The above classification is, I think, exhaustive of the possible principles of moral valuation, in the broad sense in which we are at present viewing them. It does not, to be sure, cover theories which measure the moral value of conduct in terms of its external consequences, e.g. pleasure-productiveness. For such a theory, it will be a matter of indifference what kind of end is actually willed, or again whether any effort was required to rise to the act. What matters will be simply, what kind of effects does the act in fact produce? But the failure to take account of such theories is not really a defect in the classification put forward. For theories like Benthamism in its strict form - or so at least I should be prepared to argue - are styled 'ethical' theories only, as it were, by courtesy. It is not so much that Benthamism has arrived at the wrong destination, as that it has never really started. For it has failed to recognise the primary characteristic of its ostensible subject-matter, failed to recognise that morality, and therefore ethical theory, has to do essentially with personal worth, as manifested in conduct. Benthamism has really a far closer affinity with Economics than with Ethics. Economics is concerned to discover what are the kinds of action that produce wealth. Benthamism is concerned to discover what are the kinds of action that produce pleasure. Neither is in principle at all interested in the doer of the action save in his capacity as producer. But, as Aristotle long ago pointed out, morality cannot be regarded as an art whose value lies solely in its external effects. The inner nature of the act matters profoundly in our estimation of its moral worth. Benthamism in abstracting from this aspect - doubtless because its deterministic psychology left, for honest thinking, no room for genuine differences in personal worth - ipso facto abandons all claim to be considered as an ethical theory.
1 The significance of this qualification will become evident as we proceed.
Let us take it, then, that (a), (b), and (c) cover all possible principles of moral valuation. I want to show now, in as pointed a way as I can, the rock upon which, as I see it, all theories of type (a) and type (b) inevitably split. There will here be no intricate chain of reasoning. The essence of the matter is essentially simple. But I take the liberty of expressing the hope that the reader will not be deceived by its simplicity into regarding it as unworthy of attention. For simple as it is, it has got to be remembered that there are strong reasons why considerations which, by disposing of (a) and (b), leave no option but (c), have tended to be slurred over in most ethical thinking. The objections on general philosophic principles to theories of type (c), i.e. theories which take 'will-energy' as the thing of primary importance in moral valuation, are very commonly assumed to be quite insuperable. Type (c), therefore, tends to be ruled out ab initio from the ranks of respectable ethical hypotheses: and the considerations which suggest it, accordingly, to be depreciated. Now these general philosophic prepossessions our earlier chapters have shown, or tried to show, to be grounded in error. It seems fair to claim, therefore, that the argument which I am about to put forward demands to be considered in relation to a good deal of preceding doctrine if its proper force is to be appreciated.
The crucial objection to all theories of types (a) and (b) is, then, as follows: In moral judgment we claim to be appraising the worth of persons, expressed in conduct. Now if the nature of the concrete content willed be that in terms of which we judge, or in so far as it is, we are judging in terms of something which is in large measure outside the agent's control. This is an assertion, I should think, that is quite beyond the range of controversy. No matter what view we happen to favour as to the relation of man to his environment, no matter how strongly we may insist that nothing can affect the conscious self save it be first internalised by the self, it still stares us in the face as indisputable fact that what anyone is able to will, the range of his possible choices, is conditioned by many factors with whose existence he has nothing to do. It may be (and this is, of course, what I myself contend) that the conditioning is only of a general character, determining a field of possible content, but not any particular content. But that it is real at least in this measure it seems wilful blindness to deny. The uneducated slum-dweller cannot, just cannot, will the enlightened content of the man of culture. And the inevitable, if unwelcome, inference from this is that 'content' cannot constitute a valid principle for the appraisement of personal worth. For to judge a man on the basis of the content of his will is to judge him on the basis of something largely not his own, and this is the very parody of justice. The aspect of 'content' has, as we shall see later, a certain derivative value as a criterion, but simply as such, as mere content, it is utterly irrelevant to moral valuation.
The kernel of the matter is that to judge in terms of the nature of the content willed is not, strictly speaking, to judge the man. We cannot in this way appraise 'personal' worth, and in consequence cannot in this way evaluate conduct from the moral point of view. And if it be rejoined that there is no other 'man' to judge, that the 'man' is not something other than his 'content,' the answer to be made is twofold. In the first place, the objector may be reminded of all that has been said in Chapters IV. and V. on personal activity, with special reference to the Section on the individuality of finite selves. And, in the second place, it must be pointed out once more that if man is to be regarded as no more than some complex of content, a mere current in the great ocean of Being, then perhaps some kind of valuation may be possible, but not moral valuation. We cannot say then that a man 'ought' to have been better than he is. He is what he is, and there's an end on't. To say that he 'ought' to be better implies that he is somehow a real initiator. Deny that man is at least this, and you thereby deny the validity of each and every principle of moral valuation.