Last time we were dealing with one type of suspended furnishing found in the upper reaches of the cave: the entities of reason in their various styles and guises—predicates propositions definitely pinned down but not necessarily characterized particulars particulars not definitely pinned down and hence enjoying an indefinite or variable status relations collections generally characterized types of varying degrees of determinateness (the so-and-so a so-and-so etc.) mental directednesses of varying types meanings negations alternations notes of assertion or existence and countless other classes of abstracta. These furnishings are all secondary appearances matters not given in our primary exploration of the world in which that world's furniture certainly comes before us in a variety of ‘lights’—as being so-and-so or such-and-such or not this or that etc.—but in which there is no introduction of floating or abstract entities to which they stand in a number of formal relations e.g. of being characterized by of being a member of of being the intentional object of etc. These abstracta have been introduced into experience made part of the phenomena by various remarkable acts which concerned us in the last chapter and which have never been adequately studied by philosophers. These are acts in which instead of employing a conscious light as something in which other primary objects are seen we use it in a new manner to present only so much of those objects as those lights themselves illuminate in which in short a new truncated world of objects comes into our ken of objects determined only in certain precise ways and not in others which cannot (as ordinary objects can) be given a larger and richer content though we may make many external comments regarding them and relating them to ordinary objects and to one another.
Lecture III | The Realm of Values and Disvalues
The introduction of these higher-order objects products of the mind's self-truncation into experience is moreover in a sense no introduction at all since we are not compelled to regard them as more than intentional objects things to which conscious references can be directed but not as things that can except by a legitimate but readily misleading act of pretence be treated as genuine subjects of predicates. A man can think of just what it is not to be something not further specified and we can say if we like that what it is not to be something is exemplified in James who is not a mathematician or in Andrew who is not a lover that it is a not-further analysable determination of objects etc. etc. but in such discourse there is or should be always a side-long reference to the thinking persons capable of performing relevant abstractions and so multiplying the lights in which common-or-garden objects can be seen. Not-being-something-or-other is exemplified in James who is not a mathematician only in the sense that those who see James in the latter light and who have been trained to conceive things in the truncated manner in question can see James in a peculiar relational light involving the abstractum in question which since it involves a relation to what is merely intended is itself a merely intended relation. That it can be right and true to conceive James in this manner means that this is how a suitably trained mind will view the matter: if there is a ‘correspondence with fact’ in all this this merely reflects the property in question. What we have said merely justifies by a plea of sheer innocuousness the valuable analyses which Meinong and the early Russell devoted to the variety of higher-order objects which diversify the phenomenal scene; Russell's subsequent descent into ‘logical constructions’ ‘incomplete symbols’ and other nominalistic doctrines was all an unphenomenological confusion springing from an incapacity to distinguish between an object in the sense of what completes the description of a conscious reference and an object in the sense of what is also a logical subject or real subject of predications. It spring in short from an inability to use the notion of intentionality in the artificial context of a formalized language.
I pointed out further how all the richness the many-sidedness and even the smudgy unclearness of the lower world could if we chose be carried up into the upper reaches of the cave. We could frame abstractions if so Hegelian a phrase can be tolerated of any degree of concreteness. And presiding over the cave's whole upper region and so indirectly over all the phenomena in the cave was a science which we chose to call ‘logic’ a science which prescribed the forms of abstracta and their relations to one another and to the particular existences beneath them as well as their transformations into other abstracta which covered the same range of existence and possibility. At the heart of this logic we were further made aware of what we called the presiding logical values the values of the clear the consistent the simple the empirically exhibited and tried out the publicly recognizable as well as very strangely values lying in quite opposite directions the values e.g. of the never fully clarified which pervades all philosophy the values of what always involves a differentiation of meaning which rules out strict consistency-procedures the values of the inexhaustibly complex and various the values of what can never be straightforwardly exhibited and tried out or what can never in its full individuality be shown to another and so forth. These points of value and the corresponding points of disvalue—which could only by a confusion be identified with the antithetical points of value just mentioned there being e.g. both a pregnant and wholly empty obscurity—can themselves be erected by our minds into separate goals of reason in which contemplated character is one with a note or urgency or suasion but which are alike cut adrift from particular occasions and subject-matters and so stand for mere general desirabilities and undesirabilities in the field of thought and knowledge. These desirabilities and undesirabilities are not arbitrary or changeable but are all sides of our basic endeavour not to live immured in the yielding medium of private fancy and sensation—if that were in fact possible—but to submit ourselves to hard ‘objective’ tests of various sorts which will be as hard for others as they are for ourselves and which will provide the firm basis of rational commerce about which all veils of personal privacy and mystery can be draped.
If these values of theory reign supreme over the variations of conscious light and the bracketings and unbracketings of our acts of belief disbelief and mere entertainment they may now serve to introduce another set of values and disvalues which are rather connected with the objects and states of affairs that we thus envisage or bracket than with the personal acts that thus envisage or bracket them. And in so far as these values and disvalues are concerned with our personal acts they are concerned with such personal acts as either bring things into being or remove them from being or which work in such a direction with acts in short which belong to the active causal segment of our nature. That there are such values and disvalues and that they pervade the whole or almost the whole of the cave is a simple matter of phenomenological observation. Hardly ever in fact and then only when we make a somewhat artificial exertion do things come before us in that special neutral light neither attractive nor repellent not pressing us to do anything about them nor to approve of anything done or undone which some have regarded as the normal or original posture of the human mind upon which sentiment interest and linguistic confusion then raise up a phantasmagoric creation. What we see before us or conceive in our private thoughts has ideals requirements defects standards built into it: it should be a little wider or longer it is just right as it is it is horribly inappropriate and so forth. And some of the ideals requirements etc. thus built into things impress us as having the same sort of remoteness from ourselves and our interests and the same sort of neutral compulsiveness that we cannot help feeling must compel others as much as ourselves that we find in our sense-encounters with material objects as in the transformations of strict logical thinking. And as in non-valuational thought we can perform an act of self-retractation so that what comes before us stops short at a certain point and is a mere unsaturated fragment of possible being so in the field of values we can perform a similar retractation which brings before us such abstract desirabilities as being fair to persons in situations unspecified as having whatever we want and find satisfactory as being free to pursue and obtain what we want as being zealous and energetic in the realization of things on some further ground found desirable and so on. A firmament of abstracted values and disvalues which are given as being values and disvalues for anyone whatever which may be attenuated and empty but which still set bounds to what can be concretely desired and pursued and whose force is not felt as the force of anyone's interests or personal preferences is certainly part of the phenomenology of the human cave whatever analysis or explanation we may choose to give of its evident presence. And however little we may wish to give such detached values a status beyond that of intentional objects they remain indefeasibly fixed points of the compass by which our practical navigation may be shaped and guided.
Certain points in the phenomenology of values and disvalues here require special emphasis. Each value-phenomenon as it comes before us does so as a standing refutation of the Humean diremption of fact and value or of any contemporary diremption of descriptive and evaluative meaning or of most of the literature which is so complacently clear about the ‘naturalistic fallacy’. (Moore himself never wrote thus superficially and complacently but believed in a priori synthetic connections in this field.) In each value-phenomenon what is commonly called descriptive content comes before us as in close logical marriage with an axiological and prescriptive element and as only abstractly separable from the latter: being or doing such and such has a baseness a disvalue which not only must accrue to it but which is peculiarly adjusted to to it and is precisely the baseness of being or doing such and such. Just so having this or that may have an excellence about it which is just its own untransferable excellence to which the thought of it necessarily and logically leads and without which it would not be completely understood. A general transferable goodness or badness unspecified by the sort of feature it is the goodness or badness of and which could meaningfully have belonged to quite a different sort of thing or not belonged to what it actually belongs to is a senseless abstraction even if we can for some purposes form the notion of a goodness or a valuableness logically tied to some content unspecified. Even in the grossest value-experience the value of e.g. reading poetry is not something that could have belonged to the performance of an act of heroism or to the adjustment of reward to desert: even states and performances and characters that are closely similar are often felt to be excellent or base in a wholly different ‘way’. And that the true worthwhileness which invests certain activities should be removed or changed by a mere change in the attitude of the man who finds them worthwhile is in plain contradiction with their ever having been worthwhile at all. It brackets the whole phenomenon of value not merely in the legitimate manner which applies to all things abstract but in the manner which makes it an abstraction without possible instances and moreover internally at war with itself. What we therefore have before us are not descriptive characters neutrally characterizable to which a uniform evaluative character mysteriously attaches but values and disvalues in the plural from which descriptive characters can only be separated by an abstraction which would become quite sense-destroying were it thought that the descriptive character could be present without the value or vice versa. The relation of fact to value is the clearest case of phenomenological necessity which does not of course mean that it is a necessity that will sustain itself through all phases of deepened examination. We therefore are not ashamed to speak of justice pleasure etc. as Values’ i.e. forms into which the generic intentional object value specifies itself rather than as mere ‘grounds of value’ as they usually are spoken of in contemporary British discussion.
It is easy to defeat Hume that worst of phenomenological observers phenomenologically: in experience fact and value come before us as married and not isolated and in many cases they come before us as logically necessarily married not brought together by an arbitrary link of taste or decision. The indissoluble character of the marriage is in the cases mentioned—it would be tedious and contentious to cite detailed examples—absolutely part of the phenomenon: to imagine it dissolved is to assert that it was merely apparent that it never really existed. The link is not of course a case of trivial formal entailment: it is a case where a one-sidedly viewed phenomenon completes itself into a full phenomenon which alone is seen to have true self-sufficiency. But though all this is so the difficulties which lead to Hume's unphenomenological diremptions are not thereby banished: we have still to face the issue of evaluative conflict and disagreement which is not removed by the mere claim present in all our consciousness of value that the conflict or disagreement in question is not or should not be there. These difficulties are not removed by the mere fact that reflective disagreements on value-questions in fact fall within much narrower limits than superficial theory and observation have thought possible and that here as elsewhere the arguable falls within a general framework of the unarguable within which alone it is possible. We differ as to the detailed shape of just allocations and assignments but not as to the need of something wearing the egalitarian proportionate face of justice we differ as to the preferability of a deepened grasp of truth over a deepened grasp of sensuously shown order or character but not as to the desirability of either we differ as to the absolute stringency of certain obligations rather than as to the general undesirability of overriding them and so on. Certain valuations as that nothing is so important as the indefinite multiplication of boots and shoes or that the destruction of the whole world is preferable to the scratching of one's finger bear so plain an index of absurdity upon them that none but a philosopher could countenance them for an instant. Nor are they removed by the many strong arguments which expose the fallacy of the argument from disagreement: that it rests very largely on arguing that because A and B are existentially and practically incompatible and represent two contrasted modes of life and existence there must also be an incompatibility between them from the point of view of value an incompatibility between the excellence of the one and the excellence of the other. Or again that it rests on the blindness to the worth of A which is readily induced in those keenly alive to the worth of the practically incompatible B or on the narrow bounds and on the consequent ‘wandering’ of the focus of our value-consciousness it being well-nigh impossible to be vividly conscious of the worth of too many quite diverse alter natives. It is not even removed by the immense success of those mappings of the value-firmament by such moral philosophers as Moore Rashdall Ross Scheler and Hartmann a success vainly belied on the grounds that they fail to yield results of a practical precision which the very character of their cloudy material in principle excludes or on still more suspect wholly unphenomenological views as to the nature of evaluative references and discourse. That many quite discussable questions are raised in the works in question and that their discussability precludes all chaotic divergence shows that we are here dealing with a valid and viable enterprise even if it does not enable us to say just why and how it is thus valid.
The difficulty lies of course in the close marriage of values and disvalues not merely with the descriptive contents that seem to go with them but with emotional and dynamic drifts which are part of the developmental and causal rather than the merely referential and inferential part of our conscious life. Our conscious life not merely involves manifold forms of sentience and makes use of these in a not further analysable manner to be of various objects and to be of them in varying ‘lights’ and manners and it not merely learns to ‘bracket’ some of what it intends as having a merely intended thought of status while to other parts it accords an unbracketed or ‘real’ status: it also has characteristic drifts or trends in various directions some involving no more than a change in outlook or angle of vision and so classed as merely ‘cognitive’ while others involve gross change in grossly given environmental situations and in a man's own gross body and so count as practical changes in which something is done by a man to the world around him. These drifts whether cognitive or practical and whether fully carried out or arrested necessarily give rise to changes in our personal sentience and to more or less lucid references to the drifts from which they sprang. We feel alert frustrated smoothly progressive wearily effortful and so on and we may be conscious of ourselves as subject to the drifts in question. These feelings and inwardly turned awarenesses enjoy a phenomenological immediacy and simplicity which is far from revealing the complex reference back to origins which a more probing phenomenology soon lays bare in them. Such drifts in experience and behaviour and the conscious poses that sum them up have obviously a more than merely contingent relation to the value-phenomena we have been considering. To feel a conscious drift towards a situation in which an object would be given in fulfilled reality and to have and feel this drift operating in one's own bodily musculature is except in some compulsively perverse situations to see worthwhileness in the goal of one's conscious causality just as to see worthwhileness in such a goal is to have and feel the conscious drift in question. In other words to want or feel positively about a thing and to see it as worthwhile are internally related and the same holds of not-wanting or negative feeling and the seeing of something as detrimental or evil. Yet this internal relation when stated at once creates a tension with the other internal relation given as part of ‘the phenomena’ the relation between the moment of valuableness or disvaluableness in general and the moment of descriptive content with which it is phenomenologically united. If valuableness is always given as the valuableness of some specific content with which it is has a relation of necessary ‘fit’ valuableness is also given as necessarily related to feeling and wanting and these are phenomena which do not appear to have the same close relation to descriptive content that we think obtains in the case of valuableness. In other words there is a looseness of fit in the relation of feeling and wanting to their objects that does not match the tight relation of the value-moment to its descriptive specifiers: people it seems may have feelings and wants infinitely more various than the distribution posited in the case of value-moments. This looseness of relation goes together with an actual variability in value-phenomena which assorts ill with the claim to be necessary and invariable. Whenever we want anything strongly or feel positively about it we tend to see a worthwhileness in it that we feel must be apparent to others: not only do we desire others to share our attitudes but we also expect them to do so. ‘Surely you must realize how wonderful horrible important reprehensible etc. all this is!’ is a most frequent utterance: our first reaction tends to be one of incredulity when the attitude or realization is disavowed. Nothing is further more disillusioning and more destructive of the claim of a necessary tie-up between descriptive and evaluative moments then the manner in which this connection loses its cogency with a slight change in our attitude. The scales drop from our eyes and the unquestionably precious turns into unquestioned dross: there are transvaluations of values not only at the major cross-roads of existence but at every falling in and out of love with someone or something. It is these revolutions of outlook and attitude not the stilted moves of a logic concerned to prohibit any genuine inferential advance which give a justification to Hume's diremption or reason and sentiment and the consequent schism between the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’.
The phenomena of value further involve a tangled difficulty which the wit of the whole eighteenth century found itself unable to resolve: the difficulty of the relation between values and disvalues as overtones added to the things in the world overtones as much ‘out there’ in the objects as the characters which we say describe them and capable of being considered with quite as much dispassion as the latter and the feelings and prescriptive pressures with which we held they have an internal connection. The perverse wrongness of certain attitudes and lines of conduct—those e.g. of the Marquis de Sade—seems as much a character written on their faces as the characters which in the narrowest sense describe them and we can recognize its presence quite coolly and without striking any attitude ourselves. Yet we recognize too that it is only because we at some time have been or at least could be outraged by such actions and attitudes that their overtones of evil can be given to us as clinging to them. We are not uttering a merely inductive discovery if we say that a man incapable of such outrage would also be incapable of ‘seeing’ the wrongness in question. The problem now stands in two alternative forms before us both rooted in the actual phenomena on hand. How if the prime thing in valuations are our own emotional and practical attitudes can such matters of internal sentiment help to ‘gild and stain’ all natural objects with borrowed colours as Hume in the Appendix to the Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals rightly maintains that they do? Or how on the other hand if the prime thing in values and valuation are the notes of fittingness goodness etc. which we simply recognize as attaching to objects and consequent upon their other characters do such notes compel attitudes in us other than those of recognition and belief attitudes of approval and disapproval of attraction and repulsion of decision for or against? We can if we like say with Richard Price that there is a necessity in the connection between certain recognized characters and certain affections but as long as such a necessity is merely postulated ad hoc it entirely fails to meet the difficulties of the case. In Scheler and Hartmann the most gifted modern mappers of the firmament of values the whole problem becomes verbally misted over. We are told of feelings and of a ‘logic of the heart’ that will enable us to discern values that none the less enjoy some sort of Platonic self-existence. How feelings being attitudes towards things could help us to discern characters in things or beyond things is not anything which all this turgid talk really makes clear. The facts of value-experience are undoubted and their deliverances far from lost in ambiguity but these facts themselves raise questions of internal possibility which a more penetrating insight has to resolve.
The solution has been in part provided by Meinong's valuable later work on ‘emotional presentation’.1 He has argued persuasively that just as sense-experience is essentially two-sided having both a side of ‘content’ of personal affectivity and another quite different side of objective presented quality the former being intrinsically and not merely contingently such as to introduce or present the latter so too in the realm of emotion and desire how we are affected can serve and that not accidentally to introduce us to certain higher-order predicates that Meinong spoke of as ‘dignitatives’ and ‘desideratives’. Revulsion can set things before us as revolting terror as terrible pleasure as pleasant and so on: the principal dignitatives are however the agreeable the beautiful the true (or valid) and the good corresponding to four subtly distinguished genera of feelings while the principal desideratives are corresponding ‘oughts’ or imperatives of (as we may say) a voluptuous aesthetic scientific or axiological sort. What is interesting in the doctrine is the repudiation of any causal analysis of the dignitatives or desideratives postulated: the pleasant is not what makes us feel pleased nor the terrifying what makes us feel afraid the attractive is not what attracts nor the desirable what is or could be desired despite all verbal suggestions to the contrary. The pleasant terrifying etc. are rather seeming characters in things which we are aware of in being pleased or terrified etc. we do not need to reflect on our own pleasure or terror in order to see these characters in things. And the valuable or good is in Meinong's view a character of things that comes before us in so far as we have the attitudes called ‘existence-love’ towards such things or of ‘existence-hatred’ towards their absences in so far that is as we delight in their being and deplore their non-being and are practically concerned to bring them into being or to preserve them in being or to preserve them from non-being. These attitudes do not however enter into the analysis of value or goodness but are only essential to the presentation of the latter. It is in virtue of being thus and thus emotionally and desideratively affected and that not by some merely empirical law that we come to see objects in a corresponding value-tinged ‘light’.
Meinong's theory goes far towards abolishing the mystery and difficulty of value experience by making it merely carry one stage further that use of the personally interior to mediate a reference to what is external and objective which characterizes all our interpersonal conscious life and which has been so often misrepresented as involving a causal inference from one thing to another or as the seeing of some object as causing a change in ourselves. The immediate felt commerce between our unified personal being and the dispersed impersonal being that contrasts with it is no doubt one of the sources probably the main source of our awareness of causality of the causality we exercise or that we to seem exercise upon things and that they exercise or seem to exercise upon us. Hume's musings on these matters are entirely wide of the mark for we certainly seem to do something to objects when we discharge our feelings on them just as they certainly seem to do something to us when they excite us or appal us etc. But that commerce is not in its origins an awareness of ourselves as personally responsive to some object nor of some object as provoking a personal response in ourselves: it is the seeing of an object differently in virtue of our own personal response to it without seeing that it is in virtue of such a response that we see it in this light. The further puzzling fact that while personal feeling is necessary to the deeper more authentic experiences of value and disvalue in things and situations value and disvalue can still be present to us and that not merely verbally when we are not deeply affected or committed is merely another case of the contrast between fulfilled and unfulfilled modes of experience which runs through the whole of our conscious life. We can entirely understand and believe something while yet not realizing our understanding and belief in the full vividness and detail of imagination perception and action: in the same way we can and must in detached moods see things in a favourable or unfavourable or imperative light without needing to give our experience all the flesh and blood of actual feeling or practical endeavour. The higher achievements of deliberation are in fact dependent on this remarkable power but they do not establish the non-practical non-emotional character of their foundations. In some absolute sense it remains true that
dianoia ouvqe.v kinei. avllv h` e`neka. tou/ kai. praktikh but what must be added to this is that it is never possible to separate the one sort of dianoia from the other and that it is correspondingly impossible to separate the descriptive or cognitive characters of things from their valuational overtones. The world comes before us as a graded world and the attempt to see it in a wholly ungraded manner cannot be entirely successful. (At least it will involve seeing it in a peculiar set of abstractly cognitive gradings.) The further movement from values as lights in which particular objects or types of objects are viewed to values as abstracta e.g. purity freedom kindness etc. uniting a descriptive and an evaluative side is but another instance of the development studied in the case of other abstracta. The mind cuts off edges that are blurred and free in ordinary thought and so raises a new creation of intentional abstractions.
To solve the problem of value-presentation is not however to solve the problem of value-judgment. For plainly not all the values and disvalues which come before us as overtones of acts situations and objects can be accorded an unbracketed status can be given as part of the world as it must appear to everyone and not merely as part of the world as it in fact appears to a given individual. The problem of unbracketed objectivity among values is however simply the problem of necessary intersubjectivity. Those values can be put as part of the phenomena and as to be recognized in the phenomena by ‘right reason’ which are also values that must tend to recommend themselves to all such as aspire to rise above the contingencies of personal interest and of partiality towards particular persons and their interests. Such values as those of bridge-playing fishing or consorting with courtesans plainly do not fall into this inescapable intersubjective class—even those of eating and drinking do not since we can imagine circumstances in which we should not care for either—whereas others such as those of happiness freedom justice etc. plainly do. What has to be done is to furnish a ‘deduction’ of the same powerful though not emptily cogent sort furnished by Kant at many points in his transcendental philosophy which will show that an endeavour towards certain highly general objectives and an avoidance of other opposed objectives is part and parcel of the very idea of a rational of an intersubjectively discussable valuation. Kant deduced various demands regarding generalizability of volition and respect for rational agents from the notion of the sort of will that can claim to be rational: what is desired is that the deduction should be extended to cover many of the countless other things—happiness cultivation mutual help self-preservation aesthetic pleasure etc.—to which Kant in fact accords even if left-handedly and grudgingly a rationally justified status at definite points in his treatment. All these objects can be shown to fall into a totally different class from bridge-playing and consorting with courtesans; it is not absurd to say that one does not care for the activities just mentioned but it is deeply absurd to say that one does not care for happiness or for beauty or for fair treatment or for the freedom to get what one wants or to put forward as a matter for common consideration and discussion that these things are only important as enjoyed by this or that particular person.
The deduction to be attempted is as we have said not a formal derivation from premisses whose sense is clear and the coverage of whose conclusion is no more than a more worked out or differently slanted version of the coverage of its premisses. It is a deduction in which there is a genuine pushing beyond both the sense and coverage of the premisses in which there is a significant inferential move or step precisely because there is a risk of the premisses being true and the conclusion quite false and in which there is no certainty of this not being so whether in the case before us or ‘in the long run’. It must be a deduction which is reasonable precisely because it is not certain and can never be forced into any specially guarded mould of certainty. That such deductions are of supreme importance in philosophy can only be shown by trying them out and by seeing to what they lead. We may note further that the sort of deduction to be attempted only enjoys a marginal position in the actual phenomenology of the unbracketed value-judgment. To recognize freedom as a value is in fact to respond with a segment of one's nature that transcends contingency and partiality but it by no means involves being clear as to the transcendence of contingency and partiality involved. In the same way merely to hold that freedom is an object of necessary love on the part of all truly detached disinterested persons is not necessarily to see it as a value nor to love it thus disinterestedly. Metaphysical naturalism as it occurs in Kant's transcendental treatments is rightly ruled out as an analysis of what we understand by the absolutely right or good: it is not ruled out as a transcendental illumination of how the absolutely right and good come to be constituted as objects come to be ‘there’ for us.
Into this transcendental constitution we now enter sketchily and tentatively since we cannot hope to be more than this in the compass of a single lecture. What are essentially contingent in human interest are the objects of what Butler called the particular passions or rather perhaps what is particular and special in them: particular forms of replenishment occupations companions objects of contemplation etc. There is necessarily something in personal interest which is entirely and essentially personal which has no necessary tendency to recommend itself to anyone else: personal interest would not be fully concrete without it. Though one hesitates to give examples of it and it is not plain that it can be isolated from elements that possess some universal recommendation it is of the idea of personal interest that it should exist or be capable of existing. But it is also of the essence of personal interest that it should be capable of rising to objects of higher order which presuppose the concrete filling of contingent personal liking and are impossible without it and yet make no stipulations regarding the precise character of that filling which are satisfied with any personal contingent filling no matter what this may be. There are in short and must be interests of higher order which rise above while they also presuppose contingent interest of the first order and which are such that any interested person is intrinsically capable of sharing them. And it is further correct to argue that these intrinsically shareable interests are also intrinsically such that they tend to be interests for as well as interests of everyone: the higher-order objects which everyone must tend to value are also objects that everyone must tend to value for everyone. (Nothing of course precludes the possibility of having other interests which resist the trends just mentioned.) We have inserted words like ‘capable’ and ‘tend’ as well as words like ‘intrinsic’ and ‘necessary’ to indicate that it is in fact possible for interest not to develop in the directions indicated but also that it is not accidental not a mere matter of empirical encounter that interest does develop on the lines suggested. To consider what it is to be a conscious person having conscious drifts in various directions is to see the deep ‘naturalness’ the nigh inevitability of the higher-order drifts in question. Their possibility is in fact implied in the power of overlooking and detaching oneself from anything and everything which a conscious person as opposed to a mere dispersed ‘thing’ in the natural world cannot be without. It may be hard to see all these obscure imperfectly binding exigencies and to express them in relatively clear language and much easier to deal with sharply definite facts and mere logical possibilities. But the phenomena of the world lose themselves in transcendental mists and the philosopher and his language have to pursue them there.
We must however attempt to bring into better focus the somewhat misty matters before us. Plainly in the first place it is natural and nigh inevitable for a man reflecting more or less disengagedly on the objects of his various parcelled interests to acquire a second-order zest for the interesting as such and for any and every interest: it is natural in short for him to rise to the level of the cool self-love or the prudence whose remarkable element of creative novelty has seldom been sufficiently recognized. That we should in a new higher-order way continue to be interested in things while detaching ourselves from them individually and specifically is as strange a fact as that we should be able to understand what only sense-experience can bring before us in states of mind into which sense-experience or anything like it does not enter and the fact that either development is deeply understandable does not mean that it is in any sense simply contained in what precedes it. The rise to self-love is in fact a matter so strange that the further spread to rational benevolence is trivial by comparison: having come to be interested in e.g. the provision of food at a time when I am not hungry it is no great wonder that I am rationally moved by another's real or imagined need for food as much as by my own. A second-order interest in the interesting as such enables us to co-ordinate our own interest prudentially: it also by a relatively slight extension enables us to co-ordinate the interests of a number of persons. And by an extension natural to it once its ampliative zeal has got under way it tends to extend itself to an interest in what is interesting to anyone or everyone and to develop a defensive dislike of whatever sets bounds to its natural expansiveness. The Japanese goddess Kwannon flailing out her myriad arms in untold exercises of benevolence and gratifying the most humdrum as well as the most transcendental needs is perhaps a better expression of this inescapable basic utilitarianism than our own crabbed Jeremy Bentham and his Victorian followers. Satisfaction and the satisfactory what people like or want are as such objects of disengaged second-order prescription and approval and their recognized value is a phenomenon for everyone and not merely for this or that person.
The passage to this higher Benthamite level is of course surrounded by countless perverse side-paths which relativistic theorists will be very ready to exploit. There is the disinterest which stops short at the individual person or which perhaps pushes beyond him only to hold that everyone should pursue and value that which is to his own best interest. In this latter development the spirit of self-transcendence quarrels absurdly with the content given to it: selfishness is unselfishly recommended to everyone. A worse strain of perversity enters into a cult of misery whether for others oneself or everyone. The higher-order interest in interest has a bland detached spirit which quarrels with aversion and objects of aversion: impartially to seek to frustrate one's own first-order wishes or those of others though a perfectly possible and sometimes actual attitude of mind represents a refusal of attitudes of the second order to accept their natural material the corresponding first-order attitudes. That disinterested malignity can from a purely formal standpoint be quite as consistent an example of disinterestedness as disinterested benignity only shows how little formal logic is qualified to deal with the possible the acceptable or the reasonable.
Satisfaction and the satisfactory therefore rank as the lowest and plainest of intersubjective values: none can doubt their power to recommend themselves to everyone. Not far removed in plainness are such values as those of the free and the powerful for the second-order desire that everyone should have what he desires dictates as a natural extension that everyone should have the freedom and the power to obtain and enjoy what he desires (other things of course being equal). And only a little less plain is the value of the fair and the just: an attitude concerned to consider the interest of everyone tends by a natural extension to quarrel with arrangements and attitudes that arbitrarily promote the interest of some at the expense of others. It is only a small step further to the second-order interest in the love or affection which bridges the gulf between persons and which renders the other's interests as intimate as one's own: though partial and pathological it has a kinship of spirit with the impartial pursuit of everyone's interest that necessarily approves itself to the latter. And it is likewise only a small step further from the second-order interest in the just satisfaction of everyone's interest to the second-order interest in the practical zeal which pursues this latter objective and which makes sacrifices for it. Here we have not so much a case of one spirit approving a kindred spirit as of one spirit approving a more dynamic devoted form of itself.
The firmament of value therefore begins to reveal constellated segments corresponding to the traditional divisions of happiness freedom justice love and virtue. The case of the unquestioned classical values of knowledge and beauty presents more difficulty. Here we can again best cope with our deductive problem by making use in yet wider fashion of the conception of community or kinship of spirit. The realm of aesthetic appreciation has as Kant emphasized a profound vein of analogy with our ethical valuations and imperatives: there is an aesthetic disinterest indifferent to all material exhibited and interested only in the harmonious play of imagination and conception which is quite akin to moral disinterest where everyone is alike a member and a legislator in the kingdom of ends. What is well imagined as little panders to the specificity or the partiality of personal interest as impartial moral legislation does so. Though one's conceptions of the aesthetic and the moral may not at all points tally with Kant's one may borrow from him the doctrine that the moral approval of aesthetic objects and activities rests on the fact that the latter are in a sense monograms of morality: the integrity purity and harmony of great art especially when dealing with debased discordant material is a true analogue of its moral counterpart. And the same may be said mutatis mutandis of intellectual endeavour and its products: this has a disinterestedness in the face of contingent content which is wholly analogous in its own different manner and medium to axiological or ethical disinterest. It may further be argued that the interest in sheer character which underlies aesthetic interest as well as the interest in sheer fact which underlies intellectual interest are higher-order interests so fundamental to conscious life so constitutive of consciousness itself as to fill a secure place in the firmament of our valuations. It is not suggested that the deduction here given is more than a rudiment. I have carried it very much further in my book Values and Intentions to which I must here simply refer you.
Value-phenomena exhibit further differences which are of great fascination and complexity. There is the basic difference in our dynamic life in virtue of which our conscious drifts sometimes appear in an urgent sometimes in a quiescent form largely according as the situation towards which they press is judged actual and existent and as not readily to be rendered non-actual or the reverse. We acquiesce with satisfaction in the actuality of something towards which a conscious drift presses and the verbal expression ‘Let this thing be’ is rather a plea for its continuance than for its being here and now: we experience a positive urge towards the actuality of something desired which is still bracketed as unrealized imagined or ideal and the expression ‘Let this thing be’ has here an urgent imperative force. In the same fashion we experience undynamic pain and grief towards what our conscious drifts veer away from but what we judge hopeless to avoid or remove but we experience dynamic destructive or remotive urges in the contrary case. In conformity with all these possibilities states of affairs come before us in a variety of lights as more or less imperatively or urgently to be realized or removed from existence or as merely being as they should be or as they should not be. Every value or disvalue can come before us in an urgent as in a more or less tranquilly contemplative form. It comes before us also as making a ‘demand’ on the world to realize it or to remove it from reality and this in a limited range of cases is a demand that we should do what we can to bring it about or to see that it does not come about. These demands have a phenomenological variety which traditional ethical theory has been far from recognizing. There are the demands which are mainly negative prohibitive and the axiological items with which they are connected are mainly evils disvalues: there are the opposed demands which are mainly positive hortatory suasive and the axiological items with which they are connected are primarily values proper. It is important to stress the total disparity and asymmetry of these types of demand there being no substance to the view that a positive suasive claim necessarily corresponds or ought to correspond to a balancing prohibitive claim warning us from the non-realization of the item in question nor to the view that a prohibitive claim necessarily corresponds to a balancing suasive claim urging us on towards a correlated absence or freedom. It is an accepted and an acceptable principle that the absence of great evils is not necessarily a great good and that the absence of great goods is not necessarily a great evil and that altogether good and evil cannot easily be summed up in assessing an actual situation.
All the claims set up by the various values and disvalues and in particular those realizable or avoidable in a given situation converge in the single synthetic claim which is a man's personal duty at a given moment. Of this duty it is not the place to speak here. I have said what I have to say of it in my book Values and Intentions. All that I need here remark is that it is the least clear concept in axiology and the most entangled with individual choice and contingency and hence the least promising base for ethical analysis and theory. For the claims made on us by different values and disvalues are arguably quite disparate and incommensurable—there is no way of balancing the claims of truth against the claims of justice and so on—and the practical decision to give some of them a priority over others necessarily has an element of the purely arbitrary. An element of free decision of simply opting for one set of values or avoidances of disvalues above many alternatives cannot be evaded. This element of free decision has been absurdly erected into the sole basis of values in certain existentialist theories an exaggeration which has at least this justification: that there is a profound connection between the sort of freedom expressed in arbitrary decision and the other sort of freedom the Kantian autonomy which underlies the constitution of the realm of values. Arbitrary decision involves a relation of cool distance from a number of favourable and unfavourable considerations which are seen and compared in that second-order manner which transcends the urgency of primary interest. When primary interest makes its agonizing entrance pure arbitrariness vanishes. The constitution of the realm of values and disvalues similarly involves a detachment from primary interest: the values and disvalues in question are little more than varied ways of being detached with however a retained foothold in and presupposition of primary interest. But there is a necessity an ineluctability in what appears at the higher levels of interest as valuable and disvaluable which is quite antithetical to the arbitrary. The detached person cannot help discerning or feeling the permissible forms of his own detachment and can only be arbitrary in his willingness to live according to them or not to live according to them or to live according to them in one way or another. That there is an ultimate category of the purely arbitrary and that it is one of the fundamental forms of conscious causality is certainly vouched for by the immediate phenomena there being countless cases where it seems primarily we with our power of freely coming down on either side of a disjunction that are truly responsible for coming down on a given side. We have argued further in the first series of the present lecures and in Values and Intentions that deeper scrutiny of the phenomena affords no ground to question this immediate view but rather to question as confused the deterministic obsessions which make it seem questionable. However this may be it seems clear that the freedom of pure arbitrariness if it exists is quite distinct from the freedom from fear and favour which is involved in the setting up of the realm of values and disvalues. These we do not and cannot choose but we can and must make choices in their framework and in their light even if in the limiting absurd case these are deliberate choices of what runs counter to them or violates their appointed order.
My aim in this lecture was not however to dwell on the foundations of practice but to sketch the firmament of values as a fixed as in fact the most fixed furnishing in the human cave. Like the stars values are occluded by many mists and are invisible from many latitudes and are often inconsiderable in magnitude yet they outlast the gross objects on which their remote illumination falls. Despite all that modern philosophers have thought and said values and disvalues are the least banishable data in the human cave. And they not only illuminate all furnishings of the cave they also on the view taken at our present level of discussion make us understand what the cave is for. It is there precisely to educe that kind of intersubjective rational life where the arbitrary and personal is subordinated to the ineluctable and impersonal of which the values in question are differing specifications. The untoward the irrational the merely personal have the teleological role of providing the necessary incitement and raw material for the rational common self-conscious result and so all phenomenal existence can be brought under the sway of values and something like the dominion of Good taught in the Phaedo proven true. But what we are holding is only a stage in the argument to which we have been driven by the absurdities shown up in previous stages: similar absurdities may again crop up and drive us on to further solutions.
From the book: