« ElőzőTovább »
of evil; but if they do, it is by some process which we cannot trace with any clearness, and the result is one which we cannot calculate with any certainty or even probability; and therefore, on this account, because the resulting evil of such falsehood and sensuality is not calculable or appreciable, we cannot, by calculation of resulting evil, show falsehood and sensuality to be vices; and the like is true of other vices; and on this ground the construction of a scheme of Morality on Mr Bentham's plan is plainly impossible”. But the disciples of Bentham will perhaps urge that falsehood is wrong, even if it produce immediate pleasure, because the violation of a general rule is an evil which no single pleasurable consequence can counterbalance; and because, by acts of falsehood, we weaken and destroy our own habit of truth. And the like might be said in the other case. Now when men speak in this manner, they are undoubtedly approaching to a sound and tenable morality, I say approaching to it; for they are still at a considerable distance from a really moral view, as I shall have to show. But though when men speak in this manner, they are approaching to sound morality, they are receding from the fundamental principle of Bentham. For on that principle, how does it appear that the evil, that is the pain, arising from violating a general rule once, is too great to be overbalanced by the pleasurable consequences of that single violation ? The actor says, I acknowledge the general rule; * The impossibility of really applying the principle that we are to estimate the virtue of actions by calculating the amount of pleasure which they will produce, appears further, by looking at the rude and loose manner in which Bentham makes such calculations. Among the consequences of acts of robbery, for instance, which make them vicious, he reckons the alarm which such an act produces in other persons, and the danger in which it places them. And this alarm and danger are carefully explained, as to their existence (ch. xII. § viii.). But the probability of each is not at all estimated. This however is rather
where he is looking at the grounds of judicial punishment than of moral condemnation.
I do not deny its value; but I do not intend that this one act should be drawn into consequence. I assert my right to look at the special case, as well as at the general rule. I have weighed one against the other: I see that the falsehood gives a clear balance of pleasure: therefore on our Master's principles, it is right and virtuous. What does the Master say to this? If he say, “you must be wrong in violating the general rule of truth—of veracity: no advantage can compensate for that evil;”—if he say this, he speaks like a moralist ; but not like a Benthamite. He interposes, with an imperative dogma drawn from the opposite school, to put down the manifest consequences of his own principles. If, on the other hand, he allow the plea ;-if he say, Be sure that your lie brings more pleasure than pain, and then lie, and know that you are doing a virtuous act;-then indeed he talks like a genuine assertor of Mr Bentham's principles, but he ceases to be a moralist in any ordinary sense of the term. But let us look at the other reason against an act of falsehood, that by such acts we weaken and destroy our habit of truth. To this, the person concerned might reply, that a habit of truth, absolute and unconditional, is, on Bentham's principles, of no value; that if there be cases in which the pleasure arising from falsehood is greater than the pleasure arising from truth, then, in these cases, falsehood is virtuous and veracity is vicious; that, on these principles, the habit to be cultivated is not a habit of telling truth always, but a habit of telling truth when it produces pleasure more than pain. To this I do not know what our Benthamite could reply, except that a habit of telling truth so limited, is not a habit of veracity at all; that the only way to form a habit of veracity is, to tell truth always, and without limiting conditions; that is, to tell truth if we tell anything; not to tell falsehood. This again is teaching
quite consistent in the mouth of a moralist : but not consistent in the mouth of a Benthamite. It makes the regulation of our own habits, our own desires, paramount over anything which can be gained, pleasure or profit, by the violation and transgression of such regulation. Veracity comes first ; pleasure and gain are subordinate. And this is our morality. But the Benthamist doctrine is, pleasure first of all things: veracity, good it may be ; but good only because, and only so far as, it is an instrument of pleasure.
The other branch of the argument will be pursued in the next Lecture.
N the last Lecture, I stated that the Benthamite scheme of determining the morality of actions by the amount of happiness which they produce, is incapable of being executed for two reasons; first, that we cannot calculate all the pleasure or pain resulting from any one action; and next, that the happiness produced by actions depends on their morality. I have attempted to illustrate the former argument. I now proceed to the latter. In the last lecture I tried to show that the Benthamite doctrine, that acts are virtuous in proportion as they calculably produce happiness, that is, again, according to the Benthamite analysis, pleasure, cannot be made the basis of morality, because we cannot for such purposes calculate the amount of pleasure which acts produce: and if we attempt to remedy the obvious defects of calculations on such subjects, by taking into account rules and habits, we run away from the declared fundamental principle altogether. To shew further how impossible it is to found morality on the Benthamite basis, I now proceed to observe that we cannot derive the moral value of actions from the happiness which they produce, because the happiness depends upon the morality. Why should a man be truthful and just : Because acts of veracity and justice, even if they do not produce immediate gratification to him and his friends in other ways, (and it may easily be that they do not,) at least produce pleasure in this way;—that they procure him his own approval and that of all good men. To us, this language is intelligible and significant; but the Benthamite
must analyse it further. What does it mean according to him : A man's own approval of his act, means that he thinks it virtuous. And therefore, the matter stands thus. He (being a Benthamite) thinks it virtuous, because it gives him pleasure : and it gives him pleasure because he thinks it virtuous. This is a vicious circle, quite as palpable as any of those in which Mr Bentham is so fond of representing his adversaries as revolving. And in like manner, with regard to the approval of others. The action is virtuous, says the Benthamite, because it produces pleasure; namely the pleasure arising from the approval of neighbours;–they approve it, and think it virtuous, he also says, because it gives pleasure. The virtue depends upon the pleasure, the pleasure depends upon the virtue. Here again is a circle from which there is no legitimate egress. We may grant that, taking into account all the elements of happiness, -the pleasures of self-approval,—of peace of mind and harmony within us, and of the approval of others, of the known sympathy of all good men ;—we may grant that including these elements, virtue always does produce an overbalance of happiness; but then we cannot make this moral truth the basis of morality, because we cannot extricate the happiness and the virtue, the one from the other, so as to make the first, the happiness, the foundation of the second, the virtue.
This consideration of virtue itself as one of the sources of pleasure, one of the elements of happiness, is a point at which, as appears to me, the Benthamite doctrine loses all the clearness which, in its early steps, it so ostentatiously puts forward. Considering the pretensions of the system to rigorous analysis, I cannot but think there is something robustly rude in the mode in which these matters of selfapproval and approval from others are disposed of. That self-approval, and the approbation of neighbours, are pleasures, cannot be denied. Accordingly, they are reckoned by