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ure on the part of other units. But it seems irrational only because the outsider naturally puts himself in the place of the community; and neither takes account of the fact that to the individual agent there is a fundamental difference between his own pleasure and any one else's pleasure: for him the
former is, and the latter is not, pleasure at all." overlooked This fundamental difference seems to be over
uing looked when the attempt is made to argue logically
1 Mr Gurney's attempt (Mind, vii. 349 ff.) to rationalise the utilitarian “ought” depends upon the assumption that the individual feels a desire (not only for his own, but) for other people's pleasure (p. 352). From the point of view of the psychological hedonist, however, this desire is only secondary and derivative, depending upon the fact that it increases the pleasure of the subject. “Your pleasure," the psychological hedonist would say, “is desired by me quâ my pleasure.” If, on the other hand, it is admitted that the individual has other ends than his own pleasure, there seems no ground in psychological fact for limiting these ends to something aimed at because pleasurable to others. From this point of view the first step in the establishment of an ethical theory would be an attempt to find a principle of unity in the various ends actually aimed at by individuals, and recognised by them as “good.” This is made by Professor Sidgwick, who, while allowing that “it is possible to hold that the objective relations of conscious minds which we call cognition of Truth, contemplation of Beauty, Freedom of action, &c., are good, independently of the pleasures that we derive from them,” maintains that “we can only justify to ourselves the importance that we attach to any of these objects by considering its conduciveness, in one way or another, to the happiness of conscious (or sentient) beings ” (Methods of Ethics, iii. xiv. 3, 3d ed., p. 398). But Mr Sidgwick’s Utilitarianism depends on a Rational view of human nature which is beyond the scope of the present discussion. See below, p. 74.
THE TRANSITION TO UTILITARIANISM.
THE TRANSITION TO UTILITARIANISM.
utilitarian ism accord.
from egoistic psychology (or even from egoistic from egoism ethics) to utilitarianism. Indeed, the hiatus in anism. logical proof is often only concealed by a confusion of standpoints; and J. S. Mill, while emphasising the distinction between modern Utilitarianism and the older Epicureanism, has even allowed his official “proof” of utilitarianism — such proof, that is, as he thinks the principle of Utility to be susceptible of—to rest on the ambiguity between individual and social happiness.
This ambiguity does not seem to have been con- 2. Connecsistently avoided even by Bentham. For the most egoism and part, indeed, nothing can exceed the clearness with which he recognises the twofold and possibly con- ing to. flicting interests involved in almost every action. There is the interest of the agent, and the interest of others whom his action may affect. And he also holds that, in the case of divergence of interests, the individual will act for his own. “ The happiness of the individuals,” he says, “of whom a community is composed,—that is, their pleasures and their security,—is the end, and the sole end, which the legislator ought to have in view—the sole standard in conformity to which each individual ought, as far as depends upon the legislator, to be made to fashion his conduct. But whether it be this or anything else that is to be done, there
? Principles of Morals and Legislation, chap. iii. § 1; Works,
is nothing by which a man can ultimately be made to do it, but either pain or pleasure”—that is, of course, his own pain or pleasure. Here, then, ethical Utilitarianism and psychological Egoism are both plainly involved. A man, it is said, can only pursue general happiness by its being identical with his own happiness. And as it is evident, and admitted, that these two happinesses often diverge in the courses of action naturally leading to them, a man can only be beneficent, rather than selfish, through some artificial arrangement which makes beneficence to be for his interest :1 in plain language (since rewards are only of exceptional ap
plicability), through his being punished for not (a) Utilitari- being beneficent. But, as Bentham clearly shows, anism not a
many cases of action cannot be safely touched by duty,
the legislator's art. Such cases “unmeet for punishment” include not only the actions which are beneficial or neutral in their results, but also actions hurtful to the community, though they may elude such vigilance as the state can contrive, or their restraint by punishment inflicted by the
1 As Paley put it, with characteristic plainness of statement, “We can be obliged to nothing, but what we ourselves are to gain or lose something by.”—Moral and Political Philosophy, book ii. chap. ii.
2 Cf. Bain, Emotions, p. 264: “I consider that the proper meaning or import of these terms [Morality, Duty, Obligation, or Right] refers to the class of actions enforced by the sanction of punishment."
state may constitute a greater evil than the offence. Probity may be exacted by the “persons stated and certain” who happen to be political superiors : except in rare instances, positive beneficence can not. Utilitarian conduct, therefore, is not a “political duty,” because it is not fully enforced by definite punishment. The “art of legislation” is indeed said to teach “how a multitude of men, composing a community, may be disposed to pursue that course which upon the whole is the most conducive to the happiness of the whole community, by means of motives to be applied by the legislator."2 But the means here indicated are such as cannot fully compass the attainment of the end. For the motives applied by the legislator either cannot reach a large part of the extra-regarding conduct of individuals, or could only reach it by entailing greater evils than those they would be used to prevent. But if utilitarian conduct is not a political duty, (b) nor a
moral duty, it may seem evident that it is at least a moral duty. Now a moral duty is said by Benthamo to
1 Bentham, Principles of Morals and Legislation, chap. xix, (xvii.), 8 9 ff; Works, i. 144 ff.
Ibid., § 20, p. 148. 3 Fragment on Government, chap. v.; Works, i. 293. Cf. Principles of Morals and Legislation, ch. iii. § 5, p. 14, where the Moral Sanction is said to proceed from “such chance persons in the community as the person in question may happen in the course of his life to have concerns with.”
be“ created by a kind of motive which, from the uncertainty of the persons to apply it, and of the species and degree in which it will be applied, has hardly yet got the name of punishment: by various mortifications resulting from the ill-will of persons uncertain and variable,—the community in general; that is, such individuals of that community as he whose duty is in question shall happen to be connected with.” In plain language, then, moral duty simply means the ill-will of a man's neighbours which follows his conduct in so far as that conduct affects them disagreeably. Such ill-will on the part of a man's neighbours may result from success or from failure on his part, from a breach of etiquette, from refusal to sacrifice to the caprice of those neighbours the wider good of the society whom his conduct affects (but to whom it may be unknown), from deception or from telling the truth. In a word, the duty—that is, the punishment–is entirely uncertain: not only as regards the persons applying it, its nature and its amount, but also as regards the kind of actions to which it applies. They will be actions unpleasant to the people who inflict the punishment, but not necessarily hurtful to the common weal: since the immediate effects of an action are easily recognised, while its wider and more lasting consequences are neither so apparent nor appeal so surely to the interest of those who are cognisant of the action and immediately