תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

ELEMENTS OF ETHICS

PROLEGOMENA

I.

PSYCHOLOGICAL

§ 1. Before undertaking an inquiry into the principles of Ethics and their chief consequences, it is needful to examine, in a special way, the constitution of the human mind. The whole doctrine of morals concerns intelligences that are sentient and free, and is derived from their nature and relations. A preliminary survey of this ground consists in a specific study of human nature, in order to a study of human relations. The former is a psychological inquiry, and to it we at once proceed.

Mind is conscious substance. The consideration of substance may be omitted, and mind regarded as merely a complement of conscious activities, the knowing and feeling, desiring and willing. These are modes of consciousness, the universal characteristic of mental activity. They are posited as generic powers of mind. Each is subdivided into certain specific powers.

The faculty of knowing, or cognition, is subdivided into intuition, memory, imagination, and thought. The intuitive intelligence is empirical and pure. Empirical or sensuous intuition is perception. Pure or non-sensuous intuition is pure intellect or reason. Pure reason is speculative and practical.

This distribution of mental powers, together with the explication now before us of some of their specific functions,

1

is a logical treatment of facts of consciousness in accord with approved introspective psychology.1

Let it be observed that a power, in its most general sense, is simply a possibility of change. Possible mental changes, known by experience, are classified as powers of mind. These are called mental capacities and faculties, the one denoting power to be changed, to receive by impression, the other denoting power to change, to im part by expression. The further distribution, particularly of the cognitive faculties and capacities, is made, not with reference to differences discerned in the mental action and reaction, but with reference to differences in the objects cognized. The mind responds to the action upon it of objects greatly differing in kind, and its reactions are classified as different modes of knowing. The feelings, desires, and volitions correspond to the cognitions on which they are severally conditioned, and are classified accordingly.

1 An elaborate discussion of the mental powers, according to the foregoing distribution, may be seen in my Elements of Psychology. For a concise statement of the distribution itself, see idem, $$ 71-78. For its ground, see § 79. For power, see § 53. The “New Psychology” discards this classification, and on various grounds proposes some other. Wundt, in his Human and Animal Psychology, § 1, p. 4, says: 6. Wolff is the originator of the socalled theory of mental faculties which has influenced psychology down to the present day. This theory, based upon a superficial classification of mental processes, was couched in terms of a number of general notions, memory, imagination, sensibility, understanding, etc., · which it regarded as simple and fundamental forces of mind. It was left for Herbart, one of the acutest thinkers of our century, to give a convincing proof of the utter emptiness of this theory.” Four pages beyond, however, Wundt speaks of “mind and the principal mental functions . sense, feeling, idea, and will,” also of “our experience of sensations, feelings, and thoughts," and further on, p. 17, he says, we are undoubtedly able to pass judgment.” This is quite enough to bring us together; for by powers, faculties, capacities, we mean precisely functions, neither more nor less, and as to their logical distribution, we shall gladly accept a new one so soon as it is settled and proved superior. Meantime we are persuaded that the names of the various faculties or functions, which have prevailed in science from the time of Socrates until now, and the distinctions, which are so embedded in all Aryan and Semitic languages that even their critics necessarily use them, are sufficient for our present purpose, readily understood, and not likely to pass away at the wave of a wand. A disciple of Wundt says: “ Association of ideas, thinking, reasoning,

used to be considered as separate faculties of the soul, and as showing the mind doing different things. But this view is now completely given up ... mind does only one thing .. that one thing is combining.” But this is simply a question of the logical reduction of functions to a summum genus. If it be shown that they are all merely modes of combining rather than modes of consciousness, a new reduction to unity will have been attained, a scientific modification of the science. But such reduction to genus does not erase the distinctions among species.

Thus the many variations in conscious activity are originally determined objectively, and are merely various modes of consciousness.1

§ 2. Pure intuition is the immediate cognition by reason of a pure idea or necessary truth discerned on some empirical occasion, and abstracted. Such are the ideas of space and time, and the principles of contradiction and causation. These are speculative. Likewise, on the occasion of a personal action, pure reason discerns that it has moral quality, that it is either right or wrong. This implies an abstract intuitive principle marking the distinction, which principle takes the form of an imperative, enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong.

In this practical form it is recognized as the moral law. We identify the practical reason with conscience, and define conscience as pure reason discerning moral law.2

Thought, or the logical faculty, makes inferences from the data of intuition. When it subsumes a special case, and concludes a class of actions, or a particular action, to be right or wrong, this is moral judgment. A moral judgment, then, is a deduction from the moral principle or law, as an ultimate major premise, to precepts of less generality, and thence to particular cases of obligation. The ultimate major is purely intuitive; the minor is usually empirical in character. The process is strictly logical, requiring only correct inference. It does not differ in its forms from the exercise of thought on other matter, as in Economics, and is distinguished as a moral judgment solely with reference to its matter, which is ethical.

1 See infra, § 106.

2 The matter here simply stated is examined infra, § 43 sq. See also infra, $8 58–60.

8 Both intuitions and inferences are judgments; see Elements of Psychol

§ 3. Feelings are correlative to cognitions; that is, they attend cognitions, coexist with them, and correspond to them. There are three classes : sensations, emotions, and sentiments. Sentiments are divided into sensuous and pure; and pure sentiments are subdivided into intellectual and moral. Only the latter call for present consideration.

The basis of all moral sentiment is the cognition of moral law by conscience. The vast, weighty and all-pervading feeling of moral obligation, or sentiment of duty, correlative to conscience, may be taken as generic, as implying the moral sentiments generally.

Because of his relation to moral law, every person has moral worth or dignity. The sentiment which the contemplation of this worth inspires is respect. Positive respect is felt for persons whose habitual conduct conforms to moral law; disrespect for those who disregard it. A show of undue disrespect excites indignation, reasserting worth. The consciousness of one's own dignity and observance of the law inspires self-respect, a sentiment quite distinct from pride and vanity, but consistent with humility or the sentiment of subjection to the law. The opposite feeling, arising in view of what one is and does in contrast with what he ought to be and do, is self-abasement or humiliation.

ogy, § 212.

Throughout the present treatise, however, we shall use the unqualified term judgment, and the phrase moral judgment, in the specific sense of logical judgment or inference, as distinguished from intuition.

1 See Elements of Psychology, $ 231, and $ 254.

Respect becomes reverence when a person's character and conduct are seen to be an embodiment of moral law. The omniscience and omnipotence of Deity excite our highest admiration and awe; but only before the white heat of his holiness do we feel reverence, deepening into veneration and adoration.

iş 4. Another class of moral sentiments relates more especially to particular personal actions. When the agent is some other person, then, according to my judgment on his action, I experience a sentiment of approbation or disapprobation, exciting a disposition to reward or punish him. When the agent is myself in conscious action, then, according to my judgment on my own act, I experience self-approbation or self-condemnation, self-reproach, shame, remorse, together with a sentiment of ill desert that sometimes prompts a self-surrender to justice. The latter sentiments, while compatible with pride, are inconsistent with self-respect.

The sentiments of approbation and disapprobation are marked as pleasant and painful. There is probably no feeling more pure, more delicate and delightful than self-approbation. Self-condemnation, on the contrary, is always painful, and when it deepens to remorse, becomes intolerable. Thus these sentiments are a natural reward and punishment for right and wrong doing.1

$ 5. Desire is a conscious activity marked by a want implying an impulse or tendency toward an object seemingly fitted to the want. This object is quite commonly called the object of desire, but strictly and properly it is an object of cognition. For, in order to desire, there must be a co-existing cognition of an object, which object being known and judged

1 This point is considered infra, § 50.

« הקודםהמשך »