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And, as usual with Sir James's expressions, it is ambiguous. When we speak of a thing in action, we commonly mean a thing acting. A hand in action, is a hand acting; a mind in action, is a mind acting. When Sir James speaks of morality in action, does he mean morality acting? I conclude not; because when I ask myself what morality not acting is-I cannot find an answer. Morality not acting appears to me to be the negation of morality.

There is another meaning we can suppose ; and that is, the morality which is in an action : as we say the smell which is in a rose. Did Sir James then imagine, that there is morality in anything else? Did he mean to speak of the morality which is in action, as distinct from a morality which is not in action ? When we say morality, we name an attribute of action.

But then we need to be informed what that attribute is. Sir James says, the business of the moral inquirer is to find out the criterion of it. But the criterion of a thing does not tell us what it is—it only ascertains whether such or such a thing be the thing in question or not.

The only hypothesis by which I can annex anything like a meaning to the words of Sir James, is by supposing that he has misapplied the word criterion ; that he means by “the criterion of morality in action,” the moral quality of the act; that, whatever it be, on account of which we call it right, moral, good. Sir James's proposition in this sense is, that the criterion of morality is morality. We shall find, as we go on, other propositions of Sir James, of the same description.

Well, Sir James says, this quality of actions, this something, in or belonging to action, is one thing, which deserves our inquiry; and we fully agree with him.

Another thing, as he says, is, the feelings which men have, when this something is perceived or contemplated by them. We agree with him, that this is another thing. But we do not agree with him, that inquiry into this thing, except as an object of philosophical curiosity, is a matter of equal importance. We rather lean to the opinion of Adam Smith, that it is a matter of very inferior importance.

We are of opinion also, in direct opposition to Sir James, who thinks he has had a master's hand, in establishing the duality of these things, that it never was mistaken, or could be, by any man in his senses. The acts of Nero were acts of a man in Italy, who lived nearly 2,000 years ago; the feelings with which I regard them are the feelings of a man now living in England. Who is capable of taking one of these things for the other?

This confusion in the mind of Sir James was wrought, no doubt, by ambiguity of terms. The term “ moral sentiments” either means the compound of feelings, in the breast of the actor, from which the action proceeds, being, in truth, the very morality of the act; or it means the sentiments raised in the breast of him who perceives or contemplates the act. That is, one and the same phrase is a name for each of the two things, about the distinguishing of which Sir James makes such a noise.

That Sir James was not foremost in making the distinction between acts, and the sentiments raised in the breasts of those who see or hear of them, is hardly worth mentioning for its own sake. It is, however, of importance on account of those who need to be put on their guard against imposing pretensions.

“ In treating of the principles of morals," says Adam Smith, “ there are two questions to be considered. First, wherein does virtue consist? Or what is the tone of temper and tenor of conduct, which constitute the excellent and praise-worthy character, the character which is the natural object of esteem, honour, and approbation ? And, secondly, by what power or faculty in the mind is it, that this character, whatever it be, is recommended to us ? Or in other words, how and by what means does it come to pass, that the mind prefers one tenor of conduct to another, denominates the one right and the other wrong; considers the one as the object of approbation, honour, and reward; and the other of blame, censure, and punishment ? ”

Had Sir James read this, he could not have imagined that he had pointed out the two subjects more distinctly; though there is by no means, even in the words of Smith, that philosophical precision which the nature of the subject required.

Smith goes on to illustrate his meaning : “ We examine the first question when we consider whether virtue consists in benevolence, as Dr. Hutchison imagines ; or in acting suitably to the different relations we stand in, as Dr. Clarke supposes ; or in the wise and prudent pursuit of our own real and solid happiness, as has been the opinion of others.”

With this, Smith leaves the illustration of the first question, and adds the following illustration of the second : “ We examine the second question, when we consider whether the virtuous character, whatever it consists in, be recommended to us by self-love, which makes us perceive that this character, both in ourselves and others, tends most to promote our own private interest; or by reason, which points out to us the difference between one character and another, in the same manner as it does that between truth and falsehood; or by a peculiar power of perception, called a moral sense, which this character gratifies and pleases, as the contrary disgusts and displeases it; or, last of all, by some other principle in human nature, such as a modification of sympathy or the like.”

See also the Preliminary Dissertation to Law's translation of King on the Origin of Evil; first paragraph, &c.

Hutchison begins his Inquiry concerning Moral Good and Evil, with these words: “ The word moral goodness in this treatise, denotes our idea of some quality apprehended in action, which procurés approbation and love toward the actor from those who receive no advantage by the action.” Had not this writer a clear conception that the quality of the action was one thing, the feelings it called forth in others toward the actor, a different thing ?

Dr. Reid says, Essays on the Active Powers, Essay 3, chap. 5: “I shall first offer some observations with regard to the general notion of duty, and its contrary, or of right and

in human conduct; and then consider how we come to judge and determine certain things in human conduct to be right, and others to be wrong.” Here what is right and wrong in human conduct; and the sentiments with which we regard right and wrong, are pointed out as two subjects of inquiry. And in the beginning of the 6th chapter, after having discussed the question what is right and wrong,


“ We are next to

he says,

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