Chapter IV: Metaphysical Ethics.

§ 83.

Being good, then, is not identical with being willed or felt in any kind of way, any more than being true is identical with being thought in any kind of wy. But let us suppose this to be admitted: Is it still possible that an enquiry into the nature of will or feeling should be a necessary step to the proof of ethical conclusions? If being good and being willed are not identical, then the most that can be maintained with regard to the connection of goodness with will is that what is good is always also willed in a certain way, and that what is willed in a certain way is always also good. And it may be said that this is all that is meant by those metaphysical writers who profess to base Ethics upon the Metaphysics of Will. What would follow from this supposition? (§ 83 ¶ 1)

It is plain that if what is willed in a certain way were always also good, then the fact that a thing was so willed would be a criterion of its goodness. But in order to establish that will is a criterion of goodness, we must be able to shew first and separately that in a great number of the instances in which we find a certain kind of will we also find that the objects of that will are good. We might, then, perhaps, be entitled to infer that in a few instances, where it was not obvious whether a thing was good or not but was obvious that it was willed in the way required, the thing was really good, since it had the property which in all other instances we had found to be accompanied by goodness. A reference to will might thus, just conceivably, become of use towards the end of our ethical investigations, when we had already been able to shew, independently, of a vast number of different objects that they were really good and in what degree they were so. And against even this conceivable utility it may be urged (1) That it is impossible to see why it should not be as easy (and it would certainly be the more secure way) to prove that the thing in question was good, by the same methods which we had used in proving that other things were good, as by reference to our criterion; and (2) That, if we set ourselves seriously to find out what things are good, we shall see reason to think (as will appear in Chapter VI) that they have no other property, both common and peculiar to them, beside their goodness—that, in fact, there is no criterion of goodness. (§ 83 ¶ 2)