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here close our remarks on Perfectibility, without touching upon the political changes which are likely to be produced by a long course of progressive refinements and scientific improvement-hough we are afraid that an enlightened anticipation would not be much more cheering in this view than in any of those we have hitherto considered. Luxury and refinement have a tendency undoubtedly to make men sensual and selfish; and, in that state, increased talent and intelligence is apt only to render them more mercenary and servile. Among the prejudices which this kind of philosophy roots out, that of patriotism is among the first to be surmounted;and then, a dangerous opposition to power, and a sacrifice of interest to affection, speedily come to be considered as romantic. Arts are discovered to palliate the encroachments of arbitrary power; and a luxurious, patronising, and vicious monarchy is firmly established amidst the adulations of a corrupt nation.
STRICTURES ON MAD. DE STAEL'S ESTIMATE OF THE META
PHYSICAL SYSTEMS OF GERMANY.*
The few persons in Great Britain who continue to take an interest in speculative philosophy, will certainly complain of some injustice in Mad. de Staël's work in her estimate of metaphysical systems.
The moral painter of nations is indeed more authorised than the speculative philosopher to try these opinions by their tendencies and results. When the logical consequences of an opinion are false, the opinion itself must also be false : but whether the supposed pernicious influence of the adoplion, or habitual contemplation of an opinion, be a legitimate objection to the opinion itself, is a question which has not yet been decided to the general satisfaction, nor perhaps even stated with sufficient precision.
There are certain facts in human nature, derived either from immediate consciousness or unvarying observation, which are more certain than the conclusions of any abstract reasoning, and which metaphysical theories are destined only to explain. That a theory is at variance with such facts, and logically leads to the denial of their existence, is a strictly philosophical objection to the theory : that there is a real distinction between right and wrong, in some measure apprehended and felt by all men : that moral sentiments and disinterested affections, however originating, are actually a part of our nature : that praise and blame, reward and punishment, may be properly bestowed on actions according to their moral character,—are principles as much more indubitable as they are more important than any theoretical conclusions. Whether they be demonstrated by reason, or perceived by intuition, or revealed by a primitive sentiment, they are equally indispensable parts of every sound mind. Every reasonable man is entitled instantly to reject a new opinion avowedly repugnant to those convictions from which he cannot depart. They are facts, which it is the office of theory to explain, and which no true theory can deny. But the mere inconvenience or danger of an opinion can never be allowed as an argument against its truth. It is indeed the duty of every good man to
* De l'Allemagne, par Mad. de Staël.-Vol. xxii. page 227. October, 1813.
present to the public what he believes to be truth, in such a manner as may least wound the feelings or disturb the principles of the simple and the ignorant : and that duty is not always easily reconcilable with the duties of sincerity and free enquiry.-The collision of such conflicting duties is the painful and inevitable consequence of the ignorance of the multitude, and of The immature state, even in the highest minds, of the great talent for presenting truth under all its aspects, and adapting it to all the degrees of capacity or varieties of prejudice which distinguish men. That lalent must one day be formed; and we may be perfectly assured that the whole of truth can never be injurious to the whole of virtue.
In the mean time, eloquent philosophers* would act more magnanimously,--and therefore, perhaps, more wisely,-if they were to suspend, during discussion, their moral anger against doctrines which they deem pernicio:s; and while they estimate actions, habits, and institutions by their tendency, if they were to weigh opinions in the mere balance of reason, virtue in action required the impulse of sentiment, and even of enthusiasm. But in theoretical researches, her champions must not appear to decline the combat on any ground chosen by their adversaries, and, least of all, on that of intellect. To call in the aid of popular feelings in philosophical contests is some avowal of weakness. It seems a more magnanimous wisdom to defy attack from every quarter, and by every weapon; and to use no topics which can be thought to imply an unworthy doubt whether the principles of virtue be impregnable by argument, or to betray an irreverent distrust of the final and perfect harmony between morality and truth.
Our moral philosophers will wonder that Mad. de Staël seems to be acquainted with the doctrine of utility, only in the offensive form of universal selfishness. In this respect it is true, she resembles the German philosophers. But the selfish system, properly so called, has long been exploded in this island. Hobbes, the last philosopher of high rank who espoused it, has indeed discovered wonderful power in the analysis of perception and reason ; but his superiority forsakes him when he attempts a theory of emotion and sentiment. The character of system has been foolishly ascribed to the maxims of the Duc de la Rochefoucault ;-a series of poignant and brilliant epigrams, with the usual epigrammatic exaggeration against the selfishness of the world, by a disinterested, affectionate and gallant man. With not less absurdity, the title of the founder of an ethical theory has been bestowed on Mandeville, a satirist for the populace, with a coarse athletic understanding, and a fancy that contemplated only the low and ludicrous aspects of human nature, but eminently endowed with the talents of vulgar drollery or plebeian declamation. Perhaps it must be allowed that Paley has made too near approaches, especially in his definition of virtue, to this system. He was a person of unrivalled practical understanding. His prudential counsels are admirable; and he is one of the safest guides through human life. But he rather teaches duty than inspires virtue. His school is more likely to form blameless and respectable men, than to send forth those moral heroes who are not afraid to die for their beloved friends or for their country. Neither his understanding nor his character peculiarly fitted him for a theorist. Nature had endowed and disposed him for the conduct of affairs. He was averse from the subtleties of speculation, and he perhaps looked with the contempt natural to the stern
The observation may be applied to Cicero and Stewart, Philos. Ess. 186., as well as Mad. de Staël.
shrewdness of the world on that ardour and that refinement of feeling which alone can reveal to us some of the most important secrets of our own moral constilution. Reason, without sensibility, is as much without materials in morals, as she would be without the eye, in inquiries into the nature of light and colours. But, in justice to this eminent and excellent person, the principal ornament of the English church in the last half century, it must be added, that the species of interest held out by religion, being remote from us, unlike the vulgar objects which are commonly comprehended under the name of interest, and, from its sublime and inscrutable nature, capable of being refined by a pure mind, until synonymous with indefinite progress in reason and virtue, bas little of that tendency to lower the moral sentiments which cannot be denied to belong to systems of prudential ethics, founded on a perpetual calculation of the near and gross interests of the present world. Nor must it be forgolten, that the ardour of the devotional affections must render the religious moralist unconsciously disinterested in his feelings, whatever may be the selfish taint of his theory.
A scoffer might with some truth tell us, that German philosophy is founded in a repugnance to every system which has experience for its basis, or happiness for its end. Mad. de Staël would probably justify the repugnance, by contending that the metaphysics of experience uniformly led to sceptism, and the ethics of utility naturally terminated in selfishness. There is indeed a permanent hostility between modes of philosophy still more irreconcilable in their spirit and genius, than repugnant in their doctrines ; which, since the beginning of speculation, has divided individuals, nations, and ages, rather by their temper and circumstances, than in any proportion to the force of argument. Some philosophical disputes are, in truth, the forms assumed by antagonist principles in human nature. Among the more remarkable instances of this speculative war are the controversies between sceplicism and dogmatism ; between calculation and enthusiasm ; and be tween ethical systems founded on utility, and those in which, under various names, the moral principle is considered as ultimate in theory, as it is unanimously acknowledged to be supreme in practice.
It is possible in speculation to preserve the harmony of these principles, by assigning to each its due rank and its proper sphere. But, in practice, the irregular variety of events and passions and characters is perpetually impelling them beyond their end, and driving them without their province. Calm minds and tranquil periods tend towards the one-sensibility and enthusiasm, turbulence and revolution towards the other.-Peculiar conditions of society sometimes exhibit the excess of the one and of the other at the same moment. Thus, under the tyranny of the Emperors, the Roman nobility, according to their various characters, either braved oppression, with stoical enthusiasm, or escaped from it into a slightly systematised voluptuousness, which borrowed the name of Epicurus, though it breathed nothing of the spirit of that pure and amiable moralist.
There is no logical tie between the opinions ranged on either side. They are frequently disjoined, and even at variance with each other. They are examples, chosen from many others, of a permanent contest, not indeed of reason, but of the reasoning faculties with the common feelings of mankind.
The two principles which in one of these controversies have struggled for the ascendant, from the time of Epicurus and Zeno, to that of Paley
and Kant, are well stated by our philosophical and eloquent author. " The conduct of a man is truly moral, only when he disregards the fortunate or. unfortunate consequences of his actions, if these actions be dictated by duty.” On the other hand “ The general laws of nature and of society place happiness and virtue in harmony with each other." Now the second of these positions is the fundamental principle of the system of utility; and all moralists of every school must assent to the truth of the first. The question is, whether the second, as the first principle of moral theory, be consistent with the first, as an undisputed rule of moral practice. That these two propositions are in some manner reconcilable, must be the opinion of Mad. de Staël ; for she adopts them both as parts of her moral system.
Do the actions called moral by all men agree in the quality of conducing to the general happiness ? - This is surely a reasonable aud important question; and as it relates to a fact which is the subject of universal experience, it must be capable of a satisfactory answer. To this question there can be but one answer. A common quality is then discovered in all moral actions—their general utility. According to the received rules of philosophising, it should seem unnecessary to seek for any farther criterion. But whether they have any other qualities in common or not, thus much is certain, that their common quality of utility cannot be overlooked in any just theory of morals, and must on the contrary form an essential principle in such a theory. To advance a step farther, it must be admitted, that they are moral acts which, when singly considered, are repugnant to the interest of the agent. But it is a proper subject of enquiry, Whether there be any habitual disposition towards virtuous action, which it is not conducive to the happiness of the individual to entertain in such a degree as to render it impossible for him to prefer an act of vice for its separate advantage ?
No philosopher has ever yet ventured to point out such a disposition. Till it be named, we must contend that the point where interest universally coincides with virtue, and where public and private happiness are identified, is discovered-not indeed in single actions, but in those habitual dispositions from which actions flow-it never can be supposed that these principles of general and personal utility, and their co-operation in this manner, are not most momentous parts of an ethical system. Whether they alone are sufficient to afford a moral theory of actions, may still be a proper subject of discussion; but no theory can be formed exclusive of them. Their truth and their importance are perfectly independent of any system respecting the nature and origin of moral approbation or disapprobation. Though utility should be the criterion of the morality of actions, it by no means follows that moral sentiment should consist only in a preception of that utility. The nature of moral sentiment is a matter of fact to be determined by separate enquiry. The doctrine of utility may be equally applied to actions and dispositions, whether we consider conscience as a modification of reason or of feeling; whether we believe it to be implanted originally in our nature, or only the necessary produce of the action of circumstances common to all men upon the structure of every human mind.
But though the doctrine of utility be perfectly reconcilable with the principles and sentiments of the most disinterested virtue—though the loftiest visions of Plato, and the sternest precepts of Zeno, may be justified by, and even deduced from, the elements of the theory of Epicurus ; yet it must not be denied, that in practice there is an hostility hitherto unappeased between
these different regions of the moral world; and that this hostility has been the most powerful, though often the secret cause, of the diversity of moral systems.
Those who are accustomed most strongly to feel the necessity of sacrificing advantage to duty in the course of life, naturally, however unreasonably, feel a repugnance to acknowledge that the rules of duty are fourded on any species of advantage, even the most general and refined. Those who constantly contemplate the theoretical dependence of moral rules upon public advantage, may feel a disposition inconsistent with their principles, but favoured by their habits of thinking, to believe that the consideration of advantage may safely impel and guide their actions. The disinterested sentiments of practical virtue seek to establish themselves in the territory of speculation. They are impatient of superiority, though without their own province; and they tend to substitute magnificent names for intelligible principles in scientific morals. On the other hand, it is the natural tendency of the principle of utility, to pass the frontier of theory, within which its dominion is legitimate; and to pervert human life, by substituting a calculation of the consequences of each action, instead of the inviolable authority of moral rules, and the habitual ardour of virtuous affections.
This warfare perhaps will never be terminated. Opinions, apparently repugnant, may be shown to be consistent; but principles of human nature, so powerful and so adverse, are always likely to be embroiled with each other. The difficulty of a pacification is formidably increased by the very technical terms in every modification of Epicurean ethics. Pleasure, enjoyment, interest, even happiness, are terms which, in their popular import, have a reference to self, and some of them to the lowest portion of self. They have associations with sensuality and sordidness, from which no philosophical definition can purify them. They are used a thousand times in their vulgar sense, for once that they are employed by the refined epicurean, The habits of the mind are necessarily framed according to the most frequent usage. The gross acceptation of the terms steals on the most abstract reae soner, and insensibly affects his views. Hence one class of moralists recoil from the theory, which they find contaminated by such degrading ideas; and another suffer themselves unconsciously to be influenced in their moral sentiments, by the foreign impurities with which the accidents of language have encrusted their elementary notions. If ever a peace should be accomplished between these conflicting principles, it must be by a powerful, and comprehensive, and impartial representation of the whole moral system ;in which the morality of actions, the motives of conduct, and the nature of moral approbation, are perfectly distinguished from each other ;-in which a broad line of demarcation separates theory from practice ;-which erhibits general utility, ascertained by calculation, as the basis of moral rules, and the test of virtuous sentiments ; but leaves every action to be impelled by sentiment and controlled by rule, without the toleration of any appeal to utility ;-where theoretical principles are expounded with precise simplicity, and active sentiments represented in their natural force and ardour: where every part of human nature is alike exercised and invigorated; where the understandings of philosophers are satisfied, and the hearts of virtuous men moved; where science is protected from being disturbed by enthusiasm, and generous feeling guarded with still greater care from the freezing power of misplaced calculation. All the parts of so noble a representation probably exist in the works of ancient and modern philosophers. But many ineffec