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Moral Science; A Compendium of Ethics by Alexander Bain

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collection of existing laws and constitutions. Aristotle concludes with
sketching the plan of his own work on Politics.

* * * * *

The Aristotelian doctrines are generally summed up in such points as
these:--The theory of Good; Pleasure; the theory of Virtue; the
doctrine of the Will, distinguishing voluntary from involuntary; Virtue
a Habit; the doctrine of the MEAN; the distinction between the Moral
Virtues and the Intellectual Virtues; Justice, distributive, and
commutative; Friendship; the Contemplative Life.

The following are the indications of his views, according to the six
leading subjects of Ethics.

I. and II.--It is characteristic of Aristotle (as is fully stated in
Appendix B.) to make the judgment of the wisest and most cultivated
minds, the standard of appeal in moral questions. He lays down certain
general principles, such as the doctrine of the Mean, but in the
application of these (which is everything), he trusts to the most
experienced and skilled advisers that the community can furnish.

III.--On the theory of Happiness, or the Summum Bonum, it is needless
to repeat the abstract of the tenth book.

IV.--In laying down the Moral Code, he was encumbered with the too wide
view of Virtue; but made an advance in distinguishing virtue proper
from excellence in general.

V.--He made Society tutelary to the individual in an excessive degree.
He had no clear conception of the province of authority or law; and did
not separate the morality of obligation from the morality of reward and

VI.--His exclusion of Theology from morality was total.


The Stoics were one of the four sects of philosophy, recognized and
conspicuous at Athens during the three centuries preceding the
Christian era, and during the century or more following. Among these
four sects, the most marked antithesis of ethical dogma was between the
Stoics and the Epicureans. The Stoical system dates from about 300
B.C.; it was derived from the system of the Cynics.

The founder of the system was ZENO, from Citium in Cyprus (he lived
from 340--260 B.C.), who derived his first impulse from Krates the
Cynic. He opened his school in a building or porch, called the _Stoa
Poecile_ ('Painted Portico') at Athens, whence the origin of the name
of the sect. Zeno had for his disciple CLEANTHES, from Assos in the
Troad (300--220 B.C.), whose _Hymn to Jupiter_ is the only fragment of
any length that has come down to us from the early Stoics, and is a
remarkable production, setting forth the unity of God, his omnipotence,
and his moral government. CHRYSIPPUS, from Soli in Cilicia (290--207
B.C.), followed Cleanthes, and, in his voluminous writings, both
defended and modified the Stoical creed. These three represent the
_first_ period of the system. The _second_ period (200--50 B.C.)
embraces its general promulgation, and its introduction to the Romans.
Chrysippus was succeeded by ZENO of Sidon, and DIOGENES of Babylon;
then followed ANTIPATER, of Tarsus, who taught PANAETIUS of Rhodes (d.
112 B.C.), who, again, taught POSIDONIUS of Apamea, in Syria. (Two
philosophers are mentioned from the native province of St. Paul,
besides Chrysippus--ATHEKODOEUS, from Cana in Cilicia; and ARCHEDEMUS,
from Tarsus, the apostle's birthplace. It is remarked by Sir A. Grant,
that almost all the first Stoics were of Asiatic birth; and the system
itself is undeniably more akin to the oriental mind than to the Greek.)
Posidonius was acquainted with Marius and Pompey, and gave lessons to
Cicero, but the moral treatise of Cicero, _De Officiis_, is derived
from a work of Panaetius. The _third_ period of Stoicism is Roman. In
this period, we have Cato the Younger, who invited to his house the
philosopher Athenodorus; and, under the Empire, the three Stoic
philosophers, whose writings have come down to us--SENECA (6 B.C.-65
A.D.), EPICTETUS (60-140 A.D.), who began life as a slave, and the
Emperor MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS (121-180 A.D.). Stoicism prevailed
widely in the Roman world, although not to the exclusion of Epicurean

The leading Stoical doctrines are given in certain phrases or
expressions, as 'Life according to Nature' (although this phrase
belongs also to the Epicureans), the ideal 'Wise Man,' 'Apathy,' or
equanimity of mind (also an Epicurean ideal), the power of the 'Will,'
the worship of 'Duty,' the constant 'Advance' in virtue, &c. But
perspicuity will be best gained by considering the _Moral_ system under
four heads--the Theology; the Psychology or theory of mind; the theory
of the Good or human happiness; and the scheme of Virtue or Duty.

I.--The THEOLOGICAL doctrines of the Stoics comprehended their system
of the Universe, and of man's position in it. They held that the
Universe is governed by one good and wise God, together with inferior
or subordinate deities. God exercises a moral government; under it the
good are happy, while misfortunes happen to the wicked. According to
Epictetus, God is the father of men; Antoninus exults in the beautiful
arrangement of all things. The earlier Stoics, Zeno and Chrysippus,
entertained high reverence for the divination, prophecy, and omens that
were generally current in the ancient world. They considered that these
were the methods whereby the gods were graciously pleased to make known
beforehand revelations of their foreordained purposes. (Herein lay one
among the marked points of contrast between Stoics and Epicureans.)
They held this foreordination even to the length of fatalism, and made
the same replies, as have been given in modern times, to the difficulty
of reconciling it with the existence of evil, and with the apparent
condition of the better and the worse individuals among mankind. They
offered explanations such as the following: (1) God is the author of
all things except wickedness; (2) the very nature of good supposes its
contrast evil, and the two are inseparable, like light and dark, (which
may be called the argument from Relativity); (3) in the enormous extent
of the Universe, some things must be neglected; (4) when evil happens
to the good, it is not as a punishment, but as connected with a
different dispensation; (5) parts of the world may be presided over by
evil demons; (6) what we call evil may not be evil.

Like most other ancient schools, the Stoics held God to be corporeal
like man:--Body is the only substance; nothing incorporeal could act on
what is corporeal; the First Cause of all, God or Zeus, is the primeval
fire, emanating from which is the soul of man in the form of a warm

It is for human beings to recognize the Universe as governed by
universal Law, and not only to raise their minds to the comprehension
of it, but to enter into the views of the administering Zeus or Fate,
who must regard all interests equally; we are to be, as it were, in
harmony with him, to merge self in universal Order, to think only of
that and its welfare. As two is greater than one, the interests of the
whole world are infinitely greater than the interests of any single
being, and no one should be satisfied with a regard to anything less
than the whole. By this elevation of view, we are necessarily raised
far above the consideration of the petty events befalling ourselves.
The grand effort of human reason is thus to rise to the abstraction or
totality of entire Nature; 'no ethical subject,' says Chrysippus,
'could be rightly approached except from the pre-consideration of
entire Nature, and the ordering of the whole.'

As to Immortality, the Stoics precluded themselves, by holding the
theory of the _absorption_ of the individual soul at death into the
divine essence; but, on the other hand, their doctrine of advance and
aspiration is what has in all times been the main natural argument for
the immortality of the soul. For the most part, they kept themselves
undecided as to this doctrine, giving it as an alternative, reasoning
as to our conduct on either supposition, and submitting to the pleasure
of God in this as in all other things.

In arguing for the existence of Divine power and government, they
employed what has been called the argument from Design, which is as old
as Sokrates. Man is conscious that he is in himself an intellectual or
spiritual power, from which, by analogy, he is led to believe that a
greater power pervades the universe, as intellect pervades the human

II.--In the PSYCHOLOGY of the Stoics, two questions, are of interest,
their theory of Pleasure and Pain, and their views upon the Freedom of
the Will.

1. _The theory of Pleasure and Pain_. The Stoics agreed with the
Peripatetics (anterior to Epicurus, not specially against _him_) that
the first principle of nature is (not pleasure or relief from pain,
but) _self-preservation_ or _self-love_; in other words, the natural
appetite or tendency of all creatures is, to preserve their existing
condition with its inherent capacities, and to keep clear of
destruction or disablement. This appetite (they said) manifests itself
in little children before any pleasure or pain is felt, and is moreover
a fundamental postulate, pre-supposed in all desires of particular
pleasures, as well as in all aversions to particular pains. We begin by
loving our own vitality; and we come, by association, to love what
promotes or strengthens our vitality; we hate destruction or
disablement, and come (by secondary association) to hate whatever
produces that effect.[8] The doctrine here laid down associated, and
brought under one view, what was common to man, not merely with the
animal, but also with the vegetable world; a plant was declared to have
an impulse or tendency to maintain itself, even without feeling pain or
pleasure. Aristotle (in the tenth Book of the Ethics) says, that he
will not determine whether we love life for the sake of pleasure, or
pleasure for the sake of life; for he affirms the two to be essentially
yoked together and inseparable; pleasure is the consummation of our
vital manifestations. The Peripatetics, after him, put pleasure down to
a lower level, as derivative and accidental; the Stoics went farther in
the same direction--possibly from antithesis against the growing school
of Epicurus.

The primary _officium_ (in a larger sense than our word Duty) of man is
(they said) to keep himself in the state of nature; the second or
derivative _officium_ is to keep to such things as are _according to
nature_, and to avert those that are _contrary to nature_; our
gradually increasing experience enabled us to discriminate the two. The
youth learns, as he grows up, to value bodily accomplishments, mental
cognitions and judgments, good conduct towards those around him,--as
powerful aids towards keeping up the state of nature. When his
experience is so far enlarged as to make him aware of the order and
harmony of nature and human society, and to impress upon him the
comprehension of this great _ideal_, his emotions as well as his reason
become absorbed by it. He recognizes this as the only true Bonum or
Honestum, to which all other desirable things are referable,--as the
only thing desirable for itself and in its own nature. He drops or
dismisses all those _prima naturae_ that he had begun by desiring. He
no longer considers any of them as worthy of being desired in itself,
or for its own sake.

While therefore (according to Peripatetics as well as Stoics) the love
of self and of preserving one's own vitality and activity, is the
primary element, intuitive and connate, to which all rational
preference (_officium_) was at first referred,--they thought it not the
less true, that in process of time, by experience, association, and
reflection, there grows up in the mind a grand acquired sentiment or
notion, a new and later light, which extinguishes and puts out of sight
the early beginning. It was important to distinguish the feeble and
obscure elements from the powerful and brilliant aftergrowth; which
indeed was fully realized only in chosen minds, and in them, hardly
before old age. This idea, when once formed in the mind, was _The
Good_--the only thing worthy of desire for its own sake. The Stoics
called it the only Good, being sufficient in itself for happiness;
other things being not good, nor necessary to happiness, but simply
preferable or advantageous when they could be had: the Peripatetics
recognized it as the first and greatest good, but said also that it was
not sufficient in itself; there were two other inferior varieties of
good, of which something must be had as complementary (what the Stoics
called _praeposita_ or _sumenda_). Thus the Stoics said, about the
origin of the Idea of Bonum or Honestum, much the same as what
Aristotle says about ethical virtue. It is not implanted in us by
nature; but we have at birth certain initial tendencies and capacities,
which, if aided by association and training, enable us (and that not in
all cases) to acquire it.

2. _The Freedom of the Will_. A distinction was taken by Epictetus and
other Stoics between things in our power and things not in our power.
The things in our power are our opinions and notions about objects, and
all our affections, desires, and aversions; the things not in our power
are our bodies, wealth, honour, rank, authority, &c., and their
opposites. The practical application is this: wealth and high rank may
not be in our power, but we have the power to form an _idea_ of
these--namely, that they are unimportant, whence the want of them will
not grieve us. A still more pointed application is to death, whose
force is entirely in the idea.

With this distinction between things in our power and things not in our
power, we may connect the arguments between the Stoics and their
opponents as to what is now called the Freedom of the Will. But we must
first begin by distinguishing the two questions. By things _in our
power_, the Stoics meant, things that we could do or acquire, _if we
willed_: by things _not in_ our power, they meant, things that we could
not do or acquire if we willed. In both cases, the volition was assumed
as a fact: the question, what determined it--or whether it was
non-determined, _i.e._ self-determining--was not raised in the
abovementioned antithesis. But it was raised in other discussions
between the Stoic theorist Chrysippus, and various opponents. These
opponents denied that volition was determined by motives, and cited the
cases of equal conflicting motives (what is known as the ass of
Buridan) as proving that the soul includes in itself, and exerts, a
special supervenient power of deciding action in one way or the other:
a power not determined by any causal antecedent, but self-originating,
and belonging to the class of agency that Aristotle recognizes under
the denomination of automatic, spontaneous (or essentially irregular
and unpredictable). Chrysippus replied by denying not only the reality
of this supervenient force said to be inherent in the soul, but also
the reality of all that Aristotle called automatic or spontaneous
agency generally. Chrysippus said that every movement was determined by
antecedent motives; that, in cases of equal conflict, the exact
equality did not long continue, because some new but slight motive
slipped in unperceived and turned the scale on one side or the other.
(See Plutarch De Stoicorum Repugnantiis, c. 23, p. 1045.) Here, we see,
the question now known as the Freedom of the Will is discussed: and
Chrysippus declares against it, affirming that volition is always
determined by motives.

But we also see that, while declaring this opinion, Chrysippus does not
employ the terms Necessity or Freedom of the Will: neither did his
opponents, so far as we can see: they had a different and less
misleading phrase. By Freedom, Chrysippus and the Stoics meant the
freedom of doing what a man willed, if he willed it. A man is free, as
to the thing that is in his power, when he wills it: he is not free, as
to what is not in his power, under the same supposition. The Stoics
laid great stress on this distinction. They pointed out how much it is
really in a man's power to transform or discipline his own mind: in the
way of controlling or suppressing some emotions, generating or
encouraging others, forming new intellectual associations, &c., how
much a man could do in these ways, _if he willed it_, and if he went
through the lessons, habits of conduct, meditations, suitable to
produce such an effect. The Stoics strove to create in a man's mind the
volitions appropriate for such mental discipline, by depicting the
beneficial consequences resulting from it, and the misfortune and shame
inevitable, if the mind were not so disciplined. Their purpose was to
strengthen the governing reason of his mind, and to enthrone it as a
fixed habit and character, which would control by counter suggestions
the impulse arising at each special moment--particularly all disturbing
terrors or allurements. This, in their view, is a _free mind_; not one
wherein volition is independent of all motive, but one wherein the
susceptibility to different motives is tempered by an ascendant reason,
so as to give predominance to the better motive against the worse. One
of the strongest motives that they endeavoured to enforce, was the
prudence and dignity of bringing our volitions into harmony with the
schemes of Providence: which (they said) were always arranged with a
view to the happiness of the kosmos on the whole. The bad man, whose
volitions conflict with these schemes, is always baulked of his
expectations, and brought at last against his will to see things
carried by an overruling force, with aggravated pain and humiliation to
himself: while the good man, who resigns himself to them from the
first, always escapes with less pain, and often without any at all.
_Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt_.

We have thus seen that in regard to the doctrine called in modern times
the Freedom of the Will (_i.e._, that volitions are self-originating
and unpredictable), the Stoic theorists not only denied it, but framed
all their Ethics upon the assumption of the contrary. This same
assumption of the contrary, indeed, was made also by Sokrates, Plato,
Aristotle, and Epicurus: in short, by all the ethical teachers of
antiquity. All of them believed that volitions depended on causes: that
under the ordinary conditions of men's minds, the causes that volitions
generally depended upon are often misleading and sometimes ruinous: but
that by proper stimulation from without and meditation within, the
rational causes of volition might be made to overrule the impulsive.
Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, not less than the Stoics, wished to create
new fixed habits and a new type of character. They differed, indeed, on
the question what the proper type of character was: but each of them
aimed at the same general end--a new type of character, regulating the
grades of susceptibility to different motives. And the purpose of all
and each of these moralists precludes the theory of free-will--_i.e._,
the theory that our volitions are self-originating and unpredictable.

III.--We must consider next the Stoical theory of Happiness, or rather
of the _Good_, which with them was proclaimed to be the sole,
indispensable, and self-sufficing condition of Happiness. They declared
that Pleasure was no part of Good, and Pain no part of Evil; therefore,
that even relief from pain was not necessary to Good or Happiness.
This, however, if followed out consistently, would dispense with all
morality and all human endeavour. Accordingly, the Stoics were obliged
to let in some pleasures as an object of pursuit, and some pains as an
object of avoidance, though not under the title of Good and Evil, but
with the inferior name of _Sumenda_ and _Rejicienda_.[9] Substantially,
therefore, they held that pains are an evil, but, by a proper
discipline, may be triumphed over. They disallowed the direct and
ostensible pursuit of pleasure as an end (the point of view of
Epicurus), but allured their followers partly by promising them the
victory over pain, and partly by certain enjoyments of an elevated cast
that grew out of their plan of life.

Pain of every kind, whether from the casualties of existence, or from,
the severity of the Stoical virtues, was to be met by a discipline of
endurance, a hardening process, which, if persisted in, would succeed
in reducing the mind to a state of _Apathy_ or indifference. A great
many reflections were suggested in aid of this education. The influence
of exercise and repetition in adapting the system to any new function,
was illustrated by the Olympian combatants, and by the Lacedaemonian
youth, who endured scourging without complaint. Great stress was laid
on the instability of pleasure, and the constant liability to
accidents; whence we should always be anticipating and adapting
ourselves to the worst that could happen, so as never to be in a state
where anything could ruffle the mind. It was pointed out how much might
still be made of the worst circumstances--poverty, banishment, public
odium, sickness, old age--and every consideration was advanced that
could 'arm the obdurate breast with stubborn patience, as with triple
steel.' It has often been remarked that such a discipline of endurance
was peculiarly suited to the unsettled condition of the world at the
time, when any man, in addition to the ordinary evils of life, might in
a moment be sent into exile, or sold into slavery.

Next to the discipline of endurance, we must rank the complacent
sentiment of _Pride_, which the Stoic might justly feel in his conquest
of himself, and in his lofty independence and superiority to the
casualties of life.[10] The pride of the Cynic, the Stoic's
predecessor, was prominent and offensive, showing itself in scurrility
and contempt towards everybody else; the Stoical pride was a refinement
upon this, but was still a grateful sentiment of superiority, which
helped to make up for the surrender of indulgences. It was usual to
bestow the most extravagant laudation on the 'Wise Man,' and every
Stoic could take this home to the extent that he considered himself as
approaching that great ideal.

The last and most elevated form of Stoical happiness was the
satisfaction of contemplating the Universe and God. Epictetus says,
that we can accommodate ourselves cheerfully to the providence that
rules the world, if we possess two things--the power of seeing all that
happens in the proper relation to its own purpose--and a grateful
disposition. The work of Antoninus is full of studies of Nature in the
devout spirit of 'passing from Nature up to Nature's God;' he is never
weary of expressing his thorough contentment with the course of natural
events, and his sense of the beauties and fitness of everything. Old
age has its grace, and death is the becoming termination. This high
strain of exulting contemplation reconciled him to that complete
submission to whatever might befall, which was the essential feature of
the 'Life according to Nature,' as he conceived it.

IV.--The Stoical theory of Virtue is implicated in the ideas of the
Good, now described.

The fountain of all virtue is manifestly the life according to nature;
as being the life of subordination of self to more general
interests--to family, country, mankind, the whole universe. If a man is
prepared to consider himself absolutely nothing in comparison with the
universal interest, and to regard it as the sole end of life, he has
embraced an ideal of virtue of the loftiest order. Accordingly, the
Stoics were the first to preach what is called 'Cosmopolitanism;' for
although, in their reference to the good of the whole, they confounded
together sentient life and inanimate objects--rocks, plants, &c.,
solicitude for which was misspent labour--yet they were thus enabled to
reach the conception of the universal kindship of mankind, and could
not but include in their regards the brute creation. They said: 'There
is no difference between the Greeks and Barbarians; the world is our
city.' Seneca urges kindness to slaves, for 'are they not men like
ourselves, breathing the same air, living and dying like ourselves?'

The Epicureans declined, as much as possible, interference in public
affairs, but the Stoic philosophers urged men to the duties of active
citizenship. Chrysippus even said that the life of philosophical
contemplation (such as Aristotle preferred, and accounted godlike) was
to be placed on the same level with the life of pleasure; though
Plutarch observes that neither Chrysippus nor Zeno ever meddled
personally with any public duty; both of them passed their lives in
lecturing and writing. The truth is that both of them were foreigners
residing at Athens; and at a time when Athens was dependent on foreign
princes. Accordingly, neither Zeno nor Chrysippus had any sphere of
political action open to them; they were, in this respect, like
Epictetus afterwards--but in a position quite different from Seneca,
the preceptor of Nero, who might hope to influence the great imperial
power of Rome, and from Marcus Antoninus, who held that imperial power
in his own hands.

Marcus Antoninus--not only a powerful Emperor, but also the most gentle
and amiable man of his day--talks of active beneficence both as a duty
and a satisfaction. But in the creed of the Stoics generally, active
Beneficence did not occupy a prominent place. They adopted the four
Cardinal Virtues--Wisdom, or the Knowledge of Good and Evil; Justice;
Fortitude; Temperance--as part of their plan of the virtuous life, the
life according to Nature. Justice, as the social virtue, was placed
above all the rest. But the Stoics were not strenuous in requiring more
than Justice, for the benefit of others beside the agent. They even
reckoned compassion for the sufferings of others as a weakness,
analogous to envy for the good fortune of others.

The Stoic recognized the gods (or Universal Nature, equivalent
expressions in his creed) as managing the affairs of the world, with a
view to producing as much happiness as was attainable on the whole.
Towards this end the gods did not want any positive assistance from
him; but it was his duty and his strongest interest, to resign himself
to their plans, and to abstain from all conduct tending to frustrate
them. Such refractory tendencies were perpetually suggested to him by
the unreasonable appetites, emotions, fears, antipathies, &c., of daily
life; all claiming satisfaction at the expense of future mischief to
himself and others. To countervail these misleading forces, by means of
a fixed rational character built up through meditation and
philosophical teaching, was the grand purpose of the Stoic ethical
creed. The emotional or appetitive self was to be starved or curbed,
and retained only as an appendage to the rational self; an idea
proclaimed before in general terms by Plato, but carried out into a
system by the Stoics, and to a great extent even by the Epicureans.

The Stoic was taught to reflect how much that _appears_ to be
desirable, terror-striking, provocative, &c., is not really so, but is
made to appear so by false and curable associations. And while he thus
discouraged those self-regarding emotions that placed him in hostility
with others, he learnt to respect the self of another man as well as
his own. Epictetus advises to deal mildly with a man that hurts us
either by word or deed; and advises it upon the following very
remarkable ground. 'Recollect that in what he says or does, he follows
his own sense of propriety, not yours. He must do what appears to him
right, not what appears to you; if he judges wrongly, it is he that is
hurt, for he is the person deceived. Always repeat to yourself, in such
a case: The man has acted on his own opinion.'

The reason here given by Epictetus is an instance, memorable in ethical
theory, of respect for individual dissenting conviction, even in an
extreme case; and it must be taken in conjunction with his other
doctrine, that damage thus done to us unjustly is really little or no
damage, except so far as we ourselves give pungency to it by our
irrational susceptibilities and associations. We see that the Stoic
submerges, as much as he can, the pre-eminence of his own individual
self, and contemplates himself from the point of view of another, only
as one among many. But he does not erect the happiness of others into a
direct object of his own positive pursuit, beyond the reciprocities of
family, citizenship, and common humanity. The Stoic theorists agreed
with Epicurus in inculcating the reciprocities of justice between all
fellow-citizens; and they even went farther than he did, by extending
the sphere of such duties beyond the limits of city, so as to
comprehend all mankind. But as to the reciprocities of individual
friendship, Epicurus went beyond the Stoics, by the amount of
self-sacrifice and devotion that he enjoined for the benefit of a

There is also in the Stoical system a recognition of duties to God, and
of morality as based on piety. Not only are we all brethren, but also
the 'children of one Father.'

The extraordinary strain put upon human nature by the full Stoic
_ideal_ of submerging self in the larger interests of being, led to
various compromises. The rigid following out of the ideal issued in one
of the _paradoxes_, namely.--That all the actions of the wise man are
equally perfect, and that, short of the standard of perfection, all
faults and vices are equal; that, for example, the man that killed a
cock, without good reason, was as guilty as he that killed his father.
This has a meaning only when we draw a line between spirituality and
morality, and treat the last as worthless in comparison of the first.
The later Stoics, however, in their exhortations to special branches of
duty, gave a positive value to practical virtue, irrespective of the

The idea of Duty was of Stoical origin, fostered and developed by the
Roman spirit and legislation. The early Stoics had two different
words,--one for the 'suitable' [Greek: kathaekon], or incomplete
propriety, admitting of degrees, and below the point of rectitude, and
another for the 'right' [Greek: katorthoma], or complete rectitude of
action, which none could achieve except the wise man. It is a
significant circumstance that the 'suitable' is the lineal ancestor of
our word 'duty' (through the Latin _officium_).

It was a great point with the Stoic to be conscious of 'advance' or
improvement.[11] By self-examination, he kept himself constantly
acquainted with his moral state, and it was both his duty and his
satisfaction to be approaching to the ideal of the perfect man.

It is very illustrative of the unguarded points and contradictions of
Stoicism, that contentment and apathy were not to permit grief even for
the loss of friends. Seneca, on one occasion, admits that he was
betrayed by human weakness on this point. On strict Stoical principles,
we ought to treat the afflictions and the death of others with the same
frigid indifference as our own; for why should a man feel for a second
person _more_ than he ought to feel for himself, as a mere unit in the
infinitude of the Universe? This is the contradiction inseparable from
any system that begins by abjuring pleasure, and relief or protection
from pain, as the ends of life. Even granting that we regard pleasure
and relief from pain as of no importance in our own case, yet if we
apply the same measure to others we are bereft of all motives to
benevolence; and virtue, instead of being set on a loftier pinnacle, is
left without any foundation.

EPICURUS. [311--270 B.C.]

Epicurus was born 341 B.C. in the island of Samos. At the age of
eighteen, he repaired to Athens, where he is supposed to have enjoyed
the teaching of Xenocrates or Theophrastus. In 306 B.C., he opened a
school in a garden in Athens, whence his followers have sometimes been
called the 'philosophers of the garden.' His life was simple, chaste,
and temperate. Of the 300 works he is said to have written, nothing has
come down to us except three letters, giving a summary of his views for
the use of his friends, and a number of detached sayings, preserved by
Diogenes Laertius and others. Moreover, some fragments of his work on
Nature have been found at Herculaneum. The additional sources of our
knowledge of Epicurus are the works of his opponents, Cicero, Seneca,
Plutarch, and of his follower Lucretius. Our information from Epicurean
writers respecting the doctrines of their sect is much less copious
than what we possess from Stoic writers in regard to Stoic opinions. We
have no Epicurean writer on Philosophy except Inicretius; whereas
respecting the Stoical creed under the Roman Empire, the important
writings of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Antoninus, afford most
valuable evidence.

To Epicurus succeeded, in the leadership of his school, Hermachus,
Polystratus, Dionysius, Basilides, and others, ten in number, down to
the age of Augustus. Among Roman Epicureans, Lucretius (95--51 B.C.) is
the most important, his poem (De Rerum Natura), being the completest
account of the system that exists. Other distinguished followers were
Horace, Atticus, and Lacian. In modern times, Pierre Gassendi
(1592--1655) revived the doctrines of Epicurus, and in 1647 published
his 'Syntagma Philosophiae Epicuri,' and a Life of Epicurus. The
reputation of Gassendi, in his life time, rested chiefly upon his
physical theories; but his influence was much felt as a Christian
upholder of Epicureanism. Gassendi was at one time in orders as a Roman
Catholic, and professor of theology and philosophy. He established an
Epicurean school in France, among the disciples of which were, Moliere,
Saint Evremond, Count de Grammont, the Duke of Rochefoncalt,
Fontenelle, and Voltaire.

The standard of Virtue and Vice is referred by Epicurus to pleasure and
pain. Pain is the only evil, Pleasure is the only good. Virtue is no
end in itself, to be sought: Vice is no end in itself, to be avoided.
The motive for cultivating Virtue and banishing Vice arises from the
consequences of each, as the means of multiplying pleasures and
averting or lessening pains. But to the attainment of this purpose, the
complete supremacy of Reason is indispensable; in order that we may
take a right comparative measure of the varieties of pleasure and pain,
and pursue the course that promises the least amount of suffering.[12]

In all ethical theories that make happiness the supreme object of
pursuit, the position of virtue depends entirely upon the theory of
what constitutes happiness. Now, Epicurus (herein differing from the
Stoics, as well as Aristotle), did not recognize Happiness as anything
but freedom from pain and enjoyment of pleasure. It is essential,
however, to understand, how Epicurus conceived pleasure and pain, and
what is the Epicurean scale of pleasures and pains, graduated as
objects of reasonable desire or aversion? It is a great error to
suppose that, in making pleasure the standard of virtue, Epicurus had
in view that elaborate and studied gratification of the sensual
appetites that we associate with the word _Epicurean_. Epicurus
declares--'When we say that pleasure is the end of life, we do not mean
the pleasures of the debauchee or the sensualist, as some from
ignorance or from malignity represent, but freedom of the body from
pain, and of the soul from anxiety. For it is not continuous drinkings
and revellings, nor the society of women, nor rare viands, and other
luxuries of the table, that constitute a pleasant life, but sober
contemplation, such as searches out the grounds of choice and
avoidance, and banishes those chimeras that harass the mind.

Freedom from pain is thus made the primary element of happiness; a
one-sided view, respected in the doctrine of Locke, that it is not the
idea of future good, but the present greatest uneasiness that most
strongly affects the will. A neutral state of feeling is necessarily
imperilled by a greedy pursuit of pleasures; hence the _dictum_, to be
content with little is a great good; because little is most easily
obtained. The regulation of the desires is therefore of high moment.
According to Epicurus, desires fall into three grades. Some are
_natural_ and _necessary_, such as desire of drink, food, or life, and
are easily gratified. But when the uneasiness of a want is removed, the
bodily pleasures admit of no farther increase; anything additional only
_varies_ the pleasure. Hence the luxuries which go beyond the relief of
our wants are thoroughly superfluous; and the desires arising from them
(forming the _second_ grade) though _natural, are not necessary_. A
_third_ class of desires is neither natural nor necessary, but begotten
of vain opinion; such as the thirst for civic honours, or for power
over others; those desires are the most difficult to gratify, and even
if gratified, entail upon us trouble, anxiety, and peril. [This account
of the desires, following up the advice--If you wish to be rich, study
not to increase your goods, but to diminish your desires--is to a
certain extent wise and even indispensable; yet not adapted to all
temperaments. To those that enjoy pleasure very highly, and are not
sensitive in an equal degree to pain, such a negative conception of
happiness would be imperfect.] Epicurus did not, however, deprecate
positive pleasure. If it could be reached without pain, and did not
result in pain, it was a pure good; and, even if it could not be had
without pain, the question was still open, whether it might not be well
worth the price. But in estimating the worth of pleasure, the absence
of any accompanying pain should weigh heavily in the balance. At this
point, the Epicurean theory connects itself most intimately with the
conditions of virtue; for virtue is more concerned with averting
mischief and suffering, than with multiplying positive enjoyments.

Bodily feeling, in the Epicurean psychology, is prior in order of time
to the mental element; the former was primordial, while the latter was
derivative from it by repeated processes of memory and association. But
though such was the order of sequence and generation, yet when we
compare the two as constituents of happiness to the formed man, the
mental element much outweighed the bodily, both as pain and as
pleasure. Bodily pain or pleasure exists only in the present; when not
felt, it is nothing. But mental feelings involve memory and
hope--embrace the past as well as the future--endure for a long time,
and may be recalled or put out of sight, to a great degree, at our

This last point is one of the most remarkable features of the Epicurean
mental discipline. Epicurus deprecated the general habit of mankind in
always hankering after some new satisfaction to come; always
discontented with the present, and oblivious of past comforts as if
they had never been. These past comforts ought to be treasured up by
memory and reflection, so that they might become as it were matter for
rumination, and might serve, in trying moments, even to counterbalance
extreme physical suffering. The health of Epicurus himself was very bad
during the closing years of his life. There remains a fragment of his
last letter, to an intimate friend and companion, Idomeneus--'I write
this to you on the last day of my life, which, in spite of the severest
internal bodily pains, is still a happy day, because I set against them
in the balance all the mental pleasure felt in the recollection of my
past conversations with you. Take care of the children left by
Metrodorus, in a manner worthy of your demeanour from boyhood towards
me and towards philosophy.' Bodily pain might thus be alleviated, when
it occurred; it might be greatly lessened in occurrence, by prudent and
moderate habits; lastly, even at the worst, if violent, it never lasted
long; if not violent, it might be patiently borne, and was at any rate
terminated, or terminable at pleasure, by death.

In the view of Epicurus, the chief miseries of life arose, not from
bodily pains, but partly from delusions of hope, and exaggerated
aspirations for wealth, honours, power, &c., in all which the objects
appeared most seductive from a distance, inciting man to lawless
violence and treachery, while in the reality they were always
disappointments, and generally something worse; partly, and still more,
from the delusions of fear. Of this last sort, were the two greatest
torments of human existence--fear of Death, and of eternal suffering
after death, as announced by prophets and poets, and Fear of the Gods.
Epicurus, who did not believe in the continued existence of the soul
separate from the body, declared that there could never be any rational
ground for fearing death, since it was simply a permanent extinction of
consciousness.[13] Death was nothing to us (he said); when death comes,
we are no more, either to suffer or to enjoy. Yet it was the groundless
fear of this nothing that poisoned all the tranquillity of life, and
held men imprisoned even when existence was a torment. Whoever had
surmounted that fear was armed at once against cruel tyranny and
against all the gravest misfortunes. Next, the fear of the gods was not
less delusive, and hardly less tormenting, than the fear of death. It
was a capital error (Epicurus declared) to suppose that the gods
employed themselves as agents in working or superintending the march of
the Cosmos; or in conferring favour on some men, and administering
chastisement to others. The vulgar religious tales, which represented
them in this character, were untrue and insulting as regards the gods
themselves, and pregnant with perversion and misery as regards the
hopes and fears of mankind. Epicurus believed sincerely in the gods;
reverenced them as beings at once perfectly happy, immortal, and
unchangeable; and took delight in the public religious festivals and
ceremonies. But it was inconsistent with these attributes, and
repulsive to his feelings of reverence, to conceive them as agents. The
idea of agency is derived from human experience; we, as agents, act
with a view to supply some want, to fulfil some obligation, to acquire
some pleasure, to accomplish some object desired but not yet
attained--in short, to fill up one or other of the many gaps in our
imperfect happiness; the gods already _have_ all that agents strive to
get, and more than agents ever do get; their condition is one not of
agency, but of tranquil, self-sustaining, fruition. Accordingly,
Epicurus thought (as Aristotle[14] had thought before him) that the
perfect, eternal, and imperturbable well-being and felicity of the gods
excluded the supposition of their being agents. He looked upon them as
types of that unmolested safety and unalloyed satisfaction which was
what he understood by pleasure or happiness--as objects of reverential
envy, whose sympathy he was likely to obtain by assimilating his own
temper and condition to theirs, as far as human circumstances allowed.

These theological views were placed by Epicurus in the foreground of
his ethical philosophy, as the only means of dispelling those fears of
the gods that the current fables instilled into every one, and that did
so much to destroy human comfort and security. He proclaimed that
beings in immortal felicity neither suffered vexation in themselves nor
caused vexation to others--neither showed anger nor favour to
particular persons. The doctrine that they were the working managers in
the affairs of the Cosmos, celestial and terrestrial, human and
extra-human, he not only repudiated as incompatible with their
attributes, but declared to be impious, considering the disorder,
sufferings, and violence, everywhere visible. He disallowed all
prophecy, divination, and oracular inspiration, by which the public
around him believed that the gods were perpetually communicating
special revelations to individuals, and for which Sokrates had felt so
peculiarly thankful.[15]

It is remarkable that Stoics and Epicureans, in spite of their marked
opposition in dogma or theory, agreed so far in practical results, that
both declared these two modes of uneasiness (fear of the gods and fear
of death) to be the great torments of human existence, and both strove
to remove or counterbalance them.

So far, the teaching of Epicurus appears confined to the separate
happiness of each individual, as dependent upon his own prudence,
sobriety, and correct views of Nature. But this is not the whole of the
Epicurean Ethics. The system also considered each man as in
companionship with others; The precepts were shaped accordingly, first
as to Justice, next as to Friendship. In both these, the foundation
whereon Epicurus built was Reciprocity: not pure sacrifice to others,
but partnership with others, beneficial to all. He kept the ideas of
self and of others inseparably knit together in one complex
association: he did not expel or degrade either, in order to give
exclusive ascendancy to the other. The dictate of Natural Justice was
that no man should hurt another: each was bound to abstain from doing
harm to others; each, on this condition, was entitled to count on
security and relief from the fear that others would do harm to him.
Such double aspect, or reciprocity, was essential to social
companionship: those that could not, or would not, accept this
covenant, were unfit for society. If a man does not behave justly
towards others, he cannot expect that they will behave justly towards
him; to live a life of injustice, and expect that others will not find
it out, is idle. The unjust man cannot enjoy a moment of security.
Epicurus laid it down explicitly, that just and righteous dealing was
the indispensable condition to every one's comfort, and was the best
means of attaining it.

The reciprocity of Justice was valid towards all the world; the
reciprocity of friendship went much farther; it involved indefinite and
active beneficence, but could reach only to a select few. Epicurus
insisted emphatically on the value of friendship, as a means of
happiness to both the persons so united. He declared that a good friend
was another self, and that friends ought to be prepared, in case of
need, to die for each other. Yet he declined to recommend an
established community of goods among the members of his fraternity, as
prevailed in the Pythagorean brotherhood: for such an institution (he
said) implied mistrust. He recommended efforts to please and to serve,
and a forwardness to give, for the purpose of gaining and benefiting a
friend, and he even declared that there was more pleasure in conferring
favours than in receiving them; but he was no less strenuous in
inculcating an intelligent gratitude on the receiver. No one except a
wise man (he said) knew how to return a favour properly.[16]

Virtue and happiness, in the theory of Epicurus, were thus inseparable.
A man could not be happy until he had surmounted the fear of death and
the fear of gods instilled by the current fables, which disturbed all
tranquillity of mind; until he had banished those factitious desires
that pushed him into contention for wealth, power, or celebrity; nor
unless he behaved with justice to all, and with active devoted
friendship towards a few. Such a mental condition, which he thought it
was in every man's power to acquire by appropriate teaching and
companionship, constituted virtue; and was the sure as well as the only
precursor of genuine happiness. A mind thus undisturbed and purified
was sufficient to itself. The mere satisfaction of the wants of life,
and the conversation of friends, became then felt pleasures; if more
could be had without preponderant mischief, so much the better; but
Nature, disburthened of her corruptions and prejudices, required no
more to be happy. This at least was as much as the conditions of
humanity admitted: a tranquil, undisturbed, innocuous, non-competitive
fruition, which approached most nearly to the perfect happiness of the

The Epicurean theory of virtue is the type of all those that make an
enlightened self-interest the basis of right and wrong. The four
cardinal virtues were explained from the Epicurean point of view.
_Prudence_ was the supreme rule of conduct. It was a calculation and
balancing of pleasures and pains. Its object was a judicious selection
of pleasures to be sought. It teaches men to forego idle wishes, and to
despise idle fears. _Temperance_ is the management of sensual
pleasures. It seeks to avoid excess, so as on the whole to extract as
much pleasure as our bodily organs are capable of affording.
_Fortitude_ is a virtue, because it overcomes fear and pain. It
consists in facing danger or enduring pain, to avoid greater possible
evils. _Justice_ is of artificial origin. It consists in a tacit
agreement among mankind to abstain from injuring one another. The
security that every man has in his person and property, is the great
consideration urging to abstinence from injuring others. But is it not
possible to commit injustice with safety? The answer was, 'Injustice is
not an evil in itself, but becomes so from the fear that haunts the
injurer of not being able to escape the appointed avengers of such

The Physics of Epicurus were borrowed in the main from the atomic
theory of Democritus, but were modified by him in a manner subservient
and contributory to his ethical scheme. To that scheme it was essential
that those celestial, atmospheric, or terrestrial phenomena that the
public around him ascribed to the agency and purposes of the gods,
should be understood as being produced by physical causes. An eclipse,
an earthquake, a storm, a shipwreck, unusual rain or drought, a good or
a bad harvest--and not merely these, but many other occurrences far
smaller and more unimportant, as we may see by the eighteenth chapter
of the Characters of Theophrastus--were then regarded as visitations of
the gods, requiring to be interpreted by recognized prophets, and to be
appeased by ceremonial expiations. When once a man became convinced
that all these phenomena proceeded from physical agencies, a host of
terrors and anxieties would disappear from the mind; and this Epicurus
asserted to be the beneficent effect and real recommendation of
physical philosophy. He took little or no thought for scientific
curiosity as a motive _per se_, which both Democritus and Aristotle put
so much in the foreground.

Epicurus adopted the atomistic scheme of Democritus, but with some
important variations. He conceived that the atoms all moved with equal
velocity in the downward direction of gravity. But it occurred to him
that upon this hypothesis there could never occur any collisions or
combinations of the atoms--nothing but continued and unchangeable
parallel lines. Accordingly, he modified it by saying that the line of
descent was not exactly rectilinear, but that each atom deflected a
little from the straight line, and each in its own direction and
degree; so that it became possible to assume collisions, resiliences,
adhesions, combinations, among them, as it had been possible under the
variety of original movements ascribed to them by Democritus. The
opponents of Epicurus derided this auxiliary hypothesis; they affirmed
that he invented the individual deflection of each atom, without
assigning any cause, and only because he was perplexed by the mystery
of man's _free-will_. But Epicurus was not more open to attack on this
ground than other physical philosophers. Most of them (except perhaps
the most consistent of the Stoic fatalists) believed that some among
the phenomena of the universe occurred in regular and predictable
sequence, while others were essentially irregular and unpredictable;
each philosopher devised his hypothesis, and recognized some
fundamental principle, to explain the first class of phenomena as well
as the second. Plato admitted an invincible Erratic necessity;
Aristotle introduced Chance and Spontaneity; Democritus multiplied
indefinitely the varieties of atomic movements. The hypothetical
deflexion alleged by Epicurus was his way, not more unwarranted than
the others, of providing a fundamental principle for the unpredictable
phenomena of the universe. Among these are the mental (including the
volitional) manifestations of men and animals; but there are many
others besides; and there is no ground for believing that the mystery
of free-will was peculiarly present to his mind. The movements of a man
or animal are not exclusively subject to gravitation and other general
laws; they are partly governed by mental impulses and by forces of the
organism, intrinsic and peculiar to himself, unseen and unfelt by
others. For these, in common with many other untraceable phenomena in
the material world, Epicurus provides a principle in the supplementary
hypothesis of deflexion. He rejected the fatalism contained in the
theories of some of the Stoics, and admitted a limited range of empire
to chance, or irregularity. But he maintained that the will, far from
being among the phenomena essentially irregular, is under the influence
of motives; for no man can insist more strenuously than he does (see
the Letter to Menoecens) on the complete power of philosophy,--if the
student could be made to feel its necessity and desire the attainment
of it, so as to meditate and engrain within himself sound views about
the gods, death, and human life generally,--to mould our volitions and
character in a manner conformable to the exigencies of virtue and

When we read the explanations given by Epicurus and Lucretius of what
the Epicurean theory really was, and compare them with the numerous
attacks made upon it by opponents, we cannot but remark that the title
or formula of the theory was ill chosen, and was really a misnomer.
What Epicurus meant by Pleasure was, not what most people meant by it,
but something very different--a tranquil and comfortable state of mind
and body; much the same as what Democritus had expressed before him by
the phrase [Greek: euthymia]. This last phrase would have expressed
what Epicurus aimed at, neither more nor less. It would at least have
preserved his theory from much misplaced sarcasm and aggressive


PLOTINUS (A.D. 205--70), PORPHYRY, &c.

Constructed with reference to the broken-down state of ancient society,
and seeking its highest aim in a regeneration of humanity, the
philosophical system of Neo-Platonism was throughout ethical or
ethico-religious in spirit; yet its ethics admits of no great
development according to the usual topics. A pervading ethical
character is not incompatible with the absence of a regular ethical
scheme; and there was this peculiarity in the system, that its end,
though professedly moral, was to be attained by means of an
intellectual regimen. In setting up its ideal of human effort, it was
least of all careful about prescribing a definite course of external

The more strictly ethical views of PLOTINUS, the chief representative
of the school, are found mainly in the first of the six Enneads into
which Porphyry collected his master's essays. But as they presuppose
the cosmological and psychological doctrines, their place in the works,
as now arranged, is to be regarded as arbitrary. The soul having fallen
from its original condition, and, in consequence and as a penalty,
having become united with a material body, the one true aim recognized
for human action is, to rise above the debasing connection with matter,
and again to lead the old spiritual life. For those that have sunk so
far as to be content with the world of sense, wisdom consists in
pursuing pleasure as good, and shunning pain as evil: but the others
can partake of a better life, in different degrees. The first step in
reformation is to practise virtue in the affairs of life, which means
to subject Sense and the lower desires to Reason. This is done in the
fourfold form of the common cardinal virtues, called _political_ by
Plotinus, to mark the sphere of action where they can be exerted, and
is the virtue of a class of men capable of a certain elevation, though
ignorant of all the rest that lies above them. A second step is made
through the means of the [Greek: katharseis] or _purifying_ virtues;
where it is sought to root out, instead of merely moderating, the
sensual affections. If the soul is thus altogether freed from the
dominion of sense, it becomes at once able to follow its natural bent
towards good, and enters into a permanent state of calm. This is virtue
in its true meaning--becoming like to the Deity, all that went before
being merely a preparation. The pure and perfect life of the soul may
still be described as a field whereon the four virtues are exercised,
but they now assume a far higher meaning than as political virtues,
having relation solely to the contemplative life of the Nous.

Happiness is unknown to Plotinus as distinct from perfection, and
perfection in the sense of having subdued all material cravings (except
as regards the bare necessities of life), and entered upon the
undisturbed life of contemplation. If this recalls, at least in name,
the Aristotelian ideal, there are points added that appear to be echoes
of Stoicism. Rapt in the contemplation of eternal verities, the
purified soul is indifferent to external circumstances: pain and
suffering are unheeded, and the just man can feel happy even in the
bull of Phalaris. But in one important respect the Neo-Platonic
teaching is at variance with Stoical doctrine. Though its first and
last precept is to rid the soul from the bondage of matter, it warns
against the attempt to sever body and soul by suicide. By no forcible
separation, which would be followed by a new junction, but only by
prolonged internal effort is the soul so set free from the world of
sense, as to be able to have a vision of its ancient home while still
in the body, and to return to it at death. Small, therefore, as is the
consideration bestowed by Neo-Platonism on the affairs of practical
life, it has no disposition to shirk the burden of them.

One other peculiar aim, the highest of all, is proposed to the soul in
the Alexandrian philosophy. It is peculiar, because to be understood
only in connexion with the metaphysics and cosmology of the system. In
the theory of Emanation, the primordial One or Good emits the Nous
wherein the Ideas are immanent; the Nous, in turn, sends forth the
Soul, and the Soul, Matter or nature; the gradation applying to man as
well as to the Universe. Now, to each of these principles, there is a
corresponding subjective state in the inner life of man. The life of
sense answers to nature or the material body; the virtue that is
founded upon free-will and reason, to the soul; the contemplative life,
as the result of complete purification from sense, to the Nous or
Sphere of Ideas; finally, to the One or Good, supreme in the scale of
existence, corresponds the state of Love, or, in its highest form,
_Ecstasy_. This peculiar elevation is something far above the highest
intellectual contemplation, and is not reached by thought. It is not
even a mere intuition of, but a real union or contact with, the Good.
To attain it, there must be a complete withdrawal into self from the
external world, and then the subject must wait quietly till perchance
the state comes on. It is one of ineffable bliss, but, from the nature
of man, transitory and rare.


ABAELARD (1079-1142) has a special treatise on the subject of Ethics,
entitled _Scito te ipsum_. As the name implies, it lays chief stress
upon the Subjective element in morality, and, in this aspect, is
considered to supply the idea that underlies a very large portion of
modern ethical speculation. By nature a notoriously independent
thinker, Abaelard claimed for philosophy the right of discussing
ethical questions and fixing a natural moral law, though he allowed a
corrective in the Christian scheme. Having this position with reference
to the church, he was also much less under the yoke of philosophical
authority than his successors, from living at a time when Aristotle was
not yet supreme. Yet, with Aristotle, he assigns the attainment of the
highest good as the aim of all human effort, Ethics showing the way;
and, with the schoolmen generally, pronounces the highest good to be
God. If the highest good in itself is God, the highest human good is
love to God. This is attained by way of virtue, which is a good Will
consolidated into a habit. On the influence of habit on action his view
is Aristotelian. His own specialty lies in his judging actions solely
with reference to the intention _(intentio)_ of the agent, and this
intention with reference to conscience _(conscientia)_. All actions, he
says, are in themselves indifferent, and not to be called good or evil
except from the intention of the doer. _Peccatum_, is properly only the
action that is done with evil intent; and where this is present, where
the mental consent _(consensus)_ is clearly established, there is
_peccatum_, though the action remains unexecuted. When the _consensus_
is absent, as in original sin, there is only _vitium_; hence, a life
without _peccata_ is not impossible to men in the exercise of their
freedom, however difficult it may be.

The supremacy assigned by him to the subjective element of conscience
appears in such phrases as, there is no sin except against conscience;
also in the opinion he pronounces, that, though in the case of a
mistaken moral conviction, an action is not to be called good, yet it
is not so bad as an action objectively right but done against
conscience. Thus, without allowing that conscientious persecutors of
Christians act rightly, he is not afraid, in the application of his
principle, to say that they would act still more wrongly if through not
listening to their conscience, they spared their victims. But this
means only that by following conscience we avoid sinning; for virtue in
the full sense, it is necessary that the conscience should have judged
rightly. By what standard, however, this is to be ascertained, he
nowhere clearly says. _Contemptus Dei_, given by him as the real and
only thing that constitutes an action bad, is merely another subjective

ST. BERNARD of Clairvaux (1091-1153), the strenuous opponent of
Abaelard, and the great upholder of mysticism against rationalism in
the early scholastic period when the two were not yet reconciled, gave
utterance, in the course of his mystical effusions, to some special
views of love and disinterestedness.

There are two degrees of Christian virtue, Humility and Charity or
Love. When men look into themselves, and behold the meanness that is
found there, the fitting state of mind is, first, humility; but soon
the sense of their very weakness begets in them charity and compassion
towards others, while the sense also of a certain human dignity raises
within them feelings of love towards the author of their being. The
treatise _De Amore Dei_ sets forth the nature of this love, which is
the highest exercise of human powers. Its fundamental characteristic is
its disinterestedness. It has its reward, but from meriting, not from
seeking. It is purely voluntary, and, as a free sentiment, necessarily
unbought; it has God for its single object, and would not be love to
God, if he were loved for the sake of something else.

He distinguishes various degrees of love. There is, first, a natural
love of self for the sake of self. Next, a motion of love towards God
amid earthly misfortunes, which also is not disinterested. The third
degree is different, being love to God for his own sake, and to our
neighbour for God's sake. But the highest grade of all is not reached,
until men come to love even themselves only by relation to God; at this
point, with the disappearance of all special and interested affection,
the mystic goal is attained.

JOHN of SALISBURY (d. 1180) is the last name to be cited in the early
scholastic period. He professed to be a practical philosopher, to be
more concerned about the uses of knowledge than about knowledge itself,
and to subordinate everything to some purpose; by way of protest
against the theoretic hair-splitting and verbal subtleties of his
predecessors. Even more than in Ethics, he found in Politics his proper
sphere. He was the staunchest upholder of the Papal Supremacy, which,
after long struggles, was about to be established at its greatest
height, before presiding at the opening of the most brilliant period of

In the _Policraticus_ especially, but also in his other works, the
foundations and provisions of his moral system are found. He has no
distinction to draw in Ethics between theology and philosophy, but uses
Scripture and observation alike, though Scripture always in the final
appeal. Of philosophizing, the one final aim, as also of existence, is
Happiness; the question, of questions, how it is to be attained.
Happiness is not pleasure, nor possession, nor honour, but consists in
following the path of virtue. Virtue is to be understood from the
constitution of human nature. In man, there is a lower and a higher
faculty of Desire; or, otherwise expressed, there are the various
affections that have their roots in sense and centre in self-love or
the desire of self-preservation, and there is also a natural love of
justice implanted from the beginning. In proportion as the _appetitus
justi_, which consists in will, gains upon the _appetitus commodi_, men
become more worthy of a larger happiness. Self-love rules in man, so
long as he is in the natural state of sin; if, amid great conflict and
by divine help, the higher affection gains the upper hand, the state of
true virtue, which is identical with the theoretic state of belief, and
also of pure love to God and man, is reached.

By the middle of the thirteenth century, the schoolmen had before them
the whole works of Aristotle, obtained from Arabian and other sources.
Whereas, previous to this time, they had comprehended nearly all the
subjects of Philosophy under the one name of Dialectics or Logic,
always reserving, however, Ethics to Theology, they were now made aware
of the ancient division of the sciences, and of what had been
accomplished in each. The effect, both in respect of form and of
subject-matter, was soon apparent in such compilations or more
independent works as they were able to produce after their commentaries
on the Aristotelian text. But in Ethics, the nature of the subject
demanded of men in their position a less entire submission to the
doctrines of the pagan philosopher; and here accordingly they clung to
the traditional theological treatment. If they were commenting on the
Ethics of Aristotle, the Bible was at hand to supply his omissions; if
they were setting up a complete moral system, they took little more
than the ground-work from him, the rest being Christian ideas and
precepts, or fragments borrowed from Platonism and other Greek systems,
nearly allied in spirit to their own faith.

This is especially true, as will be seen, of Thomas Aquinas. His
predecessors can be disposed of in a few words. ALEXANDER of HALES (d.
1245) was almost purely theological. BONAVENTURA (1221-74) in his
double character of rigid Franciscan and mystic, was led far beyond the
Aristotelian Ethics. The mean between excess and defect is a very good
rule for the affairs of life, but the true Christian is bound besides
to works of supererogation: first of all, to take on the condition of
poverty; while the state of mystic contemplation remains as a still
higher goal for the few. ALBERT THE GREAT (1193-1280), the most learned
and complete commentator of Aristotle that had yet appeared, divide the
whole subject of Ethics into _Monastica, Oeconomica_, and _Politica_.
In this division, which is plainly suggested by the Aristotelian
division of Politics in the large sense, the term _Monastica_ not
inaptly expresses the reference that Ethics has to the conduct of men
as individuals. Albert, however, in commenting on the Nicomachean
Ethics, adds exceedingly little to the results of his author beyond the
incorporation of a few Scriptural ideas. To the cardinal virtues he
appends the _virtutes adjunctae_, Faith, Hope, and Charity, and again
in his compendious work, _Summa Theologiae_, distinguishes them as
_infusae_, the cardinal being considered as _acquisitae_.

Besides his commentaries on the Aristotelian works (the Ethics
included) and many other writings, THOMAS AQUINAS (1226-74) left two
large works, the _Summa philosophica_ and the famous _Summa
Theologiae_. Notwithstanding the prominence assigned to theological
questions, the first is a regular philosophical work; the second,
though containing the exposition of philosophical opinions, is a
theological textbook. Now, as it is in the Summary for theological
purposes that the whole practical philosophy of Aquinas is contained,
it is to be inferred that he regarded the subject of Ethics as not on
the same level with other departments of philosophy. Moreover, even
when he is not appealing to Scripture, he is seen to display what is
for him a most unusual tendency to desert Aristotle, at the really
critical moments, for Plato or Plotinus, or any other authority of a
more theological cast.

In the (unfinished) _Summa Theologiae_, the Ethical views and cognate
questions occupy the two sections of the second part--the so-called
_prima_ and _secunda secundae_. He begins, in the Aristotelian fashion,
by seeking an ultimate end of human action, and finds it in the
attainment of the highest good or happiness. But as no created thing
can answer to the idea of the highest good, it must be placed in God.
God, however, as the highest good, can only be the object, in the
search after human happiness, for happiness in itself is a state of the
mind or act of the soul. The question then arises, "what sort of act?"
Does it fall under the Will or under the Intelligence? The answer is,
Not under the will, because happiness is neither desire nor pleasure,
but _consecutio_, that is, a possessing. Desire precedes _consecutio_,
and pleasure follows upon it; but the act of getting possession, in
which lies happiness, is distinct from both. This is illustrated by the
case of the miser having his happiness in the mere possession of money;
and the position is essentially the same as Butler's, in regard to our
appetites and desires, that they blindly seek their objects with no
regard to pleasure. Thomas concludes that the _consecutio_, or
happiness, is an act of the intelligence; what pleasure there is being
a mere accidental accompaniment.

Distinguishing between two phases of the intellect--the theoretic and
the practical--in the one of which it is an end to itself, but in the
other subordinated to an external aim, he places true happiness in acts
of the self-sufficing theoretic intelligence. In this life, however,
such a constant exercise of the intellect is not possible, and
accordingly what happiness there is, must be found, in great measure,
in the exercise of the practical intellect, directing and governing the
lower desires and passions. This twofold conception of happiness is
Aristotelian, even as expressed by Thomas under the distinction of
perfect and imperfect happiness; but when he goes on to associate
perfect happiness with the future life only, to found an argument for a
future life from the desire of a happiness more perfect than can be
found here, and to make the pure contemplation, in which consists
highest bliss, a vision of the divine essence face to face, a direct
cognition of Deity far surpassing demonstrative knowledge or mortal
faith--he is more theologian than philosopher, or if a philosopher,
more Platonist than Aristotelian.

The condition of perfect happiness being a theoretic or intellectual
state, the _visio_, and not the _delectatio_, is consistently given as
its central fact; and when he proceeds to consider the other questions
of Ethics, the same superiority is steadily ascribed to the
intellectual function. It is because we _know_ a thing to be good that
we wish it, and knowing it, we cannot help wishing. Conscience, as the
name implies, is allied to knowledge. Reason gives the law to will.

After a long disquisition about the passions and the whole appetitive
side of human nature, over which Reason is called to rule, he is
brought to the subject of virtue. He is Aristotelian enough to describe
virtue as _habitus_--a disposition or quality (like health) whereby a
subject is more or less well disposed with reference to itself or
something else; and he takes account of the acquisition of good moral
habits (_virtutes acquisitae_) by practice. But with this he couples,
or tends to substitute for it, the definition of Augustin that virtue
is a good quality of mind, _quam Deus in nobis sine nobis operatur_, as
a ground for _virtutes infusae_, conferred as gifts upon man, or rather
on certain men, by free grace from on high. He wavers greatly at this
stage, and in this respect his attitude is characteristic for all the

So again in passing from the general question of Virtue to the virtues,
he puts several of the systems under contribution, as if not prepared
to leave the guidance of Aristotle, but feeling at the same time the
necessity of bridging over the distance between his position and
Christian requirements. Understanding Aristotle to make a co-ordinate
division of virtues into Moral and Intellectual, he gives reasons for
such a step. Though virtue, he says, is not so much the perfecting of
the operation of our faculties, as their employment by the will for
good ends, it may be used in the first sense, and thus the intellectual
virtues will be the habits of intelligence that procure the truest
knowledge. The well-known division of the cardinal virtues is his next
theme; and it is established as complete and satisfactory by a twofold
deduction. But a still higher and more congenial view is immediately
afterwards adopted from Plotinus. This is the Neo-Platonic description
of the four virtues as _politicae, purgatoriae_, and _purgati animi_,
according to the scale of elevation reached by the soul in its efforts
to mount above sense. They are called by Thomas also _exemplares_, when
regarded at once as the essence of the Deity, and as the models of
human perfections.

This mystical division, not unsupported by philosophical authority,
smooths the way for his account of the highest or _theological_
virtues. These bear upon the vision of Deity, which was recognized
above as the highest good of humanity, and form an order apart. They
have God for their object, are altogether inspired by God (hence called
_infusae_), and are taught by revelation. Given in connection with the
natural faculties of intellect and will, they are exhibited in the
attainment of the supernatural order of things. With intellect goes
_Faith_, as it were the intellect applied to things not intelligible;
with Will go Hope and Charity or Love: Hope being the Will exercised
upon things not naturally desired, and Love the union of Will with what
is not naturally brought near to us.

Aquinas then passes to politics, or at least the discussion of the
political ideas of law, right, &c.

Coming now to _modern_ thinkers, we begin with

THOMAS HOBBES. [1588-1679.]

The circumstances of Hobbes's life, so powerful in determining the
nature of his opinions, had an equally marked effect on the order and
number of expositions that he gave to the psychological and political
parts of his system. His ethical doctrines, in as far as they can be
dissociated from, his politics, may be studied in no less than three
distinct forms; either in the first part of the Leviathian (1651); or
in the De Cive (1647), taken along-with the _De Homine_ (1658); or in
the Treatise of Human Nature (1650, but written ten years earlier),
coupled with the De Corpore Politico (also 1650). But the same result,
or with only unimportant variations, being obtained from all, we need
not here go beyond the first-mentioned.

In the first part of the Leviathan, then, bearing the title _Of Man_,
and designed to consider Man as at once the _matter_ and _artificer_ of
the Commonwealth or State, Hobbes is led, after discussing Sense,
Imagination, Train of Imaginations, Speech, Reason and Science, to take
up, in chapter sixth, the Passions, or, as he calls them, the Interior
beginnings of voluntary motions. Motions, he says, are either vital and
animal, or voluntary. Vital motions, _e.g._, circulation, nutrition,
&c., need no help of imagination; on the other hand, voluntary motions,
as going and speaking--since they depend on a precedent thought of
whither, which way, and what--have in the imagination their first
beginning. But imagination is only the relics of sense, and sense, as
Hobbes always declares, is motion in the human organs communicated by
objects without; consequently, visible voluntary motions begin in
invisible internal motions, whose nature is expressed by the word
_Endeavour_. When the endeavour is towards something causing it, there
is Appetite or Desire; endeavour 'fromward something' is Aversion.
These very words, and the corresponding terms in Greek, imply an
actual, not--as the schoolmen absurdly think--a metaphorical motion.
Passing from the main question, he describes Love and Hate as Desire
and Aversion when the object is present. Of appetites, some are born
with us, others proceed from experience, being of particular things.
Where we neither desire nor hate, we contemn [he means, disregard].
Appetites and aversions vary in the same person, and much more in
different persons.

Then follows his definition of _good_,--the object of any man's
appetite or desire, as evil is the object of his hate and aversion.
Good and evil are always merely relative, either to the person of a
man, or in a commonwealth to the representative person, or to an
arbitrator if chosen to settle a dispute. Good in the promise is
_pulchrum_, for which there is no exact English term; good in the
effect, as the end desired, is _delightful_; good as the means, is
_useful_ or _profitable_. There is the same variety of evil.

His next topic is Pleasure. As sense is, in _reality_, motion, but, in
'_apparence_,' light or sound or odour; so appetite, in reality a
motion or endeavour effected in the heart by the action of objects
through the organs of sense, is, in 'apparence,' delight or trouble of
mind. The emotion, whose _apparence_ (_i.e._, subjective side) is
pleasure or delight, seems to be a corroboration of vital motion; the
contrary, in the case of molestation. Pleasure is, therefore, the sense
of good; displeasure, the sense of evil. The one accompanies, in
greater or less degree, all desire and love; the other, all aversion
and hatred. Pleasures are either of _sense_; or of the _mind_, when
arising-from the expectation that proceeds from the foresight of the
ends or consequence of things, irrespective of their pleasing the
senses or not. For these mental pleasures, there is the general name
_joy_. There is a corresponding division of displeasure into _pain_ and

All the other passions, he now proceeds to show, are these _simple_
passions--appetite, desire, love, aversion, hate, joy, and grief,
diversified in name for divers considerations. Incidental remarks of
ethical importance are these. _Covetousness_, the desire of riches, is
a name signifying blame, because men contending for them are displeased
with others attaining them; the desire itself, however, is to be blamed
or allowed, according to the means whereby the riches are sought.
_Curiosity_ is a lust of the mind, that by a perseverance of delight in
the continual generation of knowledge, exceedeth the short vehemence of
any carnal pleasure. _Pity_ is grief for the calamity of another,
arising from the imagination of the like calamity befalling one's self;
the best men have, therefore, least pity for calamity arising from
great wickedness. _Contempt_, or little sense of the calamity of
others, proceeds from security of one's own fortune; 'for that any man
should take pleasure in other men's great harms, without other end of
his own, I do not conceive it possible.'

Having explained the various passions, he then gives his theory of the
Will. He supposes a _liberty_ in man of doing or omitting, according to
appetite or aversion. But to this liberty an end is put in the state of
_deliberation_ wherein there is kept up a constant succession of
alternating desires and aversions, hopes and fears, regarding one and
the same thing. One of two results follows. Either the thing is judged
impossible, or it is done; and this, according as aversion or appetite
triumphs at the last. Now, the last aversion, followed by omission, or
the last appetite, followed by action, is the act of _Willing_. Will
is, therefore, the last appetite (taken to include aversion) in
deliberating. So-called Will, that has been forborne, was _inclination_
merely; but the last inclination with consequent action (or omission)
is Will, or voluntary action.

After mentioning the forms of speech where the several passions and
appetites are naturally expressed, and remarking that the truest signs
of passion are in the countenance, motions of the body, actions, and
ends or aims otherwise known to belong to a man,--he returns to the
question of good and evil. It is _apparent_ good and evil, come at by
the best possible foresight of all the consequences of action, that
excite the appetites and aversions in deliberation. _Felicity_ he
defines continual success in obtaining the things from time to time
desired; perpetual tranquillity of mind being impossible in this life,
which is but motion, and cannot be without desire and fear any more
than without sense. The happiness of the future life is at present

Men, he says at the close, _praise_ the goodness, and _magnify_ the
greatness, of a thing; the Greeks had also the word [Greek:
makarismos], to express an opinion of a man's felicity.

In Chapter VII., Of the Ends of Discourse, he is led to remark on the
meaning of _Conscience_, in connection-with the word _Conscious_. Two
or more men, he says, are conscious of a thing when they know it
together (_con-scire_.) Hence arises the proper meaning of conscience;
and the evil of speaking against one's conscience, in this sense, is to
be allowed. Two other meanings are metaphorical: when it is put for a
man's knowledge of his own secret facts and thoughts; and when men give
their own new opinions, however absurd, the reverenced name of
conscience, as if they would have it seem unlawful to change or speak
against them. [Hobbes is not concerned to foster the moral independence
of individuals.]

He begins Chapter VIII. by defining Virtue as something that is valued
for eminence, and that consists in comparison, but proceeds to consider
only the intellectual virtues--all that is summed up in the term of a
_good wit_--and their opposites. Farther on, he refers difference of
wits--discretion, prudence, craft, &c.--to difference in the passions,
and this to difference in constitution of body and of education. The
passions chiefly concerned are the desires of power, riches, knowledge,
honour, but all may be reduced to the single desire of power.

In Chapter IX. is given his Scheme of Sciences. The relation in his
mind between Ethics and Politics is here seen. Science or Philosophy is
divided into Natural or Civil, according as it is knowledge of
consequences from the accidents of natural bodies or of politic bodies.
Ethics is one of the ultimate divisions of Natural Philosophy, dealing
with consequences from the _passions_ of men; and because the passions
are _qualities_ of bodies, it falls more immediately under the head of
Physics. Politics is the whole of the second main division, and deals
with consequences from the institution of commonwealths (1) to the
rights and duties of the Sovereign, and (2) to the duty and right of
the Subject.

Ethics, accordingly, in Hobbes's eyes, is part of the science of man
(as a natural body), and it is always treated as such. But subjecting,
as he does, so much of the action of the individual to the action of
the state, he necessarily includes in his Politics many questions that
usually fall to Ethics. Hence arises the necessity of studying for his
Ethics also part of the civil Philosophy; though it happens that, in
the Leviathan, this requisite part is incorporated with the Section
containing the Science of Man.

Chapter X. is on Power, Worth, Dignity, Honour, and Worthiness. A man's
_power_ being his present means to obtain some future apparent good, he
enumerates all the sources of original and acquired power. The _worth_
of a man is what would be given for the use of his power; it is,
therefore, never absolute, but dependent on the need and judgment of
another. _Dignity_ is the value set on a man by the state. _Honour_ and
_dishonour_ are the manifestation of value. He goes through all the
signs of honour and dishonour. _Honourable_ is any possession, action,
or quality that is the sign of power. Where there is the opinion of
power, the justice or injustice of an action does not affect the
honour. He clearly means a universally accepted opinion of power, and
cites the characters of the pagan deities. So, too, before times of
civil order, it was held no dishonour to be a pirate, and even still,
duels, though unlawful, are honourable, and will be till there be
honour ordained for them that refuse. Farther on, he distinguishes
_Worthiness_, (1) from worth, and (2) from merit, or the possession of
a particular ability or desert, which, as will be seen, presupposes a
right to a thing, founded on a promise.

Chapter XI. bears the title, Of the difference of Manners; by manners
being meant, not decency of behaviour and points of the 'small morals,'
but the qualities of mankind that concern their living together in
peace and unity. Felicity of life, as before, he pronounces to be a
continual progress of desire, there being no _finis ultimus_ nor
_summum bonum_. The aim of all men is, therefore, not only to enjoy
once and for an instant, but to assure for over the way of future
desire. Men differ in their way of doing so, from diversity of passion
and their different degrees of knowledge. One thing he notes as common
to all, a restless and perpetual desire of power after power, because
the present power of living well depends on the acquisition of more.
Competition inclines to contention and war. The desire of ease, on the
other hand, and fear of death or wounds, dispose to civil obedience. So
also does desire of knowledge, implying, as it does, desire of leisure.
Desire of praise and desire of fame after death dispose to laudable
actions; in such fame, there is a present delight from foresight of it,
and of benefit redounding to posterity; for pleasure to the sense is
also pleasure in the imagination. Unrequitable benefits from an equal
engender secret hatred, but from a superior, love; the cheerful
acceptation, called _gratitude_, requiting the giver with honour.
Requitable benefits, even from equals or inferiors, dispose to love;
for hence arises emulation in benefiting--'the most noble and
profitable contention possible, wherein the victor is pleased with his
victory, and the other revenged by confessing it.' He passes under
review other dispositions, such as fear of oppression, vain-glory,
ambition, pusillanimity, frugality, &c., with reference to the course
of conduct they prompt to. Then he comes to a favourite subject, the
mistaken courses whereinto men fall that are ignorant of natural causes
and the proper signification of words. The effect of ignorance of the
causes of right, equity, law, and justice, is to make custom and
example the rule of actions, as with children, or to induce the setting
of custom against reason, and reason against custom, whereby the
doctrine of right and wrong is perpetually disputed, both by the pen,
and by the sword. Again, taking up ignorance of the laws of nature, he
is led on to the subject of natural Religion, and devotes also the
whole of Chapter XII. to Religion and kindred topics.

In Chapter XIII., he deals with the natural condition of Mankind, as
concerning their Felicity and Misery. All men, he says, are by nature
equal. Differences there are in the faculties of body and mind, but,
when all is taken together, not great enough to establish a steady
superiority of one over another. Besides even more than in strength,
men are equal in _prudence_, which is but experience that comes to all.
People indeed generally believe that others are not so wise as
themselves, but 'there is not ordinarily a greater sign of equal
distribution of anything than that every person is contented with his

Of this equality of ability, the consequence is that two men desiring
the exclusive possession of the same thing, whether for their own
conservation or for delectation, will become enemies and seek to
destroy each other. In such a case, it will be natural for any man to
seek to secure himself by anticipating others in the use of force or
wiles; and, because some will not be content with merely securing
themselves, others, who would be content, will be driven to take the
offensive for mere self-conservation. Moreover, men will be displeased
at being valued by others less highly than by themselves, and will use
force to extort respect.

Thus, he finds three principal causes of quarrel in the nature of
man--_competition, diffidence_ (distrust), and _glory_, making men
invade for gain, for safety, and for reputation. Men will accordingly,
in the absence of any power to keep them in awe, be in a constant state
of war; by which is meant, not actual fighting, but the known
disposition thereto, and no assurance to the contrary.

He proceeds to draw a very dismal picture of the results of this state
of enmity of man against man--no industry, no agriculture, no arts, no
society, and so forth, but only fear and danger of violent death, and
life solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. To those that doubt the
truth of such an 'inference made from the passions,' and desire the
confirmation of experience, he cites the wearing of arms and locking of
doors, &c., as actions that accuse mankind as much as any words of his.
Besides, it is not really to accuse man's nature; for the desires and
passions are in themselves no sin, nor the actions proceeding from
them, until a law is made against them. He seeks further evidence of an
original condition of war, in the actual state of American savages,
with no government at all, but only a concord of small families,
depending on natural lust; also in the known horrors of a civil war,
when there is no common power to fear: and, finally, in the constant
hostile attitude of different governments.

In the state of natural war, the notions of right and wrong, justice
and injustice, have no place, there being no law; and there is no law,
because there is no common power. Force and fraud are in war the two
cardinal virtues. Justice is no faculty of body and mind like sense and
passion, but only a quality relating to men in society. Then adding a
last touch to the description of the state of nature,--by saying of
property, that 'only that is every man's that he can get, and for so
long as he can keep it,'--he opens up, at the close of the chapter, a
new prospect by allowing a possibility to come out of so evil a
condition. The possibility consists partly in the passions that incline
to peace--viz., fear of death, desire of things necessary to commodious
living, and hope by industry to obtain them; partly in reason, which
suggests convenient articles of peace and agreement, otherwise called
the Laws of Nature.

The first and second Natural Laws, and the subject of contracts, take
up Chap. XIV. First comes a definition of _Jus Naturale_ or Right of
Nature--the liberty each man has of using his own power, as he will
himself, for the preservation of his own nature or life. Liberty
properly means the absence of external impediments; now a man may
externally be hindered from doing all he would, but not from using what
power is left him, according to his best reason and judgment. A Law of
Nature, _lex naturalis_ is defined, a general rule, found out by
reason, forbidding a man to do what directly or indirectly is
destructive of his life, or to omit what he thinks may best preserve
it. Right and Law, though generally confounded, are exactly opposed,
Right being liberty, and Law obligation.

In the natural state of war, every man, being governed by his own
reason, has a right to everything, even to another's body. But because
thus no man's life is secure, he finds the First and fundamental law of
nature, or general rule of reason, to be _to seek peace and follow it,
if possible_: failing which, we may defend ourselves by all the means
we can. Here the law being 'to endeavour peace,' from this follows the
Second law, that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth
as for peace and self-defence he shall think it necessary, to _lay down
this right to all things_; and be contented with so much liberty
against other men as he would allow other men against himself. This is
the same as the Gospel precept, Do to others, &c.

Laying down one's right to anything is divesting one's self of the
liberty of hindering another in the exercise of his own original right
to the same. The right is _renounced_, when a man cares not for whose
benefit; _transferred_, when intended to benefit some certain person or
persons. In either case the man is _obliged_ or _bound_ not to hinder
those, in whose favour the right is abandoned, from the benefit of it;
it is his _duty_ not to make void his own voluntary act, and if he
does, it is _injustice_ or _injury_, because he acts now _sine Jure_.
Such conduct Hobbes likens to an intellectual absurdity or
self-contradiction. Voluntary signs to be employed in abandoning a
right, are words and actions, separately or together; but in all bonds,
the strength comes not from their own nature, but from the fear of evil
resulting from their rupture.

He concludes that not all rights are alienable, for the reason that the
abandonment, being a voluntary act, must have for its object some good
to the person that abandons his right. A man, for instance, cannot lay
down the right to defend his life; to use words or other signs for that
purpose, would be to despoil himself of the end--security of life and
person--for which those signs were intended.

_Contract_ is the mutual transferring of right, and with this idea he
connects a great deal. First, he distinguishes transference of right to
a thing, and transference of the thing itself. A contract fulfilled by
one party, but left on trust to be fulfilled by the other, is called
the _Covenant_ of this other, (a distinction he afterwards drops), and
leaves room for the keeping or violation of faith. To contract he
opposes _gift, free-gift_, or _grace_, where there is no mutual
transference of right, but one party transfers in the hope of gaining
friendship or service from another, or the reputation of charity and
magnanimity, or deliverance from the merited pain of compassion, or
reward in heaven.

There follow remarks on signs of contract, as either express or by
inference, and a distinction between free-gift as made by words of the
present or past, and contract as made by words past, present, or
future; wherefore, in contracts like buying and selling, a promise
amounts to a covenant, and is obligatory.

The idea of _Merit_ is thus explained. Of two contracting parties, the
one that has first performed merits what he is to receive by the
other's performance, or has it as _due_. Even the person that wins a
prize, offered by free-gift to many, merits it. But, whereas, in
contract, I merit by virtue of my own power and the other contractor's
need, in the case of the gift, I merit only by the benignity of the
giver, and to the extent that, when he has given it, it shall be mine
rather than another's. This distinction he believes to coincide with
the scholastic separation of _merilum congrui_ and _merilum condigni_.

He adds many more particulars in regard to covenants made on mutual
trust. They are void in the state of nature, upon any reasonable
suspicion; but when there is a common power to compel observance, and
thus no more room for fear, they are valid. Even when fear makes them
invalid it must have arisen after they were made, else it should have
kept them from being made. Transference of a right implies
transference, as far as may be, of the means to its enjoyment. With
beasts there is no covenant, because no proper mutual understanding.
With God also none, except through special revelation, or with his
lieutenant in his name. Anything vowed contrary to the law of nature is
vowed in vain; if the thing vowed is commanded by the law of nature,
the law, not the vow, binds. Covenants are of things possible and
future. Men are freed from them by performance, or forgiveness, which
is restitution of liberty. He pronounces covenants extorted by fear to
be binding alike in the state of mere nature and in commonwealths, if
once entered into. A former covenant makes void a later. Any covenant
not to defend one's self from force by force is always void; as said
above, there is no transference possible of right to defend one's self
from death, wounds, imprisonment, &c. So no man is obliged to accuse
himself, or generally to give testimony where from the nature of the
case it may be presumed to be corrupted. Accusation upon torture is not
to be reputed as testimony. At the close he remarks upon oaths. He
finds in human nature two imaginable helps to strengthen the force of
words, otherwise too weak to insure the performance of covenants. One
of these--_pride_ in appearing not to need to break one's word, he
supposes too rare to be presumed upon. The other, _fear_, has reference
either to power of spirits invisible, or of men. In the state of
nature, it is the first kind of fear--a man's religion--that keeps him
to his promises. An oath is therefore swearing to perform by the God a
man fears. But to the obligation itself it adds nothing.

Of the other Laws of Nature, treated in Chap. XV., the third, _that men
perform their covenants made_, opens up the discussion of _Justice_.
Till rights have been transferred and covenants made there is no
justice or injustice; injustice is no other than the non-performance of
covenants. Further, justice (and also property) begins only where a
regular coercive power is constituted, because otherwise there is cause
for fear, and fear, as has been seen, makes covenants invalid. Even the
scholastic definition of justice recognizes as much; for there can be
no constant will of giving to every man his own, when, as in the state
of nature, there is no _own_. He argues at length against the idea that
justice, _i.e._, the keeping of covenants, is contrary to reason;
repelling three different arguments. (1) He demonstrates that it cannot
be reasonable to break or keep covenants according to benefit supposed
to be gained in each case, because this would be a subversion of the
principles whereon society is founded, and must end by depriving the
individual of its benefits, whereby he would be left perfectly
helpless. (2) He considers it frivolous to talk of securing the
happiness of heaven by any kind of injustice, when there is but one
possible way of attaining it, viz., the keeping of covenants. (3) He
warns men (he means his contemporaries) against resorting to the mode
of injustice known as rebellion to gain sovereignty, from the
hopelessness of gaining it and the uncertainty of keeping it. Hence he
concludes that justice is a rule of reason, the keeping of covenants
being the surest way to preserve our life, and therefore a law of
nature. He rejects the notion that laws of nature are to be supposed
conducive, not to the preservation of life on earth, but to the
attainment of eternal felicity; whereto such breach of covenant as
rebellion may sometimes be supposed a means. For that, the knowledge of
the future life is too uncertain. Finally, he consistently holds that
faith is to be kept with heretics and with all that it has once been
pledged to.

He goes on to distinguish between justice of men or manners, and
justice of actions; whereby in the one case men are _just_ or
_righteous_, and in the other, _guiltless_. After making the common
observation that single inconsistent acts do not destroy a character
for justice or injustice, he has this: 'That which gives to human
actions the relish of justice, is a certain nobleness or gallantness of
courage rarely found, by which a man scorns to be beholden for the
contentment of his life to fraud, or breach of promise.' Then he shows
the difference between injustice, injury, and damage; asserts that
nothing done to a mail with his consent can be injury; and, rejecting
the common mode of distinguishing between _commutative_ and
_distributive_ justice, calls the first the justice of a contractor,
and the other an improper name for just distribution, or the justice of
an arbitrator, _i.e._, the act of defining what is just--equivalent to
equity, which is itself a law of nature.

The rest of the laws follow in swift succession. The 4th recommends
_Gratitude_, which depends on antecedent grace instead of covenant.
Free-gift being voluntary, _i.e._, done with intention of good to one's
self, there will be an end to benevolence and mutual help, unless
gratitude is given as compensation.

The 5th enjoins _Complaisance_; a disposition in men not to seek
superfluities that to others are necessaries. Such men are _sociable_.

The 6th enjoins _Pardon_ upon repentance, with a view (like the last)
to peace.

The 7th enjoins that punishment is to be only for correction of the
offender and direction of others; _i.e._, for profit and example, not
for 'glorying in the hurt of another, tending to no end.' Against

The 8th is against _Contumely_, as provocative of dispeace.

The 9th is against _Pride_, and enjoins the acknowledgment of the
equality of all men by nature. He is here very sarcastic against
Aristotle, and asserts, in opposition to him, that all inequality of
men arises from consent.

The 10th is, in like manner, against _Arrogance_, and in favour of
_Modesty_. Men, in entering into peace, are to reserve no rights but
such as they are willing shall be reserved by others.

The 11th enjoins _Equity_; the disposition, in a man trusted to judge,
to distribute equally to each man what in reason belongs to him.
Partiality 'deters men from the use of judges and arbitrators,' and is
a cause of war.

The 12th enjoins the common, or the proportionable, use of things that
cannot be distributed.

The 13th enjoins the resort to _lot_, when separate or common enjoyment
is not possible; the 14th provides also for _natural_ lot, meaning
first possession or primogeniture.

The 15th demands safe conduct for mediators.

The 16th requires that parties at controversy shall submit their right
to _arbitration_.

The 17th forbids a man to be his own judge; the 18th, any interested
person to be judge.

The 19th requires a resort to witnesses in a matter of fact, as between
two contending parties.

This list of the laws of nature is only slightly varied in the other
works. He enumerates none but those that concern the doctrine of Civil
Society, passing-over things like Intemperance, that are also forbidden
by the law of nature because destructive of particular men. All the
laws are summed up in the one expression: Do not that to another, which
thou wouldest not have done to thyself.

The laws of nature he regards as always binding _in foro interno_, to
the extent of its being desired they should take place; but _in foro
externo_, only when there is security. As binding _in foro interno_,
they can be broken even by an act according with them, if the purpose
of it was against them. They are immutable and eternal; 'injustice,
ingratitude, &c., can never be made lawful,' for war cannot preserve
life, nor peace destroy it. Their fulfilment is easy, as requiring only
an unfeigned and constant endeavour.

Of these laws the science is true moral philosophy, _i.e._, the science
of good and evil in the society of mankind. Good and evil vary much
from man to man, and even in the same man; but while private appetite
is the measure of good and evil in the condition of nature, all allow
that peace is good, and that justice, gratitude, _&c._, as the way or
means to peace, are also good, that is to say, _moral virtues_. The
true moral philosophy, in regarding them as laws of nature, places
their goodness in their being the means of peaceable, comfortable, and
sociable living; not, as is commonly done, in a mediocrity of passions,
'as if not the cause, but the degree of daring, made fortitude.'

His last remark is, that these dictates of reason are improperly called
laws, because 'law, properly, is the word of him that by right hath
command over others.' But when considered not as mere conclusions or
theorems concerning the means of conservation and defence, but as
delivered in the word of God, that by right commands all, then they are
properly called laws.

Chapter XVI., closing the whole first part of the Leviathan, is of
Persons, Authors, and Things Personated. The definitions and
distinctions contained in it add nothing of direct ethical importance
to the foregoing, though needed for the discussion of 'Commonwealth,'
to which he passes. The chief points under this second great head are
taken into the summary.

The views of Hobbes can be only inadequately summarized.

I.--The Standard, to men living in society, is the Law of the State.
This is Self-interest or individual Utility, masked as regard for
Established Order; for, as he holds, under any kind of government there
is more Security and Commodity of life than in the State of Nature. In
the Natural Condition, Self-interest, of course, is the Standard; but
not without responsibility to God, in case it is not sought, as far as
other men will allow, by the practice of the dictates of Reason or laws
of Nature.

II.--His Psychology of Ethics is to be studied in the detail. Whether
in the natural or in the social state, the Moral Faculty, to correspond
with the Standard, is the general power of Reason, comprehending the
aims of the Individual or Society, and attending to the laws of Nature
or the laws of the State, in the one case or in the other respectively.

On the question of the Will, his views have been given at length.

Disinterested Sentiment is, in origin, self-regarding; for, pitying
others, we imagine the like calamity befalling ourselves. In one place,
he seems to say, that the Sentiment of Power is also involved. It is
the great defect of his system that he takes so little account of the
Social affections, whether natural or acquired.

III.--His Theory of Happiness, or the Summum Bonum, would follow from
his analysis of the Feelings and Will. But Felicity being a continual
progress in desire, and consisting less in present enjoyment than in
_assuring_ the way of future desire, the chief element in it is the
Sense of Power.

IV.--A Moral Code is minutely detailed under the name of Laws of
Nature, in force in the Natural State under Divine Sanction. It
inculcates all the common virtues, and makes little or no departure
from the usually received maxims.

V.--The relation of Ethics to Politics is the closest imaginable. Not
even Society, as commonly understood, but only the established civil
authority, is the source of rules of conduct. In the _civil_ (which to
Hobbes is the only meaning of the _social_) state, the laws of nature
are superseded, by being supposed taken up into, the laws of the
Sovereign Power.

VI.--As regards Religion, he affirms the coincidence of his reasoned
deduction of the laws of Nature with the precepts of Revelation. He
makes a mild use of the sanctions of a Future Life to enforce the laws
of Nature, and to give additional support to the commands of the
sovereign that take the place of these in the social state.

Among the numberless replies, called forth by the bold speculations of
Hobbes, were some works of independent ethical importance; in
particular, the treatises of Cumberland, Cudworth, and Clarke.
Cumberland stands by himself; Cudworth and Clarke, agreeing in some
respects, are commonly called the _Rational_ moralists, along with
Wollaston and Price (who fall to be noticed later).


Cumberland's' Latin work, _De Legibus Naturae, disquisitio philosophica
contra Hobbium instituta_, appeared in 1672. The book is important as a
distinctly philosophical disquisition, but its extraordinarily
discursive character renders impossible anything like analysis. His
chief points will be presented in a fuller summary than usual.

I.--The STANDARD of Moral Good is given in the laws of Nature, which
may all be summed up in one great Law--_Benevolence to all rational
agents_ or the endeavour to the utmost of our power to promote the
common good of all. His theory is hardly to be distinguished from the
Greatest Happiness principle; unless it might be represented as putting
forward still more prominently the search for Individual Happiness,
with a fixed assumption that this is best secured through the promotion
of the general good. No action, he declares, can be called 'morally
good that does not in its own nature contribute somewhat to the
happiness of men.' The speciality of his view is his professing not to
make an induction as regards the character of actions from the
observation of their effects, but to deduce the propriety of
(benevolent) actions from, the consideration of the character and
position of rational agents in nature. Rules of conduct, all directed
to the promotion of the Happiness of rational agents, may thus be found
in the form of propositions impressed upon the mind by the Nature of
Things; and these are then interpreted to be laws of Nature (summed up
in the one great Law), promulgated by God with the natural effects of
actions as Sanctions of Reward and Punishment to enforce them.

II.--His Psychology of Ethics may be reduced to the following heads.

1. The Faculty is the Reason, apprehending the exact Nature of Things,
and determining accordingly the modes of action that are best suited to
promote the happiness of rational agents.

2. Of the Faculty, under the name of _Conscience_, he gives this
description: 'The mind is conscious to itself of all its own actions,
and both can, and often does, observe what counsels produced them; it
naturally sits a judge upon its own actions, and thence procures to
itself either tranquillity and joy, or anxiety and sorrow.' The
principal design of his whole book is to show 'how this power of the
mind, either by itself, or excited by external objects, forms certain
universal practical propositions, which give us a more distinct idea of
the happiness of mankind, and pronounces by what actions of ours, in
all variety of circumstances, that happiness may most effectually be
obtained.' [Conscience is thus only Reason, or the knowing faculty in
general, as specially concerned about actions in their effect upon
happiness; it rarely takes the place of the more general term.]

3. He expressly leaves aside the supposition that we have _innate
ideas_ of the laws of Nature whereby conduct is to be guided, or of the
matters that they are conversant about. He has not, he says, been so
happy as to learn the laws of Nature by so short a way, and thinks it
ill-advised to build the doctrine of natural religion and morality upon
a hypothesis that has been rejected by the generality of philosophers,
as well heathen as Christian, and can never be proved against the
Epicureans, with whom lies his chief controversy. Yet he declines to
oppose the doctrine of innate ideas, because it looks with a friendly
eye upon piety and morality; and perhaps it may be the case, that such
ideas are _both_ born with us and afterwards impressed upon us from

4. Will, he defines as 'the consent of the mind with the judgment of
the understanding, concerning things agreeing among themselves.'
Although, therefore, he supposes that nothing but Good and Evil can
determine the will, and that the will is even _necessarily_ determined
to seek the one and flee the other, he escapes the conclusion that the
will is moved only by private good, by accepting the implication of
private with common good as the fixed judgment of the understanding or
right reason.

5. He argues against the resolution of all Benevolence into
self-seeking, and thus claims for man a principle of disinterested
action. But what he is far more concerned to prove is, that benevolence
of all to all accords best with the whole frame of nature, stands forth
with perfect evidence, upon a rational apprehension of the universe, as
the great Law of Nature, and is the most effectual means of promoting
the happiness of individuals, viz., through the happiness of all.

III.--Happiness is given as connected with the most full and constant
exercise of all our powers, about the best and greatest objects and
effects that are adequate and proportional to them; as consisting in
the enlargement or perfection of the faculties of any one thing or
several. Here, and in his protest against Hobbes's taking affection and
desire, instead of Reason, as the measure of the goodness of things,
may be seen in what way he passes from the conception of Individual, to
the notion of Common Good, as the end of action. Reason affirms the
common good to be more essentially connected with the perfection of man
than any pursuit of private advantage. Still there is no disposition in
him to sacrifice private to the common good: he declares that no man is
called on to promote the common good beyond his ability, and attaches
no meaning to the general good beyond the special good of _all_ the
particular rational agents in their respective places, from God (to
whom he ventures to ascribe a Tranquillity, Joy, or Complacency)
downwards. The happiness of men he considers as _Internal_, arising
_immediately_ from the vigorous exercise of the faculties about their
proper and noblest objects; and _External_, the _mediate_ advantages
procurable from God and men by a course of benevolent action.

IV.--His Moral Code is arrived at by a somewhat elaborate deduction
from the great Law of Nature enjoining Benevolence or Promotion of the
Common Good of all rational beings.

This Common Good comprehends the Honour of God, and the Good or
Happiness of Men, as Nations, Families, and Individuals.

The actions that promote this Common Good, are Acts either of the
understanding, or of the will and affections, or of the body as
determined by the will. From this he finds that _Prudence_ (including
Constancy of Mind and Moderation) is enjoined in the Understanding,
and, in the Will, _Universal Benevolence_ (making, with Prudence,
_Equity_), _Government of the Passions_, and the Special Laws of
Nature--_Innocence, Self-denial, Gratitude, &c._

This he gets from the consideration of what is contained in the general
Law of Nature. But the obligation to the various moral virtues does not
appear, until he has shown that the Law of Nature, for procuring the
Common Happiness of all, suggests a natural law of _Universal Justice_,
commanding to make and preserve a _division_ of Rights, _i.e._, giving
to particular persons Property or Dominion over things and persons
necessary to their Happiness. There are thus Rights of God (to Honour,
Glory, &c.) and Rights of Men (to have those advantages continued to
them whereby they may preserve and perfect themselves, and be useful to
all others).

For the same reason that _Rights_ of particular persons are fixed and
preserved, viz., that the common good of all should be promoted by
every one,--two _Obligations_ are laid upon all.

(1) Of GIVING: We are to contribute to others such a share of the
things committed to our trust, as may not destroy the part that is
necessary to our own happiness. Hence are obligatory the virtues (_a_)
in regard to Gifts, _Liberality, Generosity, Compassion, &c._; (_b_) in
regard to Common Conversation or Intercourse, _Gravity and
Courteousness, Veracity, Faith, Urbanity, &c._

(2) Of RECEIVING: We are to reserve to ourselves such use of our own,
as may be most advantageous to, or at least consistent with, the good
of others. Hence the obligation or the virtues pertaining to the
various branches of a limited Self-Love, (_a_) with regard to our
_essential parts_, viz., Mind and Body--_Temperance_ in the natural
desires concerned in the preservation of the individual and the
species; (_b_) with regard to _goods of fortune--Modesty, Humility, and

V.--He connects Politics with Ethics, by finding, in the establishment
of civil government, a more effectual means of promoting the common
happiness according to the Law of Nature, than in any equal division of
things. But the Law of Nature, he declares, being before the civil
laws, and containing the ground of their obligation, can never be
superseded by these. Practically, however, the difference between him
and Hobbes comes to very little; he recognizes no kind of earthly check
upon the action of the civil power.

VI.--With reference to Religion, he professes to abstain entirely from
theological questions, and does abstain from mixing up the doctrines of
Revelation. But he attaches a distinctly divine authority to his moral
rules, and supplements earthly by supernatural sanctions.

RALPH CUDWORTH. [1617-88.]

Cudworth's _Treatise concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality_, did
not appear until 1731, more than forty years after his death. Having in
a former work ('Intellectual system of the Universe') contended against
the 'Atheistical Fate' of Epicurus and others, he here attacks the
'Theologick Fate' (the arbitrarily omnipotent Deity) of Hobbes,
charging him with reviving exploded opinions of Protagoras and the
ancient Greeks, that take away the essential and eternal discrimination
of moral good and evil, of just and unjust.

After piling up, out of the store of his classical and scholastic
erudition, a great mass of testimony regarding all who had ever founded
distinctions of Right and Wrong upon mere arbitrary disposition,
whether of God or the State of men in general, he shadows forth his own
view. Moral Good and Evil, Just and Unjust, Honest and Dishonest (if
they be not mere names without any signification, or names for nothing
else but _Willed_ or _Commanded_, but have a reality in respect of the
persons obliged to do and to avoid them), cannot possibly be arbitrary
things, made by Will without nature; because it is universally true
that Things are what they are not by Will, but by nature. As it is the
nature of a triangle to have three angles equal to two right angles, so
it is the nature of 'good things' to have the nature of goodness, and
things just the nature of justice; and Omnipotence is no more able to
make a thing good without the fixed nature of goodness, than to make a
triangular body without the properties of a triangle, or two things
like or equal, without the natures of Likeness and Equality. The Will
of God is the supreme _efficient_ cause of all things, but not the
_formal_ cause of anything besides itself. Nor is this to be understood
as at all derogating from God's perfection; to make natural justice and
right independent of his will is merely to set his Wisdom, which is a
rule or measure, above his Will, which is something indeterminate, but
essentially regulable and measureable; and if it be the case that above
even his wisdom, and determining it in turn, stands his Infinite
Goodness, the greatest perfection of his will must lie in its being
thus twice determined.

By far the largest part of Cudworth's treatise consists of a general
metaphysical argument to establish the independence of the mind's
faculty of Knowledge, with reference to Sense and Experience. In Sense,
according to the doctrine of the old 'Atomical philosophy' (of
Democritus, Protagoras, &c.--but he thinks it must be referred back to
Moses himself!), he sees nothing but _fancies_ excited in us by local
motions in the organs, taken on from 'the motion of particles' that
constitute 'the whole world.' All the more, therefore, must there exist
a superior power of Intellection and Knowledge of a different nature
from sense, a power not terminating in mere seeming and appearance
only, but in the reality of things, and reaching to the comprehension

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