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motives sometimes prevail, sometimes vitious;
and that we are always determined by the prevailing motive. This is the true system of nature; and hence great variety of character and of conduct among men. A third system is, That motives have influence; but that one can act in contradiction to every motive. This is the system I have been combating. Observe only what it resolves into. How is an action to be accounted for that is done in contradiction to every motive? It wanders from the region of common sense into that of mere chance. If such were the nature of man, no one could rely on another: a promise or an oath would be a rope of sand: the utmost cordiality between two friends would be no security to either against the other; the first weapon that comes in the way might be lethal. Would any man wish to have been formed according to such a model? He would probably wish to have been formed according to the model first mentioned: but that is denied him, virtuous motives sometimes prevailing, sometimes vitious; and from the wisdom of Providence we have reason to believe, that this law is of all the best fitted for man in his present state.
To conclude this branch of the subject: In none of the works of Providence, as far as we can penetrate, is there displayed a deeper reach of art and wisdom, than in the laws of action peculiar to man as a thinking and rational being, Were he let
let loose to act in contradiction to motives, there would be no place for prudence, foresight, nor for adjusting means to an end: It could not be foreseen by others what a man would do the next hour; nay it could not be foreseen even by himself. Man would not be capable of rewards and punishments: he would not be fitted, either for divine or for human government: he would be a creature that has no resemblance to the human race. But man is not left loose; for though he is at liberty to act according to his own will, yet his will is regulated by desire, and desire by what pleases and displeases. This connection preserves uniformity of conduct, and confines human actions within the great chain of causes and effects. By this admirable system, liberty and necessity, seemingly incompatible, are made perfectly concordant, fitting us for society, and for government both human and divine. pt
Having explained the laws that govern human actions; we procceed to what is chiefly intended in the present section, which is, to examine how far the moral sentiments handled in the foregoing sections are consistent with these laws. Let it be kept in view, that the perception of a right and a wrong in actions, is founded entirely upon the moral sense. And that upon the same sense are founded the sentiments of approbation and praise when a man does right, and of disapprobation and blame when he does wrong. Were we destitute of the moral sense, right and wrong, praise and blame,
would be as little understood as colours are by one born blind*.
The formidable argument urged to prove that our moral sentiments are inconsistent with the supposed necessary influence of motives, is what follows. "If motives have a necessary influence on "our actions, there can be no good reason to "praise a man for doing right, nor to blame him "for doing wrong. What foundation can there "be either for praise or blame, when it was not "in a man's power to have acted otherwise.A " man commits murder, instigated by a sudden fit "of revenge: why should he be punished, if he "acted necessarily, and could not resist the vio"lence of the passion?" Here it is supposed, that a power of resistance is essential to praise and blame. But upon examination it will be found, that this supposition has not any support in the dog. To naming sea di damaso moral eva sense biom cal vð Landy
In an intricate subject like the present, great care should be taken to avoid ambiguities. The term praise has two different significations: in one sense it is opposed to blame; in another, to dispraise. In the former sense, it expresses a moral sentiment: in the latter, it expresses only the approving any object that pleases me. I praise one man for his candour, and blame another for being a double-dealer. These, both of them, imply will and intention. I praise a man for being acute; but for being dull, I only dispraise him. I praise a woman for beauty; but blame not any for ugliness, I only dispraise them. None of these particulars imply will or intention. VHING
moral sense, nor in reason, nor in the common sense of mankind.
With respect to the first, the moral sense, as we have seen above, places innocence and guilt, and consequently praise and blame, entirely upon will and intention. The connection between the motive and the action, so far from diminishing, enhances the praise or blame. The greater influence a virtuous motive has, the greater is the virtue of the actor, and the more warm our praise. On the other hand, the greater influence a vitious motive has, the greater is the vice of the actor, and the more violently do we blame him. As this is the cardinal point, I wish to have it considered in a general view. It is essential both to human and die vine government, that the influence of motives should be necessary. It is equally essential, that that necessary influence should not have the effect to lessen guilt in the estimation of men. To fulfil both ends, guilt is placed by the moral sense entirely upon will and intention: a man accordingly blames himself for doing mischief willingly and intentionally, without once considering whether he acted necessarily or not. And his sentiments are adopted by all the world: they pronounce the same sentence of condemnation that he himself does. A man put to the torture, yields to the pain, and with bitter reluctance reveals the secrets of his party another does the same, yielding to a tempting bride. The latter only is blamed as
guilty of a crime; and yet the bribe perhaps operated as strongly on the latter, as torture did on the former. But the one was compelled reluctantly to reveal the secrets of his party; and therefore is innocent: the other acted willingly, in order to procure a great sum of money; and therefore is guilty.
With respect to reason, I observe, that the moral sense is the only judge in this controversy, not the faculty of reason. I should, however, not be afraid of a sentence against me, were reason to be the judge. For would not reason dictate, that the less a man wavers about his duty, or, in other words, the less influence vitious motives have, the more praise-worthy he is; and the more blameable, the less influence virtuous motives have?
Nor are we led by common sense to differ from reason or from the moral sense. A man commits murder, overcome by a sudden fit of revenge which he could not resist : do we not reflect, even at first view, that the man did not desire to resist; and that he would have committed the murder, though he had not been under any necessity? a person of plain understanding will say, What signifies it whether the criminal could resist it or no, when he committed the murder wittingly and willingly? A man gives poison privately out of revenge. Does any one doubt of his guilt, when he never once repented; though after administering the poison it no longer was in his power to draw back? A