Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

and, in some cases, even tends to a more efficient management of affairs. Still more important in its effect on happiness is the greater security for life and property which the gradual consolidation of political control has brought about. It would seem, too, that the harsher features of the struggle by which this advance takes place have been modified; and that the war of politics has abated in fury more than the war of trade. On the whole, therefore, the tendency of modern political rule appears to be towards an almost unmixed gain in respect of happiness,—by the security it affords for life and property, by its wide distribution of political power, and by the room it gives for individual freedom. Yet the last of these results—in the laissez-faire system of industrialism to which it has led, and which, in spite of many modifications, is still in the ascendant—has effects of a more doubtful character.

This mere reference to one or two of the leading features of progress would not be sufficient to support a thesis either as to its beneficial or baneful tendency. But evidence enough has been led to show that the effects on pleasure of individual and social development are of a mixed kind,—that culture and civilisation have neither the tendency to misery which Hartmann follows Rousseau in attributing to them, nor, on the other hand, that steady correspondence with increasing pleasure

1 Phän. d. s. B., p. 640.

choosing

evolution

which would be required to establish the position of evolutionist hedonism.

It follows, therefore, that, without adopting a Necessity of pessimist view, we must still make our choice between between evolutionism and hedonism. The course

The course ism and of evolution — so far as experience helps us to hedonism. understand it cannot be measured by increase of pleasure. Nothing is said here to show that it is not perfectly consistent to hold that the moral feelings and ideas, the customs to which they have given rise, and the institutions in which they are embodied, have been produced by the ordinary laws of evolution, and yet to maintain that the moral end for reflective beings is the hedonistic or utilitarian end. It may be possible, that is to say, to be an evolutionist in psychology and sociology, at the same time that one is a hedonist in ethics. But it is not allowable to adopt pleasure as the end, and yet speak of it as determined by evolution. Evolution can determine no such end until it be shown that the progress it connotes implies a proportionate increase of pleasure.

Such is the conclusion to which we are led by a consideration of the bearings of evolution upon the increase of pleasure and pain. But this argument requires to be supplemented by the more satisfactory method of an independent analysis of pleasure in relation to the development of human nature; and from this analysis we may hope to discover

how far the theory of evolution is consistent with the ethics of hedonism.

4. The psychological analysis of pleasure and pain in re

ethics of evolution.

The relative and transient nature of pleasure has been urged as an objection against any form of e and hedonism by many philosophers since the time of lation to the Plato. And the argument has of late years been

brought forward in a way which shows that the calculus of “pleasures” and “pains” which Bentham's ethics implies is much less certain and easy than its author supposed. This has been made clear both by the subtle analysis carried out by the late Professor Green, and by Professor Sidgwick's examination of the difficulties which beset the “hedonistic calculus.” It does not appear, however, to have been made out that the nature of pleasure proves hedonism to be impossible as the end of conduct. But it may, perhaps, appear that the case is altered when we consider the matter in the light of the evolutionist form of hedonism now under examination, and estimate from this point of view the ethical bearings of the psychological analysis of feeling.

The difficulty of defining pleasure or pain is not the same as the difficulty or impossibility of defining any elementary sensation. For the latter is connected in definite ways with other similar sensations, can be compared and associated with them, and by such association go to make up an object or thing. But pleasure and pain are neither objects nor parts (a) The pure

ly subjective of objects: they cannot be distinguished from or nature of associated with the impressions of the senses so as pl to constitute an object. They can only be spoken of as an affection of the percipient and active subject, different in kind both from the objects it knows and the acts it performs : each can only be defined as the opposite of the other. Pleasure and pain are not real phenomena with a distinguishable existence of their own, like sensations, conceptions, or actions; they have no trace of objectivity whatever, but are, as Hamilton puts it, “subjectively subjective": "pleasure is not a fact, nor is pain a fact, but one fact is pleasurable, another painful.” 2 Pleasure, therefore, is a mere feeling of the subject, concomitant with the sensory or motor presenta- its connections which, by reason of their presence to conscious- objective ness, we call objects or actions. It is not something States of

pleasure;

tion with

1 Lectures on Metaphysics, ii. 432.

2 L. Dumont, Théorie scientifique de la sensibilité, 2d ed., p. 83; cf. F. Bouillier, Du plaisir et de la douleur, 2d ed., p. 29 ff. Reference may also be made to the leading psychological textbook. “Das Gefühl,” says Volkmann (Lehrbuch der Psychologie, § 127, 3d ed., ii. 300), “ist nämlich keine eigene Vorstellung neben den anderen (es gibt keine eigenen “Gefühlsvorstellungen'), ja überhaupt gar keine Vorstellung.” Professor Bain's view is different, but does not altogether prevent him from acknowledging the subjectivity of feeling : “Without intellectual images clearly recollected, we do not remember feelings; the reproduction of feeling is an intellectual fact, and the groundwork is intellectual imagery.”—Emotions, p. 63.

which it

the end of conduct.

by itself which we can choose rather than something

else, as we may select a peach instead of an apple. throngh It can only be made the end of conduct in an may be made indirect way. We must aim not at pleasure per se,

but at objects which we have reason to believe will be accompanied by pleasurable feeling. Pleasure and pain, as it has been urged, are not quantities that can be added and subtracted. It is not the pleasurable or painful feeling, but the perceptional or cognitive elements in the mental state of which it is an element, that admit of plurality and measurement. But we may foresee that one mental state will be accompanied by pleasurable, another by painful feeling, and, on that account, we may choose the former. In a great number of cases we are further able to make a quantitative estimate, and to say that the pleasurable feeling accompany. ing one object or action is more intense than that accompanying another, and thus to choose one object rather than another, not merely because one is pleasurable while the other is painful, but (in cases where both are pleasurable) because it is supposed that the one will yield more intense or more prolonged pleasure than the other. If this be true, the purely subjective nature of pleasure does not make it impossible for it to be taken as the practical end of conduct for the individual—however inexact and tentative many of its estimates must be

1 Cf. Green, Introduction to Hume, ii. 8 7.

« AnteriorContinuar »