Front Page Titles (by Subject) Introduction - The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 1: The Principles of Moral Philosophy
Return to Title Page for The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 1: The Principles of Moral Philosophy
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Introduction - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
How it is proposed to answer objections.In the former part of this enquiry, we have proved from the direct consideration of our frame and constitution, that it is good; or that we are made for an excellent end. But because this subject is of the last importance, it is well worth while to consider the objections which are made against human nature, and the present state of mankind.
Objections which end either in demanding an impossibility, or a change to the worse are absurd.Now before I examine particular objections, it is proper to premise in general,
I. That objections which necessarily terminate in demanding impossibilities, are absurd. And such<276> are all those which imply in them as direct a contradiction, as if it were demanded that man should be, and not be, at the same time.
II. Such objections are likewise absurd which demand any alteration to the worse; or a change from which greater inconveniencies would necessarily follow than those complained of. For a more inconvenient law would certainly be a worse one.
It is necessary to premise these two plain truths in an Essay, wherein it is proposed to shew, that the objections brought against our present state, do, if not at first sight, yet when closely pursued to their ultimate meaning and tendency, terminate either in demanding an impossibility, or a change to the worse.What the ancients meant by the inhability or obliquity of a subject. But they are also premised, because a great many imperfections and evils in the world, are resolved by some ancient philosophers into what they call inhability or obliquity of the subject, and necessity of nature. By which I am apt to think, they meant imperfections and evils which are, in the nature of things, absolutely unavoidable upon the supposition of the existence of certain subjects, as being absolutely inseparable from them. And, without all doubt, the objections which terminate in demanding some law or property in a material being; for instance, which it cannot in the nature of things admit of, are absurd for that very reason, if there is a moral fitness, that there should be a material creation. I give this example,a because those philosophers had recourse to the inhability or obliquity of the subject, and the necessity of nature chiefly in accounting for apparent evils of the physical kind, that is, apparent evils resulting from the properties of matter, and the laws of corporeal motion. But we may justly call inhability of the subject and necessity of nature, all natural or essential incapacity in any subject, moral or material of any demanded perfection.<277> For certainly all such appearances are sufficiently vindicated, which are shewn to be the necessary result of the essential qualities of a subject, natural or moral; or all such objections are sufficiently refuted, which are shewn to demand something incompatible with the essential properties of a subject, provided it can be proved to be morally fit and good that such a subject should exist.
Thus all objections against the material creation, which necessarily terminate in demanding that matter should be active and not passive, are certainly absurd. If it be morally fit that matter should exist: since matter is essentially, or as matter, passive and inert. In like manner, all objections against a moral creature, which necessarily terminate in demanding impeccability in such creature; or a physical impossibility of its forming any wrong judgment, or chusing unreasonably, must be absurd, if it be morally fit and good that such a moral creature should exist; since impeccability or absolute impossibility of erring is incompatible with the moral powers and properties which constitute a moral creature. All such demands terminate in an absurdity, because they require what the subject cannot admit of; what is contrary to its nature, that is, what is really impossible and contradictory.
In what sense inhability of the subject sopposes no limitation of the divine power.Now inhability of a subject, or necessity of nature, as we have explained it, supposes no limitation of creating, unless the impossibility of working contradictions; as for instance, of making a thing to be and not to be at the same time, or of making the same subject possess at the same time repugnant and incompatible qualities, be a limitation of creating power, which cannot be asserted. Nor does inhability, or necessity of nature, as we have explained it, presuppose the necessary existence of any subject previous to and independent of the mind that created the world; it only supposes, that subjects of a certain nature, if they be created, must be created with<278> that particular nature, or with the properties which belong to it; and that properties which are absolutely in their essence repugnant to co-existence in the same subject, cannot be made to co-exist in the same subject. And that is, not to suppose creating power limited by any thing, or subjected to any thing, since the impossibility of making contradictions to be true, is no limitation of power.
Objections that terminate in demanding a change to the worse, are absurd.II. The other proposed method of solving objections made against human nature, and the present state of mankind, by shewing, that they terminate in demanding a change to the worse; or that would be attended with more or greater disadvantages than those complained of, does not involve in it any limitation of creating power; since power cannot be said to be limited or confined, because it is directed by wisdom and goodness; and is only employed to produce that from which greater good, in the sum of things, must necessarily ensue. Nay, if we rightly consider the matter, it will be found, that this last way coincides with the former; and that such demands, as well as the former, terminate in requiring a natural impossibility. For, so certainly do all demands terminate, “which require the general advantages of a general law without the general prevalence of that law”; “or the goods of one law by means of another law”; “that an end should be produced without means proper and apposite to its production”; “or that such and such a law should be general, and yet several necessary effects of its general operation be hindered from taking place.” To require a change of any law on account of the inconveniencies which attend it, if these be compensated by the good effects of that law, is an absurd demand; since all the interests of intelligent beings require, that the laws by which they are regulated, or which are fixed for their regulation of themselves, should be general and prevail uniformly: and to require<279> that a being should be progressive, without the consequences which necessarily redound from progressiveness, is plainly an absurd demand. But all this will become clearer, when we consider particular objections. And whatever ancient philosophers meant by the inhability of the subject, and necessity of nature, we shall see that the greater part of the objections against man, do necessarily terminate in some contradictory, or very unreasonable request, and that in this sense, “Si quis corrigere volet, aut deterius faciet, aut id quod fieri non potuit desiderabit.”3
[a. ]Plutarch de procreatione animae. [Plutarch, De procreatione animae. Possibly a reference to passages at 1014D-E, 1015A, 1026D-E, or 1027A. Plutarch, Omnia quae extant opera, 2 vols. (Paris, 1624).]
[3. ]Cicero, De natura deorum, II.xxxiv.87: “anyone who essays to improve some detail will either make it worse or will be demanding an improvement impossible in the nature of things.”