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“ round,” not in an infinitely extended line. Else it would follow that plain living and high thinking were never honestly preferred by any one; and this is against evidence. Desires may be for objects that are not tangible in the sense of material ; they may be for what can be enjoyed by many together, as well as for what cannot be enjoyed by one except at the expense of another.
It is true (6) not only of the race, but of all individuals and classes in it, that there is an infinity of wants, though not of material wants. Therefore we may grant the postulate in this sense; but in this sense it furnishes no principle that is economically of much advantage.
In his Essay on Education James Mill admits that the desire of wealth and power does not include the mere love of eating and drinking, “or all the physical objects together which wealth can purchase or power command. With these every man is in the long run speedily satisfied.” The difficulty is (c) that “it is impossible to define what is corporal pleasure” (Westm. Rev.), and the pleasures of sense have much that is not of the senses in them. How far do the intellectual and spiritual pleasures depend on material provision ? Do they do so to such an extent that the proposition in discussion becomes true, and demand becomes constant, in one direction or in another?
On the assumption of insatiableness of desire for tangible goods, it would follow (d) that the sum total of desires would remain constant, at least in proportion to the numbers of the people. Demand then would depend entirely on resources. It would never be wanting on the side of desire. Ricardo speaks as if demand might always be taken for granted ; if desire does not go out in one direction, it goes out in another, and so long as men have some superfluity to offer, so that the desire can become effective demand, they will always be willing to offer it to satisfy new wants.
This idea is present in Hume,? Hobbes, Pufendorf, and is taken for granted by later authors; but there is no need to assume it, and it seems (for the above reasons) ill-founded. The new wants might be of intellectual goods, and not of tangible and material. The fewer half-accurate assumptions we make in Political Economy, the less trouble we shall have in modifying our abstract conclusions to adapt them to things as they are.
1 Letters, p. 34; IVorks (ed. MacC.), 176, 178. 2 Essays, vol. i. (ed. 1768), p. 122 (“ Progress of Arts and Sciences"); Human Nature, vol. iii. 62, 63 (1st ed.).
3 See above, pages, 78, 81.
4 See De Jure Nat. et Gent. (Engl. Trans.), 1703, p. 77; but contrast 129.
To recur to the main questions—in the fifth place the calculus of pleasures and pains is not a necessary foundation, even for abstract economics. The notion of means and ends, and personal advantage in the gaining of the latter, will enable us to work out the theory of value without placing ourselves, even provisionally, at Bentham's point of view. All that mathematical economics needs to assume is that a material quantity of goods will be in a certain proportion to a greater or less strength of motive; whether the motive be taken as “pleasure," or not, is not essential.
The most intelligible statement of the Utilitarian doctrine certainly is that each action is to secure the greatest pleasure possible at the time, the maximum then possible, not a sum in the remote future. But for economical reasoning, at least, it seems better to paraphrase this—the attainment of the ends before the agent at a given time by the most economical means before him at that time. Finally, it is not necessary to assume with the older Utilitarians and many economists who follow them, that the individual is the only judge of his own interests, and therefore infallible in pursuit of these. All economical theory proceeds on the tacit assumption that he does know it and follow it ; but this means that there is a discoverable right (or economical) course, and a discoverable wrong (or anti-economical) course which the individual may follow, and that abstraction is made from the fact that he very often (either from high or from low motives) takes (whát is from this point of view) the wrong course. But here, as before, it would seem that, from gazing constantly at the abstraction,
1 Ricardo consistently enough writes to Malthus (Letters, p. 138): Happiness is the object to be desired, and we cannot be quite sure that, provided he is equally well fed, a man may not be happier in the enjoyment of the luxury of idleness” than in a neat cottage, etc.
theorists fell into the delusion that it was a concrete reality.
Again, it is not necessary to assume that all desires are equally legitimate, and all that satisfies desire is equally good, simply because there is always a more and a less economical way of reaching an end of that kind, whatever be the judgment to be passed on the end itself, and therefore on the means, from other points of view.
But the older Utilitarians were bound by their prin-· ciples to assume that the individual was infallible in following his interest. Bentham may have been led to it by his Political Economy, From the abstraction which the economist adopts when he assumes that men are following the quickest road to their own advantage, it is conceivable that Bentham passed to a similar (but unperceived) abstraction applying to all human life. In fact, if our own pleasures and pains are taken as our only motives to action, and there is no other standard but our own feelings, it is clear, by the terms of the supposition, that no one else can judge for us; and, as, according to Bentham, we always do (as well as should) act with a view to our maximum pleasure, we must always be said to attain this maximum in any given circumstances. To suppose anything else is to put ourselves outside of our own feelings, and outside of the given circumstances themselves. This indeed is one of the difficulties of the older Utilitarianism. It may be said to do precisely what John Mill thought in his early life it prevented us from doing--to set up the sentiment (the feeling of pleasure) as its own reason (Autob., p. 65). To say nothing of such desires as are (as we say) instinctive, and lead us to an end which we have not deliberately calculated and could not have anticipated, the greater part of human calculation is (even when it is of or for a pleasure) not itself a pleasure, and even when it is so, it is not the same pleasure as that which it is designed to bring. Calculation implies means to an end;
1 As stated by Mr. Alexander, Moral Order and Progress, II. v. 199, the idea of a maximum of happiness seems quite an intelligible one, whatever else we may think of it. It is “not a happiness than which no greater is possible, but the happiness which is greatest under the given conditions.”
and in any calculation the end as such is not present but future. If connected with pleasure at all (and if pleasure be not, as Aristotle says, a mere appendage to some action or concomitant of it), it implies not the presence but the idea of a pleasure, which idea has something of pain in it, the pain of an unsatisfied want. But psychologically this is not Pleasure but Desire ; and desire is not for pleasure so much as for the object that brings it. If we would apprehend some joy, we comprehend some bringer of that joy. “Good-pleasure,” again, is not emotionally pleasure at all; it is our "good-pleasure” to do even the most unpleasant act; but this means simply that, when we act, it is we that act.
Nor does it make matters clearer to suppose that the motive is always the greatest ultimate, and not the greatest immediate amount of pleasure. The ultimate sum, so long as still in the future, is not a pleasure but only the idea or anticipation of one; moreover, if the wants of man are really infinite, it is an idea that can never be realized.
Man never is, but only to be blest. Even for the individual, then, the notion that pains and pleasures are the only motives to action seems (however valued for its supposed concreteness) to be perfectly abstract. Condillac did not explain the phenomena of the mind by calling them all sensations, nor did the older Utilitarians explain motives by calling them all pleasures and pains. The designation remains abstract till it is defined for us in the various concrete activities of daily life.
It is true that Political Economy is concerned not only with certain actions but with certain impulses to action. But it is concerned with the latter only in their relation to the former, and as taking character from that relation. The actions which are the special subject of its consideration are those in which there is adaptation of means to a particular end, the end of procuring tangible goods. Its main work is to pronounce on the more or less successful adaptation—a purely intellectual process which has only indirectly to do with the pleasures that are sup
1 The criticism of John Mill, Diss. and Disc, I. 410; “Coleridge,” written 1840.
posed to be secured by the gaining of the end and with the pains of unsatisfied desire that urge to the adoption of the means.
It may be added that, if the end be a future sum of pleasures, there is in that a general notion of the “permanent possibility” of satisfaction, for a being that is thereby supposed capable of something beyond mere pleasures and pains, for in a mere feeling there is nothing permanent and nothing general. It approaches, from the side of sentiency, the idea of idealistic ethics that the chief end of man is the harmonious development of all the powers that are in him. This development may involve a concomitant pleasure ; but the end will be the exercise of the faculties rather than the pleasure of exercising them, and the “ tangible goods ” will be means to that exercise. This ethical view seems more consistent than the Utilitarian with economical study ; and it at least makes it possible for us, without contradiction, to judge the individual to be following a course that is objectively right or wrong, instead of one that simply seems so to him.
We have still to touch on the Utilitarian idea of the Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number,' as distinguished from that of the individual by himself. This idea certainly introduces an objective element, but it is at the expense of consistency. As it has been happily put by Dr. Martineau : from “each for himself “each' for all” there is no road (Types of Eth. Theory, II. 308). The only course open to the older Utilitarians would have been to have shown that the individual best secures his own happiness by securing that of his fellows; but that is not shown by Bentham, who in fact rather takes his maxim for granted than proves it in any way."
1 Bentham is said to have amended the formula, and adopted “Greatest Happiness" sans phrase. See the Deontology, published after Bentham's death by his friend and executor, Dr. Bowring (2 vols., Longmans, 1834). See esp. vol. ii. 328 seq. The Deontology is not entirely at one with the previous writings of Bentham, and the book has lain under suspicion. Perronet Thomson claims to have converted Bentham to the change in the formula. Exercises, vol. iii., 125. Westm. Review, ist July, 1834. Dr. Southwood Smith quotes the MS. of the Deontology in his Lecture on the Remains of Bentham (1832), p. 32.
2 This was pointed out by Macaulay. It was admitted by James Mill.