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ASSUMED VIRTUES OF ENUMERATION.
when all these different sanctions are in harmony with each other.
But the most difficult part of our author's task remains. In order to make any use of those “elements of moral arithmetic,” which are constituted by the lists of our pleasures and pains, it was evidently necessary to ascertain their relative Value, — to enable him to proceed in his legislative calculations with any degree of assurance. Under this head, however, we are only told that the value of a pleasure or a pain, considered in itself, depends, 1. upon its intensity, 2.
its intensity, 2. upon its proximity, 3. upon its duration, and 4. upon its certainty, and that, considered with a view to its consequences, its value is further affected, 1. by its fecundity, i. e. its tendency to produce other pleasures or pains; 2. by its purity, i. e. its being unmixed with other sensations; and 3. by the number of persons to whom it may extend. These considerations, however, the author justly admits to be still inadequate for his purpose; for, by what means is the Intensity of any pain or pleasure to be measured, and how, without a knowledge of this, are we to proportion punishments to temptations, or adjust the measures of recompense or indemnification? To solve this problem, Mr. Bentham seems to have thought it sufficient to recur to his favourite system of Enumeration; and to have held nothing else necessary than to make out a fair catalogue of “ the circumstances by which the sensibility is affected.” These he divides into two branches—the primary and the secondary. The first he determines to be exactly fifteen, viz. temperament - health — strength — bodily imperfection — intelligence — strength of understanding fortitude
perseverance dispositions notions of honour -- notions of religion — sympathies — antipathies — folly or derangement — fortune.
fortune. The secondary are only nine, viz. sex — age — rank — education-profession - climate — creed — government — religious creed. By carefully attending to these twentyfour circumstances, Mr. Bentham is of opinion that we may be able to estimate the value of any particular pleasure or pain to an individual, with sufficient exactness;
THE PRINCIPLE OF UTILITY.
and to judge of the comparative magnitude of crimes, and of the proportionate amount of pains and compensations.
Now the first remark that suggests itself is, that if there is little that is false or pernicious in this system, there is little that is either new or important. That laws were made to promote the general welfare of society, and that nothing should be enacted which has a different tendency, are truths that can scarcely claim the merit of novelty, or mark an epoch by the date of their promulgation; and we have not yet been able to discover that the vast technical apparatus here provided by Mr. Bentham can be of the smallest service in improving their practical application.
The basis of the whole system is the undivided sovereignty of the principle of Utility, and the necessity which there is for recurring strictly to it in every question of legislation. Moral feelings, it is admitted, will frequently be found to coincide with it; but they are on no account to be trusted to, till this coincidence has been verified. They are no better, in short, than sympathies and antipathies, mere private and unaccountable feelings, that may vary in the case of every individual; and therefore can afford no fixed standard for general approbation or enjoyment. Now we cannot help thinking, that this fundamental proposition is very defective, both in logical consistency, and in substantial truth. In the first place, it seems very obvious that the principle of utility is liable to the very same objections, on the force of which the authority of moral impressions has been so positively denied. For how shall utility itself be recognised, but by a feeling exactly similar to that which is stigmatised as capricious and unaccountable ? How are pleasures and pains, and the degrees and relative magnitude of pleasures and pains, to be distinguished, but by the feeling and experience of every individual ? And what greater certainty can there be in the accuracy of such determinations, than in the results of other feelings no less general and distinguishable? If right and wrong, in short, be not precisely the same to every individual,
BENTHAM'S UTILITY ILL-FOUNDED.
neither are pleasure and pain ; and if there be despotism and absurdity in imposing upon another one's own impressions of wisdom and propriety, it cannot be just and reasonable to erect a standard of enjoyment, and a consequent rule of conduct, upon the narrow basis of our own measure of sensibility. It is evident, therefore, that by assuming the principle of utility, we do not get rid of the risk of variable feeling; and that we are still liable to all the uncertainty that may be produced by this cause, under the influence of any other principle.
The truth is, however, that this uncertainty is in all cases of a very limited nature; and that the common impressions of morality, the vulgar distinctions of right and wrong, virtue and vice, are perfectly sufficient to direct the conduct of the individual, and the judgment of the legislator, for all useful purposes, without any reference to the nature or origin of those distinctions. In many respects, indeed, we conceive them to be much fitter for this purpose than Mr. Bentham's oracles of utility. In the first place, it is necessary to observe, that it is a very gross and unpardonable mistake to represent the notions of right and wrong, which are here in question, as depending altogether upon the private and capricious feelings of an individual. Certainly no man was ever so arrogant or so foolish, as to insist upon establishing his own individual persuasion as an infallible test of duty and wisdom for all the rest of the world. The moral feelings, of which Mr. Bentham would make so small account, are the feelings which observation has taught us to impute to all men; those in which, under every variety of circumstances, they are found pretty constantly to agree, and as to which the uniformity of their conclusions may be reasoned and reckoned upon, with almost as much security as in the case of their external perceptions. The existence of such feelings, and the uniformity with which they are excited in all men on the same occasions, are facts, in short, that admit of no dispute; and, in point of certainty and precision, are exactly on a footing with those perceptions of utility that can only be relied on after they also have been
UTILITY BETTER ASCERTAINED BY MORAL DISTINCTIONS. 579
verified by a similar process of observation. Now, we are inclined to think, in opposition to Mr. Bentham, that a legislator will proceed more safely by following the indications of those moral distinctions as to which all men are agreed, than by setting them altogether at defiance, and attending exclusively to those perceptions of utility which, after all, he must collect from the same general agreement.
It is now, we believe, universally admitted, that nothing can be generally the object of moral approbation, which does not tend, upon the whole, to the good of mankind; and we are not even disposed to dispute with Mr. Bentham, that the true source of this moral approbation is in all cases a perception or experience of what may be called utility in the action or object which excites it. The difference between us, however, is considerable; and it is precisely this — Mr. Bentham maintains, that in all cases we ought to disregard the presumptions arising from moral approbation, and, by a resolute and scrupulous analysis, to get at the actual, naked utility upon which it is founded; and then, by the application of his new moral arithmetic, to determine its quantity, its composition, and its value; and, according to the result of this investigation, to regulate our moral approbation for the future. We, on the other hand, are inclined to hold, that those feelings, where they are uniform and decided, are by far the surest tests of the quantity and value of the utility by which they are suggested; and that if we discredit their report, and attempt to ascertain this value by any formal process of calculation or analysis, we desert a safe and natural standard, in pursuit of one for the construction of which we neither have, nor ever can have, any rules or materials. A very few observations, we trust, will set this in a clear light.
The amount, degree, or intensity of any pleasure or pain, is ascertained by feeling; and not determined by reason or reflection. These feelings however are transitory in their own nature, and, when they occur separately, and, as it were, individually, are not easily recalled with such precision as to enable us, upon recollection,
EXPERIENCE BETTER THAN ANALYSIS.
to adjust their relative values. But when they present themselves in combination, or in rapid succession, their relative magnitude or intensity is generally perceived by the mind without any exertion, and rather by a sort of immediate feeling, than in consequence of any intentional comparison: And when a particular combination or succession of such feelings is repeatedly or frequently suggested to the memory, the relative value of all its parts is perceived with great readiness and rapidity, and the general result is fixed in the mind, without our being conscious of any act of reflection. In this way, moral maxims and impressions arise in the minds of all men, from an instinctive and involuntary valuation of the good and the evil which they have perceived to be connected with certain actions or habits; and those impressions may safely be taken for the just result of that valuation, which we may afterwards attempt, unsuccessfully, though with great labour, to repeat. They may be compared, on this view of the matter, to those acquired perceptions of sight by which the eye is enabled to judge of distances; of the process of acquiring which we are equally unconscious, and yet by which it is certain that we are much more safely and commodiously guided, within the range of our ordinary occupations, than we ever could be by any formal scientific calculations, founded on the faintness of the colouring, and the magnitude of the angle of vision, compared with the average tangible bulk of the kind of object in question.
The comparative value of such good and evil, we have already observed, can obviously be determined by feeling alone; so that the interference of technical and elaborate reasoning, though it may well be supposed to disturb those perceptions upon the accuracy of which the determination must depend, cannot in any case be of the smallest assist
Where the preponderance of good or evil is distinctly felt by all persons to whom a certain combination of feelings has been thus suggested, we have all the evidence for the reality of this preponderance that the nature of the subject will admit; and must try in vain to traverse