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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Appendix B — Altruism and Happiness, or Rational Eschatology — (Introductory)

page 35

Appendix B

Altruism and Happiness, or Rational Eschatology


"Mankind," said Bentham, "is under the government of two sovereign masters, Pain and Pleasure, They alone can dictate what ought to be done, and also what actually will be done." On this double axiom, half ethical, half psychological, the reasonings which follow will be based. I shall assume that what men ought to do is always determined by the pains and pleasures which are likely to result to others from their actions, and that what they do is always determined by the balance of immediate pain and pleasure to themselves. That constitution of mind which involves the experience of immediate pain or pleasure at the contemplation of pain or pleasure respectively in others, I shall call benevolence or altruism, and the constitution of mind which does not involve this experience, I shall call selfishness or non-altruism. Lastly, the constitution of mind which involves pleasure at the contemplation of pain in others, or pain at the contemplation of their pleasure, I shall call cruelty or anti-altruism. It is obvious that, from the point of view of this definition, all conceivable states of mind can be arranged in a continuous scale from the supremely altruistic or Christlike, through the neutral point of the simply callous, to the supremely anti-altruistic or diabolical.

On the basis of these definitions and of this axiom. I proceed to discuss what is the connection between dominant benevolence and universal happiness, and what are the prospects of the realisation of each. I shall endeavour to page 36 prove that endnringly dominant benevolence is the one [unclear: co] dition, both necessary and sufficient, of the ultimate [unclear: realis] tion of universal happiness: that the certainty for manking of reaching this fulcrum of dominant benevolence is [unclear: co] tingent on the truth of the theistic hypothesis, and [unclear: that] irrespectively of the truth or falsehood of this hypothesis the way to attain the fulcrum—the sure way if theism [unclear: b] true, and the best way if it be false—is by a world-[unclear: wid] association or banding together of benevolent persons [unclear: fo] increasing the secular power of the benevolent, [unclear: whethe] within the association or outside it, at the expense of [unclear: th] selfish and the cruel: in other words, the admission [unclear: of] new principle into the body of recognised ethical [unclear: doctria] namely the duty of the benevolent to discriminate, in [unclear: th] exercise of their helpfulness, in favour of those persons [unclear: wh] are themselves benevolent.

Wellington, New Zealand,