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qualities of mind itself, when they attempt to conceive fuch
Virtue, therefore, in the mixed nature of man, is at once a condition of his mind, an aspect and carriage of his person, and an ordinary series of action, fitted to his fituation, as the member of a community, in which the conduct of every particular perfon contributes its fhare to the good or the evil incident to the whole.
So far the fubject admits of a general statement, in which there is no difficulty. In the more particular treatment of it, however, fome difficulties have arifen, which it may be proper to state, before we enter on the detail of moral obligations and duties.
Thefe difficulties relate to the phenomenon of moral approbation, confidered as a fubject of theory; or to the different opinions of men, on the fubject of moral actions and duties, confidered as a standard of estimation for mankind.
Relating to these subjects, we may enquire, first of all, upon what principle men proceed, in estimating the morality of actions? Next, Whence the difference of opinion, on the fubject of moral duties? Whence the real gradations of merit and demerit? And, from the observations that may occur, endeavour to col
lect fome fundamental rule or canon of estimation, respecting the PART II. morality of external actions, and the propriety of manners, be- CHAP. II. fore we proceed to confider the variety of fanctions, under which such actions are required; or before we enter on the separate departments of science, to which the study of morality refers, under the titles of jurifprudence, cafuiftry, and politics.
Of the Difficulty which has arisen in accounting for Moral Approbation.
IF, according to the refult of our enquiries on the subject of
But virtue, even to those who are far from confidering it as happiness, is still matter of esteem and respect; and vice, even where the vicious are conceived to possess the good things of this life, is reprobated and condemned: Infomuch, that virtue is approved even by those who depart from it; and vice is disapproved even where it is embraced.
This fentiment, therefore, is of a peculiar nature, not a specimen of mere defire and averfion, directed to a particular object; but a cenforial act in the mind of man, having cognizance of a right or
a wrong in the measure or tendency of his own defires or aver- PART II. fions, even when they have most entirely determined his will.
Doctor Clarke, and fome others, confidering virtue as the fitnefs of man's character and practice to his own frame, and to his place in the system of nature; and, confidering reafon or understanding itself as competent to observe the fitness of things, have assumed human reason as the principle of moral discernment.
This fyftem is nearly the fame with that which, making virtue to confist in the conformity of will to truth, makes reason alfo the arbiter of right and wrong, as of truth and error.
But these systems have been rejected, as unfit to explain the phenomenon of moral approbation; which, being itself an affection or fentiment of the mind, must be derived from a principle to be fought for among the confiderations that influence the will, not among the perceptions of mere intelligence, which go no farther than to remark the existence of things.
Upon this ground, men of speculation have had recourse to various confiderations of utility, private or public; of sympathy, and of moral fenfe; to account for the approbation or disapprobation of actions which they themselves or others perform.
The investigation and application of any one of these principles, joined to the refutation of others, has amounted to treatifes, and led to difcuffions of great length. But the utmost that can be done in this place, and in a mere fummary state of fo much argument, is to enumerate a few of the principal theories; and en
PART II. deavour to extricate the mind from the perplexity, which so many CHAP. II. difcordant accounts of the same subject may occafion.
In the mean time, the Regula Philofophandi, or canons of reafon, as they are prefcribed in other examples of physical investigation, must be sustained in this *.
I. We are not to affign, as the cause of any appearance, what is not itself known as a fact in nature.
Upon this principle, we reject hypothefis, or the mere suppofition of a caufe, of whose existence we have not any previous knowledge; as the vortex of Des Cartes is rejected in accounting for the planetary revolutions.
On this rule, it is probable that none of our theorists will trespass; for, although some have proposed to account for intelligence itself on the fuppofition of fome occult configuration or motion of material atoms, conftituting reflection and thought; yet, as the mind, when fo conftituted, ever acts upon fome confideration known to itself, it is impoffible to think of explaining an act of the mind, in any particular inftance, without recurring to fome one or other of the confiderations, on which the mind is generally known to proceed.
II. We are not to deduce effects from caufes, which, though real, are unfit to produce the effect.
In the connection of caufe and effect, in contradistinction to a mere fortuitous contiguity of circumftances, there is fuppofed a
* Vide Newtoni Principia, lib. iii. ab initio.