Chapter VI: The Ideal.

§ 131.

(2) But, as a matter of fact, I cannot avoid thinking that there are wholes, containing something positively evil and ugly, which are, nevertheless, great positive goods on the whole. Indeed, it appears to be to this class that those instances of virtue, which contain anything intrinsically good, chiefly belong. It need not, of course, be denied that there is sometimes included in a virtuous disposition more or less of those unmixed goods which were first discussed—that is to say, a real love of what is good or beautiful. But the typical and characteristic virtuous dispositions, so far as they are not mere means, seem rather to be examples of mixed goods. We may take as instances (a) Courage and Compassion, which seem to belong to the second of the three classes of virtues distinguished in our last chapter (§ 107); and (b) the specifically moral sentiment, by reference to which the third of those three classes was defined (§ 108). (§ 131 ¶ 1)

Courage and compassion, in so far as they contain an intrinsically desirable state of mind, seem to involve essentially a cognition of something evil or ugly. In the case of courage the object of the cognition may be an evil of any of our three classes; in the case of compassion, the proper object is pain. Both these virtues, accordingly, must contain precisely the same cognitive element, which is also essential to evils of class (1); and they are differentiated from these by the fact that the emotion directed to these objects is, in their case, an emotion of the same kind which was essential to evils of class (2). In short, just as evils of class (2) seemed to consist in a hatred of what was good or beautiful, and evils of class (1) in a love of what was evil or ugly; so these virtues involve a hatred of what is evil or ugly. Both these virtues do, no doubt, also contain other elements, and, among these, each contains its specific emotion; but that their value does not depend solely upon these other elements, we may easily assure ourselves, by considering what we should think of an attitude of endurance or of defiant contempt toward an object intrinsically good or beautiful, or of the state of a man whose mind was filled with pity for the happiness of a worthy admiration. Yet pity for the undeserved sufferings of others, endurance of pain to ourselves, and a defiant hatred of evil dispositions in ourselves or in others, seem to be undoubtedly admirable in themselves; and if so, there are admirable things, which must be lost, if there were no cognition of evil. (§ 131 ¶ 2)

Similarly the specifically moral sentiment, in all cases where it has any considerable intrinsic value, appears to include a hatred of evils of the first and second classes. It is true that the emotion is here excited by the idea that an action is right or wrong; and hence the object of the idea which excites it is generally not an intrinsic evil. But, as far as I can discover, the emotion with which a conscientious man views a real or imaginary right action, contains, as an essential element, the same emotion with which he views a wrong one: it seems, indeed, that this element is necessary to make his emotion specifically moral. And the specifically moral emotion excited by the idea of a wrong action, seems to me to contain essentially a more or less vague cognition of the kind of intrinsic evils, which are usually caused by wrong actions, whether they would or would not be caused by the particular action in question. I am, in fact, unable to distinguish, in its main features, the moral sentiment excited by the idea of rightness and wrongness, wherever it is intense, from the total state constituted by a cognition of something intrinsically evil together with the emotion of hatred directed towards it. Nor need we be surprised that this mental state should be the one chiefly associated with the idea of rightness, if we reflect on the nature of those actions which are most commonly recognised as duties. For by far the greater part of the actions, of which we commonly think as duties, are negative: what we feel to be our duty is to abstain from some action to which a strong natural impulse tempts us. And these wrong actions, in the avoidance of which duty consists, are usually such as produce, very immediately, some bad consequence in pain to others; while, in many prominent instances, the inclination, which prompts us to them, is itself an intrinsic evil, containing, as where the impulse is lust or cruelty, an anticipatory enjoyment of something evil or ugly. That right action does thus so frequently entail the suppression of some evil impulse, is necessary to explain the plausibility of the view that virtue consists in the control of passion by reason. Accordingly, the truth seems to be that, whenever a strong moral emotion is excited by the idea of rightness, this emotion is accompanied by a vague cognition of the kind of evils usually suppressed or avoided by the actions which most frequently occur to us as instances of duty; and that the emotion is directed towards this evil quality. We may, then, conclude that the specific moral emotion owes almost all its intrinsic value to the fact that it includes a cognition of evils accompanied by a hatred of them: mere rightness, whether truly or untruly attributed to an action, seems incapable of forming the object of an emotional contemplation, which shall be any great good. (§ 131 ¶ 3)