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3: The Meaning of Value

AT this point it is necessary to pause and consider an objection that may be taken to the line of argument upon which we are entering. We have discriminated the moral judgment and other judgments of value from the positive judgments about matters of fact and relations on which science is based, but have we any right to regard the two classes of judgment as of equal and objective validity? May it not be the case that the factor called worth is derived entirely from a subjective source—from the element of feeling or of desire which accompanies our judgment? And, if this is so, are not the whole of our value- judgments, and in particular moral judgments, without objective validity? Are they not simply an expression of feelings of pleasure or pain, or perhaps of movements of desire, on the part of the person who makes the judgment? and is their true implication anything more than this—‘I am pleased,’ or ‘I desire’? The objection indicated in these questions takes the form of offering a psychological explanation of the moral consciousness, and generally of the consciousness of value; and this psychological explanation is then held to determine the significance of the consciousness.

The psychological explanation, it will be noticed, takes one or other of two forms. Sometimes it is the feeling of pleasure, at other times it is the experience of desire, that is appealed to. The two methods may be reconciled by those who hold that desire is always directed to something pleasant as pleasant. But this latter doctrine must not be assumed, nor has it been uniformly held either by those who reduce the moral consciousness to pleasure-pain or by those who reduce it to desire. And both these views have been frequently held. The former has its most famous representative in Hume who defined virtue (or goodness) as “whatever mental action or quality gives to a spectator the pleasing sentiment of approbation1”; amongst contemporaries the same doctrine was maintained by Meinong in his early work on the value-judgment2. On the other hand, a century before Hume, we have both Hobbes3 and Spinoza4 asserting that good is just a name which a man gives to whatever is the object of his desire; and, at the present day, a similar explanation is given by v. Ehrenfels5 in his treatise on the theory of value, as well as by many other writers.

A full discussion of these views would require a long psychological enquiry, and my purpose is not psychological. Nothing further can be attempted here than to fix attention on one or two salient points specially connected with the ethical implications of the psychological explanations. If we say that the approval of goodness is simply one kind of pleasure, and that both its force and its validity depend on the degree of that pleasure, then our assertion will have a very immediate and radical bearing on ethics. The same will be the case if we assert that good is just the name we give to an object of desire, and that goodness must therefore be measured by the strength of the desire. These assertions would undoubtedly lead to a fundamental modification, or rather to a complete reversal, of ethical values. And, if any writers make them, it will not be unreasonable to say of them, as Hume said of the controversialists who denied the reality of moral distinctions, that they “may be ranked among the disingenuous disputants6.” For such assertions would overlook the elementary facts which we have to explain. Even if the primary basis on which moral apprehension depends is a feeling of pleasure, it is discriminated from other feelings of pleasure. Stolen fruits may be sweet and pleasant in their sweetness; but the pleasure got from them is not a moral pleasure; the moral fact enters only when the stolen fruit, though sweet and pleasant to the taste, is also a source of conscientious pain; and it is this moral pain that needs explanation. In the same way all that we desire may be called good by us; but the moral judgment is a discrimination between good and bad desires, and it is this discrimination which we have to account for. It is only a special kind of pleasures, therefore, or pleasures got from some special source, that can be identified with moral approval. On the other view, it is only certain desires, or desires for certain classes of objects, that can correctly be called good.

Both views of the moral consciousness to which I am referring—both the view which explains it by reference to pleasure and that which explains it by reference to desire—must recognise and, in general, do recognise the fact that calls for explanation. In all moral experience there is something which cannot be simply identified with pleasure or with desire, but contains a differentiating factor which makes it moral and not merely pleasant or desired. This recognised, the purpose of the psychological moralists is perfectly legitimate. The moral consciousness is a comparatively late expression, if not of human life, yet of life generally; it appears subsequently to pleasure and subsequently to the active or impulsive consciousness. It is legitimate to try to get at an historical understanding of it by connecting it causally with one or other or both of these antecedent and more primitive experiences. Accordingly, the proper purpose of both views is to discover and trace a line of causal connexion; their success in this attempt is a strictly psychological question; the bearing of their results upon the significance of the moral consciousness is a further question. It is this further question that interests us; but, perhaps unfortunately, it cannot be understood properly without reference to the method of procedure adopted for the solution of the psychological problem; and as two different methods for this solution have issued in the objection that has given us pause, it will be necessary to take notice of both these methods.

Let us take first the mode of explanation which depends upon the pleasure-pain factor in experience. Moral approbation, according to Hume, is a “pleasing sentiment.” But not every pleasing sentiment has the function or nature of moral approbation. The divergence between pleasant feeling and moral approval is indeed so marked that pleasure is often regarded with suspicion by the moralist, and, in matters of moral decision which require delicate discrimination, we must lend ear to Aristotle's advice7 to beware of the side that leans towards pleasure. Moral approbation, therefore, must be a certain kind of pleasing sentiment, or pleasing sentiment derived from a certain source. And this is recognised by Hume. According to him and many others sympathy is the source of this special sentiment. That is to say, not any pleasing sentiment is equivalent to moral approbation, but only the pleasing sentiment due to sympathy. Or rather (since even this is too wide), the pleasing sentiment of sympathy, when sympathy is defined and limited in certain ways which, for present purposes, do not need to be more particularly characterised. Sympathy was taken by Hume8 to be a sentiment which “nature has made universal in the whole species,” and which did not admit of further derivation. Both later and earlier psychological moralists have parted company with him at this point, and held that we can trace the genesis of the feeling of sympathy by means of the working of mental association. If this latter view be adopted, we shall have to postulate only the more simple and immediate pleasures such as those of the senses, and we shall then be able to trace the way in which, by the working of the ordinary laws of association, pleasure comes to be connected with our representation of the states of mind of others, and sympathy as a ‘pleasing sentiment’ arises. I do not propose to examine the correctness of this psychological derivation. But it may be said, in passing, that Hume and Adam Smith showed a true instinct for essentials in laying great stress on sympathy—the emotional side of the social factor—in morality, though I think that they erred in laying exclusive stress upon it.

Let us assume then the correctness of the historical account of the genesis of this pleasing sentiment of moral approbation. We must now ask the question, What is the validity of this moral approbation or approval? How are we to measure or otherwise appraise it? Must we do so simply by going back to its origin? If so, then we must remember that its origin (according to the more radical psychologists) is simply pleasure, indeed, sensuous pleasure. And, if we are presented with an experience in which (as we may put it) sensuous pleasure points one way and the pleasure of moral approbation the other way, then all we can do is to compare the two pleasures as pleasures, and the only reasonable course would seem to be to give the preference to the stronger or greater, for we have taken away any other standard. If this solution were adopted, moral judgment would not merely be transformed, it would disappear. But this is not the solution adopted by the psychological moralists to whom I have referred. Explicitly or tacitly they give a preference to the pleasing sentiment of approbation, even although the simultaneous and competing source of pleasure which points in a different direction may be very much stronger. The preference, accordingly, is not due to the intensity of the pleasure accompanying approval (for Hutcheson's view9 that the pleasures of the moral sense are the greatest pleasures we have may be set aside as inconsistent with facts); it must therefore be due to its source—in this case, sympathy as against egoistic feeling. That is to say, we are assigning validity to, or rather assuming the validity of, the social factor which enters into our moral consciousness, when it is opposed by selfish pleasure or interests. If so, the attempt to trace the historical genesis of that factor has had no effect upon its significance for life or upon the validity of our moral judgment. Historically, we suppose that we have traced social feeling back to its origin in egoistic feeling; but, in our ethical estimate, we do not express the value of the one in terms of the value of the other.

Perhaps Herbert Spencer may have had this point in view when he placed origin and value in inverse relation to one another by asserting that “the more complex motives and the more involved thoughts have all along been of higher authority” than the primitive and relatively simple tendencies10. His view is certainly nearer the truth than the opposite preference of the primitive to the developed; but it assumes too easily that value increases at each step in evolution, and it makes too prominent certain formal characteristics of the evolutionary process. When the conception of temporal advance in the evolutionary process is confused or identified with the conception good or better—as often happens in Spencer—this error is serious. It makes time the test of goodness, and thus (though taking an opposite direction) falls into the same mistake as the view which tries to discover value by tracing psychological genesis. The latter view seeks to explain value by priority in time; Spencer's doctrine identifies it with the later moments of time. Both overlook the truth that mere time contains no element of value, and that the relation of value to the time-process is a question for investigation not for assumption.

When we turn to the view that the appreciation of moral value is a product of desire—that we approve what we desire—the argument must follow similar lines, although this view perhaps goes deeper than the other. According to the former view we approve what pleases us, or the approval is the same thing as the pleasure; according to this view we approve what we desire: approval does not bring desire after it, but on the contrary, desire determines approval or is the same thing as approval. This theory lays stress on the active process of life as the fundamental factor in man's consciousness; and in this it is distinguished from the preceding theory which emphasises the passive feeling of pleasure. But the two theories are alike in trying to explain moral approval by resolving it into something else; and their methods in large measure correspond. Just as we saw that, if to approve means simply to be pleased, moral distinctions will disappear or be transformed, because morality requires discrimination between things that please, so if good means simply what we desire, then, equally, the concept becomes otiose or must change its meaning: the problem is not touched regarding the approval of one desire (not always the strongest desire) and the disapproval of others.

But those thinkers who derive approval from desire seldom rest in this conclusion. They attempt to discriminate between desires, and to make a psychological account of the development and systematisation of desires serve the purpose of this discrimination. From this discrimination, in some way or other, the moral approval of one desire and the moral disapproval of another come into being. Here again the psychological problem is legitimate; and there can be no question that the moral approval which discriminates between desires is a later product in consciousness than desire itself. We may say that desire is antecedent, morality consequent. But it does not follow that the moral factor can be accounted for by the factor of desire; still less does it follow that the latter is the measure of the significance or validity of the former.

There are factors in the inherited constitution, factors of the nature of instinct, which predetermine the strength and order of the impulses before the appearance of the ideal factor which transforms impulse into desire. A certain though limited measure of order is thus to be expected in the life of desire even independently of morality; the desires tend to be directed to certain objects or classes of objects, and they vary in strength. Reflecting upon them we may group them in certain ways. We may distinguish, for instance, transient desires for objects from those which are connected with the permanent needs of life, and among the latter we may distinguish those which are mainly egoistic in their interest from those whose interest is mainly racial or social. But how are we to assess their relative values? The strength of the desire cannot supply the place of a standard; for, indeed, strength and value are often opposed: the sensuous interest overpowers the spiritual, the immediate the permanent, the selfish the social. The utility of moral ideas (if the phrase may be allowed) consists in this, that they introduce a new standard, a standard of value, by which the standard of strength may be regulated and controlled. They give a preference, as we may put it, to certain desires over others: to the permanent over the transient, to the social over the selfish, to the spiritual over the sensual. The grounds of this preference are not got out of the mere fact of desire as a conscious active tendency varying in strength. If we say they are to be got out of the different objects to which the desires are directed, then we assign higher value to one object than to another, and our moral judgment consists in thus assigning value to the different objects of desire. It is not got out of the desires themselves, but is an appreciation of desire founded upon objective discrimination.

As in the case of pleasure, so in the case of desire, tracing its genesis and development does not determine its validity. This determination, it may be added, becomes prominent in consciousness only by gradual stages; and it is only because every stage in the process of growth is small that it has been possible for some moral psychologists to overlook each small advance and to imagine that the whole facts of the mature moral consciousness can be accounted for by their origin. The limits of this method are made clear when we put the question, Why do we assign validity to our moral approval and to moral ideas generally? To this question the history of their genesis gives no answer.

The method of psychological enquiry is misconceived and its results are misinterpreted when these are allowed to take the place of an independent investigation of value. The experience and judgment of value are undoubtedly mental facts, and psychology may trace their rise and history; but it does not touch the question of their validity, any more than the validity of mathematical judgments is affected by the history of their formation.

Another consideration, however, of a different kind is sometimes regarded as putting ethical enquiry in the strict sense out of court, or as being itself the proper substitute for ancient methods of ethics. This consideration is derived not from the psychical history of moral judgments but from their social conditions. The moral consciousness, it is held, is simply a reflexion of the social order, or at least in origin it was so: and its peculiarities are due to its origin. From this view also there may be derived an objection at the threshold to the validity of the judgment of value, though it is an objection of another kind than the preceding. It does not resolve value or approval into psychical elements of a different and better known order, but it traces them to the influence on consciousness of the social environment which controls and directs the individual. Value-judgments, it is held, are only an expression of what happens or of what is required socially.

The facts upon which this view depends are connected with the varying moral codes which distinguish different times and circumstances and different races, and they offer an explanation of this variety. Within a given community there is much greater uniformity of moral opinion than there is between one community and another; and the nearer we go back to primitive and simple forms of social organisation, the greater is the degree of moral uniformity within them, and often, at the same time, the more striking are the moral differences between one community and another. Each community has its customary code, and the custom of the early tribe contains everything which we now distinguish as law, morality, and custom. There is no law and no morality beyond the custom of the tribe; its members have no private consciences or independent rules of right, and nonconformity is unknown or promptly suppressed. The custom of the tribe is, accordingly, the earliest rule of right, the original moral code; the members of the tribe feel bound to conform to this custom: if they did not conform, their tribal and therewith their individual existence would be imperilled, and they would cease to count as factors in the tribal consciousness. The judgment of approval or disapproval, which distinguishes the modern conscience, is a slow development from this implicit acknowledgement of the authority of the tribe.

In regard to this question a distinction has to be drawn similar to the distinction already drawn regarding the inferences which have been made from the psychological analysis of the moral judgment. We have to ask the question, what general conclusions are established with greater or less probability regarding the social nature of the moral judgment, and then we have to apply the answer to the very different question of the significance of that judgment. Now it has been established, with a fair degree of probability, as a universal characteristic of human society, that groups of men everywhere are in the way of distinguishing between right and wrong, and that, in early societies, the things they call right are identical with the customary actions of the community, the things they call wrong being in conflict with these customary actions. That is to say, the content of morality, for men at the early or tribal stage of development, is identical with the content of tribal custom. But there remains an important difference which may be described as a difference of form. The custom of acting in a given way, which is displayed by members of the tribe generally, is one thing, and not the same thing as the recognition on the part of any individual that that way of acting is a rule binding upon himself. Customary action is performed by the individual even when impulse or desire points in another direction; and this performance is possible only because the custom of the tribe is recognised as a rule binding upon him. This is the beginning of the consciousness of moral obligation. The obligation belongs in the first instance only to the content of custom; but it has potential application of a wider kind. If it had not, moral progress would have been impossible; there would never have been any morality distinct from custom. It is because men have looked upon custom as binding that they can proceed to criticise it and come to think of a different standard for morality. The theory that morality consists in nothing more than conforming to the social order, or maintaining the social equilibrium, or promoting social vitality, receives no support from the historical view that, for the conscience of the early or savage tribesman, morality and social custom had the same content.

It is, moreover, surprising to find the theory that reduces morality to sociality combined, as it often is, with a practical protest against the conventional morality of the ordinary man of the present day. For conventional morality simply means the morality of ordinary opinion, which is in close accordance with prevailing practice. The morality of primitive man was strictly conventional; the morality of civilised men is often conventional in a less strict sense (there being always some recognition of the difference between opinion and practice); and conventional morality may be used as a term of reproach just because the moral opinion of men is no longer restricted to opinions that are exclusively social in their origin. But the form of morality which is most purely conventional is that in which it is merely social; in objecting to any moral doctrine on the ground that it is conventional, the objector admits by implication that the social basis of morality is inadequate and that it stands in need of reflective criticism.

Morality is not something that has descended out of heaven in perfect and final form. Like everything else that exists it is a development, the successive stages of which admit of being traced historically. By morality we mean the conduct character and ideas of men in their relation to goodness; and these have grown in precision and in system with the growth of the human mind and the changes of its environment. If a man or a race of men have thought that something is good, then it is a truth—an eternal truth—that they so thought; but it is not therefore an eternal truth, or true at all, that the thing they thought good was good either then or at any time—only that it seemed so to them. The same holds of other values. Men have thought certain things beautiful; and that they so admired them or held them as beautiful is true, though their appreciation may have been defective, and it does not follow that what they admired as beautiful was really beautiful. At each stage of historical development, the meaning of the moral judgment is ‘this is good,’ and the meaning of the æsthetic judgment is ‘this is beautiful.’ This meaning may, indeed, be mistaken or erroneous in any given case. But the assumption of the value-judgment is always that there is a value which may be predicated of this or the other situation. And the significance of the historical evolution of moral opinion depends on this assumption. Were the assumption invalid then the proposition ‘this is good’ could never be either true or false. It would only express some peculiar state of mind of the person making the assertion and would have no possible validity in itself—would be, indeed, simply an emotion put by mistake into the form of a propositions11.

As a fact of the mental life, the moral idea makes its appearance in the midst of emotional and impulsive experiences; but it is not itself either a feeling or a striving. Rather it is a selective principle which functions as a guide to striving and which may determine as well as be determined by feeling. Feeling and striving are indeed anterior to moral ideas and moral judgment; and the moral order in the mind of man, being later in time, may be described as having arisen out of mental phenomena which were as yet non-moral. In exactly the same way there were sensation-factors in consciousness before there were any judgments of perception—anything that can be called knowledge; and, as sensation is in this way prior to knowledge, it is possible to hold with the empirical philosophers that knowledge arises out of, or even is derived from, sensation. The mode of transition from sensation to judgment is a problem for the psychologist; but, whatever solution may be found for this problem, the fact remains that, once we have a judgment, we have before us a question which concerns not the sensations of a subject but the nature of an object. Similarly, whatever be the mode of transition from feeling and striving to the moral judgment, once the transition is made we are no longer concerned with subjective emotions but with the validity of the assertion that this or that is good.

Morality begins with judgments about good and evil, right and wrong, and not simply with emotions—retributive, parental, sympathetic, or what not. Always there are moral judgments as well as moral emotions wherever men are found. What lies behind or before these judgments is matter of speculative, though perfectly legitimate, hypothesis only. The moral judgment is, in this respect, on the same level as the positive judgment of experience. We may enquire into the psychological antecedents of the process of judging. But if we may assume that judgments are either true or false—and this assumption is necessary in all scientific enquiry—then the antecedents of the moral judgment do not invalidate its claim to truth any more than the antecedents of judgments of experience invalidate the same claim on their part.

Reflexions of the same kind apply to the assertion of the social origin of morality. Habits and a certain order in social conduct are anterior to the moral order, as may be seen from the behaviour and grouping of animals; and the moral order which expresses moral ideas, being later in the time of its appearance, may be described as having arisen out of a non-moral and merely biological order. But it does not follow from this that the moral order is merely a more complex stage of the biological; for it expresses ideas which are foreign to the latter. Morality is related to society much in the same way as science is. If morality is a social product so also is science; and this feature does not affect the validity of the one any more than it affects the validity of the other. The grounds for the assertion are the same in the two cases. When we say that morality is a social product we mean, first and chiefly, that the individual mind left to itself would not have risen to the conception of moral good and evil. But the reason of this limitation does not lie in anything peculiar to the content of good and evil. It is not simply because good and evil are social factors that the limitation holds true. Even if we abstracted altogether from the social content of morality something would remain; something does remain for the ordinary moral consciousness in the relative values of different personal desires or volitional systems. The individual is a system within himself, and the competition and cooperation of his own volitional tendencies provide material for the systematisation of character, for preference of one tendency to another, for moral judgment therefore. Accordingly, were man conceivable as a solitary being, he would in his own life provide the material and opportunity for moral judgment, although, as a matter of fact, he might be incapable of making such judgments. There would remain something, not to be identified with the social life, as the content of morality.

It is not therefore simply owing to its predominantly social content that morality would be impossible for the mere individual. It is rather because the mere individual would not possess the intellectual characteristics of a self-conscious person. His consciousness of self has been developed and defined only in connexion with his consciousness of other selves; apart from this social consciousness he would not think of himself as a person—he would have no consciousness of self. His experience generally owes its precision and importance to the fact that it can be shared by other observers, and his truths are recognised as valid because they appeal to others in the same way as to himself. Further, the language in which he expresses his judgments and by means of which he has been able to rise to conceptual knowledge is a social formation, received by him from the social environment and the historical traditions into which he has entered. Apart from all these social influences, the theoretical knowledge of the individual could be as scanty, or rather as non-existent, as his knowledge of morality.

We cannot, therefore, make the social, any more than the psychical, origin of morality an objection to its validity, unless we are prepared at the same time to allow that the social origin of science is an objection to its validity. The exact sense in which moral judgments have objective validity, and their relation in this respect to scientific propositions, is a question that remains to be discussed. For the moment it is sufficient to have obviated the objection taken at the threshold to the objectivity of value on the ground of the psychological or historical origin of the judgments of value or because human intercourse is a necessary condition of their formation.

So far we have been occupied in defending a point of view from which the objective character of judgments of value may be asserted. Their meaning is not that the subject desires a certain object or is pleased with it, any more than the judgment of sense-perception means that he has certain sensations. It is possible that it may be by means of conative or affective experience that we arrive at a judgment of value, just as experience in the way of sensation leads to the judgment of sense-perception. But in neither case does the origin constitute the meaning of the judgment. In both cases there is a reference to something beyond the mental state of the subject—to a value which he appreciates or to an object which he perceives. The argument has been restricted to the typical case of the moral judgment, for it is with morality that we shall be mainly concerned in the sequel, and it is unnecessary to extend the discussion to the other classes of judgments of value.

The defence of its objectivity brings the appreciation of worth or value into touch with that description of the relations and qualities of things which is given by scientific judgments. And the question accordingly arises whether there is, after all, any fundamental distinction between the attitudes of appreciation and description, and whether the judgment of value is not simply the recognition of a relation between existing things, with which science is not concerned, or of an additional quality which they may possess. The view which has been examined in the preceding paragraphs is indeed one way—and perhaps the most thoroughgoing way—of identifying the judgment of value with a judgment of existence, or of reducing ‘ought’ to ‘is.’ On that view the value predicated in the judgment not only arises out of, but can be reduced to, the mode of valuation; it consists in the relation which some content presented to a subject has to that subject's sensibility, thus producing pleasure, or to some desire or system of conative tendencies of the subject, to which it promises satisfaction. That view, accordingly, would explain value as a relation to the subject; but it has already been shown to be founded upon a confusion between the process by means of which we become aware of value and the value itself of which we become aware.

Different features are presented by the type of view which explains the meaning of value by resolving it into some kind of objective relation of things. Explanations of this sort are familiar. For instance, we may approve a certain distribution of wealth between the persons engaged in its production, and give as a reason for our approval that the distribution is fair or that it realises justice; we may say that its value consists just in this fairness or justice, and we may at the same time identify this fairness or justice with a certain objective relation between labour expended and remuneration received. Or again, we may admire a work of art, and hold that its value consists in its beauty and that this beauty can be analysed into certain relations between its component parts. Thus, in these and other cases, the value may appear to consist in relations which actually hold of certain objects. But it does so only because we identify value with the object valued. We would not approve the given economic distribution were it not for the fairness of it or those relations in which that fairness consists; we would not admire the work of art were it not for the harmony it displays or the relations in which that harmony consists. So far the analysis is correct. But the appeal to objective relations only shows that they are the ground of our attributing value to the object; not that they are themselves this value. Justice or fairness may consist in certain objective relations; but the value ascribed to justice is an added predicate over and above these relations. Harmony in the same way may consist in certain objective relations of colour or of tone; but the value of harmony does not consist in these relations; it is a further predicate which characterises their presence.

Seeing that value cannot be reduced to a relation between objects shall we then say that it is a quality of an object much in the same way as its shape and colour are qualities of a material thing? We certainly use the same forms of speech in both cases. We speak of a good man or a beautiful statue just as we do of a yellow orange; and we say the man is good or the statue is beautiful as we say the orange is yellow and round. The mode of predication is the same; but there is at least a prima facie difference in the way in which goodness or value belongs to an object from the inherence in a substance of the qualities which are held to make up its nature. The difference has sometimes been regarded as a difference of level—if we may call it so. As the qualities of matter have been distinguished into primary and secondary, it has been suggested that value is a third kind of quality which may be called a tertiary quality. Now, the objects to which the distinction of primary and secondary applies are all of them material things, that is, they are objects to which intrinsic value can scarcely be attributed; consequently, to talk of value as a tertiary quality does little more than set value vaguely apart from what we ordinarily call qualities. Further, when the distinction between primary and secondary qualities is regarded as of fundamental validity, it is held to consist in this, that the secondary qualities are due to the subjective affection of the percipient and are not constitutive of the nature of the thing at all: the primary qualities alone are said to be truly qualities of the objectively existing thing and the secondary to be simply mental effects caused by some modification of the primary qualities. If the tertiary qualities were to be defined in accordance with this view, then we should expect them to be one degree further removed from the nature of the object. Like the secondary qualities they would be results which that nature produces in something else, to wit, the mind which appreciates them. They would resemble the secondary qualities in their subjectivity, that is, be mental effects, only a degree more subjectified. And this would lead us back to the subjective explanation of value, which has been already examined and rejected.

Value is predicated of an object by means of the same verbal form as a quality is predicated; but there seems to be a difference in the mode of predication which is not brought out by the verbal expression. Qualities may belong not only to existing objects but also to objects which are not conceived as existing, and without any reference to their possible existence. Thus we may say that the equilateral triangle has the quality (or property) of being equiangular, just as a particular orange may have the quality yellow; and in the former case we do not need to refer to any existing triangle, or to a triangle on the hypothesis of its existence. The property belongs to the essence of the equilateral triangle, or follows from its definition, without regard to the consideration whether an equilateral triangle, or any triangle, exists or can exist. But it is not so when goodness or value is predicated. When we say love is good or has value, we mean that love is worth existing as a living fact; when we say that a just social order is good, we mean that such a constitution is worth existing or that a social order ought to be constituted in accordance with justice. We are not engaged simply in showing what the concept love or justice implies. The mere concept unless realised in fact is neither good nor evil: it is only as so realised, or on the assumption of its realisation, that it is called either. Thus, when we predicate value of anything, we pass from the mere concept or essence of the thing, with its qualities, to a bearing which this essence has upon existence: it is worth existing or ought to be12.

Hence, if we are still inclined to speak of value or goodness as a quality of the object to which we ascribe it, we must allow that it is a quality of a quite peculiar kind. “The heavens,” says Meinong13, “are called beautiful in no other sense than that in which they are called blue.” He admits one difference, however, in that the experience (Erlebnis) in the former case is not merely a process of apprehending an object. And this difference goes deeper than he allows. We are not simply apprehending an object when we predicate value of it; our predicate, therefore, cannot signify merely a quality of the object, for in that case it would be nothing more than a way of apprehending the object. When we say ‘the sky is beautiful’ or ‘the man is good,’ meaning by that an assertion of the worth of the beautiful sky or good man, our judgment of value is indeed based upon an apprehension of qualities—the colours of the sky or the volitional attitude of the man. But it is not merely the assertion of these qualities or of another quality in addition. When we predicate worth or value we assert or imply that the object is worth being or ought to be; and this is fully recognised by Meinong. But, if this predicate were simply a quality constituting the nature of the object, then the assertion that the object ought to be as it is, would be equivalent to saying that it is as it is, which would be a tautology, as Croce holds the assertion of positive value to be14. Or again, when we call an object bad or ugly we assert or imply that it ought not to be as it is; and, if its negative value were simply one of its constitutive qualities, this assertion would be a logical contradiction, as Croce holds is always the case with the negative value-judgment15.

The qualities of an object differ from the value-predicate in this respect that they may belong either to an existing thing or to something which does not exist although it in some sense is, but in either case they have no special bearing upon the existence of the thing of which they are predicated. With value it is not so; it has a definite bearing upon existence, and can always be stated so as to bring out this reference: the thing is worth existing, or ought to be, or to be in such-and-such a manner. And at the same time, this form distinguishes it from the descriptive propositions of natural science. It cannot be put into words without the unique notion indicated by ‘worth’ or ‘ought’ or some similar phrase. Value is not reduced to an existential proposition; but the notion of value always implies a relation to existence—though a relation to which the natural sciences are indifferent.

Value, accordingly, is not to be classified as a quality of things, or as a relation between things; but certain relations are implied by it. In the first place, as is shown by some examples already given16, the ground for assigning value may be found in certain relations within the objective continuum to which interest is directed; and this point will be dealt with later17. In the second place, value always implies a claim upon, or postulate of, existence; and this existential reference now calls for further discussion.

  • 1.

    Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, app. i, ed. Selby-Bigge, p. 289; Essays, ed. Green and Grose, vol. II, p. 261.

  • 2.

    Psychologisch-ethische Untersuchungen zur Werttheorie (1894), p. 73. This passage, he said afterwards (‘Ueber Werthaltung and Wert,’ Archiv für systematische Philosophie, vol. I (1895), p. 328), “was intended to imply that an object has greater value for me according as the consciousness of its existence excites in me a more lively feeling of pleasure”—a view which he finds on reflexion to disagree with the facts of experience.

  • 3.

    Leviathan, part I, chap. vi, p. 24.

  • 4.

    Ethica, iii, 9 schol.

  • 5.

    System der Werttheorie (1897), vol. I, p. 2.

  • 6.

    Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, sect. i, ed. Selby-Bigge, p. 169; Essays, ed. Green and Grose, vol. II, p. 169.

  • 7.

    Ethics, book II, chap. ix, p. 1109 b 8.

  • 8.

    Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, sect. i and app. i, ed. Selby-Bigge, pp. 173, 286; Essays, ed. Green and Grose, vol. II, pp. 172, 259.

  • 9.

    Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections (1728), p. xix.

  • 10.

    H. Spencer, Principles of Ethics, vo1 I, p. 106.

  • 11.

    As Westermarck thinks, Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, vol. I, p. 17.

  • 12.

    Cp. Urban, Journal of Philosophy, vol. XIII (1916), pp. 449 ff.

  • 13.

    ‘Für die Psychologie und gegen den Psychologismus in der allgemeinen Werttheorie,’ Logos, III (1912), p. 11.

  • 14.

    ‘Ueber die sogenannten Werturteile,’ Logos, I (1910-11), p. 73.

  • 15.

    ‘Ueber die sogenannten Werturteile,’ Logos, I (1910-11), p. 72. Cp. Urban, Journal of Philosophy, XIII (1916), p. 686.

  • 16.

    See above.

  • 17.

    See below.