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appendix - Henry Home, Lord Kames, Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion 
Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, Corrected and Improved, in a Third Edition. Several Essays Added Concerning the Proof of a Deity, Edited and with an Introduction by Mary Catherine Moran (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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Significant Variant Readings
Kames published three editions of his Essays (1751, 1758, and 1779). The first two editions were published anonymously; in the third edition Kames signed his name to the Preface.
With each new edition, Kames made many changes, some of them stylistic, some of them concerning substantive issues. In revising his text for the second edition (of 1758), Kames focused on Part I, and especially on the “Liberty and Necessity” essay, which had involved him in a heated controversy with a group of Church of Scotland ministers headed by George Anderson. Many of the essays in Part II of the second edition were reprinted with only minor stylistic changes. For the third edition (of 1779), Kames made two kinds of significant revisions. First, in terms of altering and correcting previously published material, Kames again focused his energies on Part I, and especially on Essays II and III (“Foundation and Principles of Morality” and “Liberty and Necessity”). Once again, many of the essays in Part II appeared with only minor stylistic variations. Where Kames did make a significant revision to Part II was in the addition of two entirely new essays.
This appendix records some of the variations between the three editions. It does not offer a complete and exhaustive list of textual variants but rather provides a partial list based on two criteria. First, I have emphasized places in the text where Kames significantly qualifies or retracts an argument made in the previous editions. Second, I have briefly noted changes in the organization and presentation of the essays. Super script roman numerals in the text indicate where the following variations occur.
Variant Readings to Part I
foundation and principles of morality
i. In A and B, this essay is entitled “Of the Foundations and Principles of the Law of Nature.”1
ii. In A and B (with slight stylistic variations from A), this paragraph reads:
It is but a superficial account which is given of morality by most writers, that it depends upon Approbation and Disapprobation. For it is evident, that these terms are applicable to works of art, and to objects beneficial and hurtful, as well as to morality. It ought further to have been observed, that the approbation or disapprobation of actions, are feelings, very distinguishable from what relate to the objects now mentioned. Some actions are approved of as good and as fit, right and meet to be done; others are disapproved of as bad and unfit, unmeet and wrong to be done. In the one case, we approve of the actor as a good man; in the other, disapprove of him as a bad man. These feelings don’t apply to objects as fitted to an end, nor even to the end itself, except as proceeding from deliberate intention. When a piece of work is well executed, we approve of the artificer for his skill, not for his goodness. Several things inanimate, as well as animate, serve to extreme good ends. We approve of these ends as useful in themselves, but not as morally fit and right, where they are not considered as the result of intention.2
iii. This paragraph was added to C.3
iv. In A, the next two paragraphs read:
Upon a small degree of reflection, it will appear, that the whole system of morals is founded upon the supposition of liberty of action.* If actions were understood to be necessary, and no way under our power or controul, we could never conceive them as fit or unfit to be done; as what we are indispensibly bound to do or not to do. To have such a feeling of human actions, upon the supposition of necessity, would be as inconsistent as to have such a feeling of the actions of matter. The celebrated dispute about liberty and necessity is reserved to be discussed in a following essay. But without entering upon the subject at present, one fact is certain, that in acting we have a feeling of liberty and independency. We never do a wrong, however strong the motive be, which is not attended with a severe reflection, that we might have done otherways, and ought to have done other-ways. Nay, during the very action, in the very time of it, we have a sense of feeling of wrong, and that we ought to forbear. So that the moral sense, both in the direct feeling, and in the act of reflection, plainly supposes and implies liberty of action.
This, if we mistake not, will clear the difficulty above stated. If in the moral sense be involved liberty of action, there must of consequence be the highest sense or feeling of morality where liberty is greatest. Now, in judging of human actions, those actions, which are essential to the order and preservation of society, are considered to be in a good measure necessary. It is our strict duty to be just and honest. We are bound by a law in our nature, which we ought not to transgress. No such feeling of duty or obligation attends those actions which come under the denomination of generosity, greatness of mind, heroism. Justice, therefore, is considered as less free than generosity; and, upon that very account, we ascribe less merit to the former, than to the latter. We ascribe no merit at all to an action which is altogether involuntary; and we ascribe more or less merit, in proportion as the action is more or less voluntary.
v. A does not list “love of justice,” but includes “friendship” and “love to children,” both of which are omitted from B and C.5
vi. In place of the above three paragraphs (beginning, “The surface of the globe”), A reads:
Man is by nature fitted for labour, and his enjoyment lyes in action. To this internal constitution his external circumstances are finely adapted. The surface of this globe does scarce yield spontaneously food for the greatest savages; but, by labour and industry, it is made to furnish not only the conveniencies, but even the luxuries of life. In this situation, it is wisely ordered, that man should labour for himself and his family, by providing a stock of necessaries for them, before he thinks of serving others. The great principle of self-preservation directs him to this course. Now this very disposition of providing against want, which is common to man with many other creatures, involves the idea of property. The ground I cultivate, and the house I build, must be considered as mine, otherways I labour to no purpose. There is a peculiar connection betwixt a man and the fruits of his industry felt by every one; which is the very thing we call property. Were all the conveniencies of life, like air and water, provided to our hand without labour, or were we disposed to labour for the publick, without any selfish affections, there would be no sense of property, at least such a sense would be superfluous and unnecessary. But when self-preservation, the most eminent of our principles of action, directs every individual to labour for himself in the first place; man, without a sense or feeling of property, would be an absurd being. Every man therefore must have a notion of property, with regard to the things acquired by his own labour, for this is the very meaning of working for one’s self: property, so far, is necessarily connected with self-preservation. But the idea of property is essentially the same, whether it relates to myself, or to another. There is no difference, but what is felt in surveying the goods of any two in different persons. And, were it consistent for a man to have the idea of his own property, without having a notion of property in another; such a man would be a very imperfect being, and altogether unqualified for society. If it could be made out, that such is the constitution of mankind in general, I should be much disposed to believe that we were made by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. But the constitution of man is more wisely framed, and more happily adjusted to his external circumstances. Not only man, but all provident creatures who have the hoarding quality, are endued with the sense or feeling of property; which effectually secures each individual, in the enjoyment of the fruits of its own labour. And accordingly we find, in perusing the history of mankind, as far back as we have any traces of it, that there never has been, among any people or tribe, such a thing as the possession of goods in common. For, even before agriculture was invented, when lived upon the natural plenty of the earth, tho’ the plenty of pasture made separate possessions unnecessary, yet individuals had their own cattle, and enjoyed the produce of their cattle separately.6
vii. A adds:
Here then is property established by the constitution of our nature, antecedent to all human conventions. We are led by nature to consider goods acquired by our industry and labour as belonging to us, and as our own. We have the sense of feeling of property, and conceive these goods to be our own, just as much as we conceive our hands, our feet, and our other members to be our own; and we have a sense of feeling equally clear of the property of others. What is here asserted is a matter of fact, of which there can be no other decisive evidence, than to appeal to every man’s own feelings. At the same time we need scarce any other proof of this fact, than that yours and mine are terms familiar with the greatest savages, and even with children. They must have feelings which correspond to these terms; otherways the terms would not be intelligible to them.7
viii. This paragraph added to B and C.8
ix. A and B end here; the remainder of this section added to C.
liberty and necessity
i. A inserts:
An extreme beautiful scene opens to our view, when we consider with what propriety the ideas, feelings, and whole constitution of the mind of man, correspond to his present state. The impressions he receives, and the notions he forms, are accurately adapted to the useful purposes of life, tho’ they do not correspond in every instance to the philosophic truth of things. It was not intended that man should make profound discoveries. He is framed to be more an active than a contemplative being; and his views both of the natural and moral world are so adjusted, as to be made subservient to correctness of action rather than of belief. Several instances there are of perceptions, which, for want of a more proper term, may be called deceitful; because they differ from the real truth. But man is not therefore misled in the least. On the contrary, the ends of life and action are better provided for by such artifice, than if these perceptions were more exact copies of their objects.
In the natural world, somewhat of this kind is generally admitted by modern philosophers. It is found, that the representations of external objects, and their qualities conveyed by the senses, sometimes differ from what philosophy discovers these objects, and their qualities to be. Thus a surface appears smooth and uniform, when its roughness is not such as to be hurtful. The same surface, examined with a microscope, is found to be full of ridges and hollows. Were man endowed with a microscopic eye, the bodies that surround him, would appear as different from what they do at present, as if he were transported into another world. His ideas, upon that supposition, would indeed be more agreeable to strict truth, but they would be far less serviceable in common life. Further, it is now universally admitted, that the qualities called secondary, which we by natural instinct attribute to matter, belong not properly to matter, nor exist really without us. Colour in particular is a sort of visionary beauty, which nature has spread over all her works. It is a wonderful artifice, to present objects to us thus differently distinguished: to mark them out to the eye in various attires, so as to be best known and remembered: and to paint on the fancy, gay and lively, grand and striking, or sober and melancholy scenes: whence many of our most pleasurable and most affecting sensations arise. Yet all this beauty of colours, with which heaven and earth appear clothed, is a sort of romance and illusion. For, among external objects, to which colours are attributed by sense, there is really no other distinction, than what arises from a difference in the size and arrangement of the contingent parts, whereby the rays of light, are reflected or refracted in such different ways, as to paint various colours on the retina of the eye. From this, and other instances of the same kind which be adduced, it appears, that our perceptions some times, are less accommodated to the truth of things, than to the end for which our senses are designed. Nature, at the same time, has provided a remedy; for she seldom or never leaves us without means of discovering the deception, and arriving at the truth. And it is wonderful, that, even when we act upon these deceitful impressions, we are not betrayed into any thing that is hurtful. On the contrary, life and action are better provided for, and the ends of our being fulfilled to more advantage, than if we conducted ourselves by the strictest truth of things.
Let us carry on this speculation from the natural to the moral world, and examine whether there are not here also, analogous instances of deceitful impressions. This will lead us into an unbeaten tract. We are to open a scene entirely new; which, like most other things that are new, may perhaps surprize the reader. But he will suspend his judgment, ’till he has leisurely reviewed the whole: and then let him pronounce, whether our hypothesis does not solve all the phaenomena: whether it does not tally with the nature of man, and illustrate the wisdom and goodness of the author of his nature.
B also inserts the above, but replaces “for want of a better term, may be called deceitful” with “for want of a better term, must be called deceitful or delusive,”* and then adds the following footnote:
*I am sensible that these terms are unhappy, because they are generally taken in a bad sense. Let it only be considered, that in Latin there is a dolus bonus [good or permissible deceit] as well as a dolus malus [bad deceit]. By the art of perspective painting, a plain surface appears raised, and an object near the eye appears at a great distance. We are deceived, it is true; but the deceit contributes to our entertainment.9
ii. In place of the remainder of this paragraph, A and B (with slight stylistic variations from A) read:
We agree with the doctor, that the immediate efficient cause of motion is not the motive, but the will to act. No person ever held, that the pleasure of a summer-evening, when a man goes abroad into the fields, is the immediate cause of the motion of his feet. But what does this observation avail, when the prevailing motive, the will to act, and the action itself, are three things inseparably linked together? The motive, according to his own concession, necessarily determines the will; and the will necessarily produces the action, unless it be obstructed by some foreign force. Is not the action, by consequence, as necessary, as the will to act; tho’ the motive be the immediate cause of the will only, and not of the action or beginning of motion? What does this author gain, by showing, that we have a power of beginning motion, if that power never is, never can be, exerted, unless in consequence of some volition or choice, which is necessarily caused? But, says he, it is only a moral necessity which is produced by motives; and a moral necessity, he adds, is no necessity at all, but is consistent with the highest liberty. If these words have any meaning, the dispute is at an end. For moral necessity, being that sort of necessity which affects the mind, and the physical necessity that which affects matter, it is plain, that, in all reasonings concerning human liberty, moral necessity, and no other, is meant to be established. The laws of action, we say, which respect the human mind, are as fixed as those which respect matter. The different nature of these laws, occasions the fixed consequences of the one to be called moral, and of the other to be called physical necessity. But the idea of necessary, certain, unavoidable, equally agrees to both. And to say that moral necessity is no necessity at all, because it is not physical necessity, which is all that the doctor’s argument amounts to, is no better, than to argue, that physical necessity is no necessity at all, because it is not moral necessity.
iii. A and B add another paragraph:
Thus far then we have advanced in our argument, that all human actions proceed in a fixed and necessary train. Man being what he is, a creature endowed with a certain degree of understanding, certain passions and principles, and placed in certain circumstances, it is impossible he should will or chuse otherways, than in fact he wills or chuses. His mind is passive in receiving impressions of things as good or ill: according to these impressions, the last judgment of the understanding is necessarily formed; which the will, if considered as different from the last judgment of the understanding, necessarily obeys, as is fully shown; and the external action is necessarily connected with the will, or the mind’s final determination to act.
iv. The next two paragraphs are new to C.
v. The paragraph is new to C.
vi. In place of this paragraph and the preceding paragraph, A reads:
What then shall be done in this case, where truth contradicts the common feeling and natural notions of mankind; where it presents to us, with irresistible evidence, a system of universal necessity upon which we never act; but are so formed, as to conduct ourselves by a system of notions quite opposite? Shall we sacrifice abstract truth to feeling? Or shall we stand by truth, and force our feelings into compliance? Neither of these will do. Truth is too rigid to bend to mere feeling; and our feelings are incapable of being forced by speculation. The attempt is vain, pugnantia secum, frontibus adversis, componere.10 Let us be honest then. Let us fairly own, that the truth of things is on the side of necessity; but that it was necessary for man to be formed, with such feelings and notions of contingency, as would fit him for the part he has to act. This thought requires illustration.
vii. From this point on, A and B each offer a different version.
And, what is wonderful, tho’ in this he acts upon a false supposition, yet he is not thereby misled from the ends of action, but, on the contrary, fulfills them, to the best advantage. Long experience has made him sensible, that some things, such as the sun’s rising and setting, depend upon immutable laws. This is contradicted by no feeling, as it is no way for his benefit, that he should act upon any other supposition, Such things he reckons upon as necessary. But there are other things, which depend upon the spontaneous choices of men, or upon a concurrence of natural and moral causes. As to these, he has not knowledge enough, to foresee and determine by what law they will happen: and his ignorance of the event, is made to have the same effect upon his mind, as if the event were what we vulgarly call contingent. Its uncertainty as to him produces the same feeling, and stirs him up to the same activity, as if it were uncertain in itself, and had no determined cause of its futurition. This feeling then of contingency, and all the ideas connected with it, may be treated as secondary qualities, which have no real existence in things; but, like other secondary qualities, are made to appear as existing in events, or belonging to them, in order to serve the necessary purposes of human life.
Some objections shall be considered, after discussing the other branch of the disquisition concerning liberty of action. These subjects are so closely connected, that they cannot fail to throw light upon each other. Contingency in events is analogous to liberty in actions. The one is a supposed quality of the thing; the other of the actor.
The extent of human liberty is above ascertained. It consists in spontaneity, or acting according to our inclination and choice. It may be therefore distinguished from constraint, but must not be opposed to necessity. For, as has been fully shown, the mind, in the most calm choice, the most deliberate action, is necessarily, i.e. unavoidably and certainly, determined by the prepollent motive. When we examine accurately, how far our feelings correspond to this system; we find, as was hinted before, first, that, antecedent to any particular action, we generally think and reason upon the scheme of necessity. In considering or guessing at future events, we always conclude, that a man will act consistently with his character; we infer what his actions will be, from the knowledge we have of his temper, and the motives that are fitted to influence it; and never dream of any man’s having a power of acting against motives. Here we have a very weak feeling, if any at all, of liberty, as distinguished from necessity: and wisely so ordered, that a clue, as it were, might be afforded, to guide us in the labyrinth of future actions, which, were it not for the connection betwixt an action and its motive, would appear like a rope of sand, loose and unconnected; and no means left of reasoning upon, or foreseeing future actions. It is to be observed in the next place, that, during the action, the feeling begins to vary; and, unless in cases where the motive is so strong and overbearing, as to approach to the nature of constraint; unless, in these, a man has a feeling of liberty, or of a power of acting otherways than he is doing. But, in the third place, it is principally in reflecting and passing judgment upon a past action, that the feeling of liberty is sensible and strong. Then it is, that our actions are not considered as proceeding in a necessary unavoidable train: but we accuse and blame others, for not having acted the part they might and ought to have acted, and condemn ourselves, and feel remorse, for having been guilty of a wrong we might have refrained from. The operations of moral conscience plainly proceed upon this supposition, that there is such a power in man of directing his actions, as rendered it possible for the person accused, to have acted a better part. This affords an argument, which the advocates for liberty have urged in its full force, against the doctrine of necessity. They reason thus: If actions be necessary, and not in our own power, and if we know it to be so, what ground can there be for reprehension and blame, for self-condemnation and remorse? If a clock had understanding to be sensible of its own motions, knowing, at the same time, that they proceed according to necessary laws, could it find fault with itself for striking wrong? Would it not blame the artist, who had ill adjusted the wheels on which its movements depended? So that, upon this scheme, say they, all the moral constitution of our nature is overturned. There is an end to all the operations of conscience about right and wrong. Man is no longer a moral agent, nor the subject of praise or blame for what he does.
This difficulty is great, and never has been surmounted by the advocates for necessity. They endeavour to surmount it, by reconciling feeling to philosophic truth, in the following manner. We are so constituted, they say, that certain affections, and the actions which proceed from them, appear odious and base; and others agreeable and lovely; that, wherever they are beheld, either in ourselves or others, the moral sense necessarily approves of the one, and condemns the other; that this approbation is immediate and instinctive, without any reflection on the liberty or necessity of actions; that, on the contrary, the more any person is under the power of his affections and passions, and, by consequence, the greater necessity he is under, the more virtuous or vicious he is esteemed.
But this account of the matter is not satisfactory. All that is here said, is in the main true, but is not the whole truth. I appeal to any man who has been guilty of a bad action, which gives him uneasiness, whether there is not somewhat more in the inward feeling, than merely a dislike or disapprobation of the affection, from which his action proceeded? whether the pain, the cruciatus of remorse, is not founded on the notion of a power he has over his will and actions, that he might have forborn to do the ill thing? and whether it is not upon this account, that he is galled within, angry at himself, and confesses himself to be justly blameable? An uneasiness somewhat of the same kind, is felt upon the reflection of any foolish or rash action, committed against the rules of wisdom. The sting is indeed much sharper, and for very wise reasons, when aman has trespassed against the rules of strict morality. But, in both cases, the uneasiness proceeds upon the supposition, that he was free, and had it in his power to have acted a better part. This indeed is true, that to be so entirely under the power of any bad passion, (lust, for instance, or cruelty) as to be incapable of acting otherways than they direct, constitutes a very hateful character. I admit, that all such ill affections are naturally, and in themselves, the objects of dislike and hatred, where-ever they are beheld. But I insist upon it, that mere dislike and hatred, are not the whole, but only a part of the moral feeling. The person, thus under the dominion of bad passions, is accused, is condemned, singly upon this ground, that it was thro’ his own fault he became so subject to them; in other words, that it was in his power, to have kept his mind free from the enslaving influence of corrupt affections. Were not this the case, brute animals might be the objects of moral blame, as well as man. Some beasts are reckoned savage and cruel, others treacherous and false: we dislike, we hate creatures so ill constituted: but we do not blame nor condemn them, as we do rational agents; because they are not supposed to have a sense of right and wrong, nor freedom and power of directing their actions according to that inward rule. We must therefore admit, that the idea of freedom, of a power of regulating our will and actions according to certain rules, is essential to the moral feeling. On the system of universal necessity, abstracted from this feeling, tho’ certain affections and actions might excite our approbation, and others our dislike, there could be no place for blame or remorse. All the ideas would entirely vanish, which at present are suggested by the words ought and should, when applied to moral conduct.
Here then is another instance of a natural feeling, opposed to philosophic truth, analogous to what is before considered. It is the more remarkable, that it has given rise to those disputes about liberty and necessity, which have subsisted thro’ all ages in the inquiring world; which, since the earliest accounts of philosophy, have run thro’ all different sects of philosophers, and have been ingrafted into most of the religious systems. We are now able, I imagine, to give a clear and satisfactory account why the different parties never could agree; because, in truth, the feeling of liberty, which we have, does not agree with the real fact. Those who were boldest in their inquiries, traced out the philosophic truth: they saw that all things proceeded in a necessary train of causes and effects, which rendered it impossible for them, to act otherways than they did; and to this system they adhered, without yielding to natural feelings. Those again, who had not courage to oppose the first and most obvious feelings of their heart, stopped short, and adhered to liberty. It is observable, that the side of liberty has always been the most popular, and most generally embraced: and, upon this system, all popular discourses and exhortations must needs proceed. Even those persons, whose philosophical tenets are built upon the system of necessity, find themselves obliged to desert that system, in popular argument, and to adopt the stile and language of those who espouse liberty. Among the antients, the great assertors of necessity were the Stoicks; a severe and rigid sect, whose professed doctrine it was, to subdue all our feelings to philosophy. The Platonics, Academics and Epicureans, who embraced a softer scheme of philosophy, and were more men of the world than the Stoics, leaned to the side of liberty. Both parties have their own advantages in reasoning; and both, when pushed, run into difficulties, from which they can never extricate themselves. The advocates for liberty talk with great advantage upon the moral powers of man, and his character as an accountable being: but are at a loss, how to give any view of the universe, as a regular pre-adjusted plan; and when urged with the connection betwixt the motive and the action, and the necessary train of causes and effects, which results from admitting it to be a fixed connection, they find themselves greatly embarrassed. Here the patrons of necessity triumph. They have manifestly all the advantages of speculative argument; whilst they fail in accounting for man’s moral powers, and struggle in vain to reconcile to their system, the testimony which conscience clearly gives to freedom.
Let us then fairly acknowledge, concerning both these classes of philosophers, that they were partly in the right, and partly in the wrong. They divided, as it were, the truth betwixt them. The one had abstract reason on their side: the other had natural feeling. In endeavouring to reconcile these opposites, both parties failed; and the vain attempt has rendered the controversy difficult and perplexed. After having ascertained the foundation, upon which the doctrine of necessity is built, and which seems incapable of being shaken, let us fairly and candidly take our nature as we find it, which will lead us to this conclusion, that tho’ man, in truth, is a necessary agent, having all his actions determined by fixed and immutable laws; yet that, this being concealed from him, he acts with the conviction of being a free agent. It is concealed from him, I say, as to the purposes of action: for whatever discoveries he makes as a philosopher, these affect not his conduct as a man. In principle and speculation, let him be a most rigid fatalist; he has nevertheless all the feelings which would arise from power over his own actions. He is angry at himself when he has done wrong. He praises and blames just like other men: nor can all his principles set him above the reach of self-condemnation and remorse, when conscience at any time smites him. It is true, that a man of this belief, when he is seeking to make his mind easy, after some bad action, may reason upon the principles of necessity, that, according to the constitution of his nature, it was impossible for him to have acted any other part. But this will give him little relief. In spite of all reasonings, his remorse will subsist. Nature never intended us to act upon this plan; and our natural principles are too deeply rooted, to give way to philosophy. This case is precisely similar to that of contingency. A feeling of liberty, which I now scruple not to call deceitful, is so interwoven with our nature, that it has an equal effect in action, as if we were really endued with such a power.
Having explained, at full length, this remarkable feeling of liberty, and examined, as we went along, some arguments against necessity that are founded upon it; we now proceed to handle this feeling, as we have done that of contingency, with regard to its final cause. And in this branch of our nature are displayed the greatest wisdom, and the greatest goodness. Man must be so constituted, in order to attain the proper improvement of his nature, in virtue and happiness. Put the case, he were entirely divested of his present ideas of liberty: suppose him to see and conceive his own nature, and the constitution of things, in the light of strict philosophic truth; in the same light they are beheld by the deity: to conceive himself, and all his actions, necessarily linked into the great chain of causes and effects, which renders the whole order both of the natural and moral world unalterably determined in every article: suppose, I say, our natural feelings, our practical ideas to suit and tally with this, which is the real plan; and what would follow? Why, an entire derangement of our present system of action, especially with regard to the motives which now lead us to virtue. There would still indeed be ground for the love of virtue, as the best constitution of nature, and the only sure foundation of happiness; and, in this view, we might be grieved when we found ourselves deficient in good principles. But this would be all. We could feel no inward self-approbation on doing well, no remorse on doing ill; because both the good and the ill were necessary and unavoidable. There would be no more place for applause or blame among mankind: none of that generous in dignation we now feel at the bad, as persons who have abused and perverted their rational powers: no more notion of accountableness for the use of those powers: no sense of ill desert, or just punishment annexed to crimes as their due; nor of any reward merited by worthy and generous actions. All these ideas, and feelings, so useful to men in their moral conduct, vanish at once with the feeling of liberty. There would be field for no other passions but love and hatred, sorrow and pity: and the sense of duty, of being obliged to certain things which we ought to perform, must be quite extinguished; for we can have no conception of moral obligation, without supposing a power in the agent over his own actions.
It appears then most fit and wise, that we should be endued with a sense of liberty; without which, man must have been ill qualified for acting his present part. That artificial light, in which the feeling of liberty presents the moral world to our view, answers all the good purposes of making the actions of man entirely dependent upon himself. His happiness and misery appear to be in his own power. He appears praiseworthy or culpable, according as he improves or neglects his rational faculties. The idea of his being an accountable creature arises. Reward seems due to merit; punishment to crimes. He feels the force of moral obligation. In short, new passions arise, and a variety of new springs are set in motion, to make way for new exertions of reason and activity. In all which, tho’ man is really actuated by laws of necessary influence, yet he seems to move himself: and whilst the universal system is gradually carried on to perfection by the first mover, that powerful hand, which winds up and directs the great machine, is never brought into sight.
It will now be proper to answer some objections, which may be urged against the doctrine we have advanced. One, which at first, may seem of considerable weight, is, that we found virtue altogether upon a deceitful feeling of liberty, which, it may be alledged, is neither a secure nor an honourable foundation. But, in the first place, I deny that we have founded it altogether upon a deceitful feeling. For, independent of the deceitful feeling of liberty, there is in the nature of man a firm foundation for virtue. He must be sensible that virtue is essentially preferable to vice; that it is the just order, the perfection and happiness of his nature. For, supposing him only endued with the principle of self-love; this principle will lead him to distinguish moral good from evil, so far as to give ground for loving the one, and hating the other: as he must needs see that benevolence, justice, temperance, and the other virtues, are the necessary means of his happiness, and that all vice and wickedness introduce disorder and misery. But man is endued with a social as well as a selfish principle, and has an immediate satisfaction and pleasure in the happiness of others, which is a further ground for distinguishing and loving virtue. All this, I say, takes place, laying aside the deceitful feeling of liberty, and supposing all our notions to be adjusted to the system of necessity. I add, that there is nothing in the above doctrine, to exclude the perception, of a certain beauty and excellency in virtue, according to lord Shaftesbury and the antient Philosophers; which may, for ought we know, render it lovely and admirable to all rational beings. It appears to us, unquestionably, under the form of intrinsick excellency, even when we think not of its tendency to our happiness. Ideas of moral obligation, of remorse, of merit, and all that is connected with this way of thinking, arise from, what may be called, a wise delusion in our nature concerning liberty: but, as this affects only a certain modification of our ideas of virtue and vice, there is nothing in it, to render the foundation of virtue, either unsecure or dishonourable. Unsecure it does not render it, because, as now observed, virtue partly stands firm upon a separate foundation, independent of these feelings; and even where built upon these feelings, it is still built upon human nature. For though these feelings of liberty vary from the truth of things, they are, nevertheless, essential to the nature of man. We act upon them, and cannot act otherways. And therefore, tho’ the distinction betwixt virtue and vice, had no other foundation but these feelings, (which is not the case)it would still have an immoveable and secure foundation in human nature. As for the supposed dishonour done to virtue, by resting its authority, in any degree, on a deceitful feeling, there is so little ground for this part of the objection, that, on the contrary, our doctrine most highly exalts virtue. For the above described artificial sense of liberty, is wholly contrived to support virtue, and to give its dictates the force of a law. Hereby it is discovered to be, in a singular manner, the care of the Deity; and a peculiar sort of glory is thrown around it. The Author of nature, has not rested it, upon the ordinary feelings and principles of human nature, as he has rested our other affections and appetites, even those which are most necessary to our existence. But a sort of extraordinary machinery is introduced for its sake. Human nature is forced, as it were, out of its course, and made to receive a nice and artificial set of feelings; merely that conscience may have a commanding power, and virtue be set as on a throne. This could not otherways be brought about, but by means of the deceitful feeling of liberty, which therefore is a greater honour to virtue, a higher recommendation of it, than if our conceptions were, in every particular, correspondent to the truth of things.
A second objection which may be urged against our system, is, that it seems to represent the Deity, as acting deceitfully by his creatures. He has given them certain ideas of contingency in events, and of liberty in their own actions, by which he has, in a manner, forced them to act upon a false hypothesis; as if he were unable, to carry on the government of this world, did his creatures conceive things, according to the real truth. This objection is, in a great measure, obviated, by what we observed in the introduction to this essay, concerning our sensible ideas. It is universally allowed by modern philosophers, that the perceptions of our external senses, are not always agreeable to strict truth, but so contrived, as rather to answer the purposes of use. Now, if it be called a deceit in our senses, not to give us just representations of the material world, the Deity must be the author of this deceit, as much as he is, of that which prevails in our moral ideas. But no just objection can ly against the conduct of the Deity, in either case. Our senses, both internal and external, are given us for different ends and purposes; some to discover truth, others to make us happy and virtuous. The senses which are appropriated to the discovery of truth, unerringly answer their end. So do the senses, which are appropriated to virtue and happiness. And, in this view, it is no material objection, that the same sense does not answer both ends. As to the other part of the objection, that it must imply imperfection in the Deity, if he cannot establish virtue but upon a delusive foundation; we may be satisfied how fallacious this reasoning is, by reflecting upon the numberless appearances, of moral evil and disorder in this world. From these appearances, much more strongly, were there any force in this reasoning, might we infer imperfection in the Deity; seeing the state of this world, in many particulars, does not answer the notions we are apt to form, of supreme power conducted by perfect wisdom and goodness. But, in truth, there is nothing in our doctrine, which can justly argue imperfection in the Deity. For it is abundantly plain, first, that it is a more perfect state of things, and more worthy of the Deity, to have all events going on with unbroken order, in a fixed train of causes and effects; than to have every thing desultory and contingent. And, if such a being as man, was to be placed in this world, to act his present part; it was necessary, that he should have a notion of contingency in events, and of liberty in his own actions. The objection therefore, on the whole, amounts to no more, than that the Deity cannot work contradictions. For, if it was fit and wise, that man should think and act, as a free agent, it was impossible this could be otherways accomplished, than by endowing him with a sense of liberty: and if it was also fit and wise, that universal necessity should be the real plan of the universe, this sense of liberty could be no other than a deceitful one.
Another objection may perhaps be raised against us in this form. If it was necessary for man to be constituted, with such an artificial feeling, why was he endowed with so much knowledge, as to unravel the mystery? What purpose does it serve, to let in just so much light, as to discover the disguised appearance of the moral world, when it was intended, that his conduct should be adjusted to this disguised appearance? To this, I answer, first, that the discovery, when made, cannot possibly be of any bad consequence; and next, that a good consequence, of very great importance, results from it. No bad consequence, I say, ensues from the discovery, that liberty and contingency are deceitful feelings; for the case is confessedly parallel in the natural world, where no harm has ensued. After we have discovered, by philosophy, that several of the appearances of nature, are only useful illusions, that secondary qualities exist not in matter, and that our sensible ideas, in various instances, do not correspond to philosophic truth; after these discoveries are made, do they, in the least, affect even the philosopher himself in ordinary action? Does not he, in common with the rest of mankind, proceed, as it is fit he should, upon the common system of appearances and natural feelings? As little, in the present case, do our speculations about liberty and necessity, counteract the plan of nature. Upon the system of liberty we do, and must act: and no discoveries, made concerning the illusive nature of that feeling, are capable of disappointing, in any degree, the intention of the Deity.
But this is not all. These discoveries are also of excellent use, as they furnish us with one of the strongest arguments, for the existence of the Deity, and as they set the wisdom and goodness of his providence, in the most striking light. Nothing carries in it more express characters of design; nothing can be conceived more opposite to chance, than a plan so artfully contrived, for adjusting our impressions and feelings to the purposes of life. For here things are carried off, as it were, from the straight line; taken out of the course, in which they would of themselves proceed; and so moulded, as forcibly, and against their nature, to be subservient to man. His mind does not receive the impression of the moral world, in the same manner, as wax receives the impression of a seal. It does not reflect the image of it, in the same manner, as a mirror reflects its images: it has a peculiar cast and turn given to its conceptions, admirably ordered to exalt virtue, to the highest pitch. These conceptions are indeed illusive, yet, which is wonderful, it is by this very circumstance, that, in man, two of the most opposite things in nature, are happily reconciled, liberty and necessity; having this illustrious effect, that in him are accumulated, all the prerogatives both of a necessary and free agent. The discovery of such a marvelous adjustment, which is more directly opposed to chance, than any other thing conceiveable, must necessarily give us the strongest impression of a wise designing cause. And now a sufficient reason appears, for suffering man to make this surprising discovery. The Almighty has let us so far into his councils, as to afford the justest foundation, for admiring and adoring his wisdom. It is a remark worthy to be made, that the capacities of man seem, in general, to have a tendency beyond the wants and occasions of his present state. This has been often observed with respect to his wishes and desires. The same holds as to his intellectual faculties, which, sometimes, as in the instance before us, run beyond the limits of what is strictly necessary for him to know, in his present circumstances, and let in upon him some glimmerings of higher and nobler discoveries. A veil is thrown over nature, where it is not useful for him to behold it. And yet, sometimes, by turning aside that veil a very little, he is admitted to a fuller view; that his admiration of nature, and the God of nature, may be increased; that his curiosity and love of truth may be fed; and, perhaps, that some augurium, some intimation, may be given, of his being designed for a future, more exalted period of being; when attaining the full maturity of his nature, he shall no longer stand in need of artificial impressions, but shall feel and act according to the strictest truth of things.
It will now be proper to answer some objections which may be urged against the doctrine we have advanced.* One, which at first may seem of considerable weight, is, That it seems to represent the Deity as acting deceitfully by his creatures.11 He hath given them certain notions of contingency in events, by which he hath, in a manner, forced them to act upon a false hypothesis; as if he were unable to carry on the government of the world, did his creatures conceive things according to the real truth. This objection is, in a great measure, obviated, by what is observed in the introduction to this essay. It is universally allowed by modern philosophers, that the perceptions of our external senses do not always correspond in strict truth, but are so contrived, as rather to answer useful purposes. Now, if it be called a deceit in our senses, not to give us just representations of the material world, the Deity must be the author of this deceit, as much as he is of that which prevails in the moral world. But no just objection can lie against the conduct of the Deity, in either case. Our senses, both internal and external, are given to us for different ends and purposes; some to discover truth, others to make us happy and virtuous. The senses which are appropriated to the discovery of truth, unerringly answer their end. So do the senses which are appropriated to virtue and happiness. And, in this view, the objection vanisheth, because it amounts but to this, that the same sense does not answer both ends. As to the other branch of the objection, That it must imply imperfection in the Deity, if he cannot govern this world without deluding his creatures; I answer, That there is nothing in the foregoing doctrine which can justly argue imperfection in the Deity. For it is abundantly plain, first, that it is a more perfect state of things, and more worthy of the Deity, to have all events going on with unbroken order, in a fixed train of causes and effects, than to have every thing desultory and contingent. And if such a being as man was to be placed in this world, to act his present part, it was necessary, that he should have a notion of contingency in events, and of power to direct and controul them. The objection therefore, on the whole, amounts to no more, than that the Deity cannot work contradictions. For if it was fit and wise, that man should think and act as an independent being, having power to regulate his own actions, and, by means of these, to regulate also future events; it was impossible this could be otherways accomplished, than by enduing him with a sense of this power: and if it was also fit and wise, that universal necessity should be the real plan of the universe, this sense must be delusive. And, after all, seeing our happiness, in many instances, is placed upon delusive perceptions, why should it puzzle us, that our activity is promoted by the same means? No one considers it as an imputation on the Deity, that we are so framed as to perceive what is not, viz. beauty, grandeur, colour, heat or cold, as existing in objects, when such perceptions, though delusive, contribute to our happiness: and yet our happiness depends greatly more on action than on any of these perceptions.
The foregoing objection may perhaps be turned into a different shape. If it was necessary for man to be constituted with such an artificial sense, why was he endued with so much knowledge as to unravel the mystery? What purpose does it serve, to let in just so much light, as to discover the disguised appearance of the moral world, when it was intended that his conduct should be adjusted to this disguised appearance? To this I answer, first, That the discovery, when made, is not attended with any bad consequence; and next, that a good consequence, of very great importance, results from it. No bad consequence, I say, ensues from the discovery, that contingency, and power to regulate our own conduct, are delusive perceptions: for the case is confessedly parallel in the material world, where no harm hath ensued. After we have discovered, by philosophy, that several of the appearances of nature are only useful illusions; that secondary qualities exist not in matter; and that the perceptions of our external senses, in various instances, do not correspond to philosophic truth; after these discoveries are made, do they in the least affect even the philosopher himself, in ordinary action? Doth not he, in common with the rest of mankind, proceed, as it is fit he should, upon the common system of appearances and natural perceptions? As little, in the present case, do our speculations about liberty and necessity unhinge the plan of nature. Upon the common system we do and must act; and no discoveries made concerning the illusive nature of our perceptions, can disappoint in any degree the intention of the Deity.
But this is not all. These discoveries are also of excellent use; as they furnish us with one of the strongest arguments for the existence of the Deity, and as they set the wisdom and goodness of his providence in the most striking light. Nothing carries more express characters of design, nothing can be conceived more opposite to chance, than a plan so artfully contrived, for adjusting our impressions and feelings to the purposes of life. For here things are carried off, as it were, from the straight line; taken out of the course in which they would of themselves proceed; and so moulded, as forcibly, and against their nature, to be subservient to man. He doth not receive the impression of the moral world in the same manner as wax receives the impression of a seal; he doth not reflect the image of it in the same manner as a mirror reflects its images. He hath a peculiar cast and turn given to his conceptions, admirably adjusted to the part allotted him to act. These conceptions are indeed illusive; yet, which is wonderful, it is by this very circumstance, that, in man, two of the most opposite things in nature are happily reconciled, liberty and necessity; having this illustrious effect, that in him are accumulated all the prerogatives both of a necessary and a free agent. The discovery of such a marvellous adjustment, which is more directly opposed to chance than any other thing conceivable, must necessarily give us the strongest impression of a wise designing cause. And now a sufficient reason appears, for suffering man to make this surprising discovery. The Almighty hath admitted us so far into his counsels, as to afford the justest foundation for admiring and adoring his wisdom. It is a remark worthy to be made, that the capacities of man seem in general to have a tendency beyond the wants and occasions of his present state. This hath often been observed with respect to his wishes and desires. The same holds as to his intellectual faculties, which sometimes, as in the instance before us, run beyond the limits of what at present is necessary for him to know, and let in upon him some glimmerings of higher and nobler discoveries. A veil is thrown over nature, where it is not useful for him to behold it: and yet sometimes, by turning aside that veil a very little, he is admitted to a fuller view; that his admiration of nature, may be increased; that his curiosity and love of truth may be fed; and perhaps that some augurium, some intimation may be given, of his being designed for a future, more exalted state of being; when attaining the full maturity of his nature, he shall no longer stand in need of artificial impressions, but shall perceive and act according to the strictest truth of things.
i. In A, this essay reads:12
Had we no original impressions but those of the external senses, according to the author of the treatise of human nature, we never could have any consciousness of self; because such consciousness cannot arise from any external sense. Mankind would be in a perpetual reverie; ideas would be constantly floating in the mind; and no man would be able to connect his ideas with himself. Neither could there be any idea of personal identity. For a man, cannot consider himself to be the same person, in different circumstances, when he has no idea or consciousness of himself at all.
Beings there may be, who are thus constituted: but man is none of these beings. It is an undoubted truth, that he has an original feeling, or consciousness of himself, and of his existence; which, for the most part, accompanies every one of his impressions and ideas, and every action of his mind and body. I say, for the most part; for the faculty or internal sense, which is the cause of this peculiar perception, is not always in action. In a dead sleep, we have no consciousness of self. We dream some times without this consciousness: and even some of our waking hours pass without it. A reverie is nothing else, but a wandering of the mind through its ideas, without carrying along the perception of self.
This consciousness or perception of self, is, at the same time, of the liveliest kind. Self-preservation is every one’s peculiar duty; and the vivacity of this perception, is necessary to make us attentive to our own interest, and, particularly, to shun every appearance of danger. When a man is in a reverie, he has no circumspection, nor any manner of attention to his own interest.
’Tis remarkable, that one has scarce any chance to fall asleep, ’till this perception vanish. Its vivacity keeps the mind in a certain degree of agitation, which bars sleep. A fall of water disposes to sleep. It fixes the attention, both by sound and sight, and, without creating much agitation, occupies the mind, so as to make it forget itself. Reading of some books has the same effect.
It is this perception, or consciousness of self, carried through all the different stages of life, and all the variety of action, which is the foundation of personal identity. It is, by means of this perception, that I consider myself to be the same person, in all varieties of fortune, and every change of circumstance.
The main purpose of this short essay, is to introduce an observation, that it is not by any argument or reasoning, I conclude myself to be the same person, I was ten years ago. This conclusion rests entirely upon the feeling of identity, which accompanies me through all my changes, and which is the only connecting principle, that binds together, all the various thoughts and actions of my life. Far less is it by any argument, or chain of reasoning, that I discover my own existence. It would best range indeed, if every man’s existence was kept a secret from him, ’till the celebrated argument was invented, that cogito ergo sum. And if a fact, that to common understanding, appears self-evident, is not to be relied on without an argument; why should I take for granted, without an argument, that I think, more than that I exist? For surely I am not more conscious of thinking, than of existing.
Upon this subject, I shall just suggest a thought, which will be more fully insisted on afterwards; that any doctrine, which leads to a distrust of our senses, must land in universal scepticism. If natural feelings, whether from internal or external senses, are not admitted as evidence of truth, I cannot see, that we can be certain of any fact whatever. It is clear, from what is now observed, that, upon this sceptical system, we cannot be certain even of our own existence.*
B reads as above, but removes the footnote.
i. Added to B, and reprinted without revision in C.
Variant Readings to Part II
i. In place of the two brief introductory paragraphs, A opens:
In a former essay are pointed out some instances, in which our senses may be called deceitful.* They are of two sorts. One is, when the deception is occasioned by indisposition of the organ, remoteness of place, grossness of the medium, or the like; which distort the appearances of objects, and make them be seen double, or greater or less, than they really are. In such instances, the perception is always faint, obscure or confused: and they noway invalidate the authority of the senses, in general, when, abstracting from such accidental obstructions, the perception is lively, strong and distinct. In the other sort, there is a deception established by the laws of nature; as in the case of secondary qualities, taken notice of in that essay; whence it was inferred, that nature does not always give us such correct perceptions, as correspond to the philosophic truth of things. Notwithstanding of which, the testimony of our senses still remains, as a sufficient ground of confidence and trust. For, in all these cases, where there is this sort of established deception, nature furnishes means for coming at the truth. As in this very instance of secondary qualities, philosophy easily corrects the false appearances, and teaches us, that they are rather to be considered, as impressions made upon the mind, than as qualities of the object. A remedy being thus provided to the deception, our belief, so far as it can be influenced by reason, is the more confirmed, with regard to our other sensations, where there is no appearance of illusion. But this is not the whole of the matter. When any sense presents to our view, an appearance that may be called deceitful, we plainly discover some useful purpose intended. The deceit is not the effect of an imperfect or arbitrary constitution; but wisely contrived, to give us such notice of things, as may best suit the purposes of life. From this very consideration, we are the more confirmed in the veracity of nature. Particular instances, in which, our senses are accommodated to the uses of life, rather than to the strictness of truth, are rational exceptions, which serve, the more firmly, to establish the general rule. And, indeed, when we have nothing but our senses to direct our conduct, with regard to external objects, it would be strange, if there should be any just ground, for a general distrust of them. But there is no such thing. There is nothing to which all mankind are more necessarily determined, than to put confidence in their senses. We entertain no doubt of their authority, because we are so constituted, that it is not in our power to doubt.
B opens with the same paragraph, but revises the first sentence to: “In several instances things appear to us different from what they truly are; and so far our senses may be termed delusive.”13
ii. The section on “Perceptions of External Sense” was added to C.14
different theories of vision
i. This essay in its entirety was added to C.15
matter and spirit
i. This essay in its entirety was added to C.
knowledge of the deity
i. The last three paragraphs on Hume’s posthumously published Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779) added to C.16
[1. ]But throughout the text, C continues to speak of the principles and foundations of the law of nature. For Kames, and for most Scottish moral philosophers of the period (with the important exception of Hume), the laws of morality are the laws of nature.
[2. ]C reads “no clear account” rather than “superficial account,” but makes the point about the application of approbation/disapprobation to morally irrelevant and possibly superficial categories through its examples (esp., “I approve an elegant dress on a fine woman”).
[3. ]Here Kames emphasizes the practical danger of failing to distinguish between duty and benevolence.
[5. ]An example of Kames’s increased concern to demonstrate (contra Hume) that justice is a primary virtue, rooted in our very nature: while A does not even list justice, B and C give it pride of place.
[6. ]B and C suggest the influence of a stadial model of historical development, according to which mankind progresses through four stages of material subsistence, from hunting to pasturage to agriculture to commerce. Thus, Kames acknowledges an original hunting stage (“men originally made shift to support themselves, partly by prey, partly by the natural fruits of the earth”), a pastoral stage (“man found it necessary, therefore, to abandon this manner of life, and to become shepherd”), and an agricultural stage (“a bit of land is divided from the common; it is cultivated with the spade or plough”). Given this stadial understanding of historical development, Kames can no longer assert that “there never has been, among any people or tribe, such a thing as the possession of goods in common.” Moreover, rather than state at the outset that provision against want necessarily involves the idea of property, in B and C Kames is at pains to first establish the universality of the “hoarding principle,” from which the sense of property can then be inferred. Thus, while Kames continues to argue that the sense of property is natural rather than artificial, he must now take stock of a theory of historical progress that tends to support Hume’s position: that is, that the idea of property is not based on a natural sense or instinct but is rather the outcome of a complex process of material and social developments (though at the same time, natural in the sense that the establishment of property can be seen as the outcome of a natural process of historical development).
[7. ]B and C argue the same point but through an indirect approach: having established that the “hoarding appetite” is natural, Kames can then infer a sense of property from the instinct to hoard (“What sort of creature would man be, endued as he is with a hoarding appetite, but with no sense or notion of property?”).
[8. ]Another example of the stronger emphasis that Kames places on justice in his later revisions to the work.
[9. ]While B responds to criticisms of Kames’s notion of deceit by qualifying the terms, C drops the language of deceit altogether.
[10. ]“You are going to make things tally, that are contradictory in their natures.” Horace, Satires, 1.1, 102–3.
[* ]I acknowledge it to have been once my opinion, that we have a delusive sense of power to act against motives, or to act against our own inclination and choice, commonly termed liberty of indifference. I was carried along by the current of popular opinion; and I could not dream this sense to be a pure imagination, when I found it vouched by so many grave writers. I had at the same time a thorough conviction, from the clearest evidence, that man is a necessary agent; and there fore I justly concluded, that the sense of liberty of indifference, like that of contingency, must be delusive. I yielded to another popular opinion, That the perceptions of the moral sense, praise and blame, merit and demerit, guilt and remorse, are inconsistent with necessity, and must be founded upon the delusive sense of liberty of indifference. From these premisses, I was obliged, though reluctantly, to admit, that some of the most noted perceptions and emotions of the moral sense are entirely built upon this delusive sense of liberty. The subject being handled after that manner in the first edition of this book, I was sensible of the odium of a doctrine that rests virtue in any measure upon a delusion; and I stated this as the first objection, in order to remove it the best way I could. Candor I shall always esteem essential in speaking to the public, not less than in private dealings; and my opinion of the wisdom of providence in the government of this world, is so firmly established, that I never can be apprehensive of harm in adhering to truth, however singular it may appear upon some occasions. I now chearfully acknowledge my errors; and am happy in thinking, that I have at last got into the right track. It appears to me at present a harsh doctrine, that virtue in any part should be founded on a delusion, though formerly the supposed truth of the doctrine reconciled me to it. It gives me solid satisfaction, to find the moral sense entirely consistent with voluntary necessity, which I must pronounce to be the system of nature. The moral sense makes a chief branch of the original constitution of man; and it can never lose its authority, while we have any feeling of pleasure and pain. According to this plan of morality, the objection, That it is partly founded on a delusion, vanisheth; and the objection, for that reason, is dropt in the present edition.
[11. ]In A, Kames had anticipated this objection: “A second objection which may be urged against our system, is, that it seems to represent the Deity as acting deceitfully toward his creatures.” What he had not anticipated was the degree of opposition that he would encounter upon publication of this doctrine.
[12. ]In A and B, this much briefer essay is found in Part II. As Kames explains in the Preface to C, “In correcting the Essay on Personal Identity, having discovered its intimate connection with the moral system, I transferred it from the second Part to the first.” Thus, in C Kames argues that moral agency requires a sense of continuous selfhood: “The knowledge I have of my personal identity is what constitutes me a moral agent, accountable to God and to man for every action of my life. Were I kept ignorant of my personal identity, it would not be in my power to connect any of my past actions with myself. ... It would answer no good purpose, to reward me for a benevolent act, or to punish me for a crime.”
[* ]The deceitful feeling of liberty, unfolded in the essay upon liberty and necessity, may perhaps embarrass some readers, as in some measure contradictory to the position here laid down. But the matter is easily cleared. Natural feelings are satisfying evidence of truth; and, in fact, have full authority over us, unless in some singular cases, where we are admonished by counter-feelings, or by reasoning, not to give implicit trust. This is a sufficient foundation for all the arguments, that are built upon the authority of our senses, in point of evidence. The feeling of liberty is a very singular case. The reasons are clearly traced for the necessity of this delusive feeling, which distinguishes it in a very particular manner, and leaves no room, to draw any consequence from it, to our other feelings. But there is, besides, a circumstance yet more distinguishing, in this delusive feeling of liberty, which entirely exempts it, from being an exception to the general rule above laid down. It is this; that the feeling is by no means entire on the side of liberty. It is counter-balanced by other feelings, which, in many instances, afford such a conviction of the necessary influence of motives, that physical and moral necessity can scarce be distinguished. The sense of liberty operates chiefly in the after reflection. But, previous to the action, there is no distinct or clear feeling, that it can happen otherways, than in connection with its proper motive. Here the feelings being, on the whole, opposite to each other, nothing can be inferred from this case, to derogate from the evidence of feelings that are clear, cogent and authoritative; and to which, nothing can be opposed, from the side of reason or counter-feeling. So that our principle remains safe and unshaken, that a general distrust of our senses, internal or external, must land us in universal scepticism.
[* ]Essay upon liberty and necessity.
[13. ]B qualifies the description (“and so far may be termed deceitful”), while C drops the term from the text.
[14. ]A and B are not divided into separate sections and present the material in a different order than is found in C. But apart from the introductory material, there are no substantial differences between the three editions.
[15. ]Kames briefly considers the sense of vision in A and B, as part of his essay on “External Senses.” In C, since sight is “one of the most simple and distinct” of the senses, vision represents a test case for the veracity of the human senses.
[16. ]Kames’s censure of this posthumously published work represents his harshest treatment of Hume. Though Hume’s Treatise was one of the main targets of the Essays, shortly after the publication of A, Hume described Kames’s work as “well wrote” and “an unusual instance of an obliging method of answering a Book” (Hume to Michael Ramsay, 22 June 1751, in The Letters of David Hume, 2 vols., ed. J. Y. T. Greig [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932], I:162).
Kames quotes from Butler, Works, 2:10. B and C make a similar distinction between justice (now called a primary virtue) as a matter of law, and generosity (now classed as a secondary virtue) as a matter of choice, but the reference to “the supposition of liberty of action” is omitted and the issue is no longer explicitly framed around the liberty and necessity debate.