ETHICS, DEONTOLOGY AND NATURAL LAW.
BY JOSEPH RICKABY, S.J.
Nihil Obstat: JOSEPHUS KEATING, S.J. Censor deputatus
Imprimi potest: JOANNES H. WRIGHT, S.J. Prap. Prov. Anglia
Nihil Obstat: C. SCHUT, D.D. Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: EDM. CAN. SURMONT Vie. Gen.
For fifteen years this Manual has enjoyed all the popularity that its author could desire. With that popularity the author is the last person to wish to interfere. Therefore, not to throw previous copies out of use, this edition makes no alteration either in the pagination or the text already printed. At the same time the author might well be argued to have lapsed into strange supineness and indifference to moral science, if in fifteen years he had learnt nothing new, and found nothing in his work which he wished to improve. Whoever will be at the expense of purchasing my Political and Moral Essays (Benziger, 1902, 6s.) will find in the first essay on the Origin and Extent of Civil Authority an advantageous substitute for the chapter on the State in this work. The essay is a dissertation written for the degree of B. Sc. in the University of Oxford; and represents, I hope, tolerably well the best contemporary teaching on the subject.
If the present work had to be rewritten, I should make a triple division of Moral Philosophy, into Ethics, Deontology (the science of [Greek: to deon], i.e., of what ought to be done), and Natural Law. For if "the principal business of Ethics is to determine what moral obligation is" (p. 2), then the classical work on the subject, the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, is as the play of Hamlet with the character of Hamlet left out: for in that work there is no analysis of moral obligation, no attempt to "fix the comprehension of the idea I ought" (ib.). The system there exposed is a system of Eudaemonism, not of Deontology. It is not a treatise on Duty, but on Happiness: it tells us what Happiness, or rational well-being, is, and what conduct is conducive to rational well-being. It may be found convenient to follow Aristotle, and avow that the business of Ethics is not Duty, not Obligation, not Law, not Sanction, but Happiness. That fiery little word ought goes unexplained in Ethics, except in an hypothetical sense, that a man ought to do this, and avoid that, if he means to be a happy man: cf. p. 115. Any man who declares that he does not care about ethical or rational happiness, stands to Ethics as that man stands to Music who "hath no ear for concord of sweet sounds."
All that Ethics or Music can do for such a Philistine is to "send him away to another city, pouring ointment on his head, and crowning him with wool," as Plato would dismiss the tragedian (Republic III. 398). The author of the Magna Moralia well says (I. i. 13): "No science or faculty ever argues the goodness of the end which it proposes to itself: it belongs to some other faculty to consider that. Neither the physician says that health is a good thing, nor the builder that a house is a good thing: but the one announces that he produces health and how he produces it, and the builder in like manner a house." The professor of Ethics indeed, from the very nature of his subject-matter, says in pointing out happiness that it is the rational sovereign good of man: but to any one unmoved by that demonstration Ethics can have no more to say. Ethics will not threaten, nor talk of duty, law, or punishment.
Ethics, thus strictly considered on an Aristotelian basis, are antecedent to Natural Theology. They belong rather to Natural Anthropology: they are a study of human nature. But as human nature points to God, so Ethics are not wholly irrespective of God, considering Him as the object of human happiness and worship,—the Supreme Being without whom all the aspirations of humanity are at fault (pp. 13-26, 191-197). Ethics do not refer to the commandments of God, for this simple reason, that they have nothing to say to commandments, or laws, or obligation, or authority. They are simply a system of moral hygiene, which a man may adopt or not: only, like any other physician, the professor of Ethics utters a friendly warning that misery must ensue upon the neglect of what makes for health.
Deontology, not Ethics, expounds and vindicates the idea, I ought. It is the science of Duty. It carries the mild suasions of Ethics into laws, and out of moral prudence it creates conscience. And whereas Ethics do not deal with sin, except under the aspect of what is called "philosophical sin" (p. 119, S 6), Deontology defines sin in its proper theological sense, as "an offence against God, or any thought, word, or deed against the law of God." Deontology therefore presupposes and is consequent upon Natural Theology. At the same time, while Ethics indicate a valuable proof of the existence of God as the requisite Object of Happiness, Deontology affords a proof of Him as the requisite Lawgiver. Without God, man's rational desire is frustrate, and man's conscience a misrepresentation of fact. [Footnote 1]
[Footnote 1: This is Cardinal Newman's proof of the existence of God from Conscience: see pp. 124, 125, and Grammar of Assent, pp. 104-111, ed. 1895. With Newman's, "Conscience has both a critical and a judicial office," compare Plato, Politicus, 260 B, [Greek: sumpasaes taes gnostikaes to men epitaktikon meros, to de kritikon]. The "critical" office belongs to Ethics: the "judicial," or "preceptive" office [Greek: to epitaktikon] to Deontology; and this latter points to a Person who commands and judges, that is, to God.]
In this volume, pp. 1-108 make up the treatise on Ethics: pp. 109-176 that on Deontology.
Aristotle writes: "He that acts by intelligence and cultivates understanding, is likely to be best disposed and dearest to God. For if, as is thought, there is any care of human things on the part of the heavenly powers, we may reasonably expect them to delight in that which is best and most akin to themselves, that is, in intelligence, and to make a return of good to such as supremely love and honour intelligence, as cultivating the thing dearest to Heaven, and so behaving rightly and well. Such, plainly, is the behaviour of the wise. The wise man therefore is the dearest to God" (Nic. Eth. X. ix. 13). But Aristotle does not work out the connexion between God and His law on the one hand and human conscience and duty on the other. In that direction the Stoics, and after them the Roman Jurists, went further than Aristotle. By reason of this deficiency, Aristotle, peerless as he is in Ethics, remains an imperfect Moral Philosopher.
PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION (1918)
1. I have altered the opening pages in accordance with the Preface to the edition of 1905.
2. I have added a paragraph on Syndicalism (pp. 291-2).
3. Also a new Table of Addenda et Corrigenda, and a new Index.
The quotations from St. Thomas may be read in English, nearly all of them, in the Author's Aquinas Ethicus, 2 vols.; 12s. (Burns and Oates.)
CHAPTER I.—OF THE OBJECT-MATTER AND PARTITION OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY.
CHAPTER II.—OF HAPPINESS. Section I.—Of Ends. Section II.—Definition of Happiness. Section III.—Happiness open to Man. Section IV.—Of the Object of Perfect Happiness. Section V.—Of the use of the present life.
CHAPTER III.—OF HUMAN ACTS. Section I.—What makes a human act less voluntary. Section II.—Of the determinants of Morality in any given action.
CHAPTER IV.—OF PASSIONS. Section I.—Of Passions in general. Section II.—Of Desire. Section III.—Of Delight. Section IV.—Of Anger.
CHAPTER V.—OF HABITS AND VIRTUES. Section I.—Of Habit. Section II.—Of Virtues in general. Section III.—Of the difference between Virtues, Intellectual and Moral. Section IV.—Of the Mean in Moral Virtue. Section V.—Of Cardinal Virtues. Section VI.—Of Prudence. Section VII.—Of Temperance. Section VIII.—Of Fortitude. Section IX.—Of Justice.
CHAPTER I. (VI.)—OF THE ORIGIN OF MORAL OBLIGATION. Section I.—Of the natural difference between Good and Evil. Section II.—How Good becomes bounden Duty, and Evil is advanced to sin.
CHAPTER II. (VII.)—OF THE ETERNAL LAW.
CHAPTER III. (VIII.)—OF THE NATURAL LAW OF CONSCIENCE. Section I.—Of the Origin of Primary Moral Judgments. Section II.—Of the invariability of Primary Moral Judgments. Section III.—Of the immutability of the Natural Law. Section IV.—Of Probabilism.
CHAPTER IV. (IX.)—OF THE SANCTION OF THE NATURAL LAW. Section I.—Of a Twofold Sanction, Natural and Divine. Section II.—Of the Finality of the aforesaid Sanction. Section III.—Of Punishment, Retrospective and Retributive.
CHAPTER V. (X.)—OF UTILITARIANISM.
PART III.—NATURAL LAW.
CHAPTER I.—OF DUTIES TO GOD. Section I.—Of the Worship of God. Section II.—Of Superstitious Practices. Section III.—Of the duty of knowing God.
CHAPTER II.—OF THE DUTY OF PRESERVING LIFE. Section I.—Of Killing, Direct and Indirect. Section II.—Of Killing done Indirectly in Self-defence. Section III.—Of Suicide. Section IV.—Of Duelling.
CHAPTER III.—OF SPEAKING THE TRUTH. Section I.—Of the definition of a Lie. Section II.—Of the Evil of Lying. Section III.—Of the keeping of Secrets without Lying.
CHAPTER IV.—OF CHARITY.
CHAPTER V.—OF RIGHTS. Section I.—Of the definition and division of Rights. Section II.—Of the so-called Rights of Animals. Section III.—Of the right to Honour and Reputation. Section IV.—Of Contracts. Section V.—Of Usury.
CHAPTER VI.—OF MARRIAGE. Section I.—Of the Institution of Marriage. Section II.—Of the Unity of Marriage. Section III.—Of the Indissolubility of Marriage.
CHAPTER VII.—OF PROPERTY. Section I.—Of Private Property. Section II.—Of Private Capital. Section III.—Of Landed Property.
CHAPTER VIII.—OF THE STATE. Section I.—Of the Monstrosities called Leviathan and Social Contract. Section II.—Of the theory that Civil Power is an aggregate formed by subscription of the powers of individuals. Section III.—Of the true state of Nature, which is the state of civil society, and consequently of the Divine origin of Power. Section IV.—Of the variety of Polities. Section V.—Of the Divine Right of Kings and the Inalienable Sovereignty of the People. Section VI.—Of the Elementary and Original Polity. Section VII.—Of Resistance to Civil Power. Section VIII.—Of the Right of the Sword. Section IX.—Of War. Section X.—Of the Scope and Aim of Civil Government. Section XI.—Of Law and Liberty. Section XII.—Of Liberty of Opinion.
ADDENDA ET CORRIGENDA
p. 31. Aristotle calls the end [Greek: to telos]; the means, [Greek: ta pros to telos] (St. Thomas, ea quae sunt ad finem); the circumstances, [Greek: ta ein ois hae praxis].
Observe, both end and means are willed directly, but the circumstances indirectly.
The end is intended, [Greek: boulaeton]; the means are chosen, [Greek: proaireton]; the circumstances are simply permitted, [Greek: anekton], rightly or wrongly. The intention of the end is called by English philosophers the motive; while the choice of means they call the intention, an unfortunate terminology.
p. 42, S. 3. "As the wax takes all shapes, and yet is wax still at the bottom; the [Greek: spokeimenon] still is wax; so the soul transported in so many several passions of joy, fear, hope, sorrow, anger, and the rest, has for its general groundwork of all this, Love." (Henry More, quoted in Carey's Dante, Purgatorio, c. xviii.) Hence, says Carey, Love does not figure in Collins's Ode on the Passions.
p. 43. For daring read recklessness.
p. 44. Plato is a thorough Stoic when he says (Phaedo 83) that every pleasure and pain comes with a nail to pin down the soul to the body and make it corporeal. His Stoicism appears in his denunciation of the drama (Republic, x. 604).
p. 47, S. 8. The first chapter of Mill's Autobiography, pp. 48-53, 133-149, supplies an instance.
p. 49, S. I, 1. 2, for physical read psychical.
P. 52. S. 5. This serving, in [Greek: douleuein], St. Ignatius calls "inordinate attachment," the modern form of idolatry. Cf. Romans vi. 16-22.
p. 79. For spoiled read spoilt.
p. 84, foot. For ways read way.
p. 85, 1. 6 from foot. Substitute: ([Greek: b]) to restrain the said appetite in its irascible part from shrinking from danger.
p. 94, middle. For others read other.
p. 95. For Daring read Recklessness.
p. 103, middle. Substitute, "neither evening star nor morning star is so wonderful."
p. 106, S. 6. Aristotle speaks of "corrective," not of "commutative" justice. On the Aristotelian division of justice see Political and Moral Essays (P. M. E.), pp. 285-6.
p. 111, S. 4. The static equivalent of the dynamic idea, of orderly development is that the eternal harmonies and fitnesses of things, by observance or neglect whereof a man comes to be in or out of harmony with himself, with his fellows, with God.
p. 133. To the Readings add Plato Laws, ix, 875, A, B, C, D.
p. 151. Rewrite the Note thus: The author has seen reason somewhat to modify this view, as appears by the Appendix. See P.M.E. pp. 185-9: Fowler's Progressive Morality, or Fowler and Wilson's Principles of Morals, pp. 227-248.
p. 181, 1. ii from top. Add, This is "the law of our nature, that function is primary, and pleasure only attendant" (Stewart, Notes on Nicomathean Ethics, II. 418).
p. 218, lines 13-16 from top, cancel the sentence, To this query, etc., and substitute: The reply is, that God is never willing that man should do an inordinate act; but suicide is an inordinate act, as has been shown; capital punishment is not (c. viii. s. viii. n. 7, p. 349).
p. 237. For The Month for March, 1883, read P.M.E., pp. 215-233.
p. 251. To the Reading add P.M.E., pp. 267-283.
p. 297, l.6 from foot. After simply evil add: Hobbes allows that human reason lays down certain good rules, "laws of nature" which however it cannot get kept. For Hobbes and Rousseau see further P.M.E., pp. 81-90.
p. 319, middle. Cancel the words: but the sum total of civil power is a constant quantity, the same for all States.
pp. 322-3. Cancel S. 7 for reasons alleged in P.M.E., pp. 50-72. Substitute: States are living organizations and grow, and their powers vary with the stage of their development.
p. 323, S 8. For This seems at variance with, read This brings us to consider.
p. 338. To the Readings add P.M.E., pp. 102-113.
p. 347, middle. Cancel from one of these prerogatives to the end of the sentence. Substitute: of every polity even in the most infantine condition.
* * * * *
PART I. ETHICS.
OF THE OBJECT-MATTER AND PARTITION OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY.
1. Moral Philosophy is the science of human acts in their bearing on human happiness and human duty.
2. Those acts alone are properly called human, which a man is master of to do or not to do. A human act, then, is an act voluntary and free. A man is what his human acts make him.
3. A voluntary act is an act that proceeds from the will with a knowledge of the end to which the act tends.
4. A free act is an act which so proceeds from the will that under the same antecedent conditions it might have not proceeded.
An act may be more or less voluntary, and more or less free.
5. Moral Philosophy is divided into Ethics, Deontology, and Natural Law. Ethics consider human acts in their bearing on human happiness; or, what is the same thing, in their agreement or disagreement with man's rational nature, and their making for or against his last end. Deontology is the study of moral obligation, or the fixing of what logicians call the comprehension of the idea I ought. Ethics deal with [Greek: to prepon], "the becoming"; Deontology with [Greek: to deon], "the obligatory". Deontology is the science of Duty, as such. Natural Law (antecedent to Positive Law, whether divine or human, civil or ecclesiastical, national or international) determines duties in detail,—the extension of the idea I ought,—and thus is the foundation of Casuistry.
6. In the order of sciences, Ethics are antecedent to Natural Theology; Deontology, consequent upon it.
Readings.—St. Thos., in Eth., I., lect. 1, init.; ib., 1a 2a, q. 1, art. 1, in corp.; ib., q. 58, art. 1, in corp.
SECTION I.—Of Ends.
1. Every human act is done for some end or purpose. The end is always regarded by the agent in the light of something good. If evil be done, it is done as leading to good, or as bound up with good, or as itself being good for the doer under the circumstances; no man ever does evil for sheer evil's sake. Yet evil may be the object of the will, not by itself, nor primarily, but in a secondary way, as bound up with the good that is willed in the first place.
2. Many things willed are neither good nor evil in themselves. There is no motive for doing them except in so far as they lead to some good beyond themselves, or to deliverance from some evil, which deliverance counts as a good. A thing is willed, then, either as being good in itself and an end by itself, or as leading to some good end. Once a thing not good and desirable by itself has been taken up by the will as leading to good, it may be taken up again and again without reference to its tendency. But such a thing was not originally taken up except in view of good to come of it. We may will one thing as leading to another, and that to a third, and so on; thus one wills study for learning, learning for examination purposes, examination for a commission in the army, and the commission for glory. That end in which the will rests, willing it for itself without reference to anything beyond, is called the last end.
3. An end is either objective or subjective. The objective end is the thing wished for, as it exists distinct from the person who wishes it. The subjective end is the possession of the objective end. That possession is a fact of the wisher's own being. Thus money may be an objective end: the corresponding subjective end is being wealthy.
4. Is there one subjective last end to all the human acts of a given individual? Is there one supreme motive for all that this or that man deliberately does? At first sight it seems that there is not. The same individual will act now for glory, now for lucre, now for love. But all these different ends are reducible to one, that it may be well with him and his. And what is true of one man here, is true of all. All the human acts of all men are done for the one (subjective) last end just indicated. This end is called happiness.
5. Men place their happiness in most different things; some in eating and drinking, some in the heaping up of money, some in gambling, some in political power, some in the gratification of affection, some in reputation of one sort or another. But each one seeks his own speciality because he thinks that he shall be happy, that it will be well with him, when he has attained that. All men, then, do all things for happiness, though not all place their happiness in the same thing.
6. Just as when one goes on a journey, he need not think of his destination at every step of his way, and yet all his steps are directed towards his destination: so men do not think of happiness in all they do, and yet all they do is referred to happiness. Tell a traveller that this is the wrong way to his destination, he will avoid it; convince a man that this act will not be well for him, will not further his happiness, and, while he keeps that conviction principally before his eyes, he will not do the act. But as a man who began to travel on business, may come to make travelling itself a business, and travel for the sake of going about; so in all cases there is a tendency to elevate into an end that which was, to start with, only valued as a means to an end. So the means of happiness, by being habitually pursued, come to be a part of happiness. Habit is a second nature, and we indulge a habit as we gratify nature. This tendency works itself to an evil extreme in cases where men are become the slaves of habit, and do a thing because they are got into the way of doing it, though they allow that it is a sad and sorry way, and leads them wide of true happiness. These instances show perversion of the normal operation of the will.
Readings.—St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 1, art. 4, in corp.; ib., q. 1, art. 6, 7; ib., q. 5, art. 8; Ar., Eth., I., vii., 4, 5.
SECTION II.—Definition of Happiness.
1. Though all men do all things, in the last resort, that it may be well with them and theirs, that is, for happiness vaguely apprehended, yet when they come to specify what happiness is, answers so various are given and acted upon, that we might be tempted to conclude that each man is the measure of his own happiness, and that no standard of happiness for all can be defined. But it is not so. Man is not the measure of his own happiness, any more than of his own health. The diet that he takes to be healthy, may prove his poison; and where he looks for happiness, he may find the extreme of wretchedness and woe. For man must live up to his nature, to his bodily constitution, to be a healthy man; and to his whole nature, but especially to his mental and moral constitution, if he is to be a happy man. And nature, though it admits of individual peculiarities, is specifically the same for all. There will, then, be one definition of happiness for all men, specifically as such.
2. Happiness is an act, not a state. That is to say, the happiness of man does not lie in his having something done to him, nor in his being habitually able to do something, but in his actually doing something. "To be up and doing," that is happiness,—[Greek: en to zaen kai energein]. (Ar., Eth., IX., ix., 5.) This is proved from the consideration that happiness is the crown and perfection of human nature; but the perfection of a thing lies in its ultimate act, or "second act," that is, in its not merely being able to act, but acting. But action is of two sorts. One proceeds from the agent to some outward matter, as cutting and burning. This action cannot be happiness, for it does not perfect the agent, but rather the patient. There is another sort of act immanent in the agent himself, as feeling, understanding, and willing: these perfect the agent. Happiness will be found to be one of these immanent acts. Furthermore, there is action full of movement and change, and there is an act done in stillness and rest. The latter, as will presently appear, is happiness; and partly for this reason, and partly to denote the exclusion of care and trouble, happiness is often spoken of as a rest. It is also called a state, because one of the elements of happiness is permanence. How the act of happiness can be permanent, will appear hereafter.
3. Happiness is an act in discharge of the function proper to man, as man. There is a function proper to the eye, to the ear, to the various organs of the human body: there must be a function proper to man as such. That can be none of the functions of the vegetative life, nor of the mere animal life within him. Man is not happy by doing what a rose-bush can do, digest and assimilate its food: nor by doing what a horse does, having sensations pleasurable and painful, and muscular feelings. Man is happy by doing what man alone can do in this world, that is, acting by reason and understanding. Now the human will acting by reason may do three things. It may regulate the passions, notably desire and fear: the outcome will be the moral virtues of temperance and fortitude. It may direct the understanding, and ultimately the members of the body, in order to the production of some practical result in the external world, as a bridge. Lastly, it may direct the understanding to speculate and think, contemplate and consider, for mere contemplation's sake. Happiness must take one or other of these three lanes.
4. First, then, happiness is not the practice of the moral virtues of temperance and fortitude. Temperance makes a man strong against the temptations to irrationality and swinishness that come of the bodily appetites. But happiness lies, not in deliverance from what would degrade man to the level of the brutes, but in something which shall raise man to the highest level of human nature. Fortitude, again, is not exercised except in the hour of danger; but happiness lies in an environment of security, not of danger. And in general, the moral virtues can be exercised only upon occasions, as they come and go; but happiness is the light of the soul, that must burn with steady flame and uninterrupted act, and not be dependent on chance occurrences.
5. Secondly, happiness is not the use of the practical understanding with a view to production. Happiness is an end in itself, a terminus beyond which the act of the will can go no further; but this use of the understanding is in view of an ulterior end, the thing to be produced. That product is either useful or artistic; if useful, it ministers to some further end still; if artistic, it ministers to contemplation. Happiness, indeed, is no exercise of the practical understanding whatever. The noblest exercises of practical understanding are for military purposes and for statesmanship. But war surely is not an end in itself to any right-minded man. Statecraft, too, has an end before it, the happiness of the people. It is a labour in view of happiness. We must follow down the third lane, and say:
6. Happiness is the act of the speculative understanding contemplating for contemplation's sake. This act has all the marks of happiness. It is the highest act of man's highest power. It is the most capable of continuance. It is fraught with pleasure, purest and highest in quality. It is of all acts the most self-sufficient and independent of environment, provided the object be to the mind's eye visible. It is welcome for its own sake, not as leading to any further good. It is a life of ease and leisure: man is busy that he may come to ease.
7. Aristotle says of this life of continued active contemplation:
"Such a life will be too good for man; for not as he is man will he so live, but inasmuch as there is a divine element in his composition. As much as this element excels the compound into which it enters, so much does the act of the said element excel any act in any other line of virtue. If, then, the understanding is divine in comparison with man, the life of the understanding is divine in comparison with human life. We must not take the advice of those who tell us, that being man, one should cherish the thoughts of a man, or being mortal, the thoughts of a mortal, but so far as in us lies, we must play the immortal [Greek: athanatizein], and do all in our power to live by the best element in our nature: for though that element be slight in quantity, in power and in value it far outweighs all the rest of our being. A man may well be reckoned to be that which is the ruling power and the better part in him. . . . What is proper to each creature by nature, is best and sweetest for each: such, then, is for man the life of the understanding, if the understanding preeminently is man." (Ar., Eth., X., vii., 8, 9.)
8. But if happiness is an act in discharge of the function proper to man as man (n. 3), how can it be happiness to lead a life which Aristotle says is too good for man? The solution of this paradox is partly contained in the concluding words of Aristotle above quoted, and will still further appear presently (s. iv., n. I, p. 21), where we shall argue that human life is a state of transition in preparation for a higher life of the soul, to be lived, according to the natural order, when the compound of soul and body would no longer exist.
9. The act of contemplation, in which happiness consists, must rest upon a habit of contemplation, which is intellectual virtue. An act, to be perfection and happiness, must be done easily, sweetly, and constantly. But no act of the intellect can be so done, unless it rests upon a corresponding habit. If the habit has not been acquired, the act will be done fitfully, at random, and against the grain, like the music of an untrained singer, or the composition of a schoolboy. Painful study is not happiness, nor is any studied act. Happiness is the play of a mind that is, if not master of, yet at home with its subject. As the intellect is man's best and noblest power, so is intellectual virtue, absolutely speaking, the best virtue of man.
10. The use of the speculative understanding is discernible in many things to which even the common crowd turn for happiness, as news of that which is of little or no practical concern to self, sight-seeing, theatre-going, novels, poetry, art, scenery, as well as speculative science and high literature. A certain speculative interest is mixed up with all practical work: the mind lingers on the speculation apart from the end in view.
11. The act of contemplation cannot be steadily carried on, as is necessary to happiness, except in the midst of easy surroundings. Human nature is not self-sufficient for the work of contemplation. There is need of health and vigour, and the means of maintaining it, food, warmth, interesting objects around you, leisure, absence of distracting care or pain. None would call a man happy upon the rack, except by way of maintaining a thesis. The happiness of a disembodied spirit is of course independent of bodily conditions, but it would appear that there are conditions of environment requisite for even a spirit's contemplation.
12. Happiness must endure to length of days. Happiness is the perfect good of man. But no good is perfect that will not last. One swallow does not make a summer, nor does one fine day: neither is man made blessed and happy by one day, nor by a brief time. The human mind lighting upon good soon asks the question, Will this last? If the answer is negative, the good is not a complete good and there is no complete happiness coming of it. If the answer is affirmative and false, once more that is not a perfect happiness that rests on a delusion. The supreme good of a rational being is not found in a fool's paradise. We want an answer affirmative and true: This happiness shall last.
13. We now sum up and formulate the definition of happiness as follows: _Happiness is a bringing of the soul to act according to the habit of the best and most perfect virtue, that is, the virtue of the speculative intellect, borne out by easy surroundings, and enduring to length of days—[Greek: energeia psychaes kat aretaen taen aristaen kai teleiotataen en biph teleio.] (Ar., _Eth._, I., vii., 15, 16.)
14. Man is made for society. His happiness must be in society, a social happiness, no lonely contemplation. He must be happy in the consciousness of his own intellectual act, and happy in the discernment of the good that is in those around him, whom he loves. Friends and dear ones are no small part of those easy surroundings that are the condition of happiness.
15. Happiness—final, perfect happiness—is not in fighting and struggling, in so far as a struggle supposes evil present and imminent; nor in benevolence, so far as that is founded upon misery needing relief. We fight for the conquest and suppression of evil; we are benevolent for the healing of misery. But it will be happiness, in the limit, as mathematicians speak, to wish well to all in a society where it is well with all, and to struggle with truth for its own sake, ever grasping, never mastering, as Jacob wrestled with God.
Readings.—Ar., Eth., I., vii. viii., 5 to end; I., x., 8 to end; I., v., 6; VII., xiii., 3; IX., ix.; X., vii.; X., viii., 1-10; Ar., Pol., IV. (al. VII.), i., 3-10; IV., iii., 7, 8; St. Thos., la 2ae, q. 3, art. 2; ib., q. 3, art. 5. in corp., ad 3; ib., q. 2, art. 6.
SECTION III.—Happiness open to man.
"And now as he looked and saw the whole Hellespont covered with the vessels of his fleet, and all the shore and every plain about Abydos as full as possible of men, Xerxes congratulated himself on his good fortune; but after a little while, he wept. Then Artabanus, the King's uncle, when he heard that Xerxes was in tears, went to him, and said: 'How different, sire, is what thou art now doing from what thou didst a little while ago! Then thou didst congratulate thyself; and now, behold! thou weepest.' 'There came upon me,' replied he, 'a sudden pity, when I thought of the shortness of man's life, and considered that of all this host, so numerous as it is, not one will be alive when a hundred years are gone by.' 'And yet there are sadder things in life than that,' returned the other. 'Short as our time is, there is no man, whether it be among this multitude or elsewhere, who is so happy, as not to have felt the wish—I will not say once, but full many a time—that he were dead rather than alive. Calamities fall upon us, sicknesses vex and harass us, and make life, short though it be, to appear long. So death, through the wretchedness of our life, is a most sweet refuge to our race; and God, who gives us the tastes that we enjoy of pleasant times, is seen, in his very gift, to be envious.'" (Herodotus, vii., 45, 46.)
1. It needs no argument to show that happiness, as defined in the last section, can never be perfectly realized in this life. Aristotle took his definition to represent an ideal to be approximated to, not attained. He calls his sages "happy as men" (Eth., I., x., 16), that is, imperfectly, as all things human are imperfect. Has Aristotle, then, said the last word on happiness? Is perfect happiness out of the reach of the person whom in this mortal life we call man? However that may be, it is plain that man desires perfect happiness. Every man desires that it may be perfectly well with him and his, although many have mistaken notions of what their own well-being consists in, and few can define it philosophically. Still they all desire it. The higher a man stands in intellect, the loftier and vaster his conception of happiness, and the stronger his yearning after it. This argues that the desire of happiness is natural to man: not in the sense in which eating and drinking are natural, as being requirements of his animal nature, but in the same way that it is natural to him to think and converse, his rational nature so requiring. It is a natural desire, as springing from that which is the specific characteristic of human nature, distinguishing it from mere animal nature, namely reason. It is a natural desire in the best and highest sense of the word.
2. Contentment is not happiness. A man is content with little, but it takes an immensity of good to satisfy all his desire, and render him perfectly happy. When we say we are content, we signify that we should naturally desire more, but acquiesce in our present portion, seeing that more is not to be had. "Content," says Dr. Bain, "is not the natural frame of any mind, but is the result of compromise."
3. But is not this desire of unmixed happiness unreasonable? Are we not taught to set bounds to our desire? Is not moderation a virtue, and contentment wisdom? Yes, moderation is a virtue, but it concerns only the use of means, not the apprehension of ends. The patient, not to say the physician, desires medicines in moderation, so much as will do him good and no more; but, so far as his end is health, he desires all possible health, perfect health. The last end, then, is to be desired as a thing to possess without end or measure, fully and without defect.
4. We have then these facts to philosophise on: that all men desire perfect happiness: that this desire is natural, springing from the rational soul which sets man above the brute: that on earth man may attain to contentment, and to some happiness, but not to perfect happiness: that consequently nature has planted in man a desire for which on earth she has provided no adequate satisfaction.
5. If the course of events were fitful and wayward, so that effects started up without causes, and like causes under like conditions produced unlike effects, and anything might come of anything, there would be no such thing as that which we call nature. When we speak of nature, we imply a regular and definite flow of tendencies, this thing springing from that and leading to that other; nothing from nothing, and nothing leading nowhere; no random, aimless proceedings; but definite results led up to by a regular succession of steps, and surely ensuing unless something occurs on the way to thwart the process. How this is reconciled with Creation and Freewill, it is not our province to enquire: suffice it to say that a natural agent is opposed to a free one, and creation is the starting-point of nature. But to return. Everywhere we say, "this is for that," wherever there appears an end and consummation to which the process leads, provided it go on unimpeded. Now every event that happens is a part of some process or other. Every act is part of a tendency. There are no loose facts in nature, no things that happen, or are, otherwise than in consequence of something that has happened, or been, before, and in view of something else that is to happen, or be, hereafter. The tendencies of nature often run counter to one another, so that the result to which this or that was tending is frustrated. But a tendency is a tendency, although defeated; this was for that, although that for which it was has got perverted to something else. There is no tendency which of itself fails and comes to naught, apart from interference. Such a universal and absolute break-down is unknown to nature.
6. All this appears most clearly in organic beings, plants and animals. Organisms, except the very lowest, are compounds of a number of different parts, each fulfilling a special function for the good of the whole. There is no idle constituent in an organic body, none without its function. What are called rudimentary organs, even if they serve no purpose in the individual, have their use in the species, or in some higher genus. In the animal there is no idle natural craving, or appetite. True, in the individual, whether plant or animal, there are many potentialities frustrate and made void. That is neither here nor there in philosophy. Philosophy deals not with individuals but with species, not with Bucephalus or Alexander, but with horse, man. It is nothing to philosophy that of a thousand seeds there germinate perhaps not ten. Enough that one seed ever germinates, and that all normal specimens are apt to do the like, meeting with proper environment. That alone shows that seed is not an idle product in this or that class of living beings.
7. But, it will be said, not everything contained in an organism ministers to its good. There is refuse material, only good to get rid of: there are morbid growths; there is that tendency to decay, by which sooner or later the organism will perish. First, then, a word on diseases. Diseases are the diseases of the individual; not of the race. The race, as such, and that is what the philosopher studies, is healthy: all that can be imputed to the race is liability to disease. That liability, and the tendency to decay and die, are found in living things, because their essence is of finite perfection; there cannot be a plant or animal, that has not these drawbacks in itself, as such. They represent, not the work of nature, but the failure of nature, and the point beyond which nature can no further go.
8. On the preceding observations Aristotle formulated the great maxim—called by Dr. Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, p. i., sect. 15, "the only indisputable axiom in philosophy,"—Nature does nothing in vain. (Ar., Pol., I., viii., 12; De Anima, III., ix., 6; De part. animal., I. i., p. 641, ed. Bekker.)
9. The desire of happiness, ample and complete, beyond what this world can afford, is not planted in man by defect of his nature, but by the perfection of his nature, and in view of his further perfection. This desire has not the character of a drawback, a thing that cannot be helped, a weakness and decay of nature, and loss of power, like that which sets in with advancing years. A locomotive drawing a train warms the air about it: it is a pity that it should do so, for that radiation of heat is a loss of power: but it cannot be helped, as locomotives are and must be constructed. Not such is the desire of perfect happiness in the human breast. It is not a disease, for it is no peculiarity of individuals, but a property of the race. It is not a decay, for it grows with the growing mind, being feeblest in childhood, when desires are simplest and most easily satisfied, and strongest where mental life is the most vigorous. It is an attribute of great minds in proportion to their greatness. To be without it, would be to live a minor in point of intellect, not much removed from imbecility. It is not a waste of energy, rather it furnishes the motive-power to all human volition. It comes of the natural working of the understanding that discerns good, and other good above that, and so still higher and higher good without limit; and of the natural working of the will, following up and fastening upon what the understanding discerns as good. The desire in question, then, is by no means a necessary evil, or natural flaw, in the human constitution.
10. It follows that the desire of perfect happiness is in man by the normal growth of his nature, and for the better. But it would be a vain desire, and objectless, if it were essentially incapable of satisfaction: and man would be a made and abiding piece of imperfection, if there were no good accessible to his intellectual nature sufficient to meet its proper exigence of perfect happiness. But no such perfect happiness is attainable in this world. Therefore there must be a world to come, in which he who was man, now a disembodied spirit, but still the same person, shall under due conditions find a perfect good, the adequate object of his natural desire. Else is the deepest craving of human nature in vain, and man himself is vanity of vanities.
11. It may be objected that there is no need to go beyond this world to explain how the desire of perfect happiness is not in vain. It works like the desire of the philosopher's stone among the old alchemists. The thing they were in search of was a chimera, but in looking for it they found a real good, modern chemistry. In like manner, it is contended, though perfect happiness is not to be had anywhere, yet the desire of it keeps men from sitting down on the path of progress; and thus to that desire we owe all our modern civilization, and all our hope and prospect of higher civilization to come. Without questioning the alleged fact about the alchemists, we may reply that modern chemistry has dissipated the desire of the philosopher's stone, but modern civilization has not dissipated the desire of perfect happiness: it has deepened it, and perhaps rather obscured the prospect of its fulfilment. A desire that grows with progress certainly cannot be satisfied by progressing. But if it is never to be satisfied, what is it? A goad thrust into the side of man, that shall keep him coursing along from century to century, like Io under the gadfly, only to find himself in the last century as far from the mark as in the first. Apart from the hope of the world to come, is the Italy of to-day happier than the Italy of Antoninus Pius? Here is a modern Italian's conclusion: "I have studied man, I have examined nature, I have passed whole nights observing the starry heavens. And what is the result of these long investigations? Simply this, that the life of man is nothing; that man himself is nothing; that he will never penetrate the mystery which surrounds the universe. With this comfortless conviction I descend into the grave, and console myself with the hope of speedy annihilation. The lamp goes out; and nothing, nothing can rekindle it. So, Nature, I return to thee, to be united with thee for ever. Never wilt thou have received into thy bosom a more unhappy being." (La Nullita della Vita. By G. P., 1882.)
This is an extreme case, but much of modern progress tends this way. Civilization is not happiness, nor is the desire for happiness other than vain, if it merely leads to increased civilization.
Readings.—St. Thomas, C. G., iii., 48; Newman's Historical Sketches—Conversion of Augustine; Mill's Autobiography, pp. 133-149.
SECTION IV.—Of the Object of Perfect Happiness.
1. As happiness is an act of the speculative intellect contemplating (s. ii., n. 6, p. 9), so the thing thus contemplated is the object of happiness. As happiness is the subjective last end, so will this object, inasmuch as the contemplation of it yields perfect happiness, be the objective last end of man. (s. i., nn. 3, 4, p. 4.) As perfect happiness is possible, and intended by nature, so is this objective last end attainable, and should be attained. But attained by man? Aye, there's the rub. It cannot be attained in this life, and after death man is no more: a soul out of the body is not man. About the resurrection of the body philosophy knows nothing. Nature can make out no title to resurrection. That is a gratuitous gift of God in Christ. When it takes effect, stupebit natura. Philosophy deals only with the natural order, with man as man, leaving the supernatural order, or the privileges and status of man as a child of God, to the higher science of Scholastic Theology. Had God so willed it, there might have been no supernatural at all. Philosophy shows the world as it would have been on that hypothesis. In that case, then, man would have been, as Aristotle represents him, a being incapable of perfect happiness; but he who is man could have become perfectly happy in a state other than human, that is, as a disembodied spirit. Peter is man: the soul of Peter, after separation, is man no longer; but Peter is not one person, and Peter's soul out of the body another person; there is but one person there, with one personal history and liabilities. The soul of Peter is Peter still: therefore the person Peter, or he who is Peter, attains to happiness, but not the man Peter, as man, apart from the supernatural privilege of the resurrection. Hence Aristotle well said, though he failed to see the significance of his own saying, that man should aim at a life of happiness too good for man. (s. ii., nn. 7, 8, p. 9.)
2. The object of happiness,—the objective last end of man,—will be that which the soul contemplating in the life to come will be perfectly happy by so doing. The soul will contemplate all intellectual beauty that she finds about her, all heights of truth, all the expanse of goodness and mystery of love. She will see herself: a vast and curious sight is one pure spirit: but that will not be enough for her, her eye travels beyond. She must be in company, live with myriads of pure spirits like herself,—see them, study them, and admire them, and converse with them in closest intimacy. Together they must explore the secrets of all creation even to the most distant star: they must read the laws of the universe, which science laboriously spells out here below: they must range from science to art, and from facts to possibilities, till even their pure intellect is baffled by the vast intricacy of things that might be and are not: but yet they are not satisfied. A point of convergency is wanted for all these vistas of being, whence they may go forth, and whither they may return and meet: otherwise the soul is distracted and lost in a maze of incoherent wandering, crying out, Whence all this? and what is it for? and above all, whose is it? These are the questions that the human mind asks in her present condition: much more will she ask them then, when wonders are multiplied before her gaze: for it is the same soul there and here. Here men are tormented in mind, if they find no answer to these questions. Scientific men cannot leave theology alone. They will not be happy there without an answer. Their contemplation will still desiderate something beyond all finite being, actual or possible. Is that God? It is nothing else. But God dwells in light inaccessible, where no creature, as such, can come near Him nor see Him. The beauties of creation, as so many streams of tendency, meet at the foot of His Throne, and there are lost. Their course is towards Him, and is, so far as it goes, an indication of Him: but He is infinitely, unspeakably above them. No intelligence created, or creatable, can arrive by its own natural perception to see Him as He is: for mind can only discern what is proportionate to itself: and God is out of proportion with all the being of all possible creatures. It is only by analogy that the word being, or any other word whatever can be applied to Him. As Plato says, "the First Good is not Being, but over and beyond Being in dignity and power." (Rep. 509, B.)
3. To see God face to face, which is called the beatific vision, is not the natural destiny of man, nor of any possible creature. Such happiness is not the happiness of man, nor of angel, but of God Himself, and of any creature whom He may deign by an act of gratuitous condescension to invite to sit as guest at His own royal table. That God has so invited men and angels, revelation informs us. Scholastic theology enlarges upon that revelation, but it is beyond philosophy. Like the resurrection of the body, and much more even than that, the Beatific Vision must be relegated to the realm of the Supernatural.
4. But even in the natural order the object of perfect happiness is God. The natural and supernatural have the same object, but differ in the mode of attainment. By supernatural grace, bearing perfect fruit, man sees God with the eyes of his soul, as we see the faces of our friends on earth. In perfect happiness of the natural order, creatures alone are directly apprehended, or seen, and from the creature is gathered the excellence of the unseen God. The process is an ascent, as described by Plato, from the individual to the universal, and from bodily to moral and intellectual beauty, till we reach a Beauty eternal, immutable, absolute, substantial, and self-existent, on which all other beauties depend for their being, while it is independent of them. (Plato, Symposium, 210, 211.) Unless the ascent be prosecuted thus far, the contemplation is inadequate, the happiness incomplete. The mind needs to travel to the beginning and end of things, to the Alpha and Omega of all. The mind needs to reach some perfect good: some object, which though it is beyond the comprehension, is nevertheless understood to be the very good of goods, unalloyed with any admixture of defect or imperfection. The mind needs an infinite object to rest upon, though it cannot grasp that object positively in its infinity. If this is the case even with the human mind, still wearing "this muddy vesture of decay," how much more ardent the longing, as how much keener the gaze, of the pure spirit after Him who is the centre and rest of all intellectual nature?
5. Creatures to contemplate and see God in, are conditions and secondary objects of natural happiness. They do not afford happiness finally of themselves, but as manifesting God, even as a mirror would be of little interest except for its power of reflection.
6. In saying that God is the object of happiness, we must remember that He is no cold, impersonal Beauty, but a living and loving God, not indeed in the order of nature our Father and Friend, but still our kind Master and very good Lord, who speaks to His servants from behind the clouds that hide His face, and assures them of His abiding favour and approving love. More than that, nature cannot look for: such aspiration were unnatural, unreasonable, mere madness: it is enough for the creature, as a creature, in its highest estate to stand before God, hearing His voice, but seeing not His countenance, whom, without His free grace, none can look upon and live.
Reading.—St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 2, art. 8.
SECTION V.—Of the use of the present life.
1. Since perfect happiness is not to be had in this mortal life, and is to be had hereafter; since moreover man has free will and the control of his own acts; it is evidently most important for man in this life so to control and rule himself here as to dispose himself for happiness there. Happiness rests upon a habit of contemplation (s. ii., n. 9, p. 10), rising to God. (s. iv., n. 4, p. 24.) But a habit, as will be seen, is not formed except by frequent acts, and may be marred and broken by contrary acts. It is, then, important for man in this life so to act as to acquire a habit of lifting his mind to God. There are two things here, to lift the mind, and to lift it to God. The mind is not lifted, if the man lives not an intellectual life, but the life of a swine wallowing in sensual indulgences; or a frivolous life, taking the outside of things as they strike the senses, and flitting from image to image thoughtlessly; or a quarrelsome life, where reason is swallowed up in anger and hatred. Again, however sublime the speculation and however active the intellect, if God is not constantly referred to, the mind is lifted indeed, but not to God. It is wisdom, then, in man during this life to look to God everywhere, and ever to seek His face; to avoid idleness, anger, intemperance, and pride of intellect. For the mind will not soar to God when the heart is far from Him.
OF HUMAN ACTS.
SECTION I.—What makes a human act less voluntary.
1. See c. i., nn. 2, 3, 4.
2. An act is more or less voluntary, as it is done with more or less knowledge, and proceeds more or less fully and purely from the will properly so called. Whatever diminishes knowledge, or partially supplants the will, takes off from the voluntariness of the act. An act is rendered less voluntary by ignorance, by passionate desire, and by fear.
3. If a man has done something in ignorance either of the law or of the facts of the case, and would be sorry for it, were he to find out what he has done, that act is involuntary, so far as it is traceable to ignorance alone. Even if he would not be sorry, still the act must be pronounced not voluntary, under the same reservation. Ignorance, sheer ignorance, takes whatever is done under it out of the region of volition. Nothing is willed but what is known. An ignorant man is as excusable as a drunken one, as such,—no more and no less. The difference is, that drunkenness generally is voluntary; ignorance often is not. But ignorance may be voluntary, quite as voluntary as drunkenness. It is a capital folly of our age to deny the possibility of voluntary intellectual error. Error is often voluntary, and (where the matter is one that the person officially or otherwise is required to know) immoral too. A strange thing it is to say that "it is as unmeaning to speak of the immorality of an intellectual mistake as it would be to talk of the colour of a sound." (Lecky, European Morals, ii., 202.)
4. There is an ignorance that is sought on purpose, called affected ignorance (in the Shakspearian sense of the word affect), as when a man will not read begging-letters, that he may not give anything away. Such ignorance does not hinder voluntariness. It indicates a strong will of doing or omitting, come what may. There is yet another ignorance called crass, which is when a man, without absolutely declining knowledge, yet takes no pains to acquire it in a matter where he is aware that truth is important to him. Whatever election is made in consequence of such ignorance, is less voluntary, indeed, than if it were made in the full light, still it is to some extent voluntary. It is voluntary in its cause, that is, in the voluntary ignorance that led to it. Suppose a man sets up as a surgeon, having made a very imperfect study of his art. He is aware, that for want of knowledge and skill, he shall endanger many lives: still he neglects opportunities of making himself competent, and goes audaciously to work. If any harm comes of his bungling, he can plead intellectual error, an error of judgment for the time being; he did his best as well as he knew it. Doubtless he did, and in that he is unlike the malicious maker of mischief: still he has chosen lightly and recklessly to hazard a great evil. To that extent his will is bound to the evil: he has chosen it, as it were, at one remove.
5. Another instance. A man is a long way on to seeing, though he does not quite see, the claims of the Church of Rome on his allegiance and submission. He suspects that a little more prayer and search, and he shall be a Roman Catholic. To escape this, he resolves to go travelling and give up prayer. This is affected ignorance. Another has no such perception of the claims of Catholicism. He has no religion that satisfies him. He is aware speculatively of the importance of the religious question; but his heart is not in religion at all. With Demas, he loves the things of this world. Very attractive and interesting does he find this life; and for the life to come he is content to chance it. This is crass ignorance of religious truth. Such a man is not a formal heretic, for he is not altogether wilful and contumacious in his error. Still neither is it wholly involuntary, nor he wholly guiltless.
6. Passionate desire is not an affection of the will, but of the sensitive appetite. The will may cooperate, but the passion is not in the will. The will may neglect to check the passion, when it might: it may abet and inflame it: in these ways an act done in passion is a voluntary act. Still it becomes voluntary only by the influx of the will, positively permitting or stimulating: it is not voluntary precisely as it proceeds from passion: for voluntary is that which is of the will. It belongs to passion to bring on a momentary darkness in the understanding: where such darkness is, there is so much the less of a human act. But passion in an adult of sane mind is hardly strong enough, of itself and wholly without the will, to execute any considerable outward action, involving the voluntary muscles. Things are often said and done, and put down to passion: but that is not the whole account of the matter. The will has been for a long time either feeding the passions, or letting them range unchecked: that is the reason of their present outburst, which is voluntary at least in its cause. Once this evil preponderance has been brought about, it is to be examined whether the will, in calm moods, is making any efforts to redress the evil. Such efforts, if made, go towards making the effects of passion, when they come, involuntary, and gradually preventing them altogether.
7. What a man does from fear, he is said to do under compulsion, especially if the fear be applied to him by some other person in order to gain a purpose. Such compulsory action is distinguished in ordinary parlance from voluntary action. And it is certainly less voluntary, inasmuch as the will is hedged in to make its choice between two evils, and chooses one or other only as being the less evil of the two, not for any liking to the thing in itself. Still, all things considered, the thing is chosen, and the action is so far voluntary. We may call it voluntary in the concrete, and involuntary in the abstract. The thing is willed as matters stand, but in itself and apart from existing need it is not liked at all. But as acts must be judged as they stand, by what the man wills now, not by what he would will, an act done under fear is on the whole voluntary. At the same time, fear sometimes excuses from the observance of a law, or of a contract, which from the way in which it was made was never meant to bind in so hard a case. Not all contracts, however, are of this accommodating nature; and still less, all laws. But even where the law binds, the penalty of the law is sometimes not incurred, when the law was broken through fear.
Readings.—Ar., Eth., III, i.; St. Thos., 1a 2a, q. 6, art. 3; ib., q. 6, art. 6, 8; ib., q. 77, art. 6.
SECTION II.—Of the determinants of morality in any given action.
1. The morality of any given action is determined by three elements, the end in view, the means taken, and the circumstances that accompany the taking of the said means. Whoever knows this principle, does not thereby know the right and wrong of every action, but he knows how to go about the enquiry. It is a rule of diagnosis.
2. In order to know whether what a man does befits him as a man to do, the first thing to examine is that which he mainly desires and wills in his action. Now the end is more willed and desired than the means. He who steals to commit adultery, says Aristotle, is more of an adulterer than a thief. The end in view is what lies nearest to a man's heart as he acts. On that his mind is chiefly bent; on that his main purpose is fixed. Though the end is last in the order of execution, it is first and foremost in the order of intention. Therefore the end in view enters into morality more deeply than any other element of the action. It is not, however, the most obvious determinant, because it is the last point to be gained; and because, while the means are taken openly, the end is often a secret locked up in the heart of the doer, the same means leading to many ends, as the road to a city leads to many homes and resting-places. Conversely, one end may be prosecuted by many means, as there are many roads converging upon one goal.
3. If morality were determined by the end in view, and by that alone, the doctrine would hold that the end justifies the means. That doctrine is false, because the moral character of a human act depends on the thing willed, or object of volition, according as it is or is not a fit object. Now the object of volition is not only the end in view, but likewise the means chosen. Besides the end, the means are likewise willed. Indeed, the means are willed more immediately even than the end, as they have to be taken first.
4. A good action, like any other good thing, must possess a certain requisite fulness of being, proper to itself. As it is not enough for the physical excellence of a man to have the bare essentials, a body with a soul animating it, but there is needed a certain grace of form, colour, agility, and many accidental qualities besides; so for a good act it is not enough that proper means be taken to a proper end, but they must be taken by a proper person, at a proper place and time, in a proper manner, and with manifold other circumstances of propriety.
5. The end in view may be either single, as when you forgive an injury solely for the love of Christ: or multiple co-ordinate, as when you forgive both for the love of Christ and for the mediation of a friend, and are disposed to forgive on either ground separately; or multiple subordinate, as when you would not have forgiven on the latter ground alone, but forgive the more easily for its addition, having been ready, however, to forgive on the former alone; or cumulative, as when you forgive on a number of grounds collectively, on no one of which would you have forgiven apart from the rest.
6. Where there is no outward action, but only an internal act, and the object of that act is some good that is willed for its own sake, there can be no question of means taken, as the end in view is immediately attained.
7. The means taken and the circumstances of those means enter into the morality of the act, formally as they are seen by the intellect, materially as they are in themselves. (See what is said of ignorance, c. iii., s. i., nn. 3-5, p. 27.) This explains the difference between formal and material sin. A material sin would be formal also, did the agent know what he was doing. No sin is culpable that is not formal. But, as has been said, there may be a culpable perversion of the intellect, so that the man is the author of his own obliquity or defect of vision. When Saul persecuted the Christians, he probably sinned materially, not formally. When Caiphas spoke the truth without knowing it, he said well materially, but ill formally.
8. In looking at the means taken and the circumstances that accompany those means, it is important to have a ready rule for pronouncing what particular belongs to the means and what to the circumstances. Thus Clytemnestra deals her husband Agamemnon a deadly stroke with an axe, partly for revenge, partly that she may take to herself another consort; is the deadliness of the blow part of the means taken or only an accompanying circumstance? It is part of the means taken. The means taken include every particular that is willed and chosen as making for the end in view. The fatal character of the blow does make to that end; if Agamemnon does not die, the revenge will not be complete, and life with Aegisthus will be impossible. On the other hand, the fact that Clytemnestra is the wife of the man whom she murders, is not a point that her will rests upon as furthering her purpose at all; it is an accompanying circumstance. This method of distinguishing means from circumstance is of great value in casuistry.
9. It is clear that not every attendant circumstance affects the morality of the means taken. Thus the blow under which Agamemnon sank was neither more nor less guiltily struck because it was dealt with an axe, because it was under pretence of giving him a bath, or because his feet were entangled in a long robe. These circumstances are all irrelevant. Those only are relevant which attach some special reasonableness or unreasonableness to the thing done Thus the provocation that Clytemnestra had from her husband's introduction of Cassandra into her house made her act of vengeance less unreasonable: on the other hand it was rendered more unreasonable by the circumstance of the dear and holy tie that binds wife to husband. The provocation and the relationship were two relevant circumstances in that case.
10. But it happens sometimes that a circumstance only affects the reasonableness of an action on the supposition of some previous circumstance so affecting it. Thus to carry off a thing in large or small quantities does not affect the reasonableness of the carrying, unless there be already some other circumstance attached that renders the act good or evil; as for instance, if the goods that are being removed are stolen property. Circumstances of this sort are called aggravating—or, as the case may be, extenuating—circumstances. Circumstances that of themselves, and apart from any previous supposition, make the thing done peculiarly reasonable or unreasonable, are called specifying circumstances. They are so called, because they place the action in some species of virtue or vice; whereas aggravating or extenuating circumstances add to, or take off from, the good or evil of the action in that species of virtue or vice to which it already belongs.
11. A variety of specifying circumstances may place one and the same action in many various species of virtue or vice. Thus a religious robbing his parents would sin at once against justice, piety, and religion. A nun preferring death to dishonour practises three virtues, chastity, fortitude, and religion.
12. The means chosen may be of four several characters:—
(a) A thing evil of itself and inexcusable under all conceivable circumstances; for instance, blasphemy, idolatry, lying.
(b) Needing excuse, as the killing of a man, the looking at an indecent object. Such things are not to be done except under certain circumstances and with a grave reason. Thus indecent sights may be met in the discharge of professional duty. In that case indeed they cease to be indecent. They are then only indecent when they are viewed without cause. The absence of a good motive in a case like this commonly implies the presence of a bad one.
(c) Indifferent, as walking or sitting down.
(d) Good of itself, but liable to be vitiated by circumstances, as prayer and almsgiving; the good of such actions may be destroyed wholly or in part by their being done out of a vain motive, or unseasonably, or indiscreetly.
13. It is said, "If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome." (St. Matt., vi., 22.) The eye is the intention contemplating the end in view. Whoever has placed a good end before him, and regards it steadily with a well-ordered love, never swerving in his affection from the way that reason would have him love, must needs take towards his end those means, and those only, which are in themselves reasonable and just: as it is written: "Thou shalt follow justly after that which is just." (Deut. xvi., 20.) Thus I am building a church to the glory of God; money runs short: I perceive that by signing a certain contract that must mean grievous oppression of the poor, I shall save considerable expense, whereas, if I refuse, the works will have to be abandoned for want of funds. If I have purely the glory of God before my eyes, I certainly shall not sign that contract: for injustice I know can bear no fruit of Divine glory. But if I am bent upon having the building up in any case, of course I shall sign: but then my love for the end in view is no longer pure and regulated by reason: it is not God but myself that I am seeking in the work. Thus an end entirely just, holy, and pure, purifies and sanctifies the means, not formally, by investing with a character of justice means in themselves unjust, for that is impossible,—the leopard cannot change his spots,—but by way of elimination, removing unjust means as ineligible to my purpose, and leaving me only those means to choose from which are in themselves just.
14. With means in themselves indifferent, the case is otherwise. A holy and pious end does formally sanctify those means, while a wicked end vitiates them. I beg the reader to observe what sort of means are here in question. There is no question of means in themselves or in their circumstances unjust, as theft, lying, murder, but of such indifferent things as reading, writing, painting, singing, travelling. Whoever travels to commit sin at the end of his journey, his very travelling, so far as it is referred to that end, is part of his sin: it is a wicked journey that he takes. And he who travels to worship at some shrine or place of pilgrimage, includes his journey in his devotion. The end in view there sanctifies means in themselves indifferent.
15. As a great part of the things that we do are indifferent as well in themselves as in the circumstances of the doing of them, the moral character of our lives depends largely on the ends that we habitually propose to ourselves. One man's great thought is how to make money; what he reads, writes, says, where he goes, where he elects to reside, his very eating, drinking and personal expenditure, all turns on what he calls making his fortune. It is all to gain money—quocunque modo rem. Another is active for bettering the condition of the labouring classes: a third for the suppression of vice. These three men go some way together in a common orbit of small actions, alike to the eye, but morally unlike, because of the various guiding purposes for which they are done. Hence, when we consider such pregnant final ends as the service of God and the glory of a world to come, it appears how vast is the alteration in the moral line and colouring of a man's life, according to his practical taking up or setting aside of these great ends.
16. We must beware however of an exaggeration here. The final end of action is often latent, not explicitly considered. A fervent worshipper of God wishes to refer his whole self with all that he does to the Divine glory and service. Yet such a one will eat, drink, and be merry with his friends, not thinking of God at the time. Still, supposing him to keep within the bounds of temperance, he is serving God and doing good actions. But what of a man who has entirely broken away from God, what of his eating, drinking, and other actions that are of their kind indifferent? We cannot call them sins: there is nothing wrong about them, neither in the thing done, nor in the circumstances of the doing, nor in the intention. Pius V. condemned the proposition: "All the works of infidels are sins." Neither must we call such actions indifferent in the individual who does them, supposing them to be true human acts, according to the definition, and not done merely mechanically. They are not indifferent, because they receive a certain measure of natural goodness from the good natural purpose which they serve, namely, the conservation and well-being of the agent. Every human act is either good or evil in him who does it. I speak of natural goodness only.
17. The effect consequent upon an action is distinguishable from the action itself, from which it is not unfrequently separated by a considerable interval of time, as the death of a man from poison administered a month before. The effect consequent enters into morality only in so far as it is either chosen as a means or intended as an end (nn. 2, 3, p. 31), or is annexed as a relevant circumstance to the means chosen (n. 9, p. 34.). Once the act is done, it matters nothing to morality whether the effect consequent actually ensues or not, provided no new act be elicited thereupon, whether of commission or of culpable omission to prevent. It matters not to morality, but it does matter to the agent's claim to reward or liability to punishment at the hands of human legislators civil and ecclesiastical.
18. As soul and body make one man, so the inward and outward act—as the will to strike and the actual blow struck—are one human act. The outward act gives a certain physical completeness to the inward. Moreover the inward act is no thorough-going thing, if it stops short of outward action where the opportunity offers. Otherwise, the inward act may be as good or as bad morally as inward and outward act together. The mere wish to kill, where the deed is impossible, may be as wicked as wish and deed conjoined. It may be, but commonly it will not, for this reason, that the outward execution of the deed reacts upon the will and calls it forth with greater intensity; the will as it were expands where it finds outward vent. There is no one who has not felt the relative mildness of inward feelings of impatience or indignation, compared with those engendered by speaking out one's mind. Often also the outward act entails a long course of preparation, all during which the inward will is sustained and frequently renewed, as in a carefully planned burglary.
Readings.—St. Thos., 1a 2ae, q. 18, art. 1; ib., q. 18, art. 2, in corp., ad 1; ib., q. 18, art. 3, in corp., ad 2; ib., q. 18, art. 4-6; ib., q. 18, art. 8, in corp., ad 2, 3; ib., q. 18, art. 9, in corp., ad 3; ib., q. 18, art. 10, 3; ib., q. 18, art. 11, in corp.; ib., q. 20, art. 4, in corp.
SECTION I.—Of Passions in General.
1. A passion is defined to be: A movement of the irrational part of the soul, attended by a notable alteration of the body, on the apprehension of good or evil. The soul is made up of intellect, will, and sensible appetite. The first two are rational, the third irrational: the third is the seat of the passions. In a disembodied spirit, or an angel, there are no senses, no sensible appetite, no passions. The angel, or the departed soul, can love and hate, fear and desire, rejoice and grieve, but these are not passions in the pure spirit, they are acts of intellect and will alone. So man also often loves and hates, and does other acts that are synonymous with corresponding passions, and yet no passion is there. The man is working with his calm reason: his irrational soul is not stirred. To an author, when he is in the humour for it, it is a delight to be writing, but not a passionate delight. The will finds satisfaction in the act: the irrational soul is not affected by it. Or a penitent is sorry for his sin: he sincerely regrets it before God: his will is heartily turned away, and wishes that that sin had never been: at the same time his eye is dry, his features unmoved, not a sigh does he utter, and yet he is truly sorry. It is important to bear these facts in mind: else we shall be continually mistaking for passions what are pure acts of will, or vice versa, misled by the identity of name.
2. The great mark of a passion is its sensible working of itself out upon the body,—what Dr. Bain calls "the diffusive wave of emotion." Without this mark there is no passion, but with it are other mental states besides passions, as we define them. All strong emotion affects the body sensibly, but not all emotions are passions. There are emotions that arise from and appertain to the rational portion of the soul. Such are Surprise, Laughter, Shame.
There is no sense of humour in any but rational beings; and though dogs look ashamed and horses betray curiosity, that is only inasmuch as in these higher animals there is something analogous to what is reason in man. Moreover passions are conversant with good and evil affecting sense, but the objects of such emotions as those just mentioned are not good and evil as such, common parlance notwithstanding, whereby we are said to laugh at a bon mot, or "a good thing."
3. Love is a generic passion, having for its species desire and delight, the contraries of which are abhorrence and pain. Desire is of absent good; abhorrence is of absent evil; delight is in present good; pain is at present evil. The good and the evil which is the object of any passion must be apprehended by sense, or by imagination in a sensible way, whether itself be a thing of sense or not.
4. Desire and abhorrence, delight and pain, are conversant with good and evil simply. But good is often attainable only by an effort, and evil avoidable by an effort. The effort that good costs to attain casts a shade of evil or undesirableness over it: we may shrink from the effort while coveting the good. Again, the fact of evil being at all avoidable is a good thing about such evil. If we call evil black, and good white, avoidable evil will be black just silvering into grey: and arduous good will be white with a cloud on it. And if the white attracts, and the black repels the appetite, it appears that arduous good is somewhat distasteful, to wit, to the faint-hearted; and avoidable, or vincible, evil has its attraction for the man of spirit. About these two objects, good hard of getting and evil hard of avoidance, arise four other passions, hope and despair about the former, fear and daring about the latter. Hope goes out towards a difficult good: despair flies from it, the difficulty here being more repellent than the good is attractive. Fear flies from a threatening evil: while daring goes up to the same, drawn by the likelihood of vanquishing it. Desire and abhorrence, delight and pain, hope and despair, fear and daring, with anger and hatred (of which presently), complete our list of passions.
5. Aristotle and his school of old, called Peripatetics, recommended the moderation of the passions, not their extirpation. The Stoics on the other hand contended that the model man, the sage, should be totally devoid of passions. This celebrated dispute turned largely on the two schools not understanding the same thing by the word passion. Yet not entirely so. There was a residue of real difference, and it came to this. If the sensitive appetite stirs at all, it must stir in one or other of nine ways corresponding to the nine passions which we have enumerated. Such an emotion as Laughter affects the imagination and the sensitive part of man, and of course the body visibly, but it does not stir the sensitive appetite, since it does not prompt to action. To say then that a man has no passions, means that the sensitive appetite never stirs within him, but is wholly dead. But this is impossible, as the Stoic philosopher was fain to confess when he got frightened in a storm at sea. Having no passions cannot in any practical sense mean having no movements of the sensitive appetite, for that will be afoot of its own proper motion independent of reason: but it may mean cherishing no passions, allowing none to arise unresisted, but suppressing their every movement to the utmost that the will can. In that sense it is a very intelligible and practical piece of advice, that the wise man should labour to have no passions. It is the advice embodied in Horace's Nil admirari, Talleyrand's "No zeal," Beaconsfield's "Beware of enthusiasm." It would have man to work like a scientific instrument, calm as a chronometer, regulated by reason alone. This was the Stoic teaching, this the perfection that they inculcated, quite a possible goal to make for, if not to attain. And it is worth a wise man's while to consider, whether he should bend his efforts in this direction or not. The determination here taken and acted upon will elaborate quite a different character of man one way or the other. The effort made as the Stoics direct, would mean no yielding to excitement, no poetry, no high-strung devotion, no rapture, no ecstasy, no ardour of love, no earnest rhetoric spoken or listened to, no mourning, no rejoicing other than the most conventional, to the persistent smothering of whatever is natural and really felt, no tear of pity freely let flow, no touch of noble anger responded to, no scudding before the breeze of indignation,—all this, that reason may keep on the even tenour of her way undisturbed.
6. The fault in this picture is that it is not the picture of a man, but of a spirit. He who being man should try to realize it in himself, would fall short of human perfection. For though the sensitive appetite is distinguished from the will, and the two may clash and come in conflict, yet they are not two wholly independent powers, but the one man is both will and sensitive appetite, and he rarely operates according to one power without the other being brought into corresponding play. There is a similar concomitance of the operations of intellect and imagination. What attracts the sensitive appetite, commonly allures also the affective will, though on advertence the elective will may reject it. On the other hand, a strong affection and election of the will cannot be without the sensitive appetite being stirred, and that so strongly that the motion is notable in the body,—in other words, is a passion. Passion is the natural and in a certain degree the inseparable adjunct of strong volition. To check one is to check the other. Not only is the passion repressed by repressing the volition, but the repression of the passion is also the repression of the volition. A man then who did his best to repress all movements of passion indiscriminately, would lay fetters on his will, lamentable and cruel and impolitic fetters, where his will was bent on any object good and honourable and well-judged.
7. Again, man's will is reached by two channels, from above downwards and from below upwards: it is reached through the reason and through the imagination and senses. By the latter channel it often receives evil impressions, undoubtedly, but not unfrequently by the former also. Reason may be inconsiderate, vain, haughty, mutinous, unduly sceptical. The abuse is no justification for closing either channel. Now the channel of the senses and of the imagination is the wider, and in many cases affords the better passage of the two. The will that is hardly reached by reason, is approached and won by a pathetic sight, a cry of enthusiasm, a threat that sends a tremor through the limbs. Rather I should say the affective will is approached in this way: for it remains with the elective will, on advertence and consultation with reason, to decide whether or not it shall be won to consent. But were it not for the channel of passion, this will could never have been approached at all even by reasons the most cogent. Rhetoric often succeeds, where mere dry logic would have been thrown away. God help vast numbers of the human race, if their wills were approachable only through their reasons! They would indeed be fixtures.
8. Another fact to notice is the liability of reason's gaze to become morbid and as it were inflamed by unremitting exercise. I do not here allude to hard study, but to overcurious scanning of the realities of this life, and the still greater realities and more momentous possibilities of the world to come. There is a sense of the surroundings being too much for us, an alarm and a giddiness, that comes of sober matter-of-fact thought over-much prolonged. Then it happens that one or more undeniable truths are laid hold of, and considered in strong relief and in isolation from the rest: the result is a distorted and partial view of truth as a whole, and therewith the mind is troubled. Here the kindlier passions, judiciously allowed to play, come in to soothe the wound and soreness of pure intellect, too keen in its workings for one who is not yet a pure spirit.
9. Moral good and evil are predicable only of human acts, in the technical sense of the term. (c. i., nn. 2—4, p. 41.) As the passions by definition (c. iv., s. i., n. 1, p. 41) are not human acts, they can never be morally evil of themselves. But they are an occasion of moral evil in this way. They often serve to wake up the slumbering Reason. To that end it is necessary that they should start up of themselves without the call of Reason. This would be no inconvenience, if the instant Reason awoke, and adverted to the tumult and stir of Passion, she could take command of it, and where she saw fit, quell it. But Reason has no such command, except in cases where she has acquired it by years of hard fighting. Passion once afoot holds on her course against the dictate of Reason. True, so long as it remains mere Passion, and Reason is not dragged away by it, no consent of the will given, no voluntary act elicited, still less carried into outward effect,—so long as things remain thus, however Passion may rage, there is no moral evil done. But there is a great temptation, and in great temptation many men fall. The evil is the act of free will, but the pressure on the will is the pressure of Passion. But Passion happily is a young colt amenable to discipline. Where the assaults of Passion are resolutely and piously withstood, and the incentives thereto avoided—unnatural and unnecessary incentives I mean—Passion itself acquires a certain habit of obedience to Reason, which habit is moral virtue. Of that presently.