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III. The Facts of the “Moral Life”

The above criticism of the normative or authoritarian theory shows to some extent what account a positive theory will give of what are called the facts of the moral life, but some further statement and clarification of the positive issues is required. The facts referred to are most specifically those of choice, deliberation, responsibility and exhortation, or, more generally, inducement, to goodness. And, as already indicated, the consideration of them must be based on the fact that we and others have various motives, and that these motives interact and influence one another in a variety of ways.

Simple choice is simply object-finding, i.e., the finding by a motive of an object whereby it gains outlet or expression. This is the process of satisfaction of desire. We are to think of the motive as being in a state of tension, which ceases when the object is achieved. This is the condition of knowledge in general; what we know is what solves our problems or eases our minds. But the case is not always so simple; there may be no immediate solution, and we may go through a process of deliberation, which is regarded as the distinguishing-mark of “moral” choice. Now deliberation arises from a certain opposition of motives. And these opposed motives, in struggling to find outlet, excite other motives which assist them, until one set overcomes the other and acts.note Or, again, certain parts of the opposed motives may find common outlet, while other parts are repressed. In either case we have the opposition of two complex tendencies, and a final movement arising from some solution of the opposition. The situation is comparable to that represented by a chemical equation, where the interaction of two compounds results in the formation of a new substance and, in general, of a certain “residue”. (This, incidentally, is the true “mental chemistry”, and not any theory of derivation from elements.) The various “ideas” called up in the course of deliberation are the objectives of the motives that rise to the assistance of the original motives, but it is these motives themselves, in conjunction with the original ones, that enable a certain action to take place; the “ideas” are not in any sense causes of the action. Deliberation, then, exemplifies the conflict and the complication of motives in the course of human activity. There is no pure reason here, no total self or ultimate end.

In exhortation and inducement we have a similar situation, where some of the conflicting and assisting motives are in one mind and some in another. It may, of course, be said that the motives of the one person cause some of the other's motives to become active, and that the latter then goes through a process of deliberation, the point of difference from the previous case being that he has been induced to deliberate. But even this explanation admits of interaction between different persons' motives as well as among a single person's. The general position is, then, that we wish another person to act in a certain way, which we may or may not

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call “good”. And apart from the possibility of our seeking to show our power over him, the point will be that the objective we prescribe for him is one of our own, that it satisfies one of our motives. Now what we appeal to or exert influence on in him may be the same motive, so that our action consists in producing a situation in which it is free to act; the conveying of information being a case in point. Or it may be a different motive, in which case we may procure conformity but not the same sort of act as we should perform in pursuing the objective in question. And thus his objective is also different (for example, he may be seeking to avoid unpleasantness), though similar to ours in certain respects. Appeals to persons to be moral in their own interests illustrate this confusion of motives.

The two extremes, then, between which all types of exhortation and inducement are to be found are compulsion and assistance between similar motives in different persons. Accepting McDougall's theory, in respect of the latter, that the activity of a given motive in one person may “sympathetically induce” the operation of the same motive in another, we have to add that this may happen not merely when the motive is dormant or has been temporarily overcome by other motives, but also when it has not previously been active; so that all the varieties of education are accounted for. But it has particularly to be noted that this theory applies to motives of any sort. We have not discovered any method of inducement peculiar to good motives; though it may be maintained that in all other cases there is an element of compulsion. However this may be, it has been found possible to give a positive description of the processes without taking goodness into account, and it remains possible that goodness may be discovered as a positive feature of some of them.

All these methods of influence are likewise to be found in operation among the different motives of a single mind. It is on this basis that a positive account of responsibility is to be given. Responsibility is not the charge that is put upon reason to control inclinations, or on the self to be itself. It is the fact that all our actions arise from motives which we have, and which are in some interactive relation with the motives speaking as “we”, even when they are disclaimed by the latter. Of course, they interact with all sorts of things, including other people's minds. But they are in peculiar relations to the other processes which belong to the same mind. Now clearly, if we avoid the confusion between what a thing is and what it knows, we cannot accept the statement, “I did not know I was doing this”, as a justification for the conclusion, “It was not I who did this”. To put it otherwise, our motives are complex, and so are our objectives; so that what we vaguely or indirectly pursue has to be taken along with what we directly and definitely pursue; we are equally responsible for both. “Repression” is characteristic of the refusal to accept responsibility; it is the forcing of a motive to find an outlet which “we”, the repressing motives, will not observe. But recognition by us cannot be the test of responsibility; we should, in fact, commonly be said to be responsible for this recognition itself, though we might not recognise it.

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So that the term “responsibility” really stands for such relations as hold between any two activities of one mind.

Similarly, we may speak of effort or endeavour, without requiring to add anything about its being “moral”, as characteristic of a motive struggling against obstructions. We have, in short, to think of our motives as striving to find outlet, of various tendencies in mind. But this is just as positive a conception as pressure in physics. The main point is the treatment of our various motives as “passions” (that is, as having qualities of their own and not merely relations) and as complex, as opposed to the theory of a variety of simple inclinations which cannot undergo mixture and separation, but pursue different individual objects, and of simple reason which can control them all because it has a universal and single aim, “the good”. In place of this scheme of an “identity-motive” and “difference-motives”, actual experience presents us with differentiation and integration, variation and adjustment, complication and development. In brief, the interaction of complex motives will account for all the facts of “moral psychology”.