« EelmineJätka »
" When Saint Paul's cathedral was erected, the architect willed and wished the excellence of the edifice. Therefore the method which it was right for the workmen individually to pursue, if they were at any time without specific instructions, in order to ascertain his will respecting any proceeding, was, to inquire into the tendency of that proceeding to promote or diminish the excellence of the structure. If one of the masons had reasoned in this manner, and, in conformity to his rule, had commenced, at his own discretion, an arch in one place, and formed the rudiments of a dome in another; would his arguments have been acquitted of presumption, and accepted by the architect as a defence of his conduct? Would he have been allowed to be capable of ascertaining the will of Sir Christopher Wren from his own crude ideas of architectural expediency*'
But as Dr. Paley maintains that utility is the rule of moral conduct, and the sole ground of obligation, not only in those cases in which revelation is silent, but in which it gives the most positive commands, it is necessary, in order to shew, how untenable and inconclusive his argument is, to suppose that the mason has not only commenced an arch and projected a dome without instructions, but has done this contrary to his instructions; that he vindicates his conduct by a repetition of his former defence, and justifies himself in the words, mutatis mutandis, in which Dr. Paley pursues his reasoning at the commencement of his chapter on UTILITY. My proceedings are to be estimated by their tendency. Whatever is expedient is right. It is the utility alone of any one of your orders which constitutes the obligation of it. Every man is to judge of them for himself. Consequently your directions respecting the arch and the dome, appearing to me inexpedient, I was at liberty, and even obliged in conscience, to disobey them.”
* Gisbourne's Principles of Moral Philosophy, p. 20.
THE PRINCIPLE OF EXPEDIENCY PROVED TO BE FALSE, FROM A CONSIDERATION OF THE MORAL CONSTITUTION OF MAN,
It is not enough that we shew the incapability of man, arising from his very limited faculties, and his comparative ignorance, to make utility the sole rule of his conduct. We shall find, that by recalling to our recollection what has been already noticed concerning his moral powers and principles, we shall be led to the same conclusion.
We are so formed that we approve or disapprove of actions as right or as wrong, as praiseworthy or blameworthy, before a thought has entered our mind as to their tendency. The deed of heroism which calls forth our approval before we have time to reflect on the ground on which our approbation is bestowed, and the act of self-devotion by which the martyr to pure religion does homage to his God and his conscience, immediately commend themselves to our hearts. Who has ever withheld his admiration from Leonidas and his chosen band, till he has thought of the good which their example in all coming ages was to confer
on the world? Who has hesitated to approve of the child that has diminished her own comforts, and impaired her health, in ministering to a sickly parent who has been able to deny his approbation in contemplating such virtue, till he had calculated the advantages that were to arise from it?
Before the truth of the theory of utility can be proved, the moral constitution of man must be altered. That theory, however modified, and however disguised, goes to establish, that the whole of morality is a system of unmingled selfishness,--an affair of either profit or loss to ourselves or to others. In this form, accordingly, it is avowed by Mandeville, who maintains that man is concerned for his own personal gratifications, and cares not for the happiness or misery of others, and that in the sacrifices which he makes to promote this happiness, he is only in pursuit of selfgratification. It is the same system of selfishness, though its greater plausibility has procured for it a reception with persons of undoubted piety and purity, which Dr. Paley has presented to the world in his Moral Philosophy; in which he maintains that the sole obligation to virtue consists in an exclusive regard to our own individual eternity of happiness; and that virtue itself consists in obedience to the will of the Supreme Being, --which obedience is to be given, not on account of the infinite moral excellencies and perfections of his nature, nor because of his creating and preserving goodness, but merely on account of his power to give or withhold the happiness which is our object.
Of this system, it has been well remarked, that, “ while the selfishness which it maintains is as absolute and unremitting, as if the objects of personal gain were to be found in the wealth, or honours, or sensual pleasures of this earth ; this very selfishness is rendered more offensive, by the noble image of the Deity which is continually presented to our mind, and presented in all his benevolence, not to be loved, but to be courted with a mockery of affection. The sensualist of the common system of selfishness, who never thinks of any higher object in the pursuit of the little pleasures which he is miserable enough to regard as happiness, is a being, even in the brutal stupidity in which he is sunk, more worthy of esteem than the selfish of another life; to whose view God is ever present, but who views him always only to feel constantly in their heart, that in loving him who has been the dispenser of all the blessings which they have enjoyed, and who has revealed himself in the glorious character of the diffusser of an immortality of happiness, they love not the giver himself, but only the gifts which they have received, or the gifts that are promised*.”
That there is a close connexion between virtue and happiness, so close that without it the universe would become a splendid mansion of misery, is not to be doubted; and it is chiefly because this connexion is felt and observed by all, that certain writers have been led to maintain, that virtue solely consists in utility, or in its tendency to happiness, and that the law by which we are to regulate our conduct, is to be found in what appears to us to be conducive to happiness. They have been led to embrace this opinion with the greater confidence, that they have observed how much its truth holds in regard to men invested with public offices, and public trust. Men in such circumstances are, doubtless, bound to act for the good of the community. But they are bound so to act, because it is their duty to love their neighbours as themselves, to respect the rights of others as they do their own, and, consequently, to promote their happiness to the extent of their power and opportunity.
* Brown's Lectures, Vol. IV.,
We approve or disapprove of actions, however, not because of their tendency to happiness, or the contrary, but in consequence of the moral constitution of our nature ; which constitution, as God is its author, we are to regard as furnishing an expression of his will. · How few of mankind ever think, or have ever thought, of the relation between virtue and happiness. Do we not give our admiration to the virtuous patriot, to the benefactors of our race, who have loved their race more than their own ease or lives, before we have considered the good which they were instrumental in conferring ? Would not the noble career of Howard procure for him a place in the grateful affections of every human heart, irrespectively of the consequences which are to flow from it, and before these consequences had been placed in the view of the mind ? He who has formed us in his own image has not rendered it necessary for us to observe relations, and to estimate tendencies and effects,