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are utility. Why then have we not a moral approbation of the author of useful inventions? Is it because there is no design to do good? But what constitutes the excellence of virtuous design, but its tendency to utility? Now if this same general tendency be found in a genius for useful inventions, and if the essence of right be utility, it should seem to be a proper object of moral approbation; and yet we never so regard it. The only answer that can be given seems to be this, that a disposition to do good, being the most common and universal cause of utility, this has so fixed our associations of right with such a disposition, that in singular instances where the disposition does not exist, though the same degree of good uniformly results, the same sentiments are not felt. Are we not then reduced to this dilemma, viz. either that utility is not the ultimate object of moral approbation, or that there is no distinction in the nature of things between a disposition to virtue, and a genius for useful inventions; only in the former case, a far more extensive influence has led us to form associations, which are wanting in the latter?
III. An act is not morally right, which is not judged to be morally right by the agent who performs it. If utility constitute right, and the utility of an action be not perceived by the agent, then the
rectitude of that action is not perceived. What then shall we say of those who do not adopt this theory, and act because they believe the act to be right, not useful, and sometimes even in opposition to their opinion of utility? What of the great mass of men, who do not take these large views, or reason about the good of the whole?
IV. It is the perception of mind discerning the rectitude of actions tending to good, and choosing them as agreeable to an intelligent nature, that gives to the spectator the sentiment of moral approbation. Acting in conformity to this perception is acting from moral principle; and in proportion to the strength of this principle, and not at all in proportion to the good produced, is the degree of approbation. Thus in painting, the object to be achieved is resemblance, yet resemblance, although generally pleasing, is not the principal source of pleasure, but the skill of the artist. It is not the good actually done, as may be shown by innumerable instances, but the disposition to do good, which we approve. And it cannot be the utility of this disposition alone; because if it were, we must in the same manner approve according to its degree, whatever is thus useful. The highest utility of virtue is to the agent himself, yet it is not, as we have seen, on this account that we approve it.
V. According to the third proposition included in this theory, as before stated, it is admitted that there are many common judgments of mankind, inconsistent with the theory of utility, by which actions are approved or censured without reference to their tendency to produce happiness. This is supposed to be explained by association.
If so, these judgments must follow the common laws of association; and the factitious approbation will be in proportion to the degree and frequency of the association of utility with actions of the kind supposed.
But what virtues, both in degree and uniformity, are so useful as industry, frugality, and common honesty? They, in some degree, are absolutely essential to the very existence of any society; and where they most abound, there is uniformly the most public and private happiness. Were they universally and perfectly prevalent, scarce any other virtue would be necessary in the world; yet these are not the virtues most highly approved. Rare and splendid instances of magnanimity, generosity, and self-devotion, though far less useful, are far more highly approved. Not only in life, but in fictitious representations of it, these latter qualities throw such a splendor over character, that we are ready to pardon not merely the neglect, but even the violation of the useful virtues.
There is nothing with which a child so early and constantly associates utility, as with parental affection; yet it is hardly esteemed a virtue. Filial duty, on the contrary, though much less associated with utility, is much more esteemed.
It is admitted that there are mistaken judgments from association; not however with the useful, but with the honorable, or what was called by the ancients honestum. They appear, for instance, in the false estimate which was formed by the Romans of the virtue of patriotism; and in the sentiments of the North American Indians respecting the endurance of torture, and its infliction upon their captives.
VI. According to the second proposition embraced in this theory, our duties are referred immediately to the observance of general rules. But this principle is set aside by Dr. Paley himself, in his argument against a moral sense. He says;
"Another considerable objection to the system of moral instinct is this, that there are no maxims in the science which can well be deemed innate, as none, perhaps, can be assigned, which are absolutely and universally true; in other words, which do not bend to circumstances. Veracity, which seems, if any be, a natural duty, is excused in many cases, towards an enemy, a thief, or a madman.
The obligation of promises, which is a first principle in morality, depends upon the circumstances under which they were made; they may have been unlawful, or become so since, or inconsistent with former promises, or erroneous, or extorted; under all which cases, instances may be suggested, where the obligation to perform the promise would be very dubious; and so of most other general rules when they come to be actually applied."
No one can doubt from the paragraph and the example, viz. veracity, that by maxims he means general rules, and by circumstances, utility. Does not this concession at once overthrow all his reasoning respecting the obligation to observe general rules? There are, according to him, circumstances of utility sometimes so strong against a general rule, that it is right for the agent to violate it. And who but the agent is, or ever can be, the judge when these circumstances exist? Is he not, therefore, set loose at once from the restraint of general rules, and left to act agreeably to his own notions of general utility?
VII. There are cases, in which, by the common judgment of mankind, a man is not bound to act from a naked consideration of utility. There are many cases, in which he is not bound to sacrifice personal advantage, nor the good of friends, to the