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eye may have of the colors of an unaltered object, it is not easy to determine: perhaps it will be hard to find any instances of such a change. What reason could correct, if it fell into such a disorder, I know not; except suggesting to its remembrance its former approbations, and representing the general sense of mankind. But this does not prove ideas of virtue and vice to be previous to a sense, more than a like correction of the ideas of color in a person under the jaundice, proves that colors are perceived by reason, previously to sense.”
Mr. Hume was not to be imposed upon by such an evasion; and he has accordingly, with his usual acuteness, pushed this scheme of morals (which he evidently adopted from Hutcheson and Shaftesbury) to its ultimate and its legitimate conclusion. The words right and wrong, (he asserted,) if they express a distinction at all analogous to that between an agreeable and a disagreeable color can signify nothing in the actions to which they are applied, but only certain effects in the mind of the spectator. As it is improper, therefore, (according to the doctrines of Locke's philosophy) to say of an object of taste that it is sweet, or of heat that it is in the fire, so it is equally improper to speak of morality as a thing independent and unchangeable. “ Were I not,” says he, “afraid of appearing too philosophical, I should remind my readers of that famous doctrine, supposed to be fully proved in modern times,
that taste and colors, and all other sensible qualities, lie, not in the bodies, but merely in the senses. The case is the same with beauty and deformity, virtue and
In consequence of this view of the subject, he has been led to represent morality, as the object, not of reason, but of taste; the distinct offices of which he thus describes : “ The former conveys the knowledge of truth and falsehood; the latter gives the sentiment of beauty and deformity, vice and virtue. The one discovers objects, as they really stand in nature, without addition or diminution : the other has a productive quality, and, gilding or staining all natural objects with the colors borrowed from internal sentiment, raises, in a manner, a new creation." *
* Hume's Essays, Vol. I. Note (F).
Without abandoning the hypothesis of a moral sense, Hutcheson might, I think, have made a plausible defence at least, against such inferences as these, by availing himself of the very ingenious and original remark which I already quoted † from his own works, with respect to extension, figure, and motion. Unfortunately, he borrowed almost all his illustrations from the secondary qualities of matter; whereas, had he compared the manner in which we acquire our notions of right and wrong, to our perception of such qualities as extension and figure, his language, if not more philosophical than it is, would have been quite inapplicable to such purposes, as it has been since made subservient to, by his sceptical followers.
Extension was certainly a quality peculiarly fitted for obviating the cavils of his adversaries; the notion of it (although none can doubt that it was originally suggested by sense,) involving in its very nature an irresistible belief that its object possesses an existence, not only independent of our perceptions, but necessary and eternal, like the truth of a mathematical theorem.
The solid answer, however, to the sceptical consequences deduced from the theory of a moral sense, is to deny the hypothesis which it assumes with respect to the distinct provinces of sense and of reason. That the origin of cur notions of right and wrong, is to be referred to the latter part of our constitution, and not to the former, I shall endeavour to show in another work. At presént, I shall only observe, that how offensive soever this language may be to those whose ears have been exclusively familiarized to the logical phraseology of Locke, it is perfectly agreeable to the common apprehensions of mankind; which have, in all ages, led them to consider it, not only as one of the functions of reason, but as its primary and most important function, to guide our choice, in the conduct of life, between right and
Hume's Essays, Vol. II. Appendix, concerning Moral Sentiment. | See p. 69.
wrong, good and evil.—The decisions of the understanding, it must be owned, with respect to moral truth, differ from those which relate to a mathematical theorem, or to the result of a chemical experiment, inasmuch as they are always accompanied with some feeling or emotion of the heart; but on an accurate analysis of this compounded sentiment,* it will be found, that it is the intellectual judgment which is the ground-work of the feeling, and not the feeling of the judgment.
Nor is the language which I have adopted, in preference to that of Locke, with respect to the origin of our moral notions, sanctioned merely by popular authority. It coincides exactly with the mode of speaking employed by the soundest philosophers of antiquity. In Plato's Theatetus, Socrates observes, “ that it cannot be any of the powers of sense that compares the perceptions of all the senses, and apprehends the general affections of things;" asserting, in opposition to Protagoras, that this power is reason, or the governing principle of the mind." -To illustrate what he means by the general affections of things, he mentions, as examples, identity, number, similitude, dissimilitude, equality, inequality, xalöv xai aioxpòv ;-an enumeration which is of itself sufficient to show, how very nearly his view of this subject approached to the conclusions which I have been endeavouring to establish concerning the origin of our knowledge.f The sentence which immediately follows could not have been more pointedly expressed, if the author had been combating the doctrine of a moral sense, as explained by Dr. Hutcheson : “It seems to me, that for acquiring these notions, there is not appointed any distinct or appropriate organ; but that the mind derives them from the same powers by which it is enabled to contemplate and to investigate truth.” I
* See Note (D.)
See upon this subject Cudworth's Immutable Morality, p. 100, et seq. and Price's Review, &c. p. 50, 2d Edit.
1 Mοι δοκεϊ ΟΥΔ' ΕΙΝΑΙ ΤΟΙΟΥΤΟΝ ΟΥΔΕΝ ΤΟ ΤΟΙΣ "ΟΡ. ΓANON ΙΛΙΟΝ, αλλ' αυτή δι αυτής η ψυχή τα κοινά μοι φαίνεται περί πάντων επισκοπεϊν.-Ομως δε τοσούτόν γε προβεβήκαμεν, ώστε μη ζητεϊν αυτήν (επιστήμης) εν αισθήσει τοπαράπαν, αλλ' εν εκείνω τα ονόματι, ό,τι που έχει η ψυχή όταν, αυτή καθ' αυτήν πραγματεύεται περί ΤΑ "ΌΝΤΛ.
The discussion into which we have been thus led almost insensibly, about the ethical scepticism which seems naturally to result from Locke's account of the origin of our ideas, while it serves to demonstrate how intimate the connexion is between those questions in the science of mind, which, on a superficial view, may be supposed to be altogether independent of each other, will, I hope, suggest an apology for the length of some of my arguments upon scholastic questions, apparently foreign to every purpose of practical utility. I must, more especially, request, that this consideration may be attended to, when I so often recur in these pages to the paradox of Hume and Berkeley concerning the existence of the material world. It is not that I regard this theory of idealism, when considered by itself, as an error of any serious moment; but because an examination of it affords, in my opinion, the most palpable and direct means of exploding that principle of Locke, to which the most serious of Mr. Hume's sceptical conclusions, as well as this comparatively inoffensive tenet, may be traced as to their common root. In offering this apology, I would not be understood to magnify, beyond their just value, the inquiries in which we have been now engaged, or those which are immediately to follow. Their utility is altogether accidental ; arising, not from the positive accession they bring to our stock of scientific truths, but from the pernicious tendency of the doctrines to which they are opposed. On this occasion, therefore, I am perfectly willing to acquiesce in the estimate formed by Mr. Tucker of the limited importance of metaphysical studies; however much I may
The reproduction of the same philosophical doctrines, in different ages, in consequence of a recurrence of similar circumstances, has been often remarked as a curious fact in the history of the human mind. In the case now before us, the expressions which Plato puts into the mouth of Socrates, can be accounted for only by the wonderful similarity between the doctrines of Protagoras and those ot some modern sceptics. Nothing,” according to Protagoras, “ is true or false, any more than sweet or sour in itself, but relatively to the perceiving mind.”—“ Man is the meas. ure of all things; and every thing is that, and no other, which to every one it seems to be ; so that there can be nothing true, nothing existent, distinct from the mind's own perceptions." This last maxim, indeed, is mentioned as the fundamental principle of the theory of this ancient sceptic. Πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον άνθρoπων. Μέτρον έκαστον ημών είναι νων τε όντων και μή. Τα φαινόμενα εκάστω, Taūta xoè sivai. Plato, Thætet.
be inclined to dispute the universality of its application to all the different branches of the intellectual philosophy. Indeed, I shall esteem myself fortunate (considering the magnitude of the errors which I have been attempting to correct) if I shall be found to have merited, in any degree, the praise of that humble usefulness which he has so beautifully described in the following words:
“ The science of abstruse learning, when completely attained, is like Achilles's spear, that healed the wounds it had made before. It casts no additional light upon the paths of life, but disperses the clouds with which it had overspread them; it advances not the traveller one step on his journey, but conducts bim back again to the spot from whence he had wandered.” *
* Light of Nature Pursued, Introd. xxxiii. (London, 1768.)