« PreviousContinue »
work has any special fault, it is its coldly scientific phraseologyits reasoning quietness rather than its imaginative brilliancy.
Some of the incidental thoughts are well and happily expressed, as when he says “ manhood is virtue,”. or when he asserts that
equity, not equality, is the law of justice.” His distinction of happiness into personal and distributive felicity; of felicity into two forms, quantity and quality, &c., are also useful and far-reaching. It would be impossible to analyze, in any brief space, the treatise before us. Its fifteen chapters contain matter of much moment in moral controversy. The argument is conducted with skill, and the linking of thought to thought is highly ingenious. We subjoin, as at once fairest to our readers and the author, the follow. ing excerpts, which shall show much more easily than any synopsis of ours the general doctrines and tones of the work. Our first extract is the author's summary of the main course of speculation evolved in the six earliest chapters, and will readily suggest to the thoughtful reader the value of the full-length exposition of the points noted:
“1. There are many and diverse felicities possible for man. 2. These felicities vary essentially in their quality, as well as in their quantity. 3. The discernment of the higher and lower quality of felicities is ultimately and inexplicably determined by feeling (self-consciousness making it possible for a rational being to compare two or more feelings and felicities). Or, in other words, there is in man an instinctive sentient discrimination of the quantity of felicities. 4. Inasmach as man is a being of 'large discourse, looking before and after,' there is also an intellectual capacity for measuring their quantity. 5. The criterion of rightness or approveableness in acts and states of will, transitive and intransitive, is their tendency to promote the felicity of man as he is constituted and conditioned; and where two or more ends and motives conflict, that end and motive is the right (and therefore, as we shall afterwards show, the obligatory) which is characterized by the bigher or greater felicity, or both. 6. Transitive acts have a twofold end, and therefore a twofold criterion—the felicity of the object or objects of the acts, and the felicity of the subject acting; consequently a twofold motivea motive being the conscious desire of an end. 7. The attainment of the former end—the felicity of others determines the direction which the just or beneficent act is to take, and, consequently, the rightness of the act objectively considered; while the attainment of the latter end-the felicity of the subject-determines the rightness of the benevolent and just acting, compared with any other possible acting-rightness we say, for with that alone are we in the meantime concerned. We have yet to consider wherein lies the morality of an act as distinguished from its mere rightness" (pp. 45, 46). “It is impossible to detect in the socalled conscience or moral sense any elements save these,-(1) a feeling of complacence and displacence; (2) an instinctive sentient discrimination of quality in felicities, and, through this, in the acts of which the felicities are the end; (3) & rational conception of quantity in felicities; (4) a sense of law, imperativeness, or obligation, and their correlatives-obedience and duty-attached to the perception of rightness, but not inherent in it” (p. 57).
Our next excerpt exhibits the author's critique of utilitarianism as compared with his own system; and forms a sort of comparative abstract of his own theory and that of the advocates of a thorough.
going code of morals, founded on the axiom, The greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible numbers.”
* The doctrine expounded in the preceding pages differs from utilitarianism because-(1.) It repudiates the doctrine that the criterion of the duty of a moral agent is the greatest happiness of the greatest number.' We have endeavoured to show that this magic phrase might possibly be a criterion of the distribution of felicities ; but that it is a blander-the result of mental confusion—to imagine that a moral agent can by means of such a standard ascertain those acts which are right, good, moral. (2.) The improved form of this theory, that which explicitly affirms that the utilitarian system embraces in its scope the higher happiness, and admits differences in kind (although it fails to give us any other means of computing these than the arithmetical), in point of fact transfers the criterion from the greatest happiness of the greatest number' to the 'happiness of mankind.' But here the utilitarian argument labours and halts, as in the first case it blundered. Nor can any one closely peruse the more recent utilitarian writings without perceiving that they are constantly shifting their own standard – at one time calling on the reader to fix bis attention on the happiness of mankind,'—thus swamping the whole of morality in benevolence or justice; at another time guiding themselves and their readers by the light of happiness, as discovered by the moral agent to exist in his own consciousness, or it may be in the porm of
Now the individual consciousness of felicity, and again the general bappiness is appealed to. We have shown, on the contrary, that no other criterion of rightness and daty in acts and states of will exists than the felicity, which by our divinely appointed constitution they yield; and that while quality of felicity determines the relative supremacy of mutually opposing states of will, quantity determines all other possible dubitations. In the latter class of cases (quantitative) cultivated reason, in the former (qualitative) an instinctive sentient power of discriminating the higher and lower in sentiment and sensation, through the touchstone of felicity, is the guide of man. Accordingly, where questions of quality' arise, man possesses a moral sense,' that is to say, an instinctive discriminative faculty. This discrimination is effected through felicity. These qualitative and quantitative standards are not to be found in ' mankind,' nor, save temporarily and for the passing occasion, in the consciousness of the moral agents, but in that consciousness as enlightened by inner observation and by outward experience of life, and by the discoveries and revelations of others—in the consciousness, that is to say, of each individual, in so far as he truly represents the norm of man. (3.) Further, the doctrine wbich we have expounded embraces within the sphere of obligatory morality and of moral discrimination those subjective acts which concern the agent alone, as well as those which, done by him, affect his fellow-men. Utilitarianism, even in its best form, recognizes the obligatoriness of those acts only which have external sanctions. (4.) These differences necessitate a further divergence from utilitarianism on the subject of obligation. The very highest form in which the obligatoriness of the moral act has been put by the writers of that school, apart from external and adventitious sanctions, is this, that it rests on a conviction of a community and harmony of aims and interests with our fellow-men-a form not essentially different from that given by David Hume. This theory of obligation is perhaps a necessary consequence of the utilitarian theory of discrimination of the right; but it is inadequate, and exhibits its inadequacy in the fact that it is found necessary to restrict its operation to those duties or moralities which society may and can enforce, leaving outside the pale of morality proper the subjective condition of a moral agent, and thereby excluding the sentiments, as well as the quality of felicities, from a place in a moral system strictly so called. The sense of obligation, law, and duty, are thus regarded as being merely the reproduction in thought of the penal laws of society. To consider this consequence of a strict utilitarianism with the fulness which its importance merits would be to enter on a criticism of the system which would carry us beyond our present parpose. Obligation and the idea' of duty, as understood by us, rest to some extent on the external sanctions and acts for support, but primarily arise out of the attractive force of the felicity of the moral act, which is thus discovered to be at once the end and law of man's constitution, a law which is further protected by the coercive force of the pains of disobedience. The doctrine on this subject, however, is of too much importance to admit of perfunctory summarizing. (5.) But the divergence of the results of the preceding analysis from utilitarianism, old and new, is most strongly marked by the fact that the sentiments are admitted into our scheme as ends in themselves. (6.) Further, we think it will be found to flow, from the definition of virtue and merit given, that with the utilitarian (who in consequence of the connection which subsists between his ethics and metaphysics is, for the most part, a necessitarian), virtue' can have no meaning, except in so far as it is a short way of indicating the virtues,' that is, the recognized secondary maxims of morality; and that it cannot be an end in itself, but, at best, simply a means to an ulterior end. Finally, the Utilitarian theory instinctively avoids the question of the conditions of human happiness, and thereby is constantly led to confound happiness or felicity, in the strictly moral (and stoic) signification, the condition of which is always virtue, with happiness, in the sense of rounde and complacent content. The fact that it avoids, if it does not abjure, this interpretation of moral happiness, does not alter the fact that the two significations of the word are not consistently distinguished in their writings, and that this confusion has beeu one cause of their evading the question of the nature of the moral energizing, and of their consequent failure steadily to keep in view the fact that moral happiness means more or less of personal suffering, and that the greater the act of virtue (strange as the contradiction may appear), the greater is the pain of the virtuoas agent. Our divergence from the utilitarian theory is farther conspicuously visible in our treatment of the crucial question of justice, in which utilitarianism proper is made to reveal itself in its true colours, as a system of objective criteria and aims, and purely external sanctions” (pp. 139–143).
In the following sentence the author allows us to hear the con. clusion of the whole matter” in a brief and pointed forthflushing of his main thought in a single sentence :
“Our doctrine might be summarized thus :-In qualitative acts and states of will there is an immediate, intuitive moral sense; in quantitative acts and states of will there is a mediate, discursive moral perception. Both alike discriminate the true end of moral energizing, and in that end detect implicit, positive law" (p. 147).
The Church. London: E. Stock. This is a cheap religious magazine, whose contents are really adapted well for family use. Sermons, brief tales, mission news, gems from sacred literature, Scripture explanations, and details regarding natural phenomena, poetry, and an abstract of the intelligence of the month, unitedly form a capital variety in a penny monthly magazine.
WILLIAM HYDE WOLLASTON, M.D. It is a common notion that great talents and great genius are inherited. All great men—80 runs the dictum-have been descended from mothers if not fathers intellectually great. Examples are given from the days of Cæsar downwards of warrior, poet, statesman, and divine, to prove the truth of the assertion. Whether this be so or not is very doubtful: as in the case of omens, dreams, and superstitions generally, while much is always made of the seemingly strong cases, we hear little or nothing of the cases in which the supposed law fails ; and it is quite immaterial, since each man's life must be judged not by what he does owe or is supposed to owe to others, but by his own individual exertions, by the manner in which he has worked out that life for the good of the human race in the sight of God and of his fellow-men.
William Hyde Wollaston, the subject of our present article, was one of a numerous family. The Rev. Francis Wollaston, rector of Chiselhurst, in Kent, and of St. Vedast, Foster Lane, as also precentor of St. David's Cathedral, was the father of seventeen children, and of these William was the second son. They are descended from an ancient family in Staffordshire. Of the father nothing very remarkable is recorded beyond the fact that, from his own observations, he made an extensive catalogue of the northern circumpolar stars, which, with an account of the instruments em. ployed, and tables for the reductions, was published in 1800, under the title of “Fasciculus Astronomicus.” The grandfather, William Wollaston, is celebrated as the author of the “Religion of Nature Delineated," which, as in the generality of theological works, and especially of unfinished ones, exposed the author to a great deal of bitter controversy and severe censure, alike unmerited and undeserved. William Hyde first saw the light on the 6th August, 1766. After passing through the sorrows and pleasures of schoolboy life as it was a century ago, he entered at Caius College, Cam. bridge. It is certain that his youth had been well spent, for we find that at the university he was noted as a diligent, hard-working
and it will be generally found that idle men have been idle boys and youths, and that notwithstar ding the many who have by almost herculean labour succeeded in some measure in atoning for misspent youth, the number is few compared with the many who never do so; so that
As the twig is tent the tree's inclined." 1866.
Young Wollaston abandoned the profession of his father and grandfather for that of medicine, and took his degree of M.D. in 1793. He had already, while at Cambridge, made himself a man of mark, for in this same year he was elected a fellow of the Royal society, and soon after, in 1797, began the first of that long list of contributions on almost every subject within the range of science which adorn the Transactions of the society, and shed a halo of glory around the name of Wollaston. But all was not smooth sailing with Wollaston. He had commenced his professional career at the small town of Bury St. Edmund's, Suffolk, but soon yielded to the attractions and superior advantages of the metropolis, and accordingly removed to London. Trouble and disappointment awaited him, as it has done many others who, if they do not believe the metropolis to be paved with gold, believe that there, if any. where, a man will get on. True it is that the metropolis draws to it the superior talent of the country ; but then—and this is seldom thought of—this talent is so abundant, that the supply is greater than the demand, and the price at once falls. Besides, citizens pay wor:hip to stars and suns when in their zenith, not to poor adventurers who are still far below the horizon of fame. Wollaston's success as a London physician fell far below his expectations, and it was doubtless with a view of obtaining a position and name that he canvassed energetically for the appointment of Physician to St. George's Hospital, then vacant; but in this he was also disappointed, the office being conferred on Dr. Pemberton. Wollaston was intensely mortified thereat; but it is probable that had he succeeded in his wish, the world would have heard very little more of him, almost certainly he would never have attained the fame he did, -8
1-80 little does short-sighted man know or perceive what is for his own best interests. Wollaston, in the first burst of his vexa. tion, vowed to abandon the study of medicine altogether, declaring he would never write another prescription were it required for his own father. He so far kept to his purpose that he ceased practice, and devoted himself entirely to the pursuit of natural philosophy. This is certainly a kindred subject, and whether Wollaston had at any previous time felt a greater inclination for this than for medicine proper, or whether he thought he could in this way benefit mankind to a greater extent, is uncertain ; but he entered on it with a zest, and pursued it with a success and vigour, which goes a great way to atone for his perversity and apparent want of self-reliance in the earlier part of his career. His acts on this occasion, as being the result of a disappointed, peevish, dejected spirit, cannot be commended. He is the true hero who looks upon life as a sacred duty, and in the working out that life meets courageously and undauntedly every adverse blow of fortune. Wollaston, however, laboured well and zealously in his new vocation, going on from strength to strength, being actuated by a love of truth for its own sake, and having ever at heart the benefit of the human race.
Henceforth we must look upon Wollaston as the philosopher,