Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

are the result of internal actions, namely, of Will and Intention, of Mental Desires and of Affections. These internal actions are essential parts of external actions, considered as human actions; or rather, these internal actions, Desire, Affection, Intention, Will, are the only really human part of actions.

External actions, as the motions in our own limbs, and the motions and changes thereby produced in material things, and in the state of other persons, are not our actions, except so far as they are the consequences of our intention and will. When we have willed, what follows is a consequence of Laws of Nature, extraneous to us; and derives its character of right or wrong, so far as we are concerned in it, from the Will, and that which preceded the Will. Thus, if I fire off a pistol and kill a man, his pain and death, the grief of his friends, the loss to his family and his country, all follow as the consequence of the act of Will by which I pull the trigger. They are all morally included in that act of the Will. All those consequences are produced by the working of the Springs of Ac. tion within me. They may all be prevented by the operation of other Faculties, withholding me from this act of Will. Hence the Will, the Springs of Action which impel it, and the Faculties which control and direct it, must be the main subjects of our considera. tion, in treating of actions as right and wrong.

Will, Intention, Desire, Affection, are governed, not merely by external objects and by transient impulses, but by habits and Dispositions, which give a permanent character to the operation of the Springs of Action and of the controlling Faculties.

226. The Reason is the Faculty by which we conceive General Rules, and Special Cases as conformable to General Rules (14). It is therefore the Faculty by which we conceive Actions as right or wrong. The Moral Sentiments, Approval of what is right, Condemnation of what is wrong, are powerful

VOL. 1.-0

Springs of action (82), and thus impel us to carry into effect the judgments formed by the Reason. When we intentionally conform to the Supreme Rule, we speak of our actions as rightly directed by our Rea. son.

Actions to which we are rightly directed by our Reason are Duties. The Habits and Dispositions by which we perform our Duties are Virtues. Morality is the Doctrine of Duties and Virtues.

227. The internal actions, Desire, Affection, Intention, Will, point to external Acts; they have external acts for their Objects, and derive their character and significance, as right or wrong, from the external Acts to which they thus point. Thus the Desire of Having leads to Acts of appropriation, and derives its character, as right or wrong, from the Acts of appropriation to which it points. Hence, if this, or any other internal Act, point to external Acts of which the character, as right or wrong, is already determined in the preceding Book; these internal Acts have their characters as right or wrong deter. mined. If the Desire of Having point to the Act of Stealing, which Act is wrong ; the Desire itself is wrong. For, as we have already said, it is the internal Springs of Action from which the Act derives its character of wrong. If it be wrong, it is so because the Desire and Intention which produce it are wrong.

The character of actions considered with reference to the internal Springs of Action from which they proceed, is their Moral character.

The Moral character of actions is governed by their jural character. To steal is jurally wrong; it is contrary to universal natural Law. Hence the Voli. tion which aims at theft is morally wrong. The In. tention which points to theft is also morally wrong. The Desire of that which belongs to another is moral. ly wrong. These internal acts are wrong, even if the external act do not take place. It is wrong to put my hand in a man's pocket in order to pick it, even if I find nothing there. It is wrong to intend to do so, even if I am prevented making the attempt by the presence of a looker-on. It is wrong to desire another man's money, even if I do not proceed to take it.

228. As there are Laws, which express Rules of external action, there are also Moral Precepts, which express Rules of internal action; that is, of Will and Intention, of the Desires and Affections. Thus the Law is, Do not steal ; the Moral Precept is, Do not covet, or desire what is another's.

Such Moral Precepts express our Duties. They may be put in various forms. Thus the Precept, Do not covet, may be expressed by saying, It is wrong to covet : We ought not to covet; We must not covet; We should not covet; We are not to covet ; It is our Duty not to covet; We are morally bound not to covet; We must not be guilty of covetousness.

229. As the Laws which describe our princi. pal Obligations have reference respectively to the principal Desires and Affections of our nature, the Moral Precepts which respect those Desires will correspond to each of our principal Obligations. Hence we shall have Precepts of Duty corresponding to each of the Classes of Rights, of which we have spoken in the last Book.

Thus there are Rights of the Person, and a corresponding Class of Obligations. We are bound by Law to abstain from inflicting any personal harm on any one through anger, malice, or negligence. We are therefore bound morally to abstain from the affections which aim at any such harm, and the habits of mind which lead to it. It is our Duty to avoid An. ger, Malice, and the Carelessness which may lead to another's hurt. The Moral Precepts are; Be not angry with

any man: Bear no Malice: Neglect no one's safety.

There are the Rights of Property, and a corresponding Class of Obligations. We are bound by Law not to meddle with the Property of another; not to take or appropriate what is not our own.

We are morally bound to abstain from the Intentions and De. sires which point to such appropriation. It is our Duty to avoid the Wish to possess what is another's. The Moral Precept is, Do not covet.

There is a Class of Obligations which regards Con. tracts and Promises. We are bound by Law to per. form our Contracts; not to break our Engagements. We are morally bound not to wish to break our Engagements. And as the moral obligation is not confined by mere legal limits, we are morally bound to perform our engagements, whether or not they are legally valid as Contracts. It is our Duty to perform our Promises : not to deceive or mislead any man by our words. The Moral Precepts are, Do not break your word ; Do not deceive.

There is a Class of Obligations which regards the Marriage Union. We are bound by Law not to med. dle with the person, or seduce the conjugal affection, of her who belongs to another. There is a Class of Duties which regard the Desires and Affections on which this Union is founded. We are morally bound not to allow these Desires and Affections to point to unlawful objects. The Moral Precept is, Do not lust after her.

There is a Class of Obligations which regard the Governors and the Government of the State to which we belong. We are jurally bound to obey the Gov. ernors, and to conform our actions to the Law. We are morally bound to conform our Desires and Inten. tions to the Law. It is our Duty to submit to positive Laws, as the realization and definition of the Supreme Law. The Moral Precepts are, Do not desire what the Law forbids. Do not desire to violate general Laws.

The Moral Precepts just stated: Be not angry: Bear no malice: Do not covet : Do not lie: Do not deceive: Do not lust: Do not desire to break Law : are to be applied to the whole train of our affections, desires, thoughts, and purposes, and to the whole course of actions, internal and external, which make up our lives. By their application to the various circumstances of human character and condition, the Classes of Duties, thus pointed out, are further particularized and defined.

CHAPTER II.

OF THE IDEA OF MORAL GOODNESS.

230. THESE Moral Precepts, as now stated, are negative. They prohibit certain kinds of internal actions. They point out certain Conceptions which we are to avoid : Anger, Malice, Covetousness, Lying, Deceit, Lust, Law-breaking. These are internal acts from which we are morally bound to abstain. These are points from which the Forces of morality tend.

But negative Precepts and repulsive Forces cannot suffice to express the character of Morality. The Supreme Law of Human Action must be positive. It must command as well as prohibit. It must direct us what to tend to, as well as from. It must not merely repress and control the Affections, Desires, and Intentions ; it must direct them to their proper objects, and enjoin steadiness and energy in them, thus directed. The Supreme Law of our Actions must be a Law for all the Powers of Action. It must include the whole of our nature. Its rule for Affection and Desire must be, not that they shall be extinguished, but that they shall be right Affection and right De.

« ZurückWeiter »