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Lecture 8: Individuality as the Logical Criterion of Value

Doctrine that you cannot argue on ultimate values.

1. IT is a doctrine in favour to-day, with speculative thinkers of high rank, that the judgment of value cannot be logically supported; cannot, as I understand the contention, be shown by logical process to be right or wrong, and therefore, cannot in practice, except through some misconception, be modified by criticism or argument. “Every idealistic theory of the world has for its ultimate premiss a logically unsupported judgment of value—a judgment which affirms an end of intrinsic worth, and accepts thereby a standard of unconditional obligation.”1 “When a judgment of value is asserted to be ultimately true, it is, of course, useless to seek for a proof or to demand one. It must be either accepted or left alone.”2 We may go back indeed to Mill, “Questions of ultimate ends are not amenable to direct proof. Whatever is proved to be good must be so by being shown to be a means to something admitted to be good without proof.”3

This doctrine, understood in its natural sense, seems wholly adverse to the principal doctrines of Plato's philosophy, as also to Aristotle's treatment of the question of the end for man. And it is impossible not to feel a certain surprise that, without any kind of notice or any argument advanced, the leading conceptions of such thinkers should be altogether set aside. The contention in question is indeed capable of being understood in more than one subordinate sense, and not as flatly denying the principle which we claim to share with Plato.

Possible subordinate meanings of it.

I proceed first to consider how far in such subordinate interpretations the doctrine retains its point, and then to set out the substantive contention opposed to its full and natural meaning.

Judgment infallible pro tempore.

i. It is true, in a sense, that every one must treat himself, at any given moment, as infallible. To suspend action or to declare himself in doubt cannot help him; for by either course he positively affirms that the occasion is one which demands it. The necessity is not confined to action, nor is its existence an argument for Pragmatism. A judgment, when made, holds the field; it can only be called in question by a grounded review of it, made by means of another and subsequent judgment.4 This is so with all judgment, and therefore with the judgment of value. We are powerless, as a recent representative of extreme Libertarianism has pointed out, to modify even our moral valuation otherwise than by itself; it represents what we are, as long as we are so.5 Our will, he thinks, we can modify, but not our estimate of value. It is in the possibility of contradiction between these that he finds our freedom and our wrong-doing.

And this fact, as we know by experience, we have to recognise. No argument can make sure of altering a man's mind. For purposes for which a particular person's action or judgment are important, we must argue under his principles and address ourselves to his existing attitude, his accepted scale of values, or else let it alone.

But nothing of all this applies solely to the judgment of value. It is a consequence of the nature of judgment as such; of its dependence upon mental structure. It is the same for theory as for practice, for speculation as for desire. And it does not, of course, exclude in principle the openness of all judgment to discussion and revision; it only reiterates that at any moment we think what we think unless and until we see reason to think otherwise. It insists on what we have throughout maintained, that mind operates as a logical whole.

Probably the recognition of this truth plays a part in the opinion we are discussing. “De gustibus non disputandum”6 is a half-truth; and is a principle which, so far as it is tenable at all, extends, as we have just seen, to cognition. It is not easy to remodel the framework of a mind. It is wiser for many purposes not to attempt it, but to become all things to all men.

Value relative to Feeling; but criticised Feeling.

ii. Again, emphasis may be laid on the distinction which we have just held irrelevant, the distinction between cognition, and feeling or desire. To value a thing, it may be said, is to desire it or to find it pleasant, or at least to think of it as possessing the properties which would under certain conditions excite desire or produce pleasure. All this, it may be urged, is a question of feeling, not of reasoning. Judgment may state that a thing pleases, but the pleasure is a fact; and reason, as Hume will tell us, cannot make a new fact. To judge a thing valuable is to recognise a fact, but not to create one. The valuation is antecedent to the judgment.

And here, perhaps, appeal would be made to the fact that the discussion is about ultimate ends or values. Admit for argument's sake, it will be said, that we can by critical examination modify our conception of what things or characters are comprehended in or flow from the ultimate end, still the valuation of something as ultimate comes first, and the further discrimination of what its nature comprehends, rests upon and presupposes that valuation. The fundamental fact is that I care for some sort of thing; then you may argue upon the consequences in which that fact involves me. But you cannot by argument undo my first sense of value, nor could you impart it if I did not possess it. If there was no feeling there could be no value.

I do not doubt this last proposition, but it belongs to a very dangerous class of half-truths.7 “If no knowledge, then no truth.” “If no aesthetic sense, then no beauty.” But so far we have only sine quibus non, and the simple converses of these judgments (though the converse is not commonly held to be implied in the original), may be quite equally true, and in these cases unquestionably are so. For instance, it is plain that if there were no values there could be no feeling. That is to say, unless in certain experiences our being was respectively less or more, had in it a less or greater reality or perfection, there could be no cause or reason for the immediate sense of heightened or lowered vitality. Thus no inference lies from this connection to the impossibility of arguing relevantly upon the conditions of the higher or lower perfection and on their presence in any instance.8 We are not bound to show that argument can de facto modify the feeling of value in a concrete case, though to show this supports the view that argument can have relevancy, but only to explain the relativity of feelings of value to a standard beyond them, e.g. to the mind's degrees of self-completeness or individuality.

But as a matter of fact, experience and argument, which is merely a mode of making experience tell, can modify both the feeling and the judgment of value, just as much and in the same way as they can modify any mood or attitude of mind, cognitive or emotional.

The whole question is really that of the connection between mediate and immediate experiences, and the assertion that no argument is possible about judgments of ultimate ends rests on a confusion, and a mistake. The confusion is between the immediate and the ultimate; and the mistake is in holding the immediate to be above or below critical discussion, an idea already false of the immediate, and more-over transferred by confusion to the ultimate, of which it is much more false.

It is true that before arguing upon questions of value, we must have immediate experience of what is meant by caring for something. We must have the judgment that something can be cared for, before we can develop it by considering what must be cared for more or less; just as we must have the judgment that something is true or real, before we can develop a science of logic or metaphysic. But these necessary minima of experience are in none of the cases ultimate or fundamental; they are merely the starting-points from which experience develops, starting-points of which the typical form is Hegel's place of departure in the idea of mere being. If we were to urge that worth or value is the power to satisfy an idea, and that, therefore, the content of the idea is prior to the conception of worth or value, we should properly be answered that our interest in the content of an idea is itself what is meant by value, and that this only shows that a standard of value is prior to the valuation of particular things. But granting the answer to hold, it is surely plain that the power of an idea to interest or satisfy us is not merely a brute fact, but a matter for logical estimation.9 The ultimate or fundamental interest is certainly not the prima facie interest; and in general, the immediate fact of interest, which gives us the idea of valuing or caring about anything, is at the opposite pole of experience from the ultimate or fundamental interest in which we find by consideration that all our power of caring would be adequately occupied.

And it is not true that there is any purely immediate experience. Immediacy is merely a form which any content can take, and which is peculiar to none. It is not true that any form of liking, valuing, or caring is unaffected by the shaping of the whole of life, and by the critical reflection which shows us where fulness lies. And if this is so of immediate experience, it is immensely more so of ultimate experience. There may be some justification for supposing that you cannot be argued into or out of a simple experience of pleasure—though most unquestionably in many cases you can10—but to suggest that it cannot be argued and explained in what lies the power of objects or of ideas ultimately to satisfy a mind—in which power lies their value for a mind—seems contrary to everyday experience as well as to the whole bearing of aesthetic, ethic, and metaphysic.

In case the above criticism should be based on some misunderstanding of the opinion criticised, I will repeat in a positive form what it is here intended to maintain, and what I take as the essential meaning of the view I am defending.

An identical criterion in all forms of satisfaction.

2. It is admitted then (i.) that a man's judgment is his judgment, and binds him till he has altered it by a further judgment; and (ii.) that before you can argue on the ultimate end or worth you must have experience of what it is to seek an end or to care for something as having worth. But (iii.) it is here maintained that these are merely the relevant cases of the general conditions which attend development of all experience whatever, cognitive no less than emotional or practical, and that they do not interfere with the essential nature of the logical process from the minimum to the maximum of experience. Such a process can always be traced within11 the meaning or conditions of pleasure or satisfaction, or of the character which constitutes an end; and the degrees of this meaning or character can be exhibited by logical argument, and can to a great extent be brought home and enforced by reflection, even with practical results. Every one must know that it is sometimes possible to tell a man, “Now you are not really enjoying yourself,” and for him to admit that it is so, and to change his conduct in consequence, with satisfactory results.

I repeat that before we can dismiss this conception of an identical criterion in truth, reality, and satisfaction we should have to deal with the whole argument by which Plato leads up to the form of Good—or, what is the same thing, to the conception of a perfection of positive pleasure—and with the substantially similar arguments as advanced by Aristotle. The principle of these arguments in a word is this, that positive pleasure and all satisfaction, as distinct from an intensity of feeling which there is reason to suspect of being illusory, depends on the character of logical stability of the whole inherent in the objects of desire, and that what in this sense is more real, that is, more at one with itself and the whole (e.g. free from contradiction) is also the experience in which the mind obtains the more durable and coherent satisfaction, and more completely realises itself. This consideration prescribes the nature of the ultimate good or end, which is the supreme standard of value, and cannot itself be measured by anything else.12 The standard is positive non-contradiction, developed through comprehensiveness and consistency. And by this standard any judgment as to ultimate end or value can be criticised or estimated.

Explanation of contingency of de facto Valuations. Impotence, pre-occupation, means, and ends.

3. But, it may be urged, the facts are plainly against you. You say that degrees of logical stability, of perfection, of reality, are the standard by which satisfactoriness, worth, and the character of being an ultimate end, are to be measured. Now it is notorious that interest is selective, and that great provinces of the highest and most perfect experience, whether cognitive, practical, or aesthetic, may wholly fail to have value for the majority of minds, or so much as to attract their attention. And if everything was for every mind as indifferent as every experience in its turn is for some mind or other, then value would be word without a meaning. And, therefore, value cannot be measured by metaphysical perfection, but is purely relative to the feeling of particular sentient beings.

This is an argument from de facto impotence, on which our particularity, though not our individuality, depends. But we have seen that the nature of mind contradicts the fact of its impotence, and that it always is more than it is aware of being.

In the first place, then, as has been pointed out above, the total absence of interest is incompatible with the nature of finite mind. Such mind is involved and entangled in the world of experience, and its degree of being cannot be divorced from its implication in the world of which it is a member. In principle, there must be interest and value where there is a mind a member of a world. The partial and apparent divorce between reality and value cannot be pleaded in support of the conceivability of a complete one.

And in the second place this partial divorce itself means nothing more than that finite minds are what we must call contingent in their degree and direction of development. Their interest, like their knowledge and action, varies and stops short in ways which in detail are unaccountable, but which in general we can see very well to be merely cases of their powerlessness. It is all-important, however, that the positive argument shows no signs of failure, though the negative corroboration can only be exhibited in part. Where we have interest, and so far as we have it, we have implication in reality; where we have more stable and satisfactory interest, we have more implication in reality. It is true that where more implication in reality seems to be offered, we do not always have more interest; it is obvious that our participation in the real must be limited, and the map of its limitations is for us in the main contingently determined. The general explanation of this is clear; we are preoccupied by certain interests, whose contents are not such as readily to form a logical whole with certain others; just as we may be preoccupied with certain theoretical principles which, as we hold them, refuse to coalesce with provinces of knowledge which prima facie lie open to us.

But, it may be rejoined, there is more than this. Not merely different minds pursue different values, but a given mind may apprehend and be familiar with an object or activity of high logical perfection, but yet be relatively or completely indifferent to it, i.e. refuse to assign it value. The answer is practically the same; the object in question is excluded by its nature from forming a whole in its own right with the contents which have preoccupied the mind; but it is pursued and receives attention in virtue of some interest extraneous to it, which is a part of that whole of contents, as a man learns up a repulsive subject for examination, or makes a living by work that he detests.

It has been said13 that in principle every man loves every woman; but individuals may plead in excuse non-acquaintance, or special cause of dislike, or a limited capacity of affection which is already preoccupied. There is a truth in the joke; and it applies more seriously to the individual's love of perfection.

It is hard to know how far this discussion needs to be pursued. If we abandon the doctrine “De gustibus non disputandum”—as surely every serious student or critic does abandon it, except in the sense that it is difficult to modify habitual likings—the view we are disputing seems abandoned along with it.

No one would advance the de facto indifference of my mind or of his own as an argument against the value of a scientific discovery or an artistic achievement; and every objective standard of worth which can be suggested must ultimately be reducible to degrees of perfection.

“All values relative to Persons” compared with “nothing has value but conscious states of conscious beings.” The two propositions may be sharply opposed.

4. It would throw light on the nature of value if we consider in what sense the proposition is to be understood that “all other values are relative to values for, of, or in a person.”14 Translated into the statement that “Nothing has value except the conscious states of conscious beings” it has often revealed a tendency to generate corollaries hostile to the meaning with which Green or Kant affirmed it.15 This has certainly happened in so far as it has been pleaded in aid of Hedonism.16 And another interesting application of it has been made, from the literal statement of which I have no right to say that thinkers of Green's type are bound to dissent, but which appears to me to point in a very different direction from what is most characteristic in their views.

The doctrine is this:17 Nothing has value but the conscious states of conscious beings; and the value of the universe has no unity but that of a sum of these values; more obviously so if the universe as a whole is not a conscious being, but also in a great measure, even if it is. For still, even in that case, the values of the conscious states of finite beings are addible amounts, to be counted in addition to that of the universe as a single conscious being.

For those who maintain that the universe as a whole is a single experience, including the finite beings which are finite centres of experience, the discussion is of subordinate importance so far as regards the unity of value. But even for them it is still worth entering upon, both for the subordinate issue as to value, which on that hypothesis it still raises, and because the principle underlying it has an important bearing on the cognate question whether in truth the universe is conscious or not.

To begin with, if we are speaking of all conscious states of all conscious beings, including all that is demanded for their completion, and all possible ways of their being or coming together, it would be true that within this totality we must find all that is of value. And this will, I think, be agreed to by all who accept the doctrine above referred to in Green and Kant. They might say on second thoughts that the word “person,” if strictly taken, narrows the proposition unduly. But all would admit it, I believe, if for persons we read conscious beings.

Does this take us at once to the doctrine that the universe has no value but the sum of the values of the conscious states of all conscious beings? Not, I think, in the natural sense of the latter, and in the sense in which I gather it to have been propounded. I take its point to be that the part-values are primary, prior to their sum, which is their sum and nothing more—is determined by them, and is in no sense a whole or standard by which they are determined. The idea that the whole is single and primary, the source and standard of value, and that part-values are to be reckoned as determined by the character of contributoriness to it, is, I gather, intended to be rejected. The two statements might be read as having much in common; for, it might be urged, according to both views the parts make up the whole, and the whole is made up of the parts; so what can be the ultimate difference between them? Yet those who think with Green or (I should suppose) with Mr. Bradley would probably accept the first doctrine (see p. 302), but not the second. The second assumes that the states could have value if they existed alone, and if they were in all respects, and were rightly considered as, states external to one another and without implication beyond themselves. The first assigns them value in respect of what they imply, and of their not being, and not being rightly regarded as, states external to one another or to what they imply. The point is a little difficult, though of fundamental importance. If we assign value to any whole as a unit, it may be urged that values relative to this, though derivative from it, must in some sense be assignable to all factors which are in any way involved in the whole; but then any such assignment does not imply any value in the factors taken by themselves.18 It is a conception fundamentally distinct from that of factors which have a value as such and per se, so that the value of the whole can be conceived as a sum of values which bona fide and primarily belong to the factors as such.19 And this I understand, in its fullest disintegrating implication, to be the meaning in which the statement has been advanced.

The difficulty which this doctrine presents may be stated by means of a paradox. If you treat a state of consciousness of an intelligent finite being as simply a state of consciousness, you treat it as something which it is not. Its essence, as we have so constantly reiterated, lies outside it. Its nature is to be a perfect world; but in any given state this world is incomplete though implied. And the state of consciousness takes its value from the object and the individuality, which must be read into it in order to appreciate it, and which in actual experience are never wholly disjoined from it.

We will pursue this line of thought, and finally note its bearing on the question whether the universe is a conscious being.

States of consciousness, if abstracted from the objective world, are meaningless and valueless.

i.20 There is a familiar argument by which consciousness is distinguished from the objective relations of the conscious being, such as those implied in Truth, Beauty, Virtue, Freedom. You cannot, this argument maintains, really and in the last resort—i.e. if you precisely discriminate what you are doing—justify a preference for a state of consciousness which is true, or virtuous, or has beauty present to it, in so far as your preference is influenced by a care for these characteristics—objective relations—which you judge to attach to the state of consciousness. Your judgment of such relations, it is urged, is liable to error. Therefore, in formulating a preference for one state of consciousness over another you cannot, or at least you ought not to, take account of anything but the state of consciousness—the condition of the mind at the moment—in and by itself; and in thus taking account of it you must exclude all reference to the fact that you hold applicable to it certain predicates, such as true, good, free, aesthetically right. These predicates are separable; they depend on objects outside the mental state; they do not lie within the four corners of the mental condition itself.

If I understand rightly, what we have in the view I am discussing is this familiar argument, modified in a single point. The character of the universe, by which in objective relation to the mental state in question it is a ground of the truth or freedom or other characteristic ascribed to that state, is not here ruled out of consideration, but is admitted as a means to the character of the state of consciousness itself, which alone has value.

But this will not suffice. The error of taking a state of consciousness in an intelligent being as in its nature confined to itself seems to be fundamental. You cannot dispose of its object as a mere means to its character. Its object is a partial apprehension by consciousness of its own nature; it is a world continuous with but extending beyond it; and you cannot value the fragment without an appreciation of the whole. Truth of a thought does not mean that a mental state is so, and that an object separate from it is also so. This may be the case, and yet the thought may be perfectly false.21 Truth of a thought means, surely, that the thought is of a content and context to occupy a harmonious place in the whole spiritual structure of experience. But this character does not lie within the mental state, though it makes a great difference in the mental state. It belongs to it only as organised within the whole, according to the contrast which was drawn above.22

In a word, in valuing truth, beauty, virtue, and the like, we are valuing spiritual worlds, at once objective and subjective, and essentially continuous with greater worlds. Though given to and even in conscious minds, they are not states of conscious minds, nor is it clear, without special examination and proof, that the apparently particular consciousnesses to which they are given are separable existences either as against their own continuance or against other so-called particular beings. We may refuse to call such particulars individuals, and we may refuse to treat the true whole or individual as a sum of individuals.

So much with regard to states of consciousness taken as exclusive of the objective world.

You cannot value states of consciousness apart from individuals or the Individual.

ii. We may carry the argument further by comparing the statement which places value in states of consciousness as such with that which at first we set beside it, which places value solely in “persons,” or, as I should prefer to say, in individuality. When it was maintained that all value was value in or for persons, this was because persons meant a capacity for being ends or worlds. Nothing else, it was thought, existed in its own right, or could be a focus or centre in which a complex of being could come together as fulfilling a plan. But, as has been pointed out with reference to Bentham's valuation of pleasurable states,23 and also24 very ably, with reference to the analogy between the egoist's self, which he respects, and the moral cosmos, which he rejects, it is quite conceivable that in attaching value to the state of consciousness you may wholly lose the reference to the person, the unity, the idea of end or purpose (i.e. so far as concerns the egoist, he might as well deny his own totality as that of the cosmos). And this is prima facie the essence of any view which attaches value, not to persons or to individuality, but to states of mind. It is as drawn out above. You may value the states either as entities per se, or as implying a personality which is their whole, or world, or end. But in the latter case you are not valuing them per se; and you could not value them as you do without comprehending the personality to which they belong, or the world of which they are dependent fragments. The argument is the same, or stronger, if we substitute individuality for personality, to avoid the narrower implications which attach to the term person. If all value is in individuality, then we must start from the fullest experience of it we can construct, and the valuation of particular states of consciousness will be secondary to that and derivative from it.

The argument is strengthened for those who hold that succession in time is only an appearance. For in this case the particular state of consciousness has ultimately no separate being,25 but all the states, as Kant said of the infinite moral progression qua viewed by God, are ultimately comprehended in a similar reality. But that which has ultimately no distinguishable being, cannot ultimately have a distinct valuation.

You cannot value finite individuals apart from universe.

iii. And the reversal of an argument26 above referred to carries us further still. If a man denies his unity with others, it was asked, why should he assume his unity with himself? But, again, if he postulates his unity with himself, how can he deny his unity with the further stages of individuality? There seems no reason for drawing a line at which the continuity is to break off, and prima facie the inference is to a unitary perfection lying in the complete individuality of the universe as a conscious being, which is the ultimate value and standard of value. To call it an end seems as dangerous as to call it a person; but to regard it as an individual whole seems no more than is inevitable. This consideration travels outside the subject of unity of value, and refers to unity of experience. But it is impossible to exclude it here, because it is one of the consequences which show what slippery ground we are on when we attempt to treat a state of consciousness as a state of consciousness and no more.

For the same reason, on the hypothesis of a universe conscious as a whole, the separate valuation of its life and of the finite lives that enter into its life seems inconceivable, except in the secondary sense admitted above. The finite consciousness is finite because it stops short and does not cone up to its own nature; you cannot give it a value except through and relatively to its own nature, which is the whole. You cannot add the value which it retains, in spite of its shortcoming, to the value which it has in the complete being which it implies. If a thing, seen as you see it, is worth two, but properly seen is worth ten, you cannot add the two to the ten in counting its full value.

True in a sense that universe is not “good” or “bad” but the whole is always the unit of value.

iv. If, indeed, in the assertion that the universe is not as such good or bad, stress is laid on the peculiarity of these predicates as implying a quasi-moral estimate, a divorce between what is and what ought to be, then on this point a measure of agreement is possible. If the universe is taken to be a perfect conscious being, then, judged comparatively to its members, and as giving and being the standard, it is relatively good and the fulfilment of all ideas. But in itself, though perfect, it is not good, because it is not on one side in the contrast of what ought to be with that which is not what it ought to be, but is in process of becoming so. Good and bad are then not appropriate expressions by which to raise a question about it, but if it is raised, the universe must be pronounced good as opposed to bad. I t is, however, though in the above sense not strictly good—certainly not morally good in the ordinary sense—yet perfection and the standard of all goodness and value. Strictly, you do not value it;27 you value all else by it. Its value is the unit, and all other values must be adjusted so as to amount to it. And this I take to be so far the meaning of those who say that all value is in or for a person, just as it is the meaning of those who take all value to be ultimately one in the perfection of the universe. That all value is of conscious states of conscious beings as such would then be just the opposite of this contention.

Instance the State. Is its value unitary? The Greek theory, making it one mind in a number of bodies.

v. The treatment of the State28 in this discussion is naturally analogous to the treatment of the universe. And we may agree that here is an experience rightly taken as typical of the higher experiences. If the particular—the individual in current but incorrect sense—is to be the ultimate unit of value here, he will have to be accepted as such throughout. If here we can see that individuality transcends the particular given consciousness, we shall be prepared for a completer transcendence as we pass to fuller experiences. For this reason it seems well to indicate our view of this matter. Is the value of a State in the full sense in the psychical successions forming the several consciousnesses of the conscious beings who compose it, as addible amounts, i.e. starting with a value which each item severally possesses per se?

Our argument is the same as before; in fact, in our previous argument, the State, with other high experiences, would enter into the sequence at the point where, in our view, the values of successive states of consciousness must be referred to their “unity in” a person or individual. The State, for us, is a phase of individuality which belongs to the process towards unity at a point far short of its completion. We understand and accept the warning that there can be no value in anything less than a personal consciousness,29 “in any history of development of mankind as distinct from the persons whose experiences constitute that history, or who are developed in that development.”

But granted that nothing has value which is not in some sort a personal consciousness, the question is not settled how much more than its given self at any moment such a consciousness may imply as the unit of value to which it belongs. And first, we might well argue as in effect we argued above, when we said that in a personal consciousness we have already accepted a standard that goes beyond the states of consciousness of a conscious being. By a person, or a being partaking in individuality (even if we include in our idea animals and young children), we presumably mean some sort of a whole; and the states of consciousness as such are not wholes. But further, the real question is whether two or more so-called persons can be members of the same whole or unity for purposes of valuation. Are they to be valued as given, or do they, by forming an integral part of greater wholes, acquire a value completely other than that which they would prima facie possess? I hold it at this point as was indicated above30 a concession of enormous importance that the value of any state of consciousness is said not necessarily to be known to its subject or to any actual judge. This seems to remove all compulsion to interpret the value as an immediate aspect of a given complex. It is consistent with the view that the significance and implications of the complex, however latent and remote to the ordinary spectator, are the grounds of its value.

Let us view this question in the light of the Greek theory of society, at its best. Its famous paradox runs that the value of a society lies in its happiness as a whole;31 not in the happiness of the separate individuals who compose it. That is to say, if you supposed each individual to have the happiness which an observer, looking at him by himself, would be forced to assign as his highest happiness, and if you treated the happiness of the community as the aggregate of happinesses assigned by such a set of judgments, you would altogether miss the nature of the true happiness of the community. “Happiness,” I take it, here may fairly be said to equal value, i.e. felt perfection. This you could only obtain by first judging the perfection of a society as a unitary body of experience—because it is in this alone that the individual conscious being is all he can be—and then adjusting to this your estimate of individual perfection.

Of course to value the individuals apart with full understanding would be equal to valuing them as fully unified, and the difference of the points of view would vanish, except that valuing states of consciousness as such could not properly equal valuing unified individuals.

The whole view rests on a denial of the position that “individuals” are a mere plurality, such as cannot be unified in their contributions to a common experience. Take, for example, the theory of the position of slaves; which applies in principle to all imperfection and reciprocal supplementation of consciousness in all society whatever. The point amounts to this, that the social life and experience is that of one mind in a number of bodies, whose consciousnesses, formally separate, are materially identical in very different degrees. In value, therefore, they severally take on the character of that to which they are instrumental, in as far as each of them, by thought and loyalty (not merely as a means), transcends its immediate self and is absorbed in the total result. Thus the loyal servant of the statesman or scholar takes a value from the latter's work—he is in and through it a participant in the perfection of the whole, just as the entire society is dignified and sanctified by the knowledge or beneficence or religion which it respects and makes possible; and is also, of course, brutalised and degraded by the sores and evils within it. The principle, I said, is universal. That it does not excuse the special incidents of slavery, is perfectly true; but its importance, first pointed out by Plato and Aristotle in respect of the child and as a partial theory of the slave's position is absolutely fundamental for the whole social experience. The life of any fairly harmonious household is a clear example of what I mean. It is possible for a consciousness to have its end, its explanation and value, in what it shares with another consciousness, and what is incompletely present in itself alone; and, ultimately, all finite consciousnesses have it so. Not only the so-called lower are dignified by their respect for a dim apprehension of the achievements of the “higher.” The “higher” or so-called leading minds borrow much of their tincture of courage, and dutifulness, and self-denial, from their felt unity with the lower.

God uses us to help each other so,

Lending our minds out.

All this is involved to a careful reader in the class-system of Plato's Republic; and the foundation of it all is this, that no phase in a particular consciousness is merely a phase of the apparent subject, but it is always and essentially a member of a further whole of experience, which passes through and unites the states of many consciousnesses, but is not exhausted in any, nor in all of them, as states, taken together.32 It is true that my state of mind is mine, and yours is yours; but not only do I experience in mine what you experience in yours—that would be consistent with the total independence of the two minds—but I experience it differently from you, in such a way that there is a systematic relation between the two contents experienced, and neither is intelligible or complete without the other. When you have admitted the unity of the person with himself, it is impossible to stop short of his unity with others, with the world, and with the universe; and the perfection by which he is to be valued is his place in the perfection of these greater wholes. The principle that all value is value of individual experience is thus absolutely maintained; the difference is in what we call individual experience, and the point of departure in valuing it.

In all finite individuals there is self-transcendence, and therefore translocation of the point of reference in valuing; but not all self-transcendence is primarily social. It is therefore untrue to say that all good as such is social good, and it is well that this common incorrectness should have challenged criticism. It is the paradox of humanity that the best qualities of man himself, and the forms of experience in which he is most perfect, are not at first sight very widely distributed. Art, philosophy, religion, though they bear to society the relation above indicated, are not immediately concerned with the promotion of social relations, and are not specially moulded to the promotion of social ends. The doctrine which we have been opposing is probably a reaction against the exaggerated claims of social good to be the only good, but it seems a mistake to push it so far as to deny that the State is a name for a special form of self-transcendence, in which individuality strongly anticipates the character of its perfection.

Conclusion. Things can only be valued in their full nature, and a state of consciousness has not this within it.

5. Thus, then, we admit that in the judgment of value every man is in a sense infallible for himself, but only as in every possible judgment. We agree that there must be experience of feeling before the judgment of value can be reasoned on; and that the unitary value of the universe ought not properly to be called goodness—certainly not with an ethical implication—but should be thought of as the completion of individuality, or as perfection. And we understand that all which is valuable must lie within the whole of conscious experience, or the aggregate, or coming together in some way of conscious states of conscious beings. The question has been whether the judgment of value can be logically supported, and whether the whole which has value lies in the sum of the values of conscious states; understanding that the states are taken as distinct and successive, and their values as addible quantities. The two questions appeared to be akin; because what is logically supported must involve a continuous principle as opposed to a collection of ultimates; and the answer to both seemed to be that before you can judge of anything, you must see it in its full nature, and that the nature of any conscious state of a conscious being is not to be found within itself, unless, by a reference to the whole, we have specially taught ourselves to find it there. Therefore we adhere to Plato's conclusion that objects of our likings possess as much of satisfactoriness—which we identify with value—as they possess of reality and trueness. And that is a logical standard, and a standard involving the whole.

  • 1.

    Pringle Pattison, Man's Place in Cosmos, p. vii and p. 225.

  • 2.

    McTaggart, Int. Journal of Ethics, July, 1908, p. 434.

  • 3.

    Utilitarianism, p. 6, and note the well-known passage a few lines farther down, “There is a larger meaning of the word ‘proof,’” etc. With this cf. Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics, 6th ed., pp. 420-1, where he suggests a process of argument directed to produce a modification of an ultimate estimate of value. The definition of a man's Good in terms which demand a critical readjustment of his actual feeling by hypothetical considerations (p. 111), and the requirement (p. 406) that the common end should “systematise human activities,” seem both of them to open the question of the ultimate good to argument in spite of Sidgwick's tendency to make it a matter of Intuition.

  • 4.

    Bradley, Mind, April, 1908.

  • 5.

    Mack, Freiheitstheorieen, sect. 177. “Wir können nicht nach Belieben werten, sondern nur so wie gemäss unserer Natur geschehen muss.”

  • 6.

    In fact, nothing is more open to controversy than matters of taste; there is nothing more constantly the object of it, and nothing in which education and argument are more effective.

  • 7.

    Bradley's Appearance, p. 405.

  • 8.

    Bradley, Appearance, p. 406.

  • 9.

    Bradley's Appearance, p. 406.

  • 10.

    I repeat, there is nothing in which the mind responds more readily to teaching and criticism than in questions of enjoyment. Neglect of this truth is one of the signal causes of bad education. To learn to like and dislike rightly is the essence of education, as the Greeks maintained.

  • 11.

    Appearance, l.c.

  • 12.

    Ar. Ethics, 1101 b 10 on τίμια and ϵ᾽παινϵτά, and Kant on Würde and Preis.

  • 13.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes.

  • 14.

    Green, Prolegomena, sect. 184.

  • 15.

    See Kant on Kingdom of Ends, and cf. his distinction between Dignity and Value, with Aristotle's (l.c. supra) between τίμια and ϵ᾽παινϵτά.

  • 16.

    Sidgwick, Methods, 6th ed., bk. iii. chap. xiv.

  • 17.

    McTaggart, International Journal of Ethics, July, 1908.

  • 18.

    I am glad here to be supported by Mr. Moore's principle of organic wholes, Principia Ethica, p. 27 ff.

  • 19.

    Mr. Moore, loc. cit., denies this assumption totidem verbis so far as applied to “organic wholes.”

  • 20.

    Cf. Sidgwick, Methods, III. xiv. 4.

  • 21.

    This is so in the case of a “true” conclusion from “false” premisses. Cf. also The Cloister and the Hearth, chap. xxvi.: “His sincere desire and honest endeavour to perjure himself were baffled by a circumstance he had never foreseen nor indeed thought possible. He had spoken the truth.” See author's Logic, 2nd ed., ii. 282.

  • 22.

    It appears to me an important concession when the writer says that the self in a conscious state need not know the value of its state. It removes the valuation of the state from immediate feeling or judgment, and leaves it for some further standard—what, if not perfection?

  • 23.

    Green, Prolegomena, sect. 214: “It is not every person, according to (the Benthamite view), but every pleasure, that is of value in itself.”

  • 24.

    Sidgwick, Methods, iv. ii. 6th ed., cf. pp. 124 and 381. It is worth noting that in Studies in Hegelian Dialectic, sect. 156, Mr. McTaggart sustains the ultimate reality of separate persons against that of particular moments of time. But if these latter are unreal, the states of consciousness which fill them must be also in the same degree unreal.

  • 25.

    Cf. note 2, previous page.

  • 26.

    Sidgwick, loc. cit.

  • 27.

    Cf. Ar. Ethics, loc. cit.

  • 28.

    I use the term “State” in the full sense of what it means as a living whole, not the mere legal and political fabric, but the complex of lives and activities, considered as the body of which that is the framework. “Society” I take to mean the same body as the State, but minus the attribute of exercising what is in the last resort absolute physical compulsion.

  • 29.

    Green, Prolegomena, sect. 184. I make a reservation on behalf of the lower animals, in their degree.

  • 30.

    Page 307 note.

  • 31.

    Plato, Rep. iv. init. Mr. McTaggart's contention might have arisen as a direct denial of the contention of Plato in this passage.

  • 32.

    Appearance and Reality, 2nd ed., p. 526.