The Basis of Morality

By Arthur Schopenhauer; Arthur Brodrick Bullock | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV.
CRITERION OF ACTIONSOF MORAL WORTH.

THERE is first the empirical question to be settled, whether actions of voluntary justice and unselfish loving-kindness, which are capable of rising to nobleness and magnanimity, actually occur in experience. Unfortunately, this inquiry cannot be decided altogether empirically, because it is invariably only the act that experience gives, the incentives not being apparent. Hence the possibility always remains that an egoistic motive may have had weight in determining a just or good deed. In a theoretical investigation like the present, I shall not avail myself of the inexcusable trick of shifting the matter on to the reader’s conscience. But I believe there are few people who have any doubt about the matter, and who are not convinced from their own experience that just acts are often performed simply and solely to prevent a man suffering from injustice. Most of us, I do not hesitate to say, are persuaded that there are persons in whom the principle of giving others their due seems to be innate, who neither intentionally injure any one, nor unconditionally seek their own advantage, but in considering themselves show regard also for the rights of their neighbours; persons who,

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