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more than being true is identical with being thought in any kind of way.” 1
This view arises, I believe, largely from a misconception of the precise scope of that fundamental realism to which both of these writers subscribe. There are two realistic contentions that are germane to the question of values. In the first place, consciousness is a relation into which things enter without forfeiting their independence. To be conscious of a means that it is acted on in a peculiar manner; and while this action gives a a new status and new connections, it does not condition the being of a, or give it its character as a. Thus if I desire a, it becomes a thing desired, and is connected in a new way with the other things which I desire, or with the things I remember, perceive, etc.; while it nevertheless is, and is a, quite independently of this circumstance. But it is entirely conceivable that the value of a should consist in its being desired; in other words, in that specific relationship which the desiderative consciousness supplies. We should then say that the being or nature of things is independent of their possessing value, but not that their possessing value is independent of consciousness; any more than Mr. Russell himself would say that a proposition's being true is independent of consciousness, although the proposition itself is quite independent of its being true.?
In the second place, it is essential to realism to maintain that a proposition is independent of its being judged. But, as we shall presently see, this in no way contradicts the supposition that values are functions of consciousness. For it is quite possible that the proposition, 'I desire a,' should be quite independent of all opinion in the matter. What I actually desire is dependent neither on what you think about it, nor even on what I think about it myself.
In any case, there seems to be no doubt of the fact that
Cf. Moore: Principia Ethica, pp. 6, 137. Cf. Russell: “The Elements of Ethics,” in his Philosophical Essays, pp. 4-15.
: Cf. above, p. 325.
things do derive value from their being desired, and possess value in proportion as they are desired. This is not to be deduced, and so far, Messrs. Moore and Russell are correct," from the general idealistic arguments. It is not to be argued from the fact that whenever values are found they stand in relation to the finding of them. It is to be argued only from the fact that whenever values are found they stand in relation to some desire or interest, the present finding being itself entirely negligible. Thus, if a value may be represented as (a) R (M"), where a is anything, R is the relation characteristic of consciousness, and Mi a particular desiring subject; then, the finding of value must be represented as [(a) R (M_)] R (M2), where M? represents the finding subject, and where the smaller relationship is quite independent of the larger. Nevertheless we find empirically that anything whatsoever acquires value when it is desired. There is no quality, or combination of qualities, that is inherently valuable; or incapable of possessing value; or exclusively valuable in the sense that things must be valueless without it. Such interests as that of desultory curiosity, or promiscuous acquisitiveness, may invest anything with value; and there is nothing so precious that its value would not disappear if all needs, likings, and aspirations were extinguished. § 3. As value in general arises from a relation to
interest, so moral value arises from the comThe Nature of Moral Value. plexity and mutual relations of interest. To The Right and understand the peculiar character of moral
value it is necessary to introduce two conceptions, that of rightness, and that of comparative goodness. Rightness is the character possessed by action that conduces to goodness. When an interest is confronted by an occasion, or particular phase of the environment, there is an action which will so meet the occasion as to fulfil the inter
1 For a fuller treatment of this topic, cf. the author's article entitled "The Definition of Value” in Jour. of Phil., Psych. and Scientific Methods, Vol. XI, 1914, No. 6; and his Moral Economy, Ch. I, II (on moral value), and Ch. V (on aesthetic value).
3 Cf. Moore: op. cit., 88 77, 85.
est. This is the right act in the premises. Thus an organism governed by the instinct of self-preservation will act rightly if it takes the food and leaves the poison, or attacks the weaker enemy and shuns the stronger. The right act is the act which takes advantage of circumstance; advantage being relative at the same time both to the interest which governs the agent, and to the situation which confronts him.
But rightness is not necessarily moral; it may be merely intelligence or expediency. Moral values appear only when there is a question of comparative value. And this question arises from the contact and conflict of interests. That which is one interest's meat is another's poison. The act which is right in that it promotes one interest, is, by the same principle, wrong in that it injures another interest. There is no contradiction in this fact, any more than in the fact that what is above the man in the valley is below the man on the mountain. There is no contradiction simply because it is possible for the same thing to possess several relations, the question of their compatibility or incompatibility being in each case a question of empirical fact.
Now just as an act may be both right and wrong in that it conduces to the fulfilment of one interest and the detriment of another; so it may be doubly right in that it conduces to the fulfilment of two interests. Hence arises the conception of comparative goodness. If the fulfilment of one interest is good, the fulfilment of two is better; and the fulfilment of all interests is best. Similarly, if the act which conduces to goodness is right, the act that conduces to more goodness is more right, and the act which conduces to most goodness is most right. Morality, then, is such performance as under the circumstances, and in view of all the interests affected, conduces to most goodness. In other words, that act is morally right which is most right.
It follows that in the moral sense an act cannot be both right and wrong. It is quite possible that the maximum goodness should be equally well promoted by several acts, and in this case all such acts would be morally right. But none of them could be morally wrong, because that would require that it should be conducive to less goodness than some other act, and this by definition is not the case. The Objectivity
8 4. We are now prepared to deal with a or Absoluteness further question that has assumed prominence of Value. Con
in contemporary discussions. “Our question temporary Confusion of the is," says Professor Münsterberg, "whether Issue
we have to acknowledge anything in our world as absolutely valuable.” 1
This question can be answered only by dividing it. In the first place, values are not absolute in the sense of being independent of all consciousness. They are relative to desire or interest. Furthermore, values are not absolute in the sense of being independent of individual or particular interests. They are relative not only to individual interests, but to the conflict or opposition of interests; so that they are at the same time both positive and negative, good and bad.
But moral value transcends this relativity because it includes it. There is a maximum value, or summum bonum, which is not entirely relative to any particular interest, simply because it is relative to all interests. It is not a pure goodness or perfection, free from all the qualifying conditions of life, but the best for existing interests under existing circumstances. Such a best may be said to be absolute, however, in the sense that it is best unambiguously; it cannot be also not the best.
Finally, and this is our most important conclusion, all values whatsoever are absolute in the sense that they are independent of opinion. If a is good, in that I need, like, or aspire to it; that fact can be neither made nor unmade by any judgment or opinion concerning it. The
· Eternal Values, p. 9. I have dealt with this question, with special reference to its ambiguity, in an article entitled “The Question of Moral Obligation,” Inter. Jour. of Ethics, Vol. XXI, 1911. Some paragraphs of this article are reprinted in what follows.
general acceptance of so obvious a truth is prevented by a widespread confusion between simple desire, and judgment of value; the relativity of value to the former being construed as a relativity to the latter. This confusion is due to the fact that there are affective judgments, in which one both desires an object and at the same time pronounces it good. To avoid the confusion, it is necessary to deal with these components discriminatingly: and to say that while the element of desire invests its object with goodness, and is thus a fact of value; the element of judgment is, like all judgments, liable to truth and error according to its agreement or disagreement with fact.
This distinction is obscured and the whole experience given a 'pseudo-simplicity' by such notions as 'appreciation,' and 'evaluation,' or Westermarck's "emotions of approval.” These hybrids are supposed to be at the same time judgments in form, and facts as respects their freedom from error. But this is simply to exploit the equivocation which their dual nature makes possible. “To name an act good or bad,” Westermarck says, "ultimately implies that it is apt to give rise to an emotion of approval or disapproval in him who pronounces the judgment.” And again: "The moral concepts, then, are essentially generalizations of tendencies in certain phenomena to call forth moral emotions." By such considerations Westermarck believes that he shows that "the presumed objectivity of moral judgments thus being a chimera, there can be no moral truth in the sense in which this term is generally understood.”1 Now the “moral emotion” either does or does not contain a judgment. If it does contain a judgment predicating goodness of an act, then that judgment is either true or false according as the act is or is not “apt to give rise to an emotion of approval” in the judge. If it does not contain a judgment, if it is simply an “indignant” or “kindly” emotion evoked by the act, then
Westermarck, Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, Vol. I, pp. 4, 5, 17.