Making allowance for the simplifications of brevity, these seem to me to be the lines along which the 'illusion' of having acted incontinently may best be explained away. And they have some plausibility, more especially if considered in connection with the general difficulty one feels in understanding how a rational being can deliberately reject what he regards as best for him. I should even be prepared to say that the explanation actually does cover certain cases, that people do on occasion deceive themselves in the manner suggested. But I do not think that it can be stretched to cover all cases. There are some situations in which there really seems no room for the possibility of illusion. And if any cases of indubitable 'incontinence' can be established, and the universality of the psychological principle opposed to it thus impugned, legitimate doubt may be reflected back upon a good many of the cases which the explanation could be abstractly conceived to cover, but did not necessarily cover.
In the first place, it is fairly evident that it is with respect to 'impulsive' conduct, and generally to transient practical decisions rather than to relatively permanent policies, that the follower of Socrates can maintain his case with best hope of success. Yet even in this field there is a good deal to be said on the other side. For it is important to observe that the kind of 'explaining away' which we have illustrated is effective only in regard to acts in which there is not good evidence that the emotion of remorse was present at the actual time of choice. If remorse is present at the time of choice, then it is clear enough that the belief in the 'betterness' of a (keeping to our former symbols) was neither temporarily upset by the attractions of b as appreciated in the concrete situation, nor extruded from the mind by the violence of passion. In either contingency the remorseful colouring of the act would be unintelligible. But surely it is extremely difficult to persuade oneself that instances of this sort do not occur? Is it not plain matter of fact that the enjoyment of 'illicit pleasures' is often poisoned by the sense of wrong-doing that accompanies their indulgence? Such is the common belief, and, for my own part, introspection leaves me in little doubt that the common belief is true.
But when we leave the sphere of momentary choices and pass on to cases where choices remain effective over an appreciable period, the assertion of the possibility of incontinence hardly appears to require such qualified language. It is just barely conceivable that memory deceives us in every single case in which we think that we experienced the emotion of remorse in a momentary choice. It does not seem conceivable at all in respect of cases of continuously effective choice. If a drunkard informs us that he was conscious of remorse while yielding to a sudden temptation to drink a glass of whisky, we can appreciate the possibility that he has 'mis-dated' the emotion, and that it was not really contemporaneous with the choice. But if he informs us - and instances of the kind are far from uncommon - that he was frequently weighed down with remorse during a long evening in the bar-parlour, through the recurring remembrance that it would be far better for him really to be spending the evening soberly at home, there is no room for a lapse of memory here. He did feel remorse as he sat there. And his feeling of remorse must have rested upon the awareness that it would be better for him not to be sitting there. Why then, if it is a psychological necessity that we always choose what seems best to us at the moment of choice, why then did he make no move to depart, but, even while the remorse was upon him, choose to continue where he was?
I do not know what answer that is even plausible can be given in cases of this kind. After all, there is a limit to the range of 'self-deception' as an explanatory principle. We are all aware that there are many genuine cases of self-deception, e.g. in the 'rationalisation' process whereby a person unconsciously sets himself to find good 'moral' reasons for pursuing a course which is in fact dictated by some unworthy passion, and comes eventually to believe that it is for these reasons that he does pursue it. Self-deception like that is readily intelligible, for it is aimed at preserving the agent's good opinion of himself. But the odd thing about the 'self-deception' to which the critic of incontinence appeals is that it leads the agent to adopt a poorer opinion of himself than he need. This is by no means a fatal objection to the hypothesis, but it should lead the experienced student of human nature to apply the hypothesis with a good deal of caution.
I think, then, that the actual facts of psychological observation are rather strongly in favour of the reality of the bad will, in the sense of the will which 'knows the better and chooses the worse.' If one rejects the interpretation suggested by the facts on the a priori grounds of a metaphysical theory, one would have to be extremely confident of the truth of one's metaphysics - as Bosanquet no doubt was. The natural reaction of the psychological investigation would be to throw back doubt upon a metaphysic which demands the Socratic interpretation. We venture to claim it as at least an advantage in the supra-rational metaphysic as against the metaphysic of Absolute Idealism, that there is no need for us to adopt an interpretation of the 'bad will' which the psychological facts seem ill-fitted to sustain.