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netary bodies, then indeed it would be only necessary to study the history of one state, and learn prudence from its success or its calamities. But the incessant variableness that is manifest in our individual and social position will ever prevent a mere history of the past from furnishing us with certain laws, which shall inevitably secure the good of the parts, and the good of the whole of a body politic for the future. Such is the constitution of the human family, that the tendencies of any one act are incalculable; except to a being, who, taking for his post of observation the centre of society, can encircle with his vision the whole scene, and from the world's beginning to the close trace the first moral cause to its final results, through all its intervening secondary effects.
In application of the above remarks, the Utilitarian may be fairly asked, how, looking only at their calculable consequences, he can condemn the felon who impoverishes the miser, and circulates hoards of ill-gotten wealth; or the assassin, who, in an act of personal revenge, is the means of delivering thousands from the oppression of his victim; or the statesman, who, by the aids of the superstition, and the mutual jealousies, and the ambition, and the avarice of the citizens, attains what he considers the wealth and glory of an empire? It is not enough for him to explain the scheme of general consequences (to the misunderstanding of which Paley attributes the principal errors in the philosophy of the ancients), and to say, that, in his general code of morals, robbery, and murder, and selfish stratagems, are unjustifiable. He is bound to prove, that, in these particular cases, they will be baneful to the individuals, or to the community in question; or, on Mr Bentham's theory, he cannot hope to obtain any moral hold upon the mind of a reasonable person. And whence can he gain sufficient prescience? The characters of men differ infinitely; the interests of states fluctuate. How can he discern the crisis at which those acts, that for a time have been useful to an individual or to a society, shall lose their benevolent tendencies? Uncertainty on such a question shows the inapplicability of the proposed criterion.*
Upon this point, what says experience? Have mankind had sufficient confidence in themselves hitherto to avow and act upon the theory of personal pains and pleasures? Mr Bentham admits that it was embraced among the Ancients by none but by Epicurus. He boasts (whether truly or not is another question) that, in modern times, he discovered anew its all-sufficiency, and gives almost the hour of its discovery, with the precision of an astrologer. His converts, however, at present, are as
There is, besides, a class of persons for whom, independent of revelation, the elements of moral calculation, cast up on the principle of Mr Bentham, fail at a most important point. He who believes that a future state of being awaits us, and that that state will be essentially modified by our present behaviour, so that moral causes here will have consequences there-so that our conduct here, not only towards the Supreme Being, but also towards our fellow-men, will entail upon us happiness or misery there-cannot surely believe ethics to be a science, the facts of which consist of a simple catalogue, as each man may happen to settle it for himself, of his pains and pleasures. The Utilitarian's motto is, fiat observatio; but how can observation extend thither? What human witness has ever retraced his steps through the gates of Hades to tell us what lies beyond, and to reveal the moral links between this world and the next? Mr Bentham's sneer at the pleasures of a good conscience, much good may it 'do you!' is far from being an encouraging specimen of the value of his conjectures.
Perhaps it will be rejoined to the previous paragraph, that we are therein confounding morality and religion. We reply, that we are at a loss to know how they can be dissociated. Whenever an action involves the responsibility of its agent to the Supreme Being, it becomes subject to the laws of a religious economy; and therefore the question, whether moral actions are religious
small a philosophical minority as the disciples of Epicurus. Robert Hall calls the doctrine, when applied to the regulation of their moral conduct by individuals, instructions how to sin by rule. Nevertheless he admitted its truth when applied to systematic jurisprudence. M. Comte, himself a disciple, feels obliged to admit that the Millennium, when this principle may be trusted to as guide and sanction, is yet a long way off. In a note in the first volume (p. 259) of his Treatise on Legislation,' he observes :Discutant, un jour, avec un de mes amis sur le fondement des lois et de la morale, je prétendais qu'il n'y avait pas de fondement plus solide que celui que M. Bentham a si bien développé-l'utilité générale. Ce principe, me répondit-il, est bon pour nous qui nous croyons soumis à des devoirs; mais comment prouverons-nous à des législateurs qui se moquent du public, et qui ne croient pas à l'enfer, que le bonheur public doit être leur objet, ou que l'utilité générale doit être le principe de leurs raisonnemens? Pour des hommes semblables, cet mot devoir a-t-il une signification? Cette objection faite par un homme d'un sens profond et d'un sentiment moral très délicat, me laissa, je l'avoue, sans réponse. Il a fallu y réfléchir long temps pour me convaincre qu'une vaste diffusion de lumières est le seul moyen de faire faire à la législation et même à la morale des progrès assurés.'
ones, must be answered by a second enquiry, whether we are responsible to our Creator on account of them? Now it is by no means an avowed principle of the Utilitarian morality that we are not thus responsible (the present volumes assume throughout that we are so); and it is therefore a fair argument against the Utilitarian scheme, that, as an independent science, it cannot calcu late the pleasures and pains of that responsibility hereafter, and therefore cannot, from any such calculation, obtain a guide for our behaviour. On this account, as well as for the former reasons, the scheme is deficient in the means of showing an individual what it is which he ought to do on all occasions. Taken by itself, it is still more deficient in the equally important point as to the means of securing the obedience of an individual; even though a catalogue of pains and pleasures, perused and settled by a Utilitarian committee, has been put into his hand; and (what is more to the purpose) has been granted by him to be the truth with regard to himself. The misery, the persevering misery, of sots and gamblers is not from ignorance of the consequences of their conduct. They cannot be reminded too frequently of these consequences, among other things. But nothing is more extravagant than the command over the rebel part of human nature, which Mr Bentham anticipates we are to obtain by it.
What is gained in the science of ethics by the doctrine of utility? greater certainty in moral distinctions, or greater promptitude in moral obedience? In regard to the former of these questionable advantages, let us refer to Mr Bentham :
The moral sense, say some, prompts to generosity, but does it determine what is generous? It prompts to justice, but does it determine what is just?
It can decide no controversy; it can reconcile no difference. duce a modern partisan of the moral sense, and an ancient Greek, and ask each of them whether actions deemed blameless in ancient days, but respecting which opinions have now undergone great change, ought to be tolerated in a community. By no means, says the modern; as my moral sense abhors them, therefore they ought not. But mine, says the ancient, approves of them; therefore they ought. And there, if the modern keep his principles and his temper, the matter must end between them. Upon the ground of moral sense, there is no going one jot further; and the result is, that the actions in question are at once laudable and detestable The modern then, as probably he will keep neither his principles temper, says to the ancient, "Your moral sense is nothing to the pur pose; yours is corrupt, abominable, detestable; all nations cry out against you."" No such thing," replies the ancient; "and if they did, it would be nothing to the purpose; our business was to enquire, not wh people think, but what they ought to think." Thereupon the modern kicks the ancient, or spits in his face; or, if he is strong enough, throws
him behind the fire. One can think of no other method that is at once natural and consistent, of continuing the debate.
'If you can persuade them both to take the principle of utility for their guide, the discourse will take another turn; the result will be, either that they will agree, or if they disagree, it will be about some facts; and there is no occasion for supposing either of them to be so unreasonable, as to be angry with his opponent for entertaining a different opinion from his own concerning a matter of fact; they will separate with a resolution to make enquiries that tend to clear up some of the facts, if they are in their nature capable of being cleared up to the satisfaction of the enquiring party, or in the conviction of the impossibility of coming to an agree ment, with the resolution of each acting up to his own opinion, satisfied, at least in some degree, with seeing upon what the point of the dispute
Thus the subject of their disagreement, when they came to a conclusion, would be certain facts, and such must be the only conclusion; for such, if they proceeded on the principle of utility, would all along be the object of enquiry-the only object, at least, that can give room to imagine a disagreement.'*
Thus, the Utilitarian asserts, that whilst his theory is invariable in its principle, and debateable only in its application to facts, the advocates of a moral faculty are variable as to both. This is a grave distinction; and, although the invariableness of a principle, is quite distinct from either its correctness or its completeness, it is sufficiently important to justify us in examining the truth of the statement. History, both ancient and modern, acquaints us with different communities in which certain moral actions are applauded by some, and punished by others. For instance, the Spartan legislature is said not only to have abstained from censuring, but to have incited to the commission of theft, in case of its being undetected. Now our codes, as well as our moral feelings, equally disapprove of theft, and demand its punishment. Such, we presume, the Utilitarians would allow to be a fair case in point an instance in which the moral distinctions of the moral sense of one age often vary from those of another. Now, the very fact that theft, if detected, was punishable, proves that the Spartans morally disapproved of it; and the political calculation on which they allowed its secret commission was, indeed, an instance of the extent to which an erroneous application of the principle of utility suspended or perverted their moral feeling. They admitted that theft was an evil, but that the habit of shrewdness and sagacity acquired by the practice would be a more than equivalent,-a more than counterbalancing good. But it is evident, that though they
*Deontology, vol. i. p. 72.
thus misapplied the principles in question, yet in their moral approbation and disapprobation of them, they agreed with ourselves. And so are we sure, that in this way the variations which are often alleged to exist in the moral distinctions of a moral sense, may be shown to have regard not to principles, but to facts. The cases, therefore, it might be thought, are placed on a level at least. But there is a supposition on which utility will cease to be even on a level. In proportion as the previous argument is correct in affirming the impossibility of applying utility' as a practical rule, except in a very limited, and even then, very contingent number of cases, the probability increases, that the moral sense does decide more controversies, does reconcile more dif'ferences.' We are convinced that there is a better chance of enlightening the conscience of mankind, than of practically enlarging narrow conceptions of expediency and utility (scarcely any where more narrow than in the writings of Mr Bentham) to a sphere which shall at all approximate to the truth.
The vantage ground appears to rise still higher on proceeding to the next query-Whether utility is more prompt and powerful in urging to moral obedience? Mr Bentham, in the conclusion of his second volume, rather arrogantly asks, Will these ' volumes find mercy at the hands of dogmatism? Perhaps not! Yet it is to be hoped-humbly and earnestly hoped, that the impugner of the greatest happiness principle, be he whom he may, will bring forward cases to which it does not apply. We honestly think, that this is an instance in which the challenge may be fairly accepted. There are innumerable examples in which the most satisfactory conviction of its utility is not enough to prompt a man to obedience, either in the pursuit of virtue or abstinence from crime. The particular ones of gambling or drunkenness, which we just now alluded to, have been frequently adduced, but hitherto have not been consistently ac counted for by Utilitarians. Who will deny that the gamester indulges his vice, at the same time that he is assured that his propensity is ruinous? Who will deny that the drunkard indulges his taste, whilst decayed fortunes, a wife's broken heart, starved children, civil dishonour, physical pain, remorse, are all branding his conduct with inutility? What can the deontologist do for these poor wretches? He can reason with them. Reason? They have been horribly compelled to it themselves; their conclusions are as decisive as he could wish them to be; but still inutility' has a charm. Surely these are not exaggerated cases. They prove that not only man's judgment but man's actual feelings must be enlisted on the side of reformation, or reformation will be impossible. But the utilitarian' disdains such feelings