Imagens das páginas

greater than the expected pleasure foregone by following it. According to the view suggested, all deliberate volition would still be regarded as hedonistically determined, though other motives than pleasure may affect action through having been inherited from cases of ancestral conduct in which they tended to personal pleasure. Even were it shown, however, that altruistic conduct has been developed out of egoistic, the fact of its development would not alter its present characteristic. If action now is not always moved by pleasure and pain alone, it becomes a question of merely historical interest to trace its genesis to conduct to which our ancestors were hedonistically impelled. The fact remains that the original simplicity of motive has been broken into, and something else than personal pleasure admitted to have sway. But it does not seem to have been made out that action in the early stages of human life was completely egoistic, any more than that it is so now. “From first to last,” as Mr Spencer puts it,1 self-sacrifice seems to have been involved in the preservation of each successive generation of individuals. We inherit propensities to action which have been evolved from an initial stage in which there was no conscious distinction between egoism and altruism, though both tendencies were present and were necessary for the continued existence of the species. The feelings inherited by the egoistic hedonist are assessed by him at their pleasure-value. But such feelings would never have been acquired by his ancestors, had they tested each germinal emotion in the same way, and so restrained self-sacrifice for offspring and fellow-men. Perhaps they did not clearly see or realise what their pleasure consisted in, or accurately distinguish it from family or tribal welfare; but, through this deficiency of imagination, the feelings were able to grow and perpetuate themselves, which have tended to the preservation and consolidation of society.

i Data of Ethics, chap. xii.

Nor can we gather from evolution any ethical argument leading to egoism as the principle or end for conduct; and it is worthy of remark that the proof attempted by the late Mr Barratt is unaffected by his recognition of the theory of evolution as applied to mind, depending on definitions and axioms which hold (if at all) for the individual man. Pleasure is defined by him as “ that state of consciousness which follows upon the unimpeded performance (as such) of its function by one or more of the parts of our organism ;”1 and the good is forthwith identified with pleasure, by its being shown that it is a “state of consciousness," and that it “ results from the due performance of function (as such).” 2 But the “due 3 performance of function” is itself a state or states of consciousness; and in it, not in any sequent or concomitant circumstances, the good may consist. The good, we may say, is not pleasure, but the évépyela of which pleasure is only the consequent or completion. This is not a mere question of words. For “due performance of function” cannot be measured by the resultant or accompanying feeling of pleasure: the most perfect functioning, just because it has become habitual, has often the slightest accompaniment of pleasant feeling. The way in which the argument is put in ‘Physical Ethics' is thus well fitted to bring out the fundamental antithesis between ethical systems according as they place the good in the active element of function, or in the passive element of pleasurable feeling which accompanies functioning. The theory of evolution seems to have led many of the writers who have applied it to ethics to the other side of the antithesis than that adhered to by Mr Barratt. They recognise ethical value as belonging to “due performance of function,” rather than to the pleased states of consciousness which follow; and in this way their theory leads them beyond hedonisticethics.

nor of ethical hedonism.

| Physical Ethics, p. 12.

2 Ibid., p. 17. 3 In the word “due" an idea of worth is involved. Probably Mr Barratt meant by “due performance” one which made the faculty correspond with its medium (cf. Physical Ethics, p. 9); but this introduces a new standard of value.

i The transition involved in passing from "pleasure" to "performance of function " or "life" as the end of conduct, may be illustrated by the following passage from Mr Pater’s ‘Marius


3. Bearing It has been argued that the theory of evolution of the theory : of evolution

ő is, in tendency, hostile to the egoistic principle. on utilitari

Had egoism been consistently recognised and acted upon during the course of human development, the features of social life which most promote cooperation and progress would never have become persistent. But the same objection cannot be urged against universalistic hedonism. It is true that this has not been the end consistently aimed at in the past. Those from whom our social instincts are inherited cannot be credited with having had either the general happiness or social evolution in view. Society and institutions furthering the common good were not the work of primitive utilitarians plotting for the greatest happiness of the greatest number. They have come down to the Epicurean' (1885, i. 163) : “Really, to the phase of reflection through which Marius was then passing, the charge of 'hedonism,' whatever its real weight might be, was not properly applicable at all. Not pleasure, but fulness of life, and 'insight' as conducting to that fulness-energy, choice and variety of experience—including noble pain and sorrow even-loves such as those in the exquisite old story of Apuleius; such sincere and strenuous forms of the moral life, as Seneca and Epictetuswhatever form of human life, in short, was impassioned and ideal: it was from this that the 'new Cyrenaicism' of Marius took its criterion of values. It was a theory, indeed, which might rightly be regarded as in a great degree coincident with the main principle of the Stoics themselves, and a version of the precept Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might'-a doctrine so widely applicable among the nobler spirits of that time; and as with that its mistaken tendency would lie in the direction of a kind of idolatry of mere life, or natural gift or strength—l'idolâtrie des talents."

us from times when social organisation was forced upon men by the rude logic of facts which exterminated tribes in which the bond of union was weak; and they have been gradually modified by the pressure of external circumstances and the growing influence of mental conceptions of what is best. But the adoption of general happiness as the end of action would not have had the same effect on social evolution, as the adoption of personal happiness as the end would have had. It would have aided and not have hindered the growth of the feeling of unity among the members of a tribe or state, as well as have led to the recognition of the individual as subordinate to the social organism. It may thus seem quite natural to look to utilitarianism as giving the end for reflective action, and yet to hold along with it what is loosely called the ethics of evolution.

But this first attitude of evolution to utilitarian- has led to ism was not fitted to be permanent; and the cation “start” i Mr Spencer got on being classed with anti-utilitarians must have been repeated in the experience of other moralists as they found themselves drifting from their ancient moorings. Mr Spencer's difference from the utilitarians is not such as to lead him to reject or modify their

1 " The note in question greatly startled me by implicitly classing me with anti-utilitarians. I have never regarded myself as an anti-utilitarian.”—Mr Spencer's letter to J. S. Mill, printed in Bain's Mental and Moral Science, p. 721.

its modifi

« AnteriorContinuar »