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Why the greatest good is not always desired.       §44. This, I think, any one may observe in himself, and others,
that the greater visible good does not always raise Men’s desires in
proportion to the greatness, it appears, and is acknowledged to
have: Though every little trouble moves us, and sets us on work to
get rid of it. The reason whereof is evident from the nature of our
happiness and misery it self. All present pain, whatever it be, makes a
part of our present misery: But all absent good does not at any time
make a necessary part of our present happiness, nor the absence of it
make a part of our misery. If it did, we should be constantly and
infinitely miserable; there being infinite degrees of happiness, which
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are not in our possession. All uneasiness therefore being removed, a
moderate portion of good serves at present to content Men; and
some few degrees of Pleasure in a succession of ordinary Enjoy-
ments make up a happiness, wherein they can be satisfied. If this
were not so, there could be no room for those indifferent, and
visibly trifling actions; to which our wills are so often determined;
and wherein we voluntarily wast so much of our Lives; which
remissness could by no means consist with a constant determination
of will or desire to the greatest apparent good. That this is so, I
think, few People need go far from home to be convinced. And
indeed in this life there are not many, whose happiness reaches so
far, as to afford them a constant train of moderate mean Pleasures,
without any mixture of uneasiness; and yet they could be content
to stay here for ever: Though they cannot deny, but that it is
possible, there may be a state of eternal durable Joys after this life,
far surpassing all the good is to be found here. Nay they cannot but
see, that it is more possible, than the attainment, and continuation
of that pittance of Honour, Riches, or Pleasure, which they pursue;
and for which they neglect that eternal State: But yet in full view of
this difference, satisfied of the possibility of a perfect, secure, and
lasting happiness in a future State, and under a clear conviction,
that it is not to be had here, whilst they bound their happiness
within some little enjoyment, or aim of this life, and exclude the
joys of Heaven from making any necessary part of it, their desires
are not moved by this greater apparent good, nor their wills
determin’d to any action, or endeavour for its attainment.
Locke Hum II, 21, §44, pp. 260-261