What is good? What is evil? These words express only appreciations.
A good fighter is a “good man,” or a “bad man,” both words expressing the same idea of ability, but from different points of view.
To the beggar a generous giver is a good man. To the master a servant is good when he cheerfully slaves for the master. A good subject is one obedient to his prince. A good citizen is one who gives no trouble to the state, but contributes to its revenues and stability.
Evil is only what we do not find to our good, but what we have to combat. A horse is not good because strong and swift if he he “vicious ;” that is, if we find him hard to tame. A breed of dogs is goodif readily susceptible of training to hunt all day or watch all night for the benefit of the owner. A wife is “good” if she will not be good to any man but her husband.
Why do the lion and the eagle enjoy such a reputation? The eagle attacks nobody except babes. The lion is a large animal, deliberate in his movements and reputed to give a man a chance to get away.
There are “worse” animals.
In all varieties of Moralism obedience is the cardinal virtue, which is wholly on the principle of procuring “good” subjects for those who have the effrontery to set up as rulers over fools and simpletons. “Be good and you will be happy.” “Virtue is its own reward.” These proverbs are an appeal to self-interest beguiled to accept some current teaching as to what is “good” conduct, “virtue.” What if one be happy and healthy and the same believers in these maxims tell him that his happiness is not good?
They show that their idea of goodness is obedience to certain commands or rules. But the Egoist will prove most things and hold fast to that which he finds to be good for him. That which he finds to be “its own reward” he holds to bevirtue enough. The positions are opposites.
The Moralist says:
“This course is virtue ; believe it and follow instructions, and you will find happiness in the thought of doing right.” The Egoist perceives that such instruction is a trap for credulity. The experience of mankind is all very well, but most of the time your Moralist deprecates experiment. It is remarkable that in “the most important relation in life” two persons must have a legal contract for permanent union before they have any knowledge of each other in the relation; then bear it if they dislike it, and this is regarded as virtue. I do not say that all Moralists teach such doctrine, but all Moralists have some doctrine which they enforce by sentiment demanding individual sacrifice, absolutely and not merely as individually expedient.