Front Page Titles (by Subject) section iv: The Final Causes of Our Moral Facultiesof Perception and Affection - The Elements of Moral Philosophy
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section iv: The Final Causes of Our Moral Facultiesof Perception and Affection - David Fordyce, The Elements of Moral Philosophy 
The Elements of Moral Philosophy, in Three Books with a Brief Account of the Nature, Progress, and Origin of Philosophy, ed. Thomas Kennedy (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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The Final Causes of Our Moral Facultiesof Perception and Affection
The Survey proposedWe have now taken a General Prospect of Man, and of his MoralPowers and Connections, and on these erected a Scheme of Duty, or MoralObligation, which seems to be confirmed by Experience, consonant to Reason, and approved by his most inward, and most sacred Senses. It may be proper in the next place to take a more particular View of the Final Causes of those delicate Springs by which he is impelled to Action, and of those Clogs by which he is restrained from it.—By this Detail we shall be able to judge of their Aptitude to answer their End, in a Creature endued with his Capacities, subject to his Wants, exposed to his Dangers, and susceptible of his Enjoyments; and from thence we shall be in a Condition to pronounce concerning the End of his whole Structure, its Harmony with his State, and, consequently, its Subserviency to answer the great and benevolent Intentions of its Author.
Inward Anatomy of the System of the MindIn the Anatomy of this inward and more elaborate Subject, it will not be necessary to pursue every little Fibre, nor to mark the nicer Complications and various Branchings of the more minute Parts. It shall suffice to lay open the larger Vessels and stronger Muscling of this Divine Piece of Workmanship, and to trace their Office and Use in the Disposition of the Whole.
The Supreme Being has seen fit to blend in the whole of Things a prodigious Variety of discordant and contrary Principles; Light and Darkness, Pleasure and Pain, Good and Evil. There are multifarious Natures, higher and lower, and many intermediate ones between the wide-distant Extremes. These are differently situated, variously adjusted, and subjected to each other, and all of them subordinate to the Order and Perfection of the Whole. We may suppose Man, placed as in a Center amidst those innumerable Orders of Beings, by his Outward Frame drawn to the Material System, and by his Inward connected with the Intellectual, or Moral, and of course affected by the Laws which govern both, or affected by that Good and that Ill which result from those Laws. In this infinite Variety of Relations with which he is surrounded, and of Contingencies to which he is liable, he feels strong Attractions to the Good, and violent Repulsions or Aversions to the Ill. But as Good and Ill are often blended, and wonderfully complicated one with the other; as they sometimes immediately produce and run up into each other, and at other times lie at great Distances, yet by means of intervening Links, introduce one another; and as these Effects are often brought about in consequence of hidden Relations, and general Laws, of the Energy of which he is an incompetent Judge, it is easy for him to mistake Good for Evil, and Evil for Good, and consequently he may be frequently attracted by such things as are destructive, or repelled by such as are salutary. Thus, by the tender and complicated Frame of his Body, he is subjected to a great Variety of Ills, to Sickness, Cold, Heat, Fatigue, and innumerable Wants. Yet his Knowledge is so narrow withal, and his Reason so weak, that in many Cases he cannot judge, in the way of Investigation, or Reasoning, of the Connections of those Effects with their respective Causes, or of the various latent Energies of Natural Things. He is therefore informed of this Connection by the Experience of certain Senses, or Organs of Perception, which, by a mechanical instantaneous Motion, feel the Good and the Ill, receiving Pleasure from one, and Pain from the other. By these, without any Reasoning, he is taught to attract, or chuse what tends to his Welfare, and to repel and avoid what tends to his Ruin. Thus, by his Senses of Taste and Smell, or by the Pleasure he receives from certain kinds of Food, he is admonished which agree with his Constitution, and by an opposite Sense of Pain, he is informed which sorts disagree, or are destructive of it; but is not by means of these instructed in the inward Natures and Constitutions of Things.
Use of Appetites and PassionsSome of those Senses are armed with strong Degrees of Uneasiness or Pain, in order to urge him to seek after such Objects as are suited to them. And these respect his more immediate and pressing Wants; as the Sense of Hunger, Thirst, Cold, and the like; which, by their painful Importunities, compel him to provide Food, Drink, Raiment, Shelter. Those Instincts by which we are thus prompted with some kind of Commotion or Violence to attract and pursue Good, or to repel and avoid Ill, we call Appetites and Passions. By our Senses then we are informed of what is good or ill to the Private System, or the Individual; and by our Private Appetites and Passions we are impelled to one, and restrained from the other.
Man’s outward StateIn consequence of this Machinery, and the great Train of Wants to which our Nature subjects us, we are engaged in a continued Series of Occupations, which often require much Application of Thought, or great bodily Labour, or both. The Necessaries of Life, Food, Cloaths, Shelter, and the like, must be provided; Conveniencies must be acquired to render Life still more easy and comfortable. In order to obtain these, Arts, Industry, Manufactures, and Trade, are necessary. And to secure to us the peaceable Enjoyment of their Fruits, Civil Government, Policy and Laws must be contrived, and the various Business of public Life carried on. Thus while Man is concerned and busied in making Provision, or obtaining Security for himself, he is by Degrees engaged in Connections with a Family, Friends, Neighbours, a Community, or a Commonwealth. Hence arise new Wants, new Interests, new Cares, and new Employments. The Passions of one Man interfere with those of another. Interests are opposed. Competitions arise, contrary Courses are taken. Disappointments happen, Distinctions are made, and Parties formed. This opens a vast Scene of Distraction and Embarrassment, and introduces a mighty Train of Good and Ill, both Public and Private. Yet amidst all this Confusion and Hurry, Plans of Action must be laid, Consequences foreseen, or guarded against, Inconveniencies provided for; and frequently particular Resolutions must be taken, and Schemes executed, without Reasoning or Delay.
Provisions for itNow what Provision has the Author of our Nature made for this necessitous Condition? How has he fitted the Actor, Man, for playing his Part in this perplexed and busy Scene? He has admonished the Individual of private Good and private Ill by peculiar Senses, and urged him by keen Instincts to pursue the former and repel the latter. But what Provision, what Security has the Deity made for the Community, the Public? Who, or what shall answer for his good Behaviour to it?
By public Senses and PassionsOur Supreme Parent, watchful for the Whole, has not left himself without a Witness here neither, and hath made nothing imperfect, but all things are double one against another. He has not left Man to be informed, only by the cool Notices of Reason, of Good or Ill, the Happiness or Misery of his Fellow-Creatures. He has made him sensible of their Good and Happiness, but especially of their Ill and Misery, by an immediate Sympathy, or quick Feeling of Pleasure and of Pain.
PityThe latter we call Pity or Compassion. For the former, though every one, who is not quite divested of Humanity, feels it, in some degree, we have not got a Name, unless we call it Congratulation,Congratulation or joyfulSympathy, or that Good-humour, which arises on seeing others pleased or happy. Both these Feelings have been called in general the Public or CommonSense, Κ ιν νοημο κυνη,4 by which we feel for others and are interested in their Concerns as really, though perhaps less sensibly than in our own.
ResentmentWhen we see our Fellow-Creatures unhappy, through the Fault or Injury of others, we feel Resentment or Indignation against the unjust Causers of that Misery. If we are conscious that it has happened through our Fault, or injurious Conduct, we feel Shame; and both these Classes of Senses and Passions, regarding Misery and Wrong, are armed with such sharp Sensations of Pain, as not only prove a powerful Guard and Security to the Species or Public System against those Ills, it may but serve also to lessen or remove those Ills it does suffer. Compassion draws us out of ourselves to bear a part of the Misfortunes of others, powerfully solicits us in their Favour, melts us at a Sight of their Distress, and makes us in some degree unhappy till they are relieved from it. It is peculiarly well adapted to the Condition of Human Life, because, as an eminent Moralist* observes, it is much more, and oftener in our Power to do Mischief than Good, and to prevent or lessen Misery than to communicate positive Happiness; and therefore it is an admirable Restraint upon the more selfish Passions, or those violent Impulses that carry us to the Hurt of others.
Public AffectionsThere are other particular Instincts or Passions, which interest us in the Concerns of others, even while we are most busy about our own, and which are strongly attractive of Good, and repulsive of Ill to them. Such are Natural Affection, Friendship, Love, Gratitude, Desire of Fame, Love of Society, of one’s Country, and others that might be named. Now as the Private Appetites and Passions were found to be armed with strong Sensations of Desire and Uneasiness, to prompt Man the more effectually to sustain Labours, and encounter Dangers in pursuit of those Goods that are necessary to the Preservation and Welfare of the Individual, and to avoid those Ills which tend to his Destruction; in like manner it was necessary, that this other Class of Desires and Affections should be prompted with as quick Sensations of Pain, not only to counteract the Strength of their Antagonists, but to engage us in a virtuous Activity for our Relations, Families, Friends, Neighbours, Country. Indeed our Sense of Right and Wrong will admonish us that it is our Duty, and Reason and Experience farther assure us, that it is both our Interest and best Security, to promote the Happiness of others; but that Sense, that Reason, and that Experience, would frequently prove but weak and ineffectual Prompters to such a Conduct, especially in Cases of Danger and Hardship, and amidst all the Importunities of Nature, and that constant Hurry in which the Private Passions involve us, without the Aid of those particular kind Affections, which mark out to us particular Spheres of Duty, and with an agreeable Violence engage and fix us down to them.
Contrast or Balance of PassionsIt is evident therefore, that these two Classes of Affection, the Private and Public, are set one against the other, and designed to controul and limit each other’s Influence, and thereby to produce a just Balance in the Whole.* In general, the violent Sensations of Pain or Uneasiness which accompany Hunger, Thirst, and the other private Appetites, or too great Fatigue of Mind as well as of Body, prevent the Individual from running to great Excesses in the Exercise of the higher Functions of the Mind, as too intense Thought in the Search of Truth, violent Application to Business of any kind, and different Degrees of Romantic Heroism. On the other hand, the finer Senses of Perception, and those generous Desires and Affections which are connected with them, the Love of Action, of Imitation, of Truth, Honour, Public Virtue, and the like, are wisely placed in the opposite Scale, in order to prevent us from sinking into the Dregs of the Animal Life, and debasing the Dignity of Man below the Condition of Brutes. So that by the mutual Reaction of those opposite Powers, the bad Effects are prevented that would naturally result from their acting singly and apart, and the good Effects are produced which each are severally formed to produce.
Contrast or Balance of Public and Private PassionsThe same wholesome Opposition appears likewise in the particular Counterworkings of the Private and Public Affections one against the other. Thus Compassion is adapted to counterpoise the Love of Ease, of Pleasure, and of Life, and to disarm, or to set Bounds to Resentment; and Resentment of Injury done to ourselves, or to our Friends, who are dearer than ourselves, prevents an effeminate Compassion or Consternation, and gives us a noble Contempt of Labour, Pain, and Death. Natural Affection, Friendship, Love of one’s Country, nay, Zeal for any particular Virtue, are frequently more than a Match for the whole Train of Selfish Passions. On the other hand, without that intimate over-ruling Passion of Self love, and those private Desires which are connected with it, the social and tender Instincts of the Human Heart would degenerate into the wildest Dotage, the most torturing Anxiety, and downright Frenzy.
Contrasts among those of the same ClassesBut not only are the different Orders or Classes of Affection Checks one upon another, but Passions of the same Classes are mutual Clogs. Thus, how many are withheld from the violent Outrages of Resentment by Fear? And how easily is Fear controuled in its turn, while mighty Wrongs awaken a mighty Resentment? The Private Passions often interfere, and therefore moderate the Violence of each other; and a calm Self-love is placed at their Head, to direct, influence, and controul their particular Attractions and Repulsions. The Public Affections restrain one the other; and all of them are put under the Controul of a calm dispassionate Benevolence, which ought in like manner to direct and limit their particular Motions.—Thus, most part, if not all the Passions have a twofold Aspect, and serve a twofold End. In one View they may be considered as Powers, impelling Mankind to a certain Course, with a Force proportioned to the apprehended Moment of the Good they aim at. In another View they appear as Weights balancing the Action of the Powers, and controuling the Violence of their Impulses. By means of these Powers and Weights a natural Poise is settled in the Human Breast by its all-wise Author, by which the Creature is kept tolerably steady and regular in his Course, amidst that Variety of Stages through which he must pass.
Particular Perceptions or Instincts of ApprobationBut this is not all the Provision which God has made for the Hurry and Perplexity of the Scene in which Man is destined to act. Amidst those infinite Attractions and Repulsions towards private and public Good and Ill, Mankind either cannot often foresee the Consequences or Tendencies of all their Actions towards one or other of these, especially where those Tendencies are intricate and point different ways, or those Consequences remote and complicated; or though, by careful and cool Enquiry and a due Improvement of their rational Powers, they might find them out, yet distracted as they are with Business, amused with Trifles, dissipated by Pleasure, and disturbed by Passion, they either have, or can find, no leisure to attend to those Consequences, or to examine how far this or that Conduct is productive of private or public Good on the whole. Therefore were it left entirely to the slow and sober Deductions of Reason to trace those Tendencies, and make out those Consequences, it is evident that, in many particular Instances, the Business of Life must stand still, and many important Occasions of Action be lost, or perhaps the grossest Blunders be committed. On this account the Deity, besides that general Approbation which we bestow on every degree of kind Affection, has moreover implanted in Man many particular Perceptions, or Determinations, to approve of certain Qualities or Actions, which, in effect, tend to the Advantage of Society, and are connected with private Good, though he does not always see that Tendency, nor mind that Connection. And these Perceptions, or Determinations do without Reasoning point out, and antecedent to Views of Interest, prompt to a Conduct beneficial to the Public, and useful to the Private System. Such is that Sense of Candour and Veracity, that Abhorrence of Fraud and Falshood, that Sense of Fidelity, Justice, Gratitude, Greatness of Mind, Fortitude, Clemency, Decorum; and that Disapprobation of Knavery, Injustice, Ingratitude, Meanness of Spirit, Cowardice, Cruelty, and Indecorum, which are natural to the Human Mind. The former of those Dispositions, and the Actions flowing from them, are approved, and those of the latter kind disapproved by us, even abstracted from the View of their Tendency, or Conduciveness to the Happiness or Misery of others, or of ourselves. In one we discern a Beauty, a superior Excellency, a Congruity to the Dignity of Man; in the other a Deformity, a Littleness, a Debasement of Human Nature.
Others of an inferior OrderThere are other Principles also, connected with the Good of Society, or the Happiness and Perfection of the Individual, though that Connection is not immediately apparent, which we behold with real Complacency and Approbation, though perhaps inferior in Degree, if not in Kind, such as Gravity, Modesty, Simplicity of Deportment, Temperance, prudent Oeconomy; and we feel some degree of Contempt and Dislike where they are wanting, or where the opposite Qualities prevail. These and the like Perceptions or Feelings are either different Modifications of the Moral Sense, or subordinate to it, and plainly serve the same important Purpose, being expeditious Monitors in the several Emergencies of a various and distracted Life, of what is right, what is wrong, what is to be pursued, and what avoided; and, by the pleasant, or painful Consciousness which attends them, exerting their Influence, as powerful Prompters to a suitable Conduct.
Their general TendenciesFrom a slight Inspection of the above-named Principles, it is evident they all carry a friendly Aspect to Society, and the Individual, and have a more immediate, or a more remote Tendency to promote the Perfection or Good of both. This Tendency cannot be always foreseen, and would be often mistaken, or seldom attended, by a weak, busy, short-sighted Creature, like Man, both rash and variable in his Opinions, a Dupe to his own Passions, or to the Designs of others, liable to Sickness, to Want, and to Error. Principles therefore which are so nearly linked with private Security and public Good, by directing him, without operose Reasoning, where to find one, and how to promote the other, and by prompting him to a Conduct conducive to both, are admirably adapted to the Exigencies of his present State, and wisely calculated to obtain the Ends of universal Benevolence.
Passions fitted to a State of TrialIt were easy, by considering the Subject in another Light, to shew, in a curious Detail of Particulars, how wonderfully the Inside of Man, or that astonishing Train of Moral Powers and Affections with which he is endued, is fitted to the several Stages of that progressive and probationary State, through which he is destined to pass. As our Faculties are narrow and limited, and rise from very small and imperfect Beginnings, they must be improved by Exercise, by Attention, and repeated Trials. And this holds true, not only of our Intellectual, but of our Moral and Active Powers. The former are liable to Errors in Speculation, the latter to Blunders in Practice, and both often terminate in Misfortunes and Pains. And those Errors and Blunders are generally owing to our Passions, or to our too forward and warm Admiration of those partial Goods they naturally pursue, or to our Fear of those partial Ills they naturally repel. Those Misfortunes therefore lead us back to consider where our Misconduct lay, and whence our Errors flowed, and consequently are salutary Pieces of Trial, which tend to enlarge our Views, to correct and refine our Passions, and consequently improve both our Intellectual and Moral Powers.—Our Passions then are the rude Materials of our Virtue, which Heaven has given us to work up, to refine and polish into an harmonious and divine Piece of Workmanship. They furnish out the whole Machinery, the Calms and Storms, the Lights and Shades of Human Life. They shew Mankind in every Attitude and Variety of Character, and give Virtue both its Struggles and its Triumphs. To conduct them well in every State, is Merit; to abuse or misapply them, is Demerit. By them we prove what we are, and by the Habits to which they give Birth, we take our Form and Character for the successive Stages of our Life, or any future Period of our Existence.
To a Progressive StateThe different Sets of Senses, Powers, and Passions, which unfold themselves in those successive Stages, are both necessary and adapted to that rising and progressive State. Enlarging Views and growing Connections require new Passions and new Habits; and thus the Mind, by these continually expanding and finding a progressive Exercise, rises to higher Improvements, and pushes forward to Maturity and Perfection.—But on this we cannot insist.
Harmony of our Structure and StateIn this beautiful Oeconomy and Harmony of our Structure, both outward and inward, with that State, we may at once discern the great Lines of our Duty traced out in the fairest and brightest Characters, and contemplate with Admiration a more august and marvellous Scene of Divine Wisdom and Goodness laid in the Human Breast, than we shall perhaps find in the whole Compass of Nature.
Result“What a Piece of Work is Man! How noble in Reason! How infinite in Faculties! In Form and Moving how express and admirable! In Action how like an Angel! In Apprehension how like a God! The Beauty of the World! The Paragon of Animals!”
In what Oeconomy Virtue consistsFrom this Detail it appears, that Man, by his Original Frame, is made for a temperate, compassionate, benevolent, active, and progressive State. He is strongly attractive of the Good, and repulsive of the Ills, which befall others as well as himself. He feels the highest Approbation and Moral Complacence in those Affections, and in those Actions which immediately and directly respect the Good of others, and the highest Disapprobation and Abhorrence of the contrary. Besides these, he has many particular Perceptions or Instincts of Approbation, which though perhaps not of the same kind with the others, yet are accompanied with correspondent Degrees of Affection, proportioned to their respective Tendencies to the Public Good.Therefore, by acting agreeably to these Principles, Man acts agreeably to his Structure, and fulfils the benevolent Intentions of its Author. But we call a Thing good, when it answers its End; and a Creature good, when he acts in a Conformity to his Constitution. Consequently, Man must be denominated good or virtuous when he acts suitably to the Principles and Destination of his Nature. And where his Virtue lies, there also is his Rectitude, his Dignity, and Perfection to be found. And this coincides with the Account of Virtue formerly given, but presents it in another Attitude, or sets it in a Light something different.
[4.]Fordyce’s Greek (or the printer’s reading of it) is puzzling here. If “Κ ιν” is taken as a shortened form of “κοινον,” and the ending of “νοημο” is changed, thus, “κοινον νοημα,” then we have “common sense,” although “κοινονοημοσυνη” is more common. (See, for example, Francis Hutcheson, An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections with Illustrations on the Moral Sense, 3d ed., 1742, 5.) “κυνη,” however, remains a mystery in this context.
[*] Vid. Butler’s Serm. on Compassion. [Joseph Butler (1692–1752), preacher at the Rolls Chapel, London, and subsequently Bishop of Durham. In 1726 he published Fifteen Sermons (London), the fifth and sixth under the headings “Upon Compassion.”]
[*] Vid. Hutch. Conduct of the Passions, Treat.i. §. 2. [Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746) held the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University. His An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections with Illustrations on the Moral Sense was first published in 1728 (London and Dublin).]