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SECTION I.

OF THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF .

MORALS.

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D ISPUTES with persons, pertinaciously obstinate in
U their principles, are, of all others, the most irksome;
except, perhaps, those with persons, intirely difingenuous,
who really do not believe the opinion they defend, but engage
in the controversy, from affectation, from a spirit of opposition,
or from a desire of showing wit and ingenuity, superior to the
rest of mankind. The same blind adherence to their own ar-
guments is to be expected in both; the same contempt of their
antagonists; and the same passionate vehemence, in inforcing
sophistry and falfhood. And as reasoning is not the source, o
whence either disputant derives his tenets ; 'tis in vain to ex-
pect, that any logic, which speaks not to the affections, will
ever engage him to embrace founder principles.

Those who have denied the reality of moral distinctions, may be ranked among the disingenuous disputants ; nor is it conceivable, that any human creature could ever seriously believe, that all characters and actions were alike intitled to the affection and regard of every one. The difference, which Hh 2

nature

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nature has placed between one man and another, is so wide, and this difference is still so much farther widened, by education, example, and habit, that where the opposite extremes come at once under our apprehension, there is no scepticism fo scrupulous, and scarce any assurance fo determined, as absolutely to deny all distinction between them. Let a man's insensibility be ever so great, he must often be touched with the images of RIGHT and WRONG; and let his prejudices be ever so obstinate, he must observe, that others are susceptible of like impressions. The only way, therefore, of converting an antagonist of this kind, is to leave him to himself. For, finding that no body keeps up the controversy with him, 'tis probable he will, at last, of himself, from mere weariness, come over to the side of common sense and reason.

There has been a controversy started of late, much better worth examination, concerning the general foundation of MORALS; whether they are derived from REASON, or from SENTIMENT; whether we attain the knowlege of them by a chain of argument and induction, or by an immediate feeling and finer internal sense ; whether, like all sound judgment of truth and falsehood, they should be the same to every rational intelligent being; or whether,' like the perception of beauty and deformity, they are founded entirely on the particular fabric and constitution of the human fpecies.

The antient philosophers, though they often affirm, that virtue is nothing but conformity to reason, yet, in general, feem to consider morals as deriving their existence from taste

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and sentiment. On the other hand, our modern inquirers, though they also talk much of the beauty of virtue, and deformity of vice, yet have commonly endeavoured to account for these distinctions by metaphysical reasonings, and by deductions from the most abstract principles of human understanding. Such confusion reigned in these subjects, that an opposition of the greatest consequence could prevail between one system and another, and even in the parts almost of each individual system ; and yet no body, till very lately, was ever sensible of it. The elegant Lord SHAFTSBURY, who first gave occasion to remark this distinction, and who, in general, adhered to the principles of the antients, is not, himself, intirely free from the same confusion.

It must be acknowleged, that both sides of the question are susceptible of fpecious arguments. Moral distinctions, it may be said, are discernible by pure reason: Else, whence the many disputes that reign in common life, as well as in philosophy, with regard to this subject: The long chain of proofs often produced on both sides; the examples cited, the authorities appealed to, the analogies employed, the fallacies detected, the inferences drawn, and the several conclusions adjusted to their proper principles. Truth is disputable; not taste : What exists in the nature of things is the standard of our judgment; what each man feels within himself is the standard of sentiment. Propositions in geometry may be proved, systems in physics may be controverted; but the harmony of verse, the ten- ' derness of passion, the brilliancy of wit, must give immediate pleasure. No man reasons concerning another's beauty; but frequently concerning the justice or injustice of his actions.

In every criminal trial the first object of the prisoner is to difprove the facts alleged, and deny the actions imputed to him : The second to prove, that even if these actions were real, they might be justified, as innocent and lawful. 'Tis confessedly by deductions of the understanding, that the first point is ascertained: How can we suppose that a different faculty of the mind is employed in fixing the other ?

On the other hand, those who would resolve all moral determinations into sentiment, may endeavour to show, that 'tis impossible for reason ever to draw conclusions of this nature. To virtue, say they, it belongs to be amiable, and vice odious. This forms their very nature or effence. But can reafon or argumentation distribute these different epithets to any subjects, and pronounce before-hand, that this must produce love, and that hatred? Or what other reason can we ever aflign for thefe affections, but the original fabric and formation of the ... human mind, which is naturally adapted to receive them ?

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The end of all moral speculations is to teach us our duty; and, by proper representations of the deformity of vice and beauty of virtue, beget correspondent habits, and engage us to avoid the one, and embrace the other. But is this ever to be expected from inferences and conclusions of the understanding, which of themselves have no hold of the affections, nor set in motion the active powers of men ? They discover truths: But where the truths which they discover are indifferent, and beget no desire or aversion, they can have no influence on conduct and behaviour. What is honourable, what is fair, what is becoming, what is noble, what is generous, takes. possession of the heart, and animates us to embrace and

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maintain it. What is intelligible, what is evident, what is probable, what is true, procures only the cool affent of the understanding; and gratifying a speculative curiosity puts an end to our researches.

Extinguish all the warm feelings and prepossessions in favour of virtue, and all disgust or aversion against vice: Render men totally indifferent towards these distinctions; and morality is no longer a practical study, nor has any tendency to regulate our lives and actions.

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These arguments on each side (and many more might be produced) are so plausible, that I am apt to suspect, they may; the one as well as the other, be folid and satisfactory, and that reason and sentiment concur in almost all moral determinations and conclusions. The final sentence, 'tis probable, which pronounces characters and actions amiable or odious, praise-worthy or blameable; that which stamps on them the mark of honour or infamy, approbation or censure; that which renders morality an active principles and constitutes virtue our happiness, and vice our' mifery: 'Tis probable, I say, that this final sentence depends on some internal sense or feeling, which nature has made universal in the whole species. For what else can have an influence of this nature? But in order to pave the way for such a sentiment, and give a proper discernment of its object, 'tis often neceffary, we find, that much reasoning should precede, that nice distinctions be made, just conclusions drawn, distant comparisons formed, complicated relations examined, and general facts fixedand ascertained. Some species of beauty, especially the natural kinds, on their first appearance, command our affection and approbation ; and where they fail of this effect, 'tis impossible for any reasoning

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