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No. 1472. -August 24, 1872.
1. The Radical Question In Ethics. By'Alcx. Tay
lor Iones Contemporary Review,
2. Christina North. By E. M. Archer. Part VI., Macmillan's Magazine,
3. Wit And Humour, ....
4. The Maid or Sker. Couclusion, 6. The Late Baron Stockmar,
6. Rome And Italy,
7. The Democratic Revival In France,
British Quarterly Review,
The Settler, .
450 | Last Words or A Dying Fire-worshipper, 450
SHORT ARTICLES. The Russian Geographical Societies, 490 The Talmudio Literature or The Jews, 512
A Singular Charity,
The Movement or Depression or The
The Bitter Pill, 512
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In a far-distant land, the eve
Ami shadows down the mountain-ride
O'er pastures white with feeding-flocks,
For fields of yellow corn waved high
And the woodman's axe was never heard
And human footstep never woke
But wielded now by sturdy hands,
In the midst of that vast wilderness
And children's gleeful laughter blent
Beside his door at cundown sat,
In the still evening air,
Were lines of weury care,
His locks of silvery hair.
'Twas half a century and more
And now on plains of ripened wheat
And orchards bent with fruit, he looked,
The sunset faded, and the stars
Gleamed in the tinted sky
That old man silently —
Told of the days gone by.
Like hoar-frost touched by sunlight, fled
The present from his eyes;
Of sweet home-memories.
Beneath blue English skies.
The mill-weir's rush he heard again,
The broomy dingles saw;
Just as they grew of yore,
He pulled the branches hoar.
Rose up another vision yet
In that calm even-while — The picture of an old green lane,
The well-known trysting-stile; The shadow of a truthful glance,
A tender, trusting smile.
Twenty springs had brought their flowers,
Twenly summers flown,
Their yellow leaves had strewn.
And went his way alone.
Alone, save for the little ones.
The soul of his lost darling looked,
For their s.ikes, from its burdening pain
But now that time of sorrow seemed
As though it ha'l not been,
Sprang fresh and fair and green —
His life-star's early sheen.
Through the dim twilight's deepened blue
The moon shone clear and still,
Looked out on wood »nd hill,
Or the rippling of a rill.
Distinct and clear, as though it were
A scene of yesterday.
In the hamlet far away,
And now they glistened gray.
Around the cottage ingle-side
Gloweth the Christmas brand,
His brother's joyous band;
Of his loved mother's band.
Hark! the clear cry of the whip-poor-will;
The sound the old man hears,
Again those long-lost years;
Dimly through gathered tears.
[From the Sanscrit.] LAST WORDS OK A DV1SU FIRE-WOU8H1PPEB.
Tin- breath within me mingles with the air,
path To joy's own dwelling! Our last words are
thine. Translated by Sir John Bowring.
From The Contemporary Review. THE RADICAL QUJKSTIOX IN ETHICS.
Twenty years ago, the controversy between the two great speculative schools of ethics in this country was quite as confused as it is at present, though perhaps not so loud. When then studying it for the first time, at the University of Edinburgh, it occurred to us that there was a distinction lying very near the roots of the science, which both parties habitually ignored, but which, if recognized, might do much towards reconciling them. The discussion, which has smouldered so long, has during the last three years been fanned again into a gentle conflagration; but neither now nor formerly does the exact distinction of •which we speak appear to have occurred to speculators on the subject. And the two great parties still remain unreconciled. Under somewhat new names they hold their old positions, and neither is willing to surrender so much as must be conceded before any solid result is attained between them. It is therefore a suitable enough time to state a distinction, which, if true, would drive a wedge into the very core of the question.
We have spoken of two schools of ethics. It is hardly necessary to say that there is such a thing as speculative ethics, or moral philosophy, distinct from mere morals or morality; that it is one thing to teach dogmatically that such and such things are right, another to inquire what we mean by saying they are right, or how we come to know that they are so. Moral philosophy, ethical science, the theory of moral sentiments, have been generally treated—we shall at least treat them in this paper — as belonging to the region of inquiry, of speculation, and of analysis. We have not to deal with any system of moral precepts, but with that which underlies it — the inquiry how we may get at such a system, and whether, when found, it can have for us any value and authority. Now there is no doubt that ethics, taking it in this sense, has always, and especially in our country, been divided into two hostile schools, and the map of speculation which Sir James Mackintosh has drawn on this principle of division, is on the whole historically correct, and is probably the most
useful thing which can even yet be put into the hand of a student. But it is equally true that this split in the ethical camp is a permanent and, in one sense, a necessary one. It is, in fact, no other than that larger division which has run through the whole of philosophy in all ages, and which ranges thinkers on opposite sides now as it did before the days of Socrates. It is well understood that, under the names of Idealist and Intellectualist and Intuitionalist and many another'designation, on the one hand, and of Empiricist and Sensationalist and Materialist and similar titles, on the other, the abstract thinkers of each generation inevitably divide and separate, and mass themselves together, age after age, with a wonderful persistency. In ethics, at all events, especially in modern times and on British soil, this has been the great distinction; and each new inquirer into what we may provisionally call conscience or the moral faculty finds his place according as he derives it from sense and experience on the one hand, or traces it to a special innate or original capacity on the other. There have been subdivisions, of course, in each of the two schools. Notably among the Intuitionalists there has been a difference as to whether the moral faculty, which they all claim as original and native to man, is, more of the nature of reason,or of feeling; some of them thinking that moral approbation, though in itself a unique and separate phenomenon, is analogous to a judgment of the intellect, while others find in it a greater resemblance to an emotion of the heart. Either may be held, provided the moral judgment in the one case, and the moral sentiment in the other, are not resolved into the elements of sensible experience. So, too, on the opposite side. We shall find that the theories by which the moral faculty is explained away or analyzed into other constituents of our nature, are many. Hobbes is not as Adam Smith, and Adam Smith is not as John Stuart Mill. But in this subject of ethics they are all grouped together, because they profess to show in various ways how conscience is a product of man's common experience derived through the external senses.
Now, before referring further to the thecries, let us ascertain the object, or, if you prefer it, the subject, with which they all deal. There is no dispute as to this. It is, putting it in the roughest way, the conscience or moral faculty of man — that part of our nature, or that function of our nature (for it may not be a separate part) which deals with such ideas as those of right and duty, and with the whole ethical relations which are connected therewith. With some such rough popular description all inquirers find it necessary to start, and they do not find practically that their conclusions are thereby prejudged. It is the next step that is the important one. We all deal with the moral faculty, or moral region of man's nature. But what is it that on looking into it, we find there?
We find two things at the least.
In the first place we find certain ideas, commonly called moral ideas, and represented in language by a class of words devoted to ethical purposes. Such words, for example, are right, wrong, duty, desert, responsibility, obligation, approbation. We do not here inquire in the least what the relation between these several ideas is; whether they are all cognate but independent conceptions, or whether some of them are not mere modifications of the others. Nor do we at this point enter into the question which meets us afterwards, whether these ideas or any of them, peculiarly ethical as they look at first sight, may not be resolved into non-moral constituents, and be shown to be products of our ordinary experience. All we say, in the meantime, is, that the words and ideas are there, and that, as Sir James Mackintosh puts it, "it would be as reasonable to deny that space and greenness are significant words, as to affirm that ought, right, duty, virtue, are sounds without meaning."
But in the second place, no one, so far as we know, has represented conscience as consisting merely in the possession of these abstract ideas. It consists rather in the application of these abstract ide as to human conduct. Conscience, or the moral faculty, has always been held to be a judging faculty. It not merely gives us the abstract idea of right, it tells
us what is right It is represented by a proposition, or affirmation, or judgment, which is always a connection of two ideas. The one term of the proposition is an action, or class of actions, or at least some human relation, which is about to be judged of; the other term is the moral predicate (or idea, already spoken of), I such as right, or wrong, or dutiful, which we affirm with regard to it. And when we have said that conscience, as popularly and indeed universally understood, involves not only moral ideas but moral judgments, we have said everything as to its extent which, for the purposes of this paper, is necessary. Thus we shall not meddle with the question whether the judgment, as we have called it, is a sudden flash of the moral sense, or a calm deduction of the reason; whether it arises intuitively within us on witnessing individual actions, or whether it abides with us permanently in the form of general moral criteria, which we simply apply from time to time to particular cases that come before us. All that is an unessential and subordinate matter. The judgment, this action is right, may in one man be accompanied by a perfect whirlwind of moral emotion, while another, who perceives and affirms it equally, may be perfectly unmoved in doing so. In both men the moral idea or conception of right is present; and in both, also»there is the judgment formed by connecting this idea with a particular action. And, without in the least denying the ethical interest of the emotion accompanying the idea and the judgment, or suggesting that it too may not come properly within the sphere of the moral philosopher, we shall probably be allowed to hold that the nucleus and centre of the problem consists in the moral idea or conception which is common to both men, and in the moral judgment by which that idea is applied.
Now we have said that ethical writers generally have regarded the moral faculty as not a bare group of moral ideas, but also as a judging faculty. But this is hardly putting it correctly. It is as the judging faculty that they have all looked at it. For the judgments, as we have seen, include the moral ideas, which indeed are merely one term or limb of the proposition, and perhaps would not exist in consciousness at all, except as called forth by the sudden moral judgment or affirmation. Conscience, then, according to the general definition hitherto, is a standard of moral judgment within the man, or at the least is a faculty of moral judgment within him; and the great question fought between the ethical schools is as to the origin and constitution of the judging faculty. On the one hand, there is the great school of innate idea or intuitionalism; who all assert with various voices that this standard or faculty of moral judgment is given us by God; that it is, or furnishes, a true criterion of moral facts, and that, being a special and peculiar faculty given man for this purpose, it cannot be explained or analyzed more than any of his other ultimate faculties can be. Some of them make this innate, or connate, or intuitive faculty to be of the nature of reason, like Cudworth; others, like Hrttcheson, will have it to be rather a feeling or emotion, or sense; but they all assert that it is an ultimate endowment, and that its judgments, whether general or particular, whether calm applications of its own moral criterion, or flashes of sudden intuition, are equally unimpeachable. And so the opposite school, prolonged through centuries, has dealt abo with conscience as a faculty o f judgment. But its teachers have pointed out, like Hobbes, that the moral judgments are explained by the law of the country where the man happens to reside, or by the power of education, or by the influence of example, or, (like Adam Smith) by the effect of sympathy, or, with Bentham, by utility. As the former school insisted on the judging faculty, as a whole, being intuitive and God-given, so this will have no part of it to be other than factitious, analyzable, and explainable into influences outside morals altogether. On both sides conscience has been taken as a compUxiu of judgments, or at least as a judging faculty — in one word, as a standard. On the one hand, this standard is held to be an ultimate moral fact, and. on the other, it has been explained away into something that is not moral at all.
Now, what is suggested is, that in so taking conscience as a whole — as a faculty of nothing less than judgment — it is taken too indiscriminately; and that looking at it in this way in the rough, has been the cause of the ill-success which most reading men are willing to acknowledge has attended both schools of ethical speculation in Britain. Without anticipating the exact statement, we may say that most men feel that the school of Hobbes and Hume and Bentham and Mill, while it has done a very great deal in unfolding the influences which account for conscience, and are said to create it as a standard, have yet always encountered a hard nucleus which defied their analysis — a moral residuum which can in no way be made non-moral. And on the other hand, the party of Kant and Butler, and the high moralist generally, while they have victoriously repelled the attempts of their adversaries to analyze away all that is peculiarly moral, have been by no means so successful in their counter-endeavour to show that conscience as a standard — the faculty of moral judgment as a whole — possesses this quality for which they contend. What part of our moral judgments is intuitive or innate they have found it impossible to say; and as the opposite party have certainly proved an enormous number of them to be merely factitious, and even shown whence they are derived; the intnitionalists have the discouraging sense of fighting a losing battle. But if both parties are uusuccessful in claiming conscience as a whole, if there is something in our moral standard or faculty of moral judgment which is to all appearance ultimate and incapable of analysis, amid a great deal which has been or may be resolved, the field is open for any suggestion for splitting up the faculty which as a whole has been found so unmanageable.
Let us try.
We spoke provisionally of conscience as at least containing two things — certain moral ideas, and certain judgments in which these moral ideas are applied to human actions or persons. What if it should turn out that the ultimate and unanalyzable thing in conscience is simply