Chapter VI: The Ideal.

§ 112.

The method which must be employed in order to decide the question What things have intrinsic value, and in what degrees? has already been explained in Chap. III. (§§ 55, 57). In order to arrive at a correct decision on the first part of this question, it is necessary to consider what things are such that, if they existed by themselves, in absolute isolation, we should yet judge their existence to be good; and, in order to decide upon the relative degrees of value of different things, we must similarly consider what comparative value seems to attach to the isolated existence of each. By employing this method, we shall guard against two errors, which seem to have been the chief causes which have vitiated previous conclusions on the subject. The first of these is (1) that which consists in supposing that what seems absolutely necessary here and now, for the existence of anything good—what we cannot do without—is therefore good in itself. If we isolate such things, which are mere means to good, and suppose a world in which they alone, and nothing but they, existed, their intrinsic worthlessness becomes apparent. And, secondly, there is the more subtle error (2) which consists in neglecting the principle of organic unities. This error is committed, when it is supposed, that, if one part of a whole has no intrinsic value, the value of the whole must reside entirely in the other parts. It has, in this way, been commonly supposed, that, if all valuable wholes could be seen to have one and only one common property, the wholes must be valuable solely because they possess this property; and the illusion is greatly strengthened, if the common property in question seems, considered by itself, to have more value than the other parts of such wholes, considered by themselves. But, if we consider the property in question, in isolation, and then compare it with the whole, of which it forms a part, it may become easily apparent that, existing by itself, the property in question has not nearly so much value, as has the whole to which it belongs. Thus, if we compare the value of a certain amount of pleasure, existing absolutely by itself, with the value of certain enjoyments, containing an equal amount of pleasure, it may become apparent that the enjoyment is much better than the pleasure, and also, in some cases, much worse. In such a case it is plain that the enjoyment does not owe its value solely to the pleasure it contains, although it might easily have appeared to do so, when we only considered the other constituents of the enjoyment, and seemed to see that, without the pleasure, they would have had no value. It is now apparent, on the contrary, that the whole enjoyment owes its value quite equally to the presence of the other constituents, even though it may be true that the pleasure is the only constituent having any value by itself. And similarly, if we are told that all things owe their value solely to the fact that they are realisations of the true self, we may easily refute this statement, by asking whether the predicate that is meant by realising the true self, supposing that it could exist alone, would have any value whatsoever. Either the thing, which does realise the true self, has intrinsic value or it has not; and if it has, then it certainly does not owe its value solely to the fact that it realises the true self. (§ 112 ¶ 1)