§3. Normative Judgments


108. Reasoning cannot possibly be divorced from logic; because, whenever a man reasons, he thinks that he is drawing a conclusion such as would be justified in every analogous case. He therefore cannot really infer without having a notion of a class of possible inferences, all of which are logically good. That distinction of good and bad he always has in mind when he infers. Logic proper is the critic of arguments, the pronouncing them to be good or bad. There are, as I am prepared to maintain, operations of the mind which are logically exactly analogous to inferences excepting only that they are unconscious and therefore uncontrollable and therefore not subject to criticism. But that makes all the difference in the world; for inference is essentially deliberate, and self-controlled. Any operation which cannot be controlled, any conclusion which is not abandoned, not merely as soon as criticism has pronounced against it, but in the very act of pronouncing that decree, is not of the nature of rational inference — is not reasoning. Reasoning as deliberate is essentially critical, and it is idle to criticize as good or bad that which cannot be controlled. Reasoning essentially involves self-control; so that the logica utens1) is a particular species of morality. Logical goodness and badness, which we shall find is simply the distinction of Truth and Falsity in general, amounts, in the last analysis, to nothing but a particular application of the more general distinction of Moral Goodness and Badness, or Righteousness and Wickedness.2)

109. To criticize as logically sound or unsound an operation of thought that cannot be controlled is not less ridiculous than it would be to pronounce the growth of your hair to be morally good or bad. The ridiculousness in both cases consists in the fact that such a critical judgment may be pretended but cannot really be performed in clear thought, for on analysis it will be found absurd.

110. I am quite aware that this position is open to two serious objections, which I have not time to discuss, but which I have carefully considered and refuted. The first is that this is making logic a question of psychology.3) But this I deny. Logic does rest on certain facts of experience among which are facts about men, but not upon any theory about the human mind or any theory to explain facts. The other objection is that if the distinction [between] Good and Bad Logic is a special case [of the distinction between] Good and Bad Morals, by the same token the distinction of Good and Bad Morals is a special case of the distinction [between] esthetic Goodness and Badness. Now to admit this is not only to admit hedonism, which no man in his senses, and not blinded by theory or something worse, can admit, but also, having to do with the essentially Dualistic distinction of Good and Bad — which is manifestly an affair of Category the Second — it seeks the origin of this distinction in Esthetic Feeling, which belongs to Category the First.

111. This last objection deceived me for many years. The reply to it involves a very important point which I shall have to postpone to the next lecture. When it first presented itself to me, all I knew of ethics was derived from the study of Jouffroy 1) under Dr. Walker,2) of Kant, and of a wooden treatise by Whewell;3) and I was led by this objection to a line of thought which brought me to regard ethics as a mere art, or applied science, and not a pure normative science at all. But when, beginning in 1883, I came to read the works of the great moralists, whose great fertility of thought I found in wonderful contrast to the sterility of the logicians — I was forced to recognize the dependence of Logic upon Ethics; and then took refuge in the idea that there was no science of esthetics, that, because de gustibus non est disputandum, therefore there is no esthetic truth and falsity or generally valid goodness and badness. But I did not remain of this opinion long. I soon came to see that this whole objection rests upon a fundamental misconception. To say that morality, in the last resort, comes to an esthetic judgment is not hedonism — but is directly opposed to hedonism. In the next place, every pronouncement between Good and Bad certainly comes under Category the Second; and for that reason such pronouncement comes out in the voice of conscience with an absoluteness of duality which we do not find even in logic; and although I am still a perfect ignoramus in esthetics, I venture to think that the esthetic state of mind is purest when perfectly naive without any critical pronouncement, and that the esthetic critic founds his judgments upon the result of throwing himself back into such a pure naive state — and the best critic is the man who has trained himself to do this the most perfectly.

112. It is a great mistake to suppose that the phenomena of pleasure and pain are mainly phenomena of feeling.1) Examine pain, which would seem to be a good deal more positive than pleasure. I am unable to recognize with confidence any quality of feeling common to all pains; and if I cannot I am sure it cannot be an easy thing for anybody. For I have gone through a systematic course of training in recognizing my feelings. I have worked with intensity for so many hours a day every day for long years to train myself to this; and it is a training which I would recommend to all of you. The artist has such a training; but most of his effort goes to reproducing in one form or another what he sees or hears, which is in every art a very complicated trade; while I have striven simply to see what it is that I see. That this limitation of the task is a great advantage is proved to me by finding that the great majority of artists are extremely narrow. Their esthetic appreciations are narrow; and this comes from their only having the power of recognizing the qualities of their percepts in certain directions.

But the majority of those who opine that pain is a quality of feeling are not even artists; and even among those who are artists there are extremely few who are artists in pain. But the truth is that there are certain states of mind, especially among states of mind in which Feeling has a large share, which we have an impulse to get rid of. That is the obvious phenomenon; and the ordinary theory is that this impulse is excited by a quality of feeling common to all these states — a theory which is supported by the fact that this impulse is particularly energetic in regard to states in which Feeling is the predominant element. Now whether this be true or false, it is a theory. It is not the fact that any such common quality in all pains is readily to be recognized.

113. At any rate, while the whole phenomenon of pain and the whole phenomenon of pleasure are phenomena that arise within the universe of states of mind and attain no great prominence except when they concern states of mind in which Feeling is predominant, yet these phenomena themselves do not mainly consist in any common Feeling-quality of Pleasure and any common Feeling-quality of Pain, even if there are such Qualities of Feeling; but they mainly consist [in a] Pain [which lies] in a Struggle to give a state of mind its quietus, and [in a] Pleasure in a peculiar mode of consciousness allied to the consciousness of making a generalization, in which not Feeling, but rather Cognition is the principal constituent. This may be hard to make out as regards the lower pleasures, but they do not concern the argument we are considering. It is esthetic enjoyment which concerns us; and ignorant as I am of Art, I have a fair share of capacity for esthetic enjoyment; and it seems to me that while in esthetic enjoyment we attend to the totality of Feeling — and especially to the total resultant Quality of Feeling presented in the work of art we are contemplating — yet it is a sort of intellectual sympathy, a sense that here is a Feeling that one can comprehend, a reasonable Feeling. I do not succeed in saying exactly what it is, but it is a consciousness belonging to the category of Representation, though representing something in the Category of Quality of Feeling.

In that view of the matter, the objection to the doctrine that the distinction Moral approval and disapproval is ultimately only a species of the distinction Esthetic approval and disapproval seems to be answered.

114. It appears, then, that Logica utens consisting in self-control, the distinction of logical goodness and badness must begin where control of the processes of cognition begins; and any object that antecedes the distinction, if it has to be named either good or bad, must be named good. For since no fault can be found with it, it must be taken at its own valuation.


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