ページの画像
PDF
ePub

to examine, view, and judge of the good or evil of what we are going to do; and when upon due examination we have judged, we have done our duty, all that we can or ought to do, in pursuit of our happiness ; and it is not a fault, but a perfection of our nature, to desire, will, and act, according to the last result of a fair examination. This seems to me the source of all liberty; in this seems to consist that which is (I think improperly) called free-will.. Essay, vol. i.

p.

264. Moral liberty, it should seem then, all the liberty which a man has or which he wants, does not after all consist in a power of indifferency, or in a power of choosing, without regard to motives, but in a power of exciting his reason and of obeying it. There are two general positions advanced by the author in the course of this inquiry, to neither of which I can agree; namely, that action always proceeds from uneasiness, and that we are perfect judges of present good and evil. With respect to the first, it is true indeed that nothing can be an object of desire till we suffer uneasiness from the want of it, but it is just as true, that the want of any thing does not cause uneasiness in the mind, unless it is first an object of desire, or unless the prospect of it gives us pleasure. As to the

second position, that we cannot be deceived in judging of our actual sensations, it would be true, if the sensation and the judgment formed upon it were the same, but they neither are nor can be. Let any person smell to a rose, and look at a beautiful prospect or hear a fine piece of music at the same instant, and try to determine which of them gives him most pleasure. If he has the least doubt or hesitation, the principle laid down by Mr Locke cannot pass for an axiom. From not accurately distinguishing between sensation and judgment, some writers have been led to confound good and evil with pleasure and pain. Good or evil is properly that which gives the mind pleasure or pain on reflection, that is, which excites rational approbation or disapprobation. To consider these two things as either the same, or in any regular proportion to each other, is I think to betray a very superficial acquaintance with human nature. Yet in defiance of the necessary distinction between the faculties by which we feel and by which we judge, these moralists have laid it down as a fundamental rule that all pleasures which are so in themselves are equally good and commendable; yet as these ideas relate solely to the reflex impression made by certain things on the understanding, to insist that we

shall judge of them by an appeal to the senses, is unwisely to overturn the principle of the division of labour among our faculties, and to force one to do the office of another. For this there seems no more reason than for attempting to hear with our fingers, to see a sound, or feel a colour.

“Oh! who can paint a sun-beam to the blind ;

Or make him feel a shadow with his mind."

Yet the absurdity of the attempt arises only from the inaptitude of the organ to the object.

Among simple ideas Mr Locke reckons that of

power. It were to be wished that he had given it as simple a source as possible, viz. the feeling we have of it in our own minds, which he sometimes seems half inclined to do, instead of referring it to our observation of the successive changes which take place in matter. It is by this means alone, that is, by making it an original idea derived from within, like the sense of pleasure or pain, and quite distinct from the visible composition and decomposition of other objects, that we can avoid being driven into an absolute scepticism with regard to cause and effect. For Hume has, I think, demonstrated that in the mere mechanical series of sensible appearances, there is nothing to suggest this

idea, or point out the indissoluble connection of one event with another, any more than in the Aies of a summer. We get this idea solely from the exertion of muscular or voluntary power in ourselves : whoever has stretched forth his hand to an object, must have the idea of power. Under the idea of power I include all that relates to what we call force, energy, weakness, effort, ease, difficulty, impossibility, &c. Accordingly, I should conceive that no man of strong passions, or great muscular activity would ever give up the idea of power. Hume, who seems to have discarded it with the least compunction, was an easy, indolent, good-tempered man, who did not care to stir out of his armchair; a languid, Epicurean philosopher, of a reasonable corpulency, who was hurried away by no violent passions, or intense desires, but looked on most things with the same eye of listlessness and indifference. one of the subtlest and most metaphysical of all metaphysicians. And perhaps he was so for the reason here stated. The Scotch in general are not metaphysicians : they have in fact always a purpose, they aim at a particular point, they are determined upon something beforehand. This gives a hardness and rigidity to their understandings, and takes away

He was

that tremulous sensibility to every slight and wandering impression which is necessary to complete the fine balance of the mind, and enable us follow all the infinite fluctuations of thought through their nicest distinctions.

To return to the doctrine of necessity. I shall refer to the authority of but one more writer, who has indeed exhausted the subject, and anticipated what few remarks I had to offer upon it: I mean Jonathan Edwards, in his treatise on the Will. This work, setting aside its Calvinistic tendency with which I have nothing to do, is one of the most closely reasoned, elaborate, acute, serious, and sensible among modern productions. No metaphysician can read it without feeling a wish to have been the author of it. The gravity of the matter and the earnestness of the manner are alike admirable. His reasoning is not of that kind, which consists in having a smart answer for every trite objection, but in attaining true and satisfactory solutions of things perceived in all their difficulty and in all their force, and in every variety of connexion. He evidently writes to satisfy his own mind and the minds of those, who like himself are intent upon the pursuit of truth for its own sake. There is not an evasion or ambiguity in his whole book, nor a wish to produce any but

« 前へ次へ »