C. D. Broad, Five Types of Ethical Theory, 1930


Conclusion: Sketch of the Main Problems of Ethics

     I have now fulfilled to the best of my ability my undertaking to expound and criticize the ethical theories of Spinoza, Butler, Hume, Kant, and Sidgwick. I propose to end my book by giving a sketch of what seem to me to be the main problems of ethics, illustrated by reference to the writers whose works we have been studying.



I propose to give the name "ethical characteristics" to whatever characteristics are denoted by the words "good", "bad", "right", "wrong", "ought", and "duty", and by any other words which are plainly mere synonyms for some word in this list. Now the first and most fundamental problem of pure ethics is whether these characteristics are unique and peculiar, in the sense that they cannot be analysed without remainder in terms of non-ethical characteristics. Even if this were so, it would not follow that all of them were unanalysable and consequently indefinable. It might still be possible to analyse and define some of them in terms of one or more of the others either with or without non-ethical characteristics.

      Those theories which hold that ethical characteristics can be analysed without remainder into non-ethical ones may be called (1, 1) Naturalistic Theories; those which hold that they cannot may be called (1, 2) Non-Naturalistic Theories. Hume and Spinoza definitely hold naturalistic [258] views. Sidgwick is definitely non-naturalistic about "right" and "ought". His discussion about "good" is so complicated that it is difficult to be sure whether he comes to a naturalistic or a non-naturalistic conclusion. But the impression which I get is that, after offering a very complicated naturalistic analysis in terms of desire, he finally admits that it is not adequate. With many writers it is extremely hard to be certain whether they are naturalists or not. It is very common to find that the following two propositions are not clearly distinguished from each other, viz.:

  1. "The ethical characteristic E synthetically entails and is entailed by the non-ethical characteristics N1, N2, . . ."; and
  2. "The ethical characteristic E is analysable without remainder into the conjunction of the non-ethical characteristics N1, N2, . . ."
Many moralists are liable to think that they believe (b) when they really only believe, or only have produced reasons for believing (a). Non-naturalistic theories can, and generally do, accept some propositions of the first kind. E.g., Sidgwick holds that all happiness is good and that nothing is good but happiness. But he denies that to be good can be analysed into containing a positive balance of happiness. Butler's distinction between the psychological power and the moral authority of conscience make it fairly clear that he was not a naturalist. Kant has been accused of naturalism by Moore in his Principia Ethica, but it is not at all clear to me that the accusation is well-founded. No doubt Kant says that what I, as an empirical self, ought to do is what I, as a purely rational noumenal self, necessarily would do. But it is not clear that he means this to be an analysis of the term "ought". Mill presumably meant to be a naturalistic hedonist. But it is difficult to be sure in the case of such an extremely confused [259] writer that he really was one. We will now say something about the subdivisions of Naturalistic ethical theories.


(1, 1) Naturalistic Theories.

These have taken many different forms, according to what non-ethical characteristics have been supposed to constitute the complete analysis of ethical characteristics. So far as I know, the most important have been the following.

(1, 11) Theological Naturalism. An example would be Paley's view that "right" means "commanded by God".

(1, 12) Biological, Sociological, or Evolutionary Naturalism.

It is hardly worth while to attempt to separate these, as those who have held any of them have tended to hold the rest in various proportions. Typical examples are the following.

"To be virtuous means to perform the specific activities of the species to which you belong efficiently" (Spinoza).

"Better conduct means conduct that comes later in the course of evolution, and is more complex than earlier conduct of the same kind" (Herbert Spencer).

"Right action means action which tends to promote the stability and increase the complexity of human society" (many Sociologists).

(1, 13) Psychological Naturalism.
This attempts to define ethical characteristics in terms of certain psychical characteristics such as pleasantness, approval, and so on. Hume's theory is a typical example of it. It is much the most important and plausible form of Naturalism; and the other types, when pressed with objections, often tend to fall back on it. We will therefore consider the various forms which Psychological Naturalism might take.

      In the first place it might take the form of (1, 131) Private, or (1, 132) Public Psychological Naturalism. If, e.g., a man holds that a "right" action means an action which evokes in him a certain kind of emotion when he [260] contemplates it, he is a Private Psychological Naturalist. If he holds that a "right" action means one which evokes a certain kind of emotion in all or most men, or in all or most Englishmen, or in all or most Etonians, he is a Public Psychological Naturalist. It is most important not to confuse the distinction between Naturalistic and Non-Naturalistic theories with the distinction between Subjective and Non-Subjective theories. A subjective theory is one which would make all ethical judgments to consist of statements by the speaker about his own mental attitude towards an object at the time of speaking. On this view there is nothing in ethics to discuss, and it would be mere rudeness to question any ethical judgment that anyone might choose to make. Now it is evident that the non-psychological forms of Naturalism are not in the least subjective in this sense. The psychological form may be subjective, for it may be private; but it need not be, for it may be public. The question whether all or most men or all or most Etonians do feel a certain emotion when they contemplate a certain action is open to discussion and statistical investigation. We have seen that Hume's form of Psychological Naturalism is public. Later on we shall see that there is another distinction, viz., that between Relational and Non-Relational Theories which is highly relevant to the present point.

      Now a Psychological Naturalist might develop his theory in two ways which are prima facie quite different. Of course he might use one of these two types of analysis for one ethical characteristic, e.g., goodness, and the other for another ethical characteristic, e.g., rightness. Let us take the concept of intrinsic goodness. A Psychological Naturalist might hold that to be "intrinsically good" means (a) to have a certain psychical quality, e.g., pleasantness, or (b) to [261] be the object of a certain mental attitude, e.g., approval. Naturalistic Hedonism is an example of the first type of theory, whilst Hume's doctrine is an example of the second. We might call these two types of theory respectively Mental Quality Theories and Mental Attitude Theories. On the Mental Quality type of theory the publicity of an ethical characteristic would mean that a certain kind of object produced in all or most observers mental states with a certain kind of quality, e.g., pleasantness. On the Mental Attitude type of theory it would mean that a certain kind of object evokes towards it a certain kind of emotion in all or most observers, e.g., approval. If the suggestion which I threw out in discussing Hedonism in connexion with Sidgwick be true, Hedonism itself will be a form of Mental Attitude theory. For the suggestion was that pleasantness and painfulness are not really qualities of experiences but relational properties of them. It was suggested that "the experience X is pleasant to me" means "I like the experience X for its non-hedonic qualities." On this view the Naturalistic Hedonist asserts that "X is intrinsically good" means that X is an experience which the person who has it likes for its non-hedonic qualities. And publicity, on such a view, would consist in the fact that experiences of certain kinds are liked for their non-hedonic qualities by all or most men who have them.

      Now both kinds of Public Psychological Naturalism could be divided up on two different principles. (a) They might be subdivided according to the nature of the group of experients used in the definition. The most important division here would be according to whether the mental state was supposed to be caused, or the mental attitude evoked, (i) in all or most human beings, or (ii) in a certain [262] sub-group of the human race, e.g., the members of a certain society. The first type of theory defines ethical concepts in terms of specific properties of the human mind as such. The second does not. Hume's theory is an example of the former. It would be fair to say that the former type of theory makes morality "natural" (in the sense in which liking sugar is natural), whilst the second makes it more "artificial" (in the sense in which disapproving the combination of a frock-coat and brown boots is artificial. (b) Psychological Naturalism might also be subdivided according to the mental quality or the mental attitude which is used in defining ethical characteristics. Thus the quality might be pleasantness, as the Hedonists hold, or it might be quantity and complexity of experience; and the attitude might be approval or disapproval, as Hume held, or a sublimated form of fear or egoism.

      There is another important principle of subdivision among theories of the Psychologically Naturalistic type. Are ethical terms to be defined by reference to the actual experiences of actual men or groups of men, or to the hypothetical experiences which it is supposed that certain idealised men or groups of men would have? Very often the Naturalist starts with the first type of theory, and afterwards, when pressed with objections, falls back on the second. He begins, e.g., to talk of the emotions which would be felt by an idealised "impartial observer", whilst admitting that no actual observer is completely impartial. We will call the two types of theory respectively Factual and Ideal Naturalism. Now Ideal Naturalism is not necessarily inconsistent, for the ideal man or group may be defined in purely non-ethical terms, like the perfect gas and the frictionless fluid. But the Ideal Naturalist is on a very [263] slippery slope, and he scarcely ever manages to avoid inconsistency. In defining his ideal he nearly always unwittingly introduces some characteristic which is in fact ethical, and thus fails to do what, as a Naturalist, he claims to do, viz., to define ethical characteristics in completely non-ethical terms.

      This completes the classification of possible types of Naturalistic Theory. We come now to a very important division of theories about the analysis of ethical concepts, which crosses the division of such theories into Naturalistic and Non-Naturalistic. This is the distinction between Relational and Non-Relational theories. With regard to any ethical characteristic it may be asked whether it is a pure quality, like red; or a pure relation, like between; or a relational property, like loved-by-Jones. Of course some ethical characteristics might be of one kind and some of another. E.g., it might be held that good is a pure quality, whilst right is a relation between an action or intention or emotion and an agent, on the one hand, and a situation, on the other. Some people have held, again, that the fundamental ethical notion is, not good and bad, but better and worse. And others have held that "good" means what it would be right for every one to desire.

      There is a close connexion between the distinctions of Naturalistic and Non-Naturalistic and Relational and Non Relational respectively. It seems to be this. (a) Non Naturalistic theories are compatible with either a relationist or a non-relationist view of ethical characteristics, or with any combination of the two. (b) Any form of Naturalistic theory which defines ethical characteristics in terms of the mental attitude which a certain man, or a certain class of men, or the whole human race, takes towards certain actions [264] or intentions is plainly relational. For it makes all ethical characteristics into relational properties, like loved-by-Jones or disliked-by-most-Etonians. Exactly the same remarks apply to the Theological form of Naturalism. (c) The only doubtful case would seem to be the form of Psychological Naturalism, such as Naturalistic Hedonism, which defines ethical characteristics by mental qualities, such as pleasantness. It might seem at first sight that this form of Naturalism was non-relational. But, in the first place, as we have seen, it is possible that "pleasant" really means "liked by an experient for its non-hedonic qualities". And, quite apart from this possibility, there is a distinction which must be drawn. If this type of theory defines "good" as producing in all or in certain classes of human minds mental states having a certain quality, it is obviously as relational as any other form of Naturalistic theory. But, if it defines "good" as having a certain mental quality, then it is not relational. E.g., if a Naturalistic Hedonist defined "good" as productive of pleasant experiences, his theory would be relational even though pleasantness were a pure quality. But, if he defined "good" as pleasant, in the sense in which only an experience can be pleasant, his theory would be non-relational provided that pleasantness is a pure quality.


      The questions which we have discussed so far are purely logical and ontological. They refer simply to the problem: "What is the right analysis of ethical characteristics?" and not at all to the problem: "How do we come to have ideas of ethical characteristics and to believe propositions which involve them, and what mental faculties are involved in doing so?" [265] We pass now to these epistemological questions. The problem has generally been put in the form: "What part, if any, is played by Reason; and what part, if any, is played by emotion, feeling, and sentiment, in the formation of ethical concepts and the making of ethical judgments?"

      I have already pointed out, in connexion with Hume and Sidgwick, that Reason must not be identified with the power of reasoning. It includes three cognitive powers, viz.,

  1. the power of forming a priori concepts, i.e., concepts of characteristics which are not sensibly manifested in any instance and are not composed of characteristics which have separately been sensibly manifested in various instances;
  2. the power of recognising that a conjunction of attributes is an instance of a necessary connexion between these attributes, i.e., the power of Intuitive Induction, as Mr. Johnson calls it; and
  3. the power of inferring conclusions from premises.

      Now no theory of ethics denies that Reason, in the sense of the power of reasoning or inferring, plays a part in the formation of ethical judgments. Take, e.g., even an extreme form of Private Psychological Naturalism. On this view every ethical judgment takes the form: "Whenever I contemplate such an object as X I feel the emotion Y towards it." Now it is clear that reasoning might be needed in making an ethical judgment, even of this kind, in two ways. (i) In order to determine what exactly is the nature of the object which I am contemplating. The total object may be an action done in a certain situation and likely to have certain consequences. And I may need to use reasoning in order to determine exactly what the situation is and what the consequences are likely to be. (ii) In order to generalise my present Judgment by Problematic Induction. I may argue that I shall probably feel the same kind of emotion [266] to similar objects on future occasions. And, on this view of ethics, this means that I infer that all similar objects will probably be good (or bad) in future in the only sense in which the theory allows me to say that this object is good (or bad) now.

      This, I think, is the only sense in which any Naturalistic theory can admit that Reason is concerned in ethics. As we have seen, this is definitely asserted by Hume. Now I shall call a theory which does not admit that Reason plays any part in ethics except that of reasoning (2, 1) a Non-Rationalistic Theory. We see then that all Naturalistic theories are Non-Rationalistic theories.

      (2, 2) A Rationalistic Theory would be one that admits that Reason plays some part in ethics beside that of mere reasoning. And it is necessarily a Non-Naturalistic theory. Now the concepts of ethics, even though they were sui generis, might conceivably be empirical, like red and between. Or they might be a priori, as I am inclined to think that cause and substance are. Then again the universal judgments of ethics might be empirical generalisations, like ''all grass is green", or intuitively or demonstratively necessary propositions, like "anything that has shape must have size" or "the square-root of 2 cannot be a rational number". It is important to remember that there can be empirical judgments which involve a priori concepts, e.g., "friction causes heat"; and that there can be a priori judgments which involve empirical concepts, e.g., "there cannot be shape without size". Consequently there are four possible views for a Non-Naturalistic theory to take in this matter, viz., that ethics involves

  1. both a priori concepts and a priori judgments, or
  2. a priori concepts but no a priori judgments, or
  3. a priori judgments but no a priori [267] concepts, or
  4. neither a priori concepts nor a priori judgments.

      We see then that it is logically possible for a Non-Naturalistic theory to be Non-Rationalistic, viz., in case (d). But I must confess that I do not know of any instance of such a theory. We see further that there are three possible forms of Rationalistic theory, viz.,

(2, 21) Two-sided Rationalism;
(2, 22) Rationalism of Concepts with Empiricism of Judgments; and
(2, 23) Rationalism of Judgments with Empiricism of Concepts.

Of the writers whom we have discussed it is plain that Sidgwick is a Two-sided Rationalist. He holds that the concept of right or ought is a priori, and he holds that we can see that what is pleasant and it only is necessarily good. Moreover, he holds that we can intuite certain necessary propositions about rightness, viz., the various abstract principles about impartiality and distribution which we have considered in the chapter on his ethics. I think it is pretty plain that Kant was also a Two-sided Rationalist. I do not know of instances of the more moderate kinds of Rationalism in ethics, but persons better read than I in the history of the subject might be able to think of some.

      So much then for the part played by Reason in ethical cognition. Let us now consider the various views which might be taken about the part played by Emotion or Feeling in ethical cognition. Let us begin with Naturalistic theories. (a) Emotion and feeling play no important cognitive part in any but the psychological form of Naturalism. At most the other forms of Naturalism might hold that pleasant feeling or approving emotion are on the whole more or less trustworthy signs of the presence of the non-psychological characteristics by which these theories define [268] ethical terms. Thus Spinoza would hold that pleasure is a trustworthy sign, provided it be Hilaritas and not mere Titillatio, that one is performing efficiently some action characteristic of one's species, and therefore that one was doing a good action or was in a good state. (b) In Psychological Naturalism feeling or emotion is an essential part of the content of ethical judgments. For, on this theory, when I say that so-and-so is good or right what I am asserting is that some person or group of persons does or would experience a certain feeling or emotion in contemplating this object.

      Let us now take Non-Naturalistic theories. Here the emotion or feeling is never part of the content of an ethical judgment, in the sense that we are asserting that such and such an emotion or feeling would be experienced by such and such people. But it might be the case that the presence of certain kinds of emotion or feeling is a necessary condition for recognising the presence of ethical characteristics, and thus indirectly a necessary condition for making ethical judgments. The occurrence of sensations, e.g., is a necessary condition of our getting the notions of colours and shapes, and therefore is a necessary condition for making judgments such as "this is red" and "that is round". Yet these judgments are not simply assertions about our sensations. Similarly, it might be that we could not have got the notions of right, good, etc., and therefore could not make such judgments as"this is right" or "that is good", unless we had felt certain emotions in certain situations. And yet these judgments might not be merely assertions about our emotions and feelings.

      On the Non-Naturalistic type of theory how do we become aware of ethical characteristics, and how do we [269] arrive at universal ethical judgments? If ethical concepts be empirical, like the concepts of "red" and "between", we must have been presented with instances which manifest them to us; and we must either abstract them from these instances or construct them from concepts so abstracted. Now it is obvious that these characteristics are not manifested to us by any of our senses. One does not literally see or feel or taste the rightness of right actions or the goodness of good motives. So we should have to postulate some peculiar kind of experience, analogous to sensation, yet different from any of the ordinary sensations. This, I suppose is what the moralists who talked about a "Moral Sense" had, or ought to have had, in mind; though I am afraid they used their terms very loosely. Now it would be natural to try to identify the "sensations" of this so-called "Moral Sense" with certain emotions which we undoubtedly do have, which we call "Feelings of Approbation and Disapprobation". So I think that the most plausible form of the Moral Sense Theory would be that ethical concepts are empirical, and that we derive them by abstraction from instances which are presented to us by means of the emotions of Approbation and Disapprobation, in somewhat the same way as that in which we derive our concepts of colours from instances of them presented to us by means of visual sensations. Such a theory, when clearly stated, certainly does not seem very plausible. And this may be a good ground for holding that, if ethical characteristics be sui generis, as Non-Naturalistic theories maintain, then the concepts of them must be a priori and not empirical.

      If our concepts of ethical characteristics be not empirical, they are not abstracted, or constructed from what has been [270] abstracted, in this way. There will then be no need to postulate a Moral Sense. But we may still suppose that Reason needs certain specific kinds of experience to furnish the occasions on which it recognises these characteristics. This would be analogous to the way in which, on the view that the concept of causation is a priori, Reason recognises the causal relation on the occasion of experiences of regular sequence, although we do not abstract the notion of causation from such experiences. Now it would be plausible, on this view, to suggest that the emotions of Approbation and Disapprobation furnish the necessary occasions on which Reason recognises ethical characteristics, such as goodness and rightness. This theory would be a form of Ethical Intuitionism. It might be called the Milder Form of Intuitionism about Ethical Concepts. Some moralists, however, seem to have held that ethical characteristics are recognised by Reason without any special kind of emotional experience being needed to furnish it with the occasion to form these concepts. It seems to me probable that Kant took this view. It is a logically possible theory, but all analogy seems to be against it. I will call it the Extreme Form of Intuitionism about Ethical Concepts.

      So much for the different possible views about the formation of ethical concepts. Let us now consider the ways in which we might be supposed to arrive at universal ethical judgments. Such judgments are of two kinds, which I will call Pure and Mixed. A pure ethical judgment asserts a universal connexion between two ethical characteristics. An example would be: "It is one's duty to try to produce the best result that is open to one." A mixed ethical judgment asserts a universal connexion between an ethical and a non-ethical characteristic. An example would [271] be: "Any experience which is pleasant is intrinsically good." I propose to confine my attention for the present to mixed ethical judgments.

      If such judgments be empirical they must be generalisations reached by problematic induction. We observe, e.g., a number of pleasant experiences and find that they are all intrinsically good. And we meet with no cases of pleasant experiences which are not intrinsically good. Then we generalise in the usual way, and conclude that probably all experiences which are pleasant are intrinsically good. In this case of course our judgments, for all we know, may be false even in the actual world, and certainly might have been false in other possible worlds.

      If, on the other hand, such judgments be a priori the most plausible supposition is that they are reached by intuitive induction. We observe, e.g., a number of instances of lying, and notice that they are all wrong. We then reflect, and see or think we see, a necessary connexion between the non-ethical characteristic of being an intentionally misleading statement and the ethical characteristic of being wrong. If this be so, the judgment would necessarily be true, not merely of the actual world, but of all possible worlds. I will call this view the Milder Form of Intuitionism about Ethical Universal Judgments. But some moralists seem to have taken a much more extreme view. They have held that we start with the knowledge of certain universal ethical propositions before meeting with instances of them. We do not first meet with this, that, and the other instance of lying; notice that each is wrong; and then come to see that lying as such is necessarily wrong. We start with a knowledge of the general proposition that lying as such is wrong; and then, meeting with a case of [272] lying, we argue: "This is an instance of lying and is therefore wrong." Such a view, again, is logically possible, but all analogy is against it. I will call this type of theory the Extreme Form of Intuitionism about Ethical Universal Judgments.

      It is important to notice a certain consequence of the distinctions which we have been drawing, because it is not generally recognised. Any ethical theory which professes to state universal connexions between certain ethical and certain non-ethical characteristics can take three different forms, which are often confused with each other. Suppose we take Hedonism as an example. The proposition connecting goodness with pleasantness may be supposed to be (i) analytic, or (ii) synthetic. And, if it be supposed to be synthetic, it may be supposed to be either (a) necessary, or (b) contingent. Thus three quite different forms of Hedonism are logically possible, viz., (1) Naturalistic Hedonism, which would assert that to be "intrinsically good" means to contain a balance of pleasure; and (2) Non-Naturalistic Hedonism, dividing into (2, 1) A Priori Hedonism, which would assert that anything that was intrinsically good would necessarily contain a balance of pleasure, and conversely, and (2, 2) Empirical Hedonism; which would assert that everything in the actual world which is intrinsically good does in fact contain a balance of pleasure and conversely. Obviously a precisely similar trichotomy could be made, no matter what was the non-ethical characteristic which is supposed always to accompany and be accompanied by the given ethical characteristic.

      Although it is thus logically possible to combine an empirical view of the fundamental universal propositions of ethics with a non-naturalistic and rationalistic view of the [273] fundamental ethical concepts, I do not think that this alternative has the slightest plausibility. It seems to me that, if Naturalism be false, then it is almost certain both that the fundamental concepts and the fundamental judgments of ethics are a priori. This of course is Sidgwick's view. No doubt some people would accept this hypothetical proposition and use it as an argument in favour of Naturalism.

      This completes what I have to say about the epistemological problems which can be raised in connexion with ethics.


      A good deal of purely psychological discussion on this subject has always been undertaken by moralists. Theories about motives may first be divided into (3, 1) Egoistic and (3, 2) Non-Egoistic. Psychological Egoism is the doctrine that nothing can move a man to action or decision except his own present experiences and his expectations of his own future experiences. Egoistic theories may be divided into (3, 11) Hedonistic and (3, 12) Non-Hedonistic. The former assert that one's only springs of action are one's present pleasures and pains or the expectation of one's future pleasures and pains. This is the theory which we have discussed in connexion with Sidgwick under the name of Psychological Hedonism. As we have seen, Butler, Hume, and Sidgwick agree in rejecting Psychological Egoism and therefore Psychological Hedonism. Spinoza was a Psychological Egoist. Kant appears to have thought that all desires other than the desire to act in accordance with the moral law could be reduced to the desire for one's own happiness. I should say that T. H. Green was a Psychological Egoist of the non-hedonistic type; i.e., he appears to hold that the only prospect that could move me is the [274] prospect of some future state of myself, but he does not hold that this state must be conceived as pleasant or painful in order to attract or repel me.

      There has been a great controversy as to whether "Reason" can ever furnish a motive for action. Hume, e.g., makes a point of denying that it can, whilst Butler and Kant and Sidgwick take the opposite view. The problem is very badly stated. In the first place there are the ambiguities in the word "Reason" which we have pointed out in dealing with the function of Reason in ethical cognition. Then again moralists have been liable to confuse the two quite different questions of Reason as a faculty used in moral cognition and Reason as supplying a motive to moral action. They seem often to have thought that an affirmative or negative answer to one of these questions entailed an affirmative or negative answer respectively to the other. The real question is this: "Does the recognition by Reason that a certain proposed course of action is right or wrong by itself stir a desire for doing or avoiding it?"Is there in human and other rational beings, among their other conative tendencies, also the tendency to seek what is believed to be right, as such, and to avoid what is believed to be wrong, as such? Or must the contemplation of the proposed course of action always stir some other conative tendency if it is to excite desire or aversion? The answer seems to be that there almost certainly is this peculiar conative tendency in human beings. But this fact has to be established simply by introspective analysis. It cannot be inferred from the fact that Reason is needed for the cognitive function of forming the ideas of ethical characteristics and of making universal ethical judgments. There is one actual example of a philosopher who [275] admitted that some of the principles of morality are intuitively certain propositions recognised by Reason, and yet held that we should have no motive for acting in accordance with them when such action would conflict with our happiness in this worId unless we believed that God had attached sufficient rewards and punishments to obedience and disobedience to make obedience worth our while. This philosopher was Locke, who thus combined a non-naturalistic and rationalistic view about the nature of ethical characteristics and about ethical cognition with Psychological Hedonism about human volition and action.

      At this point there are seven questions that can be raised.

  1. Is there such a desire as the desire to do what is believed to be right, as such, at all?
  2. If so, is it ever sufficient by itself to determine our actions, or does it always need the support of some other motive, such as desire to be thought well of by others?
  3. Does it ever suffice to determine our actions in opposition to all other motives that are acting at the time?
  4. Is there any sense, and, if so what is it, in which we can say that this desire always could have overcome all opposing motives, even though in fact it did not do so? It is here that the metaphysical problem of Determinism and Indeterminism begins to be relevant to ethics.
  5. Is it essential for the validity of moral judgments that (d) should be answered in the affirmative? And, if it be relevant to the validity of some, but not all, kinds of moral judgment, which are those to which it is relevant?
  6. Are all actions done with this motive right? And
  7. are only actions done with this motive right?
The last four questions play an essential part in Kant's ethics, and in Sidgwick's discussion of the ethical importance of the controversy between Determinism and Indeterminism. [276]


      At this point the question of emotion and feeling in ethics enters again. We have already considered what part, if any, they play in ethical cognition. But in most actions emotion is a middle term between cognition and conation. We contemplate some possibility; and if, and only if, our cognition of it is emotionally toned, we feel desire or aversion for this possibility. The question then is this. Is there any specific emotion connected with the cognition of right and wrong in human beings? And, if so, is it essential that this emotion should be felt if the recognition of right or wrong is to stir desire or aversion? Some moralists have held that there is such a specific emotion. Kant, with his Achtung, is a case in point. Others have denied it. And, even if it be admitted to exist, it might be held either (a) that it is an idle accompaniment of the cognition of right or wrong, and that we should desire the former, as such, and feel aversion to the latter, as such, even though this specific emotion were not felt; or (b) that, without the intermediary of the emotion, the cognition of right or wrong would not stir the conative tendency to seek the former and to shun the latter. Kant appears definitely to have taken the former of these alternatives.


      We will suppose henceforth, for the sake of argument, that Naturalism is rejected, and that it is admitted that there are ethical characteristics which cannot be analysed without remainder into non-ethical terms. The following questions can then be raised:

      (5, 1) How, if at all, are the various ethical characteristics connected with each other? It is evident that they fall [277] into two very different classes. On the one hand we have notions like "right", "ought", "duty", etc. We may call these Concepts of Obligation. On the other hand we have concepts like "goodness", "merit", etc. These may be called Corcepts of Value. Now obviously the first thing to do is to clear up these concepts as far as possible; to point out any ambiguities in the uses of the words; and to consider whether there be any analogies in non-ethical matters to these concepts. Thus, e.g., we might point out that "ought" is used in a partly different sense when we say that we ought or ought not to act in a certain way in a certain situation, and when we say that certain kinds of emotion ought or ought not to be felt in certain situations. The first sense of "ought" implies "could"; the second does not. I have gone into this question in connexion with Sidgwick. Then again we should have to point out the difference between "good-as-means" and "good-as-end", and so on. Also we should have to consider the analogy or lack of analogy between, e.g., moral and logical obligation, i.e., the kind of obligation which is expressed when we say: "If you accept so-and-so you ought not to reject so-and-so which is logically entailed by it." And we should have to consider the analogy or lack of analogy between, e.g., moral and aesthetic value.

      Now, when this process of clearing up ambiguities and considering analogies has been completed, we can begin to consider the connexion or lack of connexion between the two types of ethical characteristic. The first possibility (5, 11) is that Moral Obligation and Moral Value have no special connexion with each other. This has hardly ever been held. If we reject it we have (5, 12) theories which hold that there is some special connexion between the two. [278] Now such theories might take the following forms. (5, 121) The concepts of obligation are fundamental and the concepts of value are definable in terms of them. Thus it might be held that the notion of fittingness is fundamental, and that "X is intrinsically good" means that it is fitting for every rational being to desire X. Such theories might be called Deontological. (5, 122) The concepts of value are fundamental, and the concepts of obligation are definable in tenns of them. Such theories may be called Teleological. E.g., it might be held that "X is a right action" means that X is likely to produce at least as good consequences as any action open to the agent at the time. Utilitarianism, in some of its forms, would be an example of this. But Sidgwick, though a Utilitarian, definitely rejects the view that "right" means "conducive to good". (5, 123) Neither concept might be definable in terms of the other, but there might be synthetic and necessary connexions between them. Many people who would deny that the proposition "I ought to do X" means that X will probably have the best consequences of all actions open to me at the time, would yet hold it to be self-evident that I ought to do the action which will probably have the best consequences of those open to me at the time.

      Of course, whichever of these alternatives we might take, there would be a number of possible varieties of that alternative. E.g., granted that the rightness of an action is connected in some way with the goodness of its consequences, we should have to ask whether it depends (a) on the actual goodness of the actual conseguences, or (b) on the actual goodness of the probable consequences, or (c) on the probable goodness of the actual consequences, or (d) on the probable goodness of the probable consequences. And, however we might answer these questions, there would be [279] another fundamental question to be raised, viz., whether the rightness of actions which would produce an equal amount of good could be different according to whether this good would exist only in the agent, or only in others, or in both the agent and others. Thus the alternatives of Ethical Egoism, Ethical Altruism, and Ethical Universalism would have to be considered at this point. And, in addition it would be necessary to consider the suggestion which I threw out in discussing the relations between the various Methods in Sidgwick. The suggestion, it may be remembered, was that, whilst it is fitting for me to desire the occurrence of intrinsically good states, no matter where they may occur, yet of two equally good states, one in me and one in another mind, it may be fitting for me to desire the occurrence of one with greater intensity than that of the other.

      (5, 2) Having considered the relations between concepts of value and concepts of obligation, we now can take each in turn and inquire how much systematic unity there is in each department separately. We begin (5, 21) by raising this question about intrinsic goodness. Is there any non-ethical characteristic which is (a) common, but not peculiar, or (b) peculiar, but not common, or (c) common and peculiar to all things that are intrinsically good? Let us consider the characteristic of pleasantness for example. It might be held (a) that anything that is intrinsically good is pleasant, but that some bad or indifferent things are also pleasant. Or (b) that anything that is pleasant is intrinsically good, but that some unpleasant or indifferent things are also intrinsically good. Or (c) that all that is intrinsically good is pleasant and all that is pleasant is intrinsically good. The last is presumably the minimum which a man must hold in order to count as an Ethical Hedonist. It will be [280] noted that Ethical Hedonism implies that the characteristic of being an experience is common, but not peculiar, to all things that are intrinsically good. For everything that is pleasant is an experience, though not all experiences are pleasant. It is evident that any theory which holds that there is a non-ethical characteristic which is both common and peculiar to all things that are intrinsically good introduces a much greater unity into this department of ethics than a theory which denies this. Theories like Ethical Hedonism may be called Monistic Theories of Value. Theories which hold that there is no non-ethical characteristic common and peculiar to things that are intrinsically good may be called Pluralistic Theories of Value.

      (5, 22) It is clear that very much the same questions can be raised, and that very much the same alternatives are logically possible, about the universal propositions of Ethics which involve the notions of rightness or duty. Suppose that there are a number of such propositions, such as "Lying is always wrong", "Gratitude is always due to benefactors", and so on. Then the question can be raised: "Are these all logically independent, so that each has to be intuited by a separate act of Rational Intuition ? Or is it possible to bring them all under one or a small number of fundamental ethical principles, and to regard each of them as simply stating the application of the primary principle or principles to certain classes of situation. Or again is there some self-evident second-order pnnciple which states some feature common and peculiar to all true propositions of the form: "So and so is right (or wrong)?" The first view seems to have been held by certain extreme supporters of the infallibility of conscience. The second is held by Utilitarians. They would say that the fundamentaI principle [281] which is self-evident is that we ought to try to maximise human happiness. More specific pnnciples, such as "Lying is wrong", are derivative from this and the factual proposition that, when all its consequences are taken into account, lying does tend to diminish human happiness. The third view is characteristic of Kant. He thinks he can see that any principle of conduct which ought to be accepted and acted upon must have a certain formal characteristic, and that only such principles will have this formal characteristic. We may distinguish theories of the second and third kinds from those of the first kind as Monistic Theories of Obligatios.

      I have now given what appears to me to be a fairly adequate sketch of the main problems of Ethics, and of the various kinds of theory which are logically possible about each of them. I may, not unfairly, be asked before ending the book to state my own views on the subject. So far as I have any I will now state them very briefly and dogmatically.

  1. No form of Ethical Naturalism seems to me to be in the least plausible except the psychological form, and I am not acquainted with any definition of ethical concepts in purely psychological terms which seems to me to be satisfactory. I therefore think it very likely, though not absolutely certain, that Ethical Naturalism is false, and that ethical characteristics are sui generis.
  2. If such terms as right, ought, good, etc., be sui generis, I think it almost certain that the concepts of them are a priori and not empirical. But I should suppose that Reason would not form concepts of these characteristics unless experience provided it with suitable occasions. And I think that these [282] occasions may very well be the feeling of emotions of approval and disapproval in certain situations.
  3. It seems to me that there are necessary propositions connecting ethical with non-ethical characteristics, and that they can be seen to be necessary by inspection. I believe, e.g., that in any possible world painfulness would pro tanto make an experience bad, though the experience might have other qualities and relational properties which made it on the whole good. On the other hand, I do not say that any particular kind of experience, such as toothache, which all human beings find painful, would even tend to be bad in all possible worlds. For it appears to be quite possible that there might be minds who found sensations with this sensible quality exquisitely pleasant. I think that there are also self-evident propositions of the form: "Such and such a type of intention or emotion would necessarily be fitting (or unfitting) to such and such a kind of situation." In any possible world it would be fitting to feel gratitude towards one's benefactors and unfitting to feel pleasure at the undeserved suffering of another. But it does not follow that any propositions about total rightness are self-evident. For an action may fit some factors and some phases in a developing situation and be unfitting to others; and its rightness will also depend partly on the intrinsic goodness and badness of its consequences. Here again I do not doubt that Reason needs to meet with concrete instances of fitting or unfitting intentions and emotions before it can rise, by Intuitive Induction, to the insight that any such intention or emotion would necessarily be fitting (or unfitting) in any such situation.
  4. When I introspect and analyse my experiences as carefully as I can I seem to find among my other conative tendencies a standing desire to do what I [283] believe to be right, as such, and to avoid what I believe to be wrong, as such. Sometimes it overcomes other desires and sometimes it is overcome by them. But, even if it were always overcome, I should still recognise its presence, making right-doing a little easier and pleasanter, and wrong-doing a little harder and less pleasant, than they would otherwise be.
  5. I do not, however, find it easy to believe that, even when this desire was in fact so weak as to be overcome by others, it could have been present in such strength as to have overcome the others, although everything else in the universe up to this time had been exactly as it in fact was. For this seems to conflict with certain fundamental metaphysical propositions which I cannot help thinking to be necessary.
  6. I am almost certain that "right" and "ought" cannot be defined in terms of "good". But I am not sure that "X is good" could not be defined as meaning that X is such that it would be a fitting object of desire to any mind which had an adequate idea of its non-ethical characteristics.
  7. I think that, in the case of a community of interrelated minds, we must distinguish between the total goodness in the community and the total goodness of the community. The latter depends partly on the former, partly on the way in which the former is distributed among the members of the community, and partly on certain relations between the members. What we ought to try to maximise is the total goodness of the whole community of minds, and it is conceivable that we may sometimes have to put up with less total goodness in the community, than might otherwise exist, in order to accomplish this.
  8. I do not think that there is any one non-ethical characteristic which is common and peculiar to everything that is intrinsically good. Nor do I think that [284] all the self-evident principles of ethics can be brought under any one supreme principle. All attempts to do this seem quite plainly to over-simplify the actual situation.

      This danger of over-simplification is the note which I should wish most to stress in bringing my book to an end. One lesson at least has been taught us so forcibly by our historical and critical studies in the theory of Ethics that we ought never to forget it in future. This is the extreme complexity of the whole subject of human desire, emotion, and action; and the paradoxical position of man, half animal and half angel, completely at home in none of the mansions of his Father's house, too refined to be comfortable in the stables and too coarse to be at ease in the drawing-room. So long as we bear this lesson in mind we can contemplate with a smile or a sigh the waxing and waning of each cheap and easy solution which is propounded for our admiration as the last word of "science". We know beforehand that it will be inadequate; and that it will try to disguise its inadequacy by ignoring some of the facts, by distorting others, and by that curious inability to distinguish between ingenious fancies and demonstrated truths which seems to be the besetting weakness of the man of purely scientific training when he steps outside his laboratory. And we can amuse ourselves, if our tastes lie in that direction, by noticing which well-worn fallacy or old familiar inadequacy is characteristic of the latest gospel, and whether it is well or ill disguised in its new dress.

      It might be retorted that we have gone to the other extreme and made the fact of right action inexplicable. Quite simple people, there is no reason to doubt, often act rightly in quite complicated situations. How could they possibly do so if the problem is so involved as we have [285] made it out to be? The answer to this objection is to compare right action with playing a ball rightly at tennis or cricket, and to compare the theory of right action to the mechanical and hydrodynamical theory of the action of the racket or bat and the flight of the ball. The good player responds, without explicit analysis or calculation, to a highly complex situation by actions which an observer possessed of superhuman powers of analysis and calculation would deduce as the solution of his equations. We can no more learn to act rightly by appealing to the ethical theory of right action than we can play golf well by appealing to the mathematica theory of the flight of the golf-ball. The interest of ethics is thus almost wholly theoretical, as is the interest of the mathematical theory of golf or of billiards. And yet it may have a certain slight practical application. It may lead us to look out for certain systematic faults which we should not otherwise have suspected; and, once we are on the look out for them, we may learn to correct them. But in the main the old saying is true: Non in dialectica complacuit Deo salvum facere populum suum. Not that this is any objection to dialectic. For salvation is not everything; and to try to understand in outline what one solves ambulando in detail is quite good fun for those people who like that sort of thing.

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