Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 8.: The Ultimate Sanctions - The Principles of Ethics, vol. 2
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CHAPTER 8.: The Ultimate Sanctions - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Ethics, vol. 2 
The Principles of Ethics, introduction by Tibor R. Machan (Indianapolis: LibertyClassics, 1978). Vol. 2.
Part of: The Principles of Ethics, 2 vols.
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The Ultimate Sanctions
426. Though occasionally, in the foregoing chapters, I have briefly indicated the origin of the obligation to be beneficent, I have not under each head referred to this origin, but have thought it best here to emphasize it generally.
The admitted desideratum being maintenance and prosperity of the species, or that variety of the species constituting the society, the implication is that the modes of conduct here enjoined under the head of negative beneficence, have their remote justification in their conduciveness to such maintenance and prosperity. It was pointed out that certain restraints on free competition are demanded not only by regard for a competitor as likely to be needlessly ruined, but also by regard for society at large; injury of which would result from partial destruction of its producing and distributing organization. It was tacitly alleged that restraints on free contract are imposed by recognition of extreme damages to individuals, considerable damage to society, and consequent damage to the local variety of the species, which result if contracts are under all circumstances enforced to the letter. And kindred reasons were implied for reprobating various minor divergencies from the fundamental principle of social cooperation–that each individual shall, under ordinary circumstances, receive neither more nor less than a true equivalent for his services.
Here it should be added that the maintenance or prosperity of the race, or the variety, is the ultimate sanction also for those kinds of negative beneficence treated of as restraints on praise and blame. For the right restraints are in all cases such as have in view the eventual welfare of the individual blamed or praised–his eventual improvement. But improvement of the individual consists in the better fitting of him for social cooperation; and this, being conducive to social prosperity, is conducive to maintenance of the race.
427. The second sanction is a correlative of the first, or indeed, from one point of view, is the first; since, unless the race maintained is a recipient of happiness, maintenance of it ceases to be a desideratum. As was pointed out in section 16, “pessimists and optimists both start with the postulate that life is a blessing or a curse, according as the average consciousness accompanying it is pleasurable or painful. . . . The truth that conduct is considered by us as good or bad, according as its aggregate results, to self or others or both, are pleasurable or painful, we found on examination to be involved in all the current judgments of conduct: the proof being that reversing the applications of the words creates absurdities. And we found that every other proposed standard of conduct derives its authority from this standard”; for “perfection of nature,” or “virtuousness of action,” or “rectitude of motive,” cannot be conceived without including the conception of happiness as an ultimate result, to self, or others or both. Hence the conclusion that the ultimate sanction for the conduct we call beneficent is conduciveness to maintenance of the species, simultaneously implies that its ultimate sanction is conduciveness to happiness, special or general: the two being different aspects of the same truth.
Their fundamental correlation is, as we before saw, necessary–has been inevitably established during the evolution of life at large. For as in all types of creatures lower than the human, there have been no prompters to performance of some actions and desistance from others, except the pleasurable and painful feelings produced respectively, it follows that through myriads of generations of creatures preceding the human, there have been in course of establishment, organic relations between pleasures and beneficial actions, and between pains and detrimental actions–now to the individual, now to the species, now to both. Of these organic relations, the essential ones, referring to the needs of the physical life, are inherited by the human race, savage and civilized; and are on the average efficient guides to the welfare of the individual and of the species. Though change from the requirements of savage life to the requirements of civilized life, has put many of the more complex among these relations out of gear; and though readjustment, already to some extent effected, has to continue through long future periods, before harmony between the feelings and the needs is fully reestablished; yet there cannot be an abolition of this primordial method of guidance. The requisite reorganization of the human being, must make him like inferior beings in the sense that not the lower parts of his nature only but the higher parts, will be adjusted to the conditions imposed by his mode of life–so adjusted that in him, as in them, all the actions conducive to self-welfare and the welfare of the species will be pleasurable.
Hence the two correlative sanctions of beneficence are conduciveness to happiness, immediate or remote, or both, and consequent conduciveness to maintenance of the species or the variety, regarded as hereafter the recipient of increased happiness. And this is implied vaguely if not clearly in the current conception of beneficence; since a mode of conduct which tends to increase the total of unhappiness, immediate or remote or both, is universally recognized as not beneficent but maleficent.
Of course these considerations touching the nature of beneficence at large, here appended as a commentary on the actions classed under the head of negative beneficence, equally apply, and indeed apply still more manifestly, to the actions classed under the head of positive beneficence, to which we now pass.
THE ETHICS OF SOCIAL LIFE: POSITIVE BENEFICENCE