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In comparing present and future.       §63. I. Therefore, as to present Pleasure and Pain, the Mind, as
has been said, never mistakes that which is really good or evil; that,
which is the greater Pleasure, or the greater Pain, is really just as it
appears. But though present Pleasure and Pain shew their difference
and degrees so plainly, as not to leave room for mistake; yet when
we compare present Pleasure or Pain with future, (which is usually the
case in the most important determinations of the Will) we often make
wrong Judgments of them, taking our measures of them in different
positions of distance. Objects, near our view, are apt to be thought
greater, than those of a larger size, that are more remote: And so it
is with Pleasures and Pains, the present is apt to carry it, and those
at a distance have the disadvantage in the Comparison. Thus most
Men, like spend-thrift Heirs, are apt to judge a little in Hand
better than a great deal to come; and so for small Matters in
Possession, part with great ones in Reversion. But that this is a
wrong Judgment every one must allow, let his Pleasure consist in
whatever it will: since that which is future, will certainly come to
be present; and then, having the same advantage of nearness, will
shew it self in its full dimensions, and discover his wilful mistake,
who judged of it by unequal measures. Were the Pleasure of
Drinking accompanied, the very moment a Man takes off his Glass,
with that sick Stomack, and aking Head, which, in some Men, are
sure to follow not many hours after, I think no body, whatever
Pleasure he had in his Cups, would, on these Conditions, ever let
Wine touch his Lips; which yet he daily swallows, and the evil side
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comes to be chosen only by the fallacy of a little difference in time.
But if Pleasure or Pain can be so lessened only by a few hours removal,
how much more will it be so, by a farther distance, to a Man, that
will not by a right judgment do what time will, i.e. bring it home
upon himself, and consider it as present, and there take its true
dimensions? This is the way we usually impose on our selves, in
respect of bare Pleasure and Pain, or the true degrees of Happiness
or Misery: The future loses its just proportion, and what is present,
obtains the preference as the greater. I mention not here the wrong
Judgment, whereby the absent are not only lessened, but reduced
to perfect nothing; when Men enjoy what they can in present,
and make sure of that, concluding amiss, That no evil will thence
follow. For that lies not in comparing the greatness of future Good
and Evil, which is that we are here speaking of, but in another sort
of wrong Judgment, which is concerning Good or Evil, as it is con-
sidered to be the cause and procurement of Pleasure or Pain, that
will follow from it.
Locke Hum II, 21, §63, pp. 275-276