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it is realised by the imagination, has a vast and palpable influence upon our theological conceptions. Thus the commercial or municipal spirit exhibits certain habits of thought, certain modes of reasoning, certain repugnances and attractions, which make it invariably tend to one class of opinions. To encourage the occupations that produce this spirit, is to encourage the opinions that are most congenial to it. It is impossible to lay down a railway without creating an intellectual influence. It is probable that Watt and Stephenson will eventually modify the opinions of mankind almost as profoundly as Luther or Voltaire.
If these views be correct, they establish at once a broad distinction between the province of the theologian and that of the historian of opinions. The first confines his attention to the question of the truth or falsehood of particular doctrines, which he ascertains by examining the arguments upon which they rest; the second should endeavour to trace the causes of the rise and fall of those doctrines which are to be found in the general intellectual condition of the age. The first is restricted to a single department of mental phenomena, and to those logical connections which determine the opinions of the severe reasoner; the second is obliged to take a wide survey of the intellectual influences of the period he is describing, and to trace that connection of
congruity which has a much greater influence upon the sequence of opinions than logical arguments.
Although in the present work we are concerned only with the last of these two points of view, it will be necessary to consider briefly the possibility of their coexistence; for this question involves one of the most important problems in history—the position reserved for the individual will and the individual judgment in the great current of general causes.
It was a saying of Locke, that we should not ask whether our will is free, but whether we are free; for our conception of freedom is the power of acting according to our will, or, in other words, the consciousness, when pursuing a certain course of action, that we might, if we had chosen, have pursued a different one. If, however, pushing our analysis still further, we ask what it is that determines our volition, I conceive that the highest principles of liberty we are capable of attaining are to be found in the two facts, that our will is a faculty distinct from our desires, and that it is not a mere passive thing, the direction and intensity of which are necessarily determined by the attraction and repulsion of pleasure and pain. We are conscious that we are capable of pursuing a course which is extremely distasteful, rather than another course which would be extremely agreeable; that in doing so we are making a continual and painful effort; that every relaxation of that effort produces the most lively pleasure; and that it is at least possible that the motive which induces us to pursue the path of self-abnegation, may be a sense of right altogether uninfluenced by prospects of future reward. We are also conscious that if our desires act powerfully upon our will, our will can in its turn act upon our desires. We can strengthen the natural powers of our will by steadily exerting it. We can diminish the intensity of our desires by habitually repressing them; we can alter, by a process of mental discipline, the whole symmetry of our passions, deliberately selecting one class for gratification and for developement, and crushing and subduing the others. These considerations do not, of course, dispel the mystery which perhaps necessarily rests upon the subject of free-will. They do not solve the questions, whether the will can ever act without a motive, or what are its relations to its motives, or whether the desires may not sometimes be too strong for its most developed powers; but they form a theory of human liberty which I believe to be the highest we can attain. He who has realised, on the one hand, his power of acting according to his will, and, on the other hand, the power of his will to emancipate itself from the empire of pain and pleasure, and to modify and control the current of the emotions, has probably touched the limits of his freedom.
The struggle of the will for a right motive against the pressure of the desires, is one of the chief forms of virtue; and the relative position of these two influences, one of the chief measures of the moral standing of each individual. Sometimes, in the conflict between the will and a particular desire, the former, either through its own natural strength, or through the natural weakness of its opponent, or through the process of mental discipline I have described, has obtained a supreme ascendency which is seldom or never seriously disturbed. Sometimes, through causes that are innate, and perhaps more frequently through causes for which we are responsible, the two powers exhibit almost an equipoise, and each often succumbs to the other. Between these two positions there are numerous gradations ; so that every cause that in any degree intensifies the desires, gives them in some cases a triumph over the will.
The application of these principles to those constantly-recurring figures which moral statistics present is not difficult. The statistician, for example, shows that a certain condition of temperature increases the force of a passion—or, in other words, the temptation to a particular vice; and he then proceeds to argue, that the whole history of that vice is strictly regulated by atmospheric changes. The vice rises into prominence with the rising temperature; it is sustained during its continuance, it declines with its decline. Year after year, the same figures and the same variations are nearly reproduced. Investigations in the most dissimilar nations only strengthen the proof; and the evidence is so ample, that it enables us, within certain limits, even to predict the future. The rivers that rise and fall with the winter torrents or the summer drought; the insect life that is called into being by the genial spring and destroyed by the returning frost; the aspect of vegetation, which pursues its appointed changes through the recurring seasons: these do not reflect more faithfully or obey more implicitly external influences, than do some great departments of the acts of man.
This is the fact which statistical tables prove, but what is the inference to be deduced from them ? Not, surely, that there is no such thing as free-will, but, what we should have regarded as antecedently probable, that the degree of energy with which it is exerted is in different periods nearly the same. As long as the resistance is unaltered, the fluctuations of our desires determine the fluctuations of our actions. In this there is nothing extraordinary. It would be strange indeed if it were otherwise—strange if, the average of virtue remaining the same, or nearly the same, an equal amount of solicitation did not at different periods produce the same, or nearly the same, amount of compliance. The