صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

parties to the controversy. Wollaston, who has most to say about it ($S 1023, 1044 f.), is not the most successful in dealing with it, and some of the absurdity of his theory is due to his preoccupation with it. But the intellectualists are quite clear in general that to say that 'good' means and is nothing more than what we approve is preposterous ($8536, 685). Both parties are agreed, as against the hedonist, that no reason can be given for our approbation, which is necessary and ultimate (SS 585, 608, 559, cf. SS 369-371); but so long as the intellectualist is unable to do more than name the quality which is approved the controversy is rather barren. The effort to give material content to 'rectitude' is a failure, and he has not yet resigned himself to merely formal content. The sentimentalist, on the other hand, boldly produces 'benevolence' as the quality approved, and the controversy shifts its ground and becomes an inquiry into the sufficiency of benevolence to constitute moral good. Two questions therefore are mainly discussed : if the approving faculty is of the nature of a sense, and if the approved quality is of the nature of an instinct, can anything but an arbitrary morality be constructed upon such a basis?

23. Is a moral sense 'arbitrary'? Against the identification of the approving faculty with any kind of sense or anything like a sense it is urged that the constitution of our senses is arbitrary and might have been different. Might not God have given us a sense to which malicious instead of benevolent acts were agreeable, and which would approve of ingratitude and perfidy (S$ 186, 538)? If so, then virtue is made dependent on the arbitrary will of God, and the question arises which we have already discussed. Hutcheson suggests two answers: first, that the present constitution of our moral sense is good, because it tends on the whole to the happiness of creation, which must be a matter of concern to a benevolent God (S$ 186, 457). He does not lay much stress on this argument, because it seems to make moral dependent on natural good, but rather urges that God's approval of the present constitution of our moral sense proceeds from some principle in him analogous to man's moral sense ($ 459). This explanation, of course, only puts the difficulty one step further back, as Balguy points out ($ 528). Besides the arbitrariness of virtue alleged to follow from this theory there is its variability; you cannot expect uniformity in the senses of different men, or of the same man at different times; 'to make the rectitude of moral actions,

in proportion to the warmth and strength of the moral sense, rise and fall like spirits in a thermometer is depreciating the most sacred thing in the world and almost exposing it to ridicule' (539)—and certainly rendering morality incapable of demonstration' ($ 728), besides ascribing to it a low origin and impairing its dignity ($ 540). If Hutcheson urges that as a matter of fact 'it is highly probable that the senses of all men are pretty uniform' ($ 463), Balguy replies that 'this universality does not remove the imputation we are speaking of. Hunger and thirst are universal instincts, but, however suitable they may be to our present condition, they are never reckoned honourable to human nature' ($ 731). It is clear that to Balguy, whose arguments are more than slightly rhetorical, 'the hunger and thirst after righteousness' could not be an acceptable phrase.

24. Moral sense as furnishing a criterion and motive. But a greater difficulty lies behind. All senses stand in need of correction, and it was a principle of ancient idealism that the faculty which judges of and corrects the senses cannot


be itself sense. It is admitted that moral sense at times requires correction, and can be improved by education and training. What sets the standard of this correction and improvement? Hutcheson (S$ 465–7) boldly faces this question, and it strains his theory almost to the breaking point. He says that reason undoubtedly corrects our opinions-a) as to the tendencies of certain actions to happiness (Bentham thinks this is the only possible form of correction, $ 366), (b) as to the affections by which an agent is actually influenced, and in these ways rather corrects the data upon which our moral sense pronounces judgement than regulates our moral sense itself. He admits that our organs of sense may be disordered or may mislead us, and that we correct their deliverances by the standard of a normal sense. He expresses a doubt whether in fact our moral sense itself ever is disordered as the organs of sight or hearing are disordered (Adam Smith has no doubts as to this, § 350), but if it were so disordered he says that reason could do nothing to correct it except by 'suggesting to its remembrance its former approbations and representing the general sense of mankind,' and from this, he declares, we cannot infer that reason antecedently to sensation has ideas of virtue and vice. It must of course be admitted that the inference drawn by the intellectualist is not justifiable, but, on the other hand, Hutcheson's subjective empiricism, if followed up, lands him in difficulties. The doctrine of the moral sense is a sensationalist, individualist doctrine, through which Locke's metaphysical assumptions can easily be seen. His morality is a 'protestant' morality of private judgement, and there is no hint of a national conscience,' or of that organic conception of the good, evolved in and through society alone, on which Green laid so much stress, and which corresponds to the organic conception of a kóopos of inter-related phenomena which serves

as the basis of science'. Hutcheson therefore would, if he pursued the subject, find that the correction of the individual's moral sense by the general sense is peculiarly difficult for him. In speculative matters we are all accustomed to correct our opinions by those of others or by the verified laws of science: but are we entitled to correct our own moral judgements by those of others in a matter of right as distinguished from a matter of fact? How far is the appeal to the general sense' either attractive to the unreflective or valid for the reflective? Respectability has many merits, but it does not often raise enthusiasm. On a really social and catholic'theory, such as Aristotle's was, the Otrovdaños takes a rank as standard and motive which on a 'protestant' theory he cannot have. Speaking generally, the idealist contention has much truth, that sense (as regarded by sensationalists themselves) is not a bond of union or a basis of common action, and that the conception of a common good is a cause rather than an effect of sympathy.

But the real fact is that the moral sense theory is a theory of motive rather than of criterion. It is not put forward with a view to assisting us to distinguish right from wrong ($ 136): for this purpose to refer us to a faculty would be a good deal more futile than to refer us to the orovdaios. Nor is it really framed with much reference to the intellectualist school ; except in so far as Hutcheson's metaphysics convince him that sense is the only sure basis of any experience. It is really a counter-theory to the selfish theory, which is essentially a theory of motives. Virtue is real and natural, says the sentimentalist, because there is in every man a sufficient motive to it. We all of us have some benevolence, but purely natural benevolence is apt to be weak or partial. It is strengthened and corrected by the moral sense, which adds a novel and exquisite pleasure

· Green, Prol. § 232 ; Pol. Obligation, $ $ 138-9.

to that which accompanies the gratification of any natural impulse. When benevolence is wide and impartial this accessory pleasure derived from the moral sense reaches its highest pitch.

25. Is moral sense itself an element in virtue ? This is very well urged by Hutcheson against the crude form of the selfish theory. Virtue or benevolence is made our greatest happiness, apart from any external consequences, by the action of moral sense. But some confusion results as regards the nature of virtue. Does the virtue of an act consist in the strong benevolence it shows, or in the keen moral sense which regulates the benevolence? He says ($ 473) that we do not call an acute moral sense itself virtuous, but we 'approve it above all other abilities,' nor will he ($ 474, but cf. § 349) identify virtue with the love of moral excellence or love of complacency' which is the direct expression of the moral sense. To some extent the distinction between benevolence and complacency corresponds to that between instinctive and rational benevolence, which he admits ($442), inasmuch as calm universal benevolence' can only be the effect of long operation of the moral sense. Balguy is quite justified in identifying universal benevolence and complacency ($ 557) and in making this rational complacency rather than benevolence the basis of virtue.

Hutcheson was no doubt wise in his generation in refusing to identify virtue with anything so recondite as love of moral excellence, though he was obliged to recognize its existence. It would be difficult for him to assert against the selfish school that such a love was universal among common men. He wanted something which he could plausibly ascribe to the mass of men, for he certainly wanted to make most men out to be virtuous if he could. But in reality, though the moral

« السابقةمتابعة »