Moral Science; a Compendium of Ethics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 487 pages of information about Moral Science; a Compendium of Ethics.
happiness is as succinct as any.  The term useful is, besides, associated with the notion of what is serviceable in the affairs and objects of common life, whence the philosophical doctrine that erects utility as its banner is apt to be deemed, by the unthinking, low, mean, and derogatory to human nature and aspirations, although its real import is wholly free from such a reproach.  Notwithstanding, therefore, the convenience of the term, and because the associations connected with it are not easily eradicated, whilst most of the trite objections to the true doctrine of morals turn upon its narrow meanings, he thinks it should be as much as possible disused.

Mr. Bailey ends by remarking of the common question, whether our moral sentiments have their origin in Reason, or in a separate power called the Moral Sense, that in his view of man’s sensitive and intellectual nature it is easily settled.  He recognizes the feelings that have been enumerated, and, in connexion with them, intellectual processes of discerning and inferring; for which, if the Moral Sense and Reason are meant as anything more than unnecessary general expressions, they are merely fictitious entities.  So, too, Conscience, whether as identified with the moral sense, or put for sensibility in regard to the moral qualities of one’s own mind, is a mere personification of certain mental states.  The summary of Bailey’s doctrine falls within the two first heads.

I.—­The Standard is the production of Happiness. [It should be remarked, however, that happiness is a wider aim than morality; although all virtue tends to produce happiness, very much that produces happiness is not virtue.]

II.—­The Moral Faculty, while involving processes of discernment and inference, is mainly composed of certain sentiments, the chief being Reciprocity and Sympathy. [These are undoubtedly the largest ingredients in a mature, self-acting conscience; and the way that they contribute to the production of moral sentiment deserved to be, as it has been, well handled.  The great omission in Mr. Bailey’s account is the absence of the element of authority, which is the main instrument in imparting to us the sense of obligation.]


Mr. Spencer’s ethical doctrines are, as yet, nowhere fully expressed.  They form part of the more general doctrine of Evolution which he is engaged in working out; and they are at present to be gathered only from scattered passages.  It is true that, in his first work, Social Statics he presented what he then regarded as a tolerably complete view of one division of Morals.  But without abandoning this view, he now regards it as inadequate—­more especially in respect of its basis.

Mr. Spencer’s conception of Morality as a science, is conveyed in the following passages in a letter written by him to Mr. Mill; repudiating the title anti-utilitarian, which Mr. Mill had applied to him:—­

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Moral Science; a Compendium of Ethics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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