« AnteriorContinuar »
wrong. But for what fort of actions does he hold himself accountable? Not surely for an instinctive action, which is done blindly, without intention and without will: neither for an involuntary action, because it is extorted from him against his will: and least of all, for actions done without consciousness. "What only remain are voluntary actions, which are done wittingly and willingly: for these we must account, if at all accountable; and for these every man in conscience holds himself bound to account.
More particularly upon voluntary actions. To intend and to will, tho' commonly held synonymous, signify different acts of the mind. Intention respects the effect: Will respects the action that is exerted for producing the effect. It is my Intention, for example, to relieve my friend from distress: upon seeing him, it is my Will to give him a sum for his relief: the external act of giving follows; and my friend is relieved, which is the effect intended. But these internal acts are always united: I cannot will the means, without intending the effect; and
I I cannot intend the effect, without willing the means *.
Some effects of voluntary action follow necessarily: A wound is an effect that necessarily follows the stabbing a person with a dagger: death is a necessary effect of throwing one down from the battlements of a high tower. Some effects are probable only: I labour in order to provide for my family; fight for my country to rescue it from oppressors; take physic for my health. In such cases, the event intended does not necessarily nor always follow.
A man, when he wills to act, must intend the necessary effect: a person who stabs, certainly intends to wound. But where the effect is probable only, one may act without intending the effect that follows: a stone thrown by me at random into the market-place, may happen to wound a man without my intending it. One acts by instinct, without either will or intention: voluntary actions that ne
* To incline, to resolve, to intend, to will, are acts of the mind relative to external action. These several acts are well understood; tho' they cannot be defined, being perfectly simple.
2 cessarily ceffarily produce their effect, imply intention: voluntary actions, when the effect is probable only, are sometimes intended, sometimes not.
Human actions are distinguished from each other by certain qualities, termed right and wrong. But as these make the corner-stone of morality, they are reserved to the following section.
Division of Human Actions into Right, Wrong, and Indifferent.
* I 'HE qualities of right and wrong in voluntary actions, are universally acknowledged as the foundation of morality; and yet philosophers have been strangely perplexed about them. The history of their various opinions, would signify little but to darken the subject: the reader will have more satisfaction in seeing these qualities explained, without entering at all into controversy.
Vol. IV. B No
No person is ignorant of primary'and secondary qualities, a distinction much insisted on by philosophers. Primary qualities, such as figure, cohesion, weight, are .permanent qualities, that exist in a subject whether perceived or not. Secondary qualities, such as colour, • jCaste, smell, depend on the percipient As much. as on^the subject, being nothing when not perceived. Beauty and ugliness are qualities ,of the ]atter fort: they have no existence but when perceived; and, like all other secondary qualities, they are perceived intuitively; having no dependence on reason nor on judgement, more than colour has, or smell, or taste (a). ;-i:.a ;,>..,
The qualities of right and wrong in voluntary actions, are secondary,, like beauty and ugliness and the other secondary qualities mentioned. Like them, they are objects of intuitive perception, and depend not in any degree on. reason. No argument is requisite to prove, that to rescue an innocent babe from the jaws of a wolf, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, are right actions: they are perceived to be so intuitively. As little is an argument;
(a) Elements o.f Critkisiiij- vol. j. p. :cy, edit.'5.
requisite to prove, that murder, deceit, perjury, are wrong actions: they are perceived to be so intuitively. The Deity has bestow'd on man, different faculties for different purposes. Truth and falsehood are investigated by the reasoning faculty. Beauty and ugliness are objects of a fense, known by the name of taste. Right and wrong are objects of a fense termed the moral sense or conscience. And supposing these qualities to be hid from our perception, in vain would we try to discover them by any argument or process of reasoning: the attempt would be absurd; no less so than an attempt to discover by reasoning colour, or taste, or smell *.
* Every perception must proceed from some faculty or power of perception, termed sense. The moral sense, by which we perceive the qualities of right and wrong, may be considered either as a branch of the fense of seeing, by which we perceive the actions to which these qualities belong, or as a fense distinct from all others. The fenses by which objects are perceived, are not separated from each other by distinct boundaries: the sorting or clafling them, seems tb depend more on taste and fancy, than oil nature. I have followed the plan laid down by former writers; which is, to consider the moral sense as a fense distinct from others, because it is the easiest and clearest manner of conceiving it.
B 2 Right