Some contributions to Morality Essay have been made by renowned authors, from many parts of the world. Morality Essay has been written by the famous author Nietzsche as well. This Morality Essay is hugely popular, and has captivated the minds of many readers. Morality Essay by Nietzsche has dealt with the origin of conscience, and how important a role it plays, in the behavior of the human kind.
Morality Essay can be written about terrorism as well. Since terrorism is a global problem of the modern age, this Morality Essay can speak about the fact that it brings nothing other than destruction to this society. A famous author called Khatchadourin has contributed his writing, to this type of Morality Essays.
Morality essays on Secular Morality and Religious Morality have captured the attention of the readers, from many parts of the world. Since secularism and religion are interconnected to each other, there is a lot to learn by reading this type of Essays on Morality. The famous author called Machiavelli has contributed his pen in writing Essays On Morality as well.
In this Human Morality Essay, Machiavelli talks about the relationship between human conscience and politics. Let it not therefore appear surprising, that, instead of shunning objects of misery, we chuse to dwell upon them; for this is truly as natural as indulging grief for our own misfortunes.
And it must be observed at the same time, that this is wisely ordered by providence: Nor must we judge of this principle as any way vitious or faulty: That the prosperity and preservation of each individual should be the care of many, tends more to happiness in general, than that each man, as the single in habitant of adesert island, should be left to stand or fall by himself, without prospect of regard or assistance from others. Nor is this all. When we consider our own character and actions in a reflex view, we cannot help approving this tenderness and sympathy in our nature.
We are pleased with ourselves for being so constituted: To open this subject a little more, it must be observed, that naturally we have a strong desire to be acquainted with the history of others. We judge of their actions, approve or disapprove, condemn or acquit; and in this the busy mind has a wonderful delight. Nay, we go farther.
We enter deep into their concerns, take a side; we partake of joys and distresses with those we favour, and show a dislike to others. This turn of mind makes history, novels, and plays, the most universal and favourite entertainments.
It is natural to man as a sociable creature; and we venture to affirm, that the most sociable have the greatest share of this sort of curiosity, and the strongest attachment to such entertainments. Tragedy is an imitation or representation of human characters and actions. It is a feigned history, which commonly makes a stronger impression than what is real; because, if it be a work of genius, incidents will be chosen to make the deepest impressions; and will be so conducted as to keep the mind in continual suspense and agitation, beyond what commonly happens in real life.
By a good tragedy, all the social passions are excited. We take a sudden affection to some of the personages represented: To a dry philosopher, unacquainted with theatrical entertainments, it Edition: But whatever may be the physical cause, one thing is evident, that this aptitude of the mind of man to receive impressions from feigned as well as from real objects, contributes to the noblest purposes of life.
Nothing contributes so much to improve the mind and confirm it in virtue, as being continually employed in surveying the actions of others, entering into the concerns of the virtuous, approving their conduct, condemning vice, and showing an abhorrence at it; for the mind acquires strength by exercise, as well as the body. But were this sort of discipline confined to scenes in real life, the generality of men would be little the better for it, because such scenes rarely occur.
They are not frequent even in history. But in compositions where liberty is allowed of fiction, it must be want of genius, if the mind be not sufficiently exercised, till it acquire the greatest sensibility, and the most confirmed habits of virtue.
Thus, tragedy engages our passions, no less than true history. Friendship, concern for the virtuous, abhorrence of the vitious, compassion, hope, fear, and the whole train of the social passions, are roused and exercised by both of them equally. This may appear to be a fair account of the attachment we have to theatrical entertainments: It is not wonderful that young people flock to such entertainments. The love of novelty, desire of occupation, beauty of action, are strong attractions: But we generally become wise by experience; and it may appear surprising, when distress is the never-failing effect of such entertainments, that persons of riper judgment do not shun them altogether.
Doth self-love lie asleep in this case, which is for ordinary so active a principle? Yet the contrary is true in fact; the deepest tragedies being the most frequented by persons of all ages, by those Edition: A man of that character, who is scarce relieved from the deep distress he was thrown into the night before by a well-acted tragedy, does, in his closet, coolly and deliberately resolve to go to the next entertainment of the kind, without feeling the smallest obstruction from self-love.
This leads to a speculation, perhaps one of the most curious that belongs to human nature. Contrary to what is generally understood, the foregoing speculation affords a palpable proof, that even self-love does not always operate to avoid pain and distress.
In examining how this is brought about, there will be discovered an admirable contrivance in human nature, to give free scope to the social affections. Keeping in view what is above laid down, that of the painful passions some are accompanied with a version, some with affection; we find, upon the strictest examination, that those painful passions, which, in the direct feeling, are free from any degree of aversion, have as little of it in the reflex act.
Or, to express the thing more familiarly, when we reflect upon the pain we have suffered by our concern for others, there is no degree of aversion mixed with the reflection, more than with the pain itself which was raised by a sight of the object. We feel no such aversion in reflecting upon the mental pains above described. On the contrary, when we reflect upon the pain which the misfortune of a friend gave us, the reflection is accompanied with an eminent degree of satisfaction. We approve ourselves for suffering with our friend, value ourselves the more for that suffering, and are ready to undergo chearfully the like distress upon the like occasion.
Self-love gives no opposition. When we examine those particular passions, which, though painful, are yet accompanied with no aversion; we find they are all of the social kind, arising from that eminent principle of sympathy, which is the cement of human society.
The social passions are accompanied with appetite for indulgence when they give us pain, no less than when they give us pleasure. We submit willingly to such painful passions, and reckon it no hardship to suffer under them.
In being thus constituted, we have the consciousness of Edition: Thus the moral affections, even such of them as produce pain, are none of them attended with any degree of aversion, not even in reflecting upon the distress they often bring us under. Sympathy in particular attaches us to an object in distress so powerfully as even to overbalance self-love, which would make us fly from it.
Sympathy accordingly, though a painful passion, is attractive; and in affording relief, the gratification of the passion is not a little pleasant. And this observation tends to set the moral affections in a very distinguished point of view, in opposition to those that are either malevolent, or selfish. Many and various are the springs of action in human nature, and not one more admirable than what is now unfolded.
Sympathy is an illustrious principle, which connects persons in society by ties stronger than those of blood. Yet compassion, the child of sympathy, is a painful emotion; and were it accompanied with any degree of aversion, even in reflecting upon the distress it occasioned, that aversion would by degrees blunt the passion, and at length cure us of what we would be apt to reckon a weakness or disease.
But the Author of our nature hath not left his work imperfect. He has given us this noble principle entire, without a counterbalance, so as to have a vigorous and universal operation. Far from having any aversion to pain occasioned by the social principle, we reflect upon such pain with satisfaction, and are willing to submit to it upon all occasions with chearfulness and heart-liking, just as much as if it were a real pleasure.
And, thus, tragedy is allowed to seize the mind with all the different charms which arise from the exercise of the social passions, without the least obstacle from self-love. Had the principle of sympathy occurred to our author, he would have found it sufficient to explain our voluntarily partaking with others in their distress, without having need of so imperfect a cause as aversion to in action.
Without entering deep into philosophy, he might have had hints in abundance from common life to explain it. In every corner, persons are to be met with of such a sympathising temper, as to chuse to spend their lives with the diseased and distressed. They partake with them in the irafflictions, enter heartily into their concerns, and sigh and groan with them. These pass their lives in sadness and despondency, without having any other satisfaction than what arises upon the reflection of having done their duty.
And if this account of the matter be just, we may be assured, that those who are the most compassionate in their temper, will be the fondest of tragedy, which affords them a large field for indulging the passion.
Admirable indeed are the effects brought about by this means: Persons in prosperity, unacquainted with distress and misery, are apt to grow hard-hearted. Tragedy is an admirable resource in such a case. It serves to humanize the temper, by supplying feigned objects of pity, which have nearly the same effect to exercise the passion that real objects have. And thus, we are carried by a natural impulse to deal deep in affliction, occasioned by representations of feigned misfortunes; and the passion of pity alone would throng such representations, were there nothing else to attract the mind, or to afford satisfaction.
It is owing to curiosity, that public executions are so much frequented. Sensible people endeavour to correct an appetite, the indulging of which produces pain; and upon reflection is attended with no degree of self-approbation. Hence it is, that such spectacles are the entertainment of the vulgar chiefly, who allow themselves blindly to be led by curiosity with little attention whether it will contribute to their good or not.
With respect to prize-fighting and gladiatorian shews, nothing animates and inspires us more than examples of courage and bravery. We catch the spirit of the actor, and turn bold and intrepid as he appears to be. On the other hand, we enter into the distresses of the vanquished, and have a sympathy for them in proportion to the gallantry of their behaviour.
No wonder then that such shews are frequented by persons of the best taste. We are led by the same principle that makes us fond of perusing the lives of heroes and of conquerors.
And it may be observed by the bye, that such spectacles have an admirable good effect in training up the youth to boldness and resolution. In this therefore I see not that foreigners have reason to condemnthe English taste. Spectacles of this sort deserveen couragement from the state, and to be made an object of public police. As for gaming, I cannot bring myself to think that there is any pleasure in having the mind kept in suspense, and as it were upon the rack, which must be the case of those who venture their money at games of hazard.
Inaction and idleness are not by far so hard to bear. I am satisfied that the Edition: Nor is it a solid objection, That people will neglect games of skill and address, to venture their money at hazard; for this may be owing to indolence, diffidence, or impatience.
There is indeed a curious speculation with regard to this article of gaming, that pleasure and pain attend good and bad success at play, independent of the money lost or win. It is plain, that good luck raises the spirits, as bad luck depresses them, without regard to consequences: To what principle in our nature that concern is owing, I leave to be investigated by others, as it is not necessarily connected with the subject of the present Essay. I lay hold of the present edition to investigate the point left open in the former.
This earth produces little for the use of man but what requires the preparation both of art and industry; and man, by nature artful and industrious, is well fitted for his situation. Were every thing furnished to his hand without thought or labour, he would sink below the lowest of the brute creation. I say, below , because the lowest creature perfect in its kind, is superior to a creature of whatever kind that is corrupted.
Self-love moves us to labour for ourselves; benevolence to labour for others. And emulation is added to enforce these principles. Emulation is visible even in children, striving for victory without knowing what moves them. Instriving for fame, power, riches, emulation makes a splendid figure: It is true, that the pleasure of victory without a view to gain, is extremely faint; and it pains me to observe that the desperate risks voluntarily submitted to in games of chance, are mostly, if not intirely instigated by avarice.
Superficial knowledge produces the boldest adventurers, because it gives no check to the imagination when fired by a new thought. Shallow writers lay down plans, contrive models, and are hurried on to execution by the pleasure of novelty, without considering whether, after all, there be any solid foundation to support the spacious edifice.
It redounds not a little to the honour of some late inquirers after truth, that, subduing this bent of nature, they have submitted to the slow and more painful method of experiment; a method that has been applied to natural philosophy with great success. The accurate Locke, in the science of logics, has pursued the same method, and has been followed by several ingenious writers.
The mistress-science alone is neglected; and it seems hard that less deference should be paid to her than to her hand-maids. Every author gives a system of morals, as if it were his privilege to adjust it to his own taste and fancy. Regulations for human conduct are daily framed, without the least consideration, whether they arise out of human nature, or can be accommodated to it.
And hence many airy systems, that relate not to man nor to any other being. Authors of a warm imagination and benevolent temper, exalt man to the angelic nature, and compose laws for his conduct, so refined as to be far above the reach of humanity. Others of a contrary disposition, forcing down all men to a level with the very lowest of their kind, assign them laws more suitable to brutes than to rational beings. In abstract science, writers may more innocently indulge their fancies. The worst that can happen is, to mislead us in matters where error has little influence on practice.
But they who deal in moral philosophy ought to be cautious; for their errors seldom fail to Edition: The exalting of nature above its standard, is apt to disgust the mind, conscious of its weakness, and of its inability to attain such an uncommon degree of perfection. The debasing of nature tends to break the balance of the affections, by adding weight to the selfish and irregular appetites. Beside these bad effects, clashing opinions about morality are apt to tempt men who have any hollowness of heart, to shake off all principles, and to give way to every appetite: These considerations give the author of this essay a just concern to proceed with the utmost circumspection in his inquiries, and to try his conclusions by their true touchstone, that of facts and experiments.
Had this method been strictly followed, the world would not have been perplexed with that variety of inconsistent systems, which unhappily have rendered morality a difficult and intricate science.
An attempt to restore it to its original simplicity and authority, must be approved, however short one falls in the execution. Writers differ about the origin of the laws of nature, and they differ about the laws themselves. As the author is not fond of controversy, he will attempt a plan of the laws of nature, drawn from their proper source, laying aside what has been written on this subject. In searching for the foundation of the laws of our nature, the following reflections occur.
In the first place, two things cannot be more intimately connected than a being and its actions: Such as the being is, such must its actions be. In the next place, the several classes into which nature has distributed living creatures, are not more distinguishable by an external form, than by an internal constitution, which manifests itself in an uniformity of conduct, peculiar to eachspecies.
In the third place, any action conformable to the common nature of the species, is considered by us as regular and proper. It is according to order, and according to nature. But if there exist a being of a constitution different from that of its kind, the actions of this being, though conformable to its Edition: We shall have a feeling of disgust, as if we saw a man with two heads or four hands.
These reflections lead us to the foundation of the laws of our nature. They are to be derived from the common nature of man, of which every person partakes who is not a monster. As the foregoing observations make the groundwork of all morality, it may not be improper to enlarge a little upon them.
Looking around, we find creatures of very different kinds, both as to external and internal constitution. Each species having a peculiar nature, ought to have a peculiar rule of action resulting from its nature. We find this to hold in fact; and it is extremely agreeable to observe, how accurately the laws of each species are adjusted to the frame of the individuals which compose it, so as to procure the conveniencies of life in the best manner, and to produce regularity and consistency of conduct.
To give but one instance: Among solitary creatures, who have no mutual connection, there is nothing more natural nor more orderly, than to make food one of another.
But for creatures in society to live after that manner, must be the effect of jarring and inconsistent principles. No such disorderly appearance is discovered upon the face of this globe. There is, as above observed, a harmony betwixt the internal and external constitution of the several classes of animals; and this harmony affords a delightful prospect of deep design, effectively carried into execution.
The common nature of every class of beings is perceived by us as perfect; and if, in any instance, a particular being swerve from the common nature of its kind, the action produces a sense of disorder and wrong. In a word, it is according to order, that the different sorts of living creatures should be governed by laws adapted to their peculiar nature.
We consider it as fit and proper that it should be so; and it is beautiful to find creatures acting according to their nature. The force of these observations cannot be resisted by those who admit of final causes. We make no difficulty to pronounce, that a species of beings who have such or such a nature, are made for such or such an end. A lion has claws, because nature made him an animal of prey.
A man has fingers, because he is a social animal made to procure food by art not by force. It is thus we discover for what end we were designed by nature, or the Author Edition: And the same chain of reasoning points out to us the laws by which we ought to regulate our actions: Having made out that the nature of man is the foundation of the laws that ought to govern his actions, it will be necessary to trace out human nature, so far as regards the present subject.
If we can happily accomplish this part of our undertaking, it will be easy, in the synthetical method, to deduce the laws that ought to regulate our conduct. And we begin with examining in what manner we are related to beings and things around us; a speculation that will lead to the point in view. As we are placed in a great world, surrounded with beings and things, some beneficial, some hurtful; we are so constituted, that scarce any object is indifferent to us: This is the most remarkable in objects of sight, which affect us in a more lively manner than objects of any other external sense.
Thus, a spreading oak, a verdant plain, a large river, are objects that afford delight. A rotten carcase, a distorted figure, create aversion; which, in some instances, goes the length of horror.
With regard to objects of sight, whatever gives pleasure is said to be beautiful: The terms beauty and ugliness , in their proper signification, are confined to objects of sight. And indeed such objects, being more highly agreeable or disagreeable than others, deserve well to be distinguished by a proper name. But, as it happens with words that convey a more lively idea than ordinary, the terms are applied in a figurative sense to almost every thing that gives a high relish or disgust.
Thus, we talk of a beautiful theorem, a beautiful thought, and a beautiful passage in music. And this way of speaking has become so familiar, that it is scarce reckoned a figurative expression.
Objects considered simply as existing, without relation to any end orany designing agent, are in the lowest rank or order with respect to beauty and Edition: But when external objects, such as works of art, are considered with relation to some end, we feel a higher degree of pleasure or pain. Thus, a building regular in all its parts, pleases the eye upon the very first view: A similar sensation arises in observing the operations of a well-ordered state, where the parts are nicely adjusted to the ends of security and happiness.
This perception of beauty in works of art or design, which is produced not barely by a sight of the object, but by viewing the object as fitted to some use, and as related to some end, includes in it what is termed approbation: Approbation and disapprobation are not applicable to the lowest class of beautiful and ugly objects.
To say, that we approve a sweet taste, or a flowing river, is really saying no more but that we are pleased with such objects. But the term is justly applied to works of art, because it means more than being pleased with such an object merely as existing. It imports a peculiar beauty, which is perceived, upon considering the object as fitted to the use intended.
It must be further observed to avoid obscurity, that the beauty which arises from the relation of an object to its end, is independent of the end itself, whether good or bad, whether beneficial or hurtful: When we take the end itself under consideration, there is discovered a beauty or ugliness of a higher kind than the two former. A beneficial end strikes us with a peculiar pleasure; and approbation belongs also to this feeling.
Thus, the mechanism of a ship is beautiful, in the view of means well fitted to an end. But the end itself, of carrying on commerce and procuring so many conveniencies to mankind, exalts the object, and heightens our approbation and pleasure.
By an end, I mean what it serves to procure and bring about, whether it be an ultimate end, or subordinate to something farther. Considered with respect to its end, the degree of its beauty depends on the degree of its usefulness. Let it be only kept in view, that as the end or use of a thing is an object of greater dignity and importance Edition: These three orders of beauty may be blended together in many different ways, to have very different effects. If an object in itself beautiful be ill fitted to its end, it will, upon the whole, be disagreeable.
This may be exemplified in a house regular in its architecture and beautiful to the eye, but incommodious for dwelling. If there be in an object an aptitude to a bad end, it will, upon the whole, be disagreeable, though it have the second modification of beauty in perfection. A constitution of government formed with the most perfect art for enslaving the people, may be an instance of this. If the end be good but the object not well fitted to the end, it will be beautiful, or ugly, as the goodness of the end, or unfitness of the means, is prevalent.
Of this instances will occur at first view, without being suggested. The foregoing modifications of beauty and deformity, apply to all objects, animate and inanimate. A voluntary agent produceth a peculiar species of beauty and deformity, which may be distinguished from all others. The actions of living creatures are more interesting than the actions of matter.
The instincts and principles of action of the former, give us more delight than the blind powers of the latter; or, in other words, are more beautiful. No one can doubt of this fact, who is in any degree conversant with the poets. In Homer every thing lives: And we are sensible, that nothing animates a poem more than the frequent use of this figure.
Hence a new circumstance in the beauty and deformity of actions, considered as proceeding from intention, deliberation, and choice. This circumstance, which is of the utmost importance in the science of morals, concerns chiefly human actions: Human actions are not only agreeable or disagreeable, beautiful or deformed, in the different views above mentioned, but are further distinguished in our perception of them, as fit and meet to be done, or as unfit and unmeet.
These are simple perceptions, capable of no definition. But let any man attentively examine what passeth in his mind, when the object of his thought is an action proceeding from deliberate intention, and he will soon discover the meaning of these words, and the perceptions which they denote.
Let him reflect upon Edition: Such conduct will not only be agreeable to him, and appear beautiful, but will be agreeable and beautiful, as fit and meet to be done. He will approve the action in that quality, and he will approve the actor for his humanity and disinterestedness. This distinguishing circumstance intitles the beauty and deformity of human actions to peculiar names: Hence the morality and immorality of human actions; founded on a faculty termed the moral sense.
It gives no clear notion of morality, to rest it upon simple approbation, as some writers do. I approve a well constructed plough or waggon for its usefulness. I approve a fine picture or statue for the justness of its representation; and I approve the maker for his skill.
I approve an elegant dress on a fine woman; and I approve her taste. But such approbation is far from being the same with that which is occasioned by human actions deliberately done in order to some end.
If the end be beneficial, the action is approved as right and fit to have been done: None of these qualities are applicable to the instances first given. Of all objects whatever, human actions are the most highly delightful or disgustful, and possess the highest degree of beauty or deformity. In these every circumstance concurs: Thus we find the nature of man so constituted, as to approve certain actions, and to disapprove others; to consider some actions as fit and meet to be done, and others as unfit and unmeet.
What distinguisheth actions to make them objects of the one or the other perception, will be explained in the following chapter. And with regard to some of our actions, another circumstance will be discovered, different from what have been mentioned, sounding the well known terms of duty and obligation , directing our conduct, and constituting what in the strictest sense may be termed a law. With regard to other beings, we have no data to discover the laws of their nature, other than their frame and constitution.
We have the same data to discover Edition: And one thinge xtremely remarkable will be explained afterwards, that the laws which are fitted to the nature of man and to his external circumstances, are the same that we approve by the moral sense. Though these terms are of the utmost importance in morals, I know not that any author hath attempted to explain them, by pointing out those principles or perceptions which they express.
This defect I shall endeavour to supply, by tracing these terms to their proper source, without which the system of morals cannot be complete; because these terms point out to us the most precise and essential branch of morality.
For this term plainly implies somewhat indispensable in our conduct; what we ought to do, what we ought to submit to. Now, a man may be considered as foolish for acting against his interest; but he cannot be considered as wicked or vitious. But though he states this as a proposition to be made out, he drops it in the subsequent part of his work, and never again brings it into view.
But this account of morality is also imperfect, as it makes no distinction between duty and simple benevolence. It is scarce applicable to justice; for the man who, confining himself strictly to it, is true to his word and avoids harming others, is a just and moral man, is in titled to some share of esteem; but will never be the object of love or friendship.
He must show a disposition to the good of mankind, of his friends at least and neighbours, he must exert acts of humanity and benevolence; before he can hope to procure the affection of others. But it is chiefly to be observed, that in this account of morality, the terms obligation, duty, ought and should , have no distinct meaning; which shows, that the entire foundation of morality is not taken in by this author. It is true, that toward the close of his work, he attempts to explain the meaning of the term obligation; but without success.
Duty however belongs to the latter only; and no Edition: Neither is the author of the treatise upon human nature more successful, when he endeavours to resolve the moral sense into pure sympathy. This would be too fainta principle to control our irregular appetites and passions. It would scarce be sufficient to restrain us from in croaching upon our friends and neighbours; and, with regard to strangers, would be the weakest of all restraints. We shall by and by show, that morality has a more solid foundation.
We shall now proceed to explain these terms, by pointing out the perceptions which they express. And, in performing this task, there will be discovered a wonderful and beautiful contrivance of the Author of our nature, to give authority to morality, by putting the self-affections in a due subordination to the social. The moral sense has in part been explained above; that by it we perceive some actions to be fit and meet to be done; and others to be unfit and unmeet.
When this observation is applied to particulars, it is an evident fact, that we have a sense of fitness in kindly and beneficent actions: But in one class of actions, an additional circumstance is regarded by the moral sense. Submission to parents, gratitude to benefactors, and the acting justly to all, are perceived not only as fit and meet, but as our indispensable duty.
On the other hand, the injuring others in their persons, in their fame, or in their goods are perceived not only as unfit to be done, but as absolutely wrong to be done, and what, upon no account, we ought to do.
I ask no other concession. There is no man, however irregular in his life and manners, however poisoned by a wrong education, but must be sensible of these perceptions. And indeed the words which are to be found in all languages, and which are perfectly understood in the communication of sentiments, are an evident demonstration of it.
Duty, obligation, ought and should , would be empty sounds, unless upon supposition of such perceptions. We do not consider actions that come under the notion of duty or obligation, or prohibited by them, as in any degree under our own power. We have the consciousness of necessity, and of being bound and tied to performance, as if under some external compulsion.
It is proper here to be remarked, that benevolent and generous actions are not objects of this peculiar sense. Hence, such actions, though considered as fit and right to be done, are not however considered to be our duty , but as virtuous actions beyond what is strictly our duty.
Benevolence and generosity are more beautiful, and more attractive of love and esteem, than justice. Yet, not being so necessary to the support of society, they are left upon the general footing of approbatory pleasure; while justice, faith, truth, without which society cannot subsist, are objects of the foregoing peculiar sense, to take away all shadow of liberty, and to put us under a necessity of performance. The virtues that are exacted from us as duties, may be termed primary: Butler, a manly and acute writer, hath gone farther than any other, to assign a just foundation for moral duty.
But he has not said enough to afford that light the subject is capable of. For it may be observed, in the first place, that a disapprobation of reflection is far from being the whole of the matter. Such disapprobation is applied to moroseness, selfishness, and many other partial affections, which are, however, not considered in a strict sense as contrary to our duty.
And it may be doubted, whether a disapprobation of reflection be, in every case, a principle superior to a mere propension. We disapprove a man who neglects his private affairs, and gives himself up to love, hunting, or any other amusement: Yet from this we cannot fairly conclude, that he is guilty of any breach of duty, or that it is unlawful for him to follow his propension. We may observe, in the next place, what will be afterward explained, that conscience, or the moral sense, is none of our principles of action, but their guide and director.
It is still of greater importance to observe, that the authority of conscience does not consist merely in an act of reflection. It arises from a direct perception, which we have upon presenting the object, without the intervention of any sort of reflection.
And the authority lies in this circumstance, that we perceive the action to be our duty, and what we are indispensably bound to perform.
It is in this manner that the moral sense, with regard to some actions, plainly bears upon it the marks of authority over all our appetites and passions. It is the voice of God within us, which commands our strictest obedience, just as much as when his will is declared by express revelation. What is here stated will I hope clearly distinguish duty or moral obligation from benevolence: I know of no words in our language to make the distinction more clear.
The overlooking this distinction is a capital defect in the writers who acknowledge morality to be founded on an innate sense: This doctrine cannot be altogether harmless, because it converts benevolence into indispensable duty, contrary to the system of nature. A young man who enters Edition: Will he not be naturally led to consider morality as a romance or chimera?
If he escape that conclusion, he may justly consider himself as remarkably fortunate. A very important branch of the moral sense remains still to be unfolded. In the matters above mentioned, performing of promises, gratitude, and abstaining from harming others, we have the peculiar sense of duty and obligation: This dread may be but slight in the more venial transgressions.
But, in crimes of a deep dye, it rises to a degree of anguish and despair. Hence remorse of conscience, which, upon the commission of certain crimes, is a dreadful torture. This dread of merited punishment operates for the most part so strongly upon the imagination, that every unusual accident, every extraordinary misfortune, is by the criminal judged to be a punishment purposely inflicte dupon him. During prosperity, he makes a shift to blunt the stings of his conscience.
But no sooner does he fall into distress or into any depression of mind, than his conscience lays fast hold of him: And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? One material circumstance is here to be remarked, which widens the difference still more betwixt the primary and secondary virtues.
As justice, and the other primary virtues, are more essential to society, than generosity, benevolence, or any other secondary virtue, they are more indispensable. Friendship, generosity, softness of manners, form peculiar characters, and serve to distinguish one person from another. But the sense of justice and of the other primary virtues, belongs to man as such. Though it exists in very different degrees of strength, there perhaps never was a human creature Edition: And it makes a delightful appearance in the human constitution, that even where this sense is weak, as it is in some individuals, it notwithstanding retains its authority as the director of their conduct.
If there be a sense of justice, it must distinguish right from wrong, what we ought to do from what we ought not to do; and, by that very distinguishing faculty, justly claims to be our guide and governor. This consideration may serve to justify human laws, which make no distinction among men, as endued with a stronger or weaker sense of justice. And here we must pause a moment, to indulge some degree of admiration upon this part of the human system.
Man is evidently intended to live in society; and because there can be no society among creatures who prey upon one another, it was necessary, in the first place, to provide against mutual injuries. Further, man is the weakest of all creatures separately, and the very strongest in society; therefore mutual assistance is the chief end of society; and to this end it was necessary, that there should be mutual trust and reliance upon engagements, and that favours received should be thankfully repaid.
Now, nothing can be more finely adjusted than the human heart, to answer these purposes. It is not sufficient that we approve every action that is essential to the preservation of society: Approbation or disapprobation merely, is not sufficient to subject our conduct to the authority of a law.
These sentiment shave in this case the peculiar modification of duty, that such actions are what we ought to perform, and what we are indispensably bound to perform. This circumstance converts into a law, what without it can only be considered as a rational measure, and a prudential rule of conduct. Nor is any thing omitted to give it the most complete character of a law. The transgression is attended with apprehension of punishment, nay with actual punishment; as every misfortune which befals the transgressor is considered by him as a punishment.
Nor is this the whole of the matter. Sympathy is a principle implanted in the breast of every man; we cannot hurt another without suffering for it, which is an additional punishment. And we are still further punished for our injustice or ingratitude, by incurring the aversion and hatred of all men. It is a truth universally admitted, that no man thinks so highly of himself or of another, for having done a just, as for having done a generous action: This matter deserves to be examined, because it discloses more and more the science of morals; and to this examination we shall proceed, after making some further observations upon the subject of the preceding chapter.
The primary virtues, as observed in that chapter, being duties essential to the subsistance of society, are entirely withdrawn from our election and choice. They are perceived as indispensably obligatory upon us; and the transgression of them as laws of our nature, is attended with severe and never-failing punishment. In a word, there is not a characteristic of positive law which is not applicable, in the strictest sense, to the selaws of our nature; with this material difference, that the sanctions of these laws are greatly more efficacious than any that have been invented to enforce municipal laws.
The secondary virtues, which contribute to the improvement of society, but are not strictly necessary to its subsistence, are left to our own choice. They have not the character of necessity impressed upon them, nor is the forbearance of them attended with a sense of guilt.
On the other hand, the actions which belong to this class, are objects of the strongest perceptions of moral beauty; of the highest degree of approbation, both from ourselves and others. Offices of undeserved kindness, requital of good for evil, generous toils and sufferings for the good of our country, come under this class. These are not made our duty. There is no motive to the performance, which in any proper sense can be called a law.
But there are the strongest motives that can consist with perfect freedom. The performance is rewarded with a consciousness of self-merit, and with the praise and admiration of all the world, which are the highest and most desirable rewards human nature is susceptible of.
There is so much of enthusiasm in this branch of moral beauty, that it is not wonderful to find persons of a free and generous turn of mind captivated with it, who are less attentive to the primary virtues. The magnanimous, who cannot bear restraint, are guided more by generosity than by justice. The sense however of strict duty is, with the bulk of mankind, a more powerful incitement to honesty, than praise and self-approbation are to generosity.
And there cannot be a more pregnant instance of wisdom than in this part of the human constitution; it being far more essential to society, that all men be just and honest, than that they be patriots and heroes. From what is above laid down, the following observation naturally arises, that with respect to the primary virtues, the pain of transgressing our duty is much greater than the pleasure which results from obeying it.
The contrary holds in the secondary virtues. The pleasure which arises from performing a generous action is much greater than the pain of neglect.
Among the vices opposite to the primary virtues, the most striking appearances of moral deformity are found; among the secondary virtues, the most striking appearances of moral beauty. We are now prepared to carry on the speculation suggested in the beginning of this chapter. In ranking the moral virtues according to their dignity and merit, one would readily imagine, that the primary virtues should be intitled to the highest class, as being more essential to society than the secondary.
But, upon examination, we find that this is not the order of nature. The first rank in point of dignity is assigned to the secondary virtues, which are not the first in point of utility. Generosity, in the sense of mankind, hath more merit than justice; and other secondary virtues, undaunted courage, magnanimity, heroism, rise still higher in our esteem. Is not nature whimsical and irregular, in ranking after this manner the moral virtues?
One at first view would think so. But, like other difficulties that meet us in contemplating the works of nature, this arises from partial and obscure views. When the whole is surveyed as well as its several parts, we discover, that nature has here taken her measures with peculiar foresight and wisdom.
Let us only recollect what is inculcated in the foregoing part of this essay, that justice is enforced by natural sanctions of the most effectual kind, by which it becomes a law in the strictest sense, a law Edition: To extend this law to generosity and the other secondary virtues, and to make these our duty, would produce an in consistency in human nature.
It would make universal benevolence a strict duty, to which the limited capacity and more limited abilities of man, bear no proportion. Generosity, therefore, heroism, and all the extraordinary exertions of virtue, must be left to our own choice, without annexing any punishment to the forbearance. Day-light now begins to break in upon us. And after considering the matter with the utmost attention, I cannot imagine any reward more proper than that actually bestowed, which is to place these virtues in the highest rank, to give them a superior dignity, and to make them productive of grand and lofty emotions.
To place the primary virtues in the highest rank, would no doubt be a strong support to them. But as this could not be done without displacing the secondary virtues, detruding them into a lower rank, and consequently depriving them of their reward, the alteration would be ruinous to society.
It would indeed more effectually prevent injustice and wrong; but would it not as effectually prevent the exercise of benevolence, and of numberless reciprocal benefits in a social state? If it would put an end to our fears, so it would to our hopes.
And, to say all in one word, we would, in the midst of society, become solitary beings; worse if possible than being solitary in a desart. Justice at the same time is not left altogether destitute of reward. Though it reaches not the splendor of the more exalted virtues, it gains at least our esteem and approbation; and, which is still of greater importance, it never fails to advance the happiness of those who obey its dictates, by the mental satisfaction it bestows.
In the three chapters immediately foregoing, we have taken pains to inquire into the moral sense, and to analyze it into its different parts. Our present task must be to inquire into those principles in our nature which move us to action. These must be distinguished from the moral sense; which, properly speaking, is not a principle of action. Its province, as shall forthwith be explained, is to instruct us, which of our principles of action we may indulge, and which of them we must restrain.
It is the voice of God within us, regulating our appetites and passions, and showing us what are lawful, what unlawful. Our nature, as far as concerns action, is made up of appetites and passions which move us to act, and of the moral sense by which these appetites and passions are governed.
The moral sense is not intended to be the first mover: Nature is not so rigid to us her favourite children, as to leave our conduct upon the motive of duty solely. A more masterly and kindly hand is visible in the architecture of man. We are impelled to motion by the very constitution of our nature; and to prevent our being carried too far, or in a wrong direction, conscience is set as at the helm.
That such is our nature, may be made evident from induction. Were conscience alone, in any case, to be the sole principle of action, it might be expected to be so in matters of justice, of which we have the strongest sense as our indispensable duty. We find however justice not to be an exception from the general plan. For is not love of justice a principle of action common to all men; and is not affection between parents and children equally so, as well as gratitude, veracity, and every primary virtue?
These principles give the first impulse, which is finely seconded by the influence and authority of conscience. It may therefore be safely pronounced, that no action is a duty, to the performance of which we are not prompted by some natural motive or principle.
To make such an action our duty, would be to lay down a rule of conduct contrary to our nature; or that has no foundation in our nature. No wonder they have gone astray. Let this truth be kept close in view, and it will put an end to many a controversy about these laws. If, for example, it be laid down as a primary law of nature, That we are strictly bound to advance the good of all, regarding our own interest no farther than as it makes a part of the general happiness; we may safely reject such a law, unless it be made appear, that there is a principle of benevolence in man prompting him to pursue the happiness of all.
To found this disinterested scheme wholly upon the moral sense, would be a vain attempt. The moral sense, as above observed, is our guide only, not our mover. Approbation or disapprobation of those actions, to which, by some natural principle, we are antecedently directed, is all that can result from it.
If it be laid down on the other hand, That we ought to regard ourselves only in all our actions; and that it is folly, if not vice, to concern ourselves for others; such a law can never be admitted, unless upon the supposition that self-love is our only principle of action.
It is probable, that in the following particular, man differs from the brute creation. Brutes are entirely governed by principles of action, which, in them, obtain the name of instincts. They blindly follow their instincts, and are led by that instinct which is strongest for the time. It is meet and fit they should act after this manner, because it is acting according to the whole of their nature. But for man to suffer himself to be led implicitly by instinct or by his principles of action, without check or control, is not acting according to the whole of his nature.
He is endued with a moral sense or conscience, to check and control his principles of action, and to instruct him which of them he may indulge, and which of them he ought to restrain. This account of the brute creation is undoubtedly true in the main: A full account of our principles of action would be an endless theme. But as it is proposed to confine the present short essay to the laws which govern social life, we shall have no occasion to inquire into any principles of action, but what are directed to others; dropping those which have self alone for their object.
And in this inquiry, we set out with the following question, In what sense are we to hold a principle of universal benevolence, Edition: This question is of importance in the science of morals: When we consider a single man, abstracted from all circumstances and all connections, we are not conscious of any benevolence to him; we feel nothing within us that prompts us to advance his happiness.
If one be agreeable at first sight and attract any degree of affection, it is owing to looks, manners, or behaviour. And for evidence of this we are as apt to be disgusted at first sight, as to be pleased. Man is by nature a shy and timorous animal. Every new object gives an impression of fear, till upon better acquaintance it is discovered to be harmless. Thus an infant clings to its nurse, upon the sight of a new face; and this natural dread is not removed but by experience. If every human creature did produce affection in every other at first sight, children, by natural instinct, would be fond of strangers.
But no such instinct discovers itself.
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