« AnteriorContinuar »
On PRACTICAL Morality, OR THE Rule of Action.
Chap. I.-ARGUMENT Of This Part.....
Chap. II.- ON THE FINAL Cause of MORAL SENTIMENT , 466
Char. III.-ON THE NATURE OF VIRTUE....
Cuap. IV.-On the PROPER OBJECT OF MORAL APPROBA-
CHAP. V.-ON TILE MOTIVES TO THE PRACTICE OF VIRTUE 539
sk sk sk shk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk sk sk sesk sksk sk skik
GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO MORAL SCIENCE, LIMITS
AND DIVISION OF THE SUBJECT.
EFORE entering upon any branch of inquiry, it
must always be advantageous to ascertain the limits of the subject, and its relation to other departments of human knowledge. And if this be useful in general, it must be so especially in Morals, a science of a singularly elastic nature, which by some has been compressed within narrow bounds, while by others it has been allowed to embrace a very extensive territory. But in order to trace the proper sphere of morals, we must cast a rapid glance over the vast and varied map of the intellectual world.
One of the most ancient divisions of the sciences with which we are acquainted, is that into the Physical, the Practical, and the Logical. The first class was understood to embrace the knowledge of things as they are, without any immediate reference to practice, and to comprehend all purely speculative investigations into the nature and properties, not only of matter, but even of spirit. Here, in short, the end was bare speculative truth. The object of the practical sciences, on the other hand, was to modify the actions of men in the manner most con
ducive to their happiness. The grand question which they had to resolve was, not what is, but what ought to be. To the third class, or logic, it belonged to lay down rules for the due cultivation of all the other sciences, and it was properly divided into four parts, which taught how truth, whether speculative or practical, might best be discovered, appreciated, retained, and communicated. The whole of human knowledge was supposed to be comprehended under one or other of these three primary classes.
However specious this ancient classification may appear, we may fairly doubt whether it ever has been, or is likely, in future, to be of much use in practice. It is liable to the fundamental objection of bringing together subjects widely different, and separating those which are nearly allied; for it unites mind and matter under one head, and forcibly divides the speculative from the practical, which are often so closely linked, as by universal consent to form but one science.
Nothing in nature is more opposed than mind and matter. Most of our classes of objects pass by insensible gradations the one into the other, till a point is reached when it is difficult to say where this ends and that begins; but mind and matter, the spiritual and the bodily, are removed from each other by a wide and impassable gulf. Men may doubt as to
. the nature of the thinking principle, and materialists may maintain that thought is the result of corporeal organization ; but no one at all accustomed to reflect on what passes within, can confound thought itself with an extended substance. When we talk of sensation, reflection, emotion, we talk of that which is constantly present with us, and which, therefore, we know well; and never could we be brought to believe that matter and its properties have any analogy therewith. Here then, if any where, we may draw a decided line, and separate accordingly the sciences which treat of matter from those which treat of mind.
But the ancient division above explained errs not only in uniting what is dissimilar, but also in separating what is closely connected. The speculative and the practical, the what is, and the what ought to be, cannot possibly be a distinction sufficiently marked for the purpose of a primary arrangement, because this distinction naturally occurs, when we descend to the particular sciences. Most of those sciences, for instance, which refer peculiarly to man, consist of two parts, a speculative and a practical. Thus in politics, the question on what is government founded, is a purely speculative question; that, on what ought government to be founded is a practical one. Political economy, in like manner, may be divided into two parts, one treating of the causes of the wealth of nations, the other shewing what part government ought to act in modifying these causes. Morals also, as we shall presently see, demand a similiar division, and so does natural theology. It is not here maintained, that this distinction has always been attended to by those who have cultivated the sciences just spoken of. But if it has not, the reason is evident. It is because the two parts run so much into each other, that it is often difficult to keep them asunder. For in treating of things as they are, men are naturally led to consider how they