Chapter III: Hedonism.

§ 55.

The decision, then, must rest upon Prof. Sidgwick’s first argumentthe appeal to our intuitive judgment after due consideration of the question when fairly placed before it. And here it seems to me plain that Prof. Sidgwick has failed, in two essential respects, to place the question fairly before either himself or his reader. (§ 55 ¶ 1)

(1) What he has to shew is, as he says himself, not merely that Happiness must be included as a part of Ultimate Good. This view, he says, ought not to commend itself to the sober judgment of reflective persons. And why? Because these objective relations, when distinguished from the consciousness accompanying and resulting from them, are not ultimately and intrinsically desirable. Now, this reason, which is offered as shewing that to consider Happiness as a mere part of Ultimate Good does not meet the facts of intuition, is, on the contrary, only sufficient to shew that it is a part of Ultimate Good. For from the fact that no value resides in one part of a whole, considered by itself, we cannot infer that all the value belonging to the whole does reside in the other part, considered by itself. Even if we admit that there is much value in the enjoyment of Beauty, and none in the mere contemplation of it, which is one of the constituents of that complex fact, it does not follow that all the value belongs to the other constituent, namely, the pleasure which we take in contemplating it. It is quite possible that this constituent also has no value in itself; that the value belongs to the whole state, and to that only: so that both the pleasure and the contemplation are mere parts of the good, and both of them equally necessary parts. In short, Prof. Sidgwick’s argument here depends upon the neglect of that principle, which I tried to explain in my first chapter and which I said I should call the principle of organic relations. The argument is calculated to mislead, because it supposes that, if we see a whole state to be valuable, and also see that one element of that state has no value by itself, then the other element, by itself, must have all the value which belongs to the whole state. The fact is, on the contrary, that, since the whole may be organic, the other element need have no value whatever, and that even if it have some, the value of the whole may be very much greater. For this reason, as well as to avoid confusion between means and end, it is absolutely essential to consider each distinguishing quality, in isolation, in order to decide what value it possesses. Prof. Sidgwick, on the other hand, applies this method of isolation only to one element in the wholes he is considering. He does not ask the question: If consciousness of pleasure existed absolutely by itself, would a sober judgment be able to attribute much value to it? It is, in fact, always misleading to take a whole, that is valuable (or the reverse), and then to ask simply: To which of its constituents does this whole owe its value or its vileness? It may well be that it owes it to none; and, if one of them does appear to have some value in itself, we shall be led into the grave error of supposing that all the value of the whole belongs to it alone. It seems to me that this error has commonly been committed with regard to pleasure. Pleasure does seem to be a necessary constituent of most valuable wholes; and, since the other constituents, into which we may analyse them, may easily seem not to have any value, it is natural to suppose that all the value belongs to pleasure. That this natural supposition does not follow from the premises is certain; and that it is, on the contrary, ridiculously far from the truth appears evident to my reflective judgment. If we apply either to pleasure or to consciousness of pleasure the only safe method, that of isolation, and ask ourselves: Could we accept, as a very good thing, that mere consciousness of pleasure, and absolutely nothing else, should exist, even in the greatest quantities? I think we can have no doubt about answering: No. Far less can we accept this as the sole good. Even if we accept Prof. Sidgwick’s implication (which yet appears to me extremely doubtful) that consciousness of pleasure has a greater value by itself than Contemplation of Beauty, it seems to me that a pleasurable Contemplation of Beauty has certainly an immeasurably greater value than mere Consciousness of Pleasure. In favour of this conclusion I can appeal with confidence to the sober judgment of reflective persons. (§ 55 ¶ 2)