Chapter VI: The Ideal.

§ 132.

If this be so, then we have, in many prominent instances of virtue, cases of a whole, greatly good in itself, which yet contains the cognition of something, whereof the existence would be a great evil: a great good is absolutely dependent for its value, upon its inclusion of something evil or ugly, although it does not owe its value solely to this element in it. And, in the case of virtues, this evil object does, in general, actually exist. But there seems no reason to think that, when it does exist, the whole state of things thus constituted is therefore the better on the whole. What seems indubitable, is only that the feeling contemplation of an object, whose existence would be a great evil, or which is ugly, may be essential to a valuable whole. We have another undoubted instance of this in the appreciation of tragedy. But, in tragedy, the sufferings of Lear, and the vice of Iago may be purely imaginary. And it seems certain that, if they really existed, the evil thus existing, while it must detract from the good consisting in a proper feeling towards them, will add no positive value to that good great enough to counterbalance such a loss. It does, indeed, seem that the existence of a true belief in the object of these mixed goods does add some value to the whole in which it is combined with them: a conscious compassion for real suffering seems to be better, as a whole, than a compassion for sufferings merely imaginary; and this may well be the case, even though the evil involved in the actual suffering makes the total state of things bad on the whole. And it certainly seems to be true that a false belief in the actual existence of its object makes a worse mixed good than if our state of mind were that with which we normally regard pure fiction. Accordingly we may conclude that the only mixed goods, which are positively good on the whole, are those in which the object is something which would be a great evil, if it existed, or which is ugly. (§ 132 ¶ 1)