I think, then, that if the Intuitionalist's set of obligations really were self-evident, it is reasonable to suppose that they would manifest themselves in the lives and minds of primitive peoples in a very much more decisive and consistent way than is actually the case. And this view of the matter is confirmed in a very significant manner when we consider the operation on the primitive mind of certain truths that really are self-evident, viz. the axioms of mathematics. These axioms are not apprehended as general principles by primitive peoples. But at least many of them are apprehended in their particularised expressions. Primitive man does not state to himself the general proposition 'a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.' But in individual situations he will show that he recognises it to be true by formulating his action as though it were true. Thus there is all the difference in the world between his response to particularised expressions of mathematical axioms, and his response to particularised expressions of the 'self-evident' obligations of the Intuitionalist. If the latter really are self-evident, I can see no good reason why there should be this difference.
1 The Right and the Goodt p. 33.
And there is a further important point which must not be neglected in connection with the attitude of the Intuitionalist to 'comparative ethics.' The Intuitionalist has not merely to face the fact that primitive peoples, and many peoples not so primitive, fail to apprehend the Intuitionalist's obligations. He has also to face the fact that they do recognise other obligations, obligations sometimes even contradictory of those posited by the Intuitionalist. How is the Intuitionalist going to explain these moral recognitions in terms of his own theory? They are, in some sense, manifestations of man's moral consciousness. They bear every mark of being continuous in kind with the deliverances of the most 'civilised' moral consciousness. But it is extremely difficult to account for them on the assumption of a moral consciousness which is the seat of the apprehension of a special set of definitive obligations. To say that they are due to 'inadequate development' of the moral consciousness is to explain only in words. For what are we to understand by the 'development' of a moral consciousness of the sort posited by the Intuitionalist? And even if the possibility of 'development' were granted, what kind of 'development' could it be in which some of the earlier phases are in actual contradiction with the final phase?
As far as I can see, the Intuitionalist is debarred by the nature of his theory from offering any positive account of the multitudinous diversities of historic moral codes. Yet we must be in earnest with these facts, for they belong to the very data of ethics. If we are in earnest with them, if we do really seek to account for these diversities, there seems to be little doubt that headway cannot be made save in terms of an ethical theory which recognises the closest of connections between the 'moral consciousness' and 'desires.' Any serious scrutiny of these diversities almost compels the conclusion that the cardinal factor in determining the specific character of each code is the special nature of the dominating interests or desires of the community in question. Assuredly mere interests, mere desires are not enough. There would be no 'moral' recognitions if there were nothing but the particular 'interests.' But that there is a connection, intimate and positive, between the concrete moral consciousness of any community and its dominant interests, seems to be the plain lesson of comparative ethics. With this clue before one, one may thread one's way not unsuccessfully through the labyrinth of the world's moralities. The variations of codes cease to be mere de facto variations, become intelligible variations. Without this clue all is confusion.
Nor (finally) does it really seem unfair to remind the reader of the signal failure of Intuitionalists to make their 'self-evident' principles evident even to those who, unlike savages, cannot fairly be suspected of 'mental immaturity': even to those, indeed, who are predisposed to sympathy by general agreement with the Intuitionalist mode of approach to ethics. In this respect our most important contemporary Intuitionahsts are in no better case than their predecessors. Is it too venturesome to suggest that the reason for this may be just that of every one of the 'self-evident' obligations in the Intuitionalisms lists the question may still intelligibly be asked 'why is this obligatory?' Of one end only (as I hold) can this question not be asked intelligibly, because the obligatoriness of this end is in truth intuitively discerned. This is the end which I have called the 'end of the self-as-such,' or 'good of the self as a whole'.