3. It may be asked, how much conformity to the natural law is requisite and sufficient, to exempt a person at the end of his trial from a final doom of misery, or to ensure his lasting happiness? The question resolves itself into three:—how do sins differ in point of gravity? is grave sin ever forgiven? is the final award to be given upon the person's whole life, a balance being struck between his good and evil deeds, or is it to be simply upon his moral state at the last moment of his career of trial?
4. It was a paradox of the Stoics, that all offences are equal, the treading down of your neighbour's cabbage as heinous a crime as sacrilege. (Horace, Satires, i., 3, 115-119.) But it is obvious that there is a vast difference, as well objectively in the matter of the offence, e.g., in the instance just quoted from Horace, as also subjectively in the degree of knowledge, advertence, and will, wherewith the offender threw himself into the sin. Thus offences come to be distinguished as grave and light: the latter being such as with a human master would involve a reprimand, the former, instant dismissal. Final misery is not incurred except by grave offending.
5. The second question, whether grave sin is ever forgiven, cannot be answered by philosophy. Of course the sinner may see by the light of reason his folly and his error, and thereby conceive some sort of sorrow for it, and retract, and to some extent withdraw his will from it on natural grounds. This amendment of sin on its moral and philosophical side may deserve and earn pardon at human hands. But the offence against God remains to be reckoned for with God. Now God is not bound to forgive without receiving satisfaction; and He never can receive due satisfaction from man for the contempt that a deliberate, grave, and flagrant violation of the moral law puts upon the Infinite Majesty of the Lawgiver. The first thing that revelation has to teach us is whether, and on what terms, God is ready to pardon grievous sin.
6. The balance between deeds good and evil is not struck merely at the instant of death. It is being struck continually; and man's final destiny turns on how that balance stands at the close of his time of probation. So long as he keeps the substance of the moral law, the balance is in his favour. But one downright wilful and grievous transgression outweighs with God all his former good deeds. It is a defiance of the Deity, a greater insult than all his previous life was a service and homage. It is as though a loyal regiment had mutinied, or a hitherto decent and orderly citizen were taken red-handed in murder. If however God deigns to draw the offender to repentance, and to pardon him, the balance is restored. Thus everything finally depends on man being free from guilt of grievous transgression at the instant of death, or at the end of his period of probation, whenever and wherever that end may come.
Reading.—Lessius, De perfectionibus divinis, 1.xiii., c. xxvi., nn. 183, seq.
SECTION III.—Of Punishment Retrospective and Retributive.
1. The doctrine of the last section might stand even in the mind of one who held that all punishment is probational, and destined for the amendment of him who undergoes it, to humble him, to awaken his sense of guilt, and to make him fear to transgress again. On this theory of punishment, the man who in his last probational suffering refuses to amend, must be let drop out of existence as incorrigible, and so clearly his final state is one of misery. The theory is not inconsistent with final punishment, but with eternal punishment, unless indeed we can suppose a creature for all eternity to refuse, and that under stress of torment, a standing invitation to repentance. It is however a peculiar theory, and opposite to the common tradition of mankind, which has ever been to put gross offenders to death, not as incorrigible, not simply as refuse to be got rid of, but that their fate may be a deterrent to others. Punishment, in this view, is medicinal to the individual, and deterrent to the community. Eternal punishment has been defended on the score of its deterrent force. Both these functions of punishment, the medicinal and the deterrent function, are prospective. But there is asserted a third function, which is retrospective: punishment is said to be retributive. It is on this ground that the justification of eternal punishment mainly rests. We are however here concerned, not with that eternity, but in an endeavour to give a full and adequate view of punishment in all its functions.
2. If punishment is never retributive, the human race in all countries and ages has been the sport of a strange illusion. Everyone knows what vengeance means. It is a desire to punish some one, or to see him punished, not prospectively and with an eye to the future, for his improvement, or as a warning to others, but retrospectively and looking to the past, that he may suffer for what he has done. Is then the idea of vengeance nothing but an unclean phantom? Is there no such thing as vengeance to a right-minded man? Then is there an evil element, an element essentially and positively evil, in human nature. No one will deny that the idea, and to some extent the desire, of vengeance, of retaliation, of retrospective infliction of suffering in retribution for evil done, of what we learn to call in the nursery tit for tat, is natural to mankind. It is found in all men. We all respond to the sentiment:
Mighty Fates, by Heaven's decree accomplish, According as right passes from this side to that. For hateful speech let speech of hate be paid back: Justice exacting her due cries this aloud: For murderous blow dealt let the murderer pay By stroke of murder felt. Do and it shall be done unto thee: Old is this saying and old and old again.
[Footnote 16: Aschylus, Choephori, 316, seq. These lines embody the idea on which the dramas of the Shakespeare of Greece are principally founded. But when was a work of the highest art based upon an idea unsound, irrational and vicious?]
Nor must we be led away by Mill (Utilitarianism, c.v.) into confounding retaliation, or vengeance, with self-defence. Self-defence is a natural idea also, but not the same as retaliation. We defend ourselves against a mad dog, we do not retaliate on him. Hence we must not argue that, because self-defence is prospective, therefore so is vengeance.
3. A thing is essentially evil, when there is no possible use of it which is not an abuse. Not far different is the conception of a thing positively evil, evil, that is, not by reason of any deficiency, or by what it is not, but evil by what it is in itself. Such an essential, positive evil in human nature would vengeance be, a natural thing for which there was no natural use, unless punishment may in some measure be retributive. We cannot admit such a flaw in nature. All healthy philosophy goes on the principle, that what is natural is so far forth good. Otherwise we lapse into Manicheism, pessimism, scepticism, abysses beyond the reach of argument. Vengeance undoubtedly prompts to many crimes, but so does the passion of love. Both are natural impulses. It would scarcely be an exaggeration to set down one third of human transgressions to love, and another third to revenge: yet it is the abuse in each case, not the use, that leads to sin. If the matrimonial union were wicked and detestable, as the Manicheans taught, then would the passion of love be an abomination connatural to man. Such another enormity would be the affection of vengeance, if punishment could never rightly be retributive.
4. Aristotle, Rhetoric, I., x., 17, distinguishes two functions of punishment thus: "Chastisement is for the benefit of him that suffers it, but vengeance is for him that wreaks it, that he may have satisfaction." Add to this the warning given to the commonwealth by the example that is made of the offender, and we have the three functions of punishment, medicinal, deterrent, and retributive. As it is medicinal, it serves the offender: as it is deterrent, it serves the commonwealth: as it is retributive, it serves the offended party, being a reparation offered to him. Now, who is the offended party in any evil deed? So far as it is a sin against justice, an infringement of any man's right, he is the offended party. He is offended, however, not simply and precisely by your violation of the moral law, but by your having, in violation of that law, taken away something that belonged to him. Consequently, when you make restitution and give him back what you took away, with compensation for the temporal deprival of it, he is satisfied, and the offence against him is repaired. If you have maliciously burnt his house down, you bring him the price of the house and furniture, together with further payment for the fright and for the inconvenience of being, for the present, houseless. You may do all that, and yet the moral guilt of the conflagration may remain upon your soul. But that is no affair of his: he is not the custodian of the moral law: he is not offended by your sin, formally viewed as sin: nor has he any function of punishing you, taking vengeance upon you, or exacting from you retribution for that. But what if his wife and children have perished, and you meant them so to perish, in the fire? Your debt of restitution still lies in the matter which you took away. Of course it is a debt that cannot be paid. You cannot give back his "pretty chickens and their dam" whole and alive again. Still your inability to pay one debt does not make you liable to that creditor for another debt, which is part of a wholly different account. He is not offended by, nor are you answerable to him for, your sin in this case any more than in the former.
5. We may do an injury to an individual, commit a crime against the State, and sin against God. The injury to the individual is repaired by restitution, not by punishment, and therefore not by vengeance, which is a function of punishment. There is no such thing as vengeance for a private wrong, and therefore we have the precept to forgive our enemies, and not to avenge ourselves, in which phrase the emphasis falls on the word ourselves. The clear idea and strong desire of vengeance, which nature affords, shows that there is such a thing as vengeance to be taken by some one: it does not warrant every form of vengeance, or allow it to be taken by each man for himself. It consecrates the principle of retribution, not every application of the principle. It is a point of synderesis, not of particular conduct. The reader should recall what was said of the vengeance of Hannibal at Himera. (c. viii., s. ii., p. 144.)
6. It belongs to the State to punish political sin, or crime, and to God to punish theological sin, which is sin properly so called, a breach of the Eternal Law. The man who has burnt his neighbour's house down, though he has compensated the individual owner, may yet be punished by the State. The owner, acting in his capacity as citizen, even when he has been compensated as an individual, may still hand him over to the State for punishment. The arson was a violation, not only of commutative, but of legal justice (c. v., s. ix., nn. 3, 6, pp. 103, 106), a disturbance of the public peace and social order, an outrage upon the majesty of the law. For this he may be punished by the State, which is the guardian of all these things, and which has jurisdiction over him to make laws for him, and to enforce their sanction against him. Civil punishment, besides being deterrent, is retributive for the breach of social order. It is the vengeance of the commonwealth upon the disturber of the public peace. Whether the State can punish on pure grounds of retribution, away from all hope or need of deterring possible imitators of the crime, is a question irrelevant to our present enquiry. Probably a negative answer should be returned.
7. We come now to the punishment of sin by God, the Living Reasonableness, the Head of the Commonwealth of Creation, the Legislator of the Eternal Law, the Fountain of all Jurisdiction, Him in whose hands rests the plenitude of the power to punish. An evil deed may be no wrong to any individual man, no crime against the State, but it must ever be an offence against God. It is a departure from the order of man's progress as a reasonable being (c. v., s. iii., n. 3, p. 74: c. vi., s. i., nn. 1-5, p. 109), which is founded on the nature of God Himself (c. vi., s. i., n. 7, p. 113), of which order God is the official guardian (c. vi., s. ii., nn. 8-10, p. 119), and which is enjoined by God's Eternal Law. (c. vii., n. 3, p. 129.) This law extends to all creation, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate. It bids every creature work according to his or its own nature and circumstances. Given to irrational beings, the law is simply irresistible and unfailing: such are the physical laws of nature, so many various emanations of the one Eternal Law. Given to rational creatures, the law may be resisted and broken: sin is the one thing in the universe that does break it. (c. vii., nn. 5-7, p. 130.) A man may act in disregard of the Eternal Law on one or other of its physical sides, and so much the worse for him, though he has not broken the law, but merely ignored its operation, as when one eats what is unwholesome. Much more shall he suffer for having broken the law, in the only possible way that it can be broken, by sin. This peculiar violation draws after it a peculiar consequence of suffering, penal and retributive. If a man gets typhoid fever in his house, we sometimes say it is a punishment on him for neglecting his drains, even when the neglect was a mere piece of ignorance or inadvertence. It is an evil consequence certainly,—the law, which he thought not of, working itself out in the form of disease. But it is not properly punishment: no natural law has been really broken: there has been no guilt, and the suffering is not retributive and compensatory. It does not go to restore the balance of the neglect. It is a lamentable consequence, not a repayment. As, when man wrongs his fellow-man, he makes with him an involuntary contract (c. v., s. ix., n. 6, p. 106), to restore what he takes away: so in sinning against God, man makes another involuntary contract, to pay back in suffering against his will what he unduly takes in doing his own will against the will of the Legislator. As St. Augustine says of Judas (Serm. 125, n. 5): "He did what he liked, but he suffered what he liked not. In his doing what he liked, his sin is found: in his suffering what he liked not, God's ordinance is praised." Thus it is impossible for the Eternal Law, which bears down all so irresistibly in irrational nature, finally to fail of its effect even upon the most headstrong and contumacious of rational creatures; but, as St. Thomas says (1a 2a, q. 93, art. 6, in corp.), "The defect of doing is made up by suffering, inasmuch as they suffer what the Eternal Law prescribes for them to the extent to which they fail to do what accords with the Eternal Law." And St. Anselm (Cur Deus homo, nn. 14, 15): "God cannot possibly lose His honour: for either the sinner spontaneously pays what he owes, or God exacts it of him against his will. Thus if a man chooses to fly from under the will of God commanding, he falls under the same will punishing." Punishment is called by Hegel, "the other half of sin." Lastly, they are God's own spoken words (Deut. xxxii. 35): "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay."
Readings.—St. Thos., Cont. Gent., iii. 140, n. 5, Amplius; ib., iii., 144, nn. 8, Per hoc, and 9, Est autem.
For Plato's views on punishment see Protag. 324 A, B; Gorgias, 525; Rep. 380 B, 615; Phaedo, 113 E; Laws, 854 D; 862 D, E; 934 A; 957 E. Plato recognizes only the medicinal and the deterrent functions of punishment, and ignores the retributive. This is not to be wondered at in one who wrote: "No one is wicked voluntarily; but it is an evil habit of body and a faulty education that is the cause of every case of wickedness" (Timaeus, 86 E; cf. Laws, 731 C, D), which error receives a masterly confutation in Aristotle, Ethics, III, v.
1. Though the name utilitarian is an English growth of this century, the philosophy so called probably takes its origin from the days when man first began to speculate on moral matters. Bentham and the two Mills, Austin, and George Grote, have repeated in England the substance of what Protagoras and Epicurus taught in Greece, two thousand years before. It is the system of Ethics to which all must incline, who ignore the spiritual side of man's nature and his hopes of a better world. It is a morality of the earth, earthy.
2. Utilitarianism has not been formulated like the Athanasian Creed. It is impossible to state it and combat it in a form to which all Utilitarians will subscribe. Indeed, it is an amiable weakness of theirs, when confronted with the grosser consequences that flow from their theories, to run off to some explanation, true enough, but quite out of keeping with the primary tenets of their school. We will take what may be called a "mean reading" of the indications which various Utilitarian thinkers afford of their mind and philosophy. These authorities, then, teach two main heads of doctrine:—
(1) That the last end and final good of man lies in this world, and consists in the greatest happiness of the greatest number of mankind, happiness being taken to mean pleasure as well of the senses as of the understanding, such pleasure as can be had in this world, along with immunity from pain. (Mill's Utilitarianism, 2nd Ed., pp. 9, seq.)
(2) That human acts are right or wrong, according as they are useful or hurtful, that is, according as their consequences make for or against the above-mentioned end of social happiness.
3. Consequences, as Utilitarians very properly point out, are either general or particular. They add that, in pronouncing an action to be good or evil according to its consequences, they mean the general and not the particular consequences. In other words, they bid us consider, not the immediate results of this action, but what would be the result to society, if this sort of action were generally allowed. This point is well put by Paley (Moral Philosophy, bk. ii., c. vii.: all three chapters, vi., vii., viii., should be read, as the best explanation of the Principle of General Consequences):
"You cannot permit one action and forbid another, without showing a difference between them. Consequently the same sort of actions must be generally permitted or generally forbidden. Where, therefore, the general permission of them would be pernicious, it becomes necessary to lay down and support the rule which generally forbids them.... The assassin knocked the rich villain on the head, because he thought him better out of the way than in it. If you allow this excuse in the present instance, you must allow it to all who act in the same manner, and from the same motive; that is, you must allow every man to kill any one he meets, whom he thinks noxious or useless: ... a disposition of affairs which would soon fill the world with misery and confusion, and ere long put an end to human society."
My contention is, not with the Principle of General Consequences, which has a certain value in Ethics, and is used by many writers other than Utilitarian, but with the two stated above, n. 2, which are called the Greatest Happiness Principle and the Principle of Utility.
4. Against the Greatest Happiness Principle I have these complaints:
(1) Utilitarians from Paley to John Stuart Mill aver that their teaching is no bar to any man hoping for and striving after the happiness of the world to come. They say that such happiness cannot be better attained than by making it your principal aim to improve all temporal goods and dissipate all temporal evil. Their maxim in fact is: "Take care of the things of earth, and the things of heaven will take care of themselves." Whereas it was the very contrary teaching of Him, whom moderns, who see in Him no higher character, still love to call the greatest of moral teachers: "That which fell among thorns are they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit." (St. Luke viii. 14.)
(2) It will be said that these thorns grow of selfishness, and that these cares are the cares of individual interest, whereas the Utilitarian's delight and glory is to live, not for himself, but for the commonwealth. But how can a man, who takes pleasure to be his highest good and happiness, live otherwise than for himself? Here we come upon the unobserved fault and flaw, which entirely vitiates the Utilitarian structure. It is an union of two opposite and incompatible elements. An old poet has said:
Vinegar and oil in one same vessel pour, They stand apart, unfriendly, all the more.
(Aeschylus, Agam., 330, 331.)
Utilitarianism consists of a still more unfriendly and unwholesome mixture of two elements, both of them bad, and unable to stand together, Hedonism and Altruism. Hedonism is the doctrine that the main object and end of life is pleasure: which is the position laid down in so many words by Mill (1. c.), that "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness;" and "by happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain." If Hedonism were sound doctrine, the Pleasant and the Good would be identical, and the most pleasant pleasure would ever be the best pleasure. That would take away all distinction of kind or quality among pleasures, and differentiate them only by intensity and duration. This was Paley's doctrine, a fundamental point of Hedonism, and therefore also of the Utilitarian philosophy. John Mill, very honourably to himself, but very fatally to the system that he was writing to defend, parted company with Paley. We have argued against Paley (c. iv., s. iii., nn. 3-5, p. 55), that there is a better and a worse in pleasures, quite distinct from the more or less pleasurable, even if that more be taken in the long run in this world.
Again it may be considered that pleasure, even the best and highest, is a sort of efflorescence from activity, and is for activity, not activity for it; and better is the activity, whatever it be, than the pleasure which comes thereof; wherefore no pleasure, as pleasure, can be the highest good and happiness of man.
Hedonism then is an error. But errors may be opposed to one another as well as to the truth. Hedonism is opposed to Altruism in this way. A man may take pleasure in seeing other people enjoy themselves. Nothing is more common, except the pleasure taken in enjoying one's own self. But if a man only feeds the hungry that he may have the satisfaction of seeing them eat, is it the hungry or himself that he finally seeks to gratify? Clearly, himself. That is the behaviour of the Hedonist, he acts for his own pleasure even in his benevolence. The Altruist, on the contrary, professes never to act for self, but for society. So that society flourish, he is ready to be crushed and ruined, not in the matter of his pleasure only, but even in that of his own good. Selfishness, by which he means all manner of regard to self, is, upon his conscience, the unforgiven sin. But Hedonism is selfishness in the grossest form, being the mere pursuit in all things of pleasurable feeling—feeling being always particular and limited to self, in contradistinction to good, which is universal and diffuses itself all round. The Hedonist seeks his own pleasure, where the Altruist forbids him to take thought, let alone for his gratification, but even for his good. Thus an Hedonist cannot be Altruist to boot; and, trying to combine the two characters, the Utilitarian is committed to a self-contradiction.
If he relinquishes Hedonism, and holds to Altruism, pure and simple, his position is not much improved. Altruism overlooks the fact, that man, as compared with other men, is a person, the centre of his own acts, not a thing, to be entirely referred to others. He is in relation with others, as child, father, husband, master, citizen; but these relations do not take up the whole man. There is a residue within,—an inner being and life, which is not referable to any creature outside himself, but only to the Creator. For this inner being, man is responsible to God alone. The good of this, the "inner man of the heart," is each individual's proper and primary care. Altruism, and Utilitarianism with it, ignore the interior life of the soul, and substitute human society, that is, ultimately, the democratic State, in place of God.
(3) Another confusion that the Greatest Happiness Principle involves, is the mistaking the political for the ethical end of life. The political end, which it is the statesman's business to aim at, and the citizen's duty to subserve, is "the natural happiness of the commonwealth, and of individuals as members of the commonwealth, that they may live in it in peace and justice, and with a sufficiency of goods for the preservation and comfort of bodily life, and with that amount of moral rectitude which is necessary for this outward peace and preservation of the commonwealth, and the perpetuity of the human race." (Suarez, De Legibus, III., xi., 7.) This is all the good that the Utilitarian contemplates. He is satisfied to make a good citizen, a good husband, a good father, for the transactions of this life. He has no concern to make a good man up to the ethical standard, which supposes the observance of the whole natural law, duties to God, and duties within himself, as well as duties to human society, and by this observance the compassing of the everlasting happiness of the man's own individual soul.
Against the Principle of Utility I find these charges:
(1) It takes the sign and indication of moral evil for the evil itself, as if the physician should take the symptom for the disease. It places the wickedness of an act in the physical misery and suffering that are its consequences. This is, I say, a taking of the indication for the thing indicated. An act is bad in itself and by itself, as being a violation of the rational nature of the doer (c. vi., s. i.), and being bad, it breeds bad consequences. But the badness of the act is moral; the badness of the consequences, physical. There is an evident intrinsic irrationality, and thereby moral evil, in such sins as intemperance, peevishness, and vanity. But let us take an instance of an act, apparently harmless in itself, and evil solely because of the consequences. Supposing one insists upon playing the piano for his own amusement, to the disturbance of an invalid who is lying in a critical state in the next room. Do the mere consequences make this otherwise innocent amusement evil? Yes, if you consider the amusement in the abstract: but if you take it as this human act, the act is inordinate and evil in itself, or as it is elicited in the mind of the agent. The volition amounts to this: "I prefer my amusement to my neighbour's recovery," which is an act unseemly and unreasonable in the mind of a social being. Utilitarians fall into the capital error of ignoring the intrinsic value of an act, and estimating it wholly by extrinsic results, because they commonly follow the phenomenalist philosophy, which breaks away from all such ideas as substance and nature, and regards nothing but sequences and coexistences of phenomena. To a phenomenalist the precept, Live up to thy nature, can have no meaning.
(2) Aristotle (Ethics, II., iv., 3) draws this distinction between virtue and art, that "the products of art have their excellence in themselves: it suffices therefore that they are of this or that quality: but acts of virtue are not done virtuously according to the quality of the thing done, but according to the state of mind of the doer; first, according to his knowledge of what he was about; then, according to his volition, as that was guided or not guided by the proper motives of the virtue; thirdly, according to the steadiness and fixedness of his will; whereas all these considerations are of no account in a work of art, except the single one of the artist being aware of what he was about." Elsewhere (Ethics, VI., iv., 2), he says that virtue is distinguished from art as being action, not production. The Principle of Utility confounds virtue with art, or perhaps I should say, with manufactures. It judges conduct, as one would shoemaking, by trial of the product, or net result. So far from being solicitous, with Aristotle, that volition should be "guided by the proper motives of the virtue" which there is question of practising (c. v., s. viii., n. 4, p. 96: Ar. Eth., III., viii.), Mill (Utilitarianism, p. 26) tells us that "utilitarian moralists have gone beyond almost all others in affirming that the motive has nothing to do with the morality of the action." By motive he understands what we have called the end in view. (c. iii., s. ii., n. 2, p. 31.) So that, if one man waits on the sick for the love of God, and another in hope of a legacy, the morality of these two acts is the same, just as it makes no difference to the usefulness of a pair of boots, what motive it was that set the shoemaker to work. True, Mill admits that the motive has "much to do with the worth of the agent:" but that, he hastens to explain, is inasmuch as "it indicates ... a bent of character from which useful, or from which hurtful actions are likely to arise." Even so,—the shoemaker who works to earn money for a carousal, is not likely to go on producing useful articles so long as another, who labours to support his family. Such is the moral difference that Mill places between the two men; one instrument of production is longer available than the other.
(3) Another well established distinction is that between harm and injury, injury being wilful and unjust harm. The housemaid, who in arranging the room has burned your manuscript of "sugared sonnets," has done you no injury, for she meant none, but how vast the harm to the author and to mankind! Harm is visible in the effects: but injury only upon examination of the mind of the agent. Not so, however, the Utilitarian thinks: harm being equal, he can make no difference between a tyrant and a man-eating tiger. Thus George Grote says of a certain murderous usurper of the kingdom of Macedon: "You discover nothing while your eye is fixed on Archelaus himself.... But when you turn to the persons whom he has killed, banished, or ruined—to the mass of suffering that he has inflicted—and to the widespread insecurity which such acts of iniquity spread through all societies where they become known—there is no lack of argument which prompts a reflecting spectator to brand him as [a most dangerous and destructive animal, no] a disgraceful man." (Grote's Plato, ii., p. 108.) Why Archelaus is described in terms of the tiger, and then branded as a disgraceful man, we are at a loss to conceive, except in this way, that the writer's philosophy forsook him at the end of the sentence, and he reverted to the common sense of mankind. But he should have either ended the sentence as suggested in the parenthesis, or have been willing to call the man-eater of the Indian jungle, who has "learned to make widows, and to lay waste their cities," a disgraceful tiger; or lastly, he should have looked back, where he declared it was vain to look, upon Archelaus himself, and discerned in him that moral deformity, and contradiction of reason, whereof a brute beast is incapable, but which is a disgrace and a stain upon humanity.
A later writer, who presses Utilitarianism into the service of Socialism, is plainer-spoken than Grote, and says bluntly: "To be honestly mistaken avails nothing. Thus Herbert Spencer—who is under the delusion that we have come into this world each for the sake of himself, and who opposes, as far as he can, the evolution of society—is verily an immoral man.... Right is every conduct which tends to the welfare of society; wrong, what obstructs that welfare." (Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, pp. 226, 227.) Thus is overlaid the difference between harm and injury, between physical and moral evil: thus is the meaning of a human act ignored: in this abyss of chaos and confusion, which Utilitarianism has opened out, Moral Philosophy finds her grave.
(4) The Principle of Utility sees in virtue a habit of self-sacrifice, useful to the community, but not naturally pleasant, and therefore not naturally good and desirable, to him that practises it, but made pleasurable and good and desirable to him by practice. (Mill, pp. 53-57.) In this way virtue becomes naturally a very good thing for every one else but its possessor, but to him it is a natural evil, inasmuch as it deprives him of pleasure, which natural evil by habit is gradually converted into a factitious and artificial good, the man becoming accustomed to it, as the proverb says, "like eels to skinning." This theory is the resuscitation of one current among the Sophists at Athens, and described by Plato thus.—The natural good of man is to afford himself every indulgence, even at the expense of his neighbours. He follows his natural good accordingly: so do his neighbours follow theirs, and try to gratify themselves at his expense. Fights ensue, till mankind, worried and wearied with fighting, make a compact, each to give up so much of his natural good as interferes with that of his neighbour. Human society, formed on this understanding, enforces the compact in the interest of society. Thus the interest of society is opposed to the interest of the individual, in this that it keeps him out of his best natural good, which is to do as his appetite of pleasure bids him in all things, though it compensates him with a second-class good, by preventing his neighbours from pleasure-hunting at his expense. If then his neighbours could be restrained, and he left free to gratify himself, that would be perfect bliss. But only a despot here or there has attained to it. The ordinary man must pay his tax of virtue to the community, a loss to him, but a gain to all the rest: while he is compensated by the losses which their virtue entails upon them.
Such was the old Athenian theory, which John Mill, the Principle of Utility in his hand, completes by saying that by-and-bye, and little by little (as the prisoner of Chillon came to love his dungeon), the hampered individual comes to love, and to find an artificial happiness in, those restrictions of his liberty, which are called Virtue.
It was against this theory that Plato wrote his Republic, and, to compare a little thing to a great, the whole account of moral good being in consonance with nature, and of moral obligation rising out of the nature of the individual man, as has been set forth in this brief Text-book, may serve for a refutation of the perverse doctrine of Utilitarianism.
Readings.—Plato, Republic, pp. 338 E, 339 A, 343 C, D, E, 344 A, B, C, 358 E, 359 A, B, 580 B, C.
* * * * *
PART III. NATURAL LAW.
We assume in Natural Law the preceding treatise on Ethics, and also the principal truths of Natural Theology.
OF DUTIES OF GOD.
SECTION I.—Of the Worship of God.
1. Worship is divided into prayer and praise. To pray, and present our petitions to the Most High, is a privilege; a privilege, however, which we are bound to use at times, as the necessary means for overcoming temptations and inclinations to evil. We praise and adore God for His sovereign excellence, which excellence, nevertheless, would found in us no positive duty if we stood free of all dependence upon God. In such an hypothesis we should lie simply under the negative duty of not thinking of God, speaking of Him, or acting towards Him otherwise than with all reverence. So we should behave to the Great Stranger, with civility, with admiration even and awe, but not with cordiality, not with loyalty, not with homage, not with love. Very different are our relations and our duties to God our Lord, "in whom we live, move, and have our being." There is nothing in us or about us, no positive perfection of ours whatsoever, that is not His gift, and a gift that He is not giving continually, else it would be lost to us. We are therefore bound in His regard, not merely to abstention but to act. And first, for inward acts, we must habitually feel, and at notable intervals we must actually elicit, sentiments of adoration and praise, of thanksgiving, of submission, of loyalty and love, as creatures to their Creator, and as vassals to their very good Lord, for He is our Creator and Lord in the natural order, not to say anything here of the supernatural filiation, by which, as the Church says, "we dare" to call God "Our Father."
2. We must also express these sentiments by outward act. All the signs of reverence, which man pays to his human superior, must be paid to God "with advantages": bowing passes into prostration, uncovering the head into kneeling, kissing the hand into offering of incense: not that these particular developments are necessary, but some such development must take place. We shall not be content to think reverential thoughts, but we shall say, or even sing, great things of God's greatness and our indebtedness and duty: such a vocal exercise is psalmody. We shall represent in symbolic action our dependence on the Lord of life and death, and also our sinfulness, for which He might justly strike us dead: such a representation is sacrifice.
3. All this we must do, first, for the sake of our own souls, minds and hearts, to quicken the inward sentiment of adoration and praise. "Worship, mostly of the silent sort," worship, that finds no expression in word or gesture,—worship away from pealing organs and chants of praise, or the simpler music of the human voice, where no hands are uplifted, nor tongues loosened, nor posture of reverence assumed, becomes with most mortals a vague, aimless reverie, a course of distraction, dreaminess, and vacancy of mind, no more worth than the meditations of the Lancashire stone-breaker, who was asked what he thought of during his work,—"Mostly nowt."
4. Again, what the body is to the soul, that is exterior devotion to interior. From the soul interior devotion springs, and through the body it manifests itself. Exterior devotion, without the inward spirit that quickens it, is worship unprofitable and dead: it tends at once to corruption, like the body when the soul has left it. Interior devotion, on the other hand, can exist, though not with its full complement, without the exterior. So that it is only in the union of the two together that perfect worship is given to God by men as men. Upon which St. Thomas has this naive remark, that "they who blame bodily observances being paid to God, evidently fail to remember that they themselves are men."
Thus we pay tithe to God for soul and body, by acts of religion interior and exterior. But man is, under God, the lord of this earth and of the fulness thereof. He must pay tithe for that too by devoting some portion of it to the direct service of God, to whom it all primarily belongs. For "mine is the gold and mine the silver." (Aggeus ii. 9.) Such are the words that God spoke through His prophet to incite His people to restore his sanctuary.
6. It is therefore not true to say that the sole reason of outward worship is to move the worshipper to interior devotion. It is not true that St. Peter's at Rome, and Cologne Cathedral, and the Duomo of Milan, with all their wealth and elaborate ceremonial, exist and are kept up solely because, things of earth as we are, we cannot be depended upon to praise God lovingly within the white-washed walls of a conventicle, or according to the simple ritual of the Society of Friends. We would not, even if we could, pray habitually among such surroundings, where we could afford to better them. We have before us the principle of St. Thomas (1a 2a, q. 24, art. 3, in corp.):
"Since man's good consists in reason as in its root, the more actions proper to man are performed under the direction of reason, the more perfect will man's good be. Hence no one doubts that it belongs to the perfection of moral good, that the actions of our bodily members should be directed by the law of reason, ... as also that the passions of the soul should be regulated by reason."
This means, not merely that if the bodily members or the passions stir at all, it is a good and desirable thing for them to be ruled by reason; but further that it is a positive addition to human perfection that they should stir and be active, provided reason guide them. (Ethics, c. iv., s. i., n. 6, p. 45.)
It certainly is an action proper to man to express in gesture, in voice, in concert and company with his fellow-men, and by employment of whatever is best and fairest and brightest under his command in the material creation, his inward affections of loyalty, of homage and devotion, of awe and reverence, of gratitude and love to his Creator.
Good as these affections are in the heart of the worshipper, they receive an external complement of goodness and perfection by being blazoned forth in vocal utterance, singing, bending of knees,—by the erection and embellishment of temples, and offerings of gold, silver, precious stones, and incense,—and by men thronging those temples in multitudes for social worship,—provided always that the inward devotion of the heart be there, to put a soul into these outward demonstrations and offerings.
7. Concerning these religious observances interior and exterior, it is as idle to pretend that they are useful to Almighty God as it is irrelevant to object that they are useless to Him. Of course they are useless to Him. All creation is useless to God. A Being who can never receive any profit, increment, or gain, dwells not within the region of utilities. Theologians indeed distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic glory, that is, between the glory which God gives Himself by His own contemplation of His own essence, and the glory which His creatures give Him. They say that God is thus capable of extrinsic increment, to which increment the praise and worship of His creatures is useful. But, after all, they are fain to avow that the whole of this extrinsic increment and glory is no real gain to God, giving Him nothing but what He had before in an infinitely more excellent mode and manner from and of Himself. Thus it appears that the extrinsic glory of God, to which the worship paid Him by man contributes, is valued, not because it is properly useful to Him, but because He is most properly and highly worthy of it. "Thou art worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power: because thou hast created all things, and for thy will they were, and have been created." (Apoc. iv. II.) And being worthy of this glory, He wills to have it, and does most strictly exact it, for which reason He is called in the Scripture a jealous God. So those who reflect some sparkle of God's Majesty, and under some aspect represent His person upon the earth, as do princes, lay and ecclesiastical, have many observances of honour and respect paid to them, which are not useful as supplying a need—for who needs a salute of twenty-one guns? nevertheless their dignity is worthy of them, and they require them accordingly.
8. What man feels strongly, he expresses in word and action. What all men feel strongly, they express by meeting together for the purpose. So that, if strong religious feeling is an element in every good and reasonable man's character, it is bound to find expression, and that a social expression. Men must worship together according to some external form and ritual. God may reveal what He wills that ritual to be. In fact He did give such a revelation and prescription to the Jews. To Christians He has spoken in His Son, and still speaks in His Church. Any other than the one sacrifice that He has instituted, or any other public religious ritual than is approved by the religious authority which He has established, is to Him of itself, and apart from the invincibly erroneous devotion of them that pay it, an abomination: for He has "not chosen it." Still we cannot say that, in every possible state of things, God is bound to reveal the ritual that He desires, or is bound Himself to designate the authority that shall fix the ritual which alone He will accept and allow of. If the will of God is not thus expressed, a ritual must still be drawn up. In a matter that excites the mind, as religion does, and where a large field is open for hallucination and eccentricity, it will not do to have individuals parading methods of worship of their own invention. Here the Greek maxim comes in, [Greek: tima tho daimonion katha tha patria], "honour the Deity after the fashion of thy country." Religious authorities must be set up, in the same way that the civil power is set up. These authorities will determine, not the object, but the outward manner of worship. Every great nation, or important member of the human family, would come probably to have its own characteristic rite; and within each rite there would be local varieties.
Readings.—St. Thos., Contra Gentiles, iii., 119; 2a 2a, q. 81, art. 4, in corp.; ib., q. 81, art. 7 ib., q. 84, art. 2: ib., q. 85, art. 1, in corp., ad 1, 3; ib., q. 91.
SECTION II.—Of Superstitious Practices.
1. Superstition is the abuse of religion. It is superstition, either to worship false gods, or to worship the true God with unauthorized rites, or to have dealings with wicked spirits, whether those spirits have once animated human bodies or not. Of the first head, the only avowed instance within our civilization is the Positivist worship of the Great Being, that is, of the collective Worthies of Humanity, if indeed it amounts to worship. The second head might have been meditated by Archbishop Cranmer with advantage, when he was drawing up the Edwardine Ordinal. Under the third head comes Spiritualism, which we shall here not discuss in detail, but merely indicate certain principles upon which it must be judged.
2. "There is nothing superstitious or unlawful in simply applying natural agencies to the production of certain effects, of which they are supposed to be naturally capable.... We must consider whether there is a fair appearance of the cause being able to produce the effect naturally. If there is, the experiment will not be unlawful: for it is lawful to use natural causes in order to their proper effects." (2a 2a, q. 96, art. 2, in corp., ad 1.) But this we must understand under two provisos. First, that the "fair appearance" spoken of be not opposed by a considerable force of evidence, whether of authority or of reason, tending the other way: for in this matter, which is not a mere matter of legality, it is not permissible to run risks of becoming familiar with God's enemies. Secondly, that the cause, though natural, be not morally prejudicial. Not even a natural cause, brandy for instance, may be used to all its effects. Thus for the mesmeric sleep, though that should be proved to be purely natural, yet the weakening of the will thence ensuing, and the almost irresistible dominion acquired by the operator over his patient, render it imperative that such a remedy should not be applied without grave necessity, and under an operator of assured moral character.
3. St. Thomas continues in the place last quoted: "Wherefore, if there is no fair appearance of the causes employed being able to produce such effects, it needs must be that they are not employed to the causation of these effects as causes, but only as signs, and thus they come under the category of preconcerted signals arranged with evil spirits."
The modern Spiritualist is only too forward to avow his understanding with the unseen powers; but he will have it that the spirits that he deals with are good and harmless. We must prove the spirits by the general effects of their communications—whether they be in accordance with the known laws of morality, and the assured teachings of religion, natural and revealed. Also we must consider, from what we know from approved sources concerning God, and His holy angels, and the spirits of the just, either already made perfect, or still suffering for a time, whether they are likely to respond to such signs as Spiritualists commonly employ. Also we must not ignore, what revelation tells us, of an "enemy," a "father of lies," who "changes himself into an angel of light," and who is ever ready, so far as it is permitted him, to eke out curiosity, folly, and credulity, such as he found in Eve.
Readings.—St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 93; ib., q. 95, art. 4, in corp.
SECTION III.—Of the duty of knowing God.
1. Religious worship is bound to its object, and cannot possibly be fixed in the hearts of men and the institutions of society, if the object be doubtful and fluctuating. False religion has often been set off with elaborate and gorgeous ceremonial, which has been kept up even after the performers had come to see in all that light and lustre a mere vain and unsubstantial show. Such were the rites of Roman polytheism, as enacted by augurs and pontiffs, the colleagues of Cicero and Casar. But though that worship was maintained, and even augmented, for political purposes, without a creed, yet never could it have arisen without some creed, however mistaken, earnestly held of old. A firm interior conviction is the starting-point of all outward worship. But if the modern living worshipper is without creed and conviction; if he be a scoffer at heart, or at least a doubter; what a hollow, horrid skeleton thing is his religion,—all the more horrid, the grander its dress! That is not worship, but mummery.
2. If then to worship God is a duty, as we have proved, it is a duty likewise to know God. This supposes that God is knowable, a fact which it does not lie within the province of this work to prove. To an unknown God, all the worship we could render would be to build Him an altar, without priest, prayer, or sacrifice, and so leave Him in His solitude. God is knowable by the manifestation of His works (Rom. i. 19); and where He is pleased to speak, by the revelation of His word. Apart from revelation—and, under a certain order of Providence, God might have left us without revelation—we should study our Creator as He is made manifest in the world around us, in the existence of perishable things, in the order of the universe, in the region of things eternally possible and knowable, in moral truths, in the mental life and conscience of man. Philosophy would be our guide in the search after God. Men with less leisure or ability for speculation would acquiesce in the pronouncements of philosophers on things divine; and, in the hypothesis which we are contemplating, Providence would doubtless arrange for the better agreement and harmony of philosophers among themselves. Their trumpet would not send forth so uncertain a blast, were that the instrument, in the counsels of God, whereby the whole duty of religion was to be regulated. As it is, we know better than philosophy could teach us: for God hath spoken in His Son.
Readings.—C. Gent., i., 4; 1a 2a, q. 91, art. 4, in corp.
OF THE DUTY OF PRESERVING LIFE.
SECTION I.—Of Killing, Direct and Indirect.
1. In a hilly country, two or three steps sometimes measure all the interval between the basins of two rivers, whose mouths are miles apart. In the crisis of an illness the merest trifle will turn the scale between death and recovery. In a nice point of law and intricate procedure, the lawyer is aware that scarcely more than the thickness of the paper on which he writes lies between the case going for his client or for the opposite party. To rail at these fine technicalities argues a lay mind, unprofessional and undiscerning. Hair-splitting, so far as it is a term of real reproach, means splitting the wrong hairs. The expert in any profession knows what things to divide and distinguish finely, and what things to take in the gross. Moral Science in many respects gives its demonstrations, and can give them, only "in the way of rough drawing," as Aristotle says. ([Greek: pachulos kai tupo], Ethics, I., iii., 4.) But there are lines of division exceeding fine and nice in natural morality no less than in positive law. The student must not take scandal at the fine lines and subtle distinctions that we shall be obliged to draw in marking off lawful from unlawful action touching human life.
2. It is never lawful directly to kill an innocent man. Understand innocent in the social and political sense, of a man who has not, by any human act (Ethics, c. i., n. 2, p. 1) of his own, done any harm to society so grievous as to compare with loss of life. To kill, or work any other effect, directly, is to bring about that death, or other effect, willing the same, either as an end desirable in itself, as when a man slays his enemy, whose death of its own sheer sake is to him a satisfaction and a joy, or as a means to an end, as Richard III. murdered his nephews to open his own way to the throne. We must then in no case compass the death of the innocent, either intending it as an end, or choosing it as a means. The assertion is proved by these considerations. To kill a man is to destroy the human nature within him: for, though the soul survives, he is man no more when he is dead. Now to destroy a thing is to subordinate that thing entirely to your self and your own purposes: for that individual thing can never serve any other purpose, once it is destroyed. The man that is killed is then subordinated to the slayer, wholly given up, and as we say, sacrificed, to the aims and purposes of him who slays him. But that ought not to be, for man is a person. Body and soul in him make one person, one personal nature, which human personality is destroyed in death. Now it is the property of a person to be what we may call autocentric, referring its own operations to itself as to a centre. Every person—and every intelligent nature is a person [Footnote 17]—exists and acts primarily for himself. A thing is marked off from a person by the aptitude of being another's and for another. We may venture to designate it by the term heterocentric. A person therefore may destroy a thing, entirely consume and use it up for his own benefit. But he may not treat a person as a thing, and destroy that, either for any end of pleasure that he finds in destroying it, or in view of any gain or good, whereunto that destruction serves him as a means.
[Footnote 17: The exception apparent in the Incarnation is not relevant here.]
3. In the above argumentation account has not been taken of God, to whom for His sovereign dominion all created personalities stand in the light of things, and may be destroyed at His pleasure. But account has been taken of the State, to which the individual is subordinate as a citizen, but not as a man and a person. It is permitted no more to the State than to the individual ever to destroy the innocent directly.
4. An effect is brought about indirectly, when it is neither intended as an end for its own sake, nor chosen as a means making towards an end, but attaches as a circumstance concomitant either to the end intended or to the means chosen. The case of a circumstance so attaching to the means chosen is the only case that we need consider here in speaking of indirect, concomitant, or incidental effects. The study of these incidents is of vast importance to the moralist. Most cases of practical difficulty to decide between right and wrong, arise out of them. They are best illustrated in the manner of killing. That one matter, well worked out, becomes a pattern for other matters in which they occur. (Ethics, c. iii., s. ii., p. 31.)
5. A man is killed indirectly, or incidentally, when he perishes in consequence of certain means employed towards a certain end, without his death being willed by the employer of those means, or in any way serving that agent to the furtherance of the end that he has in view. If a visitor to a quarry were standing on a piece of rock, which a quarryman had occasion to blast, and the man fired the train regardless of the visitor, the latter would be incidentally killed. Now incidental killing, even of the innocent, is not under all circumstances unlawful. Where the end in view is in the highest degree important, the means may be taken thereto, provided always that such an issue as the shedding of innocent blood be not itself the means discerned and elected as furthering the end: for no end however urgent can justify the employment of any evil means. (Ethics, c. iii., s. ii., nn. 3, 13, pp. 32, 36.) Suppose in the instance just given the quarryman saw that, unless that piece of rock where the visitor stood were blown up instantly, a catastrophe would happen elsewhere, which would be the death of many men, and there were no time to warn the visitor to clear off, who could blame him if he applied the explosive? The means of averting the catastrophe would be, not that visitor's death, but the blowing up of the rock. The presence or absence of the visitor, his death or escape, is all one to the end intended: it has no bearing thereon at all.
6. We must then distinguish between means and circumstances. The means help to the end, the circumstances of the means do not. When the end is of extreme urgency, circumstances may be disregarded: the means become morally divested of them. So I have seen an island in a river, a nucleus of rock with an environment of alluvial soil. While the stream was flowing placidly in its usual course, the island remained intact, both rock and earth. But when the water came rushing in a flood, which was as though the island itself had gone speeding up the river, the loose matter at its sides was carried away, and only the central rock remained. The ordinary flow of the river past the island, or the gentle motion of the island up-stream, keeping all its bulk, represents a man acting for an end to which reason attaches no great importance. He must then take a diligent review of all the circumstances that have any close connection with his action, to see if there is any that it would be wrong for him to will directly. And if there is, he must abstain from willing it even indirectly: that is, he must abstain from doing the action, which cannot be done without that objectionable circumstance attending it. On the other hand, the floating island being towed rapidly up-stream, with its loose sides falling away, portrays the condition of one acting for a purpose of imperative urgency: he considers the means to that end, and if they are good, he concentrates his will upon them and uses them, disregarding, or even deploring, but nowise willing or being responsible for, the evil concomitants which go with those means, but do not make for his end. Thus it is, that a circumstance which in ordinary cases goes to make the adoption of certain means reasonable or unreasonable, comes, in a case of great urgency, to weigh for nothing in the balance of reason, owing to the extreme and crying reasonableness of the end in view. Nor is this the end justifying the means, for that unhappy circumstance is never a means to the end. (Ethics, c. iii., s. ii., n. 8, p. 34.)
7. To illustrate by a diagram:
A, the agent, a bead on a wire, can move only on the line AE, that alone being the line of means to the end.
EV, reasonableness of end in view, attracting A.
UC, the amount of moral evil which the untoward circumstance would involve, if it were willed directly. This UC repels A, tending to jam it on the line AE, which is absolutely rigid.
AE, remoteness, difficulty, and uncertainty of the end in view.
AU, remoteness of untoward circumstance from means chosen, which A is just in the act of taking. Then, for lawful action, the reasonableness required in the end in view is represented by the variation—
We observe that when AU is zero, while UC . AE remains a finite quantity (representing an appreciable evil), then EV becomes infinite: that is to say, when the distance, difference, or distinction between the evil circumstance and the means comes down to nothing at all, and the evil thing actually is the very means taken, then an infinite urgency of end in view would be requisite to justify the using of that means: in other words, no end possible to man can ever justify an evil means.
Readings.—St. Thos., 2a 2a, q.64, art. 6; Cardinal de Lugo, De Justitia et Jure, disp. 10, n. 125.
SECTION II.—Of Killing done Indirectly in Self-defence.
1. On the question, whether it is lawful for one man to kill another in self-defence, St. Thomas writes (2a 2a, q. 64, art. 7):
"There is nothing to hinder one act having two effects, of which one only is within the intention [and election] of the doer, while the other is beside his intention [and election, that is, is neither intended as an end nor elected as a means].... From the act therefore of one defending himself a twofold effect may follow, one the preservation of his own life, the other the killing of the aggressor. Now such an act, in so far as the preservation of the doer's own life is intended, has no taint of evil about it, seeing that it is natural to everything to preserve itself in being as much as it can. Nevertheless, an act coming of a good intention may be rendered unlawful, if it be not in proportion to the end in view. And therefore, if any one uses greater violence than is necessary for the defence of his life, it will be unlawful. But if he repels the violence in a moderate way, it will be a lawful defence: for according to the Civil and Canon Laws it is allowable to repel force by force with the moderation of a blameless defence. Nor is it necessary to salvation for a man to omit the act of moderate defence in order to avoid the killing of another; because man is more bound to take thought for his own life than for the life of his neighbour. But because to kill a man is not allowable except by act of public authority for the common good, it is unlawful for a man to intend [that is, elect and choose as a means] to kill another man in order to defend himself, unless he be one who has public authority, who intending [electing] to kill a man in order to his own defence, refers this to the public good."
2. The right then of self-defence even to the shedding of blood involves a mere exercise of indirect killing for a proportionably grave cause. The cause in question is the defence of your own life, or your friend's, or of some other good or possession that can weigh with life, as the honour and inviolability of your person, or a large sum of money. This must be in present danger of being taken away otherwise than in due course of justice. The danger must be present, and even imminent, not prospective. The right of self-defence even to the grievous harming of the aggressor, endures only while the danger from him is imminent, not when it is past, or the evil is already done. The right supposes no moral obliquity, no formal injustice on the part of the aggressor: he may be a madman making for you with a drawn sword. Nay further, not even material injustice—that is, the quality of an act which would be formally unjust, if only the agent knew what he was about—is required. All that is requisite is that your life, or something equivalent to life, be threatened, not in due course of law.
3. The essential idea of self-defence is that of stopping a trespasser, one who, however innocently, is going about to trench on that good which you have a right to maintain and reserve to yourself. It is then no act of authority that you perform, but the dealing of one private person with another. Indeed, the party stopped is hardly regarded as a person: no account is taken of his demerits: he is regarded simply as an abridger and diminisher of what you have a right to preserve intact. You stop a man as you stop a horse, only with more regard to the moderation of a blameless self-defence, not using more violence than is necessary here and now to preserve what you have to preserve.
4. The stopping, unfortunately, has often to be done in a hurry: there is no time to wait: for the next moment, unless you act promptly, it will be all too late, or all to no purpose, to act at all. Being done in a hurry, it has to be done in a rough-and-ready way, with such instruments as are to hand: you cannot afford to be nice about the means, carefully purifying them, and shaking off the dust of objectionable circumstances. Now to stop a man in mid career all on a sudden, to render him powerless where he was about to strike, motionless in the direction whither he was about to go, and that in an instant, is of common necessity a rude treatment, very dangerous to him who experiences it, and under some conceivable circumstances hopelessly fatal. Still the fatality—in plain words, the death of the aggressor—is not directly willed. It is neither intended as an end, nor chosen as a means to an end. It is not welcomed as an end and desirable consummation: on the contrary, it is put up with most reluctantly as coming from your act: for you, a private individual, have no right to will and effect the death of any man, however guilty, as will be proved hereafter. It is not chosen as a means: for, formally as his death, it is no means to your end, which was the averting of all present danger to your right. For that it was enough to stop the trespasser; and you chose the means as a stopping means, not as a killing means. True, in stopping him you killed him, but you did not kill him to stop him. You struck him to stop him: that your blow was a mortal blow, was a circumstance which you did not choose and could not help. All killing then in self-defence is indirect.
5. By this explanation, resting on St. Thomas—in opposition to Cardinal de Lugo (De Just. et Jure. 10, 149) and others, who allow killing in self-defence to be the actual means chosen, and therefore directly willed—we save four grand positions in Moral Science:
(a) The axiom, that it is never lawful directly to take the life of an innocent man. For the person who perishes by occasion of your defending yourself, may be innocent formally, and even materially also.
(b) Likewise the axiom, that it is never lawful for a private individual to kill any one whatever. We say, from a technical standpoint, that he does not kill but arrests the onset of the aggressor.
(c) We are in hearty accord with the positive law of all civilized countries, which views with extreme suspicion all deaths said to be done in self-defence, the law being jealous of the blood of its citizens, and reserving the shedding thereof to itself. We teach that only by process of law can a man ever be directly slain, his death made a means of, and the person, who strikes him, really willing and seeking, exactly speaking, to kill him.
(d) The initial error is revealed of a theory that we shall have to combat at length hereafter, the theory of Hobbes and Locke, that the power of the State is the mere agglomeration of the powers of the individuals who compose it. It appears by our explanation that the individual has no power strictly to take life in any case, or ever to kill directly, as the State does when it executes a criminal.
As a fifth point gained, we may mention the efficacious argument afforded, as will presently be shown, against the acceptance of a duel under any conceivable circumstances, a thesis otherwise not easy to establish by reason.
6. In view of the question of the origin of civil government, we must carefully collect the differences between self-defence and punishment. Death occasioned in self-defence is indirect: death inflicted as punishment is direct. Punishment is an act of authority, of distributive justice, which lies from ruler to subject (Ethics, c. v., s. ix., n. 4, p. 104): self-defence is of equal against equal. Punishment is medicinal to him who suffers it, or deterrent on behalf of the community, or retributive in the way of vengeance. (Ethics, c. ix., s. iii., n. 4.) Self-defence is not on behalf of the community, still less for the good of the aggressor, but for the good of him who practises it and for the preservation of his right: neither is it retributive and retrospective, as vengeance is, but simply prospective and preventive of a harm immediately imminent. Finally, the right to punish abides day and night: but the right of self-defence holds only while instant aggression is threatened.
7. These two diverse ideas of self-defence and vengeance were confounded by the Greeks under the one verb [Greek: amunesthai]. They are confounded by Mill, On Utility, in the fifth chapter where he speaks (p. 77) of the "instinct of self-defence," which nine lines below he converts into "the natural feeling of retaliation or vengeance." It is a common but a grave mistake, and the parent of much bad philosophy.
Reading.—St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 64, art. 7.
SECTION III.—Of Suicide.
1. By suicide we shall here understand the direct compassing of one's own death, which is an act never lawful. There is no difficulty in seeing the unlawfulness of suicide for ordinary cases. The world could not go on, if men were to kill themselves upon every slight disappointment. But neither are they likely so to do. It is the hard cases, where men are apt to lay violent hands on themselves, that put the moralist on his mettle to restrain them by reasons. Why should not the solitary invalid destroy himself, he whose life has become a hopeless torture, and whose death none would mourn? Why should not a voluntary death be sought as an escape from temptation and from imminent sin? Why should not the first victims of a dire contagion acquiesce in being slaughtered like cattle? Or if it be deemed perilous to commit the departure from life to each one's private whim and fancy, why not have the thing licensed under certificate of three clergymen and four doctors, who could testify that it is done on good grounds?
2. To all these questions there is one good answer returned by Paley on the principle of General Consequences. (Ethics, c. x., n. 3, p. 178.)
"The true question of this argument is no other than this: May every man who chooses to destroy his life, innocently do so? Limit and distinguish the subject as you can, it will come at last to this question. For, shall we say that we are then at liberty to commit suicide, when we find our continuance in life becomes useless to mankind? Any one who pleases, may make himself useless; and melancholy minds are prone to think themselves useless when they really are not so.... In like manner, whatever other rule you assign, it will ultimately bring us to an indiscriminate toleration of suicide, in all cases in which there is danger of its being committed. It remains, therefore, to enquire what would be the effect of such a toleration: evidently, the loss of many lives to the community, of which some might be useful or important; the affliction of many families, and the consternation of all: for mankind must live in continual alarm for the fate of their friends, when every disgust which is powerful enough to tempt men to suicide, shall be deemed sufficient to justify it." (Moral Philosophy, bk. iv., c. iii.)
A word in confirmation of Paley on the plan of the medico-clerical certificate. There would be doctors, and I fear clergymen too, who would get a name for giving these certificates easily: under their hand many a patient might be smothered by his attendants with or without his own consent. Many another wretch would consider, that if the learned and reverend gentlemen empowered to license his departure from life only felt what he had to endure, there would be no difficulty about the certificate: so he would depart on presumed leave. The whole effect would be to make men less tender of their own lives, and by consequence of those of others, to the vast unsettling of society.
3. An argument from general consequences, however, does not go down into the depths of things. There is always something morally crooked and inordinate in an action itself, the general consequences whereof are bad. It remains to point out the moral crookedness, inordination, and unreasonableness, that is intrinsic to the act of suicide, apart from its consequences. We find the inordination in this, that suicide is an act falling upon undue matter, being an act destructive of that which the agent has power over only to preserve. It is natural to every being, animate and inanimate, to the full extent of its entity and power, to maintain itself, and to resist destruction as long as it can. This is the struggle for existence, one of the primary laws of nature. Man has intelligence and power over himself, that he may conduct his own struggle well and wisely. He may struggle more or less, as he sees expedient, looking to higher goods even than self-preservation in this mortal life: but he may not take that power of managing himself, which nature invests him with for his preservation, and use it to his own destruction. Should he do so, he perverts the natural order of his own being, and thereby sins. (Ethics, c. vi., s. i., nn. 1-5, p. 109.)
4. It may be objected, that man is only bound to self-preservation so long as life is a blessing; that, when the scale of death far outweighs that of life in desirableness, it is cruelty to himself to preserve his life any longer, and a kindness to himself to destroy it; that in such a plight, accordingly, it is not unnatural for a man to put himself, not so much out of life as out of misery. To this argument it is sometimes answered that, whereas death is the greatest of evils, it is foolish and wicked to resort to dying as a refuge against any other calamity. But this answer proves too much. It would show that it is never lawful even to wish for death: whereas under many conditions, such as those now under consideration, death is a consummation devoutly to be wished, and may be most piously desired, as a gain and by comparison a good: as Ecclesiasticus says (xxx. 17): "Better is death than a bitter life, and everlasting rest than continual sickness." The truth seems to be, that there are many things highly good and desirable in themselves, which become evil when compassed in a particular way. The death of a great tyrant or persecutor may be a blessing to the universe, but his death by the hand of an assassin is an intolerable evil. So is death, as the schoolmen say, in facto esse, and everlasting rest, better than a bitter life, but not death in fieri, when that means dying by your own hand. There the unnaturalness comes in and the irrationality. A mother, watching the death agony of her son, may piously wish it over: but it were an unmotherly act to lay her own hand on his mouth and smother him. To lay violent hands on oneself is abidingly cruel and unnatural, more so than if the suicide's own mother slew him.
5. But though a man may not use actual violence against his own person, may he not perhaps cease to preserve himself, abstain from food, as the Roman noble did, in the tortures of the gout, and by abstaining end them? I answer, a man's taking food periodically is as much part of his life as the coursing of the blood in his veins. It is doing himself no less violence to refuse food ready to hand, when he is starving, on purpose that he may starve, than to open a vein on purpose to bleed to death. This, when the food is readily accessible: the case is otherwise when it is not procurable except by extraordinary means.
6. Another consideration. To destroy a thing is the exclusive right of the owner and master of the same. If therefore man is his own master, in the sense that no one else can claim dominion over him, may he not accordingly destroy himself? The metaphysician will point out that master denotes a relation, that every relation has two terms, that consequently a man cannot be his own master any more than he can be his own father; and that, not owning himself, he may not destroy himself. But, leaving this metaphysical argument for what it is worth, we observe that man has a Master, Owner, Proprietor, and Sovereign Lord, God Almighty. To take your own life is to usurp the dominion of God. It is wronging the Lord of life and death. But none is wronged against his will: God is willing that murderers should be hung, may He not also be willing that men in misery should hang themselves? To this query suffice it for the present to reply, that God governs us for our good; and that capital punishment makes for the good of the community, but never suicide. (c. viii., s. viii., n. 7, p. 349.)
7. It was the doctrine of Aristotle and the Greeks, that the citizen belongs to the State, and that therefore suicide was robbing the State and doing it a formal injury. But no modern State takes this view of its subjects. No modern mind would place suicide in the same category of crime with robbing the Exchequer.
8. The great deterrent against suicide, in cases where misery meets with recklessness, is the thought,
In that sleep of death what dreams may come!—
above all, the fear of being confronted with an angry God. Away from belief in God's judgments and a future state, our arguments against suicide may be good logic, but they make poor rhetoric for those who need them most. Men are wonderfully imitative in killing themselves. Once the practice is come in vogue, it becomes a rage, an epidemic. Atheism and Materialism form the best nidus for the contagion of suicide. It is a shrewd remark of Madame de Stael: "Though there are crimes of a darker hue than suicide, yet there is none other by which man seems so entirely to renounce the protection of God."
Readings.—Ar., Eth., III., vii., 13; ib., V., xi., nn. 1-3; St. Thos., 2a 2a, q. 64, art. 5; St. Aug., De Civitate Dei, i., cc. 26, 27; Paley, Mor. Phil., bk. iv., c. iii.
SECTION IV.—Of Duelling.
1. A duel may be defined: A meeting of two parties by private agreement to fight with weapons in themselves deadly. The meeting must be by agreement: a chance meeting of Montagues and Capulets, where the parties improvise a fight on the spot is not a duel. The agreement must be private; anything arranged by public authority, as the encounter of David with Goliath, that in the legend of the Horatii and Curiatii, or the wager of battle in the Middle Ages is not a duel. It is enough that the weapons be in themselves deadly, as swords or pistols, though there be an express stipulation not to kill: but a pre-arranged encounter with fists, with foils with buttons on, or even perhaps with crab-sticks, is not a duel.
2. The hard case in duelling is the case of him who receives the challenge. Let us make the case as hard as possible. In a certain army, every challenge sent to an officer is reported to a Court of Honour. If the Court decide that it ought to be accepted, accept the officer must, or lose his commission and all hope of military distinction. In this army, say, there is an officer of high promise who is believed to object to duels on conscientious grounds. An enemy pretends to have been insulted, and challenges him, on purpose to see him refuse and have to go down into the ranks, his career spoilt. The Court of Honour rules that the duel must come off. Of this very case, Reiffenstuel, a canonist of repute, about the year 1700, writes:
"The answer is, ... that they who in such cases are so necessitated and constrained to offer, or accept, a duel, as that unless they offered, or accepted it, they would be held cowardly, craven, mean, and unfit to bear office in the army, and consequently would be deprived of the office that they actually enjoy, and support themselves and their family by, or would for ever forfeit all hope of promotion, otherwise their due and desert,—these I say in such a case are free from all fault and penalty, whether they offer or accept a duel." (In lib. v. decret., tit. 14, nn. 30, 31.)
The author protests in his Preface that he wishes his opinions "all and each to be subject to the judgment, censure, and correction of the Holy Catholic Church." The opinion above quoted was condemned, word for word as it was uttered, by Pope Benedict XIV. in 1752.
Now for Reiffenstuel's reason. "The reason," he says, "is, because in such a case as is supposed the acceptance and offering of a duel is an absolutely necessary, and thereby a just and lawful, defence of your reputation, or goods of fortune, and, by equivalence, even of your life, against an unjust aggressor, who we suppose does you an injury, and thereby gives you no choice but to call him out, or calls you out, and accordingly assails you in words, &c. Hence, as for the needful defence of reputation, or of goods of fortune of great consequence, it is lawful, with the moderation of a blameless defence, to kill an unjust aggressor, so it will be also lawful to offer and accept a duel, and therein slay the other party." Reiffenstuel here evidently supposes that killing done in self-defence is direct. Those who agree with him on that point, proceed to draw differences between self-defence and accepting a challenge. Of course the two are not the same. The true difficulty for them lies in making out how the reasons which justify self-defence in their view of it, do not also justify the acceptance of a duel: how, if I may make another man's death a means to the preservation of my vital right, I may not as well make another man's risk of death and my own, which is all that a duel amounts to, also a means, none other being at hand, to the preserving of my no less vital right. This grave objection does not touch us. We have denied that killing in self-defence is direct. On the lines of that denial we meet Reiffenstuel's argument simply as follows.
3. In self-defence, the aggressor is slain indirectly. In a duel, not indeed the death itself, or mutual slaughter of the combatants, is directly willed, but the risk of mutual slaughter is directly willed. But we may not directly will the risk of that which we may not directly do. And the combatants may not directly do themselves or one another to death. Therefore they may not directly risk each his own and his antagonist's life. But this risk is of the essence of a duel. Therefore duelling is essentially unlawful.
4. Such is the clenched fist, so to speak, of our argument. Now to open it out, and prove in detail the several members. In self-defence, neither the death of the aggressor nor the risk of his death is directly willed, whereas the risk of death is directly willed in a duel, which difference entirely bars the argument from self-defence to duelling. For a duel is a means of recovering and preserving honour, which is effected by a display of fortitude, which again consists in exposing yourself to the risk of being killed, and, as part of the bargain, of killing the other man. The risk to life is of the essence of a duel: it only attains its end—of establishing a man's character for courage—by being dangerous to life. Fortitude essentially consists in braving death. (Ethics, c. v., s. viii., n. 1, p. 94.) Deadly weapons, chosen because they are deadly and involve a risk of life in fighting with such arms, are the apt and express means for showing readiness to brave death. If the weapons were not deadly, there would be no point in the duel. As a matter of fact, where our definition of duel is verified, and weapons in themselves deadly are used, the encounter cannot be other than dangerous, especially between foes and where the blood is up. In the French army, where the regimental fencing-master stands by, sword in hand, ready to parry any too dangerous thrust, serious results still have occurred. If any man will have it that short smooth-bore pistols at forty paces in a fog are not to be counted dangerous weapons, all we can say is that MM. Gambetta and De Fourton, the one being nearly blind, and the other having lost an eye, did not fight a duel. In a duel then the danger of being killed and of killing is directly willed; it is the precise means chosen to the end in view.