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MORAL GOODNESS AND NATURAL GOOD.
to utter it. If the course of things were to go on forever as it does now, this world, in its relation to the moral constitution of man, would forever remain an inexplicable enigma. So far as I can judge, neither a moral government, nor a moral governor, nor the existence of any being worthy to be called God, could be proved. No; the solution can come only from the future. This Coleridge felt; for, while he recognizes the incompatibility just spoken of, and so assigns to the good great man only the natural rewards of goodness and greatness, yet the friends he gives him are such as to show that he did not tion of the problem to be here.
pose the solu
“ What woulds't thou have a good, great man obtain ?
Wealth, title, dignity, a golden chain,
This relation of moral goodness to natural good may doubtless be justified in a temporary dispensation. It brings new elements into the divine administration; it trains virtue as it could not be otherwise. It is at the basis of moral sublimity and heroism. The object is the enthronement of the moral nature. Let that be fully done, and there comes the subjection, and subordination, and right action of all the other parts of our nature, and consequently all possible natural good from that. Here, so far as natural good can arise from the harmony and right action of all the powers of the individual, do we find the natural, and, indirectly, causal relation between moral goodness and natural good. With the rule of the moral nature must come all temperance, all kindness, all harmonies of the individual system, and so all the good it can give. Here is no antinomy between moral goodness and natural good. Naturally there is none. The present relation and arrangement is clearly a derangement, and such an one that the moral nature can never be satisfied till the adverse influence of evil shall be eliminated and separated from the good, and till external nature shall be so re-adjusted that all her substances, agencies, laws, forces, influences, shall come into accord with the laws of a higher sphere, and shall offer themselves always and everywhere as the servants of goodness. This, and this only, is the natural relation between moral goodness and natural good, and thus do we harmonize the two.
THE SPHERE OF MORAL SCIENCE.-RIGHT AND WRONG. DEFINITION OF
PROVINCE OF CONSCIENCE. - HOW FAR INFALLIBLE.-TWO
SPHERES. - DIVERSITY OF MORAL JUDGMENTS. - CRISES OF LIFE. -- RE
LATION OF CONSCIENCE TO OTHER PRINCIPLES OF ACTION.- COMPLEX
ITY OF MOTIVES. AFFECTIONS HAVE A MORAL CHARACTER IN THEM
HAVING now examined the moral constitution, we are in a position to discriminate more perfectly the true sphere of moral science.
In examining an outward act of a moral being and seeking to determine its character, we may either go backward to its source, or forward to its consequences.
In one or the other of these we must find the sphere of the science; for though actions are often spoken of as if they had a moral quality in themselves, yet aside from their origin or their consequences this is not conceivable.
If we go back to the source of the act we find that moral constitution which we have considered. We find a person capable of doing moral acts, and of judging of them, and it is in some mode of his activity that we find the moral quality. In connection with this we find the terms virtuous, vicious, goodness, wickedness, morally good, morally evil. In connection with these there are invisible consequences upon the spirit itself which affect the character, and which we think of as necessary. If we go forward to the outward consequences of the act, we find a conformity or want of conformity to fixed relations, together with the terms utility, injuriousness, general consequences, and more generally, though they are, as we have seen, applied in the other direction, the terms right and wrong. An action is good because its source is good. “Make the tree good, and his fruit will be good.” It is right because it is conformed to a rule or law based on a recognition of relations, and so, adapted to attain its end. But the terms right and wrong have often been so applied, now to indicate moral quality as belonging to a person, and now to indicate a conformity or want of conformity to fixed outward relations, as to produce much confusion.
Thus it is said in the most popular work on morals published in this country,* that “Moral philosophy takes it for granted that there is in human action a moral quality; that is, that a human action may be right or wrong.” Here, for an action to be right or wrong, and to have a moral quality, is the same thing. Again, in another part of the work: “From these facts we are easily led to the distinction between right and wrong, and innocence and guilt. Right and wrong depend upon the relations under which beings are created, and hence the obligations resulting from these relations are, in their nature, fixed and unchangeable. Guilt and innocence depend upon a knowledge of these relations."
An action may
wrong; but if the actor have no means of knowing it to be wrong
eld morally guiltless in the doing of it. Or, again, a man may have a consciousness of obligation, and a sincere desire to act in conformity to it, and may, from ignorance of the way in which that obligation is to be discharged, perform an act in its nature wrong, yet, if he have acted
* Wayland's Moral Science.
RIGHT AND WRONG.
according to the best of his possible knowledge, he may not only be held guiltless, but even virtuous.”
Here, then, is an act that is virtuous and also wrong. Which, now, of these words expresses the moral quality of the act? Virtuous, certainly. All usage would show this; and we are also told by the same author that the moral quality of an act resides in the intention. Here we have the words right and wrong used to indicate moral quality, and we have also a formal statement that they depend upon abstract relations which have no necessary connection with moral quality; so that an action may be right and vicious, wrong and virtuous, at the same time. But an investigation of “intention," on which moral quality is said to depend, is one thing; and an investigation of “ the relations under which beings are created,” on which right and wrong are said to depend, is an entirely different thing
Which, then, of these is it, or is it both, that moral philosophy investigates ? It has sometimes been one, sometimes the other; but I suppose that moral philosophy properly stops where there is no longer any moral quality; that moral quality is found only in mind, and that the study of relations, and so of right and wrong as depending on them, can be useful only as furnishing guidance for the action of principles already formed. He who studies these relations that he may act in accordance with them, does it because he is already virtuous.
In a philosophy making the idea of choice and that of an end central, the term good becomes prominent, rather than the term right. “The True," "The Beautiful,” and “ The Good,” says Cousin; not, as his own philosophy would require, The Right. Both words are indispensable, and both are liable to analogous ambiguities, so that it is