Practical Ethics

Henry Sidgwick

Essay 9

Unreasonable Action

In the present paper I wish to examine the conception of what I think it on the whole most convenient to call the ``unreasonable action'' of sane persons in an apparently normal condition; and to contribute, if possible, to the more precise ascertainment of the nature of the mental process involved in it. The subject is one which attracted considerable attention in Greek philosophy; since the cardinal doctrine of Socrates ``that every man wishes for his own good and would get it if he knew how'' naturally brought into prominence the question, ``How then is it that men continually choose to do what they apparently know will not conduce to their own good?'' Accordingly the Aristotelian treatment of ethics included an elaborate discussion of the ``want of self-restraint'' exhibited in such acts, considered primarily in the special case of indulgence of bodily appetites in spite of a conviction that they ought not to be indulged. The discussion, apart from its historical interest, may still be read with profit; but the combination of ``dialectical'' and ``naturalistic'' methods which the writer uses is somewhat confusing to a modern reader; and the node of the difficulty with which he deals seems to me to be rather evaded than overcome. In modern psychological and ethical treatises the question has, from various causes, usually failed to receive the full and systematic treatment which it appears to me to deserve; and this is the main reason why I wish now to draw attention to it.

I must begin by defining more clearly the phenomenon that I have in view. In the first place, I wish to include inaction as well as positive action;---the not doing what we judge that we ought to do, no less than the doing what we judge that we ought not to do. Secondly, I mean action not objectively but subjectively, unreasonable; i.e., not action which is contrary to sound judgment, but action which is done in conscious opposition to the practical judgment of the agent at the time. Such practical judgment will in many cases be the result of a process of reasoning of some kind, either performed immediately before the act is done or at some previous time; in these cases the term ``unreasonable'' seems obviously appropriate. I shall, however, extend the term to cases in which the judgment opposed to the act is apparently intuitive, and not inferential. The propriety of this extension might, I admit, be questioned: but I want a term to cover both the cases above distinguished, and I can find no other familiar term so convenient. I wish then to examine consciously unreasonable action, in this sense, as a fact of experience capable of being observed and analysed, without reference to the validity of the judgment involved in it, or of the process (if any) of reasoning by which it has been reached; simply with the view of finding out, by reflective observation, exactly what it is that happens when one knowingly acts against one's ``better judgment''.

Again, by ``practical judgment'' I do not necessarily mean what is ordinarily called ``moral judgment'' or ``dictate of conscience'', or of the ``moral faculty''. I mean, of course, to include this as one species of the phenomenon to be discussed; but in my view, and, I think, in the view of Common-sense, there are many cases of consciously unreasonable action where morality in the ordinary sense does not supply the judgment to which the act is opposed. Let us suppose that a man regards ordinary social morality as a mere external code sanctioned by public opinion, which the adequately instructed and emancipated individual only obeys so far as he conceives it to be on the whole his interest to do so: still, as Butler pointed out, the conflict between Reason and Unreason remains in the experience of such a man in the form of a conflict of passion and appetite with what he judges from time to time to be conducive to his interest on the whole.

But if the notion of subjectively unreasonable action is thus, from one point of view, wider than that of subjectively wrong action, it would seem to be from another point of view narrower. For action subjectively wrong would be widely held to include action which conflicts with the agent's moral sentiment, no less than action which is contrary to his practical judgment;---moral sentiment being conceived as a species of emotion not necessarily connected with a judgment as to what ``ought to be done'' by the agent or what is ``good'' for him. Indeed, in the account of the moral consciousness that some writers of repute give, the emotional element is alone explicitly recognized: the moral consciousness appears to be conceived merely as a species of complex emotion mixed of baser and nobler elements---the baser element being the vague associations of pain with wrong acts, due to experiences of the disagreeable effects of retaliation, punishment, and loss of social reputation, and associations of pleasure with acts that win praise, goodwill and reciprocal services from other men; the nobler being sympathy with the painful consequences to others of bad acts, and the pleasurable consequences of good acts.

This is not my view: I regard it as an essential characteristic of moral sentiment that it involves a judgment, either explicit or implicit, that the act to which the sentiment is directed ``ought'' or ``ought not'' to be done. But I do not wish here to enter into any controversy on this point: I merely desire now to point out that conduct may be opposed to moral sentiment, according to the view of moral sentiment above given, without having the characteristic of subjective unreasonableness; and, again, this characteristic may belong to conduct in harmony with what would be widely regarded as moral sentiment. Suppose (e.g.) a religious persecutor yielding to a humane sentiment and remitting torture from a weak impulse of sympathy with a heretic, contrary to his conviction as to his religious duty; or suppose Machiavelli's prince yielding to a social impulse and impairing his hold on power from a weak reluctance to kill an innocent person, contrary to his conviction as to what is conducive to his interest on the whole. In either case the persecutor or the tyrant would act contrary to his deliberate judgment as to what it would be best for him to do, and therefore with `subjective unreasonableness'; but in both cases the sentiment that prompted his action would seem to be properly classed as a moral sentiment, according to the view above described. And in the latter case he certainly would not be commonly judged to act wrongly,---even according to a subjective standard of wrongness;---while in the former case it is at least doubtful whether he would be so judged.

By ``unreasonable action'', then, I mean voluntary action contrary to a man's deliberate judgment as to what is right or best for him to do: such judgment being at least implicitly present when the action is willed. I therefore exclude what may be called ``purely impulsive'' acts: i.e., acts which so rapidly and immediately follow some powerful impulse of desire, anger, or fear, that there is no room for any judgment at all as to their rightness or wrongness: not only is there no clear and explicit judgment with which the will conflicts, but not even a symbol or suggestion of such a judgment. But often when there is no explicit judgment there is an uneasy feeling which a pause for reflection might develop into a judgment: and sometimes when we recall such states of mind there is a difficulty in saying whether this uneasy feeling did or did not contain an implicit judgment that the act was wrong. For it often happens that uneasy feelings similar to ordinary moral sentiments---I have elsewhere called them ``quasi-moral''---accompany voluntary acts done strictly in accordance with the agent's practical judgment; i.e., when such acts are opposed to widely accepted rules of conduct, or include among their foreseen consequences annoyance to other human beings. Hence in trying to observe and analyse my own experiences of unreasonable action I have found a difficulty in dealing with cases in which a moral (or prudential) judgment, if present at all, was only implicitly present: since when subsequent reflection shows a past deed to have been clearly contrary to one's normal judgment as to what is right or best, this subsequent conviction is apt to mix itself with one's memory of the particular state of mind in which the deed was actually done. In this way what was really a quite vague feeling of uneasiness may be converted in memory into a more definite symbol of a judgment opposed to the volition that actually took place. I have tried, however, to be on my guard against this source of error in the observations which have led me to the conclusions that I am about to state.

Finally, I must define somewhat further the limitation of my subject to the experience of persons apparently sane, and in an apparently normal condition. I mean by this to exclude from discussion all cases of discord between voluntary act and rational judgment, when the agent's will is manifestly in an abnormal condition,---either from some distinct cerebral disease, or from some transient disturbance of his normal mental condition due to drugs, extreme heat, sudden calamity, or any other physical or psychical cause. Cases of this kind---in which there appears to be no loss of sanity, in the ordinary sense, the mental disturbance affecting the will and not the reason---are highly interesting from a psychological point of view, as well as from that of medicine or jurisprudence. Sometimes they are cases of ``aboulia'' or impotence of will, when in spite of perfect clearness in a man's practical judgment he feels it simply impossible to form an effective volition in accordance with his judgment; sometimes, again, to use M. Ribot's terms, he suffers from ``excess'' and not ``defect'' of ``impulsion,'' and appears to himself compelled to commit some atrocious crime or grotesque folly, or otherwise to act in a manner contrary to his practical judgment, under the constraint of an impulse which he feels to be irresistible. But in either case the very characteristics that give these phenomena their striking interest render it desirable to reserve them for separate discussion.

The line between ``normality'' and ``abnormality'' cannot, indeed, be precisely drawn; and certain phenomena, similar in kind to those just mentioned, though much slighter in degree, fall within the experience of ordinarily sane persons free from any perceptible organic disorder or disturbance. I can myself recall momentary impressions of something like ``aboulia''; i.e., moments in which I was transiently conscious of an apparent impossibility of willing to do something which I judged it right to do, and which appeared to be completely within the control of my will. And though I have not myself had any similar experience of irresistible ``excess of impulsion,'' I see no reason to doubt that others have had such experiences, apart from any recognizable cerebral disorder; it would seem that hunger and thirst, aversion to death or to extreme pain, the longing for alcohol, opium, etc., occasionally reach a point of intensity at which they are felt as irresistibly overpowering rational choice. But cases of either kind are at any rate very exceptional in the experience of ordinary men; and I propose to exclude them from consideration at present, no less than the more distinct ``maladies de la volonté'' before mentioned. I wish to concentrate attention on the ordinary experiences of ``yielding to temptation'', where this consciousness of the impossibility of resistance does not enter in; where, however strong may be the rush of anger or appetite that comes over a man, it certainly does not present itself as invincible. This purely subjective distinction seems to afford a boundary line within which it is not difficult to keep, though it would doubtless be difficult or impossible to draw it exactly.

It may tend to clearness to define the experiences that I wish to examine as those in which there is an appearance of free choice of the unreasonable act by the agent,---however this appearance may be explained away or shown to be an illusion. At the same time I do not at all wish to mix up the present discussion with a discussion on Free Will. The connection of ``subjective irrationality'' or, at least, ``subjective wrongness''---and ``freedom'' is, indeed, obvious and natural from a jural point of view;---so far at least as the popular view of punishment as retributive and the popular conceptions of Desert and Imputation are retained: since in this view it would seem that ``subjective wrongness'' must go along with ``freedom'' in order to constitute an act fully deserving of punishment. For the jurist's maxim ``Ignorantia juris non excusat'' is not satisfactory to the plain man's sense of equity: to punish any one for doing what he at the time did not know to be wrong appears to the plain man at best a regrettable exercise of society's right of self-preservation, and not a realization of ideal justice. But in a psychological inquiry there seems to me no ground whatever for mixing up the question whether acts are, metaphysically speaking, ``free'' with the question whether they are accompanied with a consciousness of their irrationality.

I incline, however, to think that the tendency to fuse the two questions, and the prominence in the fusion of the question of Free Will, partly explain the fact that the very existence of unreasonable action appears to be not sufficiently recognized by influential writers of the most opposite schools of philosophy.

I find that such writers are apt to give an account of voluntary action which---without expressly denying the existence of what I call subjective irrationality---appears to leave no room for it. They admit, of course, that there are abundant instances of acts condemned, as contrary to sound practical principles, not only by the judgment of other men but by the subsequent judgment of the agent; but in the analysis which they give of the state of mind in which such actions are willed, they appear to place the source of error in the intellect alone and not at all in the relation of the will to the intellect. For instance, Bentham affirms that ``on the occasion of every act he exercises, every human being is led to pursue that line of conduct which, according to his view of the case, taken by him at the moment, will be in the highest degree contributory to his own greatest happiness''; and as Bentham also holds that the ``constantly proper end of action on the part of every individual at the moment of action is his real greatest happiness from that moment to the end of his life,'' there would seem to be no room for what I call ``subjective unreasonableness.'' If Bentham's doctrine is valid, the defect of a volition which actually results in a diminution of the agent's happiness must always lie in the man's ``view of the case taken at the moment'': the evils which reflection would show to be overwhelmingly probable consequences of his act, manifestly outweighing any probable good to result from it, are not present to his mind in the moment of willing; or if they are in some degree present, they are, at any rate, not correctly represented in imagination or thought. The only way therefore of improving his outward conduct must be to correct his tendencies to err by defect or excess in the intellectual representation of future consequences: as he always acts in accordance with his judgment as to what is most likely to conduce to his greatest happiness, if only all errors of judgment were corrected, he would always act for his real greatest happiness. (I may add that so acting, in Bentham's view, he would also always act in the way most conducive to general happiness: but with the question of the harmony of interests in human society we are not now concerned.)

I do not think that Bentham's doctrine on this point was accepted in its full breadth by his more influential disciples. Certainly J. S. Mill appears to admit important exceptions to it, both in the direction of self-sacrifice and in the direction of self-indulgence. He admits, on the one hand, that the ``hero or the martyr'' often has ``voluntarily'' to ``do without happiness'' for the sake of ``something which he prizes more than his own individual happiness''; and he admits, on the other hand, that ``men often from infirmity of character, make their election for the nearer good, though they know it to be the less valuable; and this no less when the choice is between two bodily pleasures, than when it is between bodily and mental. They pursue sensual indulgence to the injury of health, though perfectly aware that health is the greater good.'' But though Mill gives a careful psychological analysis of the former deviation from the pursuit of apparent self-interest, he does not pay the same attention to the latter; and yet it is difficult to reconcile the conscious self-sacrifice---if I may be allowed the term---of the voluptuary, no less than the conscious self-sacrifice of the moral hero, with Mill's general view that ``to desire anything, except in proportion as the idea of it is pleasant, is a physical impossibility.'' For in balancing ``sensual indulgences'' against ``injury to health,'' distinctions of quality hardly come in; the prudential estimate, in which the pleasure of champagne at dinner is seen to be outweighed by the headache next morning, is surely quantitative rather than qualitative: hence when the voluptuary chooses a ``pleasure known to be the less valuable'' it would seem that he must choose something of which---in a certain sense---the ``idea'' is less ``pleasant'' than the idea of the consequences that he rejects. If so, some explanation of this imprudent choice seems to be required; and in order to give it, we have to examine more closely the nature of the mental phenomenon in which what he calls ``infirmity of character'' is manifested.

But before I proceed to this examination, I wish to point out that the tendency either to exclude the notion of ``wilful unreasonableness'', or to neglect to examine the fact which it represents, is not found only in psychologists of Bentham's school; who regard pleasure and the avoidance of pain as the sole normal motives of human action, and the attainment of the greatest balance of pleasure over pain--to self or to other sentient beings---as the only ``right and proper'' end of such action. We find this tendency also in writers who sweepingly reject and controvert the Hedonism of Bentham and Mill. For example, in Green's Prolegomena to Ethics, both the psychological doctrine that pleasure is the normal motive of human action, and the ethical doctrine that it is the proper motive, are controverted with almost tedious emphasis and iteration. But Green still lays down as broadly as Bentham that every person in every moral action, virtuous or vicious, presents to himself some possible state or achievement of his own as for the time his greatest good, and acts for the sake of that good; at the same time explaining that the kind of good which a person at any point of his life ``presents to himself as greatest depends on his past experience.'' From these and other passages we should certainly infer that, in Green's view, vicious choice is always made in the illusory belief that the act chosen is conducive to the agent's greatest good; although Green is on this point less clearly consistent than Bentham, since he also says that ``the objects where good is actually sought are often not those where reason, even as in the person seeking them, pronounces that it is to be found.'' But passages in the former sense are more common in his book, and he seems to make no attempt to bring them into harmony with that last quoted.

I cannot accept the proposition ``that every man always acts for the sake of what he presents to himself as his own greatest good'', whether it is offered in a hedonistic or in a non-hedonistic form. At the same time, I think that the statements which I have quoted from Bentham and Green are by no means to be treated as isolated paradoxes of individual thinkers; I think they point to a difficulty widely felt by educated persons, in accepting and applying the notion of ``wilful wrongdoing'', i.e., conscious choice of alternatives of action known to be in conflict with principles still consciously accepted by the agent. On the other hand, this notion of wilful wrongdoing is so clearly a part of the common moral experience of mankind that it seems very paradoxical to reject it, or explain it away.

Under these circumstances it seemed to me worth while to make a systematic attempt to observe with as much care as possible---and as soon as possible after the phenomenon had occurred---the mental process that actually takes place in the case of unreasonable action. I have found some difficulty in making the observations; because action consciously unreasonable belongs to the class of phenomena which tend to be prevented by attempts to direct attention to them. This result is not, indeed, to be deprecated from a practical point of view; indeed, it may, I think, be fairly urged as a practical argument for the empirical study of the present psychological problem, not only that the results of systematic self-observation directed to this point are likely to aid the observer in his moral efforts to avoid acting unreasonably, but that the mere habitual direction of his attention to this problem tends to diminish his tendency to consciously unreasonable conduct. But though practically advantageous, this latter result is, from a scientific point of view, inconvenient. This direction of attention, however, cannot be long maintained; and in the intervals in which it is otherwise directed the psychological observer is probaby as liable to act unreasonably as any one else; though probably the phenomenon does not last quite as long in his case, since, as soon as he is clearly conscious of so acting, the desire to observe the process is likely to be developed and to interfere with the desire which is stimulating the unreasonable volition.

I also recognize that I ought not to put forward confidently the results that follow as typical and fairly representative of the experiences of men in general. It is a generally recognized obstacle in the way of psychological study, especially in the region of the intellect and the emotions, that the attitude of introspective observation must be supposed to modify to some extent the phenomena observed; while at the same time it is difficult to ascertain and allow for the amount of effect thus produced. Now in relation to the experiences with which I am here concerned, the attitude of disengaged observant attention is peculiarly novel and unfamiliar, and therefore its disturbing effect may reasonably be supposed to be peculiarly great. I have, accordingly, endeavoured as far as possible to check the conclusions that I should draw from my own experience by observation and interpretation of the words and conduct of others. My conclusion on the whole would be that---in the case of reflective persons---a clear consciousness that an act is what ought not to be done, accompanying a voluntary determination to do it, is a comparatively rare phenomenon. It is, indeed, a phenomenon that does occur, and I will presently examine it more closely: but first it will be convenient to distinguish from it several other states of mind in which acts contrary to general resolutions deliberately adopted by the agent may be done; as most of these are, in my experience, decidedly more common than unreasonable action with a clear consciousness of its unreasonableness. These other states of mind fall under two heads (I) cases in which there is at the time no consciousness at all of a conflict between volition and practical judgment; and (2) cases in which such consciousness is present but only obscurely present.

Under the former head we may distinguish first the case of what are commonly called thoughtless or impulsive acts. I do not now mean the sudden ``purely impulsive'' acts of which I spoke before: but acts violating an accepted general rule, which, though they have been preceded by a certain amount of consideration and comparison, have been willed in a state of mind entirely devoid of any application of the general rule infringed to the particular case. Suppose, for instance, that a man has received a provocative letter in relation to some important business in which he is engaged: he will sometimes answer it in angry haste, although he has previously adopted a general resolution to exclude the influence of angry feeling in a correspondence of this kind by interposing an interval of time, sufficient ordinarily to allow his heated emotion to subside. I conceive that often, at least, in such cases the rule is simply forgotten for a time, just as a matter of fact might be: the effect of emotion is simply to exclude it temporarily from the man's memory.

I notice, however, that in the Aristotelian treatise before mentioned an alternative possibility is suggested, which may sometimes be realized in the case of impulsive acts. It is suggested that the general rule---say `that letters should not be written in anger'---may be still present to the mind; though the particular judgment, `My present state of mind is a state of anger'---required as a minor premiss for a practical syllogism leading to the right conclusion---is not made. And no doubt it may happen that an angry man is quite unaware that he is angry; in which case this minor premiss may be at the time absent through pure ignorance. But more often he is at least obscurely conscious of his anger; and if he is conscious of it at all, and has the general rule in his mind, it seems to me hardly possible that he should not be at least obscurely aware that the particular case comes under the rule.

More commonly, I think, when a general resolution is remembered, while yet the particular conclusion which ought to be drawn is not drawn, the cause of the phenomenon is a temporary perversion of judgment by some seductive feeling---such as anger, appetite, vanity, laziness. In such cases a man may either consciously suspend his general rule from a temporary conviction caused by the seductive feeling that he has adopted it without sufficient reason, or he may erroneously but sincerely persuade himself that it is not applicable to the case fore him. Suppose he is at dinner and the champagne comes round: he is a patient of Sir Andrew Clark, and has already drunk the very limited amount allowed per month by that rigid adviser; but rapidly the arguments of Dr. Mortimer Granville occur to his mind, and he momentarily but sincerely becomes persuaded that though an extra glass may cause him a little temporary inconvenience, it will in the long run conduce to the maintenance of his physical tone. Or, as before, he has received a letter that rouses his indignation: he remembers his rule against allowing temper to influence his answer; but momentarily---under the influence of heated feeling---arrives at a sincere conviction that this rule of prudence ought to give way to his duty to society, which clearly requires him not to let so outrageous a breach of propriety go unreproved. Or having sat down to a hard and distasteful task which he regards it as his duty to do---but which can be postponed without any immediate disagreeable consequences to himself---he finds a difficulty in getting under way; and then rapidly but sincerely persuades himself that in the present state of his brain some lighter work is just at present more suited to his powers,---such as the study, through the medium of the daily papers, of current political events, of which no citizen ought to allow himself to be ignorant.

I have taken trivial illustrations because, being not complicated by ethical doubts and disagreements, they exemplify the phenomenon in question most clearly and simply. But I think that in graver cases a man is sometimes sincerely though very temporarily convinced by the same kind of fallacious reasoning---under the influence of some seductive feeling---that a general resolution previously made either ought to be abrogated or suspended or is inapplicable to the present case. Such a man will afterwards see the fallacy of the reasoning: but he may not have been even obscurely conscious at the time that it was fallacious.

But, again, these examples will also serve as illustrations of a different and, I think, still more common class of cases which fall under my second head; in which the man who yields to the fallacious process of reasoning is dimly aware that it is fallacious. That is, shortly, the man sophisticates himself, being obscurely conscious of the sophistry.

Moralists have often called attention to sophistry of this kind, but I think they have not fully recognized how common it is, or done justice to its persistent, varied, and versatile ingenuity.

If the judgment which Desire finds in its way is opposed to the common-sense of mankind, as manifested in their common practice, the deliberating mind will impress on itself the presumption of differing from a majority so large: if, on the other hand, the restraining dictate of reason is one generally accepted, the fallibility of common-sense, and the importance of the individual's independence, will be placed in a strong light. If a novel indulgence is desired, the value of personal experience before finally deciding against it will be persuasively presented; if the longing is for an old familiar gratification, experience will seem to have shown that it may be enjoyed with comparative impunity. If the deliberating mind is instructed in ethical controversy, the various sceptical topics that may be culled from the mutual criticisms of moralists will offer almost inexhaustible resources of self-sophistication---such as the illusoriness of intuition, if the judgment is intuitive; if it is a reasoned conclusion, the fact that so many thoughtful persons reject the assumptions on which the reasoning is based. The Determinist will eagerly recognize the futility of now resisting the formed tendencies of his nature; the Libertarian will contemplate his indefeasible power of resisting them next time. The fallacies vary indefinitely; if plausible arguments are not available, absurd ones will often suffice: by hook or by crook, a quasi-rational conclusion on the side of desire will be attained.

Often, however, the seductive influence of feeling is of a more subtle kind than in the instances above given, and operates not by producing positively fallacious reasoning, but by directing attention to certain aspects of the subject, and from certain others. This (e.g.) is, I think, not uncommonly the case when an ordinarily well-bred and well-meaning man acts unreasonably from egotism or vanity: he has an obscure well-founded consciousness that he might come to a different view of his position if he resolutely faced certain aspects of it tending to reduce his personal claims; but he consciously refrains from directing attention to them. So, again, in cases where prompt action is necessary, passion may cause a man to acquiesce in acting on a one-sided view, while yet obscurely aware that the need is not so urgent as really to allow no time for adequate consideration.

In both the classes of cases last mentioned we may say that the wrongdoing is really wilful though not clearly so: the man is obscurely conscious either that the intellectual process leading him to a conclusion opposed to a previous resolution is unsound, or that he might take into account considerations which he does not distinctly contemplate and that he ought to take them into account. But though he is obscurely conscious of this, the sophistical or one-sided reasoning which leads him to the desired practical conclusion is more clearly present.

Finally, there remains pure undisguised willfulness---where a man with his eyes open simply refuses to act in accordance with his practical judgment, although the latter is clearly present in his consciousness, and his attention is fully directed towards it. I think it undeniable that this phenomenon occurs: but my experience would lead me to conclude that---at least in the case of habitually reflective persons---it more often takes place in the case of negative action, non-performance of known duty: in the case of positive wrong action some process by which the opposing judgment is somehow thrust into the background of consciousness seems to me normally necessary. In other words, it seems, so far as this experience goes, to be far easier for a desire clearly recognized as conflicting with reason to inhibit action than to cause it.

Even in the exceptional case of a man openly avowing that he is acting contrary to what he knows to be both his interest and his duty, it cannot be assumed that a clear conviction of the truth of what he is saying is necessarily present to his consciousness. For a man's words in such a case may express not a present conviction, but the mere memory of a past conviction; moreover, one of the forms in which the ingenuity of self-sophistication is shown is the process of persuading oneself that a brave and manly self-identification with a vicious desire is better than a weak, self-deceptive submission to it;---or even than a feeble fluctuation between virtue and vice. Thus, even a man who said, ``Evil, be thou my good'', and acted accordingly, might have only an obscured consciousness of the awful irrationality of his action---obscured by a fallacious imagination that his only chance of being in any way admirable, at the point which he has now reached in his downward course, must lie in candid and consistent wickedness.

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