Part 1: Sec 1-2: Moral Distinctions

PART 1: VIRTUE AND VICE IN GENERAL

SEC 1: MORAL DISTINCTIONS NOT DERIVed FROM REASON

  • Abstruse reasoning has an inconvenience which:
    • may silence an antagonist without convincing him
    • requires the same intense study to make us sensible of its force, that was first needed for its invention.
  • When we leave our closet and engage in the common affairs of life, its conclusions seem to vanish, like the phantoms of the night on the appearance of the morning.
    • It is difficult for us to retain even that conviction which we had attained with difficulty.
  • This is still more conspicuous in a long chain of reasoning, where we:
    • must preserve to the end the evidence of the first propositions
    • often lose sight of all the most received maxims of philosophy or common life.
  • I hope that:
    • the present system of philosophy will acquire new force as it advances
    • our reasonings on morals will corroborate whatever has been said concerning the understanding and the passions.
  • Morality is a subject that interests us above all others.
    • We fancy the peace of society to be at stake in every decision concerning it.
      • This concern must make our speculations appear more real and solid, than where the subject is indifferent to us.
  • What affects us can never be a chimera.
    • Our passion is engaged on the one side or the other, we naturally think that the question lies within human comprehension, which, in other cases of this nature, we are apt to doubt.
  • Without this advantage, I never should have ventured on a third volume of such abstruse philosophy, in an age, when most men:
    • seem agreed to convert reading into an amusement
    • reject everything that requires any considerable degree of attention to be comprehended.
  • Nothing is ever present to the mind but its perceptions.
    • All the actions of seeing, hearing, judging, loving, hating, and thinking, fall under this denomination.
  • The mind can never exert itself in any action, which we may not comprehend under the term of perception;
    • Consequently that term is no less applicable to those judgments, by which we distinguish moral good and evil, than to every other operation of the mind.
  • To approve of one character, to condemn another, are only so many different perceptions.
  • Perceptions resolve themselves into impressions and ideas.
    • This distinction raises a question:
    • whether it is through our ideas or impressions that we:
      • distinguish between vice and virtue
      • pronounce an action blameable or praiseworthy?
  • This will immediately:
    • cut off all loose discourses and declamations
    • reduce us to something precise and exact on the present subject.
  • Some think that:
    • virtue is just a conformity to reason
    • there are eternal fitness and unfitness of things, which are the same to every rational being
    • the immutable measures of right and wrong impose an obligation on humans and on the Deity himself.
  • All these systems believe that morality, like truth, is discerned merely by:
    • ideas
    • their juxtaposition and comparison.
  • To judge these systems, we only need to consider whether it is possible, from reason alone to distinguish:
    • between moral good and evil, or
    • whether there must concur some other principles to enable us to make that distinction.
  • If morality naturally had no influence on human passions and actions, it would be in vain to inculcate it.
    • It would be fruitless to have that multitude of rules and precepts from all moralists.
  • Philosophy is commonly divided into:
    • speculative
    • practical.
  • Morality is always comprehended under practical philosophy.
    • Morality is supposed to:
      • influence our passions and actions
      • go beyond the calm and indolent judgments of the understanding.
  • Our common experience confirms this by informing us that men are:
    • often governed by their duties
    • deterred from some actions by the opinion of injustice
    • impelled to others by that of obligation.
  • Morals influence our actions and affections.
    • But reason alone can never have any such influence
    • Thus, morals cannot be derived from reason.
  • Morals excite passions and produce or prevent actions.
    • Reason is utterly impotent in this.
    • The rules of morality therefore, are not conclusions of our reason.
  • No one can deny this.
    • This can only be denied by denying its founding principle.
  • As long as reason has no influence on our passions and actions, it is in vain to pretend that morality is discovered only by a deduction of reason.
  • An active principle can never be founded on an inactive one.
    • If reason were inactive in itself, it must remain inactive in all its shapes and appearances, whether it:
      • exerts itself in natural or moral subjects
      • considers the:
        • powers of external bodies, or
        • actions of rational beings.
  • I have proven (Book 2, Part 3, Sec. 3) that reason:
    • is perfectly inert
    • can never prevent or produce any action or affection..
  • Reason is the discovery of truth or falsehood.
    • Truth or falsehood consists in an agreement or disagreement to:
      • the real relations of ideas, or
      • real existence and matter of fact.
  • Therefore, whatever is not susceptible of this agreement or disagreement:
    • is incapable of being true or false
    • can never be an object of our reason.
  • Our passions, volitions, and actions, are not susceptible of any such agreement or disagreement.
    • They are original facts and realities that:
      • are complete in themselves
      • imply no reference to other passions, volitions, and actions.
    • Therefore, it is impossible they can be true or false and contrary or conformable to reason.
  • This argument has a double advantage to our present purpose.
    • It directly proves that actions do not derive their:
      • merit from a conformity to reason
      • blame from a contrariety to reason.
    • It proves the same truth more indirectly.
      • It shows us that:
        • reason can never immediately prevent or produce any action by contradicting or approving of it
        • reason cannot be the source of moral good and evil which have that influence.
  • Actions may be laudable or blameable, but they cannot be reasonable.
    • Laudable or blameable, therefore, are not the same with reasonable or unreasonable.
  • The merit and demerit of actions frequently contradict and sometimes control our natural propensities.
  • But reason has no such influence.
    • Moral distinctions, therefore, are not the offspring of reason.
  • Reason is wholly inactive.
    • It can never be the source of so active a principle as conscience, or a sense of morals.
  • No will or action can be immediately contradictory to reason.
    • But we may find such a contradiction in some of the attendants of the action or in its causes or effects.
  • The action may cause a judgment or may be obliquely caused by one, when the judgment concurs with a passion.
    • The same contrariety may, on that account, be ascribed to the action.
  • We will now consider how far this truth or falsehood may be the source of morals.
  • In a strict and philosophical sense, reason can have influence on our conduct only in two ways:
    • when it excites a passion by informing us of the existence of its proper object, or
    • when it discovers the connection of causes and effects, so as to afford us means of exerting any passion.
  • These are the only kinds of judgment which can:
    • accompany our actions, or
    • produce them in any way.
  • These judgments may often be false and erroneous.
    • A person may be affected with passion by supposing a pain or pleasure in an object which:
      • cannot produce pain or pleasure, or
      • produces the contrary to what is imagined.
    • A person may also take false measures for the attaining his end.
      • He may retard, instead of forwarding, the execution of any project by his foolish conduct.
  • These false judgments may be thought to affect the passions and actions connected with them.
    • They may render them unreasonable in a figurative and improper way of speaking.
  • But these errors are so far from being the source of all immorality.
    • They are commonly very innocent.
    • They draw no guilt on the person who fails into them.
  • They do not extend beyond a mistake of fact which moralists have not generally supposed criminal, as being perfectly involuntary.
  • I am more to be lamented than blamed:
    • if I am mistaken with regard to the influence of objects in producing pain or pleasure, or
    • if I know not the proper means of satisfying my desires.
  • No one can ever regard such errors as a defect in my moral character.
    • A fruit that is really disagreeable appears to me at a distance.
      • Through mistake, I fancy it to be pleasant and delicious.
        • This is my first error.
      • I reach this fruit, which is not proper for my end.
        • This is my second error.
        • No third error can ever possibly enter our reasonings on actions.
  • Can a man, guilty of these two errors, be regarded as vicious and criminal, however unavoidable those errors might have been?
    • Are such errors the sources of all immorality?
  • If moral distinctions were derived from the truth or falsehood of those judgments, they must take place wherever we form the judgments.
    • There will be no difference, whether:
      • the question is concerning an apple or a kingdom
      • the error be avoidable or unavoidable.
  • The very essence of morality is supposed to consist in an agreement or disagreement to reason.
    • Other circumstances:
      • are entirely arbitrary
      • can never bestow or deprive virtue or vice on any action
    • This agreement or disagreement does not admit of degrees.
      • All virtues and vices would of course be equal.
  • Some think that:
    • a mistake of fact is not criminal
    • a mistake of right is often criminal.
      • This may be the source of immorality.
  • I answer that it is impossible such a mistake can ever be the original source of immorality.
    • Since it supposes a real right and wrong or a real distinction in morals, independent of these judgments.
  • Therefore, a mistake of right may become a species of immorality.
    • But it is:
      • only a secondary one
      • founded on some other, antecedent to it.
  • Our actions never cause any true or false judgment in ourselves.
    • Our actions only have such an influence on others.
  • Thus on many occasions, an action may create false conclusions in others.
    • A person who sees my lewd behaviour with my neighbour’s wife, might be so simple as to imagine she is my own wife.
      • My action resembles a lie only with the difference that I do not perform the action intending to create a false judgment.
      • I do it merely to satisfy my lust and passion.
    • However, it causes a mistake and false judgment by accident.
      • The falsehood of its effects may be ascribed to the action itself.
  • But I still can see no reason why the tendency to cause such an error is the first spring or original source of all immorality.

Footnote 12:

  • It would be entirely superfluous to prove this had William Wollaston (The Religion of Nature Delineated, London 1722) not seriously affirmed that such a falsehood is the foundation of all guilt and moral deformity.
  • We can discover the fallacy of his hypothesis by considering that a false conclusion is drawn from an action, only by means of an obscurity of natural principles.
    • These principles:
      • make a cause secretly interrupted in its operation by contrary causes
      • render the connection between two objects uncertain and variable.
  • A like uncertainty and variety of causes:
    • take place even in natural objects
    • produce a like error in our judgment
  • if that tendency to produce error were the very essence of vice and immorality, it follows that even inanimate objects might be vicious and immoral.
  • It is in vain to urge, that inanimate objects act without liberty and choice.
  • For as liberty and choice are not necessary to make an action produce in us an erroneous conclusion.
  • They cannot be essential to morality.
  • I do not readily perceive how they can ever come to be regarded by it.
  • If the tendency to cause error is the origin of immorality, that tendency and immorality would in every case be inseparable.
  • If I closed the windows while I indulged with my neighbour’s wife, I would not be guilty of immorality because my action was perfectly concealed.
    • It would have had no tendency to produce any false conclusion.
  • For the same reason, a thief who steals and causes no disturbance, is not criminal because he will not be perceived.
    • If he is perceived, he cannot produce any error.
    • No one will take him to be different from what he really is.
  • Those who are squint-sighted, readily cause mistakes in others.
    • We imagine they salute or are talking to one person while they address themselves to another.
    • Therefore, are they then immoral?
  • In all those arguments, there is an evident reasoning in a circle.
    • A person who steals another’s goods and declares them to be his own, is a falsehood which is the source of the immorality of injustice.
      • But is property, right, or obligation, intelligible without an antecedent morality?
    • A man that is ungrateful to his benefactor affirms that he never received any favours from him.
      • But in what manner?
      • Is it because it is his duty to be grateful?
      • But this supposes that there is some antecedent rule of duty and morals.
    • Is it because human nature:
      • is generally grateful
      • makes us conclude that a man who does any harm never received any favour from the person he harmed?
    • But human nature is not so generally grateful, as to justify such a conclusion.
      • If human nature is generally grateful, every criminal case would be an exception to a general rule, only because it is an exception?
    • This whimsical system leaves us under the same difficulty to explain why truth is virtuous and falsehood vicious, in the same way as we explain the merit or turpitude of any other action.
      • This is enough to entirely destroy this system.
    • I shall allow that all immorality is derived from this supposed falsehood in action, provided you can answer why such a falsehood is immoral.
      • If you answer rightly, you will find yourself in the same difficulty as at the beginning.
    • This last argument is very conclusive.
      • Because if there is not an evident merit or turpitude annexed to this species of truth or falsehood, it can never influence our actions.
      • Who ever thought of refraining from any action because others might draw false conclusions from it?
      • Who ever performed any action that he might give rise to true conclusions?
  • Thus it is impossible that the distinction between moral good and evil be made to reason.
    • Since that distinction influences our actions, which reason alone is incapable of.
  • Reason and judgment may be the mediate cause of an action by prompting or by directing a passion.
    • But this judgment does not have virtue or vice.
    • The judgments caused by our judgments can less bestow vice and virtue on the actions which cause them.
  • We weigh the following considerations to:
    • be more particular
    • show that those eternal immutable fitnesses and unfitnesses of things cannot be defended by sound philosophy.
  • If the thought and understanding were alone capable of fixing the boundaries of right and wrong, vice and virtue must:
    • lie in some relations of objects, or
    • be a matter of fact discovered by our reasoning.
  • This consequence is evident.
  • The operations of human understanding divide themselves into two:
    • the comparing of ideas
    • the inferring of matter of fact
  • If virtue were discovered by the understanding, it must be an object of one of these operations.
    • There is no third operation of the understanding which can discover it.
  • Some philosophers have very industriously suggested that morality is susceptible of demonstration, though no one has ever been able to advance a single step in those demonstrations.
    • Yet it is taken for granted, that this science may be brought to an equal certainty with geometry or algebra.
    • Based on this, vice and virtue must consist in some relations.
      • Since no matter of fact is capable of being demonstrated.
  • We shall:
    • examine this hypothesis
    • try to fix those moral qualities which have been so long the objects of our fruitless researches.
    • point out distinctly the relations which constitute morality or obligation.
      • So that we may know:
        • wherein they consist
        • how we must judge of them.
  • If you assert that vice and virtue consist in relations susceptible of certainty and demonstration, you must confine yourself to those four relations which alone admit of that evidence.
    • You will run into absurdities which you will never be able to extricate yourself from.
    • Because you make the very essence of morality lie in the relations.
      • But the only relations are those that are applicable to an irrational and inanimate object.
    • It follows, that even such objects must be susceptible of merit or demerit.
    • All the following relations belong to matter as to our actions, passions, and volitions:
    • resemblance, contrariety, degrees in quality, and proportions in quantity and number
  • Morality therefore does not lie in any of these relations.
    • The moral sense does not lie in the discovery of these relations.

Footnote 13

  • Our way of thinking on this subject is commonly confused.
  • Those who assert that morality is demonstrable, do not say that morality lies in the relations, and that the relations are distinguishable by reason.
    • They only say that reason can discover such an action in such relations, to be virtuous, and such another to be vicious.
    • They thought it sufficient to bring ‘relation’ into the proposition, without troubling themselves whether it was to the purpose or not.
  • But demonstrative reason only discovers relations.
    • According to this hypothesis, that reason discovers also vice and virtue.
    • These moral qualities, therefore, must be relations.
  • When we blame any action, the whole complicated object of action and situation, must form certain relations which form the essence of vice.
    • This hypothesis is not otherwise intelligible.
  • For what does reason discover when it pronounces any action as vicious?
    • Does it discover a relation or a matter of fact?
    • These questions are decisive and must not be eluded.
  • When fighting in the dark, a man punches in the air.
    • He often places them where the enemy is not present.
  • I do not know what to reply to this, until someone can point out to me this new relation.
    • It is impossible to refute a system, which has never been explained yet.
  • Some assert that:
    • the sense of morality consists in the discovery of some distinct relation
    • our enumeration was incomplete when we comprehended all demonstrable relations under four general heads.
  • I require two conditions for anyone clearing up this system.
  • First, moral good and evil:
    • belong only to the mind’s actions
    • are derived from our situation with regard to external objects
      • the relations creating these moral distinctions must:
        • lie only between internal actions and external objects
        • not be applicable to
          • internal actions, compared among themselves, or
          • external objects, when placed in opposition to other external objects.
    • Morality is supposed to attend certain relations.
      • If these relations could belong to single internal actions, it follows that we might be guilty of crimes in ourselves, independent of our situation with respect to the universe.
      • If these moral relations could be applied to external objects, it follows that even inanimate beings would be susceptible of moral beauty and deformity.
  • It is difficult to imagine that any relation can be discovered between our passions, volitions and actions, compared to external objects.
    • This relation might not belong to these:
      • passions and volitions, or
      • external objects, compared among themselves.
  • It will still be more difficult to fulfill the second condition needed to justify this system.
  • Some people maintain:
    • an abstract rational difference between moral good and evil
    • a natural fitness and unfitness of things.
  • According to their principles, these relations are:
    • eternal and immutable
    • the same, when considered by every rational creature
      • Their effects are also supposed to be necessarily the same.
      • It is concluded they have no greater or less influence in directing the deity’s will, than in governing the rational and virtuous humans.
  • These two are evidently distinct.
    • It is one thing to know virtue, and another to conform the will to it.
  • To prove that the measures of right and wrong are eternal laws, obligatory on every rational mind, it is not sufficient to show the relations on which they are founded:
    • We must also:
      • point out the connection between the relation and the will
      • must prove that this connection is so necessary, that in every well-disposed mind, it must take place and have its influence.
        • Though the difference between these minds are in other respects immense and infinite.
  • I have already proven that, even in human nature, no relation can alone ever produce any action.
    • There is also no connection of cause and effect which:
      • is discoverable otherwise than by experience
      • we can pretend to have any security by the simple consideration of the objects.
  • All beings in the universe, considered in themselves, appear entirely loose and independent of each other.
    • It is only by experience we learn their influence and connection.
    • We should never extend this influence beyond experience.
  • It is as impossible to fulfill the second condition.
    • Because we cannot prove a priori, that these relations, would be universally forcible and obligatory if they really existed and were perceived.
  • Thus it will be impossible to fulfill the first condition required to the system of eternal measures of right and wrong.
    • Because it is impossible to show those relations on which such a distinction may be founded.
  • To make these general reflections more dear and convincing, we may illustrate them by some particular instances, wherein this character of moral good or evil is the most universally acknowledged.
    • Of all crimes humans are capable of committing, the most horrid and unnatural is ingratitude, especially when it is committed against parents.
    • It appears in the more flagrant instances of wounds and death.
  • This is acknowledged by everyone. all mankind, philosophers as well as the people;
    • the question only arises among philosophers, whether the ingratitude’s guilt or moral deformity is:
      • discovered by demonstrative reasoning, or
      • felt by:
        • an internal sense
        • some sentiment naturally caused by reflecting on such an action.
  • This question will soon be decided against the former opinion, if we can show the same relations in other objects, without the notion of any guilt or iniquity attending them.
  • Reason or science is nothing but the:
    • comparing of ideas
    • the discovery of their relations.
  • If the same relations have different characters, it follows that those characters are not discovered merely by reason.
  • To test this, let us choose any inanimate object, such as an oak or elm.
    • By the dropping of its seed, it produces a sapling below it.
    • It springs up and finally overtops and destroys the parent tree.
  • In this case, is there any lacking relation, discoverable in parricide or ingratitude?
    • Isn’t the one tree the cause of the other’s existence and the latter the cause of the former’s destruction, in the same way as a child murdering his parent?
  • It is not sufficient to reply, that a choice or will is lacking.
    • For in the case of parricide, a will does not give rise to any different relations.
    • But it is only the cause from which the action is derived.
    • It consequently produces the same relations, that in the oak or elm arise from some other principles.
  • Will or choice determines a man to kill his parent.
    • Laws of matter and motion determine a sapling to destroy the oak it has sprung from.
  • Here the same relations have different causes.
    • But still the relations are the same.
  • Their discovery in both cases is not attended with a notion of immorality.
    • It follows that that notion does not arise from such a discovery.
  • I ask anyone why:
    • human incest is criminal
    • incest in animals does not have the smallest moral turpitude and deformity?
  • If the answer is that this action is innocent in animals because they do not have sufficient reason to discover its turpitude and that man’s reason restrains him from this, I reply that this arguing in a circle.
    • For before reason can perceive this turpitude, the turpitude must exist.
    • Consequently, it is:
      • independent of the decisions of our reason.
      • their object more than their effect.
  • According to this system, every animal that has sense, appetite, and will, that is, every animal, must be susceptible of all the same virtues and vices which we ascribe praise and blame to humans.
    • The difference is that our superior reason:
      • discovers the vice or virtue
      • augments the blame or praise.
    • But this discovery supposes:
      • a separate being in these moral distinctions
      • a being which:
        • depends only on the will and appetite
        • in thought and reality, may be distinguished from the reason.
  • Animals are susceptible of the same relations, with respect to each other, as humans.
    • They are also susceptible of the same morality, if the essence of morality consisted in these relations.
  • Their lack of a sufficient reason may hinder them from perceiving the duties and obligations of morality.
    • But it can never hinder these duties from existing.
    • Since they must antecedently exist to their being perceived.
    • Reason must find them and can never produce them.
  • I think this is an entirely decisive argument.
  • This reasoning proves that morality does not consist in any relations that are the objects of science.
    • It does not consist in any matter of fact which can be discovered by the understanding.
  • This is the second part of our argument.
    • We may conclude that morality is not an object of reason.
  • But can there be any difficulty in proving, that vice and virtue are not matters of fact, whose existence we can infer by reason?
  • Take any vicious action such as willful murder.
    • You will find that matter of fact, or real existence, called vice.
    • You find only certain passions, motives, volitions and thoughts.
    • There is no other matter of fact in the case.
    • The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object.
    • You never can find it, until you:
      • reflect into your own breast
      • find a sentiment of disapprobation arising in you, towards this action.
    • Here is a matter of fact that is the object of feeling, not of reason.
      • It lies in yourself, not in the object.
    • When you pronounce any action or character as vicious, you only mean that from your nature, you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from its contemplation.
  • Vice and virtue, therefore, may be compared to sounds, colours, heat and cold.
    • According to modern philosophy, these are not qualities in objects, but mental perceptions.
    • This discovery in morals, like the discovery in physics, is a considerable advancement of the speculative sciences.
    • Even if, like the discovery in physics, it has little or no influence on practice.
  • Nothing can be more real, or concern us more, than our own sentiments of pleasure and uneasiness.
    • If these are favourable to virtue and unfavourable to vice, nothing more can be needed to regulate of our conduct and behaviour.
  • In every system of morality, the author proceeds in the ordinary way of reasoning and establishes God, or makes observations concerning human affairs.
    • Suddenly, instead of the usual propositions of is and is not, I meet propositions of should and should not.
    • This change is imperceptible, but is of last consequence.
  • This should or should not expresses some new relation or affirmation.
    • It should be observed and explained at the same time that a reason should be given for what seems inconceivable.
    • How can this new relation be a deduction from other deductions entirely different from it?
  • Authors do not commonly use this precaution.
    • I recommend it to the readers.
    • This small detail would:
      • subvert all the vulgar systems of morality
      • let us see that the distinction of vice and virtue is not:
        • founded merely on the relations of objects
        • perceived by reason.

SEC. 2: MORAL DISTINCTIONS DERIVed FROM A MORAL SENSE

  • Since vice and virtue are not discoverable merely by reason, or the comparison of ideas, it must be created by some impression or sentiment that enables us to mark the difference between them.
    • Our decisions on moral rectitude and depravity are perceptions.
    • All perceptions are either impressions or ideas.
      • The exclusion of the one is a convincing argument for the other.
  • Morality, therefore, is more properly felt than judged of.
    • This feeling or sentiment is commonly so soft and gentle.
    • We are apt to confound it with an idea, according to our common custom of taking all resembling things as the same.
  • What is the nature of these impressions?
    • How do they operate on us?
  • We must pronounce the impression arising from:
    • virtue to be agreeable
    • vice to be uneasy.
      • Every experience must convince us of this.
  • A noble and generous action is most fair and beautiful.
    • A cruel and treacherous action gives us the most abhorrence.
  • No enjoyment equals our satisfaction from the company of those we love and esteem.
    • The greatest punishment is to be obliged to pass our lives with those we hate or treat with contempt.
  • A very play or romance may give us instances of:
    • pleasure conveyed by virtue
    • pain arising from vice.
  • The distinguishing impressions, which lets us know moral good or evil, are nothing but particular pains or pleasures.
    • It follows that, in all inquiries on these moral distinctions, it will be sufficient to show the principles which make us feel a satisfaction or uneasiness from the survey of any character.
      • These will satisfy us why the character is laudable or blamable.
  • Why is an action, sentiment, or character is virtuous or vicious?
    • Because its view causes a kind of pleasure or uneasiness.
    • We can explain the vice or virtue by giving a reason for the pleasure or uneasiness.
  • Having the sense of virtue is nothing but to feel a satisfaction of a particular kind from the contemplation of a character.
    • The very feeling constitutes our praise or admiration.
    • We do not go further.
    • We do not inquire into the cause of the satisfaction.
    • We do not infer a character to be virtuous, because it pleases.
    • We feel that it is virtuous from feeling that it pleases in a particular way.
  • The case is the same as in our judgments concerning all kinds of beauty, and tastes, and sensations.
  • Our approbation is implyed in the immediate pleasure they convey to us.
  • I have objected to the system which establishes eternal rational measures of right and wrong.
    • It is impossible to show any relations in the actions of reasonable creatures, which are not found in external objects.
    • If morality always attended these relations, it were possible for inanimate matter to become virtuous or vicious.
  • Similarly, the present system may be objected to.
    • If virtue and vice are determined by pleasure and pain, these qualities must arise from the sensations in every case.
    • Consequently, any animate, inanimate, rational or irrational object, might become morally good or evil, provided it can excite a satisfaction or uneasiness.
    • This objection seems to be the same.
      • But one case does not have the same force as the other.
    • Because:
      • first, under the term pleasure, we comprehend sensations which:
        • are very different from each other
        • only have such a distant resemblance needed to make them be expressed by the same abstract term of pleasure.
  • Good music and a good bottle of good wine equally produce pleasure.
    • Their goodness is determined merely by the pleasure.
  • But do we say that the wine is harmonious or the music has a good flavour?
    • Similarly, an inanimate object and a person’s character or sentiments may give satisfaction.
    • But the satisfaction is different.
      • This keeps our sentiments on them from being confounded.
      • This makes us ascribe virtue to the one and not to the other.
  • Every pleasure or pain arising from characters and actions, of that peculiar kind, does not make us praise or condemn.
    • An enemy’s good qualities are hurtful to us.
      • But it may still command our esteem and respect.
  • A feeling or sentiment of morally good or evil is created only when a character is considered in general, without reference to our particular interest.
    • Those sentiments from interest and morals:
      • are apt to be confounded
      • naturally run into one another.
  • We often think of an enemy as vicious.
    • We can distinguish between his opposition to our interest and his real villainy or baseness.
    • The sentiments are distinct in themselves.
    • A man of temper and judgment may preserve himself from these illusions.
  • Similarly, a musical voice is nothing but one that naturally gives a kind of pleasure.
    • Yet it is difficult for a man to be sensible that an enemy’s voice is agreeable or musical.
    • But a person of a fine ear, who has the command of himself, can:
      • separate these feelings
      • give praise to what deserves it.
  • Secondly, We may call to remembrance the preceding system of the passions, to remark a still more considerable difference among our pains and pleasures.
  • Pride and humility, love and hatred are excited when anything is presented to us that:
    • is related to the object of the passion
    • produces a separate sensation related to the sensation of the passion.
  • Now virtue and vice are attended with these circumstances.
    • They must:
      • be placed in ourselves or others
      • excite pleasure or uneasiness
      • give rise to one of these four passions.
        • These clearly distinguish them from the pleasure and pain arising from inanimate objects that often bear no relation to us.
  • This is, perhaps, the most considerable effect that virtue and vice have on the mind.
  • From what principles is this pleasure and pain, that distinguishes moral good and evil, derived from?
    • Where does it arise in the human mind?
  • It is absurd to imagine that these sentiments are produced by an original quality and primary constitution in every instance.
    • The number of our duties is infinite.
    • It is impossible that our original instincts should extend to each of them.
    • From our infancy, it cannot impress on the mind all that multitude of precepts contained in the completest system of ethics.
  • Such a method is incompatible to the usual maxims which conduct nature.
    • A few principles produce all that variety we observe in the universe.
    • Everything is carried on in the easiest and most simple manner.
  • We therefore need to:
    • abridge these primary impulses
    • find some more general principles on which all our notions of morals are founded.
  • Should we search for these principles in nature?
    • Or must we look for them in some other origin?
  • Our answer depends on the definition of ‘Nature’ because it is most ambiguous and equivocal.
    • If nature is opposed to miracles, then the following are natural:
      • the distinction between vice and virtue
      • every event which has ever happened in the world, except those miracles, on which our religion is founded.
  • We make no very extraordinary discovery when we say that the sentiments of vice and virtue are natural in this sense.
  • But nature may also be opposed to rare and unusual.
    • This is the common meaning of ‘nature’.
    • In this sense, disputes often arise on what is natural or unnatural.
  • We generally do not have any very precise standard to solve these disputes.
    • Frequent and rare depend on the number of observed examples.
    • This number may gradually increase or decrease.
    • It will be impossible to fix any exact boundaries between them.
  • If ever there was anything natural in this sense, moral sentiments may be it.
    • Since no nation or person was utterly deprived of morals, who never showed the smallest approbation or dislike of manners.
  • These sentiments are so rooted in our constitution and temper.
    • It is impossible to extirpate and destroy them, without entirely confounding the human mind by disease or madness.
  • But ‘nature’ may also mean not man-made.
    • In this sense, it may be disputed whether the notions of virtue are natural or not.
  • We readily forget, that men’s designs, projects, and views are principles as necessary in their operation as heat and cold, moist and dry.
    • We usually set them in opposition to the other principles of nature.
  • I think it is impossible to answer whether the sense of virtue is natural or artificial.
    • Our sense of some virtues is artificial, and that of others natural.
    • This question will be more proper in the exact detail of each vice and virtue.

Footnote 14

  • In the following discourse natural is also opposed sometimes to civil, sometimes to moral.
  • The opposition will always discover the sense, in which it is taken.
  • Those systems which assert that virtue is natural and vice is unnatural are most unphilosophical, based on these definitions of natural and unnatural.
    • For if natural means non-miraculous, then vice and virtue are equally natural.
    • If natural means ordinary, then virtue will perhaps be found to be the most unnatural.
      • Heroic virtue is as unusual as the most brutal barbarity.
    • If natural means not man-made, both vice and virtue are equally artificial and out of nature.
    • Actions themselves are:
      • artificial
      • performed with a certain design and intention.
    • Otherwise actions could never be ranked under merit or demerit.
    • Therefore, it is impossible that natural and unnatural characters can ever mark the boundaries of vice and virtue.
  • Thus, we are still brought back to our first position, that:
    • virtue is distinguished by the pleasure
    • vice by the pain that any action, sentiment, or character gives us by its mere view and contemplation.
    • This decision is very commodious, because it reduces us to this simple question:
      • Why does any action or sentiment give satisfaction or uneasiness to show the origin of its moral rectitude or depravity, without looking for any incomprehensible relations and qualities?
        • These qualities never existed in nature or even in our imagination clearly or distinctly.
  • I flatter myself that I have executed most of my present design by a question which is not ambiguous and obscure.

Words: 6273

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