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V. The Fraud of Moralism

Accepting this view, we should regard “obligation” as signifying not merely a false theory of ethics, but also evil motives. Moralism, the doctrine of conscience and “moral necessity”, exemplifies the natural causality of repressing motives. There are acts which are performed under a sense of obligation, but what they exhibit is not communication but compulsion. Freud has informed us of the elaborate performances which compulsion-neurotics feel bound to go through. They are simply “the thing to do”; they are “right” but not good, forced, not spontaneous. The spontaneous action of a motive seeking its objective cannot be induced by compulsion. Compulsion can only induce conformity. And the motives which will incline a man to conform, to do a thing because he is obliged, are, speaking generally, fear and that desire for self-abasement which, in sexual theory, is called “masochism”.

The development of motives has been traced to action in the same or in another person's mind. Good motives may be said more specifically to arise through sympathetic induction, or through the spontaneous development of a person's natural capacities. There are certain good motives which we do not expect to find in children, and which appear “as they grow older”. That is to say, they are not definitely results of education, except in so far as the child may be said to educate himself. But it is for the most part impossible to lay down exact limits of the operation of these two factors; each may be taken to operate in some degree in the development of all good motives. Compulsion, on the other hand, has no part in this process, except as one of the obstructions by reaction against which capacities may develop.

It may be said, then, that the appeal addressed to a person in terms of obligation is either unnecessary, since, if he has the appropriate motive, it will require no external inducement to seek its objective, or useless, since, if he has not the motive, the type of action produced must differ from that commanded. However it may appear to the moraliser, his appeals are prompted by particular motives in his own mind and take effect on particular motives in the other person's mind. It has been admitted that, by means of assistance and transference, new motives may be generated, but this is through natural operations on the motives already present. When one person has interrelated activities A, B and C, and lives in intimate relation with a person who has the activities A and B, the latter will develop C, if he is capable of doing so. In all these cases we have perfectly natural action, moralistic or obligatory action being one particular case. But, since people have different capacities, there is no question of laying down rules for men. The only practical question is what goods a particular person can realise, what good motives can be induced in him. This induction or communication does not require to be


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commanded, since good motives will persistently communicate themselves; and, similarly, response cannot be commanded.

We see, then, how a positive ethics is possible; we see that motives act in accordance with their nature, that communication occurs, and that the study of communicating and non-communicating motives must be thoroughly deterministic. Vague notions of ideals are simply covers for that domination which is the real object of the exponents of “the moral law”. The safeguarding of morality, the discovery of “incentives” to goodness, are, as expressions of ethical dualism or “heteronomy”, unscientific, and, as repressive operations, bad.

There is, in fact, no moral safeguard. Goodness is supported by those good activities already in existence, which encourage the development of other good activities. But in so doing they meet with obstructions, and there is nothing in the nature of things to show that good will overcome evil. Why, then, should we be moral? What inducement to goodness have we? None, except those good motives which we possess and which operate naturally in relation to circumstances — which, of course, they, like all other things, are capable of altering. The ends, by which they are supposed to be dominated, are what they know about their surroundings, and, knowing, affect. The theory of “ideals”, like that of “ideas”, rests on failure to observe that what we are commonly said to “have in mind” in any situation is some external fact, and that what we really have in mind are certain motives which act “automatically”; and that the interaction of our motives with one another and with outside things is what determines all our actions and whether good or evil will come about.

It is particularly to be noted that the motive which leads us to have an ethical theory is not of primary importance to the discussion of ethical theory. We may certainly consider whether a motive of this kind is good or not, but this implies a direct consideration of good and bad situations. And, in considering the good activities of a person, we are not bound to consider whether he has an ethical theory or not. People in general do not think very much about the goodness of their activities. They are simply to be found trying to make discoveries or to produce works of art, exhibiting love or courage, or, on the other hand, imposing obligations on themselves or others, because they are made that way, i.e., because their character, in relation to their history, has so developed. And these are the conditions, and not any metaphysical “freedom”, on which, if at all, further development is possible.

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