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Introduction<1> - George Turnbull, The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 1: The Principles of Moral Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 1: The Principles of Moral Philosophy, ed. and with an Introduction by Alexander Broadie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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Natural philosophy distinguish’d from moral.Every one who knows what natural philosophy is, or how it proceeds in its enquiries will easily conceive what moral philosophy must mean; and how it likewise ought to be pursued: for all enquiries into fact, reality, or any part of nature must be set about, and carried on in the same way; and an enquiry into human nature is as much an enquiry into fact, as any question about the frame and texture (for instance) of any plant, or of the human body.<2>
But both are enquiries into fact or nature.The objects of science are justly divided into corporeal, or sensible ones; and those which not being perceived by the outward senses, but by reflexion on the mind itself and its inward operations, are therefore called intellectual or moral objects. Hence the consideration of the former is stiled Physiology, or Natural philosophy; and that of the other is called Rational, or Moral philosophy. But however philosophy may be divided; nothing can be more evident, than, that the study of nature, whether in the constitution and oeconomy of the sensible world, or in the frame and government of the moral, must set out from the same first principles, and be carried on in the same method of investigation, induction, and reasoning; since both are enquiries into facts or real constitutions.
Natural philosophy described.What is natural philosophy, how is it defined? or, how are its researches carried on? By it is understood an enquiry into the sensible world: that is “into the general laws, according to which its appearances are produced; and into the beauty, order, and good which these general laws produce .”The principles it presupposes and proceeds upon in its enquiries. And therefore in such an enquiry the following maxims are justly laid down as the foundations on which all its reasonings are built; or as the first principles from which all its conclusions are inferred; and without supposing which it cannot proceed one step.
First principle.I. That if the corporeal world be not governed by general laws, it cannot be the object of enquiry or science; and far less of imitation by arts, since imitation necessarily presupposes knowledge of the object imitated; and science presupposes a certain determinate object; or fixed ascertainable relations and connexions of things. Upon the contrary supposition the corporeal world must be absolutely unintelligible. Nature, in order to be understood by us, must always speak the same language to us: it<3> must therefore steadily observe the same general laws in its operations, or work uniformly and according to stated, invariable methods and rules. Those terms, order, beauty, general good, and a whole, which are too familiar to philosophers, to need any definition, or explication, plainly include in their meaning, analogy and constancy; uniformity amidst variety; or in other words, the regular observance of general, settled laws in the make and oeconomy, production and operations, or effects of any object to which they are ascribed. Wherever order, fixed connexions, or general laws and unity of design take place, there is certainty in the nature of such objects; and so far therefore knowledge may be acquired. But where these do not obtain, there can be nothing but unconnected independent parts; all must be confusion and disorder; and consequently such a loose disjointed heap of things must be an inexplicable chaos. In one word, science, prudence, government, imitation, and art, necessarily suppose the prevalence of general laws throughout all the objects in nature to which they reach. No being can know itself, project or pursue any scheme, or lay down any maxims for its conduct; but so far as its own constitution is certain; and the connexion of things relative to it are fixed and constant; for so far only, are things ascertainable; and therefore so far only, can rules be drawn from them.
“Nature’sa operating according to general laws (says a very ingenious philosopher ) is so necessary for letting us into the secret of nature, and for our guidance in the affairs of life, that without it, all reach and compass of thought, all human sagacity could serve to no manner of purpose: it were even impossible there should be any such faculties or powers in the mind. It is<4> this alone, gives us that foresight which enables us to regulate our actions for the benefit of life: and without this, we should be eternally at a loss; we could not know how to act any thing that might procure us the least pleasure, or save us from the least pain. That food nourishes, sleep refreshes, and fire warms us; that to sow in the seed-time, is the way to reap in harvest; that to give application is the way to improve and arrive at perfection in knowledge, or in any moral virtue; and in general, that to obtain such or such ends, such or such means are conducive; all this we know, and only can know, by the observation of the settled laws of nature, without which we should be all in uncertainty and confusion, and a grown man no more know how to manage himself in the affairs of life, than an infant just born.”
This first principle in natural philosophy, is therefore indisputable. “That without the prevalence of general laws there can be no order; and consequently no foresight, no science: and that as all appearances in the corporeal world, which are reducible to general laws are explicable, so such as are not, are utterly inexplicable.” Or in other words, “such effects as are not always produced in the same way and method, and have always the same consequences and influences, are quite anomalous; they cannot be reduced to any rule or order, and for that reason, no conclusion can be inferred from them.” ’Tis only connexions which take place constantly in the same invariable manner that are ascertainable; or that can lay a foundation for science Theoretical or Practical.
Second principle.II. Now those are justly called by philosophers, general laws in the sensible world. To which many effects are conformable. Or which, in other words, are observed to prevail and operate uniformly<5> in it; and regularly to produce like appearances. Thus, for instance, gravitation is concluded to be a general law throughout our mundan system, because all bodies are found to have gravity; not one body within the reach of our observation does not shew that quality: but even the most remote ones we are capable of observing, are found to operate according to it; that is, their appearances are reducible to it, as its natural and necessary effects.
This is very justly inferred, because to say, that analogous, or like appearances are not produced according to the same general law; or that they do not proceed from the same general principle, is indeed to say, that they are and are not analogous. Wherever we find analogy, or similarity of effects, there we find the same law prevailing; or so far do we find particular instances of the same property or law; or of the same method of production and operationa in nature. All this is really no more than asserting, for example, that whatever is produced conformably to a known principle, called gravity, is produced conformably to that principle. This second maxim in natural philosophy is therefore likewise indisputable.
“That those are general laws in a system, which prevail and operate uniformly in that system; or to which many effects in it are reducible and none are repugnant.” Or in other words, “those effects, however remote from us the objects are, to which they belong, may be justly attributed to that law or property, to which they are reducible, as its natural effects, that is known to be universal, so far as experience can reach;<6> for this very reason that such a known property being sufficient to produce them, is sufficient to account for them.”b
Third principle.III. But in the third place, “Those general laws of the corporeal world are good laws, which by their steady and uniform prevalency produce its good, beauty, and perfection in the whole.” Thus, for instance, gravitation must be a good general law in the sensible or material world, if its uniform operation be conducive to the greatest good, beauty, and perfection of that system. ’Tis needless to define terms to natural philosophers, which are so commonly used by them; and if these terms have any meaning, the following argument must hold good, “All the interests of intelligent beings require that general laws should prevail, so far as they are concerned; nay, without general laws, there could be no union, no general connexion, and consequently no general beauty, good, or perfection, but all must be tumult, incoherence, and disorder.” It is therefore absolutely good and fit, that general laws should take place; and those laws must be good in a system, which produce in the sum of things, the greater coherence, order, beauty, good, and perfection of that system.
Now from this it necessarily follows, that no particular effects, which flow from good general laws, can be evils absolutely considered, that is, with regard to the whole. No effect, for example, of gravitation can be evil, if gravitation be a good general law in the sense above explained.
General conclusion concerning natural philosophy.There is therefore a third maxim in philosophy, which is beyond all doubt. “That all the effects of general laws which are good with respect to a<7> whole, are good absolutely considered, or referred to that whole.”
Such effect as are reduced to general laws, are accounted for physically.We may then very justly conclude in general, that all effects or appearances in the natural world, are sufficiently explained and accounted for in natural philosophy, which are reduced to good general laws, as so many particular instances of their uniform operation; and that both physically and morally. They are sufficiently explained and accounted for in the physical sense, by being reduced to general laws: for what else is the physical knowledge of a fact in the sensible world, but the knowledge of an effect itself, in its progress, qualities, and influences: or in other words, the knowledge of the manner or order in which it is produced, and in which it operates on other things relating to it; the knowledge of the laws according to which it is produced, works, and is worked upon?
They are accounted for morally, if the laws they are reducible to be good.“All philosophers acknowledge (says an excellent one) that the first cause, or producer of the sensible world, must be a mind, whose will gives subsistence and efficacy to all its laws and connexions. The difference there is between natural philosophers and other men with regard to their knowledge of natural phenomena, consists not in an exacter knowledge of the efficient cause, that produces them; for that can be no other than the will of a spirit: but only in a greater largeness of comprehension whereby analogies, harmonies, and agreements are discovered in the works of nature and the particular effects are explained, that is, reduced to general laws.”
But it is needless to dwell longer on this conclusion, since in the language of all natural philosophers,a those effects are reckoned to be fully explained in the physical way, which are shown to be particular<8> instances of a general law that had been already inferred from a sufficient variety of fair and unexceptionable experiments: and those effects only are said to be unexplained, which are not yet reduced to any known law, or the law of which is not yet understood and ascertained.
Such effects are sufficiently explained, and accounted for morally, when they are reduced to general laws which are proved to be good in the whole; because they are thus shown to proceed from laws that are morally good and just.
Natural philosophy in accounting for final causes, coincides with moral philosophy.Tho’ phisiology be distinguished from moral philosophy, yet it was needless to suggest to any class of readers, before we used the words, beauty, order, good and perfection, that these are terms relative to beings capable of pleasure and pain, and of perceiving good order and beauty; or that laws cannot be said to be good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or imperfect, but with respect to minds or perceiving beings: for pain or pleasure, good or ill, convenience or inconvenience, beauty or deformity, evidently presuppose perceptive faculties. On the one hand, an unperceiveable world cannot be the object of knowledge, or enjoyment of any kind; and, on the other, ’tis perceiving beings alone that can enjoy, or to whom existence can be happiness. But from this, it follows, that tho’ natural philosophy be commonly distinguished from moral; all the conclusions in natural philosophy, concerning the order, beauty, and perfection of the material world, belong properly to moral philosophy; being inferences that respect the contriver, maker, and governor of the world, and other moral beings capable of understanding its wise, good and beautiful administration, and of being variously affected by its laws and connexions.
In reality, when natural philosophy is carried so far as to reduce phenomena to good general laws, it becomes moral philosophy; and when it stops<9> short of this chief end of all enquiries into the sensible or material world, which is, to be satisfied with regard to the wisdom of its structure and oeconomy; it hardly deserves the name of philosophy in the sense of Socrates, Plato, Lord Verulam,21Boyle, Newton, and the other best moral or natural philosophers.a
Moral philosophy described.Having thus briefly shown what natural philosophy proposes to do, and upon what foundations it proceeds in establishing any conclusions; let us now see what moral philosophy must be. It is distinguished from phisiology, (as has been observed) because it enquires chiefly about objects not perceiveable by means of our outward organs of sense, but by internal feeling or experience; such as are all our moral powers and faculties, dispositions and affections, the power of comparing ideas, of reasoning or inferring consequences, the power of contracting habits, our sense of beauty and harmony, natural or moral, the desire of society, &c. Even these, however, may very properly be called parts of nature; and by whatever name, they, or the knowledge of them be called, ’tis obvious, that an enquiry about any of them, and the laws and connexions established by the author of nature, with regard to any of them, is as much a question of natural history or of fact, as an enquiry about any of our organs of sense, or about the constitution of any material object whatsoever, and the laws relating to it.It must presuppose and proceed upon the same principles. And therefore the same principles just mentioned as the foundation of all enquiries and reasonings in natural philosophy, must likewise take place, and be admitted in moral philosophy; that is, in all enquiries and reasonings concerning the human mind, its<10> powers, faculties, dispositions and affections, and the laws relative to them, as well as in all enquiries into the properties of a body.
For these principles are of an universal nature.In truth, these principles must necessarily take place in the explication of any piece of nature that can be understood or explained. They are principles of a general nature, which, if they be true in any case, must be universally true; and therefore they must be universally admitted, with regard to every constitution, system or whole, corporeal or incorporeal, natural or moral, that is, body or mind. Whence it results, that with respect to the human mind; to the frame of any mind whatsoever, or in general with respect to any moral system it must be true.a
First principle of moral philosophy.I. That unless it be so constituted and governed, that all the effects and appearances belonging to it, are the effects of general laws, it must be absolutely unintelligible; it must be complete confusion, irregularity and disorder; it cannot have a certain and determinate nature, but must be made up of disanalogous,<11> separate, incoherent parts, and operate in a desultory, inconstant manner: that is, it is not a whole; and cannot be the object of government or art, because it cannot be the object of knowledge: for all that can be known of it in such a case, is, that nothing can be ascertained about it; or that it is a Proteus, whose changes are without rule, and therefore are absolutely unascertainable.22
Second principle.II. Those must be received as general laws or principles in a moral frame or constitution, which are found by experience to operate uniformly or invariably in that system. Thus, for instance, that habits are contracted by repeated acts, may be justly said to be a general law in our frame, because this law has its effects uniformly and invariably in our natures; or many effects do evidently show a relation to that law as their common source and principle; and not one effect in human nature is repugnant to it; for, in like manner, is gravitation concluded to be a general law in the sensible world.
Third principle.III. Those must be good principles or laws in the constitution of a mind, or in any moral whole, which are conducive by their steady and uniform operation and prevalency to the greater good, beauty, and perfection of that whole in the sum of things. And therefore no effects which flow from such laws can be evils absolutely considered, or with respect to the whole. Thus the above-mentioned law of habits, must be a good general law in the constitution of the human mind, if its general tendency or influence be contributive to the greater good of the human mind in the sum of things; and no effects of that principle can be absolutely evil; because it is fit and good, that general laws should take place; and those must be good general laws, which are good in the whole, or conducive to the greater order, beauty, and perfection of a whole.<12>
Moral effects are sufficiently explained and accounted for physically and morally, by being reduced to good general laws.From all which it must necessarily follow, that all those effects, with regard to any moral constitution, are fully explained and accounted for physically and morally, which are reduced to such general laws as have been mentioned, as so many particular instances of their uniform and general prevalency.
To know any moral object physically, can be nothing else but to know what it is, and how it is constituted; or to know its parts, and those references of parts to one another, which make it a certain determinate whole, that works and is operated upon in certain determinable ways.
And to know the final cause, or moral fitness of any constitution, can be nothing else, but to know what good end in the sum of things, all its parts, and all their mutual respects, with all the laws and connexions relative to it, tend to produce. In fine, as different beings as a man and a tree are, yet the knowledge of man and the knowledge of a tree must mean the same kind of knowledge; in either case it is to know what the being is, and to what end it is adapted by its make and texture, and in consequence of the laws and connexions upon which it any wise depends.
Hence we see how moral philosophy ought to be pursued, and how it will stand on the same footing with natural philosophy.All this is too evident to be longer insisted upon. And what is the result of all that has been said? Is it not, that such moral appearances as are reducible to good general laws, will stand upon the same footing in moral philosophy, that those appearances in the natural world do in natural philosophy, which are reducible to good general laws? And that in order to bring moral philosophy, or the knowledge of the moral world, upon the same footing with natural philosophy, or the knowledge of the material world, as it now stands; we must enquire into moral phenomena, in the same manner as we do into physical ones: that is, we must endeavour to find out by experience the good general laws to<13> which they are reducible. For this must hold good in general, that so far as we are able to reduce appearances to a good general law, so far are we able to explain them or account for them. As phenomena which are not the effects of general laws, are in the nature of things absolutely unexplicable; so those which are, can only be explained by reducing them to the general laws of which they are the effects. “Explaining or accounting for phenomena can mean nothing else; it is not indeed now pretended by any philosopher to mean any thing else.”
A prejudice that may arise from treating natural philosophy in this manner removed.This conclusion manifestly ensues from what has been said. But lest any one should be startled at an attempt to treat effects in the same manner, which are evidently of so different natures, as corporeal and moral effects certainly are; or lest any one should have imagined that general laws can only take place with regard to matter and motion, and consequently, that an essay to explain moral appearances by general laws, must involve in it all the absurdity of an attempt to handle effects, which are not mechanical or material, as if they were such: to prevent all such objections, and to proceed more distinctly and surely in this essay, let us just observe here, that though no two things can be more different than a thinking being and a corporeal one; or than moral powers and operations are from passive unperceiving objects, and their qualities and effects; yet the exercises of all the moral powers, dispositions and affections of minds, as necessarily presuppose an established order of nature, or general laws settled by the Author of nature with respect to them; as the exercises of our bodily senses about qualities and effects of corporeal beings, do with regard to them.Moral powers and the exercises of moral powers, necessarily suppose and require general laws. As we could neither procure nor avoid, by our will and choice, any sensation of our sight, touch, or any other of our senses, had not nature established a certain order, with respect <14> to the succession or conveyance of our sensations, or the methods in which they are produced in us; so in like manner, we could neither acquire knowledge of any kind, contract habits, or attain to any moral perfection whatsoever; unless the Author of our nature had fixed and appointed certain laws relating to our moral powers, and their exercises and acquisitions. Being able to attain to science, to arts, to vertues, as necessarily presupposes a fixed and appointed road to virtue, &c. as being able to move our hands or limbs, does an established order of nature, with respect to these motions, and the sensations resulting from them, or attainable by them.
We are not more certain that we have sensations, than we are certain that we have power, or a sphere of activity.We are not more certain, that sensations are conveyed into or impressed upon our minds, by means of certain organs of sensation in a certain order, than we are sure that we have a certain extent of dominion, or a certain sphere of activity and power allotted to us by nature: that is to say, that certain effects, both in the corporeal and moral world, are made to depend, as to their existence or non-existence, upon our will, that they should exist or not exist. That we have such a power, both with regard to several actions of our body and of our mind, is plain matter of experience.
It is not disputed.There is indeed no dispute about this kind of liberty or dominion belonging to man: but how far it extends, is another question, to be considered afterwards. Now wherever this liberty or dominion obtains, or whatever are its bounds, however wide, or however narrow and stinted it may be, this is certain, that so far as it extends, it necessarily presupposes certain laws of nature relating to it; or to speak more properly, constituting it. For this is no more than saying, that did not fire gently warm and cruelly burn, according to certain fixed laws ascertainable by us, we could not know how to warm ourselves without burning: and by parity of<15> reason, were not knowledge, habits, and moral improvements, acquirable in a certain fixed way, we could not acquire them or attain to them.But power, and a sphere of activity, cannot take place but where general laws obtain. That is, we could have no liberty, no dominion, no sphere of activity or power, neither in the natural nor moral world: or in other words, either with regard to objects of sense, or moral objects, but upon supposition, that the natural and moral world are governed by general laws; or so far as they are so governed.
If it could be proved that we have no dominion, no power properly so called, assigned to us by nature, that would not prove us to be mere stocks, mere pieces of mechanism; since even upon that supposition, this essential difference would still remain between material objects and us, that we are conscious, whereas the latter are quite void of perception. But on the other hand, if we really have a certain sphere of activity, in the sense above defined (as we most certainly have to a very considerable extent) this sphere of activity must be allotted to us by our Maker; and it necessarily supposes, so far as it extends, a certain fixed dependance of objects upon our wills as to their existence or non-existence, conformably to which, and not otherwise, we may exercise that dominion.
Some remarks on the controversy about liberty and necessity.The question about liberty and necessity has been violently agitated among metaphysicians almost in all ages; but it no ways concerns this present enquiry, that I should enter any further into it than just to observe, 1. That whatever way it may be determined in abstract metaphysical speculation, this fact remains indisputable, that many objects depend upon our will, as to their existence or non-existence, many objects without the mind as well as in it. And all such objects are εϕ ημιν, that is, they are put by nature within our power, in any sense, that any thing can be said to be dependent on a being, within its power, or at its option and disposal.<16> Such ways of speaking are of universal use and extent: none are more such: but to say that such phrases, received in all languages, and universally understood, have no meaning at all, is to assert an absurdity no less gross than this; that men may discourse, hold correspondence, and be influenced and determined in their correspondence with one another, without understanding one another, without any ideas at all. Common language is built upon fact, or universal feeling. And every one understands what it is to be free, to have a thing in his power, at his command, or dependent upon him. It is only such philosophers, who seeking the knowledge of human nature, not from experience, but from I know not what subtle theories of their own invention, depart from common language, and therefore are not understood by others, and sadly perplex and involve themselves. But, which is more, nothing can be more certain than that pains and pleasures are the consequences of certain actions; may be foreseen by us; and may be avoided or obtained accordingly, as we act in such or such a manner. But if this fact, which is matter of universal experience, be admitted to be true, we are certainly in respect of all such pains and pleasures, free. That is, having, or not having them, depends absolutely on our exerting our selves to have them or not to have them, according to the connections of nature: so that, whether the constitution of nature be fortuitous, necessary, or the free choice of a free being, we are free, and have power; or our happiness and misery, as far as the connection of these with our actions reaches, totally depends upon ourselves. If a fact be certain, there is no reasoning against it; but every reasoning, however specious it may be, or rather, however subtle and confounding, if it be repugnant to fact, must be sophistical. And the fact just now mentioned is as<17> certain, as any matter of experience or consciousness can be.
2. Any reasoning from which it follows that men can neither deserve blame nor praise for their actions, and that it is needless for us to take care either to procure goods, or avoid evils, must be false; because it leads to a very absurd and fatal mistake in life and conduct. But truth cannot lead to absurdity or error. For this reason, such arguments were called by the antients λογοι αργοι,23ignavae rationesa Sophisms that lead to inaction : and they were justly reckoned absurd upon that account; absurd, because to follow them would be sure ruin. If certain pains and pleasures depend upon our manner of acting and exerting ourselves; upon our elections, determinations and pursuits; upon the exercises of our faculties, in consequence of certain fixed connections in nature between our actions and certain effects; then it is our business, because it is our interest, to endeavour to learn these connexions, and to act agreeably to them. And in like manner, if we are so made, that we cannot but approve some actions, and blame others in ourselves and other persons, then is it our proper business to maintain this natural sense of right and wrong, in a sound, uncorrupted state, and to judge<18> and act conformably to it. All principles and reasonings which have an opposite tendency, must be as false as they are pernicious. With respect to our natural disposition to approve or disapprove actions, or our sense of good and ill desert, it necessarily implies in it, or carries along with it, a persuasion of its being in the power of the person blamed or commended, to have done, or not done the action approved or disapproved: for in every instance, when we know a person could not help doing or not doing a thing, we can neither blame nor approve him. Now such a determination of our nature, which necessarily supposes certain actions to be in our power; were no actions really in our power, would be absurd and delusive; which there is no ground from the analogy of nature to suppose, that any disposition or determination in our frame can be.
But it is not my business here to refute the doctrine of necessity, or to speak more properly, the doctrine of inactivity, (for so was it called by the ancients;) but to shew that freedom, or power, as such, supposes, nay necessarily requires, in order to its subsistence and exercise, established general laws. And this is as evident, as that goods cannot be obtained, nor pains be avoided by us, unless there is a fixed way of getting the one, and shunning the other, which may be foreseen and followed by us.a
The enquiry in which man is chiefly interested, is the extent of his dominion, power, or sphere of activity, that he may know how to regulate himself and his actions; not waste his time and powers in vain, impossible attempts, to gain or change what is absolutely independent of him, but employ himself in the right exercise of his powers,<19> about objects subjected to his will. Accordingly, ancient philosophers have commonly set out in their moral enquiries, by distinguishing and classing the τα εϕ ημινa and the τα ουκ εϕ ημιν, the objects put by nature in our power, and those that are not. We have an excellent catalogue of them in the beginning of Epictetus’s Enchiridion; and in the following enquiry, there will be occasion to take notice of the most important branches of our power, in the natural and in the moral world, that is, over external and sensible objects, or over moral and intellectual ones.
An account of the way in which the enquiry into human nature is to be carried on analogously to natural philosophy.But before I proceed to enquire into any of the general laws relative to human nature, and their effects and final causes; it is necessary, in order to give a clear view of the manner in which it is proposed to carry on that enquiry, and of the strict analogy between natural and moral philosophy, to observe:
That as in natural philosophy, though it would be but building a fine visionary Theory or Fable, to draw out a system of consequences the most accurately connected from mere hypotheses, or upon supposition of the existence and operation of properties, and their laws, which experience does not shew to be really existent; yet the whole of true natural philosophy is not, for that reason, no more than a system of facts discovered by experiment and observation; but it is a mixture of experiments, with reasonings from experiments: so in the same manner, in moral philosophy, though it would be but to contrive a beautiful, elegant romance, to deduce the best coupled system of conclusions concerning human nature from imaginary suppositions, that have no foundation in nature; yet the whole of true moral philosophy, will not, for that reason, be no more than a collection of facts discovered by experience; but it likewise will<20> be a mixed science of observations, and reasonings from principles known by experience to take place in, or belong to human nature.
Hypotheses in either are only to be admitted as questions to be enquired into.In neither case are hypotheses to be any further admitted, than as questions, about the truth or reality of which it is worth while to enquire; but in both we may proceed in the double method of analysis and synthesis: by the former endeavouring to deduce from some certain select effects, the simple powers of nature, and their laws and proportions; from which, by the latter method, we may infer or resolve the nature of other effects.a In both cases equally, as soon as certain powers or laws of nature are inferred from experience, we may consider them, reason about them,But we may proceed in both by analysis and synthesis. compare them with other properties, powers and laws; and these powers being found to be real, whatever conclusions necessarily result from such comparisons or reasonings, must be true concerning them; and do therefore denote as certainly some qualities, properties, attendants or consequents of them, as if these had been immediately discovered by experiment, instead of being deduced by strict reasoning, and necessary inference from principles known to be really true by experience: Or if before any property or law was known to be real, perchance many conclusions had been inferred from the very nature or idea of it, compared with other ideas, by necessary consequence; the moment such laws and properties are found<21> out to be real, the nall the conclusions from them, which were before but mere abstract, hypothetical theories, become real truths, applicable to nature itself, and consequently a key to its operations.
Illustration by examples in natural philosophy.The thing will be sufficiently plain if we take an example. One may draw several conclusions concerning gravity from the nature of the thing, without knowing that it is an universal law of nature; but the moment it is known to be such, all these abstract conclusions concerning the necessary effects of it in certain circumstances, become instead of mere theories, real truths, that is, real parts of the law of gravity, as far as it extends: or though one had never considered gravity in abstract, or made any necessary deductions from its nature and idea, before it was known to be an universal law of bodies; yet after it is found by experience to be such, if any properties, effects or consequences can be drawn from the very consideration of gravity itself, compared with other properties; all such conclusions, the moment they are found out, may be placed to the account of nature, and deemed parts of the natural law of gravity. Thus if the laws of centripedal forces have been determined with regard to an ellipsis, parabola, hyperbola, &c. it immediately follows, that if bodies move in such or such a curve, such and such must be the laws of their centripedal forces; and vice versa, if the laws of the centripedal forces of bodies are found to be such and such, it immediately follows, that such and such must be the nature of the orbits described by bodies that have such and such centripedal forces.
It must be the same in moral philosophy.In like manner in moral philosophy, whatever can be proved to belong to, result from; or contrary wise, to be repugnant to the very definition of intelligence, volition, affection, habit, or any moral power; and a supposed law of such power will become a part of moral philosophy, so soon as such power is known to exist: or vice versa, any effects<22> that can only result from such a law, being found by experience to take place, the law itself must be inferred; and so of course all belonging to that law will come into philosophy, as appertaining to it, and be a key to moral nature and its phenomena, as such. Now of this kind of reasonings in moral philosophy, many instances occur in the following enquiry, almost in every chapter, which for that reason above-mentioned, have the same relation to moral philosophy, that abstract mathematical truths have to natural philosophy, and make part of it in the same way as these do of the latter.
Conclusions concerning moral philosophy.In fine, the only thing in enquiries into any part of nature, moral or corporeal, is not to admit any hypothesis as the real solution of appearances, till it is found really to take place in nature, either by immediate experiment, or by necessary reasonings from effects, that unavoidably lead to it as their sole cause, law, or principle. But all demonstrations which shew that certain moral ideas must have certain relations, that is, certain agreements and disagreements, are in the same way a key to moral nature, that demonstrations relative to the agreements and disagreements of sensible ideas, as gravity, elasticity, circles, triangles, &c. belong, are applicable, or a key to natural philosophy. So that as the explication of the mundan system, being mixed of reasonings and observations, is properly called mixed mathematics, or mixed natural philosophy; so an account of human nature, mixed of principles inferred from immediate observation, and others deduced from such principles, by reasoning from ideas or definitions, may be called mixed moral philosophy, or mixed metaphysics; for demonstrations about moral ideas are commonly called metaphysical. But the word metaphysick having fallen into contempt, instead of calling this treatise mixed principles, or metaphysical principles, I have simply termed it, The principles of moral philosophy. I<23> shall not now enquire into the causes that have brought metaphysical reasonings, the name at least, into disrepute: but certainly no one will say, that intelligence, will, affections, or in one word, moral powers, and their relations, are not worth enquiring into, or collecting experiments and reasonings about.
The following treatise is therefore made up partly of observations, or experiments, and of reasonings from the very nature of moral powers.I have only mentioned all this, to shew how moral philosophy ought to go on, and to forewarn my reader, that he is not to expect in this treatise merely a collection of experiments, but a good deal of reasoning from principles known to be true by experience, to effects; and reciprocally from effects known by experience to be true, to their causes or principles. And whatever may be thought of the execution (which I submit to all candid judges, who are ever rather favourably than severely disposed) sure none can look upon the design to be trifling, who understand what moral powers mean. For if any thing is worth man’s attention, it is man himself, that is, his natural powers, end, dignity and happiness.
The chief design of the following enquiry stated.Having thus dispatched all necessary preliminaries as briefly as I could, the question now to be entered upon is, “Are all the effects and appearances relative to the constitution of our minds, effects of powers, faculties, dispositions and affections, which with all the laws and connexions belonging to them, tend to produce good, order, beauty and perfection in the whole?” As in enquiring about the constitution of a horse, for example, it belongs not properly to such a question, whether that animal be superior or inferior to a lion; but that enquiry presupposes the constitutions and ends of both these animals known; so in the present case, the first question is not, whether there are not in nature more noble beings than man; but whether man deserves his place in nature, as being well adapted to a very good and noble end; to a dignity, a perfection,<24> a happiness, to have fitted and qualified him for which, proves great wisdom and goodness in his Author, the Author of nature.
I shall now endeavour to go through the more remarkable general laws of our constitution, to which the chief appearances relative to mankind seem to be reducible.
[a. ]Principles of human knowledge. [George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710, 1734). The quote is based mainly on A.151.]
[a. ]Here I multiply words, because all these are used promiscuously by philosophers. See the preface to Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia, by Rog. Cottes, and the Principia, Lib. 3. Regulae philosophandi. [Isaac Newton, Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica. First published in 1687; the second and third editions (1713 and 1726) were produced with the assistance of Roger Cotes (1682–1716), who also wrote a preface. See Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica: The Third Edition (1726) with Variant Readings, ed. Alexandre Koyré and I. Bernard Cohen, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972).]
[b. ]See Newton’s Principia, Lib. 3. Regulae philosophandi.
[a. ]See Sir Isaac Newton’s principia. Dr. John Clark’s sermons on the origin of evil. The characteristicks, &c.
[21. ]Francis Bacon, first Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans (1561–1626), English philosopher and statesman, whose works include The Advancement of Learning (1605) and Novum Organum (1620).
[a. ]See Sir Isaac Newton’s Opticks, l. 3. p. 345, and Plato’s Phaedon; where we see what Socrates thought natural philosophy ought to aim at, by what he says of the vanity of the natural philosophy of Anaxagoras. [Plato, Phaedo, 97C-99E.]
[a. ]How an enquiry into human nature or natural philosophy ought to be carried on, we learn from Cicero de Finibus. for tho’ in that treatise, different systems are represented and defended, yet it is unanimously agreed amongst all the interlocutors in these dialogues, that the natural end for which man is made, can only be inferred from the consideration of his natural faculties and dispositions as they make one whole; even as we can only know the nature of any animate or inanimate whole; of a vine, for instance, by enquiring into its structure or constitution. This point is argued in all these books at great length. See a fine description of moral philosophy in Persius Sat. 3.
[Persius, Satires, III.66–72: “Come and learn, o miserable souls, and be instructed in the causes of things: learn what we are, and for what sort of lives we were born; what place was assigned to us at the start; how to round the turning-post gently, and from what point to begin the turn; what limit should be placed on wealth; what prayers may rightfully be offered; what good there is in fresh-minted coin; how much should be spent on country and on your dear kin; what part God has ordered you to play, and at what point of the human commonwealth you have been stationed.” Juvenal and Persius, trans. G. G. Ramsay, rev. ed., Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940).]
[22. ]In Greek legend, Proteus was the old man of the sea, who was given the gift of prophecy by the god Poseidon. Proteus assumed different shapes in order to escape prophesying.
[23. ]“Slothful arguments.”
[a. ]See Cicero de fato, Nec nos impediat illa ignava ratio quae dicitur, appellatur enim αργος λογος, cui si pareamus nihil agamus in vita, &c. So Plutarch de fato, Nam istae argutiunculae quae ignava ratio appellantur, revera fallaces sunt conclusiunculaeè disputatione de fato tractae. Where the same author observes, that Fate properly signifies, Leges quas de universi natura deus sanxit, animis immortalibus praesertim.—Legem appellari comitem naturae universi, secundum quam omnia quae fiant transiguntur.—Ipsum autem Fatum tale esse è natura ejus & appellatione constat. Heimarmene etiam dicitur quasi nexa & consertu lex & sanctio est, quia civili modo constitutum habet quid ex factis consequatur, &c. The ancient phrases to express the liberty of agents are, Liberum nobis esse, in nostra potestate esse, nobis parere, &c. For such actions could one be praised or blamed? [Cicero, De fato, xii.28: “Nor shall we for our part be hampered by what is called the ‘idle argument’—for one argument is named by the philosophers the Argos Logos because if we yielded to it we should live a life of absolute inaction.” Cicero, De oratore, Book III, De fato, Paradoxa Stoicorum, De partitione oratoria, trans. H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1942).
[a. ]More is said on this subject in the first Chapter, Law i. of power.
[a. ]See Arrianus and Simplicius on Epictetus. [Epictetus (fl. ca. ad 110), a Stoic philosopher, whose Discourses have come down to us in the transcript made by his pupil Arrian, or Flavius Arrianus. Arrian also compiled an Encheiridion (a handbook) of the teachings of Epictetus. Simplicius (sixth century ad) was a Neoplatonist who wrote commentaries on Epictetus and on the Categories, De anima, De caelo, and Physics of Aristotle.]
[a. ]See Cotte’s Preface to Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia, and the Principia, I. 3. Regulae philosophandi. Qui speculationum suarum fundamentum desumunt ab hypothesibus, etiam si deinde secundum leges mechanicas accuratissime procedant; fabulam quidem elegantem forte & venustam, fabulam tamen concinnare dicendi sunt.—Hypotheses non comminiscuntur, neque in physicam recipiunt nisiutquaestiones, de quarum veritate disputetur.—Jam illud concedi aequum est quod mathematicis rationibus colligetur & certissime demonstratur.—Certe contra tenorem experimentorum somnia temere, confingenda non sunt, nec a naturae analogia recedendum, &c. [Newton, Principia. The passages are from Cotes’s preface, par. 3, 4, and 11, and the Regulae philosophandi, regula III: “Those who take the foundation of their speculations from hypotheses, even if they then proceed most rigorously according to mechanical laws, are merely putting together a romance, elegant perhaps and charming, but nevertheless a romance. . . . They do not contrive hypotheses, nor do they admit them into natural science otherwise than as questions whose truth may be discussed. . . . Now, it is reasonable to accept something that can be found by mathematics and proved with the greatest certainty. . . . Certainly idle fancies ought not to be fabricated recklessly against the evidence of experiments, nor should we depart from the analogy of nature.” Isaac Newton, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy: A New Translation, by I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1999).]
[24. ]Pope, Essay on Man, I.45–50.