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NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

No. CXXXII.

JULY, 1846.

Art. I. - The Elements of Morality, including Polity.

By William Whewell, D. D., Master of Trinity
College, and Professor of Moral Philosophy in the Uni-
versity of Cambridge, Author of the History and the
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences. New York :
Harper & Brothers. 1845. 2 vols. 16mo.

Dr. WHEWELL has been for some years well known as a scientific writer of great learning, candor, and soundness. His Bridgewater Treatise was second to none in the series, and may be studied as a model by any one whose office it is to embody for the use of general readers the results of profound research and scholarship. But his reputation rests, and probably will rest, chiefly on his History and Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, — works which cover with singular fidelity the entire ground which they profess to occupy, - the former with a perfectness of method and an accuracy of detail which leave little to be desired,- the latter with a patience, caution, precision, and blended clearness and depth of thought, which must command the respect and admiration of those who dissent from its doctrines. The work now before us fills the same place for the department of Ethics, which the first of the above-named works does for the Inductive Sciences. It is not a treatise on Moral Philosophy, but an appropriate basis for such a treatise, which we cannot but anticipate as forthcoming (though not explicitly announced) from the same hand. The object of this work is to present what we may term the physiology of morality, VOL. LXIII. - No. 132.

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that is, an outline of the undoubted facts and phenomena connected with man's moral being, self-consciousness, and agency, and of the leading eras and aspects of the ethical history of the race. Or, as the author takes England for his station, constantly applies his principles to the public law and sentiment of England, and seems on many subjects to have stopped short himself at the point which they have reached, we might define this work to be an answer to the question, “ Through what elements of human nature, through what processes of development and culture, are the conscience and the moral standard of an enlightened and virtuous English Churchman what they are”? This route of inquiry excludes, of course, the many metaphysical questions which properly belong to the department of ethics, such as the ultimate basis of moral obligation, the power of motives, the nature of the will, and the seat, laws, and limits of free agency; but it presents a clear and philosophical statement of the facts from which alone these questions can be answered. We propose to give an outline view of the ground thus covered by Dr. Whewell, with such remarks of our own as the work and the subject may suggest and our limits permit.

Man is made a moral being by his powers of observation, reflection, and reasoning, combined with his conscious free agency. He understands what he does, and he does what he prefers to do. Moreover, as actions lead to events by invariable laws, they are the legitimate subjects of rules. But moral rules, as they are designed to act upon the will, must, in order to be of any avail, be adjusted with reference to those motives or springs of action which immediately influence the will. The springs of action our author enumerates as follows : “ The Appetites or Bodily Desires ; the Affections ; the Mental Desires ; the Moral Sentiments; and the Reflex Sentiments," under which head he classes the desire of love or esteem from others, and the desire of our own approval, together with “all those Springs of Action which are designated by some compound of the world Self; as Self-Admiration, self-Love." "This last class seems to us redundant. We can trace no difference in kind between “the desire of superiority,” enumerated among the mental desires, and that of popularity or fame, which is put among the reflex sentiments. We do not deny, indeed, that the love of fame is a reflex sentiment; but so is hunger, thirst,

avarice, each implying an external object of desire, the reflex action of which influences the will. And as for the class of sentiments designated by the compounds of self, these may all be resolved into different forms of self-consciousness; and self-consciousness is an essential condition of every desire or sentiment, while self-love, in its largest sense, may be assumed as the connecting formula between every spring of action and the will. This entire class of sentiments might, then, better be distributed, according to their respective aims and ends, among the mental desires and the moral sentiments.

The various springs of action operate with different degrees of intensity upon different individuals. But reason is conceived of as the same in all persons, as to its decisions and results ; and the common reason of mankind leads to the establishment of such rules of action as shall confine the several springs of action to their just places in the economy of individual and social being. Moral rules exist of necessity; for

we cannot conceive man as man, without conceiving him as subject to rules, and making part of an order in which rules prevail.” Man does not create society, but is born for it and into it. Society is as essential an element of human nature, as reason or conscience. And there can be no society, unless it have for its basis rules, enacted by the common reason, which shall so circumscribe and balance the springs of action in each individual, as to leave certain essential objects of desire open to the attainment of all. Actions derive their value from their ends; and a subordinate end derives its value from a higher end which it promotes. In assigning reasons for our rules of action, we pass successively from lower to higher ends, till we arrive at the Supreme Good as the ultimate end. This supreme good is rather the limit than the expression of our conceptions of the desirable. We cannot define it; but in our rules of action, we constantly aim at it and approximate towards it.

The supreme good implies a supreme rule of action, — the sum and archetype of all our approximate rules ; and with reference to the supreme rule we conceive of actions as right and wrong, terms which are indefinable, and represent certain ultimate ideas that underlie all our moral self-consciousness and our reflection on moral subjects.

Moral rules, in prescribing what it is right for each person

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