The Ascent towards Supermind, Part II, Chapter XXVI - The Ascent towards Supermind 302

Although a more enlighten mother would say that both are equally good and according to the choice of child, if he feels like more like playing – perfectly alright. But normally, our present situation being what it is it, we begin to assign more value to study than to play, so we advice the child that don’t play and come to the room and attend to your mathematics or your English. Let him study and the child resents it, and really feels that I should not be restrained and he begins to ask you also that why do you restrain me, what is wrong with this, what is right in this. This question of right and wrong good and better begins to take shape. There is a stage, where the choice is between all equals. In the other words the choice is neutral and whether it takes this or that makes no difference at all. At a little later stage there is a difference between at least good and better – you might say to the child look play is very fine, I don’t object to it but study is better. You must come out of this play and begin to concentrate upon studies.

So you have a situation where you may distinguish between good and better and you try to appeal to the child to choose the better, instead of choosing the good. But at a still later stage the child begins to manifest a greater choice, not between good and better but good and less good in the opposite direction, in the sense that something may be positively bad. A certain kind of food, which is harmful to my health, I like to have it as against another article of food which is very good for my health and when both are present on the table. When guests have come many items of this kind are available and the child has the habit of choosing besides that which he likes but may be not good for his health. At that time we explain to the child look this is not a good choice you are making, it is bad for you. So he starts making a distinction between good and bad. It is at this stage that we call a moral problem arises.

Starting point of ethical problem is when you make a distinction between good and bad, good and evil. When there is only a choice between everything that is good there is no ethical problem involved, it is not the question of inclination. When the ethical problems begins to dawn in the mind of child, he is obliged to reflect. Until now there was no need to reflect but now when you say this bad and this is good, you are obliging the child to reflect, – what is bad, what is good. Then he is explained what is good, what is bad or he understands himself, what is good and what is bad in his own way. In the first place you may say that which may be pleasant maybe in certain circumstances be really bad. It may be pleasant but may be bad. I like to eat ice cream which is good, which is pleasant but then I go on eating ice cream beyond my limits then you say that it is pleasant I understand but it is bad for your health. It’s too much for you, you shouldn’t take it. This is at this minimum level the ethical problem reduces itself between pleasant and good, pleasant and bad. Something may be pleasant and yet good, something may be pleasant but bad.

At a little higher stage you make a further distinction. You may say that look this is pleasant for you but bad for you. The same pleasant given to another is good for him and you give up your pleasure so that, that can be enjoyed by another. Now that becomes more complicated state of affairs when somebody else comes in to the picture in consideration. You might be told that although something may be pleasant for you, if you do it, it will reduce the pleasure of others, so don’t do it. Here the criterion of deciding what is good and evil changes. It’s not only pleasant that is good, you can now say that even something that is not pleasant may be good because it helps many other people. This is called the criterion of maximum happiness of maximum number of people. You try to explain to child that you should choose that which is beneficial or that which is conducive of pleasure for the maximum number of people. Whenever you do any action, ask yourself will it be conducive to the maximum pleasure of maximum number of people, if so, do that if not, don’t do that and sacrifice something which is not conducive to that.

At a still higher stage a further consideration comes in, which is nothing to do with the criterion of pleasure. That which gives you more knowledge you might argue is better for you than that which simply gives you pleasure. So a new argument starts that which gives you more knowledge is better than that what simply gives you pleasure. That which teaches you endurance is better for you then which gives you only pleasure. You should learn how to endure that which makes you noble by self-giving makes you a better man, gives you a better character, not only knowledge but greater character that is better for you than the other one. So when the alternatives that are presented are not all equally good or all good but of lesser degree, or greater degree, where the question of good and evil doesn’t arise, this is the second stage.