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FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION - 4 - C, PREVIOUS SECTION - NEXT SECTION - HELP - FACEBOOK
In the discussion of this subject I will inquire: In what does the supreme and ultimate good consist?
1. Good may be natural or moral. Natural good is synonymous with valuable. Moral good is synonymous with virtue. Moral good is in a certain sense a natural good, that is, it is valuable as a means of natural good; but the advocates of this theory affirm that moral good is valuable in itself.
2. Good may be absolute and relative. Absolute good is that which is intrinsically valuable. Relative good is that which is valuable as a means. It is not valuable in itself, but valuable because it sustains to absolute good the relation of a means to an end. Absolute good may also be a relative good, that is, it may tend to perpetuate and augment itself. Absolute good is also ultimate. Ultimate good is that good in which all relative good terminates that good to which all relative good sustains the relation of a means or condition. Relative good is not intrinsically valuable, but only valuable on account of its relations.
The point upon which issue is taken, is, that enjoyment, blessedness, a mental satisfaction, is the only ultimate good.
It has been before remarked, and should be repeated here, that the intrinsically valuable must not only belong to, and be inseparable from, sentient beings, but that the ultimate or intrinsic absolute good must consist in a state of mind. It must be something to be found in the field of consciousness. Take away mind, and what can be a good per se; or what can be a good in any sense?
Again, it should be said that the ultimate and absolute good cannot consist in a choice or in a voluntary state of mind. The thing chosen is, and must be the ultimate of the choice. Choice can never be chosen as an ultimate end. Benevolence then, or the love required by the law, can never be the ultimate and absolute good. It is admitted that blessedness, enjoyment, mental satisfaction, is a good; an absolute and ultimate good. All men assume it. All men seek enjoyment. That it is the only absolute and ultimate good, is a first truth. But for this there could be no activity no motive to action no object of choice. Enjoyment is in fact the ultimate good. It is in fact the result of existence and of action. It results to God from His existence, His attributes, His activity, and His virtue, by a law of necessity. His powers are so correlated that blessedness cannot but be the state of His mind, as resulting from the exercise of His attributes and the right activity of His will. Happiness, or enjoyment, results, both naturally and governmentally, from obedience to both physical and moral. It also shows that government is not an end, but a means. It also shows that the end is blessedness, and the means obedience to law.
The ultimate and absolute good, in the sense of the intrinsically valuable, cannot be identical with moral law. Moral law, as we have seen, is an idea of the reason. Moral law and moral government must propose some end to be secured by means of law. Law cannot be its own end. It cannot require the subject to seek itself as an ultimate end. This were absurd. The moral law is nothing else than the reason's idea, or conception of that course of willing and acting that is fit, proper, suitable to, and demanded by the nature, relations, necessities, and circumstances of moral agents. Their nature, relations, circumstances, and wants being perceived, the reason necessarily affirms that they ought to propose to themselves a certain end, and to consecrate themselves to the promotion of this end, for its own sake, or for its own intrinsic value. This end cannot be law itself. The law is a simple and pure idea of the reason, and can never be in itself the supreme, intrinsic, absolute, and ultimate good.
Nor can obedience, or the course of acting or willing required by the law, be the ultimate end aimed at by the law or the lawgiver. The law requires action in reference to an end, or that an end should be willed; but the willing, and the end to be willed, cannot be identical. The action required, and the end to which it is to be directed, cannot be the same. Obedience to law cannot be the ultimate end proposed by law or government. The obedience is one thing, the end to be secured by obedience is and must be another. Obedience must be a means or condition; and that which law and obedience are intended to secure, is and must be the ultimate end of obedience. The law or the lawgiver aims to promote the highest good, or blessedness of the universe. This must be the end of moral law and moral government. Law and obedience must be the means or conditions of this end. To deny this is to deny the very nature of moral law, and to lose sight of the true and only end of moral government. Nothing can be moral law, and nothing can be moral government, that does not propose the highest good of moral beings as its ultimate end. But if this is the end of law, and the end of government, it must be the end to be aimed at, or intended, by the ruler and the subject. And this end must be the foundation of moral obligation. The end must be good or valuable per se, or there can be no moral law requiring it to be sought or chosen as an ultimate end, nor any obligation to choose it as an ultimate end.
But what is intended by the right, the just, the true, etc., being ultimate goods and ends to be chosen for their own sake? These may be objective or subjective. Objective right, truth, justice, etc., are mere ideas, and cannot be good or valuable in themselves. Subjective right, truth, justice, etc., are synonymous with righteousness, truthfulness, and justness. These are virtue. They consist in an active state of the will, and resolve themselves into choice, intention. But we have repeatedly seen that intention can neither be an end nor a good in itself, in the sense of intrinsically valuable.
Again, constituted as moral agents are, it is a matter of consciousness that the concrete realization of the ideas of right, and truth, and justice, of beauty, of fitness, of moral order, and, in short, of all that class of ideas, is indispensable as the condition and means of their highest well-being, and that enjoyment or mental satisfaction is the result of realizing in the concrete those ideas. This enjoyment or satisfaction then is and must be the end or ultimate upon which the intention of God must have terminated, and upon which ours must terminate as an end or ultimate.
Again, the enjoyment resulting to God from the concrete realization of His own ideas must be infinite. He must therefore have intended it as the supreme good. It is in fact the ultimate good. It is in fact the supremely valuable.
Again, if there is more than one ultimate good, the mind must regard them all as one, or sometimes be consecrated to one and sometimes to another sometimes wholly consecrated to the beautiful, sometimes to the just, and then again to the right, then to the useful, to the true, etc. But it may be asked, of what value is the beautiful, aside from the enjoyment it affords to sentient existences? It meets a demand of our being, and hence affords satisfaction. But for this in what sense could it be regarded as good? The idea of the useful, again, cannot be an idea of an ultimate end, for utility implies that something is valuable in itself to which the useful sustains the relation of a means, and is useful only for that reason.
Of what value is the true, the right, the just, etc., aside from the pleasure or mental satisfaction resulting from them to sentient existences? Of what value were all the rest of the universe, were there no sentient existences to enjoy it?
Suppose, again, that everything else in the universe existed just as it does, except mental satisfaction or enjoyment, and that there were absolutely no enjoyment of any kind in anything any more than there is in a block of granite, of what value would it all be? and to what, or to whom, would it be valuable? Mind, without susceptibility of enjoyment, can neither know nor be the subject of good or evil, any more than a slab of marble. Truth in that case could no more be a good to mind than mind could be a good to truth; light would no more be a good to the eye, than the eye a good to light. Nothing in the universe could give or receive the least satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Neither natural nor moral fitness nor unfitness could excite the least emotion or mental satisfaction. A block of marble might just as well be the subject of good as anything else, upon such a supposition.
Again, it is evident that God is endeavoring to realize all the other ideas of His reason for the sake of, and as a means of, realizing that of the valuable to being. This, as a matter of fact, is the result of realizing in the concrete all those ideas. This must then have been the end intended.
It is nonsense to object that, if enjoyment or mental satisfaction be the only ground of moral obligation, we should be indifferent as to the means. This objection assumes that in seeking an end for its intrinsic value, we must be indifferent as to the way in which we obtain that end; that is, whether it be obtained in a manner possible or impossible, right or wrong. It overlooks the fact that from the laws of our own being it is impossible for us to will the end without willing also the indispensable, and therefore the appropriate, means; and also that we cannot possibly regard any other conditions or means of the happiness of moral agents as possible, and therefore as appropriate or right, but holiness and universal conformity to the law of our being. Enjoyment or mental satisfaction results from having the different demands of our being met. One demand of the reason and conscience of a moral agent is that happiness should be conditionated upon holiness. It is therefore naturally impossible for a moral agent to be satisfied with the happiness or enjoyment of moral agents, except upon the condition of their holiness.