Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

fsiThese arguments on each side (and many mote might Be Produteay are so plausible, that I am apt to suspect, they may, the one as well as the other, be solid and satisfactory, and that reason and sentiment concur in almost alf-moral determinations and conclusions. The final sentence, 'It' is probable, which pronounces characters "and actions amiable, or odious, praise-worthy or blamedBle; "that'which stamps on them the mark of honour or infamy, napprobation or censure ; that which renders morality an active principle, and constitutes virtue our 'happiness, and vice rour' misery : It is probable, I say,

that this final sentence depends on some internal sense or "feeling, which nature has made universab in the whole

Species. For what else can have an influence of this naeture? Búť" in order to pave the way for such a senti· "ment, and give a proper discernment of its object, fitris often necessary, we find, that much reasoning should precede, that nice distinctions be made, just conclusions drawn, distant comparisons formed, complicated relations examined, and general facts fixed and 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, it is impossible for any

reasoning to redress their influence, or adapt them better bito our taste and sentimenti But in many orders of beauisty, particularly those of the finer arts, it is requisitesto } Remploy much reasoning, in order to feel the proper, sen

timent; and a false relish may frequently be corrected by

argument and reflection. There are just grounds to con**?clude that moral beauty partakes much of this datter - species, and demands the assistance of our tintellectual - faculties, in order to give it a suitable influence on the no human mind., 17, ora lawas dus in it

But though this question, concerning the general prin.

ciples of morals, be curious and important, it is needless for us, at present, to employ farther care in our researches concerning it. - For if we can be so happy, in the course of this inquiry, as to discover the true origin of morals, it will then easily appear how far either senti. ment or reason enters into all determinations of this não ture*. In order to attain this purpose, we shall endea. vour to follow a very simple method: We shall analyze that complication of mental qualities, which form what," in common life, we call PERSONAL MERIT: We shall consider every attribute of the mind, which renders a man an object either of esteem and affection, or of hatred? and contempt ; every habit or sentiment or faculty, which, if ascribed to any person, implies either praise or blame, and may enter into any panegyric or satire of hischaracter and manners. The quick sensibility, which, on this head, is so universál' among mankind, gives philosopher sufficient assurance that he can never bens considerably mistaken in framing the catalogue, or iacut any danger of misplacing the objects of his contemplas". tion: He needs only enter into his owo breast for I'mo. ment, and consider whether or not he should desire t230 have this or that quality ascribed to him, and whether such or such an imputation would proceed from a friend or an enemy. The very nature of language guides uste almost infallibly in forming a judgment of this natite; and as every tongue possesses one get of words which are taken in a good sense, and another in the opposite, the least acquaintance with the idiom sufficesy without any reasoning, to direct us in collecting and arranging the estimable or blameable qualities of men. The only ob

[merged small][ocr errors]

ject of reasoning is to discover the circumstances on both sides, which are common to these qualities; to obserye that particular in which the estimable qualities agree on the one hand, and the blameable on the other ; and thence to reach the foundation of ethics, and find those universal principles, from which all censure or approa bation is ultimately derived. As this is a question of fact, not of abstract science, we can only expect success by following the experimental method, and deducing general maxims from a comparison of particular instances. The other scientifical method, where a general abstract principle is first established, and is afterwards branched out into a variety of inferences and conclusions, may be more perfect in itself, but suits less the imperfection of human nature, and is a common source of illusion and mistake, in this as well as in other subjects. Men are : now cured of their passion for hypotheses and systems in natural philosophy, and will hearken to no arguments but those which are derived from experience. It is full time they should attempt a like reformation in all moral disquisitions, and reject every system of ethics, howe, ver subtile or ingenious, which is not founded on fact and observation.

; . ; :" We shall begin our inquiry on this head by the consideration of the social virtues, Benevolence and Justice. : The explication of them will probably give us an openst" ing by which the others may be accounted for, 3v3:5* :

os? '.. . 3. *6,92. 3. Divisi on Pista'.11

:9s Hit 995: Leupos 12535 7. Who'ri Jl . RIEN 109111 01100281 so you 91 T 19 to 3rdusup glosessid :0 91de.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

SECTION II.

OF BENEVOLENCE.

PART I.

It may be esteemed, perhaps, a superfluous task to prove that the benevolent or softer affections are ESTI. MABLE ; and, wherever they appear, engage the approbation and good-will of mankind. The epithets, sociable, good natured, humane, merciful, grateful, friendly, generous, beneficent, or their equivalents, are known ein all languages, and universally express the highest merit which human nature is capable of attaining. Where these amiable qualities are attended with birth and power, and eminent abilities, and display themselves in the good government or useful instruction of mankind, they seem even to raise the possessors of them aboye the rank of human nature, and make them approach, in some measure, to the divine. Exalted capacity, undaunted courage, prosperous success; these may only expose a hero or politician to the envy and ill-will of the public : But as soon as the praises are 'added of humane and beneficent; when instances are displayed of lenity, tenderness, or friendship ; envy itself is silent, or joins the general voice of approbation and applause.

When PERICLES, the great ATHENIAN statesman and general, was on his death-bed, his surrounding friends, deeming him now insensible, began to indulge their sorrow for their expiring patron, by enumerating his great qualities and successes, his conquests and victories, the unusual length of his administration, and his nine tro;

« ZurückWeiter »