Moral Philosophy
by Joseph Rickaby, S. J.
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7. The old notion, that Justice is minding your own business, and leaving your neighbour to mind his, furnishes a good rough statement of the obligations of commutative justice. They are mainly negative, to leave your neighbour alone in his right of life and limb, of liberty and property, of honour and reputation. But in two ways your neighbour's business may become yours in justice. The first way is, if you have any contract with him, whether a formal contract, as that between a railway company and its passengers, or a virtual contract, by reason of some office that you bear, as the office of a bishop and pastor in relation to the souls of his flock. The second way in which commutative justice binds you to positive action, is when undue damage is likely to occur to another from some activity of yours. If, passing by, I see my neighbour's house on fire, not having contracted to watch it for him, and not having caused the fire myself, I am not bound in strict justice to warn him of his danger. I am bound indeed by charity, but that is not the point here. But if the fire has broken out from my careless use of fire, commutative justice binds me to raise the alarm.

8. The most notable potential parts of Justice—Religion, Obedience, Truthfulness—enter into the treatise of Natural Law.

Readings.—Ar., Eth., V., i.; Plato, Rep., 433 A; ib., 443 C, D, E; St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 58, art. 2, in corp; ib., q. 58, art. 5; ib., q. 58, art. 6, in corp; ib., q. 58, art. 7; ib., q. 58, art 9, in corp.; ib., q. 61, art. 1, in corp.; ib., q. 61, art. 3, in corp.; Ar., Eth., V., ii., 12, 13; St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 62, art. 1, in corp., ad 2.

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SECTION I.—Of the natural difference between Good and Evil.

1. A granite boulder lying on an upland moor stands indifferently the August sun and the January frost, flood and drought. It neither blooms in spring, nor fades in autumn. It is all one to the boulder whether it remain in the picturesque solitude where the glacier dropped it, or be laid in the gutter of a busy street. It has no growth nor development: it is not a subject of evolution: there is no goal of perfection to which it is tending by dint of inward germinal capacity seconded by favourable environment. Therefore it does not matter what you do with it: all things come alike to that lump of rock.

2. But in a cranny or cleft of the same there is a little flower growing. You cannot do what you will with that flower. It has its exigencies and requirements. Had it a voice, it could say, what the stone never could: "I must have this or that: I must have light, I must have moisture, a certain heat, some soil to grow in." There is a course to be run by this flower and the plant that bears it, a development to be wrought out, a perfection to be achieved. For this end certain conditions are necessary, or helpful: certain others prejudicial, or altogether intolerable. In fact, that plant has a progressive nature, and therewith is a subject of good and evil. Good for that plant is what favours its natural progress, and evil is all that impedes it.

3. All organic natures are progressive: that is, each individual of them is apt to make a certain progress, under certain conditions, from birth to maturity. But man alone has his progress in any degree in his own hands, to make or to mar. Man alone, in the graphic phrase of Appius Claudius, is faber fortuna sua, "the shaper of his own destiny." Any other plant or animal, other than man, however miserable a specimen of its kind it finally prove to be, has always done the best for itself under the circumstances: it has attained the limit fixed for it by its primitive germinal capacity, as modified by the events of its subsequent environment. The miserable animal that howls under your window at night, is the finest dog that could possibly have come of his blood and breeding, nurture and education. But there is no man now on earth that has done all for himself that he might have done. We all fall short in many things of the perfection that is within our reach. Man therefore needs to stir himself, and to be energetic with a free, self-determined energy to come up to the standard of humanity. It is only his free acts that are considered by the moralist. Such is the definition of Moral Science, that it deals with human acts; acts, that is, whereof man is master to do or not to do. (c. i., nn. 1, 2.)

4. We have it, then, that a morally good act is an act that makes towards the progress of human nature in him who does it, and which is freely done. Similarly, a morally evil act is a bar to progress, or a diversion of it from the right line, being also a free act. Now, that act only can make for the progress of human nature, which befits and suits human nature, and suits it in its best and most distinctive characteristic. What is best in man, what characterises and makes man, what the old schoolmen called the form of man, is his reason. To be up to reason is to be up to the standard of humanity. Human progress is progress on the lines of reason. To make for that progress, and thereby to be morally good, an act must be done, not blindly, brutishly, sottishly, or on any impulse of passion, however beneficial in its effects, but deliberately, and in conscious accordance with the reasonable nature of the doer.

5. Whatever be man's end and highest good, he must go about to compass it reasonably. He must plan, and be systematic, and act on principle. For instance, if the public health be the highest good, the laws which govern it must be investigated, and their requirements carried out, without regard to sentiment. If pleasure be the good, we must be artists of pleasure. If, however, as has been seen (c. ii.) the highest good of man is the highest play of reason herself in a life of contemplation, to be prepared for, though it cannot be adequately and worthily lived, in this world, then it is through following reason, through subjecting appetite to reason by temperance, and the will to reason by justice, and reason herself by a "reasonable service" to God, that this end and consummation must be wrought out. Thus, in Plato's phrase (Rep., 589 B), the moral man acts so that "the inner man within him, the rational part of his nature, shall be strongest; while he watches with a husbandman's care over the many-headed beast of appetite, rearing and training the creature's tame heads, and not letting the wild ones grow; for this purpose making an ally of the lion, the irascible part of his nature, and caring for all the parts in common, making them friends to one another and to himself." In this way he will meet the true exigency of his nature as a whole, with due regard to the proper order and subordination of the parts. He who lives otherwise, acts in contradiction to his rational self. (c. v., s. iii., n. 3, p. 74).

6. The result of the above reasoning, if result it has, should be to explain and justify the Stoic rule, naturae convenienter vivere, to live according to nature. But some one will say: "That is the very ideal of wickedness: all good in man comes of overcoming nature, and doing violence to natural cravings: live according to nature, and you will go straight to the devil." I answer: "Live according to a part of your nature, and that the baser and lower, though also the more impetuous and clamorous part, and you will certainly go where you say: but live up to the whole of your nature, as explained in the last paragraph, and you will be a man indeed, and will reach the goal of human happiness." But again it may be objected, that our very reason, to which the rest of our nature is naturally subordinate, frequently prompts us to do amiss. The objection is a just one, in so far as it goes upon a repudiation of the old Platonic position, that all moral evil comes of the body, wherein the soul is imprisoned, and of the desires which the body fastens upon the soul. Were that so, all sins would be sins of sensuality. But there are spiritual sins, not prompted by any lust or weakness of the body, as pride and mutiny, self-opinionatedness, rejection of Divine revelation. The objection turns on sins such as these. The answer is, that spiritual sins do not arise from any exigency of reason, but from a deficiency of reason; not from that faculty calling upon us, as we are reasonable men, to take a certain course, in accordance with a just and full view of the facts of the case, but from reason failing to look facts fully in the face, and considering only some of them to the neglect of others, the consideration of which would alter the decision. Thus a certain proud creature mentioned in Scripture thought of the magnificence of the throne above the stars of God, on the mountain of the covenant, on the sides of the north: he did not think how such a pre-eminence would become him as a creature. He had in view a rational good certainly, but not a rational good for him. Partial reason, like a little knowledge, is a dangerous thing.

7. As it is not in the power of God to bring it about, that the angles of a triangle taken together shall amount to anything else than two right angles, so it is not within the compass of Divine omnipotence to create a man for whom it shall be a good and proper thing, and befitting his nature, to blaspheme, to perjure himself, to abandon himself recklessly to lust, or anger, or any other passion. God need not have created man at all, but He could not have created him with other than human exigencies. The reason is, because God can only create upon the pattern of His own essence, which is imitable, outside of God, in certain definite lines of possibility. These possibilities, founded upon the Divine essence and discerned by the Divine intelligence, are the Archetype Ideas, among which the Divine will has to choose, when it proceeds to create. The denial of this doctrine in the Nominalist and Cartesian Schools, and their reference to the arbitrary will of God of the eternal, immutable, and absolutely necessary relations of possible things, is the subversion of all science and philosophy.

8. Still less are moral distinctions between good and evil to be set down to the law of the State, or the fashion of society. Human convention can no more constitute moral good than it can physical good, or mathematical or logical truth. It is only in cases where two or more courses are tolerable, and one of them needs to be chosen and adhered to for the sake of social order, that human authority steps in to elect and prescribe one of those ways of action, and brand the others as illegitimate, which would otherwise be lawful. This is called the making of a positive law.

Readings.—St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 18, art. 5, in corp.; 1a 2a, q. 71, art. 2; Plato, Rep., 588 B to end of bk. ix.; Ar., Eth., IX., iv., nn. 4-10; Suarez, De Legibus, II., vi., nn. 4, 11; Cicero, De Legibus, i., cc. 15-17.

SECTION II.—How Good becomes bounden Duty, and Evil is advanced to Sin.

1. The great problem of Moral Philosophy is the explanation of the idea, I ought, (c. i., n. 6). We are now come close up to the solution of that problem. The word ought denotes the necessary bearing of means upon end. To every ought there is a pendent if. The means ought to be taken, if the end is to be secured. Thus we say: "You ought to start betimes, if you are to catch your train." "You ought to study harder, if you are to pass your examination." The person spoken to might reply: "But what if I do miss my train, and fail in my examination?" He might be met with another ought: "You ought not to miss the one, if you are to keep your appointment: or to fail in the other, if you are to get into a profession." Thus the train of oughts and ifs extends, until we come finally to a concatenation like the following: "You ought not to break your word, or to give needless pain to your parents, if you don't want to do violence to that nature which is yours as a reasonable being," or "to thwart your own moral development,"—and so on in a variety of phrases descriptive of the argument of the last section. Here it seems the chain is made fast to a staple in the wall. If a person goes on to ask, "Well, what if I do contradict my rational self?" we can only tell him that he is a fool for his question. The oughts, such as those wherewith our illustration commenced, Kant calls the hypothetical imperative, the form being, "You must, unless:" but the ought wherein it terminated, he calls the categorical imperative, the alternative being such as no rational man can accept, and therefore no alternative at all.

2. This doctrine of the Categorical Imperative is correct and valuable so far as it goes. But then it does not go far enough. The full notion of what a man ought, is what he must do under pain of sin. Sin is more than folly, more than a breach of reason. It is mild reproach to a great criminal to tell him that he is a very foolish person, a walking unreasonableness. If he chooses to contradict his rational self, is not that his own affair? Is he not his own master, and may he not play the fool if he likes? The answer is, "No, he is not his own master; he is under law, and his folly and self-abuse becomes criminal and sinful, by being in contravention of the law that forbids him to throw himself away thus wantonly."

3. Kant readily takes up this idea, shaping it after his own fashion. He contends,—and herein his doctrine is not merely deficient, but positively in error,—that the Categorical Imperative, uttered by a man's own reason, has the force of a law, made by that same reason; so that the legislative authority is within the breast of the doer, who owes it obedience. This he calls the autonomy of reason. It is also called Independent Morality, inasmuch as it establishes right and wrong without regard to external authority, or to the consequences of actions, or to rewards and punishments. The doctrine is erroneous, inasmuch as it undertakes to settle the matter of right and wrong without reference to external authority; and inasmuch as it makes the reason within a man, not the promulgator of the law to him, but his own legislator. For a law is a precept, a command: now no one issues precepts, or gives commands, to himself. To command is an act of jurisdiction; and jurisdiction, like justice (see c. v., s. ix., n. 1, p. 102) requires a distinction of persons, one ruler, and another subject. But the reason in a man is not a distinct subject from the will, appetites, or other faculties within him, to which reason dictates: they are all one nature, one person, one man; consequently, no one of them can strictly be said to command the rest; and the dictate of reason, as emanating from within oneself, is not a law. But without a law, there is no strict obligation. Therefore the whole theory of obligation is not locked up in the Categorical Imperative, as Kant formulated it.

4. The above argumentation evinces that God is not under any law; for there is no other God above Him to command Him. As for the ideas of what is meet and just in the Divine intelligence, though the Divine will, being a perfect will, is not liable to act against them, yet are those ideas improperly called a law to the Divine will, because intellect and will are identified in one God. Kant's doctrine makes us all gods. It is a deification of the human intellect, and identification of that intellect with the supreme and universal Reason; and at the same time a release of the human will from all authority extraneous to the individual. This amounts to a putting off of all authority properly so called, and makes each man as sovereign and unaccountable as his Maker. "Thy heart is lifted up, and thou hast said: I am God, and sit in the chair of God: and hast set thy heart as if it were the heart of God: whereas thou art a man and not God." (Ezech. xxviii. 2.) Kant is thus the father of the pantheistic school of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.

5. But it has been contended that this phrase about a man who does wrong breaking a law, is only a metaphor and figure of speech, unless it be used with reference to the enactment of some civil community. Thus John Austin says that a natural law is a law which is not, but which he who uses the expression thinks ought to be made. At this rate sin is not a transgression of any law, except so far as it happens to be, in the lawyer's sense of the word, a crime, or something punishable in a human court of justice. There will then be no law but man's law. How then am I obliged to obey man's law? Dr. Bain answers: "Because, if you disobey, you will be punished." But that punishment will be either just or unjust: if unjust, it originates no obligation: if just, it presupposes an obligation, as it presupposes a crime and sin, that is, an obligation violated. There seems to be nothing left for John Austin but to fall back upon Kant and his Categorical Imperative, and say that whoever rebels against the duly constituted authority of the State in which he lives, is a rebel against the reason that dwells within his own breast, and which requires him to behave like a citizen. So that ultimately it is not the State, but his own reason that he has offended; and the State has no authority over him except what his own reason gives.

6. If this were true, there would be no sin anywhere except what is called philosophical sin, that is, a breach of the dignity of man's rational nature; and the hardest thing that could be said in reprobation of a wrongdoer, would be that he had gone against himself, and against his fellow-men, by outraging reason, the common attribute of the race.

7. Far worse than that has the sinner done. He has offended against his own reason, and thereby against a higher Reason, substantially distinct from his, standing to it in the relation of Archetype to type, a Living Reason, [Greek: hepsychos logos] (cf. Ar., Eth., V., iv., 7), purely and supremely rational. The Archetype is outraged by the violation of the type. Moreover, as the two are substantially distinct, the one being God, the other a faculty of man, there is room for a command, for law. A man may transgress and sin, in more than the philosophical sense of the word: he may be properly a law-breaker, by offending against this supreme Reason, higher and other than his own.

8. Here we must pause and meditate a parable.—There was a certain monastery where the monks lived in continual violation of monastic observance. Their Abbot was a holy man, a model of what a monk ought to be. But though perfectly cognisant of the delinquencies of his community, he was content to display to his subjects the edifying example of his own life, and to let it appear that he was aware of their doings and pained at them. He would croon softly as he went about the house old Hell's words: "Not so, my sons, not so: why do ye these kind of things, very wicked things?" But the monks took no notice of him. It happened in course of time that the Abbot went away for about ten days. What he did in that time, never transpired: though there was some whisper of certain "spiritual exercises," which he was said to have been engaged in. Certain it is, that he returned to his monastery, as he left it, a monk devout and regular: the monk was the same, but the Abbot was mightily altered. The morning after his arrival, a Chapter was held; the Abbot had the Rule read from cover to cover, and announced his intention of enforcing the same. And he was as good as his word. Transgressions of course abounded: but the monks discovered that to transgress was quite a different thing now from what it had been. Seeing the law proclaimed, and the Abbot in earnest to enforce it, they too reformed themselves: the few who would not reform had to leave. The subsequent holy lives of those monks do not enter into this history.

9. Now, we might fancy God our Lord like the Abbot of that monastery in the early years of his rule. We might fancy the Supreme Reason, displeased indeed, as Reason must be, at the excesses and follies of mankind, but not otherwise commanding men to avoid those evil courses. Were God to be thus quiescent, what we have called (n. 6) philosophical sin, would indeed carry this additional malice, beyond what was there set down, of being an offence against God, but it would not be a grievous offence: for it would not be a sin in the proper sense of the term, not being a transgression of the law of God, inasmuch as God, by the supposition, would have given no law. But the supposition itself is absurd. God could not so withhold His command. He is free indeed not to command, but that only by not creating. If He wills to have creatures, He must likewise will to bind them to certain lines of action: which will to bind in God is a law to the creature.

10. This assertion, that God cannot but will to bind His creatures to certain lines of action, must be proved, though in the ascent we have to mount to high regions, and breathe those subtle airs that are wafted round the throne of the Eternal. As God is the one source of all reality and of all power, not only can there be no being which He has not created and does not still preserve, but no action either can take place without His concurrence. God must go with His every creature in its every act: otherwise, on the creature's part, nothing could be done. Now, God cannot be indifferent what manner of act He shall concur unto. A servant or a subject may be indifferent what command he receives: he may will simply to obey,—to go here or there, as he is bid, or to be left without orders where he is. That is because he leaves the entire direction and management of the household to his master. But for God to be thus indifferent what action He should lend His concurrence to, would be to forego all design and purpose of His own as to the use and destiny of the creatures which He has made and continually preserves. This God cannot do, for He cannot act aimlessly. It would be renouncing the direction of His own work, and making the creature His superior. God is incapable of such renunciation and subservience. He must, then, will the cooperation which He lends, and the concurrent action of the creature, to take a certain course, regulated and prescribed by Himself: which is our proposition, that God cannot but will to bind His creatures to certain lines of action. If His free creatures choose to stray from these lines, God indeed still cooperates, and to His cooperation is to be ascribed the physical goodness of the action, not its moral inordinateness and inopportuneness. Still, as the action is morally inordinate, God may be said to cooperate, in a manner, where He would not: whence we gather some conception of the enormity of sin. (See c. vii., nn. 5, 6, pp. 130, 131.)

11. The lines of action laid down and prescribed by God are not arbitrary and irrespective of the subject of the command. They are determined in each case by the nature of the subject. The Author of Nature is not apt to subvert that order which proceeds from Himself. He bids every creature act up to that nature wherein He has created it. His commands follow the line of natural exigency. What this natural exigency amounts to in man in regard to his human acts, we have already seen, (c. vi., s. i., p. 109.)

12. The difference between a necessary and a free agent is, that the former is determined by its nature to act in a certain way, and cannot act otherwise: the latter may act in more ways than one. Still, as we have seen, the nature even of a free agent is not indifferent to all manner of action. It requires, though it does not constrain, the agent to act in certain definite ways, the ways of moral goodness. Acting otherwise, as he may do, the free agent gainsays his own nature, taken as a whole, a thing that a necessary agent can nowise do. God therefore who, as we have shown, wills and commands all creatures whatsoever to act on the lines of their nature, has especial reason to give this command to His rational creatures, with whom alone rests the momentous freedom to disobey.

13. We are now abreast of the question, of such burning interest in these days, as to the connection of Ethics with Theology, or of Morality with Religion. I will not enquire whether the dogmatic atheist is logically consistent in maintaining any distinction between right and wrong: happily, dogmatic atheists do not abound. But there are many who hold that, whether there be a God or no, the fact ought not to be imported into Moral Science: that a Professor of Ethics, as such, has no business with the name of the Almighty on his lips, any more than a lecturer on Chemistry or Fortification. This statement must be at once qualified by an important proviso. If we have any duties of worship and praise towards our Maker: if there is such a virtue as religion, and such a sin as blasphemy: surely a Professor of Morals must point that out. He cannot in that case suppress all reference to God, for the same reason that he cannot help going into the duties of a man to his wife, or of an individual to the State, if marriage and civil government are natural institutions. If there is a God to be worshipped, any book on Moral Science is incomplete without a chapter on Religion. But the question remains, whether the name of God should enter into the other chapters, and His being and authority into the very foundations of the science. I do not mean the metaphysical foundations; for Metaphysics are like a two-edged sword, that cleaves down to the very marrow of things, and must therefore reveal and discover God. But Morality, like Mathematics, takes certain metaphysical foundations for granted, without enquiring into them. On these foundations we rear the walls, so to speak, of the science of Ethics without reference to God, but we cannot put the roof and crown upon the erection, unless we speak of Him and of His law. Moral distinctions, as we saw (c. vi., s. i. n. 7, p. 113), are antecedent to the Divine command to observe them: and though they rest ultimately on the Divine nature, that ultimate ground belongs to Metaphysics, not to Ethics. Ethics begins with human nature, pointing out that there are certain human acts that do become a man, and others that do not. (c. vi., s. i., p. 109.) To see this, it is not necessary to look up above man. Thus we shall prove lying, suicide, and murder to be wrong, and good fellowship a duty, without needing to mention the Divine Being, though by considering Him the proof gains in cogency. Or rather, apart from God we shall prove certain acts wrong, and other acts obligatory as duties, philosophically speaking, with an initial and fundamental wrongness and obligation. In the present section we have proved once for all, that what is wrong philosophically, or is philosophically a duty, is the same also theologically. Thus the initial and fundamental obligation is transformed into an obligation formal and complete. Therefore, hereafter we shall be content to have established the philosophical obligation, knowing that the theological side is invariably conjoined therewith. As St. Thomas says (1a 2a, q. 71, art. 6, ad 5): "By theologians sin is considered principally as it is an offence against God: but by the moral philosopher, inasmuch as it is contrary to reason." But what is contrary to reason offends God, and is forbidden by Divine law, and thus becomes a sin. No God, no sin. Away from God, there is indecency and impropriety, unreasonableness, abomination, and brutality, all this in view of outraged humanity: there is likewise crime against the State: but the formal element of sin is wanting. With sin, of course, disappears also the punishment of sin as such. Thus to leave God wholly out of Ethics and Natural Law, is to rob moral evil of half its terrors, and of that very half which is more easily "understanded of the people." A consideration for school-managers.

Readings.—St. Thos., 1a, q. 22, art. 2, in corp. (against Lucretius, ii. 646-651); Suarez, De Legibus, II., vi., nn. 3, 5-9, 13, 14, 17, 20-24.



1. A law is defined to be: A precept just and abiding, given for promulgation to a perfect community. A law is primarily a rule of action. The first attribute of a law is that it be just: just to the subject on whom it is imposed, as being no harmful abridgment of his rights: just also to other men, as not moving him to injustice against them. An unjust law is no law at all, for it is not a rule of action. Still, we may sometimes be bound, when only our own rights are infringed, to submit to such an imposition, not as a law, for it is none, but on the score of prudence, to escape direr evils. A law is no fleeting, occasional rule of conduct, suited to meet some passing emergency or superficial disturbance. The reason of a law lies deep down, lasting and widespread in the nature of the governed. A law, then, has these two further attributes of permanence in duration and amplitude in area. Every law is made for all time, and lives on with the life of the community for whom it is enacted, for ever, unless it be either expressly or implicitly repealed. A law in a community is like a habit in an individual, an accretion to nature, which abides as part of the natural being, and guides henceforth the course of natural action. This analogy holds especially of those laws, which are not enacted all of a sudden—and such are rarely the best laws—but grow upon the people with gradual growth unmarked, like a habit by the repetition of acts, in the way of immemorial custom. I have said that a law is for a community, that it requires amplitude and large area. A law is not laid down for an individual, except so far as his action is of importance to the community. The private concerns of one man do not afford scope and room enough for a law. Neither do the domestic affairs of one family. A father is not a legislator. A law aims at a deep, far-reaching, primary good. But the private good of an individual, and the domestic good of a family, are not primary goods, inasmuch as the individual and the family are not primary but subordinate beings: not complete and independent, but dependent and partial; not wholes but parts. The individual is part of the family, and the family is part of a higher community. It is only when we are come to some community which is not part of any higher, that we have found the being, the good of which is primary good, the aim of law. Such a community, not being part of any higher community in the same order, is in its own order a perfect community. Thus, in the temporal order, the individual is part of the State. The State is a perfect community; and the good of the State is of more consequence than the temporal well-being of any individual citizen. The temporal good of the individual, then, is matter of law, in so far as it is subservient to the good of the State. We have, then, to hold that a law is given to the members of a perfect community for the good of the whole. Not every precept, therefore, is a law: nor every superior a lawgiver: for it is not every superior that has charge of the good of a perfect community. Many a precept is given to an individual, either for his private good, as when a father commands his child, or for the private good of him that issues the precept, as when a master commands a servant. But every law is a precept: for a law is an imperative rule of action, in view of a good that is necessary, at least with the necessity of convenience. To every law there are counsels attached. A law may be said to be a nucleus of precept, having an envelope of counsel. Every law has also a pendent called punishment for those who break it: this is called the sanction of the law. A law is also for promulgation, as a birch rod for application. The promulgation, or application, brings the law home to the subject, but is not part of the law itself. So much for the definition of Law.

2. We have to learn to look upon the whole created universe, and the fulness thereof, angels, men, earth, sun, planets, fixed stars, all things visible and invisible, as one great and perfect community, whose King and Lawgiver is God. He is King, because He is Creator and Lord. But lordship and kingship are different things, even in God. It is one thing to be lord and master, owner and proprietor of a chattel, property and domain: it is another thing to be king and governor, lawgiver and judge of political subjects. The former is called power of dominion, or right of ownership, the latter is power of jurisdiction. Power of dominion is for the good of him who wields it: but power of jurisdiction is for the good of the governed. As God is Lord of the universe, He directs all its operations to His own glory. As He is King, He governs as a king should govern, for the good of His subjects. In intellectual creatures, whose will is not set in opposition to God, the subject's good and the glory of the Lord finally coincide. God's power of dominion is the concern of theologians: the moralist is taken up with His power of jurisdiction, from whence emanates the moral law.

3. In the last chapter (s. ii., nn. 9, 10, pp. 120, 121), we stated the moral law in these terms, that God wills to bind His creatures to certain lines of action, not arbitrary lines, as we saw, but the natural lines of each creature's being. The law thus stated takes in manifestly a wider field than that of moral action. There is in fact no action of created things that is not comprehended under this statement. It comprises the laws of physical nature and the action of physical causes, no less than the moral law and human acts. It is the one primeval law of the universe, antecedent to all actual creation, and co-eternal with God. And yet not necessary as God: for had God not decreed from all eternity to create—and He need not have decreed it—neither would He have passed in His own Divine Mind this second decree, necessarily consequent as it is upon the decree of creation, namely, that every creature should act in the mode of action proper of its kind. This decree, supervening from eternity upon the creative decree, is called the Eternal Law.

4. This law does not govern the acts of God Himself. God ever does what is wise and good, not because He binds Himself by the decree of His own will so to act, but because of His all-perfect nature. His own decrees have not for Him the force of a precept: that is impossible in any case: yet He cannot act against them, as His nature allows not of irresolution, change of mind, and inconsistency.

5. Emanating from the will of God, and resting upon the nature of the creature, it would seem that the Eternal Law must be irresistible. "Who resisteth His will?" asks the Apostle. (Rom. ix. 19.) "The streams of sacred rivers are flowing upwards, and justice and the universal order is wrenched back." (Euripides, Medea, 499.) It is only the perversion spoken of by the poet, that can anywise supply the instance asked for by the Apostle. The thing is impossible in the physical order. The rivers cannot flow upwards, under the conditions under which rivers usually flow: but justice and purity, truth and religion may be wrenched back, in violation of nature and of the law eternal. The one thing that breaks this law is sin. Sin alone is properly unnatural. The world is full of physical evils, pain, famine, blindness, disease, decay and death. But herein is nothing against nature: the several agents act up to their nature, so far as it goes: it is the defect of nature that makes the evil. But sin is no mere shortcoming: it is a turning round and going against nature, as though the July sun should freeze a man, or the summer air suffocate him. Physical evil comes by the defect of nature, and by permission of the Eternal Law. But the moral evil of sin is a breach of that law.

6. A great point with modern thinkers is the inviolability of the laws of physical nature, e.g., of gravitation or of electrical induction. If these laws are represented, as J. S. Mill said they should be, as tendencies only, they are truly inviolable. The law of gravitation is equally fulfilled in a falling body, in a body suspended by a string, and in a body borne up by the ministry of an angel. There is no law of nature to the effect that a supernatural force shall never intervene. Even if, as may be done perhaps in the greatest miracles, God suspends His concurrence, so that the creature acts not at all, even that would be no violation of the physical law of the creature's action: for all that such a law provides is, that the creature, if it acts at all, shall act in a certain way, not that God shall always give the concurrence which is the necessary condition of its acting at all. The laws of physical nature then are, strictly speaking, never violated, although the course of nature is occasionally altered by supernatural interference, and continually by free human volition. But the laws of physical nature, in the highest generality, are identified with the moral law. The one Eternal Law embraces all the laws of creation. It has a physical and a moral side. On the former it effects, on the latter it obliges, but on both sides it is imperative; and though in moral matters it be temporarily defeated by sin, still the moral behest must in the end be fulfilled as surely as the physical behest. The defeat of the law must be made good, the sin must be punished. Of the Eternal Law working itself out in the form of punishment, we shall speak presently.

7. It is important to hold this conception of the Eternal Law as embracing physical nature along with rational agents. To confine the law, as modern writers do, to rational agents alone, is sadly to abridge the view of its binding force. The rigid application of physical laws is brought home to us daily by science and by experience: it is a point gained, to come to understand that the moral law, being ultimately one with those physical laws, is no less absolute and indefeasible, though in a different manner, than they.

It is hard for us to conceive of laws being given to senseless things. We cannot ourselves prescribe to iron or to sulphur the manner of its action. As Bacon says (Novum Organum, i., Aphorism 4): "Man can only put natural bodies together or asunder: nature does the rest within." That is, man cannot make the laws of nature: he can only arrange collocations of materials so as to avail himself of those laws. But God makes the law, issuing His command, the warrant without which no creature could do anything, that every creature, rational and irrational, shall act each according to its kind or nature. Such is the Eternal Law.

Readings.—Suarez, De Legibus, I., xii.; St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 90, art. 2-4; ib., q. 91, art. 1, in corp., ad 1; ib., q. 93, art. 1, in corp.; ib., q. 93, art. 4, in corp.; ib., q. 93, art. 5, in corp.; ib., q. 93, art. 6, in corp.; Suarez, De Legibus, II., vi.; Cicero, De Legibus, II., iv.; id., De Republica, iii. 22.



SECTION I.—Of the Origin of Primary Moral Judgments.

1. It is an axiom of the schools, that whatever is received, is received according to the manner of the recipient. We have spoken of the law that governs the world, as that law has existed from eternity in the mind of God. We have now to consider that law as it is received in creatures, and becomes the inward determinant of their action. Action is either necessary or free. The great multitude of creatures are wholly necessary agents. Even in free agents, most of what is in them, and much that proceeds from them, is of necessity, and beyond the control of their will. Of necessary action, whether material or mental, we shall have nothing further to say. It is governed by the Eternal Law, but it is not matter of moral philosophy. Henceforth we have to do with that law, only as it is received in free agents, as such, to be the rule of their conduct. The agents being free, the law must be received in a manner consonant with their freedom. It is proper to a free and rational being to guide itself, not to be dragged or pushed, but to go its own way, yet not arbitrarily, but according to law. The law for such a creature must be, not a physical determinant of its action, but a law operating in the manner of a motive to the will, obliging and binding, yet not constraining it: a law written in the intellect after the manner of knowledge: a law within the mind and consciousness of the creature, whereby it shall measure and regulate its own behaviour. This is the natural law of conscience. It is the Eternal Law, as made known to the rational creature, whereby to measure its own free acts. The Eternal Law is in the Mind of God: the Natural Law in the minds of men and angels. The Eternal Law adjusts all the operations of creatures: the Natural Law, only the free acts of intellectual creatures. And yet, for binding force, the Natural Law is one with the Eternal Law. On a summer evening one observes the sunset on the west coast; the heavens are all aglow with the sun shining there, and the waters are aglow too, reflecting the sun's rays. The Eternal Law is as the sun there in the heavens, the Natural Law is like the reflection in the sea. But it is one light.

2. It is called the Natural Law, first, because it is found, more or less perfectly expressed, in all rational beings: now whatever is found in all the individuals of a kind, is taken to belong to the specific nature, or type of that kind. Again it is called the Natural Law, because it is a thing which any rational nature must necessarily compass and contain within itself in order to arrive at its own proper perfection and maturity. Thus this inner law is natural, in the sense in which walking, speech, civilization are natural to man. A man who has it not, is below the standard of his species. It will be seen that dancing, singing—at least to a pitch of professional excellence—and a knowledge of Greek, are not, in this sense, natural. The Natural Law is not natural, in the sense of "coming natural," as provincial people say, or coming to be in man quite irrespectively of training and education, as comes the power of breathing. It was absurd of Paley (Mor. Phil., bk. i., c. v.) to look to the wild boy of Hanover, who had grown up in the woods by himself, to display in his person either the Natural Law or any other attribute proper to a rational creature.

3. We call this the natural law of conscience, because every individual's conscience applies this law, as he understands it, to his own particular human acts, and judges of their morality accordingly. What then is conscience? It is not a faculty, not a habit, it is an act. It is a practical judgment of the understanding. It is virtually the conclusion of a syllogism, the major premiss of which would be some general principle of command or counsel in moral matters; the minor, a statement of fact bringing some particular case of your own conduct under that law; and the conclusion, which is conscience, a decision of the case for yourself according to that principle: e.g., "There is no obligation of going to church on (what Catholics call) a day of devotion: this day I am now living is only a day of devotion; therefore I am not bound to go to church to-day." Such is the train of thought, not always so explicitly and formally developed, that passes through the mind, when conscience works. It is important to remember that conscience is an act of intellect, a judgment, not on a matter of general principle, not about other people's conduct, but about my own action in some particular case, and the amount of moral praise or blame that I deserve, or should deserve, for it. As regards action already done, or not done, conscience testifies, accusing or excusing. As regards action contemplated, conscience restrains or prompts, in the way of either obligation or counsel.

4. Conscience is not infallible: it may err, like any other human judgment. A man may be blind, if not exactly to his own action, at least to the motives and circumstances of his action. He may have got hold of a wrong general principle of conduct. He may be in error as to the application of his principle to the actual facts. In all these ways, what we may call the conscientious syllogism may be at fault, like any other syllogism. It may be a bad syllogism, either in logical form, or in the matter of fact asserted in the premisses. This is an erroneous conscience. But, for action contemplated, even an erroneous conscience is an authoritative decision. If it points to an obligation, however mistakenly, we are bound either to act upon the judgment or get it reversed. We must not contradict our own reason: such contradiction is moral evil, (c. v., s. iii., n. 3, p. 74.) If conscience by mistake sets us free of what is objectively our bounden duty, we are not there and then bound to that duty: but we may be bound at once to get that verdict of conscience overhauled and reconsidered. Conscience in this case has proceeded in ignorance, which ignorance will be either vincible or invincible, and must be treated according to the rules provided in the matter of ignorance, (c. iii., s. i., nn. 3-5, p. 27). An obligation, neglected in invincible ignorance, makes a merely material sin. (c. iii., s. ii., n. 7, p. 33.)

5. There is another element of mind, often confounded under one name with conscience, but distinct from it, as a habit from an act, and as principles from their application. This element the schoolmen called synderesis. [Footnote 10]

[Footnote 10: On the derivation of this word, whether from [Greek: synedaesis] or [Greek: syntaeresis], see Athenaum, 1877, vol. i., pp. 738, 798, vol. iii. pp. 16, 48.]

Synderesis is an habitual hold upon primary moral judgments, as, that we must do good, avoid evil, requite benefactors, honour superiors, punish evil-doers. There is a hot controversy as to how these primary moral judgments arise in the mind. The coals of dispute are kindled by the assumption, that these moral judgments must needs have a totally other origin and birth in the mind than speculative first principles, as, that the whole is greater than the part, that two and two are four, that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another. The assumption is specious, but unfounded. It looks plausible because of this difference, that moral judgments have emotions to wait upon them, speculative judgments have not. Speculative judgments pass like the philosophers that write them down, unheeded in the quiet of their studies. But moral judgments are rulers of the commonwealth: they are risen to as they go by, with majesty preceding and cares coming after. Their presence awakens in us certain emotions, conflicts of passion, as we think of the good that we should do, but have not done, or of the evil that goes unremedied and unatoned for. Commonly a man cannot contemplate his duty, a difficult or an unfulfilled duty especially, without a certain emotion, very otherwise than as he views the axioms of mathematics. There is a great difference emotionally, but intellectually the two sets of principles, speculative and moral, are held alike as necessary truths, truths that not only are, but must be, and cannot be otherwise: truths in which the predicate of the proposition that states them is contained under the subject. Such are called self-evident propositions; and the truths that they express, necessary truths. The enquiry into the origin of our primary moral judgments is thus merged in the question, how we attain to necessary truth.

6. The question belongs to Psychology, not to Ethics: but we will treat it briefly for ethical purposes. And first for a clear notion of the kind of judgments that we are investigating.

"The primary precepts of the law of nature stand to the practical reason as the first principles of scientific demonstration do to the speculative reason: for both sets of principles are self-evident. A thing is said to be self-evident in two ways, either _in itself_, or _in reference to us. _In itself_ every proposition, the predicate of which can be got from consideration of the subject is said to be self-evident. But it happens that to one who is ignorant of the definition of the subject, such a proposition will not be self-evident: as this proposition, _Man is a rational being_, is self-evident in its own nature, because to name man is to name something rational; and yet, to one ignorant what man is, this proposition is not self-evident. And hence it is that, as Boethius says: "there are some axioms self-evident to all alike." Of this nature are all those propositions whose terms are known to all, as, _Every whole is greater than its part_; and, _Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another_. Some propositions again are self-evident only to the wise, who understand the meaning of the terms: as, to one who understands that an angel is not a body, it is self-evident that an angel is not in a place by way of circumscription; [Footnote 11] which is not manifest to others, who do not understand the term." (St. Thos., 1a 2a q. 94, art. 2, in corp.)

[Footnote 11: Circumscriptive, which word is explained by St. Thos., 1a, q. 52. art. 1.]

One more extract. "From the very nature of an intellectual soul it is proper to man that, as soon as he knows what a whole is, and what a part is, he knows that every whole is greater than its part; and so of the rest. But what is a whole, and what a part, that he cannot know except through sensory impressions. And therefore Aristotle shows that the knowledge of principles comes to us through the senses." (St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 51, art. 1, in corp.)

7. Thus the propositions that right is to be done, benefactors to be requited, are self-evident, necessary truths, to any child who has learned by experience the meaning of right, of kindness, and of a return of kindness. "Yes, but"—some one will say—"how ever does he get to know what right and wrong are? Surely sensory experience cannot teach him that." We answer, man's thoughts begin in sense, and are perfected by reflection. Let us take the idea of wrong, the key to all other elementary moral ideas. The steps by which a child comes to the fulness of the idea of wrong may be these. First, the thing is forbidden: then one gets punished for it. Punishment and prohibition enter in by eye and ear and other senses besides. Then the thing is offensive to those we love and revere. Then it is bad for us. Then it is shameful, shabby, unfair, unkind, selfish, hateful to God. All these points of the idea of wrong are grasped by the intellect, beginning with sensory presentations of what is seen and felt and heard said. Again with the idea of ought. This idea is sometimes said to defy analysis. But we have gone about (c. vi.) to analyse it into two elements, nature requiring, nature's King commanding. The idea of wrong we analysed into a breach of this natural requirement, and this Divine command or law. Primary moral ideas, then, yield to intellectual analysis. They are of this style: to be done, as I wish to be rational and please God: not to be done, unless I wish to spoil myself and disobey my Maker. But primary moral ideas, compared together, make primary moral judgments. Primary moral judgments, therefore, arise in the intellect, by the same process as other beliefs arise there in matters of necessary truth.

8. Thus, applying the principle known as Occham's razor, that "entities are not to be multiplied without reason," we refuse to acknowledge any Moral Sense, distinct from Intellect. We know of no peculiar faculty, specially made to receive "ideas, pleasures and pains in the moral order." (Mackintosh, Ethics, p. 206.) Most of all, we emphatically protest against any blind power being accredited as the organ of morality. We cannot accept for our theory of morals, that everything is right which warms the breast with a glow of enthusiasm, and all those actions wrong, at which emotional people are prone to cry out, dreadful, shocking. We cannot accept emotions for arbitrators, where it most concerns reasonable beings to have what the Apostle calls "enlightened eyes of the heart" (Ephes. i. 18), that we may "know to refuse the evil and to choose the good." (Isaias vii. 15.) A judge may have his emotions, but his charge to the jury must be dictated, not by his heart, but by his knowledge of the law. And the voice of conscience, whatever feelings it may stir, must be an intellectual utterance, and, to be worth anything in a case of difficulty, a reasoned conclusion, based on observation of facts, and application of principles, and consultation with moral theologians and casuists. A subjective and emotional standard of right and wrong is as treacherous and untrustworthy as the emotional justification of those good people, who come of a sudden to "feel converted."

9. It would be unnecessary, except for the wrong-headedness of philosophers, to observe that conscience requires educating. As moral virtue is a habit of appetite, rational or irrational, a formation resulting from frequent acts; and as the child needs to be aided and assisted from without towards the performance of such acts, in order to overcome the frequent resistance of appetite to reason (c. v., s. ii., n. 4, p. 71): so the springs of conscience are certain intellectual habits, whereby the subject is cognisant of the principles of natural law, and of their bearing on his own conduct, habits which, like the habits of moral virtue, require to be formed by acts from within and succour from without, since merely the rudiments of the habit are supplied by nature. Even the first principles of morality want formulating and pointing out to children, like the axioms of geometry. The mother tells her little one: "Ernest, or Frank, be a good boy:" while the schoolmaster explains to Master Ernest that two straight lines cannot possibly enclose a space. There is something in the boy's mind that goes along with and bears out both the teaching of his master and his mother's exhortation: something that says within him: "To be sure, those lines can't enclose a space:" "Certainly, I ought to be good." It is not merely on authority that he accepts these propositions. His own understanding welcomes and approves them: so much so, that once he has understood them, he would not believe the contrary for being told it. You would not persuade a child that it was right to pull mother's hair; or that half an orange was literally, as Hesiod says, "more than the whole." He would answer that it could not be, that he knew better.

10. On one ground there is greater need of education for the conscience than for any other intellectual formation: that is because of the power of evil to fascinate and blind on practical issues of duty. Cicero well puts it:

"We are amazed and perplexed by variety of opinions and strife of authorities; and because there is not the same divergence upon matters of sense, we fancy that the senses afford natural certainty, while, for moral matters, because some men take one view, some another, and the same men different views at different times, we consider that any settlement that can be arrived at is merely conventional, which is a huge mistake. The fact is, there is no parent, nor nurse, nor schoolmaster, nor poet, nor stage play, to corrupt the judgments of sense, nor consent of the multitude to wrench them away from the truth. It is for minds and consciences that all the snares are set, as well by the agency of those whom I have just mentioned, who take us in our tender and inexperienced age, and ingrain and fashion us as they will, as also by that counterfeit presentment of good, which lurks in the folds of every sense, the mother of all evil, pleasure, under whose seductive blandishments men fail to recognise the moral good that nature offers, because it is unaccompanied by this itching desire and satisfaction." (Cicero, De Legibus, i, 17.)

Readings.—St. Thos., 1a, q. 79, art. 11-13; Plato, Protagoras, 325, 326; John Grote, Examination of Utilitarian Philosophy, pp. 169, 207, 208; Cardinal Newman, Grammar of Assent, pp. l02-112.

SECTION II.—Of the invariability of Primary Moral Judgments.

1. The following narrative is taken from Grote's History of Greece, c. 81.:

"It was a proud day for the Carthaginian general [Footnote 12] when he stood as master on the ground of Himera; enabled to fulfil the duty, and satisfy the exigencies, of revenge for his slain grandfather. Tragical indeed was the consummation of this long-cherished purpose.... All the male captives, 3,000 in number, were conveyed to the precise spot where Hamilkar had been slain, and there put to death with indignity, as an expiatory satisfaction to his lost honour. No man can read the account of this wholesale massacre without horror and repugnance. Yet we cannot doubt, that among all the acts of Hannibal's life, this was the one in which he most gloried; that it realized in the most complete and emphatic manner, his concurrent aspirations of filial sentiment, religious obligation, and honour as a patriot; [Footnote 13] that to show mercy would have been regarded as a mean dereliction of these esteemed impulses.... Doubtless, the feelings of Hannibal were cordially shared, and the plenitude of his revenge envied, by the army around him. So different, sometimes so totally contrary, is the tone and direction of the moral sentiments, among different ages and nations."

[Footnote 12: Hannibal, B.C. 409, therefore not the victor of Cannae.] [Footnote 13: Italics mine.]

We may supplement this story by another from Herodotus (iii., 38):

"Darius, after he had got the kingdom, called into his presence certain Greeks who were at hand, and asked, 'What he should pay them to eat the bodies of their fathers when they died.' To which they answered, that there was no sum that would tempt them to do such a thing. He then sent for certain Indians, of the race called Callatians, men who eat their fathers, and asked them, while the Greeks were standing by, and knew by the aid of an interpreter all that was said—'What he should give them to burn the bodies of their fathers, at their decease?' The Indians exclaimed aloud, and bade him forbear such language. Such is the way of men; and Pindar was right in my judgment, when he said, 'Convention is king over all.'"

2. If any one held that the natural law of conscience was natural in the same way as the sense of temperature: if one held to the existence of a Moral Sense in all men, settling questions of right and wrong, as surely as all men know sweet things from bitter by tasting them: these stories, and they could be multiplied by hundreds, abundantly suffice to confute the error. There is no authentic copy of the moral law, printed, framed, and hung up by the hand of Nature, in the inner sanctuary of every human heart. Man has to learn his duties as he learns the principles of health, the laws of mechanics, the construction and navigation of vessels, the theorems of geometry, or any other art or science. And he is just as likely to go wrong, and has gone wrong as grievously, in his judgments on moral matters as on any other subject of human knowledge. The knowledge of duties is natural (as explained in the previous section, n. 2), not because it comes spontaneously, but because it is necessary to our nature for the development and perfection of the same. Thus a man ought, so far as he can, to learn his duties: but we cannot say of a man, as such, that he ought to learn geometry or navigation. If a man does not know his duties, he is excused by ignorance, according to the rules under which ignorance excuses (c. iii., s. i., nn. 3-5, p. 27). If a man does not know navigation, there is no question of excuse for what he was not bound to learn, but he may suffer loss by his want of knowledge.

3. It was furthermore observed above (l.c.), that the natural law was so called as being found expressed more or less perfectly in the minds of all men, and therefore being a proper element of human nature. It remains to see how much this universal natural expression amounts to. That is at once apparent from our previous explanation of synderesis. (s. i., nn. 5, seq., p. 139.) Not a complete and accurate knowledge of the natural law is found in all minds, far from it; but synderesis is found in all. This is apparent from Mr. Grote's own phrases, "aspirations of filial sentiment," "religious obligation," "honour as a patriot," Parents are to be honoured, we must do our duty to God and to our country: there Hannibal was at one with the most approved teachers of morality. Callatian and Greek agreed in the recognition of the commandment, Honour thy father and thy mother. That was the major premiss of them both, in the moral syllogism (s. i., n. 3, p. 135), which ruled their respective consciences. Their difference was upon the applying minor, as it is called; the Greek regarding the dissolution of the body into its elements by fire, and so saving it from corruption, as the best means of honouring the dead: the Callatians preferring to raise their parents as it were to life again, by making them the food of their living children. Hannibal, again, had before his mind the grand principle of retribution, that wrongdoing must be expiated by suffering. But he had not heard the words "Vengeance is Mine;" and mistakenly supposed it to rest with himself to appoint and carry out his own measure of revenge. Whether he was quite so invincibly ignorant on this point, as Grote represents, is open to doubt. At any rate he was correct in the primary moral judgment on which he proceeded.

Reading.—St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 94, art. 6.

SECTION III.—Of the immutability of the Natural Law.

1. Besides printing, many methods are now in vogue for multiplying copies of a document. Commonly the document is written out with special ink on special paper: the copy thus used is called a stencil; and from it other copies are struck off. We will suppose the stencil to be that page of the Eternal Law written in the Mind of God, which regulates human acts, technically so called. The copies struck off from that stencil will be the Natural Law in the mind of this man and of that. Now, as all who are familiar with copying processes know too well, it happens at times that a copy comes out very faint, and in parts not at all. These faint and partial copies represent the Natural Law as it is imperfectly developed in the minds of many men. In this sense, and as we may say subjectively, the Natural Law is mutable, very mutable indeed. Still, as no one would say that the document had been altered, because some copies of it were bad, so it is not strictly correct to say that the Natural Law varies with these subjective varieties. Appeal would be made to a full and perfectly printed impression of the document, one that rendered the stencil exactly. The Natural Law must be viewed in like manner, as it would exist in a mind perfectly enlightened concerning the whole duty of man, and exactly reproducing in itself that portion of the Eternal Law which ordains such duty. Were such a mind to discern a natural obligation to lie differently at two different times, all the relevant circumstances being alike in both cases, and the moral solution different, then only could the Natural Law be held to have changed.

2. But this is clearly impossible. The conclusion of a geometrical theorem is a truth for all time. There is no difference here between a complicated theorem, having many conditions, and a simpler theorem with fewer. It is indeed easier for a few than for many conditions to be all present together: but the enunciation of the conclusion supposes all the conditions, whatever their number. The same in a practical manner, as in the stability of a bridge. The bridge that would stand in England, would stand in Ceylon. If it would not, there must have occurred some change in the conditions, as the heat of the tropical sun upon the girders. A point of casuistry also, however knotty, once determined, is determined for ever and aye, for the circumstances under which it was determined. The Natural Law in this sense is absolutely immutable, no less in each particular application than in the most general principles. We must uniformly pass the same judgment on the same case. What is once right and reasonable, is always right and reasonable, in the same matter. Where to-day there is only one right course, there cannot to-morrow be two, unless circumstances have altered. The Natural Law is thus far immutable, every jot and tittle.

3. No power in heaven above nor on earth beneath can dispense from any portion of the Natural Law. For the matter of the negative precepts of that law is, as we have seen, something bad in itself and repugnant to human nature, and accordingly forbidden by God: while the matter of the positive precepts is something good and necessary to man, commanded by God. If God were to take off His command, or prohibition, the intrinsic exigency, or intolerableness, of the thing to man would still remain, being as inseparable from humanity as certain mathematical properties from a triangle. Pride is not made for man, nor fornication, nor lying, nor polygamy [Footnote 14]: human nature would cry out against them, even were the Almighty in a particular instance to withdraw His prohibition. What would be the use, then, of any such withdrawal? It would not make the evil thing good. An evil thing it would still remain, unnatural, irrational, and as such, displeasing to God, the Supreme Reason. The man would not be free to do the thing, even though God did not forbid it. It appears, therefore, that the Divine prohibition, and similarly the Divine command, which we have proved (c. vi., s. ii., nn. 10, 11, p. 121) to be necessarily imposed in matters of natural evil and of naturally imperative good, is imposed as a hard and fast line, so long as the intrinsic good or evil remains the same.

[Footnote 14: There is a theological difficulty about the polygamy of the patriarchs, which will be touched on in Natural Law, c. vi., s. ii., n. 4. p. 272.]

4. There is, therefore, no room for Evolution in Ethics and Natural Law any more than in Geometry. One variety of geometrical construction, or of moral action, may succeed another; but the truths of the science, by which those varieties are judged, change not. There is indeed this peculiarity about morality, distinguishing it from art, that if a man errs invincibly, the evil that he takes for good is not formally evil, or evil as he wills it, and the good that he takes for evil is formally evil to him. (c. iii., s. ii., n. 7, p. 33.) So there is variation and possible Evolution in bare formal good and bare formal evil, as ignorance gradually changes into knowledge; and likewise Reversion, as knowledge declines into ignorance. Even this Evolution and Reversion have their limits: they cannot occur in the primary principles of morality, as we saw in the last section. But morality material and objective,—complete morality, where the formal and material elements agree, where real wrong is seen to be wrong, and real right is known for right—in this morality there is no Evolution. If Hannibal offered human sacrifices to his grandfather because he knew no better, and could not have known better, than to think himself bound so to do, he is to be excused, and even praised for his piety: still it was a mistaken piety; and the act, apart from the light in which the doer viewed it, was a hideous crime. An incorrupt teacher of morals would have taught the Carthaginian, not that he was doing something perfectly right for his age and country, which, however, would be wrong in Germany some centuries later, but that he was doing an act there and then evil and forbidden of God, from which he was bound, upon admonition, instantly to desist. [Footnote 15]

[Footnote 15: The author has seen reason somewhat to modify this view, as appears by the Appendix. (Note to Third Edition.)]

5. There are Evolution and Reversion in architecture, but not in the laws of stability of structure, nor in the principles of beauty as realized in building. A combination, ugly now, was not beautiful in the days of Darius. Tastes differ, but not right tastes; and moral notions, but not right moral notions. It is true that questions of right and wrong occur in one state of society, that had no relevance in an earlier state, the conditions of the case not having arisen. But so it is in architecture; there are no arches in the Parthenon. The principle of the arch, however, held in the age of Pericles, though not applied.

6. The progress of Moral Science is the more and more perfect development of the Natural Law in the heart of man, a psychological, not an ontological development. And Moral Science does progress. No man can be a diligent student of morality for years, without coming to the understanding of many things, for which one would look in vain in Aristotle's Ethics and Politics, or in Cicero, De Officiis, or even in the Summa of St. Thomas, or perhaps in any book ever written. New moral questions come for discussion as civilization advances. The commercial system of modern times would furnish a theme for another De Lugo. And still on this path of ethical discovery, to quote the text that Bacon loved, "Many shall pass over, and knowledge shall be multiplied." (Daniel xii. 4.)

Readings.—St. Thos., Supplement, q. 65, art. 1, in corp.; ib., q. 65, art. 2, in corp., and ad 1; Hughes, Supernatural Morals, pp. 67, 68, reviewed in The Month for August, 1891, pp. 542, 543.

SECTION IV.—Of Probabilism.

1. Sometimes conscience returns a clear, positive answer as to the morality of an act contemplated. True or false the answer may be, but the ring of it has no uncertain sound. At other times conscience is perplexed, and her answer is, perhaps, and perhaps not. When the woman hid Achimaas and Jonathan in the well, and said to Absalom's servants, "They passed on in haste" (2 Kings xvii. 17-21), did she do right in speaking thus to save their lives? A point that has perplexed consciences for centuries. A man's hesitation is sometimes subjective and peculiar to himself. It turns on a matter of fact, which others know full well, though he doubts; or on a point of law, dark to him, but clearly ruled by the consent of the learned. In such cases it is his duty to seek information from people about him, taking so much trouble to procure it as the importance of the matter warrants, not consulting ten doctors as to the ownership of one hen. But it may be that all due enquiries fail. The fact remains obscure; or about the law, doctors differ, and arguments conflict indecisively. What is the man to do? Take the safe course: suppose there is an obligation, and act accordingly? This principle, put as a command, would make human life intolerable. It is, moreover, false, when so put, as we shall presently prove. Take the easy course, and leave the obligation out of count? This principle is more nearly correct than the other: but it needs interpretation, else it may prove dangerously lax.

2. To return to Achimaas and Jonathan and their hostess. Some such reckoning as this may have passed through her mind: "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord: but is it a lie to put murderers off the scent of blood?" To that question finding no answer, she may have made up her mind in this way: "Well, I don't know, but I'll risk it." If that were her procedure, she did not walk by the scientific lines of Probabilism. The probabilist runs no risk, enters upon no uncertainty, and yet he by no means always follows what is technically termed the safe course, that is, the course which supposes the obligation, e.g., in the case in point, to have said simply where the men were. How then does the probabilist contrive to extract certainty out of a case of insoluble doubt? By aid of what is called a reflex principle. A reflex is opposed to a direct principle. A direct principle lays down an obligation, as it would bind one who had a perfect discernment of the law and of the facts of the case, and of the application of the one to the other, and who was perfectly able to keep the law. By a reflex principle, a man judges of his own act, taking account of the imperfection of his knowledge and the limitations of his power. Probabilism steps in, only where a case is practically insoluble to an agent upon direct principles. The probabilist thereupon leaves the direct speculative doubt unsolved. He relinquishes the attempt of determining what a man should do in the case in question, who had a thorough insight into the lie of the law. He leaves that aside, and considers what is his duty, or not his duty, in the deficiency of his knowledge. Then he strikes upon the principle, which is the root of Probabilism, that a doubtful law has no binding power. It will be observed that this is a reflex principle. For objectively nothing is doubtful, but everything is or is not in point of fact. To a mind that had a full grasp of the objective order of things, there would be no doubtful law: such a mind would discern the law in every case as holding or not holding. But no human mind is so perfect. Every man has to take account of his own limitations of vision in judging of his duty. The question for me is, not the law absolutely, but the law as far as I can make it out. Our proposition, then, states that when an individual, using such moral diligence of enquiry as the gravity of the matter calls for, still remains in a state of honest doubt as to whether the law binds, in that mental condition it does not bind him.

3. What the law does not forbid, it leaves open. Aristotle indeed (Eth., V., xi., 1) says the contrary, that what the law does not command (he instances suicide), it forbids. All that he seems to mean is, that if there be an act which at times might appear advantageous, and yet is never commanded, there is a presumption of the legislator being averse to that act. Again, there are special occasions, in view of which the legislator undertakes to regulate the whole outward conduct of a man by positive enactment, as with a soldier on parade: what is not there commanded, is forbidden. But these instances do not derogate from our general proposition, which is proved in this way. The office of law is not to loose, but to bind. It declares, not what the subject may do, but what he must or must not. It does not bring liberty, but restriction. Therefore, if any one wishes to assert a restriction, he must go to a law to prove it. If he can find none, liberty remains. The law is laid on liberty. Liberty is not the outcome of law, but prior to it. Liberty is in possession. The burden of proof rests with those who would abridge liberty and impose an obligation. It is an axiom of law itself, a natural, not an arbitrary axiom, that better is the condition of the possessor: which amounts in this matter to another statement, also axiomatic, that a law binds not till it is promulgated. But a law of which I have serious outstanding doubts whether it exists at all, or, if existent, whether it reaches my case, is for this occasion a law not duly promulgated to me. Therefore it binds me not, and my liberty remains.

4. It remains to consider what constitutes a serious outstanding doubt. The word outstanding has been already explained. It means that we have sought for certain information, and cannot procure it. Now what is a serious doubt? It is a doubt founded on a positive opinion against the existence of the law, or its applicability to the case in point, an opinion fraught with probability, solid, comparative, practical probability. The doubt must not be mere negative doubt, or ignorance that cannot tell why it doubts; not a vague suspicion, or sentimental impression that defies all intellectual analysis; not a mere subjective inability to make up one's mind, but some counter-reason that admits of positive statement, as we say, in black and white. It is true that many minds cannot define their grounds of doubt, even when these are real. Such minds are unfit to apply the doctrine of Probabilism to themselves, but must seek its application from others. The opinion against the law, when explicitly drawn out, must be found to possess a solid probability. It may be either an intrinsic argument from reason and the nature of the case, or an extrinsic argument from the word of some authority: but the reason or the authority must be grave. The opinion is thus said to be intrinsically or extrinsically probable. The probability must also be comparative. There is many an argument, in itself a very good one, that perishes when we come to consider the crushing weight of evidence on the other side. An opinion is comparatively probable, when after hearing all the reasons and all the authorities on the other side, the said opinion still remains not unlikely, which is all that we mean to say of an opinion here, when we call it probable. In ordinary English, the word probable means more likely than otherwise, which is not the signification of the Latin opinio probabilis. Lastly, the probability must be practical: it must take account of all the circumstances of the case. Practical probability is opposed to speculative, which leaves out of count certain circumstances, which are pretty sure to be present, and to make all the difference in the issue. Thus it is speculatively probable that a Catholic might without sin remain years without confession, never having any grievous sins to confess, grievous sin alone being necessary matter for that sacrament. There is no downright cogent reason why a man might not do so. And yet, if he neglected such ordinary means of grace as confession of venial sin, having it within reach, month after month, no one, considering "the sin which surrounds us," would expect that man to go without grievous scathe. In mechanics, there are many machines that work prettily enough in speculation and on paper, where the inventors do not consider the difficulties of imperfect material, careless handling, climate, and other influences, that render the invention of no practical avail.

5. The safest use of Probabilism is in the field of property transactions and of positive law. There is greatest risk of using it amiss in remaining in a false religion. All turns upon the varying amount of trouble involved in moral diligence of enquiry, according as the matter at issue is a point of mere observance or of vital interest.

6. The point on which the probability turns must be the lawfulness or unlawfulness of the action, not any other issue, as that of the physical consequences. Before rolling boulder-stones down a hill to amuse myself, it is not enough to have formed a probable opinion that there is no one coming up. That would be Probabilism misapplied. The correct enquiry is: Does any intrinsic reason or extrinsic authority make the opinion probable, that it is lawful for mere amusement to roll down rocks with any belief short of certainty that no one will be crushed thereby? The probability, thus turned on to the lawfulness of the action, breaks down altogether. This explanation, borne in mind, will save much misapprehension.



SECTION I.—Of a Twofold Sanction, Natural and Divine.

1. The sanction of a law is the punishment for breaking it. The punishment for final, persistent breach of the natural law is failure to attain the perfect state and last end of the human soul, which is happiness. If existence be prolonged under this failure, it must be in the contrary state of misery. This failure and misery is at once a natural result and a divine infliction. It is the natural result of repeated flagrant acts of moral evil, whereby a man has made his nature hideous, corrupted and overthrown it. (c. vi., s. i., nn. 4, 5, p. 111.) For an end is gained by taking the means, and lost by neglect of the means thereto. Now, as we have seen, happiness is an intellectual act, the perfection of an intellectual or rational nature (c. ii., s. ii., p. 6); and the means to it are living rationally: for a reasonable being, to do well and fare well, must live by that reason, which is the form of his being. (c. vi., s. i., n. 4, p. 111.) Whoever therefore goes about contradicting the reason that is within him (c. v., s. iii., n. 3, p. 74) is not in the way to attain to happiness. Happiness the end of man, the creature of all others the most complex, is not to be stumbled upon by chance. You may make two stones lean upright one against the other by chance, but otherwise than by a methodical application of means to the end you could not support the spire of Salisbury Cathedral.

2. Man's is a progressive nature (c. vi., s. i., nn. 2,3, p. 109), himself being the director of his own progress. Other progressive natures may be spoilt by their requirements being denied, and contrary things done to them. Man has his requirements. It depends mainly on himself whether he acts up to them or against them. If he acts against them, he so far spoils himself; and once he is thoroughly spoilt by his own doing, the final perfection of humanity is gone from him for ever. It is the natural result.

3. I have spoken (n. 1) of repeated flagrant acts: not that I would ignore the evil set of the will that results from one gross and deliberate evil deed (see c. ix., s. ii., n. 6, p. 168): but because the case is clearer where the acts have been multiplied. However we must not omit to observe, that it is not any vice, or evil habit, that formally unfits a man for his final happiness, but an actual evil set of the will, coming of actual sin unrepented of, which set is more decided, when that uncancelled sin is the last of many such, and the outcome of a habit. But supposing an habitual sinner to have repented, and his repentance to have been ratified by God, and that he dies, not actually in sin, but before the habit of sin has been eradicated (c. v., s. ii., n. 1, p. 69),—we may say of him, that his "foot is set in the right way," that is, his will is actually right, and the obstacle to happiness is removed. The evil habit in him is not an actual adhesion of his will to evil, but a proneness to relapse into that state. It is only remotely and potentially evil. It is a seed of evil, which however will not germinate in the good and blissful surroundings to which the soul has been transplanted, but remain for ever sterile, or rather, will speedily decay.

4. If we leave God out of morality, and take account only of the philosophical aspect of sin (c. vi., s. ii., n. 6, p. 119), we have nothing further to say of the sanction than this, which has been said: "Act against nature, and you will end by ruining your nature, and fail of your final perfection and happiness." But now God comes in, the giver of the law of nature; and the failure, already a natural result, must henceforth be viewed also as a Divine chastisement. There is no law without a sanction. There is no law, the giver of which can allow it to be broken with impunity. A legislator who dispensed with all sanction, would rightly be taken by young and old not to be in earnest in his command. If then God must give a law to man whom He has created (c. vi., s. ii., n. 9, p. 120), He must attach a sanction to that law; and if the law is according to the exigency of human nature (c. vi., s. ii., n. 11, p. 122), so will the sanction also be the natural outcome of that exigency set at naught and that law broken.

5. Our position gains by the consideration, that the object, in the contemplation of which man's soul is to be finally and perfectly blessed in the natural order, is the Creator seen through the veils of His works. (c.ii., s.iv., p. 21.) This mediate vision of God, albeit it is to be the work of a future existence, needs practice and preparation in this life. God will not be discerned by the man who has not been accustomed to look for Him. He will not be seen by the swine, who with head to earth has eaten his fill of sensual pleasures, and has cared for nothing better. He will not be seen by the covetous man and the oppressor, who never identified His image hidden away under the labour-stained dress of the poor. He will not be seen by the man, who never looked up into His face in prayer here below. He will not be seen by the earth-laden spirit, that cared nothing at all for God, that hated the mention of His name, that proclaimed Him, or at least wished Him, not to be at all.

6. It will be said that this argumentation supposes the habits of vice, contracted on earth, to remain in the soul after departure: but there is no proof of that: nay of some vices—those that have more to do with the body, as drunkenness—the habits cannot possibly remain, seeing that the appetite wherein they were resident has perished with the body. First, as regards the instance cited, I reply that we may consider drunkenness in two ways, on the one hand as a turning to the creature, on the other as a turning away from reason and the Creator. The craving for liquor cannot remain in the soul after death exactly as it was before, though it probably continues in some analogous form, as a thirst for wild and irregular excitement: but the loathing and horror of the ways of reason and of God, engendered by frequent voluntary intoxication, still continues in the soul. And from this observation we draw the general answer, that whereas in every sin, whether sensual or spiritual, the most important part is played by the will, and the will is a spiritual, not an organic faculty, a faculty which is a main element of the soul whether in or out of the body,—therefore the evil bent and inclination of the will, which sin involves, must remain even in the departed spirit. Lastly, we may ask: To what purpose is our free-will given us, if all souls, good and bad alike, users and abusers of the liberty they had on earth, enter into their long home all of one uniform and spotless hue?

7. Thus then it comes to be, by order of nature and good consequence, that the man who has abandoned God, goes without God; and he who has shunned his last end and final good, arrives not unto it; and he who would not go, when invited, to the feast, eats not of the same: and whoso has withdrawn from God, from him God withdraws. "A curse he loved, and it shall come upon him; and he would not have a blessing, and it shall be far from him. He put on the curse like a garment, and it has gone in like water into his entrails, and like oil into his bones,—like a garment which covereth him, and like a girdle wherewith he is girded continually." (Psalm cviii. 18, 19.)

8. Conversely, we might argue the final happiness which attaches to the observance of the law of nature. (c. ii., s. v., p. 26.)

Readings.—St. Thos., Cont. Gent., iii., cc. 140, 141, 143, 145.

SECTION II.—Of the Finality of the aforesaid Sanction.

1. By a final, as distinguished from an eternal state, is here meant the last state of existence in a creature, whether that state go on for ever, in which case it is final and eternal, or whether it terminate in the cessation of that creature's being, which is a case of a state final, but not eternal. Whether the unhappy souls of men, who have incurred the last sentence of the natural law, shall exist for eternity, is not a question for philosophy to decide with certainty. The philosopher rules everything a priori, showing what must be, if something else is. Of the action of God in the world, he can only foretell that amount which is thus hypothetically necessary. Some divine action there is, of which the congruity only, not the necessity, is apparent to human eyes: there the philosopher can tell with probability, but not with certainty, what God will do. Other actions of God are wholly beyond our estimate of the reasons of them: we call them simply and entirely free. In that sphere philosophy has no information to render of her own; she must wait to hear from revelation what God has done, or means to do. Philosophers have given reasons of congruence, as they call them, for the reprobate sinner not being annihilated, and therefore for his final punishment being eternal. Those reasons go to evince the probability of eternal punishment, a probability which is deepened into certainty by revelation. We shall not enter into them here, but shall be content to argue that a term is set to the career of the transgressor, arrived at which he must leave hope behind of ever winning his way to happiness, or ever leading any other existence than one of misery.

2. The previous question has shown that some punishment must attend upon violation of the natural law. Suppose a trangressor has suffered accordingly for a certain time after death, what shall be done with him in the end? If he does not continue to suffer as long as he continues to be, then one of three things: he must either pass into happiness, or into a new state of probation, or his very punishment must be a probation, wherein if he behaves well, he shall be rewarded with happiness at last, or if ill, he shall continue in misery until he amend. All this speculation, be it understood, lies apart from revelation. If then the sufferer passed out of this world, substantially and in the main a good man, it is not unreasonable that, after a period of expiatory suffering for minor delinquencies, he should reach that happiness which is the just reward of his substantial righteousness. But what of him who closed his career in wickedness exceeding great? Mere suffering will never make of him a good man, or a fit subject for happiness. But the suffering may be probationary, and he may amend himself under the trial. Against that hypothesis philosophers have brought a priori arguments to show that the period of probation must end with the separation of the soul from the body. But waiving all such arguments, let us suppose that there might be probation after probation even in the world to come. But some human souls would continue obstinately and unrepentingly set in wickedness, age after age, and probation after probation: for the possible malice of the will is vastly great. What is to become of such obstinate characters? It seems against the idea of probation, that periods of trial should succeed one another in an endless series. It would be a reasonable rule in a university, that an undergraduate who had been plucked twenty-five times, should become ineligible for his degree. Coming after so many failures, neither would the degree be any ornament to him, nor he to the university. A soul cannot look for seasons without end of possible grace and pardon to shine upon it. The series of probations must end somewhere. And then? We are come round to where we began. When all the probation is over, the soul is found either in conformity with the natural law, which means ultimate happiness, or at variance with the law, and becomes miserable with a misery that shall never terminate, unless the soul itself ceases to be.

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