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2: Values

PHILOSOPHY is a result of the contemplative attitude to things, in which man observes them and reasons about them, but does not himself take part in bringing about the events which he seeks to understand. It is born of leisure, therefore. The work of thought may be strenuous enough itself; it must necessarily be strenuous to attain its end; but, for this very reason, it requires a mind aloof from affairs, withdrawn from the ordinary business of life, indifferent to the practical activity which leaves little room for contemplation and disturbs its serenity. The thinker is expected to regard all things with equal mind; his business is with their nature and connexions only; he is the servant of truth alone, and, at its demand, it is held that he must put aside the common prejudice in favour of the good or beautiful or useful.

The growth of science also encourages the same attitude. Science, it is true, is distinguished from philosophy by the multiplicity and importance of its practical applications. The present time, beyond all others, is the day of the achievements of applied science, and it is for the sake of its application to the arts of life that science itself is held in honour by an impatient public. The connexion is very close between principles and application: the latter would not exist were it not for the former; and the former would lose encouragement and stimulus—would perhaps never have been recognised—had it not been for their promise of a power over the environment which should minister to man's desires. But, even with a view to their subsequent applications to practical affairs, it is not well that the man of science should have these interests constantly before his eyes. The practical interest is apt to interfere with the theoretical interest, to make impartiality difficult and to weaken the concentration of mind which successful enquiry needs. Hence the current and familiar specialisation. In the foreground is the inventor who ministers to the demands of industry; behind him stands the scientific enquirer who, by an arduous method, discovers the principles which another puts to practical use. The sphere of values is accordingly assigned to the inventor and taken out of the hands of the scientific discoverer.

Further, it is recognised that the world is a process of evolution, or at least that it is in continual change. But mere change cannot be made an object of knowledge. Thought seeks the permanent within or behind the changes; and it is only in so far as constant factors can be discovered in it that the changing process becomes the object of knowledge. The contrast between the flux of experience and conceptual fixity has even led certain thinkers to adopt the view that the intellect necessarily tends to pervert reality by substituting a fixed concept for that which actually is always in process of change or growth. With this view we are not at present concerned. But it is true that science looks for constancies, for the permanent law rather than for the changing event. Even if it be true that change is as necessary to permanence as permanence is to change, the preference of science is for the permanent.

The same attitude is apt to persist even when man and his ideals are the object of reflexion. It is often forgotten that man himself is an agent in the world's changing course, and that his agency is determined by his ideals: that he selects between possible lines of action and that his selection may be determined by his judgment of what is good or better. Human agency is thus one of the factors of that world of experience which both science and philosophy set out to explain; and human agency is affected by conceptions or ideals of value. In this way values belong to the object which we have to explain when man himself is included among the objects of enquiry. Further, as a fact of mental life, the experience or consciousness of value is as fundamental as the experience or consciousness of events. Man is not a cognitive being in the first instance, and only thereafter an active being. Knowledge is sought by him in virtue of some interest; and the interest in knowledge for its own sake is a late acquisition. Primarily, he seeks to know in order that he may turn his knowledge to some use beyond the mere knowledge: it has to serve to control his environment or to adapt him to it. He wishes to understand a thing because understanding it will make him in some degree its master. The attitude of valuation, accordingly, may even be said to have priority in the development of mind over the attitude of cognition.

The primary experience, on which all later views of the world and of self are built, is not perceptive merely, it is also appreciative. It involves in every part some consciousness or appreciation of worth or value, as well as the consciousness of objects as existing and changing. The distinction between the two attitudes itself belongs to the growth of mind. The primary experience is at once perceptive and appreciative; its object is both an existence and a value; but the two elements have to be discriminated for the sake of understanding and of practice alike. The whole system of scientific knowledge is arrived at by means of a preliminary abstraction—by restricting attention to the nature and laws of the things observed and disregarding the element of value which they are experienced as somehow possessing or entailing. And this abstraction is itself a selection determined by an interest. By a similar and equally valid abstraction we may concentrate attention on the aspect of value, which is omitted by the sciences, and construct a theory of value which will supplement, and in some sense correspond with, the scientific theory of facts and relations. The final problem will concern the relation of the two systems, when thought seeks in the end to restore the harmony into which it has broken. One of these systems—the scientific view which does not concern itself with values—may be regarded as sufficiently well known in its general character. But some account is necessary of the complementary system of values: although that account must be restricted to certain leading features, important for their bearing on the final problem.

The varieties of value are clearly distinguished only in the mature consciousness; and their enumeration must not be mistaken for a psychological account of their genesis, any more than a classification of the sciences is to be confused with a psychology of cognition. We have to distinguish kinds of value, not different ways in which we become conscious of value, although we may expect difference in the objects to be correlated with a difference in the conscious attitude to them. And values may be discriminated in different ways according to the principle of division adopted. Some of these ways maybe described as formal; but one distinction has special regard to content, and with this distinction a beginning may be made.

In the first place, then, values may be distinguished into kinds according to the nature of the objects or ideals to which they have reference or within which they may be included. It is impossible, at the outset, to lay down a principle for determining all the different varieties of value, and the distinctions which we draw may conceal a unity of system which will be disclosed in the course of further analysis. We must start from a preliminary and empirical classification. In this way we may enumerate happiness, beauty, goodness, and truth as comprehensive descriptions under which many particular experiences of value may be brought, and as expressive of ideals to which worth is undoubtedly assigned.

The first of these ideals—happiness—is that which is most commonly in our mouths and appeals most forcibly to the plain man. Almost everyone admits that what contributes to happiness is of value; some are willing to say that this is the very meaning of value. But, when we come to look at the conception happiness more closely, this first view seems to need amendment. A man's happiness may consist in realising or in contemplating beautiful things, or in the pursuit of goodness, or in the search for and attainment of truth, or in the gratification of some strong passion, such as the love of power, or in the work-a-day life from which reflexion is banished, or in passing from enjoyment to enjoyment. The content of the notion happiness will differ according as it signifies one or other of these things, or some combination of them. And a notion which, like this, may mean anything comes very near to meaning nothing. It becomes a mere form into which any, or almost any, view of the worth of life may be fitted. There is, however, one positive element in the notion happiness, and to this element due regard must be paid. It implies always the simple but positive element pleasure.

Expressions are occasionally to be met with in some writers—Bentham is an examples1—which seem to imply that the words pleasant and good have the same meaning. But this identification, or apparent identification, of two different ideas is probably due to nothing more than an impatience with any divergence from the doctrine of hedonism. It certainly overlooks a clear distinction. That something is pleasant is a fact of immediate experience—that and nothing more. That this pleasure is good or worthy or has value is a further assertion. This is shown by the fact that it is at least open to dispute whether certain pleasures have value or are in any way good. Malicious pleasure is a case in point. On the one hand it must be held by the hedonist that while malice itself is bad, or has negative value, the malicious man's pleasure in his evil deed is an element of good or positive value in the total experience. On the other hand it is maintained that this pleasure has in it no element of good at all—that it even makes the total experience worse than it would have been had the malicious act failed to bring pleasure to the agent or had it stirred in him a conscientious pain. It is not necessary to argue the point on its merits. All that is necessary is to make clear that there is no contradiction in holding that the malice which is accompanied by pleasure is worse than the malice which is not, or, in other words, that there are some cases of pleasure which are not in themselves good. Consequently, when the assertion is made that pleasure, or pleasure alone, is of value, the predicate adds something to the subject of the proposition—the meaning is not the same as if one said ‘pleasure is pleasant.’ The assertion is not a tautology; and, if hedonism is of any significance as an ethical theory, it is because its fundamental proposition that pleasure alone is of value is a synthetic proposition and not merely analytic or verbal.

Hedonism is of course a familiar doctrine both in ordinary life and in philosophy. Its philosophical importance consists largely in its attempt to make ethics a quantitative science by introducing a single standard by which values of all kinds may be measured. It has no difficulty in laying down the principle; but it has never achieved precision, or gained general assent, in its manner of applying it to the details of life. Spiritual goods cannot be measured against material on the same scale. There is not sufficient evidence to show that a society of Socrateses would experience more pleasure than a society of fools—or, at least, than a society of ordinary people who enjoyed material goods and did not trouble themselves or their neighbours by asking inconvenient questions. The hedonist philosopher has commonly preferred the goods of the mind not because he could prove them to be more pleasant, but because he held them to be more noble. The feeling of pleasure, real and positive as it is, partakes in this connexion of the formality which belongs to the ideal of happiness. It belongs to every kind of value when realised in its fulness, and in some degree belongs to every realisation of value. It may be regarded as a feeling of value, but it is not a measure or standard of value. Although it accompanies all experiences of value, it does not express their distinctive nature or enable us to discriminate their differences. Accordingly, as pleasure does not explain or measure value, it seems better also not to speak of it as an independent kind of value. It attaches itself to value of every kind, instead of being one kind amongst the others.

The remaining kinds of value which have been already enumerated are the æsthetic, the moral, and the intellectual, corresponding to the traditional ideals of the beautiful, the good, and the true.

Among these difficulty arises regarding the inclusion of intellectual value. It is maintained by an active school of thinkers that truth is simply a concise expression for working efficiency, that it is capable of analysis into certain other values, and that all so-called intellectual values have their real value in relation to some other function than intellectual apprehension. On this view, truth, although a value, would not be regarded as one of the fundamental kinds of value. The view appeals for support to the practical interests which determine the beginnings of knowledge. But it overlooks the independent interest in knowing which characterises the maturity of the human mind. Truth has been found to possess a value which is not capable of being resolved into other and practical interests, and which must therefore be regarded as independent. It is the object and the attainment of intelligence alone and can in this way be distinguished from goodness or beauty. The proper attitude of the intelligence to a true proposition, or to a system of true propositions, is simply belief or assent; and this is an intellectual attitude different from the moral approval of goodness or the artistic admiration of beauty. This difference, however, suggests another question. If we call truth a value, do we not thereby obliterate the distinction with which we started between cognition and appreciation? The answer to this question seems to be that the true proposition, merely as true, is not a value apart from the intelligence which understands and appropriates it. It is knowledge of truth, or truth as known, that has value. Man as a thinking being finds value in the truth which he seeks; it may even become the chief aim of his life, and he cherishes it on its own account—not as something alien to himself, but as completing or perfecting his own intellectual nature.

Moral and æsthetic values are closely connected—so closely that they have sometimes been identified. But even a little reflexion brings out differences that may not be ignored. In the first place there is a subjective distinction. The mental attitude by which we apprehend or detect beauty is not the same as that in which we become aware of goodness. Both, however, differ from the intellectual attitude in knowledge; and the term appreciation may be used for both kinds of valuation. But this term covers attitudes of mind which are not the same. Our appreciation of a beautiful sunset, for example, differs from our appreciation of a good deed or a good character. The former is admiration simply, the latter approval.

No doubt the attitudes may be combined. Admiration of a work of art is often conveyed in terms which express approbation or approval also. Not only do we speak of a good picture or a good artist, but this phrase may indicate not merely admiration of the work, but approval of it and its author. On the other hand, æsthetic terms are used for moral excellence: the Hebrew praised the ‘beauty of holiness’; the Greek conception of καλοκαγαθία signified the union of art and morality at their highest point; and, in the modern phrase ‘a beautiful soul,’ a term of æsthetic admiration is used to express high moral approbation. Even in these phrases, however, what is expressed seems to be the combination of two modes of appreciation rather than their identity. The ‘beautiful soul’ is an object of æsthetic admiration, but this object is the result of dispositions and activities to which moral approval is appropriate. The moral object—the soul that is in harmony with the moral ideal—is also an object of æsthetic admiration: the good, when fully realised, is in this case seen to be something that is also beautiful in itself. And, when we use terms of moral approval for the æsthetic object, we can perhaps discover that our thoughts have passed from the object as beautiful to another aspect of the situation. We do not speak of a sunset as good instead of beautiful, or, if we do, we recognise that we are not using the word ‘good’ in its ethical meaning. It is more common to apply the term ‘good’ to the work of human art and still more common to apply it to the artist; and in these cases, moral approval may be implied; but this moral approval is something superadded to æsthetic admiration and not identical with it. We admire the work without any thought of how it was done or even who did it; but when we approve (in the ethical sense) it is with reference to the conscious activity of the artist who used his skill to realise the ideal which he was able to conceive.

Moreover, instances are also common in which the two attitudes diverge. The same concrete situation may call forth moral approval combined with æsthetic depreciation, or æsthetic admiration combined with moral disapproval. We approve without admiring, or admire and at the same time condemn. The moral character or good deed may be spoiled for our æsthetic sense by awkwardness or lack of grace. Great crimes may call forth our reluctant admiration by the manner in which they are devised and carried out: there was no inconsistency in De Quincey's description of ‘murder as a fine art.’ Or a whole career, such as that of Napoleon, may appeal to our æsthetic sense although it is condemned by our moral judgment.

In the second place, the distinction between the æsthetic and the moral judgment is confirmed when we examine their respective objects. Any work of fine art, anything we call beautiful, has a certain independence and completeness in itself2. To use an illustration of Professor Stewart's, “Hermes is dug up at Olympia, and we find him beautiful as soon as we see him3.” The dust of centuries has hidden his beauty, but has not changed it. We may know nothing of his origin or history: who the sculptor was, or what his purpose, when the work was completed, or what temple it was meant to adorn. All these are but accessory circumstances of interest to the scholar. Knowledge about them may perhaps add to our admiration; but ignorance of them can do little to impair it; the eye is satisfied with seeing. The artistic object is something aloof and by itself, like the Platonic ideas—“all breathing human passion far above.” Contemplation of it lifts us out of the life of action and thinking, and of their values:

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man.

But Keats mistook its message when he read its lesson as “beauty is truth, truth beauty.” This is a confusion of values. Beauty is beauty, and that is enough. Æsthetic contemplation rests upon a certain external and sensuous content, and does not need to go beyond this content either to intellectual meanings or to the context of circumstances in which it was produced. The material object is of itself sufficient to provoke and to justify admiring contemplation: even knowledge of the artist's purpose is unessential; far less is it necessary to enquire into his state of mind and to know what sort of a man he was. The sensuous object, in form and content, is that to which beauty fundamentally belongs; when we speak of beauties of mind and character, we are conscious that we are using æsthetic terminology in a sense which, if perfectly just, is yet derivative rather than fundamental.

It is different with moral appreciation. Even if our primary moral judgments seem to have an external application, a little criticism makes it clear that the external thing has only instrumental goodness and can never have intrinsic goodness. If we speak of a good character, it is clear that the moral approval has respect to the soul and not to the body; even when we speak of a good deed, reflexion convinces us that the mere overt act whereby things in space change their places is not in itself good or evil; its value, if it have any, can be instrumental only: that is to say, it is regarded as a cause of what is good, but not as good in itself. The action to be appreciated as moral must be taken from its inner side. The rescue from drowning—to use a time-honoured illustration—will be approved or disapproved according as the intention was to restore to a life of usefulness or to reserve for future torture. We must always go back to the inner aspect of conduct—the intention; and the intention never stands alone, as something holding for this case only and having no relation to anything else. It is part of a system of conduct. Thus the approval of a single act or incident is a judgment concerned with the inner life, and apt to be concerned with the whole life. We cannot disregard the motive—as we do in the case of the artist—or be indifferent to what sort of a man the agent was. Moral judgments have not the completeness and independence of æsthetic judgments. From the first, if they do not form a system, they depend upon a system.

These different kinds of value depend upon a difference in the objects valued. Certain formal distinctions remain which call for explanation. The most obvious and important of these distinctions is that between Intrinsic and Instrumental value. A thing may have value or worth in itself quite apart from anything else to which it leads; and this is called intrinsic value. On the other hand, when we call a thing good or say that it has value, we are often aware that we use the term not for what the thing is in itself, but because of something else which follows from it as an effect. Thus a surgical operation may be said to be good, not, certainly, because it has any intrinsic worth in itself and apart from its consequences, but because it may be a means of prolonging life or restoring health: and we assume that life and health are good in themselves or (if they are not) that they causally determine something else which is good in itself. Consequently, where we make use of a proposition which asserts merely instrumental value, value does not, strictly speaking, belong to the subject of the proposition. What we ascribe to that subject is not value but causal efficiency to bring about something else which is assumed or implied to possess value. Assertions of instrumental value, being thus causal propositions, are at the same time utility-propositions: the thing is said to be useful as leading to something else which is of intrinsic value. The weight of any thorough enquiry must therefore fall upon the conception of intrinsic value, and it might seem that the conception of instrumental value could be dismissed at once as having to do solely with causal relations. But the case is not so simple; and some further enquiry is necessary into the relation of instrumental to intrinsic value.

The science in which the conception of value has been used with greatest effect is economics; and it may be well to consider for a moment the economic conception of value, for in economics ‘value’ has a well-defined meaning. The value of any economic good is determined by its relation to other things which can be got in exchange for it; and when we have in money a general measure of the ratio in which things can be exchanged for one another, the measurement of value is easy: a thing's value is its price. The term ‘value,’ in this sense, is what the economist also calls ‘value in exchange’; it is an instrumental value, a means of getting something else; and to this use the term ‘value’ is generally restricted in economic reasoning. To understand its further significance needs a little examination of the concept. The value of any article A consists in its relation to the amounts of other articles (say B, C, and D) or any one or more of them which can be got in exchange for it. The value of B, in the same way, will consist in its relation to the amounts of A, C, and D, or any one or more of them, which can be got in exchange for it. Similarly of the values of C and D. And, if we measure the value of all commodities by money, then money itself has to be valued in terms of these other commodities: for it, after all, is one commodity amongst others. Thus the attempt to define the economic value of any one commodity always lands us, in the long run, in a circle—provided we keep to this meaning of value as instrumental. The circular nature of the definition is only hidden from us because we commonly define the value in relation to a common measure, money, and overlook for the moment the fact that the value of money itself must be defined in relation to other articles. Hence the economic conception of value (that is, of value in exchange) is found on analysis to depend on commodities having some other value than this—a value which is independent of their relation to other commodities. That is to say, value in exchange rests ultimately upon what Adam Smith called ‘value in use,’ and what Jevons and others after him have called simply ‘utility.’ The term ‘utility’ would not have been retained by economists unless it had been found convenient; but it is no more correct here than in some of its ethical uses. It does not clearly distinguish intrinsic value from value in exchange, because the latter is also a kind of utility; and utility, indeed, should mean usefulness for something, and thus imply that very reference to another thing which, in this place, it is introduced to avoid. Adam Smith's term ‘value in use,’ though somewhat clumsy, is really more correct than the simpler term ‘utility.’ The point which it is desired to bring out is that the commodity has a value in itself, which is not dependent on its relation to other things which it produces or which may be got for it. The people who desire it desire it for its own sake—to use, as Adam Smith says, or simply to enjoy. This value is independent of exchange; and when a thing has this value, people are willing to do something or to give up something in order to possess it. The things they do or give up have value in exchange, or instrumental value, and perhaps that only. But this thing, which has a value independent of exchange, possesses intrinsic value or worth—at least from the point of view of economic science.

The economist has his scale of values, and can adjust all economic goods to their proper places on the scale. But the goods receive their places on the scale not in virtue of their own intrinsic quality, but because of what can be got for them—for what they will bring in money, or according to their relation to some more intricate standard. The economist may recognise intrinsic value as the basis upon which his values rest; but he measures these by an external standard: his whole valuation, therefore, is extrinsic. If we attempt to measure things by their intrinsic worth—if, for instance, we raise the question of the importance of economic goods in life as a whole—we shall have to seek out some way of determining intrinsic values, which will be entirely different from the scale of the economists and which may assign the highest place to goods unrecognised on the economic scales4.

An attempt to measure intrinsic values would raise questions hard to answer. Are economic goods, for instance, to have a place on this scale? and if so at what point? Or are they all—the whole material apparatus of life, that is to say—to be regarded as having instrumental value only? Merely to state this question is to show that the distinction between intrinsic and instrumental value is not of such easy application as it seemed to be at the first glance. Obviously, the surgical operation has instrumental value only, the medical art is good, but not good in itself—only as a means for restoring health or preserving life. But what of health, or long life? Are these good in themselves, or only as means to happiness, or social efficiency, or some other end? The mere statement of these questions is suggestive of controversy.

And a further consideration has also to be taken into account. For a little experience shows us that the same thing may be both an end-in-itself and also a means to something else that has value. Knowledge, for instance, may be good in itself, that is, have intrinsic value; and knowledge may lead to sympathy, and so have instrumental value also. And sympathy may have intrinsic value; but it may also react upon and stimulate knowledge, as well as affect other persons by deeds of beneficence, and thus have at the same time instrumental value. The category of means and end, under which we are striving to understand value, does not give us a single clear line of advance. Just as, in nature, we do not find one thing which is simply cause, and another thing which is simply effect, but interaction is the rule, so here, means and end are interwoven in the complex fabric of life.

The category of means and end is indeed an imperfect guide for identifying and discriminating values. It is a useful and necessary distinction for our thinking; but life overruns it, and sometimes obliterates it in its continuous process. Where do the means end, and where does the end begin? Is it winning only that is the end of the game? or is the game its own end which victory crowns with an added worth? The means, it may be said, may in such a case have an intrinsic value of their own in addition to their instrumental value as leading to the end, and the total value of the whole experience will be the sum of the intrinsic values of means and of end. But this does not state the truth fully; the total value cannot be arrived at by mere addition5. It may even be that, in certain experiences, neither the means alone nor the end alone has any intrinsic value. Is it not often the case that you would not play the game at all—that it would have no value for you—unless you had a chance of winning? and, on the other hand, that you would not value victory at all except as the result of the game? What we hold as good may be the end reached in this particular way or by these means. Means and end shade into one another in experience, and no value at all may belong to one of them apart from the other. Or it may be that each has some value in itself, but that the value of the whole realised experience is greater than the sum of the values which would belong to its parts if taken separately.

Ethical analysis does not stop at the same point as psychological analysis or physical division stops. Generally it stops much earlier. We may proceed with our psychological analysis far beyond the point at which value has disappeared from the factors into which the experience is analysed. The simplest things to which it is possible to assign value may be very complex things in their actual existence; and the whole of which we can be sure that its full intrinsic value is there to be seen, if we have insight to see it, may be a very comprehensive whole indeed.

It is customary to draw a distinction between Permanent and Transient values. All mental states may be viewed in respect of their duration; they last for a longer or shorter time, and the time admits of exact measurement. Duration has thus a prominent place among the circumstances by which Bentham sought to measure the value of a lot of pleasure or pain6, and thereby to transform ethics into a quantitative science. It was in the attempted measurement of intensity that the chief pitfalls for him lay; with duration he seemed to have no difficulty. Taking a second or other short interval as the unit of his reckoning, he estimated the value of a continuous experience by multiplying its intensity into the number of seconds which it lasted. Even this measurement, however, proceeded upon an assumption—the assumption that the pleasure or pain which was regarded as a continuous experience was of identical intensity throughout its duration; and this assumption is not justified by the facts. Thus even in the measurement of duration the hedonic calculus is in difficulties, not because we cannot count time, but because we may not assume that the experience which endures remains of constant intensity. This difficulty may be circumvented by estimating degrees of permanence in another way. Instead of looking to the immediate conscious experience, which varies from moment to moment, we may measure the permanence of the objects to which we attribute value, or of the mental dispositions or interests which are the conditions of our enjoyment of these objects. The later utilitarians commonly followed this course, and Bentham did not ignore its applications. For them, as for Bentham, value ultimately lay only in the immediate experience, which is in constant flux; but they recommended their disciples to turn their eyes away from it and seek rather the possession of the objects, and the cultivation of the interests, from which pleasure normally followed. Although pleasures were transient, they had sources which were comparatively permanent and which might give stability to human values.

The attitude recommended by the utilitarians is not necessarily restricted to the hedonic interpretation of value. The attainment of value is always determined by objects, whether material things or other factors in the environment; it is also conditioned by the dispositions and interests of the persons in whom the value is realised. And in both these respects there may be varying degrees of permanence. As regards the objective conditions, it has been customary for the proverbial philosopher to depreciate material things—all that is commonly called wealth—as transient and the prey of moth and rust; our hold on them is without doubt uncertain, and the enjoyment which they yield is apt to diminish with years. On the other hand social objects, such as “honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,” are held to be more lasting, although they too cannot be affirmed to be permanent, even when the person is worthy of them. It is obvious that, as long as we are dealing with temporal objects, we cannot assert anything more than relative permanence. Only ideal objects, conceived as independent of time, can be called permanent in the strict sense. Such are the ‘eternal values’ of truth, beauty, and goodness; such also is the love of God.

It may seem easier to draw the distinction from the side of personal dispositions than from that of their objects; but here also there are divergent estimates. There is an old controversy between the sensualist and the philosopher as to whose pleasures are the greater, and this controversy has been looked upon as settled only because the philosopher has been allowed to give literary expression to the debate and has summed up in his own favour. As he puts the case, he alone has experience of the pleasures of knowledge as well as of those of sense, and as he prefers the former his judgment must be accepted without appeal. Perhaps he has not summed up quite fairly; and the sensualist, had he been given a hearing, might have urged that the philosopher had not the requisite sensibility for appreciating sensual pleasures at their full value, and that, as susceptibilities differ, each party should be left the judge of what he likes best. There is no good reply to this rejoinder, so far as regards the intensity of human feelings. But on the question of permanence, the philosopher does seem to stand on firmer ground. Sensual susceptibilities, however carefully nourished, change and wither as the organic life passes youth and maturity; there is far less diminution of the susceptibility to the values commonly called higher—those of art and letters, of science and of the affections. From the standpoint even of the individual life, they have a degree of permanence which is not shared by the values which the sensualist esteems most highly.

It follows that there is a certain superiority in this respect of one kind of values over another. A value wears better the more it is independent of material conditions; the higher values of knowledge, art, and morality are more permanent than those of the sensual life. The distinction remains a relative distinction, due to the greater permanence of the interests to which certain values appeal. And if, as will be argued later, all values belong to the personal life, their permanence must depend upon its permanence. This will hold even of the ‘eternal values’ of truth, beauty, and goodness. Indeed the phrase ‘eternal values’ is liable to be misunderstood. It seems used so as to signify independence of time and therefore of any conscious life which, like the human, is in time. In this sense we might predicate eternity of truth (except in so far as truth is conceived as the possession of an intelligence which functions in time), or of beauty (if we regard beauty as independent of conscious apprehension), but hardly of moral goodness (which involves a state of conscious will). But, although truth and beauty, as thus restricted, are elements in or contributory to value, we do not seem justified in calling them values apart from their realisation in or through conscious life. They are not values till realised, and as realised they can be eternal only if, and in the same sense as, persons are eternal.

There is a further distinction between values which is due to what Bentham calls their ‘extent.’ It relates to the number of persons who may participate in their enjoyment. To this distinction we may give the name of Catholic and Exclusive. By catholic values (as the term is used here) I mean those in which all men may participate, or those whose enjoyment by one man does not limit or interfere with their equal enjoyment by others. When one man can enjoy a good only by its loss to other men, or by restricting their equal chances of enjoyment, then the value may be called exclusive. The great classes of value which have been mentioned—intellectual, moral, æsthetic, and emotional—have nothing in their own nature which makes them exclusive. When one man attains truth, or admires beauty, or realises goodness, or even enjoys happiness, there is nothing in his experience which makes it impossible or more difficult for others to do the same. Truth may be passed from mind to mind; beauty does not wane by being admired; goodness is infectious; even happiness radiates from the presence of the happy man, if only outward circumstances do not impose a bar. But if men regard outward or material circumstances as themselves possessed of intrinsic value, then such values, or many of them, are exclusive. The full enjoyment of material goods commonly requires their monopoly. This is most obvious in the case of primary needs—food and clothing and shelter. But it holds of material goods generally that their supply is limited, while desire is boundless. And the industrial civilisation in the midst of which we live has as yet done little to reduce or to counteract the conflict of interests which lies at its base.

If we admit that material goods have instrumental value only, a further consideration enters. Intrinsic goods have varying degrees of connexion with or dependence upon the material apparatus that may be instrumental towards them. The closer this connexion is, the greater this dependence, the more difficult will it be for such goods to be realised by many persons, and the greater will be the antagonism between the interests of one man and the interests of another. On the other hand, the less its dependence on material instruments, the more catholic is any value. It is thus interesting to compare the different degrees of this dependence in the different classes of value.

Happiness has an obvious connexion with such external instruments, though it is not easy to state the connexion in a way free from objection. Wealth and, in general, the control of the material environment are so constant an object of desire that men are apt to forget that happiness consists in a state of mind and not in the possession of material goods. But it is not altogether independent of these possessions. Nor is there any common standard for determining what that competent measure of external goods is which, in Aristotle's views7, is necessary to happiness: nor, indeed, any ground for assuming that the competent measure is the same for all men. Nor can any general agreement be found amongst the long line of reflective writers who have given their opinions on this subject to the world. On the one hand it has been common to emphasise the inward nature of happiness and to minimise its dependence on anything outside a man's own mind. Thus we find Adam Smith depreciating power and riches as “enormous and operose machines,” which “keep off the summer shower not the winter storm,” and asserting that “ in ease of body and peace of mind all the different ranks of life are nearly upon a level, and the beggar who suns himself by the side of the highway possesses that security which kings are fighting for8.” On the other hand a shrewd observer has roundly asserted that threefourths of a man's happiness depend upon his yearly income9. And this, put more graphically and with insight into the fact that it is not only income, but being within your income, that matters, was the simple philosophy of Mr Micawber: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” In truth, the conception happiness conveys so little regarding its content or conditions that the controversy hardly admits of a more definite decision than this: that so far as a man's happiness depends on external circumstances it will frequently tend to come into competition with the similar happiness of other men.

This is the general rule; and it applies to other values as well. Knowledge is the same for all, and there is nothing in the nature of truth to make it the property of one man rather than another: except this, that, before it can be attained, it may require a concentration of mind and a culture of the intellect which are only possible to those who have not only a fit endowment of mental faculty but also some amount of freedom from the ordinary cares of life and leisure to devote themselves to intellectual pursuits. And civilisation has not yet managed to produce a society in which this leisure is open to all. Those who have it are in a position of privilege to which only a limited number can attain.

Much the same must be said of the æsthetic values. It is true that in itself beauty is as little envious as any good. It is not made less beautiful by being shared. But it is rarer than we could wish, and to enjoy it the intervention of material instruments is often necessary. Many of the beauties of nature, most of the beauties of art, are as much hidden from the mass of men as are the intellectual delights of the mathematician. They need opportunities for their inspection and culture for their appreciation. They are thus, like the intellectual values, limited by external conditions which the social order has not been able to put within the power of all but reserves for those who are favoured by economic circumstances.

Moral values are not limited in this way. It is, of course, true that every kind of moral activity is not open to every one, and that circumstances call for different modes of conduct. The particular good deed of one man may make it impossible or unnecessary for another man to perform the same good deed; but it never puts goodness out of his power, it never interferes with his volition to do the best. Whatever the circumstances there is always a right to be done, a moral value to be realised. The attainment of moral value by one man may act as a stimulus in the same direction upon other men, just as his cultivation of truth or beauty may. But in the latter cases the stimulus may lead to impotent desire—for the instruments of study or of art may be wanting. In morality, on the other hand, there is no such monopoly of means, for the moral law is realised by the will alone, and through the will it is manifested in character. Riches and poverty, health and sickness, power and subjection are merely different conditions in which goodness can be cultivated and moral values brought into existence. This universality of the moral value vindicates its rank as the most catholic among the varieties of value.

Yet another ground of distinction may be mentioned. Values may be divided into higher and lower according to the degree of their importance; and within the higher class we may speak of dominant values.

This distinction concerns intrinsic values only. It is clear that instrumental values must be measured by the intrinsic values to which they lead and by their effectiveness in leading to them. But, as soon as the question is put regarding the relative importance of intrinsic values, the difficulties that lie in the way of any solution are apparent. If intellectual values are under consideration, are we to prefer mathematics to biology, economics to metaphysics, or the reverse? If the question is æsthetic, can we say which art is the highest and by how much? Or, in morality, can we distinguish kinds of goodness and arrange them in the order of their value (as Reid attempted to arrange the virtues, or as Martineau classified springs of action according to the degree of their moral worth)? And if happiness be the aim, is it the happiness that depends on the life of sense that comes highest, or that derived from science, or from art, or from good works? Thus we raise old difficulties over again. Can we even arrange, in any order of merit, the fundamental classes of value—intellectual, artistic, and moral? These questions appear unanswerable, and we are tempted to put them aside, and to say that value is value, and there is an end of the matter—that it has no degrees. But if we do take this line, we are confronted with the fact that we are constantly compelled, whether on good grounds or on bad, to make some preference of the kind described—to select one value rather than another when the attainment of both is impossible but a choice between them is open to us.

There are two ways in which the comparative valuation of values may be attempted. One of these is empirical and quantitative. It starts from the assumption that each valuable object has a definite quantity of something which we must just call value and which is always the same in kind, so that all values can be measured by the quantity of it which they contain, and so receive a definite position on the one scale of values. This done, the whole difficulty vanishes; this said (it seems to be thought), all theoretical difficulties disappear and only practical difficulties remain. The issue is not so plain as this, however. A scale of values of this kind has been worked out on one hypothesis only—the hypothesis that, in the last analysis, positive value belongs to pleasure only and negative value belongs to pain only. I cannot in this place examine once more the famous hedonic calculus, and must content myself with assuming that it has been unable to justify itself at the bar of criticism. Other suggestions for a quantitative estimate and single scale of values have still to answer the question as to the nature of the ultimate something called value which in some instances appears as sensuous, in others as intellectual, in others as moral, in others as artistic, and so on, but which is supposed to maintain an identical nature under these different forms.

If we are to compare values at all, it appears to me that we must give up the idea of a scale for that of a system. We shall never get what we want by adding and subtracting quantities. Even if a quantitative process of this sort enters into the estimate, it will only be in the same way as mechanical interactions enter into vital, mental, and social processes. It will not give us the clue. The clue will have to he sought in the idea of a system to which the values belong. Now the subject of values—that is, the conscious person—when he tries to rationalise his life, does attempt also to systematise his values: partly deliberately, partly unconsciously, he gradually forms a dominating conception which determines his conduct and his view of what is of greatest worth. Under this dominant conception, he will arrange other conceptions contributory to value in his life, and will negative suggestions which interfere with that value. To take an old example: gratitude will be approved as a dispositional attitude; but some particular instance of gratitude may be inconsistent with the whole system of social order, so that this particular act of gratitude (say, perjury for a benefactor's sake) ought not to be done. Throughout we are concerned not so much with a total worth to be got by adding particulars, as with the worth of a totality.

We are familiar with many dominant conceptions of value which appeal to the judgments of different men. The voluptuary, the artist, the moralist, the sage, the saint, has each his own dominant conception of value. A complete theory of value should be able to determine the relative validity of these conceptions; and this would involve two things. In the first place it would be necessary to make clear the universal conditions of value which are valid irrespective of the time place and circumstances of the persons in and by whom value is to be realised. In the second place these general principles should be shown to be consistent with, and to make possible, different types of value corresponding to differences of endowment and opportunity. There is one dominant value for the artist's life, another for the statesman's, another for the philosopher's. Each pursues his own line of life, and his standard differs from the standards of the others. And yet, behind their difference of thought and of achievement, there may be an identity of principle. There is diversity of gifts, but each gift is the earnest of a realised ideal; there is diversity of ideals, but each ideal is worthy; “wisdom is justified of all her children.” All men, in their various ways, may be guided by the same principle, each seeking to make his life perfect by the highest performance in his power. To determine the way in which different ideals are related to one another in a community of lives that seek the highest value is not an initial problem. Rather is it the crowning work of an ethical theory. Yet, short of this, we shall not be able to give a satisfactory solution of the problem of the scale of values. For that problem has been resolved into another—the problem of the organic unity or systematic whole into which all values enter, and by their relation to which the place and degree of all partial values are determined.

  • 1.

    E.g., Principles of Morals and Legislation, p. 7 and chap. ii (ed. of 1879).

  • 2.

    Cp. H. Rickert, Kulturwissenschaft und Naturwissenschaft, 2nd ed., p. 75.

  • 3.

    Notes on the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, vol. I, p. 183.

  • 4.

    Cp. ‘Ethical Aspects of Economics,’ International Journal of Ethics, vol. XVII (1907), pp. I ff., 317 ff., 437 ff.

  • 5.

    Cp. G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, p. 28.

  • 6.

    Principles of Morals and Legislation (ed. Of 1879), p. 29.

  • 7.

    Ethics, book I, chap. x, p. 1101 a 15.

  • 8.

    Moral Sentiments, part IV, chap. i. The words of the author of The Wealth of Nations may he compared with the similar though less confident opinion of the modern economist whose study of poverty has become classical: “I perhaps build too much on my slight experience, but I see nothing improbable in the general view that the simple, natural lives of the working-people tend to their own and their children's happiness more than the artificial, complicated existence of the rich.”—Charles Booth: a Memoir (1918), p. 105.

  • 9.

    I cannot trace the reference, but my recollection is that the assertion occurs in one of Prof. Bain's works.