Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

king or an aristocracy could not be easily satiated with the pleasures of sense, and asked why the same course was not tried with thieves. We were not a little surprised at so silly an objection from the pen, as we imagined, of Mr. Bentham. We returned, however, a very simple answer. There is no limit to the number of thieves. Any man who chooses can steal: but a man cannot become a member of the aristocracy, or a king, whenever he chooses. To satiate one thief, is to tempt twenty other people to steal. But by satiating one king or five hundred nobles with bodily pleasures, we do not produce more kings or more nobles. The answer of the Westminster Reviewer we have quoted above; and it will amply repay our readers for the trouble of examining it. We never read any passage which indicated notions so vague and confused. The number of the thieves, says our Utilitarian, is not limited. For there are the dependents and friends of the king, and of the nobles. Is it possible that he should not perceive that this comes under a different head? The bodily pleasures which a man in power dispenses among his creatures, are bodily pleasures as respects his creatures, no doubt. But the pleasure which he derives from bestowing them is not a bodily pleasure. It is one of those pleasures which belong to him as a reasoning and imaginative being. No man of common understanding can have failed to perceive, that when we said that a king or an aris tocracy might easily be supplied to satiety with sensual pleasures, we were speaking of sensual pleasures directly enjoyed by themselves. But "it is impossible," says the Reviewer, “to define what are corporal pleasures." Our brother would indeed, we suspect, find it a difficult task; nor, if we are to judge of his genius for classification from the specimen which immediately follows, would we advise him to make the attempt. "A Duchess of Cleveland was a corporal pleasure." And to this wise remark is appended a note, setting forth that Charles the Second gave to the Duchess of Cleveland the money which he ought to have spent on the war with Holland. We scarcely know how to answer a man who unites so much pretension to so much ignorance. There are, among the many Utilitarians who talk about Hume, Condillac, and Hartley, a few who have read those writers. Let the Reviewer ask one of these what he thinks on the subject. We shall not undertake to whip a pupil of so little promise through his first course of metaphysics. We shall, therefore, only say-leaving him to guess and wonder what we can mean that in our opinion, the Duchess of Cleveland was not a merely corporal pleasure, that the feeling which leads a prince to prefer one woman to all others, and to lavish ine wealth of kingdoms on her, is a feeling which can only be explained by the law of as

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

for the purpose of proving that the poor were inclined to rob the rich.They only said, as soon as the poor again began to compare their cottages and salads with the hotels and banquets of the rich, there would have been another scramble for property, another general confiscation,'" &c.

We said, that, if Mr. Mill's principles of human nature were correct, there would have been another scramble for property, and another confiscation. We particularly pointed this out in our last article. We showed the Westminster Reviewer that he had misunderstood us. We dwelt particularly on the condition which was introduced into our statement. We said that we had not given, and did not mean to give, any opinion of our own. And after this, the Westminster Reviewer thinks proper to repeat his former misrepresentation, without taking the least notice of that qualification to which we, in the most marked manner, called his attention.

We hasten on to the most curious part of the article under our consideration-the defence of the "greatest happiness principle." The Reviewer charges us with having quite mistaken its nature.

"All that they have established is, that they do not understand it. Instead of the truism of the whigs, that the greatest happiness is the greatest happiness,' wha! Mr. Bentham had demonstrated, or, at all events, had laid such foundations that there was no trouble in de. monstrating, was, that the greatest happiness of the individual was, in the long run, to be obtained by pursuing the greatest happiness of the aggregate."

It was distinctly admitted by the Westminster Reviewer, as we remarked in our last article, that he could give no answer to the question,why governments should attempt to produce the greatest possible happiness? The Reviewer replies thus :

"Nothing of the kind will be admitted at all In the passage thus selected to be tacked to the other, the question started was, concerning 'the object of government;' in which government was spoken of as an operation, not as any thing that is capable of feeling pleasure or pain. In this sense it is true enough, that ought is not predicable of governments."

We will quote, once again, the passage which we quoted in our last number, and we really hope that our brother critic will feel something like shame while he peruses it.

"The real answer appeared to be, that men at large ought not to allow a government to afflict them with more evil or less good, than they can help. What a government ought to do, is a mysterious and searching question, which those may answer who know what it means; but what other men ought to do, is a question of no mystery at all. The word ought, if it means any thing, must have reference to some kind of interest or motives; and what interest a government has in doing right, when it happens to be interested in doing wrong, is a question for the schoolmen. The fact ap pears to be, that ought is not predicable of governments. The question is not, why go. vernments are bound not to do this or that, but why other men should let them if they can

we should have shown to such nonsense had
it not proceeded, as we supposed, from Mr.
Bentham, that interest was synonymous with
greatest happiness; and that, therefore, if the
word ought has no meaning, unless used with
reference to interest, then, to say that mankind
ought to pursue their greatest happiness, is
simply to say, that the greatest happiness is
the greatest happiness; that every individual
pursues his own happiness; that either what
he thinks his happiness must coincide with
the greatest happiness of society or not; that
if what he thinks his happiness coincides with
the greatest happiness of society, he will at

help it. The point is not to determine why
the lion should not eat sheep, but why men
should not eat their own mutton if they can."
We defy the Westminster Reviewer to re-
concile this passage with the "general happi-
ness principle," as he now states it. He tells
us, that he meant by government, not the peo-
ple invested with the powers of government,
but a mere operation incapable of feeling plea-
sure or pain. We say, that he meant the peo-
ple invested with the powers of government,
and nothing else. It is true, that ought is not
predicable of an operation. But who would
ever dream of raising any question about the
duties of an operation? What did the Re-tempt to promote the greatest happiness of
viewer mean by saying, that a government
could not be interested in doing right because
it was interested in doing wrong? Can an
operation be interested in either? And what
did he mean by his comparison about the
lion? Is a lion an operation incapable of pain
or pleasure? And what did he mean by the
expression," other men," so obviously opposed
to the word "government?" But let the public
judge between us. It is superfluous, to argue
a point so clear.

The Reviewer does indeed seem to feel that his expressions cannot be explained away, and attempts to shuffle out of the difficulty by own ing, that "the double meaning of the word government was not got clear of without confusion." He has now, at all events, he assures us, made himself master of Mr. Bentham's philosophy. The real and genuine “greatest happiness principle" is, that the greatest happiness of every individual is identical with the greatest happiness of society; and all other greatest happiness principles" whatever, are counterfeits. "This," says he, "is the spirit of Mr. Bentham's principle; and if there is any thing opposed to it in any former statement, it may be corrected by the present."

[ocr errors]

Assuredly if a fair and honourable opponent had, in discussing a question so abstruse as that concerning the origin of moral obligation, made some unguarded admission inconsistent with the spirit of his doctrines, we should not be inclined to triumph over him. But no tenderness is due to a writer who, in the very act of confessing his blunders, insults those by whom his blunders have been detected, and accuses them of misunderstanding what, in fact, he has himself misstated.

The whole of this transaction illustrates excellently the real character of this sect. A paper comes forth, professing to contain a full development of the "greatest happiness principle," with the latest improvements of Mr. Bentham. The writer boasts that his article has the honour of being the announcement and the organ of this wonderful discovery, which is to make "the bones of sages and patriots stir within their tombs." This "magnificent principle" is then stated thus: Mankind ought to pursue their greatest happiness. But there are persons whose interest is opposed to the greatest happiness of mankind. Ought is not predicable of such persons. For the word ought has no meaning, unless it be used with reference to some interest.

We answered, with much more lenity than

society, whether he ever heard of the "great-
est happiness principle" or not; and that, by
the admission of the Westminster Reviewer,
if his happiness is inconsistent with the great-
est happiness of society, there is no reason
why he should promote the greatest happiness
of society. Now, that there are individuals
who think that for their happiness which is
not for the greatest happiness of society is
evident. The Westminster Reviewer allowed
that some of these individuals were in the
right; and did not pretend to give any reason
which could induce any one of them to think
himself in the wrong. So that the. "magnifi
cent principle" turned out to be either a truism
or a contradiction in terms; either this maxim.
Do what you do;" or this maxim, "Do what
you cannot do."

66

The Westminster Reviewer had the wit to see that he could not defend this palpable nonsense; but, instead of manfully owning that he had misunderstood the whole nature of the "greatest happiness principle" in the summer, and had obtained new light during the autumn, he attempts to withdraw the former principle unobserved, and to substitute another, directly opposed to it, in its place; clamouring all the time against our unfairness, like one who, while changing the cards, diverts the attention of the table from his sleight-of-hand by vociferating charges of foul play against other people.

The "greatest happiness principle" for the present quarter is then this,-that every individual will best promote his own happiness in this world, religious considerations being left out of the question, by promoting the greatest happiness of the whole species. And this principle, we are told, holds good with respect to kings and aristocracies, as well as with other people.

"It is certain that the individual operators in any government, if they were thoroughly intelligent and entered into a perfect calculation of all existing chances, would seek for their own happiness in the promotion of the general; which brings them, if they knew it, under Mr. Bentham's rule. The mistake of supposing the contrary, lies in confounding criminals who have had the luck to escape punishment with those who have the risk still before them. Suppose, for instance, a member of the House of Commons were at this moment to debate with in himself whether it would be for his ultimate happiness to begin, according to his ability, to misgovern. If he could be sure of being as

[ocr errors]

lucky as some that are dead and gone, there | tocratical communities, the higher and more might be difficulty in finding him an answer. But he is not sure; and never can be till he is dead. He does not know that he is not close upon the moment when misgovernment, such as he is tempted to contemplate, will be made a terrible example of. It is not fair to pick out the instance of the thief that has died unhanged. The question is, whether thieving is at this moment an advisable trade to begin, with all the possibilities of hanging not got over? This is the spirit of Mr. Bentham's principle; and if there is any thing opposed to it in any former statement, it may be corrected by the present."

We hope that we have now at last got to the real "magnificent principle,”—to the principle which is really to make "the bones of the sages and patriots stir." What effect it may produce on the bones of the dead we shall not pretend to decide; but we are sure that it will do very little for the happiness of the living.

In the first place, nothing is more certain than this, that the Utilitarian theory of government, as developed in Mr. Mill's Essay, and in all the other works on the subject which have been put forth by the sect, rests on these two principles, that men follow their interest, and that the interest of individuals may be, and in fact perpetually is, opposed to the interest of society. Unless these two principles be granted, Mr. Mill's Essay does not contain one sound sentence. All his arguments against monarchy and aristocracy, all his arguments in favour of democracy, nay, the very argument by which he shows that there is any necessity for having government at all, must be rejected as utterly worthless.

educated class will, not occasionally, but invariably, act against its own interest. Now, the only use of proving any thing, as far as we can see, is that people may believe it. To say that a man does what he believes to be against his happiness, is a contradiction in terms. If, therefore, government and laws are to be constituted on the supposition on which Mr. Mill's Essay is founded, that all individuals will, whenever they have power over others put into their hands, act in opposition to the general happiness, then government and laws must be constituted on the supposition that no individual believes, or ever will believe, his own happiness to be identical with the happiness of society. That is to say, government and laws are to be constituted on the supposition that no human being will ever be satisfied by Mr. Bentham's proof of his "greatest happiness principle," a supposition which may be true enough, but which says little, we think, for the principle in question.

But where has this principle been demonstrated? We are curious, we confess, to see this demonstration which is to change the face of the world, and yet is to convince nobody. The most amusing circumstance is, that the Westminster Reviewer himself does not seem to know whether the principle has been demonstrated or not. "Mr. Bentham, he says, "has demonstrated it, or at all events has laid such foundations that there is no trouble in demonstrating it." Surely it is rather strange that such a matter should be left in doubt. The Reviewer proposed, in his former article, a slight verbal emendation in the statement of the principle; he then announced that the principle had received its last improvement; and gloried in the circumstance that the West.

of that improvement. Did it never occur to him that one slight improvement to a doctrine is to prove it?

This is so palpable, that even the Westminster Reviewer, though not the most clear-sight-minster Review had been selected as the organ ed of men, could not help seeing it. Accordingly, he attempts to guard himself against the objection, after the manner of such reasoners, by committing two blunders instead of one. "All this," says he, "only shows that the members of a government would do well if they were all-wise;" and he proceeds to tell us, that as rulers are not all-wise, they will invariably act against this principle wherever they can, so that the democratical checks will still be necessary to produce good government.

Mr. Bentham has not demonstrated the "greatest happiness principle," as now stated. He is far too wise a man to think of demonstrating any such thing. In those sections of his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, to which the Reviewer refers us in his note, there is not a word of the kind. Mr. Bentham says, most truly, that there are no occasions in which a man has not some motives for consulting the happiness of other men ; and he proceeds to set forth what those motives are-sympathy on all occasions, and the love of reputation on most occasions. This is the very doctrine which we have been maintaining against Mr. Mill and the Westminster Reviewer. The principle charge which we brought against Mr. Mill was, that those motives to which Mr. Bentham ascribes so much influence, were quite left out of consideration in his theory. The Westminster Reviewer, in the very article now before us, abuses us for saying, in the The whole argument of the Utilitarians, in spirit and almost in the words of Mr. Bentham, favour of universal suffrage, proceeds on the that "there is a certain check to the rapacity supposition that even the rudest and most un- and cruelty of men in their desire of the good educated men cannot, for any length of time, opinion of others." But does this principle, in De deluded into acting against their own true which we fully agree with Mr. Bentham, go the nterest. Yet now they tell us that, in all aris-length of the new "greatest happiness princi

No form which human folly takes is so richly and exquisitely laughable as the spectacle of an Utilitarian in a dilemma. What earthly good can there be in a principle upon which no man will act until he is all-wise? A certain most important doctrine, we are told, has been demonstrated so clearly, that it ought to be the foundation of the science of government. And yet the whole frame of government is to be constituted exactly as if this fundamental doctrine were false, and on the supposition that no human being will ever act as if he believed it to be true!

ple?" The question is not whether men have some motives for promoting the greatest happiness, but whether the stronger motives be those which impel them to promote the greatest happiness. That this would always be the case, if men knew their own worldly interests, is the assertion of the Reviewer. As he expresses some doubt whether Mr. Bentham has demonstrated this or not, we would advise him to set the point at rest by giving his own demonstration.

A king, says the Reviewer again, would go. vern well if he were wise, for fear of provok ing his subjects to insurrection. Therefore, the true happiness of a king is identical with the greatest happiness of society. Tel! Charles II. that if he will be constant to his queen, sober at table, regular at prayers, frugal in his ex penses, active in the transaction of business, if he will drive the herd of slaves, buffoons, and procurers from Whitehall, and make the happiness of his people the rule of his conduct, The Reviewer has not attempted to give a he will have a much greater chance of reigngeneral composition of the "greatest happiness ing in comfort to an advanced age; that his Frinciple" but he has tried to prove that it profusion and tyranny have exasperated his holds good in one or two particular cases. subjects, and may, perhaps, bring him to an And even in those particular cases he has end as terrible as his father's. He might anutterly failed. A man, says he, who calcu-swer, that he saw the danger, but that life was lated the chances fairly, would perceive that not worth having without ease and vicious it would be for his greatest happiness to ab- pleasures. And what has our philosopher to stain from stealing; for a thief runs a greater risk of being hanged than an honest man. It would have been wise, we think, in the Westminster Reviewer, before he entered on a discussion of this sort, to settle in what human happiness consists. Each of the ancient sects of philosophy held some tenet on this subject which served for a distinguishing badge. The summum bonum of the Utilitarians, as far as we can judge from the passage which we are now considering, is the not being hanged.

That it is an unpleasant thing to be hanged, we most willingly concede to our brother. But that the whole question of happiness or misery resolves itself into this single point, we cannot so easily admit. We must look at the thing purchased, as well as the price paid for it. A thief, assuredly, runs a greater risk of being hanged than a labourer; and so an officer in the army runs a greater risk of being shot than a banker's clerk; and a governor of India runs a greater risk of dying of cholera than a lord of the bedchamber. But does it therefore follow that every man, whatever his habits or feelings may be, would, if he knew his own happiness, become a clerk rather than a cornet, or goldstick in waiting rather than governor of India?

say? Does he not see that it is no more possible to reason a man out of liking a short life and a merry one more than a long life and a dull one, than to reason a Greenlander out of his train oil? We may say that the tastes of the thief and the tyrant differ from ours; but what right have we to say, looking at this world alone, that they do not pursue their greatest happiness very judiciously!

It is the grossest ignorance of human nature to suppose that another man calculates the chances differently from us, merely because he does what, in his place, we should not do. Every man has tastes and propensities, which he is disposed to gratify at a risk and expense, which people of different temperaments and habits think extravagant. " Why," says Horace, "does one brother like to lounge in the forum, to play in the Campus, and to anoint himself in the baths, so well, that he would not put himself out of his way for all the wealth of the richest plantations of the East; while the other toils from sunrise to sunset for the purpose of increasing his fortune?" Horace attributes the diversity to the influence of the Genius and the natal star: and eighteen hundred years have taught us only to disguise our ignorance beneath a more philosophical language.

Nothing can be more absurd than to sup- We think, therefore, that the Westminster pose, like the Westminster Reviewer, that Reviewer, even if we admit his calculation of thieves steal only because they do not calcu- the chances to be right, does not make out his late the chances of being hanged as correctly case. But he appears to us to miscalculate as honest men. It never seems to have oc- chances more grossly than any person who curred to him as possible, that a man may so ever acted or speculated in this world. "It is greatly prefer the life of a thief to the life of a for the happiness," says he, "of a member of labourer, that he may determine to brave the the House of Commons to govern well; for he risk of detection and punishment, though he never can tell that he is not close on the momay even think that risk greater than it really ment when misgovernment will be terribly is. And how, on Utilitarian principles, is such punished: if he was sure that he should be as a man to be convinced that he is in the wrong? lucky as his predecessors, it might be for his "You will be found out."-"Undoubtedly."- happiness to misgovern; but he is not sure." "You will be hanged within two years."-"I Certainly a member of Parliament is not sure expect to be hanged within one year.”—“Then | that he shall not be torn in pieces by a mob, or why do you pursue this lawless mod of life?" -"Because I would rather live for one year with plenty of money, dressed like a gentleman, eating and drinking of the best, frequenting public places, and visiting a dashing mistress, than break stones on the road, or sit down to the loom, with the certainty of attaining a good old age. It is my humour. Are you answered?"

VOT. V.-89

guillotined by a revolutionary tribunal, for his opposition to reform. Nor is the Westminster Reviewer sure that he shall not be hanged for writing in favour of universal suffrage. We may have democratical massacres. We may also have aristocratical proscriptions. It is not very likely, thank God, that we should see either. But the radical, we think, runs as much danger as the aristocrat. As to our

friend, the Westminster Reviewer, he, it must be owned, has as good a right as any man on his side, “Antoni gladios contemnere." But take the man whose votes, ever since he has sate in Parliament, have been the most uniformly bad, and oppose him to the man whose votes have been the most uniformly good. The Westminster Reviewer would probably select Mr. Sadler and Mr. Hume. Now, does any rational man think,-will the Westminster Reviewer himself say, that Mr. Sadler runs more risk of coming to a miserable end, on account of his public conduct, than Mr. Hume? Mr. Sadler does not know that he is not close on the moment when he will be made an example of; for Mr. Sadler knows, if possible, less about the future than about the past. But he has no more reason to expect that he shall be made an example of, than to expect that London will be swallowed up by an earthquake next spring; and it would be as foolish in him to act on the former supposition as on the latter. There is a risk; for there is a risk of every thing which does not involve a contradiction; but it is a risk from which no man in his wits would give a shilling to be insured. Yet our Westminster Reviewer tells us, that this risk alone, apart from all considerations of religion, honour, or benevolence, would, as a matter of mere calculation, induce a wise member of the House of Commons to refuse any emoluments which might be offered him as the price of his support to pernicious mea

sures.

We have hitherto been examining cases proposed by our opponent. It is now our turn to propose one, and we beg that he will spare no wisdom in solving it.

A thief is condemned to be hanged. On the eve of the day fixed for the execution, a turnkey enters his cell, and tells him that all is safe, that he has only to slip out, that his friends are waiting in the neighbourhood with disguises, and that a passage is taken for him in an American packet. Now, it is clearly for the greatest happiness of society that the thief should be hanged, and the corrupt turnkey_exposed and punished. Will the Westminster Reviewer tell us, that it is for the greatest happiness of the thief to summon the head jailer, and tell the whole story? Now, either it is for the greatest happiness of the thief to be hanged, or it is not. If it is, then the argument, by which the Westminster Reviewer attempts to prove, that men do not promote their own happiness by thieving, falls to the ground. If it is not, then there are men whose greatest happiness is at variance with the greatest happiness of the community.

To sum up our arguments shortly, we say, that the "greatest happiness principle," as now stated, is diametrically opposed to the principle stated in the Westminster Review three months ago.

We say, that if the "greatest happiness principle," as now stated, be sound, Mr. Mill's Essay, and all other works concerning government, which, like that essay, proceed on the supposition, that individuals may have an interest opposed to the greatest happiness of society, are fundamentally erroneous.

We say, that those who hold this principle to be sound, must be prepared to maintain, either that monarchs and aristocracies may be trusted to govern the community, or else that men cannot be trusted to follow their own interest, when that interest is demonstrated to them.

We say, that if men cannot be trusted to follow their own interest, when that interest has been demonstrated to them, then the Utilitarian arguments, in favour of universal suf frage, are good for nothing.

We say, that the "greatest happiness principle" has not been proved; that it cannot be generally proved; that even in the particular cases selected by the Reviewer it is not clear that the principle is true; and that many cases might be stated in which the common sense of mankind would at once pronounce it to be false.

We now leave the Westminster Reviewer to alter and amend his "magnificent principle" as he thinks best. Unlimited, it is false. Properly limited, it will be barren. The "greatest happiness principle" of the 1st of July, as far as we could discern its meaning through a cloud of rodomontade, was an idle truism. The "greatest happiness principle" of the 1st of October is, in the phrase of the American newspapers, "important if true." But unhappily it is not true. It is not our business to conjecture what new maxim is to make the bones of sages and patriots stir on the 1st of December. We can only say, that, unless it be something infinitely more ingenious than its two predecessors, we shall leave it unmolested. The Westminster Reviewer may, if he pleases, indulge himself like Sultan Schahriar, with espousing a rapid succession of virgin theories. But we must beg to be excused from playing the part of the vizier, who regularly attended on the day after the wedding to strangle the new sultana.

The Westminster Reviewer charges us with urging it as an objection to the "greatest happiness principle," that, "it is included in the Christian morality." This is a mere fiction of his own. We never attacked the morality of the gospel. We blamed the Utilitarian for claiming the credit of a discovery, when they had merely stolen that morality, and spoiled it. in the stealing. They have taken the precept of Christ, and left the motive; and they de mand the praise of a most wonderful and beneficial invention, when all that they have done has been to make a most useful maxim useless by separating it from its sanction. On religious principles, it is true that every individual will best promote his own happiness by promoting the happiness of others. But if religious considerations be left out of the question, it is not true. If we do not reason on the supposition of a future state, where is the mo tive? If we do reason on that supposition, where is the discovery?

The Westminster Reviewer tells us, that "we wish to see the science of government unsettled, because we see no prospect of a settlement which accords with our interests." His angry eagerness to have questions settled resembles that of a judge in one of Dryden's

« AnteriorContinuar »