However, my point now is simply to remark how far the right honorable professor then was from assigning "motive" as the one essential character of a good action. Most certainly, neither sympathy nor affection is always moral, and as to unconscious beneficent actions, I remarked, and repeat. How can a man "love justice" if he can not distinguish it from injustice? Can he appreciate "mercy" without knowing it?
A calculating boy who does not understand arithmetic can not be properly termed an arithmetician, whatever his automatic power of rendering solutions may be. But my opponent not only took the opposite view to this, but went still further; for he wrote:
It would be hardly possible to imagine a better illustration of the absence of discrimination between what is merely "material" and what "formal" in reasoning; and this defect runs singularly parallel with the absence of a like discrimination—the discrimination as to motives in the domain of ethics on the part of Prof. Huxley in 1871.
Finally, so complete was then his identification of "duty" with "pleasure," that, when attempting to assume, for the moment, the position of an "absolute moralist," he wrote:
Inasmuch, therefore, as Prof. Huxley would then have said that the proper object of life is to do one's duty, he must likewise have thereby meant that its object also was to escape from the pain and sorrow consequent on its non-fulfillment. Such is the necessary consequence of identifying an ethical perception (a matter of intellect) with a "feeling."
But it is not a fact that every perception of duty performed, and recognized as such, is necessarily pleasurable; nor every consciousness of duty similarly violated, a painful experience.
In a perfect nature, of course, moral sentiments will always harmonize with ethical perceptions. But who is perfect? To do right is often a labor and a sorrow, and it is certainly not less meritorious on that account.
- Loc. cit, p. 281.
- P. 289.