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interference, is the mere sport of the lower propensities of his nature.
The opinion that an infallible natural monitor resides in the human breast tends to present to the mind the preponderant nature of moral considerations, but places other emotions at a distance below conscience not warranted by the facts of the case. The proper relationship of conscience to the benevolent sentiments is that of the superior to the inferior, and not that of the infallible to the fallible. The theorist of this school, unless corrected in his practice by strong benevolent sentiments, is apt to slight the gentle and kindly emotions of our nature, and invest duty with unnatural asperities. This opinion embraces the truth that conscience is a primitive emotion, and the error that it gives us intellectual guidance in distinguishing right from wrong.
The opinion that conscience is a compound faculty, deriving its origin from the association of ideas and sentiments, tends to promote watchfulness of the thoughts of ourselves and those intrusted to our care, for the purpose of laying the foundations of character in pure conceptions and correct reasonings. It, however, tends to make men consider conscience a mere matter of opinion and education, thereby relaxing, to some extent, the stringency of the moral code. It embraces the truth that other faculties combine to form the directing power whereby conscience is moved, and the error that these faculties are conscience itself.
We have indicated by the above remarks our view of the requisites of a correct theory of conscience. Such a theory must acknowledge that the higher phenomena of voluntary action manifest in a peculiar way and to a superior degree the personal agency of the Deity in the government of the universe, and must, at the same time, recognize natural virtuous tendencies. It must admit the primitive and original character of conscience, but deny that that faculty is originally a spur to specific acts of virtue. It must admit that our opinions concerning virtue and vice result from education, but deny that conscience is a combination of the primary emotions.
The outlines of such a theory may now be presented. We may begin by considering conscience as first developed in
animals and young children. Some thinkers, who have commenced at the same point, seem to us to have failed to observe the entire phenomena. Mr. Bain, in defending his view that conscience is an ideal representation of external government, remarks that “the child's susceptibility to pleasure and pain is made use of to bring about this obedience, and a mental association rapidly formed between disobedience and apprehended pain, more or less magnified by fear. The peculiarity attending the kind of evil inflicted as a deterring instrument is the indefinite continuance, or, it may be, increase of the infliction, until the end is secured. The knowledge of this leaves on the mind a certain dread and awful impression as connected with forbidden actions, which is the conscience in its earliest germ.” * These remarks seem to us to express the truth imperfectly. When a child is deterred by the brandished rod from committing an act, the manifest restraining motive is the emotion of fear. That such an instance of discipline associates the idea of the action with that of the punishment, is true. That a number of acts of disobedience connected with a number of instances of punishment received or threatened, give rise to the abstract idea of disobedience as a quality of actions and punishment as one of their consequences, so that the idea of a certain action calls up the idea of punishment, which in its turn arouses the emotion of fear, is also true. Suppose, however, that, in the absence of the parent, an impulse arises towards a particular act, not in so many words prohibited, and the question of its punishability presents itself to the child's mind. An inductive process is resorted to in order to determine whether it belong to the class disobedient, followed by a deductive process whereby the quality of punishability is ascribed or withheld. If the result is that the quality of punishability is predicated of the action, there arises a deterring impulse of an emotional character. This tendency, resultant upon a mental process whereby a quality is predicated of an action, we maintain to be conscience in its germ, and to be of a specific character. The difference between our view of the process and that of philosophers of this school is, that
Emotions and Will, p. 315. Mr. James Mill to the same effect.
See also, in the same place, a quotation from
while they resolve the intellectual act which is admitted by all to form one of its original constituents into a mere association of ideas, we view the reasoning process as specifically distinct from, and superior to, mere ideation, and that, while they view the emotional part of the process as an emotion of the lowest grade, we consider it to be an emotion of as distinct a character as that of fear, but of a much higher grade. In like manner, where the hope of praise or reward has been the original motive applied, and association has formed the idea of praiseworthy as a quality of actions, a like reasoning process with regard to a contemplated action would, in our view, give rise to an impelling emotion of like specific character.
It is, however, maintained that the emotions thus originated are but the simple and familiar emotions of fear and hope, notwithstanding the universally admitted fact that the adult consciousness attests a broad and palpable distinction. The assertion seems to rest purely upon inference from two assumptions. The conduct resulting from the action of the rudimental conscience is alleged to be the same as would be produced by fear, and the condition of the child's mind is declared to be the same. Identity of effect is, however, in this department of knowledge, very deceptive. If the hand be unwittingly placed against a heated substance, it is quickly withdrawn. The action of withdrawal is the same act which the fear of being burnt would occasion, had the danger been perceived. It is, however, a mere reflexo-motory act, resultant upon an impulse of a lower psychological rank than the emotion of fear, but somewhat analogous in character. If the eye is suddenly menaced by a foreign body, it is at once closed. This effect would be produced by the emotion of fear, were the danger perceived; but the act is merely senso-motory, resulting from an impulse lower than fear in the psychological scale, although higher than those which proceed from senses of a lower order than sight. The tendency of the childish conscience to induce abstinence from an act which the reasoning process has shown to be punishable may produce the same effect as fear, but be an emotion higher in psychological rank, although analogous in its conservative function.
The condition of the minds of children and animals labor
ing under the rudimental conscience cannot be thoroughly explored, but seems distinguishable from fear by being less violent, and accompanied by a greater amount of intellectual effort. The countenance and gestures of a child or animal contemplating an act concerning the punishability of which a question is entertained, are generally characterized by painful dubiety rather than alarm. But, if it be contended that this distinction is not clearly observable, it still must be admitted that it is not absolutely disproved. To disprove it absolutely would rather devolve upon those who deny the conclusiveness of the adult consciousness upon this point.
According to this view, the moral sentiments are emotions preceded by intellectual processes whereby qualities are predicated of voluntary acts contemplated; in other words, by reasoning processes. Conscience is one of the emotional sides of reason, in the same manner as fear is one of the emotional sides of simple ideation, or as motion is the active side of sensation.
But as ideation is a vast and varied process, which has many emotional results, so reason is extensive and fruitful of resultant emotional conditions.
I may ascribe to an action the quality of promoting health. An impulse to perform the action follows the conviction, and is strong in proportion to the prevalence in my mind of sanitary considerations. I may conclude that another act would improve the acuteness of my senses. An impulse to perform it arises, powerful in proportion to the importance ascribed to taste or sight or hearing. I may infer that a certain position would enrich my mind with new and varied impressions. An impulse to assume it arises, powerful in proportion as extent of information and variety of mental impression are prized. I may decide that one course of mental discipline will strengthen the logical faculty, or that another will develop the benevolent emotions; and corresponding impulses arise, strong in proportion to my value of logical strength or emotional development. All of these impulses are emotional sides of reason, and as such present some similarity to conscience, but are clearly inferior in dignity to the fully developed conscience.
which the reasoning faculty ascribes to an action must, in order to awaken the specific impulse called con
science, be conceived as promoting, not merely health or sense or ideation or emotion or intellect, but the most comprehensive object of being which the mind has embraced; some object in which all others are contained, or to which all others aro subordinate.
The various standards which virtuous men have acknowledged coincide in constituting such objects. To comply with God's will, to obey conscience, to promote the greatest amount of happiness, are recognized respectively by the defenders of these criteria as constituting the highest objects of man's existence, whether that existence be considered as the preparation for a future state, or as terminating here, yet finding its highest happiness in harmonious development.
The kind of standard adopted depends to some extent, as has been shown, upon the laws of intellectual development. In many individuals the most comprehensive object of being which the intellect recognizes is so low and partial, that we may incur danger of concluding that the emotion which prompts to its attainment is selfish in character. We occa-. sionally meet men who recognize no higher quality and object of being than pecuniary integrity, or patriotism, or fidelity to friends. In viewing that portion of their conduct of which they conscientiously approve, we observe an intellectual operation determining the conformity of an act to the standard adopted, followed by a specific impulse inciting or deterring. The intellectual process and the impulse are disinterested. It is true that the lower emotions may influence the intellect and corrupt its processes, so that the impulse which responds to these processes shall apparently coincide with the lower emotions. It does in such a case coincide with them in its tendencies to promote action ; but the coincidence is that of two independent forces, and the observer who refers the conscience to the lower emotion commits an error similar to that of a moral agent who is apt to consider bis lower emotions totally extinguished and merged in his conscience.
Conscience may, then, in our view, be defined as a specific influence urging us to perform such acts as the intellect considers conformable, and refrain from those which it considers not conformable, to the most comprehensive principles of con