On this page
- Text (2)
Note: This text has been automatically extracted via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. The text has not been manually corrected and should not be relied on to be an accurate representation of the item.
Additionally, when viewing full transcripts, extracted text may not be in the same order as the original document.
On the contrary , they insist upon them , along with . a variety of others , as cdntri biiting r their ^ bare towards that highly conipiex state of miad which is exerted by 4 he contemplation of moral qualities ,, perhaps the most complex af all opr- ^ aifeotionis , apd resulting from a greater extent and variety ^ of associations , more closely and intimately mixed and blended together , " than any other of < whi £ ru . w& are susceptible . of
Itis ^ worthy Teaiark r tkat the arguments of the patrons of an instinctive 1 m&ral-senfi ^ go t © prove , not < that there . is not a great diversity of opihioii as to the morality of particular auctions , buf merely that * the sentiments of mankind are uniform with respect to , the . general dispositions or feelings which ought i . to > iftflueaee o « r conduct . Men differ , it is said , as to the particular actions which are or are not virtuous ; , but no one values himself upon vice assueJi , or hesitates to . admit that virtue in general oug ] it to be
practised , and is deserving of praise ; but then , when we come to examine what is the nature of that complex idea which we express by the term virtue , we find that the notions of obligation and praise-worthiness form a part of it ; so that the fundamental maxim of practical ethics , about which all mankind are said to be agreed , amounts to this , that things which ought to be done , ought to be done . Whether this is not mere verbal trifling , we leave to be considered .
Mr . Stewart endeavours to refute the doctrine which derives moral obligation from the will of God , either as revealed in the Scriptures , or as inferred from our observations on his works and providence . He considers it as leading to the following erroneous conclusions : 1 . " That the disbelief of a future state absolves from all moral obligation , excepting in so far as we find virtue to be conducive to our present interest . 2 . That a being" independently and completely happy cannot have any moral perceptions or moral attributes /'—P . 294 .
That the disbelief of a future state may destroy the sense of obligation , in so far as this arises in practice from an acknowledgment of the reality of such a state , is very conceivable ; but how it is to destroy the obligation itself is not so obvious . Moral obligation , it should be recollected , when thus considered , has a reference to the imposer , and not to the person
subjected to it , by whose erroneous opinions , therefore , it cannot be in any degree affected . As for the sense or feeling of obligation , it must be remembered that this is of a very complicated nature , arising from a great variety of considerations—from the effects of education , from the authority of parents and teachers , the opinions and practice of mankind , especially of those who have a high reputation for wisdom or virtue , the transference to
ourselves of the feelings excited in our minds by contemplating the conduct of those about us , and many others , which will always give rise to a practical sense of moral obligation . It is to a certain degree mechanical ; and as it is only partially derived from any express reference to a future state , so it will influence the mind , though by no means to the same extent , whether that state be acknowledged or not . As for the second absurd consequence alleged to be deducible from this doctrine , it must surely be
admitted that when we speak of moral obligation as affecting the Divine Being , the idea we attach to the term must be considerably modified ; but if we were even to call in question the propriety of this term as applied in any sense to the Deity , it would by no means follow that he was devoid of all moral perceptions or attributes . Moral good and "evil receive these names only in consequence of their intimate connexion with natural good and evil , that is , with happiness and misery , with which respectively they
Dug-ald Stewart * 35
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1829, page 35, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2568/page/35/