themselves, and good in a high degree, yet what is best does not necessarily contain all the good things there are. That this is so follows from the principle explained in Chap. I. (§§ 18—22), to which it was there proposed that the name principle of organic unities should be confined. This principle is that the intrinsic value of a whole is neither identical with nor proportional to the sum of the values of its parts. It follows from this that, though in order to obtain the greatest possible sum of values in its parts, the Ideal would necessarily contain all the things which have all these parts might not be so valuable as some other whole, from which certain positive goods were omitted. But if a whole, which does not contain all positive goods, may yet be better than a whole which does, it follows that the best whole may be one, which contains none of the positive goods with which we are acquainted.

It is, therefore, possible that we cannot discover what the Ideal is. But it is plain that, though this possibility cannot be denied, no one can have any right to assert that it is realised—that the Ideal is something unimaginable. We cannot judge of the comparative values of things, unless the things we judge are before our minds. We cannot, therefore, be entitled to assert that anything, which we cannot imagine, would be better than some of the things which we can; although we are also not entitled to deny the possibility that this may be the case. Consequently our search for the Ideal must be limited to a search for that one, among all the wholes composed of elements known to us, which seems to be better than all the rest. We shall never be entitled to assert that this whole is Perfection, but we shall be entitled to assert that it is better than any other which may be presented as a rival.

But, since anything which we can have any reason to think ideal must be composed of things that are known to us, it is plain that a comparative valuation of these must be our chief instrument for deciding what is ideal. The best ideal we can construct will be that state of things which contains the greatest number of things having positive value, and which contains nothing evil or indifferent—provided that the presence of none of these goods, or the absence of things evil or indifferent, seems to diminish the value of the whole. And, in fact, the chief defect of such attempts as have been made by philosophers to construct such an Ideal—to describe the Kingdom of Heaven—seems to consist in the fact that they omit many things of very great positive value, although it is plain that this omission does not enhance the value of the whole. Where this is the case, it may be confidently asserted that the ideal proposed is not ideal. And the review of positive goods, which I am about to undertake, will, I hope, shew that no ideals yet proposed are satisfactory. Great positive goods, it will appear, are so numerous, that any whole, which shall contain them all, must be of vast complexity. And though this fact renders it difficult, or, humanly speaking, impossible, to decide what is The Ideal, what is the absolutely best state of things imaginable, it is sufficient to condemn those Ideals, which are formed by omission, without any visible gain in consequence of such omission. Philosophers seem usually to have sought only for the best of single things; neglecting the fact that a whole composed of two great goods, even though one of these be obviously inferior to the other, may yet be often seen to be decidedly superior to either by itself.

(2) On the other hand, Utopias—attempted descriptions of a Heaven upon Earth—commonly suffer not only from this, but also from the opposite defect. They are commonly constructed on the principle of merely omitting the great positive evils, which exist at present, with utterly inadequate regard to the goodness of what they retain: the so-called goods, to which they have regard, are, for the most part, things which are, at best, mere means to good—things, such as freedom, without which, possibly nothing very good can exist in this world, but which are of no value in themselves and are by no means certain even to produce anything of value. It is, of course, necessary to the purpose of their authors, whose object is merely to construct the best that may be possible in this world, that they should include, in the state of things which they describe, many things which are themselves indifferent, but which, according to natural laws, seem to be absolutely necessary for the existence of anything which is good. But, in fact, they are apt to include many things, of which the necessity is by no means apparent, under the mistaken idea that these things are goods-in-themselves, and not merely, here and now, a means to good: while, on the other hand, they also omit from their description great positive goods, of which the attainment seems to be quite as possible as many of the changes which they recommend. That is to say, conceptions of the Human Good commonly err, not only, like those of the Absolute Good, in omitting some great goods, but also by including things indifferent; and they both omit and include in cases where the limitations of natural necessity, by the consideration of which they are legitimately differentiated from conceptions of the Absolute Good, will not justify the omission and inclusion. It is, in fact, obvious that in order to decide correctly at what state of things we ought to aim, we must not only consider what results it is possible for us to obtain, but also which, among equally possible results, will have the greatest value. And upon this second enquiry the comparative valuation of known goods has a no less important bearing than upon the investigation of the Absolute Good.

§ 112.
The method which must be employed in order to decide the question What things have intrinsic value, and in what degrees? has already been explained in Chap. III. (§§ 55, 57). In order to arrive at a correct decision on the first part of this question, it is necessary to consider what things are such that, if they existed by themselves, in absolute isolation, we should yet judge their existence to be good; and, in order to decide upon the relative degrees of value of different things, we must similarly consider what comparative value seems to attach to the isolated existence of each. By employing this method, we shall guard against two errors, which seem to have been the chief causes which have vitiated previous conclusions on the subject. The first of these is (1) that which consists in supposing that what seems absolutely necessary here and now, for the existence of anything good—what we cannot do without—is therefore good in itself. If we isolate such things, which are mere means to good, and suppose a world in which they alone, and nothing but they, existed, their intrinsic worthlessness becomes apparent. And, secondly, there is the more subtle error (2) which consists in neglecting the principle of organic unities. This error is committed, when it is supposed, that, if one part of a whole has no intrinsic value, the value of the whole must reside entirely in the other parts. It has, in this way, been commonly supposed, that, if all valuable wholes could be seen to have one and only one common property, the wholes must be valuable solely because they possess this property; and the illusion is greatly strengthened, if the common property in question seems, considered by itself, to have more value than the other parts of such wholes, considered by themselves. But, if we consider the property in question, in isolation, and then compare it with the whole, of which it forms a part, it may become easily apparent that, existing by itself, the property in question has not nearly so much value, as has the whole to which it belongs. Thus, if we compare the value of a certain amount of pleasure, existing absolutely by itself, with the value of certain enjoyments, containing an equal amount of pleasure, it may become apparent that the enjoyment is much better than the pleasure, and also, in some cases, much worse. In such a case it is plain that the enjoyment does not owe its value solely to the pleasure it contains, although it might easily have appeared to do so, when we only considered the other constituents of the enjoyment, and seemed to see that, without the pleasure, they would have had no value. It is now apparent, on the contrary, that the whole enjoyment owes its value quite equally to the presence of the other constituents, even though it may be true that the pleasure is the only constituent having any value by itself. And similarly, if we are told that all things owe their value solely to the fact that they are realisations of the true self, we may easily refute this statement, by asking whether the predicate that is meant by realising the true self, supposing that it could exist alone, would have any value whatsoever. Either the thing, which does realise the true self, has intrinsic value or it has not; and if it has, then it certainly does not owe its value solely to the fact that it realises the true self.

§ 113.
If, now, we use this method of absolute isolation, and guard against these errors, it appears that the question we have to answer is far less difficult than the controversies of Ethics might have led us to expect. Indeed, once the meaning of the question is clearly understood, the answer to it, in its main outlines, appears to be so obvious, that it runs the risk of seeming to be a platitude. By far the most valuable things, which we know or can imagine, are certain states of consciousness, which may be roughly described as the pleasures of human intercourse and the enjoyment of beautiful objects. No one, probably, who has asked himself the question, has ever doubted that personal affection and the appreciation of what is beautiful in Art or Nature, are good in themselves; nor, if we consider strictly what things are worth having purely for their own sakes, does it appear probable that any one will think that anything else has nearly so great a value as the things which are included under these two heads. I have myself urged in Chap. III. (§ 50) that the mere existence of what is beautiful does appear to have some intrinsic value; but I regard it as indubitable that Prof. Sidgwick was so far right, in the view there discussed, that such mere existence of what is beautiful has value, so small as to be negligible, in comparison with that which attaches to the consciousness of beauty. This simple truth may, indeed, be said to be universally recognised. What has not been recognised is that it is the ultimate and fundamental truth of Moral Philosophy. That it is only for the sake of these things—in order that as much of them as possible may at some time exist—that any one can be justified in performing any public or private duty; that they are the raison d’être of virtue; that it is they—these complex wholes themselves, and not any constituent or characteristic of them—that form the rational ultimate end of human action and the sole criterion of social progress: these appear to be truths which have been generally overlooked.

That they are truths—that personal affections and aesthetic enjoyments include all the greatest, and by far the greatest, goods we can imagine, will, I hope, appear more plainly in the course of that analysis of them, to which I shall now proceed. All the things, which I have meant to include under the above descriptions, are highly complex organic unities; and in discussing the consequences, which follow from this fact, and the elements of which they are composed, I may hope at the same time both to confirm and to define my position.

§ 114.
I. I propose to begin by examining what I have called aesthetic enjoyments, since the case of personal affections presents some additional complications. It is, I think, universally admitted that the proper appreciation of a beautiful object is a good thing in itself; and my question is: What are the main elements included in such an appreciation?

(1) It is plain that in those instances of aesthetic appreciation, which we think most valuable, there is included, not merely a bare cognition of what is beautiful in the object, but also some kind of feeling or emotion. It is not sufficient that a man should merely see the beautiful qualities in a picture and know that they are beautiful, in order that we may give his state of mind the highest praise. We require that he should also appreciation the beauty of that which he sees and which he knows to be beautiful—that he should feel and see its beauty. And by these expressions we certainly mean that he should have an appropriate emotion towards the beautiful qualities which he cognises. It is perhaps the case that all aesthetic emotions have some common quality; but it is certain that differences in the emotion seem to be appropriate to differences in the kind of beauty perceived: and by saying that different emotions are appropriate to different kinds of beauty, we mean that the whole which is formed by the consciousness of that kind of beauty together with the emotion appropriate to it, is better than if any other emotion had been felt in contemplating that particular beautiful object. Accordingly we have a large variety of different emotions, each of which is a necessary constituent in some state of consciousness which we judge to be good. All of these emotions are essential elements in great positive goods; they are parts of organic wholes, which have great intrinsic value. But it is important to observe that these wholes are organic, and that, hence, it does not follow that the emotion, by itself, would have any value whatsoever, nor yet that, if it were directed to a different object, the whole thus formed might not be positively bad. And, in fact, it seems to be the case that if we distinguish the emotional element, in any aesthetic appreciation, from the cognitive element, which accompanies it and is, in fact, commonly thought of as a part of the emotion; and if we consider what value this emotional element would have, existing by itself, we can hardly think that it has any great value, even if it has any at all. Whereas, if the same emotion be directed to a different object, if, for instance, it is felt towards an object that is positively ugly, the whole state of consciousness is certainly often positively bad in a high degree.

§ 115.
(2) In the last paragraph I have pointed out the two facts, that the presence of some emotion is necessary to give any very high value to a state of aesthetic appreciation, and that, on the other hand, this same emotion, in itself, may have little or no value: it follows that these emotions give to the wholes of which they form a part a value far greater than that which they themselves possess. The same is obviously true of the cognitive element which must be combined with these emotions in order to form these highly valuable wholes; and the present paragraph will attempt to define what is meant by this cognitive element, so far as to guard against a possible misunderstanding. When we talk of seeing a beautiful object, or, more generally, of the cognition or consciousness of a beautiful object, we may mean by these expressions something which forms no part of any valuable whole. There is an ambiguity in the use of the term object, which has probably been responsible for as many enormous errors in philosophy and psychology as any other single cause. This ambiguity may easily be detected by considering the proposition, which, though a contradiction in terms, is obviously true: That when a man sees a beautiful picture, he may see nothing beautiful whatever. The ambiguity consists in the fact that, by the object of vision (or cognition), may be meant either the qualities actually seen or all the qualities possessed by the thing seen. Thus in our case: when it is said that the picture is beautiful, it is meant that it contains qualities which are beautiful; when it is said that the man sees the picture, it is meant that he sees a great number of the qualities contained in the picture; and when it is said that, nevertheless, he sees nothing beautiful, it is meant that he does not see those qualities of the picture which are beautiful. When, therefore, I speak of the cognition of a beautiful object, as an essential element in a valuable aesthetic appreciation, I must be understood to mean only the cognition of the beautiful qualities possessed by that object, and not the cognition of other qualities of the object possessing them. And this distinction must itself be carefully distinguished from the other distinction expressed above by the distinct terms seeing the beauty of a thing and seeing its beautiful qualities. By seeing the beauty of a thing we commonly mean the having an emotion towards its beautiful qualities; whereas in the seeing of its beautiful qualities we do not include any emotion. By the cognitive element, which is equally necessary with emotions to the existence of a valuable appreciation, I mean merely the actual cognition or consciousness of any or all of an object’s beautiful qualities—that is to say, any or all of those elements in the object which possess any positive beauty. That such a cognitive element is essential to a valuable whole may be easily seen, by asking: What value should we attribute to the proper emotion excited by hearing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, if that emotion were entirely unaccompanied by any consciousness, either of the notes, or of the melodic and harmonic relations between them? And that the mere hearing of the Symphony, even accompanied by the appropriate emotion, is not sufficient, may be easily seen, if we consider what would be the state of a man, who should hear all the notes, but should not be aware of any of those melodic and harmonic relations, which are necessary to constitute the smallest beautiful elements in the Symphony.

§ 116.
(3) Connected with the distinction just made between object in the sense of the qualities actually before the mind and object in the sense of the whole thing which possesses the qualities actually before the mind, is another distinction of the utmost importance for a correct analysis of the constituents necessary to a valuable whole. It is commonly and rightly thought that to see beauty in a thing which has no beauty is in some way inferior to seeing beauty in that which really has it. But under this single description of seeing beauty in that which has no beauty, two very different facts, and facts of very different value, may be included. We may mean either the attribution to an object of really beautiful qualities which it does not possess or the feeling towards qualities, which the object does possess but which are in reality not beautiful, an emotion which is appropriate only to qualities really beautiful. Both these facts are of very frequent occurrence; and in most instances of emotion both no doubt occur together: but they are obviously quite distinct, and the distinction is of the utmost importance for a correct estimate of values. The former may be called an error of judgment, and the latter an error of taste; but it is important to observe that the error of taste commonly involves a false judgment of value; whereas the error of judgment is merely a false judgment of fact.

Now the case which I have called an error of taste, namely, where the actual qualities we admire (whether possessed by the object or not) are ugly, can in any case have no value, except such as may belong to the emotion by itself; and in most, if not in all, cases it is a considerable positive evil. In this sense, then, it is undoubtedly right to think that seeing beauty in a thing which has no beauty is inferior in value to seeing beauty where beauty really is. But the other case is much more difficult. In this case there is present all that I have hitherto mentioned as necessary to constitute a great positive good: there is a cognition of qualities really beautiful, together with an appropriate emotion towards these qualities. There can, therefore, be no doubt that we have here a great positive good. But there is present also something else; namely, a belief that these beautiful qualities exist, and that they exist in a certain relation to other things—namely, to some properties of the object to which we attribute these qualities: and further the object of this belief is false. And we may ask, with regard to the whole thus constituted, whether the presence of the belief, and the fact that what is believed is false, make any difference to its value? We thus get three different cases of which it is very important to determine the relative values. Where both the cognition of beautiful qualities and the appropriate emotion are present we may also have either (1) a belief in the existence of these qualities, of which the object, i.e. that they exist, is true: or (2) a mere cognition, without belief, when it is (a) true, (b) false, that the object of the cognition, i.e. the beautiful qualities, exists: or (3) a belief in the existence of the beautiful qualities, when they do not exist. The importance of these cases arises from the fact that the second defines the pleasures of imagination, including a great part of the appreciation of those works of art which are representative; whereas the first contrasts with these the appreciation of what is beautiful in Nature, and the human affections. The third, on the other hand, is contrasted with both, in that it is chiefly exemplified in what is called misdirected affection; and it is possible also that the love of God, in the case of a believer, should fall under this head.

§ 117.
Now all these three cases, as I have said, have something in common, namely, that, in them all, we have a cognition of really beautiful qualities together with an appropriate emotion towards those qualities. I think, therefore, it cannot be doubted (nor is it commonly doubted) that all three include great positive goods; they are all things of which we feel convinced that they are worth having for their own sakes. And I think that the value of the second, in either of its two subdivisions, is precisely the same as the value of the element common to all three. In other words, in the case of purely imaginative appreciations we have merely the cognition of really beautiful qualities together with the appropriate emotion; and the question, whether the object cognised exists or not, seems here, where there is no belief either in its existence or in its non-existence, to make absolutely no difference to the value of the total state. But it seems to me that the two other cases do differ in intrinsic value both from the one and from one another, even though the object cognised and the appropriate emotion should be identical in all three cases. I think that the additional presence of a belief in the reality of the object makes the total state much better, if the belief is true; and worse, if the belief is false. In short, where there is belief, in the sense in which we do believe in the existence of Nature and horses, and do not believe in the existence of an ideal landscape and unicorns, the truth of what is believed does make a great difference to the value of the organic whole. If this be the case, we shall have vindicated the belief that knowledge, in the ordinary sense, as distinguished on the one hand from belief in what is false and on the other from the mere awareness of what is true, does contribute towards intrinsic value—that, at least in some cases, its presence as a part makes a whole more valuable than it could have been without.

Now I think there can be no doubt that we do judge that there is a difference of value, such as I have indicated, between the three cases in question. We do think that the emotional contemplation of a natural scene, supposing its qualities equally beautiful, is in some way a better state of things than that of a painted landscape: we think that the world would be improved if we could substitute for the best works of representative art real objects equally beautiful. And similarly we regard a misdirected affection or admiration, even where the error involved is a mere error of judgment and not an error of taste, as in some way unfortunate. And further, those, at least, who have a strong respect for truth, are inclined to think that a merely poetical contemplation of the Kingdom of Heaven would be superior to that of the religious believer, if it were the case that the Kingdom of Heaven does not and will not really exist. Most persons, on a sober, reflective judgment, would feel some hesitation even in preferring the felicity of a madman, convinced that the world was ideal, to the condition either of a poet imagining an ideal world, or of themselves enjoying and appreciating the lesser goods which do and will exist. But, in order to assure ourselves that these judgments are really judgments of intrinsic value upon the question before us, and to satisfy ourselves that they are correct, it is necessary clearly to distinguish our question from two others which have a very important bearing upon our total judgment of the cases in question.

§ 118.
In the first place (a) it is plain that, where we believe, the question whether what we believe is true or false, will generally have a most important bearing upon the value of our belief as a means. Where we believe, we are apt to act upon our belief, in a way in which we do not act upon our cognition of the events in a novel. The truth of what we believe is, therefore, very important as preventing the pains of disappointment and still more serious consequences. And it might be thought that a misdirected attachment was unfortunate solely for this reason: that it leads us to count upon results, which the real nature of its object is not of a kind to ensure. So too the Love of God, where, as usual, it includes the belief that he will annex to certain actions consequences, either in this life or the next, which the course of nature gives no reason to expect, may lead the believer to perform actions of which the actual consequences, supposing no such God to exist, may be much worse than he might otherwise have effected: and it might be thought that this was the sole reason (as it is a sufficient one) why we should hesitate to encourage the Love of God, in the absence of any proof that he exists. And similarly it may be thought that the only reason why beauty in Nature should be held superior to an equally beautiful landscape or imagination, is that its existence would ensure greater permanence and frequency in our emotional contemplation of that beauty. It is, indeed, certain that the chief importance of most knowledge—of the truth of most of the things which we believe—does, in this world, consist in its extrinsic advantages: it is immediately valuable as a means.

And secondly, (b) it may be the case that the existence of that which we contemplate is itself a great positive good, so that, for this reason alone, the state of things described by saying, that the object of our emotion really exists, would be intrinsically superior to that in which it did not. This reason for superiority to that in which it did not. This reason for superiority is undoubtedly of great importance in the case of human affections, where the object of our admiration is the mental qualities of an admirable person; for that two such admirable persons should exist is greatly better than that there should be only one: and it would also discriminate the admiration of inanimate nature from that of its representations in art, in so far as we may allow a small intrinsic value to the existence of a beautiful object, apart from any contemplation of it. But it is to be noticed that this reason would not account for any difference in value between the cases where the truth was believed and that in which it was merely cognised, without either belief or disbelief. In other words, so far as this reason goes, the difference between the two subdivisions of our second class (that of imaginative contemplation) would be as great as between our first class and the second subdivision of our second. The superiority of the mere cognition of a beautiful object, when that object also happened to exist, over the same cognition when the object did not exist, would, on this account, be as great as that of the knowledge of a beautiful object over the mere imagination of it.

§ 119.
These two reasons for discriminating between the value of the three cases we are considering, must, I say, be carefully distinguished from that, of which I am now questioning the validity, if we are to obtain a correct answer concerning this latter. The question I am putting is this: Whether the whole constituted by the fact that there is an emotional contemplation of a beautiful object, which is both believed to be and is real, does not derive some of its value from the fact that the object is real? I am asking whether the value of this whole, as a whole, is not greater than that of those which differ from it, either by the absence of belief, with or without truth, or, belief being present, by the mere absence of truth? I am not asking either whether it is not superior to them as a means (which it certainly is), nor whether it may contain a more valuable part, namely, the existence of the object in question. My question is solely whether the existence of its object does not constitute an addition to the value of the whole, quite distinct from the addition constituted by the fact that this whole does contain a valuable part.

If, now, we put this question, I cannot avoid thinking that it should receive an affirmative answer. We can put it clearly by the method of isolation; and the sole decision must rest with our reflective judgment upon it, as thus clearly put. We can guard against the bias produced by a consideration of value as a means by supposing the case of an illusion as complete and permanent as illusions in this world never can be. We can imagine the case of a single person, enjoying throughout eternity the contemplation of scenery as beautiful, and intercourse with persons as admirable, as can be imagined; while yet the whole of the objects of his cognition are absolutely unreal. I think we should definitely pronounce the existence of a universe, which consisted solely of such a person, to be greatly inferior in value to one in which the objects, in the existence of which he believes, did really exist just as he believes them to do; and that it would be thus inferior not only because it would lack the goods which consist in the existence of the objects in question, but also merely because his belief would be false. That it would be inferior for this reason alone follows if we admit, what also appears to me certain, that the case of a person, merely imagining, without believing, the beautiful objects in question, would, although these objects really existed, be yet inferior to that of the person who also believed in their existence. For here all the additional good, which consists in the existence of the objects, is present, and yet there still seems to be a great difference in value between this case and that in which their existence is believed. But I think that my conclusion may perhaps be exhibited in a more convincing light by the following considerations. (1) It does not seem to me that the small degree of value which we may allow to the existence of beautiful inanimate objects is nearly equal in amount to the difference which I feel that there is between the appreciation (accompanied by belief) of such objects, when they really exist, and the purely imaginative appreciation of them when they do not exist. This inequality is more difficult to verify where the object is an admirable person, since a great value must be allowed to his existence. But yet I think it is not paradoxical to maintain that the superiority of reciprocal affection, where both objects are worthy and both exist, over an unreciprocated affection, where both are worthy but one does not exist, does not lie solely in the fact that, in the former case, we have two good things instead of one, but also in the fact that each is such as the other believes him to be. (2) It seems to me that the important contribution to value made by true belief may be very plainly seen in the following case. Suppose that a worthy object of affection does really exist and is believed to do so, but that there enters into the case this error of fact, that the qualities loved, though exactly like, are yet not the same which really do exist. This state of things is easily imagined, and I think we cannot avoid pronouncing that, although both persons here exist, it is yet not so satisfactory as where the very person loved and believed to exist is also the one which actually does exist.

§ 120.
If all this be so, we have, in this third section, added to our two former results the third result that a true belief in the reality of an object greatly increases the value of many valuable wholes. Just as in sections (1) and (2) it was maintained that aesthetic and affectionate emotions had little or no value apart from the cognition of appropriate objects, and that the cognition of these objects had little or no value apart from the appropriate emotion, so that the whole, in which both were combined, had a value greatly in excess of the sum of the values of its parts; so, according to this section, if there be added to these wholes a true belief in the reality of the object, the new whole thus formed has a value greatly in excess of the sum obtained by adding the value of the true belief, considered in itself, to that of our original wholes. This new case only differs from the former in this, that, whereas the true belief, by itself, has quite as little value as either of the two other constituents taken singly, yet they, taken together, seem to form a whole of very great value, whereas this is not the case with the two wholes which might be formed by adding the true belief to either of the others.

The importance of the result of this section seems to lie mainly in two of its consequences. (1) That it affords some justification for the immense intrinsic value, which seems to be commonly attributed to the mere knowledge of some truths, and which was expressly attributed to some kinds of knowledge by Plato and Aristotle. Perfect knowledge has indeed competed with perfect love for the position of Ideal. If the results of this section are correct, it appears that knowledge, though having little or no value by itself, is an absolutely essential constituent in the highest goods, and contributes immensely to their value. And it appears that this function may be performed not only by that case of knowledge, which we have chiefly considered, namely knowledge of the reality of the beautiful object cognised, but also by knowledge of the numerical identity of this object with that which really exists, and by the knowledge that the existence of that object is truly good. Indeed all knowledge, which is directly concerned with the nature of the constituents of a beautiful object, would seem capable of adding greatly to the value of the contemplation of that object, although, by itself, such knowledge would have no value at all.—And (2) The second important consequence, which follows from this section, is that the presence of true belief may, in spite of a great inferiority in the value of the emotion and the beauty of its objects, constitute with them a whole equal or superior in value to wholes, in which the emotion and beauty are superior, but in which a true belief is wanting or a false belief present. In this way may justify the attribution of equal or superior value to an appreciation of an inferior real object, as compared with the appreciation of a greatly superior object which is a mere creature of the imagination. Thus a just appreciation of nature and of real persons may maintain its equality with an equally just appreciation of the products of artistic imagination, in spite of much greater beauty in the latter. And similarly though God may be admitted to be a more perfect object than any actual human being, the love of God may yet be inferior to human love, if God does not exist.

§ 121.
(4) In order to complete the discussion of this first class of goods—goods which have an essential reference to beautiful objects—it would be necessary to attempt a classification and comparative valuation of all the different forms of beauty, a task which properly belongs to the study called Aesthetics. I do not, however, propose to attempt any part of this task. It must only be understood that I intend to include among the essential constituents of the goods I have been discussing, every form and variety of beautiful object, if only it be truly beautiful; and, if this be understood, I think it may be seen that the consensus of opinion with regard to what is positively beautiful and what is positively ugly, and even with regard to great differences in degree of beauty, is quite sufficient to allow us a hope that we need not greatly err in our judgments of good and evil. In anything which is thought beautiful by any considerable number of persons, there is probably some beautiful quality; and differences of opinion seem to be far more often due to exclusive attention, on the part of different persons, to different qualities in the same object, than to the positive error of supposing a quality that is ugly to be really beautiful. When an object, which some think beautiful, is denied to be so by others, the truth is usually that it lacks some beautiful quality or is deformed by some ugly one, which engage the exclusive attention of the critics.

I may, however, state two general principles, closely connected with the results of this chapter, the recognition of which would seem to be of great importance for the investigation of what things are truly beautiful. The first of these is (1) a definition of beauty, of what is meant by saying that a thing is truly beautiful. The naturalistic fallacy has been quite as commonly committed with regard to beauty as with regard to good: its use has introduced as many errors into Aesthetics as into Ethics. It has been even more commonly supposed that the beautiful may be defined as that which produces certain effects upon our feelings; and the conclusion which follows from this—namely, that judgments of taste are merely subjective—that precisely the same thing may, according to circumstances, be both beautiful and not beautiful—has very frequently been drawn. The conclusions of this chapter suggest a definition of beauty, which may partially explain and entirely remove the difficulties which have led to this error. It appears probable that the beautiful should be defined as that of which the admiring contemplation is good in itself. That is to say: To assert that a thing is beautiful is to assert that the cognition of it is an essential element in one of the intrinsically valuable wholes we have been discussing; so that the question, whether it is truly beautiful or not, depends upon the objective question whether the whole in question is or is not truly good, and does not depend upon the question whether it would or would not excite particular feelings in particular persons. This definition has the double recommendation that it accounts both for the apparent connection between goodness and beauty and for the no less apparent difference between these two conceptions. It appears, at first sight, to be a strange coincidence, that there should be two different objective predicates of value, good and beautiful, which are nevertheless so related to one another that whatever is beautiful is also good. But, if our definition be correct, the strangeness disappears; since it leaves only one unanalysable predicate of value, namely good, while beautiful, though not identical with, is to be defined by reference to this, being thus, at the same time, different from and necessarily connected with it. In short, on this view, to say that a thing is beautiful is to say, not indeed that it is itself good, but that it is a necessary element in something which is: to prove that a thing is truly beautiful is to prove that a whole, to which it bears a particular relation as a part, is truly good. And in this way we should explain the immense predominance, among objects commonly considered beautiful, of material objects—objects of the external senses; since these objects, though themselves having, as has been said, little or no intrinsic value, are yet essential constituents in the largest group of wholes which have intrinsic value. These wholes themselves may be, and are, also beautiful; but the comparative rarity, with which we regard them as themselves objects of contemplation, seems sufficient to explain the association of beauty with external objects.

And secondly (2) it is to be observed that beautiful objects are themselves, for the most part, organic unities, in this sense, that they are wholes of great complexity, such that the contemplation of any part, by itself, may have no value, and yet that, unless the contemplation of the whole includes the contemplation of that part, it will lose in value. From this it follows that there can be no single criterion of beauty. It will never be true to say: This object owes its beauty solely to the presence of this characteristic; nor yet that: Wherever this characteristic is present, the object must be beautiful. All that can be true is that certain objects are beautiful, because they have certain characteristics, in the sense that they would not be beautiful unless they had them. And it may be possible to find that certain characteristics are more or less universally present in all beautiful objects, and are, in this sense, more or less important conditions of beauty. But it is important to observe that the very qualities, which differentiate one beautiful object from all others, are, if the object be truly beautiful, as essential to its beauty, as those which it has in common with ever so many others. The object would no more have the beauty it has, without its specific qualities, than without those that are generic; and the generic qualities, by themselves, would fail, as completely, to give beauty, as those which are specific.

§ 122.
II. It will be remembered that I began this survey of great unmixed goods, by dividing all the greatest goods we know into the two classes of aesthetic enjoyments, on the one hand, and the pleasures of human intercourse or of personal affection, on the other. I postponed the consideration of the latter on the ground that they presented additional complications. In what this additional complication consists, will now be evident; and I have already been obliged to take account of it, in discussing the contribution to value made by true belief. It consists in the fact that in the case of personal affection, the object itself is not merely beautiful, while possessed of little or no intrinsic value, but is itself, in part at least, of great intrinsic value. All the constituents which we have found to be necessary to the most valuable aesthetic enjoyments, namely, appropriate emotion, cognition of truly beautiful qualities, and true belief, are equally necessary here; but here we have the additional fact that the object must be not only truly beautiful, but also truly good in a high degree.

It is evident that this additional complication only occurs in so far as there is included in the object of personal affection some of the mental qualities of the person towards whom the affection is felt. And I think it may be admitted that, wherever the affection is most valuable, the appreciation of mental qualities must form a large part of it, and that the presence of this part makes the whole far more valuable than it could have been without it. But it seems very doubtful whether this appreciation, by itself, can possess as much value as the whole in which it is combined with an appreciation of the appropriate corporeal expression of the mental qualities in question. It is certain that in all actual cases of valuable affection, the bodily expressions of character, whether by looks, by words, or by actions, do form a part of the object towards which the affection is felt, and that the fact of their inclusion appears to heighten the value of the whole state. It is, indeed, very difficult to imagine what the cognition of mental qualities alone, unaccompanied by any corporeal expression, would be like; and, in so far as we succeed in making this abstraction, the whole considered certainly appears to have less value. I therefore conclude that the importance of an admiration of admirable mental qualities lies chiefly in the immense superiority of a whole, in which it forms a part, to one in which it is absent, and not in any high degree of intrinsic value which it possesses by itself. It even appears to be doubtful, whether, in itself, it possesses so much value as the appreciation of mere corporeal beauty undoubtedly does possess; that is to say, whether the appreciation of what has great intrinsic value is so valuable as the appreciation of what is merely beautiful.

But further if we consider the nature of admirable mental qualities, by themselves, it appears that a proper appreciation of them involves a reference to purely material beauty in yet another way. Admirable mental qualities do, if our previous conclusions are correct, consist very largely in an emotional contemplation of beautiful objects; and hence the appreciation of them will consist essentially in the contemplation of such contemplation. It is true that the most valuable appreciation of persons appears to be that which consists in the appreciation of their appreciation of other persons: but even here a reference to material beauty appears to be involved, both in respect of the fact that what is appreciated in the last instance may be the contemplation of what is merely beautiful, and in respect of the fact that the most valuable appreciation of a person appears to include an appreciation of his corporeal expression. Though, therefore, we may admit that the appreciation of a person’s attitude towards other persons, or, to take one instance, the love of love, is far the most valuable good we know, and far more valuable than the mere love of beauty, yet we can only admit this if the first be understood to include the latter, in various degrees of directness.

With regard to the question what are the mental qualities of which the cognition is essential to the value of human intercourse, it is plain that they include, in the first place, all those varieties of aesthetic appreciation, which formed our first class of goods. They include, therefore, a great variety of different emotions, each of which is appropriate to some different kind of beauty. But we must now add to these the whole range of emotions, which are appropriate to persons, and which are different from those which are appropriate to mere corporeal beauty. It must also be remembered that just as these emotions have little value in themselves, and as the state of mind in which they exist may have its value greatly heightened, or may entirely lose it and become positively evil in a great degree, according as the cognitions accompanying the emotions are appropriate or inappropriate; so too the appreciation of these emotions, though it may have some value in itself, may yet form part of a whole which has far greater value or no value at all, according as it is or is not accompanied by a perception of the appropriateness of the emotions to their objects. It is obvious, therefore, that the study of what is valuable in human intercourse is a study of immense complexity; and that there may be much human intercourse which has little or no value, or is positively bad. Yet here too, as with the question what is beautiful, there seems no reason to doubt that a reflective judgment will in the main decide correctly both as to what are positive goods and even as to any great differences in value between these goods. In particular, it may be remarked that the emotions, of which the contemplation is essential to the greatest values, and which are also themselves appropriately excited by such contemplation, appear to be those which are commonly most highly prized under the name of affection.

§ 123.
I have now completed my examination into the nature of those great positive goods, which do not appear to include among their constituents anything positively evil or ugly, though they include much which is in itself indifferent. And I wish to point out certain conclusions which appear to follow, with regard to the nature of the Summum Bonum, or that state of things which would be the most perfect we can conceive. Those idealistic philosophers, whose views agree most closely with those here advocated, in that they deny pleasure to be the sole good and regard what is completely good as having some complexity, have usually represented a purely spiritual state of existence as the Ideal. Regarding matter as essentially imperfect, if not positively evil, they have concluded that the total absence of all material properties is necessary to a state of perfection. Now, according to what has been said, this view would be correct so far as it asserts that any great good must be mental, and so far as it asserts that a purely material existence, by itself, can have little or no value. The superiority of the spiritual over the material has, in a sense, been amply vindicated. But it does not follow, from this superiority, that a perfect state of things must be one, from which all material properties are rigidly excluded: on the contrary, if our conclusions are correct, it would seem to be the case that a state of things, in which they are included, must be vastly better than any conceivable state in which they were absent. In order to see that this is so, the chief thing necessary to be considered is exactly what it is which we declare to be good when we declare that the appreciation of beauty in Art and Nature is so. That this appreciation is good, the philosophers in question do not for the most part deny. But, if we admit it, then we should remember Butler’s maxim that: Everything is what it is, and not another thing. I have tried to shew, and I think it is too evident to be disputed, that such appreciation is an organic unity, a complex whole; and that, in its most undoubted instances, part of what is included in this whole is a cognition of material qualities, and particularly of a vast variety of what are called secondary qualities. If, then, it is this whole, which we know to be good, and not another thing, then we know that material qualities, even though they be perfectly worthless in themselves, are yet essential constituents of what is far from worthless. What we know to be valuable is the apprehension of just these qualities, and not of any others; and, if we propose to subtract them from it, then what we have left is not that which we know to have value, but something else. And it must be noticed that this conclusion holds, even if my contention that a true belief in the existence of these qualities adds to the value of the whole in which it is included, be disputed. We should then, indeed, be entitled to assert that the existence of a material world was wholly immaterial to perfection; but the fact that what we knew to be good was a cognition of material qualities (though purely imaginary), would still remain. It must, then, be admitted on pain of self-contradiction—on pain of holding that things are not what they are, but something else—that a world, from which material qualities were wholly banished, would be a world which lacked many, if not all, of those things, which we know most certainly to be great goods. That it might nevertheless be a far better world than one which retained these goods, I have already admitted (§ 111 (1)). But in order to shew that any such world would be thus better, it would be necessary to shew that the retention of these things, though good in themselves, impaired, in a more than equal degree, the value of some whole, to which they might belong; and the task of shewing this has certainly never been attempted. Until it be performed, we are entitled to assert that material qualities are a necessary constituent of the Ideal; that, though something utterly unknown might be better than any world containing them or any other good we know, yet we have no reason to suppose that anything whatever would be better than a state of things in which they were included. To deny and exclude matter, is to deny and exclude the best we know. That a thing may retain its value, while losing some of its qualities, is utterly untrue. All that is true is that the changed thing may have more value than, or as much value as, that of which the qualities have been lost. What I contend is that nothing, which we know to be good, and which contains no material qualities, has such great value that we can declare it, by itself, to be superior to the whole which would be formed by the addition to it of an appreciation of material qualities. That a purely spiritual good may be the best of single things, I am not much concerned to dispute, although, in what has been said with regard to the nature of personal affection, I have given reasons for doubting it. But that by adding to it some appreciation of material qualities, which, though perhaps inferior by itself, is certainly a great positive good, we should obtain a greater sum of value, which no corresponding decrease in the value of the whole, as a whole, could counterbalance—this, I maintain, we have certainly no reason to doubt.

§ 124.
In order to complete this discussion of the main principles involved in the determination of intrinsic value, the chief remaining topics, necessary to be treated, appear to be two. The first of these is the nature of great intrinsic evils, including what I may call mixed evils; that is to say, those evil wholes, which nevertheless contain, as essential elements, something positively good or beautiful. And the second is the nature of what I may similarly call mixed goods; that is to say, those wholes, which, though intrinsically good as wholes, nevertheless contain, as essential elements, something positively evil or ugly. It will greatly facilitate this discussion, if I may be understood throughout to use the terms beautiful and ugly, not necessarily with reference to things of the kind which most naturally occur to us as instances of what is beautiful and ugly, but in accordance with my own proposed definition of beauty. Thus I shall use the word beautiful to denote that of which the admiring contemplation is good in itself; and ugly to denote that of which the admiring contemplation is evil in itself.

I. With regard, then, to great positive evils, I think it is evident that, if we take all due precautions to discover precisely what those things are, of which, if they existed absolutely by themselves, we should judge the existence to be a great evil, we shall find most of them to be organic unities of exactly the same nature as those which are the greatest positive goods. That is to say, they are cognitions of some object, accompanied by some emotion. Just as neither a cognition nor an emotion, by itself, appeared capable of being greatly good, so (with one exception), neither a cognition nor an emotion, by itself, appears capable of being greatly evil. And just as a whole formed of both, even without the addition of any other element, appeared undoubtedly capable of being a great good, so such a whole, by itself, appears capable of being a great evil. With regard to the third element, which was discussed as capable of adding greatly to the value of a good, namely, true belief, it will appear that it has different relations towards different kinds of evils. In some cases the addition of true belief to a positive evil seems to constitute a far worse evil; but in other cases it is not apparent that it makes any difference.

The greatest positive evils may be divided into the following three classes.

§ 125.
(1) The first class consists of those evils, which seem always to include an enjoyment or admiring contemplation of things which are themselves either evil or ugly. That is to say these evils are characterised by the fact that they include precisely the same emotion, which is also essential to the greatest unmixed goods, from which they are differentiated by the fact that this emotion is directed towards an inappropriate object. In so far as this emotion is either a slight good in itself or a slightly beautiful object, these evils would therefore be cases of what I have called mixed evils; but, as I have already said, it seems very doubtful whether an emotion, completely isolated from its object, has either value or beauty: it certainly has not much of either. It is, however, important to observe that the very same emotions, which are often loosely talked of as the greatest or the only goods, may be essential constituents of the very worst wholes: that, according to the nature of the cognition which accompanies them, they may be conditions either of the greatest good, or of the greatest evil.

In order to illustrate the nature of evils of this class, I may take two instances—cruelty and lasciviousness. That these are great intrinsic evils, we may, I think, easily assure ourselves, by imagining the state of a man, whose mind is solely occupied by either of these passions, in their worst form. If we then consider what judgment we should pass upon a universe which consisted solely of minds thus occupied, without the smallest hope that there would ever exist in it the smallest consciousness of any object other than those proper to these passions, or any feeling directed to any such object, I think we cannot avoid the conclusion that the existence of such a universe would be a far worse evil than the existence of none at all. But, if this be so, it follows that these two vicious states are not only, as is commonly admitted, bad as means, but also bad in themselves.—And that they involve in their nature that complication of elements, which I have called a love of what is evil or ugly, is, I think, no less plain. With regard to the pleasures of lust, the nature of the cognition, by the presence of which they are to be defined, is somewhat difficult to analyse. But it appears to include both cognitions of organic sensations and perceptions of states of the body, of which the enjoyment is certainly an evil in itself. So far as these are concerned, lasciviousness would, then, include in its essence an admiring contemplation of what is ugly. But certainly one of its commonest ingredients, in its worst forms, is an enjoyment of the same state of mind in other people: and in this case it would therefore also include a love of what is evil. With regard to cruelty, it is easy to see an enjoyment of pain in other people as essential to it; and, as we shall see, when we come to consider pain, this is certainly a love of evil: while, in so far as it also includes a delight in the bodily signs of agony, it would also comprehend a love of what is ugly. In both cases, it should be observed, the evil of the state is heightened not only by an increase in the evil or ugliness of the object, but also by an increase in the enjoyment.

It might be objected, in the case of cruelty, that our disapproval of it, even in the isolated case supposed, where no considerations of its badness as a means could influence us, may yet be really directed to the pain of the persons, which it takes delight in contemplating. This objection may be met, in the first place, by the remark that it entirely fails to explain the judgment, which yet, I think, no one, on reflection, will be able to avoid making, that even though the amount of pain contemplated be the same, yet the greater the delight in its contemplation, the worse the state of things. But it may also, I think, be met by notice of a fact, which we were unable to urge in considering the similar possibility with regard to goods—namely the possibility that the reason why we attribute greater value to a worthy affection for a real person, is that we take into account the additional good consisting in the existence of that person. We may I think urge, in the case of cruelty, that its intrinsic odiousness is equally great, whether the pain contemplated really exists or is purely imaginary. I, at least, am unable to distinguish that, in this case, the presence of true belief makes any difference to the intrinsic value of the whole considered, although it undoubtedly may make a great difference to its value as a means. And so also with regard to other evils of this class: I am unable to see that a true belief in the existence of their objects makes any difference in the degree of their positive demerits. On the other hand, the presence of another class of beliefs seems to make a considerable difference. When we enjoy what is evil or ugly, in spite of our knowledge that it is so, the state of things seems considerably worse than if we made no judgment at all as to the object’s value. And the same seems also, strangely enough, to be the case when we make a false judgment of value. When we admire what is ugly or evil, believing that it is beautiful and good, this belief seems also to enhance the intrinsic vileness of our condition. It must, of course, be understood that, in both these cases, the judgment in question is merely what I have called a judgment of taste: that is to say, it is concerned with the worth of the qualities actually cognised and not with the worth of object, to which those qualities may be rightly or wrongly attributed.

Finally it should be mentioned that evils of this class, beside that emotional element (namely enjoyment and admiration) which they share with great unmixed goods, appear always also to include some specific emotion, which does not enter in the same way into the constitution of any good. The presence of this specific emotion seems certainly to enhance the badness of the whole, though it is not plain that, by itself, it would be either evil or ugly.

§ 126.
(2) The second class of great evils are undoubtedly mixed evils; but I treat them next, because, in a certain respect, they appear to be the converse of the class last considered. Just as it is essential to this last class that they should include an emotion, appropriate to the cognition of what is good or beautiful, but directed to an inappropriate object; so to this second class it is essential that they should include a cognition of what is good or beautiful, but accompanied by an inappropriate emotion. In short, just as the last class may be described as cases of the love of what is evil or ugly, so this class may be described as cases of the hatred of what is good or beautiful.

With regard to these evils it should be remarked: First, that the vices of hatred, envy and contempt, where these vices are evil in themselves, appear to be instances of them; and that they are frequently accompanied by evils of the first class, for example, where a delight is felt in the pain of a good person. Where they are thus accompanied, the whole thus formed is undoubtedly worse than if either existed singly.

And secondly: That in their case a true belief in the existence of the good or beautiful object, which is hated, does appear to enhance the badness of the whole, in which it is present. Undoubtedly also, as in our first class, the presence of a true belief as to the value of the objects contemplated, increases the evil. But, contrary to what was the case in our first class, a false judgment of value appears to lessen it.

§ 127.
(3) The third class of great positive evils appears to be the class of pains.

With regard to these it should first be remarked that, as in the case of pleasure, it is not pain itself, but only the consciousness of pain, towards which our judgments of value are directed. Just as in Chap. III., it was said that pleasure, however intense, which no one felt, would be no good at all; so it appears that pain, however intense, of which there was no consciousness, would be no evil at all.

It is, therefore, only the consciousness of intense pain, which can be maintained to be a great evil. But that this, by itself, may be a great evil, I cannot avoid thinking. The case of pain thus seems to differ from that of pleasure: for the mere consciousness of pleasure, however intense, does not, by itself, appear to be a great good, even if it has some slight intrinsic value. In short, pain (if we understand by this expression, the consciousness of pain) appears to be a far worse evil than pleasure is a good. But, if this be so, then pain must be admitted to be an exception from the rule which seems to hold both of all other great evils and of all great goods: namely that they are all organic unities to which both a cognition of an object and an emotion directed towards that object are essential. In the case of pain and of pain alone, it seems to be true that a mere cognition, by itself, may be a great evil. It is, indeed, an organic unity, since it involves both the cognition and the object, neither of which, by themselves, has either merit or demerit. But it is a less complex organic unity than any other great evil and than any great good, both in respect of the fact that it does not involve, beside the cognition, an emotion directed towards its object, and also in respect of the fact that the object may here be absolutely simple, whereas in most, if not all, other cases, the object itself is highly complex.

This want of analogy between the relation of pain to intrinsic evil and of pleasure to intrinsic good, seems also to be exhibited in a second respect. Not only is it the case that consciousness of intense pain is, by itself, a great evil, whereas consciousness of intense pleasure is, by itself, no great good; but also the converse difference appears to hold of the contribution which they make to the value of the whole, when they are combined respectively with another great evil or with a great good. That is to say, the presence of pleasure (though not in proportion to its intensity) does appear to enhance the value of a whole, in which it is combined with any of the great unmixed goods which we have considered: it might even be maintained that it is only wholes, in which some pleasure is included, that possess any great value: it is certain, at all events, that the presence of pleasure makes a contribution to the value of good wholes greatly in excess of its own intrinsic value. On the contrary, if a feeling of pain be combined with any of the evil states of mind which we have been considering, the difference which its presence makes to the value of the whole, as a whole, seems to be rather for the better than the worse: in any case, the only additional evil which it introduces, is that which it, by itself, intrinsically constitutes. Thus, whereas pain is in itself a great evil, but makes no addition to the badness of a whole, in which it is combined with some other bad thing, except that which consists in its own intrinsic badness; pleasure, conversely, is not in itself a great good, but does make a great addition to the goodness of a whole in which it is combined with a good thing, quite apart from its own intrinsic value.

§ 128.
But finally, it must be insisted that pleasure and pain are completely analogous in this: that we cannot assume either that the presence of pleasure always makes a state of things better on the whole, or that the presence of pain always makes it worse. This is the truth which is most liable to be overlooked with regard to them; and it is because this is true, that the common theory, that pleasure is the only good and pain the only evil, has its grossest consequences in misjudgments of value. Not only is the pleasantness of a state not in proportion to its intrinsic worth; it may even add positively to its vileness. We do not think the successful hatred of a villain the less vile and odious, because he takes the keenest delight in it; nor is there the least need, in logic, why we should think so, apart from an unintelligent prejudice in favour of pleasure. In fact it seems to be the case that wherever pleasure is added to an evil state of either of our first two classes, the whole thus formed is always worse than if no pleasure had been there. And similarly with regard to pain. If pain be added to an evil state of either of our first two classes, the whole thus formed is always better, as a whole, than if no pain had been there; though here, if the pain be too intense, since that is a great evil, the state may not be better on the whole. It is in this way that the theory of vindictive punishment may be vindicated. The infliction of pain on a person whose state of mind is bad may, if the pain be not too intense, create a state of things that is better on the whole than if the evil state of mind had existed unpunished. Whether such a state of things can ever constitute a positive good, is another question.

§ 129.
II. The consideration of this other question belongs properly to the second topic, which was reserved above for discussion—namely the topic of mixed goods. Mixed goods were defined above as things, which, though positively good as wholes, nevertheless contain, as essential elements, something intrinsically evil or ugly. And there certainly seem to be such goods. But for the proper consideration of them, it is necessary to take into account a new distinction—the distinction just expressed as being between the value which a thing possesses as a whole, and that which it possesses on the whole.

When mixed goods were defined as things positively good as wholes, the expression was ambiguous. It is meant that they were positively good on the whole; but it must now be observed that the value which a thing possesses on the whole may be said to be equivalent to the sum of the value which it possesses as a whole, together with the intrinsic values which may belong to any of its parts. In fact, by the value which a thing possesses as a whole, there may be meant two quite distinct things. There may be meant either (1) That value which arises solely from the combination of two or more things; or else (2) The total value formed by the addition to (1) of any intrinsic value which may belong to the things combined. The meaning of the distinction may perhaps be most easily seen by considering the supposed case of vindictive punishment. If it is true that the combined existence of two evils may yet constitute a less evil than would be constituted by the existence of either singly, it is plain that this can only be because there arises from the combination a positive good which is greater than the difference between the sum of the two evils and the demerit of either singly: this positive good would then be the value of the whole, as a whole, in sense (1). Yet if this value be not so great a good as the sum of the two evils is an evil, it is plain that the value of the whole state of things will be a positive evil; and this value is the value of the whole, as a whole, in sense (2). Whatever view may be taken with regard to the particular case of vindictive punishment, it is plain that we have here two distinct things, with regard to either of which a separate question may be asked in the case of every organic unity. The first of these two things may be expressed as the difference between the value of the whole thing and the sum of the value of its parts. And it is plain that where the parts have little or no intrinsic value (as in our first class of goods, §§ 114, 115), this difference will be nearly or absolutely identical with the value of the whole thing. The distinction, therefore, only becomes important in the case of wholes, of which one or more parts have a great intrinsic value, positive or negative. The first of these cases, that of a whole, in which one part has a great positive value, is exemplified in our 2nd and 3rd classes of great unmixed goods (§§ 120, 122); and similarly the Summum Bonum is a whole of which many parts have a great positive value. Such cases, it may be observed, are also very frequent and very important objects of Aesthetic judgment; since the essential distinction between the classical and the romantic styles consists in the fact that the former aims at obtaining the greatest possible value for the whole, as a whole, in sense (1), whereas the latter sacrifices this in order to obtain the greatest possible value for some part, which is itself an organic unity. It follows that we cannot declare either style to be necessarily superior, since an equally good result on the whole, or as a whole in sense (2), may be obtained by either method; but the distinctively aesthetic temperament seems to be characterised by a tendency to prefer a good result obtained by the classical, to an equally good result obtained by the romantic method.

§ 130.
But what we have now to consider are cases of wholes, in which one or more parts have a great negative value—are great positive evils. And first of all, we may take the strongest cases, like that of retributive punishment, in which we have a whole, exclusively composed of two great positive evils—wickedness and pain. Can such a whole ever be positively good on the whole?

(1) I can see no reason to think that such wholes ever are positively good on the whole. But from the fact that they may, nevertheless, be less evils, than either of their parts taken singly, it follows that they have a characteristic which is most important for the correct decision of practical questions. It follows that, quite apart from consequences or any value which an evil may have as a mere means, it may, supposing one evil already exists, be worth while to create another, since, by the mere creation of this second, there may be constituted a whole less bad than if the original evil had been left to exist by itself. And similarly, with regard to all the wholes which I am about to consider, it must be remembered, that, even if they are not goods on the whole, yet, where an evil already exists, as in this world evils do exist, the existence of the other part of these wholes will constitute a thing desirable for its own sake—that is to say, not merely a means to future goods, but one of the ends which must be taken into account in estimating what that best possible state of things is, to which every right action must be a means.

§ 131.
(2) But, as a matter of fact, I cannot avoid thinking that there are wholes, containing something positively evil and ugly, which are, nevertheless, great positive goods on the whole. Indeed, it appears to be to this class that those instances of virtue, which contain anything intrinsically good, chiefly belong. It need not, of course, be denied that there is sometimes included in a virtuous disposition more or less of those unmixed goods which were first discussed—that is to say, a real love of what is good or beautiful. But the typical and characteristic virtuous dispositions, so far as they are not mere means, seem rather to be examples of mixed goods. We may take as instances (a) Courage and Compassion, which seem to belong to the second of the three classes of virtues distinguished in our last chapter (§ 107); and (b) the specifically moral sentiment, by reference to which the third of those three classes was defined (§ 108).

Courage and compassion, in so far as they contain an intrinsically desirable state of mind, seem to involve essentially a cognition of something evil or ugly. In the case of courage the object of the cognition may be an evil of any of our three classes; in the case of compassion, the proper object is pain. Both these virtues, accordingly, must contain precisely the same cognitive element, which is also essential to evils of class (1); and they are differentiated from these by the fact that the emotion directed to these objects is, in their case, an emotion of the same kind which was essential to evils of class (2). In short, just as evils of class (2) seemed to consist in a hatred of what was good or beautiful, and evils of class (1) in a love of what was evil or ugly; so these virtues involve a hatred of what is evil or ugly. Both these virtues do, no doubt, also contain other elements, and, among these, each contains its specific emotion; but that their value does not depend solely upon these other elements, we may easily assure ourselves, by considering what we should think of an attitude of endurance or of defiant contempt toward an object intrinsically good or beautiful, or of the state of a man whose mind was filled with pity for the happiness of a worthy admiration. Yet pity for the undeserved sufferings of others, endurance of pain to ourselves, and a defiant hatred of evil dispositions in ourselves or in others, seem to be undoubtedly admirable in themselves; and if so, there are admirable things, which must be lost, if there were no cognition of evil.

Similarly the specifically moral sentiment, in all cases where it has any considerable intrinsic value, appears to include a hatred of evils of the first and second classes. It is true that the emotion is here excited by the idea that an action is right or wrong; and hence the object of the idea which excites it is generally not an intrinsic evil. But, as far as I can discover, the emotion with which a conscientious man views a real or imaginary right action, contains, as an essential element, the same emotion with which he views a wrong one: it seems, indeed, that this element is necessary to make his emotion specifically moral. And the specifically moral emotion excited by the idea of a wrong action, seems to me to contain essentially a more or less vague cognition of the kind of intrinsic evils, which are usually caused by wrong actions, whether they would or would not be caused by the particular action in question. I am, in fact, unable to distinguish, in its main features, the moral sentiment excited by the idea of rightness and wrongness, wherever it is intense, from the total state constituted by a cognition of something intrinsically evil together with the emotion of hatred directed towards it. Nor need we be surprised that this mental state should be the one chiefly associated with the idea of rightness, if we reflect on the nature of those actions which are most commonly recognised as duties. For by far the greater part of the actions, of which we commonly think as duties, are negative: what we feel to be our duty is to abstain from some action to which a strong natural impulse tempts us. And these wrong actions, in the avoidance of which duty consists, are usually such as produce, very immediately, some bad consequence in pain to others; while, in many prominent instances, the inclination, which prompts us to them, is itself an intrinsic evil, containing, as where the impulse is lust or cruelty, an anticipatory enjoyment of something evil or ugly. That right action does thus so frequently entail the suppression of some evil impulse, is necessary to explain the plausibility of the view that virtue consists in the control of passion by reason. Accordingly, the truth seems to be that, whenever a strong moral emotion is excited by the idea of rightness, this emotion is accompanied by a vague cognition of the kind of evils usually suppressed or avoided by the actions which most frequently occur to us as instances of duty; and that the emotion is directed towards this evil quality. We may, then, conclude that the specific moral emotion owes almost all its intrinsic value to the fact that it includes a cognition of evils accompanied by a hatred of them: mere rightness, whether truly or untruly attributed to an action, seems incapable of forming the object of an emotional contemplation, which shall be any great good.

§ 132.
If this be so, then we have, in many prominent instances of virtue, cases of a whole, greatly good in itself, which yet contains the cognition of something, whereof the existence would be a great evil: a great good is absolutely dependent for its value, upon its inclusion of something evil or ugly, although it does not owe its value solely to this element in it. And, in the case of virtues, this evil object does, in general, actually exist. But there seems no reason to think that, when it does exist, the whole state of things thus constituted is therefore the better on the whole. What seems indubitable, is only that the feeling contemplation of an object, whose existence would be a great evil, or which is ugly, may be essential to a valuable whole. We have another undoubted instance of this in the appreciation of tragedy. But, in tragedy, the sufferings of Lear, and the vice of Iago may be purely imaginary. And it seems certain that, if they really existed, the evil thus existing, while it must detract from the good consisting in a proper feeling towards them, will add no positive value to that good great enough to counterbalance such a loss. It does, indeed, seem that the existence of a true belief in the object of these mixed goods does add some value to the whole in which it is combined with them: a conscious compassion for real suffering seems to be better, as a whole, than a compassion for sufferings merely imaginary; and this may well be the case, even though the evil involved in the actual suffering makes the total state of things bad on the whole. And it certainly seems to be true that a false belief in the actual existence of its object makes a worse mixed good than if our state of mind were that with which we normally regard pure fiction. Accordingly we may conclude that the only mixed goods, which are positively good on the whole, are those in which the object is something which would be a great evil, if it existed, or which is ugly.

§ 133.
With regard, then, to those mixed goods, which consist in an appropriate attitude of the mind towards things evil or ugly, and which include among their number the greater part of such virtues as have any intrinsic value whatever, the following three conclusions seem to be those chiefly requiring to be emphasised:—

(1) There seems no reason to think that where the object is a thing evil in itself, which actually exists, the total state of things is ever positively good on the whole. The appropriate mental attitude towards a really existing evil contains, of course, an element which is absolutely identical with the same attitude towards the same evil, where it is purely imaginary. And this element, which is common to the two cases, may be a great positive good, on the whole. But there seems no reason to doubt that, where the evil is real, the amount of this real evil is always sufficient to reduce the total sum of value to a negative quantity. Accordingly we have no reason to maintain the paradox that an ideal world would be one in which vice and suffering must exist in order that it may contain the goods consisting in the appropriate emotion towards them. It is not a positive good that suffering should exist, in order that we may compassionate it; or wickedness, that we may hate it. There is no reason to think that any actual evil whatsoever would be contained in the Ideal. It follows that we cannot admit the actual validity of any of the arguments commonly used in Theodicies; no such argument succeeds in justifying the fact that there does exist even the smallest of the many evils which this world contains. The most that can be said for such arguments is that, when they make appeal to the principle of organic unity, their appeal is valid in principle. It might be the case that the existence of evil was necessary, not merely as a means, but analytically, to the existence of the greatest good. But we have no reason to think that this is the case in any instance whatever.

But (2) there is reason to think that the cognition of things evil or ugly, which are purely imaginary, is essential to the Ideal. In this case the burden of proof lies the other way. It cannot be doubted that the appreciation of tragedy is a great positive good; and it seems almost equally certain that the virtues of compassion, courage, and self-control contain such goods. And to all these the cognition of things which would be evil, if they existed, is analytically necessary. Here then we have things of which the existence must add value to any whole in which they are contained; nor is it possible to assure ourselves that any whole, from which they were omitted, would thereby gain more in its value as a whole, than it would lose by their omission. We have no reason to think that any whole, which did not contain them, would be so good on the whole as some whole in which they were obtained. The case for their inclusion in the Ideal is as strong as that for the inclusion of material qualities (§ 123, above). Against the inclusion of these goods nothing can be urged except a bare possibility.

Finally (3) it is important to insist that, as was said above, these mixed virtues have a great practical value, in addition to that which they possess either in themselves or as mere means. Where evils do exist, as in this world they do, the fact that they are known and properly appreciated, constitutes a state of things having greater value as a whole even than the same appreciation of purely imaginary evils. This state of things, it has been said, is never positively good on the whole; but where the evil, which reduces its total value to a negative quantity, already unavoidably exists, to obtain the intrinsic value which belongs to it as a whole will obviously produce a better state of affairs than if the evil had existed by itself, quite apart from the good element in it which is identical with the appreciation of imaginary evils, and from any ulterior consequences which its existence may bring about. The case is here the same as with retributive punishment. Where an evil already exists, it is well that it should be pitied or hated or endured, according to its nature; just as it may be well that some evils should be punished. Of course, as in all practical cases, it often happens that the attainment of this good is incompatible with the attainment of another and a greater one. But it is important to insist that we have here a real intrinsic value, which must be taken into account in calculating the greatest possible balance of intrinsic value, which it is always our duty to produce.

§ 134.
I have now completed such remarks as seemed most necessary to be made concerning intrinsic values. It is obvious that for the proper answering of this, the fundamental question of Ethics, there remains a field of investigation as wide and as difficult, as was assigned to Practical Ethics in my last chapter. There is as much to be said concerning what results are intrinsically good, and in what degrees, as concerning what results it is possible for us to bring about: both questions demand, and will repay, an equally patient enquiry. Many of the judgments, which I have made in this chapter, will, no doubt, seem unduly arbitrary: it must be confessed that some of the attributions of intrinsic value, which have seemed to me to be true, do not display that symmetry and system which is wont to be required of philosophers. But if this be urged as an objection, I may respectfully point out that it is none. We have no title whatever to assume that the truth on any subject-matter will display such symmetry as we desire to see—or (to use the common vague phrase) that it will possess any particular form of unity. To search for unity and system, at the expense of truth, is not, I take it, the proper business of philosophy, however universally it may have been the practice of philosophers. And that all truths about the Universe possess to one another all the various relations, which may be meant by unity, can only be legitimately asserted, when we have carefully distinguished those various relations and discovered what those truths are. In particular, we can have no title to assert that ethical truths are unified in any particular manner, except in virtue of an enquiry conducted by the method which I have endeavoured to follow and to illustrate. The study of Ethics would, no doubt, be far more simple, and its results far more systematic, if, for instance, pain were an evil of exactly the same magnitude as pleasure is a good; but we have no reason whatever to assume that the Universe is such that ethical truths must display this kind of symmetry: no argument against my conclusion, that pleasure and pain do not thus correspond, can have any weight whatever, failing a careful examination of the instances which have led me to form it. Nevertheless I am content that the results of this chapter should be taken rather as illustrating the method which must be pursued in answering the fundamental question of Ethics, and the principles which must be observed, than as giving the correct answer to that question. That things intrinsically good or bad are many and various; that most of them are organic unities, in the peculiar and definite sense to which I have confined the term; and that our only means of deciding upon their intrinsic value and its degree, is by carefully distinguishing exactly what the thing is, about which we ask the question, and then looking to see whether it has or has not the unique predicate good in any of its various degrees: these are the conclusions, upon the truth of which I desire to insist. Similarly, in my last chapter, with regard to the question What ought we to do? I have endeavoured rather to shew exactly what is the meaning of the question, and what difficulties must consequently be faced in answering it, than to prove that any particular answers are true. And that these two questions, having precisely the nature which I have assigned to them, are the questions which it is the object of Ethics to answer, may be regarded as the main result of the preceding chapters. These are the questions which ethical philosophers have always been mainly concerned to answer, although they have not recognised what their question was—what predicate they were asserting to attach to things. The practice of asking what things are virtues or duties, without distinguishing what these terms mean; the practice of asking what ought to be here and now, without distinguishing whether as means or end—for its own sake or for that of its results; the search for one single criterion of right and wrong, without the recognition that in order to discover a criterion we must first know what things are right and wrong; and the neglect of the principle of organic unities—these sources of error have hitherto been almost universally prevalent in Ethics. The conscious endeavour to avoid them all, and to apply to all the ordinary objects of ethical judgment these two questions and these only: Has it intrinsic value? and Is it a means to the best possible?—this attempt, so far as I know, is entirely new; and its results, when compared with those habitual to moral philosophers, are certainly sufficiently surprising: that to Common Sense they will not appear so strange, I venture to hope and believe. It is, I think, much to be desired that the labour commonly devoted to answering such questions as whether certain ends are more or less comprehensive or more or less consistent with one another—questions, which, even if a precise meaning were given to them, are wholly irrelevant to the proof of any ethical conclusion—should be diverted to the separate investigation of these two clear problems.

§ 135.
The main object of this chapter has been to define roughly the class of things, among which we may expect to find either great intrinsic goods or great intrinsic evils; and particularly to point out that there is a vast variety of such things, and that the simplest of them are, with one exception, highly complex wholes, composed of parts which have little or no value in themselves. All of them involve consciousness of an object, which is itself usually highly complex, and almost all involve also an emotional attitude towards this object; but, though they thus have certain characteristics in common, the vast variety of qualities in respect of which they differ from one another are equally essential to their value: neither the generic character of all, nor the specific character of each, is either greatly good or greatly evil by itself; they owe their value or demerit, in each case, to the presence of both. My discussion falls into three main divisions, dealing respectively (1) with unmixed goods, (2) with evils, and (3) with mixed goods. (1) Unmixed goods may all be said to consist in the love of beautiful things or of good persons: but the number of different goods of this kind is as great as that of beautiful objects, and they are also differentiated from one another by the different emotions appropriate to different objects. These goods are undoubtedly good, even where the things or persons loved are imaginary; but it was urged that, where the thing or person is real and is believed to be so, these two facts together, when combined with the mere love of the qualities in question, constitute a whole which is greatly better than that mere love, having an additional value quite distinct from that which belongs to the existence of the object, where that object is a good person. Finally it was pointed out that the love of mental qualities, by themselves, does not seem to be so great a good as that of mental and material qualities together; and that, in any case, an immense number of the best things are, or include, a love of material qualities (113—123). (2) Great evils may be said to consist either (a) in the love of what is evil or ugly, or (b) in the hatred of what is good or beautiful, or (c) in the consciousness of pain. Thus the consciousness of pain, if it be a great evil, is the only exception to the rule that all great goods and great evils involve both a cognition and an emotion directed towards its object (124—128). (3) Mixed goods are those which include some element which is evil or ugly. They may be said to consist either in hatred of what is ugly or of evils of classes (a) and (b), or in compassion for pain. But where they include an evil, which actually exists, its demerit seems to be always great enough to outweigh the positive value which they possess (129—133).


Principia Ethica-G. E. Moore 1903