Francis Hutcheson.

An essay on the nature and conduct of the passions and affections. With illustrations on the moral sense online

. (page 15 of 18)
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" tion, but only to raife an Apprehenjlon
." of the Judgment ', or the Thema Com-
" flexum, without profejfing any defign to
" communicate his Sentiments, or to pro-
" duce any Affent in the Obierver."

~ T o do Actions from which the Obfer-
Ver will form falfe Opinions^ without
having reafon to imagine an Intention in
the Agent, is never of itfelf imagined evil,
let the Signs be natural or injlituted ; pro-
vided there be no malicious Intention, or
neglett of pub lick Good. "ITis never called
a Crime in a Teacher , to pronounce an ab-
furd Sentence for an inftance ; in a Noble-
man> to travel without Coronets ; or a
Clergyman in Lay-Habit, for private Con-
veniency, or to avoid troublefome Cere-
mony ; to leave Lights in a Lodge \ to
make People conclude there is a Watch
kept. This Significancy may be in any
Action which is obferved ; but as true Con-
clujions argue no Virtue in the Agent, fo
falfe ones argue no Vice.

RAISIN G falfe Opinions defigncdly by
ti\z fee ond Sort of Signs> which reafonably



lead the Obferver to conclude Intention in Seel
the Agent to communicate his Sentiments,
whether the Signs be cujlomary, inftituted*
or natural, is generally evil, when the
Agent knows the Falfhood ; fince it tends
to diminifh mutual Confidence. To fend
Spurs to a Friend, whom the Sender ima-
gines to be in no danger, to deceive by
Hieroglyphic ks or ^Painting, is as criminal
as a falfe Letter. This Signifcancy oc-
curs in very few human Adions: Some
of the mofl important Virtites profefs no
defign of communicating Sentiments^ or
raijing Opinions either true or falfe : Nor
is there any more Intention in fome of the
mofl vicious Actions. Again, who can
imagine any Virtue in all Adions, where
there is this Signifcancy of Truth with In*
tention ? Is it Virtue to fay at Chrijlmafs*
that *' the Mornings are fharp?" to beckon
with the Hand, in fign of Affent to fuch
an AfTertion ? And in falfe fropo fit ions-
thus fignified by Actions or fiords, there
is no Evil apprehended where the Faljhood
is only logical. When the Fasfhood is
known by the Agent, the Evil is not ima-
gined in the Signifcancy , but in doing
what one may forefee tends to breed *D/"-
Jiruft in Society. And did all moral Evil
confift in moral Falfhood^ there could be
no Sins of Ignorance. If Mr. Woolafton
^Hedges, that " Ignorance of fome things
v figni6es this Falfhood, viz. le are not

S 2 * ' '

^6^ Ilhijlrations upon the

3." obliged to know the Truth" This
Fallhood is not fignified with Intention ;
nor is it moral Faljhood, but only logical:
fmce no Man in an Error knows that " be
' /j obliged to kno\v the contrary Truth"
Mr. Woclafton's ufe of 'the Words [ought]
or [obliged] without a diftind: Meaning, is
not peculiar to this Place.

THE third fort of Significancy ofFalfe-
hood is never apprehended as morally Evil:
if it were, then every ^Dramatick Writer
drawing evil Characters , every Hijlory
'Painter, every Writer of Allegories, or
Epicks , every Thilofofher teaching the
Nature of contradictory ^Propojitions^ would
be thonght criminal.

g UT f lnce on iy the fir ft fort of Signif-
can t> e in a ^ Actions, and that too
the MO- fuppofing that every Action whatfoever is
ralil ) f - obferved by fome Being or other : Let us
fee if this will account for Morality. Per-
haps either, id, " Every Adion is good
4 * which leads the Obferver into true Opi-
*' nions concerning the Sentiments of the
' Agent, whether the Agents Opinions
" be true orfalfe." Or, 2 dly, " That Ac-
' tion is good which leads the Obferver
' into true Opinions concerning the Ob-
" Jeff, the Tendency of the Attion, and
" the Relation between the Agent and
" the Objetf?



DID Virtue confift in this frjl fort
Significancy of Truth, it would depend not
upon the Agent but the Sagacity of the Ob-
ferver : The acute Penetration of one
would conftitute an Action virtuous, and
the Raflmefs or Stupidity of another would
make it vicious : And the mod barbarous
Actions would raifeno/^//? Opinion of the
Sentiments of the Agent ', in a judicious

THE fecondferf of Significancy would
alfb make Virtue confift in the Tower of
Obfervers. An exacl: Reafoner would re-
ceive no falfe Opinion from the word Ac-
tion concerning the Object or Relation of
the Agent to it : And a falfe Opinion might
be formed by a weak Obferver of a per-
fectly good Action. An Obferver who

knew an Agent to have the bafefl Temper ',
would not from his worft Adion conclude
any thing falfe concerning the Object :
And all fach falfe Opinions would arifc
only upon Suppofition that the Agent
<was virtuous.

BUT may it not befaid, that " whether
" Men realbn well about Actions or nor,
" there are fome Cone lufans really deduc /-
" ble from every Action 1 It is a T>atum
" from which fomething may be inferred
tc ty jufl Confluence * whether any one ac-
84 " tually

2 64 Ilhiflrations upon the

Se&. 3. " tually infers it or not. Then may not this
v**V^ " Duality in Actions, whether we call it
" Signifcancy or not , that only true
" 'Proportions can be inferred from them
" ty j u ft Re a fining, be moral Goodnefs 1
' And may it not be the 'very Idea of mo-
" ral Evil in A&ions, that feme falfe
" Conclujions can by juft Confeqnence be
" deduced from them ?" Or if we will not
allow thefe to be the 'very Ideas of moral
Good and Evil, " are they not univerfai
V juft Characters to diftinguifh the one
" from the other?"

ONE may here obferve in general, that
fince the Exiftence of the Action is (up-
pofed to be a true Tremife or 'Datum, no
falfe Conclufiou can poflibly be inferred
from it by juft Rea fining. We could per-
haps often juftly infer, that the Agent had
falfe Opinions ; but then this Conclufion
of the Obferver, 'viz. " that the Agent
** has falfe Opinions," is really true.

true Con- BUT again, it will not make an unmet*
IkAMii fttCharafler of good Adions, that a juft
from AC- Reafbner would infer from them, that
tions, o ffe Opinions of the Agent are true"
%afa r h tf F r it. is thus Men muft reafon from Ac-
Virtue, tions ; viz. Given the Conftitution of
Nature, the Affections of Agents, and
the Action, to conclude concerning the Opi-
nions : Or more generally given any $hree


ef thefe to conclude the fourth. Thus fup- Seel:. 3.
pofe the " Conftitution of Nature fuch,
" that the private Inter eft of each Indi-
" vidual /j connected with the public k
" Good:" Suppofe an Agent's Affections
felfijb only, then from a publickly ufefiil
Action we infer, that " the Agent's Opi-
" #/<?#j- are true :" And from z publickly
hurtful Action conclude his Opinions to be

THE fame Conftitutian fuppofed with
public k Affections as well zsfelfifti. The
obferving a //W <?r publickly ufeful Attion,
will not immediately infer, that the Agent's
Opinions are either true or /^//? : With
falfe Opinions he might do publickly ufeful
Actions out of his pub lick Affections , in
thofe cafes wherein they are not appa-
rently oppofite to his Intereft. A pub lick
Action oppofite to fbme prefent /nfi^te
Intcreft, would generally evidence true
Opinions ; or if the Opinions were falfe*
that his public k Affections were in this
Cafe much ftronger than his Self-Love. A
cruel Action would indeed evidence falfe

SUPPOSE the fame Conftitution in afl
pther refped:s, with malicious Affections in
an Agent. A cruel or ungrateful Action
would not always prove the Opinions of
the dgent to b falfe ; but only that his


2 66 Illujirations upon the

Sect. 3. Malice in this inftance, was more violent
than regard to his Interefl. A beneficent
Action would prove only one of thefe
two, either that his Opinions of the Con-
flitution were true ; or, that if he was
miftaken about the Conflitution^ he had
alfo a falfe Opinion of the natural Ten-
dency of the A&iop. Thus falfe Opini-
ons may be evidenced by contrary Ac-

SUPPOSE " a Conflitution wherein a
" private Interefl could be advanced in
-" Oppojition to the public k " (this we may
call an evil Conflitution:} Suppofe only
Self-Love in the Agent, then a publickly
ufeful AcJion, any way toilfome or ex-
penjive to the Agent, would evidence /#//
Opinions : And the mod cruel felfijh Ac-
tions would evidence true Opinions.

IN an evil Conflitution^ fuppofe kind
Affections in the Agent ; a publickly ufe-
ful Action would not certainly argue either
true or falfe Opinions. If his Opinions
were true, but kind Affections ftronger
than Self-Love, he might a& in the fame
manner, as if his Opinions were falfe, and
Self-Love the reigning Affection.

IN an evil Conflitution, fuppofe ma-
licious Affections in an Agent, all^ publickly
ufeful Actions would argue falfe Opini-
ons ;


ons\ and publickly hurtful Actions would Sect. 3
argue true ones.

THIS may fhew us that Mens Actions
are generally public kly ufeful, when they
have true Opinions* only on this account ;
that we neither have malicious Affections \
naturally, nor is there any probability, in
our prefent Conftitution, of promoting a
private Intereft feparately from, or in Op-
pofition to the 'Public k. Were there con-
trary Affections and a contrary Conftitu-
tion, the mod cruel Actions might flow
from true Opinions ; and confequently
pub lie kly ufeful Actions might flow from
falfe ones.

IN owe prefent Conftitution, 'tis
ble no Perfon would ever do any thing pub-^
Jickly hurtful, but upon ibme falfe Opinion, virtue
T\\z flowing from true Opinions is indeed thatit
a tolerable Character or Property of
tue^ and flowing from fome falfe Opinion nions.
a tolerable Character of Vice ; tho neither
be ftridtly univerfal. But, i. This is not
proper Signification. A judicious Obfcrver
never imagines any Intention to communi-
cate Opinions in fome of the moft impor-
tant Actions, either good or evil. 2. Did
an Action Jignify Faljbood, 'tis generally
only logical, g. The falfe Opinion in the
Agent is not the Quality for which the
evil Action is condemned \ nor is the


268 J llujl rations upon the

Sect. 3. true Opinion that for which the good Ac-
is approved. True Opinions in Agents
often aggravate Crimes, as they fhew
higher Degrees of evil Affection* or total
jib fence of good. And falfe Opinions ge-
nerally extenuate Crimes, unlefs when the
very Ignorance or Error has flowed from
evil Affettion, or total Abfence of good.

'Tis furprizing, for inftance, how any
fhould place the Evil of Ingratitude in
denying the Perfbn injured, to have been
a Benefactor. The Obferver of fuch an
Action, if he fuppofed the Agent had
really that falfe Opinion^ would think the
Crime the lefs for it : But if he were con-
vinced that the Agent had a true Opinion,
he would think his Ingratitude the more
odious. Where we mod abhor Actions,
we fuppofe often true Opinions : And ibme-
times admire Actions flowing even from
falfe Opinions, when they have evidenced
HO want of good Affection.

To write aCenfure upon a Book fb well
defigned as Mr. Woolafton's, and fo full of
very good Reafoning upon the mod ufeful
Subje&s, would not evidence much good
Nature. But allowing him his^'///? 'Praife,
to remark any Ambiguities or Inadverten-
cies which may lead Men into Confuflon
|n their Realbning, I am confident would


have been acceptable to a Man of fo much Seel. 3.
Goodnefs, when he was living. t*/VXJ

ONE may fee that he has had fome
other Idea of moral Good, previous to
this Significancy of Truth , by his in-
troducing, in the very Explication of it,
Words prefuppofing the Ideas of Mora-
lity previoufJy known : Such as [ Right, ~\
{Obligation^ \Lye^\ [his] denoting [Pro-

M R. iVoolaflon acknowledges that there signifying
may be very little evil in fbme Actions fig- f*
nify ing Falfhood ; fuch as throwing away unequal
that which is of but little ^Ofe or Value -.Virtue.
It is objected to him, that there is equal
Contrariety to Truth in fuch Actions, as in
the greateft Villany : He, in anfwer to it,
really unawares gives up his whole Caufe.
He mud own, that there may be the
flritteft Truth and Certainty about Trifles ;
fo there may be the moft obvious Falfhood
fignified by trifling Attions. If then Sig-
nifcancy of Faljbood be the very fame
With moral Evil, all Crimes muft be
equal. He anfwers, that Crimes increafe
according to the Importance of the Truth
denied ; and fo the Virtue increafes , as
the Importance of the Truths affirmed.


Illuflrations upon the
Sett. 3 .

Virtue and Vice increafe, as the Impor-
tance of Propo fit ions affirmed or denied ;
But Signification of Truth and Falfhood

does not fo increafe :

Therefore Virtue and Vice are not the
fame*, with Signification of Truth or

* r ' .' . ;

BUT what is this Importance of Truth ?
Nothing elfe but the Moment or Quantity
of good or evil, either private or public /,
which mould be produced by Actions, con-
cerning which thefe true Judgments are
made. But 'tis plain, the Signification of
Truth or Falfhood is not varied by this
Importance ; therefore Virtue or Vice de-
note fomething different from this Signifi-

BUT farther, The ImportanceofA&ions
toward publick Good or Evil, is not the
Idea of Virtue or Vice : Nor does the one
prove Virtue in an Action, any farther
than it evidences kind Affections ; or the
other Vice, farther than it evidences either
Malice or Want of kind Affections : O-
therwife a cafiial Invention , an Action
wholly from views of private Inter eft >
might be as virtuous as the moft kind and
enerous Offices : And Chance-Medley, or
indly intended, but unfuccefsful Attempts



would be as vicious as Murder or 2r*0-Se<5t j,
Jon. *^v^>

ONE of Mr. Woolafton's IlluftrationS5wf Am.
that Signifcancy of Falfhood is the Idea
of moral Evil, ends in this, " 'Tis acting
" a Lye" What then? Should he not
firft have ihewn what was moral Evil,
and that every Lye was fuch ?

ANOTHER Illuftration or, Proof is
that, " it is acting contrary to that Rea-
" fon which GOD has given MS as the
" Guide of our Actions" Does not this
place the original Idea of moral Evil in
counteracting the DEITY, and not in
fignifying Faljhood ? Bur, he may fay,
" Counteracting the DEITY denies him
" to be our Benefactor, and flgnifies
" Falfhood" Then why is fignifying
Faljhood evil ? Why, 'tis counteracting the
DEITY, who gave us Reafon for our
Guide. Why is this evil again ? It denies
the Truth, that " he is our Benefactor?

ANOTHER Illuftration is this, " That
" fignifywg Faljhood is altering the Na-
" tures of Things , and making them be
" what they are not, or de firing at leafl
" to make them be what they are not? If
by altering the Natures be meant deflroy-
mg Beings, then moral Evil confifts in
defiring the "Def ruction of other Natures 9
2 or

27 2 Siuftfations upon

Seel:. 3. or in Evil Affections. If what is meant
altering the Laws of Nature ' y or de-
firing that they were flopped ; this is lel-
dom defired by any but Madmen, nor is
this 'Dejire eyidenced by fome of the worft
A&ions, nor is futh "Dejire always crimi-
nal ; otherwile it were as great a Crime as
any, to wilh, when a "Dam was broken
down, that the Water would not overflow
the Country.

I F making Things be what they are not,
means " attempting or defiring that any
i Subject mould have two oppojlte uali-
" ties at once, or a Duality and its *Pri-
'* vat ion ;" 'tis certain then, that accord-
ing to the Stoicks, all vicious Men are
thorowly mad. But 'tis to be doubted, that
fiich Madnels never hapned to even thd
worft of Mankind. When a Man murders,
lie does not defire his Fellow-Creature to be
both dead and living. When he robs, he
does not defire that both he and the Tro-
prietor ihould at the fame time pofTefs,
Jf any fays , that he defires to have a
Right to that, to which another has a
Right ; 'tis probably falfe Robbers neither
think of Rights at all , nor are felici-
tous about acquiring them : Or, if they
tetain fome wild Notions of Rights, they
think their Indigence, Conqueft or Courage
gives them a Right, and makes the Other's
Right to ceafe. Jf attempting to make



?/^ Qualities or Rights give place to new, SecSt 3
be the Idea of moral Evil, then every .XVV
Artificer, 'Purchafer, or Magijlrate in-
vejledwith an Office is criminal.

MANY of Mr. Woolafiotfs Propositions
contradicted by A&ions, are about Rights*
'Duties, Obligation, Jnftice, Reafonable-
nefs. Thefe are long Words, principal
Names, or Attributes in Sentences. The
little Word [ his, ] or the Particles [ as 9
according ] are much better : they may
efcape Obfervation, and yet may include
all the Ambiguities of Right, 'Property,
Agreement, Reafonablenefs : " Treating
1 ' Things as they are, and not as they are
' * not :" Or, According to what they are,
** or are not" are Expreflions he probably
had learned from another truly great Name,
who has not explained them lufficiently.

I T may perhaps not feem improper on J Quafi
this occafion to obferve, that in the
Contraffus, the Civilians do not imagine no
any Aft of the Mind of the Terfon ob-
liged to be really fignified, but by a fort of
FicJio juris fuppofmg it, order him to ad:
as if he had contracted, even when they
know that he had contrary Intentions.

IN the Tacit Conventions, 'tis not a

Judgment which is fignifiedj but an AcJ of

the Will transferring Right, in which

T there

274 Ilhtjlratwns upon the

Seel:. 3. there is no Relation to Truth or Fal/bood
v^v~ of itfelf. The Non-performance of Cove-
nants is made /0>/4/, not becaufe of their
Jignifying Fnljkoods, as if this were the
Crime in them : But it is neceflfary, in or-
der to prefer ve Commerce in any Society,
to make effectual all 'Declarations of Con-
fent to transfer Rights by any ufual Signs,
othervvife there could be no Certainty in
Meos Tranfa&ions.





the Ufe of Reafon concern-
ing Virtue and Vice, upon Suppo*
Jltion that we receive theje Ideas
by a Moral Senfe.

HA D thofe who infift fo much upon
the antecedent ReafonablenefsofVir- al>otft Mo *
tue, told us diftindtly what is reafonable r r^ owr
or provable concerning it, many of our
Debates had been prevented. Let us con-
fider what Truths concerning Actions Men
could defire to know, or prove by Reafon*
I fancy they may be reduced to thefe
Heads, i. " To know whether there are
" not fome Actions or Affections which
" obtain the Approbation of any Spedta-
" tor or Obferver, and others move his
" Tliflike and Condemnation?" This
Queftion, as every Man can anfwer for
himfelf, Ib univerfal Experience and H'ifto-
ry mew, that in all Nations it is Ib ; and
confequently the moral Senfe is univerfal.
2. " Whether there be any particular
" Quality \ which, wherever it is appre-
" hended, gains Approbation, and thecon-
' trary raifes "DiCapprobationr We ihall
T 2 find

Ilhjtrations upon the

Seel. 4. find this Qualify to be kind Affection, or
, Study of the Good of others ; and thus
the moral Senfes of Men are generally uni-
form. About thefe two Queftions there
is little reafoning ; we know how to an-
fwer them from reflecting on our own Sen-
timents^ or by confulting others. 3. " What
" Actions do really evidence kind Affec-
" tions^ or do really tend to the greatefl
" publick Goodf About this Queftion is
all the fpecial Reafoning of thofe who
treat of the particular Laws of Nature,
or even of Civil Laws: This is the largeft
Field, and the moft ufeful Subject of Rea-
foning, which remains upon every Scheme
of Morals. 4. ' ' What are the Motives
" which, even from Self-Love, would ex-
" cite each Individual to do thofe Actions
" which are publickly ufeful?" 'Tis pro-
bable indeed, no Man would approve as
virtuous an Action publickly ufeful^ to
which the Agent was* excited only by
Self-Love^ without any kind Affettion :
'Tis alfo probable that no view of Interefl
.can raife that kind A ff eel ion, which we
approve as virtuous ; nor can any Reajb-
ning do it, except that which mews fome
moral Goodnefs, or kind Affections in the
Object ; for this never fails, where it is
obferved or fuppofed in any Perfon to raife
the Love of the Obferyer j ib that Virtue
is not properly taught.



Seel 4.

YET fmce all Men have naturally Self-
Love as well as kind Affeflions, the former
may often counteract: the latter, or the
latter the former ; in each cafe the Agent
is utteafy, and in fbme degree unhappy.
The firft rajh Views of human AfTairs of-
ten reprefent private Interefl\ as oppofite
to the ''Public k : When this is apprehended,
Self -Love may often engage Men in pub-
lickly hurtful Actions, which their moral
Senfe will condemn ; and this is the ordina-
ry Caufe of Vice. To reprefent thefe
Motives of Self-Inter eft i to engage Men
to publickly ufeful Adtious, is certainly
the moft neceffary Point in Morals. This
has been fo well done by the antient Mo-
ralifts, by Dr. Cumberland, 'Puffendorf^
Grotius, Shaft esbury ; 'tis made fb cer-
tain from the divine Government of the
World, the State of Mankind* who can-
not fabfift without Society, from univer-
fai Experience and Confent t from inward
Confcioufnefs of the Pleafure of kind Af-
fections, and Self-Approbation^ and of the
Torments of Malice, or Hatred, or Envy,
or Anger ; that no Man who confiders
thefe things, can ever imagine he can have
any poflible Intereft in oppofing the pub-
lick Good ; or in checking or reftraining
his kind Affections; nay, if he had no
kind AjfettionS) his very Self-Love and
Regard to his private Good might excite
T 3

278 Illujirations upon the

Seclt. 4. him to publickly ufeful Actions, and dif-
. fuade from the contrary.

WHAT farther fhould be provable
concerning Virtue, whence it Ihould be
called reasonable antecedently to all Affec-
tion^ or Intereft, or Sejife, or what it
fhould be ft for, one cannot eafily ima-

PERHAPS what has brought the Epi-
thet Reasonable, or flowing from Reajon,
in oppofition to what flows from Inftmtt,
Affection, or ^Ptijjion, fo much into ufe,
is this, " That it is often obferved, that
" the very bed of our particular Affections
" or Tiefo'es, when they are grown vio-
" lent and pajfionate, thro' the confufed
" Sett fat ions and *Pr open fit ies which at-
** tend them, do make us incapable of
" confidering calmly the whole Tendency
" of our Actions, and lead us often into
?' what is abfolutely pernicious, under
" fome Appearance of relative or parti-
** cular Good" This indeed may give
fome ground for diftinguifhing between
pajponate Actions, and thofe from calm
^Dejire or Affection which employs our
Reafon freely : But can never fet rational
Actions in Oppofition to thofe from In-
flintt, ^Deflre or Affection. And it mud
be owned, that the mod perfect Virtue
confids in the calm, uvpajjionate Benevo-



lence , rather than in particular Affec-Sed: 4.

IF one asks " how do we know that
" our Affections are right when thay are
" kind?' What does the Word [ right ]
mean ? Does it mean what we approve ?
This we know by Confcioufnefs of our
Senfe. Again, how do we know that our
Senfe is right, or that we approve our
Approbation ? This can only be anfwered
by another Queftion, viz. " How do
'* we know we are pleafed when we are

" pleafed ?" Or does it mean, " how

" do we know that we fhall always ap-
" prove what we now approve ?" To an-
fwer this, we mud firft know that the
fame Conftitution of our Senfe fhall always
remain : And again, that we have applyed
our felves carefully to confider the natural
Tendency of our Actions. Of the Conti-
nuance of the fame Conftitution of our
Senfe, we are as fure as of the Continu-
ance of Gravitation, or any other Law
of Nature : The Tendency of our own
Actions we cannot always know ; but we
may know certainly that we heartily and
fincerely ftudied to a& according to what,
by all the Evidence now in our Power to
obtain, appeared as moft probably tending
to pub lick Good. When we are confcious
of this Jlncere Endeavour -, the evil Con*
Sequences which we could not have fore-
T 4 feen t

i8o Ilittjlrations upon the

Sed. ^. teen, never will make us condemn our Con-
l/"VN* duel. But without this fine ere Endeavour,

we may often approve ox. prefent what we

ihali afterwards condemn.

HOW our I F tne Option means, " How are

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18

Online LibraryFrancis HutchesonAn essay on the nature and conduct of the passions and affections. With illustrations on the moral sense → online text (page 15 of 18)