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The moral pro
men-as that for example of a benefactor to a dependant, or of one who has conferred a kindness to another who has received it. There is a moral or ethical propriety that springs out of this relation, It is that of gratitude from the latter of these individuals to the former of them. Gratitude is the incumbent virtue in such a case, and a benefactor is the object of that virtue.
6. Now to make one feel the truth of the ethical principle, it matters not whether he has seen many or few benefactors in the course of his experience. Nay, it matters not whether there are many or few benefactors in the world. priety of gratitude is that which attaches to the relation between a benefactor and a dependant; and it equally remains so whether the relation be seldom or often exemplified. Nay, gratitude would be the appropriate virtue of this relation, although actually it were never exemplified at all. The ethical principle of the virtuousness of gratitude does not depend on the existent reality of an object for this virtue. Let a benefactor really exist; and then gratitude is due to him. Or let a benefactor only be supposed to exist; and then we affirm with as great readiness that gratitude would be due to him. The incumbent morality is alike recognised—whether we behold a real object, or only figure to ourselves a hypothetical one. The morality, in fact, does not depend for its rightness on any such contingency, as the actual and substantive existence of a proper object to which it may be rendered. The virtuousness of gratitude would remain a stable category in ethical science; although, never once exemplified in the living world of realities, we derived our only notion of it from the possibilities which were contemplated in an ideal world of relations.
7. It is thus that whether much or little conversant with the objects of a virtue, there may of the virtue itself be a clear and vivid apprehension. A peasant, all whose experience is limited to the homestead of his own little walk, can recognise the virtuousness of gratitude and justice and truth with as great correctness, and feel them too with as great intenseness, as the man of various and ample intercourse, who has traversed a thousand times wider sphere in human society. By enlarging the field of observation we may extend our acquaintance with the objects of moral science; but this does not appear at all indispensable to our acquaintance with the Ethics of the science. To appreciate aright the moral propriety which belongs to any given relation, we do not need to multiply the exemplifications or the cases of it. The one is not a thing of observation as the other is, and therefore not a thing to which the Baconian or inductive method of investigation is in the same manner applicable. Our knowledge of the objects belongs to the Philosophy of Facts. Our knowledge of the Ethics belongs to another and a distinct Philosophy.
8. There has been too much arrogated for the philosophy of Lord Bacon in our day.
“Quid est?" is the only question to the solution of which it is applicable. It is by observation that we ascertain what are the objects in Nature; and what are, or have been, the events in the history of Nature. But there is another question wholly distinct from this, “ Quid oportet ?” to the solution of which we are guided by another light than that of experience. This question lies without the domain of the Inductive Philosophy, and the science to whose cognizance it belongs shines upon us by the light of its own immediate evidence. There may have been a just and a luminous Ethics, even when the lessons of the experimental philosophy were most disregarded; and, on the other hand, it is the office of this philosophy to rectify and extend physical, but not to rectify and extend moral science.*
9. On this subject there is an instructive analogy taken from another science, and which illustrates still more the distinction now stated between the objects and the ethics of Moral Philosophy;t.
* We mean not to deny the legitimate application of the Baconian Philosophy to mental science a distinct thing from moral science. The philosophy which directs and presides over the investigation of facts has to do with the facts and phenomena of mind, as well as those of matter; and though the sanguine anticipations of Reid and Stewart, of a vast coming enlargement in the science of mind, from the call which they had sounded for the treatment of it by the inductive method, have not been realized it is not the less true that the philosophy which has for its object the determination of the Quid est throughout all the departments of observational truth, has to do with the facts of the mental world, as well as with those of the material world, and with the classification of both. But the feelings and purposes of the mind viewed as phenomena, present a different object of investigation altogether, from those feelings and purposes viewed in relation to their rightness or wrongness,
The latter is the object of moral science. And when we say that the office of Lord Bacon's philosophy is to rectify and extend physical, but not to rectify moral science, let it be understood that the physical includes phenomena and facts wherever they are to be found—more especially the phenomena of man's spiritual and intellectual nature, the physics of the mind, the mental physiology of Dr. Thomas Brown, the pneumatology of an older generation.
† Moral Philosophy is here understood in its most generic
that is, the distinction between the mathematics and the objects of Natural Philosophy.
10. The objects of Natural Philosophy are the facts or data of the science. The knowledge of these is only to be obtained by observation. Jupiter placed at a certain distance from the sun, and moving in a certain direction, and with a certain velocity, is an object. His satellites, with their positions and their motions, are also so many objects. Any piece of matter, including those attributes which it is the part of Natural Philosophy to take cognizance of, such as weight, and magnitude, and movement, and situation, is an object of this science. Altogether they form what may be called the individual and existent realities of the science. And Lord Bacon has done well in having demonstrated that for the knowledge of these we must give ourselves up exclusively to the informations of experience; that is, to obtain a knowledge of the visible properties of material things we must look at them, or of their tangible properties we must handle them, or of their weights or motions or distances we must measure them.
11. Thus far, then, do the applications of the Baconian Philosophy go, and no farther.
After that the facts or objects of the science have in this way been ascertained, we perceive certain mathematical relations between the objects from which we can derive truths and properties innumerable. But it is not experience now which lights us on from one truth or property to another. The objects meaning, as comprehensive of the duties owing to God in heaven, as well as to our fellow-men upon earth,
or data of the science are ascertained by the evidence of observation ; but the mathematics of the science proceed on an evidence of their own, and land us in sound and stable mathematical conclusions, whether the data at the outset of the reasoning be real or hypothetical. The moral proprieties founded on equity between man and man would remain like so many fixtures in ethical science, though the whole species were swept away, and no man could be found to exemplify our conclusions. The mathematical properties founded on an equality between line and line would in like manner abide as eternal truths in geometry, although matter were swept away from the universe, and there remained no bodies whose position or whose distances had to be reasoned on. It has been already said that we do not need to extend the domain of observation in order to have a clear and a right notion of the moral proprieties; and it may now be said that we do not need to extend the domain of observation in order to have a clear and a right notion of the mathematical properties. If straight lines be drawn between the centres of the earth and the sun and Jupiter, they would constitute a triangle, the investigation of whose properties might elicit much important truth on the relations of these three bodies. But all that is purely mathematical in the truth would remain, although it were not exemplified, or although these three bodies had no existence. Nay, the triangle might serve as the exemplar of an infinity of triangles, which required only a corresponding infinity of objects, in order that the general and abstract truth might become the symbol or