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srsity of California

uthern Regional












Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1841, by

in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.





'""' ^ PAGE


LECTURE II. . . . . . . . . 20

LECTURE III. ' ' '''" 42

LECTURE IV. .'..'' . . . v . . 67
LECTURE V. . . . . . . * . .95





LECTURE X. ,jt 194

LECTURE XI. ' . . . . . . . . 213

LECTURE XII -". , 232







CHAPTER I. rl.T Y* T. /j^ '.'', O. ... 323
CHAPTER II. On the Sources of Psychology . 329

CHAPTER III. On the Substance of Psychology 341

CHAPTER IV. On the Scientific Form of Psy-

chology . . . '. . . 346

SUMMARY ...... ., . 348

FIRST BOOK. Phenomenology of the Soul _,, -j 351

FIRST PART. Essential Phenomena of the Soul 356

CHAPTER I. The Intellect . . ,356

. ',' :

W " -IV ;'TTM,





POPULAR lectures on Moral Philosophy may seem,
to many, almost a contradiction in terms. Moral
Philosophy, and the principal subjects comprehend-
ed in the terms, Religion, Morals, and Law, have
grown unpopular under the professional care of theo-
logians, lawyers, and moralists. Sound principles
of religion, morals, and law, are easily recognised,
whenever we meet with them in real life ; but who
can find them out under the disguise of theological
literature and law books ? Can it be denied that re-
ligion, which is indeed, as the gospel calls it, "the
light of life," has been hidden from the simple and
single hearted, by the scholastic subtilties, and the
controversial storms of theology ? And the law,
which, in some of the ancient law books of Europe,
is technically called the mirror, a mirror in which
every man should behold his own moral likeness,
has it not continually been troubled by the pedantry
and priestcraft of the profession, so that it reflects
only a distorted image, and, in fact, suits none but



those who love to fish in troubled waters ? Morality,
too, is fallen from its state of simplicity into sophis-
tical casuistry ; it has lost its life and soul under the
palsying influence of a cold, tame, and worldly poli-
cy, misnamed Moral Philosophy. Lastly, philosophy
itself comes in for the largest share in the unpopular-
ity of the subject. Religion, Morals, and Law,
though they are the very sources of eloquence in the
pulpit and at the bar, have usually become uninterest-
ing in the hands of scholars, who, instead of seeking
the truth in the rich fields of experience, where it
thrives amid the sunshine and the storms of life, have
sought lo astonish the world by publishing the exper-
iments of their philosophical laboratories. They have
brought philosophy into disrepute, making it a sort of
alchymy , or search after the philosopher's stone ; so that
to philosophize about a thing, seems to be considered
the same as to set aside common sense and the truth.
" A thing may be true in theory, yet false in practice ;
of what importance then can the philosophy, or the
mere theory of a thing be, to one, who cares only for
what is true in practice ? " So the practical man
reasons against the theorist or philosopher. Now if
I should succeed in showing that nothing can be true
or false in practice, but what is true or false, also, in
theory ; that every one is, or should be, a philoso-
pher, that is, a seeker after reasons ; and that every
one is, or should be, a theologian, a lawyer, and a
moralist, I shall have done something, however
little, toward making the subject of Moral Philosophy


Considering the practical character of the subjects
discussed in these lectures, I intend to treat of them,
as I should of any other subject, generally acknowl-
edged to be practical ; as if I had come to propose
to you some scheme of internal improvement, or some
commercial project, or a voyage of discovery. In-
deed, it requires but a moderate stretch of the imagi-
nation, to see a resemblance between the subject of
Moral Philosophy, and those projects of enterprise
and industry which I have just mentioned. A sci-
ence, which has for its object the investigation of the
moral powers, and the cultivation of the inner man,
has as good a right, perhaps, as any other scheme, to
be classed under the contested head of internal im-
provement. And with the same poetical license, if
not justice, the subject of Moral Philosophy may be
considered as the greatest commercial enterprise. If
it is the object of commerce, to establish a safe, easy,
and profitable intercourse between the inhabitants of
distant parts of the earth, Moral Philosophy may be
said to carry the true principles of Free Trade in-
to the intercourse between all rational beings. For
the object of Moral Philosophy, is no other than to
ascertain the real interests and respective rights of all ;
to square the account between virtue and happiness,
vice and misery ; and to hold up, with a high hand, the
eternal balance of justice in the moral world. Again,
those who enter together upon the study of Moral
Philosophy, may truly be said to set out on a voyage
of discovery. They launch upon an endless and
pathless element, in the light bark of reason, with


nothing to guide them on their doubtful way but the
loadstar in their own breast, and that Spirit of Truth
which never deserts those who do not desert them-
selves, but who steer right onward in pursuit of those
treasures, which, as the Psalmist says, are " more to
be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold."

One disposed to make sport of our subject, might
say that Moral Philosophy also resembles that late
scheme of discovery, which, for want of any thing of
importance to be explored on the surface of our
globe, directs the restless adventurer to an unknown
world in its interior. Let us not reject the sportive
comparison, but improve it. The moral world which
it is the object of this branch of philosophy to ex-
plore, is indeed a world within this world. And
though the scheme or system that I have to propose
to you, should be something like the dominions of the
Great Khan of Tartary, described by Marco Polo,
still, if it be pursued with the lofty faith of Columbus,
it may lead, as it did in his case, to a continent of
truth, a world of freedom, and a happy home.

But it is time I should return to the simple and so-
ber purpose of this introductory address, hoping that
the previous desultory remarks will pass, with my in-
dulgent hearers, as the ornamented initials of an old
manuscript, whose curious flourishes seem to be cal-
culated to beguile the unwary reader, with its grave,
and, sometimes, unpalatable contents. My intention
is, first, to give a clear and succinct account of the
subject of these lectures ; then to make some remarks
on its importance ; and lastly, to lay before you the


plan and method which I intend to pursue in discuss-
ing it.

First, the subject of these lectures is Moral Phi-
losophy, or an inquiry into the elements of Morals,
Religion, and Law. Not much need be said in ex-
planation of these terms. We all know that the
words, morals and morality, refer to human conduct,
as right or wrong, virtuous or vicious, conformable
or opposed to the dictates of conscience and duty.
We speak of morality sometimes as the practice, and
sometimes as the principle or doctrine, of duty. Mo-
rality, in the latter sense of the word, may be taught,
either as it is in the ten commandments, by enume-
rating certain rules of conduct ; or, by inquiring into
the foundation of our moral ideas of right and wrong,
virtue and sin. It is then called ethics or moral phi-
losophy, that is, the science of duty. A philosophi-
cal inquiry into the foundations of morals necessarily
takes in, also, the elements of law and religion.

We understand, by morals or morality, all the du-
ties of man, enjoined by conscience and reason,
whether he find them prescribed or not by what he
conceives to be the will of God, or by the laws of
society. It is conscience, the moral lawgiver in his
heart, that makes it his duty to obey the laws of so-
ciety, which his reason approves as just, and to adopt,
profess, and exercise that faith, which, from the best
use of his reason, he thinks to be the truth. Still
more, by a thorough investigation of human nature and
the relations of life, he is able to ascertain what state
of society, what laws, and what form of government


are most truly moral, that is, most conformable to
conscience and reason, from their being best adapted
to the true interests of man. This system of laws,
which ought to be called the laws of nature, the
only legitimate foundation of the existing laws of
society, is entirely the result of moral philosophy.
While philosophy thus enables us so to order our
civil and political affairs, that our social condition
may deserve the name of a moral state, it teaches
us, on the other hand, to form a just conception of
the moral government of the universe. The moral
nature of man bears a prophetic testimony to the
designs of the Creator ; it enables us to recognise, in
our approving or condemning conscience, the judg-
ment that is to come, and to form a faith in divine
justice, which is strong enough to triumph over the
false teachings of a short-sighted experience of the
success of virtue and vice in this world, that, in the
end, when reason shall become vision, and we behold
every thing even as it is, we shall see what He, who
made it, saw from the beginning, that all is " good."

It is evident, therefore, that all our various duties,
our civil and religious obligations, are connected by
an intimate and indissoluble bond, and that this is es-
sentially a moral bond. We have seen, that the ele-
ments of law and religion exist in the moral nature of
man, and therefore must be the object of moral phi-

So much for the subject of these lectures. Few
remarks are necessary to set forth its importance.
That it is important to the lawyer and the theologian,


is obvious. By ascertaining the principles of natural
law, it affords to the lawyer the only true test, the
eternal standard, of the laws of man in every age, and
in every part of the world. To the theologian it
opens the book of the law and of prophecy, which the
Author of his faith and his being has enshrined in the
heart of man. But the law of nature, the law of God,
is the same to all men. Moral philosophy, then, is
more important to the lawyer and the theologian, only
in so much as others forget, that the essential rights
and duties, implied in these professions, are not con-
fined to the pulpit and the bar. This self-forgetful-
ness is particularly culpable in a people, when the
law of the land, being a transcript of the law of na-
ture, unites with the faith of Christ in declaring, that
all men are born equal, and all consciences are free ;
that all are kings and priests, clothed with native
majesty, and invested with holy orders, by Him, who
has made man a living spirit in his own likeness.
One glance at society at large, as well as in its most
private circles, must satisfy every one, that, if the
moral principle were not superior to every other
power in the world, every kingdom and every house
would be divided against itself, and could not stand.
Is it said, that it is the law and the magistrate, sup-
ported by military force, which secures freedom to
the just, and slavery to the unjust ? What is it, I
would ask, that gives power to the law, which is to
lay down, to the sentence of the judge, which is to
apply, and to the military, which is to enforce, the
rule of right ? Is not the sense of justice, the moral


principle in the people, the creative power which
calls forth, from the chaos of the crude elements .of
society, this finished world which we call the state ?
And is it not the same invisible principle, which alone
can sustain the social order itself has created ? The
same principle, which has given birth and still gives
aliment to our civil institutions, is manifested every
day in those transactions of men which do not come
under the cognizance of the law of the state. It im-
parts power to the mere word of a man where there
is no witness ; so that every agreement, made in good
faith, becomes, in effect, the most solemn indenture,
though the counterparts of it exist only in the hearts
of him who spoke the word, and him who heard it.
Thus, the moral principle invests the word of man
with a power to control all his future actions ; it gives
to a transient breath of air a real, a living, an immortal

I have spoken of morality as the invisible founda-
tion of the law and the state. What, let me ask,
are religion and the church without a moral basis ?
What, without it, is the offering we bring every Sab-
bath to the altar of God ? It is the offering of Cain,
unaccepted, unblessed, concerning which, the Lord
hath spoken, " If thou dost not well, sin lieth at the
door." Religion, without morality, exclusive fanati-
cism, is the spirit of Cain, rising from the worship of
his Father to slay his brother, his fellow-man, who
worships God in a different way, within the temple-
gate of his own conscience. History has over-abun-
dantly shown what religion is, and what she will do,


when disjoined from morality. But history has not
yet shown what religion is, and what she can do in
the world, when allied, for offence and defence, with
the principles of morality ; when Christianity shall no
longer be the willing handmaid of power, accommo-
dating itself to every form of society, however vicious
and perverse ; when the kingdom of this world shall
establish, in time, the same principles which the king-
dom of heaven secures for eternity.

Let us now turn from society at large, from church
and state, to its smaller and stiller circles. What is
the moral principle to domestic life ? It is the guar-
dian angel that hovers around the cradle of human
existence ; it is the cherubim, with the flaming sword
before the paradise of pure affection, " to keep the
way of the tree of life."

What is the moral principle to the individual
man ? The human soul consists of an infinite varie-
ty of powers and tendencies, and, under the equal
sway of morality, resembles a well-regulated com-
monwealth ; whereas the prevalence of any other prin-
ciple tyrannizes over and enslaves the soul ; whilst
the entire absence of some ruling principle throws
the whole into anarchy and confusion. Of all the
human faculties, the moral principle is the only one
which is liable to no excess. There cannot be too
much virtue, too strict an adherence to duty, while it
is the only one which keeps every other from running
into extremes, interrupting the order, and breaking
the peace of the soul. It is, in the inner man, what
the administration of justice is in society. For it


does justice to his whole nature, his lower, as well
as his higher interests. Not only the animal appetites
and selfish propensities, such as the love of gain, of
power, and of show, distract and debase the soul, if
they usurp the supremacy ; but even the higher, the
intellectual and spiritual tendencies, if they wander
beyond their appointed path, disturb the beautiful sys-
tem of the soul. Thus, excessive study is apt to in-
dispose the mind for active duties ; and, on the other
hand, excessive devotion to business tends to impair
the love of information. Attachment to our own
family, if excessive, will destroy or weaken our in-
terest in the community ; and too great zeal in poli-
tics may blunt our tender sympathies with our nearest
friend. The same is true of the religious principle,
if it is indulged in to the neglect of our intellectual
and social duties and enjoyments. For, while the
various powers, which are mysteriously bound up in
the germ of human existence, are branching out in all
directions, religion was implanted in man to raise the
tree of life from earth to heaven ; but not to absorb,
in its upward growth, all the nourishment intended for
the perfection of the whole, for branches, blossoms,
and fruits, and thus to send up a lofty stem without
the power to support itself, without use, and without
beauty. I repeat, it is the moral principle which
prevents each tendency of the soul from running into
excess ; but this control is widely different from that
artificial system of checks and balances, producing a
state of rest, which some of the ancient philosophers
deemed the highest good. The true object of mo-


rality is to marshal all the various powers of the soul,
in order to lead them in a steady progression to the
severest of all struggles, and the most glorious of all
triumphs, the conquest of self, and a continual ap-
proach to divine perfection.

But enough, and perhaps more than enough, has
been said of the importance of the moral principle
in society, and in the character of the individual.
Words are lost where reality speaks so loud. But of
what importance can the philosophy of morals be to
us, in particular, who possess in the Gospel a perfect
code of duty ? I do not hesitate to say, that the Gos-
pel itself enjoins the study of moral philosophy. For
what is true philosophy ? It is to "judge of our-
selves what is right " ; it is, to "prove all things, and
to hold fast that which is good." Besides, the Gospel
is not a complete code of all the particular duties of
life, but a revelation of the spirit of morality which is
alone able to guide us into all moral truth. This is
the true glory of this revelation, and one of the most
powerful internal proofs of its authenticity. It is that
which distinguishes it from other records held sacred
by men, which made the moral perfection of man to
consist in the performance of certain commandments
specified in the law. Thus, for example, the Gospel
does not contain rules to regulate the political affairs
of a country, and settle questions of international law.
But this one saying of Christ, " Ye are all brethren,"
is sufficient to solve, by a fair and fearless deduction,
all the enigmas in politics, and to settle the most
complicated relations in the intercourse of men.



To show that the revelation of the great moral
principle in Scripture, is in reality a revelation of the
moral nature of man ; and, by a continuous train of
reasoning, to deduce from these premises all the va-
rious duties of life, -this is the object of Moral Phi-

I have spoken first, of the subject of these lectures,
and then of its importance. I will now briefly set
before you the plan and method I intend to pursuq in
presenting it to you. In point of method, I can only say,
that it should be at the same time philosophical and
popular. It should be philosophical or scientific, that
is, a thorough and systematic course of reasoning, cal-
culated to ascertain the foundation and essence of
morality, and display the harmony of all the various
duties of life. These lectures should be popular, that
is, free from dry and abstruse disquisitions and scholas-
tic terminology. Each principle should be illustrated
by pertinent examples, not merely because they at-
tract the attention, but because they are, if properly
chosen, some of the very facts from which those
principles are deduced, and therefore are best adapt-
ed to bring them home to the individual experience
of all.

The plan of my lectures is simply this. I shall in-
troduce the subject by an historical account of some
of the most remarkable systems of morals and reli-
gion ; particularly those of Plato and Aristotle, Zeno
and Epicurus, among the ancients, and those of Spi-
noza and Kant among modern philosophers. I shall
endeavour to represent these systems, which have had


great influence on the opinions of men, with historical
accuracy, and give a critical exposition of their peculiar
excellences and defects. The history of philosophy
places the student on the summit of the attainments
hitherto made, and opens a view of the whole ; and
will therefore save him, as well from a sluggish and
slavish acquiescence in any one system, as from a vain
and preposterous running after originality. But the
history of philosophy is not philosophy itself. In
treating of the great philosophical productions of an-
cient and modern times, it is not my object to fortify,
by their authority, any views I have to propose. The
vessel in which I wish you to embark, however small,
does not sail under the flag of any potentate in philoso-
phy ; nor is the cargo taken upon credit ; still less is
she a slave-ship. It is the object of moral philosophy
to break the spell of authority, and emancipate reason,
that it may establish, by its own industry, a household
of truth supported by faithful inquiry.

All true philosophy consists in reasoning from
facts, such facts as come under the observation, and
consequently within the jurisdiction, of every sound

The various topics I intend to discuss, naturally fall
under these three heads, first, the foundation of morals
and religion in human nature ; second, the develope-
ment of these principles by education; and thirdly,
their establishment in society, chiefly by civil and re-
ligious institutions, church and state.

The first of these three subjects of inquiry, the
foundation of morality, leads to the discussion of


some questions of controversial philosophy. Are re-
ligion, morality, and law, founded in the nature of
man, or are they productions of education and civili-
zation ? Is there any essential difference between
right and expediency ? Is there any between con-
science and reason ? Is man a moral free agent, or
is his character the necessary result of circumstances ?
What influence has the cultivation of the taste and the
fine arts, upon the morals of the community ?

Under the head of education I shall discuss the
general principles, and the peculiar, comparative, and
united advantages of domestic and public education.

Under the third head, treating of the establishment
of morals and religion in society, I shall discuss, first,
some topics relative to civil and political institutions,
such as the natural rights of men ; the rights and du-
ties arising from the domestic relations ; the founda-
tion of property and of civil obligations ; the mutual
obligations of the buyer and seller, particularly with
regard to the disclosure of advantages contemplated
by each in the bargain. I shall treat, also, of the
right to inflict capital punishment ; of the foundation of
political constitutions and government ; the right of
general taxation for the purpose of public education ;
and lastly, the right to resist measures of government
and to change its form. I shall then speak of religious
institutions ; of the mode of spreading true religion
among men, and perpetuating it by associations and
forms of worship. These investigations derive an
immediate interest from the actual fermentations in
the political and religious world. Church and state


seem striving after new and more enlarged forms, and
a deeper foundation. Perhaps a thorough inquiry into
the principles of human nature, on which those estab-
lishments are grounded, may enable us to lift the veil
of futurity, or at least bring us nearer to the solution
of the great enigma of our time.

These are some of the most prominent subjects to
be discussed. Others of the same nature will be ex-
amined in connexion with these, so far as the limits of
the course will allow.

I have endeavoured to bring before you, my re-
spected hearers, the subject of these lectures, its im-
portance, and the plan I intend to pursue. What I
have now set before you are but a few rough sketches,
taken in haste, to be drawn out more fully hereafter,

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Online LibraryCharles FollenThe works of Charles Follen, with a memoir of his life (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 23)