William K. Frankena, Ethics, second edition, 1973.
Intrinsic Value and the Good Life
Francis Bacon began Of the Colours of Good and Evil with the sentence, "In deliberatives the point is, what is good and what is evil, and of good what is greater, and of evil what is the less." If we understand "good" and "evil" to be used here in a nonmoral sense, we too may use this sentence to introduce our present subject. So far the normative questions we have been asking have been strictly ethical or moral: what is morally right, wrong, or obligatory; what is morally good or bad; when are we morally responsible? Now we come to another kind of normative question, one that is not as such ethical or moral but is relevant to ethics and morality, as we saw in Chapter 3. This question, which again we can try to answer only in general outline, may be put in a variety of ways: what is desirable, good, or worthwhile in life? what is the good life as distinct from the morally good life? what values should we pursue for ourselves and others?
The present question, and the normative theory of nonmoral value that seeks to answer it, are relevant to moral philosophy because we cannot or should not determine what is morally right or wrong without considering whether what we do or propose to do will have good or evil results, even though we cannot determine this simply by balancing the quantity of good achieved against the evil. Otherwise, they would not belong to moral philosophy. However, even if they did not belong to moral philosophy, they would be important for one's general philosophy of life. For, even if one is a pure prudentialist, his "deliberatives" will still center on the questions "What is good and what is evil, and of good what is greater, and of evil what is the less?"
Nonmoral evaluations or value judgments may be particular like "That is a good car," "Wasn't that a good concert," or "It was good to see you"; or general like "Knowledge is good," "All that glitters is not gold," or "It is good for me to draw near to God." A particular value judgment, however, is always implicitly general; when one says that X is good, one must be prepared to say that anything just like it is good and good in the same degree. Also, one must be prepared to give reasons why it is good, and this can only be done in the light of more general value judgments about what is good or at least prirna facie good. For example, if one is asked why that was a good concert, one must say something like, "Because it was profoundly moving," which implies that being profoundly moving is a good-making characteristic, at least from an aesthetic point of view. In fact, all evaluations properly so-called are at least implicitly made by reference to some standard or to some set of general judgments about what is good-making or prima facie good. They are not simply expressions of dessire or emotion, though they may be occasioned by an emotion or a desire. More will be said about this in the next chapter, however. Just now the point is that what we are looking for in this chapter is the standard or general judgments by which we should make our evaluations.
"GOOD" AND ITS SENSES
It will be convenient to conduct our discussion in terms of the question of what is good, letting it be understood that corresponding things may be said about what is bad, desirable, and so on. Even the term "good" has somewhat different uses that must not be confused. It occurs as a substantive in sentences like, "The good is pleasure" and "Withhold not good from them to whom it is due," but it also has two adjectival uses illustrated by "a good concert" and "Knowledge is good." We must be careful not to confuse "the good" or "the things that are good" with goodness or the property of being good. The terms "value" and "values" are troublesome partly because, as often used, they cover up this distinction, as well as the distinction between being good and being thought good.
However, since "the good" is equivalent to "that to which the adjective good applies," we may take the adjective as central for our discussion. The Oxford English Dictionary says, among other things, that "good" is:
The most general adjective of commendation, implying the existence in a high, or at least satisfactory, degree of characteristic qualities which are either admirable in themselves, or useful for some purpose.This elucidation points out that saying something is good is not quite prescribing that we do it or saying that we ought to bring it into existence, but rather commending it, with the implication that one is doing so on certain grounds, that is, because of certain facts about it. Whether this view is entirely adequate may be left to the next chapter. What is relevant now is that one may commend a thing or say it is good on various grounds. If the thing is a person, motive, intention, deed, or trait of character, one may commend it on moral grounds; then, one is using "good'' in the moral sense basic to the previous chapter, but not under discussion here. One may also commend something on, nonmoral grounds, and then one may apply the term "good" to all sorts of things, not just to persons and their acts or dispositions. These nonmoral grounds, moreover, are themselves various, yielding a number of different senses or uses of "good," the main ones of which we must now distinguish. (Perhaps one should call them different "uses" rather than "senses" of "good," since presumably "good" always has the same meaning -- roughly that given by the Oxford English Dictionary -- and is only being applied on different grounds or from different points of view.)
The following table will summarize this account of the uses of "good."
It should be observed that the same thing can be good in more than one sense, as is knowledge. In fact, Dewey sought to break down the distinction between what is good as a means and what is good as an end, partly because he realized that most of the things we do or live through are both good or bad in themselves and good or bad in their results. His premise was correct but his conclusion need not be drawn. All that follows is that we must constantly look for both kinds of values in our activities, instead of thinking that some are good only as means and others only as ends. We must also notice that the same thing can be good in one sense and bad in another. Going to a dentist is good as a means but bad in itself, though in totaling up the scores we must remember Dewey's point. An action or experience may even be intrinsically good, and morally bad or wrong, or vice versa, as we shall see.
It follows that we must be careful if someone says "X is good" or asks "Is X good?" We know, of course, that he is commending X or asking if it should be commended and favored; but, before we can agree or answer, we must try to ascertain on what ground he is saying X is good or from what point of view he is asking if it is good. Of course, he may be saying that it is good on the whole or from all points of view, or he may be asking if it is good in this sense. But we must find this out. We find out, of course, by discovering what reasons he gives or is willing to listen to for his judgment. In fact, if someone uses the word "good" in an unqualified way, as we usually do (i.e., we do not usually put in qualifiers like "morally," "extrinsically," etc.), we probably must first take it to mean good on the whole, unless the context makes clear that it does not mean this. We must then wait for the discussion to reveal any error on our part. We tend to use the word in a global, inclusive way, and to pin our grounds down only if we have to.
Perhaps too, what we want to achieve, if possible, is usually not just a judgment about a thing's value in some one of these senses but a total evaluation of its value on the whole. This is another part of Dewey's critique of the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic goodness that is well-taken. But it still remains true that in order to come to a judgment about whether something is good on the whole or good in any of the other senses, we must first determine what its intrinsic value is, what the intrinsic value of its consequences or of the experiences of contemplating it is, or how much it contributes to the intrinsically good life. Our task, therefore, is to determine the criteria or standards of intrinsic goodness and badness. What are the grounds on which things, or rather activities, experiences, and lives, may correctly be said to be good, desirable, or worthwhile as ends or in themselves.
THEORIES ABOUT WHAT IS GOOD AS AN END: HEDONISM AND NON-HEDONISM
It goes without saying that there have been many different answers to this question. Plato presents two of them for debate in the Philebus: the view that pleasure is the good, the true goal of every living being, and what everyone ought to aim at; and the view that intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom are better and more excellent than pleasure for all who are capable of them. The first of these views is called hedonism and has had many proponents from the time of Eudoxus and Epicurus to the present.
What does the hedonistic theory of value maintain? First of all, a hedonist about the good need not be a hedonist about the right. To hold that the right act is that which produces at least as great a balance of pleasure over pain for self or world as any alternative is to hold a hedonistic teleological theory of obligation. One may, however, adopt a hedonistic theory of value without adopting any such theory of obligation. A hedonist about the good may be a deontologist about the right; roughly speaking, Butler, Kant, and Sidgwick combine hedonism about the former with deontologism about the latter.
Secondly, a hedonist about the good says, approximately, that the good is pleasure. But this is apt to be misleading. "Pleasure" is ambiguous. It may mean "experiences that are pleasant" or it may mean the feeling or hedonic tone of "pleasantness" that such experiences have. Now a hedonist about the good is not necessarily defining the term "good." He need not say that "good" means "pleasant" or that goodness is pleasantness. He may hold this, but most hedonists have not offered definitions in this sense. A hedonist does, however, offer an equation of a kind: he asserts that the good is pleasure, or that whatever is pleasant is good and vice versa.
Even this statement is inaccurate, however, and to see just what a hedonist about the good is claiming we must use a series of statements.
Quantitative hedonists accept (5); qualitative hedonists deny it. Critics of hedonism often say that Mill's denying it is inconsistent with his being a hedonist, but this is only because they identify hedonism with quantitative hedonism. Where Mill gets into difficulty is in trying to formulate the principle of utility in non-quantitative terms, a point we made in Chapter 3.
As against this, non-hedonists may hold that pleasure is a good, but they must all deny that pleasure is the good -- they may allow that pleasantness is a good-making characteristic, but they must insist that it is not the only one. More accurately, in terms of the above propositions, they may admit (1) and (2) and even (3), but must reject (4) and (5). Usually, however, they reject (1), (2), and (3) as well. As to what is good as an end or good-making, besides or instead of pleasure, or what the criterion of intrinsic value is, they may and do take a variety of positions, some of which we shall indicate as we go along.
THE FIRST LINE OF DEBATE
Two main kinds of argument have been used in the debate between the hedonists and the non-hedonists. First, there is a psychological line of argument. Hedonists, quantitative or qualitative, have usually argued that pleasure is the good in itself because it is what we all, ultimately at least, desire or aim at. Thus Aristotle reports Eudoxus as maintaining pleasure to be the good because he saw all things aiming at it. Epicurus used the same argument. And Mill writes that
. . . if human nature is so constituted as to desire nothing which is not either a part of happiness [pleasure] or a means of happiness, we can have no other proof, and we require no other, that these are the only things desirable.1He then argues that human nature is so constituted and concludes that pleasure and pleasure alone is good as an end, basically at least.
The premise of this argument is a psychological doctrine, a theory of human nature, which is called psychological hedonism. The conclusion, however, is a value judgment. As a result, many non-hedonists, from G. E. Moore on, have attacked the argument as illogical. From
(a) Pleasure and pleasure alone is desired as an end,they say one cannot correctly infer:
(c) ∴ Pleasure and pleasure alone is good as an end.They are right, of course, since (c) contains terms which are not present in (a). But Mill explicitly states that he does not regard his argument as a logical proof, and Eudoxus and Epicurus might well agree with him. Hence, the criticisms of Moore and his followers are beside the point. Mill's contention is not that (c) follows logically from (a) but that (a) is true as a theory of human nature; and that, if human nature is so constituted as always to aim at pleasure, then it is absurd or unreasonable to deny that pleasure is the good, even though it is logically possible.
Thus interpreted, the argument seems to me a potent one, if (a) can be shown to be true. In any case, however, it is easy enough for a hedonist to put his argument in a form that is entirely valid:
Many non-hedonists accept (b) and reject (a). Aristotle, for example, says that to claim that the end at which all things aim is not necessarily good is to talk nonsense; in fact, he begins by arguing that the good may be defined as that at which all things aim. He agrees that all things aim at happiness but denies that happiness is pleasure. Happiness is excellent activity of the soul, he contends; and for him this means activity in accordance with the moral and especially the intellectual virtues or excellences, the latter including science, wisdom, and other forms of knowledge. This excellence of activity, he says, is what we seek as our end, not pleasure. Pleasure is an accompaniment of the achieving and exercising of these excellences. It is not the object of our desires, it is the felt satisfaction we get when we achieve what we desire. This argument is very similar to that of Butler against psychological egoism, which is no accident since such egoism and psychological hedonism usually go together. The claim is that the psychological hedonist is putting the cart before the horse. We do not desire knowledge and the other excellences because they give pleasure; we obtain pleasure from them because we desire them and they satisfy our desires.
This argument has a good deal of force, though we must remember John Clarke's countermove, described in Chapter 2. The argument does not prove that hedonism is mistaken as a theory of value, even if we accept (b), but it seems to me to show that psychological hedonism has not been proved, may not be true, and cannot be used as part of an argument to establish a hedonistic theory of value. If Clarke's rejoinder does not hold up, it even shows psychological hedonism of the kind in question to be false. In any case, it is very doubtful that we desire things in proportion to the amount of pleasure or satisfaction we expect from them. Another point should be mentioned as helping to throw doubt on psychological hedonism. Non-hedonists often point out, again correctly, that if we consciously take pleasure as our end, we somehow miss it, while if we pursue and attain other things for their own sakes, not calculating the pleasure they will bring, we somehow gain pleasure. This is known as "the hedonistic paradox."
Other non-hedonists follow Aristotle in accepting (b) and rejecting (a) and (c), but differ with him about what the good is. Where he stressed the intellectual excellences, the Stoics emphasized the moral ones. Augustine and Aquinas follow the same general line of argument but finally identify the good with God or with communion with God. Nietzsche identifies the good with power, contending that this is what we all aim at, although by power he does not mean merely the sort of thing Napoleon had, but all kinds of excellence of the human sgirit; Nietzsche believed that Leonardo da Vinci had power in this sense. The Hegelian idealists like F. H. Bradley also hold that the good is what we all seek; however, they claim, much as Nietzsche does although in a less radical spirit, that the good we seek is self-realization.
THE SECOND LINE OF DEBATE
All of these writers agree that what we aim at is the good; and they then argue that human nature is so constituted that we all aim at X (pleasure, excellence, God, power, self-realization), concluding that X is the good or the criterion of what is good as an end. We cannot possibly discuss their rather speculative theories here, for such a discussion would require a good deal of psychology and some metaphysics. We shall have to rest our position on the second kind of argument used in the debates between hedonists and non-hedonists. It is interesting to note, however, that on the basis of the first kind of argument, two general sorts of things have been claimed to be good as ends: on the one hand, something like pleasure, enjoyment, or satisfaction; on the other, some form of excellence or self-perfection. The term "happiness" has been used for both. We shall return to this point later.
Many writers, some hedonists like Sidgwick and some non-hedonists like Plato, Moore, and Ross, reject the above kind of argument on the general ground that a thing is not good because, or if and only if, it is desired. Instead, these writers appeal to a kind of reflective review of the sorts of things we seem to take as ends or as good in themselves to see which ones hold up under inspection and whether one can discover any criteria by which they may be evaluated. Sidgwick, Moore, and Ross think of this inspection as a process of intuition of self-evident judgments, but it is not necessary to do so, and it is not clear that Plato did. The main point is that the review must be reflective and must limit itself rigorously to the question of what is good in itself or apart from its consequences and moral implications, the question being roughly, "What sorts of things is it rational to desire for their own sakes?"
In their reviews such writers consider some or all of the following candidates, sometimes dividing them into categories like "biological," "physical," "mental," "social," and "spiritual":
Life, consciousness, and activity
Religious experiences or values, which many rate highest among intrinsic goods, are not mentioned separately in this list because they presuppose the existence of God and so raise questions that cannot be dealt with here. The communion with and love or knowledge of God that Augustine and Aquinas regard as the highest good would, however, presumably come under our headings of knowledge and mutual love. Other intrinsically good religious experiences would also probably fall under these or other headings.
Of course, the items listed overlap and others could be added. Reviewing such a list, philosophers have come out with various smaller tables of intrinsic goods or values. The triad of truth, goodness, and beauty, usually spelled with capital letters, is a classic one. Nicolai Hartmann includes all of the things mentioned. Moore emphasizes certain pleasures, beauty, aesthetic experience, knowledge, and personal affections. Ross's list is much the same, but it omits beauty and includes the moral virtues and the just apportionment of happiness to desert. He ranks virtue above knowledge and knowledge above pleasure. Plato, in the Philebus, argues that the good life is a "mixed life," containing the following ingredients, which he ranks in the order given:
All of the men just mentioned are non-hedonists. Of the five hedonistic theses listed earlier, they all deny (4) and (5). Most of them deny (2), insisting that some pleasures are intrinsically bad, for example, pleasures gained by treachery, or those involving a morally bad disposition like cruelty or malice or the enjoyment of what is evil or ugly. Some would also reject (3), arguing that there are some intrinsically good things that do not contain pleasure, though they may cause or occasion it, for example, beauty, truth, and virtue. Plato, like Aristotle, would reject (1) as well. Sidgwick, on the other hand, is a hedonist. He argues, in his review of proposed goods, first, that nothing is good in itself except desirable experiences or states of consciousness, and second, that experiences or states of consciousness are desirable in themselves only if and insofar as they contain pleasure. That is, he is a quantitative hedonist and accepts all five of the hedonist theses; for him pleasantness, or more accurately, balance of pleasure over pain, is the criterion or standard of nonmoral value.
Reflecting on the longer list of proposed intrinsic values myself, I come to the following conclusions. It seems to me that all of them may be kept on the list, and perhaps others may be added, if it is understood that it is the experience of them that is good in itself. Sidgwick seems to me to be right on this point. Take the traditional triad, for instance. It seems to me that truth is not itself intrinsically good. It may not even be known. What is good in itself is knowledge of or belief in the truth. The same point may be applied to beauty, harmony, proportion, or the just distribution of goods and evils (the consideration of the last item bears on the validity of utilitarianism, as we saw in Chapter 3). These are not themselves intrinsically valuable; what is intrinsically good is the contemplation or experiencing of them. In themselves, they are inherent rather than intrinsic goods. As for virtue -- as Aristotle said, we can be virtuous while asleep, when nothing of intrinsic value is going on. The experience of acting virtuously and of feelings morally good emotions, however, may be intrinsically good as far as it goes. I shall argue that it is.
We must, I think, distinguish between pleasure and happiness. "Pleasure" suggests rather specific feelings, whereas "happiness" does not. We can speak of "pleasures" but hardly of "happinesses." "Pleasure" also suggests physical or "lower" pleasures more than "happiness" does. Again, it suggests short-run and superficial enjoyment rather than the longer span and more profound satisfaction connoted by "happiness." Finally, phrases like "the pleasant life" and "a life of pleasure" call to mind something rather different from the phrase "the happy life." In fact, in ordinary discourse, we must and do distinguish a whole family of kinds of satisfactoriness that experiences and lives may have. Pleasantness is only one of them. Happiness, contentment, and beatitude are others. In this sense, the hedonist's thesis (1) is a mistake, though he is right in thinking that happiness is a kind of satisfactoriness. He could, of course, redefine the terms "pleasure" and "pleasant" to cover all of these good-making qualities of experience, but doing this is like trying to redefine the word "red" to cover all of the colors.
Hedonists are right, I think, in holding their thesis (2), namely, that every pleasure or enjoyment is, taken as such and by itself, intrinsically good. Against this, as we have seen, non-hedonists usually argue that there are bad pleasures -- pleasures that are bad, not only because of their consequences, but in themselves. But, so far as I can see, the non-hedonists never really show this. I agree that malicious pleasure and the enjoyment of cruelty and ugliness, if they really occur, are bad, but are they bad qua pleasures or enjoyments? They may be morally bad in themselves or bad because they are symptoms of some defect or derangement of personality, but their being bad in such senses must not be confused with their being bad qua pleasures or enjoyments. Non-hedonists never make clear that they are not confusing these kinds of badness. I am still inclined to think, therefore, that every pleasure has some intrinsic goodness, although, of course, an experience that is pleasant may also have bad-making features that make its total score negative, e.g., a malicious pleasure.
What about hedonist thesis (3): that nothing is intrinsically good if it does not contain pleasure? If, as I suggested, we distinguish other kinds of satisfactoriness besides pleasure, then thesis (3) is not quite true. But the broader and somewhat similar thesis that nothing is intrinsically good unless it contains some kind of satisfactoriness seems to me to be clearly true. Thus, I think that knowledge, excellence, power, and so on, are simply cold, bare, and valueless in themselves unless they are experienced with some kind of enjoyment or satisfaction.
If we distinguish kinds of satisfactcmtness, as we have, then the thesis of the quantitative hedonists [i.e., hedonist thesis (5)] must be rejected. For then, intrinsic value cannot be proportional to quantity of pleasure or to balance of pleasure over pain. Nor can we restate the thesis to say that intrinsic value is proportional to quantity of satisfactoriness or balance of satisfactoriness over unsatisfactoriness, for satisfactorinesses, for example, beatitude and contentment, differ in kind and hence are incommensurable. There is this much truth, at least, in Mill's doctrine that quality affects value. It follows, of course, that a calculus of intrinsic value in purely quantitative terms is not possible, as was hinted in Chapter 3.
Again, if we distinguish kinds of satisfactoriness besides pleasure, then pleasantness cannot be the criterion of intrinsic goodness or the only good-making feature of experiences, and hedonist thesis. (4) is false. In reply one might contend, however, that there are no good-making qualities of experience except the different kinds of satisfactoriness mentioned and other kinds if there are any. Then one would still be quasi-hedonist; the standard of evaluation would not be pleasure but it would be a set of related kinds of satisfactoriness. I am not sure this contention is mistaken, but I doubt it is true. Some non-hedonists like Plato, Aristotle, Moore, Ross, and C. D. Broad argue that there are other good-making features of experiences besides pleasantness, happiness, etc., other factors that also may contribute to the intrinsic value of experiences. For example, they maintain that harmony and knowledge are such features. They contend that just as the presence of pleasure makes an experience so far good, so does the presence of harmony or of knowledge or understandirig make it so far good. And if an experience contains both some kind of satisfactoriness and harmony or knowledge, then it is, or at least may be, intrinsically better than it would be if it contained only that kind of satisfactoriness, even if the amount of satisfactoriness involved were the same. This kind of argument is not conclusive, but it is plausible; at this point it is very difficult to be certain what one must say. If the argument is correct, then hedonist thesis (4) is false even in its quasi-hedonist form.
In fact, I am inclined to think the non-hedonists are right -- that there is something else besides enjoyableness or satisfactoriness that makes activities and experiences good in themselves, and I suggest that this is always the presence of some kind or degree of excellence. Many of our activities and experiences involve or are involved in an endeavor to achieve excellence by some standard appropriate to them, for example, athletic activities, artistic creation, and science or history. It seems to me that what makes gymnastics, knowledge, and aesthetic creation good in themselves is not just the amount of enjoyment they provide but also the fact that they involve the exercise of an ability or skill or the attainment of some degree of excellence by some standard, and that the same thing is true of many other kinds of activity and experience, though the activities and standards involved may be of very different kinds, aesthetic (beauty), intellectual (truth), athletic (bodily skill), moral (rightness and moral goodness), and so on.
Thus, when I scrutinize the items on our list and exclude those that pertain to what I shall call the form or pattern of the good life, it seems to me that the are made good by the presence in them of one or both of two factors: pleasure or satisfaction and some kind of excellence. Similarly, I would say that what is bad in itself is so because of the presence either of pain or unhappiness or of some kind of defect or lack of excellence. It may be, then, that an enjoyable experience is made bad by the presence of some defect that cancels out the goodness due to its enjoyableness; the case of a malicious pleasure, which involves a moral defect, may be an example.
Although I am ready to agree with the non-hedonist to this extent, I still think that an experience or activity is not good in itself unless it is pleasant or satisfactory, or, in other words, that some kind of satisfactorines is a necessary condition of something's being intrinsically good. It also seems to me that being enjoyable is a sufficient condition of something's being good, at least when it is not cancelled out by the presence of some defect, for example, the experience of enjoying a sharp cheese. To this extent I am ready to go with the quasi-hedonist. How does excellence come into the picture then? I would answer that it does so by making experiences or activities better or worse than they would be otherwise. In other words, I would hold that what is intrinsically satisfying in some way is good in itself and vice versa, but deny that what is good in itself is always good only because it is satisfying, or that it is good in proportion to its satisfactoriness.
THE GOOD LIFE
What of the good life, the life it would be rational to choose? If what precedes is correct, the good life will be a "mixed life," as Plato said, consisting of activities, and experiences of the kinds listed earlier, that is, of activities and experiences that are enjoyable or both excellent in some degree and enjoyable. We may think of these experiences and activities as making up the content of the good life. With his usual insight, however, Plato insisted that the good life must also have form. By this he meant pattern, and he thought that, for a life to be good, it must be harmonious. We may wish to extend his conception of pattern somewhat, but he was surely right in mentioning it. Any life will willy-nilly have some pattern or other, and it is reasonable to think that some patterns are better than others. D. H. Parker, staying close to Plato, thought that one's life should have such features as unity in variety, balance, rhythm, and hierarchy. A. N. Whitehead, closer to romanticism and evolutionism, thought it should include novelty and adventure, as well as continuity and tradition, and that it should include them in some kind of rhythm of alternation.
There is a view abroad today -- ever since the romantic era -- which disparages both satisfactoriness and excellence in favor of autonomy, authenticity, commitment, creativity, decision, doing your own thing, freedom, self-expression, striving, struggle, and the like. This view is not tenable in any literal or extreme form, in my opinion, but it contains an important truth, namely, that the best life one is capable of must have form, not just in the sense of pattern, but in the sense of being inspired by a certain attitude, posture, or "life-style." Whitehead called this "subjective form" and thought that reverence should be the dominant style in our lives, though he mentioned others. Autonomy seems to me to come in here, as well as the other things just listed, but I should want to add rationality and related dispositions like objectivity and intellectual responsibility too. And perhaps this is where one should mention love again. At least, if psychologists like Erich Fromm are right, then for one's life to be good, not just in the moral but in the nonmoral sense, one must not be too concerned with the goodness of one's life, but rather with causes and objects outside oneself.
Just what content, pattern, and subjective form the good life has will, no doubt, vary considerably from person to person. To find the answer one must, to a large extent, depend on one's own experience and reflection aided by that of others with experience and wisdom. I doubt that any fixed order or pattern can be laid down for everyone, as Plato and Ross thought. Human nature may be much the same everywhere, and I believe it is, otherwise psychology would be virtually impossible; however, human nature seems to vary too much, for any fixed conception of it to be drawn up in detail. Even if all of the items we have mentioned are found to be good, to some extent at least, by everyone, it may and, in fact, seems still to be true that their ranking and arrangement must be somewhat relative. For some people the good life seems to include more peace and security and for others more adventure and novelty, although every life should and does include some of each. If writers like Ruth Benedict are right, the relativity is even more radical than this example suggests; however, even if they go too far, this example at least shows that one must leave a good deal of room for variety in one's conception of the good life, if not in one's list of goods.
We must also remember the point touched on in our discussion of justice -- that people's needs and capacities not only differ, but differ in such a way that the good life of one may not be as good intrinsically as that of another. It may be, for example, that A's capacities in an intellectual way are such that the best life of which he is capable simply cannot include much of some of the items mentioned. Then, other things being equal, his best life may be, not only different from, but in itself less good than that of which B is capable. It does not follow, however, that A must be treated as a second-class citizen, as Plato and Aristotle thought. It may still be, as we held earlier, that A is as good as B in the sense that they are, so far as possible, to be treated equally. I firmly believe that the doctrine of the equal intrinsic value of every human being as such is valid, but it is valid only as a principle of what is right or obligatqry. It is not valid as a value judgment about the intrinsic worthwhileness of different good lives.
We may connect the discussion of this chapter with what was said before by making two observations. One is that it is to the good life in this sense that morality, like everything else, is or should be a minister. The other is that morality is not to be a minister merely to one's own good life but to that of others as well and, therefore, may restrict one in one's pursuit of what is good -- through the principles of beneficence and justice. Virtue, as Socrates says in the Meno, is not the power to achieve the good or obtain good things; it is acting justly, honestly, temperately, and, we must add, benevolently.
One thing more. As was indicated, morally right action is one kind of activity that satisfies a standard of excellence, and so being morally right is a kind of excellence and may be one of the factors making an activity intrinsically good -- not just good in a moral but in a nonmoral sense. Thus, Alyosha exclaims at one point in The Brothers Karamazov, "How good it is to do something good!" Similarly, as in the example of malicious pleasures, an experience, may be made bad or at least worse intrinsically by the fact that having it is immoral. If this is so, then for normal human beings one's life may be better or worse in itself because it includes morally right or wrong action. In this sense virtue is its own reward. It is important to remember this when we come to the question of why we should be moral.
1 Utilitarianism, near end of Chap. 4. See selections in Frankena and Granrose, Chap. V.