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Of Ethical TRUTH.
STILL, in spite of all the difficulties w thrown in the way of Ethical Science by the enemies of virtue, and of all the darkness which hath been drawn over the scene of Moral Action by many of its mistaken friends ; their Truth is able, by its native force, to break its way through all the obstruction and obscurity, in which it has been involved by art or ignorance.
· The divine Author,' says an able moralist and theologian, 'hath so wonderfully contrived 'human nature, that there needs little more
in moral matters, than plainly and clearly "to represent any instruction to the mind, in
order to procure its afsent to it. Whatever the instruction be, whether it affirm this conduct to be virtuous or that vicious, if • the mind be in a natural state, it more than • sees, it feels the truth or falsehood of it. • The appeal is directly made to certain cor
respondent sentiments of right and wrong • instantly excited by the moral propofio tion'h
However it may be vitiated and corrupted, Moral Sense will never be extinguished: and, though the middle Axioms and subordinate Propositions, which are the means of Ethical Reasoning, 'may be multiplied by Relations and varied by Circumstances, and carried to a considerable extent, as they are all ultimately founded on one or other of the universal principles of Good and Evil evinced by this predominant criterion, which carries its light down the whole of the moral scale, Ethical conclusions will always be accompanied with a clear and s TRONG conviction.
Mr. Locke has, indeed, thrown out a conjecture, in different parts of his celebrated Bp Hurd, Serm. Vol. II. XI.
afay; that, as Ethical ideas are what he is pleased to call real essences, and archetypes of the mind's own making, complete and adequate in themselves, as well as Mathematical ; and, as Demonstration, in his mind, being nothing but the perception of the Agreement or Disagreement of such ideas by the proof or intervention of other ideas or mediums, MORALITY IS CAPABLE OF DEMONSTRATION, as well as Mathematics: or in words to this effect.'
As parents are often too fond of their children, so as sometimes to suffer them to embarrass and bring them into difficulties ; so has this philosopher been more than once led wrong by his favourite ideas.
Had he considered the different origin and nature of these two sciences, he would have been delivered at once of this conjecture, with which he seems so much to have laboured. Mathematical ideas are purely specu, culative in their origin, and totally abstracted in their nature from every thing in the
Ul. C. xi. g. 10 BWV. C. xii. So boworld :
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world! Morality originates in practice, and has its existence grounded in the real nature of things, as they exist in the moral government of the universe. A circle or a triangle is profefedly a creature of the mind, and whether either of them are actually to be found in nature (and there are few if any mathematical ones,) would make no difference in the truths of that speculative science: But whatever number of Ethical ideas may be formed of the mind's own making, unless they have a real and actual existence or correspondence in the moral actions of men, they would be archetypes indeed ; but, instead of affording any kind or degree of Ethical certainty, all they could produce, in his most fanguine expectation, would be a train of demonstrations, which, however they might suit the ethical constitution of imaginary agents or the inhabitants of the moon, could never be adapted to the moral practice of the present inhabitants of this earth,
But this wild and romantic expectation, by which he has outdone the arbitrary invenţions and fantastical notions of Aristotle and
the the fages of antiquity, is not only inconfift, ent with the origin and nature of Morality ; but it is defeated by the whole process of Reason in both the sciences : For, however strong and clear Ethical conviction may be in general, it is totally different from Mathematical, both in the Principle from which it springs, in the Method of proof by which it is evinced, and consequently in the nature of its TRUTH.
The Mathematician has his ideas at first from the External Senses; and he takes them up at once in their general form, with little, if any, labour of Inductive reasoning. The Moralist, on the other hand, has his materials, (for they are not properly ideas till generalized) from the evidence of Internal Sense, which is the direct counterpart of the other ; and he meets all moral actions in their particular state.
Mathematical ideas, however numerous and extensive, are what this philosopher himself calls Simple Modes of Quantity: Moral Actions, on the contrary, are all Coma plex Modes of Quality. In consequence of this distinction, which is quite philofophical,