Which in properly cultivated moral natures rises into shrinking from it as an impossibility

Ethan Lee

Member
Mandarin
Hi everyone,

Could you all explain the meaning of ‘which in properly cultivated moral natures rises into shrinking from it as an impossibility’ in this context?

The internal sanction of duty, whatever our standard of duty may be,is one and the same- a feeling in our own mind; a pain more or less intense, attendant on violation of duty, which in properly cultivated moral natures rises, in the more serious cases, into shrinking from it as an impossibilty. (Mill, Utilitarianism)

Thanks in advance
 
  • Conscience in an ordinary person gives pain when she doesn't do her duty.

    But one's conscience, if she has been reared and socialized intensively (thoroughly learned right and wrong in treating others), does not just give 'pain' afterwards, but ('rises'= becomes much stronger) and makes one want to AVOID doing a wrong (breach of duty) at all costs. One 'shrinks' (moves away) from doing that, because it seems impossible.

    So, for example, I not only honor my parent (and feel bad, after, if I don't), but my conscience has become so strong (=has risen) that if I have a thought of doing something other, it seems utterly impossible for me to do that other thing.

    {slightly revised during the OP's second posting}
     
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    Ethan Lee

    Member
    Mandarin
    Conscience in an ordinary person gives pain when she doesn't do her duty.
    But one's conscience, if she has been reared and socialized intensively (thoroughly learned right and wrong in treating others), does not just give 'pain' but makes one want to AVOID doing it at all costs. One 'shrinks' (moves away) from doing it, because it seems impossible. So, for example, I not only honor my parent, but if I have a thought of doing something different, it seems utterly impossible for me to do to do that other thing.
    Thank you very much bennymix for the clear explanation!
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Stripping the sentence to its basic structure, you are left with:
    The internal sanction of duty is one and the same - a feeling in our own mind; a pain which rises into shrinking from it as an impossibility.​

    That very last bit sounds awkward to me, but might have been fine when Mill was writing. I might write it as "a pain that rises to such a level that makes shrinking from it an impossibility".

    The other bit you ask about: " in properly cultivated moral natures" describes the people for whom this pain rises (it does not rise for everyone). "Natures" means people having a particular attribute, in this case a sense of morality. Mill clearly thinks that a proper sense of morality needs to be "cultured". "The more serious cases" means people with a higher sense of morality than most of those whose sense of morality can be said to be "properly cultivated".
     
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