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LECTURE IX

MORALITY AND RELIGION

(6) THEIR RECONCILIATION

We now return to our immediate problem-namely, that of the inter-relation of morality and religion. At present, especially in our theoretical reflexions, the opposition of the two is much in evidence. In our The practical life, unless I am unjust to my neighbours, severance of their antagonism is not so pronounced, and its solu- morality and tion is not felt to be so urgent. Nevertheless the

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religious " man is all too apt to confine his religion to the Sabbath day and its observances; and he is not usually expected to be more generous to his employees, or more genial on his hearth, or more honest in his business, than others. And on the other hand, the pre-eminently practical or moral" man often fails to discern the need or the uses of religion. Religion and morality grow, like rather sickly plants, side by side, giving one another no help.

practical

religion.

theoretical

and

The first of the theoretic difficulties of reconciling The morality with religion arises from the responsibility of antagonism the moral agent for all those of his actions which of morality we would call morally right or wrong. His re- religion. sponsibility, in turn, seems to imply his freedom of choice; his act is traceable to his personality, issues

The

responsi

moral agent and its

thence, and thence only, whatever the palliating or

contributory forces may have been.
unambiguous author of the deed.

He must be the In estimating his

merit or guilt we no doubt take into consideration his history, his temperament, his character and his circumstances. But his responsibility, be it great or small, remains. He is still considered to have conceived and willed the act, and to have done these things of himself and by himself. The language of the repentant moral consciousness always is, "I, alone did it." It never seeks to share the guilt with others, nor to attribute its deed to circumstances. It takes them bility of the wholly upon itself. In short, moral responsibility seems to imply a kind of isolation. A man's neighimplications. bours, his world, can only look on. The father or mother, teacher or friend, may urge and tempt and threaten the boy, using every art of persuasion; but in the end they must be content to await the issue. The teacher may explain, illustrate and exemplify, but he cannot make the child see. The act of apprehending and comprehending must be the child's own. And the same truth holds of our volitions and actions. They also are in the end, whether good or bad, our own. They are the results of our choice: they issue from our personality, and they express its freedom and character.

The

Utilitarian denial of

freedom, a non-moral doctrine.

I am not ignorant of the fact that great writers, in both ancient and modern times, have maintained that a man's deed may be approved as moral, or condemned as immoral, although he is not free. The consequence, so far as I am able to judge, is the denial of the specifically moral features of the actions, and, indeed, the extrusion of morality in favour of, at best, a calculating

A NON-MORAL DOCTRINE

135

determinism.

prudence. Their doctrine deprives morality of its unconditional character, and therefore destroys it. No good is sovereign; no duty imperative. The best that can be said of anything under such conditions is that it is useful, which means that it derives its worth from something else. Utilitarianism cannot Utilitarian even be a hedonism without inconsistency, for it cannot have any end which does not turn into means in its hands. Nothing justifies itself for a theory of utility. The theory admits nothing that is final or absolute; it commits the agent to the pursuit of an ever-receding and indefinite end.

A non-moral theory of mere utilities may go well with the denial of freedom. But the denial of freedom usually arises from another cause than lack of interest in the ethical qualities of man and his actions. Freedom is taken to imply the complete detachment of the agent, or of his will, from both antecedents and environment; and the possibility of such detachment is denied. His responsibility is taken to imply that the self, or the will, is in no sense continuous with the world in which he lives. On the assumption that he is free, he must be quite separate from it. He must exclude it absolutely. There is no bridge over the chasm between the self, or the willing part of the self, and the not-self. The problem of freedom is held to be the problem of natural cause, and causality means the transmutation of energy from one form to another, according to fixed quantitative laws which physical science defines. No other kind of connexion is conceived in this controversy. Both the necessitarians and the libertarians assume that, if there is real continuity between the will or the per

Both

Libertarianism and Necessitarianism make morality impossible.

sonality and the antecedents or environment, freedom is impossible, and both alike assume that any continuity must take the form of natural cause. Hence, either the causal connexion or freedom must be rejected. The former reject the idea of freedom; the latter the idea of the continuity of what exists, that is, of the unity of the principle of reality. Mutual out-sidedness and exclusiveness is the last word on this theoryeven as regards the relation of the finite and infinite; and, as we shall see, religion ought to be impossible to those who maintain such a doctrine.

But we must avoid following further the fortunes of the controversy of the libertarians and necessitarians; and, with your permission, I shall merely make a few dogmatic assertions-the truth of which you can easily test for yourselves—and pass on. In the first place, neither of these schools saves morality. The libertarian makes morality impossible by subjecting man to the worst of all necessities, namely, that of pure chance, for the self is absolutely irresponsible, or the will is lawless. There is no law within or without that can be either kept or broken by the agent. The necessitarian does not, strictly speaking, pretend to save morality. The actions of man are for him purely natural events. Here we have law but no freedom, that is, no power either to accept or to reject what is proffered. The necessity of choice cannot arise in men any more than in gooseberry bushes. Each bears fruit according to its kind and condition. Thus we find that the libertarian gives freedom without law, which in truth is caprice and chance; the necessitarian gives us law and denies freedom. But morality requires both. Its laws, indeed, are unconditional,

FREEDOM AND NECESSITY

137

but they all spring from "the perfect law of freedom."

Hence the problem of morality rightly presented differs from that of both of these schools. Each of

of moral

these schools bears witness to only one-half of the truth, and denies the other. But the moral con- The problem victions of man, the moral world, as we say, can be theory. established only on the basis of both necessary law and freedom, and of both reconciled within the moral agent. That is to say, we cannot maintain that man, or man's character and actions, have any moral qualities, are either right or wrong, unless he is at once essentially related to and continuous with the world and subject to law, and also, in so far as he does right or wrong, free"-his will or rather his personality genuinely sovereign, and his authorship of his actions unambiguous.

This problem takes many forms. It is one of the ways in which the difficulty appears of maintaining and reconciling differences with unity. To effect that reconciliation means a refusal to regard independence as implying isolation, or difference as equivalent to opposition, or to admit that the relation of mutual exclusion is ultimate, or that mere negation can be a final fact. The ultimate relation, even between opposites, must be positive.

There is one consideration which makes it much easier to maintain than to reject the conviction that one and the same principle reveals itself in all things, and that it takes the whole of the differences, as related in one system, to set forth the nature of that principle. To come to the particular case which we are considering, there is one fact that makes it difficult to

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