Moral Philosophy, Or Ethics (Lat. mos, Gr. , manner, practice), the science of duty; the principles which prescribe what ought to take place, and the reasons why it should take place, in human conduct and actions. The ancient Greeks divided philosophy into logic, physics, and ethics: the first treated the universal and necessary forms of thought; the second, so much of the subject matter of thought as pertains to material nature; and the third, the whole nature and activity of free and intelligent beings. More precisely defined, •ethics is that division of practical philosophy comprehending the doctrines of the right in human life, and is distinguished from polity and aesthetics, which embrace respectively the doctrines of the expedient and the beautiful or noble. Or it may be defined as natural in distinction from civil jurisprudence, treating of the relations, rights, and duties by which the members of universal society are by the law of nature under obligation toward God, themselves, and each other. Ethics regards mental dispositions; jurisprudence, outward acts. The former extends to all moral qualities; the latter is limited to the virtue of justice, since no written law can enjoin gratitude or generosity.
Moral law is imposed by the conscience; civil law, by the decree of the legislator. Right is what a man may lawfully or morally do. Duty is what he must morally do. Crime is what he lawfully must not do. Vice is what he morally must not do. The law of nature, or the law of God, embracing the law of nations, is some-times used as comprehending the whole of morality, the whole theory of conduct, and sometimes as containing only those unwritten rules of justice which are enforced by punishment in civilized countries, and at the breach of which it would be generally thought, if there were no government, that men might defend .themselves by violence. Positive law, natural law, and moral law have been termed the three ascending degrees in the whole science of duty. The first inquiry in moral science is after an ultimate rule, a supreme principle of life, which shall be of imperative and universal authority, and around which shall be grouped all the motives and maxims of action. From this central principle every ethical system receives its character. These systems may be ranged in two classes, according as the ultimate moral rule is objective or subjective, dependent on something without or within the mind.
The most prominent objective theories are those which adopt as the ultimate principle and basis of morality: 1, the authority of the state; 2, the revealed will of God; 3, something inherent in the nature of things; 4, the greatest happiness. Hobbes maintained the first, and Descartes the second. To the third division belong Dr. Samuel Clarke's theory of the fitness of things, Wollaston's of the truth of things, Wayland's of the relations of things, and President Edwards's of the- beauty in the union or consent of one mind with the great whole of being, in the love of being in general. To the fourth division belongs the Epicurean theory of personal pleasure, which was made to coexist with virtue by Aristotle, to which Paley gave a more religious aspect by weighing future eternal happiness against present self-renunciation, and which Bentham advanced with reference to public utility and the greatest good of the greatest number. The principal subjective theories find the essence and test of morality in: 1, natural susceptibility to pride, gratified by flattery; 2, an inner reciprocal sympathy; 3, an inner sense, which gives moral distinctions; 4, an immediate intuition.
Mandeville defined virtue as the offspring of flattery begotten upon pride, its motives being vanity, and its object praise. Adam Smith urged that the ground of morality was a reflex sympathy, by which the observer changes place in imagination with the actor, and affirms the action to be right or wrong according as it receives or repels his sympathy. Shaftesbury and Hutche-son maintained a distinct and specific moral sense, which immediately apprehends moral distinctions, and is to each man the source of obligation and the measure of virtue. Dr. Brown modified this theory by denying the existence of virtue and vice in the abstract, and claiming that a universal sentiment, by reason of the original conformation of the human mind, approves certain intentions and affections as right, disapproves others as wrong, and is the ultimate source of all moral truth. Friedrich von Schlegel regarded this moral sense or universal sentiment as an inward revelation, which is in us but not of us, which is a divinely awakened awe of the Supreme Being, and which enjoins obedience to every form of God's commandments. Those who claim an immediate intuition of moral truth suppose in the human mind a higher reason for the apprehension of universal and necessary principles.
The reason immediately beholds the right, and is of ultimate and conclusive authority. Its affirmation, founded on intellectual intuition, is the sufficient sanction of duty. Such, with various modifications, is the theory of Cud-worth, Kant, and Coleridge. - Ethics is not, like mathematics or metaphysics, an independent science. It rests upon philosophical or theological principles, only the application or operations of which it deals with. It takes a dynamical and not a statical view of the elements of life. It presupposes human liberty, the power to employ our mental and physical capacities as we will, and to determine the end toward which they shall be directed; for otherwise the sentiments of duty and of responsibility would be without foundation, would at most be mere phenomena of consciousness, and moral philosophy could be only the natural history of human actions. Its distinctive quality would be lost, destiny taking in it the place of duty. The supremacy of the conscience, however it be defined, whose mandate is duty, is also presupposed, since a moral nature is prerequisite to the science of moral action.
Conscience implies a supreme law, having reference to a general end, and constituting an ultimate rule of right, the determination of which, and its application to all departments of conduct, are the tasks of moral philosophy. A complete moral system states the supreme good of man, the supreme moral principle which should guide his action, and his particular duties to himself, to mankind, and to God. - Christian ethics is the doctrine of Christian life, embracing so much of dogmatics as pertains not to knowledge but action. Schleiermacher, Rothe, and others have regarded it as identical with dogmatics, on the ground that Christian faith and morals, thought and purpose, knowledge and action, are not separable. It differs from philosophical ethics in its subject, which is not man, but Christians; in its principle, founded on the recognized relation between man and God; in its source, being derived not from the reason, but from the teaching of Christ and the apostles; and in our perception of it, which is not by any analytical process, but by the Christian consciousness. - The earliest ethical speculations in Greece appear in the maxims of the gnomic poets The first attempt to introduce a scien-titic analysis into the details of practical wisdom was that of Pythagoras, whose moral system was linked with a mysterious symbolism of numbers.
Of oriental origin, the Pythagorean discipline has been likened to philosophy on a tripod; it taught by symbols, spoke in tropes, wrote in verses, and, instead of reasoning, uttered oracles. Its elementary ideas are those of unity and duality, the finite and the infinite, the right and the oblique, to the former of which corresponds good, and to the latter evil. From unity the harmony of numbers is derived, and the sovereign good is the rhythmical order of nature. When the principle of unity predominates in intelligent beings, there is spiritual harmony; and as harmony is not unity, but only an imitation of it. so virtue is not absolute goodness, hut only an imperfect representation of it. God is the absolute unity, and is alone wise, and to imitate him as far as possible is the duty of all imperfect beings, who cannot be wise men, but only philosophers or friends of wisdom. The Pythagoreans distinguished the animal soul, whose seat is the heart, and the rational soul, which abides in the brain, and gave to the latter the supremacy. They, therefore, laid stress on self-command and temperance as essential to the vision of truth, and tended to ascetic practices, yet maintained that justice and love were inseparable.
They were unsurpassed by any school of antiquity in urging the duties of friendship. The Pythagorean aristocracy resembled an oriental sacerdotal caste, and the Pythagorean political institutions in southern Italy mark the conflict between the genius of the Orient and that of Greece, between theocracy and humanity, the nobility and the people, the servitude of tradition and the liberty of thought, Heraclitus repeated Pythagoras and Democritus opposed him, founding the sensualist ethical school, and developing the most complete and scientific moral system prior to Socrates, which was, however, only a corollary and result of his atomic physical doctrines. The sovereign good of man, according to him, is not pleasure but happiness, which consists in constant and tranquil content. To beatonce temperate, daring, and confident, and, having never done nor wished anything absurd, to trust in fortune, was the whole purport of his ethical maxims. The age of the sophists succeeded. I hey, however, neither formed a school, nor their doctrines a system.
Grammarians, rhetoricians, statesmen, metaphysicians, and moralists, from all the schools of Greek philosophy, their special influence was in inspiring respect for intellectual attainments awl performances, and their best service was in habituating the Greek mind to a free examination of all human knowledge. The weapon which they wielded was a rhetorical eloquence, nuder the sway of which tin- mythological dignities began to lose their majesty, the ancient traditions which had charmed successive generations ceased to have authority, the institutions of state tended toward equality and toward a foundation of reason instead of experience, and the enthusiasm of Greek culture was transferred from martial and political accomplishments to the arts, letters, and oratory. Their method was powerful to destroy rather than build up, yet the common statement that they were intellectual and moral corrupters is elaborately disputed by Mr. Grote. He regards them as the regular exponents of Greek morality, neither above nor below the standard of the age, maintains that Socrates was not their great opponent but their eminent representative, that they were the authorized teachers, the established clergy of the Greek nation, and that Plato was the dissenter, who attacked them not as a sect but as an order of society.
Socrates is usually styled the father of moral philosophy; yet he was rather a sage than a philosopher, and is renowned rather for his wonderful moral consciousness and for his power of exciting the analytical faculties of others than for his positive speculative thought. He affirmed the reality of the distinction between good and evil, that it was founded in nature and not in convention, yet he did not precisely determine wherein it consists. He enjoined the supremacy of duty, yet he gave no objective or subjective definition of virtue. His highest motive was to make reason prevail in human life, public and private, as it prevails in the universe. The elements of his instruction were: a supreme Deity, the principle of order and beauty in nature, and of justice and truth in man; and a series of human virtues, the principal of which were wisdom or a participation in the divine intelligence, justice, which is conformity to universal reason, fortitude, which gives courage and strength to endure trouble and resist difficulties, and temperance, which subdues the passions and makes us capable of intellectual delights.
He was the first to treat distinctly of ethical science, apart from cosmological and metaphysical speculations, and laid dowm the principle of individual and social security and happiness as the end to which all moral precepts have reference. Like the other moral philosophers of antiquity, he confounded ethics and politics, and was a preacher of virtue in the interest of the state. - The aim of Socrates was to reform morals, that of his disciple Plato was to explain thought. The latter did not frequent public places to teach the excellence of virtue, but, with a mind whose natural function seemed to be the contemplation of the essence of things, he disdained the shadows of earth for the eternal and divine realities of an ideal world, and developed schemes of thought which caused the fathers of the church to recognize him as one of their precursors. His fundamental ethical principle rests upon the antagonism of the visible and the invisible, the divine and the earthly. Man is an exile upon the earth, to which he is united by his senses and passions; but by his pure intelligence, his love, by dim reminiscences and regrets, he communes with heaven, which is his true home. He thus by opposite faculties and impulses tends to opposite goals.
By yielding to the one he degrades himself, and to some extent perishes. By cherishing the other he resumes and retains his divine excellences. The four cardinal virtues are temperance, courage i , wisdom, and love. The first two are relative, the product of earthly imperfection; the second two are real, the remnants of our original perfection. They all have their foundation in wisdom, the fruit of reason, which sees through the material world the world of ideas of which it is a dim copy, and contemplates the supreme beauty of the essential universe. The Platonic morality is therefore speculative; virtue is referred finally to the intellect. A magnificent ideal is presented, the sentiment of love is commanded, and it is assumed that to know the right will be sufficient to practise it. There is no place in his philosophy for that perversity by which the soul sees • the better and follows the worse, avoids what it loves and embraces what it hates; a phenomenon, however, which Plato himself has described. The virtue which won his admiration implies a pure intelligence, obedience to which by the heart and will is presupposed. Nor did he precisely define the nature of moral good and evil; his analysis did not reach to the absolute; and he left truth, beauty, and goodness to blend together and lose themselves in their supreme source.
God is the principle of moral order, and virtue consists in knowing and imitating him. " Alone among the ancient philosophers," says St. Augustine, "Plato made happiness consist not in the enjoyment of the body or of the mind, but in the enjoyment of God, as the eye enjoys the light." The principle of the ideal contained in his philosophy has proved itself imperishable, and has more than once in modern times prompted both ethical and metaphysical speculations to higher standpoints. - The ethics of Aristotle place the sovereign good in happiness, which is inseparable from virtue, and consists in life and action. The gods themselves are happy only because they act. This theory of activity, which makes virtue to be the best possible disposition of all human functions, was one of the remarkable amendments made by him in the system of his master. An action is right or wrong only when it proceeds from free will and personal responsibility, and its moral desert must be judged by the end which it proposes, that is, by the intention. The Socratic and Platonic mistake of regarding vice as the involuntary product of ignorance is thus corrected.
Virtue is a habit, a sort of moral dexterity; single acts cannot constitute it; but the virtuous disposition must be constant, acquired by oft repeated acts, and underlying the whole art of life. But the characteristic ethical statement of Aristotle is that virtue is a mean between two extremes. At one point all the passions are good; below or above that, they violate the order of nature, and are bad. Equally removed from extreme excess and extreme deficiency there lies in all spiritual and physical conditions an intervening state, which is that of virtue. To act when we ought, in the right circumstances, in the proper manner, and for legitimate persons and purposes - that is the juste milieu which characterizes morality. Hence there is always only one way of acting well, while there are thousands in which we may do wrong. He however gives no absolute definition of virtue, as an abstract mean between two abstract extremes, does not determine it as a fixed mathematical point, but makes it relative to the circumstances and disposition of the individual, a centre varying according to the pains and pleasures, desires and hatreds which encircle it.
This ingenious theory is derived a posteriori instead of suggested a priori, is an inference and not an instinct, and has perhaps never been applied as a practical criterion of duty. As in metaphysics Aristotle completely sundered God from the world, so in ethics he separated the speculative from the practical reason, and gave to morality no foundation in absolute science. His moral scheme was a branch of politics, virtue was a civil quality to be developed only in the state, and his views of man and life were not universal but essentially Greek and republican. To prove that man was something more than a member of society was a task for the future. - This task was fulfilled by the cynicism of Diogenes and the stoicism of Zeno, while the conquests of Alexander may be said to have denationalized the Greek ethics. Diogenes proclaimed himself a citizen of the world, and the government of the universe the only polity worthy of our admiration. Opposed to patriotism, family, and property, the cynic placed virtue in the strength to endure privations and in independence of social relations. Under the banner of inward freedom and power, he verged toward asceticism, misanthropy, and impudence.
The same tendency more strikingly appears in stoicism, the leading feature of which is tyranny over self, a revolt against the senses and passions, contempt of pain, pleasure, death, and of all the accidents of humanity. It was the philosophy of Roman citizenship, lying underneath the inflexibility of discipline and duty. Cleanthes and Epictetus both declared force to be the only virtue. A rigorous adherence to the essential elements, the lowest terms of human nature, a contempt for pleasure as something not designed in the scheme of natural law and inconsistent with its ideal of the freedom and independence of the soul, a striving to shape the individual life according to the rational nature, which is itself in conformity with the rational order of universal nature, an abstract apprehension of virtue as the subjection of personal to universal ends, and a consequent moral indifference to external pood, wore the prominent characteristics of the ethical system of the stoics, which was rivalled only by Epicureanism in the amount of its influence on Greek and Roman thought and life. Its moral standpoint was one of abstract subjectivity, its scheme of particular duties was conceived with reference to an ideal of rational freedom, and its motives were all heroic.
Stern, haughty, and inflexible, it disregarded the lighter graces both of inward and outward nature in its contemplation of the laws and the energy of the primitive forces of the soul. Stoicism was one of the modes of reaction against the degeneracy of Greek society; Epicureanism, another. Like Aristotle. Epicurus placed the highest good in hap-piness. The prize of life is the possession of supreme pleasure. All other virtues are but the auxiliaries of prudence or wisdom, which is the architect of our happiness, teaching us, in whatsoever situation we may happen to be placed, to derive from it the utmost advantages. Thus by prudence the wise man will abstain from the burden of public affairs and from marriage, will observe the laws of his country, acquire means to live with dignity and ease, practise sobriety and moderation, cultivate friendships, and aim after a life without 'a trouble ( ). This serene pleasure he does not allow to be disturbed by fears of death or of the gods; for the gods live in changeless and blessed repose in empty space, undisturbed by any management of human affairs; and death is the end of all feeling, and not an evil to be dreaded, since when death is, we are not. His ethical system does not recognize any positive end of life, and proposes nothing higher than a state of passionless repose; and from the multitude of his disciples during several centuries there pro-ceeded no original thought and no preeminent man. The system itself degenerated, until it became strange that a philosopher who was proverbially blameless and temperate, who nurtured himself on barley bread and water, with which he boasted that ho could rival Jupiter in happiness, should have been the founder of Epicureanism. The Horatian nil ndmirari expresses the melancholy but not the sensuality of its later character. The influence of the Platonic and Aristotelian ethical theories declined; stoicism and Epicureanism remamed as rival sects.
During the first Christian centuries etoieism predominated in intel-lectual theories, and philosophers of all schools poets, historians, and rhetoricians, spoke like Seneca and Epictetus of the sacred love of the world, of the equality of man, of universal law, and a universal republic, Unlike the earlier philosophers, who had founded ethics on the system of the human faculties and passions with reference to their combined operation in the state, the Neo-Platonists gave a theologi-cal and mystical character to duty in connection with their doctrines of emanation. The object of life was to rise by processes of asceticism and ecstatic vision from the world of the senses into which we have fallen to our original home in the world of ideas, and the virtues which mark the successive steps in this return are distinguished as physical, political, ethical, purificative, contemplative, and theurgic. - While all antiquity had made the sovereign good consist in escape from pain, either by virtue or by pleasure, Christianity by the mystery of the passion announced the divinity of sorrow. From this time until the rise of modern philosophy ethics cannot be separated from dogmatics. During a thousand years of theological speculations on the problems of life, no system of philosophical ethics was attempted.
The characteristic element in Christian virtue is love. If the Christian ideal of perfect charity were realized, ethics and politics would alike be absorbed in a higher science. Prominent as were the ideas of faith, hope, charity, and self-sacrifice in the age of the apostolic and the church fathers, their basis remained from the first rather religious than speculative, notwithstanding the persuasion that in the reason enlightened by the Word there was given a ground of union between objective revelation and subjective knowledge. Justin Martyr, " the evangelist in the robe of a philosopher," began to apply the forms of ancient ethical philosophy to Christian conceptions of duty, and maintained human freedom by identifying the will and the conscience. Augustine, though aiming to emancipate Christian thought from antique influences, asserted the rationality of Christian morality, since it sprang from the absolute reason of Christ, who was both the central idea in philosophy and the ideal of life.
While Augustine and Pela-gius were debating free will and sovereign grace, the same question was discussed,in a different form by the last of the pagan philosophers, Plotinus and Proclus. The former, in a scheme of universal and absolute determination, suppressed liberty; the latter urged that the essence of personality was liberty, that man was his own controlling demon, and used the terms autokinesy and heterokinesy, corresponding nearly to the autonomy and heteronomy of Kant. The most elaborate attempt to combine the moral ideas of Christianity and those of Alexandrian paganism was made by the writings ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite, which exerted great influence on later mystical theories. In the middle ages, mysticism, scholasticism, and casuistry successively presided over the doctrines of Christian morality. St. Bernard and St. Victor were the leading representatives of mysticism. The former has been surpassed by no author in his delineations of the worth and power of love. From him proceeded that passionate inspiration, which the monastery of St. Victor perpetuated through the middle ages, and which, remains embodied in the "Imitation of Christ." The two preeminent Christian sentiments, according to him, are humility and love, both springing from the knowledge of ourselves.
A sense of humiliation is the first experience when we duly regard ourselves, and this prepares for intensity of love, which in its highest degree is felt only with reference to God. The great masters of scholastic theological ethics were Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus. The aim of all was to harmonize Aristotelianism and Christianity. The first completed the list of the seven cardinal virtues by adding faith, hope, and charity to the ancient series of justice, fortitude, temperance, and wisdom. The second fully developed the mediaeval philosophy of virtue. He made the intellect the highest principle, and distinguished universal and special ethics, the former being that of perfect beings in heaven, the latter-that of imperfect beings on earth. Duns Scotus opposed the primacy of the will to that of the intellect, and thus introduced a subjective element in place of the objective knowledge to which Aquinas had given prominence While by the mystical method morality was referred to inner feelings, aspirations, and conflicts, and by the scholastic method it was founded on systems of intellectual principles, the casuistical method assumed prominence, which limited itself to the determination of duty in particular cases (casus conscientim) in practical life.
Numerous works of casuistry, some of them designed for the use of the confessional, were produced from the 13th to the 16th century, the principal of which were the Astesana by a Minorite of Asti, the Angelica by Angelus de Oalvasio, the Pisanella, also called the 31a-gistruccia, by Bartholomew de Sancta Concordia in Pisa, the Rosella by the Genoese Minorite Trouamala, and the Monaldina by Archbishop Monaldus of Benevento. The Astesana treated in eight books of the divine commandments, of virtues and vices, of covenants and last wills, of the sacraments, of penance and extreme unction, of ordination, of ecclesiastical censures, and of marriage. The tendency of casuistry was to dissipate the essential unity of the Christian life in the technical consideration of a diversity of works. It had begun to decline when it was revived and zealously improved by the order of Jesuits, and became their peculiar ethics. The doctrine of probabilities was developed by them in connection with it. Pascal and others assailed the indefiniteness and ambiguity of casuistical principles.
The Medulla of Hermann Busenbaum, which is the basis of the The-ologia Moralis of Liguori, attained the highest reputation as an embodiment of Jesuitical ethics. - In the conflicts of the 16th century, when sects, schools, and parties were confounded and transformed, moral philosophy was subordinate to theology and politics. Montaigne, who of all the writers of the.time was most distinctively a moralist, pretended to no system. The conciliatory Melanchthon proposed a definition of virtue which includes the special features of all the schools and creeds; Suarez maintained the traditions of scholasticism; and Luther, Bruno, and Bacon, as well as the later Descartes, prepared in different ways for the achievements of a new era. One of the relics of mediaeval discussion was the foundation of natural law. The disciples of Aquinas made it depend on the nature of things; those of Scotus and Occam, on the authority of God. The former made it essentially a matter of the intellect; the latter, of the will.
The former tended to establish morality as independent of the Deity, and to affirm the eternal distinction between right and wrong, even if God did not exist; the latter tended to conceive of the moral law as an arbitrary enactment, to regard nothing as good or bad in itself, and the command of a superior as the only foundation of moral distinctions. The ablest representative of the latter theory in modern philosophy is Hobbes. He denied that anything is naturally right or wrong, affirmed that pleasure and pain are the only objects to be desired or avoided, and limited human selfishness only by the control of an absolute civil power, the necessity of which is proved by experience in order to prevent a state of universal warfare. Morality is thus an artificial and prudential arrangement, dependent on the command of the political chief, without which the only virtues would be force and cunning. On the contrary, Grotius maintained moral distinctions anterior to human convention, and established the law of nature and of nations as a special department in ethical science. The idea of natural law was more precisely determined by Pufendorf, who defined it as the precept of right reason among men mutually social, making a disinterested care for the advantage of society the first duty.
It does not extend beyond the limits of this life, is limited to the regulation of external acts, and exists in the nature of things and in the eternal principles of the divine reason. Leibnitz disputed each of these three propositions. The theory of Hobbes was professedly opposed by Cumberland, who claimed the existence of certain natural laws, independent of experience, and cognizable by right reason, which prompt us to the exercise of moral and social duties. The eternal and immutable distinction of right and wrong in the mind of God and as pure conceptions of the human reason was sustained by Cudworth, and was the occasion of more precise speculations in England as to the mode or faculty by which we perceive the distinction. - The ethical writings of Malebranche were the most important produced in France in the latter part of the 17th century. Virtue he defines to be the love of universal order, as it eternally existed in the divine reason, where every created reason contemplates it. Particular duties are but the applications of this love. He substituted for the ancient classification of four cardinal virtues the modern distinction of duties toward God, men, and ourselves.
Spinoza, according to his opponents, by denying liberty in man and God, by recognizing only one divine substance and the modes thereof, made morality impossible, notwithstanding Ins principal work is entitled Ethica. But by denning clear ideas as those of the reason and vague ideas as those of passion, and establishing it as the object of existence to attain to clear ideas, he succeeded, like most other moralists, in opposing reason to passion. The being of the soul is thought. To increase this, to rise to a greater reality, to preserve and exalt our essential nature, is at once the highest good and the highest virtue. Knowledge is happiness, and is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself. To follow our desires is the law of practical life, and limitation, deficiency of might, is the only evil. But evil is merely a relative conception of our own, formed by comparison of things with each other; there is no idea of it with God, who is always in harmony with himself, acting according to the laws of his own essence - In the 18th century moral philosophy rested in England chiefly on theories of disinterested feeling and the moral sense, in France on sensationalism and self-interest; and in Germany the followers of Leibnitz maintained the supremacy of the reason and the doctrine of ideal good.
Shaftesbury was the first to employ the term moral sense, which, however, he did n«>t define. Some of his intimations favor the theory of general benevolnce proposed by Edwards. Wollaston's definition of virtue as conformity to the truth of things, which Dr. Clarke changed to the fitness of things, gives to it an intellectual foundation, since truth and fitness are intellectual conceptions. Morality thus becomes the practice of reason. Hutche-Bon developed the suggestion of a moral sense by Shaftesbury, and supposed conscience and taste to be separate faculties which immediately introduce us to the objects of aesthetics and ethics. lint neither he nor Bishop Butler, after thus determining the subjective condition of virtue, undertook to show the objective distinctive quality common to right actions. Nothing therefore but the immediateness of moral emotion and determination is secured by their theory, since neither the moral sense nor the morality of actions is explained by the statement that they correspond to each other. Adam Smith, in referring morality to the principle of sympathy, rendered a service rather to the philosophy of the sympathetic affections than of ethics.
Though perhaps no one has ever accepted his Btatement that moral approval depends first upon sympathy with the motives of the agent, secondly upon sympathy with the gratitude of those who have been benefited by his actions, thirdly upon a perception that his condnet has been agreeable to the general rules by which these two sympathies generally act, and fourthly upon a perception of the utility and beauty apparent in a system of behavior which tends to promote the happiness either of the individual or of society; yet his analysis of the workings of sympathy is admirably concived and illustrated. It was a part of Hume's ethical theory that general utility constitutes a uniform ground of moral distinctions. Denying a special moral faculty, he spoke sometimes of sympathy and sometimes of benevolence as the subjective quality which prompts us to be pleased with beneficial actions. Richard Price attempted to revive the intellectual in place of the sentimental theory of virtue, claiming that not only our moral feelings but all our emotions might ultimately be referred to the reason.
He regarded right and wrong as simple ideas of the mind. - The maxim of La Rochefoucauld, "Our virtues lose themselves in interest, like rivers in the sea," describes the ethical theory of the French sensational philosophy. Condil-lac, the head of this school, regards all intellectual operations, even judgment and volition, as transformed sensations; and Helvetius, applying the theory to morals, held that self-love or interest is the exclusive motor of man, denied disinterested motives, made pleasure the only good, and referred to legislative rewards and punishments as illustrating the whole system of individual action. A superior physical organization alone gives to man his superiority to other animals. La Mettrie maintained an atheistic Epicureanism; and though Condorcet proposed as a goal the perfectibility of mankind in the present state, he looked only to physical improvement, and wished to substitute an empirical education for the ideas and sanctions of religion and morality. The materialism, atheism, and fatalism of the epoch, which saw in the universe only matter and motion, and had pleasure for its single aim and law, were most completely and logically elaborated in D'Hol-bach's Systeme de la nature. - The influence of Leibnitz and Wolf maintained a higher philosophy in Germany, and the latter advanced the ethical principle that we should act only with reference to making ourselves or others more complete and perfect.
Moral perfection consists in the harmony of the present with the past and the future, and of ourselves with the essential nature of man. Whatsoever tends toward or against this is right or wrong. Thus ethics is the science of the possible in life, as philosophy is of the possible in the whole realm of knowledge. A eudsemonistic and utilitarian school succeeded in the latter half of the 18th century, marked by subjective idealism, which made individual culture and happiness the highest principle and end, and cherished religion on the ground that it was advantageous to earthly pleasure. Basedow, Reimarus, and Steinbart were the principal representatives of this tendency, the subjective standpoint of which appears also in numerous confessions and autobiographies, like those of Rousseau. - Kant rescued ethics from the prevalent sentimental and sensational theories. "If," said he, "happiness, and not the law of inward freedom, be made the fundamental principle, there is an end to moral science." He defines ethics as the philosophy of the laws of freedom. Freedom is an a priori fact, an element which affirms itself in the activity of the will. The will has the capacity of entire independence or self-determination, bound only by its own autonomy.
The pure reason proposes to it a universal law, which we call the moral law, and which is a categorical imperative, requiring an unconditioned obedience. This law is, in Kant's phraseology, the form of human action. Desires, passions, and material motives furnish the contents of action, and their influence constitutes the heteronomy of the will. To exclude principles that are merely of a heterono-mic nature, to admit only such motives as may be transformed into universal laws of the reason, so that the autonomy of the will may be inviolate, is the essence of morality. Thus the ethical law of Kant is: "Act only on such a maxim as may also be a universal law." A reverence for the moral law, which he compares to the starry heavens, a severance of the impulses of sense from moral motives, and an estimate of virtue as a triumph over resistance, characterize the Kantian morality. Sanctity is absolute conformity to the moral law, the ideal of moral perfection. Virtue is a constant tendency and progress toward this ideal. The supreme good is the highest happiness joined to the highest virtue.
Since these do not correspond in the present state, the practical reason postulates for the attainment of the first the existence of God, and for the attainment of the second the immortality of the soul. - Personal autonomy becomes still more prominent in the philosophy of Fichte. According to him, the most profound and essential truth of our existence is the perpetual striving of the mind to develop itself, to realize its own nature, to bring into actual existence all that lies potentially in its consciousness. This fundamental impulse furnishes the formal principle of ethics, the principle of absolute autonomy, the self-formed aim of being. With it is associated the impulse of nature, which strives not for fulness and freedom, but for enjoyment. Both impulses aim at a unity, and their approximation is an infinite progression. " The world," says Fichte, "is the sensized material of our practical life, the means by which we place before us, as object, the end and aim of our existence." Destiny is the course of the moral determination of the finite rational being. The formula of ethics is therefore: "Always fulfil thy destiny;" this underlies the whole theory of particular duties. The conviction of duty, or conscience, is the condition of the morality of actions.
A feeling of truth and certainty is the absolute criterion of the correctness of this conviction, and never deceives, since it exists only when the empirical is in harmony with the absolute Ego. In the later form of Fichte's philosophy, its moral strictness was relieved by religious sentiment, the elements of the Ego and duty being transformed into life and love. His formula, making morality the fulfilment of destiny, is akin to the theory of Aristotle, and was adopted by Jouf-froy, the principal moralist of the French eclectic school. In ethics alone Schelling scarcely departed from the principles of Fichte. In the system of Hegel, jurisprudence, ethics, and politics form the three divisions of the philosophy of mind viewed objectively. The removal of the antagonism between the universal and the particular will constitutes morality. To pursue the rational, or what is in accordance with the universal will, is right; to pursue the irrational is wrong. The three spheres in which moral purpose appears are the family, civil society, and the state. The state is the ethical whole, the highest embodiment of the moral idea, and its will should be supreme over that of the individual.
He thus recurs to the ancient notion of merging ethics in politics, gives to morality a foundation of civil absolutism, and regards the rise and fall of states as historical developments of special phases of the reason. Herbart resolves ethics into aesthetics. De Wette adopted Jacobi's principle of feeling as the moral lawgiver, and stated the formula: "Live in order to live, and out of pure reverence and love of life;" and Schleier-macher founded a system of ethics in which prominence is given to personal responsibility, and the invisible kingdom of God is made the highest good. Schopenhauer, in consequence of his peculiar psychology, held that progress could be made only by denial of the lower or sensuous instincts, and taught as the fundamental principle of his ethics a form of asceticism. He held indeed to a generous sympathy with our fellow men in all their sufferings and woes, and would encourage even the most heroic exertions in their behalf. But in reference to ourselves he inculcated a pretty severe asceticism.
The world, in his estimation, so far from being the best possible, is about as bad as it can be; and while sympathy and the exertions to which it leads tend to alleviate the sufferings of others, asceticism destroys the occasion for sympathy by preventing the evils which excite it. Beneke, however, a contemporary with Schopenhauer, inculcated a system in which morality is based on the feelings. This occasioned the outcry of "Epicureanism," and led him to publish a defence, which however, while varying the statements somewhat, left the general character of the doctrines unchanged. (Die heiden Grundprob-leme der Ethilc, 1841; 2d ed., Leipsic, 1860.) The more recent German works that embrace the subject of moral philosophy are less metaphysical, being based principally on the results of recent physiological and psychological researches. They attempt, says Lichthorn, when speaking of the purpose of his own work, Die Erforschung der physiologwchen Naturgezetze der menschlichen Geistesthdtigheit (Breslau, 1875), to show that the old metaphysical separation of body and soul, and the assumption that the relationship is merely mechanical, leads to results contrary to experience; and to establish the possibility of reaching a correct solution by combining the great discoveriesof Da Bois-Reymond on the electro-magnetic nature of sensations and volitions, those of Darwin on organic adaptation and heredity in the animal world, and Haeckel's ever increasing organic perfectibility.
The writings of Moleschott, Karl Vogt, Buchner, and Strauss exhibit a similar tendency when treating ethical questions. Eduard von Hartmann's Philoso-phie den Unbeitussten (1869), though moremeta-phvsical, keeps also in unison with the last dicta of experimental science. A further development of this system is Venetianer's DerAllgeist: Grundzurge de Panpsychismus (Berlin, 1874). - Against the doctrines of a moral sense and .if disinterested benevolence which had chiefly prevailed in English ethical philosophy from the time of Hutcheson and Butler, and which were zealously defended by Dugald Stewart, a utilitarian tendency was manifested which culminated in Jeremy Bentham. Previous to him Tucker had developed a system akin to the saltish theory, founded on 11artley's principles of association; and Paley had declared the motive to virtue to be everlasting happiness, and had resolved the art of life into that of rightly settling our habits. Bentham gave to his moral theory the name of "the greatest happiness principle," and represented the practice of virtue as the art of maximizing happiness. All moral action proceeds, according to him, from the calculation of pains and pleasures estimated by their magnitude and their extent.
In the proper balancing of these all morality consists, and virtue and vice are absolutely nothing, merely fictitious entities, when separated from happiness and misery. His aim was to expel from ethical science the word "ought," which was claimed by Mackintosh as the simplest and most universal expression of the moral sense. "The talisman of arrogance, indolence, and ignorance," says he, "is to be found in a single word, an authoritative imposture, which in these pages it will be frequently necessary to unveil. It is the word 'ought' If the use of the word be admissible at all, it 'ought ' to be banished from the vocabulary of morals." Till this is done he propox-s to neutralize its effect by the use of another potent word - "why?" 'Yet Whew-ell has remarked that it is a mere assumption to prescribe that the answer to this query must be in the language of the utilitarian theory. Bentham urged the formation of gen-eral rules of conduct, and strict conformity to them, in order to avoid the temptations or our frailty and passions; and if a rever-ence for virtuous maxims and precepts thus takes the place in the mind of the utilitarian of the direct application of his principle, there will be little difference between him and the believer in immutable morality, since the practical rules of both will coincide.
The later writings on moral philosophy in England seem to have settled down upon the doctrines: 1. that the aim of morality should be the striving after an ideal standard of human excellence; those most religiously inclined being disposed to take Christ as the ideal standard; others, looking to a model which they have formed for themselves, considering man, his nature and his relations; 2, that there are certain self-evident truths or fundamental axioms in morals as in mathematics, to which assent is given by all minds as soon as their meaning is fully comprehended; 3, that the character of all acts is to be determined by reasoning upon their natural tendency, differing in this from Paley's system and the systems of expediency in general, in teaching that the character of acts is to be determined rather by their general features than by the peculiar circumstances of each particular case, and that thus a system of moral philosophy can be built up by reasoning concerning classes of acts, as truthfulness, benevolence, fraud, etc, just as we build up a system of mathematics by reasoning concerning lines, surfaces, solids, etc.; the reasoning being based in both cases alike upon certain self-evident axioms and certain definitions of classes of acts.
John Stuart Mill, who acknowledges the influence of both Bentham and Comte, in the latter portion of his work on "Logic " proposes and discusses the inquiry whether ethics may not be reduced to a certain science, and principles be as definitely established in the art of life as the indisputable laws of physics. He develops the subject no further than to state that happiness, in the full meaning of the word, must be the recognized goal of existence and aim of action. Herbert Spencer, without treating moral science in a special work, includes an ethical theory in his general doctrine of evolution. He holds that the science of right conduct determines how and why certain modes of conduct are detrimental and others beneficial. These deductions are to be taken as laws of conduct, and to be conformed to irrespective of a direct estimation of happiness or misery. There have been and still are developing in the race certain fundamental moral intuitions, which are the results of accumulated experiences of utility gradually organized and inherited, which have come to be quite independent of conscious experience; and these moral intuitions will respond to the demonstrations of moral science, and will have their rough conclusions verified by them.
Happiness is the end, and the conduct which tends to happiness is right for that reason; yet because the laws of life are fixed, the course of conduct which will secure the greatest happiness will necessarily restrict many individuals. The principles by which individuals are restrict-' ed for the sake of the whole are the principles of absolute morality; while the absolutely moral man is not one who conforms to these principles from external coercion or self-coercion, but who acts them out spontaneously. Alexander Pain identifies conscience witli education under authority. He holds that self-approval and disapproval are transferred, by constant association, from the experience of reward and punishment for actions to the corresponding disposition to do or avoid those actions. He founds his conclusion on these reasons: 1. That human heings in society are placed under discipline. 2. That when moral discipline is neglected, there is no security for virtuous conduct. 3. That the association of an action with disapprobation and punishment gives rise to a state of mind, in reference to it, which is not distinguishable from moral sentiment. - The Italian school of philosophy of the present century presents the subject of ethics in new phases.
Virtue, according to Rosmini, is founded on the idea of possible being. Universal being is the absolute good and the principle of every particular good. Moral good is the absolute good in so far as it is desired by man, since it is desire which first leads him to the idea of perfection, which is elaborated into that of being. The first precept of the moral law, therefore, is to love being as such. But as the moral act must be with reference to the ultimate goal and infinite object of thought, the formula is thus transformed: "Love intelligent beings, not for themselves, but for their supreme end, which is God." Virtue consists in the conformity of intuitive to reflex knowledge, and its essential principle is truth. Obligation rests on the power of rational decision, on what a person knows. Conscience is a speculative judgment on the morality of the practical judgment and on its consequences. Mamiani, also, seeks in ontology the sources of moral order. According to him, "absolute good exists," and a deduction from the idea of a first infinite cause is the fundamental principle of ethics.
Virtue is the voluntary cooperation of free and rational beings in the moral order of the universe, in which consists the absolute good, and which converges to God. Deviation, on the contrary, is evil and sin. The moral law in most general terms commands: "Do good." Duty requires the accomplishment of the part assigned to each individual in working out the supreme end of society. But beyond this fulfilment, there is, a heroic virtue whose object is the greatest possible realization of good, and which consists in the appropriation of individual capacities to the general interests of society. Mamiani maintains, as a matter of history, that right intentions have never resulted in greater evil than good, but that by a preestablished harmony even a false application of a truth must result in some undesigned advantage. The law of progress reigns in the moral as in the material world, and ultimate perfection in an immortal state is the goal of humanity. Gio-berti defines virtue to be the knowledge of an absolute law and the conformity of a free will to that law. Law is an idea considered in reference to the will, and an ethical must be founded on a metaphysical system. An ultimate law cannot be considered independently of religion, because it is in fact God himself.
The divine will manifested in the moral imperative appears clothed with an absolute right. God as the absolute law reigning over the free human will is the condition of obligation. The ideal formula of Gioberti transferred to the department of ethics becomes: Being, by means of the human will, creates the good; the human will, preferring law to affection, creates virtue; virtue, reconciling affection with law, creates happiness. All these Italian systems of ethics recall the ancient speculations on the subject by referring virtue ultimately to the intellect, making ontological conceptions of being the foundation of responsibility. They also connect virtue closely with religion, and give to it something of an ecclesiastical character. - The study of moral philosophy by American writers runs back into the last century, when Jonathan Edwards developed his theory of the nature of virtue, which he defined as the love of being in general, including under the term being both God and man, thus finding a philosophical formula for the Scriptural summary of the law.
The theory of Edwards was modified by his followers, Samuel Hopkins and Nathanael Emmons, who made virtue to consist in disinterested benevolence, rigidly excluding all self-love. Their theory, however, was held rather as a religious doctrine than as a philosophical opinion. Following the general direction of Edwards, President Dwight and Dr. Taylor held that benevolence is the highest good, blessing both giver and receiver; man being so constituted that he finds his highest happiness in promoting the happiness of others. More recently President Wayland has held that the rule of right is seen in the apprehension of the relations between things; as the relation of parent and child, state and citizen, Creator and creature. President Hickok holds that there is an imperative of reason, which impels us to do that and that only which is due to spiritual excellency. In worthiness of the approbation of our spiritual nature every virtue finds its end. This absolute right is simple, immutable, and universal.
Prof. Haven holds that right is a simple idea incapable of definition, expressing an eternal and immutable distinction inherent in the nature of things, and not the creation of arbitrary power, whether of man or God. It belongs to all voluntary rational- action, arises with the dawn of intelligence, and is universal, and not derived from anything external to the mind itself. Education simply appeals to it. President Hopkins holds that the moral problem is an inquiry after the nature and ground of obligation. It presupposes a moral nature in man but is not an inquiry as to man's moral powers. The ultimate obligation is that we should choose that which leads to the attainment of the end of our existence, and this is found in love; all questions under theoretical morals may be resolved by an exposition of the law of love, and all questions under practical morals by an exposition of love as a law. - See Meiners, Allgemeine kritische Geschichte der alteren und neueren Ethik (1800-'l); Moller Das absolute Princip der Ethik (1819); Staudlin, Geschkhte der Moralphiloso-phic(1822); De Wette, Christliche Sittenlehre (1819-21); Henning, Principien der Ethik in historischer Entwickelung (1824); Vetter, Ueber das Verhaltniss der philosophischen zur christlichen Sittenlehre (1834); Daub, Vorle-sungen uber die Prolegomena zur theologischen Moral, und fiber die Principien der Ethik; Wirth, System der speculation Ethik (1841-2); Rothe, Theologische Ethik (1845); Fuchs, System der christlichen Sittenlehre (1850); Gioberti, Del buono (1843); Rosmini-Serbati, Filosofia del diritto (1844); Bautain, Philosophie morale (1842); Denis, Histoire theories et des idees morales dans Vanti-quite (1855); Janet, Histoire des idees morales politiques (1856); Mackintosh, "Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy" (1815); Blakey, " History of Moral Science " (1833); Whewell, " History of Moral Philosophy in England" (1852); Wayland, "Elements of Moral Science" (1835); Alexander, "Out-linos of Moral Science" (1852); Hickok, -Moral Science" (1853); Haven, "Moral Philosophy" (1859); Mark Hopkins, "Lectures on Moral Science" (1863), and "The Law of Love, and Love as a Law" (1808); Bain, " Mental and Moral Science" (1868); and E. H. Gillett, "The Moral System" (1874).