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CHAPTER I: the natural history of morals. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne, vol. 1 
History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne, vol. 1 Third edition, revised (New York: D. Appleton, 1921).
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the natural history of morals.
A brief enquiry into the nature and foundations of morals appears an obvious, and, indeed, almost an indispensable preliminary, to any examination of the moral progress of Europe. Unfortunately, however, such an enquiry is beset with serious difficulties, arising in part from the extreme multiplicity of detail which systems of moral philosophy present, and in part from a fundamental antagonism of principles, dividing them into two opposing groups. The great controversy, springing from the rival claims of intuition and utility to be regarded as the supreme regulator of moral distinctions, may be dimly traced in the division between Plato and Aristotle; it appeared more clearly in the division between the Stoics and the Epicureans; but it has only acquired its full distinctness of definition, and the importance of the questions depending on it has only been fully appreciated, in modern times, under the influence of such writers as Cudworth, Clarke, and Butler upon the one side, and Hobbes, Helvétius, and Bentham on the other
Independently of the broad intellectual difficulties which must be encountered in treating this question, there is a difficulty of a personal kind, which it may be advisable at once to meet. There is a disposition in some moralists to resent, as an imputation against their own characters, any charge of immoral consequences that may be brought against the principles they advocate. Now it is a peculiarity of this controversy that every moralist is compelled, by the very nature of the case, to bring such charges against the opinions of his opponents. The business of a moral philosophy is to account for and to justify our moral sentiments, or in other words, to show how we come to have our notions of duty, and to supply us with a reason for acting upon them. If it does this adequately, it is impregnable, and therefore a moralist who repudiates one system is called upon to show that, according to its principles, the notion of duty, or the motives for performing it, could never have been generated. The Utilitarian accuses his opponent of basing the entire system of morals on a faculty that has no existence, of adopting a principle that would make moral duty vary with the latitude and the epoch, of resolving all ethics into an idle sentiment. The intuitive moralist, for reasons I shall hereafter explain, believes that the Utilitarian theory is profoundly immoral. But to suppose that either of these charges extends to the character of the moralist is altogether to misconceive the position which moral theories actually hold in life. Our moral sentiments do not flow from, but long precede our ethical systems; and it is usually only after our characters have been fully formed that we begin to reason about them. It is both possible and very common for the reasoning to be very defective, without any corresponding imperfection in the disposition of the man.
The two rival theories of morals are known by many cames, and are subdivided into many groups. One of them is generally described as the stoical, the intuitive, the independent or the sentimental; the other as the epicurean, the inductive, the utilitarian, or the selfish. The moralists of the former school, to state their opinions in the broadest form, believe that we have a natural power of perceiving that some qualities, such as benevolence, chastity, or veracity, are better than others, and that we ought to cultivate them, and to repress their opposites. In other words, they contend, that by the constitution of our nature, the notion of right carries with it a feeling of obligation; that to say a course of conduct is our duty, is in itself, and apart from all consequences, an intelligible and sufficient reason for practising it; and that we derive the first principles of our duties from intuition. The moralist of the opposite school denies that we have any such natural perception. He maintains that we have by nature absolutely no knowledge of merit and demerit, of the comparative excellence of our feelings and actions, and that we derive these notions solely from an observation of the course of life which is conducive to human happiness. That which makes actions good is, that they increase the happiness or diminish the pains of mankind. That which constitutes their demerit is their opposite tendency. To procure ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number,’ is therefore the highest aim of the moralist, the supreme type and expression of virtue.
It is manifest, however, that this last school, if it proceeded no further than I have stated, would have failed to accomplish the task which every moralist must undertake. It is easy to understand that experience may show that certain actions are conducive to the happiness of mankind, and that these actions may in consequence be regarded as supremely excellent. The question still remains, why we are bound to perform them. If men, who believe that virtuous actions are those which experience shows to be useful to society, believe also that they are under a natural obligation to seek the happiness of others, rather than their own, when the two interests conflict, they have certainly no claim to the title of inductive moralists. They recognise a moral faculty, or natural sense of moral obligation or duty as truly as Butler or as Cudworth. And, indeed, a position very similar to this has been adopted by several intuitive moralists. Thus Hutcheson, who is the very founder in modern times of the doctrine of ‘a moral sense,’ and who has defended the disinterested character of virtue more powerfully than perhaps any other moralist, resolved all virtue into benevolence, or the pursuit of the happiness of others; but he maintained that the excellence and obligation of benevolence are revealed to us by a ‘moral sense.’ Hume, in like manner, pronounced utility to be the criterion and essential element of all virtue, and is so far undoubtedly a Utilitarian; but he asserted also that our pursuit of virtue is unselfish, and that it springs from a natural feeling of approbation or disapprobation distinct from reason, and produced by a peculiar sense, or taste, which rises up within us at the contemplation of virtue or of vice.1 A similar doctrine has more recently been advocated by Mackintosh.
It is supposed by many that it is a complete description of the Utilitarian system of morals, that it judges all actions and dispositions by their consequences, pronouncing them moral in proportion to their tendency to promote, immoral in proportion to their tendency to diminish, the happiness of man. But such a summary is clearly inadequate, for it deals only with one of the two questions which every moralist must answer. A theory of morals must explain not only what constitutes a duty, but also how we obtain the notion of there being such a thing as duty. It must tell us not merely what is the course of conduct we ought to pursue, but also what is the meaning of this word ‘ought,’ and from what source we derive the idea it expresses.
Those who have undertaken to prove that all our morality is a product of experience, have not shrunk from this task, and have boldly entered upon the one path that was open to them. The notion of there being any such feeling as an original sense of obligation distinct from the anticipation of pleasure or pain, they treat as a mere illusion of the imagination. All that is meant by saying we ought to do an action is, that if we do not do it, we shall suffer. A desire to obtain happiness and to avoid pain is the only possible motive to action. The reason, and the only reason, why we should perform virtuous actions, or in other words, seek the good of others, is that on the whole such a course will bring us the greatest amount of happiness.
We have here then a general statement of the doctrine which bases morals upon experience. If we ask what constitutes virtuous, and what vicious actions, we are told that the first are those which increase the happiness or diminish the pains of mankind; and the second are those which have the opposite effect. If we ask what is the motive to virtue, we are told that it is an enlightened self-interest. The words happiness, utility, and interest include, however, many different kinds of enjoyment, and have given rise to many different modifications of the theory.
Perhaps the lowest and most repulsive form of this theory is that which was propounded by Mandeville, in his ‘Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue.’1 According to this writer, virtue sprang in the first instance from the cunning of rulers. These, in order to govern men, found it necessary to persuade them that it was a noble thing to restrain, instead of indulging their passions, and to devote themselves entirely to the good of the community. The manner in which they attained this end was by acting upon the feeling of vanity. They persuaded men that human nature was something nobler than the nature of animals, and that devotion to the community rendered a man pre-eminently great. By statues, and titles, and honours; by continually extolling such men as Regulus or Decius; by representing those who were addicted to useless enjoyments as a low and despicable class, they at last so inflamed the vanity of men as to kindle an intense emulation, and inspire the most heroic actions. And soon new influences came into play. Men who began by restraining their passions, in order to acquire the pleasure of the esteem of others, found that this restraint saved them from many painful consequences that would have naturally ensued from over-indulgence, and this discovery became a new motive to virtue. Each member of the community moreover found that he himself derived benefit from the self-sacrifice of others, and also that when he was seeking his own interest, without regard to others, no persons stood so much in his way as those who were similarly employed, and he had thus a double reason for diffusing abroad the notion of the excellence of self-sacrifice. The result of all this was that men agreed to stigmatise under the term ‘vice’ whatever was injurious, and to eulogise as ‘virtue’ whatever was beneficial to society.
The opinions of Mandeville attracted, when they were published, an attention greatly beyond their intrinsic merit, but they are now sinking rapidly into deserved oblivion. The author, in a poem called the ‘Fable of the Bees,’ and in comments attached to it, himself advocated a thesis altogether inconsistent with that I have described, maintaining that ‘private vices were public benefits,' and endeavouring, in a long series of very feeble and sometimes very grotesque arguments, to prove that vice was in the highest degree beneficial to mankind. A far greater writer had however already framed a scheme of morals which, if somewhat less repulsive, was in no degree less selfish than that of Mandeville; and the opinions of Hobbes concerning the essence and origin of virtue, have, with no very great variations, been adopted by what may be termed the narrower school of Utilitarians.
According to these writers we are governed exclusively by our own interest.1 Pleasure, they assure us, is the only good,1 and moral good and moral evil mean nothing more than our voluntary conformity to a law that will bring it to us.2 To love good simply as good, is impossible.3 When we speak of the goodness of God, we mean only His goodness to us.1 Reverence is nothing more than our conviction, that one who has power to do us both good and harm, will only do us good.2 The pleasures of piety arise from the belief that we are about to receive pleasure, and the pains of piety from the belief that we are about to suffer pain from the Deity.3 Our very affections, according to some of these writers, are all forms of self-love. Thus charity springs partly from our desire to obtain the esteem of others, partly from the expectation that the favours we have bestowed will be reciprocated, and partly, too, from the gratification of the sense of power, by the proof that we can satisfy not only our own desires but also the desires of others.4 Pity is an emotion arising from a vivid realisation of sorrow that may befall ourselves, suggested by the sight of the sorrows of others. We pity especially those who have not deserved calamity, because we consider ourselves to belong to that category; and the spectacle of suffering against which no forethought could provide, reminds us most forcibly of what may happen to ourselves.1 Friendship is the sense of the need of the person befriended.2
From such a conception of human nature it is easy to divine what system of morals must flow. No charactor feeling, or action is naturally better than others, and as long as men are in a savage condition, morality has no existence. Fortunately, however, we are all dependent for many of our pleasures upon others. Co-operation and organisation are essential to our happiness, and these are impossible without
some restraint being placed upon our appetites. Laws are enacted to secure this restraint, and being sustained by rewards and punishments, they make it the interest of the individual to regard that of the community. According to Hobbes, the disposition of man is so anarchical, and the importance of restraining it so transcendent, that absolute government alone is good; the commands of the sovereign are supreme, and must therefore constitute the law of morals. The other moralists of the school, though repudiating this notion, have given a very great and distinguished place to legislation in their schemes of ethics; for all our conduct being determined by our interests, virtue being simply the conformity of our own interests with those of the community, and a judicious legislation being the chief way of securing this conformity, the functions of the moralist and of the legislator are almost identical.1 But in addition to the rewards and punishments of the penal code, those arising from public opinion—fame or infamy, the friendship or hostility of those about us—are enlisted on the side of virtue. The educating influence of laws, and the growing perception of the identity of interests of the different members of the community, create a public opinion favourable to all the qualities which are ‘the means of peaceable, sociable, and comfortable living.’2 Such are justice, gratitude, modesty, equity, and mercy; and such, too, are purity and chastity which, considered in themselves alone, are in no degree more excellent than the coarsest and most indiscriminate lust, but which can be shown to be conducive to the happiness of society, and become in consequence virtues.1 This education of public opinion grows continually stronger with civilisation, and gradually moulds the characters of men, making them more and more disinterested, heroic, and unselfish. A disinterested, unselfish, and heroic man, it is explained, is on who is strictly engrossed in the pursuit of his own pleasure, but who pursues it in such a manner as to include in its gratification the happiness of others.2
It is a very old assertion, that a man who prudently sought his own interest would live a life of perfect virtue. This opinion is adopted by most of those Utilitarians who are least inclined to lay great stress upon religious motives; and as they maintain that every man necessarily pursues exclusively his own happiness, we return by another path to the old Platonic doctrine, that all vice is ignorance. Virtue is a judicious, and vice an injudicious, pursuit of pleasure. Virtue is a branch of prudence, vice is nothing more than Imprudence or miscalculation.1 He who seeks to improvs the moral condition of mankind has two, and only two, ways of accomplishing his end. The first is, to make it more and more the interest of each to conform to that of the others; the second is, to dispel the ignorance which prevents men from seeing their true interest.2 If chastity or truth, or any other of what we regard as virtues, could be shown to produce on the whole more pain than they destroy, or to deprive men of more pleasure than they afford, they would not be virtues, but vices.3 If it could be shown that it is not for our own interest to practise any of what are admitted to be virtues, all obligation to practise them would immediately cease.1 The whole scheme of ethics may be evolved from the four canons of Epicurus. The pleasure which produces no pain is to be embraced. The pain which produces no pleasure is to be avoided. The pleasure is to be avoided which prevents a greater pleasure, or produces a greater pain. The pain is to be endured which averts a greater pain, or secures a greater pleasure.2
So far I have barely alluded to any but terrestrial motives. These, in the opinion of many of the most illustrious of the school, are sufficient, but others—as we shall see, I think, with great reason—are of a different opinion. Their obvious resource is in the rewards and punishments of another world, and these they accordingly present as the motive to virtue. Of all the modifications of the selfish theory, this alone can be said to furnish interested motives for virtue which are invariably and incontestably adequate. If men introduce the notion of infinite punishments and infinite rewards distributed by an omniscient Judge, they can undoubtedly supply stronger reasons for practising virtue than can ever be found for practising vice. While admitting therefore in emphatic terms, that any sacrifice of our pleasure, without the prospect of an equivalent reward, is a simple act of madness, and unworthy of a rational being,3 these writers maintain that we may reasonably sacrifice the enjoyments of this life, because we shall be rewarded by far greater enjoyment in the next. To gain heaven and avoid hell should be the spring of all our actions,1 and virtue is simply prudence extending its calculations beyond the grave.2
This calculation is what we mean by the ‘religious motive.’ The belief that the nobility and excellence of virtue could incite us, was a mere delusion of the Pagans.2
Considered simply in the light of a prudential scheme, there are only two possible objections that could be brought against this theory. It might be said that the amount of virtue required for entering heaven was not defined, and that therefore it would be possible to enjoy some vices on earth with impunity. To this, however, it is answered that the very indefiniteness of the requirement renders zealous piety a matter of prudence, and also that there is probably a graduated scale of rewards and punishments adapted to every variety of merit and demerit.3 It might be said too that present pleasures are at least certain, and that those of another world are not equally so. It is answered that the rewards and punishments offered in another world are so transcendently great, that according to the rules of ordinary prudence, if there were only a probability, or even a bare possibility, of their being real, a wise man should regulate his course with a view to them.1
Among these writers, however, some have diverged to a certain degree from the broad stream of utilitarianism, declaring that the foundation of the moral law is not utility, but the will or arbitrary decree of God. This opinion, which was propounded by the schoolman Ockham, and by several other writers of his age,2 has in modern times found many adherents,3 and been defended through a variety of motives. Some have upheld it on the philosophical ground that a law can be nothing but the sentence of a lawgiver; others from a desire to place morals in permanent subordination to theology; others in order to answer objections to Christianity derived from apparently immoral acts said to have been sanctioned by the Divinity; and others because having adopted strong Calvinistic sentiments, they were at once profoundly opposed to utilitarian morals, and at the same time too firmly convinced of the total depravity of human nature to admit the existence of any trustworthy moral sense.1
In the majority of cases, however, these writers have proved substantially utilitarians. When asked how we can know the will of God, they answer that in as far as it is not included in express revelation, it must be discovered by the rule of utility; for nature proves that the Deity is supremely benevolent, and desires the welfare of men, and therefore any conduct that leads to that end is in conformity with His will.2 To the question why the Divine will should be obeyed, there are but two answers. The first, which is that of the intuitive moralist, is that we are under a natural obligation of gratitude to our Creator. The second, which is that of the selfish moralist, is that the Creator has infinite rewards and punishments at His disposal. The latter answer appears usually to have been adopted, and the most eminent member has summed up with great succinctness the opinion of his school. ‘The good of mankind,’ he says, ‘is the subject, the will of God the rule, and everlasting happiness the motive and end of all virtue.’3
We have seen that the distinctive characteristic of the inductive school of moralists is an absolute denial of the existence of any natural or innate moral sense or faculty enabling us to distinguish between the higher and lower parts of our nature, revealing to us either the existence of a law of duty or the conduct that it prescribes. We have seen that the only postulate of these writers is that happiness being universally desired is a desirable thing, that the only merit they recognise in actions or feelings is their tendency to promote human happiness, and that the only motive to a virtuous act they conceive possible is the real or supposed happiness of the agent. The sanctions of morality thus constitute its obligation, and apart from them the word ‘ought’ is absolutely unmeaning. Those sanctions, as we have considered them, are of different kinds and degrees of magnitude. Paley, though elsewhere acknowledging the others, regarded the religious one as so immeasurably the first, that he represented it as the one motive of virtue.1 Locke divided them into Divine rewards and punishments, legal penalties and social penalties;2 Bentham into physical, political, moral or popular, and religious—the first being the bodily evils that result from vice, the second the enactments of legislators, the third the pleasures and pains arising from social intercourse, the fourth the rewards and punishments of another world.3
During the greater part of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the controversy in England between those who derived the moral code from experience, and those who derived it from intuitions of the reason, or from a specia faculty, or from a moral sense, or from the power of sympathy, turned mainly upon the existence of an unselfish element in our nature. The reality of this existence having been maintained by Shaftesbury, was established with an unprecedented, and I believe an irresistible force, by Hutcheson, and the same question occupies a considerable place in the writings of Butler, Hume, and Adam Smith. The selfishness of the school of Hobbes, though in some degree mitigated, may be traced in every page of the writings of Bentham; but some of his disciples have in this respect deviated very widely from their master, and in their hands the whole tone and complexion of utilitarianism have been changed.1 The two means by which this transformation has been effected are the recognition of our unselfish or sympathetic feelings, and the doctrine of the association of ideas.
That human nature is so constituted that we naturally take a pleasure in the sight of the joy of others is one of those facts which to an ordinary observer might well appear among the most patent that can be conceived. We have seen, however, that it was emphatically denied by Hobbes, and during the greater part of the last century it was fashionable among writers of the school of Helvétius to endeavour to prove that all domestic or social affections were dictated simply by a need of the person who was beloved. The reality of the pleasures and pains of sympathy was admitted by Bentham;1 but in accordance with the whole spirit of his philosophy, he threw them as much as possible into the background, and, as I have already noticed, gave them no place in his summary of the sanctions of virtue. The tendency, however, of the later members of the school has been to recognise them fully,2 though they differ as to the source from which they spring. According to one section our benevolent affections are derived from our selfish feelings by an association of ideas in a manner which I shall presently describe. According to the other they are an original part of the constitution of our nature. However they be generated, their existence is admitted, their cultivation is a main object of morals, and the pleasure derived from their exercise a leading motive to virtue. The differences between the intuitive moralists and their rivals on this point are of two kinds. Both acknowledge the existence in human nature of both benevolent and malevolent feelings, and that we have a natural power of distinguishing one from the other; but the first maintain and the second deny that we have a natural power of perceiving that one is better than the other. Both admit that we enjoy a pleasure in acts of benevolence to others, but most writers of the first school maintain that that pleasure follows unsought for, while writers of the other school contend that the desire of obtaining it is the motive of the action.
But by far the most ingenious and at the same time most influential system of utilitarian morals is that which owes its distinctive feature to the doctrine of association of Hartley. This doctrine, which among the modern achievements of ethics occupies on the utilitarian side a position corresponding in importance to the doctrine of innate moral faculties as distinguished from innate moral ideas on the intuitive side, was not absolutely unknown to the ancients, though they never perceived either the extent to which it may be carried or the important consequences that might be deduced from it. Some traces of it may be found in Aristotle,1 and some of the Epicureans applied it to friendship, maintaining that, although we first of all love our friend on account of the pleasure he can give us, we come soon to love him for his own sake, and apart from all considerations of utility.2 Among moderns Locke has the merit of having devised the phrase, ‘association of ideas;’3 but he applied it only to some cases of apparently eccentric sympathies or antipathies. Hutcheson, however, closely anticipated both the doctrine of Hartley and the favourite illustration of the school; observing that we desire some things as themselves pleasurable and others only as means to obtain pleasurable things, and that these latter, which he terms ‘secondary desires,’ may become as powerful as the former. ‘Thus, as soon as we come to apprehend the use of wealth or power to gratify any of our original desires we must also desire them. Hence arises the universality of these desires of wealth and power, since they are the means of gratifying all our desires.’4 The same principles were carried much farther by a clergyman named Gay in a short dissertation which is now almost forgotten, but to which Hartley ascribed the first suggestion of his theory,5 and in which indeed the most valuable part of it is clearly laid down. Differing altogether from Hutcheson as to the existence of any innate moral sense or principle of benevolence in man, Gay admitted that the arguments of Hutcheson to prove that the adult man possesses a moral sense were irresistible, and he attempted to reconcile this fact with the teaching of Locke by the doctrine of ‘secondary desires.’ He remarks that in our reasonings we do not always fall back upon first principles or axioms, but sometimes start from propositions which though not self-evident we know to be capable of proof. In the same way in justifying our actions we do not always appeal to the tendency to produce happiness which is their one ultimate justification, but content ourselves by showing that they produce some of the known ‘means to happiness.’ These ‘means to happiness’ being continually appealed to as justifying motives come insensibly to be regarded as ends, possessing an intrinsic value irrespective of their tendency; and in this manner it is that we love and admire virtue even when unconnected with our interests.1
The great work of Hartley expanding and elaborating these views was published in 1747. It was encumbered by much physiological speculation into which it is needless for us now to enter, about the manner in which emotions act upon the nerves, and although accepted enthusiastically by Priestley and Belsham, and in some degree by Tucker, I do not think that its purely ethical speculations had much influence until they were adopted by some leading utilitarians in the present century.1 Whatever may be thought of the truth, it is impossible to withhold some admiration from the intellectual grandeur of a system which starting from a conception of human nature as low and as base as that of Mandeville or Hobbes professes without the introduction of a single new or ncbler element, by a strange process of philosophic alchemy, to evolve out of this original selfishness the most heroic and most sensitive virtue. The manner in which this achievement is effected is commonly illustrated by the passion of avarice. Money in itself possesses absolutely nothing that is admirable or pleasurable, but being the means of procuring us many of the objects of our desire, it becomes associated in our minds with the idea of pleasure; it is therefore itself loved; and it is possible for the love of money so completely to eclipse or supersede the love of all those things which money procures, that the miser will forego them all, rather than part with a fraction of his gold.2
The same phenomenon may be traced, it is said, in a multitude of other forms.1 Thus we seek power, because it gives us the means of gratifying many desires. It becomes associated with those desires, and is, at last, itself passionately loved. Praise indicates the affection of the eulogist, and marks us out for the affection of others. Valued at first as a means, it is soon desired as an end, and to such a pitch can our enthusiasm rise, that we may sacrifice all earthly things for posthumous praise which can never reach our ear. And the force of association may extend even farther. We love praise, because it procures us certain advantages. We then love it more than these advantages. We proceed by the same process to transfer our affections to those things which naturally or generally procure praise. We at last love what is praiseworthy more than praise, and will endure perpetual obloquy rather than abandon it.2 To this process, it is said, all our moral sentiments must be ascribed. Man has no natural benevolent feelings. He is at first governed solely by his interest, but the infant learns to associate its pleasures with the idea of its mother, the boy with the idea of his family, the man with those of his class, his church, his country, and at last of all mankind, and in each case an independent affection is at length formed.3 The sight of suffering in others awakens in the child a painful recollection of his own sufferings, which parents, by appealing to the infant imagination, still further strengthen, and besides, ‘when several children are educated together, the pains, the denials of pleasure, and the sorrows which affect one gradu ally extend in some degree to all;' and thus the suffering of others becomes associated with the idea of our own, and the feeling of compassion is engendered.1 Benevolence and justice are associated in our minds with the esteem of our fellow-men, with reciprocity of favours, and with the hope of future reward. They are loved at first for these, and finally for themselves, while opposite trains of association produce opposite feelings towards malevolence and injustice.2 And thus virtue, considered as a whole, becomes the supreme object of our affections. Of all our pleasures, more are derived from those acts which are called virtuous, than from any other source. The virtuous acts of others procure us countless advantages. Our own virtue obtains for us the esteem of men and return of favours. All the epithets of praise are appropriated to virtue, and all the epithets of blame to vice. Religion teaches us to connect hopes of infinite joy with the one, and fears of infinite suffering with the other. Virtue becomes therefore peculiarly associated with the idea of pleasurable things. It is soon loved, independently of and more than these; we feel a glow of pleasure in practising it and an intense pain in violating it. Conscience, which is thus generated, becomes the ruling principle of our lives,1 and having learnt to sacrifice all earthly things rather than disobey it, we rise, by an association of ideas, into the loftieet region of heroism.2
The influence of this ingenious, though I think in some respect fanciful, theory depends less upon the number than upon the ability of its adherents. Though little known, I believe, beyond England, it has in England exercised a great fascination over exceedingly dissimilar minds,3 and it does undoubtedly evade some of the objections to the other forms of the inductive theory. Thus, when intuitive moralists contend that our moral judgments, being instantaneous and effected under the manifest impulse of an emotion of sympathy or repulsion, are as far as possible removed from that cold calculation of interests to which the utilitarian reduces them, it is answered, that the association of ideas is sufficient to engender a feeling which is the proximate cause of our decision.1 Alone, of all the moralists of this school, the disciple of Hartley recognises conscience as a real and important element of our nature,2 and maintains that it is possible to love virtue for itself as a form of happiness without any thought of ulterior consequences.3 The immense value this theory ascribes to education, gives it an unusual practical importance. When we are balancing between a crime and a virtue, our wills, it is said, are necessarily determined by the greater pleasure. If we find more pleasure in the vice than in the virtue, we inevitably gravitate to evil. If we find more pleasure in the virtue than in the vice, we are as irresistibly attracted towards good. But the strength of such motives may be immeasurably enhanced by an early association of ideas. If we have been accustomed from childhood to associate our ideas of praise and pleasure with virtue, we shall readily yield to virtuous motives; if with vice, to vicious ones. This readiness to yield to one or other set of motives, constitutes disposition, which is thus, according to these moralists, altogether an artificial thing, the product of education, and effected by association of ideas.1
It will be observed, however, that this theory, refined and imposing as it may appear, is still essentially a selfish one. Even when sacrificing all earthly objects through love of virtue, the good man is simply seeking his greatest enjoyment, indulging a kind of mental luxury which gives him more pleasure than what he foregoes, just as the miser finds more pleasure in accumulation than in any form of expenditure.2 There has been, indeed, one attempt to emancipate the theory from this condition, but it appears to me altogether futile. It has been said that men in the first instance indulge in baneful excesses, on account of the pleasure they afford, but the habit being contracted, continue to practise them after they have ceased to afford pleasure, and that a similar law may operate in the case of the habit of virtue.1 But the reason why men who have contracted a habit continue to practise it after it has ceased to give them positive enjoyment, is because to desist, creates a restlessness and uneasiness which amounts to acute mental pain. To avoid that pain is the motive of the action.
The reader who has perused the passages I have accumulated in the notes, will be able to judge with what degree of justice utilitarian writers denounce with indignation the imputation of selfishness, as a calumny against their system. It is not, I think, a strained or unnatural use of language to describe as selfish or interested, all actions which a man performs, in order himself to avoid suffering or acquire the greatest possible enjoyment. If this be so, the term selfish is strictly applicable to all the branches of this system.1 At the same time it must be acknowledged, that there is a broad difference between the refined hedonism of the utilitarians we have last noticed, and the writings of Hobbes, of Mandeville, or of Paley. It must be acknowledged, also, that not a few intuitive or stoical moralists have spoken of the pleasure to be derived from virtue in language little if at all different from these writers.2 The main object of the earlier members of the inductive school, was to depress human nature to their standard, by resolving all the noblest actions into coarse and selfish elements. The main object of some of the more influential of the later members of this school, has been to sublimate their conceptions of happiness and interest in such a manner, as to include the highest displays of heroism. As we have seen, they fully admit that conscience is a real thing, and should be the supreme guide of our lives, though they contend that it springs originally from selfishness, transformed under the influence of the association of ideas. They acknowledge the reality of the sympathetic feelings, though they usually trace them to the same source. They cannot, it is true, consistently with their principles, recognise the possibility of conduct which is in the strictest sense of the word unselfish, but they contend that it is quite possible for a man to find his highest pleasure in sacrificing himself for the good of others, that the association of virtue and pleasure is only perfect when it leads habitually to spontaneous and uncalculating action, and that no man is in a healthy moral condition who does not find more pain in committing a crime than he could derive pleasure from any of its consequences. The theory in its principle remains unchanged, but in the hands of some of these writers the spirit has wholly altered.
Having thus given a brief, but, I trust, clear and faithful account of the different modifications of the inductive theory, I shall proceed to state some of the principal objections that have been and may be brought against it. I shall then endeavour to define and defend the opinions of those who believe that our moral feelings are an essential part of our constitution, developed by, but not derived from education, and I shall conclude this chapter by an enquiry into the order of their evolution; so that having obtained some notion of the natural history of morals, we may be able, in the ensuing chapters, to judge, how far their normal progress has been accelerated or retarded by religious or political agencies.
‘Psychology,’ it has been truly said, ‘is but developed consciousness.’1 When moralists assert, that what we call virtue derives its reputation solely from its utility, and that the interest or pleasure of the agent is the one motive to practise it, our first question is naturally how far this theory agrees with the feelings and with the language of mankind. But if tested by this criterion, there never was a doctrine more emphatically condemned than utilitarianism. In all its stages, and in all its assertions, it is in direct opposition to common language and to common sentiments. In all nations and in all ages, the ideas of interest and utility on the one hand and of virtue on the other, have been regarded by the multitude as perfectly distinct, and all languages recognise the distinction. The terms honour, justice, rectitude or virtue, and their equivalents in every language, present to the mind ideas essentially and broadly differing from the terms prudence, sagacity, or interest. The two lines of conduct may coincide, but they are never confused, and we have not the slightest difficulty in imagining them antagonistic. When we say a man is governed by a high sense of honour, or by strong moral feeling, we do not mean that he is prudently pursuing either his own interests or the interests of society. The universal sentiment of mankind represents self-sacrifice as an essential element of a meritorious act, and means by self-sacrifice the deliberate adoption of the least pleasurable course without the prospect of any pleasure in return. A selfish act may be innocent, but cannot be virtuous, and to ascribe all good deeds to selfish motives, is not the distortion but the negation of virtue. No Epicurean could avow before a popular audience that the one end of his life was the pursuit of his own happiness without an outburst of indignation and contempt.2 No man could consciously make this—which according to the selfish theory is the only rational and indeed possible motive of action—the deliberate object of all his undertakings, without his character becoming despicable and degraded. Whether we look within ourselves or examine the conduct either of our enemies or of our friends, or adjudicate upon the characters in history or in fiction, our feelings on these matters are the same. In exact proportion as we believe a desire for personal enjoyment to be the motive of a good act is the merit of the agent diminished. If we believe the motive to be wholly selfish the merit is altogether destroyed. If we believe it to be wholly disinterested the merit is altogether unalloyed. Hence, the admiration bestowed upon Prometheus, or suffering virtue constant beneath the blows of Almighty malice, or on the atheist who with no prospect of future reward suffered a fearful death, rather than abjure an opinion which could be of no benefit to society, because he believed it to be the truth. Selfish moralists deny the possibility of that which all ages, all nations, all popular judgments pronounce to have been the characteristic of every noble act that has ever been performed. Now, when a philosophy which seeks by the light of consciousness to decipher the laws of our moral being proves so diametrically opposed to the conclusions arrived at by the great mass of mankind, who merely follow their consciousness without endeavouring to frame systems of philosophy, that it makes most of the distinctions of common ethical language absolutely unmeaning, this is, to say the least, a strong presumption against its truth. It Molière's hero had been speaking prose all his life without knowing it, this was simply because he did not understand what prose was. In the present case we are asked to believe that men have been under a total delusion about the leading principles of their lives which they had distinguished by a whole vocabulary of terms.
It is said that the case becomes different when the pleasure sought is not a gross or material enjoyment, but the satisfaction of performed virtue. I suspect that if men could persuade themselves that the one motive of a virtuous man was the certainty that the act he accomplished would be followed by a glow of satisfaction so intense as more than to compensate for any sacrifice he might have made, the difference would not be as great as is supposed. In fact, however—and the consciousness of this lies, I conceive, it the root of the opinions of men upon the subject—the pleasure of virtue is one which can only be obtained on the express condition of its not being the object sought. Phenomena of this kind are familiar to us all. Thus, for example, it has often been observed that prayer, by a law of our nature and apart from all supernatural intervention, exercises a reflex influence of a very beneficial character upon the minds of the worshippers. The man who offers up his petitions with passionate earnestness, with unfaltering faith, and with a vivid realisation of the presence of an Unseen Being has risen to a condition of mind which is itself eminently favourable both to his own happiness and to the expansion of his moral qualities. But he who expects nothing more will never attain this. To him who neither believes nor hopes that his petitions will receive a response such a mental state is impossible. No Protestant before an image of the Virgin, no Christian before a pagan idol, could possibly attain it. If prayers were offered up solely with a view to this benefit, they would be absolutely sterile and would speedily cease. Thus again, certain political economists have con tended that to give money in charity is worse than useless, that it is positively noxious to society, but they have added that the gratification of our benevolent affections is pleasing to ourselves, and that the pleasure we derive from this source may be so much greater than the evil resulting from our gift, that we may justly, according to the ‘greatest happiness principle,’ purchase this large amount of gratification to ourselves by a slight injury to our neighbours. The political economy involved in this very characteristc pecimen of utilitarian ethics I shall hereafter examine At present it is sufficient to observe that no one who consciously practised benevolence solely from this motive could obtain the pleasure in question. We receive enjoyment from the thought that we have done good. We never could receive that enjoyment if we believed and realised that we were doing harm. The same thing is pre-eminently true of the satisfaction of conscience. A feeling of satisfaction follows the accomplishment of duty for itself, but if the duty be performed solely through the expectation of a mental pleasure conscience refuses to ratify the bargain.
There is no fact more conspicuous in human nature than the broad distinction, both in kind and degree, drawn between the moral and the other parts of our nature. But this on utilitarian principles is altogether unaccountable. If the excellence of virtue consists solely in its utility or tendency to promote the happiness of men, we should be compelled to canonise a crowd of acts which are utterly remote from all our ordinary notions of morality. The whole tendency of political economy and philosophical history which reveal the physiology of societies, is to show that the happiness and welfare of mankind are evolved much more from our selfish than from what are termed our virtuous acts. The prosperity of nations and the progress of civilisation are mainly due to the exertions of men who while pursuing strictly their own interests, were unconsciously promoting the interests of the community. The selfish instinct that leads men to accumulate, confers ultimately more advantage upon the world than the generous instinct that leads men to give. A great historian has contended with some force that intellectual development is more important to societies than moral development. Yet who ever seriously questioned the reality of the distinction that separates these things? The reader will probably exclaim that the key to that distinction is to be found in the motive; but it is one of the paradoxes of the utilitarian school that the motive of the agent has absolutely no influence on the morality of the act. According to Bentham, there is but one motive possible, the pursuit of our own enjoyment. The most virtuous, the most vicious, and the most indifferent of actions, if measured by this test, would be exactly the same, and an investigation of motives should therefore be altogether excluded from our moral judgments.1 Whatever test we adopt, the difficulty of accounting for the unique and pre-eminent position mankind have assigned to virtue will remain. If we judge by tendencies, a crowd of objects and of acts to which no mortal ever dreamed of ascribing virtue, contribute largely to the happiness of man. If we judge by motives, the moralists we are reviewing have denied all generic difference between prudential and virtuous motives. If we judge by intentions, it is certain that however much truth or chastity may contribute to the happiness of mankind, it is not with philanthropic intentions that those virtues are cultivated.
It is often said that intuitive moralists in their reasoning are guilty of continually abandoning their principles by themselves appealing to the tendency of certain acts to promote human happiness as a justification, and the charge is usually accompanied by a challenge to show any confessed virtue that has not that tendency. To the first objection it may be shortly answered that no intuitive moralist ever dreamed of doubting that benevolence or charity, or in other words, the promotion of the happiness of man, is a duty. He maintains that it not only is so, but that we arrive at this fact by direct intuition, and not by the discovery that such a course is conducive to our own interest. But while he cordially recognises this branch of virtue, and while he has therefore a perfect right to allege the beneficial effects of a virtue in its defence, he refuses to admit that all virtue can be reduced to this single principle. With the general sentiment of mankind he regards charity as a good thing only because it is of use to the world. With the same general sentiment of mankind he believes that chastity and truth have an independent value, distinct from their influence upon happiness. To the question whether every confessed virtue is conducive to human happiness, it is less easy to reply, for it is usually extremely difficult to calculate the remote tendencies of acts, and in cases where, in the common apprehension of mankind, the morality is very clear, the consequences are often very obscure. Notwithstanding the claim of great precision which utilitarian writers so boastfully make, the standard by which they profess to measure morals is itself absolutely incapable of definition or accurate explanation. Happiness is one of the most indeterminate and undefinable words in the language, and what are the conditions of ‘the greatest possible happiness no one can precisely say. No two nations, perhaps no two individuals, would find them the same.1 And even if every virtuous act were incontestably useful, it by no means follows that its virtue is derived from its utility.
It may be readily granted, that as a general rule those acts which we call virtuous, are unquestionably productive of happiness, if not to the agent, at least to mankind in general, but we have already seen that they have by no means that monopoly or pre-eminence of utility which on utilitarian principles, the unique position assigned to them would appear to imply. It may be added, that if we were to proceed in detail to estimate acts by their consequences, we should soon be led to very startling conclusions. In the first place, it is obvious that if virtues are only good because they promote, and vices only evil because they impair the happiness of mankind, the degrees of excellence or criminality must be strictly proportioned to the degrees of utility or the reverse.2 Every action, every disposition, every class, every condition of society must take its place on the moral scale precisely in accordance with the degree in which it promotes or diminishes human happiness. Now it is extremely questionable, whether some of the most monstrous forms of sensuality which it is scarcely possible to name, cause as much unhappiness as some infirmities of temper, or procrastination or hastiness of judgment. It is scarcely doubtful that a modest, diffident, and retiring nature, distrustful of its own abilities, and shrinking with humility from conflict, produces on the whole less benefit to the world than the self-assertion of an audacious and arrogant nature, which is impelled to every struggle, and developes every capacity Gratitude has no doubt done much to soften and sweeten the intercourse of life, but the corresponding feeling of revenge was for centuries the one bulwark against social anarchy, and is even now one of the chief restraints to crime.1 On the great theatre of public life especially in periods of great convulsions when passions are fiercely roused, it is neither the man of delicate scrupulosity and sincere impartiality, nor yet the single-minded religious enthusiast, incapable of dissimulation or procrastination, who confers most benefit upon the world. It is much rather the astute statesman earnest about his ends but unscrupulous about his means, equally free from the trammels of conscience and from the blindness of zeal, who governs because he partly yields to the passions and the prejudices of his time. But nowever much some modern writers may idolize the heroes of success, however much they may despise and ridicule those far nobler men, whose wide tolerance and scrupulous honour rendered them unfit leaders in the fray, it has scarcely yet been contended that the delicate conscientiousness which in these cases impairs utility constitutes vice. If utility is the sole measure of virtue, it is difficult to understand how we could look with moral disapprobation on any class who prevent greater evils than they cause. But with such a principle we might find strange priestesses at the utilitarian shrine. ‘Aufer meretrices de rebus humanis,’ said St. Augustine, ‘turbaveris omnia libidinibus.’1
Let us suppose an enquirer who intended to regulate his life consistently by the utilitarian principle; let us suppose him to have overcome the first great difficulty of his school, arising from the apparent divergence of his own interests from his duty, to have convinced himself that hat divergence does not exist, and to have accordingly made the pursuit of duty his single object, it remains to consider what kind of course he would pursue. He is informed that it is a pure illusion to suppose that human actions have any other end or rule than happiness, that nothing is intrinsically good or intrinsically bad apart from its consequences, that no act which is useful can possibly be vicious, and that the utility of an act constitutes and measures its value. One of his first observations will be that in very many special cases acts such as murder, theft, or falsehood, which the world calls criminal, and which in the majority of instances would undoubtedly be hurtful, appear eminently productive of good. Why then, he may ask, should they not in these cases be performed? The answer he receives is that they would not really be useful, because we must consider the remote as well as the immediate consequences of actions, and although in particular instances a falsehood or even a murder might appear beneficial, it is one of the most important interests of mankind that the sanctity of life and property should be preserved, and that a high standard of veracity should be maintained But this answer is obviously insufficient. It is necessary to show that the extent to which a single act of what the world calls crime would weaken these great bulwarks of society is such as to counterbalance the immediate good which it produces. If it does not, the balance will be on the side of happiness, the murder or theft or falsehood will be useful, and therefore, on utilitarian principles, will be virtuous. Now even in the case of public acts, the effect of the example of an obscure individual is usually small, but if the act be accomplished in perfect secrecy, the evil effects resulting from the example will be entirely absent. It has been said that it would be dangerous to give men permission to perpetrate what men call crimes in secret. This may be a very good reason why the utilitarian should not proclaim such a principle, but it is no reason why he should not act upon it. If a man be convinced that no act which is useful can possibly be criminal, if it be in his power by perpetrating what is called a crime to obtain an end of great immediate utility, and if he is able to secure such absolute secrecy as to render it perfectly certain that his act cannot become an example, and cannot in consequence exercise any influence on the general standard of morals, it appears demonstrably certain that on utilitarian principles he would be justified in performing it. If what we call virtue be only virtuous because it is useful, it can only be virtuous when it is useful. The question of the morality of a large number of acts must therefore depend upon the probability of their detection,1 and a little adroit hypocrisy must often, not merely in appearance but in reality, convert a vice into a virtue. The only way by which it has been attempted with any plausibility to evade this conclusion has been by asserting that the act would impair the disposition of the agent, or in other words predispose him on other occasions to perform acts which are generally hurtful to society. But in the first place a single act has no such effect upon disposition as to counteract a great immediate good, especially when, as we have supposed, that act is not a revolt against what is believed to be right, but is performed under the full belief that it is in accordance with the one rational rule of morals, and in the next place, as far as the act would form a habit it would appear to be the habit of in all cases regulating actions by a precise and minute calculation of their utility, which is the very ideal of utilitarian virtue.
If our enquirer happens to be a man of strong imagination and of solitary habits, it is very probable that he will be accustomed to live much in a world of imagination, a world peopled with beings that are to him as real as those of flesh, with its joys and sorrows, its temptations and its sins. In obedience to the common feelings of our nature he may have struggled long and painfully against sins of the imagination, which he was never seriously tempted to convert into sins of action. But his new philosophy will be admirably fitted to console his mind. If remorse be absent the indulgence of the most vicious imagination is a pleasure, and if this indulgence does not lead to action it is a clear gain, and therefore to be applauded. That a course may be continually pursued in imagination without leading to corresponding actions he will speedily discover, and indeed it has always been one of the chief objections brought against fiction that the constant exercise of the sympathies in favour of imaginary beings is found positively to indispose men to practical benevolence.1
Proceeding farther in his course, our moralist will soon find reason to qualify the doctrine of remote consequences, which plays so large a part in the calculations of utilitarianism. It is said that it is criminal to destroy human beings, even when the crime would appear productive of great utility, for every instance of murder weakens the sanctity of life. But experience shows that it is possible for men to be perfectly indifferent to one particular section of human life, without this indifference extending to others. Thus among the ancient Greeks, the murder or exposition of the children of poor parents was continually practised with the most absolute callousness, without exercising any appreciable influence upon the respect for adult life. In the same manner what may be termed religious unveracity, or the habit of propagating what are deemed useful superstitions, with the consciousness of their being false, or at least suppressing or misrepresenting the facts that might invalidate them, does not in any degree imply industrial unveracitv Nothing is more common than to find extreme dishonesty in speculation coexisting with scrupulous veracity in business. If any vice might be expected to conform strictly to the utilitarian theory, it would be cruelty; but cruelty to animals may exist without leading to cruelty to men, and even where spectacles in which animal suffering forms a leading element exercise an injurious influence on character, it is more than doubtful whether the measure of human unhappiness they may ultimately produce is at all equivalent to the passionate enjoyment they immediately afford.
This last consideration, however, makes it necessary to notice a new, and as it appears to me, almost grotesque development of the utilitarian theory. The duty of humanity to animals, though for a long period too much neglected, may, on the principles of the intuitive moralist, be easily explained and justified. Our circumstances and characters produce in us many and various affections towards all with whom we come in contact, and our consciences pronounce these affections to be good or bad. We feel that humanity or benevolence is a good affection, and also that it is due in different degrees to different classes. Thus it is not only natural but right that a man should care for his own family more than for the world at large, and this obligation applies not only to parents who are responsible for having brought their children into existence, and to children who owe a debt of gratitude to their parents, but also to brothers who have no such special tie. So too we feel it to be both unnatural and wrong to feel no stronger interest in our fellow-countrymen than in other men. In the same way we feel that there is a wide interval between the humanity it is both natural and right to exhibit towards animals, and that which is due to our own species. Strong philanthropy could hardly coexist with cannibalism, and a man who had no hesitation in destroying human life for the sake of obtaining the skins of the victims, or of freeing himself from some trifling inconvenience, would scarcely be eulogised for his benevolence. Yet a man may be regarded as very humane to animals who has no scruple in sacrificing their lives for his food, his pleasures, or his convenience.
Towards the close of the last century an energetic agitation in favour of humanity to animals arose in England, and the utilitarian moralists, who were then rising into influence, caught the spirit of their time and made very creditable efforts to extend it.1 It is manifest, however, that a theory which recognised no other end in virtue than the promotion of human happiness, could supply no adequate basis for the movement. Some of the recent members of the school have accordingly enlarged their theory, maintaining that acts are virtuous when they produce a net result of happiness, and vicious when they produce a net result of suffering, altogether irrespective of the question whether this enjoyment or suffering is of men or animals. In other words, they place the duty of man to animals on exactly the same basis as the duty of man to his fellow-men, maintaining that no suffering can be rightly inflicted on brutes, which does not produce a larger amount of happiness to man.2
The first reflection suggested by this theory is, that it appears difficult to understand how, on the principles of the inductive school, it could be arrived at. Benevolence, as we have seen, according to these writers begins in interest. We first of all do good to men, because it is for our advantage, though the force of the habit may at last act irrespective of interest. But in the case of animals which cannot resent barbarity, this foundation of self-interest does not for the most part1 exist. Probably, however, an association of ideas might help to solve the difficulty, and the habit of benevolence generated originally from the social relations of men might at last be extended to the animal world; but that it should be so to the extent of placing the duty to animals on the same basis as the duty to men, I do not anticipate, or (at the risk of being accused of great inhumanity), I must add, desire. I cannot look forward to a time when no one will wear any article of dress formed out of the skin of an animal, or feed upon animal flesh, till he has ascertained that the pleasure he derives from doing so, exceeds the pain inflicted upon the animal, as well as the pleasure of which by abridging its life he has deprived it.2 And supposing that with such a calculation before him, the utilitarian should continue to feed on the flesh of animals, his principle might carry him to further conclusions, from which I confess I should recoil. If, when Swift was writing his famous essay in favour of employing for food the redundant babies of a half-starving population, he had been informed that, according to the more advanced moralists, to eat a child, and to eat a sheep, rest upon exactly the same ground; that in the one case as in the other, the single question for the moralist is, whether the repast on the whole produces more pleasure than pain, it must be owned that the discovery would have greatly facilitated his task.
The considerations I have adduced will, I think, be sufficient to show that the utilitarian principle if pushed to its full logical consequences would be by no means as accordant with ordinary moral notions as is sometimes alleged; that it would, on the contrary, lead to conclusions utterly and outrageously repugnant to the moral feelings it is intended to explain. I will conclude this part of my argument by very briefly adverting to two great fields in which, as I believe, it would prove especially revolutionary.
The first of these is the field of chastity. It will be necessary for me in the course of the present work to dwell at greater length than I should desire upon questions connected with this virtue. At present, I will merely ask the reader to conceive a mind from which all notion of the intrinsic excellence or nobility of purity was banished, and to suppose such a mind comparing, by a utilitarian standard, a period in which sensuality was almost unbridled, such as the age of Athenian glory or the English restoration, with a period of austere virtue. The question which of these societies was morally the best would thus resolve itself solely into the question in which there was produced the greatest amount of enjoyment and the smallest amount of suffering. The pleasures of domestic life, the pleasures resulting from a froer social intercourse,1 the different degrees of suffering inflicted on those who violated the law of chastity, the ulterior consequences of each mode of life upon well-being and upon population, would be the chief elements of the comparison. Can any one believe that the balance of enjoyment would be so unquestionably and so largely on the side of the more austere society as to justify the degree of superiority which is assigned to it?2
The second sphere is that of speculative truth. No class of men have more highly valued an unflinching hostility to superstition than utilitarians. Yet it is more than doubtful whether upon their principles it can be justified. Many superstitions do undoubtedly answer to the Greek conception of slavish ‘fear of the gods, and have been productive of unspeakable misery to mankind, but there are very many others of a different tendency. Superstitions appeal to our hopes as well as to our fears. They often meet and gratify the inmost longings of the heart. They offer certainties when reason can only afford possibilities or probabilities. They supply conceptions on which the imagination loves to dwell. They sometimes even impart a new sanction to moral truths. Creating wants which they alone can satisfy, and fears which they alone can quell, they often become essential elements of happiness, and their consoling efficacy is most felt in the languid or troubled hours when it is most needed. We owe more to our illusions than to our knowledge. The imagination, which is altogether constructive, probably contributes more to our happiness than the reason, which in the sphere of speculation is mainly critical and destructive. The rude charm which in the hour of danger or distress the savage clasps so confidently to his breast, the sacred picture which is believed to shed a hallowing and protecting influence over the poor man's cottage, can bestow a more real consolation in the darkest hour of human suffering than can be afforded by the grandest theories of philosophy. The first desire of the heart is to find something on which to lean. Happiness is a condition of feeling, not a condition of circumstances, and to common minds one of its first essentials is the exclusion of painful and harassing doubt A system of belief may be false, superstitious, and reactionary, and may yet be conducive to human happiness if it furnishes great multitudes of men with what they believe to be a key to the universe, if it consoles them in those seasons of agonizing bereavement when the consolations of enlightened reason are but empty words, if it supports their feeble and tottering minds in the gloomy hours of sickness and of approaching death. A credulous and superstitious nature may be degraded, but in the many cases where superstition does not assume a persecuting or appalling form it is not unhappy, and degradation, apart from unhappiness, can have no place in utilitarian ethics. No error can be more grave than to imagine that when a critical spirit is abroad the pleasant beliefs will all remain, and the painful ones alone will perish. To introduce into the mind the consciousness of ignorance and the pangs of doubt is to inflict or endure much suffering, which may even survive the period of transition. ‘Why is it,’ said Luther's wife, looking sadly back upon the sensuous creed which she had left, ‘that in our old faith we prayed so often and so warmly, and that our prayers are now so few and so cold?1 It is related of an old monk named Serapion, who had embraced the heresy of the anthropomorphites, that he was convinced by a brother monk of the folly of attributing to the Almighty a human form. He bowed his reason humbly to the Catholic creed; but when he knelt down to pray, the image which his imagination had conceived, and on which for so many years his affections had been concentrated, had disappeared, and the old man burst into tears, exclaiming, ‘You have deprived me of my God.’2
These are indeed facts which must be deeply painful to all who are concerned with the history of opinion. The possibility of often adding to the happiness of men by diffusing abroad, or at least sustaining pleasing falsehoods, and the suffering that must commonly result from their dissolution, can hardly reasonably be denied. There is one, and but one, adequate reason that can always justify men in critically reviewing what they have been taught. It is, the conviction that opinions should not be regarded as mere mental luxuries, that truth should be deemed an end distinct from and superior to utility, and that it is a moral duty to pursue it, whether it leads to pleasure or whether it leads to pain. Among the many wise sayings which antiquity ascribed to Pythagoras, few are more remarkable than his division of virtue into two distinct branches—to be truthful and to do good.1
Of the sanctions which, according to the utilitarians, constitute the sole motives to virtue, there is one, as I have said, unexceptionably adequate. Those who adopt the religious sanction, can always appeal to a balance of interest in favour of virtue; but as the great majority of modern utilitarians confidently sever their theory from all theological considerations, I will dismiss this sanction with two or three remarks.
In the first place, it is obvious that those who regard the arbitrary will of the Deity as the sole rule of morals, render it perfectly idle to represent the Divine attributes as deserving of our admiration. To speak of the goodness of God, either implies that there is such a quality as goodness, to which the Divine acts conform, or it is an unmeaning tautology. Why should we extol, or how can we admire, the perfect goodness of a Being whose will and acts constitute the sole standard or definition of perfection?2 The theory which teaches that the arbitrary will of the Deity is the one rule of morals, and the anticipation of future rewards and punishments the one reason for conforming to it, consists of two parts. The first annihilates the goodness of God; the second, the virtue of man.
Another and equally obvious remark is, that while these theologians represent the hope of future rewards, and the fear of future punishments, as the only reason for doing right, one of our strongest reasons for believing in the existence of these rewards and punishments, is our deep—seated feeling of merit and demerit. That the present disposition of affairs is in many respects unjust, that suffering often attends a course which deserves reward, and happiness a course which deserves punishment, leads men to infer a future state of retribution. Take away the consciousness of desert, and the inference would no longer be made.
A third remark, which I believe to be equally true, but which may not be acquiesced in with equal readiness, is that without the concurrence of a moral faculty, it is wholly impossible to prove from nature that supreme goodness of the Creator, which utilitarian theologians assume. We speak of the benevolence shown in the joy of the insect glittering in the sunbeam, in the protecting instincts so liberally bestowed among the animal world, in the kindness of the parent to its young, in the happiness of little children, in the beauty and the bounty of nature, but is there not another side to the picture ? The hideous disease, the countless forms of rapine and of suffering, the entozoa that live within the bodies, and feed upon the anguish of sentient beings, the ferocious instinct of the cat, that prolongs with delight the agonies of its victim, all the multitudinous forms of misery that are manifested among the innocent portion of creation, are not these also the works of nature? We speak of the Divine veracity. What is the whole history of the intellectual progress of the world but one long struggle of the intellect of man to emancipate itself from the deceptions of nature ? Every object that meets the eye of the savage awakens his curiosity only to lure him into some deadly error. The sun that seems a diminutive light revolving around his world; the moon and the stars that appear formed only to light his path; the strangs fantastic diseases that suggest irresistibly the notion of present dÆmons; the terrific phenomena of nature which appear the results, not of blind forces, but of isolated spiritual agencies—all these things fatally, inevitably, invincibly impel him into superstition. Through long centuries the superstitions thus generated have deluged the world with blood. Millions of prayers have been vainly breathed to what we now know were inexorable laws of nature. Only after ages of toil did the mind of man emancipate itself from those deadly errors to which by the deceptive appearances of nature the long infancy of humanity is universally doomed.
And in the laws of wealth how different are the appearances from the realities of things! Who can estimate the wars that have been kindled, the bitterness and the wretchedness that have been caused, by errors relating to the apparent antagonism of the interests of nations which were so natural that for centuries they entangled the very strongest intellects, and it was scarcely till our own day that a tardy science came to dispel them ?
What shall we say to these things ? If inducaion alone were our guide, if we possessed absolutely no knowledge of some things being in their own nature good, and others in their own nature evil, how could we rise from this spectacle of nature to the conception of an all—perfect Author? Even if we could discover a predominance of benevolence in the creation, we should still regard the mingled attributes of nature as a reflex of the mingled attributes of its Contriver. Our knowledge of the Supreme Excellence, our best evidence even of the existence of the Creator, is derived not from the terial universe but from our own moral nature.1 It is not of reason but of faith. In other words it springs from that instinctive or moral nature which is as truly a part of our being as is our reason, which teaches us what reason could never teach, the supreme and transcendent excellence of moral good, which rising dissatisfied above this world of sense, proves itself by the very intensity of its aspiration to be adapted for another sphere, and which constitutes at once the evidence of a Divine element within us, and the augury of the future that is before us.1
These things belong rather to the sphere of feeling than of reasoning. Those who are most deeply persuaded of their truth, will probably feel that they are unable by argument to express adequately the intensity of their conviction, but they may point to the recorded experience of the best and greatest men in all ages, to the incapacity of terrestrial things to satisfy our nature, to the manifest tendency, both in individuals and nations, of a pure and heroic life to kindle, and of a selfish and corrupt life to cloud, these aspirations, to the historical fact that no philosophy and no scepticism have been able permanently to repress them. The lines of our moral nature tend upwards. In it we have the common root of religion and of ethics, for the same consciousness that tells as that, even when it is in fact the weakest element of our constitution, it is by right supreme, commanding and authoritative, teaches us also that it is Divine. All the nobler religions that have governed mankind, have done so by virtue of the affinity of their teaching with this nature, by speaking, as common religious language correctly describes it, ‘to the heart,’ by appealing not to self—interest, but to that Divine element of self—sacrifice which is latent in every soul. 2 The reality of this moral nature is the one great question of natural theology, for it involves that connection between our own and a higher nature, without which the existence of a First Cause were a mere question of archÆology, and religion but an exercise of the imagination.
I return gladly to the secular sanctions of utilitarianism. The majority of its disciples assure us that these are sufficient to establish their theory, or in other words, that our duty coincides so strictly with our interest when rightly understood, that a perfectly prudent would necessarily become a perfectly virtuous man.1 Bodily vice they tell us ultimately brings bodily weakness and suffering. Extravagance is followed by ruin; unbridled passions by the loss of domestic peace; disregard for the interests of others by social or legal penalties; while on the other hand, the most moral is also the most tranquil disposition; benevolence is one of the truest of our pleasures, and virtue may become by habit, an essential of enjoyment. As the shopkeeper who has made his fortune, still sometimes continues at the counter, because the daily routine has become necessary to his happiness, so the ‘ moral hero’ may continue to practise that virtue which was at first the mere instrument of his pleasures, as being in itself more precious than all besides.2
This theory of the perfect coincidence of virtue and interest rightly understood, which has always been a common-place of moralists, and has been advocated by many who were far from wishing to resolve virtue into prudence, contans no doubt a certain amount of truth, but only of the most general kind. It does not apply to nations as wholes, for although luxurious and effeminate vices do undoubtedly ode and enervate national character, the histories of ancient Rome and of not a few modern monarchies abundantly prove that a career of consistent rapacity, ambition, selfishness, and fraud may be eminently conducive to national prosperity.1 It does not apply to imperfectly organised societies, where the restraints of public opinion are unfelt and where force is the one measure of right. It does not apply except in a very partial degree even to the most civilised of mankind. It is, indeed, easy to show that in a polished community a certain low standard of virtue is essential to prosperity, to paint the evils of unrestrained passions, and to prove that it is better to obey than to violate the laws of society. But if turning from the criminal or the drunkard we were to compare the man who simply falls in with or slightly surpasses the average morals of those about him, and indulges in a little vice which is neither injurious to his own health nor to his reputation, with the man who earnestly and painfully adopts a much higher standard than that of his time or of his class, we should be driven to another conclusion. Honesty it is said is the best policy-a fact, however, which depends very much upon the condition of the police force—but heroic virtue must rest upon a different basis. If happiness in any of its forms be the supreme object of life, moderation is the most emphatic counsel of our being, but moderation is as opposed to heroism as to vice. There is no form of intellectual or moral excellence which has not a general tendency to produce happiness if cultivated in moderation. There are very few which if cultivated to great perfection have not a tendency directly the reverse. Thus a mind that is sufficiently enlarged to range abroad amid the pleasures of intellect has no doubt secured a fund of inexhaustible enjoyment; but he who inferred from this that the highest intellectual eminence was the condition most favour able to happiness would be lamentably deceived. The diseased nervous sensibility that accompanies intense mental exertion, the weary, wasting sense of ignorance and vanity, the disenchantment and disintegration that commonly follow a profound research, have filled literature with mournfu’ echoes of the words of the royal sage,' In much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.' The lives of men of genius have been for the most part a conscious and deliberate realisation of the ancient myth—the tree of knowledge and the tree of life stood side by side, and they chose the tree of knowledge rather than the tree of life.
Nor is it otherwise in the realm of morals.1 The virtue which is most conducive to happiness is plainly that which can be realised without much suffering, and sustained without much effort, Legal and physical penalties apply only to the grosser and more extreme forms of vice. Social penalties may strike the very highest forms of virtue.1 That very sentiment of unity with mankind which utilitarians assure us is one day to become so strong as to overpower all unsocial feelings, would make it more and more impossible for men consistently with their happiness to adopt any course, whether very virtuous or very vicious, that would place them out of harmony with the general sentiment of society. It may be said that the tranquillity of a perfectly virtuous mind is the highest form of happiness, and may be reasonably preferred not only to material advantages, but also to the approbation of society; but no man can fully attain, and few can even approximate, to such a condition. When vicious passions and impulses are very strong, it is idle to tell the sufferer that he would be more happy if his nature were radically different from what it is. If happiness be his object, he must regulate his course with a view to the actual condition of his being, and there can be little doubt that his peace would be most promoted by a compromise with vice. The selfish theory of morals applies only to the virtues of temperament, and not to that much higher form of virtue which is sustained in defiance of temperament.2 We have no doubt a certain pleasure in cultivating our good tendencies, but we have by no means the same pleasure in repressing our bad ones. There are men whose whole lives are spent in willing one thing, and desiring the opposite. In such cases as these virtue clearly involves a sacrifice of happiness; for the suffering caused by resisting natural tendencies is much greater than would ensue from their moderate gratification.
The plain truth is that no proposition can be more palpably and egregiously false than the assertion that as far as this world is concerned, it is invariably conducive to the happiness of a man to pursue the most virtuous career, Cir camstances and disposition will make one man find his highest happiness in the happiness, and another man in the misery, of his kind; and if the second man acts according to his interest, the utilitarian, however much he may deplore the result, has no right to blame or condemn the agent. For that agent is following his greatest happiness, and this, in the eyes of utilitarians, in one form or another, is the highest, or to speak more accurately, the only motive by which human nature can be actuated.
We may remark too that the disturbance or pain which does undoubtedly usually accompany what is evil, bears no kind of proportion to the enormity of the guilt. An irritability of temper, which is chiefly due to a derangement of the nervous system, or a habit of procrastination or indecision, will often cause more suffering than some of the worst vices that can corrupt the heart.1
But it may be said this calculation of pains and pleasures is defective through the omission of one element. Although a man who had a very strong natural impulse towards some vice would appear more likely to promote the tranquillity of his nature by a moderate and circumspect gratification of that vice, than by endeavouring painfully to repress his natural tendencies, yet he possesses a conscience which adjudicates upon his conduct, and its sting or its approval constitutes a pain or pleasure so intense, as more than to redress the balance. Now of course, no intuitive moralist will deny, what for a long time his school may be almost said to have been alone in asserting, the reality of conscience, or the pleasures and pains it may afford. He simply denies, and he appeals to consciousness in attestation of his position, that those pains and pleasures are so powerful or so proportioned to our acts as to become an adequate basis for virtue. Conscience, whether we regard it as an original faculty, or as a product of the association of ideas, exercises two distinct functions. It points out a difference between right and wrong, and when its commands are violated, it inflicts a certain measure of suffering and disturbance. The first function it exercises persistently through life. The second it only exercises under certain special circumstances. It is scarcely conceivable that a man in the possession of his faculties should pass a life of gross depravity and crime without being conscious that he was doing wrong; but it is extremely possible for him to do so without this consciousness having any appreciable influence upon his tranquillity. The condition of their consciences, as Mr. Carlyle observes, has less influence on the happiness of men than the condition of their livers. Considered as a source of pain, conscience bears a striking resemblance to the feeling of disgust. Notwithstanding the assertion of Dr. Johnson, I venture to maintain that there are multitudes to whom the necessity of discharging the duties of a butcher would be so inexpressibly painful and revolting, that if they could obtain flesh diet on no other condition, they would relinquish it for ever. But to those who are inured to the trade, this repugnance has simply ceased. It has no place in their emotions or calculations. Nor can it be reasonably questioned that most men by an assiduous attendance at the slaughter-house could acquire a similar indifference. In like manner, the reproaches of conscience are doubtless a very real and important form of suffering to a sensitive, scrupulous, and virtuous girl who has committed some trivial act of levity or disobedience; but to an old and hardened criminal they are a matter of the most absolute indifference.
Now it is undoubtedly conceivable, that by an association of ideas men might acquire a feeling that would cause that which would naturally be painful to them to be pleasurable, and that which would naturally be pleasurable to be painful.1 But the question will immediately arise, why should they respect this feeling ? We have seen that, according to the inductive theory, there is no such thing as natural duty. Men enter into life solely desirous of seeking their own happiness. The whole edifice of virtue arises from the observed fact, that owing to the constitution of our nature, and the intimacy of our social relations, it is necessary for our happiness to abstain from some courses that would be immediately pleasurable and to pursue others that are immediately the reverse. Self-interest is the one ultimate reason for virtue, however much the moral chemistry of Hartley may disguise and transform it. Ought or ought not, means nothing more than the prospect of acquiring or of losing pleasure. The fact that one line of conduct promotes, and another impairs the happiness of others is, according to these moralists, in the last analysis, no reason whatever for pursuing the former or avoiding the latter, unless such a course is that which brings us the greatest happiness. The happiness may arise from the action of society upon ourselves, or from our own naturally benevolent disposition, or, again, from an association of ideas, which means the force of a habit we have formed, but in any case our own happiness is the one possible or conceivable motive of action. If this be a true picture of human nature, the reasonable course for every man is to modify his disposition in such a manner that he may attain the greatest possible amount of enjoyment. If he has formed an association of ideas, or contracted a habit which inflicts more pain than it prevents, or prevents more pleasure than it affords, his reasonable course is to dissolve that association, to destroy that habit. This is what he ‘ought’ to do according to the only meaning that word can possess in the utilitarian vocabulary. If he does not, he will justly incur the charge of imprudence, which is the only charge utilitarianism can consistently bring against vice.
That it would befor the happiness as it would certainly be in the power of a man of a temperament such as I have lately described, to quench that conscientious feeling, which by its painful reproaches prevents him from pursuing the course that would be most conducive to his tranquillity, I conceive to be self-evident. And, indeed, on the whole, it is more than doubtful whether conscience, considered apart from the course of action it prescribes, is not the cause of more pain than pleasure. Its reproaches are more felt than its approval. The self-complacency of a virtuous man reflecting with delight upon his own exceeding merit, is frequently spoken of in the writings of moral philosophers,1 but is rarely found in actual life where the most tranquil is seldom the most perfect nature, where the sensitiveness of conscience increases at least in proportion to moral growth, and where in the best men a feeling of modesty and humility is always present to check the exuberance of self-gratulation.
In every sound system of morals and religion the motives of virtue become more powerful the more the mind is concentrated upon them. It is when they are lost sight of, when they are obscured by passion, unrealised or forgotten, that they cease to operate. But it is a peculiarity of the utilitarian conception of virtue that it is wholly unable to resist the solvent of analysis, and that the more the mind realises its origin and its nature, the more its influence on character must decline. The pleasures of the senses will always defy the force of analysis, for they have a real foundation in our being. They have their basis in the eternal nature of things. But the pleasure we derive from the practice of virtue rests, according to this school, on a wholly different basis. It is the result of casual and artificial association, of habit, of a confusion by the imagination of means with ends, of a certain dignity with which society invests qualities or actions that are useful to itself. Just in proportion as this is felt, just in proportion as the mind separates the idea of virtue from that of natural excellence and obligation, and realises the purely artificial character of the connection, just in that proportion will the coercive power of the moral motive be destroyed. The utilitarian rule of judging actions and dispositions by their tendency to promote or diminish happiness, or the maxim of Kant that man should always act so that the rule of his conduct might be adopted as a law by all rational beings may be very useful as a guide in life; but in order that they should acquire moral weight, it is necessary to presuppose the sense of moral obligation, the consciousness that duty, when discovered, has a legitimate claim to be the guiding principle of our lives. And it is this element which, in the eye of reason, the mere artificial association of ideas can never furnish.
If the patience of the reader has enabled him to accompany me through this long train of tedious arguments, he will, I think, have concluded that the utilitarian theory, though undoubtedly held by many men of the purest, and by some men of almost heroic virtue, would if carried to its logical conclusions prove subversive of morality, and aspecially, and in the very highest degree, unfavourable to self-denial and to heroism. Even if it explains these, it fails to justify them, and conscience being traced to a mere confusion of the means of happiness with its end, would be wholly unable to resist the solvent of criticism. That this theory of conscience gives a true or adequate description of the phenomenon it seeks to explain, no intuitive moralist will admit. It is a complete though common mistake to suppose that the business of the moralist is merely to explain the genesis of certain feelings we possess. At the root of all morals lies an intellectual judgment which is clearly distinct from liking or disliking, from pleasure or from pain. A man who has injured his position by some foolish but perfectly innocent act, or who has inadvertently violated some social rule, may experience an emotion of self-reproach or of shame quite as acute as if he had committed a crime. But he is at the same time clearly conscious that his conduct is not a fit subject for moral reprobation, that the grounds on which it may be condemned are of a different and of a lower kind. The sense of obligation and of legitimate supremacy, which is the essential and characteristic feature of conscience, and which distinguishes it from all the other parts of our nature, is wholly unaccounted for by the association of ideas. To say that a certain course of conduct is pleasing, and that a certain amount of pain results from the weakening of feelings that impel men towards it, is plainly different from what men mean when they say we ought to pursue it. The virtue of Hartley is, in its last analysis, but a disease of the imagination. It may be more advantageous to society than avarice; but it is formed in the same manner, and has exactly the same degree of binding force.1
These considerations will help to supply an answer to the common utilitarian objection that to speak of duty as distinct from self-interest is unmeaning, because it is absurd to say that we are under an obligation to do any thing when no evil consequences would result to us from not doing it. Rewards and punishments it may be answered are undoubtedly necessary to enforce, but they are not necessary to constitute, duty. This distinction, whether it be real or not, has at all events the advantage of appearing self-evident to all who are not philosophers. Thus when a party of colonists occupy a new territory they divide the unoccupied land among themselves, and they murder, or employ for the gratification of their lusts, the savage inhabitants. Both acts are done with perfect impunity, but one is felt to be innocent and the other wrong. A lawful government appropriates the land and protects the aboriginals, supporting its enactments by penalties. In the one case the law both creates and enforces a duty, in the other it only enforces it. The intuitive moralist simply asserts that we have the power of perceiving that certain courses of action are higher, nobler, and better than others, and that by the constitution of our being, this fact, which is generically distinct from the prospect of pleasure or the reverse, may and ought to be and continually is a motive of action. It is no doubt possible for a man to prefer the lower course, and in this case we say he is deserving of punishment, and if he remains unpunished we say that it is unjust. But if there were no power to reward or punish him, his acts would not be indifferent. They would still be intelligibly described as essentially base or noble, shameful though there were none to censure, admirable though there were none to admire.
That men have the power of preferring other objects than happiness is a proposition which must ultimately be left to the attestation of consciousness. That the pursuit of virtue, however much happiness may eventually follow in its train, is in the first instance an example of this preference, must be established by that common voice of mankind which has invariably regarded a virtuous motive as generically different from an interested one. And indeed even when the conflict between strong passions and a strong sense of duty does not exist it is impossible to measure the degrees of virtue by the scale of enjoyment. The highest nature is rarely the happiest. Petronius Arbiter was very probably, a happier man than Marcus Aurelius. For eighteen centuries the religious instinct of Christendom has recognised its ideal in the form of a ‘Man of Sorrows.’
Considerations such as I have now urged lead the intuitive moralists to reject the principles of the utilitarian. They acknowledge indeed that the effect of actions upon the happiness of mankind forms a most important element in determining their moral quality, but they maintain that without natural moral perceptions we never should have known that it was our duty to seek the happiness of mankind when it diverged from our own, and they deny that virtue was either originally evolved from or is necessarily proportioned to utility. They acknowledge that in the existing condition of society there is at least a general coircidence between the paths of virtue and of prosperity, but they contend that the obligation of virtue is of such a nature that no conceivable convulsion of affairs could destroy it, and that it would continue even if the government of the world belonged to supreme malice instead of supreme benevolence. Virtue, they believe, is something more than a calculation or a habit. It is impossible to conceive its fundamental principles reversed. Notwithstanding the strong tendency to confuse cognate feelings, the sense of duty and the sense of utility remain perfectly distinct in the apprehension of mankind, and we are quite capable of recognising each separate ingredient in the same act. Our respect for a gallant but dangerous enemy, our contempt for a useful traitor, our care in the last moments of life for the interests of those who survive us, our clear distinction between intentional and unintentional injuries, and between the consciousness of imprudence and the consciousness of guilt, our conviction that the pursuit of interest should always be checked by a sense of duty, and that selfish and moral motives are so essentially opposed, that the presence of the former necessarily weakens the latter, our indignation at those who when honour or gratitude call them to sacrifice their interests pause to calculate remote consequences, the feeling of remorse which differs from every other emotion of our nature—in a word, the universal, unstudied sentiments of mankind all concur in leading us to separate widely our virtuous affections from our selfish cnes. Just as pleasure and pain are ultimate grounds of action, and no reason can be given why we should seek the former and avoid the latter, except that it is the constitution of our nature that we should do so, so we are conscious that the words right and wrong express ultimate intelligible motives, that these mnotives are generically different from the others, that they are of a higher order, and that they carry with them a sense of obligation. Any scheme of morals that omits these facts fails to give an accurate and adequate description of the states of feeling which consciousness reveals. The consciences of men in every age would have echoed the assertion of Cicero that to sacrifice pleasure with a view of obtaining any form or modification of pleasure in return, no more arswers to our idea of virtue, than to lend money at interest to our idea of charity. The conception of pure disinterestedness is presupposed in our estimates of virtue. It is the root of all the emotions with which we contemplate acts of heroism. We feel that man is capable of pursuing what he believes to be right although pain and disaster and mental suffering and an early death be the consequence, and although no prospect of future reward lighten upon his tomb. This is the highest prerogative of our being, the point of contact between the human nature and the divine.
In addition to the direct arguments in its support, the utilitarian school owes much of its influence to some very powerful moral and intellectual predispositions in its favour—the first, which we shall hereafter examine, consisting of the tendency manifested in certain conditions of society towards the qualities it is most calculated to produce, and the second of the almost irresistible attraction which unity and precision exercise on many minds. It was this desire to simplify human nature, by reducing its various faculties and complex operations to a single principle or process, that gave its great popularity to the sensational school of the last century. It led most metaphysicians of that school to deny the duality of human nature. It led Bonnet and Condillac to propose an animated statue, endowed with the five senses as channels of ideas, and with faculties exclusively employed in transforming the products of sensation, as a perfect representative of humanity. It led Helvétius to assert that the original faculties of all men were precisely the same, all the difference between what we call genius and what we call stupidity arising from differences of circumstances, and all the difference between men and animals arising mainly from the structure of the human hand. In morals, theories of unification are peculiarly plausible, and I think peculiarly dangerous, because, owing to the interaction of our moral sentiments, and the many transformations that each can undergo, there are few affections that might not under some conceivable circumstances become the parents of every other. When Hobbes, in the name of the philosophy of self-interest, contended that ‘Pity is but the imagination of future calamity to ourselves, produced by the sense of another man's calamity;’1 when Hutcheson, in the name of the philosophy of benevolence, argued that the vice of intemperance is that it impels us to violence towards others, and weakens our capacity for doing them good;2 when other moralists defending the excellence of our nature maintained that compassion is so emphatically the highest of our pleasures that a desire of gratifying it is the cause of our acts of barbarity;3 each of these theories, extravagant as it is, contains a germ of undoubted psychological truth. It is true that a mind intensely apprehensive of future calamities would on that account receive a shock at the sight of the calamities of others. It is true that a very keen and absorbing sentiment of benevolence would be in itself sufficient to divert men from any habit that impaired their power of gratifying it. It is true that compassion involves a certain amount of pleasure, and conceivable that this pleasure might be so intensified that we might seek it by a crime. The error in these theories is not that they exaggerate the possible efficacy of the motives, but that they exaggerate their actual intensity in human nature and describe falsely one process by which the results they seek to explain have been arrived at. The function of observation in moral philosophy is not simply to attest the moral sentiments we possess, leaving it to the reason to determine deductively how they may have been formed; it is rather to follow them through all the stages of their formation.
And here I may observe that the term inductive, like most others that are employed in moral philosophy, may give rise to serious misconception. It is properly applied to those moralists who, disbelieving the existence of any moral sence or faculty revealing to us what is right and wrong, maintain that the origin of those ideas is simply our experience of the tendency of different lines of conduct to promote or impair true happiness. It appears, however, to be sometimes imagined that inductive moralists alone think that it is by in duction or experience that we ought to ascertain what is the origin of our moral ideas. But this I conceive to be a complete mistake. The basis of morals is a distinct question from the basis of theories of morals. Those who maintain the existence of a moral faculty do not, as is sometimes said, assume this proposition as a first principle of their arguments, but they arrive at it by a process of induction quite as severe as any that can be employed by their opponents.1 They examine, analyse, and classify their existing moral feelings, ascertain in what respects those feelings agree with or differ from others, trace them through their various phases, and only assign them to a special faculty when they think they have shown them to be incapable of resolution, and generically different from all others.2
This separation is all that is meant by a moral faculty. We are apt to regard the term as implying a distinct and well defined organ, bearing to the mind the same kind of relation as a limb to the body. But of the existence of such organs, and of the propriety of such material imagery, we know nothing. Perceiving in ourselves a will, and a crowd of intellectual and emotional phenomena that seem wholly different from the properties of matter, we infer the existence of an immaterial substance which wills, thinks, and feels, and can classify its own operations with considerable precision. The term faculty is simply an expression of classification. If we say that the moral faculty differs from the æsthetic faculty, we can only mean that the mind forms certain judgments of moral excellence, and also certain judgments of beauty, and that these two mental processes are clearly distinct. To ask to what part of our nature moral perceptions should be attributed, is only to ask to what train of mental phenomena they bear the closest resemblance.
If this simple, but often neglected, consideration be borne in mind, the apparent discordance of intuitive moralists will appear less profound than might at first sight be supposed, for each section merely elucidates some one characteristic of moral judgments. Thus Butler insists upon the sense of obligation that is involved in them, contends that this separates them from all other sentiments, and assigns them in consequence to a special faculty of supreme authority called conscience. A dam Smith and many other writers were especially struck by their sympathetic character. We are naturally attracted by humanity, and repelled by cruelty, and this instinctive, unreasoning sentiment constitutes, according to these moralists, the difference between right and wrong. Cudworth, however, the English precursor of Kant, had already anticipated, and later metaphysicians have more fully exhibited, the inadequacy of such an analysis. Justice, humanity, veracity, and kindred virtues not merely have the power of attracting us, we have also an intellectual perception that they are essentially and immutably good, that their nature does not depend upon, and is not relative to, our constitutions; that it is impossible and inconceivable they should ever be vices, and their opposites, virtues. They are, therefore, it is said, intuitions of the reason. Clarke, developing the same rational school, and following in the steps of those moralists who regard our nature as a hierarchy of powers or faculties, with different degrees of dignity, and an appropriate order of supremacy and subordination, maintained that virtue consisted in harmony with the nature of things. Wollaston endeavoured to reduce it to truth, and Hutcheson to benevolence, which he maintained is recognised and approved by what his respect for the philosophy of Locke induced him to call' a moral sense,' but what Shaftesbury had regarded as a moral ‘taste.’ The pleasure attending the gratification of this taste, according to Shaftesbury and Henry More, is the motive to virtue. The doctrine of a moral sense or faculty was the basis of the ethics of Reid. Hume maintained that the peculiar quality of virtue is its ‘utility, but that our affections are purely disinterested, and that we arrive at our knowledge of what is virtuous by a moral sense implanted in our nature, which leads us instinctively to approve of all acts that are beneficial to others. Expanding a pregnant hint which had been thrown out by Butler, he laid the foundation for a union of the schools of Clarke and Shaftesbury, by urging that our moral decisions are not simple, but complex, containing both a judgment of the reason, and an emotion of the heart. This fact has been elucidated still further by later writers, who have observed that these two elements apply in varying degrees to different kinds of virtue. According to Lord Kames, our intellectual perception of right and wrong applies most strictly to virtues like justice or veracity, which are of what is called ‘perfect obligation,’ or, in other words, are of such a nature, that their violation is a distinct crime, while the emotion of attraction or affection is shown most strongly towards virtues of imperfect obligation, like benevolence or charity. Like Hutcheson and Shaftesbury, Lord Kames notices the analogies between our moral and æsthetical judgments.
These last analogies open out a region of thought widely different from that we have been traversing. The close connection between the good and the beautiful has been always felt, so much so, that both were in Greek expressed by the same word, and in the philosophy of Plato, moral beauty was regarded as the archetype of which all visible beauty is only the shadow or the image. We all feel that there is a striet propriety in the term moral beauty. We feel that there are different forms of beauty which have a natural correspondence to different moral qualities, and much of the charm of poetry and eloquence rests upon this harmony. We feel that we have a direct, immediate, intuitive perception that some objects, such as the sky above us, are beautiful, that this perception of beauty is totally different, and could not possibly be derived, from a perception of theis utility, and that it bears a very striking resemblance to the instantaneous and unreasoning admiration elicited by a generous or heroic action. We perceive too, if we examine with care the operations of our own mind, that an æsthetical judgment includes an intuition or intellectual perception, and an emotion of attraction or admiration, very similar to those which compose a moral judgment. The very idea of beauty again implies that it should be admired, as the idea of happiness implies that it should be desired, and the idea of duty that it should be performed. There is also a striking correspondence between the degree and kind of uniformity we can in each case discover. That there is a difference between right and wrong, and between beauty and ugliness, are both propositions which are universally felt. That right is better than wrong, and beauty than ugliness, are equally unquestioned. When we go further, and attempt to define the nature of these qualities, we are met indeed by great diversities of detail, but by a far larger amount of substantial unity. Poems like the Iliad or the Psalms, springing in the most dissimilar quarters, have commanded the admiration of men, through all the changes of some 3,000 years. The charm of music, the harmony of the female countenance, the majesty of the starry sky, of the ocean or of the mountain, the gentler beauties of the murmuring stream or of the twilight shades, were felt, as they are felt now, when the imagination of the infant world first embodied itself in written words. And in the same way types of heroism, and of virtue, descending from the remotest ages, command the admiration of mankind. We can sympathise with the emotions of praise or blame revealed in the earliest historians, and the most ancient moralists strike a responsive chord in every heart. The broad lines remain unchanged. No one ever contended that justice was a vice or injustice a virtue; or that a summer sunset was a repulsive object, or that the sores upon a humar body were beautifal. Always, too, the objects of æsthetcal admiration were divided into two great classes, the sublime and the beautiful, which in ethics have their manifest ecinter-parts in the heroic and the amiable.
If, again, we examine the undoubted diversities that exist in judgments of virtue and of beauty, we soon discover that in each case a large proportion of them are to be ascribed to the different degrees of civilisation. The moral standard changes within certain limits, and according to a regular process with the evolutions of society. There are virtues very highly estimated in a rude civilisation which sink into comparative insignificance in an organised society, while conversely, virtues that were deemed sccondary in the first become primary in the other. There are even virtues that it is impossible for any but highly cultivated minds to recognise. Questions of virtue and vice, such as the difference between humanity and barbarity, or between temperance and intemperance, are sometimes merely questions of degree, and the standard at one stage of civilisation may be much higher than at another. Just in the same way a steady modification of tastes, while a recognition of the broad features of beauty remains unchanged, accompanies advancing civilisation. The preference of gaudy to subdued tints, of colour to form, of a florid to a chaste style, of convulsive attitudes, gigantic figures, and strong emotions, may be looked for with considerable confidence in an uninstructed people. The refining influence of cultivation is in no sphere more remarkable than in the canons of taste it produces, and there are few better measures of the civilisation of a people than the conceptions of beauty it forms, the type or ideal it endeavours to realise.
Many diversities, however, both of moral and æsthetical judgments, may be traced to accidental causes. Some one who is greatly admired, or who possesses great influence, is distinguished by some peculiarity of appearance, or introduces some peculiarity of dress. He will soon find countless imitators. Gradually the natural sense of beauty will be come vitiated; the eye and the taste will adjust themselves to a false and artificial standard, and men will at last judge according to it with the most absolute spontaneity. In the same way, if any accidental circumstance has elevated an indifferent action to peculiar honour, if a religious system enforces it as a virtue or brands it as a vice, the consciences of men will after a time accommodate themselves to the sentence, and an appeal to a wider than a local tribunal in necessary to correct the error. Every nation, again, from its peculiar circumstances and position, tends to some particular type, both of beauty and of virtue, and it naturally extols its national type beyond all others. The virtues of a small poor nation, living among barren mountains, surrounded by powerful enemies, and maintaining its independence only by the most inflexible discipline, watchfulness, and courage, will be in some degree different from those of a rich people removed from all fear of invasion and placed in the centre of commerce. The former will look with a very lenient eye on acts of barbarity or treachery, which to the latter woud appear unspeakably horrible, and will value very highly certain virtues of discipline which the other will comparatively neglect. So, too, the conceptions of beauty formed by a nation of negroes will be different from those formed by a nation of whites;1 the splendour of a tropical sky or the savage grandeur of a northern ocean, the aspect of great mountains or of wide plains, will not only supply nations with present images of sublimity or beauty, but will also contribute to form their standard and affect their judgments. Local customs or observances become so interwoven with our earliest recollections, that we at last regard them as essentially venerable, and even in the most trivial matters it requires a certain effort to dissolve the association. There was much wisdom as well as much wit in the picture of the novelist who described the English footman's contempt for the uniforms of the French, ‘blue being altogether ridiculous for regimentals, except in the blue guards and artillery;’ and I suppose there are few Englishmen into whose first confused impression of France there does not enter a halfinstinctive feeling of repugnance caused by the ferocious appearance of a peasantry who are all dressed like butchers.1
It has been said2 that ‘the feelings of beauty, grandeur, and whatever else is comprehended under the name of taste, do not lead to action, but terminate in delightful contemplation, which constitutes the essential distinction between them and the moral sentiments to which in some points of view they may doubtless be likened.’ This position I conceive to be altogether untenable. Our æsthetical judgment is of the nature of a preference. It leads us to prefer one class of objects to another, and whenever other things are equal, becomes a ground for action. In choosing the persons with whom we live, the neighbourhood we inhabit, the objects that surround us, we prefer that which is beautiful to that which is the reverse, and in every case in which a choice between beauty and deformity is in question, and no counteracting motive intervenes, we choose the former, and avoid the latter. There are no doubt innumerable events in life in which this question does not arise, but there are also very many in which we are not called upon to make a moral judgment. We say a man is actuated by strong moral principle who chooses according to its dictates in every case involving a moral judgment that comes naturally before him, and who in obedience to its impulse pursues special courses of action. Corresponding propositions may be maintained with perfect truth concerning our sense of beauty. In proportion to its strength does it guide our course in ordinary life, and determine our peculiar pursuits. We may indeed sacrifice our sense of material beauty to considerations of utility with much more alacrity than our sense of moral beauty; we may consent to build a shapeless house sooner than to commit a dishonourable action, but we cannot voluntarily choose that which is simply deformed, rather than that which is beautiful, without a certain feeling of pain, and a pain of this kind, according to the school of Hartley, is the precise definition of conscience. Nor is it at all difficult to conceive men with a sense of beauty so strong that they would die rather than outrage it.
Considering all these things, it is not surprising that many moralists should have regarded moral excellence as simply the highest form of beauty, and moral cultivation as the supreme refinement of taste. But although this manner of regarding it is, as I think, far more plausible than the theory which resolves virtue into utility, although the Greek moralists and the school of Shaftesbury have abundantly proved that there is an extremely close connection between these orders of ideas, there are two considerations which appear to show the inadequacy of this theory. We are clearly conscious of the propriety of applying the epithet ‘beautiful’ to virtues such as charity, reverence, or devotion, but we cannot apply it with the same propriety to duties of perfect obligation, such as veracity or integrity. The sense of beauty and the affection that follows it attach themselves rather to modes of enthusiasm and feeling than to the course of simple duty which constitutes a merely truthful and upright man.1 Besides this, as the Stoics and Butler have shown, the position of conscience in our nature is wholly unique, and clearly separates morals from a study of the beautiful. While each of our senses or appetites has a restricted sphere of operation, it is the function of conscience to survey the whole constitution of our being, and assign limits to the gratification of all our various passions and desires. Differing not in degree, but in kind from the other principles of our nature, we feel that a course of conduct which is opposed to it may be intelligibly described as unnatural, even when in accordance with our most natural appetites, for to conscience is assigned the prerogative of both judging and restraining them all. Its power may be insignificant, but its title is undisputed, and ‘if it had might as it has right, it would govern the world.’1 It is this faculty, distinct from, and superior to, all appetites, passions, and tastes, that makes virtue the supreme law of life, and adds an imperative character to the feeling of attraction it inspires. It is this which was described by Cicero as the God ruling within us; by the Stoics as the sovereignty of reason; by St. Paul as the law of nature; by Butler as the supremacy of conscience.
The distinction of different parts of our nature, as higher or lower, which appears in the foregoing reasoning, and which occupies so important a place in the intuitive system of morals, is one that can only be defended by the way of illustrations. A writer can only select cases in which such distinctions seem most apparent, and leave them to the feelings of his reader. A few examples will, I hope, be sufficient to show that even in our pleasures, we are not simply determined by the amount of enjoyment, but that there is a difference of kind, which may be reasonably described by the epithets, higher or lower.
If we suppose a being from another sphere, who derived his conceptions from a purely rational process, without the intervention of the senses, to descend to our world, and to enquire into the principles of human nature, I imagine thee are few points that would strike him as more anomalous, on which he would be more absolutely unable to realise, than the different estimates in which men hold the pleasures derived from the two senses of tasting and hearing. Under the first is comprised the enjoyment resulting from the action of certain kinds of food upon the palate. Under the second the charm of music. Each of these forms of pleasure is natural, each can be greatly heightened by cultivation, in each case the pleasure may be vivid, but is very transient, and in neither case do evil consequences necessarily ensue. Yet with so many undoubted points of resemblance, when we turn to the actual world, we find the difference between these two orders of pleasure of such a nature, that a comparison seems absolutely ludicrous. In what then does this difference consist! Not, surely, in the greater intensity of the enjoyment derived from music, for in many cases this superiority does not exist.1 We are all conscious that in our comparison of these pleasures, there is an element distinct from any consideration of their intensity, duration, or consequences. We naturally artach a faint notion of shame to the one, while we as naturally glory in the other. A very keen sense of the pleasures of the palate is looked upon as in a certain degree discreditable. A man will hardly boast that he is very fond of eating, but he has no hesitation in acknowledging that he is very fond of music. The first taste lowers, and the second clevates him in his own eyes, and in those of his neighbours.
Again, let a man of cheerful disposition, and of a cultivated but not very fastidious taste, observe his own emotions and the countenances of those around him during the representation of a clever tragedy and of a clever farce, and it is probable that he will come to the conclusion that his enjoyment in the latter case has been both more unmingled and more intense than in the former. He has felt no lassitude, he has not endured the amount of pain that necessarily accompanies the pleasure of pathos, he has experienced a vivid, absorbing pleasure, and he has traced similar emotions in the violent demonstrations of his neighbours. Yet he will readily admit that the pleasure derived from the tragedy is of a higher order than that derived from the farce. Sometimes he will find himself hesitating which of the two he will choose. The love of mere enjoyment leads him to the one. A sense of its nobler character inclines him to the other.
A similar distinction may be observed in other departments. Except in the relation of the sexes, it is probable that a more intense pleasure is usually obtained from the grotesque and the eccentric, than from the perfections of beauty. The pleasure derived from beauty is not violent in its nature, and it is in most cases peculiarly mixed with melancholy. The feelings of a man who is deeply moved by a lovely landscape are rarely those of extreme elation. A shade of melancholy steals over his mind. His eyes fill with tears. A vague and unsatisfied longing fills his soul. Yet, troubled and broken as is this form of enjoyment, few persons would hesitate to pronounce it of a higher kind than any that can be derived from the exhibitions of oddity.
If pleasures were the sole objects of our pursuit, and if their excellence were measured only by the quantity of enjoyment they afford, nothing could appear more obvious than that the man would be esteemed most wise who attained his object at least cost. Yet the whole course of civilisation as in a precisely opposite direction. A child derives the keenest and most exquisite enjoyment from the simplest objects. A flower, a doll, a rude game, the least artistic tale, is sufficient to enchant it. An uneducated peasant is enraptured with the wildest story and the coarsest wit. Increased cultivation almost always produces a fastidiousness which renders necessary the increased elaboration of our pleasures. We attach a certain discredit to a man who has retained those of childhood. The very fact of our deriving pleasure from certain amusements creates a kind of humiliation, for we feel that they are not in harmony with the nobility of our nature.1
Our judgments of societies resemble in this respect our judgments of individuals. Few persons, I think, who have compared the modes of popular life in stagnant and unde veloped countries like Spain with those in the great centres, of industrial civilisation, will venture to pronounce with any confidence that the quantum or average of actual realised enjoyment is greater in the civilised than in the semi-civilised society. An undeveloped nature is by no means necessarily an unhappy nature, and although we possess no accurate gauge of happiness, we may, at least, be certain that its degrees do not coincide with the degrees of prosperity. The tastes and habits of men in a backward society accommodate themselves to the narrow circle of a few pleasures, and probably find in these as complete satisfaction as more civilised men in a wider range; and if there is in the first condition somewhat more of the weariness of monotony, there is in the second much more of the anxiety of discontent. The superiority of a highly civilised man lies chiefly in the fact that he belongs to a higher order of being, for he has approached more nearly to the end of his existence, and has called into action a larger number of his capacities. And this is in itself an end. Even if, as is not improbable, the lower animals are happier than man,1 and semi-barbarians than civilised men, still it is better to be a man than a brute, better to be born amid the fierce struggles of civilisation than in some stranded nation apart from all the flow of enterprise and knowledge. Even in that material civilisation which utilitarianism delights to glorify, there is an element which the philosophy of mere enjoyment cannot explain.
Again, if we ask the reason of the vast and indisputable superiority which the general voice of mankind gives to mental pleasures, considered as pleasures, over physical ones, we shall find, I think, no adequate or satisfactory answer on the supposition that pleasures owe all their value to the quantity of enjoyment they afford. The former, it is truly said, are more varied and more prolonged than the latter but on the other hand, they are attained with more effort, and they are diffused over a far narrower circle. No one who compares the class of men who derive their pleasure chiefly from field sports or other forms of physical enjoyment with those who derive their pleasure from the highest intellectual sources; no one who compares the period of boyhood when enjoyments are chiefly animal with early manhood when they are chiefly intellectual, will be able tc discover in the different levels of happiness any justification of the great interval the world places between these pleasures. No painter or novelist, who wished to depict an ideal of perfect happiness, would seek it in a profound student. Without entering into any doubtful questions concerning the relations of the body to all mental states, it may be maintained that bodily conditions have in general more influence upon our enjoyment than mental ones. The happiness of the great majority of men is far more affected by health and by temperament,1 resulting from physical conditions, which again physical enjoyments are often calculated to produce, than by any mental or moral causes, and acute physical sufferings paralyse all the energies of our nature to a greater extent than any mental distress. It is probable that the American inventor of the first anæsthetic has done more for the real happiness of mankind than all the moral philosophers from Socrates to Mill. Moral causes may teach men patience, and the endurance of felt suffering, or may even alleviate its pangs, but there are temperaments due to physical causes from which most sufferings glance almost unfelt. It is said that when an ancient was asked ‘what use is philosophy?’ he answered, ‘it teaches men how to die,’ and he verified his words by a noble death; but it has been proved on a thousand battle-fields, it has been proved on a thousand scaffolds, it is proved through all the wide regions of China and India, that the dull and animal nature which feels little and realises faintly, can meet death with a calm that philosophy can barely rival.1 The truth is, that the mental part of our nature is not regarded as superior to the physical part, because it contributes most to our happiness. The superiority is of a different kind, and may be intelligibly expressed by the epithets higher and lower.
And, once more, there is a class of pleasures resulting from the gratification of our moral feelings which we naturally place in the foremost rank. To the great majority of mankind it will probably appear, in spite of the doctrine of Paley, that no multiple of the pleasure of eating pastry can be an equivalent to the pleasure derived from a generous action. It is not that the latter is so inconceivably intense. It is that it is of a higher order.
This distinction of kind has been neglected or denied by most utilitarian writers;2 and although an attempt has recently been made to introduce it into the system, it appears manifestly incompatible with its principle. If the reality of the distinction be admitted, it shows that our wills are so far from tending necessarily to that which produces most enjoyment that we have the power even in our pleasures of recognising a higher and a wholly different quality, and of making that quality rather than enjoyment the object of our choice. If it be possible for a man in choosing between two pleasures deliberately to select as preferable, apart from all consideration of consequences, that which he is conscious gives least enjoyment because he recognises in it a greater worthiness, or elevation, it is certain that his conduct is either wholly irrational, or that he is acting on a principle of judgment for which ‘the greatest happiness’ philosophy is unable to account. Consistently with that philosophy, the terms higher and lower as applied to different parts of our nature, to different regions of thought or feeling, can have no other meaning than that of productive of more or less enjoyment. But if once we admit a distinction of quality as well as a distinction of quantity in our estimate of pleasure, all is changed. It then appears evident that the different parts of our nature to which these pleasures refer, bear to each other a relation of another kind, which may be clearly and justly described by the terms higher and lower; and the assertion that our reason reveals to us intuitively and directly this hierarchy of our being, is a fundamental position of the greatest schools of intuitive moralists. According to these writers, when we say that our moral and intellectual is superior to our animal nature, that the benevolent affections are superior to the selfish ones, that conscience has a legitimate supremacy over the other parts of our being; this language is not arbitrary, or fantastic, or capricious, because it is intelligible. When such a subordination is announced, it corresponds with feelings we all possess, falls in with the natural course of our judgments, with our habitual and unstudied language.
The arguments that have been directed against the theory of natural moral perceptions are of two kinds, the first, which I have already noticed, being designed to show that all our moral judgments may be resolved into considerations of utility; the second resting upon the diversity of these judgments in different nations and stages of civilisation, which, it is said, is altogether inexplicable upon the supposition of a moral faculty. As these variations form the great stumbling-block in the way of the doctrine I am maintaining, and as they constitute a very important part of the history of morals, I shall make no apology for noticing them in some detail.
In the first place, there are many cases in which diversities of moral judgment arise from causes that are not moral, but purely intellectual. Thus, for example, when theologians pronounced loans at interest contrary to the law of nature and plainly extortionate, this error obviously arose from a false notion of the uses of money. They believed that it was a sterile thing, and that he who has restored what he borrowed, has cancelled all the benefit he received from the transaction. At the time when the first Christian moralists treated the subject, special circumstances had rendered the rate of interest extremely high, and consequently extremely oppressive to the poor, and this fact, no doubt, strengthened the prejudice; but the root of the condemnation of usury was simply an error in political economy. When men came to understand that money is a productive thing, and that the sum lent enables the borrower to create sources of wealth that will continue when the loan has been returned, they perceived that there was no natural injustice in exacting payment for this advantage, and usury either ceased to be assailed, or was assailed only upon the ground of positive commands.
Thus again the question of the criminality of abortion has been considerably affected by physiological speculations as to the time when the fœtus in the womb acquires the nature, and therefore the rights, of a separate being. The general opinion among the ancients seems to have been that it was but a part of the mother, and that she had the same right to destroy it as to cauterise a tumour upon her body. Plato and Aristotle both admitted the practice. The Roman law contained no enactment against voluntary abortion till the time of Ulpian. The Stoics thought that the infant received its soul when respiration began. The Justinian code fixed its animation at forty days after conception. In modern legislations it is treated as a distinct being from the moment of conception.1 It is obvious that the solution of such questions, though affecting our moral judgments, must be sought entirely outside the range of moral feelings.
In the next place, there is a broad distinction to be drawn between duties which rest immediately on the dictates of conscience, and those which are based upon positive commands. The iniquity of theft, murder, falsehood, or adultery rests upon grounds generically distinct from those on which men pronounce it to be sinful to eat meat on Friday, or to work on Sunday, or to abstain from religious assemblies. The reproaches conscience directs against those who are guilty of these last acts are purely hypothetical, conscience enjoining obedience to the Divine commands, but leaving it to reason to determine what those commands may be. The distinction between these two classes of duties becomes apparent on the slightest reflection, and the variations in their relative prominence form one of the most important branches of religious history.
Closely connected with the preceding are the diversities which result from an ancient custom becoming at last, through its very antiquity, or through the confusion of means with ends, an object of religious reverence. Among the many safeguards of female purity in the Roman republic was an enactment forbidding women even to taste wine, and this very intelligible law being enforced with the earliest education, became at last, by habit and traditionary reverence, so incorporated with the moral feelings of the people, that its violation was spoken of as a monstrous crime. Aulus Gellius has preserved a passage in which Cato observes, ‘that the husband has an absolute authority over his wife; it is for him to condemn and punish her, if she has been guilty of any shameful act, such as drinking wine or committing adultery.’1 As soon as the reverence for tradition was diminished, and men ventured to judge old customs upon their own merits, they were able, by steadily reflecting upon this belief, to reduce it to its primitive elements, to separate the act from the ideas with which it had been associated, and thus to perceive that it was not necessarily opposed to any of those great moral laws or feelings which their consciences revealed, and which were the basis of all their reasonings on morals.
A confused association of ideas, which is easily exposed by a patient analysis, lies at the root of more serious anomalies. Thus to those who reflect deeply upon moral history, few things, I suppose, are more humiliating than to contrast the admiration and profoundly reverential attachment excited by a conqueror, who through the promptings of simple vanity, through love of fame, or through greed of territory, has wantonly caused the deaths, the sufferings, or the bereavements of thousands, with the abhorrence produced by a single act of murder or robbery committed by a poor and ignorant man, perhaps under the pressure of extreme want or intolerable wrong. The attraction of genius and power, which the vulgar usually measure by their material fruits, the advantages acquired by the nation to which he belongs, the belief that battles are decided by providential interference, and that military success is therefore a proof of Divine favour, and the sanctity ascribed to the regal office, have all no doubt conspired to veil the atrocity of the conqueror's career; but there is probably another and a deeper influence behind. That which invests war, in spite of all the evils that attend it, with a certain moral grandeur, is the heroic self-sacrifice it elicits. With perhaps the single exception of the Church, it is the sphere in which mercenary motives have least sway, in which performance is least weighed and measured by strict obligation, in which a disinterested enthusiasm has most scope. A battle-field is the scene of deeds of self-sacrifice so transcendent, and at the same time so dramatic, that in spite of all its horrors and crimes, it awakens the most passionate moral enthusiasm. But this feeling produced by the thought of so many who have sacrificed their life-blood for their flag or for their chief, needs some definite object on which to rest. The multitude of nameless combatants do not strike the imagination. They do not stand out, and are not realised, as distinct and living figures conspicuous to the view. Hence it is that the chief, as the most prominent, becomes the representative warrior; the martyr's aureole descends upon his brow, and thus by a confusion that seems the very irony of fate, the enthusiasm evoked by the self-sacrifice of thousands sheds a sacred glow around the very man whose prodigious egotism had rendered that sacrifice necessary.
Another form of moral paradox is derived from the fact that positive religions may override our moral perceptions in such a manner, that we may consciously admit a moral contradiction. In this respect there is a strict parallclism between our intellectual and our moral faculties. It is at present the professed belief of at least three-fourths of the Christian Church, and was for some centuries the firm belief of the entire Church, that on a certain night the Founder of the Christian faith, being seated at a supper table, held His own body in His own hand, broke that body, distributed it to His disciples, who proceeded to eat it, the same body remaining at the same moment seated intact at the table, and soon afterwards proceeding to the garden of Gethsemane. The fact of such a doctrine being believed, does not imply that the faculties of those who hold it are of such a nature that they perceive no contradiction or natural absurdity in these statements. The well-known argument derived from the obscurity of the metaphysical notion of substance is intended only in some slight degree to soften the difficulty. The contradiction is clearly perceived, but it is accepted by faith as part of the teaching of the Church.
What transubstantiation is in the order of reason the Augustinian doctrine of the damnation of unbaptised infante, and the Calvinistic doctrine of reprobation, are in the order of morals. Of these doctrines it is not too much to say, that in the form in which they have often been stated, they surpass in atrocity any tenets that have ever been admitted into any pagan creed, and would, if they formed an essential part of Christianity, amply justify the term ‘pernicious superstition,’ which Tacitus applied to the faith. That a little child who lives but a few moments after birth and dies before it has been sprinkled with the sacred water is in such a sense responsible for its ancestors having 6,000 years before eaten some forbidden fruit that it may with perfect justice be resuscitated and cast into an abyss of eternal fire in expiation of this ancestral crime, that an all-righteous and all-merciful Creator in the full exercise of those attributes deliberately calls into existence sentient beings whom He has from eternity irrevocably destined to endless, unspeakable, unmitigated torture, are propositions which are at once so extravagantly absurd and so ineffably atrocious that their adoption might well lead men to doubt the universality of moral perceptions. Such teaching is in fact simply dæmonism, and dæmonism in its most extreme form. It attributes to the Creator acts of injustice and of barbarity, which it would be absolutely impossible for the imagination to surpass, acts before which the most monstrous excesses of human cruelty dwindle into insignificance, acts which are in fact considerably worse than any that theologians have attributed to the devil. If there were men who while vividly realising the nature of these acts naturally turned to them as the exhibitions of perfect goodness, all systems of ethics founded upon innate moral perceptions would be false. But happily this is not so. Those who embrace these doctrines do so only because they believe that some inspired Church or writer has taught them, and because they are still in that stage in which men consider it more irreligious to question the infallibility of an apostle than to disfigure by any conceivable imputation the character of the Deity. They accordingly esteem it a matter of duty, and a commendable exercise of humility, to stifle the moral feelings of their nature, and they at last succeed in persuading themselves that their Divinity would be extremely offended if they hesitated to ascribe to him the a tributes of a fiend. But their moral feelings, though not znimpaired by such conceptions, are not on ordinary subjects generically different from those of their neighbours. With an amiable inconsistency they can even find something to revolt them in the lives of a Caligula or a Nero. Their theological estimate of justice and mercy is isolated. Their doctrine is accepted as a kind of moral miracle, and as is eustomarv with a certain school of theologians, when they enunciate a proposition which is palpably self-contradictory they call it a mystery and an occasion for faith.
In this instance a distinct moral contradiction is consciously admitted. In the case of persecution, a strictly moral and logical inference is drawn from a very immoral proposition which is accepted as part of a system of dogmatic theology. The two elements that should be considered in punishing a criminal are the heinousness of his guilt and the injury he inflicts. When the greatest guilt and the greatest injury are combined, the greatest punishment naturally follows. No one would argue against the existence of a moral faculty, on the ground that men put murderers to death. When therefore theologians believed that a man was intensely guilty who held certain opinions, and that he was causing the damnation of his fellows if he propagated them, there was no moral difficulty in concluding that the heretic should be put to death. Selfish considerations may have directed persecution against heresy rather than against vice, but the Catholic doctrines of the guilt of error, and of the infallibility of the Church, were amply sufficient to justify it.
It appears then that a dogmatic system which is accepted on rational or other grounds, and supported by prospects of rewards and punishments, may teach a code of ethics differing from that of conscience; and that in this case the voice of conscience may be either disregarded or stifled. It is however also true, that it may be perverted. When, for example, theologians during a long period have inculcated habits of credulity, rather than habits of enquiry; when they have persuaded men that it is better to cherish prejudice than to analyse it; better to stifle every doubt of what they have been taught than honestly to investigate its value, they will at last succeed in forming habits of mind that will instinctively and habitually recoil from all impartiality and intellectual honesty. If men continually violate a duty they may at last cease to feel its obligation. But this, though it forms a great difficulty in ethical enquiries, is no argument against the reality of moral perceptions, for it is simply a law to which all our powers are subject. A bad intellectual education will produce not only erroneous or imperfect information but also a false ply or habit of judgment. A bad æsthetical education will produce false canons of taste. Systematic abuse will pervert and vitiate even some of our physical perceptions. In each case the experience of many minds under many conditions must be appealed to, to determine the standard of right and wrong, and long and difficult discipline is required to restore the diseased organ to sanity. We may decide particular moral questions by reasoning, but our reasoning is an appeal to certain moral principles which are revealed to us by intuition.
The principal difficulty I imagine which most men have in admitting that we possess certain natural moral perceptions arises from the supposition that it implies the existence of some mysterious agent like the dæmon of Socrates, which gives us specific and infallible information in particular cases. But this I conceive to be a complete mistake. All that is necessarily meant by the adherents of this school is comprised in two propositions. The first is that our will is not governed exclusively by the law of pleasure and pain, but also by the law of duty, which we feel to be distinct from the former, and to carry with it the sense of obligation. The second is that the basis of our conception of duty is an intuitive perception that among the various feelings, tendencies, and impulses that constitute our emotional being, there are some which are essentially good, and ought to be encouraged, and some which are essentially bad, and ought to be repressed. They contend that it is a psychological fact that we are intuitively conscious that our benevolent affections are superior to our malevolent ones, truth to falsehood, justice to injustice, gratitude to ingratitude, chastity to sensuality, and that in all ages and countries the path of virtue has been towards the higher and not towards the lower feelings. It may be that the sense of duty is so weak as to be scarcely perceptible, and then the lower part of our nature will be supreme. It may happen that certain conditions of society lead men to direct their anxiety for moral improvement altogether in one or two channels, as was the case in ancient Greece, where civic and intellectual virtues were very highly cultivated, and the virtue of chastity was almost neglected. It may happen that different parts of our higher nature in a measure conflict, as when a very strong sense of justice checks our benevolent feelings. Dogmatic systems may enjoin men to propitiate certain unseen beings by acts which are not in accordance with the moral law. Special circumstances may influence, and the intermingling of many different motives may obscure and complicate, the moral evolution; but above all these one great truth appears. No one who desires to become holier and better imagines that he does so by becoming more malevolent, or more untruthful, or more unchaste. Every one who desires to attain perfection in these departments of feeling is impelled towards benevolence, towards veracity, towards chastity.1
Now it is manifest that according to this theory the moral unity to be expected in different ages is not a unity of standard, or of acts, but a unity of tendency. Men come into the world with their benevolent affections very inferior in power to their selfish ones, and the function of morals is to invert this order. The extinction of all selfish feeling is impossible for an individual, and if it were general, it would result in the dissolution of society. The question of morals must always be a question of proportion or of degree. At one time the benevolent affections embrace merely the family, soon the circle expanding includes first a class, then a nation, then a coalition of nations, then all humanity, and finally, its influence is felt in the dealings of man with the animal world. In each of these stages a standard is formed, different from that of the preceding stage, but in each case the same tendency is recognised as virtue.
We have in this fact a simple, and as it appears to me a conclusive, answer to the overwhelming majority of the objections that are continually and confidently urged against the intuitive school. That some savages kill their old parents, that infanticide has been practised without compunction by even civilised nations, that the best Romans saw nothing wrong in the gladiatorial shows, that political or revengeful assassinations have been for centuries admitted, that slavery has been sometimes honoured and sometimes condemned, are unquestionable proofs that the same act may be regarded in one age as innocent, and in another as criminal. Now it is undoubtedly true that in many cases an historical examination will reveal special circumstances, explaining or palliating the apparent anomaly. It has been often shown that the gladiatorial shows were originally a form of human sacrifice adopted through religious motives; that the rude nomadic life of savages rendering impossible the preservation of aged and helpless members of the tribe, the murder of parents was regarded as an act of mercy both by the murderer and the victim; that before an effective administration of justice was organised, private vengeance was the sole preservative against crime,1 and political assassination against usurpation; that the insensibility of some savages to the criminality of theft arises from the fact that they were accustomed to have all things in common; that the Spartan law, legalising theft, arose partly from a desire to foster military dexterity among the people, but chiefly from a desire to discourage wealth; that slavery was introduced through motives of mercy, to prevent conquerors from killing their prisoners.1 All this is true, but there is another and a mere general answer. It is not to be expected, and it is not maintained, that men in all ages should have agreed about the application of their moral principles. All that is contended for is that these principles are themselves the same. Some of what appear to us monstrous acts of cruelty, were dictated by that very feeling of humanity, the universal perception of the merit of which they are cited to disprove,2 and even when this is not the case, all that can be inferred is, that the standard of humanity was very low. But still humanity was recognised as a virtue, and cruelty as a vice.
At this point, I may observe how completely fallacious is the assertion that a progressive morality is impossible upon the supposition of an original moral faculty.3 To such statements there are two very simple answers. In the first place, although the intuitive moralist asserts that certain qualities are necessarily virtuous, he fully admits that the degree in which they are acted upon, or in other words, the standard of duty, may become progressively higher. In the next place, although he refuses to resolve all virtue into utility, he admits as fully as his opponents, that benevolence, or the promotion of the happiness of man, is a virtue, and that therefore discoveries which exhibit more clearly the true interests of our kind, may throw new light upon the nature of our duty.
The considerations I have urged with reference to humanity, apply with equal force to the various relations of the sexes. When the passions of men are altogether unrestrained, community of wives and all eccentric forms of sensuality will be admitted. When men seek to improve their nature in this respect, their object will be to abridge and confine the empire of sensuality. But to this process of improvement there are obvious limits. In the first place the continuance of the species is only possible by a sensual act. In the next place the strength of this passion and the weakness of humanity are so great, that the moralist must take into account the fact that in all societies, and especially in those in which free scope had long been given to the passions, a large amount of indulgence will arise which is not due to a simple desire of propagating the species. If then incest is prohibited, and community of wives replaced by ordinary polygamy, a moral improvement will have been effected, and a standard of virtue formed. But this standard soon becomes the starting-point of new progress. If we examine the Jewish law, we find the legislator prohibiting adultery, regulating the degrees of marriage, but at the same time authorising polygamy, though with a caution against the excessive multiplication of wives. In Greece monogamy, though not without exceptions, had been enforced, but a concurrence of unfavourable influences prevented any high standard being attained among the men, and in their case almost every form of indulgence beyond the limits of marriage was permitted. In Rome the standard was far higher. Monogamy was firmly established. The ideal of female morality was placed as high as among Christian nations. Among men, however, while unnatural love and adultery were regarded as wrong, simple unchastity before marriage was scarcely considered a fault. In Catholicism marriage is regarded in a twofold light, as a means for the propagation of the species, and as a concession to the weakness of humanity, and all other sensual enjoyment is stringently prohibited.
In these cases there is a great difference between the degrees of earnestness with which men exert themselves in the repression of their passions, and in the amount of indulgence which is conceded to their lower nature;1 but there is no difference in the direction of the virtuous impulse. While, too, in the case of adultery, and in the production of children, questions of interest and utility do undoubtedly intervene, we are conscious that the general progress turns upon a totally different order of ideas. The feeling of all men and the language of all nations, the sentiment which though often weakened is never wholly effaced, that this appetite, even in its most legitimate gratification, is a thing to be veiled and withdrawn from sight, all that is known under the names of decency and indecency, concur in proving that we have an innate, intuitive, instinctive perception that there is something degrading in the sensual part of our nature, something to which a feeling of shame is naturally attached, something that jars with our conception of perfect purity, something we could not with any propriety ascribe to an all-holy being. It may be questioned whether anyone was ever altogether destitute of this perception, and nothing but the most inveterate passion for system could induce men to resolve it into a mere calculation of interests. It is this feeling or instinct which lies at the root of the whole movement I have described, and it is this too that produced that sense of the sanctity of perfect continence which the Catholic church has so warmly encouraged, but which may be traced through the most distant ages, and the most various creeds. We find it among the Nazarenes and Essenes of Judæa, among the priests of Egypt and India, in the monasteries of Tartary, in the histories of miraculous virgins that are so numerous in the mythologies of Asia. Such, for example, was the Chinese legend that tells how when there was but one man with one woman upon earth, the woman refused to sacrifice her virginity even in order to people the globe, and the gods honouring her purity granted that she should conceive beneath the gaze of her lover's eyes, and a virgin-mother became the parent of humanity.1 In the midst of the sensuality of ancient Greece, chastity was the pre-eminent attribute of sanctity ascribed to Athene and Artemis. ‘Chaste daughter of Zeus,’ prayed the suppliants in Æschylus, ‘thou whose calm eye is never troubled, look down upon us! Virgin, defend the virgins.’ The Parthenon, or virgin's temple, was the noblest religious edifice of Athens. Celibacy was an essential condition in a few of the orders of priests, and in several orders of priestesses. Plato based his moral system upon the distinction between the bodily or sensual, and the spiritual or rational part of our nature, the first being the sign of our degradation, and the second of our dignity. The whole school of Pythagoras made chastity one of its leading virtues, and even laboured for the creation of a monastic system. The conception of the celestial Aphrodite, the uniter of souls, unsullied by the taint of matter, lingered side by side with that of the earthly Aphrodite or patroness of lust, and if there was a time when the sculptors sought to pander to the excesses of passion there was another in which all their art was displayed in refining and idealising it. Strabo mentions the existence in Thrace of societies of men aspiring to perfection by celibacy and austere lives. Plutarch applauds certain philosophers who vowed to abstain for a year from wine and women in order ‘to honour God by their continence.’1 In Rome the religious reverence was concentrated more especially upon married life. The great prominence accorded to the Penates was the religious sanction of domesticity. So too, at first, was the worship so popular among the Roman women of the Bona Dea—the ideal wife who according to the legend had, when on earth, never looked in the face or known the name of any man but her husband.2 ‘For altar and hearth’ was the rallying cry of the Roman soldier. But above all this we find the traces of a higher ideal. We find it in the intense sanctity attributed to the vestal virgins whose continence was guarded by such fearful penalties, and supposed to be so closely linked with the prosperity of the state, whose prayer was believed to possess a miraculous power, and who were permitted to drive through the streets of Rome at a time when that privilege was refused even to the Empress.3 We find it in the legend of Claudia, who, when the ship bearing the image of the mother of the gods had been stranded in the Tiber, attached her girdle to its prow, and vindicated her challenged chastity by drawing with her virgin hand, the ponderous mass which strong men had sought in vain to move. We find it in the prophetic gift so often attributed to virgins,1 in the law which sheltered them from the degradation of an execution,2 in the language of Statius, who described marriage itself as a fault3 In Christianity one great source of the attraction of the faith has been the ascription of virginity to its female ideal. The Catholic monastic system has been so constructed as to draw many thousands from the sphere of active duty; its irrevocable vows have doubtless led to much suffering and not a little crime; its opposition to the normal development of our mingled nature has often resulted in grave aberrations of the imagination, and it has placed its ban upon domestic affections and sympathies which have a very high moral value; but in its central conception that the purely animal side of our being is a low and a degraded side, it reflects, I believe, with perfect fidelity the feelings of our nature.1
To these considerations some others of a different nature may be added. It is not true that some ancient nations regarded polygamy as good in the same sense as others regarded chastity. There is a great difference between deeming a state permissible and proposing it as a condition of sanctity. If Mohammedans people paradise with images of sensuality, it is not because these form their ideal of holiness. It is because they regard earth as the sphere of virtue, heaven as that of simple enjoyment. If some pagan nations deified sensuality, this was simply because the deification of the forces of nature, of which the prolific energy is one of the most conspicuous, is among the earliest forms of religion, and long precedes the identification of the Deity with a moral ideal.2 If there have been nations who attached a certain stigma to virginity, this has not been because they esteemed sensuality intrinsically holier than chastity; but because a scanty, warlike people whose position in the world depends chiefly on the number of its warriors, will naturally make it its main object to encourage population. This was especially the case with the ancient Jews, who always regarded extreme populousness as indissolubly connected with national prosperity, whose religion was essentially patriotic, and among whom the possibility of becoming an ancestor of the Messiah had imparted a peculiar dignity to childbirth. Yet even among the Jews the Essenes regarded virginity as the ideal of sanctity.
The reader will now be in a position to perceive the utter futility of the objections which from the time of Locke have been continually brought against the theory of natural moral perceptions, upon the ground that some actions which were admitted as lawful in one age, have been regarded as immoral in another. All these become absolutely worthless when it is perceived that in every age virtue has consisted in the cultivation of the same feelings, though the standards of excellence attained have been different. The terms higher and lower, nobler or less noble, purer or less pure, represent moral facts with much greater fidelity than the terms right or wrong, or virtue or vice. There is a certain sense in which moral distinctions are absolute and immutable. There is another sense in which they are altogether relative and transient. There are some acts which are so manifestly and grossly opposed to our moral feelings, that they are regarded as wrong in the very earliest stages of the cultivation of these feelings. There are distinctions, such as that between truth and falsehood, which from their nature assume at once a sharpness of definition that separates them from mere virtues of degree, though even in these cases there are wide variations in the amount of scrupulosity that is in different periods required. But apart from positive commands, the sole external rule enabling men to designate acts, not simply as better or worse, but as positively right or wrong, is, I conceive, the standard of society; not an arbitrary standard like that which Mandeville imagined, but the level which society has attained in the cultivation of what our moral faculty tells us is the higher or virtuous part of our nature. He who falls below this is obstructing the tendency which is the essence of virtue. He who merely attains this, may not be justified in his own conscience, or in other words, by the standard of his own moral development, but as far as any external rule is concerned, he has done his duty. He who rises above this has entered into the region of things which it is virtuous to do, but not vicious to neglect—a region known among Catholic theologians by the name of ‘counsels of perfection.’ No discussions, I conceive, can be more idle than whether slavery, or the slaughter of prisoners in war, or gladiatorial shows, or polygamy, are essentially wrong. They may be wrong now—they were not so once—and when an ancient countenanced by his example one or other of these, he was not committing a crime. The unchangeable proposition for which we contend is this—that benevolence is always a virtuous disposition—that the sensual part of our nature is always the lower part.
At this point, however, a very difficult problem naturally arises. Admitting that our moral nature is superior to our intellectual or physical nature, admitting, too, that by the constitution of our being we perceive ourselves to be under an obligation to develope our nature to its perfection, establishing the supreme ascendency of moral motives, the question still remains whether the disparity between the different parts of our being is such that no material or intellectual advantage, however great, may be rightly purchased by any sacrifice of our moral nature, however small. This is the great question of casuistry, the question which divines express by asking whether the end ever justifies the means; and on this subject there exists among theologians a doctrine which is absolutely unrealised, which no one ever dreams of applying to actual life, but of which it may be truly said that though propounded with the best intentions, it would, if acted upon, be utterly incompatible with the very rudiments of civilisation. It is said that an undoubted sin, even the most trivial, is a thing in its essence and in its consequences so unspeakably dreadful, that no conceivable material or intellectual advantage can counterbalance it; that rather than it should be committed, it would be better that any amount of calamity which did not bring with it sin should be endured, even that the whole human race should perish in agonies.1 If this be the case, it is manifest that the supreme object of humanity should be sinlessness, and it is equally manifest that the means to this end is the absolute suppression of the desires. To expand the circle of wants is necessarily to multiply temptations, and therefore to increase the number of sins. It may indeed elevate the moral standard, for a torpid sinlessness is not a high moral condition; but if every sin be what these theologians assert, if it be a thing deserving eternal agony, and so inconceivably frightful that the ruin of a world is a less evil than its commission, even moral advantages are utterly incommensurate with it. No heightening of the moral tone, no depth or ecstasy of devotion, can for a moment be placed in the balance. The consequences of this doctrine, if applied to actual life, would be so extravagant, that their simple statement is a refutation. A sovereign, when calculating the consequences of a war, should reflect that a single sin occasioned by that war, a single blasphemy of a wounded soldier, the robbery of a single hencoop, the violation of the purity of a single woman, is a greater calamity than the ruin of the entire commerce of his nation, the loss of her most precious provinces, the destruction of all her power. He must believe that the evil of the increase of unchastity, which invariably results from the formation of an army, is an immeasurably greater calamity than any material or political disasters that army can possibly avert. He must believe that the most fearful plague or famine that desolates his land should be regarded as a matter of rejoicing, if it has but the feeblest and most transient influence in repressing vice. He must believe that if the agglomeration of his people in great cities adds but one to the number of their sins, no possible intellectual or material advantages can prevent the construction of cities being a fearful calamity. According to this principle, every elaboration of life, every amusement that brings multitudes together, almost every art, every accession of wealth that awakens or stimulates desires, is an evil, for all these become the sources of some sins, and their advantages are for the most part purely terrestrial. The entire structure of civilisation is founded upon the belief that it is a good thing to cultivate intellectual and material capacities, even at the cost of certain moral evils which we are often able accurately to foresee.1 The time may come when the man who lays the foundation-stone of a manufacture will be able to predict with assurance in what proportion the drunkenness and the unchastity of his city will be increased by his enterprise. Yet he will still pursue that enterprise, and mankind will pronounce it to be good.
The theological doctrine on the subject, considered in its full stringency, though professed by many, is, as I have said, realised and consistently acted on by no one; but the practical judgments of mankind concerning the extent of the superiority of moral over all other interests vary greatly, and this variation supplies one of the most serious objections to intuitive moralists. The nearest practical approach to the theological estimate of a sin may be found in the ranks of the ascetics. Their whole system rests upon the belief that it is a thing so transcendently dreadful as to bear no proportion or appreciable relation to any earthly interests. Starting from this belief, the ascetic makes it the exclusive object of his life to avoid sinning. He accordingly abstains from all the active business of society, relinquishes all worldly aims and ambitions, dulls by continued discipline his natural desires, and endeavours to pass a life of complete absorption in religious exercises. And in all this his conduct is reasonable and consistent. The natural course of every man who adopts this estimate of the enormity of sin is at every cost to avoid all external influences that can prove temptations, and to attenuate as far as possible his own appetites and emotions. It is in this respect that the exaggerations of theologians paralyse our moral being. For the diminution of sins, however important, is but one part of moral progress. Whenever it is forced into a disproportionate prominence, we find tame, languid, and mutilated natures, destitute of all fire and energy, and this tendency has been still further aggravated by the extreme prominence usually given to the virtue of gentleness, which may indeed be attained by men of strong natures and vehement emotions, but is evidently more congenial to a somewhat feeble and passionless character.
Ascetic practices are manifestly and rapidly disappearing, and their decline is a striking proof of the evanescence of the moral notions of which they were the expression, but in many existing questions relating to the same matter, we find perplexing diversity of judgment. We find it in the contrast between the system of education usually adopted by the Catholic priesthood, which has for its pre-eminent object to prevent sins, and for its means a constant and minute supervision, and the English system of public schools, which is certainly not the most fitted to guard against the possibility of sin, or to foster any very delicate scrupulosity of feeling; but is intended, and popularly supposed, to secure the healthy expansion of every variety of capacity. We find it in the widely different attitudes which good men in different periods have adopted towards religious opinions they believe to be false; some, like the reformers, refusing to participate in any superstitious service, or to withhold on any occasion, or at any cost, their protest against what they regarded as a lie; others, like most ancient, and some modern philosophers and politicians, combining the most absolute personal incredulity with an assiduous observance of superstitious rites, and strongly censuring those who disturbed delusions which are useful or consolatory to the people, while a third class silently, but without protest, withdraw themselves from the observances, and desire that their opinions should have a free expression in literature, but at the same time discourage all proselytising efforts to force them rudely on unprepared minds. We find it in the frequent conflicts between the political economist and the Catholic priest on the subject of early marriages, the former opposing them on the ground that it is an essential condition of material well-being that the standard of comfort should not be depressed, the latter advocating them on the ground that the postponement of marriages, through prudential motives, by any large body of men, is the fertile mother of sin. We find it most conspicuously in the marked diversities of tolerance manifested in different communities towards amusements which may in themselves be perfectly innocent, but which prove the sources or the occasions of vice. The Scotch Puritans probably represent one extreme, the Parisian society of the empire the other, while the position of average Englishmen is perhaps equidistant between them. Yet this difference, great as it is, is a difference not of principle, but of degree. No Puritan seriously desires to suppress every clan-gathering, every highland game which may have occasioned an isolated fit of drunkenness, though he may be unable to show that it has prevented any sin that would otherwise have been committed. No Frenchman will question that there is a certain amount of demoralisation which should not be tolerated, however great the enjoyment that accompanies it. Yet the one dwells almost exclusively upon the moral, the other upon the attractive, nature of a spectacle. Between these there are numerous gradations, which are shown in frequent disputes about the merits and demerits of the racecourse, the ball, the theatre, and the concert. Where then, it may be asked, is the line to be drawn? By what rule can the point be determined at which an amusement becomes vitiated by the evil of its consequences?
To these questions the intuitive moralist is obliged to answer, that such a line cannot be drawn, that such a rule does not exist. The colours of our moral nature are rarely separated by the sharp lines of our vocabulary. They fade and blend into one another so imperceptibly, that it is impossible to mark a precise point of transition. The end of man is the full development of his being in that symmetry and proportion which nature has assigned it, and such a development implies that the supreme, the predominant motive of his life, should be moral. If in any society or individual this ascendency does not exist, that society or that individual is in a diseased and abnormal condition. But the superiority of the moral part of our nature, though unquestionable, i indefinite not infinite, and the prevailing standard is not at all times the same. The moralist can only lay down general principles. Individual feeling or the general sentiment of society must draw the application.
The vagueness that on such questions confessedly hangs over the intuitive theory, has always been insisted upon by members of the opposite school, who ‘in the greatest happiness principle’ claim to possess a definite formulary, enabling them to draw boldly the frontier line between the lawful and the illicit, and to remove moral disputes from the domain of feeling to that of demonstration. But this claim, which forms the great attraction of the utilitarian school, is, if I mistake not, one of the grossest of impostures. We compare with accuracy and confidence the value of the most various material commodities, for we mean by this term, exchangeable value, and we have a common measure of exchange. But we seek in vain for such a measure enabling us to compare different kinds of utility or happiness. Thus, to take a very familiar example, the question may be proposed, whether excursion trains from a country district to a seaport town produce more good than evil, whether a man governed by moral principles should encourage or oppose them. They give innocent and healthy enjoyment to many thousands, they enlarge in some degree the range of their ideas, they can hardly be said to prevent any sin that would otherwise have been committed, they give rise to many cases of drunkenness, each of which, according to the theological doctrine we have reviewed, should be deemed a more dreadful calamity than the earthquake of Lisbon, or a visitation of the cholera, but which have not usually any lasting terrestrial effects; they also often produce a measure, and sometimes no small measure, of more serious vice, and it is probable that hundreds of women may trace their first fall to the excursion train. We have here a number of advantages and disadvantages, the first being intellectual and physical, and the second moral. Nearly all moralists would acknowledge that a few instances of immorality would not prevent the excursion train being, on the whole, a good thing. All would acknowledge that very numerous instances would more than counterbalance its advantages. The intuitive moralist confesses that he is unable to draw a precise line, showing where the moral evils outweigh the physical benefits. In what possible respect the introduction of Benthamite formularies improves the matter, I am unable to understand. No utilitarian would reduce the question to one of simple majority, or would have the cynicism to balance the ruin of one woman by the day's enjoyment of another. The impossibility of drawing, in such cases, a distinct line of division, is no argument against the intuitive moralist, for that impossibility is shared to the full extent by his rival.
There are, as we have seen, two kinds of interest with which utilitarian moralists are concerned—the private interest which they believe to be the ultimate motive, and the public interest which they believe to be the end, of all virtue. With reference to the first, the intuitive moralist denies that a selfish act can be a virtuous or meritorious one. If a man when about to commit a theft, became suddenly conscious of the presence of a policeman, and through fear of arrest and punishment were to abstain from the act he would otherwise have committed, this abstinence would not appear in the eyes of mankind to possess any moral value; and if he were determined partly by conscientious motives, and partly by fear, the presence of the latter element would, in proportion to its strength, detract from his merit. But although selfish considerations are distinctly opposed to virtuous ones, it would be a mistake to imagine they can never ultimately have a purely moral influence. In the first place, a well-ordered system of threats and punishments marks out the path of virtue with a distinctness of definition it could scarcely have otherwise attained. In the next place, it often happens that when the mind is swayed by a conflict of motives, the expectation of reward or punishment will so reinforce or support the virtuous motives, as to secure their victory; and, as every triumph of these motives increases their strength and weakens the opposing principles, a step will thus have been made towards moral perfection, which will render more probable the future triumph of unassisted virtue.
With reference to the interests of society, there are two distinct assertions to be made. The first is, that although the pursuit of the welfare of others is undoubtedly one form of virtue, it does not include all virtue, or, in other words, that there are forms of virtue which, even if beneficial to mankind, do not become virtuous on that account, but have an intrinsic excellence which is not proportioned to or dependent on their utility. The second is, that there may occasionally arise considerations of extreme and overwhelming utility that may justify a sacrifice of these virtues. This sacrifice may be made in various ways — as, when a man undertakes an enterprise which is in itself perfectly innocent, but which in addition to its great material advantages will, as he well knows, produce a certain measure of crime; or when, abstaining from a protest, he tacitly countenances beliefs which he considers untrue, because he regards them as transcendently useful; or again, when, for the benefit of others, and under circumstances of great urgency, he utters a direct falsehood, as, for example, when by such means alone he can save the life of an innocent man.1 But the fact, that in these cases considerations of extreme utility are suffered to override considerations of morality, is in no degree inconsistent with the facts, that the latter differ in kind from the former, that they are of a higher nature, and that they may supply adequate and legitimate motives of action not only distinct from, but even in opposition to utility. Gold and silver are different metals. Gold is more valuable than silver; yet a very small quantity of gold may be advantageously exchanged for a very large quantity of silver.
The last class of objections to the theory of natural moral perceptions which it is necessary for me to notice, arises from a very mischievous equivocation in the word natural.1 The term natural man is sometimes regarded as synonymous with man in his primitive or barbarous condition, and sometimes as expressing all in a civilised man that is due to nature as distinguished from artificial habits or acquirements. This equivocation is especially dangerous, because it implies one of the most extravagant excesses to which the sensational philosophy could be pushed—the notion that the difference between a savage and a civilised man is simply a difference of acquisition, and not at all a difference of development. In accordance with this notion, those who deny original moral distinctions have ransacked the accounts of travellers for examples of savages who appeared destitute of moral sentiments, and have adduced them as conclusive evidence of their position. Now it is, I think, abundantly evident that these narratives are usually exceedingly untrustworthy.2 They have been in most cases collected by uncritical and unphilosophical travellers, who knew little of the language and still less of the inner life of the people they described, whose means of information were acquired in simply traversing the country, who were more struck by moral paradox, than by unostentatious virtue, who were proverbially addicted to embellishing and exaggerating the singularities they witnessed, and who very rarely investigated their origin. It should not be forgotten that the French moralists of the last century, who insisted most strongly on this species of evidence, were also the dupes of one of the most curious delusions in the whole compass of literary history. Those unflinching sceptics who claimed to be the true disciples of the apostle who believed nothing that he had not touched, and whose relentless criticism played with withering effect on all the holiest feelings of our nature, and on all the tenets of traditional creeds, had discovered one happy land where the ideal had ceased to be a dream. They could point to one people whose pure and rational morality, purged from all the clouds of bigotry and enthusiasm, shone with an almost dazzling splendour above the ignorance and superstition of Europe. Voltaire forgot to gibe, and Helvétius kindled into enthusiasm, when China and the Chinese rose before their minds, and to this semi-barbarous nation they habitually attributed maxims of conduct that neither Roman nor Christian virtue had ever realised.
But putting aside these considerations, and assuming the fidelity of the pictures of savage life upon which these writers rely, they fail to prove the point for which they are adduced. The moralists I am defending, assert that we possess a natural power of distinguishing between the higher and lower parts of our nature. But the eye of the mind, like the eye of the body, may be closed. Moral and rational faculties may be alike dormant, and they will certainly be so if men are wholly immersed in the gratification of their senses. Man is like a plant, which requires a favourable soil for the full expansion of its natural or innate powers.1 Yet those powers both rational and moral are there, and when quickened into action, each will discharge its appointed functions. If it could be proved that there are savages who are absolutely destitute of the progressive energy which distinguishes reason from instinct and of the moral aspiration which constitutes virtue, this would not prove that rational or moral faculties form no part of their nature. If it could be shown that there is a stage of barbarism in which man knows, feels and does nothing that might not be known, felt and done by an ape, this would not be sufficient to reduce him to the level of the brute. There would still be this broad distinction between them—the one possesses a capacity for development which the other does not possess. Under favourable circumstances the savage will become a reasoning, progressive, and moral man: under no circumstances can a similar transformation be effected in the ape. It may be as difficult to detect the oakleaf in the acorn as in the stone; yet the acorn may be converted into an oak: the stone will always continue to be a stone.1
The foregoing pages will, I trust, have exhibited with sufficient clearness the nature of the two great divisions of moral philosophy—the school which proceeds from the primitive truth that all men desire happiness, and endeavours out of this fact to evolve all ethical doctrines, and the school which traces our moral systems to an intuitive perception that certain parts of our nature are higher or better than others. It is obvious that this difference concerning the origin of our moral conceptions forms part of the very much wider metaphysical question, whether our ideas are derived exclusively from sensation or whether they spring in part from the mind itself. The latter theory in antiquity was chiefly represented by the Platonic doctrine of pre-existence, which rested on the conviction that the mind has the power of drawing from its own depths certain conceptions or ideas which cannot be explained by any post-natal experience, and must therefore, it was said, have been acquired in a previous existence. In the seventeenth century it took the om of a doctrine of innate ideas. But though this theory in the form in which it was professed by Lord Herbert of Cherbury and assailed by Locke has almost disappeared, the doctrine that we possess certain faculties which by their own expansion, and not by the reception of notions from without, are not only capable of, but must necessarily attain, certain ideas, as the bud must necessarily expand into its own specific flower, still occupies a distinguished place in the world of speculation, and its probability has been greatly strengthened by recent observations of the range and potency of instinct in animals. From some passages in his Essay, it appears that Locke himself had a confused perception of this distinction,1 which was by no means unknown to previous writers; and after the publication of the philosophy of Locke it was clearly exhibited by Shaftesbury and Leibnitz, and incidentally noticed by Berkeley long before Kant established his distinction between the form and the matter of our knowledge, between ideas which are received a priori and ideas which are received a posteriori. The existence or non-existence of this source of ideas forms the basis of the opposition between the inductive philosophy of England and the French philosophy of the eighteenth century on the one hand, and the German and Scotch philosophies, as well as the French eclecticism of the nineteenth century upon the other. The tendency of the first school is to restrict as far as possible the active powers of the human mind, and to aggrandise as far as possible the empire of external circumstances. The other school dwells especially on the instinctive side of our nature, and maintains the existence of certain intuitions of the reason, certain categories or original conceptions, which are presupposed in all our reasonings and cannot be resolved into sensations. The boast of the first school is that its searching analysis leaves no mental phenomenon unresolved, and its attraction is the extreme simplicity it can attain. The second school multiplies faculties or original principles, concentrates its attention mainly upon the nature of our understanding, and asserts very strongly the initiative force both of our will and of our intellect.
We find this connection between a philosophy based upon the senses, and a morality founded upon utility from the earliest times. Aristotle was distinguished among the ancients for the emphasis with which he dwelt upon the utility of virtue, and it was from the writings of Aristotle that the schoolmen derived the famous formulary which has become the motto of the school of Locke. Locke himself devoted especial research to the refutation of the doctrine of a natural moral sense, which he endeavoured to overthrow by a catalogue of immoral practices that exist among savages, and the hesitation he occasionally exhibited in his moral doctrine corresponds not unfaithfully to the obscurity thrown over his metaphysics by the admission of reflection as a source of ideas. If his opponent Leibnitz made pleasure the object of moral action, it was only that refined pleasure which is produced by the contemplation of the happiness of others. When, however, Condillac and his followers, removing reflection from the position Locke had assigned it, reduced the philosophy of sensation to its simplest expression, and when the Scotch and German writers elaborated the principles of the opposite school, the moral tendencies of both were indisputably manifested. Everywhere the philosophy of sensation was accompanied by the morals of interest, and the ideal philosophy, by an assertion of the existence of a moral faculty, and every influence that has affected the prevailing theory concerning the origin of our ideas, has exercised a corresponding influence upon the theories of ethics.
The great movement of modern thought, of which Bacon was at once the highest representative and one of the chief agents, has been truly said to exhibit a striking resemblance, and at the same time a striking contrast, to the movement of ancient thought, which was effected chiefly by the genius of Socrates. In the name of utility, Socrates diverted the intellect of antiquity from the fantastic cosmogonies with which it had long been occupied, to the study of the moral nature of man. In the name of the same utility Bacon laboured to divert the modern intellect from the idle metaphysical speculations of the schoolmen to natural science, to which newly discovered instruments of research, his own sounder method, and a cluster of splendid intellects, soon gave an unprecedented impulse. To the indirect influence of this movement, perhaps, even more than to the direct teaching of Gassendi and Locke, may be ascribed the great ascendency of sensational philosophy among modern nations, and it is also connected with some of the most important differences between ancient and modern history. Among the ancients the human mind was chiefly directed to philosophical speculations, in which the law seems to be perpetual oscillation, while among the moderns it has rather tended towards physical science, and towards inventions, in which the law is perpetual progress. National power, and in most cases even national independence, implied among the ancients the constant energy of high intellectual or moral qualities. When the heroism or the genius of the people had relaxed, when an enervating philosophy or the lassitude that often accompanies civilisation arrived, the whole edifice speedily tottered, the sceptre was transferred to another state, and the same history was elsewhere reproduced. A great nation bequeathed indeed to its successors works of transcendent beauty in art and literature, philosophies that could avail only when the mind had risen to their level, examples that might stimulate the heroism of an aspiring people, warnings that might sometimes arrest it on the path to ruin. But all these acted only through the mind. In modern times, on the other hand, if we put aside religious influences, the principal causes of the superiority of civilised men are to be found in inventions which when once discovered can never pass away, and the effects of which are in consequence in a great measure removed from the fluctuations of moral life. The causes which most disturbed or accelerated the normal progress of society in antiquity were the appearance of great men, in modern times they have been the appearance of great inventions. Printing has secured the intellectual achievements of the past, and furnished a sure guarantee of future progress. Gunpowder and military machinery have rendered the triumph of barbarians impossible. Steam has united nations in the closest bonds. Innumerable mechanical contrivances have given a decisive preponderance to that industrial element which has coloured all the developments of our civilisation. The leading characteristics of modern societies are in consequence marked out much more by the triumphs of inventive skill than by the mstained energy of moral causes.
Now it will appear evident, I think, to those who reflect carefully upon their own minds, and upon the course of history, that these three things, the study of physical science, inventive skill, and industrial enterprise, are connected in such a manner, that when in any nation there is a long-sustained tendency towards one, the others will naturally follow. This connection is partly that of cause and effect, for success in either of these branches facilitates success in the others, a knowledge of natural laws being the basis of many of the most important inventions, and being itself acquired by the aid of instruments of research, while industry is manifestly indebted to both. But besides this connection, there is a connection of congruity. The same cast or habit of thought developes itself in these three forms. They all represent the natural tendencies of what is commonly called the practical as opposed to the theoretical mind, of the inductive or experimental as opposed to the deductive or ideal, of the cautious and the plodding as opposed to the imaginative and the ambitious, of the mind that tends naturally to matter as opposed to that which dwells naturally on ideas. Among the ancients, the distaste for physical science, which the belief in the capricious divine government of all natural phenomena, and the distaste for industrial enterprise which slavery produced, conspired to favour the philosophical tendency, while among the moderns physical science and the habits of industrial life continually react upon one another.
There can be no question that the intellectual tendencies of modern times are far superior to those of antiquity, both in respect to the material prosperity they effect, and to the uninterrupted progress they secure. Upon the other hand, it is, I think, equally unquestionable that this superiority is purchased by the sacrifice of something of dignity and elevation of character. It is when the cultivation of mental and moral qualities is deemed the primary object, when the mind and its interests are most removed from the things of sense, that great characters are most frequent, and the standard of heroism is most high. In this, as in other cases, the law of congruity is supreme. The mind that is concentrated most on the properties of matter, is predisposed to derive all ideas from the senses, while that which dwells naturally upon its own operations inclines to an ideal philosophy, and the prevailing system of morals depends largely upon the distinction.
In the next place, we may observe that the practical consequences, so far as ethics are concerned,1 of the opposition between the two great schools of morals, are less than might be inferred from the intellectual chasm that separates them. Moralists grow up in the atmosphere of society, and experience all the common feelings of other men. Whatever theory of the genesis of morals they may form, they commonly recognise as right the broad moral principles of the world, and they endeavour—though I have attempted to show not always successfully—to prove that these principles may be accounted for and justified by their system. The great practical difference between the schools lies, not in the difference of the virtues they inculcate, but in the different degrees of prominence they assign to each, in the different casts of mind they represent and promote. As Adam Smith observed, a system like that of the Stoics, which makes self-control the ideal of excellence, is especially favourable to the heroic qualities, a system like that of Hutcheson, which resolves virtue into benevolence, to the amiable qualities, and utilitarian systems to the industrial virtues. A society in which any one of these three forms of moral excellence is especially prominent, has a natural tendency towards the corresponding theory of ethics; but, on the other hand, this theory, when formed, reacts upon and strengthens the moral tendency that elicited it. The Epicureans and the Stoics can each claim a great historical fact in their favour. When every other Greek school modified or abandoned the teaching of its founder, the disciples of Epicurus at Athens preserved their hereditary faith unsullied and unchanged.2 On the other hand, in the Roman empire, almost every great character, almost every effort in the cause of liberty, emanated from the lanks of Stoicism, while Epicureanism was continually identified with corruption and with tyranny. The intuitive school, act having a clear and simple external standard, has often proved somewhat liable to assimilate with superstition and mysticism, to become fantastic, unreasoning, and unpractical, while the prominence accorded to interest, and the constant intervention of calculation in utilitarian systems, have a tendency to depress the ideal, and give a sordid and unheroic ply to the character. The first, dwelling on the moral initiative, elevates the tone and standard of life. The second, revealing the influence of surrounding circumstances upon character, leads to the most important practical reforms.1 Each school has thus proved in some sense at once the corrective and the complement of the other. Each when pushed to its extreme results, produces evils which lead to the reappearance of its rival.
Having now considered at some length the nature and tendencies of the theories according to which men test and classify their moral feelings, we may pass to an examination of the process according to which these feelings are developed, or, in other words, of the causes that lead societies to elevate their moral standard and determine their preference of some particular kinds of virtue. The observations I have to offer on this subject will be of a somewhat miscellaneous character, but they will all, I trust, tend to show the nature of the changes that constitute moral history, and to furnish us with some general principles which may be applied in detail in the succeeding chapters.
It is sufficiently evident, that, in proportion to the high organisation of society, the amiable and the social virtues will be cultivated at the expense of the heroic and the ascetic. A courageous endurance of suffering is probably the first form of human virtue, the one conspicuous instance in savage life of a course of conduct opposed to natural impulses, and pursued through a belief that it is higher or nobler than the opposite. In a disturbed, disorganised, and warlike society, acts of great courage and great endurance are very frequent, and determine to a very large extent the course of events; but in proportion to the organisation of communities the occasions for their display, and their influence when displayed, are alike restricted. Besides this the tastes and habits of civilisation, the innumerable inventions designed to promote comfort and diminish pain, set the current of society in a direction altogether different from heroism, and somewhat emasculate, though they refine and soften, the character. Asceticism again—including under this term, not merely the monastic system, but also all efforts to withdraw from the world in order to cultivate a high degree of sanctity—belongs naturally to a society which is somewhat rude, and in which isolation is frequent and easy. When men become united in very close bonds of co-operation, when industrial enterprise becomes very ardent, and the prevailing impulse is strongly towards material wealth and luxurious enjoyments, virtue is regarded chiefly or solely in the light of the interests of society, and this tendency is still further strengthened by the educational influence of legislation, which imprints moral distinctions very deeply on the mind, but at the same time accustoms men to measure them solely by an external and utilitarian standard.1 The first table of the law gives way to the second. Good is not loved for itself, but as the means to an end. All that virtue which is required to form upright and benevolent men is in the highest degree useful to society, but the qualities which constitute a saintly or spiritual character as distinguished from one that is simply moral and amiable, have not the same direct, uniform and manifest tendency to the promotion of happiness, and they are accordingly little valued.2 In savage life the animal nature being supreme, these higher qualities are unknown. In a very elaborate material civilisation the prevailing atmosphere is not favourable either to their production or their appreciation. Their place has usually been in an intermediate stage.
On the other hand, there are certain virtues that are the natural product of a cultivated society. Independently of all local and special circumstances, the transition of men from a barbarous or semi-civilised to a highly organised state necessarily brings with it the destruction or abridgment of the legitimate sphere of revenge, by transferring the office of punishment from the wronged person to a passionless tribunal appointed by society;1 a growing substitution of pacific for warlike occupations, the introduction of refined and intellectual tastes which gradually displace amusements that derive their zest from their barbarity, the rapid multiplication of ties of connection between all classes and nations, and also the strengthening of the imagination by intellectual culture. This last faculty, considered as the power of realisation, forms the chief tie between our moral and intellectual natures. In order to pity suffering we must realise it, and the intensity of our compassion is usually proportioned to the vividness of our realisation.2 The most frightful catastrophe in South America, an earthquake, a shipwreck, or a battle, will elicit less compassion than the death of a single individual who has been brought prominently before our eyes. To this cause must be chiefly ascribed the extraordinary measure of compassion usually bestowed upon a conspicuous condemned criminal, the affection and enthusiasm that centre upon sovereigns, and many of the glaring inconsistencies of our historical judgments. The recollection of some isolated act of magnanimity displayed by Alexander or Cæsar moves us more than the thought of the 30,000 Thebans whom the Macedonian sold as slaves, of the 2,000 prisoners he crucified at Tyre, of the 1,100,000 men on whose corpses the Roman rose to fame. Wrapt in the pale winding-sheet of general terms the greatest tragedies of history evoke no vivid images in our minds, and it is only by a great effort of genius that an historian can galvanise them into life. The irritation displayed by the captive of St. Helena in his bickerings with his gaoler affects most men more than the thought of the nameless thousands whom his insatiable egotism had hurried to the grave. Such is the frailty of our nature that we are more moved by the tears of some captive princess, by some trifling biographical incident that has floated down the stream of history, than by the sorrows of all the countless multitudes who perished beneath the sword of a Tamerlane, a Bajazet, or a Zenghis Khan.
If our benevolent feelings are thus the slaves of our imaginations, if an act of realisation is a necessary antecedent and condition of compassion, it is obvious that any influence that augments the range and power of this realising faculty is favourable to the amiable virtues, and it is equally evident that education has in the highest degree this effect. To an uneducated man all classes, nations, modes of thought and existence foreign to his own are unrealised, while every increase of knowledge brings with it an increase of insight, and therefore of sympathy. But the addition to his knowledge is the smallest part of this change. The realising faculty is itself intensified. Every book he reads, every intellectual exercise in which he engages, accustoms him to rise above the objects immediately present to his senses, to extend his realisations into new spheres, and reproduce in his imagination the thoughts, feelings, and characters of others, with a vividness inconceivable to the savage. Hence, in a great degree, the tact with which a refined mind learns to discriminate and adapt itself to the most delicate shades of feeling, and hence too the sensitive humanity with which, in proportion to their civilisation, men realise and recoil from cruelty.
We have here, however, an important distinction to draw. Under the name of cruelty are comprised two kinds of vice, altogether different in their causes and in most of their consequences. There is the cruelty which springs from callousness and brutality, and there is the cruelty of vindictiveness. The first belongs chiefly to hard, dull, and somewhat lethargic characters, it appears most frequently in strong and conquering nations and in temperate climates, and it is due in a very great degree to defective realisation. The second is rather a feminine attribute, it is usually displayed in oppressed and suffering communities, in passionate natures, and in hot climates. Great vindictiveness is often united with great tenderness, and great callousness with great magnanimity, but a vindictive nature is rarely magnanimous, and a brutal nature is still more rarely tender. The ancient Romans exhibited a remarkable combination of great callousness and great magnanimity, while by a curious contrast the modern Italian character verges manifestly towards the opposite combination. Both forms of cruelty are, if I mistake not, diminished with advancing civilisation, but by different causes and in different degrees. Callous cruelty disappears before the sensitiveness of a cultivated imagination. Vindictive cruelty is diminished by the substitution of a penal system for private revenge.
The same intellectual culture that facilitates the realisation of suffering, and therefore produces compassion, facilitates also the realisation of character and opinions, and therefore produces charity. The great majority of uncharitable judgments in the world may be traced to a deficiency of imagination. The chief cause of sectarian animosity, is the incapacity of most men to conceive hostile systems in the light in which they appear to their adherents, and to enter into the enthusiasm they inspire. The acquisition of this power of intellectual sympathy is a common accompaniment of a large and cultivated mind, and wherever it exists, it assuages the rancour of controversy. The severity of our judgment of criminals is also often excessive, because the imagination finds it more easy to realise an action than a state of mind. Any one can conceive a fit of drunkenness or a deed of violence, but few persons who are by nature very sober or very calm can conceive the natural disposition that predisposes to it. A good man brought up among all the associations of virtue reads of some horrible crime, his imagination exhausts itself in depicting its circumstances, and he then estimates the guilt of the criminal, by asking himself, ‘How guilty should I be, were I to perpetrate such an act?’ To realise with any adequacy the force of a passion we have never experienced, to conceive a type of character radically different from our own, above all, to form any just appreciation of the lawlessness and obtuseness of moral temperament, inevitably generated by a vicious education, requires a power of imagination which is among the rarest of human endowments. Even in judging our own conduct, this feebleness of imagination is sometimes shown, and an old man recalling the foolish actions, but having lost the power of realising the feelings, of his youth, may be very unjust to his own past. That which makes it so difficult for a man of strong vicious passions to unbosom himself to a naturally virtuous man, is not so much the virtue as the ignorance of the latter. It is the conviction that he cannot possibly understand the force of a passion he has never felt. That which alone renders tolerable to the mind the thought of judgment by an all-pure Being, is the union of the attribute of omniscience with that of purity, for perfect knowledge implies a perfect power of realisation. The further our analysis extends, and the more our realising faculties are cultivated, the more sensible we become of the influence of circumstances both upon character and upon opinions, and of the exaggerations of our first estimates of moral inequalities. Strong antipathies are thus gradually softened down. Men gain much in charity, but they lose something in zeal.
We may push, I think, this vein of thought one step farther. Our imagination, which governs our affections, has in its earlier and feebler stages little power of grasping ideas, except in a personified and concrete form, and the power of rising to abstractions is one of the best measures of intellectual progress. The beginning of writing is the hieroglyphic or symbolical picture; the beginning of worship is fetishism or idolatry; the beginning of eloquence is pictorial, sensuous, and metaphorical; the beginning of philosophy is the myth. The imagination in its first stages concentrates itself on individuals; gradually by an effort of abstraction it rises to an institution or well-defined organisation; it is only at a very advanced stage that it can grasp a moral and intellectual principle. Loyalty, patriotism, and attachment to a cosmopolitan cause are therefore three forms of moral enthusiasm respectively appropriate to three successive stages of mental progress, and they have, I think, a certain analogy to idolatrous worship, church feeling, and moral culture, which are the central ideas of three stages of religious history.
The reader will readily understand that generalisations of this kind can pretend to nothing more than an approximate truth. Our knowledge of the laws of moral progress is like that of the laws of climate. We lay down general rules about the temperature to be expected as we approach or recede from the equator, and experience shows that they are substantially correct; but yet an elevated plain, or a chain of mountains, or the neighbourhood of the sea, will often in some degree derange our calculations. So, too, in the history of moral changes, innumerable special agencies, such as religious or political institutions, geographical conditions, traditions, antipathies, and affinities, exercise a certain retarding, accelerating, or deflecting influence, and somewhat modify the normal progress. The proposition for which I am contending is simply that there is such a thing as a natural history of morals, a defined and regular order, in which our moral feelings are unfolded; or, in other words, that there are certain groups of virtues which spring spontaneously out of the circumstances and mental conditions of an uncivilised people, and that there are others which are the normal and appropriate products of civilisation. The virtues of uncivilised men are recognised as virtues by civilised men, but they are neither exhibited in the same perfection, nor given the same position in the scale of duties. Of these moral changes none are more obvious than the gradual decadence of heroism both active and passive, the increase of compassion and of charity, and the transition from the enthusiasm of loyalty to those of patriotism and liberty.
Another form of virtue which usually increases with civilisation is veracity, a term which must be regarded as including something more than the simple avoidance of direct falsehood. In the ordinary intercourse of life it is readily understood that a man is offending against truth, not only when he utters a deliberate falsehood, but also when in his statement of a case he suppresses or endeavours to conceal essential facts, or makes positive assertions without having conscientiously verified their grounds. The earliest form in which the duty of veracity is enforced is probably the observance of vows, which occupy a position of much prominence in youthful religions. With the subsequent progress of civilisation, we find the successive inculcation of three forms of veracity, which may be termed respectively industrial, political, and philosophical. By the first I understand that accuracy of statement or fidelity to engagements which is commonly meant when we speak of a truthful man. Though in some cases sustained by the strong sense of honour which accompanies a military spirit, this form of veracity is usually the special virtue of an industrial nation, for although industrial enterprise affords great temptations to deception, mutual confidence, and therefore strict truthfulness, are in the occupations so transcendently important that they acquire in the minds of men a value they had never before possessed. Veracity becomes the first virtue in the moral type, and no character is regarded with any kind of approbation in which it is wanting. It is made more than any other the test distinguishing a good from a bad man. We accordingly find that even where the impositions of trade are very numerous, the supreme excellence of veracity is cordially admitted in theory, and it is one of the first virtues that every man aspiring to moral excellence endeavours to cultivate. This constitutes probably the chief moral superiority of nations pervaded by a strong industrial spirit over nations like the Italians, the Spaniards, or the Irish, among whom that spirit is wanting. The usual characteristic of the latter nations is a certain laxity or instability of character, a proneness to exaggeration, a want of truthfulness in little things, an infidelity to engagements from which an Englishman, educated in the habits of industrial life, readily infers a complete absence of moral principle. But a larger philosophy and a deeper experience dipel his error. He finds that where the industrial spirit has uot penetrated, truthfulness rarely occupies in the popular mind the same prominent position in the catalogue of virtues. It is not reckoned among the fundamentals of morality, and it is possible and even common to find in these nations—what would be scarcely possible in an industrial society—men who are habitually dishonest and untruthful in small things, and whose lives are nevertheless influenced by a deep religious feeling and adorned by the consistent practice of some of the most difficult and most painful virtues Trust in Providence, content and resignation in extreme poverty and suffering, the most genuine amiability and the most sincere readiness to assist their brethren, an adherence ‘o their religious opinions which no persecutions and no bribes can shake, a capacity for heroic, transcendent, and prolonged self-sacrifice, may be found in some nations in men who are habitual liars and habitual cheats.
Tho promotion of industrial veracity is probably the single form in which the growth of manufactures exercises a favourable influence upon morals. It is possible, however, for this virtue to exist in great perfection without any corresponding growth of political veracity, or in other words, of that spirit of impartiality which in matters of controversy desires that all opinions, arguments, and facts should be fully and fairly stated. This habit of what is commonly termed ‘ fair play is especially the characteristic of free communities, and it is pre-eminently fostered by political life. The practice of debate creates a sense of the injustice of suppressing one side of a case, which gradually extends through all forms of intellectual life, and becomes an essential element in the national character. But beyond all this there is a still higher form of intellectual virtue. By enlarged intellectual culture, especially by philosophic studies, men come at last to pursue truth for its own sake, to esteem it a duty to emancipate themselves from party spirit, prejudices, and passion, and through love of truth to cultivate a judicial spirit in controrersy. They aspire to the intellect not of a sectarian but of a philosopher, to the intellect not of a partisan but of a statesman.
Of these three forms of a truthful spirit the two last may be said to belong exclusively to a highly civilised society. The last especially can hardly be attained by any but a cultivated mind, and is one of the latest flowers of virtue that bloom in the human heart. The growth, however, both of political and philosophical veracity has been unnaturally retarded by the opposition of theologians, who made it during many centuries a main object of their policy to suppress all writings that were opposed to their views, and who, when this power had escaped their grasp, proceeded to discourage in every way impartiality of mind and judgment, and to associate it with the notion of sin.
To the observations I have already made concerning the moral effects of industrial life, I shall at present add but two. The first is that an industrial spirit creates two wholly different types of character—a thrifty character and a speculating character. Both types grow out of a strong sense of the value and a strong desire for the attainment of material comforts, but they are profoundly different both in their virtues and their vices. The chief characteristic of the one type is caution, that of the other enterprise. Thriftiness is one of the best regulators of life. It produces order, sobriety, moderation, self-restraint, patient industry, and all that cast of virtues which is designated by the term respectability; but it has also a tendency to form contracted and ungenerous natures, incapable of enthusiasm or lively sympathy, The speculating character, on the other hand, is restless, fiery, and uncertain, very liable to fall into great and conspicuous vices, cmpatient of routine, but by no means unfavourable to strong feelings, to great generosity or resolution. Which of these two forms the industrial spirit assumes depends upon local circumstances. Thriftiness flourishes chiefly among men placed outside the great stream of commerce, and in positions where wealth is only to be acquired by slow and steady industry, while the speculating character is most common in the great centres of enterprise and of wealth.
In the next place, it may be remarked that industrial habits bring forethought into a new position in the moral type. In early stages of theological belief, men regarding every incident that happens to them as the result of a special divine decree, sometimes esteem it a test of faith and a form of duty to take no precautions for the future, but to leave questions of food and clothing to Providential interposition. On the other hand, in an industrial civilisation, prudent forethought is regarded not simply as lawful, but as a duty, and a duty of the very highest order. A good man of the industrial type deems it a duty not to marry till he has ensured the maintenance of a possible family; if he possesses children, he regulates his expenses not simply by the relation of his income to his immediate wants, but with a constant view to the education of his sons, to the portioning of his daughters, to the future necessities and careers of each member of his family. Constant forethought is the guiding principle of his whole life. No single circumstance is regarded as a better test of the civilisation of a people than the extent to which it is diffused among them. The old doctrine virtually disappears, and is interpreted to mean nothing more than that we should accept with resignation what no efforts and no forethought could avert.
This change is but one of several influences which, as civilisation advances, diminish the spirit of reverence among mankind. Reverence is one of those feelings which, in utilitarian systems, would occupy at best a very ambiguous position; for it is extremely questionable whether the great evils that have grown out of it in the form of religious superstition and political servitude have not made it a source of more unhappiness than happiness. Yet, however doubtful may be its position if estimated by its bearing on happiness and on progress, there are few persons who are not conscious that no character can attain a supreme degree of excellence in which a reverential spirit is wanting. Of all the forms of moral goodness it is that to which the epithet beautiful may be most emphatically applied. Yet the habits of advancing civilisation are, if I mistake not, on the whole inimical to ite growth. For reverence grows out of a sense of constant dependence. It is fostered by that condition of religious thought in which men believe that each incident that befalls them is directly and specially ordained, and when every event is therefore fraught with a moral import. It is fostered by that condition of scientific knowledge in which every portentous natural phenomenon is supposed to be the result of a direct divine interposition, and awakens in consequence emotions of humility and awe. It is fostered in that stage of political life when loyalty or reverence for the sovereign is the dominating passion, when an aristocracy, branching forth from the throne, spreads habits of deference and subordination through every village, when a revolutionary, a democratic, and a sceptical spirit are alike unknown. Every great change, either of belief or of circumstances, brings with it a change of emotions. The self-assertion of liberty, the levelling of democracy, the dissecting-knife of criticism, the economical revolutions that reduce the relations of classes to simple contracts, the agglomeration of population, and the facilities of locomotion that sever so many ancient ties, are all incompatible with the type of virtue which existed before the power of tradition was broken, and when the chastity of faith was yet unstained. Benevolence, uprightness, enterprise, intellectual honesty, a love of freedom, and a hatred of superstition are growing around us, but we look in vain for that most beautiful character of the past, so distrustful of self, and so trustful of others, so simple, so modest, and so devout, which even when, Ixion-like, it bestowed its affections upon a cloud, made its very illusions the source of some of the purest virtues of our nature. In a few minds, the contemplation of the sublime order of nature produces a reverential feeling, but to the great majority of mankind it is an incontestable though mournful fact, that the discovery of controlling and unchanging law deprives phenomena of their moral signifi cance, and nearly all the social and political spheres in which reverence was fostered have passed away. Its most beautiful displays are not in nations like the Americans or the modern French, who have thrown themselves most fully into the tendencies of the age, but rather in secluded regions like Styria or the Tyrol. Its artistic expression is found in no work of modern genius, but in the mediæval cathedral, which, mellowed but not impaired by time, still gazes on us in its deathless beauty through the centuries of the past. A superstitious age, like every other phase of human history, has its distinctive virtues, which must necessarily decline before a new stage of progress can be attained.
The virtues and vices growing out of the relation between the saxes are difficult to treat in general terms, both on account of the obvious delicacy of the subject, and also because their natural history is extremely obscured by special causes. In the moral evolutions we have as yet examined, the normal influences are most powerful, and the importance of deranging and modifying circumstances is altogether subsidiary. The expansion of the amiable virtues, the decline of heroism and loyalty, and the growth of industrial habits spring out of changes which necessarily take place under almost all forms of civilisation,1 and the broad features of the movement are therefore in almost all nations substantially the same. But in the history of sensuality, special causes, such as slavery, religious doctrines, or laws affecting marriage, have been the most powerful agents. The immense changes effected in this field by the Christian religion I shall hereafter examine. In the present chapter I shall content myself with two or three very general remarks relating to the nature of the vice, and to the effect of different stages of civilisation upon its progress.
There are, I conceive, few greater fallacies than are involved in the method so popular among modern writers of judging the immorality of a nation by its statistics of illegitimate births. Independently of the obvious defect of this method in excluding simple prostitution from our comparison, it altogether neglects the fact that a large number of illegitimate births arise from causes totally different from the great violence of the passions. Such, for example, is the notion prevailing in many country districts of England, that the marriage ceremony has a retrospective virtue, cancelling previous immorality; and such too is the custom so general among some classes on the Continent of forming permanent connections without the sanction either of a legal or a religions ceremony. However deeply such facts may be reprehended and deplored, it would be obviously absurd to infer from them that the nations in which they are most prominent are most conspicuous for the uncontrolled violence of their sensual passions. In Sweden, which long ranked among the lowest in the moral scale, if measured by the number of illegitimate births, the chief cause appears to have been the difficulties with which legislators surrounded marriage.1 Even in displays of actual and violent passion, there are distinctions to be drawn which statistics are wholly unable to reach. The coarse, cynical, and ostentatious sensuality which forms the most repulsive feature of the French character, the dreamy, languid, and æsthetical sensuality of the Spaniard or the Italian, the furtive and retiring sensuality of some northern nations, though all forms of the same vice, are widely different feelings, and exercise widely different effects upon the prevailing disposition.
In addition to the very important influence upon public morals which climate, I think, undoubtedly exercises in stimulating or allaying the passions, it has a powerful indi rect action upon the position, character, and tastes of women, by determining the prevalence of indoor or out-of-door life, and also the classes among whom the gift of beauty is diffused. In northern countries the prevailing cast of beauty depends rather on colour than on form. It consists chiefly of a freshness and delicacy of complexion which severe labour and constant exposure necessarily destroy, and which is therefore rarely found in the highest perfection among the very poor. But the southern type is essentially democratic. The fierce rays of the sun only mellow and mature its charms. Its most perfect examples may be found in the hovel as in the palace, and the effects of this diffusion of beauty may be traced both in the manners and the morals of the people.
It is probable that the observance of this form of virtue is naturally most strict in a rude and semi-civilised but not barbarous people, and that a very refined civilisation is not often favourable to its growth. Sensuality is the vice of young men and of old nations. A languid epicureanism is the normal condition of nations which have attained a high intellectual or social civilisation, but which, through political causes, have no adequate sphere for the exertion of their energies. The temptation arising from the great wealth of some, and from the feverish longing for luxury and exciting pleasures in others, which exists in all large towns, has been peculiarly fatal to female virtue, and the whole tendency of the public amusements of civilisation is in the same direction. The rude combats which form the chief enjoyments of barbarians produce cruelty. The dramatic and artistic tastes and the social habits of refined men produce sensuality. Education raises many poor women to a stage of refinement that makes them suitable companions for men of a higher rank, and not suitable for those of their own. Industrial pursuits have, indeed, a favourable influence in promoting habits of self-restraint, and especially in checking the licence of military life; but on the other hand, they greatly increase temptation by encouraging postponement of marriage, and in communities, even more than in individuals, moral inequalities are much more due to differences of temptation than to differences of self-restraint. In large bodies of men a considerable increase of temptation always brings with it an increase, though not necessarily a proportionate increase, of vice. Among the checks on excessive multiplication, the historical influence of voluntary continence has been, it must be feared, very small. Physical and moral evils have alone been decisive, and as these form the two opposite weights, we unhappily very frequently find that the diminution of the one has been followed by the increase of the other. The nearly universal custom of early marriages among the Irish peasantry has alone rendered possible that high standard of female chastity that intense and jealous sensitiveness respecting female honour, for which, among many failings and some vices, the Irish poor have long been pre-eminent in Europe; but these very marriages are the most conspicuous proofs of the national improvidence, and one of the most fatal obstacles to industrial prosperity. Had the Irish peasants been less chaste, they would have been more prosperous. Had that fearful famine, which in the present century desolated the land, fallen upon a people who thought more of accumulating substence than of avoiding sin, multitudes might now be living who perished by literal starvation on the dreary hills of Limerick or Skibbereen.
The example of Ireland furnishes us, however, with a remarkable instance of the manner in which the influence of a moral feeling may act beyond the circumstances that gave it birth. There is no fact in Irish history more singular than the complete, and, I believe, unparalleled absence among the Irish priesthood of those moral scandals which in every contirantal country occasionally prove the danger of vows of celibacy. The unsuspected purity of the Irish priests in this respect is the more remarkable, because, the government of the country being Protestant, there is no special inquisitorial legislation to ensure it, because of the almost unbounded influence of the clergy over their parishioners, and also because if any just cause of suspicion existed, in the fierce sectarianism of Irish public opinion, it would assuredly be magnified. Considerations of climate are quite inadequate to explain this fact; but the chief cause is, I think, sufficiently obvious. The habit of marrying at the first development of the passions has produced among the Irish peasantry, from whom the priests for the most part spring, an extremely strong feeling of the iniquity of irregular sexual indulgence, which retains its power even over those who are bound to perpetual celibacy.
It will appear evident from the foregoing considerations that, while the essential nature of virtue and vice is unaltered, there is a perpetual, and in some branches an orderly and necessary change, as society advances, both in the proportionate value attached to different virtues in theory, and in the perfection in which they are realised in practice. It will appear too that, while there may be in societies such a thing as moral improvement, there is rarely or never, on a large scale, such a thing as unmixed improvement. We may gain more than we lose, but we always lose something. There are virtues which are continually dying away with advancing civilisation, and even the lowest stage possesses its distinctive excellence. There is no spectacle more piteous or more horrible to a good man than that of an oppressed nationality writhing in anguish beneath a tyrant's yoke; but there is no condition in which passionate, unquestioning self-sacrifice and heroic courage, and the true sentiment of fraternity are more grandly elicited, and it is probable that the triumph of liberty will in these forms not only lessen the moral performances, but even weaken the moral capacities of mankind. War is, no doubt, a fearful evil, but it is the seed plot of magnanimous virtues, which in a pacific age must wither and decay. Even the gambling-table fosters among its more skilful votaries a kind of moral nerve, a capacity for bearing losses with calmness, and controlling the force of the desires, which is scarcely exhibited in equal perfection in any other sphere.
There is still so great a diversity of civilisation in existing nation that traversing tracts of space is almost like tratersing tracts of time, for it brings us in contact with living representatives of nearly every phase of past civilisation. But these differences are rapidly disappearing before tho unparalleled diffusion and simplification of knowledge, the still more amazing progress in means of locomotion, and the political and military causes that are manifestly converting Europe into a federation of vast centralised and democratic States. Even to those who believe that the leading changes are on the whole beneficial, there is much that is melancholy in this revolution. Those small States which will soon have disappeared from the map of Europe, besides their vast superiority to most great empires in financial prosperity, in the material well-being of the inhabitants, and in many cases in political liberty, pacific tastes, and intellectual progress, form one of the chief refuges of that spirit of content, repose, and retrospective reverence which is pre-eminently wanting in modern civilisation, and their security is in every age one of the least equivocal measures of international morality. The monastic system, however pernicious when enlarged to excess, has undoubtedly contributed to the happiness of the world, by supplying an asylum especially suited to a certain type of character; and that vindictive and short-sighted revolution which is extirpating it from Europe is destroying one of the best correctives of the excessive industrialism of our age. It is for the advantage of a nation that it should attain the most advanced existing type of progress, but it is extremely questionable whether it is for the advantage of the community at large that all nations should attain the same type, even when it is the most advanced. The influence of very various circumstances is absolutely necessary to perfect moral development. Hence, one of the great political advantages of class representation, which brings within the range of politics a far greater variety both of capacities and moral qualities than can be exhibited when one class has an exclusive or overwhelmingly preponderating influence, and also of heterogeneous empires, in which different degrees of civilisation produce different kinds of excellence which react upon and complete one another. In the rude work of India and Australia a type of character is formed which England could ill afford to lose.
The remarks I have now made will be sufficient, I hope, to throw some light upon those great questions concerning the relations of intellectual and moral progress which have of late years attracted so large an amount of attention. It has been contended that the historian of human progress should concentrate his attention exclusively on the intellec tual elements; for there is no such thing as moral history, morals being essentially stationary, and the rudest barbarians being in this respect as far advanced as ourselves. In opposition to this view, I have maintained that while what may be termed the primal elements of morals are unaltered, there is a perpetual change in the standard which is exacted, and also in the relative value attached to particular virtues, and that these changes constitute one of the most important branches of general history. It has been contended by other writers that, although such changes do take place, and although they play an extremely great part in the world, they must be looked upon as the result of intellectual causes, changes in knowledge produeing changes in morals. In this view, as we have seen, there is some truth, but it can only, I think, be accepted with great qualification. It is one of the plainest of facts that neither the individuals nor the ages most distinguished for intellectual achievements have been most distinguished for moral excellence, and that a high intellectual and material civilisation has often coexisted with much depravity. In some respects the conditions of intellectual growth are not favourable to moral growth. The agglomeration of men in great cities-which are always the centres of progress and enlightenment-is one of the most important causes of material and intellectual advance : but great towns are the peculiar seed-plots of vice, and it is extremely questionable whether they produce any special and equivalent efflorescence of virtue, for even the social virtues are probably more cultivated in small populations, where men live in more intimate relations. Many of the most splendid outbursts of moral enthusiasm may be traced to an overwhelming force of conviction rarely found in very cultivated minds, which are keenly sensible to possibilities of error, conflicting arguments, and qualifying circumstances. Civilisation has on the whole been more successful in repressing crime than in repressing vice. It is very favourable to the gentler, charitable, and social virtues, and, where slavery does not exist, to the industrial virtues, and it is the especial nurse of the intellectual virtues; but it is in general not equally favourable to the production of self-sacrifice, enthusiasm, reverence, or chastity.
The moral changes, however, which are effected by civilisation may ultimately be ascribed chiefly to intellectual causes, for these lie at the root of the whole structure of civilised life. Sometimes, as we have seen, intellectual causes act directly, but more frequently they have only an indirect influence, producing habits of life which in their turn produce new conceptions of duty. The morals of men are more governed by their pursuits than by their opinions. A type of virtue is first formed by circumstances, and men afterwards make it the model upon which their theories are framed, Thus geographical or other circumstances, that make one nation military and another industrial, will produce in each a realised type of excellence, and corresponding conceptions about the relative importance of different virtues widely different from those which are produced in the other, and this may be the case although the amount of knowledge in the two communities is substantially equal.
Having discussed these questions as fully as the nature of my subject requires, I will conclude this chapter by noticing a few very prevalent errors in the moral judgments of history, and will also endeavour to elucidate some important consequences that may be deduced from the nature of moral types.
It is probable that the moral standard of most men is much lower in political judgments than in private matters in which their own interests are concerned. There is nothing more common than for men who in private life are models of the most scrupulous integrity to justify or excuse the most flagrant acts of political dishonesty and violence; and we should be altogether mistaken if we argued rigidly from such approvals to the general moral sentiments of those who utter them. Not unfrequently too, by a curious moral paradox, political crimes are closely connected with national virtues. A people who are submissive, gentle, and loyal, fall by reason of these very qualities under a despotic government; but this uncontrolled power has never failed to exercise a most pernicious influence on rulers, and their numerous acts of rapacity and aggression being attributed in history to the nation they represent, the national character is wholly misinterpreted.1 There are also particular kinds both of virtue and of vice which appear prominently before the world, while others of at least equal influence almost escape the notice of history. Thus, for example, the sectarian animosities, the horrible persecutions, the blind hatred of progress, the ungenerous support of every galling disqualification and restraint, the intense class selfishness, the obstinately protracted defence of intelleual and political superstition, the childish, but whimsically ferocious quarrels about minute dogmatic distinctions, or dresses, or candlesticks, which constitute together the main features of ecclesiastical history, might naturally, though very unjustly, lead men to place the ecclesiastical type in almost the lowest rank, both intellectually and morally. These are, in fact, the displays of ecclesiastical influence which stand in bold relief in the pages of history. The civilising and moralising influence of the clergyman in his parish, the simple, unostentatious, unselfish zeal with which he educates the ignorant, guides the erring, comforts the sorrowing, braves the horrors of pestilence, and sheds a hallowing influence over the dying hour, the countless ways in which, in his little sphere, he allays evil passions, and softens manners, and elevates and purifies those around him-all these things, though very evident to the detailed observer, do not stand out in the same vivid prominence in historical records, and are continually forgotten by historians. It is always hazardous to argue from the character of a corporation to the character of the members who compose it, but in no other case is this method of judgment so fallacious as in the history of ecclesiastics, for there is no other class whose distinctive excellences are less apparent, and whose mental and moral defects are more glaringly conspicuous in corporate action. In different nations, again, the motives of virtue are widely different, and serious misconceptions arise from the application to one nation of the measure of another. Thus the chief national virtues of the French people result from an intense power of sympathy, which is also the foundation of some of their most beautiful intellectual qualities, of their social habits, and of their unrivalled influence in Europe. No other nation has so habitual and vivid a sympathy with great struggles for freedom beyond its border. No other literature exhibits so expansive and æcumenical a genius, or expounds so skilfully, or appreciates so generously, foreign ideas. In hardly any other land would a disinterested war for the support of a suffering nationality find so large an amount of support. The national crimes of France are many and grievous, but much will be forgiven her because she loved much. The Anglo-Saxon nations, on the other hand, though sometimes roued to strong but transient enthusiasm, are habitually singularly narrow, unappreciative, and unsympathetic. The great source of their national virtue is the sense of duty, the power of pursuing a course which they believe to be right, independently of all considerations of sympathy or favour, of enthusiasm or success. Other nations have far surpassed them in many qualities that are beautiful, and in some qualities that are great. It is the merit of the Anglo-Saxon race that beyond all others it has produced men of the stamp of a Washington or a Hampden; men careless, indeed, for glory, but very careful of honour; who made the supreme majesty of moral rectitude the guiding principle of their lives, who proved in the most trying circumstances that no allurements of ambition, and no storms of passion, could cause them to deviate one hair's breadth from the course they believed to be their duty. This was also a Roman characteristic-especially that of Marcus Aurelius. The unweary, unostentatious, and inglorious crusade of England against slavery may probably be regarded as among the three or four perfectly virtuous pages comprised in the history of nations.
Although it cannot be said that any virtue is the negation of another, it is undoubtedly true that virtues are naturally grouped according to principles of affinity or congruity, which are essential to the unity of the type. The heroical, the amiable, the industrial, the intellectual virtues form in this manner distinct groups; and in some cases the development of one group is incompatible, not indeed with the existence, but with the prominence of others. Content cannot be the leading virtue in a society animated by an intense industrial spirit, nor submission nor tolerance of injuries in a society formed upon a military type, nor intellectual virtues in a society where a believing spirit is made the essential of good ness, yet each of these conditions is the special sphere of some particular class of virtues. The distinctive beauty of a moral type depends not so much on the elements of which it is composed, as on the proportions in which those elements are combined. The characters of Socrates, of Cato, of Bayard, of Fénelon, and of St. Francis are all beautiful, but they differ generically, and not simply in degrees of excellence. To endeavour to impart to Cato the distinctive charm of St. Francis, or to St. Francis that of Cato, would be as absurd as to endeavour to unite in a single statue the beauties of the Apollo and the Laocoon, or in a single landscape the beauties of the twilight and of the meridian sun. Take away pride from the ancient Stoic or the modern Englishman, and you would have destroyed the basis of many of his noblest virtues, but humility was the very principle and root of the moral qualities of the monk. There is no quality virtuous in a woman that is not also virtuous in a man, yet that disposition or hierarchy of virtues which constitutes a perfect woman would be wholly unsuited for a perfect man. The moral is in this respect like the physical type. The beauty of man is not the beauty of woman, nor the beauty of the child as the beauty of the adult, nor the beauty of an Italian as the beauty of an Englishwoman. All types of character are not good, as all types of countenance are not beautiful; but there are many distinct casts of goodness, as there are many distinct casts of beauty.
This most important truth may be stated in a somewhat different form. Whenever a man is eminently defiently in any virtue, it, of course, follows that his character is imperfect, but it does not necessarily follow that he is not in other respects moral and virtuous. There is, however, usually some one virtue, which I may term rudimentary, which is brought forward so prominently before the world, as the first cortion of moral excellence, that it may be safely inferred that a man who has absolutely neglected it is entirely indifferent to moral culture. Rudimentary virtues vary in different ages, nations, and classes. Thus, in the great republics of antiquity patriotism was rudimentary, for it was so assiduously cultivated, that it appeared at once the most obvious and the most essential of duties. Among ourselves much private virtue may co-exist with complete indifference to national interests. In the monastic period, and in a somewhat different form in the age of chivalry, a spirit of reverential obedience was rudimentary, and the basis of all moral progress; but we may now frequently find a good man without it, his moral energies having been cultivated in other directions. Common truthfulness and honesty, as I have already said, are rudimentary virtues in industrial societies, but not in others. Chastity, in England at least, is a rudimentary female virtue, but scarcely a rudimentary virtue among men, and it has not been in all ages, and is not now in all countries, rudimentary among women. There is no more important task devolving upon a moral historian, than to discover in each period the rudimentary virtue, for it regulates in a great degree the position assigned to all others.
From the considerations I have urged, it will appear that there is considerable danger in proposing too absolutely a single character, however admirable, as the model to which all men must necessarily conform. A character may be perfect in its own kind, but no character can possibly em brace all types of perfection; for, as we have seen, the perfection of a type depends not only upon the virtues that constitute it, but also upon the order and prominence asigned to them. All that can be expected in an ideal is, that it should be perfect of its own kind, and should exhibit the type most needed in its age, and most widely useful to mankind. The Christian type is the glorification of the amiable, as the Stoio type was that of the heroic qualities, and this is one of the reasons why Christianity is so much more fitted than Stoicism to preside over civilisation, for the more society is organised and civilised, the greater is the scope for the amiable, and the less for the heroic qualities.
The history of that moral intolerance which endeavours to reduce all characters to a single type has never, I think, been examined as it deserves, and I shall frequently have occasion to advert to it in the following pages. No one can have failed to observe how common it is for men to make their own tastes or excellences the measure of all goodness, pronouncing all that is broadly different from them to be imperfect or low, or of a secondary value. And this, which is usually attributed to vanity, is probably in most cases much more due to feebleness of imagination, to the difficulty most men have in conceiving in their minds an order of character fundamentally different from their own. A good man can usually sympathise much more with a very imperfect character of his own type than with a far more perfect one of a different type. To this cause, quite as much as to historical causes or occasional divergences of interest, may be traced the extreme difficulty of effecting cordial international friendships, especially in those cases when a difference of race coincides with the difference of nationality. Each nation has a distinct type of excellence, each esteems the virtues in which it excels, and in which its neighbours are often most deficient, incomparably the greatest. Each regards with especial antipathy the vices from which it is most free, and to which its neighbours may be most addicted. Hence arises a mingled feeling of contempt and dislike, from which the more enlightened minds are, indeed, soon emancipated, but which constitutes the popular sentiment.
The type of character of every individual depends partly upon innate temperament and partly upon external circumstances. A warlike, a refined, an industrial society each evokes and requires its specific qualities, and produces its appropriate type. If a man of a different type arise-if, for example, a man formed by nature to exhibit to the highest perfection the virtues of gentleness or meekness, be born in the midst of a fierce military society-he will find no suitable scope for action, he will jar with his age, and his type will be regarded with disfavour. And the effect of this opposition is not simply that he will not be appreciated as he deserves, he will also never succeed in developing his own distinctive virtues as they would have been developed under other circumstances. Everything will be against him-the force of education, the habits of society, the opinions of mankind, even his own sense of duty. All the highest models of excellence about him being formed on a different type, his very efforts to improve his being will dull the qualities in which nature intended him to excel. If, on the other hand, a man with naturally heroic qualities be born in a society which pre-eminently values heroism, he will not only be more appreciated, he will also, under the concurrence of favourable circumstances, carry his heroism to a far higher point than would otherwise have been possible. Hence changing circumstances produce changing types, and hence, too, the possibility of moral history and the necessity of uniting it with general history. Beligions, considered as moral teachers, are realised and effective only when their moral teaching is in conformity with the tendency of their age. If any part of it is not so, that part will be either openly abandoned, or refined away, or tacitly neglected. Among the ancients, the co-existence of the Epicurean and Stoical schools, which offered to the world two entirely different archetypes of virtue, secured in a very remarkable manner the recognition of different kinds of excellence; for although each of these schools often attained a pre-eminence, neither ever succeeded in wholly destroying or discrediting the other.
Of the two elements that compose the moral condition of mankind, our generalised knowledge is almost restricted to one. We know much of the ways in which political, social, or intellectual causes act upon character, but scarcely anything of the laws that govern innate disposition, of the reasons and extent of the natural moral diversities of individuals or races. I think, however, that most persons who reflect upon the subject will conclude that the progress of medicine, revealing the physical causes of different moral predispositions, is likely to place a very large measure of knowledge on this point within our reach. Of all the great branches of human knowledge, medicine is that in which the accomplished results are most obviously imperfect and provisional, in which the field of unrealised possibilities is most extensive, and from which, if the human mind were directed to it, as it has been during the past century to locomotive and other industrial inventions, the most splendid results might be expected. Our almost absolute ignorance of the causes of some of the most fatal diseases, and the empirical nature of nearly all our best medical treatment, have been often recognised. The medicine of inhalation is still in its infancy, and yet it is by inhalation that Nature produces most of her diseases, and effects most of her cures. The medical power of electricity, which of all known agencies bears most resemblance to life, is almost unexplored. The discovery of anæsthetics has in our own day opened out a field of inestimable importance, and the proved possibility, under certain physical conditions, of governing by external suggestions the whole current of the feelings and emotions, may possibly contribute yet further to the alleviation of suffering, and perhaps to that euthanasia which Bacon proposed to physicians as an end of their art. But in the eyes both of the philanthropist and of the philosopher, the greatest of all results to be expected in this, or perhaps any other field, are, I conceive, to be looked for in the study of the relations between our physical and our moral natures. He who raises moral pathology to a science, expanding, systema ing, and applying many fragmentary observations that have been already made, will probably take a place among the master intellects of mankind. The fastings and bleedings of the mediæval monk, the medicines for allaying or stimulating the sensual passions, the treatment of nervous diseases, the moral influences of insanity and of castration, the researches of phrenology, the moral changes that accompany the successive stages of physical developments, the instances of diseases which have altered, sometimes permanently, the whole complexion of the character, and have acted through the character upon all the intellectual judgments,1 are examples of the kind of facts with which such a science would deal. Mind and body are so closely connected that even those who most earnestly protest against materialism readily admit that each acts continually upon the other. The sudden emotion that quickens the pulse, and blanches or flushes the cheek, and the effect of fear in predisposing to an epidemic, are familiar instances of the action of the mind upon the body, and the more powerful and permanent influence of the body upon the disposition is attested by countless observations. It is probable that this action extends to all parts of our moral constitution, that every passion or characteristic tendency has a physical predisposing cause, and that if we were acquainted with these, we might treat by medicine the many varieties of moral disease as systematically as we now treat physical disease. In addition to its incalculable practical importance, such knowledge would have a great philosophical value, throwing a new light upon the filiation of our moral qualities, enabling us to treat exhaustively the moral influence of climate, and withdrawing the great question of the influence of race from the impressions of isolated observers to place it on the firm basis of experiment. It would thus form the complement to the labours of the historian.
Such discoveries are, however, perhaps far from attainment, and their discussion does not fall within the compass of this work. My present object is simply to trace the action of external circumstances upon morals, to examine what have been the moral types proposed as ideal in different ages, in what degree they have been realised in practice, and by what causes they have been modified, impaired, or destroyed.
The opinions of Hume on moral questions are grossly misrepresented by many writers, who persist in describing them as substantially identical with those of Bentham. How far Hume was from denying the existence of a moral sense, the following passages will show:—‘The final sentence, it is probable, which pronounces characters and actions amiable or odious, praiseworthy or blameable ... depends on some internal sense or feeling which nature has made universal in the whole species.’—Enquiry Concerning Morals, § 1. ‘The hypothesis we embrace ... defines virtue to be whatever mental action or quality gives to the spectator the pleasing sentiment of approbation’—Ibid. Append I. ‘The crime or immorality is no particular fact or relation which can be the object of the understanding, but arises entirely from the sentiment of disapprobation, which, by the structure of human nature, we unavoidably feel on the apprehension of barbarity or treachery.’ — Ibid. ‘Reason instructs us in the several tendencies of actions, and humanity makes a distinction in favour of those which are useful and beneficial.’—Ibid. ‘As virtue is an end, and is desirable on its own account without fee or reward, merely for the immediate satisfaction it conveys, it is requisite that there should be some sentiment which it touches, some internal taste or feeling, or whatever you please to call it, which distinguishes moral good and evil, and which embraces the one and rejects the other.’—Ibid. The two writers to whom Hume was most indebted were Hutcheson and Butler. In some interesting letters to the former (Burton's Life of Hume, vol. i.), he discusses the points on which be differed from them.
‘The chief thing therefore which lawgivers and other wise men that have laboured for the establishment of society have endeavoured, has been to make the people they were to govern believe that it was more beneficial for everybody to conquer than to indulge his appetites, and much better to mind the public than what seemed his private interest ... observing that none were either so savage as not to be charmed with praise, or so despicable as patiently to bear contempt, they justly concluded that flattery must be the most powerful argument that could be used to human creatures. Making use of this bewitching engine, they extolled the excellency of our nature above other animals ... by the help of which we were capable of performing the most noble achievements. Having, by this artful flattery, insinuated themselves into the hearts of men, they began to instruct them in the notions of honour and shame, &c.'—Enquiry into the Origin of Moran Virtue.
‘I conceive that when a man celiberates whether he shall do a thing or not do it, he does nothing else but consider whether it be better for himself to do it or not to do it.’—Hobbes On Liberty and Necessity. ‘Good and evil are names that signify our appetites and aversions.’—Ibid. Levathan, part i. ch. xvi ‘Obligation is the necessity of doing or omitting any action in order to be happy.’—Gay's dissertation prefixed to King's Origin of Evil, p 36. ‘The only reason or motive by which individuals can possibly be induced to the practice of virtue, must be the feeling immediate or the prospect of future private happiness.’—Brown On the Characteristics, p. 159. ‘En tout temps, en tout lieu, tant en matiére de morale qu'en matiére d'esprit, c'est l'intérét personnel qui dicte le jugement des particuliers, et l'intérêt général qui dicte celui des nations. ... Tout homme ne prend dans ses jugements conseil que de son intérêt.’—Helvétius De, Esprit, discours ii. ‘Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. ... The principle of utility recognises this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation of that system, the object of which is to rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and of law. Systems which attempt to question it, deal in sounds instead of sense, in caprice instead of reason, in darkness instead of light.’—Bentham's Principles of Morals and Legislation, ch. i. ‘By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question.—Ibid. ‘Je regardel'amour éclairé de nous-mêmes comme le principe de tout sacrifice moral’—D'Alembert quoted by D. Stewart, Active and Moral Powers, vol i. p. 220.
‘Pleasure is in itself a good; nay, even setting aside immunity from pain, the only good; pain is in itself an evil, and, indeed, without exception the only evil, or else the words good and evil have no meaning.’—Bentham's I'rinciples of Morals and Legislation, ch x.
‘Good and evil are nothing but pleasure and pain, or that which occasions or procures pleasure or paid to us. Moral good and evil then is only the conformity or disagreement of our voluntary actions to some law whereby good or evil is drawn on us by the will and power of the law maker, which good and evil, pleasure or pain, attending our observance or breach of the law by the decree of the law maker, is that we call reward or punishment.’—Locke's Essay, book ii. ch xxviii. ‘Take away pleasures and pains, not only happiness, but justice, and duty, and obligation, and virtue, all of which have been so elaborately held up to view as independent of them, are so many emptysounds.’—Bentham's Springs of Action, ch i. § 15.
‘Il lui est aussi impossible d'aimer le bien pour le bien, que d'aimer le mal pour le mal.’—Helvétius De l'Esprit, disc. ii, ch. v.
‘Even the goodness which we apprehend in God Almighty, is his goodness to us.’—Hobbes On Human Nature, ch. vii § 3. So Waterland, ‘To love God is in effect the same thing as to love happiness, eternal happiness; and the love of happiness is still the love of ourselves.’—Third Sermon on Self-love.
‘Reverence is the conception we have concerning another, that he hath the power to do unto us both good and hurt, but not the will to do us hurt’—Hobbes On Human Nature, ch. viii. § 7.
‘The pleasures of piety are the pleasures that accompany the belief of a man's being in the acquisition, or in possession of the goodwill or favour of the Supreme Being; and as a fruit of it, of his being in the way of enjoying pleasures to be received by God's special appointment either in this life or in a life to come’—Bentham's Principles of Morals and Legislation, ch v. ‘The pains of piety are the pains that accompany the belief of a man's being obnoxious to the displeasure of the Supreme Being, and in consequence to certain pains to be inflicted by His especial appointment, either in this life or in a life to come. These may be also called the pains of religion—Ibid.
‘There can be no greater argument to a man of his own power, than to find himself able not only to accomplish his own desires, but also to assist other men in theirs; and this is that conception wherein consisteth charity.’—Hobbes On Hum. Nat ch. ix. § 17. ‘No man giveth but with intention of good to himself, because gift is voluntary; and of all voluntary acts, the object to every man is his own good.’—Hobbes' Loviathan, part i. ch. xv. ‘Dream not that men will move their little finger to serve you, unless their advantage in so doing be obvious to them Men never did so, and never will while human nature is made of its present materials.’—Bentham's Deontology, vol. ii. p. 133
‘Pity is imagination or fiction of future calamity to ourselves, proceeding from the sense of another man's calamity. But when it lightxth on such as we think have not deserved the same, the compassion is greater, because there then appeareth more probability that the same may happen to us, for the evil that happeneth to an innocent man may happen to every man’—Hobbes On Hum. Nat ch. ix. § 10. ‘La pitié est souvent un sentiment de nos propres maux dans les maux d'autrui. C'est une habile prévoyance des malheurs où nous pouvons tomber. Nous donnons des secours aux autres pour les engager à nous en donner en de semblables occasions, et ces services que nous leur rendons sont, à proprement parler, des biens que nous nous faisons à nous-mêmes par avance.’-La Rochefoucazld, Maximes, 264 Butler has remarked that if Hobbes' account were true, the most fearful would be the most compassionate nature; but this is perhaps not quite just, for Hobbes' notion of pity imphes the union of two not absolutely identical, though nearly sllied, influences, timidity and imagination. The theory of Adam Smith, though closely connected with, differs totally in consequences from that of Hobbes on this point. He says, ‘When I condole with you for the loss of your son, in order to enter into your grief, I do not consider what I, a person of such a character and profession, should suffer if I had a son, and if that son should die—I consider what I should suffer if I was really you. I not only change circumstances with you, but I change persons and characters. My grief, therefore, is entirely upon your account. . . . A man may sympathise with a woman in child-bed, though it is impossible he should conceive himself suffering her pains in his own proper person and character.’-Moral Sentiments, part vii. ch. i. § 3.
‘Cequeles hommes ont nommè amitié n'est qu'une société, qu'uu ménagement réciproque d'intérês et qu'un échange de bons offices. Co n'est enfin qu'un commerce of I'amour-propre se propose toujours quelque chose à gagner.’-La Rochefoucauld, Max. 83. See this idea developed at large in Helvétiu.
‘La science de la morale n'est autre chose que la science même de la législation.’-Hélvetius De I'Esprit, ii. 17.
‘This doctrine is expounded at length in all the moral works of Hobbes and his school. The following passage is a fair specimen of their meaning:—‘Moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is good and evil in the conversation and society of mankind. Good and evil are names that signify our appetites and aversions, which in different tempers, customs, and doctrines of men are different . . . from whence arise disputes, controversies, and at last war. And therefore, so long as man is in this condition of mere nature (which is a condition of war), his private appetite is the measure of good and evil. And consequently all men agree in this, that peace is good, and there fore also that the ways or means of peace, (which, as I have showed before) are justice, gratitude, modesty equity, mercy, and the rest of the laws of nature are good . . . and their contrary vices evil.‘—Hobbes’ Leviathan, part i. ch. xvi. See, too, a striking passage in Bentham's Deontology, vol. ii. p. 132.
‘As an ingenious writer in the Saturday Revew (Aug. 10, 1867) expresses it: ‘Chastity is merely a social law created to encourage the alliances that most promote the permanent welfare of the race, and to maintain woman in a social position which it is thought advisable she should hold.’ See, too, on this view, Hume's Inquiry concerning Morals, § 4, and also nots x.: ‘To what other purpose do all the ideas of chastity and modesty serve? Nisi utile est quod facimus, frustra est gloria.’
‘All pleasure is necessarily self-regarding, for it is impossible to have any feelings out of our own mind. But there are modes of delight that bring also satisfaction to others, from the round that they take in their course. Such are the pleasures of benevolence. Others imply no participation by any second party, as, for example, eating, drinking, bodily warmth, property, and power; while a third class are fed by the pains and privations of fellow-beings, as the delights of sport and tyranny. The condemnatory phrase, selfishness, applies with especial emphasis to the last-mentioned class, and, in a qualified degree, to the second group; while such terms as unselfishness, disinterestedness, self-devotion, are applied to the vicarious position wherein we seek our own satisfaction in that of others.’—Bain On the Emotwns and Will, p. 113.
‘Vice may be defined to be a miscalculation of chances, a mistake in estimating the value of pleasures and pajas. It is false moral arithmetic.’ — Bentham's Deontology, vol. i. p, 131.
‘La récompense, la punition, la gloire et l'infamie soumises à ses volontés sont quaure espèces de divinités avec lesquelles le législa-teur pent toujours opérer le bien publicet créer des hommes illustres en tous les genres. Toute I'étude des moralistes consiste à déterminer l'usage qu'on doit faire de ces récompenses et de ces punitions et les secours qu'on peut tirer pour lier I'intérêt personnel à l'intérêt général.’— Helvetius De V Esprit, ii 22. ‘La justice de nos jugements et de nos actions n'est jamais que la rencontre heureuse de notre intérêt avec l'intérêt public.’—Ibid. ii 7. ‘To prove that the immoral action is a miscalculation of self-interest, to show how erroneous an estimate the vicious man makes of pains and pleasures, is the purpose of the intelligent moralist. Unless he can do this he does nothing; for, as has been stated above, for a man not to pursue what he deems likely to produce to him the greatest sum of enjoyment, is, in the very nature of things, impossible.’-Bentham's Deontology.
‘If the effect of virtue were to prevent or destroy more pleasure than it produced, or to produce more pain than it prevented, its more appropriate name would be wickedness and folly; wickedness as it affected others, folly as rs-spected him who practised it.’— Bentham's Deontology, vol i. p. 142. ‘Weigh pains, weigh pleasures, and as the balance stands will stand the question of right and wrong.’ -Ibid. vol. i. p. 137. ‘Moialis philosophise caput est, Faustine fili, ut scias quibus ad beatam vitam perveniri rationibus possit.'-Apuleius, Ad Doct. Platonis, ii.’ Atque ipsa utilitas, justi prope mater et sequi.' —Horace, Sat. I. iii. 98.
‘We can be obliged to nothing but what we ourselves are to gain or lose something by; for nothing else can be “violent motive” to us. As we should not be obliged to obey the laws or the magistrate unless rewards or punishments, pleasure or pain, somehow or other, depended upon our obedience; so neither should we, without the same reason, be obliged to do what is right, to practise virtue, or to obey the commands of God.’— Paley's Moral Philosophy, book ii. ch. ii.
See Gassendi Philosophae Epicuri Syntagma. These four canons are a Skilful condensation of the argument of Torquatus in Cicero, De Fin. i. 2. See, too, a very striking letter by Epicurus himself, given in his life by Diogenes Laërtius.
‘Sanus igitur non est, quinulla spe majore proposita, iis bonis quibus cæteri utuntur in vita, labores et cruciatus et miserias antepona. . . . . Non aliter his bonis praæsentibus abstinendum est quam si sint aliqua majora, propter quæ tanti sit et voluptates omittere et mala omnia sustinere’—Lactantius, Div. Inst. vi. 9. Macaulay, in some youthful essays against the Utilitarian theory (which he characteristically described as ‘Not much more laughable than phrenology, and immeasurably more humane than cock-fighting’), maintains the theological form of selfishness in very strong terms. ‘What proposition is there respecting human nature which is absolutely and universally true? We know of only one, and that is not only true but identical, that men always act from self-interest.’—Review of Mill's Essay on Government. ‘Of this we may be sure, that the words “greatest happiness” will never in any man's mouth mean more than the greatest happiness of others, which is consistent with what he thinks his own. . . . This direction (Do as you would be done by) would be utterly unmeaning, as it actually is in Mr. Bentham's philosophy, unless it were accompanied by a sanction. In the Christian scheme accordingly it is accompanied by a sanction of immense force. To a man whose greatest happiness in this world is inconsistent with the greatest happiness of the greatest number, is held out the prospect of an infinite happiness hereafter, from which he excludes himself by wronging his fellow-creatures here.’— Answer to the Westminster Review's Defence of Mill.
‘All virtue and piety are thus resolvable into a principle of self-love. It is what Scripture itself resolves them into by founding them upon faith in God's promises, and hope in things unseen. In this way it may be rightly said that there is no such thing as disinterested virtue. It is with reference to ourselves and for our own sakes that we love even God Himself.’—Waterland, Third Sermon on Self-love. ‘To risk the happiness of the whole duration of our being in any case whatever, were it possible, would be foolish.'- - Robert Hall's Sermon on Modern Infidelity. ‘In the moral system the means are virtuous practice; the end, happiness.’—Warburton's Divine Legation, book ii. Appendix.
‘There is always understood to be a difference between an act of prudence and an act of duty. Thus, if I distrusted a man who owed me a sum of money, I should reckon it an act of prudence to get another person bound with him; but I should hardly call it an act of duty. . . . Now in what, you will ask, does the difference consist, inasmuch as, according to our account of the matter, both in the one case and the other, in acts of duty as well as acts of prudence, we consider solely what we our selves shall gain or lose by the act? The difference, and the only difference, is this: that in the one case we consider what we shall gain or lose in the present world; in the other case, we consider also what we shall gain or lose in the world to come.’—Paley's Moral Philoscphy, ii. 3.
‘If a Christian, who has the view of happiness and misery in another life, be asked why a man must keep his word, he will give this as a reason, because God, who has the power of eternal life and death, requires it of us. But if an Hobbist be asked why, he will answer, because the public requires it, and the Leviathan will punish you if you do not. And if one of the old heathen philosophers had been asked, he would have answered, because it was dishonest, below the dignity of man, and opposite to virtue, the highest perfection of human nature, to do otherwise.’ —Locke's Essay, 1. 3.
Thus Paley remarks that— ‘The Christian religion hath not ascertained the precise quantity of virtue necessary to salvation,’ and he then proceeds to urge the probability of graduated scales of rewards and punishments. (Moral Philosophy, book i. ch. vii.)
This view was developed by Locke (Essay on the Human Understanding, book ii. ch. xxi.) Pascal, in a well-known passage, applied the same argument to Christianity, urging that the rewards and punishments it promises are so great, that it is the part of a wise man to embrace the creed, even though he believes it improbable, if there be but a possibility in its favour.
Cudworth, in his Immutable Morals, has collected the names of a number of the schoolmen who held this view. See, too, an interesting note in Miss Cobbe's very learned Essay on Intutive Morals, pp. 18 19
E. g. Soame Jenyns, Dr. Johnson, Crusius, Pascal, Paley, and Austin. Warburton is generally quoted in the list, but not I think quite fairly. See his theory, which is rather complicated (Divine Legation, i. 4) Waterland appears to have held this view, and also Condillac. See a very remarkable chapter on morals, in his Traitedes Animaux, part ii. ch. vii. Closely connected with this doctrine is the notion that the morality of God is generically different from the morality of men, which having been held with more or less distinctness by many theologians (Archbishop King being perhaps the most prominent), has found in our own day an able defender in Dr. Mansel. Much information on the history of this doctrine will be found in Dr. Mansel's Second Letter to Professor Goldwin Smith (Oxford, 1862).
Leibnitz noticed the frequency with which Supralapsarian Calvinsts adopt this doctrine. (Théodicée, part ii § 176.) Archbishop Whately, who from his connection with the Irish Clergy had admirable opportunities of studying the tendencies of Calvinism, makes a similar remark as the result of his own experience. (Whately's Life, vol. ii. p. 339.)
‘God designs the happiness of all His sentient creatures. ... Knowing the tendencies of our actions, and knowing His benevolent purpose, we know His tacit commands.’—Austin's Lectures on Jurisprudence, vol. i. p. 31. ‘The commands which He has revealed we must gather from the terms wherein they are promulgated. The commands which He has not revealed we must construe by the principle of utility’—Ibid. p. 96. So Paley's Moral Philosophy, book ii. ch. iv. v.
Paley's Moral Philosophy, book i. ch. vii. The question of the disinterestedness of the love we should bear to God was agitated in the Catholic Church, Bossuet taking the selfish, and Fénelon the unselfish side The opinions of Fénelon and Molinos on the subject were authoritatively condemned. In England, the less dogmatic character of the national faith, and also the fact that the great anti-Christian writer, Hobbes, was the advocate of extreme selfishness in morals, had, I think, a favourable influence upon the ethics of the church. Hobbes gave the first great impulse to moral philosophy in England, and his opponents were naturally impelled to an unselfish theory. Bishop Cumberland led the way, resolving virtue (like Hutcheson) into benevolence. The majority of divines, however, till the present century, have, I think, been on the selfish side.
Moral Philosophy, ii. 3.
Essay on the Human Understanding, ii. 28.
Principles of Morals and Legislation, ch. iii. Mr. Mill observes that, ‘Bentham's idea of the world is that of a collection of persons pursuing each his separate interest or pleasure, and the prevention of whom from jostling one another more than is unavoidable, may be attempted by hopes and fears derived from three sources—the law, religion, and public opinion. To these three powers, considered as binding human conduct, he gave the name of sanctions; the political sanction operating by the rewards and penalties of the law; the religious sanction by those expected from the ruler of the universe; and the popular, which he characteristically calls also the moral sanction, operating through the pains and pleasures arising from the favour or disfavour of our fellow-creatures.’—Dissertations, vol. i. pp. 362–363.
Hume on this, as on most other points, was emphatically opposed to the school of Hobbes, and even declared that no one could honestly and in good faith deny the reality of an unselfish element in man. Following in the steps of Butler, he explained it in the following passage:—‘Hunger and thirst have eating and drinking for their end, and from the gratification of these primary appetites arises a pleasure which may become the object of another species of desire or inclination that is secondary and interested. In the same manner there are mental passions by which we are impelled immediately to seek particular objects, such as fame or power or vengeance, without any regard to interest, and when these objects are attained a pleasing enjoyment ensues. . . . Now where is the difficulty of conceiving that this may likewise be the case with benevolence and friendship, and that from the original frame of our temper we may feel a desire of another's happiness or good, which by means of that affection becomes our own good, and is afterwards pursued, from the combined motives of benevolence and self-enjoyment?’—Hume's Enquiry concerning Morals, Appendix II. Compare Butler, ‘If there be any appetite or any inward principle besides self-love, why may there not be an affection towards the good of our fellow-reatures, and delight from that affection's being gratified and uneasiness from things going contrary to it?’—Sermon on Compassion.
‘By sympathetic sensibility is to be understood the propensity that a man has to derive pleasure from the happiness, and pain from the unhappiness, of other sensitive beings.’—Bentham's Principles of Morals and Legislation, ch. vi. ‘The sense of sympathy is universal. Perhaps there never existed a human being who had reached full age without the experience of pleasure at another's pleasure, of uneasiness at another's pain. . . . Community of interests, similarity of opinion, are sources from whence it springs.’—Deontology, vol. i. pp. 169–170.
‘The idea of the pain of another is naturally painful. The idea of the pleasure of another is naturally pleasurable. ... In this, the unselfish part of our nature, lies a foundation, even independently of inculcation from without, for the generation of moral feelings’—Mill's Dissertations, vol. i. p. 137. See, too, Bain's Emotions and the Will, pp. 289, 313; and especially Austin's Lectures on Jurisprudence. The first volume of this brilliant work contains, I think without exception, the best modern statement of the utilitarian theory in its most plausible form—a statement equally remarkable for its ability, its candour, and its uniform courtesy to opponents.
See a collection of passages from Aristotle, bearing on the subject, in Mackintosh's Dissertation
Cic. De Finibus, i. 5. This view is adopted in Tucker's Light of Nature (ed. 1842), vol. i. p. 167. See, too, Mill's Analysis of the Human Mind, vol. ii. p. 174.
Essay, book ii. ch. xxxiii.
Hutcheson On the Passions, § 1. The ‘secondary desires’ of Hutcheson are closely related to the ‘reflex affections’ of Shaftesbury. ‘Not only the outward beings which offer themselves to the sense are the objects of the affection; but the very actions themselves, and the affections of pity, kindness, gratitude, and their contraries, being brought into the mind by reflection become objects. So that by means of this reflected sense, there arises another kind of affection towards those very affections themselves.’—Shaftesbury's Enquiry concerning Virtue, book i. part ii. § 3.
See the preface to Hartley On Man. Gay's essay is prefixed to Law's translation of Archbishop King On the Origin of Evil.
‘The case is this. We first perceive or imagine some real good; i.e. fitness to promote our happiness in those things which we love or approve of. .... Hence those things and pleasures are so tied together and associated in our minds, that one cannot present itself, but the other will also occur. And the association remains even after that which at first gave them the connection is quite forgotten, or perhaps does not exist, but the contrary.’— Gay's Essay, p. lii. ‘All affections whatsoever are finally resolvable into reason, pointing cat private happiness, and are conversant only about things apprehended to be means tending to this end; and whenever this end is not perceived, they are to be accounted for from the association of ideas, and may properly enough be called habits. —Ibid. p. xxxi.
Principally by Mr. James Mill, whose chapter on association, in his Analysis of the Human Mind, may probably rank with Paley's beautiful chapter on happiness, at the head of all modern writings on the utilitarian side,—either of them, I think, being far more valuable than anything Bentham ever wrote on morals This last writer—whose contempt for his predecessors was only equalled by his ignorance of their works, and who has added surprisingly little to moral science (considering the reputation he attained), except a barbarous nomenclature and an interminable series of classifications evincing no real subtlety of thought—makes, as far as I am aware, no use of the doctrine of association. Paley states at with his usual admirable clearness. ‘Having experienced in some instances a particular conduct to be beneficial to ourselves, or observed that it would be so, a sentiment of approbation rises up in our minds, which sentiment afterwards accompanies the idea or mention of the same conduct, although the private advantage which first existed no longer exist.’—Paley, Moral Philos. i. 5. Paley, however, made less use of this doctrine than might have been expected from so enthusiastic an admirer of Tucker. In our own day it has been much used by Mr. J. S. Mill.
This illustration, which was first employed by Hutcheson, is very happily developed by Gay (p. lii). It was then used by Hartley, and finally Tucker reproduced the whole theory with the usual illustration without any acknowledgment of the works of his predecessors, employing however, the term ‘translation’ instead of ‘association’ of ideas See his curious chapter or the subject, Light of Nature, book i. ch. xviii.
‘It is the nature of translation to throw desire from the end upon the means, which thenceforward become an end capable of exciting an appetite without prospect of the consequences whereto they lead. Our habits and most of the desires that occupy human life are of this translated kind.’—Tucker's Light of Nature, vol. ii. (ed. 1842), p. 281.
Mill's Analysis of the Human Mind. The desire for posthumous fame is usually cited by intuitive moralists as a proof of a naturally disinterested element in man.
Hartley On Man, vol i. pp. 474–475.
‘Benevolence . . . has also a high degree of honour and esteem annexed to it, procures us many advantages and returns of kindness, both from the person obliged and others, and is most closely connected with the hopes of reward in a future state, and of self-approbation or the moral sense; and the same things hold with respect to generosity in a much higher degree It is easy therefore to see how such associations may be formed as to engage as to forego great pleasure, or endure great pain for the sake of others, how these associations may be attended with so great a degree of pleasure as to overrule the positive pain endured or the negative one from the foregoing of a pleasure, and yet how there may be no direct explicit expectation of reward either from God or man, by natural consequence or express appointment, not even of the concomitant pleasure that engages the agent to undertake the benevolent and generous action; and this I take to be a proof from the doctrine of association that there is and must be such a thing as pure disinterested benevolence; also a just account of the origin and nature of it.’—Hartley On Man, vol. i. pp. 473–474. See too Mill's Analysis, vol. ii. p. 252.
Mill's Analysis, vol. ii. pp. 244–247.
‘Withself-interest,’ said Hartley, ‘man must begin, he may end in self-annihilation;’ or as Coleridge happily puts it. ‘Legality precedes morality in every individual, even as the Jewish dispensation preceded the Christian in the world at large.’—Notes Theological and Political, p. 340. It might be retorted with much truth, that we begin by practising morality as a duty—we end by practising it as a pleasure, without any reference to duty. Coleridge, who expressed for the Benthamite theories a very cordial detestation, sometimes glided into them himself. ‘The happiness of man,’ he says, ‘is the end of virtue, and truth is the knowledge of the means.’ (The Friend, ed. 1850, vol. ii p. 192) ‘What can be the object of human virtue but the happiness of sentient, still more of moral beings?’ (Notes Theol and Polit p 351) Leibnitz says, ‘Quand on aura appris à faire des actions louables par ambition, on les fera après par inclination. (Sur l'Art de connaitre les Hommes.)
Eg Mackintosh and James Mill. Coleridge in his younger days was an enthusiastic admirer of Hartley; but chiefly, I believe, on account of his theory of vibrations. He named his son after him, and described him in one of his poems as:—
This position is elaborated in a passage too long for quotation by Mr. Austin. (Lectures on Jurisprudence, vol. i. p 44)
Hobbes defines conscience as ‘the opinion of evidence’ (On Human Nature, ch. vi. § 8). Locke as ‘our own opinion or judgment of the moral rectitude or pravity of our own actions’ (Essay, book i. ch. iii. § 8). In Bentham there is very little on the subject; but in one place he informs us that ‘conscience is a thing of fictitious existence, supposed to occupy a seat in the mind’ (Deontology, vol. i. p. 137); and in another he ranks ‘love of duty’ (which he describes as an ‘impossible motive, in so far as duty is synonymous to obligation’) as a variety of the ‘love of power’ (Springs of Action, ii.) Mr. Bain says, ‘conscience is an imitation within ourselves of the government without us.’ (Emotions and Will, p. 313.)
‘However much they [utilitarians] may believe (as they do) that actions and dispositions are only virtuous because they promote another end than virtue, yet this being granted . . . they not only place virtue at the very head of the things which are good as means to the ultimate end, but they also recognise as a psychological fact the possibility of its being to the individual a good in itself.. . . Virtue, according to the utilitarian doctrine, is not naturally and originally part of the end, but it is capable of becoming so. ... What was once desired as an instrument for the attainmert of happiness has come to be desired ... as part of happiness. . . . Human nature is so constituted as to desire nothing which is not either a part of happiness or a means of happiness.’—J. S. Mill's Utilitarianism, pp. 54, 55, 56, 58.
‘A man is tempted to commit adultery with the wife of his friend. The composition of the motive is obvious. He does not obey the motive Why? He obeys other motives which are stronger. Though pleasures are associated with the immoral act, pains are associated with it also—the pains of the injured husband, the pains of the wife, the moral indignation of mankind, the future reproaches of his own mind. Some men obey the first rather than the second motive. The reason is obvious. In these the association of the act with the pleasure is from habit unduly strong, the association of the act with pains is from want of habit unduly weak. This is the case of a bad education. . . . Among the different classes of motives, there are men who are more easily and strongly operated on by some, others by others. We have also seen that this is entirely owing to habits of association. This facility of being acted upon by motives of a particular description, is that which we call disposition.’—Mill's Analysis, vol ii. pp. 212, 213, &e. Adam Smith says, I think with much wisdom, that ‘the great secret of education is to direct vanity to proper objects.’—Moral Sentiments, part vi. § 3.
‘Goodness in ourselves is the prospect of satisfaction annexed to the welfare of others, so that we please them for the pleasure we receive ourselves in so doing, or to avoid the uneasiness we should feel in omitting it. But God is completely happy in Himself, nor can His happiness receive increase or diminution from anything befalling His creatures; wherefore His goodness is pure, disinterested bounty, without any return of joy or satisfaction to Himself. Therefore it is no wonder we have imperfect notions of a quality whereof we have no experience in our own nature.’—Tucker's Light of Nature, vol. i. p. 355. ‘It is the privilege of God alone to act upon pure, disinterested bounty, without the leas addition thereby to His own enjoyment.’—Ibid. vol. ii. p 279. On the other hand, Hutcheson asks, ‘If there be such disposition in the Deity, where is the impossibility of some small degree of this public love in His creatures, and why must they be supposed incapable of acting but from self love?’—Enquiry concerning Mora Good, § 2.
‘We gradually, through the influence of association, come to desire the means without thinking of the end; the action itself becomes an object of desire, and is performed without reference to any motive beyond itself. Thus far, it may still be objected that the action having, through association, become pleasurable, we are as much as before moved to act by the anticipation of pleasure, namely, the pleasure of the action itself But granting this, the matter does not end here. As we proceed in the formation of habits, and become accustomed to will a particular act . . . because it is pleasurable, we at last continue to will it without any reference to its being pleasurable . . . In this manner it is that habits of hurtful excess continue to be practised, although they have ceased to be pleasurable, and in this manner also it is that the habit of willing to persevere in the course which he has chosen, does not desert the moral hero, even when the reward . . . is anything but an equivalent for the suffering he undergoes, or the wishes he may have to renounce.’—Mill's Logie (4th edition), vol. ii. pp. 416, 417.
‘In regard to interest in the most extended, which is the original and only strictly proper sense of the word disinterested, no human act has ever been or ever can be disinterested. . . . In the only sense in which disinterestedness can with truth be predicated of human actions, it is employed . . . to denote, not the absence of all interest . . . but only the absence of all interest of the self-regarding class. Not but that it is very frequently predicated of human action in cases in which divers interests, to no one of which the appellation of self-regarding can with propriety be denied, have been exercising their influence, and in particular fear of God, or hope from God, and fear of ill-repute, or hope of good repute. If what is above be correct, the most disinterested of men is not less under the dominion of interest than the most interested. The only cause of his being styled disinterested, is its not having been observed that the sort of motive (suppose it sympathy for an individual or class) has as truly a corresponding interest belonging to it as any other species of motive has. Of this contradiction between the truth of the case and the language employed in speaking of it, the cause is that in the one case men have not been in the habit of making—as in point of consistency they ought to have made—of the word interest that use which in the other case they have been in the habit of making of it.’—Bentham's Springs of Action, ii. § 2.
Among others Bishop Butler, who draws some very subtle distinctions on the subject in his first sermon ‘on the love of our neighbour’ Dugald Stewart remarks that ‘although we apply the epithet selfish to avarice and to low and private sensuality, we never apply it to the desire of knowledge or to the pursuits of virtue, which are certainly sources of more exquisite pleasure than riches or sensuality can bestow.’—Active and Moral Powers, vol. i. p. 19.
Sir W. Hamilton.
Cic. De Fin. lib. ii.
‘As there is not any sort of pleasure that is not itself a good, nor any sort of pain the exemption from which is not a good, and as nothing but the expectation of the eventual enjoyment of pleasure in some shape, or of exemption from pain in some shape, can operate in the character of a motive, a necessary consequence is that if by motive be meant sort of motive, there is not any such thing as a bad motive.’—Bentham's Springs of Action, ii § 4. The first clauses of the following passage I have already quoted: ‘Pleasure is itself a good, nay, setting aside immunity from pain, the only good. Pain is in itself an evil, and indeed, without exception, the only evil, or else the words good and evil have no meaning. And this is alike true of every sort of pain, and of every sort of pleasure. It follows therefore immediately and incontestably that there is no such thing as any sort of motive that is in itself a bad one.’—Principles of Morals and Legislation, ch. ix. ‘The search after motive is one of the prominent causes of men's bewilderment in the investigation of questions of morals. . . . But this is a pursuit in which every moment employed is a moment wasted. All motives are abstractedly good. No man has ever had, can, or could have a motive different from the pursuit of pleasure or of shunning pain.’—Deontology, vol. i. p. 126. Mr. Mill's doctrine appears somewhat different from this, but the difference is I think only apparent. He says: ‘The motive has nothing to do with the morality of the action, though much with the worth of the agent,’ and he afterwards explains this last statement by saying that the ‘motive makes a great difference in our moral estimation of the agent, especially if it indicates a good or a bad habitual disposition, a bent of character from which useful or from which hurtful actions are likely to arise.’—Utilitarianism, 2nd ed. pp. 26–27.
This truth has been admirably illustrated by Mr. Herbert Spencer (Social Statics, pp. 1–8).
‘On évalue la grandeur de la vertu en comparant les biens obtenus aux maux au prix desquels on les achète: l'excédant en bien mesure la valeur de la vertu, comme l'excéant en mal mesure le degré de haine que doit inspirer le vice—Ch. Comte, Traité de Legislation liv. ii. ch. xii.
M. Dumont, the translator of Bentham, has elaborated in a rather famous passage the utilitarian notions about vengeance. ‘Toute espèce de satisfaction entrainant une peine pour le délinquant produit naturellement un plaisir de vengeance pour la partie lésee. Ce plaisir est un gain. Il rappelle la parabole de Samson. C'est le doux qui sort du terrible. C'est le miel recueilli dans la gueule du lion. Produit sans frais, résultat net d'une opération nécessaire à d'autres titres, c'est une jouissance à cultiver comme toute autre; car le plaisir de la vengeance considéree abstraitement n'est comme tout autre plaisir qu'un bien en lui-même.’—Principes du Code pénal, 2 partie, ch. xvi. According to a very acute living writer of this school, ‘The criminal law stands to the passion of revenge in much the same relation as marriage to the sexual appetite’ (J.F. Stephen On the Criminal Law of England, p. 99). Mr Mill observes that, ‘In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility’ (Utilitarianism, p 24). It is but fair to give a specimen of the opposite order of extravagance. ‘So well convinced was Father Claver of the eternal happiness of almost all whom he assisted,’ says this saintly missionary's biographer, ‘that speaking once of some persons who had delivered a criminal into the hands of justice, he said, God forgive them; but they have secured the salvation of this man at the probable risk of their own.’—Newman's Anglican Difficulties, p. 205.
De Ordine, ii. 4. The experiment has more than once been tried at Venice, Pisa, &c., and always with the results St. Augustine predicted.
The reader will here observe very transparent sophistry of an assertion which is repeated ad nauseam by utilitarians. They tell us that a regard to the remote consequences of our actions would lead us to the conclusion that we should never perform an act which would not be conducive to human happiness if it were universally performed, or, as Mr. Austin expresses it, that ‘the question is if acts of this class were generally done or generally forborne or omitted, what would be the probable effect on the general happiness or good?’ (Lectures on Jurisprudence, vol. i. p. 32.) The question is nothing of the kind. If I am convinced that utility alone constitutes virtue, and if I am meditating any particular act, the sole question of morality must be whether that act is on the whole useful, produces a net result of happiness. To determine this question I must consider both the immediate and the remote consequences of the act; but the latter are not ascertained by asking what would be the result if every one did as I do, but by asking how far, as a matter of fact, my act is likely to produce imitators, or affect the conduct and future acts of others It may no doubt be convenient and useful to form classifications based on the general tendency of different courses to promote or diminish happiness, but such classifications cannot alter the morality of particular acts. It is quite clear that no act which produces on the whole more pleasure than pain can on utilitarian principles be vicious. It is, I think, equally clear that no one could act consistently on such a principle without being led to consequences which in the common judgment of mankind are grossly and scandalously immoral.
There are some very good remarks on the possibility of living a life of imagination wholly distinct from the life of action in Mr Bain's Emotions and Will, p. 246.
Bentham especially recurs to this subject frequently. See Sir J. Bowring's edition of his works (Edinburgh, 1843), vol. i. pp. 142, 143, 562, vol. x. pp 549–550.
Granted that any practice causes more pain to animals than it gives pleasure to man; is that practice moral or immoral? And if exactly in proportion as human beings raise their heads out of the lough of selfishness they do not with one voice answer “immoral,” let the morality of the principle of utility be for ever condemned.'—Mill's ert. vol. ii. p. 485. ‘We deprive them [animals] of life, and this is justifiable—their pains do not equal our enjoyments. There is a balance of good.’—Bentham's Deontology, vol i. p. 14. Mr Mill accordingly defines the principle of utility, without any special reference to man. ‘The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, utility or the great happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness,’—Utilitarianism, pp. 9–10.
The exception of course being domestic animals, which may be injured by ill-treatment, but even this exception is a very partial one. No selfish reason could prevent any amount of cruelty to animals that were about to be killed, and even in the case of previous ill-usage the calculations of selfishness will depend greatly upon the price of the animal. I have been told that on some parts of the continent diligence horses are systematically under-fed, and worked to a speedy death, their cheapness rendering such a course the most economical.
Bentham, as we have seen, is of opinion that the gastronomic pleasure would produce the requisite excess of enjoyment. Hartley, who has some amiable and beautiful remarks on the duty of kindness to animals, without absolutely condemning, speaks with much aversion of the custom of eating ‘our brothers and sisters,’ the animals. (On Man, vol. ii. pp. 222–223.) Paley, observing that it is quite possible for men to live without flesh-diet, concludes that the only sufficient justification for eating meat is an express divine revelation in the Book of Genesis. (Moral Philos. book ii. ch. 11.) Some reasoners evade the main issue by contending that they kill animals because they would otherwise overrun the earth; but this, as Windham said, ‘is an indifferent reason for killing fish.’
In commenting upon the French licentiousness of the eighteenth century, Hume says, in a passage which has excited a great deal of animadversion:—‘Our neighbours, it seems, have resolved to sacrifice some of the domestic to the social pleasures; and to prefer ease, freedom, and an open commerce, to strict fidelity and constancy. These ends are both good, and are somewhat difficult to reconcile; nor must we be surprised if the customs of nations incline too much sometimes to the one side, and sometimes to the other.’—Dialogue.
There are few things more pitiable than the blunders into which writers have fallen when trying to base the plain virtue of chastity on utilitarian calculations. Thus since the writings of Malthus it has been generally recognised that one of the very first conditions of all material prosperity is to check early marriages, to restrain the tendency of population to multiply more rapidly than the means of subsistence. Knowing this, what can be more deplorable than to find moralists making such arguments as these the very foundation of morals?—‘The first and great mischief, and by consequence the guilt, of promiscuous concubinage consists in its tendency to diminish marriages.’ (Paley's Moral Philosophy, book iii. part iii. ch. ii.) ‘That is always the most happy condition of a nation, and that nation is most accurately obeying the laws of our constitution, in which the number of the human race is most rapidly in creasing. Now it is certain the under the law of chastity, that is when individuals are exclusively united to each other, the increase of population will be more rapid than under any other circumstances.’ (Wayland's Elements of Moral Science, p. 298, 11th ed., Boston, 1839.) I am sorry to bring such subjects before the reader, but it is impossible to write a history of morals without doing so.
See Luther's Table Talk.
Tillemont, Mém. pour servir à l'Hist. ecclésiastique, te x. p. 57
Tó τ∊ ἀλ∊ηθ∊ὑ∊ιν καí τò ∊ὐ∊ργ∊τ∊îν (Ælian, Var. Hist. xii. 59.) Longinus in like manner divides virtue into ∊ὑ∊ργ∊σíα καíἀλἠθ∊ια (De Sublim. § 1.) The opposite view in England is continually expressed in the saying, ‘You should never pull down an opinion until you have something to put in its place,’ which can only mean, if you are convinced that some religious or other hypothesis is false, you are morally bound to repress or conceal your conviction until you have discovered positive affirmations or explanations as unqualified and consolatory as those you have destroyed.
See this powerfully stated by Shaftesbury. (Inquiry concerning Virtue, book i. part iii) The same objection applies to Dr. Mansel's modification of the theological doctrine—viz. that the origin of morals is not the will but the nature of God.
The one great and binding ground of the belief of God and a hereafter is the law of conscience.' Coleridge, Notes Theological and Pol p. 367. That our moral faculty is our one reason for maintaining the supreme benevolence of the Deity was a favourite positic of Kant.
Nescio quomodo inhÆret in mentibus quasi sÆculorum quoddam angrium futurorum; idque in maximum ingeniis altissimisque antimis et exsist it maxime et apparet facillme.'-Oic.Tuse. Disp i. 14.
It is a calumny to say that men are roused to heroic actions by ease, hope of pleasure, recompense-sugar-plums of any kind in this world or the next. In the meanest mortal there lies something nobler. The poor swearing soldier hired to be shot has his “honour of a soldier,” different from drill, regulations, and the shilling a day. It is not to taste sweet things, but to do noble and true things, and vindicate himself under God's heaven as a God—made man, that the poorest son of Adam dimly longs. Show him the way of doing that, the dullest daydrudge kindles into a hero. They wrong man greatly who say he is to be seduced by ease. Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom, death, are the allurements that act on the heart of man. Kindle the inner genial life of him, you have a flame that burns up all lower considerations.'-Carlyle's Hero-worskip, p. 237 (ed. 1858).
Clamat Epicurus, is quem voanimis voluptatibus esse deditum dieitis, non posse jucunde vivi nisi sapienter, honeste, justeque vivatur, nec sapienter, honeste, juste nisi jucunde.'-Cicero, De Fin. i. 18.
‘The virtues to be complete must have fixed their residence in the heart and become appetites impelling to actions without further thought than the gratification of them; so that after their expedience ceases they still continue to opete by the desire they raise. . . I knew a mercer who having gotten a competency of fortune, thought to retire and enjoy himself in quiet; but finding he could not be easy without business was forced to return to the shop and assist his former partners gratis, in the nature of a journeyman. Why then should it be thought strange that a man long inured to the practice of moral duties should persevere in them out of liking, when they can yield him no further advantage ?'-Tucker's Light of Nature, vol. i. p 269. Mr. J S. Mill in his Utilrianism dwells much on the heroism which he thinks this view of morals may produce.
See Lactantius, Inst. Div. vi. 9 Montesquieu, in his Decadence del Empire romain, has shown in detail the manner in which the crimes of Roman politicians contributed to the greatness of their nation. Modern history furnishes only too many illustrations of the same truth.
‘That quick sensibility which is the groundwork of all advances towards perfection increases the pungency of pains and vexations.'- Tucker's Light of Nature, 16, § 4.
This position is forcibly illustrated by Mr. Maurice in his fourth lecture On Conscience (1868). It is manifest that a tradesman resisting a dishonest or illegal trade custom, an Irish peasant in a disturbed district revolting against the agrarian conspiracy of his class, or a soldier in many countries conscientiously refusing in obedience to the law to fight a duel, would incur the full force of social penalties, because he failed to do that which was illegal or criminal.
See Brown On the Citics, pp. 206–209.
‘A toothache produces more violent convulsions of pain than a phthisis or a dropsy. A gloomy disposition . . . may be found in very worthy characters, though it is sufficient alone to embitter life.
At the same time, the following passage contains, I think, a great deal of wisdom and of a kind peculiarly needed in England at the present day —. The nature of the subject furnishes the strongest presumption that no better system will ever, for the future, be invented, in order to account for the origin of the benevolent from the selfish affections, and reduce all the various emotions of the human mind to a perfect simplicity. The case is not the same in this species of philosophy as in physics. Many an hypothesis in nature, contrary to first appearances, has been found, on more accurate scrutiny, solid and satisfactory. . . . But the presumption always lies on the other side in all enquiries concerning the origin of our passions, and of the internal operations of the human mind. The simplest and most obvious cause which can there be assigned for any phenomenon, is probably the true one. . . . The affections are not susceptible of any impression from the refinements of reason or imagination; and it is always found that a vigorous exertion of the latter faculties, necessarily, from the narrow capacity of the human mind, destroys all activity in the former.’—Hume's Enquiry Concerning Morals, Append. II.
‘The pleasing consciousness and self-approbation that rise up in the mind of a virtuous man, exclusively of any direct, explicit, consideration of advantage likely to accrue to himself from his possession of those good qualities’ (Hartley On Man, vol. i. p. 493), form a theme upon which moralists of both schools are fond of dilating, in a strain that reminds one irresistibly of the self-complacency of a famous nursery hero, while reflecting upon his own merits over a Christmas-pie. Thus Adam Smith says, ‘The man who, not from frivolous fancy, but from proper motives, has performed a generous action, when he looks forward to those whom he has served, feels himself to be the natural object of their love and gratitude, and by sympathy with them, of the esteem and approbation of all mankind. And when he looks backward to the motive from which he acted, and surveys it in the light in which the indifferent spectator will survey it, he still continues to enter into it, and applauds himself by sympathy with the approbation of this supposed impartial judge. In both these points of view his conduct appears to him every way agreeable. . . . Misery and wretchedness can never enter the breast in which dwells complete self-satisfaction.’—Theory of Moral Sentiments, part ii. ch. ii § 2; part iii. ch. iii. I suspect that many moralists confuse the self-gratulation which they suppose a virtuous man to feel, with the delight a religious man experiences from the sense of the protection and favour of the Deity. But these two feelings are clearly distinct, and it will, I believe, be found that the latter is most strongly experienced by the very men who most sincerely disclaim all sense of merit. ‘Were the perfect man to exist,’ said that good and great writer, Archer Butler, ‘he himself would be the last to know it; for the highest stage of advancement is the lowest descent in humility.’ At all events, the reader will observe, that on utilitarian principles nothing could be more pernicious or criminal than that modest, humble, and diffident spirit, which diminished the pleasure of self-gratulation, one of the highest utilitarian motives to virtue.
Hartley has tried in one place to evade this conclusion by an appeal to the doctrine of final causes. He says that the fact that conscience is not an original principle of our nature, but is formed mechanically in the manner I have described, does not invalidate the fact that it is intended for our guide, ‘for all the things which have evident final causes, are plainly brought about by mechanical means;’ and he appeals to the milk in the breast, which is intended for the sustenance of the young, but which is nevertheless mechanically produced. (On Man, vol ii. pp. 338–339.) But it is plain that this mode of reasoning would justify us in attributing an authortative character to any habit—e g. to that of avarice—which these writers assure us is in the manner of its formation an exact parallel to conscience. The later followers of Hartley certainly cannot be accused of any excessive predilection for the doctrine of final causes, yet we sometimes find them asking what great difference it can make whether (when conscience is admitted by both parties to be real) it is regarded as an original principle of our nature, or as a product of association? Simply this. If by the constitution of our nature we are subject to a law of duty which is different from and higher than our interest, a man who violates this law through interested motives, is deserving of reprobation. If on the other hand there is no natural law of duty, and if the pursuit of our interest is the one original principle of our being, no one can be censured who pursues it, and the first criterion of a wise man will be his determination to eradicate every habit (conscientious or otherwise) which impedes him in doing so.
On Human Nature, chap. ix. § 10.
Enquiry concerning Good and Evil.
This theory is noticed by Hutcheson, and a writer in the Spectator (No. 436) suggests that it may explain the attraction of prize-fights. The case of the pleasure derived from fictitious sorrow is a distinct question, and has been admirably treated in Lord Kames' Essays on Morality. Bishop Butler notices (Second Sermon on Compassion), that it is possible for the very intensity of a feeling of compassion to divert men from charity by making them ‘industriously turn away from the miserable;’ and it is well known that Goethe, on account of this very susceptibility, made it one of the rules of his life to avoid everything that could suggest painful ideas. Hobbes makes the following very characteristic comments on some famous lines of Lucretius: ‘From what passion proceedeth it that men take pleasure to behold from the shore the danger of those that are at sea in a tempest or in fight, or from a safe castle to behold two armies charge one another in the field? It is certainly in the whole sum joy, else men would never flock to such a spectacle. Nevertheless, there is both joy and grief, for as there is novelty and remembrance of our own security present, which is delight, so there is also pity, which is grief. But the delight is so far predominant that men usually are content in such a case to be spectators of the misery of their friends.’ (On Human Nature, ch ix. § 19.) Good Christians, according to some theologians, are expected to enjoy this pleasure in great perfection in heaven. ‘We may believe in the next world also the goodness as well as the happiness of the blest will be confirmed and advanced by reflections naturally arising from the view of the misery which some shall undergo, which seems to be a good reason for the creation of those beings who shall be finally miserable, and for the continuation of them in their miserable existence .... though in one respect the view of the misery which the damned undergo might seem to detract from the happiness of the blessed through pity and commiseration, yet under another, a nearer and much more affecting consideration, viz that all this is the misery they themselves were often exposed to and in danger of incurring, why may not the sense of their own escape so far overcome the sense of another's ruin as quite to extinguish the pain that usually attends the idea of it and even render it productive of some real happiness? To this purpose, Lucretius’ Suave mari,' etc. (Law's notes to his Translation of King's Origin of Evil, pp. 477, 479.)
See e.g. Reid's Essays on the Active Powers, essay iii. ch. v.
The error I have traced in this paragraph will be found running through a great part of what Mr Buckle has written upon morals—I think the weakest portion of his great work. See, for example, an elaborate confusion on the subject, History of Civilisation, vol. ii. p. 429. Mr Buckle maintains that all the philosophers of what is commonly called ‘the Scotch school’ (a school founded by the Irishman Hutcheson, and to which Hume does not belong), were incapable of inductive reasoning, because they maintained the existence of a moral sense or faculty, or of first principles, incapable of resolution; and he enters into a learned enquiry into the causes which made it impossible for Scotch writers to pursue or appreciate the inductive method. It is curious to contrast this view with the language of one, who, whatever may be the value of his original speculations, is, I conceive, among the very ablest philosophical critics of the present century. ‘Les philosophes ecais adoptèrent les procédés que Bacon avait recommandé d'appliquer ál’ étude du monde physique, et les transportérent dans l'étude du monds moral. itis firent voir que l'induction baconienne, c'est-á-dire, l'in duction précédée d'une observation scrupuleuse des phénomènes, est en philosophie comme en physique la seule méthode légitime. C'est un de leurs titres les plus honorables d'avoir insisté sur cette démonstration, et d'avoir en même temps joint l'exemple au précepte. . . . Il est vrai que le zèle des philosophes écossais en faveur de la méthode d'observation leur a presque fait dépasser le but. Ils ont incliné a renfermer la psychologic dans la description minutieuse et continuelle de phénoménes de l'âme sans réfléchir assez que cette description doit faire place á l'induction et au raisonnement déductif, et qu'une philosophie qui se bornerait á l'observation serait aussi stérile que celle qui s'amuserait á construire des hypothéses sans avoir préalablement observé.'—Cousin, Hist, de la Philos. Morale au xviiime Siècle, Tome 4, p. 14–16. Dugald Stewart had said much the same thing, but he was a Scotchman, and therefore, according to Mr. Buckle (Hist. of Civ, ii. pp. 485–86), incapable of understanding what induction was. I may add that one of the principal objections M. Cousin makes against Locke is, that he investigated the origin of our ideas before analysing minutely their nature, and the pro priety of this method is one of the points on which Mr Mill (Examination of Sir W. Hamilton) is at issue with M. Cousin.
M. Ch. Comte, in his very earned Traité de Législation, liv. ii. ch. iv., has made an extremely curious collection of instances in which different nations have made their own distinctive peculiarities of colour and form the ideal of beauty.
‘How particularly fine the hard theta is in our English terminations, as in that grand word death, for which the Germans gutturise a sound that puts you in mind on nothing but a loathsome toad.— Coleridge's Table Talk, p, 181.
Mackintosh, Dissert, p. 238.
Lard Kames' Essays on Morality (1st edition), pp. 55–56,
See Butler's Three Sermons on Human Nature, and the preface
Speaking of the animated statue which he regarded as a representative of man, Condillac says, ‘Le goÛt peut ordinairement contribuer plus que l'odorat à son bonheur et à son malheur. . . . II y contribue même encore plus que les sons harmonieux, parce que le besoin de nourriture lui rend les saveurs plus nécessaires, et par conséquent les lui fait goÛter avec plus de vivacité. La faim pourra la rendre malheureuse, mais dés qu'elle aura remarqué les sensations propres à l'apaiser, elle y déterminera davantage son attention, les désirera avec plus de violence et en jouira avec plus de délire.’—Traiti des Sensations, 1re partie, ch, x.
This is one of the favourite thoughts of Pascal, who, however, in his usual fashion dwells upon it in a somewhat morbid and exaggerated strain. ‘C'est une bien grande misère que de pouvoir prendre plaisir à des choses si basses et si mèprisables... l'homme est encore plus à plaindre de ce qu'il peut se divertir à ces choses si frivoles et si basses, que de ce qu'il s'afflige de ses misères effectives. . . . D'où vient que cet homme, qui a perdu depuis peu son fils unique, et qui, accablè de procès et de querelles, ètait ce matin si troublè, n'y pense plus maintenant? Ne vous en ètonnez pas; il est tout occupé à voir par où passera un cerf que ses chiens poursuivent. . . . C'est uns joie de malade et de frènètiqus.’—Pensèes (Misère de l'homme).
Quæ singula improvidam mortalitatem involvunt, solum ut inter ista certum sit, nihil esse certi, nec miserius quidquam homine, aut superbius. Cæteris quippe animantium sola victus cura est, in quo sponte naturæ benigni tas sufficit: uno quidem vel præ ferenda cunctis bonis, quod de gloria, de pecunia, ambitione, superque de morte, non cogitant.'—Plin. Hist. Nat. ii. 5.
Paley, in his very ingenious, and in some respects admirable, chapter on happiness tries to prove the inferiority of animal pleasures, by showing the short time their enjoyment actually lasts, the extent to which they are dulled by repetition, and the cases in which they incapacitate men for other pleasures. But this calculation omits the influence of some animal enjoyments upon health and temperament. The fact, however, that health, which is a condition of body, is the chief source of happiness, Paley fully admits. ‘Health,’ he says, ‘is the one thing needful . . . . when we are in perfect health and spirits, we feel in ourselves a happiness independent of any particular outward gratification. . . . This is an enjoyment which the Deity has annexed to life, and probably constitutes in a great measure the happiness of infants and brutes . . . of oysters, periwinkles, and the like; for which I have sometimes been at a loss to find out amusement. On the test of happiness he very fairly says, ‘All that can be said is that there remains a presumption in favour of those conditions of life in which men generally appear most cheerful and contented; for though the apparent happiness of mankind be not always a true measure of their real happiness, it is the best measure we have.’—Moral Philosophy, i. 6.
A writer who devoted a great part of his life to studying the deaths of men in different countries, classes, and churches, and to collecting from other physicians information on the subject, says: ‘À mesure qu'on s’èloigne des grands foyers de civilisation, qu'on se rapproche des plaines et des montagnes, le caractère de la mort prend de plus en plus l'aspect ealme du ciel par un beau crèpuscule du soir. . . . En gènèral la mort s'accomplit d'une manière d'autant plus simple et naturelle qu'ou est plus libre des innombrables liens de la civilisation.’—Lauvergne, De l'agonie de la Mort, tome i. pp. 131–132.
‘I will omit much usual declamation upon the dignity and capacity of our nature, the superiority of the soul to the body, of the rational to the animal part of our constitution, upon the worthiness, refinement, and delicacy of some satisfactions, or the meanness, grossness, and sensuality of others; because I hold that pleasures differ in nothing but in continuance and intensity.’—Paley's Moral Philosophy, book i ch. vi. Bentham in like manner said, ‘Quantity of pleasure being equal, pushpin is as good as poetry,’ and he maintained that the value of a pleasure depends on—its (1) intensity, (2) duration, (3) certainty, (4) propinquity, (5) purity, (6) fecundity, (7) extent (Springs of Action). The recognition of the ‘purity’ of a pleasure might seem to imply the distinction for which I have contended in the text, but this is not so. The purity of a pleasure or pain, according to Bentham, is ‘the chance it has of not being followed by sensations of the opposite kind: that is pain if it be a pleasure, pleasure if it be a pain.’—Morals and Legislation, i. § 8. Mr. Buckle (Hist. of Civilisation, vol. ii. pp 399–400) writes in a somewhat similar strain, but less unequivocally, for he admits that mental pleasures are ‘more ennobling’ than physical ones. The older utilitarians, as far as I have observed, did not even advert to the question. This being the case, it must have been a matter of surprise as well as of gratification to most intuitive moralists to find Mr. Mill fully recognising the existence of different kinds of pleasure, and admitting that the superiority of the higher kinds does not spring from their being greater in amount.—Utilitarianism, pp. 11–12. If it be meant by this that we have the power of recognising some pleasures as superior to others in kind, irrespective of all consideration of their intensity, their cost, and their consequences, I submit that the admission is completely incompatible with the utilitarian theory, and that Mr Mill has only succeeded in introducing Stoical elements into his system by loosening its very foundation. The impossibility of establishing an aristocracy of enjoyments in which, apart from all considerations of consequences, some which give less pleasure and are less widely diffused are regarded as intrinsically superior to others which give more pleasure and are more general, without admitting into our estimate a moral element, which on utilitarian principles is wholly illegitimate, has been powerfully shown since the first edition of this book by Professor Grote, in his Examination of the Utilitarian Philosophy, chap iii.
Büchner, Force et Matière, pp. 163–164. There is a very curious collection of the speculations of the ancient philosophers on this subject in Plutarch's treatise. De Pla citis Philos.
Aulus Gellius, Noctes, x. 23. The law is given by Dion. Halicarn. Valerius Maximus says, ‘Vini usus olim Romanis feminis ignotus fuit, ne scilicet in aliquod dedecus prolaberentur: quia proximus a Libero patre intemperantiæ gradus ad inconcessam Venerem esse consuevit’ (Val. Max. ii 1, § 5). This is also noticed by Pliny (Hist. Nat. xiv. 14), who ascribes the law to Romulus, and who mentions two cases in which women were said to have been put to death for this offence, and a third in which the offender was deprived of her dowry. Cato said that the ancient Romans were accustomed to kiss their wives for the purpose of discovering whether they had been drinking wine. The Bona Dea, it is said, was originally a woman named Fatua, who was famous for her modesty and fidelity to her husband, but who, unfortunately, having once found a cask of wine in the house, got drunk, and was in consequence scourged to death by her husband. He afterwards repented of his act, and paid divine honours to her memory, and as a memorial of her death, a cask of wine was always placed upon the altar during the rites (Lactantius, Div, Inst, 1. 22) The Milesians, also, and the inhabitants of Marseilles are said to have had laws forbidding women to drink wine (Ælian, Hist Var. ii. 38). Tertullian describes the prohibition of wine among the Roman women as in his time obsolete, and a taste for it was one of the great trials of S. Monica (Aug. Conf. x. 8).
‘La loi fondamentale de la norale agit sur toutes les nations bien connues. Il y a mille diffèrences dans les interprétations de cette loi en mille circonstances; mais le fond subsists toujours le meme, et ce fond est l'idée du juste et de l'injuste.’—Voltaire, Le Philoscpht ignorant.
The feeling in its favour being often intensified by filial affection. ‘What is the most beantiful thing on the earth?’ said Osiris to Horus. ‘To avenge a parent's wrongs,’ was the reply.—Plutarch De Iside et Osiride.
Hence the Justinian code and also St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, xix. 15) derived servus from ‘servare,’ to preserve, because the victor preserved his prisoners alive.
‘Les habitants du Congo tuent les malades qu'ils imaginent ne pouvoir en revenir; c'est, disentils, pour leur épargner les douleurs de l'agonie. Dans l'île Formose, lorsqu'un homme est dangereusement malade, on lui passe un nœud coulant au col et on l'étrangle, pour l'arracher à la douleur.’—Helvétius, De l'Esprit, ii. 13. A similar explanation may be often found for customs which are quoted to prove that the nations where they existed had no sense of chastity. ‘C'est pareillement sous la sauvegarde des lois que les Siamoises, la gorge et les cuisses à moitié découvertes, portées dans les rues sur les palanquins, s'y présentent dans des attitudes trèslascives. Cette loi fut établie par une de leurs reines nommée Tirada, qui, pour dégoÛter les hommes d'un amour plus désonnête, crut devoir employer toute la puissance de la beauté.—De l'Esprit, ii. 14.
‘The contest between the morality which appeals to an external standard, and that which grounds itself on internal conviction, is the contest of progressive morality against stationary, of reason and argument against the deification of mere opinion and habit.’ (Mill's Dissertations, vol. ii. p. 472); a passage with a true Bentham ring. See, too, vol. i. I 158. There is, however, a schism on this point in the utilitarian camp. The views which Mr. Buckle has expressed in his most eloquent chapter on the comparative influence of intellectual and moral agencies in civilisation diverge widely from those of Mr. Mill.
‘Est enim sensualitas quædam vis animæ inferior. . . . Ratio vero vis animæ est superior.’—Peter Lombard, Sent. ii. 24.
Helvétius, De l'Esprit, discours iv. See too, Dr. Draper's extremely remarkable History of Intellectual Development in Europe (New York, 1864), pp. 48, 53.
Plutarch, De Cohibenda Ira
Lactantius, Div. Inst. i. 22 The mysteries of the Bona Dea became, however, after a time, the occasion of great disorders. See Juvenal, Sat. vi. M. Magnin has examined the nature of these rites (Orignes du Théâtre, pp. 257–259).
The history of the vestals, which forms one of the most curious pages in the moral history of Rome, has been fully treated by the Abbé Nadal, in an extremely interesting and well-written memoir, read before the Académie des Belles-lettres, and republished in 1725. It was believed that the prayer of a vestal could arrest a fugitive slave in his flight, provided he had not got past the city walls. Pliny mentions this belief as general in his time. The records of the order contained many miracles wrought at different times to save the vestals on to vindicate their questioned purity, and also one miracle which is very remarkable as furnishing a precise parallel to that of the Jew who was struck dead for touching the ark to prevent its falling.
As for example the Sibyls and Cassandra. The same propheta power was attributed in India to virgins—Clem. Alexandrin. Strom. iii. 7.
This custom continued to the worst period of the empire, though it was shamefully and characteristically evaded. After the fall of Sejanus the senate had no compunction in putting his innocent daughter to death, but their religious feelings were shocked at the idea of a virgin falling beneath the axe. So by way of improving matters ‘filia constuprata est prius 3 carnifice, quasi impium esset virginem in carcere perire.’—Dios Cassius, lviii. 11. See too, Tacitus, Annal. v. 9. If a vestal met a prisoner going to execution the prisoner was spared, provided the vestal declared that the encounter was accidental. On the reverence the ancients paid to virgins, see Justus Lipsius, De Vesta et Vestalibus.
See his picture of the first night of marriage:—
Bees (which Virgil said had in them something of the divine nature) were supposed by the ancients to be the special emblems or models of chastity. It was a common belief that the bee mother begot her young without losing her virginity. Thus in a fragment ascribed to Petronius we read,
So too Virgil:—
Plutarch says that an unchaste person cannot approach bees, for they immediately attack him and cover him with stings. Fire was also regarded as a type of virginity. Thus Ovid, speaking of the vestals, says:—
‘The Egyptians believed that there are no males among vultures, and they accordingly made that bird as emblem of nature.’—Ammianus Marcellinus, xvii. 4.
‘La divinité étant considérée comme renfermant en elle toutes les qualités, toutes les forces intellectuelles et morales de l'homme, chacune de ces forces on de ces qualités, conçue séparément, s'offrait comme un Être divin. . . . De-là aussi les contradictions les plus choquantes dans les notions que les anciens avaient des attributs divins.’—Maury, Hist. des Religions de la Grèce antique, tome i. pp. 578–579.
‘The Church holds that it were better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse.’—Newman's Anglican Difficulties, p. 190.
There is a remarkable dissertation on this subject, called ‘The Limitations of Morality,’ in a very ingenious and suggestive little work of the Benthamite school, called Essays by a Barrister (reprinted from the Saturday Review).
The following passage, though rather vague and rhetorical, is not unimpressive: ‘Qui, dit Jacobi, je menirais comme Desdemona monte je tromperais comme Oreste quand il veut mourir à la place de Pylade, j'assassinerais comme Timoléon, je serais parjure comme Épaminondas et Jean de Witt, je me déterminerais au suiside comme Caton, je serais sacrilège comme David; car j'aì la certitude en moi-même qu'en pardonnant à ces fautes suivant la lettre l'homme exerce le droit souverain que la majesté de son être lui confère; il appose le scean de sa divine nature sur la grâce qu'il accorde.’—Barchou de Penhoen, Hist. de la Philos. allemanda tome i. p. 295.
This equivocation seems to me to lie at the root of the famous dispute whether man is by nature a social being, or whether, as Hobbes averred, the state of nature is a state of war. Few persons who have observed the recent light thrown on the subject will question that the primitive condition of man was that of savage life and fewer still will question that savage life is a state of war. On the other hand, it is, I think, equally certain that man necessarily becomes a social being in exact proportion to the development of the capacities of his nature.
One of the best living authorities on this question writes: ‘The asserted existence of savages so low as to have no moral standard is too groundless to be discussed. Every human tribe has its general views as to what conduct is right and what wrong, and each generation hands the standard on to the next. Even in the details of their moral standards, wide as their differences are, there is yet wider agreement throughout the human race.’—Tylor on Primitive Society, Contemporary Review, April 1873, p. 702.
The distinction between innate faculties evolved by experience and innate ideas independent of experience, and the analogy between the expansion of the former and that of the bud into the flower has been very happily treated by Reid. (On the Active Powers, essay iii. chap. viii. p. 4) Professor Sedgwick, criticising Locke's notion of the soul being originally like a sheet of white paper, beautifully says: ‘Naked man comes from his mother's womb, endowed with limbs and senses indeed well fitted to the material world, yet powerless from want of use; and as for knowledge, his soul is one unvaried blank; yet as this blank been already touched by a celestial hand, and when plunged in the colours which surround it, it takes not its tinge from accident but design, and comes forth covered with a glorious pattern.’ (On the Studies of the University, p. 54) Leibnitz says: ‘L'esprit n'est point une table rase. Il est tout plein de caractères que la sensation ne peut que découvrir et mettre en lumière au lieu de les y imprimer. Je me suis servi de la comparaison d'une pierre de marbre qui a des veines plutôt que d'une pierre de marbre tout unie. . . . S'il y avait dans la pierre des veines qui marquassent la figure d'Hercule préférablement à d'autres figures, . . . . Hercule y serait comme inné en quelque façon, quoiqu'il fallÛt du travail pour découvrir ces veines.’—Critique de l'Essai sur l'Entendement.
The argument against the intuitive moralists derived from savage life was employed at some length by Locke. Paley then adopted it, taking a history of base ingratitude related by Valerius Maximus, and asking whether a savage would view it with disapprobation. (Moral Phil. book 1. ch. 5.) Dugald Stewart (Active and Moral Powers, vol. i. pp. 230–231) and other writers have very fully answered this, but the same objection has been revived in another form by Mr. Austan, who supposes (Lectures on Jurisprudence, vol. i. pp. 82–83) a savage who first meets a hunter carrying a dead deer, kills the hunter and steals the deer, and is afterwards himself assailed by another hunter whom he kills. Mr. Austin asks whether the savage would perceive a moral difference between these two acts of homicide? Certainly not. In this early stage of development, the savage recognises a duty of justice and humanity to the members of his tribe, but to no one beyond this circle. He is in a ‘state of war’ with the foreign hunter. He has a right to kill the hunter and the hunter an equal right to kill him.
Everyone who is acquainted with metaphysics knows that there has been an almost endless controversy about Locke's meaning on this point. The fact seems to be that Locke, like most great originators of thought, and indeed more than most, often failed to perceive the ultimate consequences of his principles, and partly through some confusion of thought, and partly through unhappiness of expression, has left passages involving the conclusions of both schools. As a matter of history the sensual school of Condillac grew professedly out of his philosophy. In defence of the legitimacy of the process by which these writers evolved their conclusions from the premisses of Locke, the reader may consult the very able lectures of M. Cousin on Locke. The other side has been treated, among others, by Dugald Stewart in his Dissertation, by Professor Webb in his Intellectualism of Locke, and by Mr. Rogers in an essay reprinted from the Edinburgl Review.
I make this qualification, because I believe that the denial of a moral nature in man capable of perceiving the distinction between duty and interest and the rightful supremacy of the former, is both philosophically and actually subversive of natural theology.
See the forcible passage in the life of Epicurus by Diogenes Laërtius. So Mackintosh: ‘It is remarkable that, while, of the three professors who sat in the Porch from Zeno to Posidonius, every one either softened or exaggerated the doctrines of his predecessor, and while the beautiful and reverend philosophy of Plato had in his own Academy degenerated into a scepticism which did not spare morality itself, the system of Epicurus remained without change; his disciples continued for ages to show personal honour to his memory in a manner which may seem unaccountable among those who were taught to measure propriety by a calculation of palpable and out ward asefulness.’—Dissertation on Ethical Philosophy, p. 85, ed. 1836. See, toc, Tennemann (Manuel de la Philosophie, ed. Cousin, tome i. p. 211).
Thus e.g. the magnificent chapters of Helvétius on the moral effects of despotism, form one of the best modern contributions to political ethics. We have a curious illustration of the emphasis with which this school dwells on the moral importance of institutions in a memoir of M. De Tracy, On the best Plan of National Education, which appeared first towards the close of the French Revolution, and was reprinted during the Restoration. The author, who was one of the most distinguished of the disciples of Condillac, argued that the most efficient of all ways of educating a people is, the establishment of a good system of police, for the constant association of the ideas of crime and punishment in the minds of the masses is the one effectual method of creating moral habits, which will continue to act when the fear of punishment is removed.
An important intellectual revolution is at present taking place in England. The ascendency in literary and philosophical questions which belonged to the writers of books is manifestly passing in a very great degree to weekly and even daily papers, which have long been supreme in politics, and have begun within the last ten years systematically to treat ethical and philosophical questions. From their immense circulation, their Incontestable ability and the power they possess of continually reiterating their distinctive doctrines, from the impatience, too, of long and elaborate writings, which newspapers generate in the public, it has come to pass that these periodicals exercise probably a greater influence than any other productions of the day, in forming the ways of thinking of ordinary educated Englishmen. The many consequences, good and evil, of this change it will be the duty of future literary historians to trace, but there is one which is, I think, much felt in the sphere of ethics. An important effect of these journals has been to evoke a large amount of literary talent in the lawyer class. Men whose professional duties would render it impossible for them to write long books, are quite capable of treating philosophical subjects in the form of short essays, and have in fact become conspicuous in these periodicals. There has seldom I think, before, been a time when lawyers occupied such an important literary position as at present, or when legal ways of thinking had so great an influence over English philosophy; and this fact has been emnently favourable to the progress of utilitarianism.
There are some good remarks on this point in the very striking chapter on the present condition of Christianity in Wilberforce's Practical View.
See Reid's Essays on the Active Powers, iii. 4.
I say usually proportioned, because it is, I believe, possible for men to realise intensely suffering, and to derive pleasure from that very fact. This is especially the case with vindictive cruelty, but it is not, I think, altogether confined to that sphere. This question we shall have occasion to examine when discussing the gladiatorial shows. Most cruelty, however, springs from callousness which is simply dulness of imagination.
The principal exception being prevents the growth of industrial where slavery, coexisting with habits, advanced civilisation, retards.
See Mr. Laing's Travels in to have had a similar effect in Sweden A similar cause is said Bavaria.
This has been, I think, especially the case with the Anstrians.
See some remarkable instances of this in Cabanis, Rapports du physique et du moral de I'Homme.