We must now try to justify this doctrine by reference to some of the more important difficulties that are likely to be felt in its regard.
The first difficulty is one suggested by proposition (5) above, and has to do with the possibility, on our theory, of passing moral judgment upon the conduct of others. It is quite evident that only in the case of ourselves have we direct access to what is, on the theory, the ethically relevant aspect of willed action. It is not so evident that an indirect access is available in the case of our judgment upon others. To some it will appear that the principle of moral valuation which we have advanced destroys all possibility of legitimately passing moral judgment upon the conduct of anyone but ourselves.
I shall try to show that this is not really so. But it is worth asking, 'if it is, what then?' It does not, surely, impeach the validity of a principle that its application to practice should happen to be obstructed by ignorance of matters of fact? The principle, if valid, must indeed be 'universally applicable' in the sense of 'holding good everywhere and always,' but not necessarily in the sense that we can always in practice apply it. That opens up another and quite different set of considerations.
And, after all, is not a theory for which the principle of moral valuation is one difficult to apply in practice, just recognising explicitly a fact of which most of us show ourselves fully aware in our calmer judgments? In the heat engendered by the clash of warring interests one is apt, it is true, to forget how hazardous a matter is the passing of judgment upon others. But the recognition of its essential pre-cariousness does return in the detachment of sober reflection. And it will hardly be disputed that the latter 'atmosphere' is the more favourable of the two for the pure functioning of the moral consciousness, more likely to produce an attitude representative of authentic moral experience.
But, as already hinted, our theory does not, after all, leave us entirely devoid of means for ascertaining the moral worth of others. Their 'concrete content' does afford us a clue: not sufficient, indeed, for the determination of the finer distinctions, but amply sufficient, as a rule, to distinguish the saint from the scoundrel, and in general to form rough but reasonably probable opinions upon the broader differences in moral status.
Let us see briefly how this works. We know that every person has, in the nature of the case, a moral ideal - the conceived 'end of the self-as-such.' And we know that this ideal meets in practice with frequent oppositions from the desires, oppositions which can be overcome only by the exertion of will-energy. Roughly speaking, therefore, we may suppose that a life which exhibits marked conformity of conduct with the agent's own ideal is a life in which much willenergy has been exerted, and vice versa. Thus (although there are a host of other facts about the agent of which it would be helpful to be informed in the interests of accuracy), the primary condition of judgment upon others is that we should be able to know how far a man's conduct accords with his ideal.
Now to know this it is obviously necessary for us to know pretty definitely the constitution of the individual's ideal. Otherwise we cannot possibly gauge the extent of his devotion to it. But this condition is surely satisfied with fair adequacy in at least the bulk of cases. What I have earlier admitted as to the bearing of external factors upon the determination of an individual's content, I must now emphasise. Environmental and educational influences are all-important in determining what kind of ideal a man will have. And the nature of these influences, in respect of most of the persons upon whom we are accustomed to pass judgment, we do in large part know. Thus if we find a person who has, we know, been subjected to the orthodox moral education of school, parents, and society, and who is sunk in a life of sordid debauchery, it will involve no great theoretical presumption on the part of a 'moral judge' to infer that the agent's practice falls pretty far short of his ideal. We can tell, at least with approximate accuracy, the kind of ideal which a person so circumstanced must possess, or must at one time have possessed (for ideals have a tendency to deteriorate concurrently with the failure to live up to them): and his conduct flagrantly violates what must be the most elementary constituents of that ideal. If by any chance the society's ideal has genuinely failed to make appeal to him even with respect to these elementary constituents of true well-being, if he has honestly repudiated as false the precepts of his instructors, it can only be, one is entitled to suppose, on account of some definite abnormality in his makeup. And in this event it is highly probable that we shall already have had indications of something unusual in his disposition, in which case our moral judgment will naturally make the appropriate allowances.
That, however, brings us up against a second important condition which should be satisfied if one is to be confident of even the limited accuracy which I am claiming for moral judgment upon others. We ought to be cognisant of any serious disproportion or abnormality in the natural disposition of the agent. If we do not know this, we shall misinterpret the degree of will-energy which his conduct really involves. It would, of course, be absurd to pretend that on this head our information is at all adequate. But it does seem true that at least fairly often we are able to detect the abnormality in these cases where the impulse in question is of such excessive intensity that it introduces eccentric elements into the agent's ideal of true well-being; or, in the event of its leaving his ideal sound, exerts such overwhelming motive force against the ideal, that the agent must make a quite uncommon effort of will in order to carry his ideal into practice. Plenty of instances of these predispositions have come within the experience of all of us, and one's regular habit of 'making allowances' is, of course, precisely what the present theory of the principle of moral valuation would dictate. It is indubitable, I think, that such 'allowances' are made in the practice of moral valuation, at least by those on whose moral judgments we are accustomed to set any store. People do normally recognise 1 that there is greater moral worth in the control of desire in obedience to the ideal on the part of 'passionate natures,' than in a similar control on the part of the douce, 'tideless-blooded' folk of Burns's satire; and, conversely, less moral culpability in 'lapses' on the part of the former. And if so, it suggests rather strongly that practice is not so far removed as may at first sight appear from our seemingly paradoxical doctrine that will-energy is the sole thing of moral value.