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CHAPTER VII.: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEW. - Herbert Spencer, The Data of Ethics 
The Data of Ethics (London: Williams and Norgate, 1879).
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THE PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEW.
§40. The last chapter, in so far as it dealt with feelings in their relations to conduct, recognized only their physiological aspects: their psychological aspects were passed over. In this chapter, conversely, we are not concerned with the constitutional connexions between feelings, as incentives or deterrents, and physical benefits to be gained or mischiefs to be avoided; nor with the reactive effects of feelings on the state of the organism, as fitting or unfitting it for future action. Here we have to consider represented pleasures and pains, sensational and emotional, as constituting deliberate motives—as forming factors in the conscious adjustments of acts to ends.
§41. The rudimentary psychical act, not yet differentiated from a physical act, implies an excitation and a motion. In a creature of low type the touch of food excites prehension. In a creature of low type the touch of food excites prehension. In a somewhat higher creature the odour from nutritive matter sets up motion of the body towards the matter. And where rudimentary vision exists, sudden obscuration of light, implying the passage of something large, causes convulsive muscular movements which mostly carry the body away from the source of danger. In each of these cases we may distinguish four factors. There is (a), that property of the external object which primarily affects the organism—the taste, smell, or opacity; and, connected with such property, there is in the external object that character (b), which renders seizure of it, or escape from it, beneficial. Within the organism there is (c), the impression or sensation which the property (a), produces, serving as stimulus; and there is, connected with it, the motor change (d), by which seizure or escape is effected. Now Psychology is chiefly concerned with the connexion between the relation a b, and the relation c d, under all those forms which they assume in the course of evolution. Each of the factors, and each of the relations, grows more involved as organization advances. Instead of being single, the identifying attribute a, often becomes, in the environment of a superior animal, a cluster of attributes; such as the size, form, colours, motions, displayed by a distant creature that is dangerous. The factor b, with which this combination of attributes is associated, becomes the congeries of characters, powers, habits, which constitute it an enemy. Of the subjective factors, c becomes a complicated set of visual sensations co-ordinated with one another and with the ideas and feelings established by experience of such enemies, and constituting the motive to escape; while d becomes the intricate, and often prolonged, series of runs, leaps, doubles, dives, &c., made in eluding the enemy. In human life we find the same four outer and inner factors, still more multiform and entangled in their compositions and connexions. The entire assemblage of physical attributes a, presented by an estate that is advertized for sale, passes enumeration; and the assemblage of various utilities, b, going along with these attributes, is also beyond brief specification. The perceptions and ideas, likes and dislikes, c, set up by the aspect of the estate, and which, compounded and re-compounded, eventually form the motive for buying it, make a whole too large and complex for description; and the transactions, legal, pecuniary, and other, gone through in making the purchase and taking possession, are scarcely less numerous and elaborate. Nor must we overlook the fact that as evolution progresses, not only do the factors increase in complexity but also the relations among them. Originally, a is directly and simply connected with b, while c is directly and simply connected with d. But eventually, the connexions between a and b, and between c and d, become very indirect and involved. On the one hand, as the first illustration shows us, sapidity and nutritiveness are closely bound together; as are also the stimulation caused by the one and the contraction which utilizes the other. But, as we see in the last illustration, the connexion between the visible traits of an estate and those characters which constitute its value, is at once remote and complicated; while the transition from the purchaser's highly-composite motive to the numerous actions of sensory and motor organs, severally intricate, which effect the purchase, is though an entangled plexus of thoughts and feelings constituting his decision.
After this explanation will be apprehended a truth otherwise set forth in the Principles of Psychology. Mind consists of feelings and the relations among feelings. By composition of the relations, and ideas of relations, intelligence arises. By composition of the feelings, and ideas of feelings, emotion arises. And, other things equal, the evolution of either is great in proportion as the composition is great. One of the necessary implications is that cognition becomes higher in proportion as it is remoter from reflex action; while emotion becomes higher in proportion as it is remoter from sensation.
And now of the various corollaries from this broad view of psychological evolution, let us observe those which concern the motives and actions that are classed as moral and immoral.
§42. The mental process by which, in any case, the adjustment of acts to ends is effected, and which, under its higher forms, becomes the subject-matter of ethical judgments, is, as above implied, divisible into the rise of a feeling or feelings constituting the motive, and the thought or thoughts through which the motive is shaped and finally issues in action. The first of these elements, originally an excitement, becomes a simple sensation; then a compound sensation; then a cluster of partially presentative and partially representative sensations, forming an incipient emotion; then a cluster of exclusively ideal or representative sensations, forming an emotion proper; then a cluster of such clusters, forming a compound emotion; and eventually becomes a still more involved emotion composed of the ideal forms of such compound emotions. The other element, beginning with that immediate passage of a single stimulus into a single motion, called reflex action, presently comes to be a set of associated discharges of stimuli producing associated motions, constituting instinct. Step by step arise more entangled combinations of stimuli, somewhat variable in their modes of union, leading to complex motions similarly variable in their adjustments; whence occasional hesitations in the sensori-motor processes. Presently is reached a stage at which the combined clusters of impressions, not all present together, issue in actions not all simultaneous; implying representation of results, or thought. Afterwards follow stages in which various thoughts have time to pass before the composite motives produce the appropriate actions. Until at last arise those long deliberations during which the probabilities of various consequences are estimated, and the promptings of the correlative feelings balanced; constituting calm judgment. That under either of its aspects the later forms of this mental process are the higher, ethically considered as well as otherwise considered, will be readily seen.
For from the first, complication of sentiency has accompanied better and more numerous adjustments of acts to ends; as also has complication of movement, and complication of the co-ordinating or intellectual process uniting the two. Whence it follows that the acts characterized by the more complex motives and the more involved thoughts, have all along been of higher authority for guidance. Some examples will make this clear.
Here is an aquatic creature guided by the odour of organic matter towards things serving for food; but a creature which, lacking any other guidance, is at the mercy of larger creatures coming near. Here is another which, also guided to food by odour, possesses rudimentary vision; and so is made to start spasmodically away from a moving body which diffuses this odour, in those cases where it is large enough to produce sudden obscuration of light—usually an enemy. Evidently life will frequently be saved by conforming to the later and higher stimulus, instead of to the earlier and lower. Observe at a more advanced stage a parallel conflict. This is a beast which pursues others for prey, and, either lacking experience or prompted by raging hunger, attacks one more powerful than itself and gets destroyed. Conversely, that is a beast which, prompted by a hunger equally keen, but either by individual experience or effects of inherited experience, made conscious of evil by the aspect of one more powerful than itself, is deterred from attacking, and saves its life by subordinating the primary motive, consisting of craving sensations, to the secondary motive, consisting of ideal feelings, distinct or vague. Ascending at once from these examples of conduct in animals to examples of human conduct, we shall see that the contrasts between inferior and superior have habitually the same traits. The savage of lowest type devours all the food captured by to-day's chase; and, hungry on the morrow, has perhaps for days to bear the pangs of starvation. The superior savage, conceiving more vividly the entailed sufferings if no game is to be found, is deterred by his complex feeling from giving way entirely to his simple feeling. Similarly are the two contrasted in the inertness which goes along with lack of forethought, and the activity which due forethought produces. The primitive man, idly inclined, and ruled by the sensations of the moment, will not exert himself until actual pains have to be escaped; but the man somewhat advanced, able more distinctly to imagine future gratifications and sufferings, is prompted by the thought of these to overcome his love of case: decrease of misery and mortality resulting from this predominance of the representative feelings over the presentative feelings. Without dwelling on the fact that among the civilized, those who lead the life of the senses are contrasted in the same way with those whose lives are largely occupied with pleasures not of a sensual kind, let me point out that there are analogous contrasts between guidance by the less complex representative feelings, or lower emotions, and guidance by the more complex representative feelings, or higher emotions. When led by his acquisitiveness—a re-representative feeling which, acting under due control, conduces to welfare—the thief takes another man's property; his act is determined by certain imagined proximate pleasures of relatively simple kinds, rather than by less-clearly imagined possible pains that are more remote and of relatively involved kinds. But in the conscientious man, there is an adequate restraining motive, still more re-representative in its nature, including not only ideas of punishment, and not only ideas of lost reputation and ruin, but including ideas of the claims of the person owning the property, and of the pains which loss of it will entail on him: all joined with a general aversion to acts injurious to others, which arises from the inherited effects of experience. And here at the end we see, as we saw at the beginning, that guidance by the more complex feeling, on the average conduces to welfare more than does guidance by the simpler feeling.
The like holds with the intellectual co-ordinations through which stimuli issue in motions. The lowest actions, called reflex, in which an impression made on an afferent nerve causes by discharge through an efferent nerve a contraction, shows us a very limited adjustment of acts to ends: the impression being simple, and the resulting motion simple, the internal co-ordination is also simple. Evidently when there are several senses which can be together affected by an outer object; and when, according as such object is discriminated as of one or other kind, the movements made in response are combined in one or other way; the intermediate co-ordinations are necessarily more involved. And evidently each further step in the evolution of intelligence, always instrumental to better self-preservation, exhibits this same general trait. The adjustments by which the more involved actions are made appropriate to the more involved circumstances, imply more intricate, and consequently more deliberate and conscious, co-ordinations; until, when we come to civilized men, who in their daily business taking into account many data and conditions adjust their proceedings to various consequences, we see that the intellectual actions, becoming of the kind we call judicial, are at once very elaborate and very deliberate.
Observe, then, what follows respecting the relative authorities of motives. Throughout the ascent from low creatures up to man, and from the lowest types of man up to the highest, self-preservation has been increased by the subordination of simple excitations to compound excitations—the subjection of immediate sensations to the ideas of sensations to come—the over-ruling of presentative feelings by representative feelings, and of representative feelings by re-representative feelings. As life has advanced, the accompanying sentiency has become increasingly ideal; and among feelings produced by the compounding of ideas, the highest, and those which have evolved latest, are the re-compounded or doubly ideal. Hence it follows that as guides, the feelings have authorities proportionate to the degrees in which they are removed by their complexity and their ideality from simple sensations and appetites. A further implication is made clear by studying the intellectual sides of these mental processes by which acts are adjusted to ends. Where they are low and simple, these comprehend the guiding only of immediate acts by immediate stimuli—the entire transaction in each case, lasting but a moment, refers only to a proximate result. But with the development of intelligence and the growing ideality of the motives, the ends to which the acts are adjusted cease to be exclusively immediate. The more ideal motives concern ends that are more distant; and with approach to the highest types, present ends become increasingly subordinate to those future ends which the ideal motives have for their objects. Hence there arises a certain presumption in favour of a motive which refers to a remote good, in comparison with one which refers to a proximate good.
§43. In the last chapter I hinted that besides the several influences there named as fostering the ascetic belief that doing things which are agreeable is detrimental while bearing disagreeable things is beneficial, there remained to be named an influence of deeper origin. This is shadowed forth in the foregoing paragraphs.
For the general truth that guidance by such simple pleasures and pains as result from fulfilling or denying bodily desires, is, under one aspect, inferior to guidance by those pleasures and pains which the complex ideal feelings yield, has led to the belief that the promptings of bodily desires should be disregarded. Further, the general truth that pursuit of proximate satisfactions is, under one aspect, inferior to pursuit of ultimate satisfactions, has led to the belief that proximate satisfactions must not be valued.
In the early stages of every science, the generalizations reached are not qualified enough. The discriminating statements of the truths formulated, arise afterwards, by limitation of the undiscriminating statements. As with bodily vision, which at first appreciates only the broadest traits of objects, and so leads to rude classings which developed vision, impressible by minor differences, has to correct; so with mental vision in relation to general truths, it happens that at first the inductions, wrongly made all-embracing, have to wait for scepticism and critical observation to restrict them, by taking account of unnoticed differences. Hence, we may expect to find the current ethical conclusions too sweeping. Let us note how, in three ways, these dominant beliefs, alike of professed moralists and of people at large, are made erroneous by lack of qualifications.
In the first place, the authority of the lower feelings as guides is by no means always inferior to the authority of the higher feelings, but is often superior. Daily occur occasions on which sensations must be obeyed rather than sentiments. Let any one think of sitting all night naked in a snowstorm, or going a week without food, or letting his head be held under water for ten minutes, and he will see that the pleasures and pains directly related to maintenance of life, may not be wholly subordinated to the pleasures and pains indirectly related to maintenance of life. Though in many cases guidance by the simple feelings rather than by the complex feelings is injurious, in other cases guidance by the complex feelings rather than by the simple feelings is fatal; and throughout a wide range of cases their relative authorities as guides are indeterminate. Grant that in a man pursued, the protesting feelings accompanying intense and prolonged effort, must, to preserve life, be over-ruled by the fear of his pursuers; it may yet happen that, persisting till he drops, the resulting exhaustion causes death, though, the pursuit having been abandoned, death would not otherwise have resulted. Grant that a widow left in poverty, must deny her appetite that she may give enough food to her children to keep them alive; yet the denial of her appetite pushed too far, may leave them not only entirely without food but without guardianship. Grant that, working his brain unceasingly from dawn till dark, the man in pecuniary difficulties must disregard rebellious bodily sensations in obedience to the conscientious desire to liquidate the claims on him; yet he may carry this subjection of simple feelings to complex feelings to the extent of shattering his health, and failing in that end which, with less of this subjection, he might have achieved. Clearly, then, the subordination of lower feelings must be a conditional subordination. The supremacy of higher feelings must be a qualified supremacy.
In another way does the generalization ordinarily made err by excess. With the truth that life is high in proportion as the simple presentative feelings are under the control of the compound representative feelings, it joins, as though they were corollaries, certain propositions which are not corollaries. The current conception is, not that the lower must yield to the higher when the two conflict, but that the lower must be disregarded even when there is no conflict. This tendency which the growth of moral ideas has generated, to condemn obedience to inferior feelings when superior feelings protest, has begotten a tendency to condemn inferior feelings considered intrinsically. “I really think she does things because she likes to do them,” once said to me one lady concerning another: the form of expression and the manner both implying the belief not only that such behaviour is wrong, but also that every one must recognize it as wrong. And there prevails widely a notion of this kind. In practice, indeed, the notion is very generally inoperative. Though it prompts various incidental asceticisms, as of those who think it alike manly and salutary to go without a great coat in cold weather, or to persevere through the winter in taking an out-of-door plunge, yet, generally, the pleasurable feelings accompanying due fulfilment of bodily needs, are accepted: acceptance being, indeed, sufficiently peremptory. But oblivious of these contradictions in their practice, men commonly betray a vague idea that there is something degrading, or injurious, or both, in doing that which is agreeable and avoiding that which is disagreeable. “Pleasant but wrong,” is a phrase frequently used in a way implying that the two are naturally connected. As above hinted, however, such beliefs result from a confused apprehension of the general truth that the more compound and representative feelings are, on the average, of higher authority than the simple and presentative feelings. Apprehended with discrimination, this truth implies that the authority of the simple, ordinarily less than that of the compound but occasionally greater, is habitually to be accepted when the compound do not oppose.
In yet a third way is this principle of subordination misconceived. One of the contrasts between the earlier-evolved feelings and the later-evolved feelings, is that they refer respectively to the more immediate effects of actions and to the more remote effects; and speaking generally, guidance by that which is near is inferior to guidance by that which is distant. Hence has resulted the belief that, irrespective of their kinds, the pleasures of the present must be sacrificed to the pleasures of the future. We see this in the maxim often impressed on children when eating their meals, that they should reserve the nicest morsel till the last: the check on improvident yielding to immediate impulse, being here joined with the tacit teaching that the same gratification becomes more valuable as it becomes more distant. Such thinking is traceable throughout daily conduct; by no means indeed in all, but in those who are distinguished as prudent and well regulated in their conduct. Hurrying over his breakfast that he may catch the train, snatching a sandwich in the middle of the day, and eating a late dinner when he is so worn out that he is incapacitated for evening recreation, the man of business pursues a life in which not only the satisfactions of bodily desires, but also those of higher tastes and feelings, are, as far as may be, disregarded, that distant ends may be achieved; and yet if you ask what are these distant ends, you find (in cases where there are no parental responsibilities) that they are included under the conception of more comfortable living in time to come. So ingrained is this belief that it is wrong to seek immediate enjoyments and right to seek remote ones only, that you may hear from a busy man who has been on a pleasure excursion, a kind of apology for his conduct. He deprecates the unfavourable judgments of his friends by explaining that the state of his health had compelled him to take a holiday. Nevertheless, if you sound him with respect to his future, you find that his ambition is by-and-by to retire and devote himself wholly to the relaxations which he is now somewhat ashamed of taking.
The general truth disclosed by the study of evolving conduct, sub-human and human, that for the better preservation of life the primitive, simple, presentative feelings must be controlled by the later-evolved, compound, and representative feelings, has thus come, in the course of civilization, to be recognized by men; but necessarily at first in too indiscriminate a way. The current conception, while it errs by implying that the authority of the higher over the lower is unlimited, errs also by implying that the rule of the lower must be resisted even when it does not conflict with the rule of the higher, and further errs by implying that a gratification which forms a proper aim if it is remote, forms an improper aim if it is proximate.
§44. Without explicitly saying so, we have been here tracing the genesis of the moral consciousness. For unquestionably the essential trait in the moral consciousness, is the control of some feeling or feelings by some other feeling or feelings.
Among the higher animals we may see, distinctly enough, the conflict of feelings and the subjection of simpler to more compound; as when a dog is restrained from snatching food by fear of the penalties which may come if he yields to his appetite; or as when he desists from scratching at a hole lest he should lose his master, who has walked on. Here, however, though there is subordination, there is not conscious subordination—there is no introspection revealing the fact that one feeling has yielded to another. So is it even with human beings when little developed mentally. The pre-social man, wandering about in families and ruled by such sensations and emotions as are caused by the circumstances of the moment, though occasionally subject to conflicts of motives, meets with comparatively few cases in which the advantage of postponing the immediate to the remote is forced on his attention; nor has he the intelligence requisite for analyzing and generalizing such of these cases as occur. Only as social evolution renders the life more complex, the restraints many and strong, the evils of impulsive conduct marked, and the comforts to be gained by providing for the future tolerably certain, can there come experiences numerous enough to make familiar the benefit of subordinating the simpler feelings to the more complex ones. Only then, too, does there arise a sufficient intellectual power to make an induction from these experiences, followed by a sufficient massing of individual inductions into a public and traditional induction impressed on each generation as it grows up.
And here we are introduced to certain facts of profound significance. This conscious relinquishment of immediate and special good to gain distant and general good, while it is a cardinal trait of the self-restraint called moral, is also a cardinal trait of self-restraints other than those called moral—the restraints that originate from fear of the visible ruler, of the invisible ruler, and of society at large. Whenever the individual refrains from doing that which the passing desire prompts, lest he should afterwards suffer legal punishment, or divine vengeance, or public reprobation, or all of them, he surrenders the near and definite pleasure rather than risk the remote and greater, though less definite, pains, which taking it may bring on him; and, conversely, when he undergoes some present pain, that he may reap some probable future pleasure, political, religious, or social. But though all these four kinds of internal control have the common character that the simpler and less ideal feelings are consciously over-ruled by the more complex and ideal feelings; and though, at first, they are practically co-extensive and undistinguished; yet, in the course of social evolution they differentiate; and, eventually, the moral control with its accompanying conceptions and sentiments, emerges as independent. Let us glance at the leading aspects of the process.
While, as in the rudest groups, neither political nor religious rule exists, the leading check to the immediate satisfaction of each desire as it arises, is consciousness of the evils which the anger of fellow savages may entail, if satisfaction of the desire is obtained at their cost. In this early stage the imagined pains which constitute the governing motive, are those apt to be inflicted by beings of like nature, undistinguished in power: the political, religious, and social restraints, are as yet represented only by this mutual dread of vengeance. When special strength, skill, or courage, makes one of them a leader in battle, he necessarily inspires greater fear than any other; and there comes to be a more decided check on such satisfactions of the desires as will injure or offend him. Gradually as, by habitual war, chieftainship is established, the evils thought of as likely to arise from angering the chief, not only by aggression upon him but by disobedience to him, become distinguishable both from the smaller evils which other personal antagonisms cause, and from the more diffused evils thought of as arising from social reprobation. That is, political control begins to differentiate from the more indefinite control of mutual dread. Meanwhile there has been developing the ghost-theory. In all but the rudest groups, the double of a deceased man, propitiated at death and afterwards, is conceived as able to injure the survivors. Consequently, as fast as the ghost-theory becomes established and definite, there grows up another kind of check on immediate satisfaction of the desires—a check constituted by ideas of the evils which ghosts may inflict if offended; and when political headship gets settled, and the ghosts of dead chiefs, thought of as more powerful and more relentless than other ghosts, are especially dreaded, there begins to take shape the form of restraint distinguished as religious. For a long time these three sets of restraints, with their correlative sanctions, though becoming separate in consciousness, remain co-extensive; and do so because they mostly refer to one end—success in war. The duty of blood-revenge is insisted on even while yet nothing to be called social organization exists. As the chief gains predominance, the killing of enemies becomes a political duty; and as the anger of the dead chief comes to be dreaded, the killing of enemies becomes a religious duty. Loyalty to the ruler while he lives and after he dies, is increasingly shown by holding life at his disposal for purposes of war. The earliest enacted punishments are those for insubordination and for breaches of observances which express subordination—all of them militant in origin. While the divine injunctions, originally traditions of the dead king's will, mainly refer to the destruction of peoples with whom he was at enmity; and divine anger or approval are conceived as determined by the degrees in which subjection to him is shown, directly by worship and indirectly by fulfilling these injunctions. The Fijian, who is said on entering the other world to commend himself by narrating his successes in battle, and who, when alive, is described as sometimes greatly distressed if he thinks he has not killed enemies enough to please his gods, shows us the resulting ideas and feelings; and reminds us of kindred ideas and feelings betrayed by ancient races. To all which add that the control of social opinion, besides being directly exercised, as in the earliest stage, by praise of the brave and blame of the cowardly, comes to be indirectly exercised with a kindred general effect by applause of loyalty to the ruler and piety to the god. So that the three differentiated forms of control which grow up along with militant organization and action, while enforcing kindred restraints and incentives, also enforce one another; and their separate and joint disciplines have the common character that they involve the sacrifice of immediate special benefits to obtain more distant and general benefits.
At the same time there have been developing under the same three sanctions, restraints and incentives of another order, similarly characterized by subordination of the proximate to the remote. Joint aggressions upon men outside the society, cannot prosper if there are many aggressions of man on man within the society. War implies co-operation; and co-operation is prevented by antagonisms among those who are to co-operate. We saw that in the primitive ungoverned group, the main check on immediate satisfaction of his desires by each man, is the fear of other men's vengeance if they are injured by taking the satisfaction; and through early stages of social development, this dread of retaliation continues to be the chief motive to such forbearance as exists. But though long after political authority has become established the taking of personal satisfaction for injuries persists, the growth of political authority gradually checks it. The fact that success in war is endangered if his followers fight among themselves, forces itself on the attention of the ruler. He has a strong motive for restraining quarrels, and therefore for preventing the aggressions which cause quarrels; and as his power becomes greater he forbids the aggressions and inflicts punishments for disobedience. Presently, political restraints of this class, like those of the preceding class, are enforced by religious restraints. The sagacious chief, succeeding in war partly because he thus enforces order among his followers, leaves behind him a tradition of the commands he habitually gave. Dread of his ghost tends to produce regard for these commands; and they eventually acquire sacredness. With further social evolution come, in like manner, further interdicts, checking aggressions of less serious kinds; until eventually there grows up a body of civil laws. And then in the way shown, arise beliefs concerning the divine disapproval of these minor, as well as of the major, civil offences: ending, occasionally, in a set of religious injunctions harmonizing with, and enforcing, the political injunctions. While simultaneously there develops, as before, a social sanction for these rules of internal conduct, strengthening the political and religious sanctions.
But now observe that while these three controls, political, religious, and social, severally lead men to subordinate proximate satisfactions to remote satisfactions; and while they are in this respect like the moral control, which habitually requires the subjection of simple presentative feelings to complex representative feelings and postponement of present to future; yet they do not constitute the moral control, but are only preparatory to it—are controls within which the moral control evolves. The command of the political ruler is at first obeyed, not because of its perceived rectitude; but simply because it is his command, which there will be a penalty for disobeying. The check is not a mental representation of the evil consequences which the forbidden act will, in the nature of things, cause; but it is a mental representation of the factitious evil consequences. Down to our own time we trace in legal phrases, the original doctrine that the aggression of one citizen on another is wrong, and will be punished, not so much because of the injury done him, as because of the implied disregard of the king's will. Similarly, the sinfulness of breaking a divine injunction was universally at one time, and is still by many, held to consist in the disobedience to God, rather than in the deliberate entailing of injury; and even now it is a common belief that acts are right only if performed in conscious fulfilment of the divine will: nay, are even wrong if otherwise performed. The like holds, too, with that further control exercised by public opinion On listening to the remarks made respecting conformity to social rules, it is noticeable that breach of them is condemned not so much because of any essential impropriety as because the world's authority is ignored. How imperfectly the truly moral control is even now differentiated from these controls within which it has been evolving, we see in the fact that the systems of morality criticized at the outset, severally identify moral control with one or other of them. For moralists of one class derive moral rules from the commands of a supreme political power. Those of another class recognize no other origin for them than the revealed divine will. And though men who take social prescription for their guide do not formulate their doctrine, yet the belief, frequently betrayed, that conduct which society permits is not blameworthy, implies that there are those who think right and wrong can be made such by public opinion.
Before taking a further step we must put together the results of this analysis. The essential truths to be carried with us respecting these three forms of external control to which the social unit is subject, are these:—First, that they have evolved with the evolution of society, as means to social self-preservation, necessary under the conditions; and that, by implication, they are in the main congruous with one another. Second, that the correlative internal restraints generated in the social unit, are representations of remote results which are incidental rather than necessary—a legal penalty, a supernatural punishment, a social reprobation. Third, that these results, simpler and more directly wrought by personal agencies, can be more vividly conceived than can the results which, in the course of things, actions naturally entail; and the conceptions of them are therefore more potent over undeveloped minds. Fourth, that as with the restraints thus generated is always joined the thought of external coercion, there arises the notion of obligation; which so becomes habitually associated with the surrender of immediate special benefits for the sake of distant and general benefits. Fifth, that the moral control corresponds in large measure with the three controls thus originating, in respect of its injunctions; and corresponds, too, in the general nature of the mental processes producing conformity to those injunctions; but differs in their special nature.
§45. For now we are prepared to see that the restraints properly distinguished as moral, are unlike these restraints out of which they evolve, and with which they are long confounded, in this—they refer not to the extrinsic effects of actions but to their intrinsic effects. The truly moral deterrent from murder, is not constituted by a representation of hanging as a consequence, or by a representation of tortures in hell as a consequence, or by a representation of the horror and hatred excited in fellow men; but by a representation of the necessary natural results—the infliction of death-agony on the victim, the destruction of all his possibilities of happiness, the entailed sufferings to his belongings. Neither the thought of imprisonment, nor of divine anger, nor of social disgrace, is that which constitutes the moral check on theft; but the thought of injury to the person robbed, joined with a vague consciousness of the general evils caused by disregard of proprietary rights. Those who reprobate the adulterer on moral grounds, have their minds filled, not with ideas of an action for damages, or of future punishment following the breach of a commandment, or of loss of reputation; but they are occupied with ideas of unhappiness entailed on the aggrieved wife or husband, the damaged lives of children, and the diffused mischiefs which go along with disregard of the marriage tie. Conversely, the man who is moved by a moral feeling to help another in difficulty, does not picture to himself any reward here or hereafter; but pictures only the better condition he is trying to bring about. One who is morally prompted to fight against a social evil, has neither material benefit nor popular applause before his mind; but only the mischiefs he seeks to remove and the increased well-being which will follow their removal. Throughout, then, the moral motive differs from the motives it is associated with in this, that instead of being constituted by representations of incidental, collateral, non-necessary consequences of acts, it is constituted by representations of consequences which the acts naturally produce. These representations are not all distinct, though some of such are usually present; but they form an assemblage of indistinct representations accumulated by experience of the results of like acts in the life of the individual, super-posed on a still more indistinct but voluminous consciousness due to the inherited effects of such experiences in progenitors: forming a feeling that is at once massive and vague.
And now we see why the moral feelings and correlative restraints have arisen later than the feelings and restraints that originate from political, religious, and social authorities; and have so slowly, and even yet so incompletely, disentangled themselves. For only by these lower feelings and restraints could be maintained the conditions under which the higher feelings and restraints evolve. It is thus alike with the self-regarding feelings and with the other-regarding feelings. The pains which improvidence will bring, and the pleasures to be gained by storing up things for future use and by labouring to get such things, can be habitually contrasted in thought, only as fast as settled social arrangements make accumulation possible; and that there may arise such settled arrangements, fear of the seen ruler, of the unseen ruler, and of public opinion, must come into play. Only after political, religious, and social restraints have produced a stable community, can there be sufficient experience of the pains, positive and negative, sensational and emotional, which crimes of aggression cause, as to generate that moral aversion to them constituted by consciousness of their intrinsically evil results. And more manifest still is it that such a moral sentiment as that of abstract equity, which is offended not only by material injuries done to men but also by political arrangements that place them at a disadvantage, can evolve only after the social stage reached gives familiar experience both of the pains flowing directly from injustices and also of those flowing indirectly from the class-privileges which make injustices easy.
That the feelings called moral have the nature and origin alleged, is further shown by the fact that we associate the name with them in proportion to the degree in which they have these characters—firstly of being re-representative; secondly of being concerned with indirect rather than with direct effects, and generally with remote rather than immediate; and thirdly of referring to effects that are mostly general rather than special. Thus, though we condemn one man for extravagance and approve the economy shown by another man, we do not class their acts as respectively vicious and virtuous: these words are too strong: the present and future results here differ too little in concreteness and ideality to make the words fully applicable. Suppose, however, that the extravagance necessarily brings distress on wife and children—brings pains diffused over the lives of others as well as of self, and the viciousness of the extravagance becomes clear. Suppose, further, that prompted by the wish to relieve his family from the misery he has brought on them, the spendthrift forges a bill or commits some other fraud. Though, estimated apart, we characterize his over-ruling emotion as moral, and make allowance for him in consideration of it, yet his action taken as a whole we condemn as immoral: we regard as of superior authority, the feelings which respond to men's proprietary claims—feelings which are re-representative in a higher degree and refer to more remote diffused consequences. The difference, habitually recognized, between the relative elevations of justice and generosity, well illustrates this truth. The motive causing a generous act has reference to effects of a more concrete, special, and proximate kind, than has the motive to do justice; which, beyond the proximate effects, usually themselves less concrete than those that generosity contemplates, includes a consciousness of the distant, involved, diffused effects of maintaining equitable relations. And justice we hold to be higher generosity.
Comprehension of this long argument will be aided by here quoting a further passage from the before-named letter to Mr. Mill, following the passage already quoted from it.
“To make any position fully understood, it seems needful to add that, corresponding to the fundamental propositions of a developed Moral Science, there have been, and still are, developing in the race, certain fundamental moral intuitions; and that, though these moral intuitions are the results of accumulated experiences of Utility, gradually organized and inherited, they have come to be quite independent of conscious experience. Just in the same way that I believe the intuition of space, possessed by any living individual, to have arisen from organized and consolidated experiences of all antecedent individuals who bequeathed to him their slowly-developed nervous organizations—just as I believe that this intuition, requiring only to be made definite and complete by personal experiences, has practically become a form of thought, apparently quite independent of experience; so do I believe that the experiences of utility organized and consolidated through all past generations of the human race, have been producing corresponding nervous modifications, which, by continued transmission and accumulation, have become in us certain faculties of moral intuition—certain emotions responding to right and wrong conduct, which have no apparent basis in the individual experiences of utility. I also hold that just as the space-intuition responds to the exact demonstrations of Geometry, and has its rough conclusions interpreted and verified by them; so will moral intuitions respond to the demonstrations of Moral Science, and will have their rough conclusions interpreted and verified by them.”
To this, in passing, I will add only that the evolution-hypothesis thus enables us to reconcile opposed moral theories, as it enables us to reconcile opposed theories of knowledge. For as the doctrine of innate forms of intellectual intuition falls into harmony with the experiential doctrine, when we recognize the production of intellectual faculties by inheritance of effects wrought by experience; so the doctrine of innate powers of moral perception becomes congruous with the utilitarian doctrine, when it is seen that preferences and aversions are rendered organic by inheritance of the effects of pleasurable and painful experiences in progenitors.
§46. One further question has to be answered—How does there arise the feeling of moral obligation in general? Whence comes the sentiment of duty, considered as distinct from the several sentiments which prompt temperance, providence, kindness, justice, truthfulness, &c.? The answer is that it is an abstract sentiment generated in a manner analogous to that in which abstract ideas are generated.
The idea of each colour had originally entire concreteness given to it by an object possessing the colour; as some of the unmodified names, such as orange and violet, show us. The dissociation of each colour from the object specially associated with it in thought at the outset, went on as fast as the colour came to be associated in thought with objects unlike the first, and unlike one another. The idea of orange was conceived in the abstract more fully in proportion as the various orange-coloured objects remembered, cancelled one another's diverse attributes, and left outstanding their common attribute. So is it if we ascend a stage and note how there arises the abstract idea of colour apart from particular colours. Were all things red the conception of colour in the abstract could not exist. Imagine that every object was either red or green, and it is manifest that the mental habit would be to think of one or other of these two colours in connexion with anything named. But multiply the colours so that thought rambles undecidedly among the ideas of them that occur along with any object named, and there results the notion of indeterminate colour—the common property which objects possess of affecting us by light from their surfaces, as well as by their forms. For evidently the notion of this common property is that which remains constant while imagination is picturing every possible variety of colour. It is the uniform trait in all coloured things; that is—colour in the abstract. Words referring to quantity furnish cases of more marked dissociation of abstract from concrete. Grouping various things as small in comparison either with those of their kind or with those of other kinds; and similarly grouping some objects as comparatively great; we get the opposite abstract notions of smallness and greatness. Applied as these are to innumerable very diverse things—not objects only, but forces, times, numbers, values,—they have become so little connected with concretes, that their abstract meanings are very vague. Further, we must note that an abstract idea thus formed often acquires an illusive independence; as we may perceive in the case of motion, which, dissociated in thought from all particular bodies and velocities and directions, is sometimes referred to as though it could be conceived apart from something moving. Now all this holds of the subjective as well as of the objective; and among other states of consciousness, holds of the emotions as known by introspection. By the grouping of those re-representative feelings above described, which, differing among themselves in other respects have a component in common; and by the consequent mutual cancelling of their diverse components; this common component is made relatively appreciable, and becomes an abstract feeling. Thus is produced the sentiment of moral obligation or duty. Let us observe its genesis.
We have seen that during the progress of animate existence, the later-evolved, more compound and more representative feelings, serving to adjust the conduct to more distant and general needs, have all along had an authority as guides superior to that of the earlier and simpler feelings—excluding cases in which these last are intense. This superior authority, unrecognizable by lower types of creatures which cannot generalize, and little recognizable by primitive men, who have, but feeble powers of generalization, has become distinctly recognized as civilization and accompanying mental development have gone on. Accumulated experiences have produced the consciousness that guidance by feelings which refer to remote and general results, is usually more conducive to welfare than guidance by feelings to be immediately gratified. For what is the common character of the feelings that prompt honesty, truthfulness, diligence, providence, &c., which men habitually find to be better prompters than the appetites and simple impulses? They are all complex, re-representative feelings, occupied with the future rather than the present. The idea of authoritativeness has therefore come to be connected with feelings having these traits: the implication being that the lower and simpler feelings are without authority. And this idea of authoritativeness is one element in the abstract consciousness of duty.
But there is another element—the element of coerciveness. This originates from experience of those several forms of restraint that have, as above described, established themselves in the course of civilization—the political, religious, and social. To the effects of punishments inflicted by law and public opinion on conduct of certain kinds, Dr. Bain ascribes the feeling of moral obligation. And I agree with him to the extent of thinking that by them is generated the sense of compulsion which the consciousness of duty includes, and which the word obligation indicates. The existence of an earlier and deeper element, generated as above described, is however, I think, implied by the fact that certain of the higher self-regarding feelings, instigating prudence and economy, have a moral authority in opposition to the simpler self-regarding feelings: showing that apart from any thought of factitious penalties on improvidence, the feeling constituted by representation of the natural penalties has acquired an acknowledged superiority. But accepting in the main the view that fears of the political and social penalties (to which, I think, the religious must be added) have generated that sense of coerciveness which goes along with the thought of postponing present to future and personal desires to the claims of others, it here chiefly concerns us to note that this sense of coerciveness becomes indirectly connected with the feelings distinguished as moral. For since the political, religious, and social restraining motives, are mainly formed of represented future results; and since the moral restraining motive is mainly formed of represented future results; it happens that the representations, having much in common, and being often aroused at the same time, the fear joined with three sets of them becomes, by association, joined with the fourth. Thinking of the extrinsic effects of a forbidden act, excites a dread which continues present while the intrinsic effects of the act are thought of; and being thus linked with these intrinsic effects causes a vague sense of moral compulsion. Emerging as the moral motive does but slowly from amidst the political, religious, and social motives, it long participates in that consciousness of sub-ordination to some external agency which is joined with them; and only as it becomes distinct and predominant does it lose this associated consciousness—only then does the feeling of obligation fade.
This remark implies the tacit conclusion, which will be to most very startling, that the sense of duty or moral obligation is transitory, and will diminish as fast as moralization increases. Startling though it is, this conclusion may be satisfactorily defended. Even now progress towards the implied ultimate state is traceable. The observation is not infrequent that persistence in performing a duty ends in making it a pleasure; and this amounts to the admission that while at first the motive contains an element of coercion, at last this element of coercion dies out, and the act is performed without any consciousness of being obliged to perform it. The contrast between the youth on whom diligence is enjoined, and the man of business so absorbed in affairs that he cannot be induced to relax, shows us how the doing of work, originally under the consciousness that it ought to be done, may eventually cease to have any such accompanying consciousness. Sometimes, indeed, the relation comes to be reversed; and the man of business persists in work from pure love of it when told that he ought not. Nor is it thus with self-regarding feelings only. That the maintaining and protecting of wife by husband often result solely from feelings directly gratified by these actions, without any thought of must; and that the fostering of children by parents is in many cases made an absorbing occupation without any coercive feeling of ought; are obvious truths which show us that even now, with some of the fundamental other-regarding duties, the sense of obligation has retreated into the background of the mind. And it is in some degree so with other-regarding duties of a higher kind. Conscientiousness has in many out-grown that stage in which the sense of a compelling power is joined with rectitude of action. The truly honest man, here and there to be found, is not only without thought of legal, religious, or social compulsion, when he discharges an equitable claim on him; but he is without thought of self-compulsion. He does the right thing with a simple feeling of satisfaction in doing it; and is, indeed, impatient if anything prevents him from having the satisfaction of doing it.
Evidently, then, with complete adaptation to the social state, that element in the moral consciousness which is expressed by the word obligation, will disappear. The higher actions required for the harmonious carrying on of life, will be as much matters of course as are those lower actions which the simple desires prompt. In their proper times and places and proportions, the moral sentiments will guide men just as spontaneously and adequately as now do the sensations. And though, joined with their regulating influence when this is called for, will exist latent ideas of the evils which nonconformity would bring; these will occupy the mind no more than do ideas of the evils of starvation at the time when a healthy appetite is being satisfied by a meal.
§47. This elaborate exposition, which the extreme complexity of the subject has necessitated, may have its leading ideas re-stated thus:—
Symbolizing by a and b, related phenomena in the environment, which in some way concern the welfare of the organism; and symbolizing by c and d, the impressions, simple or compound, which the organism receives from the one, and the motions, single or combined, by which its acts are adapted to meet the other; we saw that psychology in general is concerned with the connexion between the relation a b and the relation c d. Further, we saw that by implication the psychological aspect of Ethics, is that aspect under which the adjustment of c d to a b, appears, not as an intellectual co-ordination simply, but as a co-ordination in which pleasures and pains are alike factors and results.
It was shown that throughout Evolution, motive and act become more complex, as the adaptation of inner related actions to outer related actions extends in range and variety. Whence followed the corollary that the later-evolved feelings, more representative and re-representative in their constitution, and referring to remoter and wider needs, have, on the average, an authority as guides greater than have the earlier and simpler feelings.
After thus observing that even an inferior creature is ruled by a hierarchy of feelings so constituted that general welfare depends on a certain subordination of lower to higher, we saw that in man, as he passes into the social state, there arises the need for sundry additional subordinations of lower to higher: co-operation being made possible only by them. To the restraints constituted by mental representations of the intrinsic effects of actions, which, in their simpler forms, have been evolving from the beginning, are added the restraints caused by mental representations of extrinsic effects, in the shape of political, religious, and social penalties.
With the evolution of society, made possible by institutions maintaining order, and associating in men's minds the sense of obligation with prescribed acts and with desistances from forbidden acts, there arose opportunities for seeing the bad consequences naturally flowing from the conduct interdicted and the good consequences from the conduct required. Hence eventually grew up moral aversions and approvals: experience of the intrinsic effects necessarily here coming later than experience of the extrinsic effects, and therefore producing its results later.
The thoughts and feelings constituting these moral aversions and approvals, being all along closely connected with the thoughts and feelings constituting fears of political, religious, and social penalties, necessarily came to participate in the accompanying sense of obligation. The coercive element in the consciousness of duties at large, evolved by converse with external agencies which enforce duties, diffused itself by association through that consciousness of duty, properly called moral, which is occupied with intrinsic results instead of extrinsic results.
But this self-compulsion, which at a relatively-high stage becomes more and more a substitute for compulsion from without, must itself, at a still higher stage, practically disappear. If some action to which the special motive is insufficient, is performed in obedience to the feeling of moral obligation, the fact proves that the special faculty concerned is not yet equal to its function—has not acquired such strength that the required activity has become its normal activity, yielding its due amount of pleasure. With complete evolution then, the sense of obligation, not ordinarily present in consciousness, will be awakened only on those extra-ordinary occasions that prompt breach of the laws otherwise spontaneously conformed to.
And this brings us to the psychological aspect of that conclusion which, in the last chapter, was reached under its biological aspect. The pleasures and pains which the moral sentiments originate, will, like bodily pleasures and pains, become incentives and deterrents so adjusted in their strengths to the needs, that the moral conduct will be the natural conduct.