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dividual human subject, and in the expression of the collective life of the race. Thus, as Natural Ethics is divided into an individualistic and an historical view, a similar distinction might be made in Rational Ethics, though in this case it would be more difficult to follow out the distinction in detail; and many ethical systems cannot be said to have kept consistently either to one side of it or to the other.

In the following discussion I shall investigate the ethical theory which is founded on the basis of Naturalism-working out and criticising in somewhat greater detail that form of the theory which, from the agreement it lays claim to with the results of modern science, plays so important a part in contemporary philosophical thought.






Definition of It is difficult to give an exact definition or even

description of what I have called the “natural” view of man. Perhaps it may be best defined, negatively, as the view which denies to reason any spontaneous or creative function in the human constitution. For this definition, if it still leaves the positive description wanting, will at least make the classification into “natural” and “rational” exhaustive and mutually exclusive. At the same time it is to be noted that, on the theory of Naturalism, reason is not supposed to be excluded from all share in determining questions of conduct or the choice of ends. It would, indeed,

cal hedon

be impossible to have even the pretence of an ethical theory without a certain use of reason. But its function, in this case, is limited to the merely formal one of bringing different presentations (or objects) and feelings into connection, and comparing the different states of mind thus formed with one another, not with a reason-given standard.

Since the function of reason is thus restricted, Psychologiand its competency to supply an end for, or prin- ism. ciple of, action is denied, we must seek this end either in the feelings of pleasure and pain which accompany both sensory and motor presentations perceptions, that is to say, and actions,—or in the more complex, or apparently more complex, emotions of the mind. And the latter may either be themselves reducible to feelings of pleasure or pain accompanying presentations directly pleasurable or painful, and thence transferred by association to other presentations, or they may be regarded as somehow motives to action which may be or ought to be followed on their own account. The Individualistic Theory, therefore, is not necessarily hedonistic. It admits of a twofold view of the “natural” man: one which looks upon him as in essence a pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding animal; another which regards him as having a variety of impulses, some of which are not directed to his own pleasure or avoidance of pain.



of action

1. Its theory The former view-psychological hedonism, as it

is called-claims to be an exhaustive analysis of the motives of human conduct, perfectly general indeed, but yet valid for every case of action. It denies the possibility of a man acting from any other principle than desire of pleasure or aversion from pain. The theory is, that it is a psychological law that action is motived by pleasure and pain, and that nothing else has motive-power over it. If, then, one pleasure (or avoidance of pain) is chosen in preference to another, it must be either by chance,—an alternative which has no ethical significance—no significance, that is, for the guidance of voluntary conduct,—or because the one course promises, or seems to promise, the attainment of a greater balance of pleasure than the other, or is actually at the time more pleasant than that other. Thus the view that pleasure is the only motive of human action is really identical, for ethical purposes, with the theory loosely expressed

in the law that action follows the greatest pleasure.1 ambiguous, I say “loosely expressed”; for the law as thus

stated really admits of three quite different in

* Meaning by “greatest pleasure," greatest balance of pleasure over pain, and thus inclusive of the meaning “ least pain.” It is the expression in terms of feeling of the statement sometimes preferred, that “action follows the line of least resistance”-a statement to which no exception can be taken, nor any importance allowed, till it be translated into definite psychological language.



terpretations, not always distinguished with the referring to precision which such subjects require.

(a) In the first place, the law might mean that (a) actual action always follows the course which, as a matter quences of of fact, will in the long-run bring the greatest a balance of pleasure to the agent. It is evident that there is no ground in psychology for maintaining this view. Yet it is a fair interpretation of the “law” of psychological hedonism, as commonly stated; and it is at least an admissible supposition that this meaning of the phrase has not been without effect upon the uses to which the law has been put by some of its upholders. The second interpretation of the law-namely (6), or (b) its ex

pected conthat action is always in the direction which seems to the agent most likely to bring him the greatest balance of pleasure, whether it actually brings it or not—is the sense in which it appears to have been most commonly taken when expressed with any degree of accuracy. It is in this sense that-in language which ascribes greater consistency to men's conduct than it usually displays—“interest” is asserted by the author of the “Sytème de la nature' to be “the sole motive of human action.” 1

1" Ainsi lorsque nous disons que l'intérêt est l'unique mobile des actions humaines, nous voulons indiquer par là que chaque homme travaille à sa manière à son propre bonheur, qu'il place dans quelqu'objet soit visible, soit caché, soit réel, soit imagin. aire, et que tout le système de sa conduite tend à l'obtenir.”— Système de la nature (1781), i. 268.


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