Chapter V: Ethics in Relation to Conduct.

§ 90.

But, if this be recognised, several most important consequences follow, with regard to the relation of Ethics to conduct. (§ 90 ¶ 1)

(1) It is plain that no moral law is self-evident, as has commonly been held by the Intuitional school of moralists. The Intuitional view of Ethics consists in the supposition that certain rules, stating that certain actions are always to be done or to be omitted, may be taken as self-evident premisses. I have shewn with regard to judgments of what is good in itself, that this is the case; no reason can be given for them. But it is the essence of Intuitionism to suppose that rules of action—statements not of what ought to be, but of what we ought to do—are in the same sense intuitively certain. Plausibility has been lent to this view by the fact that we do undoubtedly make immediate judgments that certain actions are obligatory or wrong: we are thus often intuitively certain of our duty, in a psychological sense. But, nevertheless, these judgments are not self-evident and cannot be taken as ethical premisses, since, as has now been shewn, they are capable of being confirmed or refuted by an investigation of causes and effects. It is, indeed, possible that some of our immediate intuitions are true; but since what we intuit, what conscience tells us, is that certain actions will always produce the greatest sum of good possible under the circumstances, it is plain that reasons can be given, which will shew the deliverances of conscience to be true or false. (§ 90 ¶ 2)