Some of the exceptions are, I confess, disconcerting. For example, in the spate of articles and reviews that followed upon the recent publication of certain letters of Dostoieffski, and some parts of Madame Tolstoi's Diary, it was astonishing how few of the writers, in appraising the characters of the two most remarkable men in Russian literature, either manifested the diffidence in moral judgment appropriate in dealing with persons of exceptionally complex mental processes, or (which more concerns our present point) appeared to feel that there was anything grotesque in criticising by normal standards the 'aberrations' of men whose vitality was obviously, by contrast with the normal man, titanic. Surely the slightest reflection is enough to convince one of the ineptitude of a moral imagination which permits an attitude of this sort.
But the present point is just that there are facilities available for ascertaining, though only in a rough general way, the will-energy expended by others besides ourselves. And perhaps enough has been said on a matter which is, after all, not of the first philosophic importance. Anything like precise valuation is, I agree, utterly impossible, if only because we cannot know either the exact nature of the passionate equipment with which the individual starts his course, or how far subtle external influences may have been at work throughout his experience, nursing, perhaps, an originally normal impulse into tyrannical vigour. Ignorant of these things, and of much more besides, we can never pretend to ascertain with any rigorous accuracy how much 'moral effort' there has been in the life of anyone but ourselves.
Before passing on, we may notice very briefly one implication of what has been said about the influence of external factors in determining the content of the individual's ideal. It is this, that our highly 'subjective' theory of moral valuation is not nearly such 'dangerous doctrine' as it looks. This theory, holding will-energy to be the sole moral value, and recognising that will-energy is manifested in devotion to one's ideal, accepts 'devotion to one's ideal' as the practicable measure of goodness. And in so doing it may seem to lend countenance to all kinds of divergences from the currently accepted moral principles. But this is true only in a very limited sense. Our moral judge's readiness to condone individual eccentricities will be profoundly modified by his awareness of all the educational influences of the social medium which operate upon the individual in the plastic years of childhood and youth, influences directed to awakening and strengthening his interests in the things which, to the mind of the particular society, are most worth seeking, and to teaching him how he must order his ways if these interests are to find adequate fulfilment. When we take account of the pervasive force of these factors in determining the material, and even the organisation, of the individual's ideal of 'the good of the self as a whole,' it becomes a reasonable assumption that any well-marked and genuine un-orthodoxy in ideals will be exceedingly rare. In the absence of definite reasons for expecting aberrations, the 'moral judge' will be justified in assuming that the individual's ideal is substantially identical with that of current morality. Radical departures from current morality he will be scarcely more ready to extenuate than will the more 'objective' moralist. Some kinds of departures he will be virtually certain are departures from the agent's own ideal also - e.g. persistent indulgence in idleness or sensuality: for only a pervert or a cretin, he will know, can suppose that such conduct is conducive to the 'good of his self as a whole.' Moral valuation which proceeds on our present principle, then, will not be such an 'anarchic' matter after all. The 'social' standard, though it will not be its sacred touchstone, will be at least its respected guide.
Moreover, our moral judge will always bear in mind that even where a person does really possess an ideal which is 'unenlightened,' the lack of enlightenment may be due to the agent's own fault. It may be due to his failure to take the trouble which he knew he ought to take over assimilating the practical instruction received in his youth. Or he may have failed to take the trouble (which again he knew he ought to take) to give any serious thought to the merits of his accepted code, in spite of recurring indications of probable shortcomings in that code. Or, again, it is quite conceivable that the agent may once have possessed a high ideal, but that it has suffered deterioration on account of the agent's prolonged failure to live up to it. For there is the notorious tendency, already alluded to, to lower one's ideals to one's conduct, when one fails to raise one's conduct to one's ideals; to cheat oneself with sophisms into believing that obligations which one consistently violates do not exist, rather than have to face the humiliating contrast between what one knows one ought to be and what one knows one is. In all of these cases lack of present enlightenment is due to defective willing, insufficient moral effort, in the agent's past life, and the agent is blameworthy in consequence. Thus intelligent moral judgment proceeding on our principles will consider not merely how far the agent is 'acting up to his lights,' but also (and especially where the Mights' are 'lower' than one would be led to expect by the agent's general circumstances) how far any deficiencies in these lights are the outcome of past failures in moral willing.