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lectual truths" and “ moral truths." Scientifically speaking, there can be no such thing as a “moral truth;" for every truth is a proposition, consisting of subject, predicate, and copula ; and is uttered and recognized by the intellect, not by the “moral instinct,” which belongs to the emotional part of our nature. It is the province of intellect to think, of emotion to feel. Mr. Buckle falls into exactly the same error in a singular passage in his second volume, where he says :
The emotions are as much a part of us as the understanding: they are as truthful; they are as likely to be right. Though their view is different, it is not capricious. . They obey fixed laws; they follow an orderly and uniform course; they run in sequences ; they have their logic and method of inference."'*
All this is either strained metaphor, or downright nonsense. If it were true, what would be the use of making any distinction at all between intellect and feeling? If to feel is to judge, and to experience an emotion is to lay down a proposition, why not include both under one name ? Mr. Buckle is misled by the fact that, in all our mental operations, feeling and thinking are closely united. Our wishes color our judgments. We are all led, in many cases, to believe that to be true which we wish to be true. Thus emotional states give rise to intellectual states. On the other hand, Mr. Bain has shown that belief, when active, always leads to volition ;t and as volition is the final stage of emotion, we perceive that intellectual states likewise occasion emotional states. But this intimate connection of the two should not lead us to confound the one with the other; and we fall into a grave error whenever we do so. Once more, we repeat, it is the province of emotion to feel, of the intellect to think and form propositions. Scientifically speaking, therefore, all truths are intellectual; and there can be no such thing as a “ moral truth.”
But there is another sense in which the expression “moral truths” may be taken. It may mean “ truths relative to morality.” Mr. Buckle generally uses it in this sense, but he so often confounds “ moral truths" with
• Vol. II., p. 502.
“moral feelings,” that the foregoing remarks were rendered necessary to a right understanding of his argument.
Our author then declares that the truths which we possess relating to morality have not changed for thousands of years. No, they have not. Neither have “ intellectual truths.” A truth, once established, never changes, cannot change, otherwise it would be no truth, but a falsehood. Take, for example, the law of gravitation : “ All bodies in the universe attract each other with forces directly proportional to their masses, and inversely proportional to the squares of their distances apart." We have had no occasion to alter this statement since the time of Newton. It is a demonstrated truth, and will never be susceptible of the slightest change. The same is the case with the truth, “It is wrong to kill.” Once recognized, this truth can experience no change, for the very reason that it is a truth, and not a falsehood. In a word, when a proposition has been once shown to be true it will for ever remain so, whether it relates to our moral obligations, or to anything else whatever. There is no ground for Mr. Buckle's distinction.
Nor would our author be one whit the more justified in saying, as he might say, that the interpretation put upon “moral truths” is unchanging as compared with that put upon “intellectual truths.” On the contrary, it appears to us that the reverse is the case. When a truth, relating to some of the simpler subjects of investigation, is once received, its interpretation usually admits of little change. To employ the same example as before, the law of gravitation is received in the same acceptation now as when it was first discovered. Advancing to the more abstruse sciences, such as physiology, we find that the interpretation put upon generally-received truths suffers marked variations. The law of organic development has been held by the most eminent scientific thinkers since the beginning of the present century; but, since the embryological discoveries of the Germans, it is held in a form different from that in which it was held before. The followers of Spencer, Lewes, and Darwin, do not put the same interpretation upon the law of development that the followers of Lamarck did, forty years ago. Coming now to the very complex subject of morality, we find, unfortunately for Mr. Buckle, that the acceptation in which its propositions are held varies with every phase of civilization. Among the
American Indians, so noted for their revengeful dispositions, the obligation not to take life, if recognized, was not so construed as to include the miserable object of the fell passion. Among the ancient Jews, the command, “ Thou shalt not kill," meant, “Thou shalt not kill Jews ;” and, from the story of Saul and Agag, we may suppose that the murder of Gentiles was considered rather a meritorious act than otherwise. And in general, where the same “ moral truths” have been received, it has been in as many different ways as there were different kinds of people to receive them. This fact, that the way in which generally-received truths are understood varies as the complexity of the sciences to which they belong, results from the obvious circumstance that the more complex a science is, the less we know about it. As we know less about moral science than about any other, our opinions, even about those “moral truths” which are universally admitted, are more liable to change than our opinions about similarly-received truths in other matters. Mr. Buckle could have, therefore, no ground for asserting that the interpretation put upon "moral truths” is unchanging, as compared with that put upon
“intellectual truths.” Our author says, somewhat inconsistently, that “moral truths” receive no additions, and again that they receive fewer additions than “intellectual truths.” We shall speedily show that the first of these statements is at variance with fact, and that the second has no logical value, and will not help his argument in the least.
It is not true that “moral truths” have received no additions. It is not true, as Mr. Buckle says, that “the sole essentials of morals have been known for thousands of years, and not one jot or tittle has been added to them by all the sermons, homilies, and text-books which moralists have been able to produce." It is not true, as Sir James Mackintosh says, that “morality admits of no discoveries." It is not true, as Condorcet says, that “la morale de toutes les nations a été la même.' It is not true, as Kant says, that “ in der Moralphilosophie sind wir nicht weiter gekommen, als die Alten.” For what is Moral Philosophy but the science which is to determine the laws to which our conduct should conform ? And if this is the case, we need only to look into Mr. Buckle's work itself, to find a system of morality containing truths which only two centuries ago were not even dreamed of. Take, for example, the moral law that govern
ments shall not interfere with trade. This is as much a moral law as that which forbids stealing : but we find Mr. Buckle reckoning it among the merits of Voltaire, that he was one of the first to perceive the justice of a free system of trade.* Its justice is even now denied by opponents of reform. This, then, is a case of a “moral truth” which has not been known for thousands of years.
Mr. Buckle may say, however, that he does not use the term “morality” in so wide a sense—that he means by it merely a collection of general rules and precepts, serving as rough guides for daily conduct. Of course, if Mr. Buckle chooses to define his terms to suit himself, he can prove anything. If he defines morality so as to make it include nothing but the precepts known three thousand years ago, and then says that all moral truths now known were known then, he merely asserts that what was known then was known then; a statement which probably few will be hardy enough to dispute, but which unfortunately leaves the argument just where it was before.
But supposing we accept this narrow definition of morality, what will become of our author's statement, even then ? He himself quotes, from several authors, passages which show that there was a time when some nations did not acknowledge the moral law, forbidding murder. “Among some Macedonian tribes, the man who had never slain an enemy was marked by a degrading badge.”+_ And at the present day, among barbarous tribes, as the Dyaks of Borneo, “a man cannot marry until he has procured a human head; and he that has several may be distinguished by his proud and lofty bearing, for it constitutes his patent of nobility.”I By calling up these facts, Mr. Buckle destroys his own statement that “moral truths” receive no additions.
As for his other assertion—that “ moral truths" receive fewer additions than "intellectual truths”-it means simply that fewer discoveries are made in moral science than in all the other sciences put together. It is as if he should say that " optical truths” receive fewer additions than “physical truths.” As we have shown, he is not justified in using the expression “intellectual truths,” so as to exclude from it
• Vol. I., p. 741.
+ Grote's History of Greece, vol. XI., p. 397, quoted in Buckle, vol. I., p. 176, note 29.
I Journal of Asiatic Society, vol. IV., p. 181. Ibid.
truths relating to morality, which are recognized by the intellect as much as any others. His statement, therefore, merely compares a part with all the other parts of the whole to which it belongs.
We are quite willing to admit that moral science has not been enriched by as many discoveries as any one of the other sciences. This results from the circumstance that it is far more difficult and complicated than the rest. Our knowledge of morality is less complete than our knowledge of chemistry, for the same reason that our acquaintance with chemistry is less perfect than our acquaintance with astronomy. The laws expressing the relations of men to one another are the most recondite of all, and the most liable to apparent exceptions. We are accordingly longer in ascertaining them.
To sum up : we have seen that the distinction made by Mr. Buckle between intellectual" and "moral" truths, is a vague and popular one, and will not bear a critical analysis. We have throughout, however, used the expression “moral truths” as equivalent to “ truths relating to moral subjects, and the expression “intellectual truths” as equivalent to “ truths relating to all other subjects:" and this is admissible, because it gives the meaning intended by the author. We have then shown: first, that intellectual truths are as fixed and unchangeable as moral truths; secondly, that the interpretation put upon moral truths is even less constant than that put upon intellectual truths; thirdly, that moral truths receive additions, no less than intellectual truths; fourthly, that the fact that moral truths receive fewer additions than intellectual truths is of no logical value, because it compares one class of truths with several ; and fifthly, that the circumstance that moral science advances with a slower pace than the other sciences shows only that it is more complex than they are, but does not warrant us in assuming that it is radically different from them. Reviewing our conclusions in this compact form, we see that moral truths come under the same category as intellectual truths, throughout. This confirms what we said at the outset, that there is no such difference between them as Mr. Buckle supposes, and that both should be spoken of together as truths or judgments, in distinction from feelings. Mr. Buckle's argument, then, when laid bare, is as follows: that some truths are constant, while others are not—which is false; and that one set of