Chapter VI: The Ideal.

§ 133.

With regard, then, to those mixed goods, which consist in an appropriate attitude of the mind towards things evil or ugly, and which include among their number the greater part of such virtues as have any intrinsic value whatever, the following three conclusions seem to be those chiefly requiring to be emphasised:— (§ 133 ¶ 1)

(1) There seems no reason to think that where the object is a thing evil in itself, which actually exists, the total state of things is ever positively good on the whole. The appropriate mental attitude towards a really existing evil contains, of course, an element which is absolutely identical with the same attitude towards the same evil, where it is purely imaginary. And this element, which is common to the two cases, may be a great positive good, on the whole. But there seems no reason to doubt that, where the evil is real, the amount of this real evil is always sufficient to reduce the total sum of value to a negative quantity. Accordingly we have no reason to maintain the paradox that an ideal world would be one in which vice and suffering must exist in order that it may contain the goods consisting in the appropriate emotion towards them. It is not a positive good that suffering should exist, in order that we may compassionate it; or wickedness, that we may hate it. There is no reason to think that any actual evil whatsoever would be contained in the Ideal. It follows that we cannot admit the actual validity of any of the arguments commonly used in Theodicies; no such argument succeeds in justifying the fact that there does exist even the smallest of the many evils which this world contains. The most that can be said for such arguments is that, when they make appeal to the principle of organic unity, their appeal is valid in principle. It might be the case that the existence of evil was necessary, not merely as a means, but analytically, to the existence of the greatest good. But we have no reason to think that this is the case in any instance whatever. (§ 133 ¶ 2)

But (2) there is reason to think that the cognition of things evil or ugly, which are purely imaginary, is essential to the Ideal. In this case the burden of proof lies the other way. It cannot be doubted that the appreciation of tragedy is a great positive good; and it seems almost equally certain that the virtues of compassion, courage, and self-control contain such goods. And to all these the cognition of things which would be evil, if they existed, is analytically necessary. Here then we have things of which the existence must add value to any whole in which they are contained; nor is it possible to assure ourselves that any whole, from which they were omitted, would thereby gain more in its value as a whole, than it would lose by their omission. We have no reason to think that any whole, which did not contain them, would be so good on the whole as some whole in which they were obtained. The case for their inclusion in the Ideal is as strong as that for the inclusion of material qualities (§ 123, above). Against the inclusion of these goods nothing can be urged except a bare possibility. (§ 133 ¶ 3)

Finally (3) it is important to insist that, as was said above, these mixed virtues have a great practical value, in addition to that which they possess either in themselves or as mere means. Where evils do exist, as in this world they do, the fact that they are known and properly appreciated, constitutes a state of things having greater value as a whole even than the same appreciation of purely imaginary evils. This state of things, it has been said, is never positively good on the whole; but where the evil, which reduces its total value to a negative quantity, already unavoidably exists, to obtain the intrinsic value which belongs to it as a whole will obviously produce a better state of affairs than if the evil had existed by itself, quite apart from the good element in it which is identical with the appreciation of imaginary evils, and from any ulterior consequences which its existence may bring about. The case is here the same as with retributive punishment. Where an evil already exists, it is well that it should be pitied or hated or endured, according to its nature; just as it may be well that some evils should be punished. Of course, as in all practical cases, it often happens that the attainment of this good is incompatible with the attainment of another and a greater one. But it is important to insist that we have here a real intrinsic value, which must be taken into account in calculating the greatest possible balance of intrinsic value, which it is always our duty to produce. (§ 133 ¶ 4)