Philosophy 330 Atlanta Technical College Utilitarianism Question

Attached are a total of 25 reading comprehension practicequestions for study guide material. All questions require a length of a paragraphfully explaining depending on the question in your own words. * Length requirement: a paragraph or two to answer fully depending on the
1. What is the “ignorant blunder” that Mill wishes to guard against in his
description of utility? (6)
2. What is the foundation of morals? In other words, what does the theory
‘utilitarianism’ claim? (7) Williams
3. What are only things desirable as ends? What does it mean to say
something is desirable as an end? (7)
4. egoism: the ethical doctrine that morality has its foundations in selfinterest. Why is utilitarianism not egoism? (7)
6. egalitarianism: the ethical doctrine that the good or goods should be
distributed equally, fairly or justly. Why is utilitarianism not
egalitarianism? (7)
7. Why would someone say that “utilitarianism is a doctrine worthy of
swine?” (7)
7. What is Mill’s response to the objection that “utilitarianism is a doctrine
worthy of swine?” (7-12)
8. “It may be objected that many who are capable of the higher pleasures
occasionally, under the influence of temptation, postpone them to the
lower.” To what is this an objection? What is Mill’s response? (10)
9. How is it possible to decide which are the best pleasures? (7-12)
10. Suppose I tell you that working with scientists at the University of
Missouri, I have built an amazing new pleasure machine. Anyone who
enters my machine will be guaranteed the maximum amount of physical
pleasure for the remainder of his or life. Unfortunately, entering requires
the loss of rational thought. According to Mill, not many people would
enter my machine. Using textual references, explain why he thinks this.
11. Carefully explain the three sentences at the end of the paragraph on p.
10 that begin “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig
satisfied…” (10)
12. Explain the objection that happiness cannot be the rational purpose of
life. Why would someone make this objection? (12)
13. What is Mill’s response to the objection that happiness cannot be the
rational purpose of life? (12-13)
14. Explain Mill’s view on the constituents of a good and satisfied life. (13)
15. What is Mill’s view on “all the grand sources…of human suffering?” (15)
16. What is Mill’s view of self-sacrifice? (16-17)
17. On pages 16-17, Mill says “In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we
read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility.” Explain why he would
claim this. (16-17)
18. Why would someone object that the disinterested character that
utilitarianism demands is unreasonable to expect? (18-19)
19. Why would someone object that the promotion of general welfare that
utilitarianism demands is unreasonable to expect? (18-19)
20. What is Mill’s response to the objection that the disinterested character
that utilitarianism demands is unreasonable to expect? (18-19)
21. What is Mill’s response to the objection that the promotion of general
welfare that utilitarianism demands is unreasonable to expect? (18-19)
22. Carefully explain the drowning example on p. 18. What point is Mill
making? (18-19)
23. On page 19, Mill says “the great majority of good actions are intended not
for the benefit of the world, but for that of individuals, of which the good
of the world is made up.” What does this mean and why would Mill say it?
24. Carefully explain the sentence on p. 19 that begins “In the case of
abstinences indeed…” What point is Mill making? (18-19)
25. Explain the objection that utilitarianism renders men cold and
unsympathizing. What is Mill’s response? (20-21)
There are few circumstances among those which make up the present condition of human
knowledge more unlike what might have been expected, or more significant of the backward state
in which speculation on the most important subjects still lingers, than the little progress which has
been made in the decision of the controversy respecting the criterion of right and wrong. From the
dawn of philosophy, the question concerning the summum bonus, or, what is the same thing,
concerning the foundation of morality, has been accounted the main problem in speculative
thought, has occupied the most gifted intellects and divided them into sects and schools carrying
on a vigorous warfare against one another. And after more than two thousand years the same
discussions continue, philosophers are still ranged under the same contending banners, and
neither thinkers nor mankind at large seem nearer to being unanimous on the subject than when
the youth Socrates listened to the old Protagoras and asserted (if Plato’s dialogue be grounded on
a real conversation) the theory of utilitarianism against the popular morality of the so-called
sophist. It is true that similar confusion and uncertainty and, in some cases, similar discordance
exist respecting the first principles of all the sciences, not excepting that which is deemed the most
certain of them—mathematics, without much impairing, generally indeed without impairing at all,
the trustworthiness of the conclusions of those sciences. An apparent anomaly, the explanation of
which is that the detailed doctrines of a science are not usually deduced from, nor depend for their
evidence upon, what are called its first principles. Were it not so, there would be no science more
precarious, or whose conclusions were more insufficiently made out, than algebra, which derives
none of its certainty from what are commonly taught to learners as its elements, since these, as
laid down by some 2 Chapter I of its most eminent teachers, are as full of fictions as English law,
and of mysteries as theology. The truths which are ultimately accepted as the first principles of a
science are really the last results of metaphysical analysis practiced on the elementary notions
with which the science is conversant; and their relation to the science is not that of foundations to
an edifice, but of roots to a tree, which may perform their office equally well though they be never
dug down to and exposed to light. But though in science the particular truths precede the general
theory, the contrary might be expected to be the case with a practical art, such as morals or
legislation. All action is for the sake of some end, and rules of action, it seems natural to suppose,
must take their whole character and color from the end to which they are subservient. When we
engage in pursuit, a clear and precise conception of what we are pursuing would seem to be the
first thing we need, instead of the last we are to look forward to. A test of right and wrong must be
the means, one would think, of ascertaining what is right or wrong, and not a consequence of
having already ascertained it. The difficulty is not avoided by having recourse to the popular theory
of a natural faculty, a sense of instinct, informing us of right and wrong. For—besides that the
existence of such a moral instinct is itself one of the matters in dispute—those believers in it who
have any pretensions to philosophy have been obliged to abandon the idea that it discerns what is
right or wrong in the particular case in hand, as our other senses discern the sight or sound actually
present. Our moral faculty, according to all those of its interpreters who are entitled to the name of
thinkers, supplies us only with the general principles of moral judgments; it is a branch of our
reason, not of our sensitive faculty, and must be looked to for the abstract doctrines of morality, not
for perception of it in the concrete. The intuitive, no less than what may be termed the inductive,
school of ethics insists on the necessity of general laws. They both agree that the morality of an
individual action is not a question of direct perception, but of the application of a law to an
individual case. They recognize also, to a great extent, the same moral laws, but differ as to their
evidence and the source from which they derive their authority. According to the one opinion, the
principles of morals are evident a priori, requiring nothing to command assent except that the
meaning of the terms be understood. According to General Remarks 3 the other doctrine, right and
wrong, as well as truth and falsehood, are questions of observation and experience. But both hold
equally that morality must be deduced from principles; and the intuitive school affirm as strongly
as the inductive that there is a science of morals. Yet they seldom attempt to make out a list of the
a priori principles which are to serve as the premises of the science; still more rarely do they make
any effort to reduce those various principles to one first principle or common ground of obligation.
They either assume the ordinary precepts of morals as of a priori authority, or they lay down as the
common groundwork of those maxims some generality much less obviously authoritative than the
maxims them- selves, and which has never succeeded in gaining popular accep- tance. Yet to
support their pretensions there ought either to be some one fundamental principle or law at the root
of all morality, or, if there be several, there should be a determinate order of precedence among
them; and the one principle, or the rule for deciding between the various principles when they
conflict, ought to be self-evident. To inquire how far the bad effects of this deficiency have been
mitigated in practice, or to what extent the moral beliefs of mankind have been vitiated or made
uncertain by the absence of any distinct recognition of an ultimate standard, would imply a
complete survey and criticism of past and present ethical doctrine. It would, however, be easy to
show that whatever steadiness or consistency these moral beliefs have attained has been mainly
due to the tacit influence of a standard not recognized. Although the nonexistence of an
acknowledged first principle has made ethics not so much a guide as a consecration of men’s
actual sentiments, still, as men’s senti- ments, both of favor and of aversion, are greatly influenced
by what they suppose to be the effects of things upon their happiness, the principle of utility, or, as
Bentham latterly called it, the greatest happiness principle, has had a large share in forming the
moral doctrines even of those who most scornfully reject its authority. Nor is there any school of
thought which refuses to admit that the influence of actions on happiness is a most material and
even pre- dominant consideration in many of the details of morals, however unwilling to
acknowledge it as the fundamental principle of morality and the source of moral obligation. I might
go much further and say that to all those a priori moralists who deem it necessary to argue at all,
utilitarian arguments are indispensable. It is not my present purpose to criticize these thinkers; but
I cannot help referring, for illustration, to a systematic treatise by one of the most illustrious of
them, the Metaphysics of Ethics by Kant. This remarkable man, whose system of thought will long
remain one of the landmarks in the history of philosophical speculation, does, in the treatise in
question, lay down a universal first principle as the origin and ground of moral obligation; it is this:
“So act that the rule on which thou actest would admit of being adopted as a law by all rational
beings.” But when he begins to deduce from this precept any of the actual duties of morality, he
fails, almost grotesquely, to show that there would be any contradiction, any logical (not to say
physical) impossi- bility, in the adoption by all rational beings of the most outrageously immoral
rules of conduct. All he shows is that the consequences of their universal adoption would be such
as no one would choose to incur. On the present occasion, I shall, without further discussion of the
other theories, attempt to contribute something toward the un- derstanding and appreciation of the
“utilitarian” or “happiness” the- ory, and toward such proof as it is susceptible of. It is evident that
this cannot be proof in the ordinary and popular meaning of the term. Questions of ultimate ends
are not amenable to direct proof. Whatever can be proved to be good must be so by being shown to
be a means to something admitted to be good without proof. The medical art is proved to be good
by its conducing to health; but how is it possible to prove that health is good? The art of music is
good, for the reason, among others, that it produces pleasure; but what proof is it possible to give
that pleasure is good? If, then, it is asserted that there is a comprehensive formula, including all
things which are in themselves good, and that whatever else is good is not so as an end but as a
means, the formula may be accepted or rejected, but is not a subject of what is commonly
understood by proof. We are not, however, to infer that its acceptance or rejection must depend on
blind impulse or arbitrary choice. There is a larger meaning of the word “proof,” in which this
question is as amenable to it as any other of the disputed questions of philosophy. The subject is
within the cognizance of the rational faculty; and neither does that faculty deal with it solely in the
way of intuition. Considera- tions may be presented capable of determining the intellect either to
give or withhold its assent to the doctrine; and this is equivalent to proof. We shall examine
presently of what nature are these considera- tions; in what manner they apply to the case, and
what rational grounds, therefore, can be given for accepting or rejecting the utili- tarian formula.
But it is a preliminary condition of rational accep- tance or rejection that the formula should be
correctly understood. I believe that the very imperfect notion ordinarily formed of its meaning is the
chief obstacle which impedes its reception, and that, could it be cleared even from only the grosser
misconceptions, the question would be greatly simplified and a large proportion of its difficulties
removed. Before, therefore, I attempt to enter into the philosophical grounds which can be given for
assenting to the utili- tarian standard, I shall offer some illustrations of the doctrine itself, with the
view of showing more clearly what it is, distinguishing it from what it is not, and disposing of such
of the practical objections to it as either originate in, or are closely connected with, mistaken
interpretations of its meaning. Having thus prepared the ground, I shall afterwards endeavor to
throw such light as I can upon the question considered as one of philosophical theory. A passing
remark is all that needs be given to the ignorant blunder of supposing that those who stand up for
utility as the test of right and wrong use the term in that restricted and merely colloquial sense in
which utility is opposed to pleasure. An apology is due to the philosophical opponents of
utilitarianism for even the momentary appearance of confounding them with anyone capable of so
absurd a misconception; which is the more extraordinary, inasmuch as the contrary accusation, of
referring everything to pleasure, and that, too, in its grossest form, is another of the common
charges against utilitarianism: and, as has been pointedly remarked by an able writer, the same sort
of persons, and often the very same persons, denounce the theory “as impracticably dry when the
word ‘utility’ precedes the word ‘pleasure,’ and as too practicably voluptuous when the word
‘pleasure’ precedes the word ‘utility.’ ” Those who know any- thing about the matter are aware that
every writer, from Epicurus to Bentham, who maintained the theory of utility meant by it, not
something to be contradistinguished from pleasure, but pleasure itself, together with exemption
from pain; and instead of opposing the useful to the agreeable or the ornamental, have always
declared that the useful means these, among other things. Yet the common herd, including the herd
of writers, not only in newspapers and periodicals, but in books of weight and pretension, are
perpetually falling into this shallow mistake. Having caught up the word “utilitar- ian,” while
knowing nothing whatever about it but its sound, they habitually express by it the rejection or the
neglect of pleasure in some of its forms: of beauty, of ornament, or of amusement. Nor is the term
thus ignorantly misapplied solely in disparagement, but occasionally in compliment, as though it
implied superiority to frivolity and the mere pleasures of the moment. And this perverted use is the
only one in which the word is popularly known, and the one from which the new generation are
acquiring their sole notion of its meaning. Those who introduced the word, but who had for many
years discontinued it as a distinctive appellation, may well feel themselves called upon to resume it
if by doing so they can hope to contribute anything toward rescuing it from this utter degradation.1
The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals “utility” or the “greatest happiness principle”
holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to
produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended plea- sure and the absence of pain; by
unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure. To give a clear view of the moral standard set up
by the theory, much more requires to be said; in particular, what things it includes in the ideas of
pain and pleasure, and to what extent this is left an open question. But these supplementary
explanations do not affect the theory of life on which this theory of morality is grounded—namely,
that pleasure and freedom from pain are the only things desirable as ends; and that all desirable
things (which are as numerous in the utilitarian as in any other scheme) are desirable either for
pleasure inherent in themselves or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of
pain. Now such a theory of life excites in many minds, and among them in some of the most
estimable in feeling and purpose, inveter- ate dislike. To suppose that life has (as they express it)
no higher end than pleasure—no better and nobler object of desire and pur- suit—they designate as
utterly mean and groveling, as a doctrine worthy only of swine, to whom the followers of Epicurus
were, at a very early period, contemptuously likened; and modern holders of the doctrine are
occasionally made the subject of equally polite comparisons by its German, French, and English
assailants. When thus attacked, the Epicureans have always answered that it is not they, but their
accusers, who represent human nature in a 1. The author of this essay has reason for believing
himself to be the first person who brought the word “utilitarian” into use. He did not invent it, but
adopted it from a passing expression in Mr. Galt’s Annals of the Parish. After using it as a
designation for several years, he and others abandoned it from a growing dislike to anything
resembling a badge or watchword of sectarian distinction. But as a name for one single opinion,
not a set of opinions—to denote the recognition of utility as a standard, not any particular way of
applying it—the term supplies a want in the language, and offers, in many cases, a convenient mode
of avoiding tiresome circumlocution degrading light, since the accusation supposes human beings
to be capable of no pleasures except those of which swine are capable. If this supposition were
true, the charge could not be gainsaid, but would then be no longer an imputation; for if the sources
of pleasure were precisely the same to human beings and to swine, the rule of life which is good
enough for the one would be good enough for the other. The comparison of the Epicurean life to
that of beasts is felt as degrading, precisely because a beast’s pleasures do not satisfy a human
being’s conceptions of happiness. Human beings have faculties more elevated than the animal
appetites and, when once made conscious of them, do not regard anything as happiness which
does not include their gratification. I do not, indeed, consider the Epicureans to have been by any
means faultless in drawing out their scheme of consequences from the utilitarian principle. To do
this in any sufficient manner, many Stoic, as well as Christian, elements require to be included. But
there is no known Epicurean theory of life which does not assign to the pleasures of the intellect, of
the feelings and imagination, and of the moral sentiments a much higher value as pleasures than to
those of mere sensation. It must be admitted, however, that utilitarian writers in general have
placed the superiority of mental over bodily pleasures chiefly in the greater permanency, safety,
uncostliness, etc., of the former—that is, in their circumstantial advantages rather than in their
intrinsic nature. And on all these points utilitarians have fully proved their case; but they might have
taken the other and, as it may be called, higher ground with entire consistency. It is quite
compatible with the principle of utility to recognize the fact that some kinds of pleasure are more
desirable and more valuable than others. It would be absurd that, while in estimating all other
things quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasure should be supposed to
depend on quantity alone. If I am asked what I mean by difference of quality in pleasures, or what
makes one pleasure more valuable than another, merely as a pleasure, except its being greater in
amount, there is but one possible answer. Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all
who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral
obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure. If one of the two is, by those who are
competently acquainted with both, placed so far above the other that they prefer it, even though
knowing it to be attended with a greater amount of discontent, and would not resign it for any
quantity of the other pleasure which their nature is capable of, we are justified in ascribing to the
preferred enjoyment a superiority in quality so far outweighing quantity as to render it, in
comparison, of small account. Now it is an unquestionable fact that those who are equally
acquainted with and equally capable of appreciating and enjoying both do give a most marked
preference to the manner of existence which employs their higher faculties. Few human creatures
would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals for a promise of the fullest allowance of
a beast’s pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person
would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even
though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his
lot than they are with theirs. They would not resign what they possess more than he for the most
complete satisfaction of all the desires which they have in common with him. If they ever fancy
they would, it is only in cases of unhappiness so extreme that to escape from it they would
exchange their lot for almost any other, however undesirable in their own eyes. A being of higher
faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering, and
certainly accessible to it at more points, than one of an inferior type; but in spite of these liabilities,
he can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence. We may give
what explana- tion we please of this unwillingness; we may attribute it to pride, a name which is
given indiscriminately to some of the most and to some of the least estimable feelings of which
mankind are capable; we may refer it to the love of liberty and personal independence, an appeal to
which was with the Stoics one of the most effective means for the inculcation of it; to the love of
power or to the love of excitement, both of which do really enter into and contribute to it; but its
most appropriate appellation is a sense of dignity, which all human beings possess in one form or
other, and in some, though by no means in exact, proportion to their higher faculties, and which is
so essential a part of the happiness of those in whom it is strong that nothing which conflicts with
it could be otherwise than momen- tarily an object of desire to them. Whoever supposes that this
prefer- ence takes place at a sacrifice of happiness—that the superior being, in anything like equal
circumstances, is not happier than the infe- rior—confounds the two very different ideas of
happiness and con- tent. It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low
has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel
that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect. But he can learn
to bear its imperfections, if they are at all bearable; and they will not make him envy the being who
is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which
those imperfections qualify. It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better
to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion,
it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison
knows both sides. It may be objected that many who are capable of the higher pleasures
occasionally, under the influence of temptation, postpone them to the lower. But this is quite
compatible with a full apprecia- tion of the intrinsic superiority of the higher. Men often, from
infirmity of character, make their election for the nearer good, though they know it to be the less
valuable; and this no less when the choice is between two bodily pleasures than when it is between
bodily and mental. They pursue sensual indulgences to the injury of health, though perfectly aware
that health is the greater good. It may be further objected that many who begin with youthful
enthusi- asm for everything noble, as they advance in years, sink into indo- lence and selfishness.
But I do not believe that those who undergo this very common change voluntarily choose the lower
description of pleasures in preference to the higher. I believe that, before they devote themselves
exclusively to the one, they have already become incapable of the other. Capacity for other nobler
feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but by
mere want of sustenance; and in the majority of young persons it speedily dies away if the
occupations to which their position in life has devoted them, and the society into which it has
thrown them, are not favorable to keeping that higher capacity in exercise. Men lose their high
aspirations as they lose their intellectual tastes, because they have not time or opportunity for
indulging them; and they addict themselves to inferior pleasures, not because they deliberately
prefer them, but because they are either the only ones o which they have access or the only ones
which they are any longer capable of enjoying. It may be questioned whether anyone who has
remained equally susceptible to both classes of pleasures ever knowingly and calmly preferred the
lower, though many, in all ages, have broken down in an ineffectual attempt to combine both. From
this verdict of the only competent judges, I apprehend there can be no appeal. On a question which
is the best worth having of two pleasures, or which of two modes of existence is the most grateful
to the feelings, apart from its moral attributes and from its consequences, the judgment of those
who are qualified by knowl- edge of both, or, if they differ, that of the majority among them, must be
admitted as final. And there needs be the less hesitation to accept this judgment respecting the
quality of pleasures, since there is no other tribunal to be referred to even on the question of
quantity. What means are there of determining which is the acutest of two pains, or the intensest of
two pleasurable sensations, except the general suffrage of those who are familiar with both?
Neither pains nor pleasures are homogeneous, and pain is always heterogeneous with pleasure.
What is there to decide whether a particular pleasure is worth purchasing at the cost of a particular
pain, except the feelings and judgment of the experienced? When, therefore, those feelings and
judgment declare the pleasures derived from the higher faculties to be preferable in kind, apart from
the question of intensity, to those of which the animal nature, disjoined from the higher faculties, is
susceptible, they are entitled on this subject to the same regard. I have dwelt on this point as being
a necessary part of a perfectly just conception of utility or happiness considered as the directive
rule of human conduct. But it is by no means an indispensable condition to the acceptance of the
utilitarian standard; for that standard is not the agent’s own greatest happiness, but the greatest
amount of happiness altogether; and if it may possibly be doubted whether a noble character is
always the happier for its nobleness, there can be no doubt that it makes other people happier, and
that the world in general is immensely a gainer by it. Utilitarianism, therefore, could only attain its
end by the general cultivation of nobleness of character, even if each individual were only benefited
by the nobleness of others, and his own, so far as happiness is concerned, were a sheer deduction
from the benefit. But the bare enunciation of such an absurdity as this last renders refutation
superfluous. According to the greatest happiness principle, as above explained, the ultimate end,
with reference to and for the sake of which all other things are desirable—whether we are
considering our own good or that of other people—is an existence exempt as far as possible from
pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments, both in point of quantity and quality; the test of quality
and the rule of measuring it against quantity being the preference felt by those who, in their
opportunities of experience, to which must be added their habits of self-consciousness and selfobservation, are best furnished with the means of comparison. This, being according to the
utilitarian opinion the end of human action, is necessarily also the standard of morality, which may
accordingly be defined “the rules and pre- cepts for human conduct,” by the observance of which
an existence such as has been described might be, to the greatest extent possible, secured to all
mankind; and not to them only, but, so far as the nature of things admits, to the whole sentient
creation. Against this doctrine, however, arises another class of objectors who say that happiness,
in any form, cannot be the rational purpose of human life and action; because, in the first place, it is
unattainable; and they contemptuously ask, What right hast thou to be happy?— a question which
Mr. Carlyle clinches by the addition, What right, a short time ago, hadst thou even to be? Next they
say that men can do without happiness; that all noble human beings have felt this, and could not
have become noble but by learning the lesson of Entsagen, or renunciation; which lesson,
thoroughly learned and submitted to, they affirm to be the beginning and necessary condition of all
virtue. The first of these objections would go to the root of the matter were it well founded; for if no
happiness is to be had at all by human beings, the attainment of it cannot be the end of morality or
of any rational conduct. Though, even in that case, something might still be said for the utilitarian
theory, since utility includes not solely the pursuit of happiness, but the prevention or mitigation of
unhappi- ness; and if the former aim be chimerical, there will be all the greater scope and more
imperative need for the latter, so long at least as mankind think fit to live and do not take refuge in
the simultaneous act of suicide recommended under certain conditions y Novalis. When, however,
it is thus positively asserted to be impos- sible that human life should be happy, the assertion, if
not something like a verbal quibble, is at least an exaggeration. If by happiness be meant a
continuity of highly pleasurable excitement, it is evident enough that this is impossible. A state of
exalted pleasure lasts only moments or in some cases, and with some intermissions, hours or days,
and is the occasional brilliant flash of enjoyment, not its permanent and steady flame. Of this the
philosophers who have taught that happiness is the end of life were as fully aware as those who
taunt them. The happiness which they meant was not a life of rapture, but moments of such, in an
existence made up of few and transitory pains, many and various pleasures, with a decided
predominance of the active over the passive, and having as the foundation of the whole not to
expect more from life than it is capable of bestowing. A life thus composed, to those who have been
fortunate enough to obtain it, has always appeared worthy of the name of happiness. And such an
existence is even now the lot of many during some considerable portion of their lives. The present
wretched education and wretched social arrangements are the only real hindrance to its being
attainable by almost all. The objectors perhaps may doubt whether human beings, if taught to
consider happiness as the end of life, would be satisfied with such a moderate share of it. But great
numbers of mankind have been satisfied with much less. The main constituents of a satisfied life
appear to be two, either of which by itself is often found sufficient for the purpose: tranquillity and
excitement. With much tranquillity, many find that they can be content with very little pleasure; with
much excitement, many can reconcile themselves to a considerable quantity of pain. There is
assuredly no inherent impossibility of enabling even the mass of mankind to unite both, since the
two are so far from being incompatible that they are in natural alliance, the prolongation of either
being a preparation for, and exciting a wish for, the other. It is only those in whom indolence
amounts to a vice that do not desire excitement after an interval of repose; it is only those in whom
the need of excitement is a disease that feel the tranquillity which follows excitement dull and
insipid, instead of pleasurable in direct proportion to the excitement which preceded it. When
people who are tolerably fortunate in their outward lot do not find in life sufficient enjoyment to
make it valuable to them, the cause generally is caring for nobody but themselves. To those who
have neither public nor private affections, the excitements of life are much curtailed, and in any
case dwindle in value as the time approaches when all selfish interests must be terminated by
death; while those who leave after them objects of personal affection, and especially those who
have also cultivated a fellow-feeling with the collective interests of mankind, retain as lively an
interest in life on the eve of death as in the vigor of youth and health. Next to selfishness, the
principal cause which makes life unsatisfactory is want of mental cultivation. A cultivated mind—I
do not mean that of a philosopher, but any mind to which the fountains of knowledge have been
opened, and which has been taught, in any tolerable degree, to exercise its faculties—finds sources
of inexhaustible inter- est in all that surrounds it: in the objects of nature, the achievements of art,
the imaginations of poetry, the incidents of history, the ways of mankind, past and present, and
their prospects in the future. It is possible, indeed, to become indifferent to all this, and that too
without having exhausted a thousandth part of it, but only when one has had from the beginning no
moral or human interest in these things and has sought in them only the gratification of curiosity.
Now there is absolutely no reason in the nature of things why an amount of mental culture
sufficient to give an intelligent interest in these objects of contemplation should not be the
inheritance of everyone born in a civilized country. As little is there an inherent necessity that any
human being should be a selfish egotist, devoid of every feeling or care but those which center in
his own miserable individuality. Something far superior to this is sufficiently common even now, to
give ample earnest of what the human species may be made. Genuine private affections and a
sincere interest in the public good are possible, though in unequal degrees, to every rightly brought
up human being. In a world in which there is so much to interest, so much to enjoy, and so much
also to correct and improve, everyone who has this moderate amount of moral and intellectual
requisites is capable of an existence which may be called enviable; and unless such a person,
through bad laws or subjection to the will of others, is denied the liberty to use the sources of
happiness within his reach, he will not fail to find this enviable existence, if he escapes the positive
evils of life, the great sources of physical and mental suffering—such as indigence, disease, and the
unkindness worthlessness, or premature loss of objects of affection. The main stress of the
problem lies, therefore, in the contest with these calami- ties from which it is a rare good fortune
entirely to escape; which, as things now are, cannot be obviated, and often cannot be in any
material degree mitigated. Yet no one whose opinion deserves a moment’s consideration can
doubt that most of the great positive evils of the world are in themselves removable, and will, if
human affairs continue to improve, be in the end reduced within narrow limits. Poverty, in any
sense implying suffering, may be completely extinguished by the wisdom of society combined with
the good sense and providence of individuals. Even that most intractable of enemies, disease, may
be indefinitely reduced in dimensions by good physical and moral education and proper control of
noxious influences, while the progress of science holds out a promise for the future of still more
direct conquests over this detestable foe. And every advance in that direction relieves us from
some, not only of the chances which cut short our own lives, but, what concerns us still more,
which deprive us of those in whom our happiness is wrapt up. As for vicissitudes of fortune and
other disappointments connected with worldly circumstances, these are principally the effect either
of gross imprudence, of ill-regulated desires, or of bad or imperfect social institutions. All the grand
sources, in short, of human suffering are in a great degree, many of them almost entirely,
conquerable by human care and effort; and though their removal is grievously slow—though a long
succession of generations will perish in the breach before the conquest is completed, and this
world becomes all that, if will and knowledge were not wanting, it might easily be made—yet every
mind sufficiently intelligent and generous to bear a part, however small and inconspicuous, in the
endeavor will draw a noble enjoyment from the contest itself, which he would not for any bribe in
the form of selfish indulgence consent to be without. And this leads to the true estimation of what
is said by the objectors concerning the possibility and the obligation of learning to do with- out
happiness. Unquestionably it is possible to do without happiness; it is done involuntarily by
nineteen-twentieths of mankind, even in those parts of our present world which are least deep in
barbarism; and it often has to be done voluntarily by the hero or the martyr, for the sake of
something which he prizes more than his individual happiness. But this something, what is it,
unless the happiness of others or some of the requisites of happiness? It is noble to be capable of
resigning entirely one’s own portion of happiness, or chances of it; but, after all, this self-sacrifice
must be for some end; it is not its own end; and if we are told that its end is not happiness but
virtue, which is better than happiness, I ask, would the sacrifice be made if the hero or martyr did
not believe that it would earn for others immunity from similar sacrifices? Would it be made if he
thought that his renunciation of happiness for himself would produce no fruit for any of his fellow
creatures, but to make their lot like his and place them also in the condition of persons who have
renounced happiness? All honor to those who can abnegate for themselves the personal enjoyment
of life when by such renuncia- tion they contribute worthily to increase the amount of happiness in
the world; but he who does it or professes to do it for any other purpose is no more deserving of
admiration than the ascetic mounted on his pillar. He may be an inspiring proof of what men can
do, but assuredly not an example of what they should. Though it is only in a very imperfect state of
the world’s arrange- ments that anyone can best serve the happiness of others by the absolute
sacrifice of his own, yet, so long as the world is in that imperfect state, I fully acknowledge that the
readiness to make such a sacrifice is the highest virtue which can be found in man. I will add that in
this condition of the world, paradoxical as the assertion may be, the conscious ability to do without
happiness gives the best prospect of realizing such happiness as is attainable. For nothing except
that consciousness can raise a person above the chances of life by making him feel that, let fate
and fortune do their worst, they have not power to subdue him; which, once felt, frees him from
excess of anxiety concerning the evils of life and enables him, like many a Stoic in the worst times
of the Roman Empire, to cultivate in tranquillity the sources of satisfaction accessible to him,
without concerning himself about the uncertainty of their duration any more than about their
inevitable end. Meanwhile, let utilitarians never cease to claim the morality of self-devotion as a
possession which belongs by as good a right to them as either to the Stoic or to the
Transcendentalist. The utilitarian morality does recognize in human beings the power of sacrificing
their own greatest good for the good of others. It only refuses to admit that the sacrifice is itself a
good. A sacrifice which does not increase or tend to increase the sum total of happiness, it
considers as wasted. The only self-renunciation which it applauds is devotion to the happiness, or
to some of the means of happiness, of others, either of mankind collectively or of individuals within
the limits imposed by the collective interests of mankind. I must again repeat what the assailants
of utilitarianism seldom have the justice to acknowledge, that the happiness which forms the
utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct is not the agent’s own happiness but that of all
concerned. As between his own happi- ness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as
strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator. In the golden rule of Jesus of
Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. “To do as you would be done by,” and
“to love your neighbor as yourself,” constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality. As the
means of making the nearest approach to this ideal, utility would enjoin, first, that laws and social
arrangements should place the happiness or (as, speaking practically, it may be called) the interest
of every individual as nearly as possible in harmony with the interest of the whole; and, secondly,
that education and opinion, which have so vast a power over human character, should so use that
power as to establish in the mind of every individual an indissoluble association between his own
happiness and the good of the whole, especially between his own happiness and the practice of
such modes of conduct, negative and positive, as regard for the universal happiness prescribes; so
that not only he may be unable to conceive the possibility of happiness to himself, consistently with
conduct opposed to the general good, but also that a direct impulse to promote the general good
may be in every individual one of the habitual motives of action, and the sentiments connected
therewith may fill a large and prominent place in every human being’s sen- tient existence. If the
impugners of the utilitarian morality repre- sented it to their own minds in this its true character, I
know not what recommendation possessed by any other morality they could possibly affirm to be
wanting to it; what more beautiful or more exalted developments of human nature any other ethical
sys- tem can be supposed to foster, or what springs of action, not accessi- ble to the utilitarian,
such systems rely on for giving effect to their mandates. 18 Chapter II The objectors to
utilitarianism cannot always be charged with representing it in a discreditable light. On the
contrary, those among them who entertain anything like a just idea of its disinterested character
sometimes find fault with its standard as being too high for humanity. They say it is exacting too
much to require that people shall always act from the inducement of promoting the general
interests of society. But this is to mistake the very meaning of a standard of morals and confound
the rule of action with the motive of it. It is the business of ethics to tell us what are our duties, or
by what test we may know them; but no system of ethics requires that the sole motive of all we do
shall be a feeling of duty; on the contrary, ninety-nine hundredths of all our actions are done from
other motives, and rightly so done if the rule of duty does not condemn them. It is the more unjust
to utilitarianism that this particular misapprehension should be made a ground of objection to it,
inasmuch as utilitarian moralists have gone beyond almost all others in affirming that the motive
has nothing to do with the morality of the action, though much with the worth of the agent. He who
saves a fellow creature from drowning does what is morally right, whether his motive be duty or the
hope of being paid for his trouble; he who betrays the friend that trusts him is guilty of a crime, even
if his object be to serve another friend to whom he is under greater obligations.2 But to speak only
of actions done from the 2. An opponent, whose intellectual and moral fairness it is a pleasure to
acknowledge (the Rev. J. Llewellyn Davies), has objected to this passage, saying, “Surely the
rightness or wrongness of saving a man from drowning does depend very much upon the motive
with which it is done. Suppose that a tyrant, when his enemy jumped into the sea to escape from
him, saved him from drowning simply in order that he might inflict upon him more exquisite
tortures, would it tend to clearness to speak of that rescue as ‘a morally right action’? Or suppose
again, according to one of the stock illustrations of ethical inquiries, that a man betrayed a trust
received from a friend, because the discharge of it would fatally injure that friend himself or
someone belonging to him, would utilitarian- ism compel one to call the betrayal ‘a crime’ as much
as if it had been done from the meanest motive?” I submit that he who saves another from
drowning in order to kill him by torture afterwards does not differ only in motive from him who does
the same thing from duty or benevolence; the act itself is different. The rescue of the man is, in the
case supposed, only the necessary first step of an act far more atrocious than leaving him to drown
would have been. Had Mr. Davies said motive of duty, and in direct obedience to principle: it is a
misappre- hension of the utilitarian mode of thought to conceive it as implying that people should
fix their minds upon so wide a generality as the world, or society at large. The great majority of
good actions are intended not for the benefit of the world, but for that of individuals, of which the
good of the world is made up; and the thoughts of the most virtuous man need not on these
occasions travel beyond the particular persons concerned, except so far as is necessary to assure
himself that in benefiting them he is not violating the rights, that is, the legitimate and authorized
expectations, of anyone else. The multiplication of happiness is, according to the utilitarian ethics,
the object of virtue: the occasions on which any person (except one in a thousand) has it in his
power to do this on an extended scale— in other words, to be a public benefactor—are but
exceptional; and on these occasions alone is he called on to consider public utility; in every other
case, private utility, the interest or happiness of some few persons, is all he has to attend to. Those
alone the influence of whose actions extends to society in general need concern themselves
habitually about so large an object. In the case of abstinences in- deed—of things which people
forbear to do from moral considera- tions, though the consequences in the particular case might be
beneficial—it would be unworthy of an intelligent agent not to be consciously aware that the action
is of a class which, if practiced generally, would be generally injurious, and that this is the ground of
the obligation to abstain from it. The amount of regard for the public interest implied in this
recognition is no greater than is “The rightness or wrongness of saving a man from drowning does
depend very much”—not upon the motive, but—“upon the intention,” no utilitarian would have
differed from him. Mr. Davies, by an oversight too common not to be quite venial, has in this case
confounded the very different ideas of Motive and Intention. There is no point which utilitarian
thinkers (and Bentham pre- eminently) have taken more pains to illustrate than this. The morality
of the action depends entirely upon the intention—that is, upon what the agent wills to do. But the
motive, that is, the feeling which makes him will so to do, if it makes no difference in the act, makes
none in the morality: though it makes a great difference in our moral estimation of the agent,
especially if it indicates a good or a bad habitual disposition—a bent of character from which
useful, or from which hurtful actions are likely to arise. [This footnote appeared only in the second
edition of Utilitarianism.] emanded by every system of morals, for they all enjoin to abstain from
whatever is manifestly pernicious to society. The same considerations dispose of another reproach
against the doctrine of utility, founded on a still grosser misconception of the purpose of a standard
of morality and of the very meaning of the words “right” and “wrong.” It is often affirmed that
utilitarianism renders men cold and unsympathizing; that it chills their moral feelings toward
individuals; that it makes them regard only the dry and hard consideration of the consequences of
actions, not taking into their moral estimate the qualities from which those actions emanate. If the
assertion means that they do not allow their judgment respecting the rightness or wrongness of an
action to be influenced by their opinion of the qualities of the person who does it, this is a
complaint not against utilitarianism, but against any standard or morality at all; for certainly no
known ethical standard decides an action to be good or bad because it is done by a good or bad
man, still less because done by an amiable, a brave, or a benevolent man, or the contrary. These
considerations are relevant, not to the estimation of actions, but of persons; and there is nothing in
the utilitarian theory inconsistent with the fact that there are other things which interest us in
persons besides the rightness and wrongness of their actions. The Stoics, indeed, with the
paradoxical misuse of language which was part of their system, and by which they strove to raise
themselves above all concern about anything but virtue, were fond of saying that he who has that
has everything; that he, and only he, is rich, is beautiful, is a king. But no claim of this description is
made for the virtuous man by the utilitarian doctrine. Utilitarians are quite aware that there are
other desirable possessions and quali- ties besides virtue, and are perfectly willing to allow to all of
them their full worth. They are also aware that a right action does not necessarily indicate a
virtuous character, and that actions which are blamable often proceed from qualities entitled to
praise. When this is apparent in any particular case, it modifies their estimation, not certainly of the
act, but of the agent. I grant that they are, notwith- standing, of opinion that in the long run the best
proof of a good character is good actions; and resolutely refuse to consider any mental disposition
as good of which the predominant tendency is to produce bad conduct. This makes them
unpopular with many people, but it is an unpopularity which they must share with everyone who
regards the distinction between right and wrong in a serious light; and the reproach is not one
which a conscientious utilitarian need be anxious to repel. If no more be meant by the objection
than that many utilitarians look on the morality of actions, as measured by the utilitarian stan-
dards, with too exclusive a regard, and do not lay sufficient stress upon the other beauties of
character which go toward making a human being lovable or admirable, this may be admitted.
Utilitarians who have cultivated their moral feelings, but not their sympathies, nor their artistic
perceptions, do fall into this mistake; and so do all other moralists under the same conditions. What
can be said in excuse for other moralists is equally available for them, namely, that, if there is to be
any error, it is better that it should be on that side. As a matter of fact, we may affirm that among
utilitarians, as among adherents of other systems, there is every imaginable degree of rigidity and
of laxity in the application of their standard; some are even puritanically rigorous, while others are
as indulgent as can possibly be desired by sinner or by sentimentalist. But on the whole, a doctrine
which brings prominently forward the interest that mankind have in the repression and prevention
of conduct which violates the moral law is likely to be inferior to no other in turning the sanctions of
opinion against such violations. It is true, the question “What does violate the moral law?” is one on
which those who recognize different standards of morality are likely now and then to differ. But
difference of opinion on moral questions was not first introduced into the world by utilitarianism,
while that doctrine does supply, if not always an easy, at all events a tangible and intelligible, mode
of deciding such differences. It may not be superfluous to notice a few more of the common
misapprehensions of utilitarian ethics, even those which are so obvi- ous and gross that it might
appear impossible for any person of candor and intelligence to fall into them; since persons, even
of considerable mental endowment, often give themselves so little trouble to understand the
bearings of any opinion against which they entertain a prejudice, and men are in general so little
conscious of this voluntary ignorance as a defect that the vulgarest misunder- standings of ethical
doctrines are continually met with in the deliber- ate writings of persons of the greatest
pretensions both to high principle and to philosophy. We not uncommonly hear the doctrine 22
Chapter II of utility inveighed against a godless doctrine. If it be necessary to say anything at all
against so mere an assumption, we may say that the question depends upon what idea we have
formed of the moral character of the Deity. If it be a true belief that God desires, above all things,
the happiness of his creatures, and that this was his purpose in their creation, utility is not only not
a godless doctrine, but more profoundly religious than any other. If it be meant that utilitarianism
does not recognize the revealed will of God as the supreme law of morals, I answer that a utilitarian
who believes in the perfect good- ness and wisdom of God necessarily believes that whatever God
has thought fit to reveal on the subject of morals must fulfill the requirements of utility in a
supreme degree. But others besides utilitarians have been of opinion that the Christian revelation
was intended, and is fitted, to inform the hearts and minds of mankind with a spirit which should
enable them to find for themselves what is right, and incline them to do it when found, rather than
to tell them, except in a very general way, what it is; and that we need a doctrine of ethics, carefully
followed out, to interpret to us the will of God. Whether this opinion is correct or not, it is
superfluous here to discuss; since whatever aid religion, either natural or revealed, can afford to
ethical investigation is as open to the utilitarian moralist as to any other. He can use it as the
testimony of God to the usefulness or hurtfulness of any given course of action by as good a right
as others can use it for the indication of a transcendental law having no connection with
usefulness or with happiness. Again, utility is often summarily stigmatized as an immoral doctrine by giving it the name of “expediency,” and taking advantage of the popular use of that term to
contrast it with principle. But the expedient, in the sense in which it is opposed to the right,
generally means that which is expedient for the particular interest of the agent himself; as when a
minister sacrifices the interests of his country to keep himself in place. When it means anything
better than this, it means that which is expedient for some immediate object, some temporary
purpose, but which violates a rule whose observance is expedient in a much higher degree. The
expedient, in this sense, instead of being the same thing with the useful, is a branch of the hurtful.
Thus it would often be expedient, for the purpose of getting over some momentary embarrassment,
or attaining some object immediately useful to ourselves or others, to tell a lie. But inasmuch as the
cultivation in ourselves of a sensitive feeling on the subject of veracity is one of the most useful,
and the enfeeblement of that feeling one of the most hurtful, things to which our conduct can be
instrumental; and inasmuch as any, even unintentional, deviation from truth does that much toward
weakening the trustworthiness of human assertion, which is not only the principal support of all
present social well-being, but the insufficiency of which does more than any one thing that can be
named to keep back civilization, virtue, everything on which human happiness on the largest scale
depends—we feel that the violation, for a present advantage, of a rule of such transcendent
expediency is not expedient, and that he who, for the sake of convenience to himself or to some
other individ- ual, does what depends on him to deprive mankind of the good, and inflict upon them
the evil, involved in the greater or less reliance which they can place in each other’s word, acts the
part of one of their worst enemies. Yet that even this rule, sacred as it is, admits of possible
exceptions is acknowledged by all moralists; the chief of which is when the withholding of some
fact (as of information from a malefactor, or of bad news from a person dangerously ill) would save
an individual (especially an individual other than oneself) from great and unmerited evil, and when
the withholding can only be effected by denial. But in order that the exception may not extend itself
beyond the need, and may have the least possible effect in weakening reliance on veracity, it ought
to be recognized and, if possible, its limits defined; and, if the principle of utility is good for
anything, it must be good for weighing these conflicting utilities against one another and marking
out the region within which one or the other preponderates. Again, defenders of utility often find
themselves called upon to reply to such objections as this—that there is not time, previous to
action, for calculating and weighing the effects of any line of conduct on the general happiness.
This is exactly as if anyone were to say that it is impossible to guide our conduct by Christianity
because there is not time, on every occasion on which anything has to be done, to read through the
Old and New Testaments. The answer to the objection is that there has been ample time, namely,
the whole past duration of the human species. During all that time mankind have been learning by
experience the tendencies of actions; on which experience all the prudence as well as all the
morality of life are dependent. People talk as if the commencement of this course of experience had
hitherto been put off, and as if, at the moment when some man feels tempted to meddle with the
property or life of another, he had to begin considering for the first time whether murder and theft
are injurious to human happiness. Even then I do not think that he would find the question very
puzzling; but, at all events, the matter is now done to his hand. It is truly a whimsical supposition
that, if mankind were agreed in considering utility to be the test of morality, they would remain
without any agreement as to what is useful, and would take no measures for having their notions
on the subject taught to the young and enforced by law and opinion. There is no difficulty in proving
any ethical standard whatever to work ill if we suppose universal idiocy to be conjoined with it; but
on any hypothesis short of that, mankind must by this time have acquired positive beliefs as to the
effects of some actions on their happiness; and the beliefs which have thus come down are the
rules of morality for the multitude, and for the philosopher until he has succeeded in finding better.
That philosophers might easily do this, even now, on many subjects; that the received code of
ethics is by no means of divine right; and that mankind have still much to learn as to the effects of
actions on the general happiness, I admit or rather earnestly maintain. The corollaries from the
principle of utility, like the precepts of every practical art, admit of indefinite improvement, and, in a
progressive state of the human mind, their improvement is perpetually going on. But to consider
the rules of morality as improvable is one thing; to pass over the intermediate generalization
entirely and endeavor to test each individual action directly by the first principle is another. It is a
strange notion that the acknowledgment of a first principle is inconsistent with the admission of
secondary ones. To inform a traveler respecting the place of his ultimate destination is not to forbid
the use of landmarks and direction-posts on the way. The proposition that happiness is the end
and aim of morality does not mean that no road ought to be laid down to that goal, or that persons
going thither should not be advised to take one direction rather than another. Men really ought to
leave off talking a kind of nonsense on this subject, which they would neither talk nor listen to on
other matters of practical concernment. Nobody argues that the art of navigation is not founded on
astronomy because sailors cannot wait o calculate the Nautical Almanac. Being rational creatures,
they go to sea with it ready calculated; and all rational creatures go out upon the sea of life with
their minds made up on the common questions of right and wrong, as well as on many of the far
more difficult questions of wise and foolish. And this, as long as foresight is a human quality, it is to
be presumed they will continue to do. Whatever we adopt as the fundamental principle of morality,
we require subordinate principles to apply it by; the impossibility of doing without them, being
common to all systems, can afford no argument against any one in particular; but gravely to argue
as if no such secondary principles could be had, and as if mankind had remained till now, and
always must remain, without drawing any general conclusions from the experience of human life is
as high a pitch, I think, as absurdity has ever reached in philosophical controversy. The remainder
of the stock arguments against utilitarianism mostly consist in laying to its charge the common
infirmities of human nature, and the general difficulties which embarrass consci- entious persons
in shaping their course through life. We are told that a utilitarian will be apt to make his own
particular case an exception to moral rules, and, when under temptation, will see a utility in the
breach of a rule, greater than he will see in its obser- vance. But is utility the only creed which is
able to furnish us with excuses for evil-doing and means of cheating our own conscience? They are
afforded in abundance by all doctrines which recognize as a fact in morals the existence of
conflicting considerations, which all doctrines do that have been believed by sane persons. It is not
the fault of any creed, but of the complicated nature of human affairs, that rules of conduct cannot
be so framed as to require no exceptions, and that hardly any kind of action can safely be laid down
as either always obligatory or always condemnable. There is no ethical creed which does not
temper the rigidity of its laws by giving a certain latitude, under the moral responsibility of the
agent, for accommodation to peculiarities of circumstances; and under every creed, at the opening
thus made, self-deception and dishonest casuistry get in. There exists no moral system under
which there do not arise unequivocal cases of conflicting obligation. These are the real difficulties,
the knotty points both in the theory of ethics and in the conscientious guidance of personal
conduct. They are overcome practically, with greater or with less success, according to the intellect
and virtue of the individual; but it can hardly be pre- tended that anyone will be the less qualified for
dealing with them, from possessing an ultimate standard to which conflicting rights and duties can
be referred. If utility is the ultimate source of moral obligations, utility may be invoked to decide
between them when their demands are incompatible. Though the application of the standard may
be difficult, it is better than none at all; while in other systems, the moral laws all claiming
independent authority, there is no common umpire entitled to interfere between them; their claims
to precedence one over another rest on little better than sophistry, and, unless determined, as they
generally are, by the unacknowledged influence of consideration of utility, afford a free scope for
the action of personal desires and partialities. We must remember that only in these cases of
conflict between secondary principles is it requisite that first principles should be appealed to.
There is no case of moral obligation in which some secondary principle is not involved; and if only
one, there can seldom be any real doubt which one it is, in the mind of any person by whom the
principle itself is recognized.

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