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experiencing it in ourselves, and recognizing it in each other. It appears from our exercising it unavoidably, in the approbation and disapprobation even of feigned characters: from the words, right and wrong, odious and amiable, base and worthy, with many others of like signification in all languages, applied to actions and characters; from the many written systems of morals which suppose it; since it cannot be imagined, that all these authors, throughout all these treatises, had absolutely no meaning at all to their words, or a meaning merely chimerical: from our natural sense of gratitude, which implies a distinction between merely being the instrument of good, and intending it: from the like distinction every one makes between injury and mere harm, which, Hobbes says, is peculiar to mankind; and between injury and just punishment, a distinction plainly natural, prior to the consideration of human laws.

[54] It is manifest great part of common language, and of common behaviour over the world, is formed upon supposition of such a moral faculty whether called conscience, moral reason, moral sense, or divine reason; whether considered as a perception* of the understanding, or as a sen


[The editions have "a sentiment of the understanding or a perception of the heart," but I think it cannot be doubtful that Butler intended to write as I have printed it. W.]

timent of the heart, or, which seems the truth, as including both. Nor is it at all doubtful in the general, what course of action this faculty, or practical discerning power within us, approves, and what it disapproves. For, as much as it has been disputed wherein virtue consists, or whatever ground for doubt there may be about particulars; yet, in general, there is in reality an universally acknowledged standard of it. It is that which all ages and all countries have made profession of in public: it is that which every man you meet, puts on the show of: it is that which the primary and fundamental laws of all civil constitutions over the face of the earth, make it their business and endeavour to enforce the practice of upon mankind: namely, justice, veracity, and regard to common good.

[55] It being manifest, then, in general, that we have such a faculty or discernment as this; it may be of use to remark some things, more distinctly, concerning it.

First, It ought to be observed, that the object of this faculty is actions*, comprehending under that name active or practical principles : those principles from which men would act, if

* οὐδὲ ἡ ἀρετὴ καὶ κακία—ἐν πείσει ἀλλὰ ἐνεργεία, M. Anton, lib. ix. 16. Virtutis laus omnis in actione consistit. Cic. Off. lib. i. c. 6,

occasions and circumstances gave them power; and which, when fixed and habitual in any person, we call, his character. It does not appear that brutes have the least reflex sense of actions, as distinguished from events: or that will and design, which constitute the very nature of actions as such, are at all an object to their perception. But to ours they are: and they are the object, and the only one, of the approving and disapproving faculty. Acting, conduct, behaviour, abstracted from all regard to what is, in fact and event, the consequence of it, is itself the natural object of the moral discernment; as speculative truth and falsehood is of speculative


[56] Intention of such and such consequences, indeed, is always included; for it is part of the action itself: but though the intended good or bad consequences do not follow, we have exactly the same sense of the action as if they did. In like manner we think well or ill of characters, abstracted from all consideration of the good or the evil, which persons of such characters have it actually in their power to do. We never, in the moral way, applaud or blame either ourselves or others, for what we enjoy or what we suffer, or for having impressions made upon us which we consider as altogether out of

our power: but only for what we do, or would have done, had it been in our power; or for what we leave undone which we might have done, or would have left undone though we could have done it.

[57] Secondly, Our sense or discernment of actions as morally good or evil, implies in it a sense or discernment of them as of good or ill desert. It may be difficult to explain this perception, so as to answer all the questions which may be asked concerning it: but every one speaks of such and such actions as deserving punishment; and it is not, I suppose, pretended that they have absolutely no meaning at all to the expression.

[58] Now the meaning plainly is not, that we conceive it for the good of society, that the doer of such actions should be made to suffer. For if unhappily it were resolved, that a man who, by some innocent action was infected with the plague, should be left to perish, lest, by other people's coming near him, the infection should spread; no one would say, he deserved this treatment. Innocence and ill desert are inconsistent ideas.

[59] Ill desert always supposes guilt: and if one be not part of the other, yet they are evidently and naturally connected in our mind.

The sight of a man in misery raises our compassion towards him; and, if this misery be inflicted on him by another, our indignation against the author of it. But when we are informed that the sufferer is a villain, and is punished only for his treachery or cruelty; our compassion exceedingly lessens, and, in many instances, our indignation wholly subsides. Now what produces this effect, is the conception of that in the sufferer, which we call ill desert.

[60] Upon considering then, or viewing together, our notion of vice and that of misery, there results a third, that of ill desert. And thus there is in human creatures an association of the two ideas, natural and moral evil, wickedness and punishment. If this association were merely artificial or accidental, it were nothing : but being most unquestionably natural, it greatly concerns us to attend to it, instead of endeavouring to explain it away.

[61] It may be observed farther, concerning our perception of good and of ill desert, that the former is very weak with respect to common instances of virtue. One reason of which may be, that it does not appear to a spectator, how far such instances of virtue proceed from a virtuous principle, or in what degree this principle

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