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CHAPTER I - 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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Let us first consider the effect of complaining that man is so perfect as he is; or that he has the powers and affections he is really endowed with; and, secondly, the effect of complaining that he is not more perfect than he is.
Some objections against man, are really objections against his perfection.I. All objections which tend to cut off and retrench any perfections which man is endowed with by nature; any of his senses, appetites, affections, or capacities of pleasure, his reason, activity, moral agency, power and liberty, or any other property, are objections against his perfection; they are complaints against the Author of our nature for making him so perfect as he is. For which of them is not exceeding useful; the source of very noble enjoyments; the foundation of many excellencies and virtues?For all our powers, dispositions and affections are capacities of happiness and perfection. Our discerning, distinguishing, judging and reasoning powers, are evidently the foundation of our being capable of rational exercises and enjoyments: and as for our appetites and affections, they are either of private or public use, or both. We <280> may call the private ones modes of self-love, for they are all moved by a prospect of real or apparent good to ourselves. But can a perceptive being exist without a principle of self-preservation; or without the love and desire of pleasure; or can the love and desire of pleasure in a sensible being be less extensive than its ideas of good and pleasure? The public ones we may call modes of benevolence or social love; for they are all moved by the specious shew of public good: and is it not fit that rational creatures should be endowed with such affections as unite and bind them together, and without which there can be no merit, no society, no happiness by communication and participation; which would be the case, were we not endowed with a principle of benevolence, and the social affections which spring from it?
All appetites and affections, of whatever kind, may be rendered weaker or stronger than they ought to be by habit; but such active, bestirring principles, as appetites and affections, are necessary in our constitution, to be the springs of motion, to prompt, to impel, or rather to drive us into action: not the private only, lest we forget the public, and reason should not be sufficient, or have force enough to persuade us before it is too late, to mind that interest, which, though in one sense it be foreign to us, is in reality our most natural or best good. Nor yet the public only, lest by being wholly taken up abroad, we should entirely forget home affairs, and soon become incapable either to look abroad, or to take care at home to any advantage. It is, indeed, hard to say, whether the social without the private, or the private without the social, would be more pernicious to us. And not only is it necessary, if either the one or the other have any considerable degree of force in our frame, that the other should likewise have considerable force, in order to preserve a just ballance; but it is requisite that both should have a considerable degree of force, that they may<281> be able to move us, and that we may have pleasure and satisfaction in our pursuits; for without affections and appetites there can be no enjoyment. Reason itself can only give us satisfaction by its exercises, whether in searching after knowledge, or in acting agreeably to the nature of things, in consequence of our having in our nature an appetite after knowledge, and a moral sense of the fitness of actions.
So are all the laws with regard to them. The law of habits in particular.Now as for appetites and affections, their being diminished or strengthned in their force by habit; this is necessary, in order to our being really benefited by the exercises of our faculties; or to their being bettered and improved by our diligence to improve them. For what is any habit, but a faculty or affection brought to great force and vigour by repeated acts? Without such a constitution, we could never attain to perfection in any science, art or virtue. And which way more honourable or advantageous to us could have been contrived for improving all our different powers and affections to their greatest perfection, and for keeping them in due order, than besides the natural controul which those of one kind are to those of another, to have given us a cool and sedate principle, to deliberate, advise and govern them: our reason, which also becomes stronger or weaker, in proportion as it is exercised; and soon becomes master as it ought to be, if it has but fair play allowed it, or if it is not violently opposed and born down. For reason, by frequently exercising our powers and affections aright, forms many good and perfect habits in us.
Let us examine all our senses, all our appetites and passions, and then let us say which of them we would not have to take place in our frame: not those which impel us to take care of ourselves, for why should the private system not be preserved? or can the public system be sufficiently taken care of by nature, unless each private part of the whole be<282> furnished with what is necessary to its preservation? Not those which lead us to partnership and union; for how can individuals make a whole, without a common feeling, and cementing affections? Reason cannot be left out of our frame, and we continue rational; and if there were no affections and appetites in our frame, what improvements would we be capable of; what would reason have to govern; or what would spur us to action? All the proper exercises of any of our affections, whether private or public, are certainly pleasant; and if the improper ones are either mischievous to ourselves or others, or equally so to both, how can we have the pleasures in the one way, without the pains in the other; otherwise than by the right government of them the consciousness of which is itself the greatest pleasure we are capable of? Did the passions move within us necessarily, just as it is proper and convenient for ourselves and our kind that they should, without the interpositions of our reason as a governor, or independently of our own choice and direction, then would we be good animals, but we could not be called virtuous or moral beings: that higher rank and character supposes in its very idea, reason to govern affections and appetites agreeably to a natural sense of right and wrong, of fit and unfit: without them therefore we would be deprived of all the enjoyments and advantages which now belong to us, as beings of a higher order than merely sensible, passive creatures; capable of ruling our appetites and passions to good purposes, if we but set ourselves in earnest to do so: that is, we would be less perfect than we are.
The objections against man’s imperfection are no less absurd.But hardly will any one object against our Author for providing us with so large a capacity for pleasures of various sorts, or for making us so perfect as we are. And yet, on the other hand,<283>
II. All objections which are made against our constitution, because we have not greater and higher natural capacities, or a larger stock of faculties, are absurd; because such objections cannot stop, while man is less than the very highest order of created perfection. These objections, if they have any meaning at all, must prove that no creature ought to exist, but that which is of the most perfect nature a finite and created being can be.They terminate in demanding an impossibility. In reality, to use the words of a very good author,a “The demands made when man is objected against because he is not a complication of all perfections, are as absurd, as to demand why a fly is not made a swallow, every swallow an eagle, and every eagle an angel; because an angel is better than any of the other creatures named. There must, says he, be a gradual descension and ascension of the divine fecundity in the creation of the world, to make it a full demonstration of the fullness of his power and bounty.” The ancients answered these objections in like manner, by telling us, that the riches and perfection of nature consists in its being filled with different kinds of being and perfection from the lowest to the highest. Such objections, in truth, ultimately come to this, Why man at all? or rather, why any creature, which is not as perfect as a creature can be?They know no stop. And sure it is sufficient to oppose to such like questions, the following more generous ones: Why should there be any discontinuity or void in nature, which unless it be full cannot be coherent? Why should any system be wanting which the first cause can produce, the natural tendency of which, according to its constitution, is to greater good in the sum of things? Why not all possible kinds, orders and ranks of beings? Why not as rich a manifestation of the Creator’s power and goodness, as<284> the most immense variety of being, perfection and good, can shew forth? If angels, why not arch-angels? And why not, likewise, in the descending scale of life, man; since he hath made him but a little lower than the angels, and hath crowned him with glory and honour, and given him a very large dominion natural and moral.
Objections then, which demand that man should be more perfect than he is, are absurd, because they can never stop; and they are really objections against the general perfection of nature. This is their absurd language,
There is plainly a physical absurdity in them.But there is likewise a physical contradiction in these demands or objections. For with regard to the moral, as well as the natural world, it is necessarily true, that every species of being must have its determinate nature and constitution, with which certain other qualities are absolutely incompatible. With respect to corporeal beings it is manifest, that flying, swiming, walking upright, and all other such various qualities, require a particular organization to be maintained and preserved in a particular way, with which other structures are as inconsistent as being streight is with being crooked. Nor will it be less evident if we think a little upon the matter, that every moral being must have some certain determinate constitution, with which the qualities of any other mental fabric is as inconsistent, as one bodily organization adapted to one chief purpose, is with that adjusted to another: a moral being can no more have two different mental structures, than one and<285> the same material being can have two different bodily structures. It is equally absurd in the moral and in the natural world, that one and the same being should be two different beings. It is therefore a contradiction to demand, why any being is not a complication of all perfections: it is to ask, why a being has not at the same time all various structures and constitutions: it is to ask, why it is made for an end that requires a certain fabric adjusted to it, and why at the same time it is not made for another end, that requires another distinct fabric adjusted to it.
Hence we may see what must be the only question with respect to our make.Now from this it plainly follows, that the only intelligible question, with regard to any constitution or fabric, must be, to what end is it adapted, and whether that end be worth while; could it be better adjusted to its end, or ought the end to which it is adjusted, to have place in nature? So that all the objections made against man must vanish, if it appears that he is made for a very noble end. For (though there are, no doubt, higher orders of beings in nature than man) yet if he be so made, he well deserves his place in a gradation which could not exist without him; but, did he not exist, would necessarily be interrupted and incoherent. But to be satisfied that man is made for a very noble end, let us only consider what our own hearts tell us, upon serious reflection, our end is. For if to be made to make progress in moral perfection to the degree we are capable of arriving, by due diligence to improve ourselves, be not a noble and worthy end, what can be such? Is it not worth while to attain to that perfection we know men can arrive at by due diligence, whether we look within, and enquire what we are made for; or whether we recal to mind certain sublime characters in history which cast us at a distance, and reproach us, because we are able, if we set about it, even to do more than they have done. Man hath, indeed, noble, honourable and glorious powers,<286> capable of being improved, even in this their first state, to a wonderful height of excellency and merit, if we are not wanting to ourselves, whatever our circumstances or situation may be. And that these powers are immortal, and shall afterwards be placed in circumstances well suited to the use that has been made of them here, must be certain, if there be any thing immortal in the creation; if all things are not made merely to be soon annihilated; if the Author of nature does not take more pleasure in pulling down and destroying, than in building up and communicating happiness; if capacity for enjoyment of the noblest kind, is not made merely to be disappointed; if it is not made merely to be able to conceive what the Author of nature will not be so generous as to give; or, in fine, if the Author of nature is but as good as man is by his own natural disposition, which he owes to him.a Man<287>hath, by his reason, power to make every element, every piece of matter, every inferior creature, greatly subservient to him; and if he is not wilfully destroyed by his Maker, through delight in destroying, which there is no reason to apprehend from any thing in nature, nothing but himself can stand in the way, as he is constituted, of his making eternal progress in perfection. And is not such a being worthy of his place in nature? He is furnished by nature for moral improvements, in the only way he can be furnished for such: he hath all the faculties necessary for advancement in knowledge and virtue;a faculties, which, by use and exercise, soon become <288> strong and vigorous; and he is surrounded not only with inexhaustible subjects of the most entertaining enquiries, but with excellent means, materials and occasions of exercising every great and noble virtue, having a very large extent of power and dominion in the material as well as the moral world. What therefore can be objected against him, if it be indeed no objection, as it certainly is not, to say he is not the top of the creation; that there are beings much higher than he; or that though he hath a noble nature, yet it is not the very noblest that can exist? Is it not sufficient to take off all these objections, that we have good reason, from the analogy of nature, and the consideration of the temper and character of the supreme being our Maker, which is so clearly imprinted upon the whole of nature, as far as we can pry into it by all our research to conclude, “That the highest pitch of perfection any among mortals have ever arrived at, howsoever great it be in comparison of our state at our first setting out in infancy, is however as nothing, when compared to the superior perfection those so improved and exalted men shall attain to, by their continued care to improve themselves, in another state; and, in fine, that at every period of their future existence, the perfection arrived to will be the same nothing, so to speak, in respect of that superior excellence still before them, and in their power to attain to.”<289>
To this question a sufficient answer hath been given in the principles.This is what I have been endeavouring to prove to be the case, in the first part of this essay; and that no doubt may remain with relation to it, I shall go on to consider, first of all, two of the most material objections made against the present state of mankind; and then I shall conclude, by endeavouring to make every objector against the government of the world feel the absurdity of all objections against it; or clearly perceive that whatever change he can possibly desire or imagine, would make a very bad state of things, could it possibly take place.
The two great objections made against the state of mankind are, I. The prevalence of vice; and II. The unequal distribution of the goods of fortune, as they are called, or external goods.
[a. ]Henry More’s Divine Dialogues. [Henry More, Divine Dialogues (Glasgow: Foulis Press, 1743), 236.]
[4. ]Pope, Essay on Man, IV.162–66.
[a. ]See what Plutarch says of the dignity of man, and the extent of his power and dominion, in his excellent treatise de fortuna. Finge vero aliquem nostrum sic dicere: fortuna praestat ut videamus, non visus & oculi, quos luciferos Plato dicit. Fortuna audimus non facultate ictum aeris apprehendente qui per aures ad cerebrum fertur. Quis non vereatur hoc modo sensibus detrahere? Atqui visum auditum, gustatum olfactum, reliquas item corporis facultates atque partes natura nobis dedit, ut earum ministerio prudentia uteretur, mens enim videt, mens audit, reliqua caeca sunt & surda. Et sicut sole sublato quod ad reliqua sidera attinet, perpetuam haberemus noctem ut Heraclitus dixit: ita praestare reliqui sensus non possent absque mens esset & ratio, ut reliquis animalibus anteiret homo. Nunc quod potiores sumus iisque imperamus, non casu aut fortuitu fit, sed Prometheus, id est, rationis usus hoc efficit.
Alioqui sui ortus natura & conditione pleraque bruta sunt quam nos meliora. Alia enim cornibus armantur, dentibus stimulis, &c.—Solus homo, ut ait Plato, nudus, incrinis, sine calceis & tegmine est a natura relictus.
Scilicet rationis usum & industriam ac providentiam,
Nihil agilius equo nihil velocius; sed hominibus currunt. Ferox est animal canis & iracundum: sed homines custodit—Faciunt enim eo, ut discamus quo hominem attollat ratio, & quibus rebus eum superiorem faciat, utque omnia in suam redigat potestatem.—Peritia autem, memoria, sapientia & arte secundum Anaxagoram omnia quae ipsa habent bruta in nostros vertimus usus: favos apum colligimus, lac mulgemus, &c.—Enim vero in humanis rebus haud dubie censendum est etiam artificum opera & fabrorum qui metalla cudunt, qui domos aedificant, qui statuas faciunt, &c.—Mirum itaque sit, cum artes ut suum finem consequantur nihil indigeant fortunae opera, artem omnium maximam & perfectissimam quae humanae gloriae & officii summam continet nullam esse, &c. [Plutarch, Defortuna, 98B-99C:“Suppose indeed that one of us says that it is chance that is responsible for our seeing and not the faculty of sight and our eyes, which Plato calls ‘conveyers of light,’ that it is by chance that we hear and not by a faculty which takes up a vibration of the air which is conveyed through the ears to the brain. If this were how things were, who would not be fearful of relying on their senses? But nature has given us sight, hearing, taste, smell, and the other faculties and parts of the body so that practical wisdom should make use of their ministerial possibilities. For mind sees, mind hears, everything else is blind and deaf. And, just as if the sun were removed from the world then, despite the continuing existence of the stars, we would be in perpetual night as Heracleitus says; so also even if a human being had the other senses, but did not have mind and reason, he would be no greater than the other animals. But we are greater than they and have dominion over them, not fortuitously or by chance, but instead it is because of Prometheus, that is, it is brought about by the use of reason. ‘The offspring of horses, of asses, and of bulls take on our roles and undertake our labors’—as Aeschylus says. Yet by the nature and condition of their birth most animals are better provided for than we are. For some are armed with horns, with sharp teeth, etc. . . . Only man, as Plato says, naked, hairless, unshod and without covering, has been forsaken by nature. ‘But by nature’s gift one thing softens everything,’ namely the use of reason, attentiveness, and foresight.
Nothing is more nimble than the horse, nothing faster, but it is for men that they run. Dogs are courageous and irascible, but they watch over men. . . . The point is that we thereby learn to what extent reason elevates man, and learn what those beings are over which reason gives him a superior position, so that all things are in his power. . . . By experience, memory, wisdom, and art we put to our use, according to Anaxagoras, everything that the beasts have. We take honey, milk, etc. . . . Moreover, without doubt among ‘human activities’ there areto be included the work of artificers and handymen who work with metals, build dwellings, make statues, etc. . . . It would be a matter for wonderment if, when the other arts do not need good fortune to secure their goals, the greatest and most perfect of all arts, the one which includes the peak of human glory and duty, were a nothing without good fortune.”]
[a. ]Natura enim hoc corporis tabernaculum veluti instrumentum composuit ut & obediens sit, & ad omnes vitae rationes concinno quodam aptoque modo par esse possit. Animus quoque ad convenientes virtutes conformandus est atque instituendus: nimirum ad temperantiam, veluti corpus ad sanitatem: ad prudentiam vero veluti ad sensuum subtilitatem: ad fortitudinem veluti ad robur & vires: ad justitiam veluti corpus ad pulchritudinem. Harum virtutum primordia quidem sunt ex natura: media, vero & fines, in diligentia: in corpore videlicet gymnastices adjumento & medicinae: in animo autem eruditionis & philosophiae beneficio. Hae enim facultates nutriunt & roborant, &c. Timaeus Locrus de anima mundi.