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JOHN LOCKE An Essay concerning Human Understanding - Lewis Amherst Selby-Bigge, British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 2 
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. 2.
Part of: British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, 2 vols.
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JOHN LOCKE An Essay concerning Human Understanding
[First edition, 1690.]
No Innate Practical Principles.
958 I. No moral principles so clear and so generally received as the fore-mentioned speculative maxims.—If those speculative maxims whereof we discoursed in the foregoing chapter, have not an actual universal assent from all mankind, as we there proved, it is much more visible concerning practical principles, that they come short of an universal reception; and I think it will be hard to instance any one moral rule which can pretend to so general and ready an assent as ‘What is, is,’ or to be so manifest a truth as this, ‘That it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be’ Whereby it is evident, that they are farther removed from a title to be innate; and the doubt of their being native impressions on the mind is stronger against these moral principles than the other. Not that it brings their truth at all in question. They are equally true, though not equally evident. Those speculative maxims carry their own evidence with them; but molal principles require reasoning and discourse, and some exercise of the mind, to discover the certainty of their truth. They lie not open as natural characters engraven on the mind; which if any such were, they must needs be visible by themselves, and by their own light be certain and known to everybody. But this is no derogation to their truth and certainty; no more than it is to the truth or certainty of the three angles of a triangle being equal to two right ones, because it is not so evident as, ‘The whole is bigger than a part,’ nor so apt to be assented to at first hearing. It may suffice that these moral rules are capable of demonstration; and therefore it is our own fault if we come not to a certain knowledge of them. But the ignorance wherein many men are of them, and the slowness of assent wherewith others receive them, are manifest proofs that they are not innate, and such as offer themselves to their view without searching.
959 2. Faith and justice not owned as principles by all men.—Whether there be any such moral principles wherein all men do agree, I appeal to any who have been but moderately conversant in the history of mankind, and looked abroad beyond the smoke of their own chimneys. Where is that practical truth that is universally received without doubt or question, as it must be if innate? Justice, and keeping of contracts, is that which most men seem to agree in. This is a principle which is thought to extend itself to the dens of thieves, and the confederacies of the greatest villains; and they who have gone farthest towards the putting off of humanity itself, keep faith and rules of justice one with another. I grant, that outlaws themselves do this one amongst another; but it is without receiving these as the innate laws of nature. They practise them as rules of convenience within their own communities; but it is impossible to conceive that he embraces justice as a practical principle who acts fairly with his fellow-highwayman, and at the same time plunders or kills the next honest man he meets with. Justice and truth are the common ties of society; and therefore even outlaws and robbers, who break with all the world besides, must keep faith and rules of equity amongst themselves, or else they cannot hold together. But will any one say, that those that live by fraud and rapine have innate principles of truth and justice, which they allow and assent to?
960 3. Objection. ‘Though men deny them in their practice, yet they admit them in their thoughts,’ answered.—Perhaps it will be urged, that the tacit assent of their minds agrees to what their practice contradicts. I answer, First, I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts; but since it is certain that most men's practice, and some men's open professions, have either questioned or denied these principles, it is impossible to establish an universal consent (though we should look for it only amongst grown men); without which it is impossible to conclude them innate. Secondly, It is very strange and unreasonable to suppose innate practical principles that terminate only in contemplation. Practical principles derived from nature are there for operation, and must produce conformity of action, not barely speculative assent to their truth, or else they are in vain distinguished from speculative maxims. Nature, I confess, has put into man a desire of happiness, and an aversion to misery; these, indeed, are innate practical principles, which, as practical principles ought, do continue constantly to operate and influence all our actions without ceasing; these may be observed in all persons and all ages, steady and universal; but these are inclinations of the appetite to good, not impresslons of truth on the understanding. I deny not that there are natural tendencies imprinted on the minds of men; and that, from the very first instances of sense and perception, there are some things that are grateful and others unwelcome to them; some things that they incline to, and others that they fly: but this makes nothing for innate characters on the mind, which are to be the principles of knowledge, regulating our practice.* * * * * * *
961 4. Moral rules need a proof; ergo, not innate.—Another reason that makes me doubt of any innate principles, is, that I think there cannot any one moral rule be proposed whereof a man may not justly demand a reason; which would be perfectly ridiculous and absurd, if they were innate, or so much as self-evident; which every innate principle must needs be, and not need any proof to ascertain its truth, nor want any reason to gain it approbation. He would be thought void of common sense who asked on the one side, or on the other side went to give a reason, why it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be. It carries its own light and evidence with it, and needs no other proof; he that understands the terms assents to it for its own sake, or else nothing will ever be able to prevail with him to do it. But should that most unshaken rule of morality, and foundation of all social virtue, ‘That one should do as he would be done unto,’ be proposed to one who never heard it before, but yet is of capacity to understand its meaning; might he not without any absurdity ask a reason why? and were not he that proposed it bound to make out the truth and reasonableness of it to him? which plainly shows it not to be innate; for if it were, it could neither want nor receive any proof, but must needs (at least as soon as heard and understood) be received and assented to as an unquestionable truth, which a man can by no means doubt of. So that the truth of all these moral rules plainly depends upon some other antecedent to them, and from which they must be deduced, which could not be if either they were innate, or so much as self-evident.* * * * * * *
962 6. Virtue generally approved, not because innate, but because profitable.—Hence naturally flows the great variety of opinions concerning the moral rules, which are to be found among men according to the different sorts of happiness they have a prospect of, or propose to themselves; which could not be, if practical principles were innate, and imprinted in our minds immediately by the hand of God. I grant the existence of God is so many ways manifest, and the obedience we owe him so congruous to the light of reason, that a great part of mankind give testimony to the law of nature; but yet I think it must be allowed, that several moral rules may receive from mankind a very general approbation, without either knowing or admitting the true ground of morality; which can only be the will and law of a God, who sees men in the dark, has in his hand rewards and punishments, and power enough to call to account the proudest offender. For God having, by an inseparable connection, joined virtue and public happiness together, and made the practice thereof necessary to the preservation of society, and visibly beneficial to all with whom the virtuous man has to do; it is no wonder that every one should not only allow, but recommend and magnify those rules to others, from whose observance of them he is sure to reap advantage to himself. He may, out of interest, as well as conviction, cry up that for sacred, which, if once trampled on and profaned, he himself cannot be safe nor secure. This, though it takes nothing from the moral and eternal obligation which these rules evidently have, yet it shows that the outward acknowledgment men pay to them in their words proves not that they arc innate principles: nay, it proves not so much as that men assent to them inwardly in their own minds, as the inviolable rules of their own practice; since we find that self-interest and the conveniences of this life make many men own an outward profession and approbation of them, whose actions sufficiently prove that they very little consider the Law-giver that prescribed these rules, nor the hell he has ordained for the punishment of those that transgress them.* * * * * * *
963 Principles of actions, indeed, there are lodged in men's appetites; but these are so far from being innate moral principles, that, if they were left to their full swing, they would carry men to the overturning of all morality. Moral laws are sent as a curb and restraint to these exorbitant desires, which they cannot be but by rewards and punishments that will overbalance the satisfaction any one shall propose to himself in the breach of the law. If therefore any thing be imprinted on the mind of all men as a law, all men must have a certain and unavoidable knowledge that certain and unavoidable punishment will attend the breach of it. For if men can be ignorant or doubtful of what is innate, innate principles are insisted on and urged to no purpose; truth and certainty (the things pretended) are not at all secured by them; but men are in the same uncertain, floating estate with as without them. An evident, indubitable knowledge of unavoidable punishment, great enough to make the transgression very uneligible, must accompany an innate law; unless with an innate law they can suppose an innate gospel too. I would not be here mistaken, as if, because I deny an innate law, I thought there were none but positive laws. There is a great deal of difference between an innate law and a law of nature; between something imprinted on our minds in this very original, and something that we, being ignorant of, may attain to the knowledge of by the use and due application of our natural faculties. And, I think, they equally forsake the truth who, running into the contrary extremes, either affirm an innate law, or deny that there is a law knowable by the light of nature; that is, without the help of positive revelation.* * * * * * *
964 1. Pleasure and pain simple ideas.—Amongst the simple ideas which we receive both from sensation and reflection, pain and pleasure are two very considerable ones. For as in the body there is sensation barely in itself, or accompanied with pain or pleasure; so the thought or perception of the mind is simply so, or else accompanied also with pleasure or pain, delight or trouble, call it how you please. These, like other simple ideas, cannot be described, nor their names defined: the way of knowing them is, as of the simple ideas of the senses, only by experience. For to define them by the presence of good or evil, is no otherwise to make them known to us than by making us reflect on what we feel in ourselves, upon the several and various operations of good and evil upon our minds, as they are differently applied to or considered by us.
965 2. Good and evil, what.—Things then are good or evil only in reference to pleasure or pain. That we call ‘good,’ which is apt to cause or increase pleasure, or diminish pain, in us; or else to proem'e or preserve us the possession of any other good, or absence of any evil. And, on the contrary, we name that ‘evil,’ which is apt to produce or increase any pain, or diminish any pleasure, in us; or else to procure us any evil, or deprive us of any good. By ‘pleasure’ and ‘pain,’ I must be understood to mean of body or mind, as they are commonly distinguished; though, in truth, h e only different constitutions of the mind, sometimes occasioned by disorder in the body, sometimes by thoughts in the mind.
966 3. Our passions moved by good and evil.—Pleasure and pain, and that which causes them, good and evil, are the hinges on which our passions turn: and if we reflect on ourselves, and observe how these, under various considerations, operate in us,—what modifications or tempers of mind, what internal sensations Of I may so call them) they produce in us,—we may thence form to ourselves the ideas of our passions.* * * * * * *
967 6. Desire.—The uneasiness a man finds in himself upon the absence of any thing whose present enjoyment carries the idea of delight with it, is that we call ‘desire,’ which is greater or less as that uneasiness is more or less vehement. Where, by the by, it may perhaps be of some use to remark, that the chief, if not only, spur to human industry and action is uneasiness: for, whatever good is proposed, if its absence carries no displeasure nor pain with it, if a man be easy and content without it, there is no desire of it, nor endeavour after it; there is no more but a bare velleity,—the term used to signify the lowest degree of desire, and that which is next to none at all, when there is so little uneasiness in the absence of any thing, that it carries a man no farther than some faint wishes for it, without any more effectual or vigorous use of the means to attain it. Desire also is stopped or abated by the opinion of the impossibility or unattainableness of the good proposed, as far as the uneasiness is cured or allayed by that consideration. This might carry our thoughts farther, were it seasonable in this place.* * * * * * *
Of Power.* * * * * * *
968 7. Whence the ideas of liberty and necessity.—Every one, I think, finds in himself a power to begin or forbear, continue or put an end to, several actions in himself. From the consideration of the extent of this power of the mind over the actions of the man, which every one finds in himself, arise the ideas of liberty and necessity.
969 8. Liberty, what.—All the actions that we have any idea of, reducing themselves, as has been said, to these two, viz., thinking and motion, so far as a man has a power to think or not to think, to move or not to move, according to the preference or direction of his own mind, so far is a man free. Wherever any performance or forbearance are not equally in a man's power, wherever doing or not doing will not equally follow upon the preference of his mind directing it, there he is not free, though perhaps the action may be voluntary. So that the idea of liberty is the idea of a power in any agent to do or forbear any particular action, according to the determination or thought of the mind, whereby either of them is preferred to the other; where either of them is not in the power of the agent, to be produced by him according to his volition, there he is not at liberty, that agent is under necessity. So that liberty cannot be where there is no thought, no volition, no will; but there may be thought, there may be will, there may be volition, where there is no liberty. A little consideration of an obvious instance or two may make this clear.
970 9. Supposes the understanding and will.—A tennis-ball, whether in motion by the stroke of a racket, or lying still at rest, is not by any one taken to be a free agent. If we inquire into the reason, we shall find it is, because we conceive not a tennis-ball to think, and consequently not to have any volition, or preference of motion to rest, or vice versâ; and therefore has not liberty, is not a free agent; but all its both motion and rest come under our idea of necessary, and are so called. Likewise a man falling into the water (a bridge breaking under him) has not herein liberty, is not a free agent. For though he has volition, though he prefers his not falling to falling; yet the forbearance of that motion not being in his power, the stop or cessation of that motion follows not upon his volition; and therefore therein he is not free. So a man striking himself or his friend, by a convulsive motion of his arm, which it is not in his power, by volition or the direction of his mind, to stop or forbear, nobody thinks he has, in this, liberty; every one pities him, as acting by necessity and restraint.
971 10. Belongs not to volifion.—Again: Suppose a man be earned, whilst fast asleep, into a room, where is a person he longs to see and speak with, and be there locked fast in, beyond his power to get out; he awakes, and is glad to find himself in so desirable company, which he stays willingly in, i.e., prefers his stay to going away. I ask, is not this stay voluntary? I think nobody will doubt it; and yet, being locked fast in, it is evident he is not at liberty not to stay, he has not freedom to be gone. So that liberty is not an idea belonging to volition, or preferring; but to the person having the power of doing, or forbearing to do, according as the mind shall choose or direct. Our idea of liberty reaches as far as that power, and no farther. For wherever restraint comes to check that power, or compulsion takes away that indifferency of ability on either side to act, or to forbear acting, there liberty, and our notiou of it, presently ceases.* * * * * * *
11. … Voluntary, then, is not opposed to necessary, but to involuntary. For a man may prefer what he can do, to what he cannot do; the state he is in, to its absence or change, though necessity has made it in itself unalterable.
972 12. Liberty, what.—As it is in the motions of the body, so it is in the thoughts of our minds: where any one is such, that we have power to take it up, or lay it by, according to the preference of the mind, there we are at hberty. A waking man, being under the necessity of having some ideas constantly in his mind, is not at liberty to think, or not to think, no more than he is at liberty, whether his body shall touch any other or no: but whether he will remove his contemplation from one idea to another, is many times in his choice; and then he is, in respect of his ideas, as much at liberty as he is in respect of bodies he rests on: he can at pleasure remove himself from one to another. But yet some ideas to the mind, like some motions to the body, are such as in certain circumstances it cannot avoid, nor obtain their absence by the utmost effort it can use. A man on the rack is not at liberty to lay by the ideaof pare, and divert himself with other contemplations.* * * * * * *
973 13. Necessity, what.—Wherever thought is wholly wanting, or the power to act or forbear according to the direction of thought, there necessity takes place. This, in an agent capable of volition, when the beginning or continuation of any action is contrary to that preference of his mind, is called ‘compulsion;’ when the hindering or stopping any action is contrary to this volition, it is called ‘restraint.’ Agents that have no thought, no volition at all, are in every thing necessary agents.
974 14. Liberty belongs not lo the will.—If this be so (as I imagine it is), I leave it to be considered, whether it may not help to put an end to that long agitated, and I think unreasonable, because unintelligible question, viz., Whether man's will be free or no? For, if I mistake not, it follows, from what I have said, that the question itself is altogether improper; and it is as insignificant to ask whether man's will be free, as to ask whether his sleep be swift, or his virtue square: liberty being as little applicable to the will, as swiftness of motion is to sleep, or squareness to virtue. Every one would laugh at the absurdity of such a question as either of these; because it is obvious that the modifications of motion belong not to sleep, nor the difference of figure to virtue: and when any one well considers it, I think he will as plainly perceive, that hberty, which is but a power, belongs only to agents, and cannot be an attribute or modification of the will, which is also but a power.
975 15. Volition.—Such is the difficulty of explaining and giving clear notions of internal actions by sounds, that I must here warn my reader that ‘ordering, directing, choosing, prefernng,’ &c. which I have made use of, will not distinctly enough express volition, unless he will reflect on what he himself does when he wills. For example: ‘Preferring,’ which seems perhaps best to express the act of volition, does it not precisely. For though a man would prefer flying to walking, yet who can say he ever wills it? Volition, it is plain, is an act of the mind knowingly exerting that dominion it takes itself to have over any part of the man, by employing it in or witholding it from any particular action. And what is the will, but the faculty to do this? And is that faculty any thing more in effect than a power,—the power of the mind to determine its thought to the producing, continuing, or stopping any action, as far as it depends on us? For, can it be denied, that whatever agent has a power to think on its own actions, and to prefer their doing or omission either to other, has that faculty called ‘will’? Will then is nothing but such a power. Liberty, on the other side, is the power a man has to do or forbear doing any particular action, according as its doing or forbearance has the actual preference in the mind; which is the same thing as to say, according as he himself wills it.
976 16. Powers belong to agents.—It is plain then that the will is nothing but one power or ability, and freedom another power or ability: so that to ask whether the will has freedom, is to ask whether one power has another power, one ability another ability? a question at first sight too grossly absurd to make a dispute, or need an answer. For who is it that sees not, that powers belong only to agents, and are attributes only of substances, and not of powers themselves? So that this way of putting the question, viz., Whether the will be free? is in effect to ask, Whether the will be a substance, an agent? or at least to suppose k, since freedom can properly be attributed to nothing else. supposeIf freedom can with any propriety of speech be applied to power, it may be attributed to the power that is in a man to produce or forbear producing motions in parts of his body, by choice or preference; which is that which denominates him free, and is freedom itself. But if any one should ask whether freedom were free, he would be suspected not to understand well what he said; and he would be thought to deserve Midas's ears, who, knowing that ‘rich’ was a denomination from the possession of riches, should demand whether riches themselves were rich.* * * * * * *
977 29. What determines the will.—The will being nothing but a power in the mind to direct the operative faculties of a man to motion or rest, as far as they depend on such direction; to the question, ‘What is it determines the will?’ the true and proper answer is, The mind. For that which determines the general power of directing to this or that particular direction, is nothing but the agent itself exercising the power it has that particular way. If this answer satisfies not, it is plain the meaning of the question, ‘What determines the will?’ is this, ‘What moves the mind in every particular instance to determine its general power of directing to this or that particular motion or rest?’ And to this I answer, The motive for continuing in the same state or action is only the present satisfaction in it; the motive to change is always some uneasiness: nothing setting us upon the change of state, or upon any new action, but some uneasiness. This is the great motive that works on the mind to put it upon action, which for shortness’ sake we will call ‘determining of the will;’ which I shall more at large explain.* * * * * * *
978 31. Uneasiness determines the will.—To return, then, to the inquiry, ‘What is it that determines the will in regard to our actions?’ And that upon second thoughts I am apt to imagine, is not, as is generally supposed, -the greater good in view, but some (and, for the most part, the most pressing) uneasiness a man is at present under. This is that which successively determines the will, and sets us upon those actions we perform. This uneasiness we may call, as it is, ‘desire’; which is an uneasiness of the mind for want of some absent good. All pain of the body, of what sort soever, and disquiet of the mind, is uneasiness; and with this is always joined desire equal to the pain or uneasiness felt, and is scarce distinguishable from it. For, desire being nothing but an uneasiness in the want of an absent good, in reference to any pain felt, ease is that absent good; and till that ease be attained, we may call it desire, nobody feeling pare that he wishes not to be eased of with a desire equal to that pain, and inseparable from it. Besides this desire of ease from pain, there is another of absent positive good; and here also the desire and uneasiness is equal. As much as we desire any absent good, so much are we in pain for it. But here all absent good does not, according to the greatness it has, or is acknowledged to have, cause pain equal to that greatness; as all pain causes desire equal to itself: because the absence of good is not always a pain, as the presence of pain is. And therefore absent good may be looked on and considered without desire. But so much as there is any where of desire, so much there is of uneasiness.* * * * * * *
979 33. The uneasiness of desire determines the will.—Good and evil, present and absent, it is true, work upon the mind; but that which immediately determines the will, from time to time, to every voluntary action, is the uneasiness of desire, fixed on some absent good, either negative, as indolency to one in pain, or positive, as enjoyment of pleasure. That it is this uneasiness that determines the will to the successive voluntary actions whereof the greatest part of our lives is made up, and by which we are conducted through different courses to different? ends, I shall endeavour to show both from experience and of the thing.* * * * * * *
980 35. The greatest positive good determines not the will, but uneasiness.—It seems so established and settled a maxim, by the general consent of all mankind, that good, the greater good, determines the will, that I do not at all wonder that, when I first published my thoughts on this subject, I took it for granted; and I imagine, that by a great many I shall be thought more excusable for having then done so, than that now I have ventured to recede from so received an opinion. But yet upon a stricter inquiry, I am forced to conclude that good, the greater good, though apprehended and acknowledged to be so, does not determine the will until our desire, raised proportionably to it, makes us uneasy in the want of it. Convince a man never so much that plenty has its advantages over poverty; make him see and own that the handsome conveniences of life are better than nasty penury; yet as long as he is content with the latter, and finds no uneasiness in it, he moves not; his will is never determined to any action that shall bring him out of it. Let a man be never so well persuaded of the advantages of virture, that it is as necessary to a man who has any great aims in this world or hopes in the next, as food to life: yet till he ‘hungers and thirsts after righteousness,’ till he feels an uneasiness in the want of it, his will will not be determined to any action in pursuit of this confessed greater good; but any other uneasiness he feels in himself shall take place and carry his will to other actions.* * * * * * *
981 41. All desire happiness.—If it be farther asked, what it is moves desire? I answer, Happiness, and that alone. ‘Happiness’ and ‘misery’ are the names of two extremes, the utmost bounds whereof we know not: it is what ‘eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.’ But of some degrees of both we have very lively impressions, made by several instances of delight and joy on the one side, and torment and sorrow on the other; which, for shortness’ sake, I shall comprehend under the names of ‘pleasure’ and ‘pain,’ there being pleasure and pain of the mind as well as the body: ‘With him is fulness of joy, and pleasure for evermore:’ or, to speak truly, they are all of the mind; though some have their rise in the mind from thought, others in the body from certain modifications of motion.
982 42. Happiness, what.—Happiness, then, in its full extent, is the utmost pleasure we are capable of, and misery the utmost pain; and the lowest degree of what can be called ‘happiness’ is so much ease from all pain, and so much present pleasure, as without which any one cannot be content. Now, because pleasure and pain are produced in us by the operation of certain objects either on our minds or our bodies, and in different degrees, therefore what has an aptness to produce pleasure in us is that we call ‘good,’ and what is apt to produce pain in us we call ‘evil’; for no other reason but for its aptness to produce pleasure and pain in us, wherein consists our happiness and misery. Farther though what is apt to produce any degree of pleasure be in itself good, and what is apt to produce any degree of pain be evil, yet it often happens that we do not call it so when it comes in competition with a greater of its sort; because when they come in competition, the degrees also of pleasure and pain have justly a preference. So that af we will rightly estimate what we call ‘good ‘and ‘evil,’ we shall find it lies much in comparison: for the cause of every less degree of pain, as well as every greater degree of pleasure, has the nature of good and vice versâ.
983 43. What good is desired, what not.—Though this be that which is called ‘good ‘and ‘evil,’ and all good be the proper object of desire in general, yet all good, even seen and confessed to be so, does not necessarily move every particular man's desire; but only that part, or so much of it, as is considered and taken to make a necessary part of his happiness.* * * * * * *
Thus how much soever men are in earnest and constant in pursuit of happiness, yet they may have a clear view of good, great and confessed good, without being concerned for it, or moved by it, it they think they can make up their happiness without it. Though as to pain, that they are always concerned for; they can feel no uneasiness without being moved. And therefore, being uneasy in the want of whatever is judged necessary to their happiness, as soon as any good appears to make a part of their portion of happiness, they begin to desire it.
984 44. Why the greatest good is not always desired.—This, I think, any one may observe in himself and others, that the greater visible good does not always raise men's desires in proportion to the greatness it appears and is acknowledged to have; though every little trouble moves us, and sets us on work to get rid of it: the reason whereof is evident from the nature of our happiness and misery itself. All present pain, whatever it be, makes a part of our present misery; but all absent good does not at any time make a necessary part of our present happiness, nor the absence of it make a part of our misery: if it did, we should be constantly and infinitely miserable; there being infinite degrees of happiness which are not in our possession.* * * * * * *
985 45. Why, not being desired, it moves not the will.—The ordinary necessities of our lives fill a great part of them with the uneasiness of hunger, thirst, heat, cold, weariness with labour, and sleepiness, in their constant returns, &c., to which if, besides accidental harms, we add the fantastical uneasiness (as itch after honour, power, or riches, &c.) which acquired habits by fashion, example, and education have settled in us, and a thousand other irregular desires which custom has made natural to us, we shall find that a very little part of our life is so vacant from these uneasinesses as to leave us free to the attraction of remoter absent good. We are seldom at ease, and free enough from the solicitation of our natural or adopted desires, but a constant succession of uneasinesses, out of that stock which natural wants or acquired habits have heaped up, take the will in their turns; and no sooner is one action despatched, which by such a determination of the will we are set upon, but another uneasiness is ready to set us on work. For the removing of the pains we feel, and are at present pressed with, being the getting out of misery, and consequently the first thing to be done in order to happiness, absent good, though thought on, confessed, and appearing to be good, not making any part of this unhappiness, in its absence is justled out, to make way for the removal of those uneasinesses we feel, till due and repeated contemplation has brought it nearer to our mind, given some relish of it, and raised in us some desire; which, then beginning to make a part of our present uneasiness, stands upon fair terms with the rest to be satisfied, and so, according to its greatness and pressure, comes in its turn to determine the will.
986 46. Due consideration raises desire.—And thus, by a due consideration, and examining any good proposed, it is in our power to raise our desires in a due proportion to the value of that good whereby, in its turn and place, it may come to work upon the will, and be pursued. For good, though appearing and allowed ever so great, yet till it has raised desires in our minds, and thereby made us uneasy in its want, it reaches not our wills, we are” not within the sphere of its activity; our wills being under the determination only of those uneasinesses which are present to us, which (whilst we have any) are always soliciting, and ready at hand to give the will its next determination; the balancing, when there is any in the mind, being only, which desire shall be next satisfied, which uneasiness first removed.* * * * * * *
987 47. The power to suspend the prosecution of any desire, makes way for consideration.—There being in us a great many uneasinesses always soliciting, and ready to determine, the will, it is natural, as I have said, that the greatest and most pressing should determine the will to the next action; and so it does for the most part, but not always. For the mind having in most cases, as is evident in experience, a power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires, and so all, one after another, is at liberty to consider the objects of them, examine them on all sides, and weigh them with others. In this lies the liberty man has; and from the not using of it right, comes all that variety of mistakes, errors, and faults which we run into in the conduct of our lives, and our endeavours after happiness; whilst we precipitate the determination of our wills, and engage too soon before due examination. To prevent this, we have a power to suspend the prosecution of this or that desire, as every one daily may experiment in himself. This seems to me the source of all liberty; in this seems to consist that which is (as I think improperly) called ‘free-will. ‘For during this suspension of any desire, before the will be determined to action, and the action (which follows that determination) done, we have opportunity to examine, view, and judge of the good or evil of what we are going to do; and when upon due examination we have judged, we have done our duty, all that we can or ought to do in pursuit of our happiness; and it is not a fault but a perfection of our nature to desire, will and act, according to the last result of a fair examination.
988 48. To be determined by our own judgment, is no restraint to liberty.—This is so far from being a restraint or diminution of freedom, that it is the very improvement and benefit of it; it is not an abridgment, it is the end and use, of our liberty; and the farther we are removed from such a determination, the nearer we are to misery and slavery. A perfect indifferency in the mind, not determinable by its last judgment of the good or evil that is thought to attend its choice, would be so far from being an advantage and excellency of an intellectual nature, that it would be as great an imperfection, as the want ot indifferency to act or not to act till determined by the will, would be an imperfection on the other side. A man is at liberty to lift up his hand to his head, or let it rest quiet: he is perfectly indifferent in either; and it would be an imperfection in him if he wanted that power, if he were deprived of that indifferency. But it would be as great an imperfection, if he had the same indifferency, whether he would prefer the lifting up his hand, or its remaining in rest, when it would save his head or eyes from a blow he sees coming: it is as much a perfection that desire, or the power of preferring, should be determined by good, as that the power of acting should be determined by the will; and the certainer such determination is, the greater is the perfection. Nay, were we determined by any thing but the last result of our own minds judging of the good or evil of any action, we were not free; the very end of our freedom being, that we may attain the good we choose. And therefore every man is put under a necessity by his constitution, as an intelligent being, to be determined in willing, by his own thought and judgment, what is best for him to do: else he would be under the determination of some other than himself, which is want of liberty. And to deny that a man's will, in every determination, follows his own judgment, is to say, that a man wills and acts for an end that he would not have, at the time that he wills and acts for it. For if he prefers it in his present thoughts before any other, it is plain he then thinks better of it, and would have it before any other, unless he can have and not have it, will and not will it, at the same time; a contradiction too manifest to be admitted.* * * * * * *
989 50. A constant determination to a pursuit of happiness, no abridgment of liberty.—But, to give a right view of this mistaken part of liberty, let me ask, Would any one be a changeling because he is less determined by wise considerations than a wise man? Is it worth the name of freedom to be at liberty to play the fool, and draw shame and misery upon a man's self? If to break loose from the conduct of reason, and to want that restraint of examination and judgment which keeps us from choosing or doing the worse, be liberty, true liberty, madmen and fools are the only freemen: but yet, I think, nobody would choose to be mad for the sake of such liberty, but he that is mad already. The constant desire of happiness, and the constraint it puts upon us to act for it, nobody, I think, accounts an abridgment of liberty, or at least an abridgment of liberty to be complained of.* * * * * * *
990 51. The necessity of pursuing true happiness, the foundation of all liberty.—As therefore the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness, so the care of ourselves, that we mistake not imaginary for real happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty. The stronger ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness in general, which is our greatest good, and which, as such, our desires always follow, the more are we free from any necessary determination of our will, to any particular action, and from a necessary compliance with our desire set upon any particular and then appearing preferable good, till we have duly examined whether it has a tendency to or be inconsistent with our real happiness: and therefore till we are as much informed upon this inquiry as the weight of the matter and the nature of the case demands, we are, by the necessity of preferring and pursuing true happiness as our greatest good, obliged to suspend the satisfaction of our desire in particular cases.
OfotherRelations.* * * * * * *
991 4. Moral.—There is another sort of relation, which is the conformity or disagreement men's voluntary actions have to a rule to which they are referred, and by which they are judged of; which, I think, may be called ‘moral relation,’ as being that which denominates our moral actions, and deserves well to be examined, there being no part of knowledge wherein we should be more careful to get determined ideas, and avoid, as much as may be, obscurity and confusion. Human actions, when, with their various ends, objects, manners, and circumstances, they are framed into distinct complex ideas, are, as has been shown, so many mixed modes, a great part whereof have names affixed to them. Thus, supposing gratitude to be a readiness to acknowledge and return kindness received; polygamy to be the having more wives than one at once when we frame these notions thus in our minds, we have there so many determined ideas of mixed modes. But this is not 811 that concerns our actions; it is not enough to have determined ideas of them, and to know what names belong to such and such combinations of ideas. We have a farther and greater concernment; and that is, to know whether such actions so made up are morally good or bad.
992 5. Moral good and evil.—Good and evil, as hath been shown (book ii. chap. xx. sect. 2, and chap. Xxi. sect. 42), are nothing but pleasure or pain, or that which occasions or procures pleasure or pain to us. Moral good and evil, then, is only the conformity or disagreement of our voluntary actions to some law, whereby good and evil is drawn on us from the will and power of the lawmaker; 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 ‘and ‘punishment.’
993 6. Moral rules.—Of these moral rules or laws, to which men generally refer, and by which they judge of the rectitude or parity of their actions, there seem to me to be three sorts, with their three different enforcements, or rewards and punishments. For since it would be utterly in vain to suppose a rule set to the free actions of man, without annexing to it some enforcement of good and evil to determine his will, we must wherever we suppose a law, suppose also some reward or punishment annexed to that law. It would be in vain for one intelligent being to set a rule to the actions of another, if he had it not in his power to reward the compliance with, and punish deviation from, his rule, by some good and evil that is not the natural product and consequence of the action itself. For that, being a natural convenience or inconvenience, would operate of itself without a law. This, if I mistake not, is the true nature of all law, properly so called.
994 7. Laws.—The laws that men generally refer their actions to, to judge of their rectitude or obliquity, seem to me to be these three: (1) The divine law. (2) The civil law. (3) The law of opinion or reputation, if I may so call it. By the relation they bear to the first of these, men judge whether their actions are sins or duties; by the second, whether they be criminal or innocent; and by the third, whether they be virtues or vices.
8. Divine law, the measure of sin and duty.—First, The divine law, whereby I mean the law which God has set to the actions of men, whether promulgated to them by the light of nature, or the voice of revelation. That God has given a rule whereby men should govern themselves, I think there is nobody so brutish as to deny. He has a right to do it; we are his creatures. He has goodness and wisdom to direct our actions to that which is best; and he has power to enforce it by rewards and punishments, of infinite weight and duration, in another life; for nobody can take us out of his hands. This is the only true touchstone of moral rectitude; and by comparing them to this law it is that men judge of the most considerable moral good or evil of their actions; that is, whether as duties or sins they are like to procure them happiness or misery from the hands of the Almighty.
995 9. Civil law, the measure of crimes mid innocence.—Secondly, The civil law, the rule set by the commonwealth to the actions of those who belong to it, is another rule to which men refer their actions, to judge whether they be criminal or no. This law nobody overlooks; the rewards and punishments that enforce it being ready at hand, and suitable to the power that makes it; which is the force of the commonwealth, engaged to protect the lives, liberties, and possessions of those who live according to its laws, and has power to take away life, liberty, or goods from him who disobeys; which is the punishment of offences committed against this law.
996 10. Philosophical law, the measure of virtue and vice.—Thirdly, The law of opinion or reputation. ‘Virtue ‘and ‘vice ‘are names pretended and supposed every where to stand for actions in their own nature right or wrong: and as far as they really are so applied, they so far are coincident with the divine law above mentioned. But yet, whatever is pretended, this is visible, that these names,’ virtue ‘and ‘vice,’ in the particular instances of their application, through the several nations and societies of men in the world, are constantly attributed only to such actions as in each country and society are in reputation or discredit. Nor is it to be thought strange, that men every where should give the name of ‘virtue ‘to those actions which amongst them are judged praiseworthy; and call that ‘vice,’ which they account blamable: since otherwise they would condemn themselves, if they should think any thing right, to which they allowed not condemnation; any thing wrong, which they let pass without blame. Thus the measure of what is every where called and esteemed ‘virtue ‘and ‘vice,’ is this approbation or dislike, praise or blame, which, by a secret and tacit consent establishes itself in the several societies, tribes, and clubs of men in the world, whereby several actions come to find credit or disgrace amongst them, according to the judgment, maxims, or fashions of that place. For though men uniting into politic societies have resigned up to the public the disposing of all their force, so that they cannot employ it against any fellow-citizen any farther than the law of the country directs; yet they retain still the power of thinking well or ill, approving or disapproving, of the actions of those whom they live amongst, and converse with; and by this approbation and dislike, they establish amongst themselves what they will call virtue ‘and ‘vice.’
997 11. That this is the common measure of virtue and vice, will appear to any one who considers, that though that passes for vice in one country which is counted a virtue, or at least not vice, in another; yet every where virtue and praise, vice and blame, go together. Virtue is every where that which is thought praiseworthy; and nothing else but that which has the allowance of public esteem is called ‘virtue.’* * * * * * *
For since nothing can be more natural than to encourage with esteem and reputation that wherein every one finds his advantage, and to blame and discountenance the contrary, it is no wonder that esteem and discredit, virtue and vice, should in a great measure every where correspond with the unchangeable rule of right and wrong which the law of God hath established: there being nothing that so directly and visibly secures and advances the general good of mankind in this world, as obedience to the laws he has set them, and nothing that breeds such mischiefs and confusion as the neglect of them. And therefore men, without renouncing all sense and reason, and their own interest, which they are so constantly true to, could not generally mistake in placing their commendation and blame on that side that really deserved it not. Nay, even those men whose practice was otherwise, failed not to give their approbation right, few being depraved to that degree as not to condemn, at least in others, the faults they themselves were guilty of: whereby, even in the corruption of manners, the true boundaries of the law of nature, which ought to be the rule of virtue and vice, were pretty well preserved. So that even the exhortations of inspired teachers have not feared to appeal to common repute: ‘Whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,’ &c. (Phil. iv. 8.)
998 12. Its enforcements, commendation, and discredit.—If any one shall imagine that I have forgot my own notion of a law, when I make the law whereby men judge of virtue and vice to be nothing else but the consent of private men who have not authority enough to make a law; especially wanting that which is so necessary and essential to a law, a power to enforce it: I think I may say, that he who imagines commendation and disgrace not to be strong motives on men to accommodate themselves to the opinions and rules of those with whom they converse, seems little skilled in the nature or history of mankind: the greatest part whereof he shall find to govern themselves chiefly, if not solely, by this law of fashion; and, so they do that which keeps them in reputation with their company, little regard the laws of God or the magistrate.* * * * * * *
999 13. These three laws the rules of moral good and evil.—These three, then, First, The law of God, Secondly, The law of politic societies, Thirdly, The law of fashion, or private censure—are those to which men variously compare their actions: and it is by their conformity to one of these laws that they take their measures, when they would judge of their moral rectitude, and denominate their actions good or bad.* * * * * * *