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Moral Philosophy by Joseph Rickaby, S. J.

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unatoned for. Commonly a man cannot contemplate his duty, a difficult
or an unfulfilled duty especially, without a certain emotion, very
otherwise than as he views the axioms of mathematics. There is a great
difference emotionally, but intellectually the two sets of principles,
speculative and moral, are held alike as necessary truths, truths that
not only are, but must be, and cannot be otherwise: truths in which
the _predicate_ of the proposition that states them is contained under
the _subject_. Such are called _self-evident propositions_; and the
truths that they express, _necessary truths_. The enquiry into the
origin of our primary moral judgments is thus merged in the question,
how we attain to necessary truth.

6. The question belongs to Psychology, not to Ethics: but we will
treat it briefly for ethical purposes. And first for a clear notion of
the kind of judgments that we are investigating.

"The primary precepts of the law of nature stand to the practical
reason as the first principles of scientific demonstration do to the
speculative reason: for both sets of principles are self-evident. A
thing is said to be self-evident in two ways, either _in itself_, or
_in reference to us. _In itself_ every proposition, the predicate of
which can be got from consideration of the subject is said to be
self-evident. But it happens that to one who is ignorant of the
definition of the subject, such a proposition will not be
self-evident: as this proposition, _Man is a rational being_, is
self-evident in its own nature, because to name man is to name
something rational; and yet, to one ignorant what man is, this
proposition is not self-evident. And hence it is that, as Boethius
says: "there are some axioms self-evident to all alike." Of this
nature are all those propositions whose terms are known to all, as,
_Every whole is greater than its part_; and, _Things which are equal
to the same thing are equal to one another_. Some propositions again
are self-evident only to the wise, who understand the meaning of the
terms: as, to one who understands that an angel is not a body, it is
self-evident that an angel is not in a place by way of
circumscription; [Footnote 11] which is not manifest to others, who do
not understand the term." (St. Thos., 1a 2a q. 94, art. 2, in corp.)

[Footnote 11: _Circumscriptive_, which word is explained by St. Thos.,
1a, q. 52. art. 1.]

One more extract. "From the very nature of an intellectual soul it is
proper to man that, as soon as he knows what a whole is, and what a
part is, he knows that every whole is greater than its part; and so of
the rest. But what is a whole, and what a part, that he cannot know
except through sensory impressions. And therefore Aristotle shows that
the knowledge of principles comes to us through the senses." (St.
Thos., 1a 2a, q. 51, art. 1, in corp.)

7. Thus the propositions that _right is to be done, benefactors to be
requited_, are self-evident, necessary truths, to any child who has
learned by experience the meaning of _right_, of _kindness_, and of a
_return of kindness._ "Yes, but"--some one will say--"how ever does he
get to know what _right_ and _wrong_ are? Surely sensory experience
cannot teach him that." We answer, man's thoughts begin in sense, and
are perfected by reflection. Let us take the idea of _wrong_, the key
to all other elementary moral ideas. The steps by which a child comes
to the fulness of the idea of _wrong_ may be these. First, the thing
is _forbidden_: then one gets _punished_ for it. Punishment and
prohibition enter in by eye and ear and other senses besides. Then the
thing is _offensive_ to those we love and revere. Then it is _bad for
us_. Then it is _shameful, shabby, unfair, unkind, selfish, hateful to
God_. All these points of the idea of wrong are grasped by the
intellect, beginning with sensory presentations of what is seen and
felt and heard said. Again with the idea of _ought_. This idea is
sometimes said to defy analysis. But we have gone about (c. vi.) to
analyse it into two elements, _nature requiring, nature's King
commanding_. The idea of _wrong_ we analysed into a breach of this
natural requirement, and this Divine command or law. Primary moral
ideas, then, yield to intellectual analysis. They are of this style:
_to be done, as I wish to be rational and please God: not to be done,
unless I wish to spoil myself and disobey my Maker_. But primary moral
ideas, compared together, make primary moral judgments. Primary moral
judgments, therefore, arise in the intellect, by the same process as
other beliefs arise there in matters of necessary truth.

8. Thus, applying the principle known as _Occham's razor_, that
"entities are not to be multiplied without reason," we refuse to
acknowledge any Moral Sense, distinct from Intellect. We know of no
peculiar faculty, specially made to receive "ideas, pleasures and
pains in the moral order." (Mackintosh, _Ethics_, p. 206.) Most of
all, we emphatically protest against any blind power being accredited
as the organ of morality. We cannot accept for our theory of morals,
that everything is right which warms the breast with a glow of
enthusiasm, and all those actions wrong, at which emotional people are
prone to cry out, _dreadful, shocking_. We cannot accept emotions for
arbitrators, where it most concerns reasonable beings to have what the
Apostle calls "enlightened eyes of the heart" (Ephes. i. 18), that we
may "know to refuse the evil and to choose the good." (Isaias vii.
15.) A judge may have his emotions, but his charge to the jury must be
dictated, not by his heart, but by his knowledge of the law. And the
voice of conscience, whatever feelings it may stir, must be an
intellectual utterance, and, to be worth anything in a case of
difficulty, a reasoned conclusion, based on observation of facts, and
application of principles, and consultation with moral theologians and
casuists. A subjective and emotional standard of right and wrong is as
treacherous and untrustworthy as the emotional justification of those
good people, who come of a sudden to "feel converted."

9. It would be unnecessary, except for the wrong-headedness of
philosophers, to observe that conscience requires educating. As moral
virtue is a habit of appetite, rational or irrational, a formation
resulting from frequent acts; and as the child needs to be aided and
assisted from without towards the performance of such acts, in order
to overcome the frequent resistance of appetite to reason (c. v., s.
ii., n. 4, p. 71): so the springs of conscience are certain
intellectual habits, whereby the subject is cognisant of the
principles of natural law, and of their bearing on his own conduct,
habits which, like the habits of moral virtue, require to be formed by
acts from within and succour from without, since merely the rudiments
of the habit are supplied by nature. Even the first principles of
morality want formulating and pointing out to children, like the
axioms of geometry. The mother tells her little one: "Ernest, or
Frank, be a good boy:" while the schoolmaster explains to Master
Ernest that two straight lines cannot possibly enclose a space. There
is something in the boy's mind that goes along with and bears out both
the teaching of his master and his mother's exhortation: something
that says within him: "To be sure, those lines can't enclose a space:"
"Certainly, I ought to be good." It is not merely on authority that he
accepts these propositions. His own understanding welcomes and
approves them: so much so, that once he has understood them, he would
not believe the contrary for being told it. You would not persuade a
child that it was right to pull mother's hair; or that half an orange
was literally, as Hesiod says, "more than the whole." He would answer
that it could not be, that he knew better.

10. On one ground there is greater need of education for the
conscience than for any other intellectual formation: that is because
of the power of evil to fascinate and blind on practical issues of
duty. Cicero well puts it:

"We are amazed and perplexed by variety of opinions and strife of
authorities; and because there is not the same divergence upon matters
of sense, we fancy that the senses afford natural certainty, while,
for moral matters, because some men take one view, some another, and
the same men different views at different times, we consider that any
settlement that can be arrived at is merely conventional, which is a
huge mistake. The fact is, there is no parent, nor nurse, nor
schoolmaster, nor poet, nor stage play, to corrupt the judgments of
sense, nor consent of the multitude to wrench them away from the
truth. It is for minds and consciences that all the snares are set, as
well by the agency of those whom I have just mentioned, who take us in
our tender and inexperienced age, and ingrain and fashion us as they
will, as also by that counterfeit presentment of good, which lurks in
the folds of every sense, the mother of all evil, pleasure, under
whose seductive blandishments men fail to recognise the moral good
that nature offers, because it is unaccompanied by this itching desire
and satisfaction." (Cicero, _De Legibus_, i, 17.)

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 1a, q. 79, art. 11-13; Plato, _Protagoras_,
325, 326; John Grote, _Examination of Utilitarian Philosophy,_ pp.
169, 207, 208; Cardinal Newman, _Grammar of Assent_, pp. l02-112.

SECTION II.--_Of the invariability of Primary Moral Judgments_.

1. The following narrative is taken from Grote's History of Greece, c.

"It was a proud day for the Carthaginian general [Footnote 12] when he
stood as master on the ground of Himera; enabled to fulfil the duty,
and satisfy the exigencies, of revenge for his slain grandfather.
Tragical indeed was the consummation of this long-cherished
purpose.... All the male captives, 3,000 in number, were conveyed to
the precise spot where Hamilkar had been slain, and there put to death
with indignity, as an expiatory satisfaction to his lost honour. No
man can read the account of this wholesale massacre without horror and
repugnance. Yet we cannot doubt, that among all the acts of Hannibal's
life, this was the one in which he most gloried; that it realized in
the most complete and emphatic manner, his concurrent _aspirations of
filial sentiment, religious obligation, and honour as a patriot_;
[Footnote 13] that to show mercy would have been regarded as a mean
dereliction of these esteemed impulses.... Doubtless, the feelings of
Hannibal were cordially shared, and the plenitude of his revenge
envied, by the army around him. So different, sometimes so totally
contrary, is the tone and direction of the moral sentiments, among
different ages and nations."

[Footnote 12: Hannibal, B.C. 409, therefore not the victor of Cannae.]
[Footnote 13: Italics mine.]

We may supplement this story by another from Herodotus (iii., 38):

"Darius, after he had got the kingdom, called into his presence
certain Greeks who were at hand, and asked, 'What he should pay them
to eat the bodies of their fathers when they died.' To which they
answered, that there was no sum that would tempt them to do such a
thing. He then sent for certain Indians, of the race called
Callatians, men who eat their fathers, and asked them, while the
Greeks were standing by, and knew by the aid of an interpreter all
that was said--'What he should give them to burn the bodies of their
fathers, at their decease?' The Indians exclaimed aloud, and bade him
forbear such language. Such is the way of men; and Pindar was right in
my judgment, when he said, 'Convention is king over all.'"

2. If any one held that the natural law of conscience was natural in
the same way as the sense of temperature: if one held to the existence
of a Moral Sense in all men, settling questions of right and wrong, as
surely as all men know sweet things from bitter by tasting them: these
stories, and they could be multiplied by hundreds, abundantly suffice
to confute the error. There is no authentic copy of the moral law,
printed, framed, and hung up by the hand of Nature, in the inner
sanctuary of every human heart. Man has to learn his duties as he
learns the principles of health, the laws of mechanics, the
construction and navigation of vessels, the theorems of geometry, or
any other art or science. And he is just as likely to go wrong, and
has gone wrong as grievously, in his judgments on moral matters as on
any other subject of human knowledge. The knowledge of duties is
_natural_ (as explained in the previous section, n. 2), not because it
comes spontaneously, but because it is necessary to our nature for the
development and perfection of the same. Thus a man _ought_, so far as
he can, to learn his duties: but we cannot say of a man, as such, that
he _ought_ to learn geometry or navigation. If a man does not know his
duties, he is excused by ignorance, according to the rules under which
ignorance excuses (c. iii., s. i., nn. 3-5, p. 27). If a man does not
know navigation, there is no question of _excuse_ for what he was not
bound to learn, but he may suffer _loss_ by his want of knowledge.

3. It was furthermore observed above (l.c.), that the _natural_ law
was so called as being found expressed more or less perfectly in the
minds of all men, and therefore being a proper element of human
nature. It remains to see how much this universal natural expression
amounts to. That is at once apparent from our previous explanation of
_synderesis_. (s. i., nn. 5, seq., p. 139.) Not a complete and
accurate knowledge of the natural law is found in all minds, far from
it; but _synderesis_ is found in all. This is apparent from Mr.
Grote's own phrases, "aspirations of filial sentiment," "religious
obligation," "honour as a patriot," _Parents are to be honoured, we
must do our duty to God and to our country_: there Hannibal was at one
with the most approved teachers of morality. Callatian and Greek
agreed in the recognition of the commandment, _Honour thy father and
thy mother_. That was the major premiss of them both, in the moral
syllogism (s. i., n. 3, p. 135), which ruled their respective
consciences. Their difference was upon the _applying minor_, as it is
called; the Greek regarding the dissolution of the body into its
elements by fire, and so saving it from corruption, as the best means
of honouring the dead: the Callatians preferring to raise their
parents as it were to life again, by making them the food of their
living children. Hannibal, again, had before his mind the grand
principle of retribution, that wrongdoing must be expiated by
suffering. But he had not heard the words "Vengeance is Mine;" and
mistakenly supposed it to rest with himself to appoint and carry out
his own measure of revenge. Whether he was quite so invincibly
ignorant on this point, as Grote represents, is open to doubt. At any
rate he was correct in the primary moral judgment on which he

_Reading_.--St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 94, art. 6.

SECTION III.--_Of the immutability of the Natural Law_.

1. Besides printing, many methods are now in vogue for multiplying
copies of a document. Commonly the document is written out with
special ink on special paper: the copy thus used is called a
_stencil_; and from it other copies are struck off. We will suppose
the stencil to be that page of the Eternal Law written in the Mind of
God, which regulates _human acts_, technically so called. The copies
struck off from that stencil will be the Natural Law in the mind of
this man and of that. Now, as all who are familiar with copying
processes know too well, it happens at times that a copy comes out
very faint, and in parts not at all. These faint and partial copies
represent the Natural Law as it is imperfectly developed in the minds
of many men. In this sense, and as we may say _subjectively_, the
Natural Law is mutable, very mutable indeed. Still, as no one would
say that the document had been altered, because some copies of it were
bad, so it is not strictly correct to say that the Natural Law varies
with these subjective varieties. Appeal would be made to a full and
perfectly printed impression of the document, one that rendered the
stencil exactly. The Natural Law must be viewed in like manner, as it
would exist in a mind perfectly enlightened concerning the whole duty
of man, and exactly reproducing in itself that portion of the Eternal
Law which ordains such duty. Were such a mind to discern a natural
obligation to lie differently at two different times, all the relevant
circumstances being alike in both cases, and the moral solution
different, then only could the Natural Law be held to have changed.

2. But this is clearly impossible. The conclusion of a geometrical
theorem is a truth for all time. There is no difference here between a
complicated theorem, having many conditions, and a simpler theorem
with fewer. It is indeed easier for a few than for many conditions to
be all present together: but the enunciation of the conclusion
supposes _all_ the conditions, whatever their number. The same in a
practical manner, as in the stability of a bridge. The bridge that
would stand in England, would stand in Ceylon. If it would not, there
must have occurred some change in the conditions, as the heat of the
tropical sun upon the girders. A point of casuistry also, however
knotty, once determined, is determined for ever and aye, for the
circumstances under which it was determined. The Natural Law in this
sense is absolutely immutable, no less in each particular application
than in the most general principles. We must uniformly pass the same
judgment on the same case. What is once right and reasonable, is
always right and reasonable, in the same matter. Where to-day there is
only one right course, there cannot to-morrow be two, unless
circumstances have altered. The Natural Law is thus far immutable,
every jot and tittle.

3. No power in heaven above nor on earth beneath can dispense from any
portion of the Natural Law. For the matter of the negative precepts of
that law is, as we have seen, something bad in itself and repugnant to
human nature, and accordingly forbidden by God: while the matter of
the positive precepts is something good and necessary to man,
commanded by God. If God were to take off His command, or prohibition,
the intrinsic exigency, or intolerableness, of the thing to man would
still remain, being as inseparable from humanity as certain
mathematical properties from a triangle. Pride is not made for man,
nor fornication, nor lying, nor polygamy [Footnote 14]: human nature
would cry out against them, even were the Almighty in a particular
instance to withdraw His prohibition. What would be the use, then, of
any such withdrawal? It would not make the evil thing good. An evil
thing it would still remain, unnatural, irrational, and as such,
displeasing to God, the Supreme Reason. The man would not be free to
do the thing, even though God did not forbid it. It appears,
therefore, that the Divine prohibition, and similarly the Divine
command, which we have proved (c. vi., s. ii., nn. 10, 11, p. 121) to
be necessarily imposed in matters of natural evil and of naturally
imperative good, is imposed as a hard and fast line, so long as the
intrinsic good or evil remains the same.

[Footnote 14: There is a theological difficulty about the polygamy of
the patriarchs, which will be touched on in _Natural Law_, c. vi., s.
ii., n. 4. p. 272.]

4. There is, therefore, no room for Evolution in Ethics and Natural
Law any more than in Geometry. One variety of geometrical
construction, or of moral action, may succeed another; but the truths
of the science, by which those varieties are judged, change not. There
is indeed this peculiarity about morality, distinguishing it from art,
that if a man errs invincibly, the evil that he takes for good is not
_formally_ evil, or evil as he wills it, and the good that he takes
for evil is _formally_ evil to him. (c. iii., s. ii., n. 7, p. 33.) So
there is variation and possible Evolution in bare _formal_ good and
bare _formal_ evil, as ignorance gradually changes into knowledge; and
likewise Reversion, as knowledge declines into ignorance. Even this
Evolution and Reversion have their limits: they cannot occur in the
primary principles of morality, as we saw in the last section. But
morality _material_ and objective,--complete morality, where the
formal and material elements agree, where real wrong is seen to be
wrong, and real right is known for right--in this morality there is no
Evolution. If Hannibal offered human sacrifices to his grandfather
because he knew no better, and could not have known better, than to
think himself bound so to do, he is to be excused, and even praised
for his piety: still it was a mistaken piety; and the act, apart from
the light in which the doer viewed it, was a hideous crime. An
incorrupt teacher of morals would have taught the Carthaginian, not
that he was doing something perfectly right for his age and country,
which, however, would be wrong in Germany some centuries later, but
that he was doing an act there and then evil and forbidden of God,
from which he was bound, upon admonition, instantly to desist.
[Footnote 15]

[Footnote 15: The author has seen reason somewhat to modify this view,
as appears by the Appendix. (Note to Third Edition.)]

5. There are Evolution and Reversion in architecture, but not in the
laws of stability of structure, nor in the principles of beauty as
realized in building. A combination, ugly now, was not beautiful in
the days of Darius. Tastes differ, but not right tastes; and moral
notions, but not right moral notions. It is true that questions of
right and wrong occur in one state of society, that had no relevance
in an earlier state, the conditions of the case not having arisen. But
so it is in architecture; there are no arches in the Parthenon. The
principle of the arch, however, held in the age of Pericles, though
not applied.

6. The progress of Moral Science is the more and more perfect
development of the Natural Law in the heart of man, a psychological,
not an ontological development. And Moral Science does progress. No
man can be a diligent student of morality for years, without coming to
the understanding of many things, for which one would look in vain in
Aristotle's _Ethics_ and _Politics_, or in Cicero, _De Officiis_, or
even in the _Summa_ of St. Thomas, or perhaps in any book ever
written. New moral questions come for discussion as civilization
advances. The commercial system of modern times would furnish a theme
for another De Lugo. And still on this path of ethical discovery, to
quote the text that Bacon loved, "Many shall pass over, and knowledge
shall be multiplied." (Daniel xii. 4.)

_Readings_.--St. Thos., Supplement, q. 65, art. 1, in corp.; _ib_., q.
65, art. 2, in corp., and ad 1; Hughes, _Supernatural Morals_, pp. 67,
68, reviewed in _The Month_ for August, 1891, pp. 542, 543.

SECTION IV.--_Of Probabilism_.

1. Sometimes conscience returns a clear, positive answer as to the
morality of an act contemplated. True or false the answer may be, but
the ring of it has no uncertain sound. At other times conscience is
perplexed, and her answer is, _perhaps_, and _perhaps not_. When the
woman hid Achimaas and Jonathan in the well, and said to Absalom's
servants, "They passed on in haste" (2 Kings xvii. 17-21), did she do
right in speaking thus to save their lives? A point that has perplexed
consciences for centuries. A man's hesitation is sometimes subjective
and peculiar to himself. It turns on a matter of fact, which others
know full well, though he doubts; or on a point of law, dark to him,
but clearly ruled by the consent of the learned. In such cases it is
his duty to seek information from people about him, taking so much
trouble to procure it as the importance of the matter warrants, not
consulting ten doctors as to the ownership of one hen. But it may be
that all due enquiries fail. The fact remains obscure; or about the
law, doctors differ, and arguments conflict indecisively. What is the
man to do? Take the _safe_ course: suppose there is an obligation, and
act accordingly? This principle, put as a command, would make human
life intolerable. It is, moreover, false, when so put, as we shall
presently prove. Take the _easy_ course, and leave the obligation out
of count? This principle is more nearly correct than the other: but it
needs interpretation, else it may prove dangerously lax.

2. To return to Achimaas and Jonathan and their hostess. Some such
reckoning as this may have passed through her mind: "Lying lips are an
abomination to the Lord: but is it a lie to put murderers off the
scent of blood?" To that question finding no answer, she may have made
up her mind in this way: "Well, I don't know, but I'll risk it." If
that were her procedure, she did not walk by the scientific lines of
Probabilism. The probabilist runs no risk, enters upon no uncertainty,
and yet he by no means always follows what is technically termed the
_safe_ course, that is, the course which supposes the obligation,
_e.g._, in the case in point, to have said simply where the men were.
How then does the probabilist contrive to extract certainty out of a
case of insoluble doubt? By aid of what is called a _reflex_
principle. A _reflex_ is opposed to a _direct_ principle. A direct
principle lays down an obligation, as it would bind one who had a
perfect discernment of the law and of the facts of the case, and of
the application of the one to the other, and who was perfectly able to
keep the law. By a _reflex_ principle, a man judges of his own act,
taking account of the imperfection of his knowledge and the
limitations of his power. Probabilism steps in, only where a case is
practically insoluble to an agent upon direct principles. The
probabilist thereupon leaves the direct speculative doubt unsolved. He
relinquishes the attempt of determining what a man should do in the
case in question, who had a thorough insight into the lie of the law.
He leaves that aside, and considers what is his duty, or not his duty,
in the deficiency of his knowledge. Then he strikes upon the
principle, which is the root of Probabilism, _that a doubtful law has
no binding power_. It will be observed that this is a _reflex_
principle. For objectively nothing is doubtful, but everything is or
is not in point of fact. To a mind that had a full grasp of the
objective order of things, there would be no doubtful law: such a mind
would discern the law in every case as holding or not holding. But no
human mind is so perfect. Every man has to take account of his own
limitations of vision in judging of his duty. The question for me is,
not the law absolutely, but the law as far as I can make it out. Our
proposition, then, states that when an individual, using such moral
diligence of enquiry as the gravity of the matter calls for, still
remains in a state of honest doubt as to whether the law binds, in
that mental condition it does not bind _him_.

3. What the law does not forbid, it leaves open. Aristotle indeed
(_Eth_., V., xi., 1) says the contrary, that what the law does not
command (he instances suicide), it forbids. All that he seems to mean
is, that if there be an act which at times might appear advantageous,
and yet is never commanded, there is a presumption of the legislator
being averse to that act. Again, there are special occasions, in view
of which the legislator undertakes to regulate the whole outward
conduct of a man by positive enactment, as with a soldier on parade:
what is not there commanded, is forbidden. But these instances do not
derogate from our general proposition, which is proved in this way.
The office of law is not to loose, but to bind. It declares, not what
the subject may do, but what he must or must not. It does not bring
liberty, but restriction. Therefore, if any one wishes to assert a
restriction, he must go to a law to prove it. If he can find none,
liberty remains. The law is laid on liberty. Liberty is not the
outcome of law, but prior to it. Liberty is in possession. The burden
of proof rests with those who would abridge liberty and impose an
obligation. It is an axiom of law itself, a natural, not an arbitrary
axiom, that _better is the condition of the possessor_: which amounts
in this matter to another statement, also axiomatic, _that a law binds
not till it is promulgated_. But a law of which I have serious
outstanding doubts whether it exists at all, or, if existent, whether
it reaches my case, is for this occasion a law not duly promulgated to
me. Therefore it binds me not, and my liberty remains.

4. It remains to consider what constitutes a _serious outstanding
doubt_. The word _outstanding_ has been already explained. It means
that we have sought for certain information, and cannot procure it.
Now what is a _serious_ doubt? It is a doubt founded on a _positive_
opinion against the existence of the law, or its applicability to the
case in point, an opinion fraught with probability, _solid,
comparative, practical probability_. The doubt must not be mere
negative doubt, or ignorance that cannot tell why it doubts; not a
vague suspicion, or sentimental impression that defies all
intellectual analysis; not a mere subjective inability to make up
one's mind, but some counter-reason that admits of positive statement,
as we say, _in black and white_. It is true that many minds cannot
define their grounds of doubt, even when these are real. Such minds
are unfit to apply the doctrine of Probabilism to themselves, but must
seek its application from others. The opinion against the law, when
explicitly drawn out, must be found to possess a _solid_ probability.
It may be either an intrinsic argument from reason and the nature of
the case, or an extrinsic argument from the word of some authority:
but the reason or the authority must be grave. The opinion is thus
said to be _intrinsically_ or _extrinsically_ probable. The
probability must also be _comparative_. There is many an argument, in
itself a very good one, that perishes when we come to consider the
crushing weight of evidence on the other side. An opinion is
_comparatively_ probable, when after hearing all the reasons and all
the authorities on the other side, the said opinion still remains _not
unlikely_, which is all that we mean to say of an opinion here, when
we call it _probable_. In ordinary English, the word _probable_ means
_more likely than otherwise_, which is not the signification of the
Latin _opinio probabilis_. Lastly, the probability must be
_practical_: it must take account of all the circumstances of the
case. Practical probability is opposed to _speculative_, which leaves
out of count certain circumstances, which are pretty sure to be
present, and to make all the difference in the issue. Thus it is
speculatively probable that a Catholic might without sin remain years
without confession, never having any grievous sins to confess,
grievous sin alone being necessary matter for that sacrament. There is
no downright cogent reason why a man might not do so. And yet, if he
neglected such ordinary means of grace as confession of venial sin,
having it within reach, month after month, no one, considering "the
sin which surrounds us," would expect that man to go without grievous
scathe. In mechanics, there are many machines that work prettily
enough in speculation and on paper, where the inventors do not
consider the difficulties of imperfect material, careless handling,
climate, and other influences, that render the invention of no
practical avail.

5. The safest use of Probabilism is in the field of property
transactions and of positive law. There is greatest risk of using it
amiss in remaining in a false religion. All turns upon the varying
amount of trouble involved in _moral diligence_ of enquiry, according
as the matter at issue is a point of mere observance or of vital

6. The point on which the probability turns must be the lawfulness or
unlawfulness of the action, not any other issue, as that of the
physical consequences. Before rolling boulder-stones down a hill to
amuse myself, it is not enough to have formed a probable opinion that
there is no one coming up. That would be Probabilism misapplied. The
correct enquiry is: Does any intrinsic reason or extrinsic authority
make the opinion probable, that it is lawful for mere amusement to
roll down rocks with any belief short of certainty that no one will be
crushed thereby? The probability, thus turned on to the lawfulness of
the action, breaks down altogether. This explanation, borne in mind,
will save much misapprehension.



SECTION I.--_Of a Twofold Sanction, Natural and Divine_.

1. The sanction of a law is the punishment for breaking it. The
punishment for final, persistent breach of the natural law is failure
to attain the perfect state and last end of the human soul, which is
happiness. If existence be prolonged under this failure, it must be in
the contrary state of misery. This failure and misery is at once a
_natural result_ and a _divine infliction_. It is the natural result
of repeated flagrant acts of moral evil, whereby a man has made his
nature hideous, corrupted and overthrown it. (c. vi., s. i., nn. 4, 5,
p. 111.) For an end is gained by taking the means, and lost by neglect
of the means thereto. Now, as we have seen, happiness is an
intellectual act, the perfection of an intellectual or rational nature
(c. ii., s. ii., p. 6); and the means to it are living rationally: for
a reasonable being, to do well and fare well, must live by that
reason, which is the _form_ of his being. (c. vi., s. i., n. 4, p.
111.) Whoever therefore goes about contradicting the reason that is
within him (c. v., s. iii., n. 3, p. 74) is not in the way to attain
to happiness. Happiness the end of man, the creature of all others the
most complex, is not to be stumbled upon by chance. You may make two
stones lean upright one against the other by chance, but otherwise
than by a methodical application of means to the end you could not
support the spire of Salisbury Cathedral.

2. Man's is a progressive nature (c. vi., s. i., nn. 2,3, p. 109),
himself being the director of his own progress. Other progressive
natures may be spoilt by their requirements being denied, and contrary
things done to them. Man has his requirements. It depends mainly on
himself whether he acts up to them or against them. If he acts against
them, he so far spoils himself; and once he is thoroughly spoilt by
his own doing, the final perfection of humanity is gone from him for
ever. It is the natural result.

3. I have spoken (n. 1) of _repeated flagrant acts_: not that I would
ignore the evil _set_ of the will that results from one gross and
deliberate evil deed (see c. ix., s. ii., n. 6, p. 168): but because
the case is clearer where the acts have been multiplied. However we
must not omit to observe, that it is not any _vice_, or evil habit,
that formally unfits a man for his final happiness, but an actual evil
_set_ of the will, coming of actual sin unrepented of, which _set_ is
more decided, when that uncancelled sin is the last of many such, and
the outcome of a habit. But supposing an habitual sinner to have
repented, and his repentance to have been ratified by God, and that he
dies, not actually in sin, but before the habit of sin has been
eradicated (c. v., s. ii., n. 1, p. 69),--we may say of him, that his
"foot is set in the right way," that is, his will is actually right,
and the obstacle to happiness is removed. The evil habit in him is not
an actual adhesion of his will to evil, but a proneness to relapse
into that state. It is only remotely and potentially evil. It is a
seed of evil, which however will not germinate in the good and
blissful surroundings to which the soul has been transplanted, but
remain for ever sterile, or rather, will speedily decay.

4. If we leave God out of morality, and take account only of the
_philosophical_ aspect of sin (c. vi., s. ii., n. 6, p. 119), we have
nothing further to say of the sanction than this, which has been said:
"Act against nature, and you will end by ruining your nature, and fail
of your final perfection and happiness." But now God comes in, the
giver of the law of nature; and the failure, already a natural result,
must henceforth be viewed also as a Divine chastisement. There is no
law without a sanction. There is no law, the giver of which can allow
it to be broken with impunity. A legislator who dispensed with all
sanction, would rightly be taken by young and old not to be in earnest
in his command. If then God must give a law to man whom He has created
(c. vi., s. ii., n. 9, p. 120), He must attach a sanction to that law;
and if the law is according to the exigency of human nature (c. vi.,
s. ii., n. 11, p. 122), so will the sanction also be the natural
outcome of that exigency set at naught and that law broken.

5. Our position gains by the consideration, that the object, in the
contemplation of which man's soul is to be finally and perfectly
blessed in the natural order, is the Creator seen through the veils of
His works. (c.ii., s.iv., p. 21.) This mediate vision of God, albeit it
is to be the work of a future existence, needs practice and
preparation in this life. God will not be discerned by the man who has
not been accustomed to look for Him. He will not be seen by the swine,
who with head to earth has eaten his fill of sensual pleasures, and
has cared for nothing better. He will not be seen by the covetous man
and the oppressor, who never identified His image hidden away under
the labour-stained dress of the poor. He will not be seen by the man,
who never looked up into His face in prayer here below. He will not be
seen by the earth-laden spirit, that cared nothing at all for God,
that hated the mention of His name, that proclaimed Him, or at least
wished Him, not to be at all.

6. It will be said that this argumentation supposes the habits of
vice, contracted on earth, to remain in the soul after departure: but
there is no proof of that: nay of some vices--those that have more to
do with the body, as drunkenness--the habits cannot possibly remain,
seeing that the appetite wherein they were resident has perished with
the body. First, as regards the instance cited, I reply that we may
consider drunkenness in two ways, on the one hand as a turning to the
creature, on the other as a turning away from reason and the Creator.
The craving for liquor cannot remain in the soul after death exactly
as it was before, though it probably continues in some analogous form,
as a thirst for wild and irregular excitement: but the loathing and
horror of the ways of reason and of God, engendered by frequent
voluntary intoxication, still continues in the soul. And from this
observation we draw the general answer, that whereas in every sin,
whether sensual or spiritual, the most important part is played by the
will, and the will is a spiritual, not an organic faculty, a faculty
which is a main element of the soul whether in or out of the
body,--therefore the evil bent and inclination of the will, which sin
involves, must remain even in the departed spirit. Lastly, we may ask:
To what purpose is our free-will given us, if all souls, good and bad
alike, users and abusers of the liberty they had on earth, enter into
their long home all of one uniform and spotless hue?

7. Thus then it comes to be, by order of nature and good consequence,
that the man who has abandoned God, goes without God; and he who has
shunned his last end and final good, arrives not unto it; and he who
would not go, when invited, to the feast, eats not of the same: and
whoso has withdrawn from God, from him God withdraws. "A curse he
loved, and it shall come upon him; and he would not have a blessing,
and it shall be far from him. He put on the curse like a garment, and
it has gone in like water into his entrails, and like oil into his
bones,--like a garment which covereth him, and like a girdle wherewith
he is girded continually." (Psalm cviii. 18, 19.)

8. Conversely, we might argue the final happiness which attaches to
the observance of the law of nature. (c. ii., s. v., p. 26.)

_Readings._--St. Thos., _Cont. Gent._, iii., cc. 140, 141, 143, 145.

SECTION II.--_Of the Finality of the aforesaid Sanction_.

1. By a _final_, as distinguished from an _eternal_ state, is here
meant the last state of existence in a creature, whether that state go
on for ever, in which case it is _final_ and _eternal_, or whether it
terminate in the cessation of that creature's being, which is a case
of a state _final_, but not _eternal_. Whether the unhappy souls of
men, who have incurred the last sentence of the natural law, shall
exist for eternity, is not a question for philosophy to decide with
certainty. The philosopher rules everything _a priori_, showing what
must be, if something else is. Of the action of God in the world, he
can only foretell that amount which is thus hypothetically necessary.
Some divine action there is, of which the _congruity_ only, not the
_necessity_, is apparent to human eyes: there the philosopher can tell
with _probability_, but not with _certainty_, what God will do. Other
actions of God are wholly beyond our estimate of the reasons of them:
we call them simply and entirely free. In that sphere philosophy has
no information to render of her own; she must wait to hear from
revelation what God has done, or means to do. Philosophers have given
_reasons of congruence_, as they call them, for the reprobate sinner
not being annihilated, and therefore for his _final_ punishment being
_eternal_. Those reasons go to evince the probability of eternal
punishment, a probability which is deepened into certainty by
revelation. We shall not enter into them here, but shall be content to
argue that a term is set to the career of the transgressor, arrived at
which he must leave hope behind of ever winning his way to happiness,
or ever leading any other existence than one of misery.

2. The previous question has shown that some punishment must attend
upon violation of the natural law. Suppose a trangressor has suffered
accordingly for a certain time after death, what shall be done with
him in the end? If he does not continue to suffer as long as he
continues to be, then one of three things: he must either pass into
happiness, or into a new state of probation, or his very punishment
must be a probation, wherein if he behaves well, he shall be rewarded
with happiness at last, or if ill, he shall continue in misery until
he amend. All this speculation, be it understood, lies apart from
revelation. If then the sufferer passed out of this world,
substantially and in the main a good man, it is not unreasonable that,
after a period of expiatory suffering for minor delinquencies, he
should reach that happiness which is the just reward of his
substantial righteousness. But what of him who closed his career in
wickedness exceeding great? Mere suffering will never make of him a
good man, or a fit subject for happiness. But the suffering may be
probationary, and he may amend himself under the trial. Against that
hypothesis philosophers have brought _a priori_ arguments to show that
the period of probation must end with the separation of the soul from
the body. But waiving all such arguments, let us suppose that there
might be probation after probation even in the world to come. But some
human souls would continue obstinately and unrepentingly set in
wickedness, age after age, and probation after probation: for the
possible malice of the will is vastly great. What is to become of such
obstinate characters? It seems against the idea of probation, that
periods of trial should succeed one another in an endless series. It
would be a reasonable rule in a university, that an undergraduate who
had been plucked twenty-five times, should become ineligible for his
degree. Coming after so many failures, neither would the degree be any
ornament to him, nor he to the university. A soul cannot look for
seasons without end of possible grace and pardon to shine upon it. The
series of probations must end somewhere. And then? We are come round
to where we began. When all the probation is over, the soul is found
either in conformity with the natural law, which means ultimate
happiness, or at variance with the law, and becomes miserable with a
misery that shall never terminate, unless the soul itself ceases to

3. It may be asked, how much conformity to the natural law is
requisite and sufficient, to exempt a person at the end of his trial
from a final doom of misery, or to ensure his lasting happiness? The
question resolves itself into three:--how do sins differ in point of
gravity? is grave sin ever forgiven? is the final award to be given
upon the person's whole life, a balance being struck between his good
and evil deeds, or is it to be simply upon his moral state at the last
moment of his career of trial?

4. It was a paradox of the Stoics, that all offences are equal, the
treading down of your neighbour's cabbage as heinous a crime as
sacrilege. (Horace, _Satires_, i., 3, 115-119.) But it is obvious that
there is a vast difference, as well _objectively_ in the matter of the
offence, _e.g_., in the instance just quoted from Horace, as also
_subjectively_ in the degree of knowledge, advertence, and will,
wherewith the offender threw himself into the sin. Thus offences come
to be distinguished as _grave_ and _light_: the latter being such as
with a human master would involve a reprimand, the former, instant
dismissal. Final misery is not incurred except by grave offending.

5. The second question, whether grave sin is ever forgiven, cannot be
answered by philosophy. Of course the sinner may see by the light of
reason his folly and his error, and thereby conceive some sort of
sorrow for it, and retract, and to some extent withdraw his will from
it on natural grounds. This amendment of sin on its moral and
philosophical side may deserve and earn pardon at human hands. But the
offence against God remains to be reckoned for with God. Now God is
not bound to forgive without receiving satisfaction; and He never can
receive due satisfaction from man for the contempt that a deliberate,
grave, and flagrant violation of the moral law puts upon the Infinite
Majesty of the Lawgiver. The first thing that revelation has to teach
us is whether, and on what terms, God is ready to pardon grievous sin.

6. The balance between deeds good and evil is not struck merely at the
instant of death. It is being struck continually; and man's final
destiny turns on how that balance stands at the close of his time of
probation. So long as he keeps the substance of the moral law, the
balance is in his favour. But one downright wilful and grievous
transgression outweighs with God all his former good deeds. It is a
defiance of the Deity, a greater insult than all his previous life was
a service and homage. It is as though a loyal regiment had mutinied,
or a hitherto decent and orderly citizen were taken red-handed in
murder. If however God deigns to draw the offender to repentance, and
to pardon him, the balance is restored. Thus everything finally
depends on man being free from guilt of grievous transgression at the
instant of death, or at the end of his period of probation, whenever
and wherever that end may come.

_Reading_.--Lessius, _De perfectionibus divinis_, 1.xiii., c. xxvi.,
nn. 183, seq.

SECTION III.--_Of Punishment Retrospective and Retributive_.

1. The doctrine of the last section might stand even in the mind of
one who held that all punishment is probational, and destined for the
amendment of him who undergoes it, to humble him, to awaken his sense
of guilt, and to make him fear to transgress again. On this theory of
punishment, the man who in his last probational suffering refuses to
amend, must be let drop out of existence as incorrigible, and so
clearly his final state is one of misery. The theory is not
inconsistent with _final_ punishment, but with _eternal_ punishment,
unless indeed we can suppose a creature for all eternity to refuse,
and that under stress of torment, a standing invitation to repentance.
It is however a peculiar theory, and opposite to the common tradition
of mankind, which has ever been to put gross offenders to death, not
as incorrigible, not simply as refuse to be got rid of, but that their
fate may be a _deterrent_ to others. Punishment, in this view, is
_medicinal_ to the individual, and _deterrent_ to the community.
Eternal punishment has been defended on the score of its _deterrent_
force. Both these functions of punishment, the _medicinal_ and the
_deterrent_ function, are prospective. But there is asserted a third
function, which is retrospective: punishment is said to be
_retributive_. It is on this ground that the justification of eternal
punishment mainly rests. We are however here concerned, not with that
eternity, but in an endeavour to give a full and adequate view of
punishment in all its functions.

2. If punishment is never _retributive_, the human race in all
countries and ages has been the sport of a strange illusion. Everyone
knows what _vengeance_ means. It is a desire to punish some one, or to
see him punished, not prospectively and with an eye to the future, for
his improvement, or as a warning to others, but retrospectively and
looking to the past, that he may suffer for what he has done. Is then
the idea of vengeance nothing but an unclean phantom? Is there no such
thing as vengeance to a right-minded man? Then is there an evil
element, an element _essentially_ and _positively_ evil, in human
nature. No one will deny that the idea, and to some extent the desire,
of vengeance, of retaliation, of retrospective infliction of suffering
in retribution for evil done, of what we learn to call in the nursery
_tit for tat_, is natural to mankind. It is found in all men. We all
respond to the sentiment:

Mighty Fates, by Heaven's decree accomplish,
According as right passes from this side to that.
For hateful speech let speech of hate be paid back:
Justice exacting her due cries this aloud:
For murderous blow dealt let the murderer pay
By stroke of murder felt.
Do and it shall be done unto thee:
Old is this saying and old and old again.

[Footnote 16: Aschylus, _Choephori_, 316, seq. These lines embody the
idea on which the dramas of the Shakespeare of Greece are principally
founded. But when was a work of the highest art based upon an idea
unsound, irrational and vicious?]

Nor must we be led away by Mill (_Utilitarianism_, c.v.) into
confounding retaliation, or vengeance, with self-defence. Self-defence
is a natural idea also, but not the same as retaliation. We defend
ourselves against a mad dog, we do not retaliate on him. Hence we must
not argue that, because self-defence is prospective, therefore so is

3. A thing is _essentially_ evil, when there is no possible use of it
which is not an abuse. Not far different is the conception of a thing
_positively_ evil, evil, that is, not by reason of any deficiency, or
by what it is not, but evil by what it is in itself. Such an
essential, positive evil in human nature would vengeance be, a natural
thing for which there was no natural use, unless punishment may in
some measure be retributive. We cannot admit such a flaw in nature.
All healthy philosophy goes on the principle, that what is natural is
so far forth good. Otherwise we lapse into Manicheism, pessimism,
scepticism, abysses beyond the reach of argument. Vengeance
undoubtedly prompts to many crimes, but so does the passion of love.
Both are natural impulses. It would scarcely be an exaggeration to set
down one third of human transgressions to love, and another third to
revenge: yet it is the abuse in each case, not the use, that leads to
sin. If the matrimonial union were wicked and detestable, as the
Manicheans taught, then would the passion of love be an abomination
connatural to man. Such another enormity would be the affection of
vengeance, if punishment could never rightly be retributive.

4. Aristotle, _Rhetoric_, I., x., 17, distinguishes two functions of
punishment thus: "Chastisement is for the benefit of him that suffers
it, but vengeance is for him that wreaks it, that he may have
satisfaction." Add to this the warning given to the commonwealth by
the example that is made of the offender, and we have the three
functions of punishment, _medicinal_, _deterrent_, and _retributive_.
As it is _medicinal_, it serves the _offender_: as it is _deterrent_,
it serves the _commonwealth_: as it is _retributive_, it serves the
_offended party_, being a reparation offered to him. Now, who is the
offended party in any evil deed? So far as it is a sin against
justice, an infringement of any man's right, he is the offended party.
He is offended, however, not simply and precisely by your violation of
the moral law, but by your having, in violation of that law, taken
away something that belonged to him. Consequently, when you make
restitution and give him back what you took away, with compensation
for the temporal deprival of it, he is satisfied, and the offence
against him is repaired. If you have maliciously burnt his house down,
you bring him the price of the house and furniture, together with
further payment for the fright and for the inconvenience of being, for
the present, houseless. You may do all that, and yet the moral guilt
of the conflagration may remain upon your soul. But that is no affair
of his: he is not the custodian of the moral law: he is not offended
by your sin, formally viewed as sin: nor has he any function of
punishing you, taking vengeance upon you, or exacting from you
retribution for that. But what if his wife and children have perished,
and you meant them so to perish, in the fire? Your debt of restitution
still lies in the matter which you took away. Of course it is a debt
that cannot be paid. You cannot give back his "pretty chickens and
their dam" whole and alive again. Still your inability to pay one debt
does not make you liable to that creditor for another debt, which is
part of a wholly different account. He is not offended by, nor are you
answerable to him for, your sin in this case any more than in the

5. We may do an _injury_ to an individual, commit a _crime_ against
the State, and _sin_ against God. The injury to the individual is
repaired by restitution, not by punishment, and therefore not by
vengeance, which is a function of punishment. There is no such thing
as vengeance for a private wrong, and therefore we have the precept to
forgive our enemies, and not to avenge ourselves, in which phrase the
emphasis falls on the word _ourselves_. The clear idea and strong
desire of vengeance, which nature affords, shows that there is such a
thing as vengeance to be taken by some one: it does not warrant every
form of vengeance, or allow it to be taken by each man for himself. It
consecrates the principle of retribution, not every application of the
principle. It is a point of _synderesis_, not of particular conduct.
The reader should recall what was said of the vengeance of Hannibal at
Himera. (c. viii., s. ii., p. 144.)

6. It belongs to the State to punish _political sin_, or crime, and to
God to punish _theological sin_, which is sin properly so called, a
breach of the Eternal Law. The man who has burnt his neighbour's house
down, though he has compensated the individual owner, may yet be
punished by the State. The owner, acting in his capacity as citizen,
even when he has been compensated as an individual, may still hand him
over to the State for punishment. The arson was a violation, not only
of _commutative_, but of _legal_ justice (c. v., s. ix., nn. 3, 6, pp.
103, 106), a disturbance of the public peace and social order, an
outrage upon the majesty of the law. For this he may be punished by
the State, which is the guardian of all these things, and which has
jurisdiction over him to make laws for him, and to enforce their
sanction against him. Civil punishment, besides being deterrent, is
retributive for the breach of social order. It is the vengeance of the
commonwealth upon the disturber of the public peace. Whether the State
can punish on pure grounds of retribution, away from all hope or need
of deterring possible imitators of the crime, is a question irrelevant
to our present enquiry. Probably a negative answer should be returned.

7. We come now to the punishment of sin by God, the Living
Reasonableness, the Head of the Commonwealth of Creation, the
Legislator of the Eternal Law, the Fountain of all Jurisdiction, Him
in whose hands rests the plenitude of the power to punish. An evil
deed may be no wrong to any individual man, no crime against the
State, but it must ever be an offence against God. It is a departure
from the order of man's progress as a reasonable being (c. v., s.
iii., n. 3, p. 74: c. vi., s. i., nn. 1-5, p. 109), which is founded
on the nature of God Himself (c. vi., s. i., n. 7, p. 113), of which
order God is the official guardian (c. vi., s. ii., nn. 8-10, p. 119),
and which is enjoined by God's Eternal Law. (c. vii., n. 3, p. 129.)
This law extends to all creation, rational and irrational, animate and
inanimate. It bids every creature work according to his or its own
nature and circumstances. Given to irrational beings, the law is
simply irresistible and unfailing: such are the physical laws of
nature, so many various emanations of the one Eternal Law. Given to
rational creatures, the law may be resisted and broken: sin is the one
thing in the universe that does break it. (c. vii., nn. 5-7, p. 130.)
A man may act in disregard of the Eternal Law on one or other of its
physical sides, and so much the worse for him, though he has not
broken the law, but merely ignored its operation, as when one eats
what is unwholesome. Much more shall he suffer for having broken the
law, in the only possible way that it can be broken, by sin. This
peculiar violation draws after it a peculiar consequence of suffering,
penal and retributive. If a man gets typhoid fever in his house, we
sometimes say it is a _punishment_ on him for neglecting his drains,
even when the neglect was a mere piece of ignorance or inadvertence.
It is an evil consequence certainly,--the law, which he thought not
of, working itself out in the form of disease. But it is not properly
punishment: no natural law has been really broken: there has been no
guilt, and the suffering is not retributive and compensatory. It does
not go to restore the balance of the neglect. It is a lamentable
consequence, not a repayment. As, when man wrongs his fellow-man, he
makes with him an _involuntary contract_ (c. v., s. ix., n. 6, p.
106), to restore what he takes away: so in sinning against God, man
makes another involuntary contract, to pay back in suffering against
his will what he unduly takes in doing his own will against the will
of the Legislator. As St. Augustine says of Judas (Serm. 125, n. 5):
"He did what he liked, but he suffered what he liked not. In his doing
what he liked, his sin is found: in his suffering what he liked not,
God's ordinance is praised." Thus it is impossible for the Eternal
Law, which bears down all so irresistibly in irrational nature,
finally to fail of its effect even upon the most headstrong and
contumacious of rational creatures; but, as St. Thomas says (1a 2a, q.
93, art. 6, in corp.), "The defect of doing is made up by suffering,
inasmuch as they suffer what the Eternal Law prescribes for them to
the extent to which they fail to do what accords with the Eternal
Law." And St. Anselm (_Cur Deus homo_, nn. 14, 15): "God cannot
possibly lose His honour: for either the sinner spontaneously pays
what he owes, or God exacts it of him against his will. Thus if a man
chooses to fly from under the will of God commanding, he falls under
the same will punishing." Punishment is called by Hegel, "the other
half of sin." Lastly, they are God's own spoken words (Deut. xxxii.
35): "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay."

_Readings_.--St. Thos., _Cont. Gent_., iii. 140, n. 5, Amplius; _ib_.,
iii., 144, nn. 8, Per hoc, and 9, Est autem.

For Plato's views on punishment see _Protag_. 324 A, B; _Gorgias_,
525; _Rep_. 380 B, 615; _Phaedo_, 113 E; _Laws_, 854 D; 862 D, E; 934
A; 957 E. Plato recognizes only the _medicinal_ and the _deterrent_
functions of punishment, and ignores the _retributive_. This is not to
be wondered at in one who wrote: "No one is wicked voluntarily; but it
is an evil habit of body and a faulty education that is the cause of
every case of wickedness" (_Timaeus_, 86 E; cf. _Laws_, 731 C, D),
which error receives a masterly confutation in Aristotle, _Ethics_,
III, v.



1. Though the name _utilitarian_ is an English growth of this century,
the philosophy so called probably takes its origin from the days when
man first began to speculate on moral matters. Bentham and the two
Mills, Austin, and George Grote, have repeated in England the
substance of what Protagoras and Epicurus taught in Greece, two
thousand years before. It is the system of Ethics to which all must
incline, who ignore the spiritual side of man's nature and his hopes
of a better world. It is a morality of the earth, earthy.

2. Utilitarianism has not been formulated like the Athanasian Creed.
It is impossible to state it and combat it in a form to which all
Utilitarians will subscribe. Indeed, it is an amiable weakness of
theirs, when confronted with the grosser consequences that flow from
their theories, to run off to some explanation, true enough, but quite
out of keeping with the primary tenets of their school. We will take
what may be called a "mean reading" of the indications which various
Utilitarian thinkers afford of their mind and philosophy. These
authorities, then, teach two main heads of doctrine:--

(1) That the last end and final good of man lies in this world, and
consists in the greatest happiness of the greatest number of mankind,
happiness being taken to mean pleasure as well of the senses as of the
understanding, such pleasure as can be had in this world, along with
immunity from pain. (Mill's _Utilitarianism_, 2nd Ed., pp. 9, seq.)

(2) That human acts are _right_ or _wrong_, according as they are
_useful_ or _hurtful_, that is, according as their consequences make
for or against the above-mentioned end of social happiness.

3. Consequences, as Utilitarians very properly point out, are either
_general_ or _particular_. They add that, in pronouncing an action to
be good or evil according to its consequences, they mean the general
and not the particular consequences. In other words, they bid us
consider, not the immediate results of _this action_, but what would
be the result to society, if _this sort of action_ were generally
allowed. This point is well put by Paley (_Moral Philosophy_, bk. ii.,
c. vii.: all three chapters, vi., vii., viii., should be read, as the
best explanation of the Principle of General Consequences):

"You cannot permit one action and forbid another, without showing a
difference between them. Consequently the same sort of actions must be
generally permitted or generally forbidden. Where, therefore, the
general permission of them would be pernicious, it becomes necessary
to lay down and support the rule which generally forbids them.... The
assassin knocked the rich villain on the head, because he thought him
better out of the way than in it. If you allow this excuse in the
present instance, you must allow it to all who act in the same manner,
and from the same motive; that is, you must allow every man to kill
any one he meets, whom he thinks noxious or useless: ... a disposition
of affairs which would soon fill the world with misery and confusion,
and ere long put an end to human society."

My contention is, not with the Principle of General Consequences,
which has a certain value in Ethics, and is used by many writers other
than Utilitarian, but with the two stated above, n. 2, which are
called the Greatest Happiness Principle and the Principle of Utility.

4. Against the Greatest Happiness Principle I have these complaints:

(1) Utilitarians from Paley to John Stuart Mill aver that their
teaching is no bar to any man hoping for and striving after the
happiness of the world to come. They say that such happiness cannot be
better attained than by making it your principal aim to improve all
temporal goods and dissipate all temporal evil. Their maxim in fact
is: "Take care of the things of earth, and the things of heaven will
take care of themselves." Whereas it was the very contrary teaching of
Him, whom moderns, who see in Him no higher character, still love to
call the greatest of moral teachers: "That which fell among thorns are
they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares
and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit." (St. Luke
viii. 14.)

(2) It will be said that these thorns grow of selfishness, and that
these cares are the cares of individual interest, whereas the
Utilitarian's delight and glory is to live, not for himself, but for
the commonwealth. But how can a man, who takes pleasure to be his
highest good and happiness, live otherwise than for himself? Here we
come upon the unobserved fault and flaw, which entirely vitiates the
Utilitarian structure. It is an union of two opposite and incompatible
elements. An old poet has said:

Vinegar and oil in one same vessel pour,
They stand apart, unfriendly, all the more.

(Aeschylus, _Agam_., 330, 331.)

Utilitarianism consists of a still more unfriendly and unwholesome
mixture of two elements, both of them bad, and unable to stand
together, Hedonism and Altruism. Hedonism is the doctrine that the
main object and end of life is pleasure: which is the position laid
down in so many words by Mill (1. c.), that "actions are right in
proportion as they tend to promote happiness;" and "by happiness is
intended pleasure and the absence of pain." If Hedonism were sound
doctrine, the Pleasant and the Good would be identical, and the most
pleasant pleasure would ever be the best pleasure. That would take
away all distinction of _kind_ or _quality_ among pleasures, and
differentiate them only by intensity and duration. This was Paley's
doctrine, a fundamental point of Hedonism, and therefore also of the
Utilitarian philosophy. John Mill, very honourably to himself, but
very fatally to the system that he was writing to defend, parted
company with Paley. We have argued against Paley (c. iv., s. iii., nn.
3-5, p. 55), that there is a _better_ and a _worse_ in pleasures,
quite distinct from the _more_ or _less_ pleasurable, even if that
_more_ be taken _in the long run_ in this world.

Again it may be considered that pleasure, even the best and highest,
is a sort of efflorescence from activity, and is for activity, not
activity for it; and better is the activity, whatever it be, than the
pleasure which comes thereof; wherefore no pleasure, as pleasure, can
be the highest good and happiness of man.

Hedonism then is an error. But errors may be opposed to one another as
well as to the truth. Hedonism is opposed to Altruism in this way. A
man may take pleasure in seeing other people enjoy themselves. Nothing
is more common, except the pleasure taken in enjoying one's own self.
But if a man only feeds the hungry that he may have the satisfaction
of seeing them eat, is it the hungry or himself that he finally seeks
to gratify? Clearly, himself. That is the behaviour of the Hedonist,
he acts for his own pleasure even in his benevolence. The Altruist, on
the contrary, professes never to act for self, but for society. So
that society flourish, he is ready to be crushed and ruined, not in
the matter of his pleasure only, but even in that of his own good.
Selfishness, by which he means all manner of regard to self, is, upon
his conscience, the unforgiven sin. But Hedonism is selfishness in the
grossest form, being the mere pursuit in all things of pleasurable
feeling--feeling being always particular and limited to self, in
contradistinction to good, which is universal and diffuses itself all
round. The Hedonist seeks his own pleasure, where the Altruist forbids
him to take thought, let alone for his gratification, but even for his
good. Thus an Hedonist cannot be Altruist to boot; and, trying to
combine the two characters, the Utilitarian is committed to a

If he relinquishes Hedonism, and holds to Altruism, pure and simple,
his position is not much improved. Altruism overlooks the fact, that
man, as compared with other men, is a _person_, the centre of his own
acts, not a _thing_, to be entirely referred to others. He is in
relation with others, as child, father, husband, master, citizen; but
these relations do not take up the whole man. There is a residue
within,--an inner being and life, which is not referable to any
creature outside himself, but only to the Creator. For this inner
being, man is responsible to God alone. The good of this, the "inner
man of the heart," is each individual's proper and primary care.
Altruism, and Utilitarianism with it, ignore the interior life of the
soul, and substitute human society, that is, ultimately, the
democratic State, in place of God.

(3) Another confusion that the Greatest Happiness Principle involves,
is the mistaking the political for the ethical end of life. The
political end, which it is the statesman's business to aim at, and the
citizen's duty to subserve, is "the natural happiness of the
commonwealth, and of individuals as members of the commonwealth, that
they may live in it in peace and justice, and with a sufficiency of
goods for the preservation and comfort of bodily life, and with that
amount of moral rectitude which is necessary for this outward peace
and preservation of the commonwealth, and the perpetuity of the human
race." (Suarez, _De Legibus_, III., xi., 7.) This is all the good that
the Utilitarian contemplates. He is satisfied to make a good
_citizen_, a good _husband_, a good _father_, for the transactions of
this life. He has no concern to make a good _man_ up to the ethical
standard, which supposes the observance of the whole natural law,
duties to God, and duties within himself, as well as duties to human
society, and by this observance the compassing of the everlasting
happiness of the man's own individual soul.

Against the Principle of Utility I find these charges:

(1) It takes the sign and indication of moral evil for the evil
itself, as if the physician should take the symptom for the disease.
It places the wickedness of an act in the physical misery and
suffering that are its consequences. This is, I say, a taking of the
indication for the thing indicated. An act is bad in itself and by
itself, as being a violation of the rational nature of the doer (c.
vi., s. i.), and being bad, it breeds bad consequences. But the
badness of the act is moral; the badness of the consequences,
physical. There is an evident intrinsic irrationality, and thereby
moral evil, in such sins as intemperance, peevishness, and vanity. But
let us take an instance of an act, apparently harmless in itself, and
evil solely because of the consequences. Supposing one insists upon
playing the piano for his own amusement, to the disturbance of an
invalid who is lying in a critical state in the next room. Do the mere
consequences make this otherwise innocent amusement evil? Yes, if you
consider the amusement in the abstract: but if you take it as _this
human act_, the act is inordinate and evil in itself, or as it is
elicited in the mind of the agent. The volition amounts to this: "I
prefer my amusement to my neighbour's recovery," which is an act
unseemly and unreasonable in the mind of a social being. Utilitarians
fall into the capital error of ignoring the intrinsic value of an act,
and estimating it wholly by extrinsic results, because they commonly
follow the phenomenalist philosophy, which breaks away from all such
ideas as _substance_ and _nature_, and regards nothing but sequences
and coexistences of phenomena. To a phenomenalist the precept, _Live
up to thy nature_, can have no meaning.

(2) Aristotle (_Ethics_, II., iv., 3) draws this distinction between
virtue and art, that "the products of art have their excellence in
themselves: it suffices therefore that they are of this or that
quality: but acts of virtue are not done virtuously according to the
quality of the thing done, but according to the state of mind of the
doer; first, according to his knowledge of what he was about; then,
according to his volition, as that was guided or not guided by the
proper motives of the virtue; thirdly, according to the steadiness and
fixedness of his will; whereas all these considerations are of no
account in a work of art, except the single one of the artist being
aware of what he was about." Elsewhere (_Ethics_, VI., iv., 2), he
says that virtue is distinguished from art as being _action_, not
_production_. The Principle of Utility confounds virtue with art, or
perhaps I should say, with manufactures. It judges conduct, as one
would shoemaking, by trial of the product, or net result. So far from
being solicitous, with Aristotle, that volition should be "guided by
the proper motives of the virtue" which there is question of
practising (c. v., s. viii., n. 4, p. 96: Ar. _Eth_., III., viii.),
Mill (_Utilitarianism_, p. 26) tells us that "utilitarian moralists
have gone beyond almost all others in affirming that the motive has
nothing to do with the morality of the action." By _motive_ he
understands what we have called _the end in view_. (c. iii., s. ii.,
n. 2, p. 31.) So that, if one man waits on the sick for the love of
God, and another in hope of a legacy, the morality of these two acts
is the same, just as it makes no difference to the usefulness of a
pair of boots, what motive it was that set the shoemaker to work.
True, Mill admits that the motive has "much to do with the worth of
the agent:" but that, he hastens to explain, is inasmuch as "it
indicates ... a bent of character from which useful, or from which
hurtful actions are likely to arise." Even so,--the shoemaker who
works to earn money for a carousal, is not likely to go on producing
useful articles so long as another, who labours to support his family.
Such is the moral difference that Mill places between the two men; one
instrument of production is longer available than the other.

(3) Another well established distinction is that between _harm_ and
_injury_, injury being wilful and unjust harm. The housemaid, who in
arranging the room has burned your manuscript of "sugared sonnets,"
has done you no injury, for she meant none, but how vast the _harm_ to
the author and to mankind! Harm is visible in the effects: but injury
only upon examination of the mind of the agent. Not so, however, the
Utilitarian thinks: harm being equal, he can make no difference
between a tyrant and a man-eating tiger. Thus George Grote says of a
certain murderous usurper of the kingdom of Macedon: "You discover
nothing while your eye is fixed on Archelaus himself.... But when you
turn to the persons whom he has killed, banished, or ruined--to the
mass of suffering that he has inflicted--and to the widespread
insecurity which such acts of iniquity spread through all societies
where they become known--there is no lack of argument which prompts a
reflecting spectator to brand him as [a most dangerous and destructive
animal, no] a disgraceful man." (Grote's _Plato_, ii., p. 108.) Why
Archelaus is described in terms of the tiger, and then branded as a
disgraceful man, we are at a loss to conceive, except in this way,
that the writer's philosophy forsook him at the end of the sentence,
and he reverted to the common sense of mankind. But he should have
either ended the sentence as suggested in the parenthesis, or have
been willing to call the man-eater of the Indian jungle, who has
"learned to make widows, and to lay waste their cities," _a
disgraceful tiger_; or lastly, he should have looked back, where he
declared it was vain to look, upon Archelaus himself, and discerned in
him that moral deformity, and contradiction of reason, whereof a brute
beast is incapable, but which is a disgrace and a stain upon humanity.

A later writer, who presses Utilitarianism into the service of
Socialism, is plainer-spoken than Grote, and says bluntly: "To be
honestly mistaken avails nothing. Thus Herbert Spencer--who is under
the delusion that we have come into this world each for the sake of
himself, and who opposes, as far as he can, the evolution of
society--is verily an immoral man.... Right is every conduct which
tends to the welfare of society; wrong, what obstructs that welfare."
(Gronlund, _Co-operative Commonwealth_, pp. 226, 227.) Thus is
overlaid the difference between harm and injury, between physical and
moral evil: thus is the meaning of a _human act_ ignored: in this
abyss of chaos and confusion, which Utilitarianism has opened out,
Moral Philosophy finds her grave.

(4) The Principle of Utility sees in virtue a habit of self-sacrifice,
useful to the community, but not naturally pleasant, and therefore not
naturally good and desirable, to him that practises it, but made
pleasurable and good and desirable to him by practice. (Mill, pp.
53-57.) In this way virtue becomes naturally a very good thing for
every one else but its possessor, but to him it is a natural evil,
inasmuch as it deprives him of pleasure, which natural evil by habit
is gradually converted into a factitious and artificial good, the man
becoming accustomed to it, as the proverb says, "like eels to
skinning." This theory is the resuscitation of one current among the
Sophists at Athens, and described by Plato thus.--The natural good of
man is to afford himself every indulgence, even at the expense of his
neighbours. He follows his natural good accordingly: so do his
neighbours follow theirs, and try to gratify themselves at his
expense. Fights ensue, till mankind, worried and wearied with
fighting, make a compact, each to give up so much of his natural good
as interferes with that of his neighbour. Human society, formed on
this understanding, enforces the compact in the interest of society.
Thus the interest of society is opposed to the interest of the
individual, in this that it keeps him out of his best natural good,
which is to do as his appetite of pleasure bids him in all things,
though it compensates him with a second-class good, by preventing his
neighbours from pleasure-hunting at his expense. If then his
neighbours could be restrained, and he left free to gratify himself,
that would be perfect bliss. But only a despot here or there has
attained to it. The ordinary man must pay his tax of virtue to the
community, a loss to him, but a gain to all the rest: while he is
compensated by the losses which their virtue entails upon them.

Such was the old Athenian theory, which John Mill, the Principle of
Utility in his hand, completes by saying that by-and-bye, and little
by little (as the prisoner of Chillon came to love his dungeon), the
hampered individual comes to love, and to find an artificial happiness
in, those restrictions of his liberty, which are called Virtue.

It was against this theory that Plato wrote his _Republic_, and, to
compare a little thing to a great, the whole account of moral good
being in consonance with nature, and of moral obligation rising out of
the nature of the individual man, as has been set forth in this brief
Text-book, may serve for a refutation of the perverse doctrine of

_Readings_.--Plato, _Republic_, pp. 338 E, 339 A, 343 C, D, E, 344 A,
B, C, 358 E, 359 A, B, 580 B, C.

* * * * *


We assume in Natural Law the preceding treatise on Ethics, and also
the principal truths of Natural Theology.



SECTION I.--_Of the Worship of God_.

1. _Worship_ is divided into _prayer_ and _praise_. To pray, and
present our petitions to the Most High, is a privilege; a privilege,
however, which we are bound to use at times, as the necessary means
for overcoming temptations and inclinations to evil. We praise and
adore God for His sovereign excellence, which excellence,
nevertheless, would found in us no positive duty if we stood free of
all dependence upon God. In such an hypothesis we should lie simply
under the negative duty of not thinking of God, speaking of Him, or
acting towards Him otherwise than with all reverence. So we should
behave to the Great Stranger, with civility, with admiration even and
awe, but not with cordiality, not with loyalty, not with homage, not
with love. Very different are our relations and our duties to God our
Lord, "in whom we live, move, and have our being." There is nothing in
us or about us, no positive perfection of ours whatsoever, that is not
His gift, and a gift that He is not giving continually, else it would
be lost to us. We are therefore bound in His regard, not merely to
abstention but to act. And first, for inward acts, we must habitually
feel, and at notable intervals we must actually elicit, sentiments of
adoration and praise, of thanksgiving, of submission, of loyalty and
love, as creatures to their Creator, and as vassals to their very good
Lord, for He is our Creator and Lord in the natural order, not to say
anything here of the supernatural filiation, by which, as the Church
says, "we dare" to call God "Our Father."

2. We must also express these sentiments by outward act. All the signs
of reverence, which man pays to his human superior, must be paid to
God "with advantages": bowing passes into prostration, uncovering the
head into kneeling, kissing the hand into offering of incense: not
that these particular developments are necessary, but some such
development must take place. We shall not be content to think
reverential thoughts, but we shall say, or even sing, great things of
God's greatness and our indebtedness and duty: such a vocal exercise
is psalmody. We shall represent in symbolic action our dependence on
the Lord of life and death, and also our sinfulness, for which He
might justly strike us dead: such a representation is sacrifice.

3. All this we must do, first, for the sake of our own souls, minds
and hearts, to quicken the inward sentiment of adoration and praise.
"Worship, mostly of the silent sort," worship, that finds no
expression in word or gesture,--worship away from pealing organs and
chants of praise, or the simpler music of the human voice, where no
hands are uplifted, nor tongues loosened, nor posture of reverence
assumed, becomes with most mortals a vague, aimless reverie, a course
of distraction, dreaminess, and vacancy of mind, no more worth than
the meditations of the Lancashire stone-breaker, who was asked what he
thought of during his work,--"Mostly nowt."

4. Again, what the body is to the soul, that is exterior devotion to
interior. From the soul interior devotion springs, and through the
body it manifests itself. Exterior devotion, without the inward spirit
that quickens it, is worship unprofitable and dead: it tends at once
to corruption, like the body when the soul has left it. Interior
devotion, on the other hand, can exist, though not with its full
complement, without the exterior. So that it is only in the union of
the two together that perfect worship is given to God by men as men.
Upon which St. Thomas has this naive remark, that "they who blame
bodily observances being paid to God, evidently fail to remember that
they themselves are men."

Thus we pay tithe to God for soul and body, by acts of religion
interior and exterior. But man is, under God, the lord of this earth
and of the fulness thereof. He must pay tithe for that too by devoting
some portion of it to the direct service of God, to whom it all
primarily belongs. For "mine is the gold and mine the silver." (Aggeus
ii. 9.) Such are the words that God spoke through His prophet to
incite His people to restore his sanctuary.

6. It is therefore not true to say that the sole reason of outward
worship is to move the worshipper to interior devotion. It is not true
that St. Peter's at Rome, and Cologne Cathedral, and the Duomo of
Milan, with all their wealth and elaborate ceremonial, exist and are
kept up solely because, things of earth as we are, we cannot be
depended upon to praise God lovingly within the white-washed walls of
a conventicle, or according to the simple ritual of the Society of
Friends. We would not, even if we could, pray habitually among such
surroundings, where we could afford to better them. We have before us
the principle of St. Thomas (1a 2a, q. 24, art. 3, in corp.):

"Since man's good consists in reason as in its root, the more actions
proper to man are performed under the direction of reason, the more
perfect will man's good be. Hence no one doubts that it belongs to the
perfection of moral good, that the actions of our bodily members
should be directed by the law of reason, ... as also that the passions
of the soul should be regulated by reason."

This means, not merely that if the bodily members or the passions stir
at all, it is a good and desirable thing for them to be ruled by
reason; but further that it is a positive addition to human perfection
that they should stir and be active, provided reason guide them.
(_Ethics_, c. iv., s. i., n. 6, p. 45.)

It certainly is an action proper to man to express in gesture, in
voice, in concert and company with his fellow-men, and by employment
of whatever is best and fairest and brightest under his command in the
material creation, his inward affections of loyalty, of homage and
devotion, of awe and reverence, of gratitude and love to his Creator.

Good as these affections are in the heart of the worshipper, they
receive an external complement of goodness and perfection by being
blazoned forth in vocal utterance, singing, bending of knees,--by the
erection and embellishment of temples, and offerings of gold, silver,
precious stones, and incense,--and by men thronging those temples in
multitudes for social worship,--provided always that the inward
devotion of the heart be there, to put a soul into these outward
demonstrations and offerings.

7. Concerning these religious observances interior and exterior, it is
as idle to pretend that they are _useful_ to Almighty God as it is
irrelevant to object that they are _useless_ to Him. Of course they
are useless to Him. All creation is useless to God. A Being who can
never receive any profit, increment, or gain, dwells not within the
region of utilities. Theologians indeed distinguish between intrinsic
and extrinsic glory, that is, between the glory which God gives
Himself by His own contemplation of His own essence, and the glory
which His creatures give Him. They say that God is thus capable of
extrinsic increment, to which increment the praise and worship of His
creatures is useful. But, after all, they are fain to avow that the
whole of this extrinsic increment and glory is no real gain to God,
giving Him nothing but what He had before in an infinitely more
excellent mode and manner from and of Himself. Thus it appears that
the extrinsic glory of God, to which the worship paid Him by man
contributes, is valued, not because it is properly _useful to Him_,
but because He is most properly and highly _worthy of it_. "Thou art
worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power: because
thou hast created all things, and for thy will they were, and have
been created." (Apoc. iv. II.) And being worthy of this glory, He
wills to have it, and does most strictly exact it, for which reason He
is called in the Scripture _a jealous God_. So those who reflect some
sparkle of God's Majesty, and under some aspect represent His person
upon the earth, as do princes, lay and ecclesiastical, have many
observances of honour and respect paid to them, which are not _useful_
as supplying a _need_--for who needs a salute of twenty-one guns?
nevertheless their dignity is _worthy_ of them, and they require them

8. What man feels strongly, he expresses in word and action. What all
men feel strongly, they express by meeting together for the purpose.
So that, if strong religious feeling is an element in every good and
reasonable man's character, it is bound to find expression, and that a
social expression. Men must worship together according to some
external form and ritual. God may reveal what He wills that ritual to
be. In fact He did give such a revelation and prescription to the
Jews. To Christians He has spoken in His Son, and still speaks in His
Church. Any other than the one sacrifice that He has instituted, or
any other public religious ritual than is approved by the religious
authority which He has established, is to Him of itself, and apart
from the invincibly erroneous devotion of them that pay it, an
abomination: for He has "not chosen it." Still we cannot say that, in
every possible state of things, God is bound to reveal the ritual that
He desires, or is bound Himself to designate the authority that shall
fix the ritual which alone He will accept and allow of. If the will of
God is not thus expressed, a ritual must still be drawn up. In a
matter that excites the mind, as religion does, and where a large
field is open for hallucination and eccentricity, it will not do to
have individuals parading methods of worship of their own invention.
Here the Greek maxim comes in, [Greek: tima tho daimonion katha tha
patria], "honour the Deity after the fashion of thy country."
Religious authorities must be set up, in the same way that the civil
power is set up. These authorities will determine, not the object, but
the outward manner of worship. Every great nation, or important member
of the human family, would come probably to have its own
characteristic rite; and within each rite there would be local

_Readings_.--St. Thos., _Contra Gentiles_, iii., 119; 2a 2a, q. 81,
art. 4, in corp.; _ib_., q. 81, art. 7 _ib_., q. 84, art. 2: _ib_., q.
85, art. 1, in corp., ad 1, 3; _ib_., q. 91.

SECTION II.--_Of Superstitious Practices_.

1. Superstition is the abuse of religion. It is superstition, either
to worship false gods, or to worship the true God with unauthorized
rites, or to have dealings with wicked spirits, whether those spirits
have once animated human bodies or not. Of the first head, the only
avowed instance within our civilization is the Positivist worship of
the _Great Being_, that is, of the collective Worthies of Humanity, if
indeed it amounts to worship. The second head might have been
meditated by Archbishop Cranmer with advantage, when he was drawing up
the Edwardine Ordinal. Under the third head comes Spiritualism, which
we shall here not discuss in detail, but merely indicate certain
principles upon which it must be judged.

2. "There is nothing superstitious or unlawful in simply applying
natural agencies to the production of certain effects, of which they
are supposed to be naturally capable.... We must consider whether
there is a fair appearance of the cause being able to produce the
effect naturally. If there is, the experiment will not be unlawful:
for it is lawful to use natural causes in order to their proper
effects." (2a 2a, q. 96, art. 2, in corp., ad 1.) But this we must
understand under two provisos. First, that the "fair appearance"
spoken of be not opposed by a considerable force of evidence, whether
of authority or of reason, tending the other way: for in this matter,
which is not a mere matter of legality, it is not permissible to run
risks of becoming familiar with God's enemies. Secondly, that the
cause, though natural, be not morally prejudicial. Not even a natural
cause, brandy for instance, may be used to all its effects. Thus for
the mesmeric sleep, though that should be proved to be purely natural,
yet the weakening of the will thence ensuing, and the almost
irresistible dominion acquired by the operator over his patient,
render it imperative that such a remedy should not be applied without
grave necessity, and under an operator of assured moral character.

3. St. Thomas continues in the place last quoted: "Wherefore, if there
is no fair appearance of the causes employed being able to produce
such effects, it needs must be that they are not employed to the
causation of these effects as causes, but only as signs, and thus they
come under the category of preconcerted signals arranged with evil

The modern Spiritualist is only too forward to avow his understanding
with the unseen powers; but he will have it that the spirits that he
deals with are good and harmless. We must prove the spirits by the
general effects of their communications--whether they be in accordance
with the known laws of morality, and the assured teachings of
religion, natural and revealed. Also we must consider, from what we
know from approved sources concerning God, and His holy angels, and
the spirits of the just, either already made perfect, or still
suffering for a time, whether they are likely to respond to such signs
as Spiritualists commonly employ. Also we must not ignore, what
revelation tells us, of an "enemy," a "father of lies," who "changes
himself into an angel of light," and who is ever ready, so far as it
is permitted him, to eke out curiosity, folly, and credulity, such as
he found in Eve.

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 93; _ib_., q. 95, art. 4, in corp.

SECTION III.--_Of the duty of knowing God_.

1. Religious worship is bound to its object, and cannot possibly be
fixed in the hearts of men and the institutions of society, if the
object be doubtful and fluctuating. False religion has often been set
off with elaborate and gorgeous ceremonial, which has been kept up
even after the performers had come to see in all that light and lustre
a mere vain and unsubstantial show. Such were the rites of Roman
polytheism, as enacted by augurs and pontiffs, the colleagues of
Cicero and Casar. But though that worship was maintained, and even
augmented, for political purposes, without a creed, yet never could it
have arisen without some creed, however mistaken, earnestly held of
old. A firm interior conviction is the starting-point of all outward
worship. But if the modern living worshipper is without creed and
conviction; if he be a scoffer at heart, or at least a doubter; what a
hollow, horrid skeleton thing is his religion,--all the more horrid,
the grander its dress! That is not worship, but mummery.

2. If then to worship God is a duty, as we have proved, it is a duty
likewise to know God. This supposes that God is knowable, a fact which
it does not lie within the province of this work to prove. To an
unknown God, all the worship we could render would be to build Him an
altar, without priest, prayer, or sacrifice, and so leave Him in His
solitude. God is knowable by the _manifestation_ of His works (Rom. i.
19); and where He is pleased to speak, by the _revelation_ of His
word. Apart from revelation--and, under a certain order of Providence,
God might have left us without revelation--we should study our Creator
as He is made manifest in the world around us, in the existence of
perishable things, in the order of the universe, in the region of
things eternally possible and knowable, in moral truths, in the mental
life and conscience of man. Philosophy would be our guide in the
search after God. Men with less leisure or ability for speculation
would acquiesce in the pronouncements of philosophers on things
divine; and, in the hypothesis which we are contemplating, Providence
would doubtless arrange for the better agreement and harmony of
philosophers among themselves. Their trumpet would not send forth so
uncertain a blast, were that the instrument, in the counsels of God,
whereby the whole duty of religion was to be regulated. As it is, we
know better than philosophy could teach us: for God hath spoken in His

_Readings_.--_C. Gent_., i., 4; 1a 2a, q. 91, art. 4, in corp.



SECTION I.--_Of Killing, Direct and Indirect_.

1. In a hilly country, two or three steps sometimes measure all the
interval between the basins of two rivers, whose mouths are miles
apart. In the crisis of an illness the merest trifle will turn the
scale between death and recovery. In a nice point of law and intricate
procedure, the lawyer is aware that scarcely more than the thickness
of the paper on which he writes lies between the case going for his
client or for the opposite party. To rail at these fine technicalities
argues a lay mind, unprofessional and undiscerning. _Hair-splitting_,
so far as it is a term of real reproach, means splitting the wrong
hairs. The expert in any profession knows what things to divide and
distinguish finely, and what things to take in the gross. Moral
Science in many respects gives its demonstrations, and can give them,
only "in the way of rough drawing," as Aristotle says. ([Greek:
pachulos kai tupo], _Ethics_, I., iii., 4.) But there are lines of
division exceeding fine and nice in natural morality no less than in
positive law. The student must not take scandal at the fine lines and
subtle distinctions that we shall be obliged to draw in marking off
lawful from unlawful action touching human life.

2. _It is never lawful directly to kill an innocent man_. Understand
_innocent_ in the social and political sense, of a man who has not, by
any _human act_ (_Ethics_, c. i., n. 2, p. 1) of his own, done any
harm to society so grievous as to compare with loss of life. To kill,
or work any other effect, _directly_, is to bring about that death, or
other effect, willing the same, _either as an end desirable in
itself_, as when a man slays his enemy, whose death of its own sheer
sake is to him a satisfaction and a joy, or _as a means to an end_, as
Richard III. murdered his nephews to open his own way to the throne.
We must then in no case compass the death of the innocent, either
_intending_ it as an _end_, or _choosing_ it as a _means_. The
assertion is proved by these considerations. To kill a man is to
destroy the human nature within him: for, though the soul survives, he
is man no more when he is dead. Now to destroy a thing is to
subordinate that thing entirely to your self and your own purposes:
for that individual thing can never serve any other purpose, once it
is destroyed. The man that is killed is then subordinated to the
slayer, wholly given up, and as we say, _sacrificed_, to the aims and
purposes of him who slays him. But that ought not to be, for man is a
_person_. Body and soul in him make one person, one personal nature,
which _human personality_ is destroyed in death. Now it is the
property of a person to be what we may call _autocentric_, referring
its own operations to itself as to a centre. Every _person_--and every
intelligent nature is a person [Footnote 17]--exists and acts
primarily for himself. A _thing_ is marked off from a _person_ by the
aptitude of being another's and for another. We may venture to
designate it by the term _heterocentric_. A person therefore may
destroy a thing, entirely consume and use it up for his own benefit.
But he may not treat a person as a thing, and destroy that, either for
any end of pleasure that he finds in destroying it, or in view of any
gain or good, whereunto that destruction serves him as a means.

[Footnote 17: The exception apparent in the Incarnation is not
relevant here.]

3. In the above argumentation account has not been taken of God, to
whom for His sovereign dominion all created personalities stand in the
light of _things_, and may be destroyed at His pleasure. But account
has been taken of the State, to which the individual is subordinate as
a citizen, but not as a man and a person. It is permitted no more to
the State than to the individual ever to destroy the innocent

4. An effect is brought about _indirectly_, when it is neither
_intended_ as an _end_ for its own sake, nor _chosen_ as a _means_
making towards an end, but attaches as a circumstance concomitant
either to the end intended or to the means chosen. The case of a
circumstance so attaching to the means chosen is the only case that we
need consider here in speaking of _indirect_, _concomitant_, or
_incidental_ effects. The study of these incidents is of vast
importance to the moralist. Most cases of practical difficulty to
decide between right and wrong, arise out of them. They are best
illustrated in the manner of killing. That one matter, well worked
out, becomes a pattern for other matters in which they occur.
(_Ethics_, c. iii., s. ii., p. 31.)

5. A man is killed _indirectly_, or _incidentally_, when he perishes
in consequence of certain means employed towards a certain end,
without his death being willed by the employer of those means, or in
any way serving that agent to the furtherance of the end that he has
in view. If a visitor to a quarry were standing on a piece of rock,
which a quarryman had occasion to blast, and the man fired the train
regardless of the visitor, the latter would be _incidentally_ killed.
Now incidental killing, even of the innocent, is not under all
circumstances unlawful. Where the end in view is in the highest degree
important, the means may be taken thereto, provided always that such
an issue as the shedding of innocent blood be not itself the means
discerned and elected as furthering the end: for no end however urgent
can justify the employment of any evil means. (_Ethics_, c. iii., s.
ii., nn. 3, 13, pp. 32, 36.) Suppose in the instance just given the
quarryman saw that, unless that piece of rock where the visitor stood
were blown up instantly, a catastrophe would happen elsewhere, which
would be the death of many men, and there were no time to warn the
visitor to clear off, who could blame him if he applied the explosive?
The means of averting the catastrophe would be, not that visitor's
death, but the blowing up of the rock. The presence or absence of the
visitor, his death or escape, is all one to the end intended: it has
no bearing thereon at all.

6. We must then distinguish between _means_ and _circumstances_. The
means help to the end, the circumstances of the means do not. When the
end is of extreme urgency, circumstances may be disregarded: the means
become morally divested of them. So I have seen an island in a river,
a nucleus of rock with an environment of alluvial soil. While the
stream was flowing placidly in its usual course, the island remained
intact, both rock and earth. But when the water came rushing in a
flood, which was as though the island itself had gone speeding up the
river, the loose matter at its sides was carried away, and only the
central rock remained. The ordinary flow of the river past the island,
or the gentle motion of the island up-stream, keeping all its bulk,
represents a man acting for an end to which reason attaches no great
importance. He must then take a diligent review of all the
circumstances that have any close connection with his action, to see
if there is any that it would be wrong for him to will directly. And
if there is, he must abstain from willing it even indirectly: that is,
he must abstain from doing the action, which cannot be done without
that objectionable circumstance attending it. On the other hand, the
floating island being towed rapidly up-stream, with its loose sides
falling away, portrays the condition of one acting for a purpose of
imperative urgency: he considers the means to that end, and if they
are good, he concentrates his will upon them and uses them,
disregarding, or even deploring, but nowise willing or being
responsible for, the evil concomitants which go with those means, but
do not make for his end. Thus it is, that a circumstance which in
ordinary cases goes to make the adoption of certain means reasonable
or unreasonable, comes, in a case of great urgency, to weigh for
nothing in the balance of reason, owing to the extreme and crying
reasonableness of the end in view. Nor is this the end justifying the
means, for that unhappy circumstance is never a means to the end.
(_Ethics_, c. iii., s. ii., n. 8, p. 34.)

7. To illustrate by a diagram:


( )
A-----------------------------------E( )V

A, the _agent_, a bead on a wire, can move only on the line AE, that
alone being the line of means to the end.

EV, _reasonableness of end in view_, attracting A.

UC, the amount of moral evil which the _untoward circumstance_ would
involve, if it were willed directly. This UC repels A, tending to jam
it on the line AE, which is absolutely rigid.

AE, remoteness, difficulty, and uncertainty of the end in view.

AU, remoteness of untoward circumstance from means chosen, which A is
just in the act of taking. Then, for lawful action, the reasonableness
required in the end in view is represented by the variation--

EV *varies* -------

We observe that when AU is zero, while UC . AE remains a finite
quantity (representing an appreciable evil), then EV becomes infinite:
that is to say, when the distance, difference, or distinction between
the evil circumstance and the means comes down to nothing at all, and
the evil thing actually is the very means taken, then an infinite
urgency of end in view would be requisite to justify the using of that
means: in other words, no end possible to man can ever justify an evil

_Readings_.--St. Thos., 2a 2a, q.64, art. 6; Cardinal de Lugo, _De
Justitia et Jure_, disp. 10, n. 125.

SECTION II.--_Of Killing done Indirectly in Self-defence_.

1. On the question, whether it is lawful for one man to kill another
in self-defence, St. Thomas writes (2a 2a, q. 64, art. 7):

"There is nothing to hinder one act having two effects, of which one
only is within the intention [and election] of the doer, while the
other is beside his intention [and election, that is, is neither
intended as an end nor elected as a means].... From the act therefore
of one defending himself a twofold effect may follow, one the
preservation of his own life, the other the killing of the aggressor.
Now such an act, in so far as the preservation of the doer's own life
is intended, has no taint of evil about it, seeing that it is natural
to everything to preserve itself in being as much as it can.
Nevertheless, an act coming of a good intention may be rendered
unlawful, if it be not in proportion to the end in view. And
therefore, if any one uses greater violence than is necessary for the
defence of his life, it will be unlawful. But if he repels the
violence in a moderate way, it will be a lawful defence: for according
to the Civil and Canon Laws it is allowable _to repel force by force
with the moderation of a blameless defence_. Nor is it necessary to
salvation for a man to omit the act of moderate defence in order to
avoid the killing of another; because man is more bound to take
thought for his own life than for the life of his neighbour. But
because to kill a man is not allowable except by act of public
authority for the common good, it is unlawful for a man to intend
[that is, elect and choose as a means] to kill another man in order to
defend himself, unless he be one who has public authority, who
intending [electing] to kill a man in order to his own defence, refers
this to the public good."

2. The right then of self-defence even to the shedding of blood
involves a mere exercise of indirect killing for a proportionably
grave cause. The cause in question is the defence of your own life, or
your friend's, or of some other good or possession that can weigh with
life, as the honour and inviolability of your person, or a large sum
of money. This must be in present danger of being taken away otherwise
than in due course of justice. The danger must be present, and even
imminent, not prospective. The right of self-defence even to the
grievous harming of the aggressor, endures only while the danger from
him is imminent, not when it is past, or the evil is already done. The
right supposes no moral obliquity, no formal injustice on the part of
the aggressor: he may be a madman making for you with a drawn sword.
Nay further, not even _material_ injustice--that is, the quality of an
act which would be _formally_ unjust, if only the agent knew what he
was about--is required. All that is requisite is that your life, or
something equivalent to life, be threatened, _not in due course of

3. The essential idea of self-defence is that of stopping a
trespasser, one who, however innocently, is going about to trench on
that good which you have a right to maintain and reserve to yourself.
It is then no act of authority that you perform, but the dealing of
one private person with another. Indeed, the party stopped is hardly
regarded as a person: no account is taken of his demerits: he is
regarded simply as an abridger and diminisher of what you have a right
to preserve intact. You stop a man as you stop a horse, only with more
regard to _the moderation of a blameless self-defence_, not using more
violence than is necessary here and now to preserve what you have to

4. The stopping, unfortunately, has often to be done in a hurry: there
is no time to wait: for the next moment, unless you act promptly, it
will be all too late, or all to no purpose, to act at all. Being done
in a hurry, it has to be done in a rough-and-ready way, with such
instruments as are to hand: you cannot afford to be nice about the
means, carefully purifying them, and shaking off the dust of
objectionable circumstances. Now to stop a man in mid career all on a
sudden, to render him powerless where he was about to strike,
motionless in the direction whither he was about to go, and that in an
instant, is of common necessity a rude treatment, very dangerous to
him who experiences it, and under some conceivable circumstances
hopelessly fatal. Still the fatality--in plain words, the death of the
aggressor--is not _directly willed_. It is neither _intended_ as an
_end_, nor _chosen_ as a _means to an end_. It is not welcomed as an
end and desirable consummation: on the contrary, it is put up with
most reluctantly as coming from your act: for you, a private
individual, have no right to will and effect the death of any man,
however guilty, as will be proved hereafter. It is not chosen as a
means: for, formally as his death, it is no means to your end, which
was the averting of all present danger to your right. For that it was
enough to _stop_ the trespasser; and you chose the means as a
_stopping_ means, not as a _killing_ means. True, in stopping him you
killed him, but you did not kill him to stop him. You struck him to
stop him: that your blow was a mortal blow, was a circumstance which
you did not choose and could not help. All killing then in
self-defence is indirect.

5. By this explanation, resting on St. Thomas--in opposition to
Cardinal de Lugo (_De Just. et Jure_. 10, 149) and others, who allow
killing in self-defence to be the actual means chosen, and therefore
directly willed--we save four grand positions in Moral Science:

(a) The axiom, that _it is never lawful directly to take the life of
an innocent man_. For the person who perishes by occasion of your
defending yourself, may be innocent _formally_, and even _materially_

(b) Likewise the axiom, that _it is never lawful for a private
individual to kill any one whatever_. We say, from a technical
standpoint, that he does not _kill_ but _arrests the onset of_ the

(c) We are in hearty accord with the positive law of all civilized
countries, which views with extreme suspicion all deaths said to be
done in self-defence, the law being jealous of the blood of its
citizens, and reserving the shedding thereof to itself. We teach that
only by process of law can a man ever be directly slain, his death
made a means of, and the person, who strikes him, really willing and
seeking, exactly speaking, to kill him.

(d) The initial error is revealed of a theory that we shall have to
combat at length hereafter, the theory of Hobbes and Locke, that the
power of the State is the mere agglomeration of the powers of the
individuals who compose it. It appears by our explanation that the
individual has no power strictly to take life in any case, or ever to
kill directly, as the State does when it executes a criminal.

As a fifth point gained, we may mention the efficacious argument
afforded, as will presently be shown, against the acceptance of a duel
under any conceivable circumstances, a thesis otherwise not easy to
establish by reason.

6. In view of the question of the origin of civil government, we must
carefully collect the differences between self-defence and punishment.
Death occasioned in self-defence is _indirect_: death inflicted as
punishment is _direct_. Punishment is an act of _authority_, of
_distributive justice_, which lies from ruler to subject (_Ethics_, c.
v., s. ix., n. 4, p. 104): self-defence is of equal against equal.
Punishment is _medicinal_ to him who suffers it, or _deterrent_ on
behalf of the community, or _retributive_ in the way of vengeance.
(_Ethics_, c. ix., s. iii., n. 4.) Self-defence is not on behalf of
the community, still less for the good of the aggressor, but for the
good of him who practises it and for the preservation of his right:
neither is it retributive and retrospective, as vengeance is, but
simply prospective and preventive of a harm immediately imminent.
Finally, the right to punish abides day and night: but the right of
self-defence holds only while instant aggression is threatened.

7. These two diverse ideas of _self-defence_ and _vengeance_ were
confounded by the Greeks under the one verb [Greek: amunesthai]. They
are confounded by Mill, _On Utility_, in the fifth chapter where he
speaks (p. 77) of the "instinct of self-defence," which nine lines
below he converts into "the natural feeling of retaliation or
vengeance." It is a common but a grave mistake, and the parent of much
bad philosophy.

_Reading_.--St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 64, art. 7.

SECTION III.--_Of Suicide_.

1. By suicide we shall here understand the _direct compassing of one's
own death_, which is an act never lawful. There is no difficulty in
seeing the unlawfulness of suicide for ordinary cases. The world could
not go on, if men were to kill themselves upon every slight
disappointment. But neither are they likely so to do. It is the hard
cases, where men are apt to lay violent hands on themselves, that put
the moralist on his mettle to restrain them by reasons. Why should not
the solitary invalid destroy himself, he whose life has become a
hopeless torture, and whose death none would mourn? Why should not a
voluntary death be sought as an escape from temptation and from
imminent sin? Why should not the first victims of a dire contagion
acquiesce in being slaughtered like cattle? Or if it be deemed
perilous to commit the departure from life to each one's private whim
and fancy, why not have the thing licensed under certificate of three
clergymen and four doctors, who could testify that it is done on good

2. To all these questions there is one good answer returned by Paley
on the principle of General Consequences. (_Ethics_, c. x., n. 3, p.

"The true question of this argument is no other than this: May every
man who chooses to destroy his life, innocently do so? Limit and
distinguish the subject as you can, it will come at last to this
question. For, shall we say that we are then at liberty to commit
suicide, when we find our continuance in life becomes useless to
mankind? Any one who pleases, may make himself useless; and melancholy
minds are prone to think themselves useless when they really are not
so.... In like manner, whatever other rule you assign, it will
ultimately bring us to an indiscriminate toleration of suicide, in all
cases in which there is danger of its being committed. It remains,
therefore, to enquire what would be the effect of such a toleration:
evidently, the loss of many lives to the community, of which some
might be useful or important; the affliction of many families, and the
consternation of all: for mankind must live in continual alarm for the
fate of their friends, when every disgust which is powerful enough to
tempt men to suicide, shall be deemed sufficient to justify it."
(_Moral Philosophy_, bk. iv., c. iii.)

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