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ETHICS, DEONTOLOGY AND NATURAL LAW.
JOSEPH RICKABY, S.J.
JOSEPHUS KEATING, S.J.
JOANNES H. WRIGHT, S.J.
_Prap. Prov. Anglia_
C. SCHUT, D.D.
EDM. CAN. SURMONT
For fifteen years this Manual has enjoyed all the popularity that its
author could desire. With that popularity the author is the last
person to wish to interfere. Therefore, not to throw previous copies
out of use, this edition makes no alteration either in the pagination
or the text already printed. At the same time the author might well be
argued to have lapsed into strange supineness and indifference to
moral science, if in fifteen years he had learnt nothing new, and
found nothing in his work which he wished to improve. Whoever will be
at the expense of purchasing my _Political and Moral Essays_
(Benziger, 1902, 6s.) will find in the first essay on the _Origin and
Extent of Civil Authority_ an advantageous substitute for the chapter
on the State in this work. The essay is a dissertation written for the
degree of B. Sc. in the University of Oxford; and represents, I hope,
tolerably well the best contemporary teaching on the subject.
If the present work had to be rewritten, I should make a triple
division of Moral Philosophy, into Ethics, Deontology (the science of
[Greek: to deon], i.e., of what _ought_ to be done), and Natural Law.
For if "the principal business of Ethics is to determine what moral
obligation is" (p. 2), then the classical work on the subject, the
_Nicomachean Ethics_ of Aristotle, is as the play of Hamlet with the
character of Hamlet left out: for in that work there is no analysis of
moral obligation, no attempt to "fix the comprehension of the idea I
_ought_" (ib.). The system there exposed is a system of Eudaemonism,
not of Deontology. It is not a treatise on Duty, but on Happiness: it
tells us what Happiness, or rational well-being, is, and what conduct
is conducive to rational well-being. It may be found convenient to
follow Aristotle, and avow that the business of Ethics is not Duty,
not Obligation, not Law, not Sanction, but Happiness. That fiery
little word _ought_ goes unexplained in Ethics, except in an
hypothetical sense, that a man _ought_ to do this, and avoid that,
_if_ he means to be a happy man: cf. p. 115. Any man who declares that
he does not care about ethical or rational happiness, stands to Ethics
as that man stands to Music who "hath no ear for concord of sweet
All that Ethics or Music can do for such a Philistine is to "send him
away to another city, pouring ointment on his head, and crowning him
with wool," as Plato would dismiss the tragedian (_Republic_ III.
398). The author of the _Magna Moralia_ well says (I. i. 13): "No
science or faculty ever argues the goodness of the end which it
proposes to itself: it belongs to some other faculty to consider that.
Neither the physician says that health is a good thing, nor the
builder that a house is a good thing: but the one announces that he
produces health and how he produces it, and the builder in like manner
a house." The professor of Ethics indeed, from the very nature of his
subject-matter, says in pointing out happiness that it is the rational
sovereign good of man: but to any one unmoved by that demonstration
Ethics can have no more to say. Ethics will not threaten, nor talk of
duty, law, or punishment.
Ethics, thus strictly considered on an Aristotelian basis, are
antecedent to Natural Theology. They belong rather to Natural
Anthropology: they are a study of human nature. But as human nature
points to God, so Ethics are not wholly irrespective of God,
considering Him as the object of human happiness and worship,--the
Supreme Being without whom all the aspirations of humanity are at
fault (pp. 13-26, 191-197). Ethics do not refer to the commandments of
God, for this simple reason, that they have nothing to say to
commandments, or laws, or obligation, or authority. They are simply a
system of moral hygiene, which a man may adopt or not: only, like any
other physician, the professor of Ethics utters a friendly warning
that misery must ensue upon the neglect of what makes for health.
Deontology, not Ethics, expounds and vindicates the idea, _I ought_.
It is the science of Duty. It carries the mild suasions of Ethics into
laws, and out of moral prudence it creates conscience. And whereas
Ethics do not deal with sin, except under the aspect of what is called
"philosophical sin" (p. 119, S 6), Deontology defines sin in its
proper theological sense, as "an offence against God, or any thought,
word, or deed against the law of God." Deontology therefore
presupposes and is consequent upon Natural Theology. At the same time,
while Ethics indicate a valuable proof of the existence of God as the
requisite Object of Happiness, Deontology affords a proof of Him as
the requisite Lawgiver. Without God, man's rational desire is
frustrate, and man's conscience a misrepresentation of fact. [Footnote
[Footnote 1: This is Cardinal Newman's proof of the existence of God
from Conscience: see pp. 124, 125, and _Grammar of Assent_, pp.
104-111, ed. 1895. With Newman's, "Conscience has both a critical and
a judicial office," compare Plato, _Politicus_, 260 B, [Greek:
sumpasaes taes gnostikaes to men epitaktikon meros, to de kritikon].
The "critical" office belongs to Ethics: the "judicial," or
"preceptive" office [Greek: to epitaktikon] to Deontology; and this
latter points to a Person who commands and judges, that is, to God.]
In this volume, pp. 1-108 make up the treatise on Ethics: pp. 109-176
that on Deontology.
Aristotle writes: "He that acts by intelligence and cultivates
understanding, is likely to be best disposed and dearest to God. For
if, as is thought, there is any care of human things on the part of
the heavenly powers, we may reasonably expect them to delight in that
which is best and most akin to themselves, that is, in intelligence,
and to make a return of good to such as supremely love and honour
intelligence, as cultivating the thing dearest to Heaven, and so
behaving rightly and well. Such, plainly, is the behaviour of the
wise. The wise man therefore is the dearest to God" (Nic. Eth. X. ix.
13). But Aristotle does not work out the connexion between God and His
law on the one hand and human conscience and duty on the other. In
that direction the Stoics, and after them the Roman Jurists, went
further than Aristotle. By reason of this deficiency, Aristotle,
peerless as he is in Ethics, remains an imperfect Moral Philosopher.
PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION (1918)
1. I have altered the opening pages in accordance with the Preface to
the edition of 1905.
2. I have added a paragraph on Syndicalism (pp. 291-2).
3. Also a new Table of _Addenda et Corrigenda_, and a new Index.
The quotations from St. Thomas may be read in English, nearly all of
them, in the Author's _Aquinas Ethicus_, 2 vols.; 12s. (Burns and
CHAPTER I.--OF THE OBJECT-MATTER AND PARTITION OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY.
CHAPTER II.--OF HAPPINESS.
Section I.--Of Ends.
Section II.--Definition of Happiness.
Section III.--Happiness open to Man.
Section IV.--Of the Object of Perfect Happiness.
Section V.--Of the use of the present life.
CHAPTER III.--OF HUMAN ACTS.
Section I.--What makes a human act less voluntary.
Section II.--Of the determinants of Morality in any given action.
CHAPTER IV.--OF PASSIONS.
Section I.--Of Passions in general.
Section II.--Of Desire.
Section III.--Of Delight.
Section IV.--Of Anger.
CHAPTER V.--OF HABITS AND VIRTUES.
Section I.--Of Habit.
Section II.--Of Virtues in general.
Section III.--Of the difference between Virtues, Intellectual
Section IV.--Of the Mean in Moral Virtue.
Section V.--Of Cardinal Virtues.
Section VI.--Of Prudence.
Section VII.--Of Temperance.
Section VIII.--Of Fortitude.
Section IX.--Of Justice.
CHAPTER I. (VI.)--OF THE ORIGIN OF MORAL OBLIGATION.
Section I.--Of the natural difference between Good and Evil.
Section II.--How Good becomes bounden Duty, and Evil is advanced to sin.
CHAPTER II. (VII.)--OF THE ETERNAL LAW.
CHAPTER III. (VIII.)--OF THE NATURAL LAW OF CONSCIENCE.
Section I.--Of the Origin of Primary Moral Judgments.
Section II.--Of the invariability of Primary Moral Judgments.
Section III.--Of the immutability of the Natural Law.
Section IV.--Of Probabilism.
CHAPTER IV. (IX.)--OF THE SANCTION OF THE NATURAL LAW.
Section I.--Of a Twofold Sanction, Natural and Divine.
Section II.--Of the Finality of the aforesaid Sanction.
Section III.--Of Punishment, Retrospective and Retributive.
CHAPTER V. (X.)--OF UTILITARIANISM.
PART III.--NATURAL LAW.
CHAPTER I.--OF DUTIES TO GOD.
Section I.--Of the Worship of God.
Section II.--Of Superstitious Practices.
Section III.--Of the duty of knowing God.
CHAPTER II.--OF THE DUTY OF PRESERVING LIFE.
Section I.--Of Killing, Direct and Indirect.
Section II.--Of Killing done Indirectly in Self-defence.
Section III.--Of Suicide.
Section IV.--Of Duelling.
CHAPTER III.--OF SPEAKING THE TRUTH.
Section I.--Of the definition of a Lie.
Section II.--Of the Evil of Lying.
Section III.--Of the keeping of Secrets without Lying.
CHAPTER IV.--OF CHARITY.
CHAPTER V.--OF RIGHTS.
Section I.--Of the definition and division of Rights.
Section II.--Of the so-called Rights of Animals.
Section III.--Of the right to Honour and Reputation.
Section IV.--Of Contracts.
Section V.--Of Usury.
CHAPTER VI.--OF MARRIAGE.
Section I.--Of the Institution of Marriage.
Section II.--Of the Unity of Marriage.
Section III.--Of the Indissolubility of Marriage.
CHAPTER VII.--OF PROPERTY.
Section I.--Of Private Property.
Section II.--Of Private Capital.
Section III.--Of Landed Property.
CHAPTER VIII.--OF THE STATE.
Section I.--Of the Monstrosities called Leviathan and Social Contract.
Section II.--Of the theory that Civil Power is an aggregate
formed by subscription of the powers of individuals.
Section III.--Of the true state of Nature, which is the
state of civil society, and consequently of the Divine origin of Power.
Section IV.--Of the variety of Polities.
Section V.--Of the Divine Right of Kings and the Inalienable
Sovereignty of the People.
Section VI.--Of the Elementary and Original Polity.
Section VII.--Of Resistance to Civil Power.
Section VIII.--Of the Right of the Sword.
Section IX.--Of War.
Section X.--Of the Scope and Aim of Civil Government.
Section XI.--Of Law and Liberty.
Section XII.--Of Liberty of Opinion.
ADDENDA ET CORRIGENDA
p. 31. Aristotle calls the end [Greek: _to telos_]; the means, [Greek:
ta pros to telos] (St. Thomas, _ea quae sunt ad finem_); the
circumstances, [Greek: ta ein ois hae praxis].
Observe, both end and means are willed _directly_, but the
The end is _intended_, [Greek: boulaeton]; the means are _chosen_,
[Greek: proaireton]; the circumstances are simply _permitted_, [Greek:
anekton], rightly or wrongly. The _intention_ of the end is called by
English philosophers the _motive_; while the choice of means they call
the _intention_, an unfortunate terminology.
p. 42, S. 3. "As the wax takes all shapes, and yet is wax still at the
bottom; the [Greek: spokeimenon] still is wax; so the soul transported
in so many several passions of joy, fear, hope, sorrow, anger, and the
rest, has for its general groundwork of all this, Love." (Henry More,
quoted in Carey's Dante, _Purgatorio_, c. xviii.) Hence, says Carey,
Love does not figure in Collins's _Ode on the Passions_.
p. 43. For _daring_ read _recklessness_.
p. 44. Plato is a thorough Stoic when he says (_Phaedo_ 83) that every
pleasure and pain comes with a nail to pin down the soul to the body
and make it corporeal. His Stoicism appears in his denunciation of the
drama (_Republic_, x. 604).
p. 47, S. 8. The first chapter of Mill's _Autobiography_, pp. 48-53,
133-149, supplies an instance.
p. 49, S. I, 1. 2, for _physical_ read _psychical_.
P. 52. S. 5. This _serving_, in [Greek: douleuein], St. Ignatius calls
"inordinate attachment," the modern form of idolatry. Cf. Romans vi.
p. 79. For _spoiled_ read _spoilt_.
p. 84, foot. For _ways_ read _way_.
p. 85, 1. 6 from foot. Substitute: ([Greek: b]) _to restrain the said
appetite in its irascible part from shrinking from danger_.
p. 94, middle. For _others_ read _other_.
p. 95. For _Daring_ read _Recklessness_.
p. 103, middle. Substitute, _"neither evening star nor morning star is
p. 106, S. 6. Aristotle speaks of "corrective," not of "commutative"
justice. On the Aristotelian division of justice see Political and
Moral Essays (P. M. E.), pp. 285-6.
p. 111, S. 4. The _static_ equivalent of the _dynamic_ idea, of
orderly development is that the eternal harmonies and fitnesses of
things, by observance or neglect whereof a man comes to be in or out
of harmony with himself, with his fellows, with God.
p. 133. To the _Readings_ add Plato _Laws_, ix, 875, A, B, C, D.
p. 151. Rewrite the Note thus: _The author has seen reason somewhat to
modify this view, as appears by the Appendix. See P.M.E._ pp. 185-9:
_Fowler's Progressive Morality, or Fowler and Wilson's Principles of
Morals_, pp. 227-248.
p. 181, 1. ii from top. Add, _This is "the law of our nature, that
function is primary, and pleasure only attendant" (Stewart, Notes on
Nicomathean Ethics,_ II. 418).
p. 218, lines 13-16 from top, cancel the sentence, _To this query_,
etc., and substitute: _The reply is, that God is never willing that
man should do an inordinate act; but suicide is an inordinate act, as
has been shown; capital punishment is not _(c. viii. s. viii. n. 7, p.
p. 237. For _The Month for March,_ 1883, read _P.M.E._, pp. 215-233.
p. 251. To the _Reading_ add P.M.E., pp. 267-283.
p. 297, l.6 from foot. After _simply evil_ add: _Hobbes allows that
human reason lays down certain good rules, "laws of nature" which
however it cannot get kept_. For Hobbes and Rousseau see further
_P.M.E_., pp. 81-90.
p. 319, middle. Cancel the words: _but the sum total of civil power is
a constant quantity, the same for all States_.
pp. 322-3. Cancel S. 7 for reasons alleged in _P.M.E_., pp. 50-72.
Substitute: _States are living organizations and grow, and their
powers vary with the stage of their development_.
p. 323, S 8. For _This seems at variance with_, read _This brings us
p. 338. To the _Readings_ add _P.M.E_., pp. 102-113.
p. 347, middle. Cancel from _one of these prerogatives_ to the end of
the sentence. Substitute: _of every polity even in the most infantine
* * * * *
PART I. ETHICS.
OF THE OBJECT-MATTER AND PARTITION OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY.
1. Moral Philosophy is the science of human acts in their bearing on
human happiness and human duty.
2. Those acts alone are properly called _human_, which a man is master
of to do or not to do. A _human act_, then, is an act voluntary and
free. A man is what his human acts make him.
3. A _voluntary_ act is an act that proceeds from the will with a
knowledge of the end to which the act tends.
4. A free act is an act which so proceeds from the will that under the
same antecedent conditions it might have not proceeded.
An act may be more or less voluntary, and more or less free.
5. Moral Philosophy is divided into Ethics, Deontology, and Natural
Law. Ethics consider human acts in their bearing on human happiness;
or, what is the same thing, in their agreement or disagreement with
man's rational nature, and their making for or against his last end.
Deontology is the study of moral obligation, or the fixing of what
logicians call the comprehension of the idea _I ought_. Ethics deal
with [Greek: to prepon], "the becoming"; Deontology with [Greek: to
deon], "the obligatory". Deontology is the science of Duty, as such.
Natural Law (antecedent to Positive Law, whether divine or human,
civil or ecclesiastical, national or international) determines duties
in detail,--the _extension_ of the idea _I ought_,--and thus is the
foundation of Casuistry.
6. In the order of sciences, Ethics are antecedent to Natural
Theology; Deontology, consequent upon it.
_Readings_.--St. Thos., _in Eth_., I., lect. 1, init.; _ib_., 1a 2a,
q. 1, art. 1, in corp.; _ib_., q. 58, art. 1, in corp.
SECTION I.--_Of Ends_.
1. Every human act is done for some end or purpose. The end is always
regarded by the agent in the light of something good. If evil be done,
it is done as leading to good, or as bound up with good, or as itself
being good for the doer under the circumstances; no man ever does evil
for sheer evil's sake. Yet evil may be the object of the will, not by
itself, nor primarily, but in a secondary way, as bound up with the
good that is willed in the first place.
2. Many things willed are neither good nor evil in themselves. There
is no motive for doing them except in so far as they lead to some good
beyond themselves, or to deliverance from some evil, which deliverance
counts as a good. A thing is willed, then, either as being good in
itself and an end by itself, or as leading to some good end. Once a
thing not good and desirable by itself has been taken up by the will
as leading to good, it may be taken up again and again without
reference to its tendency. But such a thing was not originally taken
up except in view of good to come of it. We may will one thing as
leading to another, and that to a third, and so on; thus one wills
study for learning, learning for examination purposes, examination for
a commission in the army, and the commission for glory. That end in
which the will rests, willing it for itself without reference to
anything beyond, is called the _last end_.
3. An end is either _objective_ or _subjective_. The _objective end_
is the thing wished for, as it exists distinct from the person who
wishes it. The _subjective end_ is the possession of the objective
end. That possession is a fact of the wisher's own being. Thus _money_
may be an objective end: the corresponding subjective end is _being
4. Is there one subjective last end to all the human acts of a given
individual? Is there one supreme motive for all that this or that man
deliberately does? At first sight it seems that there is not. The same
individual will act now for glory, now for lucre, now for love. But
all these different ends are reducible to one, _that it may be well
with him and his_. And what is true of one man here, is true of all.
All the human acts of all men are done for the one (subjective) last
end just indicated. This end is called _happiness_.
5. Men place their happiness in most different things; some in eating
and drinking, some in the heaping up of money, some in gambling, some
in political power, some in the gratification of affection, some in
reputation of one sort or another. But each one seeks his own
speciality because he thinks that he shall be happy, that it will be
well with him, when he has attained that. All men, then, do all things
for happiness, though not all place their happiness in the same thing.
6. Just as when one goes on a journey, he need not think of his
destination at every step of his way, and yet all his steps are
directed towards his destination: so men do not think of happiness in
all they do, and yet all they do is referred to happiness. Tell a
traveller that this is the wrong way to his destination, he will avoid
it; convince a man that this act will not be well for him, will not
further his happiness, and, while he keeps that conviction principally
before his eyes, he will not do the act. But as a man who began to
travel on business, may come to make travelling itself a business, and
travel for the sake of going about; so in all cases there is a
tendency to elevate into an end that which was, to start with, only
valued as a means to an end. So the means of happiness, by being
habitually pursued, come to be a part of happiness. Habit is a second
nature, and we indulge a habit as we gratify nature. This tendency
works itself to an evil extreme in cases where men are become the
slaves of habit, and do a thing because they are got into the way of
doing it, though they allow that it is a sad and sorry way, and leads
them wide of true happiness. These instances show perversion of the
normal operation of the will.
_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 1, art. 4, in corp.; _ib_., q. 1,
art. 6, 7; _ib_., q. 5, art. 8; Ar., _Eth_., I., vii., 4, 5.
SECTION II.--_Definition of Happiness_.
1. Though all men do all things, in the last resort, that it may be
well with them and theirs, that is, for happiness vaguely apprehended,
yet when they come to specify what happiness is, answers so various
are given and acted upon, that we might be tempted to conclude that
each man is the measure of his own happiness, and that no standard of
happiness for all can be defined. But it is not so. Man is not the
measure of his own happiness, any more than of his own health. The
diet that he takes to be healthy, may prove his poison; and where he
looks for happiness, he may find the extreme of wretchedness and woe.
For man must live up to his nature, to his bodily constitution, to be
a healthy man; and to his whole nature, but especially to his mental
and moral constitution, if he is to be a happy man. And nature, though
it admits of individual peculiarities, is specifically the same for
all. There will, then, be one definition of happiness for all men,
specifically as such.
2. _Happiness is an act, not a state_. That is to say, the happiness
of man does not lie in his having something done to him, nor in his
being habitually able to do something, but in his actually doing
something. "To be up and doing," that is happiness,--[Greek: en to zaen
kai energein]. (Ar., _Eth._, IX., ix., 5.) This is proved from the
consideration that happiness is the crown and perfection of human
nature; but the perfection of a thing lies in its ultimate act, or
"second act," that is, in its not merely being able to act, but
acting. But action is of two sorts. One proceeds from the agent to
some outward matter, as cutting and burning. This action cannot be
happiness, for it does not perfect the agent, but rather the patient.
There is another sort of act immanent in the agent himself, as
feeling, understanding, and willing: these perfect the agent.
Happiness will be found to be one of these immanent acts. Furthermore,
there is action full of movement and change, and there is an act done
in stillness and rest. The latter, as will presently appear, is
happiness; and partly for this reason, and partly to denote the
exclusion of care and trouble, happiness is often spoken of as _a
rest_. It is also called _a state_, because one of the elements of
happiness is permanence. How the act of happiness can be permanent,
will appear hereafter.
3. _Happiness is an act in discharge of the function proper to man, as
man_. There is a function proper to the eye, to the ear, to the
various organs of the human body: there must be a function proper to
man as such. That can be none of the functions of the vegetative life,
nor of the mere animal life within him. Man is not happy by doing what
a rose-bush can do, digest and assimilate its food: nor by doing what
a horse does, having sensations pleasurable and painful, and muscular
feelings. Man is happy by doing what man alone can do in this world,
that is, acting by reason and understanding. Now the human will acting
by reason may do three things. It may regulate the passions, notably
desire and fear: the outcome will be the moral virtues of temperance
and fortitude. It may direct the understanding, and ultimately the
members of the body, in order to the production of some practical
result in the external world, as a bridge. Lastly, it may direct the
understanding to speculate and think, contemplate and consider, for
mere contemplation's sake. Happiness must take one or other of these
4. First, then, _happiness is not the practice of the moral virtues of
temperance and fortitude_. Temperance makes a man strong against the
temptations to irrationality and swinishness that come of the bodily
appetites. But happiness lies, not in deliverance from what would
degrade man to the level of the brutes, but in something which shall
raise man to the highest level of human nature. Fortitude, again, is
not exercised except in the hour of danger; but happiness lies in an
environment of security, not of danger. And in general, the moral
virtues can be exercised only upon occasions, as they come and go; but
happiness is the light of the soul, that must burn with steady flame
and uninterrupted act, and not be dependent on chance occurrences.
5. Secondly, _happiness is not the use of the practical understanding
with a view to production_. Happiness is an end in itself, a terminus
beyond which the act of the will can go no further; but this use of
the understanding is in view of an ulterior end, the thing to be
produced. That product is either useful or artistic; if useful, it
ministers to some further end still; if artistic, it ministers to
contemplation. Happiness, indeed, is no exercise of the practical
understanding whatever. The noblest exercises of practical
understanding are for military purposes and for statesmanship. But war
surely is not an end in itself to any right-minded man. Statecraft,
too, has an end before it, the happiness of the people. It is a labour
in view of happiness. We must follow down the third lane, and say:
6. _Happiness is the act of the speculative understanding
contemplating for contemplation's sake_. This act has all the marks of
happiness. It is the highest act of man's highest power. It is the
most capable of continuance. It is fraught with pleasure, purest and
highest in quality. It is of all acts the most self-sufficient and
independent of environment, provided the object be to the mind's eye
visible. It is welcome for its own sake, not as leading to any further
good. It is a life of ease and leisure: man is busy that he may come
7. Aristotle says of this life of continued active contemplation:
"Such a life will be too good for man; for not as he is man will he so
live, but inasmuch as there is a divine element in his composition. As
much as this element excels the compound into which it enters, so much
does the act of the said element excel any act in any other line of
virtue. If, then, the understanding is divine in comparison with man,
the life of the understanding is divine in comparison with human life.
We must not take the advice of those who tell us, that being man, one
should cherish the thoughts of a man, or being mortal, the thoughts of
a mortal, but so far as in us lies, we must play the immortal [Greek:
athanatizein], and do all in our power to live by the best element in
our nature: for though that element be slight in quantity, in power
and in value it far outweighs all the rest of our being. A man may
well be reckoned to be that which is the ruling power and the better
part in him. . . . What is proper to each creature by nature, is best
and sweetest for each: such, then, is for man the life of the
understanding, if the understanding preeminently is man." (Ar.,
_Eth._, X., vii., 8, 9.)
8. But if happiness is an act in discharge of the function proper to
man as man (n. 3), how can it be happiness to lead a life which
Aristotle says is too good for man? The solution of this paradox is
partly contained in the concluding words of Aristotle above quoted,
and will still further appear presently (s. iv., n. I, p. 21), where
we shall argue that human life is a state of transition in preparation
for a higher life of the soul, to be lived, according to the natural
order, when the compound of soul and body would no longer exist.
9. _The act of contemplation, in which happiness consists, must rest
upon a habit of contemplation, which is intellectual virtue_. An act,
to be perfection and happiness, must be done easily, sweetly, and
constantly. But no act of the intellect can be so done, unless it
rests upon a corresponding habit. If the habit has not been acquired,
the act will be done fitfully, at random, and against the grain, like
the music of an untrained singer, or the composition of a schoolboy.
Painful study is not happiness, nor is any studied act. Happiness is
the play of a mind that is, if not master of, yet at home with its
subject. As the intellect is man's best and noblest power, so is
intellectual virtue, absolutely speaking, the best virtue of man.
10. The use of the speculative understanding is discernible in many
things to which even the common crowd turn for happiness, as news of
that which is of little or no practical concern to self, sight-seeing,
theatre-going, novels, poetry, art, scenery, as well as speculative
science and high literature. A certain speculative interest is mixed
up with all practical work: the mind lingers on the speculation apart
from the end in view.
11. _The act of contemplation cannot be steadily carried on, as is
necessary to happiness, except in the midst of easy surroundings_.
Human nature is not self-sufficient for the work of contemplation.
There is need of health and vigour, and the means of maintaining it,
food, warmth, interesting objects around you, leisure, absence of
distracting care or pain. None would call a man happy upon the rack,
except by way of maintaining a thesis. The happiness of a disembodied
spirit is of course independent of bodily conditions, but it would
appear that there are conditions of environment requisite for even a
12. _Happiness must endure to length of days_. Happiness is the
perfect good of man. But no good is perfect that will not last. One
swallow does not make a summer, nor does one fine day: neither is man
made blessed and happy by one day, nor by a brief time. The human mind
lighting upon good soon asks the question, Will this last? If the
answer is negative, the good is not a complete good and there is no
complete happiness coming of it. If the answer is affirmative and
false, once more that is not a perfect happiness that rests on a
delusion. The supreme good of a rational being is not found in a
fool's paradise. We want an answer affirmative and true: _This
happiness shall last_.
13. We now sum up and formulate the definition of happiness as
follows: _Happiness is a bringing of the soul to act according to the
habit of the best and most perfect virtue, that is, the virtue of the
speculative intellect, borne out by easy surroundings, and enduring to
length of days--[Greek: energeia psychaes kat aretaen taen aristaen
kai teleiotataen en biph teleio.] (Ar., _Eth._, I., vii., 15, 16.)
14. Man is made for society. His happiness must be in society, a
social happiness, no lonely contemplation. He must be happy in the
consciousness of his own intellectual act, and happy in the
discernment of the good that is in those around him, whom he loves.
Friends and dear ones are no small part of those _easy surroundings_
that are the condition of happiness.
15. Happiness--final, perfect happiness--is not in fighting and
struggling, in so far as a struggle supposes evil present and
imminent; nor in benevolence, so far as that is founded upon misery
needing relief. We fight for the conquest and suppression of evil; we
are benevolent for the healing of misery. But it will be happiness,
_in the limit_, as mathematicians speak, to wish well to all in a
society where it is well with all, and to struggle with truth for its
own sake, ever grasping, never mastering, as Jacob wrestled with God.
_Readings_.--Ar., _Eth._, I., vii. viii., 5 to end; I., x., 8 to end;
I., v., 6; VII., xiii., 3; IX., ix.; X., vii.; X., viii., 1-10; Ar.,
_Pol._, IV. (al. VII.), i., 3-10; IV., iii., 7, 8; St. Thos., la 2ae,
q. 3, art. 2; _ib._, q. 3, art. 5. in corp., ad 3; _ib._, q. 2, art.
SECTION III.--_Happiness open to man_.
"And now as he looked and saw the whole Hellespont covered with the
vessels of his fleet, and all the shore and every plain about Abydos
as full as possible of men, Xerxes congratulated himself on his good
fortune; but after a little while, he wept. Then Artabanus, the King's
uncle, when he heard that Xerxes was in tears, went to him, and said:
'How different, sire, is what thou art now doing from what thou didst
a little while ago! Then thou didst congratulate thyself; and now,
behold! thou weepest.' 'There came upon me,' replied he, 'a sudden
pity, when I thought of the shortness of man's life, and considered
that of all this host, so numerous as it is, not one will be alive
when a hundred years are gone by.' 'And yet there are sadder things in
life than that,' returned the other. 'Short as our time is, there is
no man, whether it be among this multitude or elsewhere, who is so
happy, as not to have felt the wish--I will not say once, but full
many a time--that he were dead rather than alive. Calamities fall upon
us, sicknesses vex and harass us, and make life, short though it be,
to appear long. So death, through the wretchedness of our life, is a
most sweet refuge to our race; and God, who gives us the tastes that
we enjoy of pleasant times, is seen, in his very gift, to be
envious.'" (Herodotus, vii., 45, 46.)
1. It needs no argument to show that happiness, as defined in the last
section, can never be perfectly realized in this life. Aristotle took
his definition to represent an ideal to be approximated to, not
attained. He calls his sages "happy as men" (_Eth._, I., x., 16), that
is, imperfectly, as all things human are imperfect. Has Aristotle,
then, said the last word on happiness? Is perfect happiness out of the
reach of the person whom in this mortal life we call man? However that
may be, it is plain that _man desires perfect happiness_. Every man
desires that it may be perfectly well with him and his, although many
have mistaken notions of what their own well-being consists in, and
few can define it philosophically. Still they all desire it. The
higher a man stands in intellect, the loftier and vaster his
conception of happiness, and the stronger his yearning after it. This
argues that _the desire of happiness is natural to man_: not in the
sense in which eating and drinking are natural, as being requirements
of his animal nature, but in the same way that it is natural to him to
think and converse, his rational nature so requiring. It is a natural
desire, as springing from that which is the specific characteristic of
human nature, distinguishing it from mere animal nature, namely
reason. It is a natural desire in the best and highest sense of the
2. Contentment is not happiness. A man is content with little, but it
takes an immensity of good to satisfy all his desire, and render him
perfectly happy. When we say we are content, we signify that we should
naturally desire more, but acquiesce in our present portion, seeing
that more is not to be had. "Content," says Dr. Bain, "is not the
natural frame of any mind, but is the result of compromise."
3. But is not this desire of unmixed happiness unreasonable? Are we
not taught to set bounds to our desire? Is not moderation a virtue,
and contentment wisdom? Yes, moderation is a virtue, but it concerns
only the use of means, not the apprehension of ends. The patient, not
to say the physician, desires medicines in moderation, so much as will
do him good and no more; but, so far as his end is health, he desires
all possible health, perfect health. The last end, then, is to be
desired as a thing to possess without end or measure, fully and
4. We have then these facts to philosophise on: that all men desire
perfect happiness: that this desire is natural, springing from the
rational soul which sets man above the brute: that on earth man may
attain to contentment, and to some happiness, but not to perfect
happiness: that consequently nature has planted in man a desire for
which on earth she has provided no adequate satisfaction.
5. If the course of events were fitful and wayward, so that effects
started up without causes, and like causes under like conditions
produced unlike effects, and anything might come of anything, there
would be no such thing as that which we call _nature_. When we speak
of nature, we imply a regular and definite flow of tendencies, this
thing springing from that and leading to that other; nothing from
nothing, and nothing leading nowhere; no random, aimless proceedings;
but definite results led up to by a regular succession of steps, and
surely ensuing unless something occurs on the way to thwart the
process. How this is reconciled with Creation and Freewill, it is not
our province to enquire: suffice it to say that a _natural_ agent is
opposed to a _free_ one, and creation is the starting-point of nature.
But to return. Everywhere we say, "this is for that," wherever there
appears an end and consummation to which the process leads, provided
it go on unimpeded. Now every event that happens is a part of some
process or other. Every act is part of a tendency. There are no loose
facts in nature, no things that happen, or are, otherwise than in
consequence of something that has happened, or been, before, and in
view of something else that is to happen, or be, hereafter. The
tendencies of nature often run counter to one another, so that the
result to which this or that was tending is frustrated. But a tendency
is a tendency, although defeated; _this_ was for _that_, although that
for which it was has got perverted to something else. There is no
tendency which of itself fails and comes to naught, apart from
interference. Such a universal and absolute break-down is unknown to
6. All this appears most clearly in organic beings, plants and
animals. Organisms, except the very lowest, are compounds of a number
of different parts, each fulfilling a special function for the good of
the whole. There is no idle constituent in an organic body, none
without its function. What are called _rudimentary_ organs, even if
they serve no purpose in the individual, have their use in the
species, or in some higher genus. In the animal there is no idle
natural craving, or appetite. True, in the individual, whether plant
or animal, there are many potentialities frustrate and made void. That
is neither here nor there in philosophy. Philosophy deals not with
individuals but with species, not with Bucephalus or Alexander, but
with _horse_, _man_. It is nothing to philosophy that of a thousand
seeds there germinate perhaps not ten. Enough that one seed ever
germinates, and that all normal specimens are apt to do the like,
meeting with proper environment. That alone shows that seed is not an
idle product in this or that class of living beings.
7. But, it will be said, not everything contained in an organism
ministers to its good. There is refuse material, only good to get rid
of: there are morbid growths; there is that tendency to decay, by
which sooner or later the organism will perish. First, then, a word on
diseases. Diseases are the diseases of the individual; not of the
race. The race, as such, and that is what the philosopher studies, is
healthy: all that can be imputed to the race is liability to disease.
That liability, and the tendency to decay and die, are found in living
things, because their essence is of finite perfection; there cannot be
a plant or animal, that has not these drawbacks in itself, as such.
They represent, not the work of nature, but the failure of nature, and
the point beyond which nature can no further go.
8. On the preceding observations Aristotle formulated the great
maxim--called by Dr. Thomas Browne, _Religio Medici_, p. i., sect. 15,
"the only indisputable axiom in philosophy,"--_Nature does nothing in
vain_. (Ar., _Pol._, I., viii., 12; _De Anima_, III., ix., 6; _De
part. animal._, I. i., p. 641, ed. Bekker.)
9. _The desire of happiness, ample and complete, beyond what this
world can afford, is not planted in man by defect of his nature, but
by the perfection of his nature, and in view of his further
perfection_. This desire has not the character of a drawback, a thing
that cannot be helped, a weakness and decay of nature, and loss of
power, like that which sets in with advancing years. A locomotive
drawing a train warms the air about it: it is a pity that it should do
so, for that radiation of heat is a loss of power: but it cannot be
helped, as locomotives are and must be constructed. Not such is the
desire of perfect happiness in the human breast. It is not a disease,
for it is no peculiarity of individuals, but a property of the race.
It is not a decay, for it grows with the growing mind, being feeblest
in childhood, when desires are simplest and most easily satisfied, and
strongest where mental life is the most vigorous. It is an attribute
of great minds in proportion to their greatness. To be without it,
would be to live a minor in point of intellect, not much removed from
imbecility. It is not a waste of energy, rather it furnishes the
motive-power to all human volition. It comes of the natural working of
the understanding that discerns good, and other good above that, and
so still higher and higher good without limit; and of the natural
working of the will, following up and fastening upon what the
understanding discerns as good. The desire in question, then, is by no
means a necessary evil, or natural flaw, in the human constitution.
10. It follows that the desire of perfect happiness is in man by the
normal growth of his nature, and for the better. But it would be a
vain desire, and objectless, if it were essentially incapable of
satisfaction: and man would be a made and abiding piece of
imperfection, if there were no good accessible to his intellectual
nature sufficient to meet its proper exigence of perfect happiness.
But no such perfect happiness is attainable in this world. Therefore
there must be a world to come, in which he who was man, now a
disembodied spirit, but still the same person, shall under due
conditions find a perfect good, the adequate object of his natural
desire. Else is the deepest craving of human nature in vain, and man
himself is vanity of vanities.
11. It may be objected that there is no need to go beyond this world
to explain how the desire of perfect happiness is not in vain. It
works like the desire of the philosopher's stone among the old
alchemists. The thing they were in search of was a chimera, but in
looking for it they found a real good, modern chemistry. In like
manner, it is contended, though perfect happiness is not to be had
anywhere, yet the desire of it keeps men from sitting down on the path
of progress; and thus to that desire we owe all our modern
civilization, and all our hope and prospect of higher civilization to
come. Without questioning the alleged fact about the alchemists, we
may reply that modern chemistry has dissipated the desire of the
philosopher's stone, but modern civilization has not dissipated the
desire of perfect happiness: it has deepened it, and perhaps rather
obscured the prospect of its fulfilment. A desire that grows with
progress certainly cannot be satisfied by progressing. But if it is
never to be satisfied, what is it? A goad thrust into the side of man,
that shall keep him coursing along from century to century, like Io
under the gadfly, only to find himself in the last century as far from
the mark as in the first. Apart from the hope of the world to come, is
the Italy of to-day happier than the Italy of Antoninus Pius? Here is
a modern Italian's conclusion: "I have studied man, I have examined
nature, I have passed whole nights observing the starry heavens. And
what is the result of these long investigations? Simply this, that the
life of man is nothing; that man himself is nothing; that he will
never penetrate the mystery which surrounds the universe. With this
comfortless conviction I descend into the grave, and console myself
with the hope of speedy annihilation. The lamp goes out; and nothing,
nothing can rekindle it. So, Nature, I return to thee, to be united
with thee for ever. Never wilt thou have received into thy bosom a
more unhappy being." (_La Nullita della Vita_. By G. P., 1882.)
This is an extreme case, but much of modern progress tends this way.
Civilization is not happiness, nor is the desire for happiness other
than vain, if it merely leads to increased civilization.
_Readings_.--St. Thomas, _C. G._, iii., 48; Newman's _Historical
Sketches--Conversion of Augustine_; Mill's _Autobiography_, pp.
SECTION IV.--_Of the Object of Perfect Happiness_.
1. As happiness is an act of the speculative intellect contemplating
(s. ii., n. 6, p. 9), so the thing thus contemplated is the _object of
happiness_. As happiness is the _subjective last end_, so will this
object, inasmuch as the contemplation of it yields perfect happiness,
be the _objective last end_ of man. (s. i., nn. 3, 4, p. 4.) As
perfect happiness is possible, and intended by nature, so is this
objective last end attainable, and should be attained. But attained by
man? Aye, there's the rub. It cannot be attained in this life, and
after death man is no more: a soul out of the body is not man. About
the resurrection of the body philosophy knows nothing. Nature can make
out no title to resurrection. That is a gratuitous gift of God in
Christ. When it takes effect, _stupebit natura_. Philosophy deals only
with the natural order, with man as man, leaving the supernatural
order, or the privileges and _status_ of man as a child of God, to the
higher science of Scholastic Theology. Had God so willed it, there
might have been no supernatural at all. Philosophy shows the world as
it would have been on that hypothesis. In that case, then, man would
have been, as Aristotle represents him, a being incapable of perfect
happiness; but _he who is man_ could have become perfectly happy in a
state other than human, that is, as a disembodied spirit. Peter is
man: the soul of Peter, after separation, is man no longer; but Peter
is not one person, and Peter's soul out of the body another person;
there is but one person there, with one personal history and
liabilities. The soul of Peter is Peter still: therefore the person
Peter, or he _who is Peter_, attains to happiness, but not the man
Peter, as man, apart from the supernatural privilege of the
resurrection. Hence Aristotle well said, though he failed to see the
significance of his own saying, that man should aim at a life of
happiness too good for man. (s. ii., nn. 7, 8, p. 9.)
2. The object of happiness,--the objective last end of man,--will be
that which the soul contemplating in the life to come will be
perfectly happy by so doing. The soul will contemplate all
intellectual beauty that she finds about her, all heights of truth,
all the expanse of goodness and mystery of love. She will see herself:
a vast and curious sight is one pure spirit: but that will not be
enough for her, her eye travels beyond. She must be in company, live
with myriads of pure spirits like herself,--see them, study them, and
admire them, and converse with them in closest intimacy. Together they
must explore the secrets of all creation even to the most distant
star: they must read the laws of the universe, which science
laboriously spells out here below: they must range from science to
art, and from facts to possibilities, till even their pure intellect
is baffled by the vast intricacy of things that might be and are not:
but yet they are not satisfied. A point of convergency is wanted for
all these vistas of being, whence they may go forth, and whither they
may return and meet: otherwise the soul is distracted and lost in a
maze of incoherent wandering, crying out, Whence all this? and what is
it for? and above all, whose is it? These are the questions that the
human mind asks in her present condition: much more will she ask them
then, when wonders are multiplied before her gaze: for it is the same
soul there and here. Here men are tormented in mind, if they find no
answer to these questions. Scientific men cannot leave theology alone.
They will not be happy there without an answer. Their contemplation
will still desiderate something beyond all finite being, actual or
possible. Is that God? It is nothing else. But God dwells in light
inaccessible, where no creature, as such, can come near Him nor see
Him. The beauties of creation, as so many streams of tendency, meet at
the foot of His Throne, and there are lost. Their course is towards
Him, and is, so far as it goes, an indication of Him: but He is
infinitely, unspeakably above them. No intelligence created, or
creatable, can arrive by its own natural perception to see Him as He
is: for mind can only discern what is proportionate to itself: and God
is out of proportion with all the being of all possible creatures. It
is only by analogy that the word _being_, or any other word whatever
can be applied to Him. As Plato says, "the First Good is not Being,
but over and beyond Being in dignity and power." (_Rep_. 509, B.)
3. To see God face to face, which is called the beatific vision, is
not the natural destiny of man, nor of any possible creature. Such
happiness is not the happiness of man, nor of angel, but of God
Himself, and of any creature whom He may deign by an act of gratuitous
condescension to invite to sit as guest at His own royal table. That
God has so invited men and angels, revelation informs us. Scholastic
theology enlarges upon that revelation, but it is beyond philosophy.
Like the resurrection of the body, and much more even than that, the
Beatific Vision must be relegated to the realm of the Supernatural.
4. But even in the natural order _the object of perfect happiness_ is
God. The natural and supernatural have the same object, but differ in
the mode of attainment. By supernatural grace, bearing perfect fruit,
man sees God with the eyes of his soul, as we see the faces of our
friends on earth. In perfect happiness of the natural order, creatures
alone are directly apprehended, or seen, and from the creature is
gathered the excellence of the unseen God. The process is an ascent,
as described by Plato, from the individual to the universal, and from
bodily to moral and intellectual beauty, till we reach a Beauty
eternal, immutable, absolute, substantial, and self-existent, on which
all other beauties depend for their being, while it is independent of
them. (Plato, _Symposium_, 210, 211.) Unless the ascent be prosecuted
thus far, the contemplation is inadequate, the happiness incomplete.
The mind needs to travel to the beginning and end of things, to the
Alpha and Omega of all. The mind needs to reach some perfect good:
some object, which though it is beyond the comprehension, is
nevertheless understood to be the very good of goods, unalloyed with
any admixture of defect or imperfection. The mind needs an infinite
object to rest upon, though it cannot grasp that object positively in
its infinity. If this is the case even with the human mind, still
wearing "this muddy vesture of decay," how much more ardent the
longing, as how much keener the gaze, of the pure spirit after Him who
is the centre and rest of all intellectual nature?
5. Creatures to contemplate and see God in, are conditions and
secondary objects of natural happiness. They do not afford happiness
finally of themselves, but as manifesting God, even as a mirror would
be of little interest except for its power of reflection.
6. In saying that God is the object of happiness, we must remember
that He is no cold, impersonal Beauty, but a living and loving God,
not indeed in the order of nature our Father and Friend, but still our
kind Master and very good Lord, who speaks to His servants from behind
the clouds that hide His face, and assures them of His abiding favour
and approving love. More than that, nature cannot look for: such
aspiration were unnatural, unreasonable, mere madness: it is enough
for the creature, as a creature, in its highest estate to stand before
God, hearing His voice, but seeing not His countenance, whom, without
His free grace, none can look upon and live.
_Reading_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 2, art. 8.
SECTION V.--_Of the use of the present life_.
1. Since perfect happiness is not to be had in this mortal life, and
is to be had hereafter; since moreover man has free will and the
control of his own acts; it is evidently most important for man in
this life so to control and rule himself here as to dispose himself
for happiness there. Happiness rests upon a habit of contemplation (s.
ii., n. 9, p. 10), rising to God. (s. iv., n. 4, p. 24.) But a habit,
as will be seen, is not formed except by frequent acts, and may be
marred and broken by contrary acts. It is, then, important for man in
this life so to act as to acquire a habit of lifting his mind to God.
There are two things here, to lift the mind, and to lift it to God.
The mind is not lifted, if the man lives not an intellectual life, but
the life of a swine wallowing in sensual indulgences; or a frivolous
life, taking the outside of things as they strike the senses, and
flitting from image to image thoughtlessly; or a quarrelsome life,
where reason is swallowed up in anger and hatred. Again, however
sublime the speculation and however active the intellect, if God is
not constantly referred to, the mind is lifted indeed, but not to God.
It is wisdom, then, in man during this life to look to God everywhere,
and ever to seek His face; to avoid idleness, anger, intemperance, and
pride of intellect. For the mind will not soar to God when the heart
is far from Him.
OF HUMAN ACTS.
SECTION I.--_What makes a human act less voluntary_.
1. See c. i., nn. 2, 3, 4.
2. An act is more or less voluntary, as it is done with more or less
knowledge, and proceeds more or less fully and purely from the will
properly so called. Whatever diminishes knowledge, or partially
supplants the will, takes off from the voluntariness of the act. _An
act is rendered less voluntary by ignorance, by passionate desire, and
3. If a man has done something in ignorance either of the law or of
the facts of the case, and would be sorry for it, were he to find out
what he has done, that act is _involuntary_, so far as it is traceable
to ignorance alone. Even if he would not be sorry, still the act must
be pronounced _not voluntary_, under the same reservation. Ignorance,
sheer ignorance, takes whatever is done under it out of the region of
volition. Nothing is willed but what is known. An ignorant man is as
excusable as a drunken one, as such,--no more and no less. The
difference is, that drunkenness generally is voluntary; ignorance
often is not. But ignorance may be voluntary, quite as voluntary as
drunkenness. It is a capital folly of our age to deny the possibility
of voluntary intellectual error. Error is often voluntary, and (where
the matter is one that the person officially or otherwise is required
to know) immoral too. A strange thing it is to say that "it is as
unmeaning to speak of the immorality of an intellectual mistake as it
would be to talk of the colour of a sound." (Lecky, _European Morals_,
4. There is an ignorance that is sought on purpose, called _affected
ignorance_ (in the Shakspearian sense of the word _affect_), as when a
man will not read begging-letters, that he may not give anything away.
Such ignorance does not hinder voluntariness. It indicates a strong
will of doing or omitting, come what may. There is yet another
ignorance called _crass_, which is when a man, without absolutely
declining knowledge, yet takes no pains to acquire it in a matter
where he is aware that truth is important to him. Whatever election is
made in consequence of such ignorance, is less voluntary, indeed, than
if it were made in the full light, still it is to some extent
voluntary. It is _voluntary in its cause_, that is, in the voluntary
ignorance that led to it. Suppose a man sets up as a surgeon, having
made a very imperfect study of his art. He is aware, that for want of
knowledge and skill, he shall endanger many lives: still he neglects
opportunities of making himself competent, and goes audaciously to
work. If any harm comes of his bungling, he can plead intellectual
error, an error of judgment for the time being; he did his best as
well as he knew it. Doubtless he did, and in that he is unlike the
malicious maker of mischief: still he has chosen lightly and
recklessly to hazard a great evil. To that extent his will is bound to
the evil: he has chosen it, as it were, at one remove.
5. Another instance. A man is a long way on to seeing, though he does
not quite see, the claims of the Church of Rome on his allegiance and
submission. He suspects that a little more prayer and search, and he
shall be a Roman Catholic. To escape this, he resolves to go
travelling and give up prayer. This is _affected ignorance_. Another
has no such perception of the claims of Catholicism. He has no
religion that satisfies him. He is aware speculatively of the
importance of the religious question; but his heart is not in religion
at all. With Demas, he loves the things of this world. Very attractive
and interesting does he find this life; and for the life to come he is
content to chance it. This is _crass ignorance_ of religious truth.
Such a man is not a formal heretic, for he is not altogether wilful
and contumacious in his error. Still neither is it wholly involuntary,
nor he wholly guiltless.
6. _Passionate desire_ is not an affection of the will, but of the
sensitive appetite. The will may cooperate, but the passion is not in
the will. The will may neglect to check the passion, when it might: it
may abet and inflame it: in these ways an act done in passion is a
voluntary act. Still it becomes voluntary only by the influx of the
will, positively permitting or stimulating: it is not voluntary
precisely as it proceeds from passion: for voluntary is that which is
of the will. It belongs to passion to bring on a momentary darkness in
the understanding: where such darkness is, there is so much the less
of a human act. But passion in an adult of sane mind is hardly strong
enough, of itself and wholly without the will, to execute any
considerable outward action, involving the voluntary muscles. Things
are often said and done, and put down to passion: but that is not the
whole account of the matter. The will has been for a long time either
feeding the passions, or letting them range unchecked: that is the
reason of their present outburst, which is voluntary at least _in its
cause_. Once this evil preponderance has been brought about, it is to
be examined whether the will, in calm moods, is making any efforts to
redress the evil. Such efforts, if made, go towards making the effects
of passion, when they come, involuntary, and gradually preventing them
7. What a man does _from fear_, he is said to do _under compulsion_,
especially if the fear be applied to him by some other person in order
to gain a purpose. Such _compulsory action_ is distinguished in
ordinary parlance from voluntary action. And it is certainly less
voluntary, inasmuch as the will is hedged in to make its choice
between two evils, and chooses one or other only as being the less
evil of the two, not for any liking to the thing in itself. Still, all
things considered, the thing is chosen, and the action is so far
voluntary. We may call it _voluntary in the concrete_, and
_involuntary in the abstract_. The thing is willed as matters stand,
but in itself and apart from existing need it is not liked at all. But
as acts must be judged as they stand, by what the man wills now, not
by what he would will, an act done under fear is on the whole
voluntary. At the same time, fear sometimes excuses from the
observance of a law, or of a contract, which from the way in which it
was made was never meant to bind in so hard a case. Not all contracts,
however, are of this accommodating nature; and still less, all laws.
But even where the law binds, the penalty of the law is sometimes not
incurred, when the law was broken through fear.
_Readings_.--Ar., _Eth_., III, i.; St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 6, art. 3;
_ib_., q. 6, art. 6, 8; _ib_., q. 77, art. 6.
SECTION II.--_Of the determinants of morality in any given action_.
1. _The morality of any given action is determined by three elements,
the end in view, the means taken, and the circumstances that accompany
the taking of the said means._ Whoever knows this principle, does not
thereby know the right and wrong of every action, but he knows how to
go about the enquiry. It is a rule of diagnosis.
2. In order to know whether what a man does befits him as a man to do,
the first thing to examine is that which he mainly desires and wills
in his action. Now the end is more willed and desired than the means.
He who steals to commit adultery, says Aristotle, is more of an
adulterer than a thief. The end in view is what lies nearest to a
man's heart as he acts. On that his mind is chiefly bent; on that his
main purpose is fixed. Though the end is last in the order of
execution, it is first and foremost in the order of intention.
Therefore the end in view enters into morality more deeply than any
other element of the action. It is not, however, the most obvious
determinant, because it is the last point to be gained; and because,
while the means are taken openly, the end is often a secret locked up
in the heart of the doer, the same means leading to many ends, as the
road to a city leads to many homes and resting-places. Conversely, one
end may be prosecuted by many means, as there are many roads
converging upon one goal.
3. If morality were determined by the end in view, and by that alone,
the doctrine would hold that the end justifies the means. That
doctrine is false, because the moral character of a human act depends
on the thing willed, or object of volition, according as it is or is
not a fit object. Now the object of volition is not only the end in
view, but likewise the means chosen. Besides the end, the means are
likewise willed. Indeed, the means are willed more immediately even
than the end, as they have to be taken first.
4. A good action, like any other good thing, must possess a certain
requisite fulness of being, proper to itself. As it is not enough for
the physical excellence of a man to have the bare essentials, a body
with a soul animating it, but there is needed a certain grace of form,
colour, agility, and many accidental qualities besides; so for a good
act it is not enough that proper means be taken to a proper end, but
they must be taken by a proper person, at a proper place and time, in
a proper manner, and with manifold other circumstances of propriety.
5. The end in view may be either _single_, as when you forgive an
injury solely for the love of Christ: or _multiple co-ordinate_, as
when you forgive both for the love of Christ and for the mediation of
a friend, and are disposed to forgive on either ground separately; or
_multiple subordinate_, as when you would not have forgiven on the
latter ground alone, but forgive the more easily for its addition,
having been ready, however, to forgive on the former alone; or
_cumulative_, as when you forgive on a number of grounds collectively,
on no one of which would you have forgiven apart from the rest.
6. Where there is no outward action, but only an internal act, and the
object of that act is some good that is willed for its own sake, there
can be no question of means taken, as the end in view is immediately
7. The means taken and the circumstances of those means enter into the
morality of the act, _formally_ as they are seen by the intellect,
_materially_ as they are in themselves. (See what is said of
ignorance, c. iii., s. i., nn. 3-5, p. 27.) This explains the
difference between _formal_ and _material_ sin. A _material_ sin would
be _formal_ also, did the agent know what he was doing. No sin is
culpable that is not _formal_. But, as has been said, there may be a
culpable perversion of the intellect, so that the man is the author of
his own obliquity or defect of vision. When Saul persecuted the
Christians, he probably sinned materially, not formally. When Caiphas
spoke the truth without knowing it, he said well materially, but ill
8. In looking at the means taken and the circumstances that accompany
those means, it is important to have a ready rule for pronouncing what
particular belongs to the means and what to the circumstances. Thus
Clytemnestra deals her husband Agamemnon a deadly stroke with an axe,
partly for revenge, partly that she may take to herself another
consort; is the deadliness of the blow part of the means taken or only
an accompanying circumstance? It is part of the means taken. The means
taken include every particular that is willed and chosen as making for
the end in view. The fatal character of the blow does make to that
end; if Agamemnon does not die, the revenge will not be complete, and
life with Aegisthus will be impossible. On the other hand, the fact
that Clytemnestra is the wife of the man whom she murders, is not a
point that her will rests upon as furthering her purpose at all; it is
an accompanying circumstance. This method of distinguishing means from
circumstance is of great value in casuistry.
9. It is clear that not every attendant circumstance affects the
morality of the means taken. Thus the blow under which Agamemnon sank
was neither more nor less guiltily struck because it was dealt with an
axe, because it was under pretence of giving him a bath, or because
his feet were entangled in a long robe. These circumstances are all
irrelevant. Those only are relevant which attach some special
reasonableness or unreasonableness to the thing done Thus the
provocation that Clytemnestra had from her husband's introduction of
Cassandra into her house made her act of vengeance less unreasonable:
on the other hand it was rendered more unreasonable by the
circumstance of the dear and holy tie that binds wife to husband. The
provocation and the relationship were two relevant circumstances in
10. But it happens sometimes that a circumstance only affects the
reasonableness of an action on the supposition of some previous
circumstance so affecting it. Thus to carry off a thing in large or
small quantities does not affect the reasonableness of the carrying,
unless there be already some other circumstance attached that renders
the act good or evil; as for instance, if the goods that are being
removed are stolen property. Circumstances of this sort are called
_aggravating_--or, as the case may be, _extenuating_--circumstances.
Circumstances that of themselves, and apart from any previous
supposition, make the thing done peculiarly reasonable or
unreasonable, are called _specifying_ circumstances. They are so
called, because they place the action in some species of virtue or
vice; whereas _aggravating_ or _extenuating_ circumstances add to, or
take off from, the good or evil of the action in that species of
virtue or vice to which it already belongs.
11. A variety of specifying circumstances may place one and the same
action in many various species of virtue or vice. Thus a religious
robbing his parents would sin at once against justice, piety, and
religion. A nun preferring death to dishonour practises three virtues,
chastity, fortitude, and religion.
12. The means chosen may be of four several characters:--
(a) A thing _evil of itself_ and inexcusable under all conceivable
circumstances; for instance, blasphemy, idolatry, lying.
(b) _Needing excuse_, as the killing of a man, the looking at an
indecent object. Such things are not to be done except under certain
circumstances and with a grave reason. Thus indecent sights may be met
in the discharge of professional duty. In that case indeed they cease
to be indecent. They are then only indecent when they are viewed
without cause. The absence of a good motive in a case like this
commonly implies the presence of a bad one.
(c) _Indifferent_, as walking or sitting down.
(d) _Good of itself_, but liable to be vitiated by circumstances, as
prayer and almsgiving; the good of such actions may be destroyed
wholly or in part by their being done out of a vain motive, or
unseasonably, or indiscreetly.
13. It is said, "If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be
lightsome." (St. Matt., vi., 22.) The eye is the intention
contemplating the end in view. Whoever has placed a good end before
him, and regards it steadily with a well-ordered love, never swerving
in his affection from the way that reason would have him love, must
needs take towards his end those means, and those only, which are in
themselves reasonable and just: as it is written: "Thou shalt follow
justly after that which is just." (Deut. xvi., 20.) Thus I am building
a church to the glory of God; money runs short: I perceive that by
signing a certain contract that must mean grievous oppression of the
poor, I shall save considerable expense, whereas, if I refuse, the
works will have to be abandoned for want of funds. If I have purely
the glory of God before my eyes, I certainly shall not sign that
contract: for injustice I know can bear no fruit of Divine glory. But
if I am bent upon having the building up in any case, of course I
shall sign: but then my love for the end in view is no longer pure and
regulated by reason: it is not God but myself that I am seeking in the
work. Thus an end entirely just, holy, and pure, purifies and
sanctifies the means, not formally, by investing with a character of
justice means in themselves unjust, for that is impossible,--the
leopard cannot change his spots,--but by way of elimination, removing
unjust means as ineligible to my purpose, and leaving me only those
means to choose from which are in themselves just.
14. With means in themselves indifferent, the case is otherwise. A
holy and pious end does formally sanctify those means, while a wicked
end vitiates them. I beg the reader to observe what sort of means are
here in question. There is no question of means in themselves or in
their circumstances unjust, as theft, lying, murder, but of such
indifferent things as reading, writing, painting, singing, travelling.
Whoever travels to commit sin at the end of his journey, his very
travelling, so far as it is referred to that end, is part of his sin:
it is a wicked journey that he takes. And he who travels to worship at
some shrine or place of pilgrimage, includes his journey in his
devotion. The end in view there sanctifies means in themselves
15. As a great part of the things that we do are indifferent as well
in themselves as in the circumstances of the doing of them, the moral
character of our lives depends largely on the ends that we habitually
propose to ourselves. One man's great thought is how to make money;
what he reads, writes, says, where he goes, where he elects to reside,
his very eating, drinking and personal expenditure, all turns on what
he calls making his fortune. It is all to gain money--_quocunque modo
rem_. Another is active for bettering the condition of the labouring
classes: a third for the suppression of vice. These three men go some
way together in a common orbit of small actions, alike to the eye, but
morally unlike, because of the various guiding purposes for which they
are done. Hence, when we consider such pregnant final ends as the
service of God and the glory of a world to come, it appears how vast
is the alteration in the moral line and colouring of a man's life,
according to his practical taking up or setting aside of these great
16. We must beware however of an exaggeration here. The final end of
action is often latent, not explicitly considered. A fervent
worshipper of God wishes to refer his whole self with all that he does
to the Divine glory and service. Yet such a one will eat, drink, and
be merry with his friends, not thinking of God at the time. Still,
supposing him to keep within the bounds of temperance, he is serving
God and doing good actions. But what of a man who has entirely broken
away from God, what of his eating, drinking, and other actions that
are of their kind indifferent? We cannot call them sins: there is
nothing wrong about them, neither in the thing done, nor in the
circumstances of the doing, nor in the intention. Pius V. condemned
the proposition: "All the works of infidels are sins." Neither must we
call such actions indifferent in the individual who does them,
supposing them to be true human acts, according to the definition, and
not done merely mechanically. They are not indifferent, because they
receive a certain measure of natural goodness from the good natural
purpose which they serve, namely, the conservation and well-being of
the agent. _Every human act is either good or evil in him who does
it._ I speak of natural goodness only.
17. The _effect consequent_ upon an action is distinguishable from the
action itself, from which it is not unfrequently separated by a
considerable interval of time, as the death of a man from poison
administered a month before. The effect consequent enters into
morality only in so far as it is either chosen as a means or intended
as an end (nn. 2, 3, p. 31), or is annexed as a relevant circumstance
to the means chosen (n. 9, p. 34.). Once the act is done, it matters
nothing to morality whether the effect consequent actually ensues or
not, provided no new act be elicited thereupon, whether of commission
or of culpable omission to prevent. It matters not to morality, but it
does matter to the agent's claim to reward or liability to punishment
at the hands of human legislators civil and ecclesiastical.
18. As soul and body make one man, so the inward and outward act--as
the will to strike and the actual blow struck--are one human act. The
outward act gives a certain physical completeness to the inward.
Moreover the inward act is no thorough-going thing, if it stops short
of outward action where the opportunity offers. Otherwise, the inward
act may be as good or as bad morally as inward and outward act
together. The mere wish to kill, where the deed is impossible, may be
as wicked as wish and deed conjoined. It may be, but commonly it will
not, for this reason, that the outward execution of the deed reacts
upon the will and calls it forth with greater intensity; the will as
it were expands where it finds outward vent. There is no one who has
not felt the relative mildness of inward feelings of impatience or
indignation, compared with those engendered by speaking out one's
mind. Often also the outward act entails a long course of preparation,
all during which the inward will is sustained and frequently renewed,
as in a carefully planned burglary.
_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a 2ae, q. 18, art. 1; _ib_., q. 18, art. 2, in
corp., ad 1; _ib_., q. 18, art. 3, in corp., ad 2; _ib_., q. 18, art.
4-6; _ib_., q. 18, art. 8, in corp., ad 2, 3; _ib_., q. 18, art. 9, in
corp., ad 3; _ib_., q. 18, art. 10, 3; _ib_., q. 18, art. 11, in
corp.; _ib_., q. 20, art. 4, in corp.
SECTION I.--_Of Passions in General_.
1. A passion is defined to be: _A movement of the irrational part of
the soul, attended by a notable alteration of the body, on the
apprehension of good or evil._ The soul is made up of intellect, will,
and sensible appetite. The first two are rational, the third
irrational: the third is the seat of the passions. In a disembodied
spirit, or an angel, there are no senses, no sensible appetite, no
passions. The angel, or the departed soul, can love and hate, fear and
desire, rejoice and grieve, but these are not passions in the pure
spirit, they are acts of intellect and will alone. So man also often
loves and hates, and does other acts that are synonymous with
corresponding passions, and yet no passion is there. The man is
working with his calm reason: his irrational soul is not stirred. To
an author, when he is in the humour for it, it is a delight to be
writing, but not a passionate delight. The will finds satisfaction in
the act: the irrational soul is not affected by it. Or a penitent is
sorry for his sin: he sincerely regrets it before God: his will is
heartily turned away, and wishes that that sin had never been: at the
same time his eye is dry, his features unmoved, not a sigh does he
utter, and yet he is truly sorry. It is important to bear these facts
in mind: else we shall be continually mistaking for passions what are
pure acts of will, or _vice versa_, misled by the identity of name.
2. The great mark of a passion is its sensible working of itself out
upon the body,--what Dr. Bain calls "the diffusive wave of emotion."
Without this mark there is no passion, but with it are other mental
states besides passions, as we define them. All strong emotion affects
the body sensibly, but not all emotions are passions. There are
emotions that arise from and appertain to the rational portion of the
soul. Such are Surprise, Laughter, Shame.
There is no sense of humour in any but rational beings; and though
dogs look ashamed and horses betray curiosity, that is only inasmuch
as in these higher animals there is something analogous to what is
reason in man. Moreover passions are conversant with good and evil
affecting sense, but the objects of such emotions as those just
mentioned are not good and evil as such, common parlance
notwithstanding, whereby we are said to laugh at a _bon mot_, or "a
3. _Love_ is a generic passion, having for its species _desire_ and
_delight_, the contraries of which are _abhorrence_ and _pain_. Desire
is of absent good; abhorrence is of absent evil; delight is in present
good; pain is at present evil. The good and the evil which is the
object of any passion must be apprehended by sense, or by imagination
in a sensible way, whether itself be a thing of sense or not.
4. Desire and abhorrence, delight and pain, are conversant with good
and evil simply. But good is often attainable only by an effort, and
evil avoidable by an effort. The effort that good costs to attain
casts a shade of evil or undesirableness over it: we may shrink from
the effort while coveting the good. Again, the fact of evil being at
all avoidable is a good thing about such evil. If we call evil black,
and good white, avoidable evil will be black just silvering into grey:
and arduous good will be white with a cloud on it. And if the white
attracts, and the black repels the appetite, it appears that arduous
good is somewhat distasteful, to wit, to the faint-hearted; and
avoidable, or vincible, evil has its attraction for the man of spirit.
About these two objects, good hard of getting and evil hard of
avoidance, arise four other passions, hope and despair about the
former, fear and daring about the latter. Hope goes out towards a
difficult good: despair flies from it, the difficulty here being more
repellent than the good is attractive. Fear flies from a threatening
evil: while daring goes up to the same, drawn by the likelihood of
vanquishing it. _Desire_ and _abhorrence_, _delight_ and _pain_, hope
and despair, fear and daring, with anger and hatred (of which
presently), complete our list of passions.
5. Aristotle and his school of old, called Peripatetics, recommended
the moderation of the passions, not their extirpation. The Stoics on
the other hand contended that the model man, the sage, should be
totally devoid of passions. This celebrated dispute turned largely on
the two schools not understanding the same thing by the word
_passion_. Yet not entirely so. There was a residue of real
difference, and it came to this. If the sensitive appetite stirs at
all, it must stir in one or other of nine ways corresponding to the
nine passions which we have enumerated. Such an emotion as Laughter
affects the imagination and the sensitive part of man, and of course
the body visibly, but it does not stir the sensitive appetite, since
it does not prompt to action. To say then that a man has no passions,
means that the sensitive appetite never stirs within him, but is
wholly dead. But this is impossible, as the Stoic philosopher was fain
to confess when he got frightened in a storm at sea. Having no
passions cannot in any practical sense mean having no movements of the
sensitive appetite, for that will be afoot of its own proper motion
independent of reason: but it may mean cherishing no passions,
allowing none to arise unresisted, but suppressing their every
movement to the utmost that the will can. In that sense it is a very
intelligible and practical piece of advice, that the wise man should
labour to have no passions. It is the advice embodied in Horace's _Nil
admirari_, Talleyrand's "No zeal," Beaconsfield's "Beware of
enthusiasm." It would have man to work like a scientific instrument,
calm as a chronometer, regulated by reason alone. This was the Stoic
teaching, this the perfection that they inculcated, quite a possible
goal to make for, if not to attain. And it is worth a wise man's while
to consider, whether he should bend his efforts in this direction or
not. The determination here taken and acted upon will elaborate quite
a different character of man one way or the other. The effort made as
the Stoics direct, would mean no yielding to excitement, no poetry, no
high-strung devotion, no rapture, no ecstasy, no ardour of love, no
earnest rhetoric spoken or listened to, no mourning, no rejoicing
other than the most conventional, to the persistent smothering of
whatever is natural and really felt, no tear of pity freely let flow,
no touch of noble anger responded to, no scudding before the breeze of
indignation,--all this, that reason may keep on the even tenour of her
6. The fault in this picture is that it is not the picture of a man,
but of a spirit. He who being man should try to realize it in himself,
would fall short of human perfection. For though the sensitive
appetite is distinguished from the will, and the two may clash and
come in conflict, yet they are not two wholly independent powers, but
the one man is both will and sensitive appetite, and he rarely
operates according to one power without the other being brought into
corresponding play. There is a similar concomitance of the operations
of intellect and imagination. What attracts the sensitive appetite,
commonly allures also the _affective_ will, though on advertence the
_elective_ will may reject it. On the other hand, a strong affection
and election of the will cannot be without the sensitive appetite
being stirred, and that so strongly that the motion is notable in the
body,--in other words, is a passion. Passion is the natural and in a
certain degree the inseparable adjunct of strong volition. To check
one is to check the other. Not only is the passion repressed by
repressing the volition, but the repression of the passion is also the
repression of the volition. A man then who did his best to repress all
movements of passion indiscriminately, would lay fetters on his will,
lamentable and cruel and impolitic fetters, where his will was bent on
any object good and honourable and well-judged.
7. Again, man's will is reached by two channels, from above downwards
and from below upwards: it is reached through the reason and through
the imagination and senses. By the latter channel it often receives
evil impressions, undoubtedly, but not unfrequently by the former
also. Reason may be inconsiderate, vain, haughty, mutinous, unduly
sceptical. The abuse is no justification for closing either channel.
Now the channel of the senses and of the imagination is the wider, and
in many cases affords the better passage of the two. The will that is
hardly reached by reason, is approached and won by a pathetic sight, a
cry of enthusiasm, a threat that sends a tremor through the limbs.
Rather I should say the affective will is approached in this way: for
it remains with the elective will, on advertence and consultation with
reason, to decide whether or not it shall be won to consent. But were
it not for the channel of passion, this will could never have been
approached at all even by reasons the most cogent. Rhetoric often
succeeds, where mere dry logic would have been thrown away. God help
vast numbers of the human race, if their wills were approachable only
through their reasons! They would indeed be fixtures.
8. Another fact to notice is the liability of reason's gaze to become
morbid and as it were inflamed by unremitting exercise. I do not here
allude to hard study, but to overcurious scanning of the realities of
this life, and the still greater realities and more momentous
possibilities of the world to come. There is a sense of the
surroundings being too much for us, an alarm and a giddiness, that
comes of sober matter-of-fact thought over-much prolonged. Then it
happens that one or more undeniable truths are laid hold of, and
considered in strong relief and in isolation from the rest: the result
is a distorted and partial view of truth as a whole, and therewith the
mind is troubled. Here the kindlier passions, judiciously allowed to
play, come in to soothe the wound and soreness of pure intellect, too
keen in its workings for one who is not yet a pure spirit.
9. Moral good and evil are predicable only of _human acts_, in the
technical sense of the term. (c. i., nn. 2--4, p. 41.) As the passions
by definition (c. iv., s. i., n. 1, p. 41) are not human acts, they
can never be morally evil of themselves. But they are an occasion of
moral evil in this way. They often serve to wake up the slumbering
Reason. To that end it is necessary that they should start up of
themselves without the call of Reason. This would be no inconvenience,
if the instant Reason awoke, and adverted to the tumult and stir of
Passion, she could take command of it, and where she saw fit, quell
it. But Reason has no such command, except in cases where she has
acquired it by years of hard fighting. Passion once afoot holds on her
course against the dictate of Reason. True, so long as it remains mere
Passion, and Reason is not dragged away by it, no consent of the will
given, no voluntary act elicited, still less carried into outward
effect,--so long as things remain thus, however Passion may rage,
there is no moral evil done. But there is a great temptation, and in
great temptation many men fall. The evil is the act of free will, but
the pressure on the will is the pressure of Passion. But Passion
happily is a young colt amenable to discipline. Where the assaults of
Passion are resolutely and piously withstood, and the incentives
thereto avoided--unnatural and unnecessary incentives I mean--Passion
itself acquires a certain habit of obedience to Reason, which habit is
moral virtue. Of that presently.
10. In a man of confirmed habits of moral virtue, Passion starts up
indeed independently of Reason, but then Reason ordinarily finds
little difficulty in regulating the Passion so aroused. In a certain
high and extraordinary condition of human nature, not only has Reason
entire mastery over Passion wherever she finds it astir, but Passion
cannot stir in the first instance, without Reason calling upon it to
do so. In this case the torpor of the will deprecated above (n. 7) is
not to be feared, because Reason is so vigorous and so masterful as to
be adequate to range everywhere and meet all emergencies without the
goad of Passion. This state is called by divines the _state of
integrity_. In it Adam was before he sinned. It was lost at the Fall,
and has not been restored by the Redemption. It is not a thing in any
way due to human nature: nothing truly natural to man was forfeited by
Adam's sin. It is no point of holiness, no guerdon of victory, this
state of integrity, but rather a being borne on angel's wings above
the battle. But one who has no battle in his own breast against
Passion, may yet suffer and bleed and die under exterior persecution:
nay, he may, if he wills, let in Passion upon himself, to fear and
grieve, when he need not. So did the Second Adam in the Garden of
_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a, q. 81, art. 2, in corp.; _id._, 1a 2a, q.
23, art. 1, in corp.; _ib._, q. 23, art. 2, in corp.; Cicero, _Tusc.
Disp._, iv., cc. 17-26; St. Aug., _De Civitate Dei_, ix., cc. 4, 5;
Ar, _Eth._, III., v., 3, 4; _ib._, I., xiii., 15-17; St. Thos., 3a, q.
15, art. 4; _id._, 1a 2a, q. 59, art. 5; Plato, _Timaeus_, 69, B, E:
SECTION II.--_Of Desire_.
1. Desires are either _physical_ cravings, by moderns called
_appetites_; or _physical_ desires or _tastes_, called _desires_
proper. The appetites have their beginning in bodily uneasiness. They
are felt needs of something required for the animal maintenance of the
individual or of the race. The objects of the several appetites are
Meat and Drink, Warmth or Coolness, Exercise and Repose, Sleep, Sex.
The object of mere appetite is marked by quantity only, not by
quality. That is to say, the thing is sought for in the vague, in a
certain amount sufficient to supply the want, but not this or that
variety of the thing. The cry of a hungry man is, "Give me to eat," if
very hungry, "Give me much:" but so far as he is under the mere
dominion of appetite he does not crave any particular article of food,
vegetable or animal: he wants quantity merely. So of thirst, so of all
the appetites, where there is nothing else but appetite present.
2. But if a thirsty man cries for champagne, or a hungry man fancies a
venison pasty, there is another element beyond appetite in that
demand. On the matter of the physical craving there is stamped the
form of a psychical desire. The psychical element prescribes a quality
of the objects sought. The thirsty man thus prompted no longer wants
drink but wine: the man mewed up within doors no longer calls for
exercise, but for a horse or a bicycle. It is obvious that in man the
appetites generally pass into the further shape of psychical desire.
It is when the appetite is vehement, or the man is one who makes
slight study of his animal wants, that pure appetite, sheer physical
craving, is best shown. Darius flying before his conqueror is ready to
drink at any source, muddy or clear, a drink is all that he wants: it
is all that is wanted by St. Paul the first Hermit. But your modern
lounger at the clubs, what variety of liquors are excogitated to
please his palate!
3. Not all psychical desires are on the matter of appetite; they may
be fixed on any good whatsoever of body or of mind. Many psychical
desires are not passions at all, but reside exclusively in the
superior part of the soul, in the will prompted by the understanding,
and do not affect the body in any sensible way. Such for instance is
the great desire of happiness. Those desires that are passions are
prompted, not by the understanding, but by the imagination or fancy,
imaging to itself some particular good, not good in general, for that
the understanding contemplates. Fancy paints the picture; or if sense
presents it, fancy appropriates and embellishes it: the sensitive
appetite fastens upon the representation: the bodily organs sensibly
respond; and there is the passion of psychical desire.
4. _Physical cravings, or appetites, have limited objects: the objects
of psychical desires may be unlimited._ A thirsty man thirsts not for
an ocean, but for drink _quantum sufficit_: give him that and the
appetite is gone. But the miser covets all the money that he can get:
the voluptuary ranges land and sea in search of a new pleasure: the
philosopher ever longs for a higher knowledge: the saint is
indefatigable in doing good. Whatever a man takes to be an end in
itself, not simply a means, that he desires without end or measure.
What he desires as a means, he desires under a limitation, so far
forth as it makes for the end, so much and no more. As Aristotle says
of the processes of art, "the end in view is the limit," [Greek: peras
to telos] (cf. c. ii., s. iii., n. 3, p. 15) Whatever is desired as an
end in itself, is taken to be a part of happiness, or to represent
happiness. Happiness and the object that gives happiness is the one
thing that man desires for itself, and desires without end or measure.
Unfortunately he is often mistaken in the choice of this object. He
often takes for an end what is properly only a means. They "whose god
is their belly," have made this mistake in regard of the gratification
of appetite. It is not appetite proper that has led to this
perversion, but psychical desire, or appetite inflamed by the
artificial stimulus of imagination. For one who would be temperate, it
is more important to control his imagination than to trouble about his
appetite. Appetite exhausts itself, sometimes within the bounds of
what is good for the subject, sometimes beyond them, but still within
some bounds; but there is no limit to the cravings bred of
5. By this canon a man may try himself to discover whether or not a
favourite amusement is gaining too much upon him. An amusement is
properly a means to the end, that a man may come away from it better
fitted to do the serious work of his life. Pushed beyond a certain
point, the amusement ceases to minister to this end. The wise man
drops it at that point. But if one knows not where to stop: or if when
stopped in spite of himself, he is restless till he begin again, and
never willingly can forego any measure of the diversion that comes
within his reach, the means in that case has passed into an end: he is
enslaved to that amusement, inasmuch as he will do anything and
everything for the sake of it. Thus some men serve pleasure, and other
6. Hence is apparent the folly of supposing that crimes against
property are preventible simply by placing it within the power of all
members of the community easily to earn an honest livelihood, and
therewith the satisfaction of all their natural needs. It is not
merely to escape cold and hunger that men turn to burglary or
fraudulent dealing: it is more for the gratification of a fancy, the
satisfaction of an inordinate desire. Great crimes are not committed
"to keep the wolf from the door," but because of the wolf in the
heart, the overgrown psychical desire, which is bred in many a
well-nourished, warmly clad, comfortably housed, highly educated
citizen. There is a sin born of "fulness of bread."
_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 30, art. 3, in corp.; _ib_., q. 30,
art. 4, in corp.; Ar., _Eth_., III., xi., 1-4: Ar., _Pol_., I., ix.,
13; _ib_., II., vii., 11-13.
N.B.--The division of desires into _physical_ and _psychical_ is first
suggested by Plato, who (_Rep._ 558 D to 559 C) divides them as
_necessary_ and _unnecessary_. Unnecessary desires he treats as evil.
What Plato calls a _necessary_, Aristotle calls a _physical_, and St.
Thomas a _natural_ desire. Unfortunately, Aristotle and St. Thomas had
but one word for our English two, _physical_ and _natural_. Desires
that are not physical, not natural nor necessary to man in his animal
capacity, may be highly natural and becoming to man as he is a
reasonable being, or they may be highly unbecoming. These psychical
desires, called by St. Thomas _not natural_, take in at once the
noblest and the basest aspirations of humanity.
SECTION III.--_Of Delight_.
1. Delight like desire may be either physical or psychical. All that
has been said above of desire under this division applies also to
delight, which is the realization of desire. This division does not
altogether fall in with that into _sensual_ delights and
_intellectual_ delights. A professional wine-taster could hardly be
said to find intellectual delight in a bottle of good Champagne, real
_Veuve-Clicquot_: yet certainly his is a psychical delight, no mere
unsophisticated gratification of appetite. Sensual delights then are
those delights which are founded on the gratification of appetite,
whether simple--in which case the delight is physical--or studied and
fancy-wrought appetite, the gratification of which is psychical
delight. Intellectual delights on the other hand are those that come
of the exercise of intellect, not unsupported by imagination, but
where appetite enters not at all, or only as a remote adjunct, albeit
the delight may turn upon some sight or sound, as of music, or of a
fine range of hills. Or the object may be a thing of intellect, pure
and removed from sense as far as an object of human contemplation can
be, for instance, the first elements of matter, freewill, the
immensity of God. The study of such objects yields a purer
intellectual delight than that of the preceding. But this is a high
ground and a keen upper air, where few can tread and breathe.
2. A man has more complacency in himself upon attaining to some
intellectual delight than upon a sensual satisfaction: he is prouder
to have solved a problem than to have enjoyed his dinner. Also, he
would rather forego the capacity of sensual enjoyment than that of
intellectual pleasure; rather lose his sense of taste than his science
or his scholarship, if he has any notable amount of either. Again, put
sensual delight in one scale, and in the other the intellectual
delight of honour, no worthy specimen of a man will purchase the
pleasure at the price of honour. The disgrace attaching to certain
modes of enjoyment is sufficient to make men shun them, very pleasant
though they be to sense. Again, sensual delight is a passing thing,
waxing and waning: but intellectual delight is steady, grasped and
held firmly as a whole. But sensual delight comes more welcome of the
two in this that it removes a pre-existing uneasiness, as hunger,
weariness, nervous prostration, thus doing a medicinal office: whereas
no such office attaches in the essential nature of things to
intellectual delight, as that does not presuppose any uneasiness; and
though it may remove uneasiness, the removal is difficult, because the
uneasiness itself is an obstacle to the intellectual effort that must
be made to derive any intellectual delight. Sensual enjoyment is the
cheaper physician, and ailing mortals mostly resort to that door.
3. "I will omit much usual declamation on the dignity and capacity of
our nature: the superiority of the soul to the body, of the rational
to the animal part of our constitution; upon the worthiness,
refinement, and delicacy of some satisfactions, or the meanness,
grossness, and sensuality of others: because I hold that pleasures
differ in nothing but in continuance and intensity." (Paley, _Moral
Philosophy_, bk. i., c. vi.)
In opposition to the above it is here laid down that _delights do not
differ in continuance and intensity, that is, in quantity, alone, but
likewise in quality_, that is, some are nobler, better, and more
becoming a man than others, and therefore preferable on other grounds
than those of mere continuance and intensity. I wish to show that the
more pleasant pleasure is not always the better pleasure; that even
the pleasure which is more durable, and thereby more pleasant in the
long run, is not the better of the two simply as carrying the greater
_cumulus_ of pleasure. If this is shown, it will follow that pleasure
is not identical with good; or that pleasure is not happiness, not the
last end of man.
4. Delight comes of activity, not necessarily of change, except so far
as activity itself involves change, as it always does in mortal man.
Delight sits upon activity, as the bloom upon youth. Bloom is the
natural sign of maturity; and the delight that we come to take in
doing a thing shows that we are at least beginning to do it well: our
activity is approaching perfection. In this sense it is said that
_delight perfects activity_. As the activity, so will be the delight.
But the activity will be as the power of which it is an exercise.
Powers like in kind will supply like activities, and these again will
yield delights alike in kind. There is no difference of quality in
such delights, they differ in quantity alone. Thus taste and smell are
two senses: the difference between them can hardly be called one of
kind: therefore the delights of smelling and of tasting fall under one
category. We may exchange so much smell for an equal amount of taste:
it is a mere matter of quantity. But between sight and hearing on the
one hand, and taste and smell and touch on the other, there is a wider
difference, due to the fact that intellect allies itself more readily
to the operation of the two former senses.
5. Widest of all differences is that between sense and intellect. To
explain this difference in full belongs to Psychology. Enough to say
here that the object of sense is always particular, bound up in
circumstances of present time and place, as _this horse_: while the
object of intellect is universal, as _horse_ simply. The human
intellect never works without the concurrence either of sense or of
imagination, which is as it were sense at second hand. As pure
intellectual operation is never found in man, so neither is pure
intellectual delight, like that of an angel. Still, as even in man
sense and intellect are two powers differing in kind, so must their
operations differ in kind, and the delights consequent upon those
operations. Therefore, unless Paley would have been willing to allow
that the rational and animal parts of our nature differ only as _more_
and _less_--which is tantamount to avowing that man is but a magnified
brute--he ought not to have penned his celebrated utterance, that
pleasures differ only in continuance and intensity: he should have
admitted that they differ likewise in kind; or in other words, that
pleasures differ in quality as well as in quantity. The goodness of a
pleasure, then, is not the mere amount of it. To repeat St.
Augustine's reflection on the drunken Milanese: "It makes a difference
what source a man draws his delight from." [Footnote 2] As in man
reason is nobler than sense, preferable, and a better good to its
possessor--for reason it is that makes him man and raises him above
the brute--so the use of the reason and the delight that comes thereof
is nobler, preferable, and a better good to him than the pleasure that
is of the mere operation of his animal nature. A little of the nobler
delight outweighs a vast volume of the baser: not that the nobler is
the pleasanter, but because it is the nobler. Nor can it be pretended
that the nobler prevails as being the more durable, and thereby likely
to prove the pleasanter in the long run. The nobler is better at the
time and in itself, because it is the more human delight and
characteristic of the higher species. I have but to add that what is
better in itself is not better under all circumstances. The best life
of man can only be lived at intervals. The lower operations and the
delights that go with them have a medicinal power to restore the
vigour that has become enfeebled by a lengthened exercise of the
higher faculties. At those "dead points" food and fiddling are better
[Footnote 2: Interest unde quis gaudeat. (S. Aug., Confess., vi., 6.)]
6. This medicinal or restorative virtue of delight is a fact to bear
in mind in debating the question how far it is right to act for the
pleasure that the action gives. It is certainly wrong to act for mere
animal gratification. Such gratification is a stimulus to us to do
that which makes for the well-being of our nature: to fling away all
intention of any good other than the delight of the action, is to
mistake the incentive for the end proposed. But this is a doctrine
easily misunderstood. An example may save it from being construed too
rigidly. Suppose a man has a vinery, and being fond of fruit he goes
there occasionally, and eats, not for hunger, but as he says, because
he likes grapes. He seems to act for mere pleasure: yet who shall be
stern enough to condemn him, so that he exceed not in quantity? If he
returns from the vinery in a more amiable and charitable mood, more
satisfied with Providence, more apt to converse with men and do his
work in the commonwealth, who can deny that in acting in view of these
ends, at least implicitly, he has taken lawful means to a proper
purpose? He has not been fed, but recreated: he has not taken
nourishment, but medicine, preventive or remedial, to a mind diseased.
It is no doubt a sweet and agreeable medicine: this very agreeableness
makes its medical virtue. It is a sweet antidote to the bitterness of
life. But though a man may live by medicine, he does not live for it.
So no man by rights lives for pleasure. The pleasure that a man finds
in his work encourages him to go on with it. The pleasure that a man
finds by turning aside to what is not work, picks him up, rests and
renovates him, that he may go forth as from a wayside inn, or
_diverticulum_, refreshed to resume the road of labour. Hence we
gather the solution of the question as to the lawfulness of acting for
pleasure. If a man does a thing because it is pleasant, and takes the
pleasure as an incentive to carry on his labour, or as a remedy to
enable him to resume it, he acts for pleasure rightly. For this it is
not necessary that he should expressly think of the pleasure as being
helpful to labour: it is enough that he accepts the subordination of
pleasure to work as nature has ordained it; and this ordinance he does
accept, if he puts forth no positive volition the other way, whether
expressly, as none but a wrong-headed theologian is likely to do, or
virtually, by taking his pleasure with such greediness that the motion
of his will is all spent therein as in its last end and terminus, so
that the pleasure ceases to be referable to aught beyond itself, a
case of much easier occurrence. Or lastly, the natural subordination
of pleasure to work may be set aside, defeated, and rendered
impossible by the whole tenour of an individual's life, if he be one
of those giddy butterflies who flit from pleasure to pleasure and do
no work at all. Till late in the morning he sleeps, then breakfasts,
then he shoots, lunches, rides, bathes, dines, listens to music,
smokes, and reads fiction till late at night, then sleeps again; and
this, or the like of this is his day, some three hundred days at least
in the year. This is not mere acting for pleasure, it is living for
pleasure, or acting for pleasure so continuously as to leave no scope
for any further end of life. It may be hard to indicate the precise
hour in which this man's pleasure-seeking passes into sin: still this
is clear, his life is not innocent. Clear him of gluttony and lust,
there remains upon him the sin of sloth and of a wasted existence.
7. Even the very highest of delights, the delight of contemplation, is
not the highest of goods, but a concomitant of the highest good. The
highest good is the final object of the will: but the object of the
will is not the will's own act: we do not will willing, as neither do
we understand understanding, not at least without a reflex effort.
What we will in contemplating is, not to be delighted, but to see.
This is the subjective end and happiness of man, to see, to
contemplate. Delight is not anything objective: neither is it the
subjective last end of humanity. In no sense then is delight, or
pleasure, the highest good.
_Readings_.--Ar., _Eth_., X., iv., 8; _ib_., X., iii., 8-13, _ib_.,
X., v., 1-5; Plato, _Gorgias_, pp. 494, 495; Mill, _Utilitarianism_,
2nd. edit., pp. 11-l6; St. Thos., la 2a, q. 31, art. 5; _id_., _Contra
Gentiles_, iii., 26, nn. 8, 10, 11, 12.
SECTION IV.--_Of Anger_.
1. Anger is a compound passion, made up of displeasure, desire, and
hope: displeasure at a slight received, desire of revenge and
satisfaction, and hope of getting the same, the getting of it being a
matter of some difficulty and calling for some exertion, for we are
not angry with one who lies wholly in our power, or whom we despise.
Anger then is conversant at once with the good of vengeance and with
the evil of a slight received: the good being somewhat difficult to
compass, and the evil not altogether easy to wipe out. (Cf. s.i., n.4,
2. Anger is defined: _A desire of open vengeance for an open slight,
attended with displeasure at the same, the slight being put upon self,
or upon some dear one, unbefittingly._ The vengeance that the angry
man craves is a vengeance that all shall see. "No, ye unnatural hags,"
cries Lear in his fury, "I will do such things,--what they shall be
yet I know not, but _they shall be the terror of the earth_." When we
are angry, we talk of "making an example" of the offender. The idea is
that, as all the world has seen us slighted and set at naught, so all
the world, witnessing the punishment of the offending party, may take
to heart the lesson which we are enforcing upon him, namely, that we
are men of might and importance whom none should despise. Whoever is
angry, is angry at being despised, flouted to his face and set at
naught, either in his own person, or in the person of one whom he
venerates and loves, or in some cause that lies near to his heart.
Anger is essentially a craving for vengeance on account of a wrong
done. If then we have suffered, but think we deserve to suffer, we are
not angry. If we have suffered wrong, but the wrong seems to have been
done in ignorance, or in the heat of passion, we are not angry, or we