1. In considering the places of reason and feeling in morals, we have found it useful to begin by applying Mill's method of difference. Take feeling away and leave reason—what do you get? The Stoics tried the experiment, to our lasting instruction and benefit. Of course, the experiment was not perfect. Reason and feeling are so pervasive of experience that we perhaps never have a state of mind in which both are not present in some degree. Though the Stoics tried to make reason dominant to the exclusion of feeling, not even Aurelius or Epictetus achieved the ideal of the ‘passionless sage’; at least the gentler emotions of the tranquil life had to be admitted. Still, imperfect experiments may be highly enlightening, and certainly this one was.
Has history given us any case of the converse experiment, in which what we may call the Greek element in morals has been, so far as possible, pushed out, and the guidance of life surrendered to feeling? Something very like it was tried by the Greeks themselves in the morals of Aristippus of Cyrene, who taught that the art of life lay not in ordering conduct on a large and rational plan, but in squeezing from each successive moment its fullest yield of pleasure. A somewhat similar gospel, urging that true success lay in burning with ‘a hard gem-like flame’ of aesthetic delight, was current in Victorian times and ascribed, with varying justice, to Baudelaire, Swinburne, Whistler, Pater, and Wilde. It would be not uninstructive to consider this gospel. But if one is to study the rule of life by feeling, it is best to take it at its strongest, and this is hardly to be found among such apostles of self-indulgence as the Cyrenaics or a somewhat sickly crop of Victorian fleurs du mal. The passion for pleasure, even for aesthetic pleasure, is not a very convincing candidate for the governorship of life. If one wants an example whose appeal comes home to nearly everyone, it would be better to turn to a man who is often regarded as the most lovable being in human annals, an Italian named Giovanni Bernardone, who lived his strange and short life in the twelfth century. He is better known to history as St Francis of Assisi.
2. St Francis was a poet who produced only one poem of importance, but that a lyrical masterpiece, namely his life. He was that exceptional sort of Christian who took the summing up of the law and the prophets in ‘love God and love man’ in all seriousness, and sought to make his life an embodiment of it down to the last detail. Fortunately, he had a temperament that found the command congenial. From the beginning he was gay, carefree, and affectionate, though there was nothing in his early years that would suggest his extraordinary destiny. The son of a well-to-do Italian merchant, he spent his youth much as one would expect, partly in learning the business, partly in being a popular young man about town. He was regarded as one of the leaders of the younger and gayer set, the more readily as he was sociably inclined, fashionably dressed, given to merry-making, and, to the paternal distress, a prodigal free with his father's money. Though he was something of a dreamer, his dreams were of the standard variety and seem to have played generally around his own brilliant future as a chivalrous and dashing man-at-arms.
In his early twenties a profound change came over him, no one knows quite how or why. Setting out to join a military expedition, he fell ill and had to come home; and, as he recovered, he spent more and more of his time in solitary reveries and in wandering through the fields and woods beyond the Assisi walls. His parents and friends did not know what to make of him. What was really going on in him, and continued for some two years, was a struggle between incompatible ways of life. On the one hand he could be, if he wished, a successful and prosperous man of the world; on the other, his imagination was more and more dominated by a wholly different sort of adventure, the wild adventure of assuming that the gospels were true. If they were, it really did not matter whether one had any material goods or not; such needs as one had would be taken care of by the great lord of creation to whom all things were possible, who felt for his creatures the concern of a father for his children, and whose chief desire for them was that they should love both him and their fellows. These things were either true or not. If they were not, the life that contented most men, and had been marked out also for Francis, namely the pursuit of security through place and money, was an altogether sensible choice. If they were true, it was an absurd and impossible choice. Francis took the second view.
3. With his adoption of it there came an enormous relief and release. He had always been rather like a carefree and affectionate child, and the mandate of the gospel, instead of laying on him an intolerable cross, seemed like a summons to be himself. His father having disinherited him, he gave away what little he still owned and delightedly became a beggar. He wanted to own nothing at all, not a house, or a bed, or even a loaf of bread. His business was to go about spreading the good news of the love of God and inviting men to turn from their worried preoccupation with getting on, and live as if this were true. He did not denounce people and threaten them. He had no ecclesiastical position to awe them with; he was not a theologian; he was not even a priest. He was a little man in the cheapest of brown tunics, with a rope for a belt, who wanted to tell people that if they woke up, as he had done, to what a wonderful world it was, they too could be as happy as he. And of his deep, irrepressible happiness there could be no doubt. He would sing French songs as he trudged along the highways; he was called the jongleur de Dieu, the joculator Dei, God's clown and minstrel; it is told that his followers, when they went to church, would occasionally break out in peals of laughter for the sheer joy of living in such a world, and have to be put out by the sextons.
It would of course be a great mistake to take the happiness of St Francis as the mere exuberance of animal spirits. Such happiness is still bound to ‘brother ass’, the body, and is liable to suffer if that faithful but lowly beast is ill fed or uncared for; and the joy of Francis was of the twice-born kind that is never far from tears of compassion for those who are still in this slavery. He had made his escape from it, and seemed genuinely beyond concern for himself. But most men plainly had not, and for them his sympathy was inexhaustible. Since he was quite fearless, and worldly position meant nothing to him, he was always acting in unpredictable ways that seemed, after the event, to have an inspired propriety. If he saw a leper whose limbs were rotting away, he was as likely as not, instead of avoiding him, to rush up to him, put his arms around him and kiss him in a pure transport of pity. Being distressed by the conflict and misery of the first crusade, he set out with a few companions to stop it all by telling the Mohammedans how lovable they too were, and how much they missed by killing Christians instead of treating them as brothers. He sailed to Egypt where the Crusaders were besieging Damietta, made his way through the enemy lines, secured an interview with the Saracen emperor Saladin, and preached to him also his one simple sermon. Saladin received him courteously, but seems to have continued in his opinion that Mohammed, rather than this strange apparition in brown, was the true prophet of Allah. What would have been the course of history, one wonders, if this meeting with Francis had ended as such meetings usually did?
4. The affection of Francis was not limited to those of his own kind. It ran over in all directions. He could hardly have learned his pity and respect for the animal world from either pagan or Christian sources; it was a new note of his own, so striking to his contemporaries that they wove endless legends around it. It seems to be more than mere legend, however, that he had a special delight in birds, was sure that they understood him, and at times gravely preached to them and remonstrated with them. There are pleasing tales of how they reciprocated his fondness, how, for example, when he was preaching at Olviano, the swallows, by way of greeting him, ‘so filled the air with their chirping that he could not make himself heard. “It is my turn to speak”, he said to them; “little sister swallows, hearken to the word of God, keep silent and be very quiet until I have finished”.’1 No doubt they hid their heads under their wings. In The Little Flowers of St Francis, it is recorded how, when he was in the city of Agobio, he learned of ‘a very great wolf, terrible and fierce, the which not only devoured animals but also men and women, so that all the citizens stood in great fear’, and the men who left the city carried arms to protect themselves. Francis had his own method of dealing with the beast. He went out alone and unarmed to the wolf's lair and called to it in his gentle voice, ‘Come hither, friar wolf. It came out and eyed him suspiciously. Then he went on to explain to it that he knew how hungry it was, but that it was acting very wrongly nevertheless. He would see to it that the citizens no longer hounded it, but undertook to feed it regularly if it would agree to treat them in the like friendly way. The wolf gave him its paw in abashed contrition, trotted along after him like a pet dog into the city, and because the citizens kept Francis’ pledge to it, became a pet of theirs too.2
Sheer childish mediaeval myth? In detail, no doubt, but not in substance. The exquisite tenderness of the man toward all living things that had reached the dignity of pain penetrates through the legends that surround him like a beam of pure light. This certainly was no invention. And since he was a poet, his sympathy did not stop even with the lowlier living things. His Canticle of the Sun suggests that if nature is in truth the creation of God, then everything testifies of his goodness.
‘Praised be my Lord God with all his creatures, and especially our brother the sun, who brings us the day and who brings us the light; fair is he and shines with a very great splendour: O Lord, he signifies to us thee! Praised be my Lord for our sister the moon, and for the stars, the which he has set clear and lovely in heaven. Praised be my Lord for our brother the wind,’3
and ‘our sister water’, ‘our brother fire’, and ‘our mother the earth’. All these things he took as not only beautiful but, in mystical fashion, as somehow well disposed toward those who felt delight in them. When he was ill and nearly blind, a heavy-handed surgeon of the day decided that one of his eyes should be cauterized, the method being to heat an iron rod white hot in a flame and then apply it to the eyeball. When Francis saw the preparations, he gave a respectful little speech to the flame: ‘Brother fire, you are beautiful above all creatures; be favourable to me in this hour; you know how much I have always loved you; be thou courteous today.’ Legend reports, one hopes correctly, that he escaped the pain.
5. I have suggested that the life of Francis may be regarded as an experiment in the guidance of life by feeling. It may be objected that in fact he regulated his life by the New Testament. In a sense no doubt he did. But what he borrowed left room for much that was his own. He could hardly have borrowed from Christ a code of living, for Christ had no such code to lend. What he took was an example which he interpreted as teaching that one should act in each case as one's own love suggested, whatever prudence or reason or custom might say to the contrary. From that point on, Francis’ life had the originality of his own unique quality of love.
Of course he did not wholly exclude calculation and principle; no one can possibly do that. But there is perhaps no man in history of comparable influence whose reliance on the intellect was so small. It must be frankly said that intellectually he was always something of a child. His range of knowledge was very narrow. He was a rank above St Joan of Arc, in that he was able to read; but he read little, and when he tried to write, he formed his letters with some difficulty. Though he lived in the country of Horace, Virgil, and Cicero, ‘nothing of the antique, no distinct bit of classical inheritance, appears in him.4’ ‘He had no distinctly intellectual interests.… Hence he was averse to studies which had nothing to do with man's closer walk with God and love of fellow. “My brothers who are led by the curiosity of knowledge will find their hands empty in the day of tribulation… for such a time will come when they will throw their good-for-nothing books into holes and corners.’”5 ‘Suppose that you had subtility and learning enough to know all things, that you were acquainted with all languages, the courses of the stars, and all the rest, what is there in that to be proud of? A single demon knows more on these subjects than all the men in this world put together.’6 A young disciple begged him on one occasion for permission to own, and take with him on his journeys, just one book, a Psalter. Francis gave the permission, but a little later felt he had done wrong, and with sorrowful apology withdrew the permission.
6. Are we not told, it may be asked, that Francis spent much time in meditation? We are indeed. But meditation is not thought, if that means the analysis of ideas or the sort of critical reflection which proceeds by the laborious shaping of hypotheses until they fit the facts. For thought in that sense Francis had neither competence nor taste, nor does he seem to have considered it important. Even his theology was of the simplest—a few leading ideas of which he had no doubt, since those prime producers of doubt, science and philosophy, held no temptations for him. The world was a neat, small world, bounded by the creation and the second coming, and made as a testing place for man, who was surrounded by angels and demons, and might be addressed, as Francis thought he was from time to time, by the Creator himself. When such transcendent counsel was available, the labour of thought was hardly necessary.
Even if, in difficult cases, the prompting of love was not quite clear, Francis was still reluctant to appeal to the cold court of the mind. When his followers had reached the number of three, one of whom was a rich man, he was perplexed as to the programme the little society should adopt, and his way of settling the matter was to kneel before an altar with a copy of the gospels in his hand, and accept as divine direction the passage on which his eye first fell. When he sailed for Egypt with the Crusaders, so many friars wanted to accompany him that the ship's captain refused to take them all, and Francis was compelled to make a choice. His method was characteristic:
‘he led all his friends to the port and explained to them his perplexities. “The people of the boat”, he told them, “refuse to take us all, and I have not the courage to make choice among you; you might think that I do not love you all alike; let us then try to learn the will of God.” And he called a child who was playing close by, and the little one, charmed to take the part of Providence put upon him, pointed out with his fingers the eleven friars who were to set sail.’7
Whatever one may say of this method of solving problems, it is economical of reflective effort. But the need of supplementing it by an organizing intelligence seems to have been implicitly admitted by Francis when, early in the history of his order, he resigned from its headship, declaring himself incompetent for the post.
7. What are we to say of this experiment in the exaltation of feeling over reason as the guide of life? I do not understand how anyone could read about Francis, let alone how anyone could meet him, without falling into some measure of captivity to him. It is as if some tender and exquisite idyll had come alive, or as if there had strayed into the quarrelsome and bloody twelfth century some wanderer from the childhood of the world when men could still live with each other like brothers and sisters. But our concern is not with an idyll, however touching or beautiful, but with an immensely important experiment in morality. An interpreter of Francis who had much of his hero's childlike power of living in a freer world beyond the senses, Gilbert Chesterton, has said that St Francis, ‘however wild and romantic his gyrations might appear to many, always hung on to reason by one invisible and indestructible hair’.8 This is an interesting comment because one would expect that if a man guided his life as much by feeling and as little by reason as Francis did, he would soon stumble into self-contradiction with himself. And with all respect to Chesterton, I am afraid this is what we do find.
In Francis’ budget of love, all was earmarked for others and none for self.
‘Love took up the harp of life, and smote on all the chords with might,
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass'd in music out of sight.’
For himself he would claim nothing. If bread was distributed, he would take the blackest and hardest bit; if there were not enough blankets to go round, he must be the person to do without one; if there were not beds enough, he would sleep on the ground; he must not have a tunic of his own if a beggar was in sight who was clothed in sorrier rags. As for goodness, he was a gross sinner from whom God might justly avert his face. ‘Through all his plunging and restless days ran the refrain: I have not suffered enough; I have not sacrificed enough; I am not yet worthy of the shadow of the crown of thorns.’9
8. Disarming and humbling as this attitude is, it has its difficulties. It begins to break down when more than one man adopts it. A insists that B shall have the last blanket; B insists that A shall have it. How is such a duel of generosities to be settled? It cannot be settled by love alone, for neither man's love can be given precedence over the other's. Only as love goes beyond itself into justice is there any ground for a decision. If A is old and B young, if B is ill and A well, there is some reason why the blanket should go to one rather than to the other. But a contest in pure affection must end either in a stalemate or in a victory of the strongest, and while a victory for the strongest impulse of self-effacement is the least imminent of dangers, it would, after all, be as irrational a victory as that of self-assertion. We do not think that a man is right because, being stronger than another, he actually prevails. Neither can we say that a man is right merely because his love is stronger than another's and thus prevails. He will probably be more admirable, and will certainly be more unusual than his competitors, but he may be both these things without being right.
President Butler of Columbia once complained that it was so much harder to be right than to be clever; unhappily, it is also harder to be right than to be loving. The mother who, out of love for her children, offers herself as a living sacrifice for them, is not necessarily taking the right course. The daughter who, out of love for her parents, gives up the chance of a life of her own may be acting nobly, but may also be giving what they have no right to ask, and what she holds herself too cheap in giving. However rare it may be to need an application of brakes to love, and however difficult it may be to fix the point at which justice should apply them, it is plain that there is such a point, which love itself cannot determine. A community of men like St Francis, each committed to giving himself for others, would be a very much more amiable society than Hobbes's ‘state of nature’, but its members would be afflicted with the same sort of helplessness in deciding their chivalrous rivalries so long as they had love only as their arbiter.
9. Compare, again, Francis’ attitude toward his own sins and toward those of others. He conceived of himself as living in a great family, in which God was father and all men brothers. The father set an example for his children by being infinitely tender and solicitous about them; he was concerned about every hair on their heads; he had enjoined them to be perfect even as he was; they were to forgive seventy times seven, that is, without limit. If anyone ever achieved this infinity of charity, it was Francis. And yet when it came to his own sin, he professed to find it so black that God would be serving him right by turning his face from him altogether. His sin was mountainous and monstrous; there was no health in him; with all his love and service for others, he was worse than worthless; once, when he exceeded his small allowance of food, he had himself publicly flogged in penance. Men as a rule are so self-righteous that they stand open-mouthed before such conduct. The man who can achieve it must be, they think, some extraordinary kind of saint.
So Francis undoubtedly was. But one wonders whether the grace of humility is to be purchased only at the price of inaccurate and incoherent belief. Francis was not really a blacker soul than other men. Rare and winning trait that it is for a man to think himself the worst of sinners, if he is in fact kindly, brave, and dutiful, is there not something amiss with a rule of humility that would require him to see himself as he is not? Virtue built on untruth, even if amiable untruth, is a precarious kind of virtue. And if Francis was right that the divine goodness could consistently turn its back on such as he, then in his humility he had conceived a dogma which involved in ruin the whole structure of his religion and morals. By the only standard we know, Francis was a good man; if not, who ever was? A God who would regard it as just to condemn such a man to perdition would not be good in our sense at all, nor could human beings become good by being like him. If the most devoted service of which man is capable is still to be set down as sin, as some modern theologians go on repeating, the effect is not to exalt our notion of God, but to make it unintelligible, not to stimulate us to higher exertion, but to confuse our morals hopelessly. We are being made to call good in God what would be wickedness in ourselves. We are told to love men infinitely while being told that they are infinite scoundrels, ourselves included—though we are left to infer that we shall be somewhat less contemptible if we think ourselves the worst of them, even if the belief is false. This confused way of looking at things is natural enough to a sensitive and anxious mind that craves affection and approval, and feels that it may gain the love of God if it can appease his anger by self-abasement and protestations of guilt. But its spring is in emotion, not thought. At any rate, it is incoherent, and what is incoherent cannot be true.
10. Consider, again, Francis’ attitude toward material goods and the needs of the body. In his love of others, he was prompted to give away everything he owned. In his enthusiasm for life on the highest level, he treated ‘brother ass’, the body, with contempt. Both policies recoiled upon him, the first logically, the second practically also. If he were remonstrated with for giving away money and clothes as fast as he got them, he would no doubt say that these things were of little or no value, that spiritual goods alone were of importance. But if materials things are of small importance, then in giving them to others, what he was giving was unimportant, and charity itself, by so much, lost its value.
His difficulty over the body was far graver. The man who lives so much in the spirit as to disdain the claims of the body is always defeated, and the more exclusive his devotion, the earlier defeat overtakes him. To be sure, Francis survived under his own uncompromising regime a surprising time. He reached the age of forty-four, dying after a long and lingering illness in extreme exhaustion and emaciation. The illness was precipitated by his going to an island and giving himself over to spiritual ecstasy, alone and without food, for forty days. He once made the discovery that his body rebelled when fed with cakes cooked in oil, so in a period of Lent he ate cakes cooked in lard, which his body could accept. For this compromise with the flesh he was deeply repentant, however, and thereafter he ignored its preference. He seems to have lived by deliberate choice in a state of bodily filth, since frequent washing showed too great a concern for the body.
Such spirituality is tragic folly. That there is something touching and noble about it, as about nearly everything Francis did, is true; but, once again, at bottom it is incoherent. If the body is really so useless an appendage as this to the spirit, if its primal needs are at warfare with those of the higher life, it would seem the most sensible course to shuffle off the mortal coil at once and altogether, and pass to the realm where one no longer needs, as Yeats would say, to drag around a dying animal. On the other hand, if the spirit has its root in the body, as it obviously does, then to treat it as Francis did is to cut at the root those very flowers of the spirit which he so much valued. Zeal not according to knowledge has often led to something like spiritual as well as physical suicide. It is true that within the very considerable limits in which the mind can work on the body, Francis did remarkable things. If faith will not move mountains, there are at least men who can draw more fully than others on those mysterious powers of influencing body through mind which are now so imperfectly understood, and he seems to have been one of them; there are well attested parallels to the tradition of his stigmata, and it is quite possible that it is true. What he did not succeed in showing is that the spiritual life, if lived intensely enough, can afford to ignore the conditions under which nature has appointed that it must be lived.
11. When love ignores these conditions, it is likely to be self-crippling. Sympathy it can supply in plenty. Sometimes this is all that is needed and, when it is, true Franciscans come into their own. But what men commonly want and need is not so much sympathy as opportunity, a soil in which their particular variety of weed or flower can flourish. Their need is for health, tools, laboratories, books, leisure, a room of their own, and countless other things whose configuration is alike in no two cases. One who loves another will be more likely, no doubt, to sympathize with these needs and wishes, and try to fulfil them; indeed without a special concern for others, it is only too probable that one would never think of their needs at all. Hence the spirit of a John Woolman or an Elizabeth Fry or a Dick Sheppard is a valuable yeast in any community, which it would be absurd and wrong to dispraise. Nevertheless, much of the humanitarian work of the world has been done by persons who had no particular affection for the people they served. They have been persons who, like John Howard, saw an injustice they thought should be righted, and proceeded to right it, or, like Walter Reed, saw that a disease must be eradicated and proceeded to apply their scientific resources to its mastery.
Even when personal or Christian affection is present in the highest intensity, it must be somehow implemented; what must implement it is intelligence and knowledge; and if love is jealous of knowledge, as it was in the mind of St Francis, it may cut its own throat. So far as I know, the only time when Francis was quite uncharitable was when he cursed with a terrible malediction one of his disciples named Pietro Staccia, and even refused to withdraw the curse when he was told that Staccia was about to die. The chief offence of this man appears to have been that he organized the disciples in Bologna into a sort of college where learning was pursued—a radical perversion of his leader's aims.10 Love that is so superior to knowledge may be a public danger. Francis presumably approved the mediaeval practice, when an epidemic was raging, of calling the people together for a joint renewal of their devotion and thus providing, in solicitous ignorance, for the spread of the disease. Being practically a man of one book, which seemed to him sufficient for men's needs, he held a view in which science was subordinate to religious imagination, and disbelief in the products of this imagination was sin, a view which, if it had prevailed, would have made the modern intellectual world impossible. He thought to improve the community by encouraging large numbers of the best men and women to forgo family life and give themselves over to a consecrated sterility, and his conception of solving the problem of poverty seems scarcely to have gone beyond that impulsive kindness that would take off its last garment and give it to a beggar, regardless alike of the deserts of the beggar and of the tendency of such charity to produce more beggars. Such considerations do not destroy the idyllic beauty of his life. But they prepare one for the sad comment on his practical achievement that has been made by Lord Russell: ‘The net result of St Francis's life was to create yet one more wealthy and corrupt order, to strengthen the hierarchy, and to facilitate the persecution of all who excelled in moral earnestness or freedom of thought. In view of his aims and his character, it is impossible to imagine any more bitterly ironical outcome.’11
12. It is only too clear that love cannot of itself supply the means, often complicated and technical, required to put it into effect. Unfortunately, it cannot supply the ends either. What exactly is the loving man to help others attain? Love cannot of itself supply the answer. If one says that love itself is above all things to be desired, it is not love that passes that verdict; there is plainly some other agency in us which, standing outside our love and hate, our pleasure and pain, passes comparative judgments on them; the love of love supplies no adequate estimate of its object, any more than the hate of hate or the scorn of scorn. That this is true may be seen from the fact that love often singles out and squanders itself upon objects that are clearly unworthy. It may lavish itself upon a lap-dog, or upon the most worthless of men. When it is showered on everyone with the catholic impartiality of Francis, it tends to blur the moral differences between its objects; a democracy of feeling that goes out with approximately equal solicitude to turtle-doves, criminals, and saints, can justify itself only by falling back on mystical doctrines about equality in the sight of God which conceal, but cannot obliterate, its conflict with general convictions. Love, as McTaggart pointed out, is curiously and sometimes gratefully unselective in the character of its object. The love of a mother for a son may be unaffected by a jury's verdict that he is a traitor and murderer. If Hitler aroused much hatred, he aroused also a great deal of devoted and self-immolating love. The moral of such examples is plain enough. Love contains in itself no principle of selection. Unless guided by an insight other than its own, it showers itself alike on the just and on the unjust, and is capable of a passionate devotion to personal and communal ideals that reflection can only condemn.
13. Let us take our bearings. We began by noting that western ethics is drawn from two main sources, Greek and Christian. In these two sources the emphasis was placed heavily, though not exclusively, on different components in the moral life. The Greek moralists placed the stress on reason; Christianity placed it on the attitude of ‘the heart’. They cannot both be right, and the tension between them has run through the entire moral history of the west. For a period in the early Roman empire, the Greek influence became dominant and led to an experiment in which a great school of moralists tried to surrender their lives to the control of reason alone, and to exclude influence of feeling. The experiment broke down both in theory and in practice. Then for many centuries Greek thought was superseded by Christian, which achieved a dominance in the thirteenth century that it has never held before or since. At the peak of its power another historic experiment was made, this time in following the dictates of feeling, to the virtual exclusion of reflective reason. Impressive as the venture was, we could only say that if regarded, not as a lyric, but as a design for living, it also broke down tragically in incoherence and maladjustment to the world.
The conclusion suggested by these experiments is that the attempt to live the life of reason or the life of feeling exclusively can end only in disaster. The offices of both are indispensable. Nature may spread before us the richest possible banquet of good things, but if we can look at them only with the eye of reason, we shall ‘care for none of these things’; they will be all alike insipid. There would be no ‘knowledge of good and evil’ in a world of mere knowers, for where there is no impulse or feeling, no aversion or desire, good and evil would be unrecognizable. Even the pursuit of knowledge would be motiveless. A motive is a desire, and a desire involves a want, and a want is not an exercise in cognition. To a pure intellect nothing would seem of more value than anything else.
But we should be in a similar position if we were mere creatures of impulse or emotion. To find an act right or wrong, to find value in friendship, religion, or art, to care in any degree for knowledge, requires the use of powers that go far beyond any form of feeling. And a life that directs itself by feeling, even of the most exalted kind, will be a ship without a rudder. It will all too probably end in shipwreck, and, because sailing without lights, involve others too in the wreck. The achievement of good is a joint product of our power to think and our power to feel.