Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

faculties, and fit them to receive those eternal truths, and that durable good, which you so triumphantly boasted of. Begiu, then: I am prepared. · Phil. I will. I believe, Horatio; with all your scepticism about you, you will allow that good to be constant, which is never absent from you; and that to be durable, which never ends but with your being.

Hor. Yes: go on.

Phil. That can never be the good of a creature, which, when present, the creature may be miserable, and when absent, is certainly so.

Hor. I think not : but pray explain what you mean; for I am not much used to this abstract way of reasoning.

Phil. I mean all the pleasures of sense. The good of man cannot consist in the mere pleasures of sense; because, when any one of those ob. jects which you love is absent, or cannot be come at, you are certainly miserable ; and if the faculty be impaired, though the object be present, you cannot enjoy it. So that this sensual good depends upon a thousand things without and within you, and all out of your power. Can this then be the good of man? Say, Horatio, what think you ? is not this a checquered, fleeting, fantastical good ? Can that, in any propriety of speech, be called the good of man, which, even while he is tasting, le may be miserable; and which, when he cannot taste, he is necessarily so ? Can that be our good which costs us a great deal of pains to obtain, which cloys in possessing, for which we cannot wait the return of appetite before we can enjoy again?

Or, is that our good which we can come at without difficulty, which is heightened by possession, which never ends in weariness and disappointment, and which, the more we enjoy, the better qualified we are to enjoy on?

Hor. The latter, I think ; but why do you torment me thus ? Philocles, show me this good im. mediately.

Phil. I have showed you what it is not; it is not sensual; but it is rational and moral good: it is doing all the good we can to others, by acts of humanity, friendship, generosity, and benevolence. This is that constant and durable good, which will afford contentment and satisfaction always alike, without variation or diminution. I speak to your experience now, Horatio ; did you ever find yourself weary of relieving the miserable, or of raising the distressed into lite or happiness ? or rather do not you find the pleasure grow upon you by repetition, and that it is greater in the reflection than in the act itself? Is there a pleasure upon earth to be compared with that which arises from the sense of making others happy? Can this pleasure ever be absent, or ever end, but with your being? Does it not always accompany you? Doth not it lie down and rise with you, live as long as you live, give you consolation in the hour of death, and remain with you when all other things are going to forsake you, or you them ?

Hor. How glowingly you paint, Philocles : methinks, Horatio is among the enthusiasts. I feel the passion ; I am enchantingly convinced; but I do not know why; overborne by something stronger than reason. Sure some divinity speaks within me. But prithee, Philocles, give me the cause why this rational and moral good so infinitely excels the mere patural or sensual.

Phil. I think, Horatio, that I have clearly shown you the difference between merely natural or sensual good, and rational or moral good. Natural or sensual pleasure continues no longer than the action itself; but this divine or moral pleasure continues when the action is over, and swells and grows upon your hand by reflection : the one is unconstant, unsatisfying, of short duration, and attended with numberless ills; the other is constant, yields full satisfaction, is durable, and no evils preceding, accompanying, or following it. But if you inquire farther into the cause of this difference, and would know why the moral pleasures are greater than the sensual, perhaps the reason is the same as in all other creatures; that their happiness or chief good consists in acting up to their chief faculty, or that faculty which distinguishes them from all creatures of a different species. The chief faculty in man is his reason ; and, consequently, his chief good consists not merely in action, but in reasonable action. By reasonable actions, we understand those actions which are preservative of the human kind, and naturally tend to produce real and unmixed happiness.; and these actions, by way of distinction, we call actions morally good.'

Hor. You speak very clearly, Philocles : but that no difficulty may remain ou my mind, pray tell me what is the real difference between natural good and evil, and moral good and evil; for I know several people who use the terms without ideas.

Phil. That may be : the difference lies only in this--that natural good and evil are pleasure and pain, moral good and evil are pleasure or pain produced with intention and design ; for it is the intention only that makes the agent morally good or bad.

Hor. But may not a man, with a very good inten. tion, do an evil action ?

Phil. Yes; but then he errs in judgment, though his design be good : if his error be inevitable, or such as, all things considered, he could not help, he is inculpable; but if it arose through want of diligence in forming his judgment about the nature of human actions, he is immoral and culpable.

Hor. I find then that in order to please ourselves rightly, or to do good to others morally, we should take great care of our opinions.

Phil. Nothing concerns you more ; for as the happiness or real good of men consists in right action, and right action cannot be produced without right opinion; it behoves us, above all things in this world, to take care that our own opinions of things be according to the nature of things. The foundation of all virtue and happiness is thinking rightly. He who sees an action is right—that is, naturally tending to good, and does it because of that tendeucy, he only is a nioral man; and he alone is ca. pable of that constant, durable, and invariable good, which has been the subject of this conversation.

Hor. How, my dear philosophical guide, shall I be able to know, and determine certainly, what is right and wrong in life?

Phil. As easily as you distinguish a circle from a square, or light from darkness. Look, Horatio, into the sacred book of nature, read your own nature, and view the relation which other men stand in to you, and you to them, and you will immediately see what constitutes human happiness, and, consequently, what is right.

Hor. We are just coming into town, and can say no more at present. You are my good genius, Philocles; you have showed me what is good ; you hare redeemed me from the slavery and misery of folly and vice, and make me a free and happy being..

Phil. Then I am the happiest man in the world : be you steady, Horatio; never depart from reason and virtue.

Hor. Sooner will I lose my existence. Good night, Philocles. Phil. Adieu, dear Horatio !

PUBLIC MEN. From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 95, Sept. 3,

1730. The following is a dialogue between Socrates the great Athenian philosopher, and one Glaucon, a private man of mean abilities, but ambitious of being chosen a senator, and of governing the republic; wherein Socrates, in a pleasant manner, convinces him of his incapacity for public affairs, by making him sensible of his ignorance of the interests of his country, in their several branches, and entirely dissuades him from any attempt of that nature. There is also added at the end, part of another dialogue the same Socrates had with one Charmidas, a worthy man, but too modest; wherein he endeavours to

VOL. I.

« ZurückWeiter »