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1. When we conceive of a being possessed of these powers, and existing in such relations, we necessarily affirm obligations of him. An intelligent being is revealed to me, as possessed of capacity for virtue or vice, together with susceptibilities for happiness or misery. I have a consciousness of the power to will his virtue and happiness, or his vice and misery. I instantly aífirm myself under obligation to will the former instead of the latter. No other conceptions are necessary to the existence of this affirmation. These facts also being postulated, obligation must be affirmed. We can no more conceive it right to will the evil instead of the good, or, that we are not under obligation to will the latter, than we can conceive of the annihilation of space.
2. If any of these elements are not postulated, obligation can not be conceived of, nor affirmed. If we deny of a creature intelligence to perceive his relations to other beings, we cannot conceive of him as under obligation to them. Whatever degree of intelligence be attributed to him, this involves, in our apprehensions, no obligation to one act of Will instead of another, in the absence of all power to put forth the required, instead of the prohibited act. Suppose a creature has any degree of intelligence whatever. This creates no obligation to locomotion, in the absence of corresponding power. Suppose the mind located in a body totally destitute of the power of locomotion. Would the existence of intelligence create obligation to locomotion ? Certainly not Such would be the response of universal Mind. Now the power to will is just as distinct from the Intelligence, as that of locomotion is. Hence, intelligence, of whatever kind or degree, can no more create obligation to one than the other, in the absence of corresponding power. To the conception of an agent, then, possessed of intelligence to know his relations, and power to act, or refuse to act, in harmony with those relations, the ideas of right and wrong, of obligation, &c., sustain the relation of logical antecedents.
IDEA OF FITNESS.
Every person who has attentively noticed the operations of his own mind, must have observed, that under certain circumstances, certain actions, or certain states of mind, appeared to him fit and proper. When asked to give a reason for such judgments, no other account can be given, than a simple reference to the nature of the thing itself, and to the circumstances supposed. For illustration, take the following passage of Scripture : “ It was meet that we should make merry and be glad ; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again ; and was lost, and is found.” Suppose that father to have been required to give a reason for the judgment, that under the circumstances supposed, joy and merriment were fit or proper. What answer could he have given? No other answer than for the judgment, that no phenomena exist without a cause. In both instances, the mind knows absolutely that its judgments are, and must be true. No other reason for their truth, however, can be given, than this : The circumstances being given, they are self-affirmed.
This. Idea synonymous with Right and Wrong, &c. Now the idea of fitness, when applied to moral relations, is identical with that of right and wrong. It is the foundation of the idea of merit and demerit; and consequently of that of reward and punishment.
It is also identical with the idea of moral order. When it is asked, Why is that state in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished, regarded as a state of moral order? no other reason can be assigned than this : Such a state is fit and proper.
IDEA OF THE USEFUL, OR THE GOOD.
Whenever we conceive of a creature capable of pleasure or pain, happiness or misery, we necessarily conceive of a state in which all the capacities of such a creature for pleasure and happiness are perfectly filled. This state we designate by the term good, a term sometimes used in another sense, as synonymous with that of right. Whatever tends to fill out the measure of pleasure and happiness, we designate by the general term, useful.
The ideas of the useful and the good, above defined, give birth to all the varied forms of human industry, such as agriculture, the mechanic arts, commerce, &c. All are moving on to the realization of one great leading idea, the filling up of the capacities of man for pleasure and happiness.
. The Summum Bonum. There is one idea of Reason, expressed by the words, the
great good, the summum bonum, and the tò xahóv, about which philosphers have long disputed, and in respect to which, they have been about equally divided in opinion. The question may be thus put: When we think of ourselves, or of the universe at large, what is that state to which our nature is correlated, or preferable to any other, actual or conceivable ?
Some have placed the great good in happiness merely. To this position, however, we find that our nature is not exclusively correlated. If happiness were the only thing to which our nature is correlated, as in itself most to be desired; if happiness exists, we should be totally indifferent in. respect to the means, or conditions of its existence. We are not pleased, but pained at the thought, for example, that perfect happiness should be associated with great wickedness.
Others, in departing from this idea, have placed the great good, in virtue. To this position, also, we find that our nature is not correlated. If virtue is the only thing that the Mind regards as good, it would be indifferent in respect to the condition in which it should exist; whether, for example, the virtuous agent were happy or miserable. We are pained, on the other hand, at the thought, that virtuous beings should not be happy. Happiness our Intelligence affirms to be the right of the pure and the virtuous.
The true solution is, no doubt, to be found in the blending of the two above giveri, or, as Cousin expresses it, “ In the connection and harmony of virtue and happiness, as merited by it.” If we conceive of a state of perfect virtue, associated with perfect happiness, this conception contains a realization of our idea of the summum bonum. Every department of our nature is correlated to that idea. We can conceive of no state so much to be desired as this. Nor can we perceive any element in this state to which the laws of our being do not fully respond.
RELATIONS OF THE IDEAS OF RIGHT AND WRONG AND OF THE
USEFUL TO EACH OTHER.
We have seen above, that the ideas of right and wrong are the foundation of obligation, and this of merit and demerit, &c. The question has long been agitated among philosophers, whether there is any idea that sustains a similar relation to that of right and wrong, and of obliga
tion. By some it is maintained, that this is not an ultimate idea of Reason, but that it has its foundation in another, to wit, that of the useful. This question I regard as of such fundamental importance in mental and moral philosophy both, that I shall enter into a discussion somewhat protracted of it. The question, then, is, What is the foundation of moral obligation? Is utility this ground ?
This purely a Psychological Question. The object of mental philosophy, it should be borne in .mind, is to explain human nature. When the Intelligence, for example, makes particular affirniations, the object of this science is, to ascertain the reasons in view of which such affirmations are made.
It is admitted by all, that in the presence of certain actions, the Mind does, as a matter of fact, affirm its obligation to perform them. The question, and the only question, for the philosopher to solve here is, What is the element or elements, in view of which this affirmation is made? The Utilitarian affirms that the perceived utility of the action, or its perceived tendency to promote happiness, is the only element in the action, and the only circumstance connected with it, in view of which obligation to perform it is, or can be affirmed. In view of nothing else, if this theory is true, can such affirmation be made. Now, as every one will perceive at once, the question whether this theory is true, is exclusively a psychological question. It can be truly answered, only by an appeal to Consciousness.
The theory under consideration is also given as a universal theory. If obligation is, in any instance, affirmed in view of any other consideration, this theory falls to the ground.
Further, if the Utilitarian, as is sometimes done, assumes the position, that PERCEIVED tendency is not the sole reason, why obligation is, in all instances affirmed, while it is in fact the only element which gives existence to obligation, his theory, instead of explaining the human Intelligence, convicts it of fundamental error, inasmuch as it asserts, that the Intelligence affirms obligation in view of considerations, which do not give existence to obligation. Having thus convicted the Intelligence of fundamental error, how is he afterwards, through the same Intelligence, to find out the truth? Now at this point, we join issue with the Utilita
rian. We assert, that his theory does not correctly explain the human Intelligence, relatively to the question under consideration, and is therefore wrong. To show this we will , inquire,
Nature of Virtue. In the first place, What is virtue? I answer, virtue is not a phenomenon of the Intelligence or Sensibility, but of the Will. As a phenomenon of Will, it must consist in right willing. This is a definition sufficiently explicit for the present argument. Should any one feel disposed to question the statement, that virtue consists exclusively in right willing, he will not deny, that it is in part, at least, found here. This is all that is requisite to the present argument. The question then to be settled is this. Is obligation to will in a given direction always affirmed, and affirmed exclusively, in view of the perceived tendency of thus willing ?
Happiness a Phenomenon of the Sensibility. While virtue is, in this discussion, postulated as a phenomenon of the Will, happiness, on the other hand, is a phenomenon, neither of the Intelligence, nor Will, but of the Sensibility exclusively. This no one will deny.
Relation of Willing to Happiness. Now the tendency of willing of every kind, to promote happiness, or its opposite, depends entirely upon the cor. relation between the nature of the Will and Sensibility. To understand, in this respect, the nature of willing, that is, its tendency to promote happiness, or its opposite, this correlation must be known. How can such knowledge be obtained? By experience only. This is self-evident. Prior to experience, I know not even that I have a Sensibility. Much less, if possible, can I know, prior to experience, the adaptation of any cause whatever, as for example, willing in one direction or another, in view of affirmed obligation, to produce in the Sensibility, happiness or misery. Conclusion necessarily resulting from the Facts above stated.
Now as I can know from experience only, the tendency of willing, in one way or the other, in view of affirmed obligation, to promote happiness or misery, it is demonstrably evident, that obligation must, in all instances, be in the