Book III: The Moral Ideal and Moral Progress.

Chapter I: Good and Moral Good.


Such interests, though not mere appetites because conditioned by self-consciousness, correspond to them as not having pleasure for their object. This point was sufficiently made out in the controversy as to the disinterestedness of benevolence, carried on during the first part of the eighteenth century. When philosophers of the selfish school represented benevolence as ultimately desire for some pleasure to oneself, Butler and others met them by showing that this was the same mistake as to reckon hunger a desire for the pleasure of eating. The appetite of hunger must precede and condition the pleasure which consists in its satisfaction. It cannot therefore have that pleasure for its exciting object. It terminates upon its object, and is not relative to anything beyond the taking of food; and in the same way benevolent desires terminate upon their objects, upon the benefits done to others. In the termination in each case there is pleasure, but it is a confusion to represent this as an object beyond the obtaining of food or the doing a kindness, to which the appetite or benevolent desire is really directed. What is true of benevolence is true of motives which we opposite to it, as the vicious to the virtuous, e.g. of jealousy or the desire for revenge. Iago does not work upon Othello for the sake of any pleasure that he expects to experience when his envy is gratified, but because in his envious state an object of which the realisation seems necessary to the satisfaction of himself is Othello’s ruin, just as the consumption of food is necessary to the satisfaction of hunger. What he desires is to see Othello down, not the pleasure he will feel when he sees him so—a pleasure which he could not feel unless he had desired the object independently of such anticipation. (§161 ¶1)

It is true that any interest or desire for an object may come to be reinforced by desire for the pleasure which, reflecting upon past analogous experience, the subject of the interest may expect as incidental to its satisfaction. In this way cool self-love, according to the terminology of the last century, may combine with particular desires or propensions. If there is to be any chance, however, of the expected pleasure being really enjoyed, the self-love of which pleasure is the object must not supersede the particular propension of which pleasure, in the case of ordinary healthy interests, is not the object. The pleasure incidental to the satisfaction of an interest cannot be attained after loss of the interest itself, nor can the interest be revived by wishing for a renewal of the pleasure incidental to its satisfaction. Hence just so far as cool self-love, in the sense of a calculating pursuit of pleasure, becomes dominant and supersedes particular interests, the chances of pleasure are really lost; which accounts for the restlessness of the pleasure-seeker, and for the common remark that the right way to get pleasure is not to seek it. (§161 ¶2)