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possible singly by intelligents—which, and not the expected effect, determining the will, constitutes that especial good we call moral, which resides in the person, and is not waited for until the action follow.' -pp. 10, 11.
The view given of this subject by Dr. Whewell, proceeds upon a distinction of which we can neither perceive the advantage nor admit the propriety. After illustrating the difference between right the adjective, and right the substantive, he proposes to limit obligation to the latter, and to use duty in reference to the former. “My Obligation,' says he, 'is to give another man his right; my Duty is to do what is right.' Further on he adds, hence there is a difference between being obliged and ought. I ought to do my duty; I am obliged to give a man his right. I am not obliged to relieve a distressed man, but I ought to do so.' p. 45, vol. I. Now the distinction which Dr. Whewell points out in the former of these extracts is one always recognised by ethicists, and which they have been accustomed to express by the use of the term legal obligation, to denote the correlative of a right created by enactment, and the term moral obligation to denote the correlative of what is constituted right by the great moral law of the universe. We confess that we like the older nomenclature better than the new, even supposing the latter to be otherwise unobjectionable. But this, in our judgment, it is not. For, in the first place, the novelty lies in the using of old terms in an unwonted sense ; an expedient always to be shunned in scientific investigations, as one of the most fruitful sources of error and delusion. Hitherto, moralists have been accustomed to speak of obligation as belonging to duty no less than to prescription. They have said as freely that a man is under obligation to relieve the distressed, as that he is under obligation to render to others their legal rights. They have regarded 'I ought,' as equivalent to 'I am morally obliged. Now this usage Dr. Whewell proposes to invade by retaining the old terms, but using them in new applications. We object to this as tending only to confusion. But, secondly, we fear Dr. Whewell's distinction may tend to sap the foundation of morals, by removing the conception of obligation as attaching to duty. There is a difference," he says, “between obliged and ought.' True; but what is the amount of that difference? is it merely verbal, or is there a difference of
or if this had been the sense he attached to this term, that he would have used it in the way he does in the passage cited. Vorstellung is properly the state of the mind notioning anything, or, viewed objectively, it is the notion itself entertained by the mind. It is a generic term of which Idee, Begrif (conception) and Anschauung (perception) are the specific forms.
meaning between the two? Dr. Whewell affirms the latter, and describes the value of the difference by restricting obligation to merely legal right. Is there, then, we ask, no obligation enjoining moral duty ? Does the term 'ought,' convey nothing of imperativeness? Is it true that 'I am not obliged to relieve a distressed man?" If these questions are answered in the negative, we do not see that any real foundation of duty remains. A debt which one is not under obligation to pay appears to us no debt at all; a duty which is not imperative upon us is something, attention to which will be determined by our likings rather than by our conscience. If, on the other hand, these questions be answered in the affirmative, the foundation of morality will be preserved, but at the expense of Dr. Whewell's distinction.
The views of Dr. Wayland upon this topic we have been able to gather only by inference, in consequence of his omitting formally to discuss it; and we are by no means sure that our inference has been correct, inasmuch as there appears to us some degree of confusion in this part of his otherwise very valuable book. He sets out by defining 'Ethics, or Moral Philosophy, as the science of Moral Law. From this we infer that moral obligation, in Dr. Wayland's judgment, is objectively that which enforces on man obedience to the great moral law, and subjectively the feeling which man has of being enforced to such obedience; and here we should agree with him. But as he goes on we begin to get perplexed. Law,' he tells us, is a term generally used to denote an order of sequence.' True; from which we should infer that moral law is neither more nor less than the order of moral sequence, which the Creator has established in His universe. But this is not the conclusion at which Dr. Wayland arrives. Moral law, according to him, is the order of sequence established between the moral quality of actions and their results ;' from which we should be prone to infer, that in his estimation moral obligation is nothing more than a prudent regard to the results of our actions. But that this is not Dr. Wayland's opinion the whole tenor of his book shows; and especially that part of it in which he argues at length against the greatest happiness principle as the rule of moral obligation. The truth is, we suspect, that the author has, in discussing the idea of law philosophically considered, allowed himself to be betrayed into the fallacy of admitting more into his conclusion than is to be found in his premisses. His reasoning is this :- As law in physics means an order of material sequence, so does law in morals mean an order of moral sequence; but an order of material sequence means that
if one event occur, the constitution of things under which we exist, is such, that another event will also occur; therefore an order of moral sequence means, that if an event having a moral character, occurs, it will be followed by certain practical results; ‘as, for example, the effects upon the moral character of the party through whose agency it comes to pass, and upon the estimation in which he is held by the community. Now in this argument, which we have stated as nearly as may be in Dr. Wayland's own words, the conclusion obviously overpasses the premisses. In these there is nothing about effects resulting to the individual from the event supposed. This is something added in transitu which the premisses refuse to bear. The only legitimate conclusion from them is, that an order of moral sequence means that if an event, susceptible of a moral character, occurs, the true moral character due to it will not fail to belong to it. The just analogy is between physical law and moral law, not between physical law and the results of moral law. 'Ethics,' as Dr. Wayland has said, “is the science of moral law' (perhaps it would be more correct to say with Kant, the science of the grounds of moral obligation); but this science consists, not as Dr. Wayland's further definition would go to show, in the classification of the effects resulting from the neglect or observance of that law, but in the classification of those sequences which constitute the law itself—in other words, of those great facts which compose or fall under the supreme rule of right and wrong. The results of the moral law are as distinct from the law itself as the results of the law of gravitation are from that law. Ethics is no more the science of the results of the violation or observance of the moral law, than Statics is the science of the contusions, fractures, and dislocations, which result from the violation of the law of gravitation.
IV. But it is now needful for us to hasten on to the next branch of our inquiry. This proposes to ascertain what that law is, reverence to which constitutes moral obligation. We have already seen that it is no written or expressed law; it must therefore be one which, like the laws of nature, embodies some great general truth in the economy of the universe.
On this ground we pass over, without examination, all such superficial answers to our present inquiry as that of Hobbes, who places the law of moral obligation in the enactments of civil policy; and that of Smith, who finds it in the sympathy which we feel towards the agent of good, and which, by a reflex process, we transfer to ourselves, by imagining that we sympathise with our own conduct from the standing-point of another; and that of Hutcheson, who assumes the existence of a moral sense which dictates to us the law of right and wrong; and that of Brown, who would resolve virtue into a certain relation between actions and the arbitrary constitution of the human mind. In all these theories there is, it is true, the acknowledgment of a law as lying at the basis of moral obligation; but in none of them is the law such as that which the conditions of the investigation demand. In the theory of Hobbes, the law is a mere accident, the result of a limited and erring will, or, at the best, of a concurrence of such wills, influenced by circumstances, and acting so as to meet them. In that of the others, the law is a mere fact in the constitution of the human mind; (in that of Smith, it is rather a process resulting from a particular fact in the constitution of the mind); it possesses no character of universality ; it is nothing real, settled and permanent. In truth, these latter theories are rather evasions of the question than answers to it. Assuming them to be correct, they would only indicate to us the law, in consequence of which actions appear to us good or bad, not the law, in virtue of which goodness or its opposite exist. The sympathy of A with B may be a very sufficient reason for B’s conduct appearing good to A; it can be no reason whatever for B's conduct being good. A man's moral sense may enable him to discover that an action possesses a certain moral quality, just as his sense of seeing enables him to discover that an object has a certain colour; but the moral sense no more causes the moral quality, than the sense of sight causes the particular colour. It may be true, that we are so constituted that the perception of certain qualities in an agent excites in us feelings of approbation, and that the perception of qualities of an opposite kind calls forth our disapprobation; but the qualities themselves are not and cannot be determined by the feelings they excite.
Much more worthy of consideration are the answers which have been given to this question by those profounder thinkers who have placed the basis of virtue in the fitness of things, in conformity to nature, in conformity to universal order, or in the truth of things. These theories, which rank among their supporters such names as those of Aristotle* and Zeno, in the
Injustice has been done to the great founder of the Peripatetic philosophy by the view commonly given of his ethical theory. He is usually represented as having taught that virtue consists ‘in a mean between two extremes ;' and against this the criticisms of his objectors have been chiefly directed. But in uttering the maxim thus quoted, Aristotle never designed it to be taken in the sense commonly ascribed to it-viz., that the being a mean between two extremes constitutes virtue; his meaning rather was that virtue becomes a mean between the too much and the too little, beeause it is the thing exactly fitting according to the order of nature. He viewed the moral world as an orderly mechanism, in which in its proper state all things
ancient schools, and those of Cudworth, Clarke, Wollaston, Butler, and Kant, in more recent times, though susceptible of specific shades of difference, are, we conceive, essentially the same. They all agree in regarding the distinction between right and wrong as a real, eternal, and immutable distinction; in recognising an order and arrangement in the relations out of which duty flows, which is independent of circumstance, acci. dent, or will; and in vindicating for the law of moral obligation a place of equal dignity and authority with those great primordial principles which are necessarily involved in the constitution of the universe. The differences among them appear to us, for the most part, merely verbal, or such as arise from the same truth being contemplated under different aspects.
We shall not enter here upon any formal examination of these theories, as our limits warn us to hasten forward to what yet remains of our proposed investigation. We shall content ourselves with briefly stating our own view of the subject now before us, and then showing how these different theories, to the extent to which they are sound, fall under it.
This universe is manifestly constructed upon a plan. It is not a happy accident. It is not a congeries of powers working arbitrarily, now in concurrence, and now in contrariety. It is a well-ordered as well as carefully constructed mechanism, in which each part and power is adjusted to the rest, and the whole is fitted to a great and good end. We see this very distinctly in the physical world. There all is ordered and regulated in accordance with certain great principles, and for certain definite ends. Occasionally, it is true, there occur interruptions to this; breaks in the chain; irregularities in the working; but these are all traceable to accidental causes, and the very discovery of them only more clearly unfolds to us the perfection of the plan upon which they have for a season infringed. The further our investigations are carried, and the more searching our analysis, the more distinct becomes the indications of wise and benevolent arrangement in the universe—the deeper and more grateful the conviction that this mighty maze' is not without a plan.'
But a plan involves principles, and these principles must have a basis. But where shall we search for the basis of principles that themselves lie at the foundations of the universe ? Obviously only in the eternal nature of Him by whom the
are in equipoise. Whatever accords with this he held to be right; but if the equipoise be disturbed by something existing either in excess or in deficiency, that something he held to be wrong. Wollaston suggests that he had the Platonic doctrine åpuoviav tyv ápętnv civai in his mind in his speculations on virtue; and Sir James Mackintosh adopts the same idea. (Prel. Diss. p. 302.)