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An attempt to publish Bishop Butler's Treatises on Human Nature and on Virtue in a perspicuous form, may perhaps not be without interest for the general reader; but it has been made, in the present instance, mainly in consequence of the place which the works occupy in the course of reading prescribed in one, at least, of our Colleges at Cambridge. They were introduced into that course fifteen years ago, it being conceived that they would be useful additions or corrections to other works which enter into the University course. This recommendation they are still conceived to possess: but there appears to be reason to believe that, in consequence of a certain degree of obscurity in Butler's style, his doctrines are often misapprehended by young readers. An attempt will here be made to avert such misapprehension, partly by an arrangement of the text, and partly by a few prefatory remarks.

I hope it will not be considered that I have taken too great a liberty with the text, in di

viding it into paragraphs, and numbering the Articles, with reference to the Syllabus which I have drawn up, marking the steps of the argument. I think this arrangement will help to make the reasoning on the doctrines clearer to most readers.

With regard to Butler's doctrines, I suppose it is not questioned that they are, on several points, directly opposed to those of Paley. And those who judged that, on such points, Paley is in error, and that his errors are likely to mislead or perplex those to whom his "Moral Philosophy" is presented with the recommendation of authority, conceived that the evil might be in some measure remedied by recommending an attention to Butler's ethical views at the same time.

Butler's name stands so high among us, that the selection of such a work for this purpose could not be considered either as a capricious act, or as any mark of direspect towards his adversary.

The points of opposition between Butler and Paley are obvious enough. Paley declares his intention (B. I. c. vi.) to omit the "usual declamation" on the dignity and capacity of our nature; the superiority of the soul to the body, of the rational to the animal part of our constitution; upon the worthiness, refinement and

delicacy of some satisfaction, or the meanness, grossness, and sensuality of others. Butler, on the contrary, teaches that there is a difference of kind among our principles of action, which is quite distinct from their difference of strength; [36*] that reason was intended to control animal appetite, and that the law of man's nature is violated when the contrary takes place. Paley teaches us to judge of the merit of actions by the advantages to which they lead; Butler [58 and 70] teaches that good-desert and ill-desert are something else than mere tendencies to the advantage and disadvantage of society. Paley makes virtue depend upon the consequences of our actions: Butler makes it depend upon the due operation of our moral constitution. Paley is the moralist of utility; Butler, of conscience.

We must take care, however, that we do not press the antithesis of the two moralists too far; especially as both of them have, by their mode of writing, given openings for misapprehensions. Paley, aiming above all things to say what was lucid and what was practical, often selects modes of expression which violate the habits of previous moral writers, for the very reason that they do so; as in the passage just quoted, when he calls it "declamation," to speak of the dignity and

* The references are to the articles in this edition.

capacity of our nature, the superiority of the soul to the body, of the rational to the animal part of our nature; adding, “I hold that pleasures differ in nothing but in continuance and intensity." So also in his declaration that "whatever is expedient is right." Such expressions as this last, if taken in the usual sense of the words, are altogether immoral; since they acknowledge no necessary moral superiority of truth over falsehood, or kindness over cruelty; and the preceding tenet, recognizing no necessary superiority of human pleasures over those of animals, might be called brutish. Yet Paley's own right feeling leads him to explain away the greater part of that which is vicious and debasing in these expressions. He had no turn for speculative morality; and the errors of his fundamental principles are compensated by other errors in applying them and reasoning from them, so that most of his practical conclusions admit of a harmless sense; although there is likely to remain, in the mind of his readers, a pernicious influence, produced by his disparaging rejection of so many of the most familiar and significant forms in which the moral convictions of all ages have been expressed.

Nor is Butler free from the danger of being misunderstood. There is especially one ex

pression of his, which is likely to lead his readers into an erroneous doctrine; a doctrine, as may easily be shewn, not held by the writer himself. He speaks [34] of the natural supremacy of conscience. Now this might easily be understood, and has often been understood, as implying the doctrine that conscience is the supreme and ultimate judge of human actions;-that there is a special faculty so denominated, which is held by the writer to be the ultimate criterion of right and wrong:-that there is a general conscience in man, which, by its own powers, discloses to him a standard or law of human action-or perhaps, that each individual person has such a faculty, which is the proper judge or standard of his actions; that if he conform his conduct to his conscience, he must act rightly. And this impression may have been much strengthened by the kind of personification of Conscience in which Butler repeatedly indulges; as when he [34] speaks of its prerogative; and says [38] that if it had strength as it has right, if it had power as it has authority, it would rule the world. And in like manner, other writers may have confirmed such an impression by speaking of Conscience as an accuser, a witness, a judge, and a punisher of crime.

The arguments against conscience, in this


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