Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 6.djvu/269

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PLEASURE AS ETHICAL STANDARD.

IN the experience of every teacher of ethics there undoubtedly are moments when the contention of the utilitarian appears irre- sistible that pleasure is the test; that pleasure may be a state- ment of the end. If perchance this finding is not true for teachers, it is at least true for students of ethics, and teachers are accustomed to pass it over lightly, to attribute it to the brilliancy of Mill's style or to the immaturity of the student mind. But is it not a psychological fact which should be care- fully explained ? There seems to be a time in our thinking when all the trenchant criticisms of the opposition appear to be woefully wide of the mark, and not to have met the contentions of the master at all. One cannot desire pleasure, we are told, for he must always desire an object. Quite true, we reply, but is not the object the medium of his pleasure ? And it seems possible in this way to measure the most heroic devotion. Christ on the cross may tyave looked far into the future, beyond his own hours of anguish, beyond that period of woes which we call the early church, beyond the misrepresentations of the dark ages, and have seen his truth fructifying the hearts of men and making earth a heavenly place, through the sense of unity with God which he came to impart. He may have counted all the aggre- gated woes which came between as nothing in comparison with the pleasure which that truth would at length bring. So that even the sword which he left may have seemed to become a beacon of joy. And Socrates, when he held that memorable discussion with the personified Laws of Athens, and then girded himself to go to death, may have discounted the disintegration of his well-beloved city and his own martyrdom, to prefer the thrills of joy which his truth, sealed with his blood, would at length bring. Thus it seems to be possible to find a pleasure tone for every conscious act a pleasure which will outweigh the loss entailed, a pleasure which I, the doer, may myself make mine, as well as thine, for whom the act is done. And the case

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