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SECTION IV.: MODERN ETHICS. - Sir James Mackintosh, The Miscellaneous Works 
The Miscellaneous Works. Three Volumes, complete in One. (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1871).
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The introduction to the great work of Grotius,‡ composed in the first years of his exile, and published at Paris in 1625, contains the most clear and authentic statement of the general principles of Morals prevalent in Christendom after the close of the Schools, and before the writings of Hobbes had given rise to those ethical controversies which more peculiarly belong to modern times. That he may lay down the fundamental principles of Ethics, he introduces Carneades on the stage as denying altogether the reality of moral distinctions; teaching that law and morality are contrived by powerful men for their own interest; that they vary in different countries, and change in successive ages; that there can be no natural law, since Nature leads men as well as other animals to prefer their own interest to every other object; that, therefore, there is either no justice, or if there be, it is another name for the height of folly, inasmuch as it is a fond attempt to persuade a human being to injure himself for the unnatural purpose of benefitting his fellow-men.§ To this Grotius answered, that even inferior animals, under the powerful, though transient, impulse of parental love, prefer their young to their own safety or life; that gleams of compassion, and, he might have added, of gratitude and indignation, appear in the human infant long before the age of moral discipline; that man at the period of maturity is a social animal, who delights in the society of his fellow-creatures for its own sake, independently of the help and accommodation which it yields; that he is a reasonable being, capable of framing and pursuing general rules of conduct, of which he discerns that the observance contributes to a regular, quiet, and happy intercourse between all the members of the community; and that from these considerations all the precepts of Morality, and all the commands and prohibitions of just Law, may be derived by impartial Reason. “And these principles,” says the pious philosopher, “would have their weight, even if it were to be granted (which could not be conceded without the highest impiety) that there is no God, or that He exercises no moral government over human affairs.”* —“Natural law is the dictate of right Reason, pronouncing that there is in some actions a moral obligation, and in other actions a moral deformity, arising from their respective suitableness or repugnance to the reasonable and social nature; and that consequently such acts are either forbidden or enjoined by God, the Author of Nature.—Actions which are the subject of this exertion of Reason, are in themselves lawful or unlawful, and are therefore, as such, necessarily commanded or prohibited by God.”
Such was the state of opinion respecting the first principles of the moral sciences, when, after an imprisonment of a thousand years in the Cloister, they began once more to hold intercourse with the general understanding of mankind. It will be seen in the laxity and confusion, as well as in the prudence and purity of this exposition, that some part of the method and precision of the Schools was lost with their endless subtilties and their barbarous language. It is manifest that the latter paragraph is a proposition,—not, what it affects to be, a definition; that as a proposition it contains too many terms very necessary to be defined; that the purpose of the excellent writer is not so much to lay down a first principle of. Morals, as to exert his unmatched power of saying much in few words, in order to assemble within the smallest compass the most weighty inducements, and the most effectual persuasions to well-doing.
This was the condition in which ethical theory was found by Hobbes, with whom the present Dissertation should have commenced, if it had been possible to state modern controversies in a satisfactory manner, without a retrospect of the revolutions in Opinion from which they in some measure flowed.
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury may be numbered among those eminent persons born in the latter half of the sixteenth century, who gave a new character to European philosophy, in the succeeding age.* He was one of the late writers and late learners. It was not till he was nearly thirty that he supplied the defects of his early education, by classical studies so successfully prosecuted, that he wrote well in the Latin then used by his scientific contemporaries; and made such proficiency in Greek as, in his earliest work, the Translation of Thucydides, published when he was forty, to afford a specimen of a version still valued for its remarkable fidelity, though written with a stiffness and constraint very opposite to the masterly facility of his original compositions. It was after forty that he learned the first rudiments of Geometry (so miserably defective was his education); but yielding to the paradoxical disposition apt to infect those who begin to learn after the natural age of commencement, he exposed himself, by absurd controversies with the masters of a Science which looks down with scorn on the sophist. A considerable portion of his mature age was passed on the Continent, where he travelled as tutor to two successive Earls of Devonshire;—a family with whom he seems to have passed near half a century of his long life. In France his reputation, founded at that time solely on personal intercourse, became so great, that his observations on the meditations of Descartes were published in the works of that philosopher, together with those of Gassendi and Arnauld.† It was about his sixtieth year that he began to publish those philosophical writings which contain his peculiar opinions;—which set the understanding of Europe into general motion, and stirred up controversies among metaphysicians and moralists, not even yet determined. At the age of eighty-seven he had the boldness to publish metrical versions of the Iliad and Odyssey, which the greatness of his name, and the singularity of the undertaking, still render objects of curiosity, if not of criticism.
He owed his influence to various causes; at the head of which may be placed that genius for system, which, though it cramps the growth of Knowledge,‡ perhaps finally atones for that mischief, by the zeal and activity which it rouses among followers and opponents, who discover truth by accident, when in pursuit of weapons for their warfare. A system which attempts a task so hard as that of subjecting vast provinces of human knowledge to one or two principles, if it presents some striking instances of conformity to superficial appearances, is sure to delight the framer, and, for a time, to subdue and captivate the student too entirely for sober reflection and rigorous examination. The evil does not, indeed, very frequently recur. Perhaps Aristotle, Hobbes, and Kant, are the only persons who united in the highest degree the great faculties of comprehension and discrimination which compose the Genius of System. Of the three, Aristotle alone could throw it off where it was glaringly unsuitable; and it is deserving of observation, that the reign of system seems, from these examples, progressively to shorten in proportion as Reason is cultivated and Knowledge advances. But, in the first instance, consistency passes for Truth. When principles in some instances have proved sufficient to give an unexpected explanation of facts, the delighted reader is content to accept as true all other deductions from the principles. Specious premises being assumed to be true, nothing more can be required than logical inference. Mathematical forms pass current as the equivalent of mathematical certainty. The unwary admirer is satisfied with the completeness and symmetry of the plan of his house,—unmindful of the need of examining the firmness of the foundation, and the soundness of the materials. The system-maker, like the conqueror, long dazzles and overawes the world; but when their sway is past, the vulgar herd, unable to measure their astonishing faculties, take revenge by trampling on fallen greatness.
The dogmatism of Hobbes was, however unjustly, one of the sources of his fame. The founders of systems deliver their novelties with the undoubting spirit of discoverers; and their followers are apt to be dogmatical, because they can see nothing beyond their own ground. It might seem incredible, if it were not established by the experience of all ages, that those who differ most from the opinions of their fellow-men are most confident of the truth of their own. But it commonly requires an overweening conceit of the superiority of a man’s own judgment, to make him espouse very singular notions; and when he has once embraced them, they are endeared to him by the hostility of those whom he contemns as the prejudiced vulgar. The temper of Hobbes must have been originally haughty. The advanced age at which he published his obnoxious opinions, rendered him more impatient of the acrimonious opposition which they necessarily provoked; until at length a strong sense of the injustice of the punishment impending over his head, for the publication of what he believed to be truth, co-operated with the peevishness and timidity of his years, to render him the most imperious and morose of dogmatists. His dogmatism has indeed one quality more offensive than that of most others. Propositions the most adverse to the opinions of mankind, and the most abhorrent from their feelings, are introduced into the course of his argument with mathematical coldness. He presents them as demonstrated conclusions, without deigning to explain to his fellow-creatures how they all happened to believe the opposite absurdities, and without even the compliment of once observing how widely his discoveries were at variance with the most ancient and universal judgments of the human understanding. The same quality in Spinoza indicates a recluse’s ignorance of the world. In Hobbes it is the arrogance of a man who knows mankind and despises them.
A permanent foundation of his fame remains in his admirable style, which seems to be the very perfection of didactic language. Short, clear, precise, pithy, his language never has more than one meaning, which it never requires a second thought to find. By the help of his exact method, it takes so firm a hold on the mind, that it will not allow attention to slacken. His little tract on Human Nature has scarcely an ambiguous or a needless word. He has so great a power of always choosing the most significant term, that he never is reduced to the poor expedient of using many in its stead. He had so thoroughly studied the genius of the language, and knew so well how to steer between pedantry and vulgarity, that two centuries have not superannuated probably more than a dozen of his words. His expressions are so luminous, that he is clear without the help of illustration. Perhaps no writer of any age or nation, on subjects so abstruse, has manifested an equal power of engraving his thoughts on the mind of his readers. He seems never to have taken a word for ornament or pleasure; and he deals with eloquence and poetry as the natural philosopher who explains the mechanism of children’s toys, or deigns to contrive them. Yet his style so stimulates attention, that it never tires; and, to those who are acquainted with the subject, appears to have as much spirit as can be safely blended with Reason. He compresses his thoughts so unaffectedly, and yet so tersely, as to produce occasionally maxims which excite the same agreeable surprise with wit, and have become a sort of philosophical proverbs;—the success of which he partly owed to the suitableness of such forms of expression to his dictatorial nature. His words have such an appearance of springing from his thoughts, as to impress on the reader a strong opinion of his originality, and indeed to prove that he was not conscious of borrowing: though conversation with Gassendi must have influenced his mind; and it is hard to believe that his coincidence with Ockham should have been purely accidental, on points so important as the denial of general ideas, the reference of moral distinctions to superior power, and the absolute thraldom of Religion under the civil power, which he seems to have thought necessary, to maintain that independence of the State on the Church with which Ockham had been contented.
His philosophical writings might be read without reminding any one that the author was more than an intellectual machine. They never betray a feeling except that insupportable arrogance which looks down on his fellow-men as a lower species of beings; whose almost unanimous hostility is so far from shaking the firmness of his conviction, or even ruffling the calmness of his contempt, that it appears too petty a circumstance to require explanation, or even to merit notice. Let it not be forgotten, that part of his renown depends on the application of his admirable powers to expound Truth when he meets it. This great merit is conspicuous in that part of his treatise of Human Nature which relates to the percipient and reasoning faculties. It is also very remarkable in many of his secondary principles on the subject of Government and Law, which, while the first principles are false and dangerous, are as admirable for truth as for his accustomed and unrivalled propriety of expression.* In many of these observations he even shows a disposition to soften his paradoxes, and to conform to the common sense of mankind.†
It was with perfect truth observed by my excellent friend Mr. Stewart, that “the ethical principles of Hobbes are completely interwoven with his political system.”‡ He might have said, that the whole of Hobbes’ system, moral, religious, and in part philosophical, depended on his political scheme; not indeed logically, as conclusions depend upon premises, but (if the word may be excused) psychologically, as the formation of one opinion may be influenced by a disposition to adapt it to others previously cherished. The Translation of Thucydides, as he himself boasts, was published to show the evils of popular government.* Men he represented as being originally equal, and having an equal right to all things, but as being taught by Reason to sacrifice this right for the advantages of peace, and to submit to a common authority, which can preserve quiet, only by being the sole depositary of force, and must therefore be absolute and unlimited. The supreme authority cannot be sufficient for its purpose, unless it be wielded by a single hand; nor even then, unless his absolute power extends over Religion, which may prompt men to discord by the fear of an evil greater than death. The perfect state of a community, according to him, is where Law prescribes the religion and morality of the people, and where the will of an absolute sovereign is the sole fountain of law. Hooker had inculcated the simple truth, that “to live by one man’s will is the cause of many men’s misery:”—Hobbes embraced the daring paradox, that to live by one man’s will is the only means of all men’s happiness. Having thus rendered Religion the slave of every human tyrant, it was an unavoidable consequence, that he should be disposed to lower her character, and lessen her power over men; that he should regard atheism as the most effectual instrument of preventing rebellion,—at least that species of rebellion which prevailed in his time, and had excited his alarms. The formidable alliance of Religion with Liberty haunted his mind, and urged him to the bold attempt of rooting out both these mighty principles; which, when combined with interests and passions, when debased by impure support, and provoked by unjust resistance, have indeed the power of fearfully agitating society; but which are, nevertheless, in their own nature, and as far as they are unmixed and undisturbed, the parents of Justice, of Order, of Peace, as well as the sources of those hopes, and of those glorious aspirations after higher excellence, which encourage and exalt the Soul in its passage through misery and depravity. A Hobbist is the only consistent persecutor; for he alone considers himself as bound, by whatever conscience he has remaining, to conform to the religion of the sovereign. He claims from others no more than he is himself ready to yield to any master;† while the religionist who persecutes a member of another communion, exacts the sacrifice of conscience and sincerity, though professing that rather than make it himself, he is prepared to die.
The fundamental errors on which the ethical system of Hobbes is built are not peculiar to him; though he has stated them with a bolder precision, and placed them in a more conspicuous station in the van of his main force, than any other of those who have either frankly avowed, or tacitly assumed, them, from the beginning of speculation to the present moment. They may be shortly stated as follows:
1. The first and most inveterate of these errors is, that he does not distinguish thought from feeling, or rather that he in express words confounds them. The mere perception of an object, according to him, differs from the pleasure or pain which that perception may occasion, no otherwise than as they affect different organs of the bodily frame. The action of the mind in perceiving or conceiving an object is precisely the same with that of feeling the agreeable or disagreeable.* The necessary result of this original confusion is, to extend the laws of the intellectual part of our nature over that other part of it, (hitherto without any adequate name,) which feels, and desires, and loves, and hopes, and wills. In consequence of this long confusion, or want of distinction, it has happened that, while the simplest act of the merely intellectual part has many names (such as “sensation,” “perception,” “impression,” &c.), the correspondent act of the other not less important portion of man is not denoted by a technical term in philosophical systems; nor by a convenient word in common language. “Sensation” has another more common sense; “Emotion” is too warm for a generic term; “Feeling” has some degree of the same fault, besides its liability to confusion with the sense of touch; “Pleasure” and “Pain” represent only two properties of this act, which render its repetition the object of desire or aversion;—which last states of mind presuppose the act. Of these words, “Emotion” seems to be the least objectionable, since it has no absolute double meaning, and does not require so much vigilance in the choice of the accompanying words as would be necessary if we were to prefer “Feeling;” which, however, being a more familiar word, may, with due caution, be also sometimes employed. Every man who attends to the state of his own mind will acknowledge, that these words, “Emotion” and “Feeling,” thus used, are perfectly simple, and as incapable of further explanation by words as sight and hearing; which may, indeed, be rendered into synonymous words, but never can be defined by any more simple or more clear. Reflection will in like manner teach that perception, reasoning, and judgment may be conceived to exist without being followed by emotion. Some men hear music without gratification: one may distinguish a taste without being pleased or displeased by it; or at least the relish or disrelish is often so slight, without lessening the distinctness of the sapid qualities, that the distinction of it from the perception cannot be doubted.
The multiplicity of errors which have flowed into moral science from this original confusion is very great. They have spread over many schools of philosophy; and many of them are prevalent to this day. Hence the laws of the Understanding have been applied to the Affections; virtuous feelings have been considered as just reasonings; evil passions have been represented as mistaken judgments; and it has been laid down as a principle, that the Will always follows the last decision of the Practical Intellect.*
2. By this great error, Hobbes was led to represent all the variety of the desires of men, as being only so many instances of objects deliberately and solely pursued; because they were the means, and at the time perceived to be so, of directly or indirectly procuring organic gratification to the individual.† The human passions are described as if they reasoned accurately, deliberated coolly, and calculated exactly. It is assumed that, in performing these operations, there is and can be no act of life in which a man does not bring distinctly before his eyes the pleasure which is to accrue to himself from the act. From this single and simple principle, all human conduct may, according to him, be explained and even foretold. The true laws of this part of our nature (so totally different from those of the percipient part) were, by this grand mistake, entirely withdrawn from notice. Simple as the observation is, it seems to have escaped not only Hobbes, but many, perhaps most, philosophers, that our desires seek a great diversity of objects; that the attainment of these objects is indeed followed by, or rather called “Pleasure;” but that it could not be so, if the objects had not been previously desired. Many besides him have really represented self as the ultimate object of every action; but none ever so hardily thrust forward the selfish system in its harshest and coarsest shape. The mastery which he shows over other metaphysical subjects, forsakes him on this. He does not scruple, for the sake of this system, to distort facts of which all men are conscious, and to do violence to the language in which the result of their uniform experience is conveyed. “Acknowledgment of power is called Honour.”* His explanations are frequently sufficient confutations of the doctrine which required them. “Pity is the imagination of future calamity to ourselves, proceeding from the sense (observation) of another man’s calamity.” “Laughter is occasioned by sudden glory in our eminence, or in comparison with the infirmity of others.” Every man who ever wept or laughed, may determine whether this be a true account of the state of his mind on either occasion. “Love is a conception of his need of the one person desired;”—a definition of Love, which, as it excludes kindness, might perfectly well comprehend the hunger of a cannibal, provided that it were not too ravenous to exclude choice. “Goodwill, or charity, which containeth the natural affection of parents to their children, consists in a man’s conception that he is able not only to accomplish his own desires, but to assist other men in theirs:” from which it follows, as the pride of power is felt in destroying as well as in saving men, that cruelty and kindness are the same passion.† Such were the expedients to which a man of the highest class of understanding was driven, in order to evade the admission of the simple and evident truth, that there are in our nature perfectly disinterested passions, which seek the well-being of others as their object and end, without looking beyond it to self, or pleasure, or happiness. A proposition, from which such a man could attempt to escape only by such means, may be strongly presumed to be true.
3. Hobbes having thus struck the affections out of his map of human nature, and having totally misunderstood (as will appear in a succeeding part of this Dissertation) the nature even of the appetites, it is no wonder that we should find in it not a trace of the moral sentiments. Moral Good* he considers merely as consisting in the signs of a power to produce pleasure; and repentance is no more than regret at having missed the way: so that, according to this system, a disinterested approbation of, and reverence for Virtue, are no more possible than disinterested affections towards our fellow-creatures. There is no sense of duty, no compunction for our own offences, no indignation against the crimes of others,—unless they affect our own safety;—no secret cheerfulness shed over the heart by the practice of well-doing. From his philosophical writings it would be impossible to conclude that there are in man a set of emotions, desires, and aversions, of which the sole and final objects are the voluntary actions and habitual dispositions of himself and of all other voluntary agents; which are properly called “moral sentiments;” and which, though they vary more in degree, and depend more on cultivation, than some other parts of human nature, are as seldom as most of them found to be entirely wanting.
4. A theory of Man which comprehends in its explanations neither the social affections, nor the moral sentiments, must be owned to be sufficiently defective. It is a consequence, or rather a modification of it, that Hobbes should constantly represent the deliberate regard to personal advantage, as the only possible motive of human action; and that he should altogether disdain to avail himself of those refinements of the selfish scheme which allow the pleasures of benevolence and of morality, themselves, to be a most important part of that interest which reasonable beings pursue.
5. Lastly, though Hobbes does in effect acknowledge the necessity of Morals to society, and the general coincidence of individual with public interest—truths so palpable that they have never been excluded from any ethical system, he betrays his utter want of moral sensibility by the coarse and odious form in which he has presented the first of these great principles; and his view of both leads him most strongly to support that common and pernicious error of moral reasoners, that a perception of the tendency of good actions to preserve the being and promote the well-being of the community, and a sense of the dependence of our own happiness upon the general security, either are essential constituents of our moral feelings, or are ordinarily mingled with the most effectual motives to right conduct.
The court of Charles II. were equally pleased with Hobbes’ poignant brevity, and his low estimate of human motives. His ethical epigrams became the current coin of profligate wits. Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, who represented the class still more perfectly in his morals than in his faculties, has expressed their opinion in verses, of which one line is good enough to be quoted:
“Fame bears no fruit till the vain planter dies.”
Dryden speaks of the “philosopher and poet (for such is the condescending term employed) of Malmesbury,” as resembling Lucretius in haughtiness. But Lucretius, though he held many of the opinions of Hobbes, had the sensibility as well as genius of a poet. His dogmatism is full of enthusiasm; and his philosophical theory of society discovers occasionally as much tenderness as can be shown without reference to individuals. He was a Hobbist in only half his nature.
The moral and political system of Hobbes was a palace of ice, transparent, exactly proportioned, majestic, admired by the unwary as a delightful dwelling; but gradually undermined by the central warmth of human feeling, before it was thawed into muddy water by the sunshine of true Philosophy.
When Leibnitz, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, reviewed the moral writers of modern times, his penetrating eye saw only two who were capable of reducing Morals and Jurisprudence to a science. “So great an enterprise,” says he, “might have been executed by the deep-searching genius of Hobbes, if he had not set out from evil principles; or by the judgment and learning of the incomparable Grotius, if his powers had not been scattered over many subjects, and his mind distracted by the cares of an agitated life.”* Perhaps in this estimate, admiration of the various and excellent qualities of Grotius may have overrated his purely philosophical powers, great as they unquestionably were. Certainly the failure of Hobbes was owing to no inferiority in strength of intellect. Probably his fundamental errors may be imputed, in part, to the faintness of his moral sensibilities, insufficient to make him familiar with those sentiments and affections which can be known only by being felt;—a faintness perfectly compatible with his irreproachable life, but which obstructed, and at last obliterated, the only channel through which the most important materials of ethical science enter into the mind.
Against Hobbes, says Warburton, the whole Church militant took up arms. The answers to the Leviathan would form a library. But the far greater part would have followed the fate of all controversal pamphlets. Sir Robert Filmer was jealous of any rival theory of servitude: Harrington defended Liberty, and Clarendon the Church, against a common enemy. His philosophical antagonists were, Cumberland, Cudworth, Shaftesbury, Clarke, Butler, and Hutcheson. Though the last four writers cannot be considered as properly polemics, their labours were excited, and their doctrines modified, by the stroke from a vigorous arm which seemed to shake Ethics to its foundation. They lead us far into the eighteenth century; and their works, occasioned by the doctrines of Hobbes, sowed the seed of the ethical writings of Hume, Smith, Price, Kant, and Stewart; in a less degree, also, of those of Tucker and Paley:—not to mention Mandeville, the buffoon and sophister of the alehouse, or Helvetius, an ingenious but flimsy writer, the low and loose Moralist of the vain, the selfish, and the sensual.
[‡ ] Prolegomena. His letter to Vossius, of 1st August, 1625, determines the exact period of the publication of this famous work.—Epist. 74.
[§ ] The same commonplace paradoxes were retailed by the Sophists, whom Socrates is introduced as chastising in the Dialogues of Plato. They were common enough to be put by the Historian into the mouth of an ambassador in a public speech. Ἀνδρὶ δὲ τυράννῳ ἢ πόλυ αρχὴν ἐχοὺσῃ εὐδὲν ἄλογον ὃ τι ξυμϕέρον. Thucyd. lib. vi. cap. 85.
[* ] “Et hæc quidem locum aliquem haberent, enamsi daretur (quod sine summo scelere dari nequit) non esse Deum, aut non curari ab eo negotia humana.”—Proleg. 11. And in another place, “Jus naturale est dictatum rectæ rationis, indicans actui alicui, ex ejus convenientia aut disconvenientia cum ipsa natura rationali et sociali, messe moralem turpitudinem aut necessitatem, moralem, ac consequenter ab auctore naturæ Deo talem actum ant vetari aut præcipi.” “Actus de quibus rare exstat dictatum, debiti sunt aut illiciti per se, atque ideo a Deo necessario præcepii aut vetin intelliguntur.”—De Jur Bell. lib. i. cap. i. § 10.
[† ] Born, 1588; died 1679.
[* ] Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, and Grotius. The writings of the first are still as delightful and wonderful as they ever were, and his authority will have no end. Descartes forms an era in the history of Metaphysics, of Physics, of Mathematics. The controversies excited by Grotius have long ceased, but the powerful influence of his works will be doubted by those only who are unacquainted with the disputes of the seventeenth century.
[† ] The prevalence of freethinking under Louis XIII., to a far greater degree than it was avowed, appears not only from the complaints of Mersenne and of Grotius, but from the disclosures of Guy Patin; who, in his Letters, describes his own conversations with Gassendi and Naude, so as to leave no doubt of their opinions.
[‡ ] “Another error,” says the Master of Wisdom, “is the over-early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods, from which time commonly receives small augmentation.”—Advancement of Learning, book i. “Method,” says he, “carrying a show of total and perfect knowledge, has a tendency to generate acquiescence.” What pregnant words!
[* ] See De Corpore Politico, Part i. chap. ii. iii. iv. and Leviathan, Part i. chap. xiv. xv. for remarks of this sort, full of sagacity.
[† ] “The laws of Nature are immutable and eternal; for injustice, ingratitude, arrogance, pride, iniquity, acception of persons, and the rest, can never be made lawful. For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it.”—Leviathan, Part i. chap. xv.—See also Part ii. chap. xxvi. xxviii. on Laws, and on Punishments.
[‡ ] See Encyc. Brit. i. 42. The political state of England is indeed said by himself to have occasioned his first philosophical publication.Nascitur interea scelus execrabile belli.. . . . . . . . . . . . Horreo spectans,Meque ad dilectam confero Lutetiam,Postque duos annos edo De Cive Libellum.
[* ] The conference between the ministers from Athens and the Melean chiefs, in the 5th book, and the speech of Euphemus in the 6th book of that historian, exhibit an undisguised Hobbism, which was very dramatically put into the mouth of Athenian statesmen at a time when, as we learn from Plato and Aristophanes, it was preached by the Sophists.
[† ] Spinoza adopted precisely the same first principle with Hobbes, that all men have a natural right to all things.—Tract. Theol. Pol. cap. ii. § 3. He even avows the absurd and detestable maxim, that states are not bound to observe their treaties longer than the interest or danger which first formed the treaties continues. But on the internal constitution of states he embraces opposite opinions. Servitutis enim, non pacis, interest omnem potestatem ad unum transferre.—(Ibid. cap. vi. § 4.) Limited monarchy he considers as the only tolerable example of that species of government. An aristocracy nearly approaching to the Dutch system during the suspension of the Stadtholdership, he seems to prefer. He speaks favourably of democracy, but the chapter on that subject is left unfinished. “Nulla plane templa urbium sumptibus ædificanda, nec jura de opinionibus statuenda.” He was the first republican atheist of modern times, and probably the earliest irreligious opponent of an ecclesiastical establishment.
[* ] This doctrine is explained in his tract on Human Nature, c. vii. “Conception is a motion in some internal substance of the head, which proceeding to the heart, where it helpeth the motion there, is called pleasure; when it weakeneth or hindereth the motion, it is called pain.” The same matter is handled more cursorily, agreeably to the practical purpose of the work, in Leviathan, part i. chap. vi. These passages are here referred to as proofs of the statement in the text. With the materialism of it we have here no concern. If the multiplied suppositions were granted, we should not advance one step towards understanding what they profess to explain. The first four words are as unmeaning as if one were to say that greenness is very loud. It is obvious that many motions which promote the motion of the heart are extremely painful.
[* ] “Voluntas semper sequitur ultimum judicium intellectûs practici.”—[See Spinozæ Cog. Met. pars. ii. cap. 12. Ed.]
[† ] See the passages before quoted.
[* ] Human Nature, chap. viii. The ridiculous explanation of the admiration of personal beauty, “as a sign of power generative,” shows the difficulties to which this extraordinary man was reduced by a false system.
[† ] Ibid. chap. ix. I forbear to quote the passage on Platonic love, which immediately follows: but, considering Hobbes’ blameless and honourable character, that passage is perhaps the most remarkable instance of the shifts to which his selfish system reduced him.
[* ] Which he calls the “pulchrum,” for want, as he says, of an English word to express it.—Leviathan, part. i. c. vi.
[* ] “Et tale aliquid potuisset, vel ab incomparabilis Grotii judicio et doctrina, vel à profundo Hobbii ingenio præstari; nisi illum multa distraxissent; hie verò prava constituisset principia.”—Leib. Op. iv. pars. iii. 276.