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The greatest positive good determines not the will, but uneasiness.       §35. It seems so establish’d and settled a maxim by the general
consent of all Mankind, That good, the greater good, determines
the will, that I do not at all wonder, that when I first publish’d my
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thoughts on this Subject, I took it for granted; and I imagine, that
by a great many I shall be thought more excusable, for having then
done so, than that now I have ventur’d to recede from so received
an Opinion. But yet upon a stricter enquiry, I am forced to con-
clude, that good, the greater good, though apprehended and acknow-
ledged to be so, does not determine the will, until our desire, raised
proportionably to it, makes us uneasy in the want of it. Convince a
Man never so much, that plenty has its advantages over poverty;
make him see and own, that the handsome conveniencies of life are
better than nasty penury: yet as long as he is content with the
latter, and finds no uneasiness in it, he moves not; his will never is
determin’d to any action, that shall bring him out of it. Let a Man
be never so well perswaded of the advantages of virtue, that it is as
necessary to a Man, who has any great aims in this World, or hopes
in the next, as food to life: yet till he hungers and thirsts after righteous-
ness; Matt. 5: 6. till he feels an uneasiness in the want of it, his will will not be
determin’d to any action in pursuit of this confessed greater good;
but any other uneasinesses he feels in himself, shall take place, and
carry his will to other actions. On the other side, let a Drunkard see,
that his Health decays, his Estate wastes; Discredit and Diseases,
and the want of all things, even of his beloved Drink, attends him
in the course he follows: yet the returns of uneasiness to miss his
Companions; the habitual thirst after his Cups, at the usual time,
drives him to the Tavern, though he has in his view the loss of
health and plenty, and perhaps of the joys of another life: the least
of which is no inconsiderable good, but such as he confesses, is far
greater, than the tickling of his palate with a glass of Wine, or the
idle chat of a soaking Club. ’Tis not for want of viewing the greater
good: for he sees, and acknowledges it, and in the intervals of his
drinking hours, will take resolutions to pursue the greater good;
but when the uneasiness to miss his accustomed delight returns, the
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greater acknowledged good loses its hold, and the present uneasiness
determines the will to the accustomed action; which thereby gets
stronger footing to prevail against the next occasion, though he at
the same time makes secret promises to himself, that he will do so
no more; this is the last time he will act against the attainment of
those greater goods. And thus he is, from time to time, in the State
of that unhappy Complainer, Video meliora proboque, Deteriora
sequor: Ovid, Metamorphoses, VII, 20-1. which Sentence, allowed for true, and made good by con-
stant Experience, may this, and possibly no other, way be easily
made intelligible.
Locke Hum II, 21, §35, pp. 252-253-254