An Introduction to Social Psychology
Chapter 8: The Advance to the Higher Plane of Social Conduct
THE regulation of conduct by regard for the approval and disapproval of our fellow-men in the way discussed in the preceding chapter has certain limitations and drawbacks in spite of its supreme importance for the great mass of mankind.
In the first place the motives involved are fundamentally egoistic, although, as we saw, they may in certain cases be leavened with the altruistic impulse. Secondly, the approval and disapproval of our social circle cease to be effective sanctions of right conduct, as soon as we can be quite sure that our lapse from the standard demanded of us will never be known to those in whose minds we habitually see ourselves reflected and to whose approval and disapproval we attach importance; or, in other words, the man whose right conduct rests on no higher basis than this sanction will not conform to the accepted code, in spite of opposing desires, when he is in no danger of being "found out." In order to remedy this defect of the sanction of public opinion, many peoples have supplemented it with the doctrine of an all-seeing eye, of a power that can observe all men's deeds, however carefully concealed, and will distribute rewards and punishments either in this life or another, according :as these deeds conform to, or transgress, the current code of society. This supplementary sanction has, no doubt,
(216) proved very effective at a certain stage of the moral evolution of societies. But it must be recognised that the motives to which this sanction appeals are lower than the motives through which public opinion affects con-duct; for it commonly relies upon rewards and punishments of a lower type than public approval and disapproval. Further, since the rewards offered and the punishments threatened are generally extremely remote in time and of uncertain character, and since some uncertainty as to their advent is apt to prevail, they have to be described as of very great magnitude if they are to be effective sanctions of conduct ; and the promise of disproportionately large rewards or punishments is in it-self demoralising.
A third limitation of public opinion as the principal sanction of right conduct is that the conduct based upon it is entirely dependent on the nature of the moral tradition and custom of the society in which the individual grows up. Every society has its own code, and regards as absurd or even wicked those features of other codes in which they differ from its own. Illustrations of this fact abound in modern works on morals. Consider the case of the Fijian who regards it as his duty to slay his parents, when they attain a certain age, and gives them a tender and dutiful embrace before despatching them to the grave ; or of certain tribes of Borneo, among whom the taking of a head of man, woman, or child, even by methods involving perfidious treachery, is the surest road to popular esteem  ; or, again, the case of men of the same region who feel shame if seen by a stranger with-
(217) -out the narrow bands that they commonly wear just be-low the knee, although no other garment is considered absolutely indispensable.
The sanction of public opinion, then, provides no guarantee against gross defects and absurdities of conduct; and—what is of more importance—it contains within itself no principle of progress, but tends rather to pro-duce rigid customs whose only changes are apt to be degenerative distortions of elements once valuable.
We have now to consider the ways in which some men advance to a plane of conduct higher than that regulated by the approval and disapproval of their social circle.
As the young child's sphere of social relations widens, he finds that certain of the rules of the family circle are everywhere upheld, that the breaking of them brings universal disapproval. In primitive societies, in which custom is usually extremely rigid and well defined and is unquestioned by any member of the society, this is true of all the current rules of conduct; the breach of any one brings universal disapproval. If the development of the self-regarding sentiment has been initiated in normal fashion by the exercise of authority over the child within the family circle, no boy or man can bear up against universal disapproval, unless he has found some higher source of moral guidance; hence we find that in many primitive or savage societies the rules of conduct, positive and negative, prescribed by custom are scrupulously observed by all members.
In modern civilised societies, on the other hand, the child is generally subjected in his early years to much more numerous and more strictly enforced rules than the savage child ever knows. But, when he emerges from his home into a wider social sphere, he finds that some only of these rules, such as those against theft and mur-
( 218) -der, are maintained by the general voice of society, and are embodied in public law ; these accordingly he continues to accept and observe. Others of his nursery rules, he finds, are not at all enforced by the opinion and feeling of the social circles in which he moves; while as regards others, again, he discovers that they are maintained by some persons and ignored by others—some of them being accepted in one social circle, others in another. And unless and until the average boy or man has risen to the higher plane of conduct, he will almost inevitably accept the peculiarities of the code of conduct of any circle, so long as he acts as a member of that circle.
The boy's discovery of the diversities of the codes of different members and circles of his society necessarily weakens the influence upon him of the rules in regard to which such diversities obtain ; he is led by them to question the sanction of public opinion as applied to these departments of conduct; and, if he conforms to the diverse codes of his various social circles, his habits of moral conduct will not become so firm as they would if he were acquainted with one code only. These diversities of opinion in our complex civilised societies weaken, then, the force with which public opinion bears upon each individual's conduct, and they render the conduct of the mass of civilised men very much less consistent with the standards they profess than is that of most savages and barbarians. This, however, does not imply any innate moral inferiority of the civilised man; and, though it results in many grave social evils of kinds that are hardly known in well-organised savage societies, it brings one great advantage, which more than compensates civilised societies for the uncertainty of conduct and for the appearance of inferior morality on the part of the mass of their members; namely, it gives scope and occasion for
( 219) the development of higher types of conduct and character than can be found in primitive communities, and hence it renders possible the progress of the moral tradition through the influence of these higher types.
For in primitive societies the precision of the customary code and the exact coincidence of public opinion with the code, allow of no occasion for deliberation upon conduct, no scope for individual moral judgment and choice; they provide no sphere of action for, and no stimulus to the development of, strong character, such as that of the man who can not only resist the promptings of his strongest instinctive impulses, but is capable also of standing up against public opinion and of doing what he judges to be right in defiance of it.
Let the reader try to imagine himself a member of a society whose code prescribes that he shall fall flat on his face whenever he meets his mother-in-law, or that he shall never mention certain of his relatives by name; and let him imagine that these and almost all other de-tails of conduct are prescribed by rules the breach of which is visited with the reprobation of the whole community and often with the severest punishments; he will then understand how little scope is afforded by such a rigid code for the development of character and will.
The exercise of moral judgment is essential to the progress of individuals to the higher plane of conduct, and at this point we must briefly consider the conditions f such judgment. We may take Dr. Fowler's statement ..f the relation of moral judgment to emotion as representing the traditional and prevalent doctrine. He wrote : When an action has once been pronounced to be right 1)r wrong% morally good or evil, or has been referred to some well-known class of actions whose ethical character is already determined, the emotion of approval or disap-
( 220) -proval is excited and follows as a matter of course"; and again : "No sooner is the intellectual process completed, and the action duly labelled as a lie, or a theft, or a fraud, or an act of cruelty or ingratitude, or the like, than the appropriate ethical emotion is at once excited." These and similar passages expound the traditional doctrine that the intellectual process of classing, of rightly naming, the conduct on which we pass moral judgment is the primary and essential step in exerting moral judgment, and that any emotion involved in the process is consequent on this intellectual process. Others, on the other hand, totally reject this doctrine and reverse the order of the process. Professor Westermarck, for ex-ample, maintains that moral judgments are expressions of moral emotions ; he writes: "That the moral concepts are ultimately based on emotions either of indignation or approval, is a fact which a certain school of thinkers have in vain attempted to deny." 
Here we seem to have two flatly opposed doctrines of moral judgment. According to the one, judgment in every case produces the emotion ; according to the other, the emotion always determines the judgment. We must recognise that both are partially true. We must admit with Westermarck that the doctrine he opposes contains the intellectualist fallacy (against which there has recently been so widespread a reaction), and that moral judgments are ultimately based on the emotions ; but then we must lay stress on the word "ultimately." For the emotions on which a man's moral judgments are based may be not his own emotions at the time of passing judgment, and not even his own earlier emotions, but the emotions, especially that disinterested emotion we call moral indig-
(221) -nation, of those who in bygone ages have played their parts in the shaping of the moral tradition.
No man, perhaps, ever has learnt to make moral judgments without previously experiencing some emotions of the kind from which the moral tradition ultimately sprang ; but it is at least theoretically possible to do so. For every moral tradition embodies a great number of ready-made judgments formulated in words; and every well-organised society imposes its moral tradition upon each of its members with tremendous force. The child learns to accept many of these current maxims simply through suggestion, chiefly of the kind we have distinguished as prestige-suggestion ; his parents and teachers repeatedly assert various moral propositions—it is wrong to tell a lie, to steal, to deceive, to be cruel; it is right to be honest, kind, or generous; and the voice of society, with its irresistible prestige, re-enforces these assertions. The child accepts these and many other similar propositions, and will apply them to the conduct of himself and others before he can understand the ground of them, and before actions of the kind to which they are applicable have evoked in him any emotion that could deter-mine the appropriate moral judgment. For example, a child will accept on suggestion, and will appropriately apply, the proposition that it is wrong to put your elbows on the table; and, if he has acquired in some degree the sentiment for law or rule, he may pass the judgment, "You are very naughty to put your elbows on the table," with some indignation, just as he might reprove another for stealing or cruelty. It would be absurd to maintain that his condemnation of the elbows is an original moral judgment arising out of moral indignation. We must, in short, distinguish between original moral judgment and imitative moral judgments. As regards the latter, the
(222) traditional doctrine is true—the act of classing precedes and determines the moral emotion ; as regards original moral judgments, Westermarck is in the right—they proceed directly from emotions.
The acceptance by the normal child of the major part of the current maxims is inevitable, if they are authoritatively asserted to him; and his regard for them and conformity to them are secured by that process of development of the self-regarding sentiment by the agency of rewards and punishments, praise and blame, which we studied in the foregoing chapter. As regards these imitative judgments, we may go even farther than Dr. Fowler and the intellectualists, and may say that they may be made, not only without antecedent emotion, but also without any consequent moral emotion, that they may be purely intellectual, though this is seldom the case. That is to say, we accept certain maxims of conduct, either purely by suggestion or in part also in virtue of original judgments springing from our emotions and sentiments ; thereafter the accepted maxims or principles may give rise to moral judgment by way of a purely intellectual process, the recognition of the agreement or disagreement of conduct with those principles, a process that may be expressed in syllogistic form—all lies are wrong; that is a lie, therefore that is wrong. And action also may follow in virtue of another previously accepted principle ; e.g., I ought to punish your wrong conduct, therefore I punish you. Of course, such purely intellectual judgments, unsupported by emotion directly evoked by the conduct judged of, will not lead to efforts, on behalf of the right and against the wrong, so ener-
( 223) -getic as the efforts that may follow upon emotional judgments.
It is through original moral judgments of approval and disapproval that a man rises to the higher plane of conduct; therefore it is in them that we are chiefly interested in the present connection.
Judgments of approval and disapproval are of two great classes, the ęsthetic and the moral, which are differentiated from a common stock, but never completely differentiated by most men. We continue to use the same verbal expressions for judgments of both kinds ; ought, should, must, good, bad, wrong, and right are terms we use equally in moral and in ęsthetic judgment. Such judgments are commonly said to spring from emotions of approval and disapproval, and, though there is much looseness and vagueness in current accounts of these alleged emotions, they are described, or referred to by many authors as the specifically moral emotions. This is only one more ,illustration of the chaotic condition in which the psychology of the emotions still remains.
We have already seen that judgments of approval and disapproval may be purely intellectual processes, deter-mined by previously accepted principles, and that such judgments may or may not be followed by appropriate emotions having as their objects the actions on which judgment has been passed. The question remains, Are there any specific emotions from which original moral judgments spring and which might be described as emotions of approval and disapproval? The answer, I think, must be—Certainly not, there is no specific emotion of approval or of disapproval. For it is impossible to point to any such emotions distinct from those we have already recognised, and either form of judgment may spring from any one of several of those primary emotions or of the
(224) complex emotions. Judgment of approval may be prompted by admiration, gratitude, positive self-feeling, or by any one of the emotions when induced by way of the primitive sympathetic reaction; judgment of disapproval springs most frequently from anger, either in its primary uncomplicated form, or as an element in one of its secondary combinations, such as shame, reproach, scorn, but also from fear and disgust. And they may, perhaps, be prompted by feelings of pleasure and pain respectively without emotion, though judgments having this source are properly ęsthetic rather than moral judgments. In the young child these original moral judgments spring from the unorganised emotions; but in the adult they are more commonly prompted by emotions excited within some sentiment by actions affecting the object of the sentiment.
It is notorious that the sentiments determine our moral judgments. A man's concrete sentiments are apt to lead him to judgments that are valid only for himself, that have little objective or supra-individual validity; or, as is commonly said, they pervert his judgment. Thus it is notoriously difficult to pass moral judgments of general or objective validity upon the acts of those we love or hate. In the one case the emotions that determine approval are apt to play too great a part—for the principal emotions of the sentiment of love are of this order; in the other case those which determine disapproval. The abstract sentiments, on the other hand, such sentiments as the love of justice, truth, courage, self-sacrifice, hatred of selfishness, of deception, of slothfulness
(225) these alone enable us to pass moral judgments of general validity. These sentiments for abstract objects, the various qualities of conduct and of character, are the specifically moral sentiments. It is, then, through the development of such abstract sentiments that the individual's moral development and the refinement of his moral judgment, both of his own acts and those of others, is effected, and that his moral principles are formed. And it is as regards this development of the abstract moral sentiments that the individual is most open to the influence of his social environment.
No man could acquire by means of his own unaided reflections and unguided emotions any considerable array of moral sentiments; still less could he acquire in that way any consistent and lofty system of them. In the first place, the intellectual process of discriminating and naming the abstract qualities of character and conduct is quite beyond the unaided power of the individual; in this process he finds indispensable aid in the language that he absorbs from his fellows. But he is helped not by language only ; every civilised society has a more or less highly developed moral tradition, consisting of a system of traditional abstract sentiments. This moral tradition has been slowly formed and improved by the influence of the great and good men, the moral leaders of the race, through many generations ; it has been handed on from generation to generation in a living form in the sentiments of the élite, the superior individuals of each generation, and has been embodied in literature, and, in partial fashion, in a variety of institutions, such as the Church. And every great and organised department of human activity, each profession and calling of a civilised society, has its own specialised form of the moral traditions, which in some respects may sink
(226) below, in other respects may rise above, the moral level of the unspecialised or general tradition.
The moral tradition of any society lives, in its fullest completest form, only in the strong moral sentiments of a comparatively few individuals, those who are expressively called "the salt of the earth." The great majority of men participate in it only in a very partial manner and in very diverse degrees, as regards both the strength of their moral sentiments and the nature and number of such sentiments as they in any degree acquire. And it is only by the absorption of the moral tradition that any man can acquire a respectable array of moral sentiments; even the great moral reformer begins by absorbing the moral tradition, before he can go on to add to it, or to reform it, in some respect. This is the truth expressed by T. H. Green when he wrote : "No individual can make a conscience for himself. He always needs a society to make it for him." 
If an individual is to acquire abstract moral sentiments, he must not grow up in a society that is completely bound by the laws of rigid and uniform custom. Rigid custom is the cement of society in the ages preceding the formation of a moral tradition, and the breaking of the rigid bonds of custom, bonds which were probably essential for the preservation of primitive societies, was the prime condition of the growth of the moral tradition of the progressive nations. In the same way, it is a prime condition of the moral progress of individuals; the individual also must not be bound in absolute obedience to any system of rules of conduct prescribed by custom or in any other manner. For in either case he has no occasion for reflection upon conduct, no scope for the free exercise of moral judgment and choice, no op-
( 227) -portunity of acquiring by absorption the traditional system of moral sentiments.
Suppose that, as is the case in many savage societies, the conduct of each of us in every social relation were prescribed by a rigid custom ; suppose, as was suggested above, that you must never speak to, or look at, your mother-in-law; that, if you meet her out of doors, you must fall flat on your face until she has passed by; and that infringement of this customary law is invariably punished by death or other severe penalty. Suppose also that all the rest of your social behaviour were defined with similar precision and rigidity. Or imagine the case of a member of one of the medieval religious communities whose only duty, to which he was trained from earliest youth, was unquestioning obedience to his superior. It is easy to understand that under such conditions we should hardly be led to reflect on conduct, to acquire the moral sentiments, or to make moral judgments of any kind ; for our own conduct, we should merely have to ascertain what behaviour custom pre-scribes for each situation and to observe its prescription; and, as regards the conduct of other men also, there would be no scope for moral judgment but only for the ascertainment of fact. Did he, or did he not, neglect this observance? If he did, he must be punished; if not, he is to go free. That is to say; under such a system there is scope only for the merely legal attitude, but none for that of moral judgment.
But the child growing up in the midst of a complex and cultured society, coming in contact with various social circles in which diversities of code and opinion obtain, and reading history and romance, becomes acquainted with a great variety of opinions, of moral codes, and of character and modes of conduct; while
( 228) language leads him to the formation of a certain number of abstract conceptions of qualities of conduct and character, however vague and fluctuating. If, under these conditions, the child were left entirely without moral guidance, he would acquire some abstract moral sentiments, whose nature would be determined by the strongest emotional dispositions of his native disposition and by the chance circumstances of his life; he would acquire some sentiment of liking for all those qualities and types of conduct and character which brought him the most frequent and intense satisfactions, both ideal and actual, and some sentiment of hate or dislike for those which most often thwarted his efforts and brought him pain. That is to say, he would build up certain abstract sentiments by means of a series of original moral judgments coming from his emotions and his concrete sentiments.
But when the child is thus brought into contact with a variety of characters, codes and opinions, he normally comes also under strong influences that mould his growing abstract sentiments. The moral sentiments that are most fully embodied in the moral tradition of his time and country are impressed upon him on all hands by precept and example—e.g., love of common honesty and of courage, dislike of meanness and of cruelty; while of other moral sentiments belonging to the more refined part of the moral tradition, he finds some entertained by some persons, others by other persons. Among all these persons some will impress their abstract sentiments upon him more than others; and, in the main, those that so impress him will be those whose power, or achievements, or position, evoke his admiration. Of all the affective attitudes of one man towards another, admiration is that which renders him most susceptible to the other's influence ; and it is easy to see why this should be so,
( 229) if our analysis of admiration was correct. We said that admiration is compounded of wonder and negative self-feeling. The impulse of wonder, then, keeps his attention directed upon the admired person; the impulse of negative self-feeling throws him into the submissive, receptive, suggestible attitude towards the object of his admiration. Hence the child accepts by suggestion the moral propositions of the persons he admires, he imitates their actions and sympathetically shares their moral emotions ; and so his developing abstract sentiments are moulded in accordance with those of the admired per-sons. If these persons deliberately aim at moulding his sentiments, the extent of their influence in this direction is only limited by his intellectual capacity for forming abstract conceptions of the various qualities of conduct and character.
The child, then, builds up his abstract sentiments by means of a series of emotional judgments, judgments of approval and disapproval, which are original in the sense that they spring from his emotions and concrete sentiments; but they are not independently formed judgments, but rather emotional judgments made under the very powerful directing influence of personal suggestion and sympathy. In modern societies this influence is exerted, not only through personal contact, but on a very great scale by literature; for, in so far as we learn to grasp in some degree the personality of an author and to admire him, the expressions of his abstract sentiments exert this personal influence upon us, more especially, of course, upon the young mind whose sentiments arc not fully formed and crystallised. This, of course, is the principal reason that literature read as such, as the ex-pressions of great personalities that evoke our admira-
(230) -tion, is so superior, as food for the growing mind, to the productions of the daily and weekly press; for, no matter how well written these may be, nor how admirable the moral sentiments expressed or implied, they fail to exert the great influence of an admired personality. Even if the author of acknowledged eminence is ,not intrinsically superior to one less generally recognised, he will exert a greater moulding influence upon the abstract sentiments of his readers, simply because their knowledge that so many others admire, and have admired, this author, increases by mass-suggestion and sympathy their admiration for him and so increases also their receptivity towards him and all his opinions and expressions.
In all this absorption of the more refined parts of the moral tradition, the native disposition of the individual will make itself felt more or less. If the training of the moral sentiments is most carefully and skilfully supervised from the first years of life, the native disposition will make itself felt, not so much in the nature of the abstract objects for which sentiments of liking and disliking are acquired, but rather in the strength of the various sentiments and the force of the emotions awakened within them. But if, as is more usually the case, a certain liberty of choice is allowed to the young mind, its native disposition exerts a greater selective influence, and, by determining the choice of admired models, may lead to a vastly greater development of some of the moral sentiments than of others. And, no matter how strong the moulding influences may be, they must fail to develop any strong sentiment for an abstract object, if that sentiment involves or implies an emotional capacity or instinct that is natively defective; if, for example, a man's native disposition comprises only a weak instinct of curiosity, he will hardly acquire a strong sentiment for the life of
(231) learning and research; if it is defective in the instinct of self-assertion and its emotion of positive self-feeling, he will hardly acquire a strong sentiment for self-perfection; if it is defective in the protective instinct and its tender emotion, he will hardly acquire a strong sentiment for altruism and self-sacrifice.
When the abstract sentiments have been acquired, they determine our emotional responses to the conduct and character of ourselves and others; the intellectual process of classing an act under its proper heading, the apperception of it as an act of justice, of self-sacrifice, or of cruelty, is apt to call out at once the appropriate emotion in some degree, and secures our approval or disapproval, in accordance with the nature of the sentiment we have acquired for that quality or class of action. The objects of our sentiments of love and hate necessarily become objects of desire and aversion. Thus, if we have acquired the sentiment of love of justice and we are credibly informed that any person is in serious danger of suffering injustice, the desire of justice, arising with-in the abstract sentiment, impels us to efforts to secure justice. The strength of the motive, the intensity of the desire or aversion awakened within the system of the sentiment, depends in such cases upon the strength of the sentiment. In most men the desires and aversions arising from the abstract sentiments are apt to be much inferior in strength to those excited within the concrete senti-
( 232) -ments ; hence, as motives of these two classes are frequently opposed in tendency, the mere possession of moral sentiments does not always suffice to determine a man to action in accordance with them. A sentiment of love for an individual may, and often does, give rise to a desire that conflicts with the desire for justice arising from the sentiment for justice; and the self-regarding sentiment with its strong emotions is especially apt to conflict with the moral sentiments. Hence it is possible for a man to have the most beautiful moral sentiments and yet to act in ways that are not altogether admirable.
Even the purely altruistic sentiments, the love of beneficence or of mankind in general, will not necessarily suffice to enable a man to reach the highest plane of conduct—not even if they are strong. The habit of self-criticism is required, and this implies, and arises from, a strong self-regarding sentiment. The special moral sentiments must be brought into connection with, and organised within, the system of a more comprehensive sentiment—what may be called the master sentiment among all the moral sentiments, namely, the sentiment for a perfected or completely moral life. If a man ac-quires this sentiment, he will aim at the realisation of such a life for all men as far as possible; but, since he has more control over his own life than over the lives of others, he will naturally aim at the perfection of his own life in the first place. In this sentiment, then, the altruistic and egoistic emotions and sentiments may find some sort of reconciliation; that is to say, they may become synthesised in the larger sentiment of love for an ideal of conduct, the realisation of which involves a due proportion of self-regarding and of altruistic action ; and the desire for the realisation of this ideal may become the
(233) master motive to which all the abstract sentiments lend whatever force they have.
It is worth noting in passing that in many persons ęsthetic appreciation of the beauty of fine character and conduct may play a large part in the genesis of the ideal of conduct and of the sentiment of love for this ideal. Not all admiration is ęsthetic admiration, but, if the object that we admire on account of its strength or excellence of any kind, presents a complex of harmoniously organised and centralised relations and activities, the mere contemplation of it pleases us, in so far as we are capable of grasping the harmony of its complex features ; that is to say, it affords us an ęsthetic satisfaction, and therefore has a certain value for us and becomes an object of desire. A fine character, or a life finely lived, has these ęsthetic properties, and therefore our admiration of it will be an ęsthetic admiration, in so far as we appreciate its harmony and unity; we are then disposed to desire all the more strongly that our own character shall be of this nature, shall appear to the world, or all that part of it whose opinion we most value, as having ęsthetic properties that lend it a certain dignity and nobility; our self-regarding sentiment seeks this additional satisfaction, we desire and strive to realise this ęsthetic ideal.
The desire resulting in this way from ęsthetic appreciation blends in very various proportions with the purely moral desire for the realisation of the ideal of conduct; and in some persons of the type of Marius the Epicurean this desire may be the principal factor in the regulation of conduct.