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it is merely evidence for the truth or falsity of a judgment about the goodness of the act. In either case, there can be no doubt of the objectivity or truth of moral judgments.
If it is not permitted to define simple goodness or value in terms of an approving judgment, the prohibition is more positive and unmistakable in the case of moral value. For here it is not sufficient, as in the case of value in general, that there should be a simple and direct relation to a certain form of consciousness. What one ought morally to do is not simply what one wants to do; it must be proved to be the right or the best, as having a certain more elaborate determination. Thus a right act is an act which produces good, that is, fulfils an inciting interest, in a given situation. It is therefore determined by such a configuration regardless of opinion, which may be either correct or incorrect. Similarly, what is best, is a quantitative derivative of what is good. It must depend on the prior nature of goodness and whatever category of quantity is here applicable. It is not uncommonly supposed that if what is desired is good, then what is preferred is best. But the same vi cious ambiguity is present here. If preference is regarded simply as a quantitative variation of desire, simply as more of desire, then it may possibly afford a means of defining quantitative variations of goodness. In this case, however, the fact would have to be ascertained by some method of measurement, and no authority could be attached to the agent's mere profession of preference. If, on the other hand, preference is taken to mean a judgment to the effect that one act is better than another, then reference is made to a predicate 'better'; which, since it stands in some objective relation to another predicate 'good' can be used either correctly or incorrectly.
It would appear, then, that the definition of goodness in terms of relation to desire, while it may easily lead to confusion, does not in fact lend any support whatever to the attempt to reduce moral values or obligations to the judgments concerning them, and is therefore not relativistic in any vicious or sceptical sense. And such being the case, there is no need of the characteristic idealistic remedy. Value having been first defined as 'what I judge to be valuable,' this is amended by idealists to read, 'value is what I judge to be valuable, when I judge truly.' The qualifying phrase is added as a means of averting the sceptical consequences of the rest. Lest the conflicting judgments of mankind shall so annul one another as to reduce value to the caprice of private opinion, true value is reserved for a standard or absolute judgment.
The general theory of which this is a special application has already been examined; but the ethical application affords a striking illustration of its futility. For we are at once set to inquiring concerning the distinguishing marks of this true judgment of value, so that we may know it from the false. We are as much enlightened as an astronomer would be, were he informed that the weight of Neptune is what a true judgment would pronounce it to be. And if the term 'true' is replaced by such terms as 'eternal,' 'standard,' 'universal,' 'necessary,' 'objective,' or 'consistent, nothing is gained, for these are only figurative or synonymous expressions for the same thing.
This accounts for the emptiness of Kant's famous "categorical imperative."ı To "act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law,” cannot mean that you should expect others to act as you do, or that you should merely be able to will that they should think as you do. There is no act which can be exactly repeated; and there is no maxim which cannot as a matter of fact be willed to be law universal. Kant can only mean that you should so act as to be confirmed in your act by every impartial critical judgment that is in possession of the facts. In other words, you should act on a true maxim, or you ought to do what it is truly right to do. But to determine what
1 Kant: Mela physic of Morals, trans. by Abbott ("Kant's Theory of Ethics"), p. 38.
it is truly right to do, it is necessary to turn to the objective context of action.
Thus to give values the absoluteness or objectivity of fact, it is necessary only to distinguish carefully between the fact of desire which invests its objects with value, and judgments concerning such facts. “If one understands by valuing (Wertung) exclusively the affectional disposition which lies at the basis of the value relation," says Ehrenfels, "then it is clear that valuing either exists or does not exist, but can be neither true nor false, inasmuch as these attributes can attach only to judgments.” The relativity of value to 'valuing,' or to some desiderative action of mind, no more prejudices its objectivity,' than does their relativity to parents prejudice the objectivity of offspring. Values are in this epistemological sense as absolute as any other fact
no more, no less. 85. There is another possible meaning of 'absolute value,' which I have purposely reserved for special
treatment. Is value absolute in the sense of The Difference between the
possession or realization? Is value the uniAbsoluteness versal or fundamental determination of things? and the Supre- To this question we must now turn.
It is macy of Value
important first to distinguish clearly between the absoluteness of values in the above epistemological sense, and in this metaphysical sense.
The discovery that values possess their natures, and obey their laws, independently of opinion, does not in the least guarantee their supremacy. Nor is their metaphysical status improved if they are denominated “eternal.”
“ Whatever judgment is true, such as 'justice is right,' is eternal in the sense that it is true regardless of the time at which it may be pronounced. This would be the case
"C. V. Ehrenfels: System der Werttheorie, p. 102; cf. pp. 102-107. It must be admitted, I think, that the substitution of Wertung (valuing) for Begehrung (desiring) is unfortunate, owing to the readiness with which the former term is confused with judicial “evaluation.” The writers of this school ('the Austrian School') are by no means wholly 'guiltless of confusion.
even if it happened that the rightness of justice was relative to a temporal epoch of civilization. For there would then be a proposition predicating its rightness of that epoch, which would be true at all epochs. And a like 'eternity' would attach to the proposition, 'I once liked figs,' or, ‘savages praise homicide.' It is, however, possible to discover some propositions that hold of life independently of any particular historical epoch, propositions defining the broad generic features of life. Such propositions will contain time, in that life is temporal; but they will contain time as a variable or universal, and so will hold at all particular times. Such propositions constitute the fundamental principles of theoretical ethics.
But propositions concerning value may hold at all times, and even for all time, and yet be metaphysically insignificant. It may be objectively and universally true that justice conduces to abundance of life, but this no more insures abundance of life, than does the equal objectivity and universality of the law, 'the wages of sin are death,' insure the extinction of life. The principles of value are abstract, and they themselves no more determine the extent to which they shall be embodied in nature and society, than do the principles of geometry define the number of physical solids that shall actually exist.
It is this second question with which religion is concerned. It is vain, therefore, to attempt to ground religious faith, as the Ritschlians have attempted to do, on the mere validity of values. For religious faith has to do, not only with the truth that there are values, but with the hope that they may prevail. And such a hope can be justified only empirically, by an examination of the relation of values to existence. Are values effectual? Do they in any sense constitute the ground of existence? Is there evidence to show that they will, in the long run, control existence?
1 Cf. W. Hermann: Die Metaphysik in der Theologie; cf. criticism by 0. Pfleiderer: Philosophy of Religion, trans. by Stewart and Menzies, Vol. II, pp. 188, sq.
86. The first of these questions, concerning the effectuality of values, can be answered only in the light of a Value as Cause
clear conception of the nature of causality or or Determina- determination. Is there such a thing as
moral causality? On the face of it, there is. Nothing is more apparent than the fact that, within limits, man does what he wants - reaches his ends, executes his designs. But it is customary to suppose that science in this case discredits appearances. It is supposed that the claim for moral causation rests on a confused notion of causation, the only clear and demonstrable causation being exhibited in mechanical laws.
We should, I think, be forced to accept this conclusion if moral causation were necessarily identified with the feeling of activity. Naturalism is quite correct in asserting that the only intelligible and verified cases of causation are cases of determination by law. But what if there be cases of determination by moral as well as by mechanical law?
Physics discovers mechanical laws by looking for the constant features of physical change; especially such as may be expressed as mathematical ratios of space, time, and their complex derivitives. An event is said to be explained by a law, when it can be deduced by assigning particular values to the variables which the law comprises. But when life is observed, it exhibits constancy of another type, a constancy of interest. The complex motions of an organism may be, and are, explained, by regarding them as particular instances of self-preservation. Similarly, the biographer seeks to discover certain general motives, such as ambition, cupidity, or love; and having such motives in mind, he is enabled to show the unity and consistency of a life that would otherwise be a mere aggregate and sequence of actions. Steadiness of purpose is no less, and no more, a matter of fact than conservation of energy. If it be true that the kinetic energy of my actions is quanti
1 Cf. above, pp. 99-100.