« PreviousContinue »
those of you then here will remember our studies together in Anatomy,
and Mental Philosophy, and Moral Philosophy, and Natural Theology, and Butler's Analogy, and Vincent. Add to these, preaching; the administrative labor incident to my position; the publication of between forty and
fifty pamphlets, and of a volume on the Evidences of Christianity, and it
may not seem strange that when the years came round, as they seemed to,
with increasing rapidity, I was only able to give the lectures as they were.
Always feeling that my first duty was in the class-room, my strength sim
ply sufficed for the demands of the passing day.
In 1855 the Rhetoric of
the class passed into other hands, but so much of work still remained that
a revision of the Lectures was not undertaken till 1858.
In the winter of
1861, the course, with the exception of the last lecture, for which there was not time, was delivered before the Lowell Institute.
When the Lectures were first written, the text-book here, and generally in our colleges, was Paley. Not agreeing with him, and failing to carry out fully the doctrine of ends, I adopted that of an ultimate right, as taught by
Kant and Coleridge, making that the end.
If, therefore, any of you still
hold that view, -as doubtless many do, - it is not for me to say that you have not good authority for it, or to complain if you object to that now
But whatever may be said of this central point, the Lectures have been
much changed in other respects, and, as I hope, improved.
Such as they
are, with thankfulness that I am permitted to address so many of you,
with many pleasant recollections of our former discussions on this subject,
they are now committed to your candid and indulgent consideration.
Your sincere Friend,
WILLIAMS COLLEGE, OCTOBER 1, 1862.
PHILOSOPHY investigates causes, unities, and ends.
Of these it is the last two that are chiefly considered in
the following lectures. “Happy,” it has been said, “is he who knows the causes of things.” But in a world where there are so many apparent discrepancies both natural and moral, he must be more happy who knows the arrangement of things into systems, and sees how all these systems go to make up one greater system and to promote a common end. An investigation of causes respects the past; of unities and ends, the present and
the future. Of these the latter are more intimate to
us, and he who can trace the principle of unity by which
nature is harmonized with herself, and man with nature,
and man with himself, and the individual with society,
and man with God, - who can see in all these a com
plex unity and can apprehend their end, - will have an
element of satisfaction far greater than he who should
know the causes of all things without being able to
unravel their perplexities.
From the place assigned to Moral Philosophy in the classification adopted in these lectures, an incidental
consideration of the above harmonies seemed to be
required. Hence it is hoped that the book may contain suggestions that will be valuable to some who may not agree with its doctrines on the particular subject of morals. It is particularly hoped that it may do something towards introducing more of unity into the courses of study, or some of them, in our higher semi
naries. If the works of God, regarded as an expression
of his thought, are built up after a certain method, it deserves to be considered whether that thought will not
be best reached by following in their study the order
that has been followed in their construction, and which
is involved in that method. Something of this I have
long aimed to do in my instructions, and with very
perceptible advantage. With suitable text-books and a
right arrangement of studies, much more might doubt
less be done.
In treating of any natural system, as each part
implies all the others, wherever we begin, and what
ever method we follow, we are compelled to use terms whose full meaning can be reached only in the progress of the investigation. This is particularly true when, as in the present instance, instead of beginning with definitions, we seek for them. For this it is hoped that
due allowance may be made.
It will be seen that important, and even cardinal
points, are often but briefly touched in these discus
sions. I can only say that the work is, of necessity, suggestive rather than exhaustive, and that if these points are so treated as to show their place in the system, the outline may be readily filled up. .
For remarks upon the present condition of the sci
ence, and for the general course of thought pursued, the reader is referred to the opening lecture, and to the
summary at the close.
English literature is rich in ethical speculation. Several valuable treatises have recently been published in
this country; but the ground of classification, and the general aspects and connections of the subject, as presented in the following lectures, are so far different from others, that it is hoped something may be gained to the science by their publication. To the authors of
the treatises above referred to, and also to the friends
who have aided me by their suggestions, I desire to
express my indebtedness.
I will only add, that the work is written in the interest
of truth, and not controversially.