A Table of the Springs of Action

Jeremy Bentham

Observations on the Table

§8. SUBSTITUTION OF MOTIVES. Acts produced by one Motive, commonly ascribed to another.---Causes of this misrepresentation.

The sort of motives, to the influence of which a man would in general be best pleased that his breast should be regarded as most sensible,---this, for the present purpose, may serve for the explanation of what is meant by good motives: the reverse may serve for bad motives. In his dealings with other men, it is seldom, however, that a man is not exposed to the conjunct action of motives, more than one. In so far as this sort of concurrence is observable, the sort of motive to which a man's conduct will be apt to be ascribed in preference, will vary with the relative position of him to whom, on the occasion in question, it happens to speak or think of it. The best motive that will be recognised as capable of producing the effect in question, is the motive to which the man himself,---and in proportion as their dispositions towards him are amicable, other men in general,---will be disposed to ascribe his conduct, and accordingly to exhibit it in the character of the sole efficient cause, or at the least as the most operative among the efficient causes, by which such his conduct was produced.

Things being in this state,---if, among the causes by which the conduct in question was actually produced, a motive, of a complexion sufficiently respected, be to be found, this is the motive, to which,---at least in the character of a predominant one,---but most naturally, because most simply, in the character of the exclusively operative one, the conduct will be ascribed. But, if no such sufficiently respected motive can be found, then, instead of the actual motive, some such other motive will be looked out for and employed, as, being sufficiently favourable, shall, by the nearness of its connexion with the actual one, have been rendered most difficultly distinguishable from it. To speak shortly, if the actual motive do not come up to the purpose, another will, in the account given of the matter, be substituted to it: or more shortly still, the motive will be changed:

And so vice versa in the case of enmity.

Thus it is that, for example, in political contention, no line of conduct can be pursued by either of two parties, but what, by persons of the same party, is ascribed to good motives; by persons of the opposite party, to bad motives:---and so in every case of competition, which (as most such cases have) has any thing in it of enmity.

On any such occasion, the motive which, though but one out of several actual and cooperating motives, or though it be but, as above, a substituted motive, is thus put forward, may be designated by the appellation of the covering motive. being employed to serve as a covering, to whatsoever actually operating motives would not have been so well adapted as itself to the purpose in view.

Follow a few examples:---

I. (No 1.) Desire corresponding to the pleasures of the palate: Eulogistic covering, sympathy: viz. as implied in some such expression as love of good cheer---love of a social bowl or glass. N.B. For pleasure of this sort taken by itself---i.e. for solitary gratification in this shape---a covering of the eulogistic cast would scarcely be to be found.

II. (No. 2.) Sexual desire: Eulogistic covering, love: viz. the compound affection, of which the component elements are brought to view as above. To the single desire of having children, is the sexual intercourse ascribed by Rome-bred lawyers in the case of marriage: a desire for which there is no place, but in the breasts of the comparatively few who are in a state of relative affluence. After birth,---in how high a degree soever the child is an object of love,---before birth, to indigent parents, the same child could scarcely have been an object of desire.

III. (No. 4.) Desire of the matter of wealth: Eulogistic covering, industry: a desire, as above, which, if by it be meant the desire of labour simply, and for its own sake, has no existence.

(No. 5.) Love of power:---Eulogistic coverings 1. Love of country---a man's own country, i.e. sympathy for the feelings of its inhabitants---present, or future, or both---taken in the aggregate. 2. Love of mankind, philanthropy: i.e. sympathy for the human race taken in the aggregate; such being the effects to the production of which the exercise of power will, whether it be or no, be said to be directed. 3. Love of duty: another impossible motive, in so far as duty is understood as synonymous to obligation. An act, the performance of which is seen or supposed to be amicable to mankind at large, or to his own countrymen in particular---any such act a man may love to do, either on that consideration, or on any other: but, be it which it may and let him find ever so much pleasure in the doing of it, what is not possible is---that a man should derive any pleasure from any such thought as that of being forced to do it. 4. Sense of duty. By this,---if by it be meant any thing but the love of duty as above,---will be meant fear of the several pains, which, in the character of evil consequences to the individual in question, may (as it appears to him) befall him, in case of a neglect on his part, in relation to that same duty:---fear of legal punishment, fear of loss of amity at the hands of this or that individual---fear of loss of reputation---fear of the wrath of God.

IV. (No. 7.) Desire of amity: viz. of obtaining or preserving a share, more or less considerable, in the good-will, and therein in the eventual good offices, of this or that particular individual. Coverings: 1. Sympathy at large, as towards that same individual. 2. Gratitude, as towards that same individual: i.e. sympathy produced by reflection, on such or such benefits already received at his hands.

6. (No. 11.) Antipathy:---ill-will: viz. towards this or that particular individual.---In so far as prosecution, whether at the bar of a legal tribunal, or at the bar of public opinion, has been the instrument employed in the gratification of the desire,--- Covering, public spirit (No. 10.); or love of justice (the compound affection) as above. So,---if the object, in which a gratification for the desire is sought, be an act of enmity at large, exercised without any such warrant,---the action may perhaps still, by the agent in question, or even in his behalf by a friend, be termed an act of justice, viz. of that justice, which is exercised by the infliction of suffering on a person to whom, with or without sufficient ground, misconduct in some shape or other has been imputed.

Of these six species of desires and motives, by the operation of which so large a portion of the business of human life is carried on, it is not very often that any one will, either by the man himself, or even by any other person, in so far as such other person speaks in the character of his friend, be recognised in quality of so much as a co-operating cause, much less as the sole cause, of the effect which, by the conjunct, or perhaps sole operation of it, has been produced. These desires and motives may accordingly be considered as the unseemly parts of the human mind. Of the sort of fig-leaves, commonly employed for the covering of them, specimens have now been given, as above.

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