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or sensitive faculty, but as a judgment. It is not a feeling of pleasure, but the revelation of law. .
The approval of conscience is thus made the criterion of morality. But a difficulty arises as to the way in which we are to regard the authority which conscience is said to carry along with it. Butler's utterances here commonly imply a teleological reference to an end implanted in human nature, and to be discovered by observing that nature—the realisation of the end being obligatory, because it is shown to be the purpose which the author of nature had in view in making man as he is. The authority of conscience thus seems to be derived from the divine purpose which it displays. It carries within itself a claim to obedience; but the justification of this claim depends on a theological basis. And hence the question of the nature and origin of conscience is at once raised, in order to determine the legitimacy of its claim to be, rather than any other part of our
constitution, a divinely-implanted guide. Teleological But more than one current of thought runs
through Butler's ethical treatise. The theological d, reference is sometimes so used as to make the
obligation to morality, and even the nature of morality, depend on the will of God: though hardly according to Paley's crude method of seeking in the external revelation of the divine com
i Sermons, ii. iii.
and jural views not reconciled, nor fully developed.
mand a means of uniting the divergent interests of the individual and of society. In general, Butler's ruling idea is the idea of the system or unity of human nature, for which he was largely indebted to Shaftesbury's revival of the Platonic conception. Conscience is regarded by him as the expression of this unity. But its nature is never more deeply probed. Its deliverances are justified now by its supernatural mission, and now by the more prosaic fact that it leads to our individual interest 1—at any rate, “if we take in the future” -while it could not be recommended as a guide if it did not.2 On one side, therefore, Butler tends to a form of theological utilitarianism, such as was common in his own day, and was afterwards formulated by Paley:3 On the other hand, his ethics more naturally allies itself with a different theory, in which the moral law is conceived as having its source in practical reason, and the naturalistic basis of ethics is definitely abandoned.
On the whole, it would appear that the psycho- 4. The ethics logical ethics worked out by Shaftesbury and his timent a school occupies an insecure position between the view discussed in the two preceding chapters and that which ascribes to reason a function in the formation of objects of desire. Shaftesbury and his followers tried to strike out a middle course i Sermons, iii. v.
? Ibid., xi. 3 Cf. Jodl, Geschichte der Ethik, i. 192.
of moral sen
between the theory that ends of action may be determined by reason, and that which looks upon all desires as being desires for objects as pleasurable. They made the attempt to found a system of ethics on human nature, and they held that that nature could not be accounted for by the simple psychological analysis of the Epicurean school as then represented by Hobbes. On the other hand, they did not see their way to adopt the “rational” ethics only known to them in the abstract form it had received at the hands of Clarke and Wollaston. But their own theory of human nature requires a principle of harmony and co-ordination among the various impulses which
they were unable to give a satisfactory account explanation of. It may seem, however, that the idea of the
development of man with which we are now hy of familiar, may enable us to overcome the diffi
culties which formerly appeared insurmountableshowing the unity of human nature, and the tendency of its activity. The general course of evolution, to which all life has been subject, is thought to have brought about a harmony between individual and social feelings, as well as between individual and social interests, and thus to have removed the obstacles in the way of founding morality on the basis of Naturalism. It is, therefore, of importance to examine with care the ethical bearings of the theory of evolution.
of its facts attempted by theory of evolution.
THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION.
THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION AND THE DEVELOPMENT
heory of evolution :
To relinquish the individualistic theory of ethics 1. General does not necessarily imply a recourse to evolution. tics of the It may still be possible to rest the foundation of ethics on the state, without that view of the growth of the community and of its connection with the individual which the theory of evolution involves. This, as has already been pointed out, was, in part, what Bentham did; while an attempt
-in some respects more elaborate still—to deduce morality from society was made by Hobbes. The theory of Bentham, and of his successor Professor Bain, is indeed partly individualistic, partly social.?
1 The social basis of ethics is emphasised by Professor Bain
In the former reference, ethics becomes a theory of prudence; in the latter, a part of legislation. With Hobbes, on the other hand, the identification of individual and social interests is supposed to be brought about by the absolute necessity, in order to personal security, of a supreme political power, into the hands of which all men have agreed to transfer their rights to all things. But both Hobbes and Professor Bain might have avoided obvious difficulties had they had the theory of evolution to assist them, and had they thought themselves justified in making use of it. For want of it the former has to explain morality and its binding force by means of the fiction of an “ original contract”; while the latter has to account by the associations of a few years for the harmony of feeling between the individual and the whole, and for the good of the community coming to be so faithfully reflected in the consciences of its
in his Practical Essays (1884), p. 155: “How is society to be held together ?' is the first consideration ; and the sociologist, as constitution-builder, administrator, judge—is the person to grapple with the problem. It is with him that law, obligation, right, command, obedience, sanction, have their origin and their explanation. Ethics is an important supplement to social or political law. But it is still a department of law. In any other view it is a maze, a mystery, a hopeless embroilment.”
i Without denying that it is possible to apply the theory of evolution to mind, Professor Bain holds that, as a fact, moral sentiment has not become organic and hereditary-“that there are no moral instincts properly so called.”—The Emotions and the Will, 3d ed., p. 56.