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greater perceived good of others. In a shipwreck, he would be justified by the common sentiments of men, in preserving his own life, or that of his wife or son, or benefactor, in preference to the life of a man of far more importance to the community. But if utility were the standard of right, he could not innocently make this preference.
VIII. Beside those already stated, the theory is exposed to the following objections.
1. The impossibility of determining what will promote the greatest good.
2. The universal language of men distinguishes the useful from the right.
3. If utility be the final, it is contrary to all analogy to conclude it the efficient cause of virtue; but of this when we speak of motives.
4. The doctrine leaves untouched the very difficulty, it is introduced to remove. It is right to produce the greatest good. The question recurs, why is it right? We understand the subject of the proposition; but what is meant by the predicate? Do they both signify the same thing? Are the terms equivalent? If so, the proposition is identical, and amounts only to this; that to produce the greatest good is to produce the greatest good.' But if the terms are not equivalent, then we have still to inquire what is right? So after all our
wanderings to escape from it, we are led back at last to this same unexplained simple idea of right.
IX. Respecting the theory under examination, it may be further observed;
1. That it seems to explain very imperfectly the duties of piety.
2. That it annihilates the virtue of justice as it respects the Deity. According to this theory, if the same amount of happiness be actually produced in the universe, it is of no consequence either how it is produced, or how it is distributed. If it be necessary that a certain quantity of misery should exist; the whole misery may be inflicted upon one portion of God's creatures; and the whole happiness given to another portion, without reference to any good or ill desert in either; since, according to this theory, the only rule of right is the production of happiness. It thus opens the way for all the obnoxious doctrines of Hopkins.
[Respecting the theory which makes virtue consist in obedience to the divine will, I omit what I have found in manuscript, on account of its brief and imperfect expression; and because the manner in which Professor Frisbie would reason upon this subject, may sufficiently appear from what precedes and follows.]
RIGHT, A SIMPLE IDEA.
RIGHT is something of which our idea is simple; or in other words, something which we cannot describe but by synonymous words; which is what it is by its very nature, independently of any tendency or consequences.
It is that, which under all the circumstances of a case gives us the belief that an action should be performed.
It is that, which we approve in the actions of others, and reflect upon with satisfaction in our
This theory is recommended to us by its conformity to the general language and common sense of mankind; and to the Scriptures.
By its freedom from those practical embarrassments and contradictions, which encumber the other theories which we have examined.
By its explaining, with a good degree of satisfaction, most of those phenomena which we observe in the moral history of man.
Upon this theory, the question arises, by what part of our constitution is this simple idea perceived? by what part of our constitution do we be
come acquainted with right and wrong? is it by a feeling, or by the understanding?
The perception of right is often accompanied with a feeling of pleasure; but it is not uncommon for intellectual exercises and feelings to be conjoined.
Do virtuous actions, then, give us pleasure because we perceive them to be right; or do we judge them to be right, because they produce in us a specific agreeable feeling?
The latter has been supposed to be the case;
1. Because right is a simple idea.
But to this it may be answered, that there are simple ideas of the understanding, as, for example, equality, similarity, dissimilarity, &c.
2. Because accompanied by feeling.
1. So are other intellectual perceptions and judgments. The perception of the most abstract truths of science, and still more those which affect our happiness, is often accompanied by strong feeling. 2. Moral perceptions and judgments may exis without feeling.
3. They may exist with various degrees of feeling, at different times, and in different persons; the judgment continuing the same.
4. They may be reasoned about, and changed by reasoning.
5. The perception of merit or demerit, accompanying that of right or wrong, necessarily implies a judgment.
The question is, whether right and wrong are like sweet and bitter, merely affections of our own minds, denoting nothing in the objects to which they are referred, but the power of affecting us in a ⚫ certain way; or whether they are essential properties of actions? The consequences of the former supposition are the following.
1. If right and wrong are mere feelings, they depend upon an arbitrary constitution of our nature; and we might have been made to condemn right and approve wrong.
2. Morality would depend on sensibility, fashion, custom, &c.
3. No moral character could be ascribed to God.
If right be directly perceived by the understanding, it does not follow that it must be perceived in all cases, or by all men, equally. The perception of right may imply previous knowledge; for example, gratitude is right; this may be directly perceived; but its perception implies the previous knowledge of what is meant by a favor; that one may affect the happi