Imagens das páginas

greatest happiness of the greatest number, unless it is possible for the individual to act for something else than his own pleasure—that is, for an end which is for him not pleasure at all. In a word, utilitarianism, while maintaining that the only thing worth desiring is pleasure, must at the same time admit that pleasure is not the only object that can be or is desired: otherwise, it can never advance from the egoistic to the universalistic form.

This view receives confirmation from the way in which utilitarianism is held by the most eminent of living moralists. In the ‘Methods of Ethics,' the tradition of Bentham is expressly united with the doctrines of Butler and Clarke. Professor Sidgwick agrees with Bentham, and the long line of moralists from Epicurus downwards, in maintaining the doctrine of ethical hedonism, that pleasure is the only thing ultimately desirable; but, with Butler, he rejects the psychological hedonism, according to which pleasure is the only object of desire. So far from these two positions being inconsistent, it is only through the second that the first can be held in its universalistic form. The problem is, however, how to unite them. In Professor Sidgwick's theory, they are connected by the application of the ethical maxims of benevolence and equity, which an exhaustive examination of ethical intuitions has left standing as

axioms of the practical reason. Though utilitarianism, therefore, is still adhered to, it is on an expressly Rational ground, not on the basis of Naturalism.

of ethical consequences of psy

In this and the previous chapter, I have looked 7. Summary at human nature from the point of view of psychological hedonism, and have endeavoured to show ce

chological what ethical principles that theory leads to, or is hedonism : consistent with. The theory does not deny that there is a great diversity of capacities and interests in man. But it holds that, so far as concerns conduct, they admit of being brought under one general law—that every action is subject to the rule of the “two sovereign masters, pleasure and pain.” It is evident, therefore, that if ethics is to be connected at all with psychology—if what ought to be done is in any degree what can be done—the end of conduct must be hedonistic. The psychological fact cannot indeed be without more ado turned into a moral imperative. Yet this much may be admitted, that if this interpretation of action leaves room for ethics at all, the end prescribed can be nothing else than pleasure, or the avoidance of pain.

The question, therefore, was how to determine (a) no logithe pleasure which is to be sought ? And I have tion with tried to show, in the chapter just concluded, that utilitarianism does not admit of being logically

cal connec

utilitarian ism;

arrived at from this point of view. It may indeed, under certain circumstances,1 be the guide of political or social enactments; but these can only be made to bear upon the conduct of individuals by the sanctions which the State or Society has at its command. The individual can have as his maxim of conduct an end which corresponds with utilitarianism in two events only: when he is so constituted as to find his pleasure in the greatest aggregate pleasure of mankind, or when the political and social sanctions are so complete and searching as to make his individual interest and the collective interest coincide. The former event is unfortunately too rare to be taken into account in establishing a theory; the latter would imply an interference with individual liberty so impracticable that it is not contemplated even in the most comprehensive of socialistic schemes.

Hedonism in psychology, therefore, means egoism in ethics. But even this theory, as the previous chapter has shown, has its own difficulties to meet. The antagonism of individual and universal has not yet been got rid of. The difficulty is no longer caused by the conflict between one man and his neighbours: it is the difference between the feeling and action of a moment, and the sum of feelings and actions which makes up a lifetime. It is true that, if we admit that pleasure is the only thing worth pursuing, and that by "pleasure” a man means “ his own pleasure,” there is so far no reason for preferring the pleasure of one moment to that of another, except as more certain or of greater amount or degree ;1 but this is to start with ascribing a value to pleasure, and not with the simple fact that pleasure is desired. If psychological hedonism is our starting-point—and we give to the theory the interpretation that has the greatest verisimilitude—it is the greatest present pleasure that rules. And, although the man of reflection only under will no doubt attempt to estimate the future pleas

(6) admits of rational egoism

1 That is, when (1) the legislature accurately expresses the average feeling of all the members of the State ; or (2) the legislators happen to be fully intelligent people in whom “selfishness" has taken the shape of benevolence.

es impossible ure at its true value in comparison with the pleasure actually present, this can never have full effect upon his will. It has been shown, indeed, that the realisation of egoistic hedonism is not merely unattainable from the point of view of psychological hedonism, but that it would involve conditions inconsistent with the nature of desire.


1 Although, as is well known, propinquity was held by Bentham to be an independent ground of distinction and preference. -Principles of Morals and Legislation, chap. iv. sect. 2.



form theory

such as psy

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


1. A uni- PSYCHOLOGICAL hedonism possesses the merit of

offering a simple and uniform theory of mental chological action. It may admit conflicting accounts of the

kinds of action and sufferance which actually give men pleasure and pain,—a point on which, for example, Hobbes and J. S. Mill differ widely. But it has one general formula for the relation of feeling to action, which has been precise and clear enough to attract many psychologists. The ethical consequences of the theory have, indeed, turned out if the argument of the preceding chapters is valid—to be neither so obvious nor so satisfactory as its adherents have commonly supposed. But it must nevertheless be admitted that, if psychology shows pleasure to be, as a matter of fact, the constant end of action, it will be uselesseven if it is not impossible—for ethics to prescribe any other end.

« AnteriorContinuar »