Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. III.: The Sense of Virtue , and the various Opinions about it, reducible to one general Foundation. The Manner of computing the Morality of Actions . - British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 1
Return to Title Page for British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
Sect. III.: The Sense of Virtue , and the various Opinions about it, reducible to one general Foundation. The Manner of computing the Morality of Actions . - Lewis Amherst Selby-Bigge, British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 1 
British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, edited with an Introduction and analytical Index by L.A. Shelby-Bigge in two volumes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897). Vol. 1.
Part of: British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, 2 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The SenseofVirtue, and the variousOpinionsabout it, reducible to one generalFoundation. The Mannerof computing theMoralityofActions.
110 I. If we examine all the Actions which are counted amiable any where, and enquire into the Grounds upon which they are approv'd, we shall find, that in the Opinion of the Person who approves them, they always appear as Benevolent, or flowing from Love of others, and a Study of their Happiness, whether the Approver be one of the Persons belov'd, or profited, or not; so that all those kind Affections which incline us to make others happy, and all Actions suppos'd to flow from such Affections, appear morally Good, if while they are benevolent toward some Persons, they be not pernicious to others. Nor shall we find any thing amiable in any Action whatsoever, where there is no Benevolence imagin'd; nor in any Disposition, or Capacity, which is not suppos'd applicable to, and design'd for benevolent Purposes. Nay, as we before observ'd1 , the Actions which in fact are exceedingly useful, shall appear void of moral Beauty, if we know they proceeded from no kind Intentions toward others; and yet an unsuccessful Attempt of Kindness, or of promoting publick Good, shall appear as amiable as the most successful, if it flow'd from as strong Benevolence.
111 II. Hence those Affections which would lead us to do good to our Benefactor, shall appear amiable, and the contrary Affections odious, even when our Actions cannot possibly be of any advantage or hurt to him. Thus a sincere Love and Gratitude toward our Benefactor, a chearful Readiness to do whatever he shall require, how burdensom soever, a hearty Inclination to comply with his Intentions, and Contentment with the State he has plac'd us in, are the strongest Evidences of Benevolence we can shew to such a Person and therefore they must appear exceedingly amiable. And under these is included all the rational Devotion, or Religion toward a Deity apprehended as Good, which we can possibly perform.
112 Again, that we may see how Love, or Benevolence, is the Foundation of all apprehended Excellence in social Virtues, let us only observe, That amidst the diversity of Sentiments on this Head among various Sects, this is still allow'd to be the way of deciding the Controversy about any disputed Practice, viz. to enquire whether this Conduct, or the contrary, will most effectually promote the publick Good. The Morality is immediately adjusted, when the natural Tendency, or Influence of the Action upon the universal natural Good of Mankind is agreed upon. That which produces more Good than Evil in the Whole, is acknowledg'd Good; and what does not, is counted Evil. In this Case, we no other way regard the good of the Actor, or that of those who are thus enquiring, than as they make a Part of the great System.
In our late Debates about Passive Obedience, and the Right of Resistance in Defence of Privileges, the Point disputed among Men of Sense was, 'whether universal Submission would probably be attended with greater natural Evils, than temporary Insurrections, when Privileges are invaded; and not, whether what tended in the Whole to the publick natural Good, was also morally Good?' And if a devine Command was alledg'd in favour of the Doctrine of Passive Obedience, this would, no doubt, by its eternal Sanctions cast the ballance of natural Good to its own side, and determine our Election from Interest; and yet our Sense of the moral Good in Passive Obedience, would still be founded upon some Species of Benevolence, such as Gratitude toward the Deity, and Submission to his Will to whom we are so much oblig'd. But I fancy those, who believe the Deity to be Good, would not rashly alledge such a Command, unless they also asserted, that the thing commanded did tend more to the universal Good, than the contrary, either by preventing the external Evils of Civil War, or by enuring Men to Patience, or some other Quality which they apprehended necessary to their everlasting Happiness. And were it not so, Passive Obedience might be recommended as an inglorious Method of escaping a greater Mischief, but could never have any thing morally amiable in it. 113 But let us quit the Disputes of the Learned, on whom, it may be alledg'd, Custom and Education have a powerful Influence; and consider upon what Grounds, in common Life, Actions are approv'd or condemn'd, vindicated or exeus'd. We are universally asham'd to say an Action is Just, because it tends to my Advantage, or to the Advantage of the Actor: And we as seldom condemn a beneficent kind Action, because it is not advantageous to us, or to the Actor. Blame, and Censure, are founded on a Tendency to publick Evil, or a Principle of private Malice in the Agent, or Neglect at least of the Good of others; on Inhumanity of Temper, or at least such strong Selfishness as makes the Agent careless of the Sufferings of others: and thus we blame and censure when the Action no way affects our selves. All the moving and persuasive Vindications of Actions, which may, from some partial evil Tendency, appear evil, are taken from this, that they were necessary to some greater Good which counter ballanc'd the Evil: 'Severity toward a few, is Compassion toward multitudes.—Transitory Punishments are necessary for avoiding more durable Evils.—Did not some suffer on such Occasions, there would be no living for honest Men.'—and such hke. And even when an Action cannot be entirely justify'd, yet how greatly is the Guilt extenuated, if we can alledge; 'That it was only the Effect of Inadvertence without Malice, or of partial good Nature, Friendship, Compassion, natural Affection, or Love of a Party?' All these Considerations shew what is the universal Foundation of our Sense of moral Good, or Evil, viz. Benevolence toward others on one hand, and Malice, or even Indolence, and Unconcernedness about the apparent publick Evil on the other. And let it be here observ'd, that we are so far from imagming all Men to act only from Self-Love, that we universally expect in others a Regard for the Publick; and do not look upon the want of this, as barely the absence of moral Good, or Virtue, but even as positively evil and hateful.
114 IV. Contrarys may illustrate each other; let us therefore observe the general Foundation of our Sense of moral Evil more particularly. Disinterested Malice, or Delight in the Misery of others, is the highest pitch of what we count vitious; and every Action appears evil, which is imagin'd to flow from any degree of this Affection. Perhaps a violent Passion may hurry Men into it for a few Moments, and our rash angry Sentiments of our Enemys, may represent them as having such odious Dispositions; but it is very probable, from the Reasons offer'd above1 , that there is no such degree of Wickedness in human Nature, as, in cold blood, to be pleas'd with the Misery of others, when it is conceiv'd no way useful to our Interests.
The Story of Nero and Pætus may be alledg'd against this, but perhaps unjustly, even allowing the Fact to be true. Nero was conscious he was hated by those whom the World call'd good Men, and that they were dangerous to him; he fancy'd his best Security lay in being temble, and appearing such on all Occasions, by making others miserable when he pleas'd, to let his Enemys see, that they should have no Security from that Compassion which a Nero would imagine argu'd Weakness. This unfortunate Gentleman's Happiness might by some foolish Courtier be so related, as to carry a Reproof of the Tyrant's unnatural Pursuits, whereby his Passion might be excited to cut off the Person admit'd, and prefer'd before him. An), of these Motives of apparent Interest seem more probably to have influenc'd him, than that we should in him, and a few others, suppose a Principle of calm Mahce without Interest, of which the rest of Mankind seem entirely incapable.
The Temper of a Tyrant seems probably to be a continu'd state of Anger, Hatred, and Fear. To form our Judgment thcn of his Motives of Action, and those of Men of like Tempers in lower Stations, let us reflect upon the Apprehensions we form of Mankind, when we are under any of those Passions which to thc Tyrant are habitual. When we are under the fresh Impressions of an Injury, we plainly find, that our Minds are wholly fill'd with Apprehensions of the Person who injur'd us, as if he was absolutely Evil, and delighted in doing Mischief: We overlook the virtues, which, when calm, we could have observ'd in him: we forget that perhaps only Self-Love, and not Malice, was his Motive; oril may be some generous or kind Intention toward others. These, probably, are the Opinions which a Tyrant constantly forms concerning Mankind; and having very much weaken'd all kind Affections in himself, however he may pretend to them, he judges of the Tempers of others by his own. And were Men really such as he apprehends them, his Treatment of them would not be very unreasonable. We shall generally find our Passions arising suitably to the Apprehensions we form of others: if these be rashly form'd upon some sudden slight Views, it is no wonder if we find Dispositions following upon them, very little suited to the real State of human Nature.
115 The ordinary Springs of Vice then among Men, must be a mistaken Self-Love, made so violent as to overcome Benevolence; or Affections arising from false, and rashly form'd Opinions of Mankind, which we run into thro the weakness of our Benevolence. When Men, who had good Opinions of each other, happen to have contrary Interests, they are apt to have their good Opinions of each other abated, by imagining a design'd Opposition from Malice; without this, they can scarcely hate one another. Thus two Candidates for the same Office wish each other dead, because that is an ordinary way by which Men make room for each other; but if there remains any Reflection on each other's Virtue, as there sometimes may in benevolent Tempers, then their Opposition may be without Hatred; and if another better Post, where there is no Competition, were bestow'd on one of them, the other shall rejoice at it.
116 V. The Actions which flow solely from Self-Love, and yet evidence no Want of Benevolence, having no hurtful Effects upon others, seem perfectly indifferent in a moral Sense, and neither raise the Love or Hatred of the Observer. Our Reason can indeed discover certain Bounds, within which we may not only act from Self-Love, consistently with the Good of the Whole, but every Mortal's acting thus within these Bounds for his own Good, is absolutely necessary for the Good of the Whole; and the Want of such Self-Love would be universally pernicious. Hence, he who pursues his own private Good, with an Intention also to concur with that Constitution which tends to the Good of the Whole; and much more he who promotes his own Good, with a direct View of making himself more capable of serving God, or doing good to Mankind; acts not only innocently, but also honourably, and virtuously; for in both these Cases, a Motive of Benevolence concurs with Self-Love to excite him to the Action. And thus a Neglect of our own Good, may be morally evil, and argue a Want of Benevolence toward the Whole. But when Self-Love breaks over the Bounds above-mention'd, and leads us into Actions detrimental to others, and to the whole; or makes us insensible of the generous kind Affections; then it appears vitious, and is disapprov'd. So also, when upon any small Injurys, or sudden Resentment, or any weak superstitious Suggestions, our Benevolence becomes so faint, as to let us entertain odious Conceptions of Men, or any Part of them, without just Ground, as if they were wholly Evil, or Malicious, or as if they were a worse Sort of Beings than they really are; these Conceptions must lead us into malevolent Affections, or at least weaken our good ones, and make us really Vltious.
117 VI, Here we must also observe, that every moral Agent justly considers himself as a Part of this rational System, which may be useful to the Whole; so that he may be, in part, an Object of his own Benevolence. Nay further, as we hinted above, he may see, that the Preservation of the System requires every one to be innocently sollicltous about himself. Hence he may conclude, that an Action which brings greater Evil to the Agent, than Good to others, however it may evidence strong Benevolence or a virtuous Disposition in the Agent, yet it must be founded upon a mistaken Opinion of its Tendency to publick Good, when it has no such Tendency: so that a Man who reason'd justly, and conslder'd the Whole, would not be led into it, were his Benevolence ever so strong; nor would he recommend it to the Practice of others; however he might acknowledge, that the Detriment arising to the Agent from a kind Action, did evidence a strong Disposition to Virtue. Nay further, if any Good was propos'd to the Pursuit of an Agent, and he had a Competitor in every respect only equal to himself; the highest Benevolence possible would not lead a wise Man to prefer another to himself, were there no Ties of ratitude, or some other external Circumstance to move him to yield to his Competitor. A Man surely of the strongest Benevolence, may just treat himself as he would do a third Person, who was a Competitor of equal Merit with the other; and as his preferring one to another, in such a Case, would argue no Weakness of Benevolence; so, no more would he evidence it by preferring himself to a Man of only equal Abilitys.
118 Wherever a Regard to my self, tends as much to the good of the Whole, as Regard to anotherl or where the Evil to my self, is equal to the Good obtain'd for another; tho by acting, in such Cases, for the good of another, I really shew a very amiable Disposition; yet by acting in the contrary manner, from Regard to nay self, I evidence no evll Disposition, nor any want of the most extensive Benevolence; since the Moment of good to the Whole is, in both Cases, exactly equal. And let it be here observ'd, that this does not supersede the necessity of Liberality, and gratuitous Gifts, altho in such Actions the Giver loses as much as the other receives; since the Moment of Good to any Person, in any given Case, is in a compound Ratio of the Quantity of the Good it self, and the Indigence of the Person. Hence it appears, that a Gift may make a much greater Addition to the happiness of the Receiver, than the Dnnlnutlon it occasions in the happiness of the Giver: And that the most useful and important Gifts are those from the Wealthy to the Indigent. Gifts from Equals are not useless neither, since they often increase the Happiness of both, as they are strong Evidences of mutual Love: but Gifts from the Poor to the Wealthy are really foolish, unless they be only little Expressions of Gratitude, which are also fruitful of Joy on both Sides: for these Expressions of Gratitude are really delightful and acceptable to the Wealthy, if they have any Humanity; and their Acceptance of them is matter of Joy to the poor Giver.
119 In like manner, when an Action does more Harm to the Agent, than Good to the Publick; the doing it evidences an amiable and truly virtuous Disposition in the Agent, the 'tis plato he acts upon a mistaken View of his Duty. But if the private Evil to the Agent be so great, as to make him incapable at another time, of promoting a publick Good of greater moment than what is attain'd by thts Action; the Action may really be Evil, so far as it evidences a prior Neglect of a greater attainable publick Good for a smaller one; the at present this Action also flows from a virtuous Disposition.
120 VII. The moral Beauty, or Deformity of Actions, is not alter'd by the moral Qualitys of the Objects, any further than the Qualitys of the Objects increase or diminish the Benevolence of the Action, or the publick Good intended by it. Thus Benevolence toward the worst Characters, or the Study of their Good, may be as amiable as any whatsoever; yea often more so than that toward the Good, since it argues such a strong Degree of Benevolence as can surmount the greatest Obstacle, the moral Evil in the Object. Hence the Love of unjust Enemys, is counted among the highest Virtues. Yet when our Benevolence to the Evil, encourages them in their bad Intentions, or makes them more capable of Mischief; this diminishes or destroys the Beauty of the Action, or even makes it evil, as it betrays a Neglect of the Good of others more valuable; Beneficence toward whom, would have tended more to the publick Good, than that toward our Favourites: But Benevolence toward evil Characters, which neither encourages them, nor enables them to do Mischief, nor diverts our Benevolence from Persons more useful, has as much moral Beauty as any whatsoever.
121 VIII. In comparing the moral Qualitys of Actions, in order to regulate our Election among various Actions propos'd, or to find which of them has the greatest moral Excellency, we are led by our moral Sense of Virtue to judge thus; that in equal Degrees of Happiness, expected to proceed from the Action, the Virtue is in proportion to the Number of Persons to whom the Happiness shall extend; (and here the Dignity, or moral Importance of Persons, may compensate Numbers) and in equal Numbers, the Virtue is as the Quantity of the Happiness, or natural Good; or that the Virtue is in a compound Ratio of the Quantity of Good, and Number of Enjoyers. In the same manner, the moral Evil, or Vice, is as the Degree of Misery, and Number of Sufferers; so that, that Action is best, which procures the greatest Happiness for the greatest Numbers; and that, worst, which, in like manner, occasions Misery.
122 IX. Again, when the Consequences of Actions are of a mix'd Nature, partly Advantageous, and partly Permclous; that Action is good, whose good Effects preponderate the evil, by being useful to many, and permclous to few; and that, evil, which is otherwise. Here also the moral Importance of Characters, or Dignity of Persons may compensate Numbers; as may also the Degrees of Happiness or Misery: for to procure an inconslderable Good to many, but an immense Evil to few, may be Evil; and an immense Good to few, may preponderate a small Evil to many.
But the Consequences which affect the Morality of Actions, are not only the direct and natural Effects of the Actions themselves; but also all those Events which otherwise would not have happen'd. For many Actions which have no immediate or natural evil Effects, nay, which actually produce good Effects, may be evil; if a man foresees that the evil Consequences, which will probably flow from the Folly of others, upon his doing of such Actions, are so great as to overballance all the Good produc'd by those Actions, or all the Evils which would flow from the Omission of them: And in such Cases the Probability is to be computed on both sides. Thus if an Action of mine will probably, thro the Mistakes or Corruption of others, be made a Precedent in unlike Cases, to very evil Actions; or when my Action, the good in it self, will probably provoke Men to very evil Actions, upon some mistaken Notion of their Right; any of these Considerations foreseen by me, may make such an Action of mine evil, whenever the Evils which will probably be occasion'd by the Action, are greater than the Evils occaslon'd by the Omission.
And this is the Reason that many Laws prohibit Actions in general, even when some particular Instances of those Actions would be very useful; because an universal Allowance of them, considering the Mistakes Men would probably fall into, would be more pernicious than an universal Prohibition; nor could there be any more special Boundarys fix'd between the right and wrong Cases. In such Cases, it is the Duty of Persons to comply with the generally useful Constitution; or if in some very important Instances, the Violation of the Law would be of less evil Consequence than Obedience to it, they must patiently resolve to undergo those Penalties, which the State has, for valuable Ends to tile Whole, appointed: and this Disobedience will have nothing criminal in It.
123 X. From the two last Observations, we may see what Actions our moral Sense would most recommend to our Election, as the most perfectly Virtuous: viz. such as appear to have the most universal unlimited Tendency to the greatest and most extensive Happiness of all the rational Agents, to whom our Influence can reach. All Benevolence, even toward a Part, is amiable, when not inconsistent with the Good of the Whole: But this is a smaller Degree of Virtue, unless our Beneficence be restrain'd by want of Power, and not want of Love to the Whole. All strict Attachments to Partys, Sects, Factions, have but an imperfect Species of Beauty, unless when the Good of the Whole requires a stricter Attachment to a Part, as in natural Affection, or virtuous Friendships; or when some Parts are so eminently useful to the Whole, that even universal Benevolence would determine us with special Care and Affection to study their Interests. Thus universal Benevolence would incline us to a more strong Concern for the Interests of great and generous Characters in a high Station, or make us more earnestly study the Interests of any generous Society, whose whole Constitution was contriv'd to promote universal Good. Thus a good fancy in Architecture, would lead a Man, who was not able to bear the Expence of a compleatly regular Building, to chuse such a Degree of Ornament as he could keep uniformly thro the Whole, and not move hml to make a vain unfinished Attempt in one Part, of what he foresaw he could not succeed in as to the Whole. And the most perfect Rules of Architecture condemn an excessive Profusion of Ornament on one Part, above the Proporton of the Whole, unless that Part be some eminent Place of the Edifice, such as the chief Front, or publick Entrance; the adorning of which, would beautify the Whole more than an equal Expence of Ornament on any other Part.
124 This Increase of the moral Beauty of Actions, or Dispositions, according to the Number of Persons to whom the good Effects of them extend, may shew us the Reason why Actions which flow from the nearer Attachments of Nature, such as that between the Sexes, and the Love of our Offspring, are not so amiable, nor do they appear so virtuous as Actions of equal Moment of Good towards Persons less attach'd to us. The Reason is plainly this. These strong Instructs are by Nature limited to small Numbers of Mankind, such as our Wives or Children whereas a Disposition, which would produce a like Moment of Good to others, upon no special Attachment, if it was accompany'd with natural Power to accomplish its Intention, would be incredibly more fruitful of great and good Effects to the Whole.
125 From this primary Idea of moral Good in Actions, arises the Idea of Good in those Dispositions, whether natural or acquir'd, which enable us to do good to others or which are presum'd to be design'd, and acquir'd or cultivated for that purpose. And hence those Abilitys, while nothing appears contrary to our Presumption, may increase our Love to the Possessor of them; but when they are imagin'd to be Intended for publick Mischief, they make us hate him the more: Such are a penetrating Judgment or tenacious Memory, a quick Invention; Patience of Labour, Pain, Hunger, Watching; a Contempt of Wealth, Rumour, Death. These may be rather call'd natural Abilitys, than moral Qualitys. Now, a Veneration for these Qualitys, any further than they are employ'd for the publick Good, is foolish, and flows from our moral Sense, grounded upon a false Opinion; for if we plainly see them maliciously employ'd, they make the Agent more detestable.
126 XI To find a universal Canon to compute the Morality of any Actions, with all their Circumstances, when we judge of the Actions done by our selves, or by others, we must observe the following Propositions or Axioms.
These selfish Motives shall be1 hereafter more fully explain'd; here we may in general denote them by the Word Interest: which when it concurs with Benevolence, in any Action capable of Increase, or Diminution, must produce a greater Quantity of Good, than Benevolence alone in the same Abilitys; and therefore when the Moment of Good, in an Action partly intended for the Good of the Agent, is but equal to the Moment of Good in the Action of another Agent, infiuenc'd only by Benevolence, the former is less virtuous: and in this Case the Interest must be deducted to find the true Effect to the Benevolence, or Virtue. In the same manner, when Interest is opposite to Benevolence, and yet is surmounted by it; this Interest must be added to the Moment, to increase the Virtue of the Action, or the Strength of the Benevolence: Or thus, in advantageous Virtue, . And in laborious, painful, dangerous or expensive Virtue, . By Interest, in this last Case, is understood all the Advantage which the Agent might have obtain'd by omitting the Action, which is a negative Motive to it; and this, when subtracted, becomes positive.
But here we must observe, that no Advantage, not intended, altho casually, or naturally redounding to us from the Action, does at all affect its Morality to make it less amiable; nor does any Difficulty or Evil unforeseen, or not resolved upon, make a kind Action more virtuous; since in such Cases Selt-Love neither assists nor opposes Benevolence. Nay, Self-Interest then only diminishes the Benevolence, when without this View of Interest the Action would not have been undertaken, or so much Good would not have been produe'd by the Agent; and it extenuates the Vice of an evil Action, only when without this Interest the Action would not have been pleasing to the Agent, or so much Evil have been produc'd by him.
The sixth Axiom only explains the external Marks by which Men must judge, who do not see into each others Hearts for it may really happen in many Cases, that Men may have Benevolence sufficient to surmount any Difficulty, and yet they may meet with none at all: And in that Case, it is certain there is as much Virtue in the Agent, the he does not give such Proof of it to his Fellow-Creatures, as if he had surmounted Difficultys in his kind Actions. And this too must be the Case with the Deity, to whom nothing is difficult.
Since then Benevolence, or Virtue in any Agent, is as , or as and no Being can act above his natural Ability; that must be the Perfection of Virtue where M=A, or when the Being acts to the utmost of his Power for the publiek Good; and hence the Perfection of Virtue in this Case, or , is as Unity. And this may shew us the only Foundation for the boasting of the Stomks, 'That a Creature suppos'd Innocent by pursuing Virtue with his utmost Power, may in Virtue equal the Gods.' For in their Case, if [A] or the Ability be Infinite, unless [M] or the Good to be produc'd in the whole, be so too, the Virtue is not absolutely perfect; and the Quotxent can never surmount Umty.
127 XII. The same Axmms may be apply'd to compute the moral Evil in Acttons; that is, calling the Disposition which leads us to Evil, Hatred, the it is oftner only Self-Love, with Inadvertence to its Consequences: then,
Ist. The Moment of Evil produc'd by any Agent, as as the Product of his Hatred into his Ability, or μ=H § A. And,
2thly. In equal Abilitys, μ=H § I.
3thly. When Hatred is equal; μ=A§ I: And,
4thly. The Degree of moral Evil, or Vine, which is equal to the Hatred or Neglect of publick Good, is thus express'd, H = μ/.A.
5thly. The Motives of Interest may co-operate with Hatred, or oppose it the same way as with Benevolence; and then according as Self-Interest may partly excate to the Action, and so diminish the Evil; or dissuade from it, and so increase it, the Malice which surmounts it, or , in like manner as in the Case of moral Good.
But we must observe, that not only Innocence is expected from all Mortals, but they are presmn'd from their Nature, in some measure melin'd to publick Good; so that a bare Absence of this Desire is enough to make an Agent be reputed Evil: Nor is a direct Intention of publick Evil necessary to make an Action evil, it in enough that it flows from Self-Love, with a plain Neglect of the Good of others, or an Insensibility of their Misery, which we either actually foresee, or have a probable Presumptmn of.
It is true indeed, that that publick Evil which I neither certainly foresee, nor have actual Presumptions of, as the Consequence of my Action, does not make my present Action Criminal, or Odious; even altho I might have foreseen this Evil by a serious Examination of my own Actions: because such Actions do not, at present, evidence either Malice, or want of Benevolence. But then it is also certain, that nay prior Negligence, in not examining the Tendency of my Actions, is a plain Evidence of the want of that Degree of good Affechons which is necessary to a virtuous Character and consequently the Guilt properly hes in this Neglect, rather than in an Action which really flows from a good Intention. Human Laws however, which cannot examine the Intentions, or secret Knowledge of the Agent, must judge in gross of the Action itself; presupposing all that Knowledge as actually attain'd, which we are obhg'd to attain.
In like manner, no good Effect which I did not actually foresee and intend, makes my Action morally Good: however Human Laws or Governours, who cannot search into Men's Intentions, or know their secret Designs, justly reward Actions which tend to the publick Good, altho the Agent was engag'd to those Actions only by selfish Views and consequently had no virtuous Disposition influencing him to them.
The difference in degree of Guilt between Crimes of Ignorance when the Ignorance is Vincible, and Faulty, as to the natural Tendency of the Action; and Crimes of Malice, or direct evil Intention, consists in this; that the former, by a prior Neglect, argues a want of the due degree of Benevolence, or right Affections; the latter, evidences direct evil Affections, which are vastly more odious.
128 XIII. From Axiom the 5th, we may form almost a demonstrative Conclusion, 'that we have a Sense of Goodness and moral Beauty in Actions, distinct from Advantage;' for had we no other Foundation of Approbation of Actions, but the Advantage which might arise to us from them, if they were done toward our selves, we should rnake no Account of the Abilitys of the Agent, but would barely esteem them according to their Moment. The Abilitys come in only to shew the Degree of Benevolence, which supposes Benevolence necessarily amiable. Who was ever the better pleas'd wxth a barren rocky Farm, or an inconvenient House, by being told that the poor Farm gave as great Increase as it could; or that the House accommodated its Possessor as well as it could? And yet in our Sentiments of Actions, whose Moment is very inconsiderable, it shall wonderfully increase the Beauty to alledge, 'That it was all the poor Agent could do for the Publick, or his Friend.'
129 XIV. The moral Beauty of Characters arises from their Actions, or sincere Intentions of the publick Good, according to their Power. We form our Judgment of them according to what appears to be their fix'd Disposition, and not according to any particular Sallys of unkind Passions altho these abate the Beauty of good Characters, as the Motions of the kind Affections diminish the Deformity of the bad ones. What then properly constitutes a virtuous Character, is not some few accidental Motions of Compassion, natural Affection, or Gramude; but such a fix'd Humanity, or Desire of the publick Good of atl, to whom our Influence can extend, as uniformly excites us to all Acts of Beneficence, according to our utmost Prudence and Knowledge of the Interests of others: and a strong Benevolence will not fail to make us careful of informing our selves right, concerning the truest Methods of serving the Interests of Mankind. Every Motion indeed of the kind Affections appears in some degree amiable; but we denominate the Character from the prevailing Principle.
130 XV. I Know not for what Reason some will not allow that to be Virtue, which flows from Instincts, or Passions but how do they help themselves? They say, 'Virtue arises from Reason.' What is Reason but that Sagacity we have in prosecuting any End? The ultimate End propos'd by the common Morahsts is the Happiness of the Agent himself, and this certainly he is determin'd to pursue from Instinct. Now may not another Instinct toward the Publick, or the Good of others, be as proper a Principle of Virtue, as the Instinct toward private Happiness? And is there not the same Occasion for the Exercise of our Reason in pursuing the former, as the latter? This is certain, that whereas we behold the selfish Actions of others, with Indifference at best, we see something amiable in every Action which flows from kind Affections or Passions toward others; if they be conducted by Prudence, so as any way to attain their End. Our passionate Actions, as we shew'd1 above, are not always Self-interested; since our Intention is not to free our selves from the Uneasiness of the Passion, but to alter the State of the Object.
131 If it be said, 'That Actions from Instinct, are not the Effect of Prudence and Choice;' this Objection holds full as strongly against the Actions which flow from Self-Love; since the use of our Reason is as requisite, to find the proper Means of promoting publick Good, as private Good. And as it must be an Instinct, or a Determination previous to Reason, which makes us pursue private Good, as well as publick Good, as our End; there is the same occaslon for Prudence and Choice, in the Election of proper Means for promoting of either. I see no harm in supposing, 'that Men are naturally dispos'd to Virtue, and not left merely indifferent, to be mgag'd in Actions only as they appear to tend to their own private Good.' Surely, the Supposition of a benevolent universal Instinct, would recommend human Nature, and its Author, more to the Love of a good Man, and leave room enough for the Exercise of our Reason, in contraving and settling Rights, Laws, Constitutions; in inventing Arts, and practising them so as to gratify, in the most effectual manner, that generous Inclination. And if we must bring in Self-Love to make Virtue Rational, a little Reflection will discover, as shall appear hereafter, that this Benevolence is our greatest Happiness; and thence we may resolve to cultivate, as much as possible, this sweet Disposition, and to despise every opposite Interest. Not that we can be truly Virtuous, if we intend only to obtain the Pleasure which accompanies Beneficence, without the Love of others: Nay, this very Pleasure is founded on our being conscious of disinterested Love to others, as the Spring of our Actions. But Self-Interest may be our Motive, in chusing to continue in this agreeable State, the it cannot be the sole, or principal Motive of any Action, which to our moral Sense appears Virtuous.
132 The applying a mathematical Calculation to moral Subjects, will appear perhaps at first extravagant and wild; but some Corollarys, which are easily and certainly deduc'd below1 may shew the Conveniency of this Attempt, if it could be further pursu'd. At present, we shall only draw this one, which seems the most joyful imaginable, even to the lowest rank of Mankind, viz. 'That no external Circumstances of Fortune, no involuntary Disadvantages, can exclude any Mortal from the most heroick Virtue.' For how small soever the Moment of publick Good be, which any one can accomplish, yet if his Abilitys are pro-portionably small, the Quotient, which expresses the Degree of Virtue, may be as great as any whatsoever. Thus, not only the Prince, the Statesman, the General, are capable of true Heroism, the these are the chief Characters, whose Fame is diffus'd thro various Nations and Ages; but when we find in an honest Trader, the kind Friend, the faithful prudent Adviser, the charitable and hospitable Neighbour, the tender Husband and affectionate Parent, the sedate yet chearful Companion, the generous Assistant of Merit, the cautious Allayer of Contention and Debate, the Promoter of Love and good Understanding among Acquaintances; if we consider, that these were all the good Offices which his Station in the World gave him an Opportunity of performing to Mankind, we must judge this Character really as amiable, as those, whose external Splendor dazzles an injudicious World into an Opinion, 'that they are the only Heroes in Virtue.'
 See Sect. ii. Art 3' Par. I (§ 92); Art. 6. Par. 3 (§ 100).
 See Sect. ii. Art. 4 (§ 95).
 Vtde Sect. v.
 See Sect. ii. Art. 8 (§ 104).
 See Sect. vii. Art. 8, 9 (§ 180, 181).