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to do more than balance the apparent good results of any action. I speak of this as an assumption : for the supreme principle of the system cannot supply a rigorous proof of the assumption. The supreme principle of the system of which I speak is, the happiness resulting from each action. General rules therefore are good, only because, and so far as, they are subservient to happiness. We have no right, on such principles, to demand for them any greater generality, any greater rigour, than we can establish by showing such a subservience. But in constructing such system of morality we do demand more. We demand so much more, that we make their very generality a ground for rejecting perceived consequences. We do not limit the generality by the utility, by its tendency to produce benefits of known kinds; we declare the generality to be a new kind of utility”. This assumption does in fact, if acted upon, bring the two systems of morality, the dependent and the independent, into very close proximity as to their results. For as soon as it is held that rules must be universal, we can have little doubt what the rules are to be. It cannot, on any principles of morals, be generally indifferent whether we tell the truth or tell a lie: and we must have a rule of universal validity:therefore “Tell the truth,” which must be the general rule, must be the universal rule. And thus the system of dependent morality, from this point, may be made to assume a form as firm and solid as if it had for its base the essential distinctions of things. I may observe that this is very much like what has taken place in other branches of science. In many branches of science there have been controversies whether the prineiples of the science are necessarily true, or are known by experiment only; just as in morals, the question constantly
* See Paley, Book II. c. 7 and 8.
under our notice has been, whether the rules of ethics can
be necessarily deduced from the idea of moral rightness, or
must be learnt by tracing actions to their consequences.
Now those who have maintained the empirical foundation of such sciences, of mechanics for example, have still held the
propositions which the science contains to be universally true.
Take the case of any machine in which the mechanist
would calculate the effect. Suppose that a projector brings
forward some mechanical contrivance, which possesses, as he maintains, powers far greater than any hitherto known:
however complex, however novel the construction, the mechanical philosopher proceeds unhesitatingly upon the principle, that in the working of the machine what is gained in power is lost in velocity. But how does he know that the principle is true in this new case? He may have proved its truth experimentally in other instances; but here, the projector maintains that an entirely novel construction is employed:—the old maxims, he asserts, are no longer valid. The mechanist heeds him not : he does not waver as to the truth of his mechanical principle. It must be true in this case, though hitherto tested only in others. Whence is this confidence? How is it that experimental mechanical truths thus assume the character of necessity ? The answer is important: they must be universal by their nature: and hence, proved in one case, they hold for all others. Thus in the case just referred to. Action and reaction must be equal: action and reaction must depend upon the masses and upon their velocities:—action and reaction are proportional to the masses and velocities jointly; or else they are not thus proportional: but in either case the proposition is general. Action and reaction cannot be one thing in one material combination, and another thing in a different combination. Therefore the measure of action and reaction, the joint proportion of the masses and velocities, is either universally true or universally false. But we know that it is true in many simple cases:—hence it is true in all cases, however varied, however complex, however novel. Thus this assumption of the necessary generality of our propositions makes the procedure nearly alike, after a certain point, of those who cultivate the science asserting it to rest upon independent foundations in the nature of our ideas, and of those who refer it entirely to empirical grounds. And this is the case in morals as it is in mathematics. A moral projector might come to the casuist, asserting that he was in possession of a falsehood which it would be of the greatest service to mankind to promulgate as a truth. What would the casuist say ? “It never can be right to promulgate falsehood.” If he were a moralist of expedience, if the question had been proposed to Paley, he would have said: “It must in the long run do more harm than good to put about your lie.” But the projector pleads that he has calculated the good and the harm, and that the good immensely predominates. The moralist has not calculated; how can he know?—Does the moralist hesitate at this? Not an instant. He says, “You violate a general rule. No other good can compensate for the mischief of this.” And thus he nobly leaps over his barrier of calculated consequences, and places himself at one bound, in defiance of his theory, upon the solid basis of rules by their nature universal. And thus it is that there is no inevitable divergence in the results of the different, or even opposite schools of moralists, as to rules of conduct: and in those of them who accept the light of religion, even as a collateral aid, there is the most remarkable coincidence, notwithstanding the different courses they at first seem to pursue. Yet it is still true, that the different spirit of these different schools continues to pervade them, even in their practical conclusions. Thus Paley, though he avails himself of the consideration of the necessary generality of rules, in order to gain a solid footing for sound morality, still appears to have a misgiving respecting this assumption, and shrinks back again from the general rule to the special consequences. “Not to violate a general rule for the sake of any particular good consequences we may expect is for the most part,” he says, “a salutary caution, the advantage seldom compensating for the violation of the rule.” Hence we see he introduces words which infringe the integrity of the rule, and indeed may easily be used to destroy it altogether. In the same way, although general rules, if they are of supreme importance in morals, must be allowed also to be of great value in government, the consideration of these appears to be laid aside when it ought to be recollected most. Thus Paley says: “This principle [of expediency] being admitted, the justice of every particular case of resistance is reduced to a computation of the quantity of the danger and grievance on the one side, and the probability and expense of redressing it on the other.” Hence he appears to have left out of the account the immense mischief of violating that long-tried and approved system of rules which we call the Constitution, of which he might easily say, with as much truth as of any system of moral rules, that not to violate it is a salutary caution, the advantage so gained rarely compensating the violation of the rule. It is not my intention to discuss at present Paley's views with regard to special duties. I shall have a few remarks to make on the reception which his principles met with in this University and this country; and with these I shall conclude the historical sketch which I have thus attempted.
PALEY — GISBORNE.
N order to make more complete our account of the reception of Paley's work in general, and especially in this place, let us go back a few years. The works of Rutherforth I conceive we may take as representing the teaching common at Cambridge in the middle of the last century. Besides the Essay which I have mentioned, he published in 1754 and 1756, as I have said, his Institutes of Natural Law, being the substance of a Course of Lectures on Grotius de Jure Belli et Pacis, read in St John's College, Cambridge. The work consists of two volumes; the first being on the Rights and Obligations of Mankind, considered as Individuals; the second, on the Rights and Obligations of Mankind, considered as Members of Civil Societies. His work was, I believe, in common use in the University, till that of Paley was introduced. Although it professes to be a Course of Lectures on Grotius, neither the basis of the system, nor its arrangement, have any close resemblance with those of Grotius. The work of Grotius holds a very important place in the history of Moral Philosophy; but in order to adhere to my plan of pursuing at present the history of this Philosophy in England only, I do not attempt to speak of it now. I will only remark (as I believe I have already done), that the fundamental doctrines of Grotius are very nearly the same as those of Cumberland; a general principle of sociality, or regard to the good of human kind, being the main basis of their morality. This principle in Cumberland, as we then said, was emphatically declared to be something far higher and wider than a regard to private good. But the leading English M