RPM, Volume 16, Number 37, September 7 to September 13, 2014

Systematic Theology

By R. L. Dabney, D. D., LL. D.

Chapter 6: Sources of Our Thinking

Important Theological Question of Innate Ideas.
Primitive Ideas must be Granted.
Metaphysical Skepticism.
Tests of a Primary Truth.
Axioms are Such.
Spirituality, Identity, Reality of the Objective, Cause for every Effect are Intuitively seen.
Belief not Derived from Association, or Experience.
True Doctrine of Causation.
The Final Cause.
All Judgments Intuitive and Necessary, if Valid.
Origin of our Moral Judgments.
Selfish System of Hobbes.
Utilitarian Ethics.
Selfish System of Paley.
Sentimental Theory of Dr. A. Smith. Ethical Theories.
True Theory of Moral Distinction and Obligation.
Moral Judgments are Rational.
The Moral Emotion.
Schemes of Hutcheson, Jouffroy and Brown.
Supremacy and Authority of Conscience.
Essentials to Moral Responsibility.
[Lectures 8 & 9 & 10]

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 6: Sources of Our Thinking

Syllabus for Lectures 8, 9 & 10:

1. Has man any "Innate Ideas"?
Locke's Essay, bk. i, ch. 2. Morell, Hist. Mod. Phil., pp. 76 to 95, (Carter's Ed.) Cousin, Du Vrai, Lecons Ire et 2me. Dugald Stuart on the Mind, chaps. i, iii, iv.

2. Must all thinking proceed from Intuitive Beliefs? Why? Why are they, if unproved, received as valid? What the answer to the Skeptical Conclusion of Montaigne or Hume?
Morell, pp. 252-254. Jouffroy, Intr. to Ethics, vol. i, Lectures 8-10. Cousin D. Vrai, Lecons 3me et 4eme.

3. What are the tests of Intuitive Beliefs? Show that our belief in our own Consciousness; In our Spiritual Existence, In our Identity, In the reality of the External World; and in Established Axioms, belong to this class.
Cousin, as above. Sensualistic Phil. of 19th Cent., ch. 1. Mills' Logic, bk.

4. Prove, especially, that our belief in Causation and power is Intuitive. Same authorities. Mill, bk. ii, ch. 5, and bk. iii, ch. 5 & 21. Dr. Thomas Brown, Lect. 7. Morell, pp. 186, 187, 254, 332, etc. Chalmers' Nat. Thelogy, bk. i, ch. 4th. Thornwell vol. i, p. 499, etc.

5. Show the relation between this doctrine, and Nat. Theology and all science, Sect. 7.

Lecture 9:

1. Is the Intuitional Reason a different faculty from, and of higher authority than, the Logical Understanding?
Locke's Essay, bk. iv, ch. ii Sect. 7. Mosheim Eccles. Hist., Cent. 17th, Sec. i, p. 24. Morell, p. 125, pp. 161-168.

2. To ascertain the origin of moral distinctions in our minds, state and refute the Selfish System of Morals, as held by Hobbes, and others.
Jouffroy's Introduc. to Ethics, Lecture 2. Dr. Thos. Brown, Lectures 78, 79. Cousin, Le Vrai etc., Lecon 12th. Morell, pp. 71-75.

3. State and refute the utilitarian theory (as held by Hume and Bentham). "Crimes of Philanthropy," in the Land We Love, Dec., 1866. Jouffroy, Lectures 13, 14 Brown, Lectures 77, 78. Cousin, Le Vrai, etc., Lecon 13th Morell, p. 215, etc. Thornwell, Discourses on Truth, i, ii. Bishop Butler's Sermons, 11-14. Jonathan Edward's Essay on the Nature of Virtue, ch. 1, 2.

4. State and refute Paley's form of the Selfish System.
Pale's Moral Phil., pp. 24-60. (8 vo. Ed.) Jeffrey, ch. 15. Brown, Lecture 79, So. Alex. Moral Science, ch. i, ii, iii. Cousin, Du Vrai du Beau et du Bien, as above.

5. State and discuss the Sentimental Theory of Dr. Adam Smith. Jouffroy, Lectures 16-18. Brown, Lectures 80-81. Turrettin, Loc. xi, Qu. i.

Lecture 10:

1. What is the true theory of the moral Distinction and Obligation? Compare it with that of Jouffroy. Is the moral Distinction seen by the Reason, or by a distinct faculty?
Bp. Butler's Sermons, viz: Preface and Sermon on Rom. 12:4, 5. Cousin le vrai, Le beau, Le bien, Lecon 14. Alexander's Moral Science, chs. 2-7 inclus., and ch. 10. Jouffroy, Introduc. to Ethics, Lectures 1-3. Thornwell, Discourses on Truth, i, ii.

2. Explain the moral emotion involved with the moral judgment, and in connection criticize the schemes of Hutcheson and Brown. Cousin as above. Alex. Mor. Sc., ch. 6-11. Dr. Thos. Brown, Lectures 81, 82. Jouffroy Elect. 19, 20.

3. State the true doctrine of the supremacy and authority of conscience. Butler's Sermon on Rom. 2:14. Alexander, chs. 8, 9.

4. What qualities are necessary to moral agency and responsibility? Alexander, chs. 13, 14. Dr. Thos. Brown, Lecture 73.

Is It Necessary To Study the Mind's Powers, Before All Else?

Many think, with Locke, that the inquiry into the powers of the human mind should precede all other science, because one should know his instrument before he uses it. But what instrument of knowing is man to employ in the examination of his own mind? Only his own mind. It follows, then, that the mind's native laws of thinking must be, to some extent at least, taken upon trust, at the outset, no matter where we begin. This is the less to be regretted, because the correct use of the mind's powers depends on nature, and not on our success in analyzing them. Men syllogized before Aristotle, and generalized before Bacon. I have therefore not felt obliged to begin with these inquiries into the sources of our thinking; but have given you a short sketch of Natural Theology to familiarize your minds to your work.

Why Then, Before Theology?

You may ask: Since every science must employ the mental powers, and yet the teacher of Chemistry, Mathematics, Mechanics, does not find it necessary to preface his instructions with inquiries into the laws and facts of psychology, why should the divine do it? One answer is that thoroughness in theology is much more important. Another is, experience shows that theological speculation is much more intimately concerned with a correct psychology than physical. The great English mathematicians, of the school of Newton, have usually held just views of philosophy; the French of the school of La Place have usually been sensualistic ideologues of the lowest school. In mathematics and astronomy, they have agreed well enough; in theology, they have been as wide apart as Christianity and atheism. This is because theology and ethics are little concerned with physical observations: much with abstract ideas and judgments. For these reasons it is necessary for the divine to attain correct views of the great facts of mental science; while yet we do not stake the validity of theological truths on the validity of any mere psychological arguments.

My purpose is to give by no means a complete synopsis, even, of mental science; but to settle for you correct opinions concerning those fundamental facts and laws of spirit, upon which theological questions most turn.

Question of Innate Ideas.

Of these I take up first the question: Has the mind any innate ideas? The right answer is, No; but it has innate powers, which a priori dictate certain laws of thought and sensibility, whenever we gain ideas by sensitive experience. Locke, famous for exploding the doctrine of innate ideas, goes too far; teaching that we derive all our ideas (he defines an idea, whatever we have in our minds as the object of thought) from sensation. This he holds is a passive process; and all that the processes of reflection (the active ones) can do, is to recall, group, compare, combine, or abstract these materials. Before sensation, the mind is a tabula rasa, without impress in itself, passively awaiting whatever may be projected on it from without. To show that no ideas are innate, he takes up two classes, hitherto considered most clearly such, abstract ideas of space, time, identity, and infinity, etc., and axioms; assuming that if these can be explained as derived ideas, and not innate, there are none such. He teaches, then, that we only get the idea of space, by seeing two bodies separated thereby; of time, by deriving it from the succession of mental impressions; of identity, as remembered consciousness. Axioms, he holds to be clearly truths of derivation, because untutored minds do not believe them, as they would were they intuitive, until they see them from concrete, experimental cases, by sensation.

Fatal Consequenses of A Sensualistic Psychology.

Consider how far this kind of vicious analysis may lead, as in the hands of Condillac, Comte, and Mill, to sensationalism, and last, to materialism and atheism. If no first truth is of higher source than an inference of experience, then none can be safely postulated beyond experience. Therefore, the argument for a God, the belief of all the supernatural, is invalid. Witness Hume's evasion, that the world is a "singular effect."

How can sensation show us a God? Another equally logical, although a most heterogeneous consequence, is the Pyrrhonism of Bishop Berkeley. And another must be the adoption of some artificial scheme of ethics, resolving the highest law of conscience into a deduction of self-interest, or some such wretched theory. For if there is nothing in the mind, save what comes by sense (Nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu), from what source come the notions of right and obligation?

True Statement.

The great error of the analysis of Locke was in mistaking the occasional cause, sensation, for the efficient cause of abstract ideas, which is the reason itself For example: We first develop the idea of space, when we see bodies in space; but the idea of space is implied a priori, in the very perception of that which is extended, not learned derivatively from it. True, our most natural conception of time is of that measured in our successive consciousness. But the word, "succession" once spoken, time is already conceived. That is to say, the reason, on perceiving a thing extended, intuitively places it in space; and event, in time; the sense furnishing the occasion, the reason furnishing the abstract notion, or form, for the concrete perception. So in the other cases. To the attempt to derive axioms, we answer that the sensitive experience of some instance is the occasion, but the intuition of the reason the efficient, of these primitive and necessary judgments. For since our experiences of their truth are few and partial, how can experience tell us that they are universally true? To the objection, that they do not universally and necessarily command the assent of untutored minds, I fearlessly rejoin that this is only true in cases where the language of their enunciation is not understood.

But of this, more anon.

Whence New Abstract Notions?

To show the student how shallow is the analysis which traces the whole of our thinking to sense, I ask: When the "reflective" processes of comparison, e. g., have given us perception of a relation between two sensible objects (as of a ratio between two dimensions), is not this relation a new idea? From what source does it come?

The Mind Active, and Endued With Attributes.

In a word, you may find the simplest, and also the highest and most general refutation of this sensualistic philosophy in this fact: The mind is an intelligent agent. Has it any attributes? Any cognizable, permanent essential? Surely. Now, then, must not those essential qualities imply powers? And will any one say that they are only passive powers, and yet the mind is an agent? Surely not. Then the mind, although not furnished with innate ideas, must have some innate powers of determining its own acts of intelligence.

It is related that when Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding was first reported to his great contemporary, Leibnitz, some one remarked that Locke's system of psychology was built on a literal acceptation of the old scholastic maxim, Nihil in intellectu, quad non prius in sensu. Leibnitz answered: Ita; Nisi Intellectus Ipse! These words contain the key to the whole discussion.


All Our Beliefs Cannot Be Proved.

There is a plausible temptation to deny this, and to treat all our notions and beliefs as derived. It arises from the feeling that it is more philosophical to take nothing upon trust: to require proof of everything. But does not a derived truth imply something to derive from? If therefore primitive judgments are treated as derived, the problem is only removed one step backward to this question: What are the truths from which we deduce these conclusions? Are they primary or derived? To prove every postulate is therefore impossible; because the first proof implies some premise from which to prove. Unless then, some things are seen to be true intuitively, there can be no reasoning. And these unproved truths are the foundations of all that we prove.

Metaphysical Skepticism. Its Grounds.

The question then arises, If these primary beliefs are unproved, how can we know that any of our thinking is true? I have now introduced you to the very center of the skeptical objections of the school of Montaigne and Hume, against the certainty of all human knowledge. Let us also view the other, less radical grounds. They argue, then: First. That knowledge must be uncertain as long as it is incomplete; because the discovery of the unknown related parts may change our view of those supposed to be known. And that men in all ages have believed differently with equal confidence. Second. That perception only shows us qualities, and not substances, so that we have only the mind's inference, unproved and undemonstrable, for the existence and essence of the latter. Third. That our organs of sense, the instruments of all perceptions, are perpetually changing their atomic structure; that they often deceive us; that the significance which we give to sensations depends on habits, knowledge and education; and that as to memory, we must take the correctness of her reproductions wholly upon trust. Fourth.

That our general and abstract ideas, such as those of causation, space, identity, substance, etc., have not even the uncertain evidence of sensation; but are given by the mind's own a priori forms of thought; so that we have no proof for them, save that nature teaches us to think so. Finally. The sweeping objection is, that man only knows his own subjective states; to the outside of that charmed circle he can never pass, to compare those states with objective reality. But as there is no ground for our assuming the validity of this objective perception, except that it is nature to make it, we have only to suppose a different structure given to our minds, to make all seem false, which now seems true.

Refutation of Skepticism.

Such are the sweeping objections. To the first three of the special ones, there is one general and perfectly valid answer. It is not proved that all the teachings of sensation, memory, reason, are untrustworthy, because they are sometimes misinterpreted, or because men differ about them sometimes. For the mind knows that it is furnished with criteria for verifying seeming perceptions, recollections, inferences, which criteria give certain results, when applicable, and when faithfully applied. If there are no such, how did the skeptic find out the falsehood of so many of the seeming dicta of these faculties?

As to the first and radical plea, that primitive judgments must be, from their very nature, unproved, and that man can never know anything besides his own subjective states, I freely grant that a direct logical refutation is out of the question, from the very terms of it.

But a valid indirect one lies in these facts: First. That the skeptic, just as much and as necessarily, holds these primary beliefs as we do. Being implied in the validity of all other beliefs, they must be accepted as true, or all thinking must cease; we are no longer intelligent beings. But the skeptic will think: his argument against us is thinking (erroneous). Second. We cannot conceive how an intelligent being could be formed at all, against whose primary beliefs the same objections would not lie; and most against Gods! Third. The fact that primitive beliefs are unproved is the very glory of their certainty, and not their weakness. They admit no proof, only because they are so immediate. The perversity of the skeptic is just that of the man who, when in perfect contact with a tree or post, should declare it impossible to ascertain whether it was near or distant, because indeed he was so near that no measuring rule could be introduced, to measure the distance! Fourth. Chiefly we apply the argumentum ad hominem of Pascal. If no knowledge can be certain, then the skeptic must not affirm his unbelief; for this, if admitted, would be a true proposition. The very mental processes exhibited in these objections imply many of the primary beliefs, against the validity of which the skeptic objects. If nothing can be proved, what right has he to go about proving that nothing can be proved? Finally: Truth is intrinsic, and not a mere consequence of our mental structure.

Which Are Primitive Judgments?

The tests of an intuitive or primary truth established by the best writers are three. First. They are primary: (what Hamilton calls, ambiguously, incomprehensible, not capable of being comprehended under some more general and primary judgment, and of being explained thereby). They are primary because they are not derived or inferred from any other truth, prior in order of proof to them; but are seen to be true without any dependence on a premise. Second. They are necessary—i. e., the mind not only sees they are true, but must be true; sees that the negation of them would lead to a direct contradiction. Third. They are universal—i. e., the mind is obliged to believe them as much true in every relevant case, as in the first; and all people that are sane, when the terms of their enunciation are comprehended with entire fairness, and dispassionately considered, are absolutely certain, the world over, to accept them as true. Now, our adversaries, the sensationalists, would freely admit that if the mind has any judgments which would stand these three tests, they are indeed immediate intuitions. The most practical way, therefore, to discuss their validity, will be to do it in application to special classes of supposed intuitions.

Axioms Are Such.

Are the propositions called axiomatic truths, immediate intuitions; or are they derived truths. Sensationalists say the latter; because they are not primary truths; but deductions of our experience; for they say, as we have seen Locke write, no one has them till he learns them by experimental, sensational trial, and observation; and the announcement of them, instead of receiving from the untutored mind that immediate assent we claim, would, in many cases, excite only a vacant stare. We have already shown that the concrete case is only the occasion, not the source, of the axiomatic judgment. And as to the latter objection, the mind hitherto uninformed fails to assent to them, only because he does not understand the terms of, or comprehend the relations connected with, the proposition. Grant that the presenting of a concrete, experimental case is at first necessary to enable this mind to comprehend terms and relations; still we claim (the decisive fact) that once they are comprehended, the acceptance of the proposition is inevitable. How preposterous is this objection, that because the mind did not see, while the medium was obstructed, therefore the object is not visible? One might, with equal justice, say that my child had no faculty of immediate eyesight, because he would not be willing to affirm which of "two pigs in a poke" was the bigger! I argue again under this head, that several axioms are incapable of being experimentally inferred; because they never can be brought under the purview of the senses; e.g. "Divergent straight lines will never meet if produced to infinity." No one will ever inspect with his sight or touch an infinite line! But, says Mill, one forms a mental diagram of an infinite pair of lines; and by inspection of them, learns the truth. On this queer subterfuge, we might remark that it is more refreshing to us than consistent for them, that sensationalists should admit that the abstract ideas of the mind can be subjects of experimental reasoning. We had been told all along that true science dealt only with phenomena. It is also news to us that sensationalism can grant the mind any power of conceiving infinite lines! What are those, but those naughty things, absolute ideas, with which the mind ought not to have any lawful business, because they are not given to her by sensation? But chiefly, Mill's evasion is worthless in the presence of this question what guides and compels the mind in the formation of the infinite part of this mental diagram, so as to ensure its correspondence with the sensible part? Not sense, surely; for that is the part of the mental diagram, which no eye can ever see. It is just this a priori power of judgment, which Mill denies. My argument stands. Once more I argue on this head, that axioms cannot be experimentally derived; because they are universal truths: but each man's experience is partial. The first time a child ever divides an apple, he at once apprehends that the whole is larger than either of its parts. At this one illustration of it, he as much believes it of all the divided apples of the universe, as though he had spent an age in dividing millions of apples for experiment. How can a universal truth come from a single case? If experience were the source of the belief, the greatest multitude of cases one could try, would never be enough to demonstrate a universal proposition; for the proportion of similar cases possible in the universe, and still untried, would be infinitely preponderant still. Experience of the past can, of itself, never determine the future.

The sensationalist is inconsistent. He says axioms are learned from experience by sense; and there are no primary judgments of the pure reason. Aye! But how does the mind learn that sensational experience is true? That perceptions have any validity? Only by a primary judgment! Here then is the axiomatic truth that what sense gives us experimentally is true. This, surely, is not derived! Indeed, the attempt to construct a system of cognitions with a denial of primary ideas and judgments, will be found in every case as preposterous as the attempt to hang a chain upon nothing.

For Axioms Are Necessary Truths.

When we ask whether axiomatic truths will meet the second test, that of necessity, sensationalists say: "What is a necessary truth?" Does one answer, with Whewell, that it is one the negation of which is inconceivable; then this is no test of primary truths, no test of truths at all; because our capacity for conceiving things to be possible or otherwise, depends on our mental habits, associations, and acquirements, notoriously: e.g. The [African] king could not conceive it possible that water could be solidified by cold in the higher latitudes. This will be found to be a mere verbal sophism, deriving its whole plausibility from the unlucky use of a vague term by the friends of the true theory. A truth is not necessary, because we negatively are not able to conceive the actual existence of the opposite thereof; but a truth is necessary when we positively are able to apprehend that the negation thereof includes an inevitable contradiction. It is not that we cannot see how the opposite comes to be true, but it is that we are able to see that that the opposite cannot possibly be true. Let any man consult his consciousness: is not the proposition, "a whole is greater than its parts," seen by the reason in a light of necessity, totally different from this: "The natives of Guinea are generally black, of England generally white"? Yet the latter is as true as the former!

They Are Universal.

Last, on this head, sensationalists ring many changes on the assertion that axiomatic beliefs are not held by all men alike; that there is debate what are axioms, and the widest differences, and that some things long held to be necessary truths (e.g. Ex nihilo nihil fit; nature abhors a vacuum; a body cannot act without a medium on another with which it is not present), are now found not only to be not axioms, but not true at all. I reply, all this proves that the human mind is an imperfect instrument, as to its primary judgments; not that it has none. The same mode of objecting would prove, with equal fairness (or unfairness), that derived truths have no inferential validity; for the differences about them have been still wider. Man is often incautious in his thinking, unconsciously blinded by hypothesis, habit and prejudice; and therefore he has sometimes (not so very often after all) failed to apply the tests of axiomatic truth carefully. Still the fact remains, that there are first truths, absolutely universal in their acceptance, on which every sane mind in the world acts, and always has acted from Adam's day, with unflinching confidence. On that fact I stand.

Our Own Spiritual Existence Intuitively Seen.

The remarks made in introducing my discussion of the immateriality of the soul, have already indicated the grounds on which we claim our belief in our own spiritual existence as an intuition. In the proposition Cogito, ergo sum, Des Cartes meant to indicate what is undoubtedly true, that the very consciousness of thinking implies an intuitive perception of an existing substance that thinks. But what better definition of spirit, as a something instinctively contrasted with matter, than that it is substance which thinks?

Identity Intuitively Seen.

Locke made our very belief of our own identity, a derived notion, the simple result of our remembered consciousness. It may be very true that a second consciousness succeeding a first may be the occasion of the rise of our notion of identity. But it cannot be the cause, for the identity of the thinking being who has the two consciousnesses is implied a priori in those states. The word self cannot be comprehended by our thought without comprehending in it the notion of identity. And it has been well remarked that our belief in our identity cannot be a deduction, because it must be implied beforehand, in our very capacity to perceive any relation between premises and conclusion. If the comprehension of the former is not felt to be the act of the same thinking subject who comprehends the latter, then of course there is no possibility of a logical dependence being perceived between them.

Reality of Objective Intuitively Seen.

Once more, we assert against Berkeley, and all other idealists, that our reference of our sensations to an external world as their cause, and that a world of substances to which the mind refers the qualities which alone sensation perceives, is a valid intuition. It is primary; witness the notable failures of all the attempts to analyze it into something more primary, from Aristotle to Reid. It is necessary; for the pure idealist can no more rid himself of the practical belief that this was an objective reality, and not a mere subjective notion of a pain, which caused him to feel that he had butted his head against a post. And it is universal.

All minds learn it. And if we analyze the mental part of our sensation, we shall find that perception is, in its very nature, a perception of a relation between sensitive mind and outward matter. Grant to the idealist even the assertion that the mind immediately knows only its own subjective states; yet, when it is conscious of the subjective part of what we call a perception, it still knows by its consciousness, that there was an effect which it did not induce upon itself. Surely this subjectivity must include a consciousness of its own volitions. So, of the absence of a volition of its own.

Then, as the mind intuitively and necessarily knows that no effect can be without a cause, it must refer this phenomenon, the subjective act of perception, consciously uncaused from within, to some real thing without.

Cause For Every Effect Intuitively Believed.

But the intuition which has been most debated, and is of most fundamental importance to theologians is our notion of causation. The doctrine of common sense here is, that when the mind sees an effect, it intuitively refers it to some cause, as producing its occurrence. Moreover, the antecedent something which made it to be, is intuitively apprehended as having a power to produce its occurrence; otherwise it would not have occurred. For the mind is impelled by its own nature to think, that if there had not been a something adequate to make the occurrence to be, it would not have been. Nothing can only result in nothing: and a thing cannot produce its own occurrence; for then it must act before it is.

Hence, also, this immediate deduction that this power will always produce the same result, when applied under the same circumstances. The occasion of the rise of this notion of power is, no doubt, as Morell has said, with many authors, our consciousness of our own volitions. Now, the sensational psychologists, at the head of whom stands Hume in this particular, deny all this; and say that our belief that similar causes will produce like effects, is only a probable induction of our experience; (so Mill, adding that this probability rises to a practical certainty, as one induction concurs with another), that the mind merely presumes the sequence will be repeated again, because it has been presented so often; that since the mind is entitled to no idea, save what perception gives her, and the senses perceive only the two terms of the sequence, without tie of power between them, the notion of this tie is baseless; and power in causation is naught. Dr. Thomas Brown, while he asserts the intuitive origin of our expectation, that like will produce like, and even argues it with great acuteness, still falls into the latter error, denying that the mind has any ground for a notion of power other than "immediate, invariable antecedence" for this is all perception gives us.

Of No Force To Say: Power Not Precieved.

Now, our first remark, in defending the correct doctrine, is, that this argument is of no force to any except pure sensationalists. When perception furnishes the occasion, a sequence, the reason, by its innate power, furnishes the notion of cause in it.

Perception does not show us souls, not even our own; but reason compels us to supply the notion of soul as the subject of perceptions and all other states. Perception does not show us substance in matter, but only a bundle of properties; reason compels us to supply the notion of substance. And such an argument is peculiarly inconsistent in the mouth of Brown, who asserts that our belief in the recurrence of causative sequences is intuitive; for it is impossible for the reason to evade the question: What except power in the antecedent can make the sequence immediate and invariable? The something that makes it so, is just our notion of the power.

The Belief Not Derived From Association.

Having so far rebutted objections to the true view, we return to show that the opposite one is unreasonable and absurd. The heterodox metaphysicians deny that we intuitively apprehend the fact, that every effect must have its proper cause, and vice versa: and the most plausible ground of denial is to say that this presumption grows in our minds by the operation of the associating faculty. It is a law of our minds that they are apt to repeat those sequences of thought, which they have had before in the same juxtaposition; and so the habit grows up, of thinking of the same consequent when we see the same antecedent; and we naturally learn to expect to see it. But I will show that the belief in cause is not the consequence, but the ground and origin of the association. For instance; man knows perfectly well that certain sequences which recur before him perpetually and regularly, as of light on darkness are not causative; while he believes that certain others, as of light on the sun's rising, are causative. Now if the associative habit had produced the notion of causation, it would have done it alike in both cases; for both sequences recurred with exactly the same uniformity.

Nor From Experience.

I remark, farther, that no experiences of the fact that a given antecedent had produced a given consequent so far as observed, could logically produce the conviction that it would, and must do so everywhere, and in all the future, if it were not sustained by an intuitive recognition of cause and effect in the sequence. The experience of the past only proves the past; there is no logical tie which entitles us to project it on the future, if we deny the intuitive one. How many experiences of a regular sequence entitle us to carry our expectations into the future? One hundred? Five hundred? What then is the difference between case four hundred ninety-nine and case five hundred, that the latter alone, when added to the previous past experiences, authorizes us to say that now case five hundred one, still in the future, must eventuate so and so? There is no reasonable answer. In truth, experience of a mere sequence, by itself, generates no confidence whatever in its future recurrence with causative certainty. You may ask, does not a mere empirical induction (inductio simplicis enumerationis, Bacon), the mere recurrence of an observed sequence, beget in our minds even a probable expectation of its recurrence in the future? I answer, yes, in certain sorts of cases; but this probable expectation proceeds from this: We know intuitively that the consequent in this sequence must have some producing cause: whether we have rightly detected it among the seeming antecedents, is not yet proved; and Hence two facts are inferred: this seeming, visible antecedent may be the cause, seeing it has so frequently preceded; and if it be indeed the cause, then we are certain it will always be followed by the effect.

But we have not yet convinced ourselves that some unseen antecedent may not intervene in each case observed; and, therefore, our expectation that the seeming antecedent will continue to be followed by the effect is only probable. It is, therefore, not the number of instances experienced, in which the sequence occurred, which begets our expectation that the sequence must recur in the future; but it is the probability the mind sees, that the seeming antecedent may be the true one, which begets that expectation. And if that probability rises to a certainty in one or two cases of the observed sequence, it may be as strong as after ten thousand cases.

Illustration of the Above.

This was ingeniously (perhaps unintentionally) illustrated by some of the performances of the calculating machine constructed by the famous Babbage. The machinery could be so adjusted that it would exhibit a series of numbers in an aperture of the dial plate, having a given ratio, up to millions. And then without any new adjustment by the maker, it would change the ratio and begin a new series, which it would again continue with perfect regularity until the spectators were weary of watching.

Now, if a regular empirical induction, however long continued, could demonstrate anything, it would have done it here. But just when the observer had convinced himself that the first ratio expressed the necessary law of the machine, Presto! a change; and a different one supersedes it, without visible cause.

One Instance Cannot Form A Habit of Association.

The argument that it is not a habit of experience which brings forth belief in the regular connection between cause and effect may now be introduced, since we may illustrate that this belief easily arises in full strength after only one experiment or trial.

The child thrusts his finger in flame; the result is acute pain. He is just as certain from that moment that the same act will produce the same feeling, as after ten thousand trials. It is because his mind compels him to think the primitive judgment, "effect follows cause" and the singleness of the antecedent enables him to decide that this antecedent is the cause. Take another case: A school boy, utterly ignorant of the explosive qualities of gunpowder, shuts himself in a room with a portion for his boyish experiments. After finding it passive under many experiments, he at length applies fire, and there is an immediate explosion.

But at the moment the tongs also fell on it; and thus it may not be yet obvious which of the two simultaneously foregoing incidents was cause. He resolves to clear up this doubt by another trial, in which the tongs shall not fall. He applies fire, excluding this time all other antecedent changes, and the explosion follows again. And now, this boy is just as certain that fire will inevitably explode any gunpowder, that is precisely like this, provided the conditions be precisely similar, as a million of experiments could make him. He has ascertained the tie of cause.

In truth, as Dr. Chalmers well says, experience is so far from begetting this belief in the regular efficacy of causation, that its effect is, on the contrary, to limit and correct that belief. A little child strikes his spoon on the table; the effect is noise. At first he expects to be able to produce the same effect by striking it on the bed or carpet, and is vexed at the failure. Experience corrects his expectation; not by adding anything to his intuitive judgment of like cause, like effect; but by teaching him that in this case, the cause of noise was complex, not single, as he had before supposed, being the impact of the spoon and the elasticity of the thing struck.

Kant's Argument.

The subtle and yet simple reasoning, by which Kant (Critique of Pure Reason. bk. ii, chs. 2 & 3) shows the absurdity of resolving cause and effect into mere sequence, is worthy of your attention here. He suggests two instances: In one I look successively at the different parts of a large house. I perceive first, for instance, its front, and then its end. But do I ever think for a moment that the being of the end is successive upon the being of the front? Never. I know they are simultaneous. In another case, I see a vessel in the river just opposite to me; and next, I see it below me. The perceptions are no more successive than those of the front and end of the house. But now, can I ever think that the being of the vessel in the two positions is concurrently arising? It is impossible.

Why? The only answer is that the law of the reason has, by intuition, seen effect and dependency, in the last pair of successive perceptions, which were not in the first pair.

The same vessel has moved; motion is an effect; its cause must precede it. And this suggests the other member of his argument; In a causative sequence, the interval of time is wholly inappreciable to the senses; the cause A and the effect B seem to come together. Now, why is it that the mind always refuses to conceive the matter so as to think B leads A, and will only think that A leads B? Why do you not think that the loud sound of the blow caused the impact of the hammer, just as often as you do the impact caused the sound? Surely there is a law of the reason regulating this! Now that factor which determines the order of the sequence is power.


Last, it is only because our judgment of cause is a priori and intuitive, that any process of induction, practical or scientific, can be valid or demonstrative. Bacon shows, what even J. S. Mill admits, that a merely empirical induction can never give certain expectation of future recurrence. To reach this, some canon of induction must be applied which will discriminate the post hoc from the propter hoc. Does not Mill himself teach the necessity of such canons? Inspect any instance of their application to observed sequences, and you will find that each step proceeds upon the intuitive law of cause, as its postulate. Each step is a syllogism, in which the intuitive truth gives the major premise.

Let us take a simple case falling under what Mill calls his Method by Agreement. (The student will find my assertion true of either of the others.) The school boy with his parcel of gunpowder, for example, is searching among the antecedents for the true cause of the phenomenon of explosion, which we will call D. That cause is not detected at first, because he cannot be certain that he procures its occurrence with only a single antecedent. First he constructs an experiment, in which he contrives to exclude all antecedents save two, A and B. The result D follows; but it is not determined whether A or B, or the two jointly, caused it. He contrives a second experiment, in which B is excluded; but another antecedent event C happens along with A, and again D follows.

Now we can get the truth. We reason therefore: "In the first experiment the cause of D must have been either A or B. or the two combined." But why? Because the effect D must have had some immediate, present cause. [But we know that no other immediate antecedent effects were present, save A and B.] This is our a priori intuition. Well, in the second experiment, either A or C, or the two combined, must have caused D. Why? The same intuition gives the only answer. But we proved, in the first experiment, C had nothing to do with producing D; and in the second, B. had nothing to do with producing D; because C was absent in the first, and B in the second. Then A was the true cause all the time. Why? Why may not B have been the cause, that time when it was present?

Because every effect has its own cause, which is regular, every time it is produced. The premise is still the intuition: "Like causes produce like effects."

That Which Is Necessary Prior Premise Cannot Be Deduction.

It is therefore apparent that this intuitive belief is essential beforehand, in order for it to enable us to convert an experimental induction into a demonstrated general law. Could anything more clearly prove that the original intuition itself cannot have been an experimental induction? It passes human wit to see how a logical process can prove its own premise, when the premise is what proves the process. Yet this absurdity Mill gravely attempts to explain. His solution is, that we may trust the law of cause as a general premise, because it is "an empirical law, coextensive with all human experience." May we conclude, then, that a man is entitled to argue from the law of cause as a valid general premise, only after he has acquired "all human experience?" This simple question dissolves the sophism into thin air. It is experimentally certain that this is not the way in which the mind comes by the belief of the law; because no man, to the day of his death, acquires all human experience but only a part, which, relatively to the whole, is exceedingly minute; and because every man believes the law of cause to be universal, when he begins to acquire experience. The just doctrine, therefore, is that experimental instances are only the occasions upon which the mind's own intuitive power furnishes the self-evident law.

What Is Inductive Proof?

.This argument, young gentlemen, has, I think, also given you an illustration of the justice of Archbishop Whateley's logical doctrine, that inductive argument is, after all, but a branch of the syllogistic. The answers made to the questions, What is inductive argument? Are, as you know, confused and contradictory. Some logicians and many physicists seem to think that the colligation of similar cases of sequences in considerable numbers, is inductive demonstration. Whereas, I have cited to you Lord Bacon, declaring that if the induction proceed no farther than this, it is wholly short of a demonstration, and can but raise a presumption of the existence of a law of sequence, which is liable to be overthrown by contrary instances. It is this mistake, which accounts for the present loose condition of much that claims to be physical science; where an almost limitless license of framing hypotheses which have probability, prevails, claiming the precious name of "science," for what are, by Bacon's just rule, but guesses. Many other logicians, seeing the obvious defect of such a definition of inductive demonstration, and yet supposing that they are obliged to find an essential difference between inductive and syllogistic logic, invent I know not what untenable definitions of the former. It is, in fact, only that branch of syllogistic reasoning, which has the intuition, "Like causes, like effects," as its major premise, and which seeks as its conclusion the discrimination of the post hoc from the propter hoc, in seeking the true causative laws of events in nature. You may, if you please, use the word "Inductio" to express the colligation of similar instances of sequence. But inductive demonstration is another matter; a far higher matter, which must come after. It is the logical application of some established canon, which will infallibly detect the immediate causative antecedent of an effect, amidst the apparent antecedents. Its value is in this: that when once that discovery is clearly made, even in one instance of sequence, we have a particular law of nature, a principle, which is a constant and permanent guide of our knowledge and practice. But why does that discovery become the detection of a law of nature?

Because we know that the great truth reigns in nature: "Like causes, like effects"—in other words, because the reason has evolved to itself the intuitive idea of efficient power in causes. I have shown you, that the valid application of those canons is, in each step a syllogism; a syllogism, of which the great primary law of causation is first premise.

Law of Cause Is Key of Nature.

This exposition shows you that this great law is the very key of nature. It is, to change the metaphor, the cornerstone of all the sciences of nature, material and physical. Hence, if its primary and intuitive character is essential to its validity, as I have argued, in vindicating this thesis we have been defending the very being of all the natural sciences, as well as the citadel of natural theology. It follows, then, that the sensualistic school of metaphysics is as blighting to the interests of true physical science, as of the divine science. The inductive method, in the hands of physicists who grounded it substantially in the metaphysics of common sense, the metaphysics of Turrettin, of Dr. Clarke or of Reid, gave us the splendid results of the Newtonian era. That method, in the hands of Auguste Comte, J. Stuart Mill, and other sensationalists, is giving us the modern corruptions and license of Darwinism and Materialism.

The unhallowed touch of this school poisons, not only theology, which they would rather poison, but the sciences of matter, which they claim as their special care.

True Doctrine of Cause at Basis of Natural Theology.

Few words are needed to show the intimate relations between the true doctrine of causation and theology. It is on his heresy about causation, that Hume grounds his famous argument against miracles. It is on the same error he grounds his objection to the teleological argument for God's existence, that the world is a "singular effect." You saw that the argument just named for God's existence is founded expressly on this great law of cause.

Final Cause.

I think we are now prepared to appreciate justly the clamor of the sensationalists against our postulating final causes. I assert that it is only by postulating them, that we can have any foundation whatever for any inductive science. We have seen, that the sole problem of all inductive demonstration is, to discover, among the apparent antecedents in any given sequences of changes, that one, which is efficient cause.

Essential To All Regular Natural Law.

For that being infallibly ascertained, we have a Law of Nature. But how so? How is it that a relation as certain in one, or a few cases, maybe assumed as a natural law? Because our reasons tell us that we are authorized to expect that antecedent which is the true efficient in a given sequence of changes, will be, and must be efficient to produce the same sequence, every time that sequence recurs under precisely the same conditions, throughout the realm of nature, in all ages and places. (And that belief is a priori and intuitive; else, as we saw, experience could never make it valid; and the demonstrations of regular law in nature would be impossible—i.e., science would be impossible.) But on what condition can that belief be valid to the mind? If there is nothing truly answering to the a priori idea of power in the antecedent; if all the mind is entitled to postulate is mere, invariable sequence; and if that efficient Power is to be excluded, because not given by sense perception; is that belief valid? Obviously not.

Again: If Cause is only material necessity, only a relation in blind, senseless, unknowing, involuntary matter, in matter infinitely variable and mutable, is there any possible foundation for their universal and invariable relations in given sequences? Is any intellect authorized a priori, to expect it. Obviously not. It is only when we assume that there is a Creator to the created, that there is an intellect and will; and that, an immutable one, establishing and governing these sequences of physical change; that the mind can find any valid basis for an expectation of law in them. And that is to say: There is a basis of law in them because, and only because, this ruling intelligence and will has some end in view. We may not know which end; but we know there is some end, or there would be no Law, his constancy to which is the ground, and the explanation, of the invariability. But that is the doctrine of Final Cause! Take it away; and the inductive logic has no basis under it. You will remember the line "The undevout Astronomer is mad"—In the same sense we may assert, that the logic of the atheistic physicist is mad. Do we not find, in the prevalence of Positivist and Sensualistic philosophy, in our day, the natural explanation of the deplorable license which now corrupts and deforms so much of those Natural Sciences, which, in the hands of sound, theistic physicists like Newton, Davy, Brewster, have run so splendid and beneficent a course?

Transcendentalists Claim Primitive Judgments Licentiously.

SEVERAL analysts of the laws of thought, such as Hobbes and Locke, set out with the fascinating idea of accepting nothing upon trust, and bringing everything to the test of experimental proof. The miserable sensationalism and materialism to which this led in the hands of Priestly in England, and Condillac in France, taught men to reflect, that unless some primary judgments are allowed to start from, there can be no beginning at all: so that some truths must have a prior authority than that of proof. By what faculty, then, are they perceived?

Transcendentalists, from Spinoza to the modern, have all answered, by the intuitive reason: whose sight is direct intellection, whose conclusions are super-logical, and not, therefore, amenable to logical refutation. The frightful license of dogmatizing to which these schools have proceeded, shows the motive; it is to enjoy an emancipation from the logical obligations of proving dogmas. Do we say to them, Your assertions do not seem to us true, and we disprove them here and there: they reply, "Ah, that is by your plodding, logical understanding; intuitions of the pure reason are not amenable to it; and if you do not see that our opinion is necessarily true, in spite of objections, it is only because the reason is less developed in you." So the quarrel now stands. It seems to me obvious, therefore, that the next adjustment and improvement, which the science of mind must receive, should be an adjustment of the relations between intuitions and valid deductions.

How Resisted.

Now, we might practically bring the transcendentalist to reason by saying, first, that they always claim the validity of the logical understanding, when they find it convenient to use it. (The very evasion above stated is a deduction, by one step, from false premises!) Thus, consistency requires them to bow to it everywhere. Secondly, we might apply the established tests of a true intuition to their pretended ones, primariness, truth, and universality, and show that, when they profess by the pure reason to see dogmas which contradict or transcend the common sense of mankind, they are but making wild hypotheses. But thirdly, I am convinced the radical overthrow of their system will be seen to be, at length, in this position: that the mind sees the truth of a valid deduction by the same faculty, and with equal authority, as an axiom or other first truth—i.e., when major end minor premise have a conclusive relation, and that relation is fairly comprehended, the reason sees the conclusion as immediately, as necessarily, as intuitively, as authoritatively, as when it sees a primary truth.

All Judgments Intuitive and Necessary, If Valid.

To my mind, the simple and sufficient proof of this view of the logical function is in these questions. What is the human intelligence, but a function of seeing truth? As the eye only sees by looking, and all looking is direct and immediate sense intuition, how else can the mind see, than by looking—i.e., by rational intuition? Whether the object of bodily sight be immediate or reflective, an object or its spectrum, it is still equally true that the eye only sees by looking—looking immediately; in the latter case the spectrum only is its immediate object. So the mind only sees by looking; and all its looking is intuition; if not immediate, it is not its own; it is naught. One of the earliest, Locke, inconsistently concurs with one of the latest, McGuffey, of the great English-speaking psychologists, in asserting the view I adopted before consulting either. Locke's proof of it seems to me perfectly valid. He argues (loco citato,) that if the mind's perception of a valid relation between a proposition and its next premise were not immediate, then there must be, between the two, some proposition to mediate our view of it. But between a proposition and its next premise, there can be no other interposed.

Objections Solved.

But to this view many sound philosophers, even, would probably object strenuously. That the first great mark of intuitive authority, primariness, was lacking; that the position is utterly overthrown by the wide and various differences of opinion on subjects of deduction; while in first truths, there must be universal agreement; and that it is inconsistent with the fact that many derived conclusions claim no more than a probable evidence. To the first, I reply, the action of the reason in seeing a deduced truth, is not indeed a primary judgment; but the fact that the truth is seen only by relation to premises, does not make the intellection less immediate and necessary. Just so, truly as the first truth is seen to be necessarily true, so the deduced truth is seen to be necessarily true, the premises being as they are. Several of our intuitions are intuitions of relations.

Why should it be thought so strange that these intellections by relations should be intuitive? To the second, propositions called axioms have not always commanded universal agreement; and we are obliged to explain this fact by misapprehension of terms, or ignorance of relations included in the propositions. Well, the same explanation accounts consistently for the differences men have in their deductions; and the more numerous differences in this class of propositions are accounted for by the facts, that while the axioms are few, deductions are countless; and in anyone there are more terms, because more propositions liable to misconception. But I do assert that, in a valid syllogism, if the major and minor are known to be true, and the terms are all fairly comprehended, the belief of the conclusion by the hearer is as inevitable, as necessary, as universal as when an axiom is stated. Thirdly, though in many deductions the evidence is but probable, the fact that there is probable evidence, may be as necessarily admitted, as in an intuitive and positive truth.

Source of Our Moral Judgments.

We now approach, young gentlemen, that great class of our judgments which are of supreme importance in theology, as in practical life—the class known as our moral judgments. Every sane man is conscious of acts of soul, which pronounce certain rational agents right or wrong in certain acts. With these right or wrong acts our souls unavoidably conjoin certain notions and feelings of obligation, merit, demerit, approbation or disapprobation, and desert of reward or penalty. It is this peculiar class of mental states which constitutes the subject of the science of ethics, or morals. All questions as to the nature and validity of moral judgments run into the radical question, as to their origin. Are they the results of a fundamental and intuitive law of reason? Or are they artificial or factitious of some other natural principles developed into a form only apparently peculiar, by habit, association, or training? In answering this all-important question, I shall pursue this method, to set aside the various false analyses, until we reach the true one.

The Selfish System.

The Selfish System, presenting itself in many varied forms from Hobbes (natural desire of enjoyment only motive) through Mandeville (the desire of being applauded is the moral motive) down to Paley, has always this characteristic: it resolves our idea of virtue into self-interest. Its most refined form, perhaps, is that which says, since acts of benevolence, sympathy, justice, are found to be attended with an immediate inward pleasure (self-approbation), that pleasure is the motive of our moral acts. We discuss several phases together.

Refuted. 1st. By Intuitive Beliefs of Right and Free Agency.

I remark, that on the selfish system, the notion of right, duty, obligation, free agency, could never have arisen in the mind, and have no relevancy or meaning. Let man frame the proposition.: "That which furthers self-interest is right" the very employment of the word right betrays the fact that the mind recognizes a standard other than that of self-interest. And any analysis of the notion shows that it is utterly violated and falsified, when made identical with self-interest. Hobbes says, each man's natural right is to pursue his own natural self-interest supremely. But according to his own showing, this "right" in A implies no corresponding duty in him, and no obligation in his neighbor, B, to respect it, and no recognition on the part of any other. Anybody has a "right" to prevent A from having his "right." Strange right this!

If interest is the whole motive, then, when the question arises, whether I shall do, or omit a certain action, you cannot consistently expect me to consider anything but this: whether or not the doing of it will promote my own advantage, and that, in the form I happen to prefer. If I say, "This result will most gratify me," the argument is at an end; my proposed act is, for me, right; there is no longer any standard of uniform moral distinction. The same remark shows that the judgment of obligation to a given act is then baseless. Attempt to apply any of those arguments, by which Epicureanism attempts to interpose an "ought not" between a man and any natural indulgence (as this: "This sensual pleasure will indeed promote animal, but hinder intellectual pleasure, which is higher. And since pleasure is the rational chief good, you should prefer the more to the less"); the reply is: "Animal joys are to me larger than intellectual" and the ground of obligation is gone. If no indulgence is less or more virtuous than any other, then no possible argument of obligation can be constructed, in the face of an existing preference, for refraining from any. If the sensualistic psychology is true, from which the selfish schemes proceed, then desire for natural good, which they make the only moral motive, is a passive affection of the soul. It is no more voluntary, when the object of desire is presented, than is pain when you are struck, or a chill when you are deluged with cold water. Where, now, is that free agency which, we intuitively feel, is rudimental to all moral action and responsibility? Man is no longer self-directed by subjective, rational motives, but drawn hither and thither like a puppet, by external forces. But if not a free, he cannot be a moral agent. Of course, also, there is no longer any basis for any judgment of merit or demerit in acts, or any moral obligation to punishment. Penalties become the mere expedients of the stronger for protecting their own selfishness. And as this is as true of the future, all religious sanctions are at an end!

2nd. From Precedence of Intuitive Desire To Calculation.

This theory teaches that this selfish pleasure apprehended by the mind, in acquiring an object, must always be the motive for seeking it. The analysis is false; desire must be instinctive; otherwise man could not have his first volition till after the volition had put him on the way of experiencing the pleasant result of the fruition! Many desires are obviously instinctive; e.g., curiosity. Now, since the self-pleasing cannot be the original element of the desire, it cannot be proved that this is our element of rightness, in classifying our desires. See now, how this analysis would assign the effect as the cause of its own cause. A does a disinterested act. The consciousness of having done disinterestedly gives A an inward pleasure. This after-pleasure, proceeding from the consciousness that the act was unselfish, prompted to the act! Hence the effect caused its own cause!

The absurdity of the scheme is further proved by this: If the fact that a disinterested act results in inward satisfaction to him who did it, proves that act selfish; then the fact that a selfish act usually results in inward pain to him who perpetrates it, proves that act to have been a disinterested one in motive.

3rd. From Intuitive Difference of Advantage and Merit.

If the selfish theory of action were true, the adaptation of another person's conduct to confer personal advantage on us, should be synonymous with merit in our eyes. The villain who shared with us the reward of his misdeeds, to bribe us to aid or applaud him, would evoke the same sentiment of gratitude, as the mother who blessed us with her virtuous self-sacrifice; and there would be no generic difference between the hollow flattery of the courtier for the monster on whose bounty he fattened, and the approbation of the virtuous for patriotism or benevolence.

4th. From Vividness of Unsophisticated Moral Sentiments.

If our notion of good acts is nothing but a generalization of the idea of acts promotive of our self-interest, he who has most experimental knowledge of human affairs (i.e., he who is most hackneyed in this world's ways), must have the clearest and strongest apprehensions of moral distinctions; because he would most clearly apprehend this tendency of actions. He who was wholly inexperienced, could have no moral distinctions. Is this so? Do we not find the most unsophisticated have the most vivid moral sympathies? The ignorant child in the nursery more than the hackneyed man of experience?

5th. From Consciousness. No Merit Where Self Reigns.

But the crowning absurdity of the theory appears here; that our consciousness always teaches us, that the pleasure we have in well-doing depends wholly upon our feeling that the virtuous act had no reference to self; and the moment we feel that self-pleasing was our prime motive, we feel that our moral pleasure therein is wholly marred. Indeed, the best and the sufficient argument against this miserable theory would, perhaps, be the instinctive loathing and denial uttered against it by every man's soul, who is rightly constituted. The honest man knows, by his immediate consciousness, that when he does right, selfishness is not his motive; and that if it were, he would be utterly self-condemned. As Cousin nervously remarks: Our consciousness tells us, that the approbation we feel for disinterested virtue is wholly disinterested, and it is impossible for us to feel it unless we feel that the agent for whom we feel it was disinterested in this act. A thousand things in the acts, the language, and the consciousness of men are utterly irreconcilable with this hateful analysis, and show it to be as unphilosophical as degrading. Our crowning objection is found in its effect on our view of the divine character. That which is man's finite virtue must be conceived infinite, as constituting the virtue of God (if there is a God). His holiness must be only sovereign self-interest!

Utilitarian Ethics.

I group together three theories of the nature of virtue, which really amount to the same; that of David Hume, who taught that an act is apprehended by us as virtuous because it is seen to be useful to mankind; that of Jeremy Bentham, who taught that whatever conduct is conducive to the greatest good of the greatest number, is right; and that of some New England divines and philosophers, who teach that virtue consists in benevolence. The latter is practically synonymous with the two former. For the practical expression of benevolence is beneficence.

This theory of virtue is a natural off-shoot of Jonathan Edwards' theory of virtue. This great and good man would probably be shocked to have his speculation, as to "the nature of true virtue," classed with those of the infidel, utilitarian school. But the historical development of it since his death proves the justice of the charge. It is, moreover, so interesting an exposition of the unavoidable tendencies of the "Benevolence Theory," and has so important relations to existing errors in theology, that I must ask you to pause a moment to consider Edwards' view.

Edwards' Theory of Virtue.

As is suggested by the Rev. Ro. Hall, Edwards was probably impelled to this piece of false analysis by his love of simplifying. His desire was to unify the ultimate principles of the rational spirit, as much as possible. Hence, instead of regarding virtuous acts and states of soul as an ultimate and independent category, he teaches that they all most essentially consist in "Benevolence to Being in General," meaning, of course, rational being, or, "love to being in general." And this love, which is the essence of all virtue, he expressly defines as the love of benevolence only, as distinct from the love of moral complacency. This is essential to his system; for, as he himself argues, the love of moral complacency must imply moral beauty in its object. The perception of moral beauty generates the love which is moral complacency. If the love which constitutes moral beauty were that moral complacency, Edwards argues that we should make a thing its own parent. Of this, more anon. He then proceeds: "The first object of virtuous benevolence is Being, simply considered" and concludes: "Being in general is its object." That to which its ultimate propensity tends is "the highest good of being in general." From this conclusion, Edwards draws this corollary: There may be a benevolence towards a particular Being, which is virtuous, because that particular Being is a part of the aggregate, general being; but the affection is virtuous, only provided it consists with the "highest good of being in general." Again, that being who has the greatest quantum of existence must attract the largest share of this benevolence.

Hence, we must love God more than all creatures, because He is infinite in the dimensions of His existence; and we ought, among creatures, to love a great and good man proportionately more than one less able and full of being. The grounds of proof on which Edwards seems to rest his conclusion are these: That every judgment of beauty, of every kind, is analyzable into a perception of order and harmony; but the most beautiful and lofty of all rational harmonies is this consent or benevolence of an intelligent Being to all like Being: That the Scriptures say "God is love" and "Love is the fulfilling of the whole law" between man and his neighbor: And that this theory explains so well the superior claims of God to our love, over creatures' claims to our love.

Leads To Utilitarian Ethics.

The transition between this plausible, but most sophistic speculation, and the utilitarian scheme, and ethics of expediency, which underlie the New England Theology, of our day, is found in the writings of Dr. Samuel Hopkins (and "the younger Edwards"). In their hands, "Love to Being in General," became simply the affection of benevolence; and the theory became this: That benevolence is all virtue, and all virtue is benevolence. I have already disclosed the affinity of this theory to the utilitarian, by the simple remark, that beneficence is the practical expression of benevolence. Therefore, when he who has defined virtue as benevolence, comes to treat of virtue as a practical principle, he makes nothing else of it than Jeremy Bentham's "greatest good of the greatest number." We shall detect Dr. Hopkins adopting this, and even the most thoroughly selfish theory of virtue, in carrying out his benevolent scheme, with an amusing candor, simplicity and inconsistency.


Proceeding to the refutation of Edwards' scheme, I begin with his Scriptures. The same logic which infers it from the expression, "God is love," would infer from the text, "God is light," that He is nothing but pure intelligence; and from the text, "Our God is a consuming fire," that He is nothing but vindicatory justice. All Scriptures must be interpreted consistently. Neither can we overstrain the declarations of our Saviour and the apostle, that "love fulfills the whole law" between man and man, into the theory that benevolence is the whole essence of virtue. The proposition of the Scripture contains a beautiful practical fact: that the virtue of love (which, in Scripture nomenclature, includes far more than benevolence) prompts to all other virtues. I exclude the overstrained inference by simply referring to the other passages of Scripture, which expressly name other distinguishable virtues in addition to love. "Now abideth faith, hope, love: these three: but the greatest of these is love."—1 Cor. 13:13. "Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love"2 Pet. 1:5, 6. When the Scriptures declare love to God the great Commandment, they mean a very different thing from Edwards' benevolence to Being; "a propensity to its highest good." The supreme object of holy love in the Scriptures is always God's holiness. The affection is as distinct from mere benevolence, as adoration from kindness. The love of the Scriptures, in which all man's holiness centers, is the attraction of the whole soul, in all its active principles, towards all that is pure and venerable, and righteous and true, as well as good, in the divine character.

Moral Beauty Unique.

To Edwards' speculative grounds, I reply, first, grounding of moral virtue in a harmony or order perceived, is utterly invalid as a support of his theory, unless he holds that esthetic beauty, logical propriety and moral praiseworthiness, are all generically the same beauty, only differing in degree. For if not, the order and harmony whose perception gives the feeling of virtuousness are a different kind; and Edwards, as much as I, is bound to answer the question: In what does moral beauty differ from the aesthetic and the logical? I can answer consistently: In conformity to a peculiar, original intuition, that of conscience. Indeed, the fact that every sane mind intuitively perceives that difference, is, of itself, a sufficient refutation of Edwards' and of every other false analysis of the moral sentiment.

Edwards' Paradox.

We have seen that Edwards regards the love of benevolence, not the love of moral complacency as the primary essence of virtue: and I showed you the argument which led him to this consistent conclusion. The love of complacency, then, is love to a rational agent on account of his love of benevolence; and the former is not primarily of the essence of virtue. That is, it is not virtuous to love virtue! It is true that on a subsequent page, he retracts this absurdity; availing himself virtually of a theory of sympathy between the virtuous (or benevolent) agent and the approving spectator, to argue what he had before disproved. This is but the anticipation of the vicious analysis of Adam Smith. By a parallel process, Edwards' principles should lead him to conclude that disinterested gratitude is not virtuous. Said he, "the first benevolence cannot be gratitude." True, for this first benevolence must regard its object simply as being, not as beneficent. Therefore, for me to love a being because he has been a benefactor to me, is not virtue! Edwards, in a subsequent chapter, resolves gratitude into self-love. but he is not thereby designing to depreciate the affection of gratitude, for in the same chapter he analyses the judgments and emotions of conscience into the same self-love!

Makes An Abstraction the Object of Virtue.

We have seen that Edwards makes the essence of virtue to be "love to being in general." Another fatal objection to this is, that it assigns us as the object of every virtuous affection, a mere abstraction, a general idea. Whereas, if consciousness tells you anything clearly of your moral sentiments, it is that their objects must be personal. Only a person can oblige us to a duty. Only a person can be the object of a right.

Pantheism, as we saw, abolishes morality by obliterating the personality of God. Edwards' speculation would do it as effectually, in another way. Again, says Edwards, love to a particular being is compatible with the definition of virtue as consisting in "love to being in general," provided the particular affection is consistent with the highest good of being in general. But I object again; this proviso is one which cannot be practically ascertained by ordinary moral agents, in one of ten thousand cases in which they are called to act morally towards a particular object. The motive of the peasant-mother may be virtuous, when she forsakes the industrial avocation which she was pursuing, promotive of the public good, to nurse her own sick and dying child, provided she has successfully calculated the preponderance of the resultant general benefit of the nursing over the industry! I object farther, that this theory might lead a man to the breach of a nearer, and therefore more obligatory duty, for the sake of one remoter, and therefore less obligatory. The son would be bound to rescue a great and gifted stranger from fire or water, in preference to his own father, because the great man presented to his love a greater quantum of existence.

I object also in to Edwards' theory in that it might be impossible to explain how it is our duty to honor a dead man for his virtues. He is beyond the reach of our benevolence; he can be neither benefited nor pleased by our plaudits. And especially is it impossible, on this theory, to include God directly in our virtuous affections. Remember, the essence of all virtue with him is that simple love of benevolence, whose propensity is to promote the highest good of being in general. But God is infinitely blessed; His good cannot be promoted by creatures. Does this not obviously exempt Him from our benevolence?

Edwards answers this laboriously, by pleading that our homage can promote God's declarative glory; the Scriptures exhort us to love, adore and praise Him. This is true, but the Scriptures ground these duties of love and adoration expressly upon God's moral perfections. It is these, not existence, which constitute Him the object of our moral homage. This fact alone overthrows Edwards' whole speculation.

The Moral Judgment Assumed.

All benevolence-schemes tacitly assume the validity of the a priori moral intuition, with which they propose to dispense. For, suppose an advocate of the sensual selfish system to demand of their advocates: "Why is it my duty to make the greatest good of the greatest number my chief end, instead of my own personal good?" The respondent could find no answer, without resorting to the original distinction of advantage from right, and the obligation to the latter.

The Scheme Selfish.

The most mischievous part of Edwards' scheme I conceive to be, his derivation of the judgments and emotions of conscience itself, from general self-love. As that direct and simple love of benevolence, which is the pure essence of virtue, is consent and harmony with general being, as being; so self-love, according to Edwards, is a propensity towards the consent and harmony or unity of one's own being. The former principle tends to unite the individual with general Being. The consciousness of an affection tending to break that benevolent unison, disunites the man's own being within itself. Self-love then produces the judgment and pain of remorse; for this pain is nothing but the sense of the breach of that self-unity, which is self-love's main object. Hence it follows that the sentiments of conscience, (like gratitude) are only of secondary rank in ethics! By this ill-starred logical jugglery is that imperial faculty degraded, whose intuitions and affections are the very spring-head of all the ethical acts of the human soul, and made an inferior consequence of the virtuous principle; a consequence of its defect, a modification of self-love. It would follow, of course, that the perfect man might be too virtuous to have any conscience at all. It is simpler reasoning still, to conclude as many of Edwards' followers have done, from his premises; that, as simple benevolence is virtue, self-love is sin. And hence would come about that marvelous interpretation, which is one of the most recent triumphs of the New England theology; when in expounding Gen. 3:22, it tells us that Adam and Eve acquired a knowledge of moral distinctions only by their fall. For, conscience is a development of the principle of self-love, as Edwards teaches; and self-love is the essence of sin, as the moderns say: from which it follows, that man acquires his moral nature only by his immorality.

Sin and Self-Love Yet Not Identical.

These fatuous absurdities Edwards was too shrewd to adopt. He does not teach, as his premises should have taught him, that self-love is sin. Indeed, in a part of his treatise, he adopts the correct analysis of Bp. Butler, as to this affection. Inform yourselves of that analysis in his sermons, from the 11th with to the 14th. He there teaches us, with his customary profound simplicity, the true testimony of our consciousness; That benevolence and self-love are in fact distinguishable, but not opposite affections of the soul (as is so often popularly assumed); That instead of being universally opposed, they often cooperate as motives to the same act; That the act hence elicited may be either virtuous or vicious, according to its conditions; That both benevolence and self-love are so far in the same moral categories, that notoriously, some acts of simple self-love, (as when a man directly seeks his own calculated but lawful, or obligatory personal good) and many acts of benevolence are virtuous; and that many acts of self-love (as when a man prefers his own mischievous animal pleasure), and many acts of disinterestedness (as when a man deliberately injures himself for the sake of revenge), are vicious. From these clear statements it follows obviously, that the benevolent cannot be exalted into the universal essence of virtue, nor the selfish into that of sin.

What Has Suggested These Benevolence Schemes?

These theories derive all the plausibility of their sophistries from three facts. It has been so often said, that "Honesty is the best policy," that men come to think the goodness of the policy is what makes it honest; To promote utility, or, in other words, to do acts of beneficence to mankind, is, in a multitude of cases, right and praiseworthy; The duties of benevolence are duties, and a very extensive class thereof; but not, therefore, exhaustive of all duties. Once more, in the business of legislation, the expedient is very much the guide; and crimes are punished chiefly in proportion to their tendency to injure the well-doing of society. This might easily deceive one who, like Bentham, was far more of a legislator than philosopher, to suppose that he had found, in the beneficence of acts, the essential element of their virtue. He forgets that human laws propose as their proximate end only the protection of human well-being in this world; and not the accurate final apportionment of merits. This is God's function alone.

1st. It Is Selfish In Fact.

The utilitarian schemes of ethics profess to stand in contrast to the selfish, because they propose not the selfish good of the agent, but the well-being of mankind, as the element and test of virtue. But they would really involve, as Jouffroy argues, the vice of the selfish systems, if consistently carried out to their last result. For when the question is raised, "Why do men come to regard the utile as the right?" the answer must be, because well-being (natural enjoyment) is the most proper end of man. But it must follow that desire of natural good is man's most proper motive of action. The moral motive, then, is as effectually left out of the analysis as by Hobbes himself; and the same absurd psychology is assumed, which makes desire for natural good the result of experienced good, whereas the desire must act first, or the good would never have come to be experienced. But more; if desire for natural good is man's most proper motive of action, it must follow, that his own personal good must always be the most proper end of moral action; because this must always be the nearest, most immediate object of the natural desire. These schemes make aggregate humanity the supreme object of moral action; the true God. But the individual agent is a part of that aggregate; a part of his own God! And as he is the most attainable part—the only part for whose natural welfare he can labor effectually—I see not how the practical conclusion is to be avoided; that he is his own most proper supreme end. Hence we are led back to the vilest results of the selfish system; and such, experience teaches us; is the practical tendency. While the utilitarian schemes profess great beneficence, they make their votaries supremely politic and selfish.

2nd. Utility Not the Conscious Rule of Obligation.

But farther; the scheme does not correctly state the facts of our consciousness. The mind does not feel that obligation to an act is always its mere utility or beneficence, nor that the merit of the agent arises out of the advantage his act effects. How often, for instance, do questions arise, as to the obligation of speaking truth; where, if utility were the element of obligation, none would be felt; yet the mind would feel most guilty, had falsehood been uttered in the case. Again; were utility the element of virtue, the rightness or wrongness of an act would only be apprehended so far as experience had given us knowledge as to the beneficence or mischievousness of its effects. Is this so?

Does not the conscience lash us for secret sins which leave no loss of reputation, health, or capacity behind them; and lash us all the more promptly and keenly, as we are inexperienced of crime and its wretched consequences? Farther; were this theory true, all truly useful things should affect us with similar sentiments of moral approbation, a convenient bureau, or good milk cow, as truly as a faithful friend, or a benevolent rescuer. Does Hume attempt to escape by saying that it is the rational and voluntary useful act which affects us with the sentiment of approbation? Then, we reply, he has given up the case; for evidently the morality of the act is not in its utility, but in its rational motive. Once more; if utility is the sole element of virtue, then the degree of utility should also be the measure of virtuous merit. We should always feel those acts to be most meritorious which were most conducive to natural good. But do we? e.g. Which ennobles Daniel most in our eyes: the heroism which refused to bow his conscience to an impious prohibition of his king, when the penalty was the lions' den, or the diligence which dispensed order and prosperity over one hundred and twenty provinces? And the extravagant conclusions of Godwin must be accepted—that duties must be graded by us in proportion to the public importance of the person who was their object; so that it might be the son's duty to see his own father drown, in order to save some more valuable life, who is a stranger to him.

3rd. If So, We Might "Do Evil That Good May Come."

Were the utilitarian scheme true, it might be in some cases utterly impossible to convince a man that it was immoral to "do evil that good might come." If the consequences of the evil act, so far as foreseen by his mind, seemed beneficial, it would be right to do it. Nor could the claims of retributive justice in many cases be substantiated; the criminal who gave, by his penitence, sufficient guarantee that he would offend no more, could not be made, without immorality, to pay his debt of guilt.

And above all, eternal retributions would be utterly indefensible in a God of infinite wisdom and power. How can they advantage the universe, including the sufferers, as much as their pardon and thorough conversion would benefit them, without injuring the rest?

4th. Paley's Scheme.

Paley's type of the Selfish System may be said to be equally perspicuous and false. That such a fourth. Paley's scheme specimen of impotency and sophism in philosophy should come from a mind capable of so much justice and perspicuity of reasoning, as he has exhibited in the experimental field of Natural Theology, is one of the most curious facts in the history of opinion. I shall first attempt to rebut the objections which he insinuates against the originality of moral perceptions, and then criticize his own theory.

Attacks Originality of Moral Judgments.

He first proposes to test the question, whether such distinctions are originally and intuitively perceived, by supposing a case of what we call odious filial treachery, stated to a mind perfectly untutored by human associations, example, and teaching; and asking us whether he would immediately feel its vileness, with us. We answer, of course, No. But to show how absurdly preposterous the test is, we need not, with Dr. Alexander, dwell on the complexity of the moral problem involved. The simple answer is, that such a mind would not have the moral sentiment, because he would not comprehend the relations out of which the violated obligations grew, nor the very words used, to state them. In no proper sense could the untutored mind be said to see the case. Now, what a paltry trick is it, to argue that a mind has not a power of comparison, because it cannot compare objects which it does not behold at all?

Attributes Them To Association.

Paley insinuates (none of his objections to moral intuitions are stated boldly) that our notions of the moral may all be accounted for by association and imitation. Hence, "having noticed that certain actions produced, or tended to produce, good consequences, whenever those actions are spoken of, they suggest, by the law of association, the pleasing idea of the good they are wont to produce. What association begins, imitation strengthens; this habit of connecting a feeling of pleasure with classes of acts is confirmed by similar habits of thought and feeling around us, and we dub it the sentiment of moral approbation." (Borrowed from Hume.) Now, this analysis is shown to be worthless in this one word. The law of association does not transmute, but only reproduces, the mental states connected by it. How, then, can the feeling of pleasure, which begins from a perceived tendency in a class of acts to promote nature good, be changed by association into the pleasure of moral approbation? They are distinct enough at first. Again, how, on this scheme, could men ever come to have pain of conscience at sins which are naturally pleasurable, and attended with no more direct natural ill? And how could the fact ever be explained, that we often have the sentiment of remorse for doing something in compliance with general associations and imitation?

Objects, That They Are Not Referable To Any Simpler Type.

Another class of objections is drawn from the facts that man has no innate ideas of the abstract element of moral right; and that moralists, though asserting the instinctive origin of moral perceptions, have never been able to point to any one type, or simple abstract element (as veracity, etc.), into which all moral acts might be resolved. After our criticism of Locke, no farther answer will be needed to the first objection. The second, when examined, will be found to be a bald begging of the question. The question is, whether the rightness of acts is an original perception of the human reason. Now, if it be, it will of course follow that it cannot be referred to some more general type of perception. Can this general idea, a truth, be analyzed? Why not? Because it is already simple and primary. Who dreams of arguing now that the human reason has no original capacity of perceiving truth in propositions, because it has no more general and abstract type, into which the sorts of truth in different classes of propositions may be referred?

So, of the idea of rightness.

And Variable.

Paley also borrows the common argument of objectors, from the wide variety, and even contrariety of moral opinions in different ages and nations. In one nation, filial duty is supposed to consist in nursing an aged parent; in another land, in eating him, etc. The answers are, that no one ever pretended any human faculty was perfect in its actings, however original. Habit and association, example, passion, have great influence in perverting any faculty. Next, as justly remarked by Dr. Alexander, many of the supposed cases of contrariety of moral judgments are fully explained by the fact, that the dictate of conscience, right in the general, is perverted by some error or ignorance of the understanding. The Christian mother feels it her duty to cherish the life of her infant; the Hindu to drown hers in Holy Ganges! True. Yet both act on the dictate of conscience—that a mother should seek the highest good of her infant. The Hindu has been taught by her false creed, to believe that she does this by transferring it in childhood to heaven. Once more, it is a most erroneous conclusion to infer that, because men perform, in some countries, what are here regarded as odious vices, with seeming indifference and publicity, therefore their moral sentiments about them do not agree with ours. An educated Hindu will lie for a penny, and, when detected, laugh at it as smart. A Hottentot woman will seem shameless in her lewdness. Yet we are informed that the Hindu reverences and admires the truthfulness of a Christianized Briton; and that the poor Hottentot scorns the unchaste European missionary, just as any female here would. The amount of the case is, that conscience may be greatly stupefied or drowned by evil circumstances; but her general dictates, so far as heard, are infallibly uniform.

Paley's Definition of Duty

Paley, having succeeded, to his own satisfaction, in proving that there is no sufficient evidence of moral intuitions existing in the human soul, gives his own definition. "Virtue is doing good to mankind, according to the will of God, for the sake of everlasting happiness." And moral obligation, he defines, as nothing else than a forcible motive arising out of a command of another. That this scheme should ever have seemed plausible to Christians, can only be accounted for by the fact that we intuitively feel, when a God is properly apprehended, that His will is a perfect rule of right; and that it is moral to do all His commands. But when we raise the question, why? the answer is, because His will, like His character, is holy. To do His will, then, is not obligatory merely because an Almighty has commanded it; but He has commanded it because it is obligatory. The distinction of right and wrong is intrinsic.

Objections. The System Is A Selfish One.

The objections to Paley's system are patent. He himself raises the question, wherein virtue, on his definition, differs from a prudent self-love in temporal things. His answer is, the latter has regard only to this life; the former considers also future immortal well-being. Brown well observes of this, that it is but a more odious refinement upon the selfish system; defiling man's very piety, by making it a selfish trafficking for personal advantage with God, and fostering a more gigantic moral egotism, inasmuch as immortality is longer than mortal life. All the objections leveled against the selfish system by me, apply, therefore, justly here. This scheme of Paley is equally false to our consciousness, which tells us that when we act, in all relative duties, with least reference to self, then we are most praiseworthy.

Force May Justify Sin.

But we may add, more especially, that on Paley's scheme of obligation, it is hard to see how he could deny that there may be, in some cases, as real a moral obligation to do wrong, as to do right. A company of violent men overpower me, and command me, on pain of instant death, to burn down my neighbor's dwelling. Here is "a forcible motive arising from the command of another." Why does it not constitute a moral obligation to the crime? Paley would reply, because God commands me not to burn it, on pain of eternal death; and this obligation destroys the other, because the motive is vastly more forcible. It seems, then, that in God's case, it is His might which makes His right.

No Obligation Without Revelation. And No Virtue In God.

Once more. On Paley's scheme, there could be no morality nor moral obligation, where there is no revelation from God; because neither the rule, nor motive, nor obligation of virtue exists. They do not exist indeed, Paley might reply, in the form of a revealed theology; but they are there in the teachings and evidences of Natural Theology. "The heathen which have not the law are a law unto themselves, their consciences," etc. But if there are no authoritative intuitions given by God to man's soul, of moral distinctions, then Natural Theology has no sufficient argument whatever to prove that God is a moral being, or that He wills us to perform moral acts. Look and see. And, finally, what can God's morality be; since there is no will of a higher being to regulate His acts, and no being greater than He to hold out the motive of eternal rewards for obeying!

5th. Dr. A. Smith's Theory.

The ingenious scheme of Dr. Adam Smith, Theory of Mor. Sents, may be seen very perspicuously unfolded in Jouffroy. This scheme is by no means so mischievous and degrading as that of Hobbes, Hume or Paley. But it is incorrect. Its fundamental defect is, that in each step it assumes the prior existence of the moral sentiment, in order to account for it. For instance, it says: We feel approbation for an act, when we experience a sympathetic emotion with the sentiments in the agent which prompted it. But sympathy only reproduces the same emotion; it does not transmute it; so that unless the producing sentiment in the agent were moral, it could not, by sympathy, generate a moral sentiment in us. It supposes conscience comes hence: We imagine an ideal man contemplating our act, conceive the kind of sentiments he feels for us, and then sympathize therewith. But how do we determine the sentiments of this ideal man looking at our act? He is but a projection of our own moral sentiments. So, in each step, Dr. S. has to assume the phenomenon, as already produced; for the production of which he would account. Another fatal objection to Dr. Smith's scheme is, that the sympathetic affection in the beholder is always fainter than the direct sentiment in the object beheld. But conscience visits upon us stronger affections than are awakened by beholding the moral acts of another, and approving or blaming them. The sentiments of conscience should, according to Dr. Smith, be feebler; for they are the reflection of a reflection.

Moral Judgments Are Intuitive.

ARE moral distinctions intrinsic; and are they intuitively perceived? We have now passed in review all the several theories which answer, no; and found them untenable.

Alone, we derive a strong probability that the affirmative is the true answer. For example, consider all the chemists who endeavor in vain to analyze a given material substance into some other known one, yet fail. It is, therefore, assumed to be simple and original.

We must assume this of the moral sentiment; or else it is unintelligible how mankind ever became possessed of the moral idea. For every original and simple idea, whether sensitive or rational, with which our souls are furnished, we find an appropriate original power; and without this the idea could never have been entertained by man. Had man no eyes, he would have never had ideas of light and colors; no ear, he could never have had the idea of melody; no taste, he would forever have lacked the idea of beauty. So, if the idea of rightness in acts is not identical with that of truth, nor utility, nor benevolence, nor self-love, nor love of applause, nor sympathetic harmony; nor any other original sentiment; it must be received directly by an original moral power in the soul. To this, in the second place, consciousness testifies: the man who calmly and fully investigates his own mental processes, will perceive that his view and feeling of the rightness of some acts arise immediately in his mind; without any medium, except the comprehension of the real relations of the act; that their rise is unavoidable; and that their failure to rise would be immediately and necessarily apprehended by all, as a fundamental defect of his soul. There is, indeed, a great diversity in the estimation of the more complex details of moral questions. And man's intuition of those distinctions is often disturbed by three causes, well stated by Dr. Brown—complexity of elements, habits of association, and prevalent passion. But, allowing for these, there is just the universal and immediate agreement in all sane human minds, which we expect to find in the acceptance of necessary first truths. In the fundamental and simple ideas of morals, men are agreed.

And in the case of any other intuitions, we have to make precisely the same allowance, and to expect the same disturbing causes. These, with the remarks I made in refutation of Paley's subjections, I think suffice to sustain the true theory on that point.

Illustrated From Logical Judgments.

I hold, then, that as there is, in some propositions (not in all—some are truisms, many are meaningless, and some so unknown as to be neither affirmed nor denied), the element of truth or falsehood, original, simple, incapable of analysis or definition in simpler terms, and ascertainable by the mind's intellection; so there is in actions, of the class called moral, an intrinsic quality of rightness or wrongness, equally simple, original, and incapable of analysis; and, like simple truth, perceived immediately by the inspection of the reason. This quality is intrinsic; they are not right merely because God has commanded, or because He has formed souls to think so, or because He has established any relation of utility, beneficence, or self-interest therewith. But God has commanded them, and formed these relations to them, because they are right. Just as a proposition is not true because our minds are so constructed as to apprehend it such; but our minds were made by God to see it so, because it is true.

Some Moral Judgments Are Likewise Deductive.

But understand me, do not assert that all moral distinctions in particular acts are intuitively seen, or necessarily seen. As in propositions, some have primary, and some deductive truth; some are seen to be true without premises, and some by the help of premises; so, in acts having moral qualities, the rightness or wrongness of some is seen immediately, and of some deductively. In the latter, the moral relation of the agent is not immediately seen, but the moral judgment is mediated only by the knowledge of some other truths. If these truths are not known, then the moral quality of the act is not obvious. From this simple remark it very clearly follows, that if the mind's belief touching these truths, which are premises to the moral judgment, be erroneous, the moral judgment will also err.

Just as in logic, so here, false premises, legitimately used, will lead to false conclusions. And here is the explanation of the discrepancies in moral judgments, which have so confused Ethics.

But there are several writers of eminence, who, while they substantially, yea nobly, uphold the originality and excellence of man's moral distinctions, err, as we think, in the details of their analysis. A moment's inquiry into their several departures from my theory, will best serve to define and establish it.

The Moral Distinction Seen By the Reason.

First. Seeing that the moral distinction is intrinsic; what is the faculty of the soul by which it is apprehended? (Bear in mind a faculty is not a limb of mind, hut only a name we give to one phase or sort of its processes.) Does it apprehend it by its reason; or by a distinct moral faculty? Says Dr. Hutcheson, an English writer: By a distinct, though rational perceptive faculty, which he names, the moral sense; and describes as an internal sense—i.e., a class of processes perceptive, and also exhibiting sensibility. Says Dr. Alexander, The perceptive part of our moral processes, is simply a judgment of the reason. It is but an intellection of the understanding, like any other judgment of relations, except that it immediately awakens a peculiar emotion, viz: the moral. Now, it might be plausibly said that the reason is concerned only with the judgment of truth; and we have strenuously repudiated the analysis which reduces the moral distinction to mere truth.

But it should rather be said, that the proper field of the reason is the judgment of relations; truth existing in propositions is only one class. There seems no ground to suppose that the moral judgment, so far as merely intellective of the distinction, is other than a simple judgment of the reason; because, so far as we know, wherever reason is, there, and there only, are moral judgments.

Second. If the faculties were two, the one, we might rationally expect, might sometimes convict the other of inaccuracy, as the memory does the reason, and vice versa.

Third. The identity of the two processes seems strongly indicated by the fact, that if the reason is misled by any falsehood of view, the moral sentiment is infallibly perverted to just the same extent.

The moral motive is always a rational one. Some rational perception of the truth of a proposition predicating relation, is necessary, as the occasion of its acting, and the object of a moral judgment. The reason why brutes have not moral ideas, is that they have not reason. In short, I see nothing gained by supposing an inward perceptive faculty called moral sense, other than the reason itself.

Next we notice the question: at what stage of its perceptions of the relations of acts, does the reason see the moral distinction? In each separate case immediately, as soon as the soul is enough developed to apprehend the relations of the particular act? No, answers Jouffroy, but only after a final generalization is accomplished by the reason.

Jouffroy's Scheme.

His theory is: First. That in the merely animal stage of existence, the infant acts from direct, uncalculating instinct alone. The rational idea of its own natural good is the consequence, not origin, of the experienced pleasure following from the gratification of instinct. Second. Experience presents the occasions upon which the reason gives the general idea of personal good; and the motives of self-calculation begin to act. Third. The child also observes similar instincts, resulting in its fellowmen in natural enjoyment to them; and as it forms the general idea of its own natural good (satisfaction of the whole circle of instincts to greatest attainable degree) as its most proper personal end; reason presents the general truth, that a similar personal end exists for this, that, the other, and every fellowman. Here, then, arises a still more general idea; the greatest attainable natural good of all beings generally; the "absolute good," or "universal order" and as soon as this is reached, the reason intuitively pronounces it the moral good; to live for this, is now seen to be man's proper end; and rightness in acts is their rational tendency to that end. This is rather a subtle and ingenious generalization of the result of our moral judgments, than a correct account of their origin. This generalization, as made by the opening mind, might suggest the notion of symmetry, or utility as belonging to the "absolute order," but surely that of obligatoriness is an independent element of rational perception! If the idea of rightness and obligation had never connected itself in the opening mind with any specific act having a tendency to man's natural good, how comes the mind to apprehend the universal order as the obligatory moral end, when once the reason forms that abstraction? It seems to me that the element of moral judgment must be presupposed, to account for the result. Again; the supposed process is inconsistent with a correct idea of the generalizing process. The process does not transmute but only colligates the facts which it ranks together. The general attributes which the mind apprehends as constituting the connotation of the general term, are precisely the attributes which it saw to be common in all the special cases grouped together. So that, if a moral order had not been already apprehended by the reason in the specific acts, the mere apprehension of the universal order would not produce the conviction of its morality. Experience would strengthen the moral idea. But usually the most unhackneyed have it most vividly. But it is right to say, that Jouffroy, notwithstanding this peculiarity of his theory, deserves the admiration of his readers, for the beauty of his analyses, and the general elevation of his views.

Sentimental Scheme of Dr. Thomas Brown.

The ethical lectures of Dr. Thomas Brown, of Edinburgh, are marked by great acuteness, and nobility of general tone; and he has rendered gallant service in refuting the more erroneous theories. He makes moral distinctions original and authoritative, and yet allows the reason only a secondary function in them. The whole result of this analysis is this: when certain actions (an action is nothing more than the agent acting) are presented, there arises immediately an emotion, called, for want of a more vivid term, moral approbation, without any previous condition of self-calculation, judgment of relation in the reason, and so on. This immediate emotion constitutes our whole feeling of the rightness, obligation, meritoriousness, of the agent. As experience gathers up and recollects the successive acts which affect us with the moral emotion, reason makes the generalization of them into a class; and therefore, derivatively forms the general idea of virtue. Man's moral capacity, therefore, is, strictly, not a power of intellection, but a sensibility. The reason only generalizes into a class, those acts which have the immediate power of affecting this sensibility in the same way.

And Brown's system deserves yet more than Adam Smith's, which he so ably refutes, to be called the Sentimental System. The moral sentiment is with him strictly an instinctive emotion.

Now, it does not seem to me a valid objection, to say with Jouffroy, that hence, the moral emotion is made one among the set of our natural instincts: and there no longer appears any reason why it should be more dominant over the others out of its own domain, than they over it (e.g., more than taste, or resentment, or appetite). For the very nature of this moral instinct, Brown might reply, is, that it claims all other susceptibilities which have moral quality, are in its own domain.

Objection. 1st. Soul Always Sees, In Order To Feel. 2nd. No Virtue Without Rational, Impersonal Motive. 3rd. There Would Be No Uniform Standard.

The truer objections are, that this notion does not square with the analogies of the soul. In every case, our emotions arise out of an intellection. This is true, in a lower sense, even of our animal instincts. It is perception which awakens appetites. It is the conception of an intent to injure, which gives the signal to our resentment, even when it arises towards an agent non-moral. And in all the more intellectual emotions, as of taste, love, moral complacency, the view of the understanding, and that alone, evokes the emotion in a normal way. The soul feels, because it has seen. How else could reason rule our emotions? Surely this is one of our most important distinctions from brutes, that our emotions are not mere instincts, but rational affections. Note, especially too, that if our moral sentiments had no element of judgment at their root, the fact would be inexplicable, that they never, like all other instinctive emotions, come in collision with reason. Again, Dr. B. has very properly shown, in overthrowing the selfish systems of human action, that our instincts are not prompted by self-interest. He seems, therefore, to think that when he makes the moral emotion an instinctive sensibility, he has done all that is needed to make it disinterested. But an action is not, therefore, morally disinterested, because it is not self-interested. Then would our very animal appetites, even in infancy, be virtues! The truth is, in instinctive volitions, the motive is personal to the agent; but not consciously so. In selfish volitions the motive is personal to the agent; and he knows it. Only when the motive is impersonal, and he knows it, is there disinterestedness, or virtue. Last, if Brown's theory were correct, moral good would only be relative to each man's sensibility; and there would be no uniform standard. An act might be good to one, bad to another, just as it presented itself to his sensibility; as truly as in the sense of the natural good, one man calls oysters good, and another considers oysters bad. Whereas the true doctrine is, that moral distinctions are as intrinsic in certain acts, as truth is in certain propositions and eternal and immutable. Even God sees, and calls the right to be right, because it so, not vice versa. Dr. Brown foresees this, and attempting to rebut it, is guilty of peculiar absurdity. Why says he, does it give any more intrinsic basis for moral distinctions in the acts (or agents acting) themselves, to suppose that our cognizance of them is by a rational judgment, than to say, with him, that it is in the way they naturally affect a sensibility in us? The capacity of having the intuitive judgment is itself but a sort of rational sensibility to be affected in a given way; and, in either case, we have no ground for any belief of an intrinsic permanence of the relation or quality perceived, but that our Maker made us to be affected so! Hence, he betrays the whole basis of morals and truth, to a sweeping skepticism. Does not intuition compel us to believe that reason is affected with such and such judgments, because the grounds of them are actual and intrinsic in the objects? Dr. Brown goes to the absurd length of saying, that the supposed relations ascertained by reason herself, are not intrinsic, and exist nowhere, except in the perceiving reason, e.g., the relation of square of hypotenuse. Says he, were there nowhere a perceiving mind comprehending this relation, the relation would have no existence, no matter how many right-angled triangles existed! Is not this absolute skepticism? Is it not equivalent to saying that none of the perceptions of reason (i.e., human beliefs), have any objective validity? There need be no stronger refutation of his theory, than that he should acknowledge himself driven by it to such an admission.

The Moral State Complex Illustrated By Taste.

The correct view, no doubt, is this: that our simplest moral states consist of two elements: a judgment of the understanding, or rational perception of the moral quality in the act; and an immediate, peculiar emotion, called approbation, arising thereupon, giving more or less warmth to the judgment. In our moral estimates of more complex cases, just as in our intellectual study of derived truths, the process may be more inferential, and more complex. It has been often, and justly remarked, that the Parallel between the rational aesthetic functions of the soul, and its moral functions, is extremely instructive. Psychology teaches us that rational taste (for instance, the pleasure of literary beauty in reading a fine passage), consists of a judgment, or cluster of judgments, and a peculiar emotion immediately supervening thereon. The sentiment of taste is, then, complex, consisting of an action of the intelligence and a motion of the sensibility. The former is cause; the latter is consequence. After the excitement of the sensibility has wholly waned, the judgment which aroused it remains fixed and unchanged. Now, it is this way with our moral sentiments. A rational judgment of the intrinsic righteousness or wrongness of the act immediately produces an emotion of approbation, or disapprobation, which is original and peculiar.

The whole vividness of the sentiment may pass away; but the rational judgment will remain as permanent as any judgment of truth in propositions. The great distinction between the Aesthetic and ethical actions of the soul, is that the latter carries the practical and sacred perception of obligation.

Conscience, What? Obligation, What?

Conscience, as I conceive, is but the faculty of the soul just described, acting With reference to our own moral acts, conceived as future, done, or remembered as done When we conceive the wrongness of an act as done by ourselves, that judgment and emotion take the form of self-blame, or remorse; wherein the emotion is made more pungent than in other cases of disapprobation, by our instinctive and our self-calculating self-love, one or both. So of the contrasted case. And the merit of an action, looked at as past, is no other than this judgment and feeling of its rightness, which intuitively connects the idea of title to reward with the agent, i.e., our ideas of merit and demerit are intuitions arising immediately upon the conception of the rightness or wrongness of the acts; connecting natural good or evil with moral good or evil, by an immediate tie.

Our ideas of desert of reward or punishment, therefore, are not identical with our sentiments of the rightness or wrongness of acts, as Dr. Brown asserts, but are intuitively consequent thereon. Dr. B. also asserts, as also Dr. Alexander that our notion of obligation is no other than our intuitive judgment of rightness in acts, regarded as prospective. Therefore, it is useless and foolish to raise the question: "Why am I obliged, morally, to do that which is right?" It is as though one should debate why he should believe an axiom. This is substantially correct. But when they say, whatever is right is obligatory, and vice versa, there is evidently a partial error. For there is a limited class of acts, of which the rightness is not proportioned to the obligation to perform them; but on the contrary, the less obligation, the more admirable is the virtue of doing them gratuitously. Such are some acts of generosity to unworthy enemies: and especially God's to rebel man. That God was under no obligation to give His Son to die for them is the very reason His grace in doing so is so admirable! Obligation, therefore, is not always the correlative of rightness in the act, but it is, always, the correlative of a right in the object. This is the distinction which has been overlooked—i.e., a multitude of our acts have a personal object, God, self, a man, or mankind, one or more; and the conscience in many cases apprehends, not only that the act would be right, but that such are the relations of ourselves to the object, that he has a right, a moral title to have it done, in such sense that not only the doing of the opposite to him, but the withholding of the act itself, would be wrong. In every such case, the notion of obligation arises. And that, stronger or weaker, whether the object's right be perfect or imperfect.

Imperative of Conscience Is Intuitive.

The most important thing, however, for us to observe, is that every sane mind intuitively recognizes this moral obligation.

The judgment and emotion we call conscience carries this peculiarity over all other states of reason or instinct, that it contains the imperative element. It utters a command, the rightness of which the understanding is necessitated to admit. Other motives, rational or instinctive, may often (alas!) overcome it in force; but none of them can dispute its authority.

It is as impossible for the mind, after having given the preference to other motives, to think its choice therein right, as it is to think any other intuition untrue. Conscience is the Maker's imperative in the soul.

Must Conscience, Misguided, Be Obeyed?

Hence it must follow that the dictate of conscience must always be obeyed; or sin ensues. But conscience is not infallible, as guided by man's fallible understanding it is clear from both experience and reason, that her fiat may be misdirected. In that case, is the act innocent, or wrong? If you say the latter, you seem involved in a glaring paradox; that to obey would be wrong; and yet to disobey would be wrong. How can both be true? If you say the former, other absurdities would follow. First. Truth would seem to be of no consequence in order to right; and the conscience might just as well be left uninformed, as informed, so far as one man is personally concerned therein. Second. Each man's view of duty would be valid for him; so that there might be as many clashing views of duty, as men, and each valid in itself; so that we should reach such absurdities as these: A has a right to a given object which B has an equal right to prevent his having; so that B has a moral right to do to A what is to him a moral wrong! Third. Many of the most odious acts in the world, reprobated by all posterity, as the persecutions of a Saul, or a Dominic, would be justified, because the perpetrators believed they were doing God service.


The solution of this seeming paradox is in this fact: that God has not given man a conscience which is capable of misleading him when lawfully and innocently used. In other words, while lack of knowledge necessary to perceive our whole duty may often occur (in which case it is always innocent to postpone acting), positive error of moral judgment only arises from guilty haste or heedlessness, or indolence, or from sinful passion or prejudice. When, therefore, a man sincerely believes it right in his conscience to do what is intrinsically wrong, the wrongness is not in the fact that he obeyed conscience (for this abstractly is right), but in the fact that he had before, and at the time, perverted conscience by sinful means.

What Constitutes Moral Agency?

We intuitively apprehend that all agents are not blind subjects of moral approbation or disapprobation. Hence, the question must be settled: what are the elements essential to moral responsibility! This can be settled no otherwise than by an appeal to our intuitions. For instance, we may take an act of the form which would have moral quality, if done by a moral agent—e.g., inflicting causeless bodily pain; and attributing it to successive sorts of agents, from lower to higher, ascertain what the elements are, which confer responsibility. As we walk through a grove, a dead branch falls on our heads; we feel that resentment would be absurd, much more disapprobation, the thing is dead. We walk near our horse, he wantonly kicks or bites. There is a certain type of anger; but it is not moral disapprobation; we feel still, that this would be absurd. Here, there is sensibility and will in the agent: but no conscience or reason. We walk with our friend; he treads on our corns and produces intolerable pain; but it is obviously unintentional. We pass through a lunatic asylum; a maniac tries to kill us. Here is sensibility, free will, intention; but reason is dethroned. In neither of these cases should we have moral disapprobation. A stronger man takes hold of our friend, and by brute force makes him strike us; there is no anger towards our friend, he is under coaction. We learn from these various instances, that free agency, intention, and rationality are all necessary, to constitute a man a responsible moral agent.

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