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good God, who has revealed his will to mankind, maintain that they in this revelation possess a perfect moral standard, and that, consequently, what is in accordance with such a standard must be objectively right, it may be asked what they mean by an "all-good” God. And in their attempt to answer this question, they would inevitably have to assume the objectivity they wanted to prove.

The error we commit by attributing objectivity to moral estimates becomes particularly conspicuous when we consider that these estimates have not only a certain quality, but a certain quantity. There are different degrees of badness and goodness, a duty may be more or less stringent, a merit may be smaller or greater. These quantitative differences are due to the emotional origin of all moral concepts. Emotions vary in intensity almost indefinitely, and the moral emotions form no exception to this rule. Indeed, it may be fairly doubted whether the same mode of conduct ever arouses exactly the same degree of indignation or approval in any two individuals. Many of these differences are of course too subtle to be manifested in the moral judgment; but very frequently the intensity of the emotion is indicated by special words, or by the way in which the judgment is pronounced. It should be noticed, however, that the quantity of the estimate expressed in a moral predicate is not identical with the intensity of the moral emotion which a certain mode of conduct arouses on a special occasion. We are liable to feel more indignant if an injury is committed before our eyes than if we read of it in a newspaper, and yet we admit that the degree of wrongness is in both cases the same. The quantity of moral estimates is determined by the intensity of the emotions which their objects tend to evoke under exactly similar external circumstances.

i li will be shown in a following chapter why there are no degrees of nghiness. This concept implies ac

cordance with the moral law. The adjective “right " means that duty is fulfilled.

Besides the relative uniformity of moral opinions, there is another circumstance which tempts us to objectivise moral judgments, namely, the authority which, rightly or wrongly, is ascribed to moral rules. From our earliest childhood we are taught that certain acts are right and that others are wrong. Owing to their exceptional importance for human welfare, the facts of the moral consciousness are emphasised in a much higher degree than any other subjective facts. We are allowed to have our private opinions about the beauty of things, but we are not so readily allowed to have our private opinions about right and wrong. The moral rules which are prevalent in the society to which we belong are supported by appeals not only to human, but to divine, authority, and to call in question their validity is to rebel against religion as well as against public opinion. Thus the belief in a moral order of the world has taken hardly less firm hold of the human mind, than the belief in a natural order of things. And the moral law has retained its authoritativeness even when the appeal to an external authority has been regarded as inadequate. It filled Kant with the same awe as the star-spangled firmament. According to Butler, conscience is “a faculty in kind and in nature supreme over all others, and which bears its own authority of being so.”] Its supremacy is said to be “ felt and tacitly acknowledged by the worst no less than by the best of men.” 2 Adam Smith calls the moral faculties the “ vicegerents of God within us,” who “never fail to punish the violation of them by the torments of inward shame and self-condemnation ; and, on the contrary, always reward obedience with tranquillity of mind, with contentment, and self-satisfaction." Even Hutcheson, who raises the question why the moral sense should not vary in different men as the palate does, considers it

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! Butler, Sermon II.-Upon Human Nature,' in Analogy of Religion,

Active and Moral Powers of Man, i. 302.

3 Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 235.

* tel Stewart, Philosophy of the

“to be naturally destined to command all the other powers."

Authority is an ambiguous word. It may indicate knowledge of truth, and it may indicate a rightful power to command obedience. The authoritativeness attributed to the moral law has often reference to both kinds of authority. The moral lawgiver lays down his rules in order that they should be obeyed, and they are authoritative in so far as they have to be obeyed. But he is also believed to know what is right and wrong, and his commands are regarded as expressions of moral truths. As we have seen, however, this latter kind of authority involves a false assumption as to the nature of the moral predicates, and it cannot be justly inferred from the power to command. Again, if the notion of an external lawgiver be put aside, the moral law does not generally seem to possess supreme authority in either sense of the word. It does not command obedience in any exceptional degree ; few laws are broken more frequently. Nor can the regard for it be called the mainspring of action ; it is only one spring out of many, and variable like all others. In some instances it is the ruling power in a man's life, in others it is a voice calling in the desert ; and the majority of people seem to be more afraid of the blame or ridicule of their fellowmen, or of the penalties with which the law threatens them, than of “the vicegerents of God” in their own hearts. That mankind prefer the possession of virtue to all other enjoyments, and look upon vice as worse than any other misery,” is unfortunately an imagination of some moralists who confound men as they are with men as they ought to be.

It is said that the authority of the moral law asserts itself every time the law is broken, that virtue bears in itself its own reward, and vice its own punishment. But, to be sure, conscience is a very unjust retributer. The more a person habituates himself to virtue the more he

1 Ilutcheson, System of Moral Philo- 2 Idem, Inquiry into the Original of sophy, i. 61.

our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, p. 248.

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sharpens its sting, the deeper he sinks in vice the more he blunts it. Whilst the best men have the most sensitive consciences, the worst have hardly any conscience at all. It is argued that the habitual sinner has rid himself of remorse at a great cost ;? but it may be fairly doubted whether the loss is an adequate penalty for his wickedness. We are reminded that men are rewarded for good and punished for bad acts by the moral feelings of their neighbours.' But public opinion and law judge of detected acts only. Their judgment is seldom based upon an exhaustive examination of the case. They often apply a standard which is itself open to criticism. And the feelings with which men regard their fellow-creatures, and which are some of the main sources of human happiness and suffering, have often very little to do with morality. A person is respected or praised, blamed or despised, on other grounds than his character. Nay, the admiration which men feel for genius, courage, pluck, strength, or accidental success, is often superior in intensity to the admiration they feel for virtue.

In spite of all this, however, the supreme authority assigned to the moral law is not altogether an illusion. It really exists in the minds of the best, and is nominally acknowledged by the many. By this I do not refer to the universal admission that the moral law, whether obeved or not, ought under all circumstances to be obeyed ; for this is the same as to say that what ought to be ought to be. But it is recognised, in theory at least, that morality, either alone or in connection with religion, possesses a higher value than anything else; that rightness and goodness are preferable to all other kinds of mental superiority, as well as of physical excellence. If this theory is not more commonly acted upon, that is due to its bycing, in most people, much less the outcome of their owa feelings than of instruction from the outside. It is withately traceable to some great teacher whose own mind wae ruled by the ideal of moral perfection, and whose

* Ziegler, Sorial Eskis, p 103

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