Page images
PDF
EPUB

HAPPINESS AS AN IMMEDIATE AIM.

ASSUMING it to be in other respects satisfactory, a rule, principle, or axiom, is valuable only in so far as the words in which it is expressed have definite meanings. We must therefore take it for granted that when he announced "the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” or otherwise “the greatest happiness," as the canon of social morality, its originator supposed mankind to be unanimous in their conception of “greatest happiness.”

This was an unfortunate assumption, for the standard of happiness is infinitely variable. In all ages-amongst every people—by each class—do we find different notions of it entertained. To the wandering gipsy a home is tiresome; whilst a Swiss is miserable without one. The heaven of the Hebrew is “a city of gold and precious stones, with a supernatural abundance of corn and wine;" that of the Turk-a harem peopled hy houris; that of the American Indian—a “happy hunting-ground.” In the Norse paradise there were to be daily battles, with magical healing of wounds; while the Australian hopes that after death he shall “jump up a white fellow, and have plenty of sixpences.” Descending to individual instances, we find Louis XVI. interpreting“ greatest happiness” to mean-making locks; instead of which his successor read-making empires. To a miserly Elwes the hoarding of money was the only enjoyment of life; but Day, the philanthropic author of “Sandford and Merton," could find no pleasurable employment save in its distribution. The

[graphic]

HAPPINESS AS AN IMMEDIATE AIM. .

66

ASSUMING it to be in other respects satisfactory, a rule, principle, or axiom, is valuable only in so far as the words in which it is expressed have definite meanings. We must therefore take it for granted that when he announced "the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” or otherwise "the rreatest happiness," as the canon of social morality, its

'nator supposed mankind to be unanimous in their conon of “greatest happiness.”

his was an unfortunate assumption, for the standard of piness is infinitely variable. In all ages—amongst every

each class-do we find different notions of it

To the wandering gipsy a home is tiresome; ss is miserable without one. The heaven of the 'a city of gold and precious stones, with a super

ndance of corn and wine;" that of the Turk-a pled by houris; that of the American Indian-a inting-ground.” In the Norse paradise there were ily battles, with magical healing of wounds; while tralian hopes that after death he shall “jump up a ellow, and have plenty of sixpences.” Descending to Jual instances, we find Louis XVI. interpreting“greatappiness” to mean-making locks; instead of which his cessor read—making empires. To a miserly Elwes the varding of money was the only enjoyment of life; but Day, ne philanthropic author of “Sandford and Merton,” could find no pleasurable employment save in its distribution. The

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »