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What is the nature of that particular faculty which judges of virtue? What is that tone and tenor of conduct which constitutes virtue, and what is the nature of that faculty which is led to prefer one tenor of conduct to another ? It would appear, that in the determination of the second question, which however Adam Smith says is of little practical importance, that of the first would be involved. If it be determined, according to Dr. Hutcheson* that virtue consists in benevolence for instance, it would seem superfluous rather than unimportant, perhaps, to determine as to the particular faculty which judges of benevolence
. On the contrary, to determine precisely, if that be possible, as to the particular nature of this faculty, would in some degree appear to involve our determination as to the nature of that of which the faculty judges, viz. virtue. If you first decide as to what virtue properly consists in, then there would seem no difficulty in determining as to the particular faculty which judges of it.
If virtue consists in propriety, according to Plato, Aristotle, and others, then reason would seem to be the faculty that should judge of virtue. If virtue consists in prudence, according to Epicurus, then self love would properly be brought to decide as to virtue. If virtue consists in benevolence, according to the latter Platonists, and their distinguished follower Dr. Hutcheson, then sentiment or the moral sense is the faculty that judges of virtue. But while we are left totally in the dark as to the nature of that particular faculty which judges of virtue, there seems to be little hesitation in the minds of speculative moralists, at least in determining as to what particular tone and tenor of conduct it is, which constitutes virtue. We all know, say these speculative writers, in what virtue does or ought to consist, while we are undecided as to what particular it is, which judges of virtue. But I should like to know how we can determine as to what virtue is, until we determine as to the particular tenor of conduct which constitutes it? And how can we decide as to the opriety of that particular tenor of conduct, without being able to form some judgment of it? And how can we form this judgment without exercising some particular faculty ? And are we at a loss to know what faculty it is which we thus exercise, and are perhaps continually exercising ?
Adam Smith's remarks upon this faculty of a moral sense, appear to us to leave the point under discussion as much in the dark as it was before the appearance of Mr. Locke's Treatise or Dr. Hutcheson's Inquiry. Indeed this ingenious writer appears to us to have contributed rather to perplex the matter than to throw light upon it; and by dwel.
• Inquiry into the origin or our notions of Beauty and Virtue.
ling too much upon the theory of Dr. Hutcheson, which he considers as rather confused, he has only tended to make “confusion worse confounded.” The point at issue, would appear from Adam Smith's reasonings, to turn almost entirely upon the propriety of the terms we use when we speak of a moral sense. But really, the argument against the existence of any faculty, derived from the mere words which language offers as expressive of it, would seem a very weak one. It is true, that when we speak of any other power or faculty of the mind, the words we use as expressive of it, are properly suggested rather by that which the faculty is supposed to denote or intend, than from its nature or mere appellative. When we speak of the judgment, we speak of the faculty that judges of any thing. Here, the terms we use, are derived rather from the peculiar quality of which the faculty is in part made up, and which it primarily supposes, than from the particular state or condition of the faculty itself. Many external objects derive their names from the particular purposes to which they are applied, and for which we conceive them to have been intended. So also with regard to the powers or faculties of the mind; they derive their names from the particular offices they perform. The power or faculty, perception, sentiment or instinct, if there be any such peculiar and distinct power of the mind, whose peculiar office it seems to be, to determine as to good and bad, right and wrong, derives its name from the particular purpose for which it seems to have been intended, and not, if I may so express myself, from what it is in itself. The piece of silver or brass attached to the door, and by which it is opened, derives its name, not from its own nature but from the nature of the office it performs; we say, turn the latch, or handle, and not the piece of silver or brass. Adam Smith seems to think, that to speak of a moral sense, is to apply to a faculty that quality which belongs to the object of which the faculty takes cognizance.
You might as well assert, he says, or rather Dr. Hutcheson says for him, that the sense by which we hear a sound is loud or low, or that the sense by which we see an object is black or white, as to say of the sense by which we judge of moral actions that it is moral, that is, a moral sense. But do we not make use of the words moral sense as expressive of a peculiar faculty for which there seems to be no other appropriate name, and as denoting rather what the faculty does or performs, than what it is in itself? Whether there be in reality any such power or faculty of the mind, is another and a different question ; but if there be, and we incline to think there is, then that faculty, whose existence is at least assumed, would seem properly to be denoted by the words, a moral sense. But these terms, it would appear,
are objected to by Dr. Hutcheson merely because the meaning which they would seem to suggest, if admitted, would prove inconsistent with or rather destructive of a peculiar theory or by pothesis of his own, by which he would explain the nature and mode of operation of a faculty whose oflice it is, or would be, to decide as to the propriety or impropriety, the merit or demerit of human actions. This kind of intellectual pioneering however, is illegitamate and inadmissable. If a truth be merely suppositious, it does not do on that account to pull it down and throw it aside in order to establish another and one of your own, perhaps after all equally gratuitous. But this advantage has been taken by Dr. Hutcheson in consequence of the uncertainty as to the existence of a faculty so peculiar and isolated as the one which is suggested by and implied in the words, a moral sense. But because of this uncertainty which, however, is rather weakened than strengthened by the knowledge, such as it is, which we possess upon this subject, let it not be allowed to any man whatever may be his powers, thus to set aside and do away with the arguments tending to establish the facts of the existence of such a faculty, merely because they do not at once clearly prove it.
While some theologians, even of the reformed church, have maintained that moral distinctions proceed from the arbitrary and revealed will of God, other theorists refer these distinctions to the positive institutions of the civil magistrate. In opposition to both of these speculations, Grotius contended that there is a natural law, coeval with the human frame, implanted in our natures, for the guidance of our lives, and from which principle (making man a law unto himself) all positive institutions de rive their force. This natural law of Grotius is nothing more than the moral sense of Dr. Hutcheson, which Adam Smith endeavours to refute. With regard to the second theory, which originated with the philosopher Malmsbury, it is pretty evident as Adam Smith remarks, that to refer moral distinctions to the will of the civil magistrate, would be to suppose that there was no natural distinction between right and wrong. Civil laws, moreover, which are the institutions of the magistrate, cannot be supposed to be the origin of these distinctions, since this would still presuppose some antecedent notions of these very distinctions. Hobbes, moreover, broached this doctrine with the avowed intention of lessening the influence of the clergy of his time, who were disposed, like the casuists of the middle ages, to subject men's consciences to their own selfish code of morals, merely with the view of acquiring political influence. Thus then, the natural law, according to Grotius, the moral sense, according to Dr. Hutcheson, and the institutions of the civil magistrate according to Hobbes, are severally liable to objection, when insisted on as the foundation of moral distinctions. The only remaining theory then, is, that which refers these distinctions to the arbitrary and revealed will of God. We say, the only remaining theory, because that of Adam Smith, which deduces these distinctions from immediate sense and feeling, is of a comparatively modern date. It would seem preposterous to refer these restrictions to the revealed will of God as to their original foundation, because these distinctions, or some of them at least, must have originated and been acted upon long previous to any revelation of the divine will. What are laws but these original distinctions put into practice ? Laws were coeval with the social contract; these distinctions, therefore, as being the origin of laws, must have been prior to the actual formation of civil society. There can be no society without laws, and there would have been no laws but for these distinctions. The Ten Commandments prescribe nothing more, we humbly think, than human laws must necessarily have pointed out-derived as are these laws from an experience of the good effects resulting from an observance of that which is right. Moral distinctions may be said, perhaps, to be the inductions of a reflex moral experience, which
presupposes the antecedent induction of some other experience. The general rules of morality, which are the inductions of reason from experience, presuppose, and are compounded of the perception of these original distinctions, and are in fact no other than these distinctions practically modified. This we think, is at once an explanation of the words of Adam Smith, when he says, that moral distinctions 6 are the objects of immediate sense and feeling."* This too, is one of the many instances in which Adam Smith endeavours to refute Dr. Hutcheson's notion of the existence of a moral sense ; for if moral distinctions are the great results of a moral experience, it is evident that the office of the moral sense would be perfectly nugatory in the very instance in which its powers would be most emphatically called upon to exert themselves.
Theory of Moral Sentiments. Part iï. chap. 1.
(To be continued.)
THE HARP OF THE BEECH WOODS.
Montrose, Penn, published by A. Waldie, 1822.-One vol. pp. 156.
The foregoing is the romantic title of a small volume of very pleasing poems, with which we believe the reading world is very little acquainted. For our parts, it is only within these few days that we knew of its existence, and our meeting with it was purely accidental. Of the author we know nothing further, than that the signature to a short and extremely modest inscription, informs us that she is of the softer sex. Of her effusions, we have never heard a single whisper, either in praise
Whatever our opinion of them is, it has therefore, arisen spontaneously from their perusal, and is uninfluenced by either name, reputation, or previous acquaintance.
We are aware that selecting in this manner, a work concerning which the world has never yet given an opinion, for the purpose of passing in public our verdict upon it, carries with it an air of confidence in the accuracy of our own judgment, which some people may be inclined to call presumption. But we have never been in the habit of sacrificing our judgment at the shrine of complaisance for that of others. If we were, we should certainly be very unfit for the office, the duties of which we have undertaken to fulfil, that of conducting a work in which a free expression of our opinions on questions of literature, will be frequently expected, and must be honestly given.
Those who worship established reputations, who idolize great names, and believe that “no good can come out of Nazareth," will no doubt, he ready to sneer at the oddness, or as they may call it, the simplicity of our conduct, in choosing an obscure book, of an unknown author, as a subject of public animadversion, in preference to any of the numerous productions of