Chapter V: Ethics in Relation to Conduct.

§ 105.

With regard, then, to the intrinsic value of virtue, it may be stated broadly: (1) that the majority of dispositions, which we call by that name, and which really do conform to the definition, so far as that they are dispositions generally valuable as means, at least in our society, have no intrinsic value whatever; and (2) that no one element which is contained in the minority, nor even all the different elements put together, can without gross absurdity be regarded as the sole good. As to the second point it may be observed that even those who hold the view that the sole good is to be found in virtue, almost invariably hold other views contradictory of this, owing chiefly to a failure to analyse the meaning of ethical concepts. The most marked instance of this inconsistency is to be found in the common Christian conception that virtue, though the sole good, can yet be rewarded by something other than virtue. Heaven is commonly considered as the reward of virtue; and yet it is also commonly considered, that, in order to be such a reward, it must contain some element, called happiness, which is certainly not completely identical with the mere exercise of those virtues which it rewards. But if so, then something which is not virtue must be either good in itself or an element in what has most intrinsic value. It is not commonly observed that if a thing is really to be a reward, it must be something good in itself: it is absurd to talk of rewarding a person by giving him something, which is less valuable than what he already has or which has no value at all. Thus Kant’s view that virtue renders us worthy of happiness is in flagrant contradiction with the view, which he implies and which is associated with his name, that a Good Will is the only thing having intrinsic value. It does not, indeed, entitle us to make the charge sometimes made, that Kant is, inconsistently, an Eudaemonist or Hedonist: for it does not imply that happiness is the sole good. But it does imply that the Good Will is not the sole good: that a state of things in which we are both virtuous and happy is better in itself than one in which the happiness is absent. (§ 105 ¶ 1)