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CHAPTER II - 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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The chief objections confuted.I shall therefore, in the first place, lay a few observations together, in such an order as seems to me to give full satisfaction, with regard to the prevalence of vice in the world.
The objection taken from the prevalence of vice among mankind.First of all let it be observed, that a “Here men are apt to let their imaginations run out upon all the robberies, pyracies, murders, perjuries, frauds, massacres, assassinations, they have either heard of, or read in history, thence concluding all mankind to be very wicked: as if a court of justice were a proper place to make an estimate of the morals of mankind, or an hospital of the healthfulness of a climate. But ought they not<290> to consider, that the number of honest citizens and farmers far surpasses that of all sorts of criminals in any state; and that the innocent or kind actions of even criminals themselves, surpass their crimes in numbers.Not so much vice as is generally imagined. That it is the rarity of crimes, in comparison of innocent or good actions, which engages our attention to them, and makes them to be recorded in history, while honest, generous, domestic actions are over-looked, only because they are so common; as one great danger, or one month’s sickness, shall become a frequently repeated story, during a long life of health and safety.”
Cicerob mentions a book written by a famous Peripatetic philosopher, Dicaearchus, to shew that more mischiefs are brought upon mankind by the hands of men themselves, than by earthquakes, deluges, pestilences, devastations of savage beasts, or any other such causes. But we ought, says Cicero, to set over-against these evils, the innumerable benefits which men receive from men. The vast advantages which redound from rightly constituted society, from arts and sciences, from philosophy, from oratory, from prudence and virtue.
Let not the vices of mankind be multiplied, or magnified; let us make a fair estimate of human life, and set over-against the shocking, the astonishing instances of barbarity and wickedness, that have been perpetrated in any age, not only the exceeding generous and brave actions with which history shines, but the prevailing innocency, good nature, industry, felicity and chearfulness, of the greater part of mankind at all times, and we shall not find reason to cry out, as objectors against providence do on this occasion, that all men are vastly corrupt and vicious, and that there is hardly any such thing as virtue in the world. Upon a fair computation, the fact does<291> indeed come out, that very great villanies have been very uncommon in all ages, and looked upon as monstrous; so general is the sense and esteem of virtue.
In consequence of the excellent laws of our nature, some vices are unavoidable, because narrow views and wrong associations of ideas are unavoidable.II. But, in the second place,a It is easy to conceive, how false opinions, wrong notions of things, prejudices, misleading associations of ideas, narrow views, and unreasonable pursuits must spread, if they are once introduced among any part of mankind, in consequence of these most useful principles and laws in our constitution; “our dependence upon one another”; “the docility and pliableness of our infant minds”; “our regard to our parents, teachers and superiors” ; “the influence of example, and our disposition to imitate.” In consequence of these excellent dispositions in our minds, ’tis impossible, but errors, false judgments, and correspondently wrong actions must gain ground, if they ever begin or take place. No person in such a state as ours, can be single in his false opinions, bad taste, or hurtful pursuits. In the political as well as the natural body, when contagion enters, it must spread. On the other hand, in a state of beings entering upon the world, with minds formed for gradual progress in knowledge and virtue, in sciences, in arts, and every moral perfection; it is morally impossible, but some must form false opinions, and be influenced by narrow views.And according to the excellent laws of our nature, vices when they begin, will spread. It is our imagination and judgment, or our opinion of things, that chiefly guides our conduct, and adds strength to one sort of affections by taking from the force of others: and therefore, if narrow views, false judgments, and wrong associations of ideas take place: vicious pursuits must likewise take place. But how is it possible to conceive any state of beings formed<292> to make gradual progress in perfection, in proportion to their diligence to improve themselves therein, absolutely secured against acting upon any views that are not true; or absolutely secured against rashly conceiving any false opinions? This is certainly to demand an impossibility with respect to any infant or first state of progressive beings, in whatever situation they may be placed. And if it be to demand an impossibility with regard to any infant state of beings: what must such a demand be with respect to beings capable of receiving pleasures from external objects; and consequently of sollicitations from their senses before their reason can grow up even by any degree of culture to very great maturity and strength? Now it is to demand an impossibility with regard to any first state of progressive beings.Illustrations upon this argument. For it is in reality, either to demand a physical or a moral impossibility that such beings should ever err. But to demand a physical impossibility, in this case, is certainly to demand, that their progress should nowise depend upon themselves, which is, in other words, to demand that they should not be progressive beings, or beings to be formed to perfection in knowledge and virtue, by their own application to improve themselves. And to demand a moral impossibility, that beings so made should ever err, what is it but to demand, that it should not belong to the nature of moral agents, to be able to assent to any opinions that are not true, or to be determined in their conduct by any views that are false. And both these demands are equally absurd in any sense that can be put upon them, but this alone: That such ought to be the nature of things, that truth only can have the full and complete distinguishing evidence of truth, and right only can have the distinguishing characteristics of right, which every one will readily own to be necessarily and immutably the case with regard to truth and right, whatever false judgments or wrong choices any one may precipitantly make. <293>These demands, if taken in any other sense, require that moral beings should be so formed, as that either something else should be necessary to perswade and determine them, than the appearances of things to their minds, and what that should be, is absolutely inconceiveable: Or that their making true judgments and acting rightly, should be in their own power some other way, than by their being furnished with the faculties, senses and dispositions necessary to make true judgments and right choices; and by its depending on themselves to exert and employ these faculties and dispositions as they ought, in order to distinguish truth and right from vice and falshood; which is also quite inconceiveable. There is absolutely no middle between these two states; beings with a certain sphere of activity, or a certain dependence of effects upon their own application of their own faculties to this or the other purpose; and beings who have no power, no sphere of activity, or upon whose will there is no dependence of effects as to their existence or non-existence: Beings, whose right and wrong use of their faculties is in their own power, and beings who have no active powers, no dominion.
Further illustrations on this argument.In order to set this in another light, let me but just ask any one, whether it is possible to conceive beings made for progress in knowledge and virtue, all of whom do from the very beginning, and during the whole course of their lives, form just judgments in all cases, where choice and determination is immediately necessary, without ever erring; without ever mistaking their interest or duty? Or to keep close to our state, which is that now under consideration; let me ask, whether it is possible to conceive all men, even in their most infant and unimproved state, ever acting under the influence of right views, and with due proportionate affections to the values of objects, without any one’s ever mistaking his true interest and the nature of things in any point; without any<294> one’s ever yielding rashly to any sollicitations of inviting pleasure; or without his having certain appetites oftner called forth into action, by certain concurrences of circumstances, than any others, and thus made stronger in his constitution by frequent exercise, than those which, tho’ equally natural to him, are not so frequently solicited by their proper objects? Whether, in one word, he can conceive all men as they are now formed, ever so acting, and so influenced to act by circumstances, which must necessarily excite certain affections to a certain degree, that none, (for instance) shall conceive too high an opinion of power over the rest; an inclination to have it; or having it, not be disposed to exert it otherwise than to the greatest advantage of others in all respects, without abusing, deceiving, or hurting any one in any degree. I believe every one will readily grant this to be inconceivable or morally impossible. But if any one, upon granting it to be so, should urge, why then man is made; or why is there such a state at all. He does really ask either.No objection can be fetched from hence that does not terminate in an absurdity. 1. Why there is any affection, faculty or appetite in our constitution, which in the nature of things is capable of being the source of bad. Which is to ask, why there is any affection, faculty or appetite in our nature at all. Since there can be no faculty, no affection, or appetite even of the social or benevolent kind, which may not by misguidance become the source of evil. Or, 2dly. Why any circumstances are allowed to take place, which may invite faculties, appetites or affections to operate in any way that is vicious or hurtful. To which question, the only proper answer is to ask, what circumstances in life happen antecedent to, or independent of all wrong exercises of human powers, affections and appetites, which are not the consequences of some general law relative to our frame and state, which is of excellent use; nay, necessary to our perfection and happiness: and what circumstances in life happen consequently to mankind’s own wrong exercises of<295> their powers, which are not likewise the fit and proper consequences of their being made for happiness and perfection, proportionally to their right use of their powers and faculties: Or to ask in general, what effect belonging to human nature may not be reduced to some general law, either of the natural world, or of the moral kind, which is itself of the greatest utility, if not necessity to our happiness and perfection. Now it hath been proved over and over again in this Essay, that every faculty, appetite, and affection in our nature, and every law relative to their exercises, is of admirable use.
In fine, to infer from our being so made by nature, that our affections, appetites and faculties, which are of very great use, may be perverted and abused, or wrongfully employed; to infer from thence, that we have a very bad make and constitution; or that our make and constitution is very improperly situated and placed; is not only to argue against the utility of a thing from the perversion of it, which is allowed in every other case to be an absurd way of reasoning; but it is to infer that we are badly made, because we are made capable of turning a very large stock of powers, faculties, appetites and affections to very good account; in such a way as we may have the merit of it, and the pleasure arising from the consciousness of such merit. For it is self-evident, that were it not the order and constitution of nature with regard to us, that right use and bad use of our natural stock should depend on ourselves, we could make no acquisition; we could not be capable either of praise or blame, good or ill desert, because nothing would be ours in any proper sense of that word. Observing the connexions of things, in order to act wisely or agreeably to them, could not be our employment, or the source of our happiness, as it is at present: We would only be capable of receiving a succession of meer sensations, external or<296> internal, without any of the interpositions of our own reason or will, which being our own interpositions, give us a title to the character of moral active beings; and are the source, as such, of all the noblest pleasures we enjoy.
We must admit this solution to be good; or say, that good taste ought not to be an acquirable perfection.We may illustrate all that hath been said by this obvious similitude. Does not every one rest satisfied, that the right culture of his garden depends absolutely on himself, tho’ notwithstanding a sense of harmony, beauty, and of true imitation of nature be natural to all men, yet one must have improved that sense very much, and have studied gardening before he can be able to lay out fields with good taste: and tho’ it be morally impossible, some amongst mankind should not fall into a wrong taste of imitating nature, or of beauty in laying out fields, or in other imitative arts, notwithstanding the natural sense of beauty common to all mankind, capable of being improved by all to a perfectly good taste. Does any one think his gardens independent on him, because his fields are not so made, that nothing can succeed, but what is done according to right taste, and tends to make a good<297> whole; or because negligence and wrong taste have bad effects, and it is only good culture and good taste, that can make a well-disposed garden, suitably furnished with all that is useful and delicious, wholesome and beautiful? Would any one have our taste in this, or any other of the elegant arts, not to depend upon our own improvement of our natural faculties, or to be acquirable otherwise than it is by us? Does not every one take the acquisition of such a taste to be sufficiently in his power, as things are constituted; and is he not sensible of the abridgement, nay, total destruction of the pleasures the elegant arts now give; that would necessarily ensue, if improvements in them were not made as they now are?
Which none will say.But if this be owned, it must by parity of reason be acknowledged, that the right culture of all our other natural powers and dispositions, and of the mind, in general, is sufficiently in our power as we are now constituted; and that, in any other way, our improvement would not be our own acquisition, nor by consequence give us the pleasures it now does, by being our own work and acquisition. Let not men therefore contradict themselves, and call that unreasonable and unfit in one case, which they allow to be proper and very well ordered in another precisely parallel or like case: but let it be remembered, that the way of the human mind’s operation towards its improvement, ought to be uniform; that the way to one improvement ought to be analogous to the way of improvement in every other case: or that it is fit there should be an universal fixed order with regard to the manner of attaining to perfection of whatever kind; that is, of whatever faculty, disposition, taste or affection in our nature, viz. that it should be in proportion to our diligence and care to improve our knowledge and taste.
Vices are but the corruptions or degeneracies of good and useful affections.III. All this will be yet plainer, if we consider the vices of mankind in their true light, or trace them<298> to their real springs; for we universally find, “that no man acts from pure malice; that the injurious person only intends some interest of his own without any ultimate desire of our misery; and that he is more to be pitied for his own mean selfish temper, for the want of true goodness, and its attendant happiness, than to be hated for his conduct, which is really more pernicious to himself than to others. There is no reason to think, there is any such thing as pure disinterested malice in the most vicious of mankind.”a
Some of self-love which is absolutely necessary.And, in reality, if we trace vices to their sources, we shall find, that they are all the corruptions or degeneracies of highly useful and noble affections. This point is exceedingly well handled by Plato in his Gorgias,6 but I shall only on this subject, excerpt two observations from two excellent modern writers upon it, which are sufficient to shew us from what springs all vices proceed, or to what causes they ought to be ascribed. Dr. Henry More, in his Divine Dialogues,7 speaking of vices, says, “They are the spawn of self-love, which, if we eye narrowly, we shall find to be very useful, nay, a very necessary mother in society. Self-love is absolutely necessary: nay, it is no more than the desire of pleasure and happiness, without which a sensitive being cannot subsist: and if rightly conducted, it would lead us to the pursuit of virtue as our interest. Yet wrath, envy, pride, lust, and the like evil passions, are but the branches and modifications of this fundamental necessary disposition towards good and happiness; for what is wrath, but self-love edged and strengthened for fending off the assaults of evil? What is envy but self-love grieved at the sense of its own want, aggravated and made more sensible by the fullness of another’s enjoyment? What is pride, but self-love desiring to be the best, or aspiring for the best,<299> and partly triumphing and glorying that it is now become none of the least? He quotes an excellent saying of Socrates8 to this purpose, that the wicked man really pursues, by a fatal mistake, that which is worst for himself; that he himself is the greatest sufferer; and that therefore, with the wise and good he can be no object of envy, but of pity and compassion.”
This was the opinion of the best ancients.Such indeed was the opinion of all the wiser and better ancientsa concerning vices. A philosophy as much more tender and humane, as it is truer than<300> the prevailing modern philosophy, which delights in exhibiting man in the blackest colours. There certainly is implanted in our nature that desire of power and dominion which Hobbes takes notice of and from the degeneracies, corruptions and perversions of this natural appetite, many woful evils do indeed arise. But Hobbes’s error consists in his considering, that desire of power and dominion as the only principle of our nature, and not taking along with it the other equally natural appetites with which it is united in our frame, and with which it is therefore intended to co-operate; and in the just ballance of which kept and maintained by the presiding authority of reason, virtue or the health and perfection of the mind consists. Now these other appetites and dispositions are our love of knowledge, and our delight in truth, or our desire of knowing the real connexions, relations and values of things: our love of society and public good: and our moral sense or our determination to approve or disapprove affections, actions and characters, according as they are conducive to public good or public mischief. My Lord Shaftbury9 refutes this gloomy pernicious doctrine of Hobbes, in the truly philosophical, pleasant and good natured way, of which we have several examples among the ancients when they are reasoning against the same tenets.They set us an excellent example of the best manner of confutation. We find Arrian just arguing in the same way in his commentaries upon Epictetus against that opinion, as Lord Shaftbury does against Hobbes. Cicero often treats the same opinion in the same pleasant manner: and those excellent authors do indeed set a noble example before us, that ought to be imitated in all disputes and controversies, even of the most important kind. For what can be of greater moment than the question about the human make, whether it argues a good or a bad disposition in its Author: and yet even upon this subject, they shun invectives and use kindly terms, preferring hard arguments to abusive words.<301>
It was certainly, as Lord Shaftbury observes,a an extreme dread of anarchy and licentiousness, that frightened Hobbes, into his system of absolute monarchy and passive obedience: the fright he took upon the sight of the then governing powers, who unjustly assumed the authority of the people, gave him such an abhorrence of all popular government, and of the very notion of liberty itself, that to extinguish it for ever, he recommends the very extinguishing of letters, and exhorts princes not to spare so much as one ancient Greek or Roman historian. His quarrel with religion was the same as with liberty; the same times gave him the same terror in this other kind: he had nothing before his eyes besides the ravages of enthusiasm, and the artifices of those who raised and conducted that spirit. Hence likewise his quarrel with human nature. But what should we say to one of these anti-zealots, who in the zeal of such a cool philosophy, should assure us faithfully, “that we were the most mistaken men in the world to imagine there was any such thing as natural faith or justice? For that it was only force and power that constituted right. That there was no such thing in reality as virtue; no principle of order in things above or below; no secret charm or force of nature, by which every one was made to operate willingly or unwillingly towards public good, and punished and tormented if he did otherwise.” Is not this the very charm itself? Is not the gentleman at this instant under the power of it?—“Sir, the philosophy you have condescended to reveal to us is the most extraordinary. We are beholden to you for your instruction. But, pray, whence is this zeal in our behalf? what are we to you? are you our father? or if you were, why this concern for us? is there then such a thing as natural affection? if not, why all this pains? why all this danger on our account? why not keep this secret to yourself? or what advantage is it to you<302> to deliver us from the cheat? the more are taken in it, the better. ’Tis directly against your interest to undeceive us, and let us know that only private interest governs you, and that nothing nobler, or of a larger kind should govern us whom you converse with. Leave us to ourselves, and to that notable art, by which we are happily tamed and rendered thus mild and sheepish. ’Tis not fit we should know, that by nature we are all wolves. Is it possible, that any one who has really discovered himself such, should take pains to communicate such a discovery?”
But mere vices are the degeneracies of benevolent affections by misguidance.II. But this leads me to another observation upon the springs and sources of human vices; the great disturbers of human life, and on account of which the human make is subject of complaint, or rather railery among some philosophers; and it is this, “a great many evils are not so properly the product of self-love wrong directed, and of our desire of power, which are, however they may be perverted in themselves, very suitable; nay, necessary affections or dispositions in our nature: but they are really the degeneracies of benevolence itself”; for as the noble Author just now quoted, observes,a “Does not Philanthropy, or the love of mankind, by a small misguidance of the affection become pernicious and destructive? A lover of mankind becomes a ravager: a hero and deliverer becomes an oppressor and destroyer. But if we consider matters rightly, it is not strange, that war, which of all things appears the most savage, should be the passion of the most heroic spirits. For it is in war that the knot of fellowship is closest drawn. ’Tis in war that mutual succour is most given, mutual danger run, and common affection most exerted and employed. The generous passion is no where so strongly felt, or vigorously exerted, as in actual conspiracy or war; in which the highest genius’s are often known the forwardest to employ themselves. For the most<303> generous spirits are the most combining. They delight most to move in concert, and feel, if I may so say, in the strongest manner the force of the confederating charm.”
The same Author furnishes us with another example in caballing or cantonizing. “How the wit of man, saith he, should so puzzle this cause as to make civil government and society appear a kind of invention, and creature of art, I know not. For my own part, methinks this herding principle and associating inclination, is seen so natural and strong in most men, that one might readily affirm, ’twas even from the violence of this passion, that so much disorder arose in the general society of mankind.
“Universal good, or the interest of the world, in general, is a kind of remote philosophical object. That greater community falls not easily under the eye. Nor is a national interest, or that of a whole people, or body politic, so readily apprehended. In less parties, men may be intimately acquainted or conversant, and acquainted with one another. They can there better taste society, and enjoy the common good and interest of a more contracted public. They view the whole compass and extent of their community; and see, and know particularly whom they serve, and to what end they associate and conspire. All men have naturally their share of this combining principle, and they who are of the sprightliest and most active faculties, have so large a share of it, that unless it be happily directed by right reason, it can never find exercise for itself in so remote a sphere as that of the body politic at large. For here, perhaps, the thousand part of those whose interests are concerned, are scarce so much as known by sight. No visible band is formed; no strict alliance; but the conjunction is made with different persons, orders, and ranks of men; not<304> sensibly, but in idea; according to that general view, or notion of a state or common-wealth.
“Hence other divisions amongst men. Hence, in the way of peace and civil government, that love of party and subdivision by cabal. For sedition is a kind of cantonizing already begun within a state. To cantonize is natural, when the society grows vast and bulky: and powerful states have found other advantages in sending colonies abroad, than merely that of having elbow-room at home, or extending their dominion into distant countries. Vast empires are in many respects unnatural, but particularly in this, that be they ever so well constituted, the affairs of many must, in such governments, turn upon a very few; and the relation be less sensible, and in a manner lost, between the magistrate and people, in a body so unwieldy in its limbs, and whose members lie so remote from one another, and distant from the head.
“’Tis in such bodies as these that great factions are apt to engender. The associating spirits, for want of exercise, form new movements, and seek a narrower sphere of activity, when they want action in a greater. Thus we have wheels within wheels. And in some national constitutions (notwithstanding the absurdity in politics) we have one empire within another. Nothing is so delightful as to incorporate. Distinctions of many kinds are invented; religious societies are formed; orders are erected; and their interests espoused and served with the utmost zeal and passion. Founders and patrons of this sort are never wanting. Wonders are performed in this wrong social spirit by these members of separate societies. And the associating genius of man is never better proved, than in these very societies, which are formed in opposition to the general<305> one of mankind, and to the real interest of the state.
“In short, the very spirit of faction, for the greatest part, seems to be no other than the abuse and irregularity of that social love and common affection, which is natural to mankind. For the opposite to sociableness is selfishness. And of all characters, the narrow, selfish one is the least forward in taking party. The men of this sort are, in this respect, true men of moderation. They are secure of their temper, and possess themselves too well, to be in danger of entering warmly in any cause, or engaging deeply with any side or faction.”
Thus we see that almost all the vices of mankind are nothing else but the degeneracies of good and useful affections; or good, useful affections influenced by narrow views. I do not say this to extenuate the guilt or deformity of vice, but to shew how we ought to judge of our make and constitution, notwithstanding all the vices which have or do prevail in the world. For sure that ought not to be imputed to the Author of nature, which is in reality a perversion of the qualities he has endowed us with for excellent purposes. Properly speaking, the original stock is his, and what alone he is accountable for; the use or abuse of our affections is ours, if there be any being in the world who hath any thing that can be called its own; or if there can be, with regard to any being, any foundation for approving or blaming itself.
All this is delightfully illustrated by the excellent moral poet so often quoted, in several parts of his truly philosophical, as well as poetical, essay on man.
And with regard to the passions implanted in our nature,
Nature could not possibly have done more for us than it has.IV. But to clear up this point yet further, let us reflect what we would have done by nature to set us right, and to prevent our abuse of our powers and affections; or what we can conceive possible for nature to have done for that effect, which it hath not done.
It appears from what has been said of vices, that none of them take their rise from affections or appetites in our nature, merely implanted for evil purposes, or to qualify us for vices. No vice takes it rise from a passion or affection absolutely hurtful, and not fitted for very good purposes. Even the love of power, as hurtful as it is by some effects of it, is in itself a most noble principle in our nature, as being the foundation of greatness of mind, and of many lofty and excellent virtues. Without it, the human mind would have been timorous, submissive, low and groveling; it could never have risen to great attempts, or have been capable of great sentiments. Magnanimity, despight of danger, and public spirit, could not possibly have been virtues within our reach, without such an original greatness of mind, as supposes the desire of extending our abilities and our sphere of activity. But if this is really the case, nature acted a kind part with regard to us, in implanting in us this principle; it certainly intended our good and perfection by it. Or would any man chuse to have had mankind secured against the bad effects of wrong-turned ambition, at the expence of our being utterly destitute of a capacity of noble and worthy ambition, of high ideas, great sentiments, and suitable actions?
The original forces of affections stand right.How, therefore, can we conceive mankind to be secured by its Author against the vices which really spring from affections necessary to our good and perfection, influenced and directed by false and narrow views, till they are become very strong and powerful; nay, are quite wrought into temper by repeated acts, in consequence of the useful law of habits: how, I say, can we conceive mankind secured<308> by our Author against such vices, and their hurtful effects, otherwise than by his originally well proportioning the forces of the affections implanted by him in our nature, to one another, and to the general good of the whole system; and by giving us reason, together with a sense of order and just subordination, in the regulation of all our natural affections, to enable us to direct and guide them to their best ends. This is certainly the only conceivable way, consistent with our being reasonable beings, our having any moral sphere of activity, or our being capable of approving ourselves and our conduct. For nothing can be more evident than that it is the power of governing appetites, affections and actions by reason, and a sense of right and wrong, that makes the order of beings called rational creatures; an order, confessed to be superior in rank and dignity to such as have no sense of right and wrong, no power over their perceptions, motions and choices; or rather, no power of chusing, prefering and acting.
I. Now with respect to the original forces of our affections, it is well observed by an excellent author,a whom we have often quoted, that to assert, “That men have generally arrived to the perfection of their kind in this life, is contrary to experience. But on the other hand, to suppose no order at all in the constitution of our nature, or no prevalent evidences of good order, is yet more contrary to experience. We actually see such degrees of good order, of social affection, of virtue and honour, as make the generality of man kind continue in a tolerable, nay, an agreeable state. However, in some tempers we see the selfish passions by habits grown too strong, in others we may observe humanity, compassion and good nature sometimes raised, by habits, to excess.<309>
Illustration on this argument.Were we to strike a medium of the passions and affections, as they appear in the whole species of mankind, to conclude thence what has been the natural ballance, previously to any change made by custom or habit, which we see casts the ballance to either side, we should, perhaps, find the medium of the public affections not very far from a sufficient counter-ballance to the medium of the selfish; and consequently the over-ballance on either side, in particular characters, is not to be looked upon as the original constitution, but as the accidental effect of custom, habit, associations of ideas, or other such causes; so that an universal increasing the strength of either, might, in the whole, be of little advantage. The raising universally the public affections, the desires of virtue and honour, would make the hero of Cervantes, pining with hunger and poverty, no rare character. The universal increasing of selfishness, unless we had more accurate understandings to discern our nicest interests, would fill the world with universal rapine and war. The consequences of either universally abating or increasing the desires between the sexes, the love of offspring, or the several tastes and fancies in other pleasures, would perhaps be found more pernicious to the whole, than the present constitution. What seems most truly wanting in our nature, is greater knowledge, attention and consideration; had we a greater perfection this way, and were evil habits, and foolish associations of ideas prevented, our passions would appear in better order.
But while we feel in ourselves so much public affection in the various relations of life, and observe the like in others; while we find every one desiring indeed his own happiness, but capable of discerning by a little attention, that not only his external conveniency, or worldly interest, but even the most immediate and lively sensations of delight, of which his nature is susceptible, immediately flow from a<310> public spirit, a generous, humane, compassionate temper, and a suitable deportment; while we observe so many thousands enjoying a tolerable state of ease and safety, for each one whose condition is made intolerable, even during our present corruption: how can any one look upon this world as under the direction of an evil nature, or even question a perfectly good providence? How clearly does the order of our nature point out to us our true happiness and perfection, and lead us to it, as naturally as the several powers of the earth, the sun, and air, bring plants to their growth, and the perfection of their kinds? We, indeed, are directed to it by our understanding and affections, as it becomes rational and active natures; and they by mechanic laws. We may see that attention to the most universal interest of all sensitive natures, is the perfection of each individual of mankind. That they should thus be, like well-tuned instruments, affected with any stroke or touch upon any one. Nay, how much of this do we actually see in the world? What generous sympathy, compassion, and congratulation with each other? Does not even the flourishing state of the inanimate parts of nature, fill us with joy? Is not thus our nature admonished, exhorted, and commanded, to cultivate universal goodness and love, by a voice heard through all the earth, and words sounding to the ends of the world?”a
Now what is the result of all this excellent reasoning from the experience of all mankind, but that there is ground to think, our affections stand originally in our nature very well proportioned to one another, and to the ultimate end of them all, the general good of the kind, and the private good of every individual, so far as the good of the kind<311> admits the private good of every individual to be consulted; or that all the variety, with respect to the human affections, there is any reason to imagine to be original, is well adjusted to the public good. These conclusions do certainly ensue from the experiences above narrated. And indeed, the most considerable inequalities that are observed in human life, with respect to the forces of the affections, of whatever kind, do plainly take their rise from what hath been proved to be of admirable use in our nature, viz. the way and manner in which habits are generated or produced. It is by habit only that any appetite or affection is strengthened, or wrought into temper.
II. Now there being ground to think that the affections originally stand right, or in due proportion in our original nature, what more could nature have done for us, in order to their being preserved in a due ballance, for private and public good, than to have given us reason, and a sense of right and wrong, to govern them by?
And nature hath given us a guiding principle.That we have such a power or faculty is indisputable; and how this faculty may gain strength, is no less evident to experience: even by exercise, as all our other faculties, powers and principles do. But to say, why hath not nature made reason stronger in us, or to grow up faster, is indeed to ask, why reason is a faculty improvable into strength and vigour by exercise. It is to ask, why it does not acquire force and authority, otherwise than by due culture. It is therefore to ask, why it is reason. It is known to be early in our power to bring reason to very great perfection, with regard to the management of our passions; for, as corrupt as man is, we have many instances of such perfection: this is in our power, in any sense that any thing can be said to be in our power, and if we do not cultivate reason, it does not arrive at due perfection, for this very good<312> cause, “That nature designed and willed that the cultivation of our reason should be a progressive work, dependent on ourselves.” I am obliged often to have recourse to this principle, this law of our nature, because it is universal, or runs through the whole of our composition.a
All this is beautifully expressed by our excellent moral poet.
I shall only now add one thing with respect to it, that has hitherto been but just suggested, namely, that men never hesitate in admitting it to be a good<313> account of nature, with respect to any of our external powers, or their subjects, to shew that the right management of them depends upon ourselves; for that we are free with regard to them, they never doubt. Thus no man thinks of blaming nature, because one does not manage his eyes, or any other of his senses or members, to the best advantage for his conveniency and pleasure, in the way of merely animal life: that is readily said to be one’s own fault, when the person is at his own disposal, and free from external violence of every sort. Here every such an one is immediately pronounced free: no person is at a loss to understand what this freedom means: and none who understand what it means, do not think, that in these matters, nature has done well to put our interest or good in our own power, and to make them dependent upon our selves. Every one will say, that not to have made man so, would have been to have made him a mere sensitive brute; and that such an one, though he should never feel any pain, but be entertained with a constant flow or succession of agreeable sensations, would, however, be but a mere animal, quite passive, and far inferior to a being capable of foreseeing and acting, or of pursuing ends by his own choice. But if this be owned with respect to external objects, and our sphere of activity in the natural world, how comes it not to be owned with regard to moral objects, and our sphere of activity in the moral world? Such a freedom with regard to the latter, must be freedom with regard to them, as much as the freedom with regard to external objects just defined, is freedom with respect to them. And if freedom with regard to external objects be any excellence: freedom of the same kind, with regard to moral objects, must be at least an equal excellence. Let metaphysicians quibble and wrangle about freedom as long as they please, it is certain, that in the same sense that we can be said, and are unanimously said to be<314> free, with respect to eating, drinking, walking, sitting, or any such external acts; we are likewise free with respect to many internal or moral acts, such as thinking upon this or the other subject, indulging or crossing this or the other affection, &c. Nay, which is more, with regard to moral acts, we have really more freedom than with regard to any of our operations upon external or material objects. For who is not sensible, that the cultivation of his mind depends more upon himself than the cultivation (for instance) of his garden; for it is subject to fewer letts and impediments than the other: the cultivation of our mind depends only upon our setting ourselves in earnest to do it; whereas the cultivation of our garden depends upon many causes we cannot oppose or controul.
If our having natural power be no ground of objection, having moral can be none.All that I aim at by this is, that if we are but allowed to be free with regard to the operations of our minds about our affections, in the same sense that we are said to be free with regard to any external actions, or operations upon material objects; it must follow, that nature is not to be blamed for our mismanagements in the one case, more than for our mismanagements in the other, which nobody thinks of doing.
Indeed, to blame nature in either of these cases, is to say, nature has done wrong in giving us any sphere of activity at all, or in making us creatures capable of acting by foresight and choice. But objections against man are sufficiently answered, if they are shewn ultimately to terminate in demanding, “Why nature hath made any order of beings of that kind, or made any creatures with such a<315> sphere of dominion, as raises them above creatures who do not at all guide themselves, or chuse for themselves, having no guiding principle in their constitution.”
If it is said, that several men’s minds are like certain spots of ground, uncapable of cultivation to any good purpose. It might be answered first of all, that it is not certain that there is any such spot of ground, which by a full knowledge of soils acquireable by man, if he gives due pains, and takes right methods to attain to such knowledge, may not be managed to a very useful purpose: we must first be able to say, the science of nature cannot be carried farther than it hath been, before we can affirm any soil is absolutely useless. But however that be, it may be justly affirmed, that there is no ground to think there is any such mind amongst mankind, otherwise than in consequence of some law of matter and motion necessary to the good of the natural world, our union with which, and consequently our dependence upon the laws of which, makes so proper a state of being in the fullness of nature, as has been already proved. I believe all naturalists will agree with me, that there is reason to think from experience, that the incapacities of ideots and changelings is such a phenomenon as distortion in the members of the body, and owing in like manner to natural causes. And in the third place, however even that may be, it is certain, on the one hand, that such examples are very rare; and, on the other, that great variety of talents, not only with respect to strength and quickness, but even in species, is requisite to the happiness and perfection of mankind: though all talents, faculties and genius’s are not alike useful, yet there is none we know of which is not useful, or capable of being employed to very good purposes. Nay, on the contrary, the care of mankind about their happiness is certainly very deficient in this very article, in not taking due pains to manage education<316> in a manner suited to explore, bring forth and improve every various talent and temper in mankind; all these being so many materials nature has liberally laid to our hands, as a rich stock for the improvement of society into goods. And to this we may add, that human life absolutely requires that many should be more fitted for bodily exercise, than for the employments of the understanding; more for the labours of the hands, than for those of the head. But it is sufficient to our purpose to observe, that the fact in universal experience with regard to mankind is, that it is difference with regard to improvement and culture of natural powers and affections that makes the most remarkable differences a and inequalities amongst mankind; insomuch that it may be justly said, “that to attain to a good<317> temper of mind, and to light sufficient for his right conduct in the more ordinary circumstances of human life, is in every man’s power.”
Reason, as such, must depend on culture.’Tis true, very many who call themselves philosophers, have taken great pleasure; a very odd unaccountable pride, in declaiming against human reason: some have even gone such a length, as to say, that the brutes are happier without it than man is with it; or can be, considering how weak it is and feeble; how easily it is deceived by any false semblance of good, and how easily it yields to every corrupt affection or headstrong appetite; or rather how tamely it is driven before them; for so they speak who make this objection, and so may we say of many persons. But to what does all this amount, if it be true, as we have endeavoured to prove from experience, 1. That all our affections stand rightly in our nature. 2. That it is fit habits should be contracted by repeated acts. And, 3dly. That it is fit, reason should depend as to its strength upon our culture or care to exercise and improve it? What do all those objections prove, if these propositions be true, but that some do not take care to improve their reason, and therefore their reason is weak; and that some have, by indulging their passions in a wrong way, instead of governing them by reason, very strong hurtful passions. It does not prove, that the way in which nature designed we should improve in knowledge or in virtue, is not a good way. In order to make<318> their objection militate against the Author of our make, they must either prove, “that to have sensations without the power of chusing, or any sphere of activity, is a nobler, a better state, than to have the power of chusing, a guiding principle, and a sphere of activity:” Or they must prove, “that it is a very bad state of things to make perfection of any kind only attainable by care to improve one’s faculties, powers and affections.” For tho’ it will be readily granted to them, that philosophers (that is, some who are commonly so called) are frequently greater slaves to passions than others; yet what can be inferred from hence, but that the government of the affections requires not only the knowledge of right and wrong, but constant and steady discipline. A man may not only have made very great advances in several parts of learning and science, without having much considered the nature of the human mind, and the right conduct of human affections; but one may even have that latter sort of knowledge in theory to great perfection, and yet be a slave to some bad appetite for want of setting himself to subdue it, and to disenthral himself from its tyranny by proper means. We have had again and again occasion to observe, that it is by repeated acts alone, that new habits are produced, or that old ones are destroyed: and we have not only many examples before our eyes, even among the illiterate part of mankind, to convince us what perfection may be attained to, by right discipline in the conduct of the passions; but we have each of us something within us, which tells us on every occasion, that it is in our power to conquer any bad habit, any impetuous unruly appetite, and to attain to the mastership of all our affections and desires; and that it is at once our interest, and our duty, to set ourselves to obtain this inward liberty, this self-command, this best and noblest of dominions.<319>
We may as well pretend to infer, that there is no such thing as self-love in our nature from the vices that prevail among mankind, as to pretend to prove from them, that there is no benevolence in our nature.V. But, in the fifth place, we might just as well argue from the vices which prevail among mankind, that there is no such thing as self-love in our make, as that there is not a principle of benevolence in our nature. For what vice is contrary to the well-being of our kind, or of society, which is not likewise contrary to the private good of every individual? The three greatest moral evils, in human life, are ignorance, superstition and tyranny. Now let us consider each of these, 1. Ignorance. No doubt, a vast many bad effects arise from it; but what better provision could nature have made than it has done for our improvement in knowledge? Man, indeed, through the defect of natural knowledge is not half the lord of the universe he would be, were he at due pains to improve his knowledge: all the lordship he hath, all the advantages he enjoys, are owing to his knowledge of nature; but what vast fields of natural knowledge lie yet quite uncultivated! Men in their studies and researches go too far beyond or above themselves; not that the knowledge of any part of nature is not worthy of pursuit, but because the interests of mankind chiefly require acquaintance with our earth,This reasoning applied to ignorance with soils, with climates, with air, with water, with fire, and other subjects, more immediately relating to us and our advantages, to the preservation of our health, the abridgement of our labour, and other conveniencies. It chiefly concerns us to know these elements; and if they are not understood, so far as to be able to make them as subservient to our purposes as they might be rendered; whence is it, but from what hath made all the progress we have been able to make in natural knowledge, so late and slow; to our not studying nature itself?of the natural world. Now, benevolence indeed, if we would but listen to it, calls upon us for the sake of mankind to apply ourselves to this study: it calls upon societies to set about and encourage these enquiries: it calls upon magistrates and rulers of states to take proper<320> methods of having this science cultivated and pursued; because all the interests of mankind are deeply concerned in the advancement of such knowledge. But does self-love less strongly excite to what is so evidently the interest of the whole, and of every private person. And why then should the neglect of this study be imputed merely to the want of benevolence in our nature, since all our private interests are no less concerned in it, than public good? If we neglect what self-preservation or self-interest prompts to, is it allowed to be an argument, that there is no self-love in our nature, or that it is too weak? And if that be not allowed, how can the neglect of what benevolence urges to, be reckoned a proof that there is no benevolence, no social principle, no virtue in our composition: or why should the Author of our nature be accused for not having dealt well with us, in not giving us a strong enough desire of public good, merely because public good is not sufficiently attended to; more than be accused for not having planted in us a strong enough principle of self-preservation, since true self-interest is not sufficiently attended to, which is never done. For if it be fair to make the one accusation, it must be so to make the other. And if it be sufficient to vindicate nature, in the one case, that we are well endowed with the powers and means of knowing our interest; it must be sufficient, in the other case, to vindicate nature, that we are sufficiently provided with the power and means of knowing the public interest. Indeed our being so provided is a sufficient justification of nature in both cases, because the chief enjoyments any beings are capable of, are those which arise from the gradual improvement of their own powers, by proper care to improve them: this, I say, is a sufficient vindication of our nature, especially if it be added to the account, “that private and public good, are in the nature of things, the<321> same, or, at least, inseparably connected, and therefore, that to be rightly selfish is true wisdom.”
In the moral world.II. The same reasoning may be applied to moral knowledge, because it can only be acquired in the same way as natural; that is, by experience and observation, or by the study of moral objects, as the other by the study of material ones; and because self-love no less strongly dictates to us the study than benevolence does; a thorough knowledge of ourselves, and of our interests and pleasures, being evidently the interest of every particular person, as much as it can be the interest of the public. But then with regard to moral knowledge, it is worth while to observe further, that tho’ the acurate knowledge of the human mind be a part of science which has never been so much cultivated as it ought, yet the common duties and offices of human life have always, or at all times, and in all ages been sufficiently understood. This plainly appears from the history of mankind; for in all ages of the world, and in all countries, there have been proverbs in every one’s mouth, which sufficiently express the greater part, or, at least, the more important parts of morality.a The ignorance and barbarity of certain nations and times have been studiously magnified by some travelers and historians, to serve I know not what purposes: but from others we learn, that hospitality, justice, gratitude, candor, temperance, and all the<322> virtues have been found very general, even in nations called the most barbarous. Insomuch that no country has ever wanted its proverbs, as has been just said, expressing very fitly the advantages of them, and the obligations to them: not even the countries the most corrupted and perverted by superstition and tyranny: the two other great evils complained of in human life; and which are indeed the two greatest obstacles to the progress of useful knowledge; the great sources and supports of all the ignorance that has prevailed, or still prevails among mankind.
This reasoning applied to tyranny.III. Now with regard to them, we may observe, that though we want very much a history of superstition, faithfully collected, it seems evident that if tyranny be not the inventress and mother of superstition, yet at least, they have always gone hand in hand, kept pace, and acted as it were in concert. Tyranny, no doubt, says a noble author, has a natural tendency to corrupt mens notions of the Deity, and of religion and morals.15 “Morality and good government must go together: there is no real love of virtue without the knowledge of public good. And where absolute power is, there is no public. Accordingly, they who live under tyranny, and admire its power as sacred and divine, are debauched as much in their religion as in their morals. Public good, according to their apprehension, is as little the measure or rule of government in the universe as in the state. They have scarce any notion of what is good and just, other than as mere will and power have determined. Omnipotence, they think, would hardly be itself, were it not at liberty to dispence with the laws of equity, and change at pleasure the standard of moral rectitude.”
“But, notwithstanding the prejudices and corruptions of this kind, ’tis plain, there is something still of a public principle, even where it is most perverted and depressed. The worst of magistracies,<323> the mere despotic kind, can shew sufficient instances of zeal and affection towards it. Where no other government is known, it seldom fails of having that allegiance and duty paid it, which is owing to a better form. The eastern countries, and many barbarous nations have been, and still are, examples of this kind. The personal love they bear their prince, however severe towards them, may shew how natural an affection there is towards government and order among mankind. If men have really no public parent, no magistrate in common to cherish and protect them, they will still imagine they have such a one; and, like new-born creatures, who have never seen their dam, will fancy one for themselves, and apply (as by nature prompted) to some like form, for favour and protection. In the room of a true foster-father and chief, they will take after a false one; and, in the room of a legal government and just prince, they will obey even a tyrant, and endure even a whole lineage and succession of such.”
To superstition which is found to go hand in hand with tyranny.All this is very true with regard to tyranny and its natural tendency; so that the greatest corruptions among mankind, either in morals or in religion, may be ascribed to it as their source and first cause: but surely, tyranny, and its dismal effects, are not more repugnant to benevolence, than they are to self-love and self-interest. For at what would we think should self-preservation make us spurn and rebel more zealously, than the cruel usurpations of despotic will and lawless power? But if the rise of superstition, or false religion, should not be thought sufficiently accountable, by supposing it the device of tyrants to carry on their ambitious schemesa of enslaving<324> mankind more easily and successfully; or whatever may have been the rise of it, sure any barbarous usages which have been established by it, are equally repugnant to the love of ourselves, and to the love of one another. From all which, it follows, that nothing can be inferred from any vices which have ever reigned among mankind, but that men are capable of falling into sad corruptions, if they do not use their natural powers rightly. To which it ought, on the other hand, to be opposed, that mankind are capable of great perfection and happiness by the right use of their powers. And this being the case, it can never remain a question, whether man is well formed by nature, with those who think the greatest of all happiness and perfection is that which is attainable by a being itself, in proportion to its care to improve its natural stock of powers and<325> affections. To what hath been said, we may just subjoin, that almost at all times, and in all ages and countries, even among the most barbarous, enthraled and superstitious, there have not been wanting some persons who not only had arrived, by the due exercises of their faculties, to just notions of religion, morality, and mankind’s true interests; but who likewise thro’ public spirit, boldly bore testimony to the truth, and called upon mankind but to open their eyes, that they might see the happiness and perfection for which nature hath kindly designed them. For this fact is sufficiently attested by history.
Without a mixture of good and evil, there can be no place for prudence, &c.VI. But I proceed to another consideration, in order to shew the absurdity of the complaints made against human nature, on account of the vices to which it is liable. We have often had occasion to desire it to be observed and remembred, that moral ends and effects must have their stated means and causes, as well as natural ones; otherwise there could be no such thing as moral connexions, moral order, and moral knowledge: let those therefore who object against the human make, and the present state of things, on account of physical and moral evils which spring from certain causes, consider well the ultimate result of their objections; whether by them they do not demand causes without their effects, or effects without their causes, both which are equally absurd; both which are owned to be grosly absurd with respect to natural causes and effects: and both which must, by parity of reason, be absurd with regard to moral effects and causes. ’Tis certainly absurd to wish to have the capacity of foreseeing the consequences of things in the natural world to any degree, and the power of procuring goods to ourselves, of avoiding evils, or of turning evils into goods, in consequence of that capacity; and, at the same time, to desire that there were no bad consequences, no evils to be guarded against, or turned<326> into goods. Now the same must likewise hold true with respect to moral connexions, and our capacity of foreseeing moral goods or evils, and our power in consequence thereof, of shunning or warding off such evils, or of turning them into goods. Nature, in both cases, has designed to make procuring goods and avoiding evils dependent on ourselves, in order to make the study of nature our employment, and our happiness in a great measure our own work and acquisition. And therefore, if on the one hand, we think such conduct of nature necessary with regard to us, in order to our enjoying the pleasures of knowing nature’s laws and connexions, of foreseeing consequences, and of exerting ourselves wisely, as it certainly is, then let us not blame nature for having so constituted things, that knowledge and foreseeing might be necessary; or that there might be place for such a thing as acting wisely, and chusing well, since these could not take place, were there no evils to be avoided or converted into good by wisdom and virtue. If, on the other hand, we do not like the conduct of nature, which lays a foundation for wisdom and virtue, good and prudent action, foresight and self-approbation; let us speak out plainly the ultimate meaning of our complaint against nature; and say, nature hath dealt unkindly by us in making our happiness depend in any measure on ourselves, and in making us capable of the pleasures of knowledge, foresight, self-direction, and good management.a <327>
Hence we see the necessity of evils.Before we object against a state of rational creatures, because evils do result from certain combinations of things, as goods do from others, according to fixed laws, ascertainable by them, in order to be the rule of their choices, conduct, and pursuits; we ought to be sure whether it is possible in the nature of things, that there can be rational creatures capable of the pleasures resulting from choice and wise pursuit, were there not evils resulting from certain choices and pursuits, in consequence of the connections<328> of things; or if not positive evils, at least what may be called evils, that is, pleasures very inferior to other pleasures; but that is so far from being possible, that we cannot possibly conceive how there can be any such thing as place for right or wrong choice, wisdom or virtue, but in such a state; nay, we clearly see there cannot be place for wisdom and virtue, good and bad conduct, but in such a state; for right and wrong choice, with respect to whatever mind, even with respect to the creating mind, necessarily suppose connexions productive of happiness, and connexions productive of evil, or at least of less good. There is therefore an absolute necessity<329> in the nature of things, that in order to the existence of agents capable of good and bad choice, there should be, at least, very high goods to be obtained by certain pursuits, in comparison of others, to be obtained by other pursuits. And is not this coming very near to admitting an absolute necessity of connexions from which evils result, in order to the very being of rational creatures, and their distinguishing excellence and happiness. But if we are obliged to go so far, in admitting a necessity of evil in a comparative sense, ought we not to be very cautious how we object against any evils which take place: or can we, indeed, reasonably object against evils, unless we can clearly prove, that they are not at all necessary to the happiness and perfection of rational creatures; for till we can prove that, (a necessity of comparative evil being once admitted) the presumption will lie with respect to any particular evils, that they may be necessary to good, the greater good of rational beings: but as such, they are goods, and not evils.
Several virtues necessarily presuppose not only physical but moral evils.But, having but just suggested this general observation, I shall now go on to shew, from particular instances, that many of the evils complained of in human life, moral as well as natural, are, in the nature of things, necessary, absolutely necessary to many goods, without which human life could have no distinguishing excellence, nor indeed any considerable happiness; which instances will confirm, a posteriori, our arguing, as we have just done, abstractedly, from the nature of things, for the necessity of evil in general.
I. Not only is it true in general, as has been already observed, that there can be no rational creatures, capable of right and wrong choice, good and bad conduct, wisdom and virtue, unless there be, with regard to them, connexions which are productive at least of lesser and greater pleasures, to be<330> the objects and rule of their conduct and pursuits. But with respect to man, it is certain, that several vices and imperfections,a as well as physical pains and wants, are absolutely necessary to the very being and exercise of certain virtues, which are the highest glory of human life, and afford men their best pleasures and enjoyments. Not only are darkness, doubts, ignorance, narrow views and false conceptions, as necessary, in the nature of things, to give a high relish to knowledge, truth,a instruction, recovery from error, and the breaking in of light upon the mind, as hunger, thirst, and other urgent appetites are to the exquisiteness of the pleasure sensible gratifications<331> afford; insomuch that the one could not be without the other: but which is more, several moral diseases, imperfections and vices, make the materials and subjects of many excellent virtues, they make place for them, they call them forth into action, they give them occasion to exert themselves, prove their force, and display all their beauty. As without distresses, wants and afflictions of the natural kind, there could be no room for patience, fortitude, compassion and charity; so without moral evils to combat with, or to remedy, there could be no place for heroism, for generous instruction, for noble efforts to reform mankind from errors and vice, for struggling against corruption and tyranny; in one word, for any of the noble, public-spirited, generous virtues, which add such lustre and glory to human life; and often render it a scene not unworthy of higher orders of rational beings to contemplate.b Here then is not only an <332> excellent use of these moral evils, which are however, as we have seen, nothing but the corruptions and perversions of affections, which in themselves are of the highest importance to our dignity and perfection: but here is plainly a necessity of imperfections and vices, to the very existence of many virtues, or to their formation, trial, exertion, and glorious efforts. Imperfections and vices do indeed give force and heightening to good qualities and virtues, as the shades in a picture set off the brighter and more enlightened parts. It is not possible that there can be an agreeable variety of beauty in the moral world, without foils and contrast, any more than in the natural; for whatever is raised, heightened, or made conspicuous in nature, must be rendered such by shade and contrast; And let us but think how dull the history of mankind would be, or how low, untouching, insipid and<333> groveling a show to ourselves, human affairs would be, without the magnanimous contests, and heroic achievements of virtue contending with vices. But this is not all the vices serve for, merely to illustrate virtues, and to display their charms to advantage: for benevolence, magnanimity, gratitude, patriotism, public spirit, and all the other virtues, which are the great ornaments of mankind, could not take place, were there no wants among mankind to supply, or distresses to be relieved, no monstrous passions to bear down and subdue, no savage enemies to combat and destroy, no great goods to bring to mankind, or no great evils to deliver them from. A Hercules could not have ascended among the gods, and acquired everlasting fame, had there been no cruel tyrants, that ravaged mankind like furious tygers, to conquer and extirpate. Nor could an Orpheus have done the most glorious work that can fall to the share of mere mortal, by civilizing a people, and bringing in wholsome laws, philosophy, arts, and good taste among them, had he not found a nation that was yet living like the wild beasts, and quite a stranger to all the high enjoyments of well polished humanity. All this is as evident, as that supplying supposes wants, and delivering supposes distress. They, therefore, reason most absurdly, who would have human life distinguished by glorious virtues, and yet those virtues not have subjects, materials and occasions to exert and prove themselves upon.
Every state of the body politic, as well as of the body natural, is incident to particular diseases or vicesII. But in the second place, if objectors attend to human nature, to the nice ballance and dependence of human affections, and to the natural tendency and course of things, they will plainly see an absurdity in many of their complaints against human nature, on account of the vices to which it is liable, unless they think that mankind ought not to form themselves into societies, and endeavour to make the<334> bodies into which they form themselves, great, opulent and powerful, by encouraging manufactures, trade, and the polite arts. If they think that mankind ought not to do so, but would be happier in small bodies, without any arts, but such as are necessary to mere subsistence; or by foregoing all worldly power and grandeur for simplicity and quiet, or rather indolence. It is sufficient to answer, that men may do so if they please: they are made for society, and they may chuse for themselves, their end and form in contriving society. Though they cannot attain to any end by any means, no more than a machine can be well formed for a certain end, without a fabric adjusted to that end; yet they may chuse their end, and the means to that end, if they will but content themselves with that end, and expect no advantages from it, but what it is fitted in the nature of things to produce.
But, to expect the advantages and benefits which arise from large bodies, who set themselves by proper means to make a great, an opulent and polite society, from small bodies that have no such aim, and do not therefore take the ways and means to attain to it; or to expect to avoid the inconveniencies which naturally arise from this or the other manner of combination, or from the pursuit of this or the other end by its proper means, is as absurd as to eat our cake and cry for it.
Of the vices to which the opulent state is subject.III. But having premised this general answer, in order to be convinced of the absurdity of complaints against our make, on account of the many vices mankind are obnoxious to, when formed into great societies, whose end is wealth, power and politeness; I would desire the reader to attend to the following very evident maxims.
1. On the one hand, worldly wealth, power, greatness, when attained, necessarily give more occasions to the affections to take a strong turn and<335> bent towards the pursuit of external gratifications, than their contraries, indigence, weakness, and obscurity do. Affections and appetites must necessarily be strongly sollicited by objects and means proper to gratify them, if these are continually present to the mind; and affections much sollicited, much called upon, and frequently indulged, must grow stronger and stronger as they are so. Whence it follows, that according to the nature of things, inordinate appetites and affections towards external goods, must be very prevalent in opulent, powerful and great states. It is unavoidable.
2. On the other hand, worldly power, wealth and greatness, cannot be obtained by a state, but by the pursuits of the individuals; for what else is a state but an assemblage of many individuals; or its goods, but the sum or aggregate of the goods obtained by the pursuits of the individuals? But it is impossible that external advantages can be obtained, if they are not very keenly pursued; or be keenly pursued, if they are not highly valued. And it is extremely difficult for individuals to value so highly as to pursue keenly, any external goods, and still preserve their affections from all the inordinancies and irregularities, to which keen and strong affections towards external goods are liable, and which would prove the ruin of society, if they were not restrained to a certain degree by right policy.
3. On the one hand, as riches and plenty cannot be obtained without industry; so without very great consumption industry cannot be encouraged or maintained: but whatever contributes to consumption, must, as such, conduce to promote and encourage industry: and there will necessarily be most encouragement to industry, where there is most consumption; but there will be most consumption of external goods, where there is most sensual gratification, and consequently there will be most encouragement to industry, where there is more affection<336> to sensual gratification, than where there is less. The pains taken to procure goods will be in proportion to the demand for them.
4. But on the other hand, as it is certain that wealth and greatness cannot be procured by a state, unless they are sought and pursued; so it is certain, that opulence and plenty when procured, by affording for a time the means of sensual gratification, to a very great degree of voluptuousness, tend to make men averse to the toils and hardships, to the labour and assiduity, by which alone continual consumption can be supplied and reinforced with fresh stores, in order to the continuance of opulence and plenty. The temper and spirit necessary to acquire them is lost by great indulgence in the enjoyment of them. So that as a nation cannot be opulent, unless there be the consumption by sensual gratifications, necessary to maintain the industry requisite to procure them; so opulence and plenty cannot long subsist, unless, notwithstanding the indulgences necessary to consumption, the spirit of industry be kept up amidst that indulgence and consumption.
5. From these positions it follows, that the formation and maintenance of a society, which shall pursue and attain to wealth and grandeur, requires the nicest administration, a very curious adjustment, many counterpoising regulations, and with all, the most watchful, delicate attention and interposition.a Such a society must, in the nature of things, be<337> a composition of contrary qualities, from which harmony and general good are to be educed; which must require very skilful management, very accurately contrived laws, and a very dextrous administration.
But, 6. That such an adjustment and administration of society is possible, our own constitution, to go no further, is a sufficient proof; since were but a few things changed, it would necessarily produce the continuance of great opulence and power, great industry and noble arts, glorious virtues, and great general happiness: it would produce consumption necessary to the maintenance and encouragement of industry, without the decrease of the industrious spirit, which is, and must be the great secret, in order to the getting and preserving of opulence and greatness. It would not be free from vices; but all vices being duly curbed and restrained, out of the vices that did prevail would be educed great goods by the virtues to which such a constitution would naturally give due vigour and force.
Men may chuse their state, but every state hath its natural and necessary consequences.IV. This reasoning is certainly true, but if it is so, then it inevitably follows, that all objections against man, on account of the vices his nature is liable to in certain combinations of men and things are absurd. For mankind must certainly be well made, “since<338> we are made capable of pursuing various ends, and of forming ourselves into different combinations for attaining various ends with foresight and choice”; “since bad constitutions of society, or unnatural combinations, not proper to attain to any good end, must be miserable and cannot long subsist, but must dissolve like a diseased body”; “and since by means of good government, societies may be extremely happy, not only notwithstanding any excesses or degeneracies, to which the affections implanted in us, or that can be ingrafted upon us, are liable; but in great measure, at least, even in consequence of the inordinate affections and concupiscences which are necessary to the procuring worldly wealth and greatness, or which they naturally tend to engender; these being counter-poised or counter-worked by the virtues, a good constitution of society as naturally tends to produce, as any well contrived machine works to its effect, while all its springs and wheels are in due order.” This being the case, no objection can be made against our make and frame, which does not terminate in asking, either why we are made to arrive at any considerable end by uniting our forces in the social way, which is to object against our being social creatures, and made for fellowship, communication and participation; or, in asking, why our forces must be rightly combined and exerted in order to gain a certain good end, which is indeed to ask, why means are requisite to an end; or why an effect must be produced by its causes, than which there cannot be a greater absurdity in physics or in morals; or, lastly, in asking, why the goods in any combination of qualities in order to attain them may not be effects of another calculated to attain other goods, which is likewise absurd. For it is no less impossible, that the advantages of a simple state of mankind without arts only aiming at quietness, and mere subsistence, can belong to a state calculated to advance in opulence and greatness, by<339> the arts and means requisite to that end; than ’tis impossible, that fire should have at the same time, the properties of fire and of water. Men are capable of both states and conditions, but they cannot have the goods of both at the same time. Each hath its peculiar advantages and disadvantages, which must go together.a <340>
As the natural so the political body hath its infancy, childhood, manhood and decline; and in both equally each of these stages, as it hath its peculiar advantages and pleasures, so it hath its peculiar diseases. Nay, as every habit of the natural body is incident to certain particular disorders; the corpulent to one sort, for instance, and the meager to another; so every form of society and government hath its peculiar evils as well as goods naturally growing out of it. The rich and opulent state hath its evils. But the poor mean one hath likewise its no less pernicious or disagreeable ones.
It belongs therefore to man to chuse. He cannot alter the nature of things, but ought to direct his conduct according to them. And to desire that his Creator should have made him capable of chusing for himself and conducting himself, and yet not have made variety of better and worse for the exercise of his thought and choice; is it not to desire matter of choice without any difference in things? Nay, to demand that all connexions of things should be equally beautiful and<341> good, it is not only to take away from a rational creature all subjects of choice, but it is to demand, that all different things, and combinations of things should have precisely the same relations, qualities and effects: A physical absurdity too gross not to be perceived by the most ordinary understanding. Thus then it is visible, that when we trace objections against the make and frame of man, and the connexions he stands in, to the bottom, they end in contradictory demands.
But the objections brought against mankind, on account of the vices they are liable to, being chiefly fetched from the vices which prevail in great and opulent states: it is not improper, before I leave this head, to add two or three remarks upon them.
Several things are misrepresented; luxury, for instance, is declaimed against in a very vague sense.I. The complaints which are made against such states, in the general confused way of declaiming against luxury, have many of them no meaning at all, or a very absurd one. For luxury is often taken by those declaimers in such a vague, indeterminate sense, that, in reality, every thing which agrandizes a nation, may be said to be luxury, and in such a sense, not only poetry, painting, statuary, sculpture, architecture, gardening, music, and all the fine arts, even philosophy itself are voluptuous pursuits, and encouraging them is luxury; but trade also, and all its imports, are a nusance, a plague.
Now to put an end to such confused railery or morality, let it be called which you will, I would only ask those who have any understanding of human affairs, 1. Whether under a wise administration, a people may not only enjoy all the polite arts in great perfection, but even enjoy all the goods of other countries which their own product can purchase, without being impoverished by it? If they would have no trade, then let us live upon the product of our spot: for sure, if they would have<342> trade encouraged, they would have foreign goods imported in exchange for our own product; and would they have them imported and not enjoyed?The fine arts do not effeminate. And as for the polite arts, what do they do, but employ the wealth of a nation to the best purposes in the best taste, or with the greatest elegance? What indeed is wealth without these, must it not be a nusance? 2. I would ask, whether under a wise administration, where military affairs are duly taken care of, or where a spirit of bravery and skill in military discipline are kept up by proper methods; a wealthy nation may not live in all the ease and plenty imaginable, and in many parts of it shew as much pomp and elegance, and delicacy of taste, as human wit can invent, and at the same time be formidable to their neighbours?But other arts must be united with them to make a brave as well as a polite people. Is there indeed no way of becoming brave and masculine, without being poor, without abandoning trade and all polite arts, and giving ourselves up entirely to martial exercises, and becoming a nation of mere soldiers? Here sure there is a medium, which several nations have hit upon, otherwise there would never have been a nation at once, wealthy, polite and brave. It is indeed commonly said, that the polite arts soften and enervate a people, but if that be absolutely true,a is it not as certain, on the<343> other hand, that without these arts, human life is very rude, savage, unpolished, and hardly one remove above that of the brutes which just breath, eat and drink? Were it indeed a dilemma, one part of which must be the case, who would hesitate which to chuse; whether to be as the fierce savage Lacedemonians, or as the intelligent polite Athenians? But there is far from being any dilemma in the case, for were not the Athenians as brave as they were polite? However, not to enter into historical discussions which would lead us too far from our point; who ever dreamed, that men could maintain a masculine, hardy, martial spirit, or have the courage and skill war requires, without any care taken upon them to nourish and keep up that spirit; and to exercise them for that effect in the arts and discipline of war? But why may not the qualities, resulting from the polite arts be united with those which result from warlike<344> exercises; may not the two be conjoined; is it not the conjunction of the two seemingly opposite qualities, viz. the soft and the masculine, that we admire in the Athenians? Is it not this conjunction that makes the truly amiable hero? It was this made a Scipio. And it is this that will make a people, at the same time brave and polite, humane, social, generous, tender, and bold, formidable, inconquerable. To produce which great and lovely character, a rightly model’d education in a state, otherwise well constituted and governed, would be as infallibly effectual, as any means in the natural world are to produce and effectuate their end.
It is virtue alone that is the cement of society.II. Another observation I would make is, that as it is virtue alone that can make any particular person truly happy; so it is virtue alone that can be called the basis and cement of society, or that makes it happy. For tho’ vanity, prodigality, debauchery, and other vices, promote consumption, and consequently trade, yet they tend to destroy the spirit of industry: they would effectually dissipate and waste opulence and the means of worldly grandeur and power, were they not counterpoised by other vices on the opposite extreme, such as avarice, superstitious abstemiousness, and excessive contempt of all sensible gratification: no goods can arise from vices, without the aids of public wisdom and many virtues; and if not restrained within certain bounds, they would effectually ruin and destroy all society.It is virtue and political wisdom that educes good out of evil. Private vices are therefore really to society, what ordure and filth is to land; they are equally abominable and nauseous in themselves; and, like it, are only made useful by skilful, sagacious and industrious management. They are the excrements of what is really useful, and can only be turned into use as natural ones are. Excrements of the one kind as well as the other, will abound most in opulent places where there is plentiful consumption; and in this also are they both alike, that they are in themselves of a poisonous, pestilential<345> nature, and tend to produce plagues, which would soon destroy mankind, or make them very miserable: In great quantities they are pernicious to good soil, and choak the good seeds thrown into it, bringing forth nauseous weeds in greater plenty than useful grains: without skilful tillage and husbandry, and sound wholesome seed, they would never produce any good at all: and, in fine, as manure is chiefly necessary to poor, barren or exhausted soil, so vanity, prodigality, debauchery, and other vicesonly can serve as a counterballance to such vices of the opposite extreme,a as avarice or penuriousness in all its branches and modifications, which, like poor ground, would but swallow up the seed thrown into it, and yield no crop. The similitude holds exactly in all these instances. And if that be the case, then can vices, in no proper sense, be said to be beneficial to society, though goods may be educed from them by virtue and political wisdom; unless it can be said, that a good crop is owing to excrements chiefly, and not to good seed and right husbandry; which cannot be said even with respect to soil that requires manure to change its barren nature, and render it fertile.Excrements may be made useful, and so may vices. But if it be really so with regard to vice and virtue, then there can be no doubt about the truth I am now endeavouring to establish: for then our argument stands thus. “All the vices of men are but the corruptions, the degeneracies and perversions of affections implanted in our nature for most excellent purposes, and without which, as they are grafted in us to be managed by our reason, we could not be capable of any share of that dignity and perfection to which we now can by that means raise and advance ourselves. But even these vices, by good management in the public, and the counter-working of many virtues exerting themselves to that effect,<346> may be converted into benefits; insomuch, that societies, notwithstanding all the vices human nature is liable to in any circumstances, may be rendered very happy, very great and powerful, by good government and administration.”
Now this defence of human nature must be admitted to be good, if what we have often said of the absurdity of objecting against the dependence of the happiness of society upon a right form of government be called to mind, viz. that it is objecting against our being made social creatures. But,
Supposing vices to be necessary, yet good being educed out of them, the wisdom of the moral world will stand on the same footing as the wisdom of the natural.III. Let it be just added on this article, that supposing it to be granted that vices are necessary in the moral world, in the same sense that excrements are in the other; equally unavoidable, or if you will, mechanical effects; what will follow from this concession, but that, as such is the constitution of the material world, that the excrements which are unavoidably necessary or mechanically so, that would poison or corrupt the air, and produce diseases were they not carried off, may by skill be rendered useful at manuring the ground; so such is the constitution of the moral world, that the evils which are absolutely unavoidable in consequence of the human make, that are in themselves plagues and miseries, may be converted by skill and good management into goods. This, I say, is all that could be inferred upon granting that vices are necessary in the same sense that animal excrements are necessary; and therefore good order would still stand upon the same footing with respect to the moral world, as it does with respect to the material, where an objection taken from filth that can thus be turned into profit, would be justly stiled silly and ridiculous: there would still, even according to that way of reasoning, be the same difference between virtue and vice, as between excrements and good seed, and right husbandry.
But vices are in no proper sense mechanical effects.But what hath been supposed cannot be granted:<347> the similitude between vice and excrement fails in this respect. The former is absolutely a mechanical effect, whereas the other depends, as we feel by experience, upon ourselves; it being in every man’s power to govern his affections, and to prevent them from running into enormities and irregularities. In the one case, it only depends upon us to prevent the bad effects, or to turn into good; in the other, it depends upon us to prevent our affections from being extravagant, and to manage them well; and it likewise depends upon us, by joining in right society, to turn the bad actions of the wicked and vicious into good uses, or to restrain them within certain bounds. We have therefore in the last case a double power, or there is a double dependence on ourselves. And for that reason, whatever necessity there may be for evils in order to goods, no evil can be said to be necessary, in a sense that implies any necessity upon any person not to act right, or not to govern his affections well. We are not more sure that certain effects in nature, within and without our bodies, are absolutely independent upon our will, than we are sure, each of us for ourselves, that the government of our affections and actions depends upon ourselves: this is a difference between things that must remain, while our nature and the present constitution of things exists, that some things are not in our power, and that others are: it cannot be altered. And so plainly is that difference felt in moral things, that whatever objections may be made against providence, and the human make, all objectors find that they cannot chuse but blame themselves, and think they suffer justly, when they act amiss. We may arraign nature as much as we please, in order to throw a share of our own faults upon nature, providence, or something external to us and independent of us, but when we have done all we can thus to extenuate our guilt in doing wrong, to ourselves we are still conscious that the guilt lies at our own door.<348>
[a. ]See Mr. Hutcheson on the Passions, whose words these are. [Francis Hutcheson, An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions. . . . (1728), ed. Aaron Garrett (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002), I.VI.iv.]
[b. ]De Offic. Lib. 1. [Cicero, De officiis, II.v.16.]
[a. ]See the corolary to the Chapter, on the association of ideas and habits; Part 1.
[5. ]Pope, Essay on Man, II.53–66.
[a. ]See Hutcheson on the passions, whose words I here use. [Hutcheson, Passions, I.VI.iv. The last sentence of the quote is not included in this passage, but appears to be a version of a sentence in I.III.v.]
[6. ]This is a major topic in the lengthy discussion between Socrates and Callicles in Plato’s Gorgias, 477E-481B.
[7. ]More, Divine Dialogues, 219–20.
[8. ]Plato, Gorgias, 477E-481B.
[a. ]See Plutarch de virtute morali.—Multo autem his utiliores sunt affectuum foetus, rationi praesto ubi sunt, eique ad virtutem enitenti opem ferunt. Sic moderata ira fortitudini adjumento est, odium in malos justitiae, ac justa indignatio adversus nullo suo merito rebus secundis elatos, quando hi dementia simul atque petulantia inflammatis animis coercitione opus habent. Jam ab amicitia naturalem ad diligendum propensionem, ab humanitate misericordiam, a vera benevolentia gaudere una atque dolere, ne si velis avellere ullo modo possis. Praeterea si peccant qui una cum insano amore omnem tollunt amorem: equidem non recte agunt, qui propter avaritiam omnes etiam alias damnent appetitiones. Sed perinde agunt ac si quis currendum, quod aliquando impingatur, aut jaciendum neget, quia nonnunquam a scopo aberretur; aut canendum quod inscite canatur.—Adde quod si omnino evelli ex animis affectus possint multorum eorum ratio hebetior fieret atque ociosior, sicut gubernator vento cessante non admodum habet quod agat. Atque haec ut apparet, observantis legumlatoris in civitate ambitionem, aemulationemque excitant, &c.—Non enim tam recte cum Xenocrate dixeris, mathematicas disciplinas esse ansas philosophiae: quam hoc, affectus istos verecundiam, cupiditatem, poenitentiam, voluptatem, dolorem, ansas esse adolescentium: quas salutari atque concinna opportunitate ratio & lex apprehendentes, eos cum profectu in rectam perducant viam, ut non male professus fuerit Laco ille paedagogus effecturum se, ut puer gauderet honestis, ac moleste ferat turpia, quo liberalis institutionis fine neque major potest ullus, neque pulchrior nuncupari.
[9. ]Shaftesbury, “Sensus communis,” II.i, in Characteristics, ed. Klein, 42–45.
[a. ]See his Essay on the freedom of wit and humour. This passage is quoted as an example of good natured refutation. [What follows is a selection of quotes from Shaftesbury’s “Sensus communis,” II.i, in Characteristics, ed. Klein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 42–44.]
[a. ]See Charact. T. 1. p. 115. whence this excellent observation is taken. [What appears to be a single long quote is an out-of-order selection of quotes from “Sensus communis,” III.ii, in Characteristics, ed. Klein, 52–53.]
[10. ]Pope, Essay on Man, I.165–78.
[11. ]Ibid., II.181–202.
[a. ]Mr. Hutcheson on the passions. [Hutcheson, Passions, I.VI.vii.]
[a. ]This author makes another observation to the same purpose, page 177, which the reader may consult.
[a. ]Animi constitutio sic se habet, ut una sit ejus pars ratio, altera iracundia, tertia cupiditas. Ratio cognitioni, ira robori, cupiditas appetitui praeest. Cum igitur haec tria una compago in unum redigantur, tum virtus in animo gignitur & concordia: cum per seditionem inter se dividuntur, vitium oritur atque discordia. Sunt autem virtuti haec tria necessaria, ratio, facultas & consilium. Jam ratione animae praeditae virtus est prudentia, quoniam judicii & contemplationis particeps est habitus: iracundiae autem fortitudo, quandoquidem resistit, & gravia perfert hic habitus: cupiditatis vero temperantia, posteaquam corporis voluptatum quaedam est moderatio: totius denique animi justitia, &c. Ex Theage Pythagorio, in libro de virtutibus. [Theages Pythagoreas, De Virtutibus, in Gale, Opuscula, 688–89. The sentence beginning “Sunt autem” is from Metopus Pythagoreus, De virtute (Gale 685), and the remainder of the passage is a paraphrase of Theages Pythagoreus (Gale 689–90). “The constitution of the mind is such that one of its parts is reason, the second is irascibility, and the third is desire. Reason governs thinking, anger governs strength, and desire governs appetite. When therefore these three things are reduced to one by a single link then virtue and concord arise in the mind. When they become divided by dissension then vice and discord arise” (Gale 688–89). “But there are three things that are necessary for virtue, reason, ability, and deliberation”(Metopus, Gale 685). “Now, the virtue of the mind that corresponds to reason is practical wisdom, since that is a disposition to both judgment and contemplation. The virtue corresponding to irascibility is courage, since it withstands things, and the disposition secures weighty aims. Temperance is the virtue corresponding to desire, since it acts to moderate the pleasures of the body. Justice briefly is the virtue of the whole mind” (Theages, Gale 689–90). Gale, ed., Opuscula mythologica, physica et ethica. Graece et Latine. . . .(Am sterdam, 1688).]
[12. ]Pope, Essay on Man, II.67–80.
[13. ]Pope, Essay on Man, I.162–64.
[a. ]This objection would quickly evanish, if we would but reflect, 1. How necessary variety of talents and characters among mankind is.
And, 2. Whence this variety proceeds.
[Pope, Moral Essays, Epistle I, To Sir Richard Temple, Lord Cobham, lines 15–22, 31–36, 149–50, 208–9. Alexander Pope, Pope: Poetical Works, ed. Herbert Davis (London: Oxford University Press, 1966).]
[14. ]Pope, Essay on Man, IV.29–34.
[a. ]That temperance is the best preservative of health, and that honesty is the best policy, are universal proverbs in all countries, and they ever were so; and are not these a complete system of morals. For every one becomes soon enough acquainted with his constitution to know what disorders or discomposes him; and, in order to know, what honesty requires in any particular instance, one needs only suppose himself in the case proposed, and ask himself, what he would desire or expect to be done to him in it. But which is more, in all countries there are prevailing fables known to the vulgar, that express in a very strong manner, all the more important duties and rules of life.
[15. ]This sentence and the following lengthy quote are from Shaftesbury, “Sensus communis,” III.i, in Characteristics, ed. Klein, 50.
[a. ]A late author, (Hist. du Ciel) in my opinion, hath rendered it exceeding probable, that superstition or idolatry took its rise from the misinterpretation of the symbolical language in practice amongst the Aegyptians more especially, the first meaning of which, after the invention and common use of letters, was soon forgot. But, at the same time, he shews, that the worship of dead heroes was the earliest species of idolatrous worship; ancient symbols that were originally used, to signify the proper occupations of the different seasons and months of the year, and to mark out the returns of feasts, having been, after their proper use was forgot, first interpreted to signify the inventions or actions of deceased benefactors, heroes or kings. And nothing is more plain from history, than that ambitious men were at great pains to promote the custom of Apotheosis, in concert with those employed about sacred things, who found their account in it on many considerations. In fine, we may judge how idolatry was introduced and kept up in ancient times, from the way in which false religion is now supported. Tyrants, and corrupt priests, mutually finding their interest in it, cordially league and unite to uphold it by all the arts they can devise. ’Tis the divine right of these two to enslave the rest of mankind, and to live luxuriantly upon their industry, or rather drudgery, that is the chief end of all the mixed policy of arbitrary power and superstition. But the success of such cruel policy, so evidently contrary to the well-being and happiness of every individual in such tyrannies, must first be allowed to be a good argument against our being naturally sensible to misery and happiness, before it can be brought as one to prove, that we have in our nature no social feeling, no disposition toward society and union. [Noël Antoine Pluche, Histoire du ciel considéreé selon les idées des poètes, des philosophes et de Moïse (Paris, 1738–39, translated by J. B. de Freval as The History of the Heavens (London, 1740).]
[a. ]See this subject finely treated in Plutarch de fortuna. Vitam regit fortuna, quidam dixit, non sapientia. Quid ergo? neque justitia, neque equalitas, neque temperantia, neque modestia res humanas dirigunt? Sed a fortuna & propter fortunam factum est ut in sua perseveraret Aristides paupertate cum parare divitias sibi posset? Et Scipio, &c.—Jam consilii dexteritate sublata, par est neque considerationem ullam rerum relinqui; neque investigationem utilitatis—Quid enim invenire aut discere homines possent homines si fortuna omnia dirigantur?—Ita prudentia neque aurumest, neque argentum, neque gloria, neque valetudo, neque robur, neque pulchritudo. Quid ergo ea est? Id quod recte his omnibus uti potest, ac singula horum jucunda facit, laudibilia, utilia, cum sine hac inutilia, sterilia, damnosaque sint, & molestiam dedecus possidenti ea adferant. Praeclare itaque Prometheus apud Hesiodum praecipit Epimetheo.
Nimirum de fortunae bonis loquens: perinde ac si musicae ignarum canere fistula, aut recitare indoctum, aut equitare ignarum equi gubernandi vetant: ita eum hortans ne magistratum gerat cum imprudens sit, neve sit dives animo praeditus illiberali. Non enim duntaxat res secundae indigno oblatae occasionum stultis exhibent malorum consiliorum, ut Demosthenes dixit; sed & prosperitas merito major imprudentibus calamitatum ansa & origo est.
[a. ]The whole dissertation of Plutarch de capienda ex inimicis utilitate is a proof of this. Vis inimico ut egre sit facere, noli ei exprobare lasciviam, molitiem, intemperantiam, illiberalitatem, ipse fortis esto, castus, verax, humanumque & aequum iis cum quibus tibi res est te praebe. Quod si ad maledicendum, &c.—Si illiteratum, studium discendi tuum laboremque intende: si timidum, excita fortitudinem tuam, si lascivum dele ex animo si quod restat delitescens libidinis vestigium.—Atque hoc modo licet in inimicitia mansuetudinem & malorum tolerantiam demonstrare. Simplicitati & magnanimitati atque bonitati plus loci hic est, quam in amicitiis. Non enim tam pulchrum est, bene amico facere quam turpe non facere id, cum necessitas ejus requirit. Ceterum oblata occasione ulciscendi inimicum, eum missum facere aequanimitatis est. Qui vero & miseratur inimicum afflictum & opem infert indigenti, & filiis ejus ac familiae adverso ipsorum tempore operam suam studiumque defert; hunc qui non amat ob animi humanitatem neque probitatem laudat, Huic pectus atrum est atque adamantinum.—He concludes with a most generous remark. Qui vero non excaecatur odio inimici, sed vitam ejus, mores, dicta, factaque ut incorruptus spectator contemplatur, is pleraque eorum, quorum sinistra aemulatione correptus est, intelliget ei diligentia, providentia, probisque actionibus parta esse: eodemque contendens, studium honestatis, gloriaeque suum augebit; vanitate & socordia affectuum amputatis, &c. [Plutarch, De capienda ex inimicis utilitate: “Should you wish to upset your enemy do not reproach him with being licentious, soft, intemperate, or mean. You yourself be strong, pure, truthful; be humane and fair with those with whom you have to treat. If for cursing, etc. . . . If you say your enemy is illiterate, intensify your studying and your hard work. If you say he is timid, kindle your courage. If you say he is licentious, erase from your mind any trace of lechery that may remain there. . . . And in this way it is possible, in our dealings with our enemies, to show mildness and tolerance of wicked people. There is more room for guilelessness, magnanimity, and goodness here than in our dealings with our friends. For it is less fine a thing to behave well toward a friend than it is a bad thing not to behave well toward him when he has need of your kindly act. But to let pass an occasion to take revenge on an enemy is to perform an act of impartiality toward him. Indeed a person who has pity for an afflicted enemy and helps him in his need, and works industriously on behalf of his enemy’s children and household during this difficult time for them—one who does not love him for his humane spirit and does not praise him for his uprightness has a heart which is black and hard” (88C-91A). “But someone who is not blinded by hatred for his enemy but instead, as an uncorrupted spectator observes his enemy’s life, morals, affirmations, and actions, will come to understand that most of the things of which the enemy has been accused as a result of perverse envy, have been produced in consequence of his enemy’s diligence, foresight, and honest acts. And so, striving toward this same goal, he will intensify his striving for honor, repute, and renown, and will make an end of his idleness and indolence, etc.” (92C-D).]
[a. ]So Cicero, in a fragment preserved by D. Aug. Lib. IV. cap. 2. de Trinitate.—Nec enim fortitudinis indigeremus, nullo proposito aut labore aut periculo: nec justitia cum esset nihil, quod apeteretur alieni: nec temperantia quae regeret eas, si nullae essent libidines: nec prudentia quidem egeremus nullo delectu proposito bonorum & malorum. [Augustine, De trinitate, XIV.ix.3: “For we would not need courage where neither travail nor danger confronts us. Nor would we need justice where there was nothing of another’s that was coveted. Nor would temperance govern the passions where there were no passions. Nor would we need prudence where there were no goods to delight us, nor any evils either.” (A.B., trans.)]
[b. ]See Seneca. Quare bonis viris mala accidunt quum sit providentia. He perhaps goes too far, when he says, Nobis interdum voluptati est, si adolescens constantis animi irruentem feram venabulo excipit, si leonis incursum interritus pertulit, tantoque spectaculum est gratius, quanto id honestior fecit. Non sunt ista quae possunt Deorum in se vultum convertere, sed puerilia & humanae oblectantia levitatis. Ecce spectaculum dig. num, ad quod respiciat intentus operi suo Deus. Ecce par Deo dignum, vir fortis cum mala fortuna compositus, utique si & provocavit. Non video inquit, quid habet in terris Jupiter pulcrius, si convertere animum velit, quam ut spectet Catonem?
[a. ]Ut in fidibus, ac tibiis, atque cantu ipso, ac vocibus concentus est quidam tenendus ex distinctis sonis, quem immutatum, ac discrepantem aures eruditae ferre non possint, isque concentus ex dissimillimarum vocum moderatione concorstamen efficitur & congruens: sic ex summis & infimis, & mediis interjectis ordinibus, ut sonis moderata ratione, auctus consensu dissimillimorum concinit, & quae harmonia a musicis dicitur in cantu, ea est in civitate concordia arctissimum atque optimum omni in repub. vinculum incolumitatis; quae sine justitia nullo pacto esse potest. Cicero de rep. l. 2. Ex Aug. de civit. dei. l. 2. c. 21.
[a. ]See an excellent paper on this subject, Vol. VI. No. 464. that is concluded with a very pretty alegory, which is wrought into a play by Aristophanes, the Greek Comedian. It seems originally designed as a satyr upon the rich, though in some parts of it, it is like the foregoing discourse, a kind of comparison between wealth and poverty.
[a. ]See the different effects of arts described by Plato, together with the gymnastical exercises, which make a truly liberal education. De Rep. Lib. 3. Nonne animadvertis inquam at animum afficiant, qui gymnasticam per omnem vitam exercent, musicam non attingunt, vel qui contra faciunt? Qua de re, inquit loqueris? De feritate inquam & rustica quadam duritie, & contra molitie & mollitate & comitate. Novi equidem eos inquit, qui mera simplicique utuntur musica plus aequo agrestiores evadere. Qui contra musica duntaxat molliores, quam quod sit illis decorum. Atqui vis ipsa aggrestis ad iracundae naturae animositatem, granditatemque pertinet quae in recta educatione instituitur, in fortitudinem abit: sin autem praeter id quod decet extenditur atque excrescit, ferox, ut consentaneum est, ac dura;—Quid vero? Nonne philosophica natura vim habet quandam mitem atque comem, quae si nimium remissa fuerit, plus aequo mollior redditur: sin praeclare educata atque instituta, praeclarum aliquod modestiae & comitatis exemplum solet existere.—Nonne igitur oportet illas inter se aptas conspirare atque consentire? Ejusque animus qui hoc temperamento aptatus est atque affectus temperans est atque fortis.—Quicunque igitur sinit musicaecantus perpetuo circumsonare animo suo, eamque per aures veluti per infundibulum, concentibus illis quos supra dulces, molles appellavimus perfundit.—Tandemqueliquat & dissolvit animum, donec omnis illa animositas contabuerit penitus, eamque veluti nervos ex animo exciderit, segnemque bellatorem effecerit.—Quod si quis gymnastices victui se totum tradat musicae & philosophiae studiis neglectis, primo quidem firmum corporis habitum consecutus, animos sumit, & granditate seipsum replet ipseque seipso fortior evadit. Quid vero? Quandoquidem nihil aliud agit, neque illi quicquam cum musis est commune, neque ullum discendi studium in ipsius animo inest quippe qui ne supremis labris quidem ullam disciplinam gustarit.—Nequeullam aliam musicae partem, infirmitas quaedam, & visus, & auditus hebitudo dominatur: quum ipsius sensus neque exsuscitentur, neque nutriantur, neque ullo modo expurgentur: Hispidus quidem & importunus homo, omnis eruditionis ac comitatis expers mihi videtur, &c. See Aristot. Polit. Lib. 8. 3, 4, 5, 6, &c. where the character of the Lacedemonians is shewn to be the natural effect of their education. [Plato, Republic, 410C-411D: “‘Surely you have noticed,’ I said, ‘the effect on the mind made by those who do gymnastic exercises throughout their lives, and who do not concern themselves with music, and the effect on the mind of those who live the opposite kind of lives?’ ‘What do you mean?’ he said. ‘I mean a certain wildness and coarseness, and on the contrary side, a gentleness and courteousness.’ ‘I have noticed,’ he said, ‘that those who listen to plain, simple music more than they should, become more wild. Those who listen only to music become softer than is right for them. And there is a wildness if the boldness turns into courage. But if it grows beyond what is fitting, then, as is agreed, it becomes fierce and hard.’ ‘And so?’ ‘Surely a philosophical nature has a certain kindly and gentle force which, if it were too weak, would become too soft. But if it were rightly instructed and composed it would have a disposition of exemplary modesty and kindness. Should not these two natures combine and work harmoniously? And the mind which has become suited to and qualified by this temperament is self-controlled and strong. Whoever allows music to resonate forever in his soul, pours through his ears as through a funnel the sweet, soft songs to which we have already referred. At length it melts and dissolves the mind until all that wildness has wasted away completely, as if he has cut out the nerves from his mind and made himself a lazy fighter. . . . But if someone works hard at gymnastics and eats heartily, and if he does not work at music and philosophy, then he becomes physically strong and also lively in spirit, and he acquires a certain grandeur and a greater courage.’ ‘Surely he does.’ ‘But if he does nothing other than this, nor has anything in common with the Muses, nor goes in for any studying, he will not taste any instruction at the highest levels nor will taste any other part of music. A certain weakness and a dullness of sight and hearing reigns, for his senses are neither stimulated nor nourished nor in any way purified. He seems to me to be a rough and unfit man, a stranger to all learning and to courteous living.’”]
[Pope, Moral Essays, Epistle III, to Allen, Lord Bathurst, lines 161–62. Alexander Pope, Pope: Poetical Works, ed. Herbert Davis (London: Oxford University Press, 1966).]