Part 6 out of 8
The consideration of these negative and positive conditions, he thinks,
justifies the two conclusions: (1) That happiness is pretty equally
distributed amongst the different orders of society; and (2) That in
respect of this world's happiness, vice has no advantage over virtue.
The last subject of the First Book is VIRTUE. The definition of virtue
is '_the doing good to mankind, in obedience to the will of God, and
for the sake of everlasting happiness_.'
If this were strictly interpreted according to its form, it would mean
that three things go to constitute virtue, any one of which being
absent, we should not have virtue. Doing good to mankind alone is not
virtue, unless coupled with a divine requirement; and this addition
would not suffice, without the farther circumstance of everlasting
happiness as the reward. But such is not his meaning, nor is it easy to
fix the meaning. He unites the two conditions--Human Happiness and the
Will of the Deity--and holds them to coincide and to explain one
another. Either of the two would be a sufficient definition of virtue;
and he would add, as an explanatory proposition and a guide to
practice, that the one may be taken as a clue to the other. In a double
criterion like this, everything depends upon the manner of working it.
By running from one of the tests to another at discretion, we may evade
whatever is disagreeable to us in both.
Book II., entitled MORAL OBLIGATION, is the full development of his
views. Reciting various theories of moral right and wrong, he remarks,
first, that they all ultimately coincide; in other words, all the
theorists agree upon the same rules of duty--a remark to be received
with allowances; and next, that they all leave the matter short; none
provide an adequate _motive_ or inducement. [He omits to mention the
theory of the Divine Will, which is partly his own theory].
In proceeding to supply this want, he asks first 'what is meant by
being obliged to do a thing;' and answers, '_a violent motive resulting
from the command of another_.' The motive must be violent, or have some
degree of force to overcome reluctance or opposing tendencies. It must
also result from the _command_ of another; not the mere offer of a
gratuity by way of inducement. Such is the nature of Law; we should not
obey the magistrate, unless rewards or punishments depended on our
obedience; so neither should we, without the same reason, do what is
right, or obey God.
He then resumes the general question, under a concrete case, 'Why am I
obliged to keep my word?' The answer accords with the above
explanation;--Because I am urged to do so by a violent motive (namely,
the rewards and punishments of a future life), resulting from the
command of God. Private happiness is the motive, the will of God the
rule. [Although not brought out in the present connexion, it is implied
that the will of God intends the happiness of mankind, and is to be
Previously, when reasoning on the means of human happiness, he declared
it to be an established conclusion, that virtue leads to happiness,
even in this life; now he bases his own theory on the uncertainty of
that conclusion. His words are, 'They who would establish a system of
morality, independent of a future state, must look out for some other
idea of moral obligation, _unless they can show_ that virtue conducts
the possessor to certain happiness in this life, or to a much greater
share of it than he could attain by a different behaviour.' He does not
make the obvious remark that _human_ authority, as far as it goes, is
also a source of obligation; it works by the very same class of means
as the divine authority.
He next proceeds to enquire into the means of determining the WILL OF
GOD. There are two sources--the express declarations of Scripture, when
they are to be had; and the design impressed on the world, in other
words, the light of nature. This last source requires him, on his
system, to establish the Divine Benevolence; and he arrives at the
conclusion that God wills and wishes the happiness of his creatures,
and accordingly, that the method of coming at his will concerning any
action is to enquire into the tendency of that action to promote or to
diminish the general happiness.
He then discusses UTILITY, with a view of answering the objection that
actions may be useful, and yet such as no man will allow to be right.
This leads him to distinguish between the _particular_ and the
_general_ consequences of actions, and to enforce the necessity of
GENERAL RULES. An assassin, by knocking a rich villain on the head, may
do immediate and particular good; but the liberty granted to
individuals to kill whoever they should deem injurious to society,
would render human life unsafe, and induce universal terror. 'Whatever
is expedient is right,' but then it must be expedient on the whole, in
the long run, in all its effects collateral and remote, as well as
immediate and direct. When the _honestum_ is opposed to the _utile_,
the _honestum_ means the general and remote consequences, the _utile_
the particular and the near.
The concluding sections of Book II. are occupied with the consideration
of RIGHT and RIGHTS. A Right is of course correlative with an
Obligation. Rights are Natural or Adventitious; Alienable or
Inalienable; Perfect or Imperfect. The only one of these distinctions
having any Ethical application is Perfect and Imperfect. The Perfect
Rights are, the Imperfect are not, enforced by Law.
Under the 'general Rights of mankind,' he has a discussion as to our
right to the flesh of animals, and contends that it would be difficult
to defend this right by any arguments drawn from the light of nature,
and that it reposes on the text of Genesis ix. 1, 2, 3.
As regards the chief bulk of Paley's-work, it is necessary only to
indicate his scheme of the Duties, and his manner of treating them.
Book III. considers RELATIVE DUTIES. There are three classes of these.
First, Relative Duties that are _Determinate_, meaning all those that
are strictly defined and enforced; those growing out of Promises,
Contracts, Oaths, and Subscriptions to Articles of Religion. Secondly,
Relative Duties that are _Indeterminate_, as Charity, in its various
aspects of treatment of dependents, assistance to the needy, &c.; the
checks on Anger and Revenge; Gratitude, &c. Thirdly, the Relative
Duties growing _out of the Sexes_.
Book IV. is DUTIES TO OURSELVES, and treats of Self-defence,
Drunkenness, and Suicide.
Book V. comprises DUTIES TOWARDS GOD.
Book VI. is occupied with Politics and Political Economy. It discusses
the Origin of Civil Government, the Duty of Submission to Government,
Liberty, the Forms of Government, the British Constitution, the
Administration of Justice, &c.
The Ethical Theory of Paley may be briefly resumed thus:--
I.--The Ethical Standard with him is the conjoined reference to the
Will of the Deity, and to Utility, or Human Happiness. He is unable to
construct a scheme applicable to mankind generally, until they are
first converted to a belief in Revelation.
II.--The Psychology implied in his system involves his most
1. He is unmistakeable in repudiating Innate Moral Distinctions, and on
this point, and on this only, is he thoroughly at one with the
Utilitarians of the present day.
2. On the Theory of Will he has no remarks. He has an utter distaste
for anything metaphysical.
3. He does not discuss Disinterested Sentiment; by implication, he
denies it. 'Without the expectation of a future existence,' he says,
'all reasoning upon moral questions is vain.' He cannot, of course,
leave out all reference to generosity. Under 'Pecuniary Bounty' he
makes this remark--'They who rank pity amongst the original impulses of
our nature, rightly contend, that when this principle prompts us to the
relief of human misery, it indicates the Divine intention and our duty.
Whether it be an instinct or a habit (?), it is, in fact, a property of
our nature, which God appointed, &c.' This is his first argument for
charity; the second is derived from the original title of mankind,
granted by the Deity, to hold the earth in common; and the third is the
strong injunctions of Scripture on this head. He cannot, it seems,
trust human nature with a single charitable act apart from the
intervention of the Deity.
III.--He has an explicit scheme of Happiness.
IV.--The Substance of his Moral Code is distinguished from, the current
opinions chiefly by his well-known views on Subscription to Articles.
He cannot conceive how, looking to the incurable diversity of human
opinion on all matters short of demonstration, the legislature could
expect the perpetual consent of a body of ten thousand men, not to one
controverted proposition, but to many hundreds.
His inducements to the performance of duty are, as we should expect, a
mixed reference to Public Utility and to Scripture.
In the Indeterminate Duties, where men are urged by moral
considerations, to the exclusion of legal compulsion, he sometimes
appeals directly to our generous sympathies, as well as to
self-interest, but usually ends with the Scripture authority.
V.--The relation of Ethics to Politics is not a prominent feature in
Paley. He makes moral rules repose finally, not upon human, but upon
Divine Law. Hence (VI.) the connexion of his system with Theology is
JEREMY BENTHAM. [1748-1832.]
The Ethical System of Jeremy Bentham is given in his work, entitled 'An
Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation,' first
published in 1789. In a posthumous work, entitled Deontology, his
principles were farther illustrated, chiefly with reference to the
minor morals and amiable virtues.
It is the first-named work that we shall here chiefly notice. In it,
the author has principally in view Legislation; but the same common
basis, Utility, serves, in his judgment, for Ethics, or Morals.
The first chapter, entitled 'THE PRINCIPLE OF UTILITY,' begins
thus:--'Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign
masters, _pain_ and _pleasure_. It is for them alone to point out what
we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one
hand, the standard of right and wrong; on the other, the chain of
causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all
we do, in all we say, in all we think; every effort we can make to
throw off our subjection will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it.
In words a man may pretend to abjure their empire, but in reality he
will remain subject to it all the while. The _principle of utility_
recognizes this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation of that
system, the object of which is to rear the fabric of felicity by the
hand of reason and of law. Systems which attempt to question it, deal
in sounds instead of sense, in caprice instead of reason, in darkness
instead of light.'
He defines Utility in various phrases, all coming to the same
thing:--the tendency of actions to promote the happiness, and to
prevent the misery, of the party under consideration, which party is
usually the community where one's lot is cast. Of this principle no
proof can be offered; it is the final axiom, on which alone we can
found all arguments of a moral kind. He that attempts to combat it,
usually assumes it, unawares. An opponent is challenged, to say--(1) if
he discards it wholly; (2) if he will act without any principle, or if
there is any other that he would judge by; (3) if that other be really
and distinctly separate from utility; (4) if he is inclined to set up
his own approbation or disapprobation as the rule; and if so, whether
he will force that upon others, or allow each person to do the same;
(5) in the first case, if his principle is not despotical; (6) in the
second case, whether it is not anarchical; (7) supposing him to add the
plea of reflection, let him say if the basis of his reflections
excludes utility; (8) if he means to compound the matter, and take
utility for part; and if so, for what part; (9) why he goes so far,
with Utility, and no farther; (10) on what other principle a meaning
can be attached to the words '_motive_ and _right_.
In Chapter II., Bentham discusses the PRINCIPLES ADVERSE TO UTILITY. He
conceives two opposing grounds. The first mode of opposition is direct
and constant, as exemplified in _Asceticism_. A second mode may be only
occasional, as in what he terms the principle of _Sympathy and
Antipathy_ (Liking and Disliking).
The principle of Asceticism means the approval of an action according
to its tendency to diminish happiness, or obversely. Any one
reprobating in any shape, pleasure as such, is a partisan of this
principle. Asceticism has been adopted, on the one hand, by certain
moralists, from the spur of philosophic pride; and on the other hand,
by certain religionists, under the impulse of fear. It has been much
less admitted into Legislation than into Morals. It may have
originated, in the first instance, with hasty speculators, looking at
the pains attending certain pleasures in the long run, and pushing the
abstinence from such pleasures (justified to a certain length on
prudential grounds) so far as to fall in love with pain.
The other principle, Sympathy and Antipathy, means the unreasoning
approbation or disapprobation of the individual mind, where fancy,
caprice, accidental liking or disliking, may mix with a regard to human
happiness. This is properly the negation of a principle. What we expect
to find in a principle is some _external_ consideration, warranting and
guiding our sentiments of approbation and disapprobation; a basis that
all are agreed upon.
It is under this head that Bentham rapidly surveys and dismisses all
the current theories of Right and Wrong. They consist all of them, he
says, in so many contrivances for avoiding an appeal to any external
standard, and for requiring us to accept the author's sentiment or
opinion as a reason for itself. The dictates of this principle,
however, will often unintentionally coincide with utility; for what
more natural ground of hatred to a practice can there be than its
mischievous tendency? The things that men suffer by, they will be
disposed to hate. Still, it is not constant in its operation; for
people may ascribe the suffering to the wrong cause. The principle is
most liable to err on the side of severity; differences of taste and of
opinion are sufficient grounds for quarrel and resentment. It will err
on the side of lenity, when a mischief is remote and imperceptible.
The author reserves a distinct handling for the Theological principle;
alleging that it falls under one or other of the three foregoing. The
Will of God must mean his will as revealed in the sacred writings,
which, as the labours of divines testify, themselves stand in need of
interpretation. What is meant, in fact, is the _presumptive_ will of
God; that is, what is presumed to be his will on account of its
conformity with another principle. We are pretty sure that what is
right is conformable to his will, but then this requires us first to
know what is right. The usual mode of knowing God's pleasure (he
remarks) is to observe what is our own pleasure, and pronounce that to
Chapter III.--ON FOUR SANCTIONS OR SOURCES OF PAIN AND PLEASURE whereby
men are stimulated to act right; they are termed, _physical, political,
moral_, and _religious_. These are the Sanctions of Right.
The _physical_ sanction includes the pleasures and pains arising in the
ordinary course of nature, unmodified by the will of any human being,
or of any supernatural being.
The _political_ sanction is what emanates from the sovereign or supreme
ruling power of the state. The punishments of the Law come under this
The _moral_ or _popular_ sanction results from the action of the
community, or of the individuals that each person comes in contact
with, acting without any settled or concerted rule. It corresponds to
public opinion, and extends in its operation beyond the sphere of the
The _religious_ sanction proceeds from the immediate hand of a superior
invisible being, either in the present, or in a future life.
The name Punishment is applicable only to the three last. The suffering
that befalls a man in the course of nature is termed a _calamity_; if
it happen through imprudence on his part, it may be styled a punishment
issuing from the physical sanction.
Chapter IV. is the VALUE OF A LOT OF PLEASURE OR PAIN, HOW TO BE
MEASURED. A pleasure or a pain is determined to be greater or less
according to (1) its _intensity_, (2) its _duration_, (3) its
_certainty_ or _uncertainty_, (4) its _propinquity_ or _remoteness_;
all which are obvious distinctions. To these are to be added (5) its
_fecundity_, or the chance it has of being followed by other sensations
of its own kind; that is pleasures if it be pleasure, pains if it be
pain. Finally (6) its _purity_, or the chance of its being unmixed with
the opposite kind; a pure pleasure has no mixture of pain. All the six
properties apply to the case of an individual person; where a plurality
are concerned, a new item is present, (7) the _extent_, or the number
of persons affected. These properties exhaust the meaning of the terms
expressing good and evil; on the one side, happiness, convenience,
advantage, benefit, emolument, profit, &c.; and, on the other,
unhappiness, inconvenience, disadvantage, loss, mischief, and the like.
Next follows, in Chapter V., a classified enumeration of PLEASURES AND
PAINS. In a system undertaking to base all Moral and Political action
on the production of happiness, such a classification is obviously
required. The author professes to have grounded it on an analysis of
human nature, which analysis itself, however, as being too
metaphysical, he withholds.
The simple pleasures are:--1. The pleasures of sense. 2. The pleasures
of wealth. 3. The pleasures of skill. 4. The pleasures of amity. 5. The
pleasures of a good name. 6. The pleasures of power. 7. The pleasures
of piety. 8. The pleasures of benevolence. 9. The pleasures of
malevolence. 10. The pleasures of memory. 11. The pleasures of
imagination. 12. The pleasures of expectation. 13. The pleasures
dependent on association. 14. The pleasures of relief.
The simple pains are:--1. The pains of privation. 2. The pains of the
senses. 3. The pains of awkwardness. 4. The pains of enmity. 5. The
pains of an ill name. 6. The pains of piety. 7. The pains of
benevolence. 8. The pains of malevolence. 9. The pains of the memory.
10. The pains of the imagination. 11. The pains of expectation. 12. The
pains dependent on association.
We need not quote his detailed subdivision and illustration of these.
At the close, he marks the important difference between
_self-regarding_ and _extra-regarding_; the last being those of
benevolence and of malevolence.
In a long chapter (VI.), he dwells on CIRCUMSTANCES INFLUENCING
SENSIBILITY. They are such as the following:--1. Health. 2. Strength.
3. Hardiness. 4. Bodily imperfection. 5. Quantity and Quality of
knowledge. 6. Strength of intellectual powers. 7. Firmness of mind. 8.
Steadiness of mind. 9. Bent of inclination. 10. Moral sensibility. 11.
Moral biases. 12. Religious Sensibility. 13. Religious biases. 14.
Sympathetic Sensibility. 15. Sympathetic biases. 16. Antipathetic
sensibility. 17. Antipathetic biases. 18. Insanity. 19. Habitual
occupations. 20. Pecuniary circumstances. 21. Connexions in the way of
sympathy. 22. Connexions in the way of antipathy. 23. Radical frame of
body. 24. Radical frame of mind. 25. Sex. 26. Age. 27. Rank. 28.
Education. 29. Climate. 30. Lineage. 31. Government. 32. Religious
Chapter VII. proceeds to consider HUMAN ACTIONS IN GENERAL. Right and
wrong, good and evil, merit and demerit belong to actions. These have
to be divided and classified with a view to the ends of the moralist
and the legislator. Throughout this, and two other long chapters, he
discusses, as necessary in apportioning punishment, the _act_ itself,
the _circumstances_, the _intention_, and the _consciousness_--or the
knowledge of the tendencies of the act. He introduces many subdivisions
under each head, and makes a number of remarks of importance as regards
In Chapter X., he regards pleasures and pains in the aspect of MOTIVES.
Since every pleasure and every pain, as a part of their nature, induce
actions, they are often designated with reference to that circumstance.
Hunger, thirst, lust, avarice, curiosity, ambition, &c., are names of
this class. There is not a complete set of such designations; hence the
use of the circumlocutions, _appetite for, love of, desire of_--sweet
odours, sounds, sights, ease, reputation, &c.
Of great importance is the _Order of pre-eminence among motives_. Of
all the varieties of motives, Good-will, or Benevolence, taken in a
general view, is that whose dictates are surest to coincide with
Utility. In this, however, it is taken for granted that the benevolence
is not so confined in its sphere, as to be contradicted by a more
extensive, or enlarged, benevolence.
After good-will, the motive that has the best chance of coinciding with
Utility is Love of Reputation. The coincidence would be perfect, if
men's likings and dislikings were governed exclusively by the principle
of Utility, and not, as they often are, by the hostile principles of
Asceticism, and of Sympathy and Antipathy. Love of reputation is
inferior as a motive to Good-will, in not governing the secret actions.
These last are affected, only as they have a chance of becoming public,
or as men contract a habit of looking to public approbation in all they
The desire of Amity, or of close personal affections, is placed next in
order, as a motive. According as we extend the number of persons whose
amity we desire, this prompting approximates to the love of reputation.
After these three motives, Bentham places the Dictates of Religion,
which, however, are so various in their suggestions, that he can hardly
speak of them in common. Were the Being, who is the object of religion,
universally supposed to be as benevolent as he is supposed to be wise
and powerful, and were the notions of his benevolence as correct as the
notions of his wisdom and power, the dictates of religion would
correspond, in all cases, with Utility. But while men call him
benevolent in words, they seldom mean that he is so in reality. They do
not mean that he is benevolent as man is conceived to be benevolent;
they do not mean that he is benevolent in the only sense that
benevolence has a meaning. The dictates of religion are in all
countries intermixed, more or less, with dictates unconformable to
utility, deduced from texts, well or ill interpreted, of the writings
held for sacred by each sect. These dictates, however, gradually
approach nearer to utility, because the dictates of the moral sanction
Such are the four Social or Tutelary Motives, the antagonists of the
Dissocial and Self-regarding motives, which include the remainder of
Chapter XI. is on DISPOSITIONS. A man is said to be of a mischievous
disposition, when he is presumed to be apt to engage rather in actions
of an _apparently_ pernicious tendency, than in such as are apparently
beneficial. The author lays down certain Rules for indicating
Disposition. Thus, 'The strength of the temptation being given, the
mischievousness of the disposition manifested by the enterprise, is as
the apparent mischievousness of the act,' and others to a like effect.
Chapter XII.--OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF A MISCHIEVOUS ACT, is meant as the
concluding link of the whole previous chain of causes and effects. He
defines the shapes that bad consequences may assume. The mischief may
be _primary_, as when sustained by a definite number of individuals; or
_secondary_, by extending over a multitude of unassignable individuals.
The evil in this last case may be either actual pain, or danger, which
is the chance of pain. Thus, a successful robbery affects, primarily, a
number of assignable persons, and secondarily, all persons in a like
situation of risk.
He then proceeds to the theory of PUNISHMENT (XIII., XIV., XV.), to the
classification of OFFENCES (XVI.), and to the Limits of the Penal
Branch of Jurisprudence (XVII.). The two first subjects--Punishments
and Offences--are interesting chiefly in regard to Legislation. They
have also a bearing on Morals; inasmuch as society, in its private
administration of punishments, ought, no less than the Legislator, to
be guided by sound scientific principles.
As respects Punishment, he marks off (1) cases where it is
_groundless_; (2) where it is _inefficacious_, as in Infancy, Insanity,
Intoxication, &c.; (3) cases where it is _unprofitable_; and (4) cases
where it is _needless_. It is under this last herd that he excludes
from punishment the dissemination of what may be deemed pernicious
principles. Punishment is needless here, because the end can be served
by reply and exposure.
The first part of Chapter XVII. is entitled the 'Limits between Private
Ethics and the Art of Legislation;' and a short account of it will
complete the view of the author's Ethical Theory.
Ethics at large, is defined the art of directing men's actions to the
production of the greatest possible quantity of happiness, on the part
of those whose interest is in view, Now, these actions may be a man's
own actions, in which case they are styled the _art of self-government_,
or _private ethics_. Or they may be the actions of other agents, namely,
(1) Other human beings, and (2) Other Animals, whose interests Bentham
considers to have been disgracefully overlooked by jurists as well as
by mankind generally.
In so far as a man's happiness depends on his own conduct, he may be
said to _owe a duty to himself_; the quality manifested in discharge of
this branch of duty (if duty it is to be called) is PRUDENCE. In so far
as he affects by his conduct the interests of those about him, he is
under _a duty to others_. The happiness of others may be consulted in
two ways. First, negatively, by forbearing to diminish it; this is
called PROBITY. Secondly, in a positive way, by studying to increase
it; which is expressed by BENEFICENCE.
But now the question occurs, how is it that under Private Ethics (or
apart from legislation and religion) a man can be tinder a motive to
consult other people's happiness? By what obligations can he be bound
to _probity_ and _beneficence_? A man can have no _adequate_ motives
for consulting any interests but his own. Still there are motives for
making us consult the happiness of others, namely, the purely social
motive of Sympathy or Benevolence, and the semi-social motives of Love
of Amity and Love of Reputation. [He does not say here whether Sympathy
is a motive grounded on the pleasure it brings, or a motive
irrespective of the pleasure; although from other places we may infer
that he inclines to the first view.]
Private Ethics and Legislation can have but the same end, happiness.
Their means, the actions prompted, must be nearly the same. Still they
are different. There is no case where a man ought not to be guided by
his own, or his fellow-creatures', happiness; but there are many cases
where the legislature should not compel a man to perform such actions.
The reason is that the Legislature works solely by Punishment (reward
is seldom applied, and is not properly an act of legislation). Now,
there are cases where the punishment of the political sanction ought
not to be used; and if, in any of these cases, there is a propriety of
using the punishments of private ethics (the moral or social sanction),
this circumstance would indicate the line of division.
First, then, as to the cases where punishment would be _groundless_. In
such cases, neither legislation nor private ethics should interfere.
Secondly. As to cases where it would be _inefficacious_, where
punishment has no deterring motive power,--as in Infancy, Insanity,
overwhelming danger, &c.,--the public and the private sanctions are
also alike excluded.
Thirdly. It is in the cases where Legislative punishment would be
_unprofitable_, that we have the great field of Private Ethics.
Punishment is unprofitable in two ways. First, when the danger of
detection is so small, that nothing but enormous severity, on
detection, would be of avail, as in the illicit commerce of the sexes,
which has generally gone unpunished by law. Secondly, when there is
danger of involving the innocent with the guilty, from inability to
define the crime in precise language. Hence it is that rude behaviour,
treachery, and ingratitude are not punished by law; and that in
countries where the voice of the people controls the hand of the
legislature, there is a great dread of making _defamation_, especially
of the government, an offence at law.
Private Ethics is not liable to the same difficulties as Legislation in
dealing with such offences.
Of the three departments of Moral Duty--Prudence, Probity, and
Beneficence--the one that least requires and admits of being enforced
by legislative punishment is the first--_Prudence_. It can only be
through some defect of the understanding, if people are wanting in duty
to themselves. Now, although a man may know little of himself, is it
certain the legislator knows more? Would it be possible to extirpate
drunkenness or fornication by legal punishment? All that can be done in
this field is to subject the offences, in cases of notoriety, to a
slight censure, so as to cover them with a slight shade of artificial
disrepute, and thus give strength and influence to the moral sanction.
Legislators have, in general, carried their interference too far in
this class of duties; and the mischief has been most conspicuous in
religion. Men, it is supposed, are liable to errors of judgment; and
for these it is the determination of a Being of infinite benevolence to
punish them with an infinity of torments. The legislator, having by his
side men perfectly enlightened, unfettered, and unbiassed, presumes
that he has attained by their means the exact truth; and so, when he
sees his people ready to plunge headlong into an abyss of fire, shall
he not stretch forth his hand to save them?
The second class of duties--the rules of _Probity_, stand most in need
of the assistance of the legislator. There are few cases where it
_would_ be expedient to punish a man for hurting himself, and few where
it _would not_ be expedient to punish a man for hurting his neighbour.
As regards offences against property, private ethics presupposes
legislation, which alone can determine what things are to be regarded
as each man's property. If private ethics takes a different view from
the legislature, it must of course act on its own views.
The third class of duties--_Beneficence_--must be abandoned to the
jurisdiction of private ethics. In many cases the beneficial quality of
an act depends upon the disposition of the agent, or the possession by
him of the extra-regarding motives--sympathy, amity, and reputation;
whereas political action can work only through the self-regarding
motives. In a word these duties must be _free_ or _voluntary_. Still,
the limits of law on this head might be somewhat extended; in
particular, where a man's person is in danger, it might be made the
duty of every one to save him from mischief, no less than to abstain
from bringing it on him.
To resume the Ethics of Bentham. I.--The Standard or End of Morality is
the production of Happiness, or Utility.
Bentham is thus at one in his first principle with Hume and with Paley;
his peculiarity is to make it fruitful in numerous applications both to
legislation and to morals. He carries out the principle with an
unflinching rigour, and a logical force peculiarly his own.
II.--His Psychological Analysis is also studied and thorough-going.
He is the first person to provide a classification of pleasures and
pains, as an indispensable preliminary alike to morals and to
legislation. The ethical applications of these are of less importance
than the legislative; they have a direct and practical bearing upon the
theory of Punishment.
He lays down, as the constituents of the Moral Faculty, Good-will or
Benevolence, the love of Amity, the love of Reputation, and the
dictates of Religion--with a view to the Happiness of others; and
Prudence--with a view to our own happiness. He gives no special account
of the acquired sentiment of Obligation or Authority--the
characteristic of Conscience, as distinguished from other impulses
having a tendency to the good of others or of self. And yet it is the
peculiarity of his system to identify morality with law; so that there
is only one step to connecting conscience with our education under the
different sanctions--legal and ethical.
He would of course give a large place to the Intellect or Reason in
making up the Moral Faculty, seeing that the consequences of actions
have to be estimated or judged; but he would regard this as merely
co-operating with our sensibilities to pleasure and pain.
The Disinterested Sentiment is not regarded by Bentham. as arising from
any disposition to pure self-sacrifice. He recognizes _Pleasures_ of
Benevolence and _Pains_ of Benevolence; thus constituting a purely
interested motive for doing good to others. He describes certain
pleasures of Imagination or Sympathy arising through Association--the
idea of plenty, the idea of the happiness of animals, the idea of
health, the idea of gratitude. Under the head of Circumstances
influencing Sensibility, he adverts to Sympathetic Sensibility, as
being the propensity to derive _pleasure from the happiness, and pain
from the unhappiness, of other sensitive beings_. It cannot but be
admitted, he says, that the only interest that a man at all times, and
on all occasions, is sure to find _adequate_ motives for consulting, is
his own. He has no metaphysics of the Will. He uses the terms _free_
and _voluntary_ only with reference to spontaneous beneficence, as
opposed to the compulsion of the law.
III.--As regards Happiness, or the Summum Bonum, he presents his
scientific classification of Pleasures and Pains, without, however,
indicating any plan of life, for attaining the one and avoiding the
other in the best manner. He makes no distinction among pleasures and
pains excepting what strictly concerns their value as such--intensity,
duration, certainty, and nearness. He makes happiness to mean only the
presence of pleasure and the absence of pain. The renunciation of
pleasure for any other motive than to procure a greater pleasure, or
avoid a greater pain, he, disapprovingly, terms asceticism.
IV.--It being the essence of his system to consider Ethics as a Code of
Laws directed by Utility, and he being himself a law reformer on the
greatest scale, we might expect from him suggestions for the
improvement of Ethics, as well as for Legislation and Jurisprudence.
His inclusion of the interests of the lower animals has been mentioned.
He also contends for the partly legislative and partly ethical
innovation of Freedom of Divorce.
The inducements to morality are the motives assigned as working in its
V.--The connexions of Ethics with Politics, the points of agreement and
the points of difference of the two departments, are signified with
unprecedented care and precision (Chap. XVII.)
VI.--As regards the connexions with Theology, he gives no uncertain
sound. It is on this point that he stands in marked contrast to Paley,
who also professes Utility as his ethical foundation.
He recognizes religion as furnishing one of the Sanctions of morality,
although often perverted into the enemy of utility. He considers that
the state may regard as offences any acts that tend to diminish or
misapply the influence of religion as a motive to civil obedience.
While Paley makes a conjoined reference to Scripture and to Utility in
ascertaining moral rules, Bentham insists on Utility alone as the final
appeal. He does not doubt that if we had a clear unambiguous statement
of the divine will, we should have a revelation of what is for human
happiness; but he distrusts all interpretations of scripture, unless
they coincide with a perfectly independent scientific investigation of
the consequences of actions.
SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH. [1765-1832.]
In the 'Dissertation on the progress of Ethical Philosophy chiefly
during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,' Mackintosh advocates
a distinct Ethical theory. His views and arguments occur partly in the
course of his criticism of the other moralists, and partly in his
concluding General Remarks (Section VII.).
In Section I., entitled PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS, he remarks on the
universality of the distinction between Right and Wrong. On no subject
do men, in all ages, coincide on so many points as on the general rules
of conduct, and the estimable qualities of character. Even the grossest
deviations may be explained by ignorance of facts, by errors with
respect to the consequences of actions, or by inconsistency with
admitted principles. In tribes where new-born infants are exposed, the
abandonment of parents is condemned; the betrayal and murder of
strangers is condemned by the very rules of faith and humanity,
acknowledged in the case of countrymen.
He complains that, in the enquiry as to the foundation of morals, the
two distinct questions--as to the Standard and the Faculty--have seldom
been fully discriminated. Thus, Paley opposes Utility to a Moral Sense,
not perceiving that the two terms relate to different subjects; and
Bentham repeats the mistake. It is possible to represent Utility as the
_criterion_ of Right, and a Moral Sense as the _faculty_. In another
place, he remarks that the schoolmen failed to draw the distinction.
In Section V., entitled 'Controversies concerning the Moral Faculty and
the Social Affections,' and including the Ethical theories coming
between Hobbes and Butler, namely, Cumberland, Cudworth, Clarke, &c.,
he gives his objections to the scheme that founds moral distinctions
solely on the Reason. Reason, as such, can never be a motive to action;
an argument to dissuade a man from drunkenness must appeal to the pains
of ill-health, poverty, and infamy, that is, to Feelings. The influence
of Reason is indirect; it is merely a channel whereby the objects of
desire are brought into view, so as to operate on the Will.
The abused extension of the term Reason to the moral faculties, he
ascribes to the obvious importance of Reason in choosing the means of
action, as well as in balancing the ends, during which operation the
feelings are suspended, delayed, and poised in a way favourable to our
lasting interests. Hence the antithesis of Reason and Passion.
In remarking upon Leibnitz's view of Disinterested Sentiment, and the
coincidence of Virtue with Happiness, he sketches his own opinion,
which is that although every virtuous _act_ may not lead to the greater
happiness of the agent, yet the _disposition_ to virtuous acts, in its
intrinsic pleasures, far outweighs all the pains of self-sacrifice that
it can ever occasion. 'The whole sagacity and ingenuity of the world
may be fairly challenged to point out a case in which virtuous
dispositions, habits, and feelings are not conducive in the highest
degree to the happiness of the individual; or to maintain that he is
not the happiest, whose moral sentiments and affections are such as to
prevent the possibility of any unlawful advantage being presented to
Section VI. is entitled 'Foundations of a more Just Theory of Ethics,'
and embraces a review of all the Ethical writers, from Butler
downwards. The most palpable defect in Butler's scheme, is that it
affords no answer to the question, 'What is the distinguishing quality
of right actions?' in other words, What is the Standard? There is a
vicious circle in answering that they are commanded by Conscience, for
Conscience itself can be no otherwise defined than as the faculty that
approves and commands right actions. Still, he gives warm commendation
to Butler generally; in connexion with him he takes occasion to give
some farther hints as to his own opinions. Two positions are here
advanced: 1st, The moral sentiments, in their mature state, are a class
of feelings with no other objects than _the dispositions to voluntary
actions_, and _the actions flowing from these dispositions_. We approve
some dispositions and actions, and disapprove others; we desire to
cultivate them, and we aim at them for _something in themselves_. This
position receives light from the doctrine above quoted as to the
supreme happiness of virtuous dispositions. His second position is that
Conscience _is an acquired principle_; which he repeats and unfolds in
He finds fault with Hume for ascribing Virtue to qualities of the
Understanding, and considers that this is to confound admiration with
moral approbation. Hume's general Ethical doctrine, that Utility is a
uniform ground of moral distinction, he says can never be impugned
until some example be produced of a virtue generally pernicious, or a
vice generally beneficial. But as to the theory of moral approbation,
or the nature of the Faculty, he considers that Hume's doctrine of
Benevolence (or, still better, Sympathy) does not account for our
approbation of temperance and fortitude, nor for the _supremacy_ of the
Moral Faculty over all other motives.
He objects to the theory of Adam Smith, that no allowance is made in it
for the transfer of our feelings, and the disappearing of the original
reference from the view. Granting that our approbation began in
sympathy, as Smith says, certain it is, that the adult man approves
actions and dispositions as right, while he is distinctly aware that no
process of sympathy intervenes between the approval and its object. He
repeats, against Smith, the criticism on Hume, that the sympathies have
no _imperative_ character of supremacy. He further remarks that the
reference, in our actions, to the point of view of the spectator, is
rather an expedient for preserving our impartiality than a fundamental
principle of Ethics. It nearly coincides with the Christian precept of
doing unto others as we would they should do unto us,--an admirable
practical maxim, but, as Leibnitz has said truly, intended only as a
correction of self-partiality. Lastly, he objects to Smith, that his
system renders all morality relative to the pleasure of our coinciding
in feeling with others, which is merely to decide on the Faculty,
without considering the Standard. Smith shrinks from Utility as a
standard, or ascribes its power over our feelings to our sense of the
adaptation of means to ends.
He commends Smith for grounding Benevolence on Sympathy, whereas
Butler, Hutcheson, and Hume had grounded Sympathy on Benevolence.
It is in reviewing Hartley, whose distinction it was to open up the
wide capabilities of the principle of Association, that Mackintosh
develops at greatest length his theory of the derived nature of
Adverting to the usual example of the love of money, he remarks that
the benevolent man might begin with an interested affection, but might
end with a disinterested delight in doing good. Self-love, or the
principle of permanent well-being, is gradually formed from the
separate appetites, and is at last pursued without having them
specially in view. So Sympathy may perhaps be the transfer, first, of
our own personal feelings to other beings, and next, of their feelings
to ourselves, thereby engendering the social affections. It is an
ancient and obstinate error of philosophers to regard these two
principles--Self-love and Sympathy--as the _source_ of the impelling
passions and affections, instead of being the last results of them.
The chief elementary feelings that go to constitute the moral
sentiments appear to be Gratitude, Pity, Resentment, and Shame. To take
the example of Gratitude. Acts of beneficence to ourselves give us
pleasure; we associate this pleasure with the benefactor, so as to
regard him with a feeling of complacency; and when we view other
beneficent beings and acts there is awakened within us our own
agreeable experience. The process is seen in the child, who contracts
towards the nurse or mother all the feelings of complacency arising
from repeated pleasures, and extends these by similarity to other
resembling persons. As soon as complacency takes the form of _action_,
it becomes (according to the author's theory, connecting conscience
with will), a part of the Conscience. So much for the development of
Gratitude. Next as to Pity. The likeness of the outward signs of
emotion makes us transfer to others our own feelings, and thereby
becomes, even more than gratitude, a source of benevolence; being one
of the first motives to impart the benefits connected with affection.
In our sympathy with the sufferer, we cannot but approve the actions
that relieve suffering, and the dispositions that prompt them. We also
enter into his Resentment, or anger towards the causes of pain, and the
actions and dispositions corresponding; and this sympathetic anger is
at length detached from special cases and extended to all wrong-doers;
and is the root of the most indispensable compound of our moral
faculties, the 'Sense of Justice.'
To these internal growths, from Gratitude, Pity, and Resentment, must
be added the education by means of well-framed penal laws, which are
the lasting declaration of the moral indignation of mankind. These laws
may be obeyed as mere compulsory duties; but with the generous
sentiments concurring, men may rise above duty to _virtue_, and may
contract that excellence of nature whence acts of beneficence flow of
their own accord.
He next explains the growth of Remorse, as another element of the Moral
Sense. The abhorrence that we feel for bad actions is extended to the
agent; and, in spite of certain obstacles to its full manifestation,
that abhorrence is prompted when the agent is self.
The theory of derivation is bound to account for the fact, recognized
in the language of mankind, that the Moral Faculty is ONE. The
principle of association would account for the fusion of many different
sentiments into one product, wherein the component parts would cease to
be discerned; but this is not enough. Why do these particular
sentiments and no others coalesce in the total--Conscience. The answer
is what was formerly given with reference to Butler; namely, while all
other feelings relate to outward objects, the feelings brought together
in conscience, contemplate exclusively _the dispositions and actions of
voluntary agents_. Conscience is thus an acquired faculty, but one that
is _universally and necessarily_ acquired.
The derivation is farther exemplified by a comparison with the feelings
of Taste. These may have an original reference to fitness--as in the
beauty of a horse--but they do not attain their proper character until
the consideration of fitness disappears. So far they resemble the moral
faculty. They differ from it, however, in this, that taste ends in
passive contemplation or quiescent delight; conscience looks solely to
the acts and dispositions of voluntary agents. This is the author's
favourite way of expressing what is otherwise called the authority and
supremacy of conscience.
To sum up:--the principal constituents of the moral sense are
Gratitude, Sympathy (or Pity), Resentment, and Shame; the secondary and
auxiliary causes are Education, Imitation, General Opinion, Laws and
In criticising Paley, he illustrates forcibly the position, that
Religion must pre-suppose morality.
His criticism of Bentham gives him an opportunity of remarking on the
modes of carrying into effect the principle of Utility as the Standard.
He repeats his favourite doctrine of the inherent pleasures of a
virtuous disposition, as the grand circumstance rendering virtue
profitable and vice unprofitable. He even uses the Platonic figure, and
compares vice to mental distemper. It is his complaint against Bentham
and the later supporters of Utility, that they have _misplaced_ the
application of the principle, and have encouraged the too frequent
appeal to calculation in the details of conduct. Hence arise
sophistical evasions of moral rules; men will slide from general to
particular consequences; apply the test of utility to actions and not
to _dispositions_; and, in short, take too much upon themselves in
settling questions of moral right and wrong. [He might have remarked
that the power of perverting the standard to individual interests is
not confined to the followers of Utility.] He introduces the saying
attributed to Andrew Fletcher, 'that he would lose his life to _serve_
his country, but would not do a base thing to _save_ it.'
He farther remarks on the tendency of Bentham and his followers to
treat Ethics too _juridically_. He would probably admit that Ethics is
strictly speaking a code of laws, but draws the line between it and the
juridical code, by the distinction of dispositions and actions. We may
have to approve the author of an injurious action, because it is
well-meant; the law must nevertheless punish it. Herein Ethics has its
alliance with Religion, which looks at the disposition or the heart.
He is disappointed at finding that Dugald Stewart, who made
applications of the law of association and appreciated its powers, held
back from, and discountenanced, the attempt of Hartley to resolve the
Moral Sense, styling it 'an ingenious refinement on the Selfish
system,' and representing those opposed to himself in Ethics as
deriving the affections from 'self-love.' He repeats that the
derivation theory affirms the disinterestedness of human actions as
strongly as Butler himself; while it gets over the objection from the
multiplication of original principles; and ascribes the result to the
operation of a real agent.
In replying to Brown's refusal to accept the derivation of Conscience,
on the ground that the process belongs to a time beyond remembrance, he
affirms it to be a sufficient theory, if the supposed action
_resembles_ what we know to be the operation of the principle where we
have direct experience of it.
His concluding Section, VII., entitled General Remarks, gives some
farther explanations of his characteristic views. He takes up the
principle of Utility, at the point where Brown bogled at it; quoting
Brown's concession, that Utility and virtue are so related, that there
is _perhaps_ no action generally felt to be virtuous that is not
beneficial, and that every case of benefit willingly done excites
approbation. He strikes out Brown's word 'perhaps,' as making the
affirmation either conjectural or useless; and contends that the two
facts,--morality and the general benefit,--being co-extensive, should
be reciprocally tests of each other. He qualifies, as usual, by not
allowing utility to be, on all occasions, the immediate incentive of
actions. He holds, however, that the main doctrine is an essential
corollary from the Divine Benevolence.
He then replies specifically to the question, 'Why is utility not to be
the sole end present to the mind of the virtuous agent?' The answer is
found in the limits of man's faculties. Every man is not always able,
on the spur of the moment, to calculate all the consequences of our
actions. But it is not to be concluded from this, that the calculation
of consequences is impracticable in moral subjects. To calculate the
general tendency of every sort of human action is, he contends, a
possible, easy, and common operation. The general good effects of
temperance, prudence, fortitude, justice, benevolence, gratitude,
veracity, fidelity, domestic and patriotic affections, may be
pronounced with as little error, as the best founded maxims of the
ordinary business of life.
He vindicates the rules of sexual morality on the grounds of
He then discusses the question, (on which he had charged Hume with
mistake), 'Why is approbation confined to voluntary acts?' He thinks it
but a partial solution to say that approbation and disapprobation are
wasted on what is not in the power of the will. The full solution he
considers to be found in the mode of derivation of the moral sentiment;
which, accordingly, he re-discusses at some length. He produces the
analogies of chemistry to show that compounds may be totally different
from their elements. He insists on the fact that a derived pleasure is
not the less a pleasure; it may even survive the primary pleasure.
Self-love (improperly so called) is intelligible if its origin be
referred to Association, but not if it be considered as prior to the
appetites and passions that furnish its materials. And as the pleasure
derived from low objects may be transferred to the most pure, so
Disinterestedness may originate with self, and yet become as entirely
detached from that origin as if the two had never been connected.
He then repeats his doctrine, that these social or disinterested
sentiments prompt the will as the means of their gratification. Hence,
by a farther transfer of association, the voluntary acts share in the
delight felt in the affections that determine them. We then desire to
experience _beneficent volitions_, and to cultivate the dispositions to
these. Such dispositions are at last desired for their own sake; and,
when so desired, constitute the Moral Sense, Conscience, or the Moral
Sentiment, in its consummated form. Thus, by a fourth or fifth stage of
derivation from the original pleasures and pains of our constitution,
we arrive at this highly complex product, called our moral nature.
Nor is this all. We must not look at the side of indignation to the
wrong-doer. We are angry at those who disappoint our wish for the
happiness of others; we make their resentment our own. We hence approve
of the actions and dispositions for punishing such offenders; while we
so far sympathize with the culprit as to disapprove of excess of
punishment. Such moderated anger is the sense of Justice, and is a new
element of Conscience. Of all the virtues, this is the one most
_directly_ aided by a conviction of general interest or utility. All
laws profess it as their end. Hence the importance of good criminal
laws to the moral education of mankind.
Among contributary streams to the moral faculty, he enumerates courage,
energy, and decision, properly directed.
He recognizes 'duties to ourselves,' although condemning the expression
as absurd. Intemperance, improvidence, timidity are morally wrong.
Still, as in other cases, a man is not truly virtuous on such points,
till he loves them for their own sake, and even performs them without
an effort. These prudential qualities having an influence on the will,
resemble in that the other constituents of Conscience. As a final
result, all those sentiments whose object is a state of the will become
intimately and inseparably blended in the unity of Conscience, the
arbiter and judge of human actions, the lawful authority over every
motive to conduct.
In this grand coalition of the public and the private feelings, he sees
a decisive illustration of the reference of moral sentiments to the
Will. He farther recognizes in it a solution of the great problem of
the relation of virtue to private interest. Qualities useful to
ourselves are raised to the rank of virtues; and qualities useful to
others are converted into pleasures. In moral reasonings, we are
enabled to bring home virtuous inducements by the medium of
self-interest; we can assure a man that by cultivating the disposition
towards other men's happiness he gains a source of happiness to
The question, Why we do not morally approve involuntary actions, is now
answered. Conscience is associated exclusively with the dispositions
and actions of voluntary agents. Conscience and Will are co-extensive.
A difficulty remains. 'If moral approbation involve no perception of
beneficial tendency, how do we make out the coincidence of the two?' It
might seem that the foundation of morals is thus made to rest on a
coincidence that is mysterious and fantastic. According to the author,
the conclusive answer is this. Although Conscience rarely contemplates
anything so distant as the welfare of all sentient beings, yet in
detail it obviously points to the production of happiness. The social
affections all promote happiness. Every one must observe the tendency
of justice to the welfare of society. The angry passions, as ministers
of morality, remove hindrances to human welfare. The private desires
have respect to our own happiness. Every element of conscience has thus
some portion of happiness for its object. All the affections contribute
to the general well-being, although it is not necessary, nor would it
be fit, that the agent should be distracted by the contemplation of
that vast and remote object.
To sum up Mackintosh:--
I.--On the Standard, he pronounces for Utility, with certain
modifications and explanations. The Utility is the remote and final
justification of all actions accounted right, but not the immediate
motive in the mind of the agent. [It may justly be feared, that, by
placing so much stress on the delights attendant on virtuous action, he
gives an opening for the admission of _sentiment_ into the
consideration of Utility.]
II.--In the Psychology of Ethics, he regards the Conscience as a
derived or generated faculty, the result of a series of associations.
He assigns the primary feelings that enter into it, and traces the
different stages of the growth. The distinctive feature of Conscience
is its close relation to the Will.
He does not consider the problem of Liberty and Necessity.
He makes Disinterested Sentiment a secondary or derived feeling--a
stage on the road to Conscience. While maintaining strongly the
disinterested character of the sentiment, he considers that it may be
fully accounted for by derivation from our primitive self-regarding
feelings, and denies, as against Stewart and Brown, that this gives it
a selfish character.
He carries the process of associative growth a step farther, and
maintains that we re-convert disinterestedness into a lofty
delight--the delight in goodness for its own sake; to attain this
characteristic is the highest mark of a virtuous character.
III.---His Summum Bonum, or Theory of Happiness, is contained in his
much iterated doctrine of the deliciousness of virtuous conduct, by
which he proposes to effect the reconciliation of our own good with the
good of others--prudence with virtue. Virtue is 'an inward fountain of
pure delight;' the pleasure of benevolence, 'if it could become lasting
and intense, would convert the heart into a heaven;' they alone are
happy, or truly virtuous, that do not need the motive of a regard to
His chief Ethical precursor in this vein is Shaftesbury; but he is
easily able to produce from Theologians abundant iterations of it.
IV.--He has no special views as to the Moral Code. With reference to
the inducements to virtue, he thinks he has a powerful lever in the
delights that the virtuous disposition confers on its owner.
V.--His theory of the connexion of Ethics and Politics is stated in his
account of Bentham, whom he charges with making morality too judicial.
VI.--The relations of Morality to Religion are a matter of frequent and
special consideration in Mackintosh.
JAMES MILL. [1783-1836.]
The work of James Mill, entitled the 'Analysis of the Human Mind,' is
distinguished, in the first glace, by the studied precision of its
definitions of all leading terms, giving it a permanent value as a
logical discipline; and in the second place, by the successful carrying
out of the principle of Association in explaining the powers of the
mind. The author endeavours to show that the moral feelings are a
complex product or growth, of which the ultimate constituents are our
pleasurable and painful sensations. We shall present a brief abstract
of the course of his exposition, as given in Chapters XVII.--XXIII. of
The pleasurable and painful sensations being assumed, it is important
to take notice of their Causes, both immediate and remote, by whose
means they can be secured or avoided. We contract a habit of passing
rapidly from every sensation to its procuring cause; and, as in the
typical case of money, these causes are apt to rank higher in
importance, to take a greater hold on the mind, than the sensations
themselves. The mind is not much interested in attending to the
sensation; that can provide for itself. The mind is deeply interested
in attending to the cause.
The author next (XIX.) considers the Ideas of the pleasurable
sensations, and of the causes of them. The Idea of a pain is not the
same as the pain; it is a complex state, containing, no doubt, an
element of pain; and the name for it is Aversion. So the name for an
idea of pleasure is Desire. Now, these states extend to the causes of
pains and pleasures, though in other respects indifferent; we have an
aversion for a certain drug, but there is in this a transition highly
illustrative of the force of the associating principle; our real
aversion being to a bitter sensation, and not to the visible appearance
of the drug.
Alluding (XX.) to the important difference between past and future time
in our ideas of pleasure and pain, he defines Hope and Fear as the
contemplation of a pleasurable or of a painful sensation, as future,
but not certain.
When the immediate causes of pleasurable and painful sensations are
viewed as past or future, we have a new series of states. In the past,
they are called Love and Hatred, or Aversion; in the future, the idea
of a pleasure, as certain in its arrival, is Joy--as probable, Hope;
the idea of future pain (certain) is not marked otherwise than by the
names Hatred, Aversion, Horror; the idea of the pain as probable is
some form of dread.
The _remote_ causes of our pleasures and pains are more interesting
than the immediate causes. The reason is their wide command. Thus,
Wealth, Power, and Dignity are causes cf a great range of pleasures:
Poverty, Impotence, and Contemptibility, of a wide range of pains. For
one thing, the first are the means of procuring the services of our
fellow-creatures; this fact is of the highest consequence in morals, as
showing how deeply our happiness is entwined with the actions of other
beings. The author illustrates at length the influence of these remote
and comprehensive agencies; and as it is an influence entirely the
result of association, it attests the magnitude of that power of the
But our fellow-creatures are the subjects of affections, not merely as
the instrumentality set in motion by Wealth, Power, and Dignity, but in
their proper personality. This leads the author to the consideration of
the pleasurable affections of Friendship, Kindness, Family, Country,
Party, Mankind. He resolves them all into associations with our
primitive pleasures. Thus, to take the example of Kindness, which will
show how he deals with the disinterested affection;--The idea of a man
enjoying a train of pleasures, or happiness, is felt by everybody to be
a pleasurable idea; this can arise from nothing but the association of
our own pleasures with the idea of his pleasures. The pleasurable
association composed of the ideas of a man and of his pleasures, and
the painful association composed of the idea of a man and of his pains,
are both Affections included under one name Kindness; although in the
second case it has the more specific name Compassion.
Under the other heads, the author's elucidation is fuller, but his
principle is the same.
He next goes on (XXII.) to MOTIVES. When the idea of a Pleasure is
associated with an action of our own as the cause, that peculiar state
of mind is generated, called a motive. The idea of the pleasure,
without the idea of an action for gaining it, does not amount to a
motive. Every pleasure may become a motive, but every motive does not
end in action, because there may be counter-motives; and the strength
attained by motives depends greatly on education. The facility of being
acted on by motives of a particular kind is a DISPOSITION. We have, in
connexion with all our leading pleasures and pains, names indicating
their motive efficacy. Gluttony is both motive and disposition; so Lust
and Drunkenness; with the added sense of reprobation in all the three.
Friendship is a name for Affection, Motive, and Disposition.
In Chapter XXIII., the author makes the application of his principles
to Ethics. The actions emanating from ourselves, combined with those
emanating from our fellow-creatures, exceed all other Causes of our
Pleasures and Pains. Consequently such actions are objects of intense
affections or regards.
The actions whence advantages accrue are classed under the four titles,
Prudence, Fortitude, Justice, Benevolence. The two first--Prudence and
Fortitude [in fact, Prudence]--express acts useful to ourselves in the
first instance, to others in the second instance. Justice and
Benevolence express acts useful to others in the first instance, to
ourselves in the second instance. We have two sets of association with
all these acts, one set with them as our own, another set with them as
other people's. With Prudence (and Fortitude) as our own acts, we
associate good to ourselves, either in the shape of positive pleasure,
or as warding off pain. Thus Labour is raised to importance by numerous
associations of both classes. Farther, Prudence, involving the
foresight of a train of consequences, requires a large measure of
knowledge of things animate and inanimate. Courage is defined by the
author, incurring the chance of Evil, that is danger, for the sake of a
preponderant good; which, too, stands in need of knowledge. Now, when
the ideas of acts of Prudence and acts of Courage have been associated
sufficiently often with beneficial consequences, they become
pleasurable ideas, or Affections, and they have also, from the nature
of the case, the character of Motives. In short, there is nothing in
prudential conduct that may not be explained by a series of
associations, grounded on our pleasurable and painful sensations, on
the ideas of them, and on the ideas of their causes.
The real difficulty attaches to Justice and to Beneficence.
As to Justice. Men, in society, have found it essential for mutual
benefit, that the powers of Individuals over the general causes of good
should be fixed by certain rules, that is, Laws. Acts done in
accordance with these rules are Just Acts; although, when duly
considered, they are seen to include the main fact of beneficence, the
good of others. To the performance of a certain class of just acts, our
Fellow-creatures annex penalties; these, therefore, are determined
partly by Prudence; others remain to be performed voluntarily, and for
them the motive is Beneficence.
What then is the source of the motives towards Beneficence? How do the
ideas of acts, having the good of our fellows for their end, become
Affections and Motives? In the first place, we have associations of
pleasure with all the pleasurable feelings of fellow-creatures, and
hence, with such acts of ours as yield them pleasure. In the second
place, those are the acts for procuring to ourselves the favourable
Disposition of our Fellow-men, so that we have farther associations of
the pleasures flowing from such favourable dispositions. Thus, by the
union of two sets of influences--two streams of association--the Idea
of our beneficent acts becomes a pleasurable idea, that is, an
Affection, and, being connected with actions of ours, is also a Motive.
Such is the genesis of Beneficent or Disinterested impulses.
We have next a class of associations with other men's performance of
the several virtues. The Prudence and the Fortitude of others are
directly beneficial to them, and indirectly beneficial to us; and with
both these consequences we have necessarily agreeable associations. The
Justice and the Beneficence of other men are so directly beneficial to
the objects of them, that it is impossible for us not to have
pleasurable associations with acts of Justice and Beneficence, first as
concerns ourselves in particular, and next as concerns the acts
generally. Hence, therefore, the rise of Affections and Motives in
favour of these two virtues. As there is nothing so deeply interesting
to me as that the acts of men, regarding myself immediately, should be
acts of Justice and Beneficence, and the acts regarding themselves
immediately, acts of Prudence and Fortitude; it follows that I have an
interest in all such acts of my own as operate to cause those acts in
others. By similar acts of our own, by the manifestation of
dispositions to perform those acts, we obtain their reciprocal
performance by others. There is thus a highly complex, concurring
stimulus to acts of virtue,--a large aggregate of influences of
association, the power at bottom being still our own pleasurable and
painful sensations. We must add the ascription of Praise, an influence
remarkable for its wide propagation and great efficacy over men's
minds, and no less remarkable as a proof of the range of the
associating principle, especially in its character of Fame, which, in
the case of future fame, is a purely ideal or associated delight.
Equally, if not more, striking are the illustrations from Dispraise.
The associations of Disgrace, even when not sufficient to restrain the
performance of acts abhorred by mankind, are able to produce the
horrors of Remorse, the most intense of human sufferings. The love of
praise leads by one step to the love of Praiseworthiness; the dread of
blame, to the dread of Blameworthiness.
Of these various Motives, the most constant in operation, and the most
in use in moral training, are Praise and Blame. It is the sensibility
to Praise and Blame--the joyful feelings associated with the one, and
the dread associated with the other--that gives effect to POPULAR
OPINION, or the POPULAR SANCTION, and, with reference to men generally,
the MORAL SANCTION.
The other motives to virtue, namely, the association of our own acts of
Justice and Beneficence, as cause, with other men's as effects, are
subject to strong counteraction, for we can rarely perform such acts
without sacrifice to ourselves. Still, there is in all men a certain
surplus of motive from this cause, just as there is a surplus from the
association of acts of ours, hostile to other men, with a return of
hostility on their part.
The best names for the aggregate Affection, Motive, and Disposition in
this important region of conduct, are _Moral Approbation_ and
_Disapprobation_. The terms Moral Sense, Sense of Right and Wrong, Love
of Virtue and Hatred of Vice, are not equally appropriate. Virtue and
Morality are other synonyms.
In the work entitled, 'A Fragment on Mackintosh,' there are afforded
farther illustrations of the author's derivation of the Moral
Sentiment, together with an exposition and defence of Utility as the
standard, in which his views are substantially at one with Bentham. Two
or three references will be sufficient.
In the statement of the questions in dispute in Morals, he objects to
the words 'test' and 'criterion,' as expressing the standard. He
considers it a mistake to designate as a 'test' what is the thing
itself; the test of Morality is Morality. Properly, the thing testing
is one thing; the thing tested another thing. The same objection would
apply to the use of the word Standard; so that the only form of the
first question of Ethics would be, What _is_ morality? What does it
consist in? [The remark is just, but somewhat hypercritical. The
illustration from Chemical testing is not true in fact; the test of
gold is some essential attribute of gold, as its weight. And when we
wish to determine as to a certain act, whether it is a moral act, we
compare it with what we deem the essential quality of moral
acts--Utility, our Moral Instinct, &c.--and the operation is not
improperly called testing the act. Since, therefore, whatever we agree
upon as the essence of morality, must be practically used by us as a
test, criterion, or standard, there cannot be much harm in calling this
essential quality the standard, although the designation is to a
certain extent figurative.]
The author has some additional remarks on the derivation of our
Disinterested feelings: he reiterates the position expressed in the
'Analysis,' that although we have feelings directly tending to the good
of others, they are nevertheless the growth of feelings that are rooted
in self. That feelings should be detached from their original root is a
well known phenomenon of the mind.
His illustrations of Utility are a valuable contribution to the defence
of that doctrine. He replies to most of the common objections.
Mackintosh had urged that the reference to Utility would be made a
dangerous pretext for allowing exceptions to common rules. Mill
expounds at length (p. 246) the formation of moral rules, and retorts
that there are rules expressly formed to make exceptions to other
rules, as justice before generosity, charity begins at home, &c.
He animadverts with great severity on Mackintosh's doctrines, as to the
delight of virtue for its own sake, and the special contact of moral
feelings with the will. Allowance being made for the great difference
in the way that the two writers express themselves, they are at one in
maintaining Utility to be the ultimate standard, and in regarding
Conscience as a derived faculty of the mind.
The author's handling of Ethics does not extend beyond the first and
second topics--the STANDARD and the FACULTY. His Standard is Utility.
The Faculty is based on our Pleasures and Pains, with which there are
multiplied associations. Disinterested Sentiment is a real fact, but
has its origin in our own proper pleasures and pains.
Mill considers that the existing moral rules are all based on our
estimate, correct or incorrect, of Utility.
JOHN AUSTIN. [1790-1859.]
Austin, in his Lectures on 'The Province of Jurisprudence determined,'
has discussed the leading questions of Ethics. We give an abstract of
the Ethical part.
LECTURE I. Law, in its largest meaning, and omitting metaphorical
applications, embraces Laws set by God to his creatures, and Laws set
by man to man. Of the laws set by man to man, some are established by
_political_ superiors, or by persons exercising government in nations
or political societies. This is law in the usual sense of the word,
forming the subject of Jurisprudence. The author terms it _Positive
Law_. There is another class of laws not set by political superiors in
that capacity. Yet some of these are properly termed laws, although
others are only so by a close Analogy. There is no name for the laws
proper, but to the others are applied such names as '_moral_ rules,'
'the _moral_ law,' '_general_ or _public opinion_,' 'the law of
_honour_ or of _fashion_.' The author proposes for these laws the name
_positive morality_. The laws now enumerated differ in many important
respects, but agree in this--that all of them are set _by_ intelligent
and rational beings _to_ intelligent and rational beings. There is a
figurative application of the word 'law,' to the uniformities of the
natural world, through which, the field of jurisprudence and morals has
been deluged with muddy speculation.
Laws properly so called are _commands_. A command is the signification
of a desire or wish, accompanied with the power and the purpose to
inflict evil if that desire is not complied with. The person so desired
is _bound_ or _obliged_, or placed under a _duty_, to obey. Refusal is
disobedience, or violation of duty. The evil to be inflicted is called
a _sanction_, or an _enforcement of obedience_; the term _punishment_
expresses one class of sanctions.
The term sanction is improperly applied to a Reward. We cannot say that
an action is _commanded_, or that obedience is _constrained_ or
_enforced_ by the offer of a reward. Again, when a reward is offered, a
_right_ and not an obligation is created: the imperative function
passes to the party receiving the reward. In short, it is only by
conditional _evil_, that duties are _sanctioned_ or _enforced_.
The correct meaning of _superior_ and _inferior_ is determined by
command and obedience.
LECTURE II. The _Divine Laws_ are the known commands of the Deity,
enforced by the evils that we may suffer here or hereafter for breaking
them. Some of these laws are _revealed_, others _unrevealed_. Paley and
others have proved that it was not the purpose of Revelation to
disclose the whole of our duties; the Light of Nature is an additional
source. But how are we to interpret this Light of Nature?
The various hypotheses for resolving this question may be reduced to
two: (1) an Innate Sentiment, called a Moral Sense, Common Sense,
Practical Reason, &c.; and (2) the Theory of Utility.
The author avows his adherence to the theory of Utility, which he
connects with the Divine Benevolence in the manner of Bentham. God
designs the happiness of sentient beings. Some actions forward that
purpose, others frustrate it. The first, God has enjoined; the second,
He has forbidden. Knowing, therefore, the tendency of any action, we
know the Divine command with respect to it.
The tendency of an action is all its consequences near and remote,
certain and probable, direct and collateral. A petty theft, or the
evasion of a trifling tax, may be insignificant, or even good, in the
direct and immediate consequences; but before the full tendency can be
weighed, we must resolve the question:--What would be the probable
effect on the general happiness or good, if _similar_ acts, or
omissions, were general or frequent?
When the theory of Utility is correctly stated, the current objections
are easily refuted. As viewed by the author, Utility is not the
_fountain_ or _source_ of our duties; this must be commands and
sanctions. But it is the _index_ of the will of the law-giver, who is
presumed to have for his chief end the happiness or good of mankind.
The most specious objection to Utility is the supposed necessity of
going through a calculation of the consequences of every act that we
have to perform, an operation often beyond our power, and likely to be
abused to forward our private wishes. To this, the author replies
first, that supposing utility our only index, we must make the best of
it. Of course, if we were endowed with a moral sense, a special organ
for ascertaining our duties, the attempt to displace that invincible
consciousness, and to thrust the principle of utility into the vacant
seat, would be impossible and absurd.
According to the theory of Utility, our conduct would conform to
_rules_ inferred from the tendencies of actions, but would not be
determined by a direct resort to the principle of general utility.
Utility would be the ultimate, not the immediate test. To preface each
act or forbearance by a conjecture and comparison of consequences were
both superfluous and mischievous:--superfluous, inasmuch as the result
is already embodied in a known rule; and mischievous, inasmuch as the
process, if performed on the spur of the occasion, would probably be
With the rules are associated _sentiments_, the result of the Divine,
or other, command to obey the rules. It is a gross and flagrant error
to talk of _substituting_ calculation for sentiment; this is to oppose
the rudder to the sail. Sentiment without calculation were capricious;
calculation without sentiment is inert.
There are cases where the _specific_ consequences of an action are so
momentous as to overbear the rule; for example, resistance to a bad
government, which the author calls an _anomalous_ question, to be tried
not by the rule, but by a direct resort to the ultimate or
presiding-principle, and by a separate calculation of good and evil.
Such was the political emergency of the Commonwealth, and the American
revolution. It would have been well, the author thinks, if utility had
been the sole guide in both cases.
There is a second objection to Utility, more perplexing to deal with.
How can we know fully and correctly all the consequences of actions?
The answer is that Ethics, as a science of observation and induction,
has been formed, through a long succession of ages, by many and
separate contributions from many and separate discoverers. Like all
other sciences, it is progressive, although unfortunately, subject to
special drawbacks. The men that have enquired, or affected to enquire,
into Ethics, have rarely been impartial; they have laboured under
prejudices or sinister interests; and have been the advocates of
foregone conclusions. There is not on this subject _a concurrence or
agreement of numerous and impartial enquirers_. Indeed, many of the
legal and moral rules of the most civilized communities arose in the
infancy of the human mind, partly from caprices of the fancy (nearly
omnipotent with barbarians), and partly from an imperfect apprehension
of general utility, the result of a narrow experience. Thus the
diffusion and the advancement of ethical truth encounter great and
peculiar obstacles, only to be removed by a better general education
extended to the mass of the people. It is desirable that the community
should be indoctrinated with sound views of property, and with the
dependence of wealth, upon the true principle of population, discovered
by Malthus, all which they are competent to understand.
The author refers to Paley's Moral Philosophy as an example of the
perverting tendency of narrow and domineering interests in the domain
of ethics. With many commendable points, there is, in that work, much
ignoble truckling to the dominant and influential few, and a deal of
shabby sophistry in defending abuses that the few were interested in
As a farther answer to the second objection, he remarks, that it
applies to every theory of ethics that supposes our duties to be set by
the Deity. Christianity itself is defective, considered as a system of
rules for tho guidance of human conduct.
He then turns to the alternative of a Moral Sense. This involves two
First, Certain sentiments, or feelings of approbation or
disapprobation, accompany our conceptions of certain human actions.
These feelings are neither the result of our reflection on the
tendencies of actions, nor the result of education; the sentiments
would follow the conception, although we had neither adverted to the
good or evil tendency of the actions, nor become aware of the opinions
of others regarding them. This theory denies that the sentiments known
to exist can be produced by education. We approve and disapprove of
actions _we know not why_.
The author adapts Paley's supposition of the savage, in order to
express strongly what the moral sense implies. But we will confine
ourselves to his reasonings. Is there, he asks, any evidence of our
being gifted with such feelings? The very putting of such a question
would seem a sufficient proof that we are not so endowed. There ought
to be no more doubt about them, than about hunger or thirst.
It is alleged in their favour that our judgments of rectitude and
depravity are immediate and voluntary. The reply is that sentiments
begotten by association are no less prompt and involuntary than our
instincts. Our response to a money gain, or a money loss, is as prompt
as our compliance with the primitive appetites of the system. We begin
by loving knowledge as a means to ends; but, in time, the end is
inseparably associated with the instrument. So a moral sentiment
dictated by utility, if often exercised, would be rapid and direct in
It is farther alleged, as a proof of the innate character of the moral
judgments, that the moral sentiments of all men are precisely alike.
The argument may be put thus:--No opinion or sentiment resulting from
observation and induction is held or felt by all mankind: Observation
and induction, as applied to the same subject, lead different men to
different conclusions. Now, the judgments passed internally on the
rectitude or pravity of actions, or the moral sentiments, are precisely
alike with all men. Therefore, our moral sentiments are not the result
of our inductions of the tendencies of actions; nor were they derived
from others, and impressed by authority and example. Consequently, the
moral sentiments are instinctive, or ultimate and inscrutable facts.
To refute such an argument is superfluous; it is based on a groundless
assertion. The moral sentiments of men have differed to infinity. With
regard to a few classes of actions, the moral judgments of most, though
not of all, men have been alike. With regard to others, they have
differed, through every shade or degree, from slight diversity to
But this is exactly what we should expect on the principle of utility.
With regard to some actions, the dictates of utility are the same at
all times and places, and are so obvious as hardly to admit of mistake
or doubt. On the other hand, men's positions in different ages and
nations are in many respects widely different; so that what was useful
there and then is useless or pernicious here and now. Moreover, since
human tastes are various, and human reason is fallible, men's moral
sentiments often widely differ in the same positions.
He next alludes to some prevailing misconceptions in regard to utility.
One is the confusion of the _test_ with the _motive_. The general good
is the test, or rather the index to the ultimate measure or test, the
Divine commands; but it is not in all, or even in most cases, the
motive or inducement.
The principle of utility does not demand that we shall always or
habitually attend to the general good; although it does demand that we
shall not pursue our own particular good by means that are inconsistent
with that paramount object. It permits the pursuit of our own pleasures
as pleasure. Even as regards the good of others, it commonly requires
us to be governed by partial, rather than by general benevolence; by
the narrower circle of family and friends rather than by the larger
humanity that embraces mankind. It requires us to act where we act
_with the utmost effect_; that is, within the sphere best known to us.
The limitations to this principle, the adjustment of the selfish to the
social motives, of partial sympathy to general benevolence, belong to
the detail of ethics.
The second misconception of Utility is to confound it with a particular
hypothesis concerning the Origin of Benevolence, commonly styled the
_selfish system_. Hartley and some others having affirmed that
benevolence is not an ultimate fact, but an emanation from self-love,
through the association of ideas, it has been fancied that these
writers dispute the _existence_ of disinterested benevolence or
sympathy. Now, the selfish system, in its literal import, is flatly
inconsistent with obvious facts, but this is not the system contended
for by the writers in question. Still, this distortion has been laid
hold of by the opponents of utility, and maintained to be a necessary
part of that system; hence the supporters of utility are styled
'selfish, sordid, and cold-blooded calculators.' But, as already said,
the theory of utility is not a theory of _motives_; it holds equally
good whether benevolence be what it is called, or merely a provident
regard to self: whether it be a simple fact, or engendered by
association on self-regard. Paley mixed up Utility with self-regarding
_motives_; but his theory of these is miserably shallow and defective,
and amounted to a denial of genuine benevolence or sympathy.
Austin's Fifth LECTURE is devoted to a full elucidation of the meanings
of Law. He had, at the outset, made the distinction between Laws
properly so called, and Laws improperly so called. Of the second class,
some are closely allied to Laws proper, possessing in fact their main
or essential attributes; others are laws only by metaphor. Laws proper,
and those closely allied to them among laws proper, are divisible into
three classes. The first are the _Divine Law_ or Laws. The second is
named _Positive Law_ or Positive Laws; and corresponds with
Legislation. The third he calls _Positive Morality_, or positive moral
rules; it is the same as Morals or Ethics.
Reverting to the definition of Law, he gives the following three
essentials:--1. Every law is a _command_, and emanates from a
_determinate_ source or another. 2. Every sanction is an eventual evil
_annexed to a command_. 3. Every duty supposes a _command_ whereby it
is created. Now, tried by these tests, the laws of God are laws proper;
so are positive laws, by which are meant laws established by monarchs
as supreme political superiors, by subordinate political superiors, and
by subjects, as private persons, in pursuance of legal rights.
But as regards Positive Morality, or moral rules, some have so far the
essentials of an _imperative_ law or rule, that they are rules set by
men to men. But they are not set by men as political superiors, nor by
men as private persons, in pursuance of legal rights; in this respect
they differ from positive laws, they are not clothed with legal
The most important department of positive morality includes _the laws
set or imposed by general opinion_, as for example the laws of honour,
and of fashion. Now these are not laws in the strict meaning of the
word, because the authors are an _indeterminate_ or uncertain aggregate
of persons. Still, they have the closest alliance with Laws proper,
seeing that being armed with a sanction, they impose a duty. The
persons obnoxious to the sanction generally do or forbear the acts
enjoined or forbidden; which is all that can happen under the highest
type of law.
The author then refers to Locke's division of law, which, although
faulty in the analysis, and inaptly expressed, tallies in the main with
what he has laid down.
Of Metaphorical or figurative laws, the most usual is that suggested by
the fact of _uniformity_, which is one of the ordinary consequences of
a law proper. Such are the laws of nature, or the uniformities of
co-existence and succession in natural phenomena.
Another metaphorical extension is to a model or pattern, because a law
presents something as a guide to human conduct. In this sense, a man
may set a law to himself, meaning a plan or model, and not a law in the
proper sense of a command. So a _rule_ of art is devoid of a sanction,
and therefore of the idea of duty.
A confusion of ideas also exists as to the meaning of a sanction.
Bentham styles the evils arising in the course of nature _physical_
sanctions, as if the omission to guard against fire were a sin or an
immorality, punished by the destruction of one's house. But although
this is an evil happening to a rational being, and brought on by a
voluntary act or omission, it is not the result of a law in the proper
sense of the term. What is produced _naturally_, says Locke, is
produced _without the intervention of a law_.
Austin is thus seen to be one of the most strenuous advocates of
Utility as the Standard, and is distinguished for the lucidity of his
exposition, and the force of his replies to the objections made against
He is also the best expounder of the relationship of Morality to Law.
WILLIAM WHEWELL. [1794-1866.]
Dr. Whewell's chief Ethical works are, 'Elements of Morality, including
Polity,' and 'Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy in England.'
We may refer for his views to either work. The following abstract is
taken from the latest (4th) edition of his Elements (1864).
In the Preface he indicates the general scope of the work. Morality has
its root in the Common Nature of Man; a scheme of Morality must conform
to the _Common Sense_ of mankind, in so far as that is consistent with
itself. Now, this Common Sense of Mankind has in every age led to two
seemingly opposite schemes of Morality, the one making _Virtue_, and
the other making _Pleasure_, the rule of action. On the one side, men
urge the claims of Rectitude, Duty, Conscience, the Moral Faculty; on
the other, they declare Utility, Expediency, Interest, Enjoyment, to be
the proper guides.
Both systems are liable to objections. Against the scheme of Pleasure,
it is urged that we never, in fact, identify virtue as merely useful.
Against the scheme of Virtue, it is maintained that virtue is a matter
of opinion, and that Conscience varies in different ages, countries,
and persons. It is necessary that a scheme of Morality should surmount
both classes of objections; and the author therefore attempts a
reconciliation of the two opposing theories.
He prepares the way by asking, whether there are any actions, or
qualities of actions, universally approved; and whether there are any
moral rules accepted by the Common Sense of mankind as universally
valid? The reply is that there are such, as, for example, the virtues
termed Veracity, Justice, Benevolence. He does not enquire _why_ these
are approved; he accepts the fact of the approval, and considers that
here we have the basis of a Moral System, not liable to either of the
opposing objections above recited.
He supposes, however, that the alleged agreement may be challenged,
_first_, as not existing; and _next_, as insufficient to reason from.
1. It may be maintained that the excellence of the three virtues named
is not universally assented to; departures from them being allowed both
in practice and in theory. The answer is, that the principles may be
admitted, although the interpretation varies. Men allow Fidelity and
Kindness to be virtues, although in an early stage of moral progress
they do not make the application beyond their own friends; it is only
at an advanced stage that they include enemies. The Romans at first
held stranger and enemy to be synonymous; but afterwards they applauded
the sentiment of the poet, _homo sum_, &c. Moral principles must be
what we approve of, when we speak in the name of the whole human
2. It may be said that such principles are too vague and loose to
reason from. A verbal agreement in employing the terms _truthful, just,
humane_, does not prove a real agreement as to the actions; and the
particulars must be held as explaining the generalities.
The author holds this objection to be erroneous; and the scheme of his
work is intended to meet it. He proceeds as follows:--
He allows that we must fix what is meant by _right_, which carries with
it the meaning of Virtue and of Duty. Now, in saying an action is
right, there is this idea conveyed, namely, that we render such a
_reason_ for it, as shall be _paramount_ to all other considerations.
Right must be the _Supreme_ Rule. How then are we to arrive at this
The supreme rule is the authority over _all_ the faculties and
impulses; and is made up of the partial rules according to the separate
faculties, powers, and impulses. We are to look, in the first instance,
to the several faculties or departments of the mind; for, in connexion
with each of these, we shall find an irresistible propriety inherent in
the very nature of the faculty.
For example, man lives in the society of fellow-men; his actions derive
their meaning from this position. He has the faculty of Speech, whereby
his actions are connected with other men. Now, as man is under a
supreme moral rule, [this the author appears to assume in the very act
of proving it], there must be a rule of right as regards the use of
Speech; which rule can be no other than truth and falsehood. In other
words, veracity is a virtue.
Again, man, as a social being, has to divide with others the possession
of the world, in other words, to possess Property; whence there must be
a rule of Property, that is, each man is to have his own. Whence
Justice is seen to be a virtue.
The author thinks himself at one with the common notions of mankind in
pronouncing that the Faculty of Speech, the Desire of Possessions, and
the Affections, are properly regulated, not by any extraneous purposes
or ends to be served by them, but by Veracity, Justice, and Humanity,
He explains his position farther, by professing to follow Butler in the
doctrine that, through the mere contemplation of our human faculties
and springs of action, we can discern certain relations which must
exist among them by the necessity of man's moral being. Butler
maintains that, by merely comparing appetite with conscience as springs
of action, we see conscience is superior and ought to rule; and Whewell
conceives this to be self-evident, and expresses it by stating that
_the Lower parts of our nature are to be governed by the Higher_. Men
being considered as social beings, capable of mutual understanding
through speech, it is self-evident that their rule must include
veracity. In like manner, it is self-evident from the same
consideration of social relationship, that each man should abstain from
violence and anger towards others, that is, _love his fellow men_.
Remarking on the plea of the utilitarian, that truth may be justified
by the intolerable consequences of its habitual violation, he urges
that this is no reason against its being intuitively perceived; just as
the axioms of geometry, although intuitively felt, are confirmed by
showing the incongruities following on their denial. He repeats the
common allegation in favour of _a priori_ principles generally, that no
consideration of evil consequences would give the sense of
_universality_ of obligation attaching to the fundamental moral maxims;
and endeavours to show that his favourite antithesis of _Idea_ and
_Fact_ conciliates the internal essence and the external conditions of
morality. The Idea is invariable and universal; the Fact, or outward
circumstances, may vary historically and geographically. Morality must
in some measure be dependent on Law, but yet there is an Idea of
Justice above law.
It very naturally occurred to many readers of Whewell's scheme, that in
so far as he endeavours to give any reason for the foundations of
morality, he runs in a vicious circle. He proposes to establish his
supreme universal rule, by showing it to be only a summing up of
certain rules swaying the several portions or departments of our
nature--Veracity, Justice, &c., while, in considering the obligation of
these rules, he assumes that man is a moral being, which is another way
of saying that he is to be under a supreme moral rule. In his latest
edition, the author has replied to this charge, but so briefly as to
cast no new light on his position. He only repeats that the Supreme
rule of Human Action is given by the constitution and conditions of
human nature. His ethical principle may be not unfairly expressed by
saying, that he recognizes a certain intrinsic fitness in exercising
the organ of speech according to its social uses, that is, in promoting
a right understanding among men; and so with Justice, as the fitness of
property, and Humanity, as the fitness of the Affections. This fitness
is intuitively felt. Human happiness is admitted to be a consequence of
these rules; but happiness is not a sufficient end in itself; morality
is also an end in itself. Human happiness is not to be conceived or
admitted, except as containing a moral element; in addition to the
direct gratifications of human life, we must include the delight of
virtue. [How men can be compelled to postpone their pleasurable sense
of the good things of life, till they have contracted a delight in
virtue for its own sake, the author does not say. It has been the great
object of moralists in all ages, to impart by _education_ such a state
of mind as to spoil the common gratifications, if they are viciously
procured; the comparatively little success of the endeavour, shows that
nature has done little to favour it.]
The foregoing is an abstract of the Introduction to the 4th Edition of
the Elements of Morality. We shall present the author's views
respecting the other questions of Morality in the form of the usual
I.--As regards the Standard, enough has been already indicated.
II.--The Psychology of the Moral Faculty is given by Whewell as part of
a classification of our Active Powers, or, as he calls them, Springs of
Action. These are: I.--The _Appetites_ or Bodily Desires, as Hunger and
Thirst, and the desires of whatever things have been found to gratify
the senses. II.--The _Affections_, which are directed to persons; they
fall under the two heads Love and Anger. III.--The _Mental Desires_,
having for their objects certain abstractions. They are the desire of
Safety, including Security and Liberty; the desire of Having, or
Property; the desire of Society in all its forms--Family Society and
Civil Society, under which is included the need of Mutual
Understanding; the desire of Superiority; and the Desire of Knowledge.
IV.--The _Moral Sentiments_. Our judgment of actions as right or wrong
is accompanied by certain Affections or Sentiments, named Approbation
and Disapprobation, Indignation and Esteem; these are the Moral
Sentiments. V.--The _Reflex Sentiments_, namely, the desires of being
Loved, of Esteem or Admiration, of our own Approval; and generally all
springs of action designated by the word _self_--for example,
With regard to the Moral Sentiment, or Conscience, in particular, the
author's resolution of Morality into Moral Rules, necessarily supposes
an exercise of the Reason, together with the Affections above
described. He expressly mentions 'the _Practical_ Reason, which guides
us in applying Rules to our actions, and in discerning the consequences
of actions.' He does not allow Individual Conscience as an ultimate or
supreme authority, but requires it to be conformed to the Supreme Moral
Rules, arrived at in the manner above described.
On the subject of Disinterestedness, he maintains a modification of
Paley's selfish theory. He allows that some persons are so far
disinterested as to be capable of benevolence and self-sacrifice,
without any motive of reward or punishment; but 'to require that all
persons should be such, would be not only to require what we certainly
shall not find, but to put the requirements of our Morality in a shape
in which it cannot convince men.' Accordingly, like Paley, he places
the doctrine that 'to promote the happiness of others will lead to our
own happiness,' exclusively on the ground of Religion. He honours the
principle that 'virtue _is_ happiness,' but prefers for mankind
generally the form, 'virtue _is the way_ to happiness.' In short, he
places no reliance on the purely Disinterested impulses of mankind,
although he admits the existence of such.
III.--He discusses the Summum Bonum, or Happiness, only with reference
to his Ethical theory. The attaining of the objects of our desires
yields Enjoyment or Pleasure, which cannot be the supreme end of life,
being distinguished from, and opposed to, Duty. Happiness is Pleasure
and Duty combined and harmonized by Wisdom. 'As moral beings, our
Happiness must be found in our Moral Progress, and in the consequences
of our Moral Progress; we must be happy by being virtuous.'
He complains of the moralists that reduce virtue to Happiness (in the
sense of human pleasure), that they fail to provide a measure of
happiness, or to resolve it into definite elements; and again urges the
impossibility of calculating the whole consequences of an action upon
_IV_.--With respect to the Moral Code, Whewell's arrangement is
interwoven with his derivation of moral rules. He enumerates five
Cardinal Virtues as the substance of morality:--BENEVOLENCE, which
gives expansion to our _Love_; JUSTICE, as prescribing the measure of
our _Mental Desires_; TRUTH, the law of _Speech_ in connexion with its
purpose; PURITY, the control of the _Bodily Appetites_; and ORDER
(obedience to the Laws), which engages the _Reason_ in the
consideration of Rules and Laws for defining Virtue and Vice. Thus the
five leading branches of virtue have a certain parallelism to the five
chief classes of motives--Bodily Appetites, Mental Desires, Love and
its opposite, the need of a Mutual Understanding, and Reason.
As already seen, he considers it possible to derive every one of these
virtues from the consideration of man's situation with reference to
each:--_Benevolence_, or Humanity, from our social relationship;
_Justice_, from the nature of Property; _Truth_, from, the employment
of Language for mutual Understanding; _Purity_, from considering the
lower parts of our nature (the Appetites) as governed by the higher;
and _Order_, from the relation of Governor and Governed. By a
self-evident, intuitive, irresistible consideration of the
circumstances of the case, we are led to these several virtues in the
detail, and their sum is the Supreme Rule of Life.
Not content with these five express moral principles, he considers that
the Supreme Law requires, as adjuncts, two other virtues; to these he
gives the names EARNESTNESS, or Zeal, and MORAL PURPOSE, meaning that
everything whatsoever should be done for _moral ends_.
V.--The relation of Ethics to Politics in Whewell's system is one of
intimacy, and yet of independence. The Laws of States supply the
materials of human action, by defining property, &c., for the time
being; to which definitions morality must correspond. On the other
hand, morality supplies the Idea, or ideal, of Justice, to which the
Laws of Society should progressively conform themselves. The Legislator
and the Jurist must adapt their legislation to the point of view of the
Moralist; and the moralist, while enjoining obedience to their
dictates, should endeavour to correct the inequalities produced by
laws, and should urge the improvement of Law, to make it conformable to
morality. The Moral is in this way contrasted with the _Jural_, a
useful word of the author's coining. He devotes a separate Book,
entitled 'Rights and Obligations,' to the foundations of Jurisprudence.
He makes a five-fold division of Rights, grounded on his classification
of the Springs of Human Action; Rights of _Personal Security, Property,
Contract, Marriage, Government_; and justifies this division as against
others proposed by jurists.
VI.--He introduces the Morality of Religion as a supplement to the
Morality of Reason. The separation of the two, he remarks, 'enables us
to trace the results of the moral guidance of human Reason consistently
and continuously, while we still retain a due sense of the superior
authority of Religion.' As regards the foundations of Natural and
Revealed Religion, he adopts the line of argument most usual with
JAMES FREDERICK FERRIER. [1808-64.]
In his 'Lectures on Greek Philosophy' (Remains, Vol. I.), Ferrier has
indicated his views on the leading Ethical controversies.
These will appear, if we select his conclusions, on the three following
points:--The Moral Sense, the nature of Sympathy, and the Summum Bonum.
1. He considers that the Sophists first distinctly broached the
question--What is man by nature, and what is he by convention or
'This prime question of moral philosophy, as I have called it, is no
easy one to answer, for it is no easy matter to effect the
discrimination out of which the answer must proceed. It is a question,
perhaps, to which no complete, but only an approximate, answer can be
returned. One common mistake is to ascribe more to the natural man than
properly belongs to him, to ascribe to him attributes and endowments
which belong only to the social and artificial man. Some
writers--Hutcheson, for example, and he is followed by many others--are
of opinion that man naturally has a conscience or moral sense which
discriminates between right and wrong, just as he has naturally a sense
of taste, which distinguishes between sweet and bitter, and a sense of
sight, which discriminates between red and blue, or a sentient
organism, which distinguishes between pleasure and pain. That man has
by nature, and from the first, the possibility of attaining to a
conscience is not to be denied. That lie has within him by birthright
something out of which conscience is developed, I firmly believe; and
what this is I shall endeavour by-and-by to show when I come to speak
of Sokrates and his philosophy as opposed to the doctrines of the
Sophists. But that the man is furnished by nature with a conscience
ready-made, just as he is furnished with a ready-made sensational
apparatus, this is a doctrine in which I have no faith, and which I
regard as altogether erroneous. It arises out of the disposition to
attribute more to the natural man than properly belongs to him. The
other error into which inquirers are apt to fall in making a
discrimination between what man is by nature, and what he is by
convention, is the opposite of the one just mentioned. They sometimes
attribute to the natural man less than properly belongs to him. And
this, I think, was the error into which the Sophists were betrayed.
They fall into it inadvertently, and not with any design of embracing
or promulgating erroneous opinions.'
2. With reference to SYMPATHY, he differs from Adam Smith's view, that
it is a native and original affection of the heart, like hunger and
thirst. Mere feeling, he contends, can never take a man out of self.
It is thought that overleaps this boundary; not the _feeling_ of
sensation, but the _thought_ of one's self and one's sensations,
gives the ground and the condition of sympathy. Sympathy has
self-consciousness for its foundation. Very young children have little
sympathy, because in them the idea of self is but feebly developed.
3. In his chapter on the Cynic and Cyrenaic schools, he discusses at
length the summum bonum, or Happiness, and, by implication, the Ethical
end, or Standard. He considers that men have to keep in view _two_
ends; the one the maintenance of their own nature, as rational and
thinking beings; the other their happiness or pleasure. He will not
allow that we are to do right at all hazards, irrespective of utility;
yet he considers that there is something defective in the scheme that
sets aside virtue as the good, and enthrones happiness in its place. He
sums up as follows:--
'We thus see that a complete body of ethics should embrace two codes,
two systems of rules, the one of which we may call the fundamental or
antecedent, or under-ground ethics, as underlying the other; and the
other of which we may call the upper or subsequent, or above-ground
ethics, as resting on, and modified by the former. The under-ground
ethics would inculcate on man the necessity of being what he truly is,
namely, a creature of reason and of thought; in short, the necessity of
being a man, and of preserving to himself this status. Here the end is
virtue, that is, the life and health of the soul, and nothing but this.
The above-ground ethics would inculcate on man the necessity of being a
It is not enough for man _to be_; he must, moreover, if possible, _be
happy_. The fundamental ethics look merely to his being, _i.e._, his
being rational; the upper ethics look principally to his being happy,
but they are bound to take care that in all his happiness he does
nothing to violate his rationality, the health and virtue of the soul.'
Mr. Mansel, in his 'Metaphysics,' has examined the question of a moral
standard, and the nature of the moral faculty, accepting, with slight
and unimportant modifications, the current theory of a moral sense.
1. _The Moral Faculty_. That the conceptions of right and wrong are
_sui generis_, is proved (1) by the fact that in all languages there
are distinct terms for 'right' and 'agreeable;' (2) by the testimony of
consciousness; and (3) by the mutual inconsistencies of the antagonists
of a moral sense. The moral faculty is not identical with Reason; for
the understanding contributes to truth only one of its elements,
namely, the concept; in addition, the concept must agree with the fact
as presented in intuition. The moral sense is usually supposed to
involve the perception of qualities only in so far as they are
_pleasing_ or _displeasing_. To this representation Mr. Mansel objects.
In an act of moral consciousness two things are involved: a perception
or judgment, and a sentiment or feeling. But the judgment itself may be
farther divided into two parts: 'the one, an individual fact, presented
now and here; the other, a general law, valid always and everywhere.'
This is the distinction between _presentative_ and _representative_
Knowledge. In every act of consciousness there is some individual fact
presented, and an operation of the understanding. 'A conscious act of
pure moral sense, like a conscious act of pure physical sense, if it
ever takes place at all, takes place at a time of which we have no
remembrance, and of which we can give no account.' The intuitive
element may be called _conscience_; the representing element is the
_understanding_. On another point he differs from the ordinary theory.
It is commonly said that we immediately perceive the moral character of
acts, whether by ourselves or by others. But this would implicate two
facts, neither of which we can be conscious of: (1) a law binding on a
certain person, and (2) his conduct as agreeing or disagreeing with
that law. Now, I can infer the existence of such a law only by
_representing_ his mind as constituted like my own. We can, in fact,
immediately perceive moral qualities only in our own actions.
2. _The Moral Standard_. This is treated as a branch of Ontology, and