I take my stand on this. If we are going to evaluate conduct morally, i.e. in terms of personal worth, we must confine ourselves to that aspect of it which is strictly the agent's own. And if we do confine ourselves to that which is strictly the agent's own, we must look elsewhere than to concrete content.
But is there anything at all of which we can say that it is strictly the agent's own? The question brings us in one leap to theory (c). There is one thing, and one thing only, which man can with any show of plausibility claim to be indefeasibly his own. And that is 'will-energy.'1 No ordinary reflective person would hesitate to agree that his 'content' is in large measure externally conditioned, that the range of ends which are suggested to him in practical experience is dependent on factors at least partially outside his control. But I believe it to be equally certain that no one who experiences, or who imaginatively reconstructs his experience of, will-energy, can do other than believe that its exercise depends solely upon his self, that it is the creation of his own private, world-excluding core of being. It is just because men know in their hearts that energising, will-effort, is the one thing which is indefeasibly their own, the one thing for which they are solely responsible, that in their deepest moments of self-appraisement they scorn the formal codes of moral valuation, and recognise in themselves nothing that is truly deserving of credit or censure save their employment of this unique power.
Do men really, in their deepest moments, believe this? Do they really believe that effort of will, or will-energy, is the one thing of moral value? I am sure that they do, most commonly with regard to themselves, but also, when their spiritual vision is unobscured, with regard to others. It will be a large part of my subsequent business to show that wherever moral judgment ostensibly adopts a different principle there are factors in the situation which are obstructive to clear vision. Meantime, before concluding this Section, I shall for the sake of clarity express in propositional form the essence of the theory which I wish to maintain.
(1) The ultimate subject-matter of moral valuation is volitional action.
(2) All volitional action possesses a concrete content, or end, and may possess, in different degrees, will-energy.
(3) The only kind of practical situation in which volitional action is directly significant for moral valuation is that in which there is a felt contrast of the self's ideal end with the end of desire, and in which, accordingly, there is a felt demand for the exercise of effort of will or will-energy.
1 For discussion of the 'privacy' of will-energy see Chapter V., Section 4.
(4) In such situations moral value is proportionate to the will-energy put forth.
(5) Although the content of will is not, merely as such, relevant for moral valuation, it does have a certain indirect relevance. For within limits (we shall see how later) the kind of content willed offers a clue to the degree of will-energy, if any, put forth by the agent. Where, as in the case of our judgments upon others, there is no direct access to the volitional process, we are bound to judge, if we judge at all, through the medium of content. This is legitimate enough if we are careful to remember that we are evaluating the content not in and for itself, but only in so far as it reflects the will-energy put forth in the act.