Chapter VI: The Ideal.

§ 129.

II. The consideration of this other question belongs properly to the second topic, which was reserved above for discussion—namely the topic of mixed goods. Mixed goods were defined above as things, which, though positively good as wholes, nevertheless contain, as essential elements, something intrinsically evil or ugly. And there certainly seem to be such goods. But for the proper consideration of them, it is necessary to take into account a new distinction—the distinction just expressed as being between the value which a thing possesses as a whole, and that which it possesses on the whole. (§ 129 ¶ 1)

When mixed goods were defined as things positively good as wholes, the expression was ambiguous. It is meant that they were positively good on the whole; but it must now be observed that the value which a thing possesses on the whole may be said to be equivalent to the sum of the value which it possesses as a whole, together with the intrinsic values which may belong to any of its parts. In fact, by the value which a thing possesses as a whole, there may be meant two quite distinct things. There may be meant either (1) That value which arises solely from the combination of two or more things; or else (2) The total value formed by the addition to (1) of any intrinsic value which may belong to the things combined. The meaning of the distinction may perhaps be most easily seen by considering the supposed case of vindictive punishment. If it is true that the combined existence of two evils may yet constitute a less evil than would be constituted by the existence of either singly, it is plain that this can only be because there arises from the combination a positive good which is greater than the difference between the sum of the two evils and the demerit of either singly: this positive good would then be the value of the whole, as a whole, in sense (1). Yet if this value be not so great a good as the sum of the two evils is an evil, it is plain that the value of the whole state of things will be a positive evil; and this value is the value of the whole, as a whole, in sense (2). Whatever view may be taken with regard to the particular case of vindictive punishment, it is plain that we have here two distinct things, with regard to either of which a separate question may be asked in the case of every organic unity. The first of these two things may be expressed as the difference between the value of the whole thing and the sum of the value of its parts. And it is plain that where the parts have little or no intrinsic value (as in our first class of goods, §§ 114, 115), this difference will be nearly or absolutely identical with the value of the whole thing. The distinction, therefore, only becomes important in the case of wholes, of which one or more parts have a great intrinsic value, positive or negative. The first of these cases, that of a whole, in which one part has a great positive value, is exemplified in our 2nd and 3rd classes of great unmixed goods (§§ 120, 122); and similarly the Summum Bonum is a whole of which many parts have a great positive value. Such cases, it may be observed, are also very frequent and very important objects of Aesthetic judgment; since the essential distinction between the classical and the romantic styles consists in the fact that the former aims at obtaining the greatest possible value for the whole, as a whole, in sense (1), whereas the latter sacrifices this in order to obtain the greatest possible value for some part, which is itself an organic unity. It follows that we cannot declare either style to be necessarily superior, since an equally good result on the whole, or as a whole in sense (2), may be obtained by either method; but the distinctively aesthetic temperament seems to be characterised by a tendency to prefer a good result obtained by the classical, to an equally good result obtained by the romantic method. (§ 129 ¶ 2)

§ 130.

But what we have now to consider are cases of wholes, in which one or more parts have a great negative value—are great positive evils. And first of all, we may take the strongest cases, like that of retributive punishment, in which we have a whole, exclusively composed of two great positive evils—wickedness and pain. Can such a whole ever be positively good on the whole? (§ 130 ¶ 1)

(1) I can see no reason to think that such wholes ever are positively good on the whole. But from the fact that they may, nevertheless, be less evils, than either of their parts taken singly, it follows that they have a characteristic which is most important for the correct decision of practical questions. It follows that, quite apart from consequences or any value which an evil may have as a mere means, it may, supposing one evil already exists, be worth while to create another, since, by the mere creation of this second, there may be constituted a whole less bad than if the original evil had been left to exist by itself. And similarly, with regard to all the wholes which I am about to consider, it must be remembered, that, even if they are not goods on the whole, yet, where an evil already exists, as in this world evils do exist, the existence of the other part of these wholes will constitute a thing desirable for its own sake—that is to say, not merely a means to future goods, but one of the ends which must be taken into account in estimating what that best possible state of things is, to which every right action must be a means. (§ 130 ¶ 2)

§ 131.

(2) But, as a matter of fact, I cannot avoid thinking that there are wholes, containing something positively evil and ugly, which are, nevertheless, great positive goods on the whole. Indeed, it appears to be to this class that those instances of virtue, which contain anything intrinsically good, chiefly belong. It need not, of course, be denied that there is sometimes included in a virtuous disposition more or less of those unmixed goods which were first discussed—that is to say, a real love of what is good or beautiful. But the typical and characteristic virtuous dispositions, so far as they are not mere means, seem rather to be examples of mixed goods. We may take as instances (a) Courage and Compassion, which seem to belong to the second of the three classes of virtues distinguished in our last chapter (§ 107); and (b) the specifically moral sentiment, by reference to which the third of those three classes was defined (§ 108). (§ 131 ¶ 1)

Courage and compassion, in so far as they contain an intrinsically desirable state of mind, seem to involve essentially a cognition of something evil or ugly. In the case of courage the object of the cognition may be an evil of any of our three classes; in the case of compassion, the proper object is pain. Both these virtues, accordingly, must contain precisely the same cognitive element, which is also essential to evils of class (1); and they are differentiated from these by the fact that the emotion directed to these objects is, in their case, an emotion of the same kind which was essential to evils of class (2). In short, just as evils of class (2) seemed to consist in a hatred of what was good or beautiful, and evils of class (1) in a love of what was evil or ugly; so these virtues involve a hatred of what is evil or ugly. Both these virtues do, no doubt, also contain other elements, and, among these, each contains its specific emotion; but that their value does not depend solely upon these other elements, we may easily assure ourselves, by considering what we should think of an attitude of endurance or of defiant contempt toward an object intrinsically good or beautiful, or of the state of a man whose mind was filled with pity for the happiness of a worthy admiration. Yet pity for the undeserved sufferings of others, endurance of pain to ourselves, and a defiant hatred of evil dispositions in ourselves or in others, seem to be undoubtedly admirable in themselves; and if so, there are admirable things, which must be lost, if there were no cognition of evil. (§ 131 ¶ 2)

Similarly the specifically moral sentiment, in all cases where it has any considerable intrinsic value, appears to include a hatred of evils of the first and second classes. It is true that the emotion is here excited by the idea that an action is right or wrong; and hence the object of the idea which excites it is generally not an intrinsic evil. But, as far as I can discover, the emotion with which a conscientious man views a real or imaginary right action, contains, as an essential element, the same emotion with which he views a wrong one: it seems, indeed, that this element is necessary to make his emotion specifically moral. And the specifically moral emotion excited by the idea of a wrong action, seems to me to contain essentially a more or less vague cognition of the kind of intrinsic evils, which are usually caused by wrong actions, whether they would or would not be caused by the particular action in question. I am, in fact, unable to distinguish, in its main features, the moral sentiment excited by the idea of rightness and wrongness, wherever it is intense, from the total state constituted by a cognition of something intrinsically evil together with the emotion of hatred directed towards it. Nor need we be surprised that this mental state should be the one chiefly associated with the idea of rightness, if we reflect on the nature of those actions which are most commonly recognised as duties. For by far the greater part of the actions, of which we commonly think as duties, are negative: what we feel to be our duty is to abstain from some action to which a strong natural impulse tempts us. And these wrong actions, in the avoidance of which duty consists, are usually such as produce, very immediately, some bad consequence in pain to others; while, in many prominent instances, the inclination, which prompts us to them, is itself an intrinsic evil, containing, as where the impulse is lust or cruelty, an anticipatory enjoyment of something evil or ugly. That right action does thus so frequently entail the suppression of some evil impulse, is necessary to explain the plausibility of the view that virtue consists in the control of passion by reason. Accordingly, the truth seems to be that, whenever a strong moral emotion is excited by the idea of rightness, this emotion is accompanied by a vague cognition of the kind of evils usually suppressed or avoided by the actions which most frequently occur to us as instances of duty; and that the emotion is directed towards this evil quality. We may, then, conclude that the specific moral emotion owes almost all its intrinsic value to the fact that it includes a cognition of evils accompanied by a hatred of them: mere rightness, whether truly or untruly attributed to an action, seems incapable of forming the object of an emotional contemplation, which shall be any great good. (§ 131 ¶ 3)

§ 132.

If this be so, then we have, in many prominent instances of virtue, cases of a whole, greatly good in itself, which yet contains the cognition of something, whereof the existence would be a great evil: a great good is absolutely dependent for its value, upon its inclusion of something evil or ugly, although it does not owe its value solely to this element in it. And, in the case of virtues, this evil object does, in general, actually exist. But there seems no reason to think that, when it does exist, the whole state of things thus constituted is therefore the better on the whole. What seems indubitable, is only that the feeling contemplation of an object, whose existence would be a great evil, or which is ugly, may be essential to a valuable whole. We have another undoubted instance of this in the appreciation of tragedy. But, in tragedy, the sufferings of Lear, and the vice of Iago may be purely imaginary. And it seems certain that, if they really existed, the evil thus existing, while it must detract from the good consisting in a proper feeling towards them, will add no positive value to that good great enough to counterbalance such a loss. It does, indeed, seem that the existence of a true belief in the object of these mixed goods does add some value to the whole in which it is combined with them: a conscious compassion for real suffering seems to be better, as a whole, than a compassion for sufferings merely imaginary; and this may well be the case, even though the evil involved in the actual suffering makes the total state of things bad on the whole. And it certainly seems to be true that a false belief in the actual existence of its object makes a worse mixed good than if our state of mind were that with which we normally regard pure fiction. Accordingly we may conclude that the only mixed goods, which are positively good on the whole, are those in which the object is something which would be a great evil, if it existed, or which is ugly. (§ 132 ¶ 1)

§ 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)