Mark Hopkins.

The law of love and love as a law; or, Christian ethics online

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that no reason can be given for it, except that they
are so. Now I believe, and that, I suppose, is the
real difference between us, the point on which this
whole question turns, that when an action is right
or wrong a reason can always be gi ren why it is so,


and that in that reason the ground of the obligation-
Is to be found. We are never to do, or to intend
to do rio;ht for the sake of the riMit, but we are to
intend to do that, the doing of which is right, for
the sake of that which makes it right.

The analogy is often insisted on, it is by Dr.
Haven, between mathematical and moral ideas.
Mathematical ideas and truths, it is said, are neces-
sary and eternal. But how ? Is it meant that
either ideas or truths can exist except in some
mind? Is it meant that mathematical ideas are
any more eternal in the divine mind than any other
ideas that are there ? Is anything more meant
than that, by the very nature of intelligence it is
necessitated, if it act at all as intelhgence, to form
certain ideas, and also to assent to certain proposi-
tions as soon as it understands them ? If this be
all, and it could be so understood, it would sweep
away much vague, not to say unintelligible phrase-
ology. Certainly it enters into our conception of
an intelligent being that he must have certain ideas,
and into our conception of a moral being that he
must have a knowledge of moral distinctions ; and
if we suppose an intelligent and moral being to have
existed eternally, we must also suj^pose, according to
our inadequate mode of thinking on subjects invol-
vincr the infinite, that certain intellectual and moral
ideas have also been eternal, though in the order of
nature the beino; must have been before the ideas.
But this does not make these ideas in anv sense in*


dependent of God, or above him, or a fountain of
law, or of anything else. It simply enables us to
think of God as having always existed, and as hav-
ing always had within himself the conditions of in-
telligent, moral, and independent activity, so that
he might himself, in his own intelligence and wis-
dom, become the fountain of all law.

When, as in the present case, the existence of a
simple and ultimate idea is claimed, the appeal must
be directly to consciousness. On this ground one
may assert, and another deny ; and there is nothing
more to be said. Neither argument nor testimony
can avail anything. We can only so appeal to the
general consciousness by applying tests as to show
what that consciousness really is.

This system will be referred to again. It is
plausible, because every action that is obligatory is
also right, as it is also fit, and according to the
divine will.

The only other system of which I shall speak is
that of Dr. Hickok. According to him a reason
can be given why a thing is right. " The highest
good," he says — and in this I agree with him —
" must be the ground in which the ultimate rule
shall reveal itself." This is a great point gained.
It concedes that right is dependent upon good of
some kind, that is, that a reason can always be given
why a thing is right ; and it only remains to inquire
what that good is.

But here, if I understand him rightly, I am still
compelled to differ from my able and highly


esteemed cotemporar}^ That good we are told is
" the highest good," " the summum honum.^^ What
then is that ? Says Dr. Hickok, " The highest
good, the summum bonum, is worthiness of spiritual
approbation." By this, it would seem, must be
meant worthiness of approbation on the gi'ound of
. the acts, or states, of our own spirits. The doctrine
then will be, that the ultimate ground or reason
why a man should do a charitable act is not at all
the good of the person relieved for the sake of that
good, but that he may preserve or place his spirit ip
such a state as shall be worthy of his own approba-
tion. This is stated most explicitly. " Solely,"
says Dr. Hickok, " that I may stand in my own
sight as worthy of my own spiritual approbation, is
the one motive which can influence to pure moral-
ity, and in the complete control of which is the
essence of all virtue." ^

To those aware of the endless disputes of the
ancients respecting '* the summum hoyium^^ further
progress may seem hopeless if we must first decide
what that is ; but it will be sufficient for our present
purpose if we decide the province within which it
is. By " the summum honum " is generally meant
the greatest good of the individual. That, it would
seem, must be meant here, because worthiness of
approbation can belong only to the individual, and
can be directly sought by the individual only for
himself. But if this be meant, then the " summum
honum^'* and the end for which man was made, are

1 Moral Science, p. 60


not the same. Man was not made to find the ulti-
mate ground of his action in any subjective state of
his own, of whatever kind. He was made to pro-
mote the good of others as well as his own, and the
apprehension of that good furnishes an immediate
ground of obligation to promote it. The good of
the individual is too narrow a basis to be the ground
of obligation ; and besides, it is not in accordance
with our consciousness to say, when we are laboring
for the good of others, that the ultimate and real
thing we are seeking is our ow^n worthiness of

But again, the man is worthy of approbation only
as he is virtuous. It is virtue in him that we
approve. But virtue is a voluntary state of mind,
and that can never be chosen as an ultimate end.
By necessity all choice and volition respect an end
beyond themselves. But the ground of obligation,
as we now seek it, is that ultimate end in view of
which the will should act. As ultimate, the reason
of the choice must be in the thing chosen, and not
in the choosing. It is therefore impossible that any
form, or quality, or characteristic of choice, any
virtue, or goodness, or holiness should be the ground
of obligation to choose. The same thing is to be said
of law in every form, and for the same reason.
Law can never be ultimate.

In this case, as in most of the others, a rule may
be drawn from that which is assumed as the ground
of obligation, because no man can be under obliga-


tlon to do anything that is not in accordance with
his highest worthiness. This may be a criterion
or test, just as the will of God or fitness is, of what
he ought to do, but never a ground of the obhgation
to do it.

Is it asked, then, what is your own system ? T*
is implied in the opening remarks of the chapter, is
very simple, and can be stated in few words.

In seeking the foundation of obligation, I suppose
moral beins^s to exist. As havinor intellio-ence and
sensibility I suppose them capable of apprehending
ends good in themselves, and an end thus good that
is both ultimate and supreme. In the apprehension
of such an end I suppose the moral reason m.ust
affirm obligation to choose it, and that all acts that
will, of their own nature, lead to the attainment of
this end, are right.

This puts man, as having reason, into relation to
his end in the same way that the brutes, as having
instinct, are put into relation to their end, and gives
us a philosophy in accord with other philosophies of
practical life. What is the philosophy of the eye ?
It consists in a knowledge of its structure and use,
or end ; and from these, and these only, can rational
. Tiles be drawn for the right use of the eye when
well, or for its treatment when diseased. Knowing
these, we know how we ought to use the eye. We
know the ground of our obligation in reference to
it. It is so to use it that the end of the eye may be
most perfectly attained. So we ought to use the


eye, and the ground of our obligation is the fact
tliat the eye has relation to an end that has value in
itself. If it had not, we could be under no such
obligation. The same is true of every part of the
body, and of every faculty of the mind. And if
true of these, why not of the man himself? Has
he an end valuable for its own sake ? If not, what
is he good for ? But if he have such an end, why
not, as in case of the eye, find in this end the
reason of all use of himself, that is, of all rules of
conduct, and also the ground of obligation ? Can
there be anvthino; hioher or better than that a man
should propose to himself and choose the attainment
or advancement of the very end for which God
made him ? What more can God ask of him —
or man ? What more can he wish for himself ?







Moral Philosophy, Ethics, Moral Science, is
the science of man, choosing, and acting from
choice, under Moral Law.

This definition covers the whole field of moral
action — duties to be done, rights to be Ground co^-

. . . ered by the

respected and maintained, actions mor- definition
ally bad, as well as those morally good. It goes
back of conduct to those choices from which con-
duct proceeds, and limits the field of moral action
to such choices and actions from choice as are un-
der Moral Law. The definition also recognizes
the acknowledged dependence of Moral upon Men-
tal Science.

Of other definitions the following may be
added : —

'^ That science which teaches men their duty
and the reasons of it." — Paley.

" The science of Moral Law." — Wayland.

" The systematic application of the ultimate
rule of right to all conceptions of moral con-
duct." — UlcJcok.

*' The science of obligation or duty." — Presi'
dent FaircJiild.


In former editions, the science was defined as
that which teaches men their supreme end, and
how to attain it. In this, the moral element was

In accordance with the above definition we need
, . . . , first, to know 3Ian in all that is requi-

J-ivision of ' J-

rabject con- gj^^ g^g ^ couditiou to his choosiug under

/ "iquent on o

definition ^[qy^I LaW.

(2.) We need to know him as choosing under
Moral Law.

These two give us Tlieoretical Morals.

(3.) We need to know man as acting from
•choice under INIoral Law.

This gives us Practical Morals. We thus have
the division of our subject.

What, then, does man need as prerequisite to
his choosing under Moral Law ?

Since moral science is rational as well as moral,
choosing within it mast presuppose the intellect
for insight and comprehension ; since it regards
man as active, and only as active, it must pre-
suppose the sensibiHty for motive, and the will
for choice and volition ; and since he is to act un-
der moral law, it must presuppose a moral nature
to give moral ideas, and through which moral
law may be revealed. We can no more have
moral science without a moral nature and moral
ideas originally given, than we can have intellect-
ual science without an intellectual nature, and
intellectual ideas originally given. As moral sci-


ence is thus the outcome of the whole beinor, it
can be conceived of only through the joint action
of the intellect, the sensibility, the will, and the
moral nature, and must therefore suppose man

fully constituted as a Person. It has Persons only

nothing to do with things, or with the orthe^^"""
nature of things, but only with persons, ^'=^^*^'=®-
nor has it anything to do with them except as
they choose and act from choice.

Of the above, the intellect, the sensibility,
the will, and the moral nature, each is Personality
essential to personality. They do not piex.
constitute it as if the person were compounded of
these, and so complex. They are, rather, different
forms in which the one indivisible person is mani-
fested. Nor is the moral nature anything differ-
ent from intellect sensibility and will. It is the
necessary manifestation of a personality that in-
cludes the three.

From man as thus constituted we have three
sciences. From the intellect simply, ,j,^^^^
we have intellectual science including
logic. From the intellect and sensibility combined,
we have aesthetic science, involving intellect and
feeling, but not action ; and from the intellect,
the sensibility, the will, and the moral nature com-
bined, we have moral science. This is more com-
plex, and so more difficult. It involves, and is
intended to control, the whole nature except that
which is purely organic and spontaneous.





In examining, then, the constituents of our be-
ing as they are related to choice, the first to be
noticed is The Intellect.

Of this, the bearing upon choice is indirect.
Indirectly Purc intellect cannot be a motive. For
choice. ° that, some element from the sensibility
must come in. The office of the intellect is to
know what is, to judge of agreements or disagree-
ments, to comprehend relations, and to furnish
Underlies those idcas by which we become rational,
chofce!" Without the intellect the ideas of a good,
and of moral obligation, which underlie moral sci-
ence, could not be formed ; but no knowledge of
what is, or judgment of any kind, or idea from
the pure intellect, can furnish a motive, or have
authority. Knowing, comparing, comprehending,
having ideas, as of obligation, formed by the joint
action of the three great constituents of our being,
and being free, our active principles hold a differ-
ent relation to us from that which the instincts of
the brutes hold to them. They are impelled di-
rectly by instinct, that is, by an impulse to action


without comprehending its end, and have no
alternative in kind. We are free to choose be-
tween principles of action comprehending their
end, and have an alternative in kind. Thus it is
that, through the intellect, choice, and action
from choice, which is conduct, become the choice
and conduct of a rational, and so of a moral, being.
Thus it is that in moral science the intellect is not
only essential for the knowing of the science, but
as aiding to furnish a portion of its elements.





By the sensibility we feel. All feeling is the
ii5«n«eeEHg product of the sensibility and, as we
MHBbmtr? holdy feeling is the concomitant of every
form of conscions activitr. That all knowins:
is by the intellect, and all choice and yolition by
the will, is conceded. Is it also conceded that all
feeling is from the sensibility? This may be

The sensibility is of great diversity, and it is
conceded that the desires, the affections, the emo-
tions, the passions, are forms of it. But in addi-
tion to these there is feeling connected with the
activity of the intellect and of the will that is
simply the outgrowth or reflex of that activity.

Through the intellect we have the enjoyment
Concomitant that comcs from the pursuit and the ac-
oaiactiVitT. quisition of truth. This enjoyment is
the reflex of the activity of the intellect, and is in-


separably connected with it It belongs to man
as rational, is of a quality peculiar to itself, and
can be had in no other way. Is it from the ^n-
sibilitv or from the intellect? If the threefold
division of the faculties is to be made thoroagh-
jToin^, it most be from the sensibility. That we
have°a satkfaction in the very act of knowing no
one can doubt ; but if this satisfaction be not from
the sensibility, it wiU follow that the sensibihty «
not distinctivelv the organ of feeling.

We have also, inrolved in the actiTity of the
will when it acts in accordance with the a^-m-
moral nature, and inseparable from it, a '^''
satisfaction that is still higher and more intense.
Virtue is from the will as knowledge is from the
intellec-t. ShaU we say then that that satisfaction
from virtue which is the reflex of the activity of
the will, is from the wiU, or from the sensibihty .
The latter is our only coosistent course. If we
are to have a sensibihty at all, and define it to be
the faculty of feeling, it would seem unreasonable
not to ref^r to it one of the highest forms of feel-
ing we have. ,,,... ,
Acceptincr then in full the threefold division of
the powersr we say, that all knowledge is from
the intellect, all feeling from the sensibility, and
all choice and conduct from the wiU. And say
ing this, we see what is meant when we p^^
gay that we do an act for its own ;ake. fo^o«.
This is often said, and men are exhorted


to pursue knowledge, not for any utility con-
nected with it, but for its own sake. Certainly
knowledge may be pursued for the sake of an end
beyond itself, as money, or fame. It may also be
pursued with no thought of anything beyond the
knowledge itself, and the satisfaction involved in
its pursuit and attainment. It is then said to be
pursued for its own sake, and the activity of mind
in thus pursuing it is thought to be of a higher
order. But would the knowledge be pursued if
there were not this satisfaction? Clearly not.
Of course there can be no activity in the first in-
stance, because of the reflex of that activity. As
in all our active principles, a spontaneous tend-
ency is presupposed ; but if there were no satis-
faction as the result of the activity, it would not
be continued.

And what is thus true of knowledge must be
true also of virtue. Whatever the ob-

Of virtue. . pi.

ject of choice may be, it is conceded
that virtue consists in an act of the will, and
that there is involved in this act an inseparable
reflex action by which a satisfaction of the high-
est kind comes to the virtuous person. It is a
consciousness of this satisfaction that I suppose
to be identified with the act itself so as to form
a part of it by those who say that thej do the
act for its own sake. As the act is voluntary,
whatever the original impulse or motive may
have been, if it were known that it neither did


nor could result in the good of the agent him-
self or of any one else, it could not be ration-
ally continued.

From what has been said it will follow that
there is no act of the will that is not ah motives

. ^ from the

preceded, prompted, and accompanied sensibility.
by some state of the sensibility. All motives are
from that. This is generally admitted. What
we call rational motives are not from reason di-
rectly, but are those which are shown by reason
to be superior to others with which they are com-
pared. With no desires or affections, no enjoy-
ment or suffering, all of which are forms of the
sensibility, there could be no choice, no volition,
no voluntary action. But since moral action
must be voluntary, it follows that there can be no
moral action without a sensibility.

And not only is moral action thus impossible
without a sensibility, but so also are Moraiiaeas
moral ideas. Except on the condition on^aSsf-*^
of beings who can enjoy and suffer, there ^'^'*^'
can be no benevolence, no justice or injustice, no
rights and no obligation, no right or wrong, and
no moral law.

Hence, again, as the existence of beings having
a sensibility, and motives from that, is Momi ideas

«^ ' ^ relate solely

a prerequisite to moral ideas, so those to persons.
ideas can have no such relation to the nature of
things as have those of space, and time, and math-
ematics, but only to the nature of persons, and of


these as capable of enjoyment and suffering, we
Bball then have to deal, not solely with the prod-
ucts of pure intellect, but with those of the in-
tellect, the sensibility, and will, combined. These
lie in a different field and are of a different order.


UnderstAXDIXG thus the relation of the Sen-
sibility to moral ideas and moral action, we pass
to the fundamental product given by it when act-
ing normally. This is a good.

Of the word good, the ambiguities have led to
so much confusion, that we cannot be too careful
respecting it. By a good., I mean some result in
a sensibility that has value in itself. This may
be my own or that of another, but it must be
known as having value in itself, or it cannot be a

What then has value in itself ? Nothing exter-
nal can have — nothing that is not subjective, and
so the product of some activity within the being
whose the good is. Not the activity is a good,
but its result. Food, clothing, hou?«s, lands, have
no value except as they are related to some want,
— want lying wholly within the sensibility. To a
disembodied spirit they could have no value. So
of the products of art and of natural scenery. If
there were no feeling of admiration, none of
beauty or sublimity, they would have no value.


So again of approbation, however expressed. If
there were no result in a sensibility we should be
affected neither by approbation nor disapproba-
tion. There could be no reward or punishment,
and so no government.

We conclude then that a good is that which has
A good Tiiti- value in itself, for its own sake, and that

mate for the _ t • , i c i 1 •

sensibility. SUCh gOOd IS tO DC lOUncl OUi}^ lU SOme

i-esult in a sensibility. This will be ultimate for
the sensibility as truth is for the intellect. Con-
cerning this, the question cannot be asked, What
is it good for ? It is good for nothing beyond it-
self. It has no utility. It is simply a good.

As known by us, this good is the joint product
of the sensibility and of the intellect. In its es-
sence it is from the sensibility, but there must be
intellect, that it may be comprehended in its idea
as universally valuable, and to be chosen for its
own sake. As thus known, we can not only choose
it for ourselves and put forth efforts for its attain-
ment, but can choose it for others and put forth
efforts for its attainment by them. That which
prompts the choice is the intrinsic value of the
good ; that which prompts the effort is the desire
to attain it for ourselves, or that it may be at-
tained by others.

As, then, a good is alvays subjective, it must
Quality and bc tlic rcsult of some activity by, or
good/"^° within, the individual, and such good
will differ both in quality and in quantity, accord-

A GOOD. 43

ing to the source and degree of the activity. The
quality will be high or low, as the powers or sus-
ceptibilities in action are high or low; and, within
limits, the quantity will be as the degree of the
activity. In quality, such good may pass from
the lowest animal gratification to the highest
forms of happiness, joy, blessedness ; in quantity,
it will be limited only by the capability of the
being to sustain the activity without injury.

When a goad is thus spoken of, the word good
is used as a noun, and it would be well if
the sense here given could be uniformly ^°° '
adhered to, but it is not. When " the true, the
beautiful, and the good," are spoken of, " the
good" evidently means goodness. So also "moral
good " is constantly used by eminent writers to
signify goodness, whereas I mean by moral good
the satisfaction that is inseparably connected with
that form of activity which we call goodness, and
think that any other use of the phrase must lead
to confusion.

If what has now been said of the word good,
used as a noun, be accepted, we shall Theadjec-
readil}^ see what its meaning as an ad- *^^^®sood.
jective must be. Nothing will be good except as
it is directly or indirectly, voluntarily or invol-
untarily promotive of a good. This is obviously
true of mere things whether beautiful or useful.
If there be any thing which never has ministered
or can minister to a good as above defined, that


thing is good for nothing. The value of such
things is wholly relative, and is in proportion to
their adaption thus to minister.

In the same way, substantially, the adjective
good is applied to persons. A person is good who
ministers voluntarily to the good of others. Such
a person has goodness in its only proper, or at
least, in its highest sense. In its proper sense
goodness is a fixed purpose and disposition to min-
ister to the good of others, and moral good is the
satisfaction inseparably connected with such min-
istration. To this satisfaction, the term " blessed,"
involving blessedness, was applied by our Saviour
when he said, " It is more blessed to give than
to receive."

If the above be correct, it will follow that
neither knowledge as from the intellect solely,

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Online LibraryMark HopkinsThe law of love and love as a law; or, Christian ethics → online text (page 3 of 23)