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05/20/2006

Closed Cosmic Morality and Open Cosmic Morality

I John Dewey and the Objectivity of Values
-- the Inconsistency of Absolute Naturalism
Classification of the principal moral theories posterior to the Kantian System
1. In order to clarify matters I should like to try at the beginning of this chapter to draw up a synoptic table of the principal moral theories, subsequent in the history of ideas to the Kantian revolution and the ethics of the categorical imperative, which in my opinion most deserve our attention. Such a table would present itself in this fashion:

I. Post-Kantian dialectic A cosmic (pseudo-cosmic) idealist ethics: Hegel

* Based on Metaphysics (Onto-logical idealist).
* Politico-normative morality.

Cosmic (pseudo-cosmic) realist-materialist ethics: Marx

* Based on a dialectic of the Hegelian type (historical materialism).
* Socio-normative morality.

II. The Anti-Kantian reaction:

1. Positivism
Messianic positivism: "De-philosophized" cosmic (fetishist) ethics: Auguste Comte.

* Based on a sociologically required Myth (from the point of view of the subject -- the Religion of Humanity).
* Socio-normative morality.

Secularized positivism: The "de-philosophic" liquidation of ethics: Sociologism.

* Ethics replaced by the science of social facts.
* Non-normative "morality".

III. The Anti-Kantian reaction:

2. In search of an authentically cosmic ethics
realist-anti-metaphysical

* Based on a philosophy of nature: Dewey.
* Equivocally normative morality.

realist-metaphysical (in the broad sense of the word)

* Based on a Metaphysics of the Subjectivity inhabited by God, and on Faith: Kierkegaard.
* Religiously normative morality (corresponding to the singularity of the relation between God and the self).
* Based on an atheistic phenomenology of the subjectivity, and on Freedom: Sartre.
* Non-normative morality (unless arbitrarily normative, corresponding to the singularity of the situation, in which each one saves himself or not through his own freedom).
* Based on a Metaphysics of the Elan Vital, and on the call of creative love: Bergson.
* Mystically normative morality.

2. What is most significant in the third large category of our table is the effort to rediscover a properly philosophical ethics (unlike the ethics of messianic positivism and the non-ethics of secularized positivism) which would be intrinsically related to a conception of being and of nature, and which, freeing itself from idealism, would take into account the situation of man in the midst of a world which exists independently of our thought, would recognize that the way in which he orders his life depends on what things are, and would refuse to separate the world of freedom from the world of nature.

Here we have a remarkable recovery of the general perspective of philosophical morality, which Kant had distorted.

But the undertaking in question did not go forward without misunderstandings and false starts, because it was still burdened with views that were too partial, with prejudices that became more aggressive the less they were submitted to examination, and, sometimes, with very grave errors. In particular, the notion of cosmic morality, whose fundamental importance we have emphasized, was often proposed in its truncated, and deceptive, form (closed-cosmic or cosmic-with-nothing-beyond-this-world)) -- this was notably the case with Dewey and with atheistic existentialism -- instead of being proposed, as was the case with Kierkegaard and with Bergson for example, in its authentic form (cosmic-open or cosmic-transcosmic). Many philosophers in our century, while re-installing the laws and movement of human morality quite rightly within the laws and movements of nature, have not seen that this morality has its primary foundation in the transcendent principle from which nature is suspended, and that it implies a transcosmic relation between man and this principle. They thought they ought to remain piously faithful to the prejudices negating metaphysical knowledge with which Kantianism, positivism, and materialism had vitiated and debilitated the thought of the preceding century.

3. I shall only mention in passing a kind of morality in which this antimetaphysical attitude appears in a particularly simplist and futile form. I am thinking of that so-called ethics with scientific pretensions for which the only reality to be considered is biology, and, in biology, the evolution of species conceived in the Darwinian manner.

The evolution of species, as a datum of existence and a frame of historical reference (whatever may be the explanations which science and philosophy can advance to account for the historical datum in question), has become, we should note, a kind of axiom or postulate for the majority of scientists. A similar phenomenon occurred in connection with the Galilean conception of inertia. Such notions are more in the nature of postulates than in the nature of demonstrable conclusions, but once they arise in the mind they offer such a satisfactory way of conceiving of things, and possess such a high degree of simplicity and generality, that, by virtue of their outstanding contribution to economy of thought, they impose themselves almost in the manner of self-evident principles.

It is true that the idea of evolution thus forces itself on the mind only as a purely historical idea, or insofar as it signifies that the species of the biological world derive in fact from more primitive forms and are subject to a process of development and diversification in time. How are we to explain this? It is the business of scientific hypotheses, none of which up to the present has shown itself to be fully satisfactory. This is particularly the case with the Darwinian hypothesis, very much in favor to-day but philosophically untenable, according to which fortuitous change, natural selection and the survival of the fittest account for the history and the formation of the world of organisms.

Yet for the popularizers and for current opinion, evolution as an historical idea is not distinguished from evolution as a scientific theory or scientific hypothesis, and the scientific hypothesis profits unduly from the authority which the idea spontaneously acquires over the mind. Furthermore, a scientific theory is hardly formulated before the thinking world seizes upon it to take advantage of it by extrapolation. It is in this way that Darwinism has influenced every sector of the modern intelligence. In the realm of ethics in particular, not only, as Sidgwick remarks, do all contemporary authors admit -- rightly -- an evolution of morality and of moral reflexion, but the theory (or rather the opinions, the table-talk, the current assertions) which can be called the "morality of evolution" or "evolutionist morality" is not content to insist upon the historical fact of the progress of moral consciousness in the course of the development of humanity, but pretends to find in evolution, and especially in Darwin's idea of evolution, the criteria of judgment of morality itself.{1} Once this point is reached, we encounter not a few minds who consider themselves very acute, assuring us (especially when it is a matter of acquiring power) that the survival of the fittest, while furnishing us with the key to biological evolution, at the same time instructs us in the inflexibly promulgated law of nature concerning human conduct, and concerning the primordial and ineluctible duty to which human conduct is constrained.

I bring up these excessively impoverished ethical views, by-products of Darwinism for which Darwin himself is not responsible, only because they furnished to a Nietzsche a basis or rather a decor and a pseudo-scientific imagery which he could use as a point of reference in appealing (for quite different reasons in reality) to the will to power as the authentic morality of masters, and condemning as a slave morality the respect of the human person, the sense of love and of pity taught by the Judeo-Christian tradition. On the contrary, our critical examination arrives now at the consideration of an authentically philosophical doctrine, as little Nietzschean as possible, moreover, and quite different from the evolutionist pseudo-morality.

The Naturalism of John Dewey
Hegel again, and again an incomplete rupture

4. "From Absolutism to Experimentalism",{2} it is thus that John Dewey himself characterized his own intellectual history. In his youth, in the period when a philosopher formulates the primary controlling apperceptions through which he becomes conscious of his vocation, he had been a Hegelian, under the influence of W. T. Harris and the "School of St. Louis". At the age of thirty, he was still definitely an idealist, and spoke of nature as a moment in the "self-determination of the mind". In the case of a thinker as fundamentally American as Dewey, this Hegelian fervor was no doubt, as has been remarked,{3} the result of a misunderstanding, if it is true that "Hegel can never be Americanized".{4} The fact remains that the imprint of Hegel on Dewey was a very deep one, and that in a sense it was never effaced, no matter how violent and persevering his effort to root Hegel out of his flesh, to the point of making the need to go counter to Hegel one of the fundamental criteria employed in his thought.{1}

Dewey's revolt against Hegel was incomparably more forceful and more effective than Marx's had been. While Marx remained in the last analysis an Hegelian, by virtue of the fact that the dialectic conceived in the manner of Hegel remained for him the true knowledge, which gives mastery over things, and the instrument of thought par excellence, Dewey totally rejected the Hegelian dialectic. In this respect his effort at emancipation was victorious; and, although at a high price, he rendered an outstanding service to the philosophy of the present century, in particular to American philosophy.

5. Nevertheless we can say of him too that his rupture with Hegel was an incomplete rupture. For he certainly liberated himself from the Hegelian dialectic, and from Hegelian idealism, and this was the main thing. But he retained from Hegel the nostalgia for monism;{2} the very notion of philosophy remained for him identified with an effort of thought to absorb all things into one, and to eliminate, all the while respecting and maintaining the differences, every species of duality as well as every species of transcendence.

In reality such an operation is only possible at the level of the grand sophistics to which the Hegelian dialectic is the key. In refusing the latter with all the force of his native honesty of mind, Dewey condemned himself to search for monism the more ardently because he would never be able to arrive at it, and to conceal from himself, by pretending to eliminate "structure" in favor of "process",{3} the irreducible conflicts which rendered his thought rich in tensions but also, in spite of all his efforts, intrinsically contradictory and finally inconsistent.

In short, for Dewey as for Marx, although with very different connotations, we might speak of a reversal of Hegelianism. This time, in putting philosophy back on its feet, it is no longer Matter -- Matter animated by a dialectical movement -- which replaces and exorcises the Spirit; it is Nature{1} -- Nature as the source and object of the perpetual creative reshapings and perpetual readjustments of human action. We no longer find ourselves faced with a dialectical materialism, but with an instrumentalist naturalism.

And it is by virtue of this Hegelian monism, reversed and become naturalism -- in other words it is insofar as Hegel continues in spite of everything to haunt him -- that Dewey remains a philosopher and rises above positivism, and, though he continues to see in science the unique type of knowledge, that he maintains the reality and the value of philosophical knowledge -- at the price of serious logical inconsistency, no doubt, with honest awareness of the problem and attempting an original solution to it (practical verification as an extension and equivalent for philosophy of what experimentation is for science).{2} It is by reason of this incomplete rupture with Hegelianism that Dewey gives in his philosophy a pseudo-Hegelian interpretation and flavor to the typically American conviction of the inherent necessity for things to change, to progress; whereas in fact this feeling has absolutely nothing to do with a metaphysics of pure Becoming and derives solely from a moral disposition combining creative energy and detachment.{3}

Toward an absolute naturalism
6. John Dewey's effort can be considered as one of the most significant made by modern philosophical thought toward the achievement of an integral or absolute naturalism. We may add that by virtue of this very fact it was one of the efforts of thought most typically subject to a radical ambiguity.

This radical ambiguity shows itself in a perpetual, and equivocal, alternation between "nature" as the object of the investigations of science (in the modern or empiriological sense of this word) -- in this use the word "nature" carries a completely phenomenal connotation -- and "Nature" as a philosophical entity, with a value all the more prized by a thinker like Dewey because in his passionate desire to arrive at a total organic unification of the field of knowledge he posited Nature to replace Spirit as an antithesis and antidote of Spirit.

The ambiguity in question appears also in another connection, still more instructive for us. Taken in its authentic sense, the notion of nature is an essentially analogical notion, which, given the structure of our intellect, directed first toward exterior realities, is realized for us first and above all in the things which fall within the experience of sense; in other words, it has for us its primary analogue in the nature of material things. But this same notion of nature is encountered also -- analogically -- in the case of spirits (either of the human spirit or of pure spirits); they have a nature; and even God has a nature. With such an analogical notion of nature one understands that the nature of material things is transcended by the immaterial or spiritual natures (in other words by the order called metaphysical in Aristotle's sense, or "super-natural" in the Hindu sense); and that every created or creatable nature is transcended by the divine nature and by grace, which is a participation in it (in other words, by the order called supernatural in the Christian sense).

No philosophy can completely forget or reject the authentic sense of the word "nature". But Dewey's philosophy, by the very fact that it wants to be an absolute naturalism, relegates as far as it can this authentic sense of the word "nature", which relates properly to an abstract notion, to the background in order to adopt another sense which for Dewey is evident, sunflooded, and glorious, a sense in which the word is univocal and mythical and relates to a concrete whole.

This second sense is required by the monism which every absolute naturalism implies. At this point -- and notably in the case of Dewey, by virtue of the denial-reversal of Hegelianism which we have pointed out -- we have to do with a Nature essentially posited in place of the Spirit and exclusive of the Spirit, in which physis in Aristotle's sense finds itself, by the same token, infinitely enlarged, and confused with being in the whole amplitude of the word. Such a Nature is now the reality, univocally one and mythically substantialized, which embraces and vivifies all things: Nature as excluding any possible beyond (any metaphysical beyond as well as any supernatural beyond), Nature absolutized, in which absolute naturalism has its first postulate and the source of its seductive power, but also its radical weakness. To the extent that it realizes this, it must come back more or less openly, but without ever recognizing its analogical character, to the authentic sense of the word "nature" as referring properly to an abstract notion, the sense which it tried to keep in the shadow.

These considerations explain for us why integral naturalism is condemned always to seek itself in vain. On the one hand, the rejection of the absolute is at the very root of every philosophy which wants to be totally naturalist. On the other hand, it is impossible to be totally naturalist without enclosing universal reality in a giant all-embracing Nature, that is, in an absolutized Nature, and thereby re-introducing the absolute in a surreptitious and contradictory manner. In short, there is no integral naturalism without an absolutized Nature -- therefore without a reintegration of the absolute which is incompatible with integral naturalism.

But this is not the point on which I wish to insist at this moment; I would prefer rather to stress another typical theme of Dewey's philosophy, one in connection with which, in spite of his naturalist prejudice, the intellectual honesty of which I spoke above and which from the point of view of our present analyses is of particular importance, is clearly evident. Dewey professed an integral naturalism, and yet he maintained (after his fashion no doubt and with his own limitations and paralogisms) the objectivity of values, notably of moral values.

A purely Experimentalist theory of Value
Common Sense vs. Logical Positivism

7. In the great contemporary debate concerning values and value judgments, Dewey, while decrying "absolutism", ranged himself, on the whole, on the side of philosophical tradition, thus furnishing us a remarkable testimony, however deficient it may be. I am alluding to his rigorous critique of the theses of the logical positivists, of Alfred J. Ayer in particular, in his Theory of Valuation,{1} for the second volume of the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science.

Dewey has in common with logical positivism an energetic anti-metaphysical prejudice. Hence the minute care with which he proceeds, in order to guard himself, while reinstating the objectivity of values, from seeming in the least to admit the abhorred values "in themselves". He was to remain decisively enclosed within the empirical perspective of that which pertains to the always relative findings made by an observer, and his own contribution was to show that within this very perspective the notion of value possessed an authentic objectivity, in other words that value judgments cannot be excluded from the domain of science (of empiriological science) -- or rather, from a certain scientific domain, that of the human sciences.

The operation he was to undertake had therefore an extremely limited philosophical significance, and a very depressed angle of vision. But it was to be all the more efficacious as an argument ad hominem against logical positivism. In itself, moreover, it amounts to a vigorous protest by common sense, faced with the chimeras of a scientism drunk with abstractions.

Dewey begins by conceding -- far too quickly in our opinion -- that the notion of value has no place in the sciences of nature. (In reality, what zoologist will refrain from speaking of "superior" animals and "inferior" animals, or of the greater or lesser degrees of perfection of organization of the nervous system or the ocular apparatus in the animal series or in a given phylum? What physicist will refrain from calling the law of increase of entropy the "law of the degradation of energy"? What scientist will ever exorcise from his thought the idea dear to Auguste Comte that the most complex phenomena are also the "highest" phenomena, and that a virus is "higher" in its structure and properties than a crystal of sodium?) What is true is that on the one hand there is obviously no place in the sciences of nature for any moral value, or for any value proper to human conduct, and, on the other hand, that the notion of value in general plays no directly constructive or explanatory role in these sciences. Yet we find it in them, inevitably.

However this may be, it is exclusively in the domain of the sciences that have to do with man and with human conduct that Dewey grants a legitimate role to the notion of value. And in this domain it is true that the notion of value has an indispensable practical role.

Disagreeing with those who maintain that the words designating so-called values have a purely emotional signification and are pure interjections or ejaculations by means of which feelings are expressed, and that therefore there can be no value judgments, Dewey remarks in the first place that the theory in question derives from a "mentalist" psychology, depending upon "states of consciousness" considered introspectively, to which he denies any scientific status. The truth is, he maintains, that feelings taken as entities separated from the external world and envisaged as simple subjective states, as pure thrills of consciousness, have nothing to do with a sane theory of values. What we must start out with in good behaviorist psychology is the concrete whole, accessible to observation, of a given organic situation, of which a cry, tears, a word of appeal or aversion, form only one of the constitutive elements, tending as such to bring about an observable change in observable conditions of behavior.{1} Then we will see that value and valuation depend on desire and interest (through a reversal deriving from the empirical perspective, it is no longer value which creates or provokes desire but desire which creates or determines value), but we will also see that desire and interest themselves must be considered in the existential context of which they form a part, and in relation to which the tension which they envelop is or is not adapted "to the needs and demands imposed by the situation".{2}

Consequently, "since the situation is open to observation, and since the consequences of effort-behavior as observed determine the adaptation, -- the adequacy of a given desire can be stated in propositions. The propositions are capable of empirical test because the connection that exists between a given desire and the conditions with reference to which it functions are ascertained by means of observations."{1} By the same token it appears that if Dewey does not fully understand the importance of the object of desire or interest, he nevertheless sets off this importance. "Everything depends upon the objects involved in desires."{2} It is not, then, insofar as it is a "feeling", but insofar as it has a given object that the desire or interest counts, once we take the point of view of the concrete context or the existing situation, to the demands or needs of which the act we propose to accomplish will respond more or less adequately. The neo-positivist thesis according to which all desires or interests, by virtue of the fact that they are "feelings" manifested by some gesture or some exclamation, "stand on the same footing with respect to their function as valuators is contradicted by observation of even the most ordinary of everyday experiences".{3}

8. Thus appears the possibility of propositions or judgments about valuations, such as those of an anthropologist, for example, about the defamatory character attributed by primitive peoples to intra-tribal marriage.

These are still not value-judgments in the proper sense of the term. In the latter case, acts of valuation are themselves valuated (we say that a given valuation is better than another); and this valuation of acts of valuation can modify the direct acts of valuation which follow, since it involves a rule or "norm" (that is, a condition with which one will have to conform when one undertakes a given sort of activity).{4}

That such value judgments and rules of conduct may be objectively based and justified is quite clear, for example, in the case of the rules of hygiene laid down by the medical profession, or the evaluation made by an engineer of the resistance and other qualities of materials to be used. The appreciation of a given procedure as better or worse, more or less advantageous or harmful, is as experimentally justified, as "scientific", as the simple observations with no value component by which a fact is established.{5}

Now the same thing is true, Dewey adds, for all values, including ethical values, which have to do with the conduct of the human being. A person finding himself in a given situation must always estimate the relation of means to end; and the validity of this estimate falls within the realm of observation, is experimentally verifiable.

How can this be? Does not the estimate in question presuppose that one has already recognized a value in the end as such, independent of the means, and in a way which is not that of experimental verification? God forbid! Here Dewey deploys all the resources of his argumentation to buttress the solution he has found, a solution peculiar to himself which permits him at the same time to exorcise the metaphysical phantom of ends having value in themselves, and to satisfy his monistic passion, his desire to reduce all duality to the unity of interaction. In the concrete context in which it must be examined, the end itself, he says, is judged good or desirable only insofar as it involves consideration of the means necessary for its realization; and in this way, since the means become part of the very constitution of the end, the traditional division between ends desirable in themselves and means desirable (precisely as means) for the sake of something else appears illusory. The object finally evaluated as an end to be attained is determined in its concrete composition by appraisal of existing conditions as means.{1} And again: "Anything taken as end is in its own content or constituents a correlation of the energies, personal and extrapersonal, which operate as means."{2}

Henceforward it is this indivisible concrete ends-means whole which at the end of the deliberation appears as the object of desire and the repository of value. And it is according as it has or has not been constituted on the basis of real conditions, positive or negative, on which its realization depends that it leads to the satisfaction or frustration of the desire it specifies, and can be objectively, experimentally, "scientifically" verified as possessing a real value or an illusory value, and as an end to be pursued or not to be pursued by a reasonable man.

Value judgments are, then, possible in the ethical realm. It is not that for Dewey they are the job of moral philosophy itself; no, they are the job of men who are hic et nunc engaged in action, and who fix their own norms of conduct. On this level they are possible, they can constitute authentic objective judgments, but only because they are experimentally verifiable in the same manner as all the other judgments of the sciences of phenomena. And this can only be because the end itself has been brought down to the level of utility and of means. For it is only "in the case of evaluation of things as means" that propositions "having evidential warrant and experimental test are possible".{3}

It is in this definitely empirical and utilitarian perspective that Dewey insists on the distinctively human necessity of a rational recasting of desires, and on the essential role of intelligence in the appraisal of values. Wherever there is an end-in-view, he says,{1} there is not only affective-motor but ideational activity. "Nothing more contrary to common sense can be imagined than the notion that we are incapable of changing our desires and interests" as a result of the lesson of experience, "by means of learning what the consequences of acting upon them are, or, as it is sometimes put, of indulging them".{2}

Thus the notion of what is desirable, as opposed to what is simply desired, or the notion of what ought to be desired or valued, emerges, not as descending "out of the a priori blue" or "from a moral Mount Sinai" -- nor as depending on a normality of functioning expressed by the natural law (natural law and Sinai provoke the same allergies in Dewey) -- but purely as a result of the fact that "experience has shown that hasty action upon uncriticized desire leads to defeat and possibly to catastrophe".{2}

Weaknesses of the theory
9. It is certainly moving to see a philosopher's struggle to break the fetters of his own prejudices in the effort to re-establish certain rudimentary truths rejected by colleagues who are sunk even more deeply than he in the empiricist mire. Alas, try as he may, he does not get very far.

The weaknesses of Dewey's experimentalist theory consist above all in a vain effort to reformulate the notion of ends and means, and in a radical misunderstanding of the bonum honestum (the good as right).

In the most general way, what Dewey envisages is a systematic and rigorous reduction of value to the relation between means and end. This is another way of saying that he completely eliminates the perspective of formal causality in favor of that of final causality.

In the first place, as a result of the singular confusion of ideas already mentioned above, he makes the means enter into the very constitution of the end. Everyone knows that if in order to find a treasure it is necessary to pass through a country whose inhabitants are going to cut your throat, you will prefer to renounce the treasure, finding that the game is not worth the risk. Thus the means to be employed could cause you to lose an end a (your own life) more precious in value than the end b (coming into possession of the treasure) at which you are aiming -- and for this reason you give up end b. But for Dewey this means (under the pretext of considering only concrete cases in concrete instants) that end b itself possesses a certain value only in terms of the means to be employed in attaining it: so that in the concrete situation in which the decision is made (and in which Dewey places himself to argue his point) this end b has a negative value (an object not to be pursued), in other words is not an end, not a desirable object. This in itself reveals how sophistical such an argument is, which brings the end down to the level of the means and defines the value of an end in terms of the general serviceability (relative to the other ends which enter into consideration) of the means by which it can be attained in a given case.

Dewey forgets that, as an end once really wished for, end b (the discovery of the treasure), once renounced, remains a desirable object, and the end of a possible wish, so much so that in certain cases (for there are many sorts of treasure) regret at having had to renounce a given end can cause one to suffer for the rest of one's life. He forgets too that for the sake of being the first to reach the top of a mountain, or of making a certain profit, or of satisfying some ambition, man is prepared to risk his life and a great many other goods more precious than the object in question -- so true is it that every end (even if in other respects it is a means in relation to other ends) is, insofar as it is an end, endowed with a value in itself, because it is a good that fits the subject. Otherwise it would not be possible to understand how a reasonable man can risk his life to explore a new land or to push science forward a step, or how an irrational man can risk his life to win an automobile race or enjoy the pleasures of heroin or opium.

In the second place, Dewey not only holds that the value of the end is to be measured by the value of the means (whereas in a healthy philosophy the contrary is true -- the means as such, existing only for the sake of the end, derives its value only from the end); he also holds that this very end is an end with respect to the means to be used only because and insofar as it is itself a means to an ulterior end, and so on ad infinitum. There is no ultimate end, the notion of an ultimate end being considered a chimera of metaphysicians and churchmen, designed to assure the privileges of certain social groups -- and we find ourselves faced with an endless series of means and of ends which are themselves only means. This is what Dewey calls the continuum of ends-means,{1} by reason of which a purely experimentalist evaluation is possible, in which all values are measured from the angle of that which is useful-to-procure-a-result, or according to whether a line of conduct is the means to an end (which is itself a means to something else).

It is quite true, we should note in passing, that all of the particular ends which man can wish for here below are also means to other ends and desired for the sake of other ends, so that in the perspective of time and of particular ends the course or spiral of means and ends runs on to infinity. But at the same time this is only possible because there is in man a natural desire for an end -- happiness -- which is not particular but universal and which as such is superior to time, and for the sake of which all the rest is willed -- a final end, in short. But the notion of happiness as a final end arouses Dewey's suspicion, and not without reason: it is a dangerous notion for any anti-metaphysical philosophy because, being in itself highly indeterminate and apt to lean in one direction or another, it inevitably requires a choice by which we place our ultimate end or happiness in one concrete thing or another -- in the subsistent Good or in some other thing. Awareness of such a fact is as vexing for an experimentalistic monist as it is for a Hegelian or a positivist, for the other thing in question, whatever it may be, obviously remains so far from being able to satiate our desires completely that (at least to the extent to which speculative judgment and philosophical refiexion are concerned) the alternative really leaves too much chance for God.

But let us return to the theory of John Dewey. It must meet the objection which reproaches the continuum of ends-means with involving a regressus ad infinitum which renders all choice irrational and arbitrary. The objection is not valid, Dewey answers, and a final end from which the whole chain of ends and means would be suspended is not necessary, because each link in the chain takes form by itself without any need of the succeeding link. It is a question in every case of remedying a state of affairs which involves need, deficit or conflict, and it is uniquely according to whether in the given case they are or are not likely to eliminate the need, deficit or conflict that means are judged valid or invalid, good or bad, without having to search for any further reason.{1}

But we must look further if -- in accord with common sense which by reason of the subordination of ends only decides actually to pursue an end if the means employed do not compromise a higher end, and in accord with Dewey's own thesis, which, wrongly interpreting the conduct of common sense, claims to measure the value of the end by the means -- we do not want to be satisfied with just any means at all of remedying a loss or satisfying a given desire, in other words, to conduct ourselves like the people in Charles Lamb's Dissertation on Roast Pig. (In this story which Dewey delights in telling,{2} some men come upon a house which has burned down, and find the pigs in the pigsty roasted by the flames. They happen to pass their hands over the burned animals and when they lick their fingers they are so pleased with the taste that ever afterwards they apply themselves to building houses with pigstys and setting fire to them, thus supplying the lack in the existential situation with respect to their taste for roast pork.)

If in fact some means likely to attain the end in a given case are not employed, it is because the consequences relative to other ends must be considered; and we then find ourselves involved in "coordinations or organizations of activity" or, more precisely, with a "continuous temporal process of organizing activities"{3} -- in other words, to use a term dear to Dewey, with a process of growth, which implicates the human being's whole capacity for desire, and which, without Dewey's wishing to recognize it, is nothing but a denatured equivalent or empirical counterfeit of happiness as final end.{1}

In addition, the idea (common to Dewey and to all who want to find in biology the primary origin of every process of evaluation) that a desire only arises in a situation where some uneasiness, loss or conflict affects the "vital impulses" does not stand up under scrutiny. For on the one hand, not every tendency or aspiration natural to the human being is identical with a "vital impulse", and on the other hand every desire as such no doubt tends toward a good that one lacks, but not necessarily toward a good that would not be desired except for some previous uneasiness which the satisfaction of natural tendencies or aspirations, or even more the fulfillment of the vital impulses, would have sufficed in the beginning to render immune to lack or to conflict.

10. Concerning the moral value par excellence, the bonum honestum, all the preceding remarks show that this type of value could not fail to be entirely misunderstood by Dewey. For the bonum honestum is precisely a value which, in opposition to values of simple utility, is not appraised or measured as a means to an end, and transcends any order of means.{2}

The bonum honestum is the good by reason of which an act emanating from the freedom of man is good purely and simply, by the nature or ethical constitution of its object, and not because it serves to attain a goal or bring about a good state of affairs (good being here a synonym of "advantageous"). This is to say that it derives essentially from formal causality, not from final causality. It is the good as right, in relation to which an act is good or bad in itself, and in consequence is prescribed or forbidden in an unconditional way.

Here it would be useful to dissipate a certain number of confusions and misunderstandings. Dewey assures us that every quality and especially every value is "intrinsic" or "inherent" by the simple fact that it really belongs to the thing in question, even though this thing be envisaged only as a means, as his theory of evaluation requires. Strictly speaking, then, the expression "extrinsic value" would involve a contradiction in terms.{3}

These assertions rest on an equivocation. When we say that a quality or a value is "inherent" or "intrinsic", we do not mean only that it belongs to a certain object, but that it belongs to it by reason of what that object is in its proper constitution, not by reason of its relation to something foreign to what it is in itself, notably an end to which it is the means. In this latter case the value of an object can be called extrinsic, for whatever its own qualities may be, as means it has no other goodness than that of the end.

Then it must be noted that the term bonum honestum designates not only an intrinsic value (like that which belongs to some end taken in itself, like honors, health, pleasure . . .); it designates an intrinsic value which is, further, ethically good or desirable in an unconditional way, or absolutely speaking.

Is this to say that the bonum honestum is "out of relation to everything else",{1} an absolute fallen from heaven like a meteorite in virtue of the a priori "you ought" of Kant, or of an arbitrary decree issued either by a God conceived as pure will or by makers of moral codes who take His place? It is by putting things in this light that Dewey is able to overwhelm with his avenging blows the "absolutism"{2} that he attributes to all who refuse to believe that good and evil consist in serving either to restore to order or to further unsettle "states of affairs" which a lack or conflict renders disadvantageous.{3}

Here again, unhappily, Dewey's argument and his avenging blows are lost in a disastrous confusion of ideas (for which Kant is doubtless responsible in part). The fact is that to say that what has the value of bonum honestum, the just for example, is morally good in an unconditional way, or absolutely speaking, in no sense signifies that the bonum honestum is without relation to anything else. For this "absolute" only has meaning in relation to the nature or essence of man, and to the practical requirements of his normality of function. It is the relation of conformity or non-conformity with reason which makes the object of the act what it is morally, confers upon it its ethical nature or constitution, renders it good or bad in itself and unconditionally.

Thus the bonum honestum, the good in and for itself of the moral order, is certainly an intrinsic value, present in the object to which it belongs by reason of what that object is in its own constitution, not by reason of its relation to something foreign to what it is in itself. But it is not for this reason without all relation -- it is not without relation to the very thing which gives it its own constitution, and by the same token its unconditional character. It is independent (ab-solute) of any advantage or disadvantage of the individual or the social group, of any condition, of no matter what proviso -- "if you want to attain a given end"; but it is not independent of human nature and its essential inclinations, nor of practical reason; it is measured by them.

On Naturalist Ethics
11. The great problem to which a philosophy like John Dewey's draws our attention is that of the possibility of an ethics regulated exclusively by the positive sciences or the sciences of phenomena. On this question the positions taken by Auguste Comte and those taken by Dewey seem to be in conflict. Both of them reject (with Kant) any metaphysically based morality, and both (contrary to Kant) are seeking a cosmic morality; and it is upon the rational and objective knowledge furnished by the positive sciences, the sciences of phenomena, that this morality is to rest. But for Comte the sciences as such do not suffice; a reversal of point of view must occur, as a result of which, in the name of feeling, the religious fetishism with which human history began will be restored in a superior form, and will change scientists into priests of humanity in order to entrust to them the conduct of the human being.

For Dewey, on the contrary, it is the sciences of phenomena themselves, from physics and biology to sociology, which must suffice for man to regulate his conduct, once they are sufficiently developed and once they are integrated into an experimentalist philosophy of the same type as themselves, a philosophy designed to unify the field of knowledge and train men to judge according to scientific procedures. Then "the operation of desire in producing the valuations that influence human action" will be "ordered by verifiable propositions regarding matters-of-fact".{1} The void between the world of things and the world of man will be filled; and "science will be manifest as an operating unity . . . when the conclusions of impersonal non-humanistic science are employed in guiding the course of distinctively human behavior", characterized by "desire having ends-in-view, and hence involving valuations"{2} science will be in fact as well as by right "the supreme means of the valid determination of all valuations in all aspects of human and social life".{3}

We see, then, in what sense Dewey condemned "failure to recognize the moral potentialities of physical science".{4} "It is impossible to tell," he added, "the extent of the suffering in the world, avoidable or remediable in itself, which is due to the fact that physical science is considered purely physical."{5}

12. I think that the "moral potentialities" which "physical science" possesses, at least in certain respects, must indeed not be neglected. One can speak with good reason of a moral guidance offered by the medical sciences, the psychological sciences,{6} the social sciences, as they make known to man what value certain acts are possessed of and what rules of conduct are indicated with respect to the requirements of physical health, or psychological health, or of adjustments in human relations calculated to reduce conflict, distress or despair. The moralist ought to attach a great deal of significance to all of this, for it is perfectly true that certain conditions required for a healthy moral life can be established, and a great deal of pain and error avoided through these moral directions of "physical science". Further, by the very fact that they keep closer to the level of the sensible and do not claim to descend from on high, they more easily capture the attention of the rational animal. Although in this case as in others, as Aristotle pointed out, knowledge is not very effective in producing virtue, it is no small thing for a man to know that if he wants to keep his digestive and nervous systems in good condition he must practise sobriety and control his emotions, even, according to Dr. Carton, abstain from the use of foul language and avoid lying.

The fact remains that the guidance in question involves only a kind of pre-morality, and only acquires authentically ethical significance if it is regulated and controlled from a higher level by the aid of criteria concerned with the conscience proper. It is true that such pre-moralities, especially if their psychological and social evaluations are sufficiently elaborate, can in the case of many individuals be grafted into the sense of good and evil and natural law instinctively operating in man and henceforward enjoy in their case a moral status properly so called, by virtue of the kind of misapprehension or natural illusion we have previously alluded to (in connection with Marxist morality and Comtian morality, and with the way they are understood by some of those to whom they are taught).{1} But in themselves, deprived of any fixed point and of any final signpost with regard to the conscience, they are unable to provide man with a testing device consistent and definite enough to permit him to regulate his conduct as a man, or as an agent master of his actions.

For it happens -- and this is one of the points on which Dewey remains confused -- that the ends of a being deprived of reason are determined by nature, so that to help a grape-vine or a horse or a dog to be a good grape-vine, a good horse, or a good dog, it is enough to know under what conditions it profits or prospers best in its specific development. But to profit or prosper in his specific development is quite another matter for the human being, because it is he who fixes for himself the ends of his actions (in conformity or not with the proper ends of the human essence or nature), and who fixes for himself the supreme good (identical or not with his true ultimate end) toward which he directs his life. And the pre-moralities of which we are speaking, like the sciences on which they depend, are interested neither in the human essence as such nor in the ultimate end of human life, any more than in any unconditional value or norm. With respect to these things all their determinations remain up in the air, and all that a sufficiently comprehensive sociology can show is that without individuals capable of sacrificing everything for the sake of supra-sociological imperatives, the human species would be in a very bad way.

Separated from superior and authentically ethical criteria whose basis is in the metaphysical order, the moral guidance furnished by the positive sciences remains not only completely relative and conditional, it also remains irremediably fluid and arbitrary. Medicine can recommend sobriety, psychology can recommend humility and even, if need be, religious faith as detergents and lubricants for our human springs; but what answer can they give, if not by virtue of some conscious or unconscious metaphysics or anti-metaphysics, when they ask themselves, for example, whether trial marriage, euthanasia, scientifically controlled abortion, the sterilization of certain categories of a-social individuals, the elimination of aggressive instincts by the surgical or bio-chemical manipulation of the nerve centers, are to be recommended or advised against; when they ask themselves whether, when a desire becomes obsessive, it is or is not more reasonable to yield to it to avoid giving rise to a morbid fixation in the psyche; whether for a nation at war it is a crime or a duty to insure victory by using a weapon which annihilates millions of innocent people; and whether it is a sign of mental maturity or a sign of immaturity and infantile pride to risk one's life and the security of one's family and aggravate the tensions of the social milieu on the pretext of defending an innocent man or refusing to deny the truth?

13. A naturalist ethics is one for which what we have called the moral guidance of the positive sciences, or the pre-moralities emanating from these sciences, constitute morality itself. Given the irremediable indetermination and arbitrariness which, as we have just seen, characterize these pre-moralities when they are isolated from higher criteria, a naturalist ethics will be faced with a choice between two very different positions, one rigorously nonnormative, the other normative to some degree, and more or less avowedly.

The rigorously non-normative position gives the upper hand to the pure exigencies of the scientific method and scientific objectivity. It demands that the sciences to which man appeals for the improvement of his conduct enlighten him as completely as possible about the immediate and remote consequences of a given line of action; but it holds that it is not at all the business of these sciences to give the clients who consult them any counsels or prescriptions concerning the conduct of their lives. What is to be done in a given case? Insure my career by marrying the stupid and repulsive daughter of an all-powerful executive, or forego the boon my success might bestow upon my country in order to follow the inclinations of my heart? Or try to settle everything by becoming the husband of the executive's daughter and the lover of the young newspaperwoman I adore? The biologist, the geneticist, the psychiatrist, the expert in the social and political sciences, the expert in human relations furnish me with a complete table of the consequences that each of these three lines of action is likely to entail. After that it is up to me to decide what suits me best, not according to any rationally justified moral principle (since by hypothesis there is no other valid morality than the naturalist morality, and this refers me purely and simply back to the sciences of phenomena), but according to the mental habits my educators and environment have inculcated in me, or the ideas on life that I have gathered by chance from my experience, or the calculation of what best serves the interests that happen by chance to predominate in me, or simply, if I like to follow my impulses, according to my own taste and pleasure. I may make a mistake -- time will tell. But all things considered, things will turn out well, if not for me then for my species. For if naturalist morality refrains from guiding me, it is that it has confidence in human nature -- a limited confidence, it is true, as far as human nature in me is concerned, but unlimited in respect to human nature in the average man. Naturalist morality thinks it is emancipated from metaphysics, but it remains subject to the metaphysics of natural goodness as Rousseau conceived it.{1}

The normative position, on the contrary (normative to some degree and more or less avowedly), gives the upper hand to the human subject and its need to know how to direct its life. Hence it demands of the positive sciences that they fulfill the function of guidance, which they can only do if they are integrated into some coherent system possessing firm principles and a definite ideal. Will the requirement in question be met by any anti-metaphysical philosophy whatever, positivist or experimentalist, which, because it does not know of any order superior to the actual course of the world and of human life in time, abstains from frankly proposing a code of life to man? If naturalism really wants to be in a position to guide human life effectively, will it not have to resolve to be fully normative, and thus (since this is impossible for it inasmuch as plain philosophy) make itself into a "religion" in the full social sense of the word? Auguste Comte's religion had at least the merit of undertaking seriously to deliver us once and for all of metaphysics by putting in its place a fetishism and a set of social sanctions more powerful as a constraining force than any abstract precepts, however well-grounded in the invisible. Alone -- because he had greater lucidity and intrepidity in his aberration than all the zealots of "physical science" who succeeded him -- Comte alone, the prophet of messianic positivism, went to the necessary logical extreme for a fully naturalist morality. It is understandable that those who would like to see morality constituted in a complete metaphysical void should be embarrassed by their great ancestor, and throw a modest veil over the implacable logic by which he leads us to the ultimate regime of conscious and organized sociolatry.

14. At first glance Dewey seems to have chosen the rigorously non-normative position. In his eyes any moral theory that envisages a system of values and norms of conduct is headed toward absolutism. It is up to each individual to find the norm to be followed in a given situation, moral education as experimentalist philosophy conceives it consisting in learning how to proceed correctly in the analysis of particular situations and the consequences of various possible modes of conduct, and the correctness of the decision remaining hypothetical until the predicted consequences have been compared with the real consequences.{1} Is this not a kind of morality of situation,{2} however different it may be from that of Sartre by virtue of its scientism and the rationality it expects in the decisions of man once he is duly enlightened by science?

But here is exactly the point at which the perspective is reversed and Dewey swerves in reality from the rigorously non-normative position. If one looks at it closely one sees that his morality is, in spite of everything, and unadmittedly, normative, or directive of human acts -- not directly and in itself, but through the intermediary of apprenticeship in rational or "scientific" methods of valuation.

Not only was Dewey a moralist and a meliorist to his marrow,{3} with a religious passion for the growth of life, the perpetual renewal of ends, the expansion of human nature and of its potentialities, the enrichment of existence in significance and powers{4} (however vague these notions may be, they nevertheless point to supreme values and general directions of conduct proposed by his moral philosophy itself); not only did his insistence on the rationality and maturity of mind to be manifested in our choices have a clearly normative significance; but above all, being like every naturalist philosopher more interested in human nature and the human species than in the human person as such, it was toward the social, and toward reciprocal adjustment between the individual and his environment that his whole moral philosophy was oriented.{1} And he conceived of freedom itself in terms of interaction between man and his environment, in such a way that "human desire and choice count for something" in the matter.{2} Here it is only a question of "an adjustment to be reached intelligently", and "the problem shifts from within the personality to an engineering issue", in other words, "to the establishment of the arts of education and social guidance".{3} What does this mean if not that in the last analysis it is the philosophy of Dewey -- which proposes no rules of conduct, but teaches rules and procedures of investigation to be used in determining the value of various possible modes of conduct in a given situation{4} -- which will be the guiding spirit of "the arts of education and social guidance"?

In this sense, and with a view not, certainly, toward a Comtian type of "spiritual power", but toward a democratic society that would be controlled without even being conscious of it by a host of well-indoctrinated educators and social guides, Dewey's naturalist morality, in spite of his horror of despotism, does not open up very reassuring perspectives for the human person.

The truth is that Dewey never decisively ranged himself with either of the two positions -- rigorously non-normative or more or less normative -- which we delineated above. His own position remained ambivalent. And his morality can be described as an equivocally normative morality.

A good many other ambiguities have been pointed out in Dewey's thought.{5} We have already spoken of the ambiguity in his very notion of nature.{6} He wrote a book on Human Nature and Conduct, and in his introduction, attacking a pharisaical morality which is nothing more than a caricature of normative systems of morality and even of the Kantian imperative, he says: "Give a dog a bad name and hang him. Human nature has been the dog of professional moralists and the consequences fit the proverb."{7} As for himself, he refuses to separate morality from human nature, and calls for a morality "based on the study of human nature".{8} So it is that when it is a question of distinct forms of morality: closed morality, which, to put it briefly, is that of social conformism; open morality, which is that of saintliness."{1}

Although human society is "composed of free wills" while an organism is subject to inexorable laws",{2} society imitates as much as it can an organism in which habit would play "the same role as necessity in the works of nature";{3} or rather it imitates as much as it can, with its system of habits which weigh on the will of each, the purely instinctive "societies" of which the ant-hill is the prototype. Immanent in each of its members,{4} society makes us, in the most general case, travel the roads laid out by it without our even noticing; or, when we find ourselves faced with a problem or a temptation which necessitates a personal decision, it brings to bear on us a force which can be called "the totality of obligation",{5} and which is "the concentrated extract, the quintessence of innumerable specific habits of obedience to the countless particular requirements of social life".{6}

In a hive or an ant-hill "each rule is laid down by nature, and is necessary", while in human society "only one thing is natural, the necessity of a rule".{7} "Thus the more, in human society, we delve down to the root of the various obligations to reach obligation in general, the more obligation will tend to become necessity, the nearer it will draw, in its peremptory aspect, to instinct. And yet we should make a great mistake if we tried to ascribe any particular obligation, whatever it might be, to instinct. What we must perpetually recall is that, no one obligation being instinctive, obligation as a whole would have been instinct if human societies were not, so to speak, ballasted with variability and intelligence. It is a virtual instinct. . ."{8}

With the call of the hero an entirely different universe reveals itself. Then it is "by turning back for fresh impetus, in the direction whence that impetus came"{9} -- in other words, in turning toward the very principle of that life which has produced, at one stage of its evolution, the human race and human society, naturally closed -- that the soul communicates intuitively with a reality which transcends evolution itself and its products. "It would be content to feel itself pervaded, though retaining its own personality, by a being immeasurably mightier than itself, just as an iron is pervaded by the fire which makes it glow."{10} And it gives itself "by excess" to society, but to a society "comprising all humanity, loved in the love of the principle underlying it".{11}

The saints, the great mystics are rare. They soar so high that it must be said of each of them that "such a one is in fact more than a man".{1} But in the inner being of most men there is "the whisper of an echo".{2} "They have no need to exhort; their mere existence suffices."{3} Let one of these exceptional personalities rise up, and his experience and his example will awaken in the depths of the human race a nostalgia which will cause it to make a kind of leap forward; our moral life with its system of obligations, social in origin, will be pervaded by a superior element and to that extent transformed. This superior element comes from the second morality,{4} from open morality, which "differs from the first in that it is human instead of being merely social".{5} And if it is human, it is because the soul is liberated there in a supra-intellectual{6} emotion in which it yields to the attraction of the very principle of life, and which is the love of Creative Love. "The truth is that heroism may be the only way to love."{7} It is "from the contact with the generative principle of the human species" that man has felt "he drew the strength to love mankind".{8} We are then drawn by the great discoverers who march ahead of us and who have encountered God, by those great mystics for whom the task "is to effect a radical transformation of humanity by setting an example",{9} and who are "the imitators, and original but incomplete continuators, of what the Christ of the Gospels was completely".{10}

3. What I would like to point out first of all in connection with these Bergsonian themes are two contrasting aspects whose importance seems to me to be considerable. On one hand, Bergson insists on a crucial fact which philosophers ordinarily endeavor to conceal -- namely, the fact that moral life, considered in its true concrete reality, is wrapped in a double envelope; the stays of social existence, with the pressures to which it submits us, and the atmosphere of mystic and religious experience, with the desire for that union with God and His love of which the saints are the great witnesses. The morality effectively lived by men, with its rules of conduct which they recognize in conscience and which they apply or reject in practice (rejecting more often than practicing them) does not exist without this double envelope. But on the other hand, from this double envelope, the one infra-moral in itself, the other supra-moral, Bergson makes two halves which constitute morality itself, or two moralities, closed morality and open morality, whose coalescence in the course of historical development supposedly makes up morality in the ordinary meaning of the word.

Such systematization makes the Bergsonian theory open to criticism; we will have to come back to this point. For the moment, what matters to us is to note that in seeing in the constraints exercised by the social quasi-instinct and in the attraction of the great mystics the two halves of morality itself, Bergson apparently proceeded as a pure philosopher, in whose ethical theory the sociological element and the mystical element were absorbed. In reality, however, what he proposed to us is a moral philosophy not exclusively philosophical, because not only did it take over data received from sociology and ethnology, reinterpreted by it or elevated to ita own level; it also received data and testimony which came from a higher source than philosophy. Bergsonian ethics learns from the mystics; it nourishes its philosophic substance itself with the Sermon on the Mount{1} and the morality of the Gospel. And in this it is profoundly revolutionary with respect to the whole modern rationalist tradition (as also, in another sense, with respect to the Medieval tradition, which in ethical matters was turned entirely toward theology, not philosophy; in fact, if not by right, it was with the schools of pagan antiquity and its sages that for the Middle Ages the notion of moral philosophy was associated; and if medieval thinkers were to retain, and with what care, the teachings of the Nicomachean Ethics, it was solely to forge with them an instrument for the use of moral theology).

From the moment that one recognizes that mystical contemplation is a supreme (experiential) wisdom of divine things rooted in faith (as Bergson thought from the time of The Two Sources, all the while seeming to underestimate the role of faith); and from the moment that one also recognizes (which Bergson at the time of The Two Sources left completely aside) that the analysis of the "proper causes" or "proper reasons" of mystical experience pertains to theology, one must conclude that what Bergson proposes to us in reality, and has

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