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Permit me, my friends, a word of explanation with those of you who may read the following Lectures. It seems called for by the difference between them now, and when they were heard by the most of you.
In 1830 I was elected to the Professorship of Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy in this college, and during the first year prepared and delivered twelve Lectures on Moral Philosophy. Of these, omitting the introductory one, the first paragraph was the following: “If the human constitution was made by a wise and good being, it must have been made for certain ends; and in those ends, whatever they may be, and nowhere else, can its perfection and happiness be found. To discover these ends and the means of attaining them, is the object of Moral Philosophy.” Then followed such an examination of the constitution of man as I was able to make. This shows that the present lectures are but the carrying out of my original thought; but that those lectures should have been delivered for more than twenty-five years without essential alteration is what requires explanation, if not apology. .
The explanation is, chiefly, from the pressure of other duties. During the remaining years of my professorship, my leisure was occupied with lectures on Rhetoric and Natural Theology, in connection with extra duties imposed by the declining health of Dr. Griffin. Subsequently, and till 1855,
those of you then here will remember our studies together in Anatomy, and Mental Philosophy, and Moral Philosophy, and Natural Theology, and Butler's Analogy, and Vincent. Add to these, preaching; the administrative labor incident to my position; the publication of between forty and fifty pamphlets, and of a volume on the Evidences of Christianity, and it may not seem strange that when the years came round, as they seemed to, with increasing rapidity, I was only able to give the lectures as they were. Always feeling that my first duty was in the class-room, my strength simply sufficed for the demands of the passing day. In 1855 the Rhetoric of the class passed into other hands, but so much of work still remained that a revision of the Lectures was not undertaken till 1858. In the winter of 1861, the course, with the exception of the last lecture, for which there was not time, was delivered before the Lowell Institute.
When the Lectures were first written, the text-book here, and generally in our colleges, was Paley. Not agreeing with him, and failing to carry out fully the doctrine of ends, I adopted that of an ultimate right, as taught by Kant and Coleridge, making that the end. If, therefore, any of you still hold that view, - as doubtless many do, -it is not for me to say that you have not good authority for it, or to complain if you object to that now taken. *
But whatever may be said of this central point, the Lectures have been much changed in other respects, and, as I hope, improved. Such as they are, with thankfulness that I am permitted to address so many of you, and with many pleasant recollections of our former discussions on this subject, they are now committed to your candid and indulgent consideration.
Your sincere Friend,
WILLIAMS COLLEGE, OCTOBER 1, 1862.
P. R. E. F. A. C. E.
PHILOSOPHY investigates causes, unities, and ends. Of these it is the last two that are chiefly considered in the following lectures. “Happy,” it has been said, “is he who knows the causes of things.” But in a world where there are so many apparent discrepancies both natural and moral, he must be more happy who knows the arrangement of things into systems, and sees how all these systems go to make up one greater system and to promote a common end. An investigation of causes respects the past; of unities and ends, the present and the future of these the latter are more intimate to us, and he who can trace the principle of unity by which nature is harmonized with herself, and man with nature,
and man with himself, and the individual with society, and man with God, - who can see in all these a complex unity and can apprehend their end, - will have an element of satisfaction far greater than he who should know the causes of all things without being able to unravel their perplexities. From the place assigned to Moral Philosophy in the classification adopted in these lectures, an incidental consideration of the above harmonies seemed to be required. Hence it is hoped that the book may contain suggestions that will be valuable to some who may not agree with its doctrines on the particular subject of morals. It is particularly hoped that it may do something towards introducing more of unity into the courses of study, or some of them, in our higher seminaries. If the works of God, regarded as an expression of his thought, are built up after a certain method, it deserves to be considered whether that thought will not be best reached by following in their study the order that has been followed in their construction, and which
long aimed to do in my instructions, and with very perceptible advantage. With suitable text-books and a right arrangement of studies, much more might doubt. less be done.
In treating of any natural system, as each part implies all the others, wherever we begin, and whatever method we follow, we are compelled to use terms whose full meaning can be reached only in the progress of the investigation. This is particularly true when, as in the present instance, instead of beginning with definitions, we seek for them. For this it is hoped that due allowance may be made.
It will be seen that important, and even cardinal points, are often but briefly touched in these discussions. I can only say that the work is, of necessity, suggestive rather than exhaustive, and that if these points are so treated as to show their place in the system, the outline may be readily filled up.
For remarks upon the present condition of the sci
ence, and for the general course of thought pursued,