Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XI. :NON-CAUSA PRO CAUSA: OR, CAUSE AND OBSTACLE CONFOUNDED—( ad judicium. ) - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XI. :NON-CAUSA PRO CAUSA: OR, CAUSE AND OBSTACLE CONFOUNDED—( ad judicium. ) - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 2.
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NON-CAUSA PRO CAUSA: OR, CAUSE AND OBSTACLE CONFOUNDED—(ad judicium.)
Exposition.—When in a system which has good points in it, you have a set of abuses, or any of them, to defend,—after a general eulogium bestowed on the system, or an indication more or less explicit of the good effects the existence of which is out of dispute, take the abuses you have to defend, either separately or collectively (collectively is the safest course,) and to them ascribe the credit of having given birth to the good effects.
Cùm hoc, ergò propter hoc.
In every political system which is of long standing, and which, not having been produced, any considerable part of it, in prosecution of any comprehensive design, good or bad, but piecemeal at different and distant times, according to the casual and temporary predominance of conflicting interests—whatsoever may be the good or the bad points in the state of things which at any given time constitutes the result of it, among the incidents which may be observed as having place in it, some, upon proper scrutiny and proper distinction made, may be seen to have operated in the character of effective or promotive causes—others, in the character of obstacles or preventives—others, to have been in relation to them, in the character of immaterial incidents, or inoperative circumstances.
In such a system, whatsoever are the abuses or other imperfections in it, and whatsoever are the prosperous results observable in it, these prosperous results will have found, in the abuses and imperfections, not so many efficient or promotive causes, but so many obstacles or preventives.
Meantime, if so you can order matters, that instead of being recognised as having operated in the character of obstacles, the abuses in question shall be believed to have operated in the character of efficient or promotive causes, nothing can contribute more powerfully to the effect which it is your endeavour to produce.
If you cannot so far succeed as to cause the prosperous results in question to be referred to the abuses by which they have been obstructed and retarded, the next thing you are to endeavour at is, to cause them to be ascribed to some inoperative circumstance or circumstances, having in appearance some connexion or other—the nearer the better—with the abuses.
At any rate, you will, as far as depends upon you, cause the prosperous circumstances in question to be referred to any causes rather than the real ones: for in proportion as it becomes manifest of what causes they are the results, it will become manifest of what other circumstances they have not been the results: whereupon, no sooner is any one of the abuses you have to defend, considered in this point of view, than a question will be apt to occur.—Well, and this?—what has been the use of this? To which no answer being found, the consequence is such as need not be mentioned.
Real knowledge being among the number of your most formidable adversaries, your endeavour must of course be to obstruct its advancement and propagation as effectually as possible.
Real knowledge depends in a great degree on the being able, on each occasion, to distinguish from each other, causes, obstacles, and uninfluencing circumstances;—these, therefore, it must on every occasion be your study to confound as effectually as possible.
Exposure.—Example 1—Good Government: Obstacle represented as a cause,—the influence of the Crown.
If the superiority of the constitution of the English limited monarchy, as compared with all absolute or less limited monarchies, be in England a point undisputed, and regarded as indisputable, and the characteristic by which that limited monarchy is distinguished from all absolute and less limited monarchies, is, the influence, the superior influence of the mass of the people—the influence exercised by the will of the nominees of the people on the wills of the nominees of the king, and thence on the conduct of the king himself,—a circumstance which, in so far as it operates, diminishes the efficiency of this influence, and on many, if not most occasions, may be seen to destroy that efficiency altogether, cannot with propriety be numbered among the causes of that superiority, but must, on the contrary, be placed to the account of the obstacles that obstructed it.
In point of fact, the members of the House of Commons—some really, all in supposition, nominees of the mass of the people—act, as to the nominees of the king, viz. (the members of the executive department) with the authority of judges,—viz. to the purpose of causing punishment to be inflicted under the name of punishment, in case of special delinquency, not without the concurrence of the House of Lords—but, to the purpose of causing removal, without any such concurrence.
In so far as over the will of the nominees of the people as above mentioned, acting in their above-mentioned character of judges, an efficient influence is exercised by the king or his nominees, the efficiency of this judicial authority is destroyed; the nominees of the king, in the exercise of their respective functions, committing any enormities at pleasure; and thereupon, in the character, though without the name of judges, absolving themselves, and, if such be their pleasure, praising themselves for what they have done.
In this case, the fallacy consists in representing, defending, and supporting, in the character of an indispensable cause of the acknowledged prosperous results, the sinister and corruptive influence in question—a circumstance which, so far from being in any degree a promotive cause, is an obstacle.
In what way it operates in the character of an obstructive and destructive circumstance, has already been shown above: in what way, with relation to the same effect, it can operate as a cause, has never been so much as attempted to be shown—it has been on every occasion taken for granted, and this on no other ground than that of its being a concomitant circumstance.
Example 2—Effect, Good Government: Obstacle represented as a cause,—station of the Bishops in the House of Lords.
To good government, neither in the situation, of a bishop, nor in any other situation can a man be contributory any further than as he takes a part in it.
In that department of government which is carried on in the House of Lords, a man cannot bear a part any further than as he takes a part in the debates carried on there, or at least attends and gives his vote.
But of the whole body of bishops, including, since the Union, those from Ireland, a small part, upon an average scarce so many as a tenth, are seen to attend and give their votes: and as for speaking—when any instance of it happens to take place, it sets men a-staring and talking as if it were a phenomenon.
How comes it that the number of those who vote, and especially of those who speak, is so small? Because a general feeling exists, that to that class temporal occupations and politics are not suitable occupations.
And why not suitable?
1. Because, in that war of personalities, in which, in a large proportion, the debates in that as well as in the other House consist, a man of this class is in a peculiar degree vulnerable. The Apostles—did they bear any part in, had they any seat in, the Roman senate, or so much as in the common-council of the city of Jerusalem? Was it Peter, was it James, was it John—was it not Dives, that used to clothe himself in purple and fine linen? Walking from place to place to preach, comprised their occupations. It yours were the same, would you not be rather more like them than you are?
2. Because there is a general feeling, though not expressed in words, from a sort of decency and compassion, that a legislative assembly is not a fit place for a man who is not at liberty to speak what he thinks; and who, should he be bold enough to bring to view any one of the plainest dictates of political utility, might be put to silence and confounded by reference to this or that one of the thirty-nine Articles, or by this or that text of Scripture, out of a Testament Old or New.
So many things of which, however improbable, he is bound to profess his belief.
So many things which, however indefensible by reason, he would be bound, were he to open his mouth, to defend.
Matter of duty to him to be—matter of infamy not to be—steeled against conviction.
So many vulnerable parts with which he is embarrassed, and with which an antagonist of his is not embarrassed.
So many chains with which he is shackled, and with which an antagonist of his is not shackled.
A man, whose misfortune should it be to hear a word or two of reason, it would be his duty not to listen to it.
To a man thus circumstanced, to talk reason would have something ungenerous in it and indecorous: it would be as if a man should set about talking indecently to his daughter or his wife.
In vain would they answer, what has been so often answered, that neither Jesus nor his Apostles ever meant what they said—that everything is to be explained and explained away. By answers of this sort, those and those alone would be satisfied, whose satisfaction with everything that is established is immoveable, and not susceptible of experiencing diminution from any objections, or increase from any answers.
Example 3.—Effect, Useful national learning: Obstacle stated as a cause,—system of education pursued in Church-of-England Universities.
On the subject of learning, to the question whether, with relation to it, the universities might with more propriety be considered as causes or as obstacles, much need not here be said, after what has been said on the subject by the Reverend Vicesimus Knox, and of late by the Edinburgh Review.
If these fragments, with the exception of the scurrilous parts of the Review, were put together and made into a book, a most instructive addition to it might be made by a history of the treatment experienced from this quarter by the inventions of the Quaker Lancaster. In the age of academical and right reverend orthodoxy, learning, it would there be seen, is, even to the very first rudiments of it, an object of terror and hatred.
Of this Quaker, though he undertook not to attempt to make converts, what is certain is, that no school would, under his management, have been a school of perjury: and since, in so far as by his means the elementary parts of knowledge made their way among the people, intellectual light would take place of intellectual darkness, he experienced the hostility that might so naturally have been expected from those who love darkness better than light; to wit, for a reason which may be seen in that book, the knowledge of which it was his object to diffuse, as it was theirs to confine and stifle it.
In virtue and knowledge—in every feature of felicity, the empire of Montezuma outshines, as everybody knows, all the surrounding states, even the commonwealth of Tlascala not excepted.
Where (said an inquirer once, to the high priest of the temple of Vitzlipultzli,) where is it that we are to look for the true cause of so glorious a pre-eminence? “Look for it!” answered the holy pontiff—“where shouldst thou look for it, blind sceptic, but in the copiousness of the streams in which the sweet and precious blood of innocents flows daily down the altars of the great God?”
“Yes,” answered in full convocation and full chorus the archbishops, bishops, deans, canons, and prebends of the religion of Vitzlipultzli:—“Yes,” answered in semi-chorus the vice-chancellor, with all the doctors, both the proctors and masters regent and non-regent of the as yet uncatholicized university of Mexico:—“Yes, in the copiousness of the streams in which the sweet and precious blood of innocents flows daily down the altars of the great God.”
Example 4.—Effect, National virtue: Obstacle represented as a cause,—opulence of the elergy.
In several former works it has been shown.* that, be the effect what it may,—in so far as money, or in any other shape, the matter of reward, is, in the character of an efficient cause, employed in the view or under the notion of promoting it,—what degree of efficiency shall attend in such case the use made of the instrument, depends not so much upon its magnitude as upon the manner in which, and the skill with which, it is applied; and in particular, that in so far as that instrument is composed of public money, it is no less possible, and in some cases much more frequent, so to apply it, that the production of that effect shall, instead of being promoted, be prevented: that when, as for working, a man is paid alike whether he does work or whether he does none, to expect work from him is impossible, and to pretend to expect it, mere mockery: that after engaging to render an habitual course of service (for the rendering of which no extraordinary degree of talent or alacrity is necessary,) a fit person has received that which is necessary to obtain his free engagement for the rendering it, every penny added has no other tendency than to afford him means and incentives to relinquish his duties for whatever other occupations are more suitable to his taste.
Now if this be true of all men, it is true of every man: and it is not a man’s being called prebend, canon, dean, bishop, or even archbishop, that will in his case, or in any other person’s case, make it false.
It is a proposition that, be it ever so true, is not evident, but requires argument deduced from experience to render it so, that by such service as is rendered by the English clergy, virtue is in any degree promoted.
It is a proposition that, be it to a certain extent ever so true, is to a certain extent notoriously not true, that to the procurement of such service, money from any source is necessary. For without a particle of money passing from hand to hand, service of this sort is rendered by men one towards another, viz. among the people called Quakers: and if for the exhibiting to view the comparative degrees of efficiency with which service of this sort is rendered—work of this sort done—who is there that will take upon him to deny that the highest degree of the scale would be found occupied by the people called Quakers, or disputed with them by the people called Methodists—while the very lowest would be recognised as being occupied without dispute by the members sacred or profane of the established and most opulently endowed Church of England?
It is another proposition that still remains to be proved, that, admitting that for the procurement of this service—to the whole extent in which for the production of virtue it is wanted—money is necessary; it is also necessary, that for the raising of the necessary quantity, money should, by the power of government, be forced out of the pockets of unwilling contributors.
[* ]Rationale of Punishment, Do. of Reward; Defence of Economy against Burke, and Do. against Rose, ut supra; Church-of-Englandism Examined, 1818.