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it for being a subject to which my genius does not lead me; for no subject at all times has more employed my attention.
But the truth is, I can scarce ever think of it, but an unlucky story still occurs to my mind. A certain star-gazer, with his telescope was once viewing the Moon; and describing her seas, her mountains, and her territories. Says a clown to his companion, “ Let him spy what he pleases, we are as near to the moon as he and all his brethren.” So fares it, alas ! with these our moral speculations. Practice too often creeps, where theory can soar. The philosopher proves as weak, as those whom he most contemns. A mortifying thought to such as well attend it.'
Too mortifying,' replied I, 'to be long dwelt on. Give us rather your general idea of the sovereign good. This is easy from your own account, however intricate the detail.
« Thus then,' said he, since yon are so urgent, it is thus that I conceive it. The sovereign good, is that, the possession of which renders us happy.' -And how,' said I, do we possess it? Is it sensual, or intellectual?'~There you are entering, said he, upon the detail. This is beyond your question.'—'Not a small advance,' said I, 'to in. dulge poor curiosity? Will you raise me a thirst, and be so cruel not to allay it?'~' It is not,' replied he,' of my raising, but your own. Besides I am not certain, should I attempt to proceed, whether you will admit such authorities as it is possible I may vouch.'—That,' said I, must be determined by their weight and character.'-'Suppose,' said he, 'it should be mankind; the whole buman race, Would you not think it something strange, to seek of those concerning good, who pursue it a thousand ways, and many of them contradictory?_' I confess,' said I, it seems so.'. And yet,' continued he, 'were there a point, in which such dissentients ever agreed, this agreement would be no mean argument in favour of its truth and justness.'— But where,' replied I, 'is this agreement to be found ?'
He answered me by asking, ' Whet if it should appear, that there were certain original characteristics and preconceptions of good, which were natural, uniform, and common to all men; which all recognized in their various pursuits; and that the difference lay only in the applying them to particulars ? — This requires,' said I, 'to be illustrated. — As if, continued he, 'a company of travellers, in some wide forest, were all intending for one city, but each by a rout peculiar to him. self. The roads indeed would be various, and many perhaps false; but all who travelled, would have one end in view.— It is evident,' said I, 'they would.'- So fares it then added he, with mankind in the pursuit of good. The ways indeed are many, but what they seek is one.
* For instance: did you ever hear of any, who in pursuit of their good were for living the life of a bird, an insect, or a fish? — None.'— And why not?It would be inconsistent,' answered I, with their nature.'—You see then,' said he,
they all agree in this ; that what they pursue, ought to be consistent, and agreeable to their proper nature.'-'So ought it,' said I, "undoubtedly.If so,' continued he, one preconception is discovered, which is common to good in ge
neral: it is, that all good is supposed something agreeable to nature.'— This indeed,' replied I, seems to be agreed on all hands.'
• But again,' said he, is there a man scarcely to be found of a temper so truly mortified, as to acquiesce in the lowest, and shortest necessaries of life? Who aims not, if he be able, at something further, something better?-I replied, 'scarcely one.'— Do not multitudes pursue,' said he, infinite objects of desire, acknowledged, every one of them, to be in no respect necessaries ? Exquisite viands, delicious wines, splendid apparel, cirious gardens ; magnificent apartments adorned with pictures and sculptures ; music and poetry, and the whole tribe of elegant arts?'-—It is evident,' said I.-- If it be, continued he, 'it should seem, that they all considered the chief or sovereign good, not to be that, which conduces to bare existence or mere being; for to this the necessaries alone are adequate.'-I replied, “they were.'— But if not this, it must be somewhat conducive to that, which is superior to mere being.
It must.'- And what,'continued he, 'can this be, but well-being, under the various shapes, in which differing opinions paint it? Or can you suggest any thing else ?-I replied, 'I could not.'-'Mark here, then,' continued he, ' another preconception, in which they all agree; the sovereign good is somewhat conducive, not to mere being, but to well being.--I replied, 'it had so appeared.'
Again,' continued he, 'what labour, what expense, to procure those rarities, which our own poor country is unable to afford us! How is the
world ransacked to its utmost verges, and luxury and arts imported from every quarter! Nay more: how do we baffle nature herself; invert her order; seek the vegetables of spring in the rigours of winter, and winter's ice during the heats of summer!-I replied, we did. — And what disappointment, what remorse, when endeavours fail?"
It is true.' — If this then be evident,' said he, it would seem, that whatever we desire as our chief and sovereign good, is something which, as far as possible, we would accommodate to all places and times.'-I answered, so it appeared.' * See then,' said he, another of its characteristics, another pre-conception.
• But further still; what contests for wealth! What scrambling for property! What perils in the pursuit! What solicitude in the maintenance ! And why all this? To what purpose, what end? Or is not the reason plain? Is it not, that wealth may continually procure us, whatever we fancy good; and make that perpetual, which would otherwise be transient?-I replied, 'it seemed so.'” Is it not further desired, as supplying us from ourselves; when without it, we must be beholden to the benevolence of others, and depend on their caprice for all that we enjoy?'— It is true,' said I, this seems a reason.'
Again; is not power of every degree as much contested for, as wealth? Are not magistracies, honours, principalities, and empire, the subjects of strife and everlasting contention?-I replied,
they were.'— And why,' said he, ‘ this ? To obtain what end? Is it not to help us, like wealth, to
the possession of what we desire? Is it not further to ascertain, to secure our enjoyments ; that when others would deprive us, we may be strong enough to resist them?'-I replied, “it was.'
Or, to invert the whole, why are there, who seek recesses the most distant and retired ? flee courts and power, and submit to parsimony and obscurity? Why all this, but from the same intention? From an opinion, that small possessions, used moderately, are permanent; that larger possessions raise envy, and are more frequently invaded; that the safety of power and dignity is more precarious, than that of retreat; and that therefore they have chosen, what is most eligible upon
the whole ? — It is not,' said I, 'improbable, that they act by some such motive.'
"Do you not see then,' continued he, 'two or three more preconceptions of the sovereign good, which are sought for by all, as essential to constitute it?'— And what, said I, are these?' • That it should not be transient, nor derived from the will of others, nor in their power to take away; but be durable, self-derived, and (if I may use the expression) indeprivable.'—I confess,' said I, 'it appears so.—' But we have already found it to be considered, as something agreeable to our nature; conducive, not to mere being, but to wellbeing; and what we aim to have accommodated to all places and times.'-'We have.'
“There may be other characteristics,' said he, but these I think sufficient. See then its idea; behold it, as collected from the original, natural, and universal pre-conceptions of all mankind. The sovereign good, they have taught us, ougut to be