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Illustrations upon the Moral Sense - 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.
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Illustrations upon the Moral Sense
447 The Words Election and Approbation seem to denote simple Ideas known by Consciousness; which can only be explained by synonimous Words, or by concomitant or consequent Circumstances. Election is purposing to do an Action rather than its contrary, or than being inactive. Approbation of our own Action denotes, or is attended with', a pleasure in the Contemplation of it, and in Reflection upon the Affections which inclined us to it. Approbation of the Action of another has some little Pleasure attending it in the Observer, and raises Love toward the Agent, in whom the Quality approved is deemed to reside, and not in the Observer, who has a Satisfaction in the Act of approving.
The Qualities moving to Election, or exciting to Action, are different from those moving to Approbation: We often do Actions which we do not approve, and approve Actions which we omit: We often desire that an Agent had omitted an Action which we approve; and wish he would do an Action which we condemn. Approbation. is employed about the Actions of others, where there is no room for our Election.
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—Concerning the Character of Virtue, agreeable to Truth or Reason.
448 Since Reason is understood to denote our Power of finding out true Propositions, Reasonableness must denote the same thing, with Conformity to true Propositions, or to Truth.
Reasonableness in an Action is a very common Expression, but yet upon inquiry, it will appear very confused, whether we suppose it the Motive to Election, or the Quality determining Approbation.
There is one sort of Conformity to Truth which neither determines to the one or the other; viz. that Conformity which is between every true Proposition and its Object. This sort of Conformity can never make us clause or approve one Action more than its contrary, for it is found in all Actions alike: Whatever Attribute can be ascribed to a generous kind Action, the contrary Attribute may as truly be ascribed to a selfish cruel Action: Both Propositions are equally true, and the two contrary Actions, the Objects of the two Truths are equally conformable to their several Truths, with that sort of Conformity which is between a Truth and its Object. This Conformity then cannot make a Difference among Actions, or recommend one more than another either to Election or Approbation, since any Man may make as many Truths about Villany, as about Heroism, by ascribing to it contrary Attributes.
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449 But what is this Conformity of Actions to Reason? When we ask the Reason of an Action, we sometimes mean, 'What Truth shews a Quality in the Action, exciting the Agent to do it?' Thus, why does a Luxurious Man pursue Wealth? The Reason is given by this Truth, 'Wealth is useful to purchase Pleasures.' Sometimes for a Reason of Actions we shew the Truth expressing a Quality, engaging our Approbation. Thus the Reason of hazarding Life in just War, is, that 'it tends to preserve our honest Countrymen, or evidences publick Spirit:' The Reason for Temperance, and against Luxury is given thus, 'Luxury evidences a selfish base Temper.' The former sort of Reasons we will call exciting, and the latter justifying1 . Now we shall find that all exciting Reasons presuppose Instincts and Affections; and the justifying pre-suppose a Moral Sense.
As to exciting Reasons, in every calm rational Action some end is desired or intended; no end can be intended or desired previously to some one of these Classes of Affections, Self-Love, Self-Hatred, or desire of private Misery, (if this be possible) Benevolence toward others, or Malice: All Affections are included under these: no end can be previous to them all; there can therefore be no exciting Reason previous to Affection.
We have indeed many confused Harangues on this Subject, telling us, 'We have two Principles of Action, Reason, and Affection or Passion: the former in common with Angels, the latter with Brutes: No Action is wise, or good, or reasonable, to which we are not excited by Reason, as distinct from all Affections; or, if any such Actions as flo'v from Affections be good, it is only by chance, or materially and not formally.' As if indeed Reason, or the Knowledge of the Relations of things, could excite to Action when we proposed no End, or as if Ends could be intended without Desire or Affection.
450 Writers on these Subjects should remember the common Divisions of the Faculties of the Soul. That there is 1. Reason presenting the natures and relations of things, antecedently to any Act of Will or Desire: 2. The Will, or Appetitus Rationalis, or the disposition of Soul to pursue what is presented as good, and to shun Evil. Were there no other Power in the Soul, than that of mere contemplation, there would be no Affection, Volition, Desire, Action. Nay without some motion of Will no Man would voluntarily persevere in Contemplation. There must be a Desire of Knowledge, and of the Pleasure which attends it: this too is an Act of Willing. Both these Powers are by the Antients included under the #x039B;#x03CC;#x03B3;#x03BF;#x03C2; or #x039B;#x03BF;#x03B3;#x03C4;#x03BA;#x03CC;#x03BD;. Below these they place two other powers dependent on the Body, the Sensus, and the Appetitus Sensitivus, in which they place the particular Passions: the former answers to the Understanding, and the latter to the Will. But the Will is forgot of late, and some ascribe to the Intellect, not only Contemplation or Knowledge, but Choice, Desire, Prosecuting, Loving. Nay some are grown so mgemous in uniting the Powers of the Soul, that contemplating with Pleasure, Symmetry and Proportion, an Act of the Intellect as they plead, is the same thing with Goodwill or the virtuous Desire of publick Happiness.
451 But are there not also exciting Reasons, even previous to any end, moving us to propose one end rather than another? To this Aristotle long ago answered, 'that there are ultimate Ends desired without a view to any thing else, and subordinate Ends or Objects desired with a view to something else.' To subordinate Ends those Reasons or Truths excite, which shew them to be conducive to the ultimate End, and shew one Object to be more effectual than another: thus subordinate Ends may be called reasonable. But as to the ultimate Ends, to suppose exciting Reasons for them, would infer, that there is no ultimate End, but that we desire one thing for another in an infinite Series.
Thus ask a Being who desires private Happiness, or has Self-Love, 'what Reason excites him to desire Wealth?' He will give this Reason, that 'Wealth tends to procure Pleasure and Ease.' Ask his Reason for desiring Pleasure or Happiness: One cannot imagine what Proposition he could assign as his exciting Reason. This Proposition is indeed true, 'There is an Instinct or Desire fixed in his Nature, determining him to pursue his Happiness;' but it is not this Reflection on his own Nature, or this Proposition which excites or determines him, but the Instinct itself. This is a Truth, 'Rhubarb strengthens the Stomach:' But it is not a Proposition which strengthens the Stomach, but the Quality in that Medicine. The Effect is not produced by Propositions shewing the Cause, but by the Cause itself.
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452 We may transiently observe a Mistake some fall into; They suppose, because they have formed some Conception of an infinite Good, or greatest possible Aggregate, or Sum of Happiness, under which all particular Pleasures may be included; that there is also some one great ultimate End, with a view to which every particular Object is desired; whereas, in truth, each particular Pleasure is desired without farther view, as an ultimate End in the selfish Desires. It is true, the Prospect of a greater inconsistent Pleasure may surmount or stop this Desire; so may the Fear of a prepollent Evil. But this does not prove 'that all Men have formed Ideas of infinite Good, or greatest possible Aggregate, or that they have any Instinct or Desire, actually operating without an Idea of its Object. Just so in the benevolent Affections, the Happiness of any one Person is an ultimate End, desired with no farther view: and yet the observing its Inconsistency with the Happiness of another more beloved, or with the Happiness of many, though each one of them were but equally beloved, may overcome the former Desire. Yet this will not prove, that in each kind Action Men form the abstract Conception of all Mankind, or the System of Rationals. Such Conceptions are indeed useful, that so we may gratify either our Self-Love or kind Affections in the fullest manner, as far as our Power extends; and may not content ourselves with smaller Degrees either of private or publick Good, while greater are in our power: But when we have formed these Conceptions, we do not serve the Individual only from Love to the Species, no more than we desire Grapes with an Intention of the greatest Aggregate of Happiness, or from an Apprehension that they make a Part of the General Sum of our Happiness. These Conceptions only serve to suggest greater Ends than would occur to us without Reflection; and by the Prepollency of one Desire toward the greater Good, to either private or publick, to stop the Desire toward the smaller Good, when it appears inconsistent with the greater.
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453 If any alledge as the Reason exciting us to pursue publick Good, this Truth, that the Happiness of a System, a Thousand, or a Million, is a greater Quantity of Happiness than that of one Person: and consequently, if Men desire Happiness, they must have stronger Desires toward the greater Sum, than toward the less.' This Reason still supposes an Instinct toward Happiness as previous to it: And again, To whom is the Happiness of a System a greater Happiness? To one Individual, or to the System? If to the Individual, then his Reason exciting his Desire of a happy System supposes Self-Love: If to the System, then what Reason can excite to desire the greater Happiness of a System, or any Happiness to be in the Possession of others? None surely which does not presuppose publick Affections. Without such Affections this Truth, 'that an hundred Felicities is a greater Sum than one Felicity,' will no more excite to study the Happiness of the Hundred, than this Truth, 'an hundred Stones are greater than one,' will excite a Man, who has no desire of Heaps, to cast them together.
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454 This leads to consider Approbation of Actions, whether it be for Conformity to any Truth, or Reasonableness, that Actions are ultimately approved, independently of any moral Sense? Or if all justifying Reasons do not presuppose it?
If Conformity to Truth, or Reasonableness, denote nothing else but that 'an Action is the Object of a true Proposition,' it is plain, that all Actions should be approved equally, since as many Truths may be made about the worst, as can be made about the best. See what was said above about exciting Reasons.
But let the Truths commonly assigned as justifying be examined. Here it is plain, 'A Truth shewing an Action to be fit to attain an End,' does not justify it; nor do we approve a subordinate End for any Truth, which only shews it to be fit to promote the ultimate End; for the worst Actions may be conducive to their Ends, and reasonable in that Sense. The justifying Reasons then must be about the Ends themselves, especially the ultimate Ends. The Question then is, 'Does a Conformity to any Truth make us approve an ultimate End, previously to any moral Sense?' For example, we approve pursuing the publick Good. For what Reason? Or what is the Truth for Conformity to which we call it a reasonable End? I fancy we can find none in these Cases, more than we could give for our liking any pleasant Fruit1
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455 When we say one is obliged to an Action, we either mean, 1. That the Action is necessary to obtain Happiness to the Agent, or to avoid Misery: Or, 2. That every Spectator, or he himself upon Reflection, must approve his Action, and disapprove his omitting it, if he considers fully all its Circumstances. The former Meaning of the Word Obligation presupposes selfish Affections, and the Senses of private Happiness: The latter Meaning includes the moral Sense. Mr. Barbeyrac, in his Annotations upon Grotius2 , makes Obligation denote an indispensable Necessity to act in a certain manner. Whoever observes his Explication of this Necessity, (which is not natural, otherwise no Man could act against his Obligation) will find that it denotes only 'such a Constitution of a powerful Superior, as will make it impossible for any Being to obtain Happiness, or avoid Misery, but by such a Course of Action.' This agrees with the former Meaning, though sometimes he also includes the latter.
Many other confused Definitions have been given of Obligation, by no obscure Names in the learned World. But let any one give a distinct Meaning, different from the two above-mentioned. To pursue them all would be endless; only let the Definitions be substituted in place of the Word Obligation, in other parts of each Writer, and let it be observed whether it makes good Sense or not.
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456 We may transiently observe what has occasioned the Use of the Word reasonable, as an Epithet of only virtuous Actions. Tho' we have Instincts determining us to desire Ends, without supposing any previous Reasoning; yet it is by use of our Reason that we find out the Means of obtaining our Ends. When we do not use our Reason, we often are disappointed of our End. We therefore call those Actions which are effectual to their Ends, in one Sense reasonable of that Word.
Again, in all Men there is probably a moral Sense, making publickly useful Actions and kind Affections grateful to the Agent, and to every Observer: Most Men who have thought of human Actions, agree, that the publiekly useful are in the whole also privately useful to the Agent, either in this Life or the next: We conclude, that all Men have the same Affections and Senses: We are convinced by our Reason, that it is by publickly useful Actions alone that we can promote all our Ends. Whoever then acts in a contrary manner, we presume is mistaken, ignorant of, or inadvertent to, these Truths which he might know; and say he acts unreasonably. Hence some have been led to imagine, some Reasons either exciting or justifying previously to all Affections or a moral Sense.
467 Two Arguments are brought in. defence of this Epithet, as antecedent to any Sense, viz. 'That we judge even of our Affections and Senses themselves, whether they are morally Good or Evil.'
The second Argument is, that 'if all moral Ideas depend upon the Constitution of our Sense, then all Constitutions would have been alike reasonable and good. to the Deity, which is absurd.'
As to the first Argument, it is plain we judge of our own Affections, or those of others by our moral Sense, by which we approve kind Affections, and disapprove the contrary. But none can apply moral Attributes to the very Faculty of perceiving moral Qualities; or call his moral Sense morally Good or Evil, any more than he calls the Power of Tasting, sweet or bitter; or of Seeing, strait or crooked, white or black.
Every one judges the Affections of others by his own Sense; so that it seems not impossible that in these Senses Men might differ as they do in Taste. A Sense approving Benevolence would disapprove that Temper, which a Sense approving Malice would delight in. The former would judge of the latter by his own Sense, so would the latter of the former. Each one would at first view think the Sense of the other perverted. But then, is there no difference? Are both Senses equality good? No certainly, any Man who observed them would think the Sense of the former more desirable than of the latter, but this is, because the moral Sense of every Man is constituted in the former manner. But were there any Nature with no moral Sense at all observing these two Persons, would he not think the State of the former preferable to that of the latter? Yes, he might: but not from any Perception of moral Goodness in the one Sense more than in the other. Any rational Nature observing two Men thus constituted, with opposite Senses, might by reasoning see, not moral Goodness in one Sense more than in the contrary, but a Tendency to the Happiness of the Person himself, who had the former Sense in the one Constitution, and a contrary Tendency in the opposite Constitution: nay, the Persons themselves might observe this; since the former Sense would make these Actions grateful to the Agent which were useful to others; who, if they had a like Sense, would love him, and return good Offices; whereas the latter Sense would make all such Actions as are useful to others, and apt to engage their good Offices, ungrateful to the Agent; and would lead him into publickly hurtful Actions, which would not only procure the Hatred of others, if they had a contrary Sense, but engage them out of their Self-Love, to study his Destruction, tho' their Senses agreed. Thus any Observer, or the Agent himself with this latter Sense, might perceive that the Pains to be feared, as the Consequence of malicious Actions, did over-ballance the Pleasures of this Sense; so that it would be to the Agent's Interest to counteract it. Thus one Constitution of the moral Sense might appear to be more advantageous to those who had it, than the contrary; as we may call that Sense of Tasting healthful, which made wholsome Meat pleasant; and we would call a contrary Taste pernicious. And yet we should no more call the moral Sense morally good or evil, than we call the Sense of Tasting savoury or unsavoury, sweet or bitter.
458 But must we not own, that we judge of all our Senses by our Reason, and often correct their Reports of the Magnitude, Figure, Colour, Taste of Objects, and pronounce them right or wrong, as they agree or disagree with Reason? This is true. But does it then follow, that Extension, Figure, Colour, Taste, are not sensible Ideas, but only denote Reasonableness, or Agreement with Reason? Or that these Qualities are perceivable antecedently to any Sense, by our Power of finding out Truth? Just so a compassionate Temper may rashly imagine the Correction of a Child, or the Execution of a Criminal, to be cruel and inhuman: but by reasoning may discover the superior Good arising from them in the whole; and then the same moral Sense may determine the Observer to approve them. But we must not hence conclude, that it is any reasoning antecedent to a moral Sense, which determines us to approve the Study of publick Good, any more than we can in the former Case conclude, that we perceive Extension, Figure, Colour, Taste, antecedently to a Sense. All these Sensations are often corrected by Reasoning, as well as our Approbations of Actions as Good or Evil1 : and yet no body ever placed the Original idea of Extension, Figure, Colour, or Taste, in Conformity to Reason.
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459 As to the second Argument, What means [alike reasonable or good to the Deity?] Does it mean, 'that the Deity could have had no Reasons exciting him to make one Constitution rather than another?' 'Tis plain, if the Deity had nothing essential to his Nature, resembling or analogous to our sweetest and most kind Affections, we can scarce suppose he could have any Reason exciting him to any thing he has done: but grant such a Disposition in the Deity, and then the manifest Tendency of the present Constitution to the Happiness of his Creatures was an exciting Reason for chusing it before the contrary. Each sort of Constitution might have given Men an equal immediate Pleasure in present Self-Approbation for any sort of Action; but the Actions approved by the present Sense, procure all Pleasures of the other Senses; and the Actions which would have been approved by a contrary moral Sense, would have been productive of all Torments of the other Senses.
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If it be meant, that 'upon this Supposition, that all our Approbation presupposes in us a moral Sense, the Deity could not have approved one Constitution more than another:' where is the Consequence? Why may not the Deity have something of a superior Kind, analogous to our moral Sense, essential to him? How does any Constitution of the Senses of Men binder the Deity to reflect and judge of his own Actions? How does it affect the divine Apprehension, which way soever moral Ideas arise with Men?
If it means, 'that we cannot approve one Constitution more than another, or approve the Deity for making the present Constitution:' This Consequence is also false. The present Constitution of our moral Sense determines us to approve all kind Affections: This Constitution the Deity must have foreseen as tending to the Happiness of his Creatures; it does therefore evidence kind Affection or Benevolence in the Deity, this therefore we must approve.
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460 Some farther perplex this Subject, by asserting, that 'the same Reasons determining Approbation, ought also to excite to Election.' Here, 1. We often see justifying Reasons where we can have no Election; viz. when we observe the Actions of others, which were even prior to our Existence. 2. The Quality moving us to Election very often cannot excite Approbation; viz. private usefulness, not publickly pernicious. This both does and ought to move Election, and yet I believe few will say, 'they approve as virtuous the eating a Bunch of Grapes, taking a Glass of Wine, or sitting down when one is tired. Approbation is not what we can voluntarily bring upon ourselves. When we are contemplating Actions, we do not chuse to approve, because Approbation is pleasant; otherwise we would always approve, and never condemn any Action; because this is some way uneasy. Approbation is plainly a Perception arising without previous Volition, or Choice of it, because of any concomitant Pleasure. The Occasion of it is the Perception of benevolent Affections in ourselves, or the discovering the like in others, even when we are incapable of any Action or Election. The Reasons determining Approbation are such as shew that an Action evidenced kind Affections, and that in others, as often as in ourselves. Whereas the Reasons moving to Election are such as shew the Tendency of an Action to gratify some Affection in the Agent.
The Prospect of the Pleasure of Self-Approbation, is indeed often a Motive to chase one Action rather than another; but this supposes the moral Sense, or Determination to approve, prior to the Election. Were Approbation voluntarily chosen, from the Prospect of its concomitant Pleasure, then there could be no Condemnation of our own Actions, for that is unpleasant.
As to that confused Word [ought] it is needless to apply to it again all that was said about Obligation.
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—Shewing the Use of Reason concerning Virtue and Vice, upon Supposition that we receive these Ideas by a Moral Sense.
461 Perhaps what has brought the Epithet Reasonable, or flowing from Reason, in opposition to what flows from Instinct, Affection, or Passion, so much into use, is this, 'That it is often observed, that the very best of our particular Affections or Desires, when they are grown violent and passionate, through the confused Sensations and Propensities which attend them, make us incapable of considering calmly the whole Tendency of our Actions, and lead us often into what is absolutely pernicious, under some Appearance of relative or particular Good.' This indeed may give some ground for distinguishing between passionate Actions, and those from calm Desire or Affection which employs our Reason freely: But can never set rational Actions in Opposition to those from Instinct, Desire or Affection. And it must be owned, that the most perfect Virtue consists in the calm, impassionate Benevolence, rather than in particular Affections.
462 If one asks 'how do we know that our Affections are right when they are kind?' What does the Word [right] mean? Does it mean what we approve? This we know by Consciousness of our Sense. Again, how do we know that our Sense is right, or that we approve our Approbation? This can only be answered by another Question, viz. How do we know we are pleased when we are pleased?'—Or does it mean, 'how do we know that we shall always approve what we now approve?' To answer this, we must first know that the same Constitution of our Sense shall always remain: And again, that we have applied ourselves carefully to consider the natural Tendency of our Actions. Of the Continuance of the same Constitution of our Sense, we are as sure as of the Continuance of Gravitation, or any other Law of Nature: The Tendency of our own Actions we cannot always know; but we may know certainly that we heartily and sincerely study to act according to what, by all the Evidence now in our Power to obtain, appears as most probably tending to publick Good. When we are conscious of this sincere Endeavour, the evil Consequences which we could not have foreseen, never will make us condemn our Conduct. But without this sincere Endeavour, we may often approve at present what we shall afterwards condemn.
488 If the Question means, 'How are we sure that we approve, all others shall also approve?' Of this we can be sure upon no Scheme; but it is highly probable that the Senses of all Men are pretty uniform: That the Deity also approves kind Affections, otherwise he would not have implanted them in us, nor determined us by a moral Sense to approve them. Now since the Probability that Man shall judge truly, abstracting from any presupposed Prejudice, is greater than that they shall judge falsly; it is more probable, when our Actions are really kind and publickly useful, that all Observers shall judge truly of our Intentions, and of the Tendency of our Actions, and consequently approve what we approve our. selves, than that they shall judge falsly and condemn them.
464 If the Meaning of the Question be, 'Will the doing what our moral Sense approves tend to our Happiness, and to the avoiding Misery?' It is thus we call a Taste wrong, when it makes that Food at present grateful, which shall occasion future Pains, or Death. This Question concerning our Self-Interest must be answered by such Reasoning as was mentioned above, to be well managed by our Moralists both antient and modem.
Thus there seems no part of that Reasoning which was ever used by Moralists, to be superseded by supposing a moral Sense. And yet without a moral Sense there is no Explication can be given of our Ideas of Morality; nor of that Reasonableness supposed antecedent to all Instincts, Affections, or Sense.
485 'But may there not be a right or wrong State of our moral Sense, as there is in our other Senses, according as they represent their Objects to be as they really are, or represent them otherwise?' So may not our moral Sense approve that which is vicious, and disapprove Virtue, as a sickly Palate may dislike grateful Food, or a vitiated Sight misrepresent Colours or Dimensions? Must we not know therefore antecedently what is morally Good or Evil by our Reason, before we can know that our moral Sense is right? To answer this, we must remember that of the sensible Ideas, some are allowed to be only Perceptions in our Minds, and not Images of any like external Quality, as Colours, Sounds, Tastes, Smells, Pleasure, Pain. Other Ideas are Images of something external, as Duration, Number, Extension, Motion, Rest: These latter, for distinction, we may call concomitant Ideas of Sensation, and the former purely sensible. As to the purely sensible Ideas, we know they are altered by any Disorder in our Organs, and made different from what arise in us from the same Objects at other times. We do not denominate Objects from our Perceptions during the Disorder, but according to our ordinary Perceptions, or those of others in good Health: Yet nobody imagines that therefore Colours, Sounds, Tastes, are not sensible Ideas. In like manner many Circumstances diversify the concomitant Ideas: But we denominate Objects from the Appearances they make to us in an uniform Medium, when our Organs are in no disorder, and the Object not very distant from them. But none therefore imagines that it is Reason and not Sense which discovers these concomitant Ideas, or primary Qualities.
466 Just so in our Ideas of Actions. These three Things are to be distinguished, 1. The Idea of the external Motion, known first by Sense, and its Tendency to the Happiness or Misery of some sensitive Nature, often inferred by Argument or Reason, which on these Subjects, suggests as invariable eternal or necessary Truths as any whatsoever. 2. Apprehension or Opinion of the Affections in the Agent, inferred by our Reason: So far the Idea of an Action represents something external to the Observer, really existing whether he had perceived it or not, and having a real Tendency to certain Ends. 3. The Perception of Approbation or Disapprobation arising in the Observer, according as the Affections of the Agent are apprehended kind in their lust Degree, or deficient, or malicious. This Approbation cannot be supposed an Image of any thing external, more than the Pleasures of Harmony, of Taste, of Smell. But let none imagine, that calling the Ideas of Virtue and Vice Perceptions of a Sense, upon apprehending the Actions and Affections of another does diminish their Reality, more than the like Assertions concerning all Pleasure and Pain, Happiness or Misery. Our Reason often corrects the Report of our Senses, about the natural Tendency of the external Action, and corrects rash Conclusions about the Affections of the Agent. But whether our moral Sense be subject to such a Disorder, as to have different Perceptions, from the same apprehended Affections in an Agent, at different times, as the Eye may have of the Colours of an unaltered Object, it is not easy to determine: Perhaps it will be hard to find any Instances of such a Change. What Reason could correct, if it fell into such a Disorder, I know not; except suggesting to its Remembrance its former Approbations, and representing the general Sense of Mankind. But this does not prove Ideas of Virtue and Vice to be previous to a Sense, more than a like Correction of the Ideas of Colour in a Person under the Jaundice, proves that Colours are perceived by Reason, previously to Sense.
487 If any say, 'this moral Sense is not a Rule:' What means that Word? It is not a strait rigid Body: It is not a general Proposition, shewing what Means are fit to obtain an end: It is not a Proposition, asserting, that a Superior will make those happy who act one way. and miserable who act the contrary way. If these be the Meanings of Rule, it is no Rule; yet by reflecting upon it our Understanding may find out a Rule. But what Rule of Actions can be formed, without Relation to some End proposed? Or what End can be proposed, without presupposing Instructs, Desires, Affections, or a moral Sense, it will not be easy to explain.
—Shewing that Virtue may have whatever is meant by Merit; and be rewardable upon the Supposition, that it is perceived by a Sense, and elected from Affection or Instinct.
468 Some will not allow any Merit in Actions flowing from kind Instincts: 'Merit, say they, attends Actions to which we are excited by Reason alone, or to which we freely determine ourselves. The Operation of Instincts or Affections is necessary, and not voluntary; nor is there more Merit in them than in the Shining of the Sun, the Fruitfulness of a Tree, or the Overflowing of a Stream, which are all publickly useful.'
But what does Merit mean? or Praiseworthiness? Do these Words denote the 'Quality Actions, which gains Approbation from the Observer, according to the present Constitution of the human Mind?' Or, 2dly, Are these Actions called meritorious, 'which, when any Observer does approve, all other Observers approve him for his Approbation of it; and would condemn any Observer who did not approve these Actions?' These are the only Meanings of meritorious, which I can conceive as distract from rewardable, which is considered hereafter separately. Let those who are not satisfied with either of these Explications of Merit, endeavour to give a Definition of it reducing it to Its simple Ideas. and not, as a late Author has done, quarrelling these Descriptions, tell us only that it is Deserving or being worthy of Approbation, which is defining by giving a synonimous Term.
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469 But it may be said, that to make an Action meritonous, it is necessary not only that the Action be publickly useful, but that it be known or Imagined to be such, before the Agent freely chases it. But what does this add to the former Scheme? Only a Judgment or Opinion in the Understanding, concerning the natural Tendency of an Action to the publick Good: Few, it may be presumed, will place Virtue in Assent or Dissent, or Perceptions. And yet this is all that is superadded to the former Case. The Agent must not desire the publick Good, or have any kind Affections. This would spoil the Freedom of Choice, according to their Scheme, who insist on a Freedom opposite to Affections or Instincts: But he must barely know the Tendency to publick Good and without any Propensity to, or Desire of the Happiness of others, by an arbitrary Election, acquire his Merit. Let every man judge for himself, whether these are the qualities which he approves.
What has probably engaged many into this way of speaking, 'that Virtue is the Effect of rational Choice, and not of Instincts or Affections,' is this; they find, that 'some Actions flowing from particular kind Affections, are sometimes condemned as evil,' because of their bad Influence upon the State of larger Societies; and that the Hurry and confused Sensation of any of our Passions, may divert the Mind from considering the whole Effect of its Actions: They require therefore to Virtue a calm and undisturbed Temper.
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470 Some alledge, that Merit supposes, beside kind Affection, that the Agent has a moral Sense, reflects upon his own Virtue, delights in it, and chases to adhere to it for the Pleasure which attends it1 . We need not debate the Use of this Word Merit: it is plain, we approve a generous kind Action, tho' the Agent had not made this Reflection. This Reflection shews to him a Motive of Self-Love, the joint View to which does not increase our Approbation; But then it must again be owned, that we cannot form a just ConcIusion of a Character from one or two kind, generous Actions, especially where there has been no very strong Motives to the contrary. Some apparent Motives of Interest may afterwards overballance the kind Affections, and lead the Agent into vicious Actions. But the Reflection on Virtue, the being once charmed with the lovely Form, will discover an Interest on its side, which, if well attended to, no other Motive will overballance. This Reflection is a great Security to the Character; and must be supposed in such creatures as Men are, before we can well depend upon a Constancy in Virtue.
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 Thus Grotius distinguishes the Reasons of War. into the Justifice, and Suasoria, or these, sub ratione utilis.
 This is what Aristotle so often asserts that the II§ or β§ is not the End, but the Means.
 Lib. I. chap. i. sect. 10.
 See Sect. 4 of this Treatise.
 See Lord Shaftesbury's Inquiry concerning Virtue, vol. i. pt ii. § 3, P. 28.