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principles will become the subject of discussion hereafter. It is our purpose now to offer some strictures on his principles in morals; and as those principles are held substantially by the other author, whose well-known and favorite name we have placed at the head of this article, we shall take this opportunity of making some remarks upon the nature and tendency of his ethical speculations also.
What is duty ? and whence our obligation to perform it ? are questions which have been long agitated, but in regard to which, especially the latter, there is still much difference of opinion. At the sight of certain actions we are all conscious of a movement of mind by which we approve or disapprove ; and if the actions are proposed to ourselves, we experience still further an impulse, either to perform or to avoid them. What then is this moral movement so different from mere physical force, and yet so obvious to all-and by what quality in ac. tions is it awakened? Whence that broad distinction—that gulph which no power of education or self-deception can annihilate—which is recognised in all languages, seen by all minds which appears forever to separate vice from virtue ? Does this difference result from the very nature of things, and remain therefore through all changes of law and policy immutably the same; or is it created by the mere authority of some law, human or divine—by the mere fact that the one has been forbidden and the other required; so that were the mandate of the law reversed, what we now call virtue might in one moment be transformed into vice, and the blackest crimes become the greatest virtues ?* Or, do we feel that there is an original and essential difference between actions, which, springing from the relations of things, must not only be antecedent to Law, but must itself be the basis of all Law ?
If such original difference be admitted, what is its nature ? Does it respect merely the tendency of actions—their fitness to injure or to benefit; or has it an independent character of its own? In other words, are truth, integrity, charity, virtues, merely because they contribute to private or general happiness, because they open the way to enjoyment in life, or to never ending blessedness after death; or are they virtues in consequence of some inherent and indestructible quality—a quality which depends not on circumstances or effects which would impart to actions its own sacred impress, even though they were the occasion only of misery, and which, through all the revolutions of polity and time will ever hold them up, as objects of the same commanding reverence?
* "If God," says Ockham, "had commanded his creatures to hate himself, hatred of God would have been praiseworthy."
These are questions equally interesting to the scholar and to practical man. At first view they may seem to present only a subject for curious speculation. But in reality they are entertained, and not only entertained,-in effect they are decided by every mind;
and that decision has a serious influence on its character and conduct. In life, each one has his leading principles of action_his ultimate reasons into which he resolves all duty; and those principles must impart their hue to his whole deportment as a citizen—as a man of business—as a neighbor and even as a Christian. In preferring one course of conduct to another, we must do so, either because we consider it to be our interest, or because while we think it to be our interest, we also feel it to be our duty-feel at our hearts the promptings of some impulse higher and holier than mere self-love, urging us to virtue and to the perfection of goodness as an end of our being no less than as the means of our welfare. We are fair in our dealings-exemplary in our families—patriotic in our public labors—and Christian in our creed and worship, either, because we see HAPPINESS in the distance alluring us forward, and because we think the pursuit of happiness, is the one only end and object of our existence; or we are all these, because side by side with happiness there is another and more venerable form—it is HOLINESS, VIRTUE, demanding of us yet higher homage-worthy to be followed, not simply as a guide to conduct us to bowers of pleasure, but as a mistress, having intrinsic and surpassing worth.
We have thus indicated two leading systems of duty which have divided the suffrages of the learned, and the affections of the multitude. In the present age, so remarkable for the ardor of its pursuit after what are called practical and popular interests, it is easy to discover a marked tendency towards one rather than the other of these systems. Among the young, especially, who enter life amidst such an intense and universal strife for wealth and distinction; and who are made to feel so quickly and sensibly, every movement of public opinion, there is an unusual disposition (natural indeed, but not therefore the less to be lamented) to view happiness as the one thing needful, and the attainment of happiness as the single end of all their labors. Ours is an age, moreover, when men tired of venerable abuses, are inclined to bring every thing to the stern test of utility—and it is not strange that being in such a frame, and solicited on every side by physical means of enjoyment, they should think too exclusively of a gross and palpable utility
which attaches only to the outward man, while they overlook that nobler excellence which belongs to the mind and the heart. At such an era, philosophy and literature catch the prevailing spirit. Reacting upon it, they give that spirit new impulse, which in its turn again flows back upon the speculations of the sage ; and thus men venerable for learning and even for piety, are brought to lend their sanction in lessons of surpassing talent, to the maxims of a sordid philosophy which would confound virtue with prudence, and place the self-devotion of the patriot and philanthropist, upon a level with the calculations of the trader, or the schemes of the demagogue.
It is a fact which ought to be known and pondered, that the selfish morality, which was first taught by Epicurus, and which extended itself till it contributed to unnerve the stern virtue of the Romans, and to overthrow, at one blow, their patriotism and their liberty; which was revived in France during the reign of a licentious court, and helped to prepare the nation for all the guilt and atrocities of the Revolution; which reappeared again in England about fifty years since, and was the means of producing, says Robert Hall,* an entirely new cast of character, equally remote from the licentious gaiety of high life, and the low profligacy which falls under the lash of the law; a race of men distinguished by a calm and terrible ferocity, resembling Cæsar in this only, that they went with sobriety to the ruin of their country ;-it deserves to be known, that this philosophy is revived in our own day, and is taught with indefatigable zeal by some of the ablest writers in our language. It comes to us, at present, under the auspices of Bentham, and is the presiding spirit in all his powerful but singular works. It has succeeded in establishing one of the ablest of the British reviews, (the Westminster,) and may be met in publications of every size and rank, from the quarto volumes of Mr. Mill and Dr. Bowring, down to the humblest effusions of a daily press. Nor these
+ See sermon on Infidelity.
+ It is a singular fact, that Mr. Bentham and his followers should claim for him the glory of having discovered this philosophy. His first principles, i. e. that men always act, and were made to act, from a primary regard to their own interest, has been proclaimed in almost every age and country of the civilized world, not excepting Hindoostan and China. The Epicureans of Greece had their predecessors in one of the moral sects of India. Like their antagonists the Stoics, they illustrate the excessive tendency to simplicity, which has always characterized moral speculations, especially in their earlier stages. The other great principle of Mr. Bentham, and in which he takes specia pride, viz. : that we are to find our own interest in contributing to the greatest happiness of the greatest number, was held in substance by Epicurus, and has been taught in form by many of the moderns. E. g. Hume and Godwin. VOL. I.-NO. I,
alone. Hume and Godwin,* and we must add Paley, still live, in their works, to plead its cause; while it numbers, as allies, mightier than all, the spirit of the age, the sordid inclinations of the heart. Thus addressing us under the sanction of honored names ; thus clothed in all the grace and brilliancy that the highest genius can bestow-taught us perhaps as one of our youthful studies—reiterated now in the literature of our libraries and our drawing rooms, it becomes us to weigh well its claims. It approaches us when least we suspect it, in the worldly-wise maxim -- in the levity and banter of conversationin the flexible politics of private as well as public life - in the countless influences of a busy and a worldly age. If, then we would not imbibe it as thousands do imbibe it, unconsciouslyif we would recognise it in all its disguises and be prepared deliberately to accept or withstand its influence, we should make it the subject of study. We should weigh its principles-consider its tendency, and try it by that unfailing ordeal—the ordeal of history.
What then is this system usually called the selfish system of morals ?---For an answer to this question we go to its most esteemed advocate, Dr. Paley, and we find it stated by him in few and explicit words. Virtue," says Paley, " is the doing good to mankind, in obedience to the will of God and FOR THE SAKE of everlasting happiness !" The motive then from which all duty or virtue must proceed is the hope of everlasting happiness. It must be in accordance with the will of God, because he alone has everlasting happiness at his disposal, and it must consist in doing good to mankind, because it is by that means alone that he will permit us to attain eternal happiness! The same principle is laid down in another form. “Why," says Paley, “ am I obliged to keep my word?”—and we may add, to relieve the poor or perform any other duty. The simple and only answer given, is, “ because I am urged to do so by a violeni motive," (viz. the fear of everlasting misery and the hope of everlasting happiness) “ resulting from the command of God.” Paley, it must be remembered, was a Christian and a divine
* It may surprise those who are acquainted with the writings of Hume and Godwin, io hear them quoted as advocates of the selfish theory. It is true that they formally maintain the capacity of man for disinterested affections; and one of them seems, at times, even disposed to regard benevolence as the only proper spring of action. Their language on this point, however, is vague and contradictory; while they hold fully with Paley and Bentham in estimating actions by their consequences, and in making utility the only ground of moral distinctions. Doing so, they deny in effect, that there is in actions any such thing as an independent moral quality; abolish the distinction between natural and moral science, and open a way for most of the evils of the selfish theory.
and it was of course needful that he should bring into view the precepts and sanctions of his religion. --Not so with Bentham : who, as we learn from Mr. Neal, was an Atheist. Translated into his language and into the language of most modern and ancient Utilitarians, Paley's definition would read more simply thus,“ Virtue is the doing good to mankind for the sake of my own happiness.” – I am obliged to keep my word, and feed the hungry and clothe the naked, not because I am touched by a noble impulse,* which finds delight in acts of justice and charity-not because I am urged by a sense of duty, which, though it speaks with still small voice, yet speaks in tones of rightful and supreme authority—but, simply, because I am urged by a violent desire to secure my own happiness, which (alas !) can be secured on no other terms. Nature or necessity has so bound up my own welfare with that of others, that I am not at liberty to attain the one without promoting the other, and therefore I must needs be just and charitable. Still my own happiness is the only thing for which I am required, or was ever destined to care. In laboring for the benefit of others, I am to do it simply because I am myself to be the gainer, and not because I need feel any sincere interest in it. When performing the highest offices of philanthropy, I fully acquit myself of all the claims of duty, though intent only on my own good, and utterly careless of their welfare for whom I labor. Nay more. If I could indeed lose sight of my own interest, if utterly unmindful of the reward which was to follow, I were capable of an act of kindness to my fellow men, simply from good will to them, or from a sense of gratitude and veneration towards that Supreme Being in whose image they were made, I ought not to regard such an act as virtue. I ought rather to repress such an impulse from within, as factitious and foolish ; and consider that it is not by feeling, but by a cool calculation of interest by a nice computation of profit and loss, that I am to deter
* Paley repudiates altogether the notion of such impulses. (B. III. P. I. ch. v. P. II. ch. v.) Bentham and his followers seem disposed, at times, to recognise some of the benevolent affections as part of the original constitution of man; and recently a writer of the sect, (West. Rev. No. 41. Art. Deontology) for the sake of argument, admits a moral impulse or conscience. Such admissions, however, are effeciually neutralised by the doctrine, that in yielding to these impulses, we do it, not instinctively, nor because they are superior in authority, but on a deliberate calculation that it is only by such obedience that we can secure the greatest amount of happiness. This is a new rendering of Pope's verse
“ Modes of self-love, the Passions we may call." The fatal objection to such a doctrine is that it subordinates conscience to selflove, and makes no distinction between instinctive and deliberative principles.