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applicable to every fact, and, therefore, condemnatory or approbatory of none. From this fatal circle Clarke vainly endeavours to free himself, when he has once taken the suicidal course of refusing to interrogate nature, in order to discover what is pleasing to the God of nature. He is forced, in order to give any plausibility to his arguments, to supplement them by heterogeneous reasonings drawn from other systems of morality. When his wings fail to support him in the heavenly spaces beyond the atmosphere, he has recourse to purely utilitarian arguments drawn from the influence of morality upon human happiness.
9. The nugatory character of his system appears in the curious development given to it by Wollaston. Wollaston's doctrine is theexpansion of the hint just quoted from Clarke. Thesystem which results is, one would have thought, sufficiently ingenious to have amused a clever undergraduate ; his contemporaries rated it higher, and received it with the highest applause.'' So, at least, Conybeare assures us, who himself speaks of the theory as though it were a discovery in murals, fit to be placed beside the Newtonian discoveries in astronomy. He who acts upon the hypothesis that things are so and so, says Wollaston, proclaims by his acts that they are so and so ; and no act that interferes with a true proposition (as if any act could “interfere with a true proposition !) can be right. Hence, I ought not to kill a man because, by so doing, I deny him to be a man. To which it was obvious to reply that my action proclaims the very reverse, and that, in any case, it is a mere verbal juggle to call an action a lie. The doctrine, whether in Clarke's or Wollaston's hands, is, in fact, a kind of offshoot from the common theory of metaphysicians which identifies crime with error, and which had lately been presented in a more logical form by the most consistent of metaphysicians, Spinoza. It may, indeed, be urged that all sin involves an element of intellectual error. To one who had adequate conceptions of the universe, and to whose intellect, therefore, all the consequences of his actions were immedi-1 ately present, the wisdom of virtue would be so evident that crime would be impossible. God's omniscience implies his moral perfection. Our passions lead us into error by distorting
Conybeare's • Defence,' &c. p. 239.
our judgments; and perfectly sound judgment would disperse the mists excited by the passions. This doctrine, whatever its value, was distorted in the school of Clarke. One would have thought it plain that, whether the intellectual error or the passionate impulse were the essential element in wrongdoing, either of them was produced by nature.
We obey the law of nature when we blunder as much as when we judge soundly; for to break that law is not a crime, but an impossibility. The confusion, however characteristic of metaphysicians generally, between the objective and subjective, generated an indistinct impression that a confusion in our conceptions was, in some sense, a confusion in the order of nature itself. If every error involved a contradiction, it seemed that a wrong belief was the ultimate element in every wrong action, and the mistake was identified with the impossible crime of disobedience to nature. Wollaston capped this confusion by calling the blunder a lie.
10. He inevitably fails to extract any intelligible results from this fanciful form of an illusory theory. He is either confined to a series of those barren statements for which metaphysicians have found high-sounding names, such as the doctrine that whatever is, is'; or that ‘A is not not-A'; or has to interpret his doctrine as including any statement reconcilable with those propositions. Thus Wollaston slides into utilitarianism. He proclaims that happiness must not be denied to be what it is ; and’ thus 'it is by the practice of truth that we arrive at that happiness which is true,'' 'true' being characteristically used as identical with real.' Hence he makes room for a utilitarian or even a purely selfish system of morality. For if the obligation to truth is interpreted as including the obligation to pursue happiness, we find that all or any of the ordinary sanctions are admissible under this scheme.
II. The nugatory character of the doctrine is still clearer in the application which was most important in the eyes of its supporters. Clarke's doctrine had its root in the laudable desire to prove that morality was not a mere fashion; and with him and his followers the phrase "eternal and immutable' becomes a kind of catchword. Yet, after all, it was obvious
I Religion of Nature,' p. 52.
to remark that a proposition is either true or not true; and that to add 'eternal and immutable' makes no real difference. Those words properly refer to the matter of the proposition, not to its permanence. Every true proposition is, in a sense, 'eternally and immutably'true. If it is true that in the year 1700 a particular bubble burst, it will always be true to the end of time, and it always was true from the beginning of time to say that the bubble burst or would burst in 1700. The real question is not whether the statement that men should not commit murder in the eighteenth century was eternally and immutably true, granting it to be true at the time ; for that would be allowed by Hobbes as freely as by Clarke ; but whether the wickedness of murder in the eighteenth century proved the wickedness of murder in all times and places. Yet Clarke interprets his phrases in such a way as to make them equivalent to the truism, and to leave the other proposition untouched. The nature and relations, the proportions and disproportions, the fitnesses and unfitnesses of things,' he says, "are eternal, and in themselves absolutely unalterable ; but this is only upon supposition that the things themselves exist, and exist in such a manner as they actually do.' So that the thing which is really immutable and eternal' is that mysterious entity-a bare proposition which may be applicable to nothing that exists, or ever did exist. Nobody surely need trouble himself much as to the truth or falsehood of an abstract proposition which is entirely independent of any concrete embodiment. The point is stated more explicitly by one of Clarke's disciples, Balguy. After asserting that the moral relations are manifestly independent and immutable in whatever state or relation rational creatures may be supposed to be placed,' he adds that we may conceive human nature so framed that the relations of princes and subjects, parents and children, masters and servants, &c., should have no place in our duty, or lie dormant, as it were, in respect of mankind ; nevertheless these relations, and all truths connected with them, will be in themselves, that is, in the divine understanding, precisely what they are
He goes on to qualify this admission by adding that some duties, such as love to God and justice to men, will be · Clarke, p. 640.
• Second Letter to a Deist,' Tracts, p. 304.
binding on all rational creatures under any circumstances. The admission, however, is obviously wide enough for all purposes. In spite of the eternal and immutable nature of the abstract laws, the concrete law may vary as widely as even Mandeville could have desired.
12. The tenet of free-will adopted by the whole school encouraged the delusion that to make morals a science of observation was equivalent to making it arbitrary. They would have been under a similar delusion if they had argued that the act of healing was dependent upon fashion because its principles have to be deduced from facts and not from a priori and quasi-mathematical axioms. Price, the last teacher of the school, dwells at greatest length upon this part of the subject. Shaftesbury and Hutcheson had popularised the theory of a 'moral sense.' Price understood them to mean that our moral judgments were merely the dictates of a blind instinct, in which the intellect had no share. Their theory, as expounded by him, would have been that murder was wrong simply because we disliked it; the dislike would have been alleged as its own justification. He argues, in opposition to this theory, which would certainly have been disowned by its supposed sponsors, that the intellect has not only a share in laying down moral laws and enforcing our obedience, but that it operates, or ought to operate, without the assistance of the emotions. His language upon those points is rendered obscure by his systematically confusing the questions of the criterion and the motive. It is comparatively plausible to say that the intellect is the sole agent in framing the criterion. His language upon this subject may sometimes remind us of Kant's 'Categorical Imperative;' and he seems to have been blundering round the same truths or errors from which the great German elaborated a moral theory far more ingenious, though involving the same fundamental fallacy. He finds fault with the language of some of his own school who had said that virtue consisted in conformity to the relations of truths and things'-on the ground that virtue cannot be defined. It is an ultimate form of thought. “If we will consider why it is right to conform ourselves to the relations in which persons and objects stand to us, we shall find ourselves obliged to terminate our views in a simple immediate perception, or in something ultimately approved ; and for which no justifying reason can be assigned.''
This intention constitutes the obligation to act rightly. He asserts that the perception of right and wrong does excite to action, and is alone a sufficient principle of action.'? 'It seems extremely evident that excitement belongs to the very ideas of moral right and wrong, and is essentially inseparable from the apprehension of them. When we are conscious that an action is fit to be done, or that it ought to be done, it is not conceivable that we can remain uninfluenced or want a motive to action.' 3 Instincts, therefore, as before observed in other instances, are not necessary to the choice of ends. The intellectual nature is its own law. It has within itself a spring and guide of action which it cannot suppress or reject.'
13. Hence we come to the conclusion that our actions do not, as philosophers have maintained, spring exclusively from a desire of pleasure or a dread of pain, but from the mere perception of a truth. Though Price cannot altogether dissociate our emotions from our actions, he endeavours to represent the passions as properly subsidiary to the intellect, and as superfluities of which we might rid ourselves entirely in a higher state of existence. He admits that some degree of pleasure is inseparable from the observation of virtuous actions ; ' 5 but he seems to hold that this is a merely subsidiary, and so to speak illusory, phenomenon. It would be as unreasonable to infer that the discernment of virtue is nothing distinct from the reception of this pleasure' as to infer that the so-called primary qualities are only modes of sensation. According to his philosophy, that is, virtue depends upon those real relations of things themselves which are apprehended only by the intellect. The pleasure given to the emotions, like the sensations produced by external phenomena on our ears or noses, have no independent reality. We should be better if we could do without them altogether. "The occasion for them' (our passions and appetites) 'arises entirely from our deficiencies and weaknesses. Reason alone, did we pos
| Price's Review,' &c., p. 210.
Ib. p. 308. • Ib. p. 310.
Ib. p. 311. 5 lb. p. 99.