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biassed in regard to moral questions ? Not, surely, that there is some physical incapacity which afflicts the human intellect, as by the paroxysm of an acute disease, every time that man turns his mind to questions of a moral kind, for this would be something more than a mere bias,-it would be a real distemper affecting the physiological state of the mind, and unfitting man for all moral action. It can only mean that the prevailing disposition of man's heart being towards evil, he will be generally found either preferring the evil to the good, or turning his attention aside from the evidences of the evil of certain courses, and over-estimating the difficulties of proving certain courses to be right, so as to decide for the agreeable rather than for the right and true. Now, in the former of these cases, it is to be observed that, after all, the bias here is not upon the judgment, but upon the will ; the error is one not of decision, but of choice. So far as the mental process is concerned, all is as it should be ; man can and does conduct his inquiry into the principles of morals to a sound conclusion; it is only when the further step is reached of acting upon these principles that the influence of depravity is felt. We judge a right; we choose, and act awry.
• Video meliora proboque ; deteriora sequor.' As respects the latter of these two cases, it must be admitted that in it there is something amounting to an actual bias of the judgment in favour of what is wrong. At the same time it is to be considered that this case occurs only where questions of individual interest or action arise, and can have no existence when the problem is the determination of a general law. There is a mighty difference in liability to be misled by feeling between a question affecting the personal interests of the party and a question of abstract science. In the former case, the soundest judgment may be blinded at times; in the latter, it is only some defect of power or knowledge that leads to mistake. A judge who might determine very unfairly when his own advantage or that of his friends was concerned, might prove himself a perfect Aristides where no such disturbing force intervened. Now, in the case before us, it is the abstract and not the personal question which man has to settle. In morals the problem is not, What may I do in this particular case? but, What is the law applying to the doings of any man in such a case? In dealing with such a question the mind goes out into a sphere where inclination and bias have hardly the remotest influence. It deals with a question as purely scientific and abstract as any problem in physics or mathematics; and a just conclusion may be reached in the one case no less than in the other.
Kant has, in laying down the law of practical morality, thrown some light upon this subject, by calling attention to the distinction between what he denominates maxims of conduct and a law of conduct. By the former he means those rules which any individual proposes to himself for the guidance of his conduct; by the latter he intends a rule which is to bind the conduct of the species: and he proposes a very simple test by which any one may determine whether his maxims correspond with the general law : 'So act,' says he, that the maxims of will might become law in a system of universal moral legislation.' * In laying down this rule, Kant has in effect only followed the Divine Teacher, who has given us substantially the same instruction in his golden rule, Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you. Now it appears to us that such rules, whilst they imply the existence and biassing influence of depravity in questions affecting individual interest, clearly at the same time indicate that we have only to generalize our decision in such cases into a universal law, to counteract this influence and arrive practically at the knowledge of what we ought to do. There is thus, we may say, even in the workings of depravity a testimony in favour of the moral government of Him who ' from seeming evil still educes good. The evil propensity is made so to counterwork itself, that what leads to error in the special guards against error in the general. The same selfishness which induces a man to choose evil for himself comes in to prevent his conceding the choice of that to others. The bias which sways him to a wrong judgment as to what should bind his own conduct is an effectual safeguard against his arriving at a wrong judgment as to what should bind the conduct of the race.
Another argument urged by those who regard human depravity as incapacitating man for the discovery of moral truth, is that, in consequence of this, human nature is so corrupted and so perverted from its original order, that no safe conclusions can be deduced from the observation of the phenomena it exhibits. Now, in the first place, even allowing what is here alleged to hold true of human nature, it would not follow that
every source of moral intelligence is thereby rendered useless to man.
It may be that depravity has so disordered the whole constitution of man that no study of the operations of his mind can lead to sound moral deductions, but this cannot be affirmed of the constitution of nature as a whole, or of the written revelation, and so long as these are open to our study it is surely quite possible, notwithstanding the corruption of our own moral
Metaphysic of Ethics, p. 102.
nature, to gather the lessons of moral truth with which they are replete. But secondly, we are not prepared to admit that even from human nature, disordered as it is, we are precluded from ascertaining those great moral laws by which the Author of our being designed our conduct to be regulated. It is admitted on all nds that the nature of man was originally, as it came from the hand of God, adapted to moral goodness; and consequently that, from the mere analysis of its constitution, conclusions might be safely reached as to what is right and what is wrong. Butler illustrates this by comparing it to a watch; as this is from its nature adapted to measure time, so is our constitution adapted to virtue. Now to what extent has this original constitution been broken in upon by the fall? Has any part of it been destroyed? Has any new faculty been added to it? Neither of these we suppose will be maintained. What, then, has occurred? As we take it, simply this: the original faculties and adaptations remaining the same, a disorder has been introduced into the working of the machine through a foreign influence. The watch is a complete watch still, but it works badly in consequence of something interfering with its mechanism. The question, then, is, does this irregularity in the working incapacitate us for ascertaining by a careful ‘analysis the original constitution of the machine--its proper design, and its adaptation to that design? Would a person capable of understanding mechanism, and who had never seen a watch until one which worked irregularly was put into his hands, be prevented by that irregularity from arriving at a just view of the design and purpose of the watch, and of the idea which was in the mind of its maker when he constructed it such as it is? These questions, we think, admit only of being answered in the negative. A mere disorder in the working of a machine may, for a season, perplex the observer, who would discover its design and the laws it obeys, but cannot avail effectually and for ever to set all his efforts at defiance. By degrees the original purpose will present itself to his mind; he may even detect the cause of the apparent anomaly in the working; and though unable, perhaps, to perceive how it may be removed, he may nevertheless see clearly, that if it were removed, the whole is so admirably adapted to a certain end, that that end would infallibly be secured. Now, the case of human nature appears to us analogous. Man, physiologically considered, is as God made him, and what Butler calls his adaptation to virtue remains physiologically as it was. But a foreign element has intruded upon his system, and by this the working of it is disordered. To the inquirer this may occasion some perplexity at first, but it cannot permanently prevent his arriving at a just idea of the original design of this system, and of the laws under which it was intended to act. The moral organ discharges its functions irregularly and unhealthily; but this cannot prevent the competent inquirer from perceiving what these functions are, the adaptation of the organ to perform them, and consequently the great principles of moral truth, in accordance with which that adaptation must have been contrived and executed.
If it be said, that after all this does not hold out to man the prospect of infallible accuracy in the pursuit of moral truth, we reply that, as little does any other source of information within his reach in the present state. In one sense, indeed, the Bible is an infallible standard of morals, but it is in the sense in which the same may be affirmed of nature as a revelation of Deity. Both embody perfect truth ; the only difference between them being, that the lessons of the one are greatly more extensive and simple than those of the other. Objectively they are both infallible; but subjectively neither of them is infallible. Man may err in studying Scripture, as he may err in studying nature. It is only in the exceptive case of an entire supercession of his own intelligence by a supernatural agency, that infallibility either in doctrine or in practice, is a boon within his reach.
With these remarks we must bring this article to a close. We have endeavoured to furnish an answer to the question with which we started, What ought I to do?-by showing that man's duty is determined by his relations—that it is enforced by the authority of that great and universal law which constitutes the moral order of the universe, and has its source in the unchanging essence of Deity—and that it may be ascertained by man, through the use of those faculties with which he is endowed, from the study of the course of nature and the declarations of Scripture. Of the doctrines we have endeavoured to expound there are many weighty applications, bearing both upon the ordinary course of man's life, and upon the special relations which arise out of that new life into which man is brought by the reception of Christianity. To some of these, had our space permitted, we should have been glad to have directed the thoughts of our readers; but our limits are already transgressed, and we cannot venture even to glance into this otherwise inviting field. If what we have written shall have the effect of inducing any, who may hitherto have overlooked it, to explore for themselves the too much neglected region of theoretical morals, we shall not have written in vain.
ART. VII. The Vegetable Kingdom; or the Structure, Classification,
and Uses of Plants, illustrated upon the Natural System. By
London, 1846. PREVIOUSLY to the introduction of the Baconian philosophy, it was the usual practice of those who professed themselves students of the works of Nature, to pursue their investigations, (in accordance with the teachings of the Peripatetic school, which till then held supreme authority,) by methods applicable merely to the solution of abstract problems. Instead of observation and experiment, instead of noting and comparing facts, as the true source of real knowledge upon such subjects, they were content to syllogize in the retirement of their closets, where they contrived those fanciful and vain hypotheses which they mistook for science, but which now are noticed merely with a smile, as curiosities in the bygone history of natural philosophy.
But, when the inductive process, as propounded in the Novum Organon, was once established, and then generally adopted as the only method of research capable of yielding real information in the science of observation, naturalists were obliged to descend from the cloudy regions of debate and hypothesis, and with a diminished pomp and show of present learning, though with far better hopes of future progress, to betake themselves to the humble employment of attending
to the real phenomena of nature, which hitherto they had so little condescended to regard. It was not, however, quite at once that the older, more facile and attractive system could be entirely discarded; and long after the value of experiment and observation to the natural philosopher, and the worthlessness of mere speculation, had been fully acknowledged, the influence of habit, or of long established custom was still apparent in the labours of naturalists, even the most observant, and of highest reputation. The writings of Bacon himself, upon subjects of Natural History, are by no means free from the mistaken practice, the fallacy of which he has elsewhere so ably exposed; Des Cartes and the philosophic Boyle afford instances of a like nature; and Swift in his time found sufficient to suggest those satires upon mere speculative philosophers, which are furnished by the adventures of Gulliver in the metropolis of Laputa. Gradually, however, the true method has acquired an entire supremacy; observation and experiment, statistics, and the numerical method, have driven empty speculation from the field,