Chapter III: Hedonism.

§ 54.

With regard to the second of them, it only maintains that other things, which might be supposed to share with pleasure the attribute of goodness, seem to obtain the commendation of Common Sense, roughly speaking, in proportion to the degree of their productiveness of pleasure. Whether even this rough proportion holds between the commendation of Common Sense and the felicific effects of that which it commends is a question extremely difficult to determine; and we need not enter into it here. For, even assuming it to be true, and assuming the judgments of Common Sense to be on the whole correct, what would it shew? It would shew, certainly, that pleasure was a good criterion of right action—that the same conduct which produced most pleasure would also produce most good on the whole. But this would by no means entitle us to the conclusion that the greatest pleasure constituted what was best on the whole: it would still leave open the alternative that the greatest quantity of pleasure was as a matter of fact, under actual conditions, generally accompanied by the greatest quantity of other goods, and that it therefore was not the sole good. It might indeed seem to be a strange coincidence that these two things should always, even in this world, be in proportion to one another. But the strangeness of this coincidence will certainly not entitle us to argue directly that it does not exist—that it is an illusion, due to the fact that pleasure is really the sole good. The coincidence may be susceptible of other explanations; and it would even be our duty to accept it unexplained, if direct intuition seemed to declare that pleasure was not the sole good. Moreover it must be remembered that the need for assuming such a coincidence rests in any case upon the extremely doubtful proposition that felicific effects are roughly in proportion to the approval of Common Sense. And it should be observed that, though Prof. Sidgwick maintains this to be the case, his detailed illustrations only tend to shew the very different proposition that a thing is not held to be good, unless it gives a balance of pleasure; not that the degree of commendation is in proportion to the quantity of pleasure. (§ 54 ¶ 1)