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takably to his Creator. In both cases we recognise the final causes of the phenomena. “A inan,' he says, 'can as little doubt that his eyes were given him to see with as he can doubt of the truth of the science of optics, deduced from ocular experiments;' he can as little doubt that shame ‘was given to him to prevent his doing shameful actions as he can doubt whether his eyes were given him to guide his steps.'! The exact correspondence between the natural and moral world, or between the inward frame of man' and his external circumstances, is a particular instance of that general law of mutual adaptation which runs through the universe. Thus “The several passions and affections in the heart of man' afford as certain instances of final causes as any whatever, which are more commonly alleged for such.' The correspondence between the organism and the medium, which, from the scientific point of view, is a condition of existence, is with Butler, in morality as in all other questions, a proof of a special purpose of the Creator. What is peculiar to him is the character of those purposes and of the Creator whom they reveal.
50. Butler anticipates and gives a rather singular answer to one difficulty. Why should I obey my conscience ? asks the objector. “Your obligation to obey the law,' he replies, is its being the law of your nature;'? for conscience is the guide assigned to us by the author of our nature. But why should I obey the law, persists the objector; meaning, what private interest have I in obeying it? In answer to this, Butler labours like Shaftesbury to prove that virtue and private interest generally coincide in their directions. This anxiety to establish the proposition that it is, on the whole, profitable to be virtuous, fits in rather awkwardly with his system, and is an unfortunate concession to the general spirit of the age. He expressly promises in the beginning of the eleventh sermon that all possible concessions' shall be made to the favourite passion' of his age-namely, self-love.5 Feeling that the coincidence between the dictates of virtue and a "Butler's Works, ii. 21, sermon ii.
Ib. ii. 4, sermon i. ? Ib. ii. 37, sermon iii.
* See, too, the remarkable passage in sermon xi. (ii. 170) where he seems to admit that we cannot justify ourselves in pursuing virtue, or anything else, till we are convinced that it will be for our happiness, or, at least, not contrary to it.'
• Butler's Works, ii. 152, sermon xi. VOL. II.
rational self-love is not absolutely perfect, he introduces apologetically, and by way of supplement, what he might more fitly have proclaimed as a leading principle of his system ; and, even then, promises the discord shall not be definitive. Although exceptions to the general principle are, he says, 'much fewer than are commonly thought,' they exist here, but all shall be set right at the final distribution of things.' Thus the selfish will find at last that the man who has sacrificed present advantages to virtue 'has infinitely better provided for himself and secured his own interest and happiness.' ?
51. That strain we heard was of a lower mood. Even Butler is bowing his knee in the house of Rimmon; and, in spite of the depth of his moral sentiments, is consenting to make virtue a question of profit and loss. The whole significance of his theory lies in the mysterious attributes with which conscience is surrounded ; and yet in his anxiety to ‘make all possible concessions,' he is endangering the very core of his teaching. This view, however, might be excised with benefit to the general argument. But, meanwhile, a difficulty more vital from a logical point of view passes unnoticed. The supremacy of conscience, says Butler, is a supremacy de jure and not de facto. We can disobey its dictates; but, if we disobey them, we act wrongly. What, then, is meant by acting wrongly? Disobeying conscience ? Then his assertion comes to be that those who disobey conscience—disobey conscience. We disapprove immoral actions, and immoral actions are those which we disapprove. What then is this special supremacy of conscience? Why is it exceptional? Every instinct, good or bad, avenges itself by inflicting pain when we resist its dictates. What is the specific peculiarity of the pangs inflicted by conscience ? Conscience, says Butler, brings with it its own credentials; the supremacy is 'a constituent part of the idea, that is, of the faculty itself ;'3 it is implied in the very meaning of the word duty. The conception of a self-evidencing power seems to involve a vicious circle. Exclude the idea of right from the supremacy, and the statement becomes inaccurate; admit it, and the definition includes the very thing to be defined. Conscience must, in 1 Butler's Works, ü. 41, sermon iïi.
* Ib. ii. 31, sermon ii. : Ib. ii. 42, ib.
some way, derive its credentials from some other authority than itself. If, for example, conscience be an infallible guide to those actions which increase the happiness of mankind, its right to govern follows from the beneficial effects of its rule. Butler, however, expressly and indignantly repudiates the doctrine which measures the goodness of actions by their consequences. The inward judge of right and wrong,' he tells us, approves or disapproves many actions abstracted from the consideration of their tendency' to the happiness or misery of this world. Butler's escape from the vicious circle really consists in his assumption that the conscience represents the will of God. He is blind to the difficulty, because he conceives the final cause of conscience to be evident. This mysterious power, claiming an absolute supremacy, can derive its origin from nothing else than the divine source of all mystery. A blind instinct, ordering us to do this and that, for arbitrary or inscrutable reasons, is entitled to no special respect so long as we confine ourselves to nature. But when behind nature we are conscious of nature's God, we reverence our instincts as implanted by a divine hand, and enquire no further into their origin and purpose. No suspicion occurred to him that the marks of a divine origin which he supposed himself to be discovering by impartial examination, might be merely the result of his having stated the problem in terms of theology. As in the 'Analogy' his argument depends on assuming suffering to be supernatural punishment, so here it depends on assuming the promptings of conscience to be supernatural commands.
52. Around the conscience, in Butler's conception of human nature, are grouped a number of instincts, inferior in authority, but each ruling over the province assigned to it, impelling forces, regulated and controlled by the higher power. The two nearest the throne are benevolence and self-love ; beneath them come such passions as, for example, resentment, which also are 'implanted in our nature by God,' and destined to excite us against injury and wickedness.'2 Even the lower appetites and passions are 'placed within as a guard and further security,' without which our private interests would be neglected. Were it not for hunger, thirst, and weariness, our reason would tell us in vain that food and sleep were necessary for our preservation. The testimony which these arrangements give to a divine design is heightened by a peculiar refinement. The passions, he says, urge us towards "external things themselves distinct from the pleasure arising from them.'? We eat, that is, for the sake of eating, not because eating is pleasant. The purpose of this doctrine appears more plainly as it was afterwards worked out by Lord Kames, a disciple of Shaftesbury and Butler. Kames tries to evade the doctrine that our will is always determined by pain or pleasure by substituting the words attraction and aversion, and by maintaining, for example, that many unpleasant things have an attraction for us.3 Self-love thus plays a peculiar part in the hierarchy of passions. According to other psychologists, self-love is the aggregate of all our passions; the sum of all the desires which seek for gratification. According to Butler, it is only 'one part of human nature,'* co-ordinate with a vast variety of other passions. It differs from them, however, in this—that its only office is to prompt us to gratify its colleagues. If, he says, there were no passion but self-love, there could be no such thing as happiness. Thus hunger makes us eat without regarding the pleasure which is to be derived from eating ; and then selflove supplies the singular defect by ordering us to gratify our hunger in order to gain the pleasure. It would be simpler to portion out the self-love amongst the various passions instead of distributing the provinces in this curiously arbitrary manner. The psychology is manifestly defective, and its complexity was one reason why Butler failed to impress his contemporaries more decidedly. A cumbrous system, expressed in very loose phraseology, is likely to deter all but the most resolute students. And yet it was only by help of this complex hypothesis, or series of hypotheses, that Butler could manage to put into shape his expression of what was doubtless a most important truth.
Butler's Works, ii. 191, note, sermon xii., and · Dissertation on Virtue, 'i. 382. See above, ch. v. sec. 13.
2 Ib. ü. 114, sermon viii.
| Butler's Works, ii. 69, sermon v.
? Ib. ii. 153, sermon xi. 3. Essays on Principles of Morality,' &c. See pp. 8, 124. * Butler's Works, ii. 156, sermon xi.
5 Ib. ii. 156, sermon xi.
53. Butler was protesting, like Shaftesbury, against the popular doctrine of the time, which resolved all human actions into selfishness. There is an ambiguity in the statement which has perplexed the speculations of many moralists. Philosophers wished to explain everything, and to explain everything by deduction from a few axiomatic principles. Such a principle seemed to be the selfishness of all actions. The most general statement that can be made about a voluntary action is that it is voluntary; or, in words which seem to be identical, that it is done because the actor pleases, or because the will is determined by the balance of pleasure over pain. All actions, then, may be called selfish in the sense that they are the product of motives acting on a man's self. The proposition is so wide as to be harmless, or, as some writers maintain, useless. If, says Butler, because every particular affection is a man's own ... such particular affection must be called self-love, according to this way of speaking, no creature whatever can possibly act but from self-love.'? . The doctrine thus understood is compatible with belief in the most disinterested motives. But, unluckily, selfish had been changed into a sense much narrower, more fruitful of consequences, and essentially debasing. It became, for example, in Mandeville's hands, equivalent to the opinion that men always act upon a calculation of their own private interests. The calculations might be wrong, but the motive was in all cases the same ; and actions of self-sacrificing heroism, such, for example, as that of Regulus, became unintelligible paradoxes. Such an axiom was highly convenient as affording an easy foundation for a calculus of human motive. The reaction against the false simplification which it introduced shows itself in Butler's view of the strangely complex constitution of human nature, a peculiarity which is still more conspicuous in some later writers of the school, whilst it urged him to deny that even the particular passions had immediate pleasure
See the obvious argument in Shaftesbury, ‘Moralists,' p. 2, sec. I. When will and pleasure are synonymous ; when everything which pleases us is called pleasure, and we never choose or prefer but as we please, 'tis trifling to say 'pleasure is our good. For this has as little meaning as to say, we choose what we think eligible, and we are pleased with what delights and pleases us.
? Butler's Works, ii. 154, sermon xi.