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writer, who prosesses to give us ethical science, to give us a system which renders virtue possible only to the invincibly ignorant.
3. This doctrine of virtue makes virtue and its opposite practically the same. The acts to be performed are the same, whatever the motive from which we act. This M. Jouffroy is careful to inform us. What is done is the same in all cases, to wit, — the satisfaction of our natural tendencies. This is what we are to do, whether we obey instinct, act from selfishness, benevolence, or a view of universal order. So far as actions and results are concerned, it matters not what is the motive from which we act. The sole difference is in the view we take of the reason for doing what we do. Practically, the supremely selfish man is as good as the supremely virtuous man, and receives and does as much good. What superiority, then, has virtue ? Why is it better to be virtuous than to be not virtuous ? Why are we bound to be virtuous ? Where is the obligation ? I am to promote universal good by promoting my own; and I have a right to promote my own personal good, because it is a fragment of universal good. This is the doctrine. If I do it for the sake of myself, I am selfish ; if for the sake of universal good, I am meritorious. Meritorious for what ? What have I really done? Simply, found out a reason
, for being selfish; the method of being, with purely disinterested motives, supremely selfish. But what is the merit of disinterested motives themselves, especially if they have no tendency to lead to disinterested external acts? The practical rule, and the only practical rule of life, - this sublime system, which makes a man live solely for himself, for the purpose of promoting universal good, — is, Look out for number one; let each take care of himself, and then all will be taken care of. I am revelling in every luxury, satisfying to the utmost all my natural tendencies, - primitive passions, as Charles Fourier names them, — while the poor beggar stands shivering and starving at my gate ; but, for his consolation, I send bim my servant to assure him that he may go in peace and be thankful, for I am doing all in my power to augment the good of all beings by augmenting my own! Admirable morality this, and worthy of being early instilled into the minds and the hearts of our New England youth !
But enough. M. Jouffroy talks largely and learnedly of man's destiny, of individual good, universal good, and absolute good; but he fails utterly to tell us what is our real destiny, what is good, and, a fortiori, what are the rules which should
govern us in the conduct of life. A puny Eclecticism runs through his whole work, and the vain attempt is everywhere made to accept and harmonize in one consistent whole the leading principles of contradictory schools. Much is said, but nothing is done. We rise from the study of his system as uninstructed in all that relates to the end for which God made us, or the means of attaining to that end, as we were before. No theoretical problem is solved, no practical difficulty removed, no wise practical suggestion offered. We are amused and misled by words. We seem at moments to have grasped somewhat; but we open our hand and find we have nothing. We might as well have attempted to catch a handful of smoke.
M. Jouffroy's first great mistake is in not perceiving clearly and steadily, that good, if good there be, must be independent, self-subsisting, set before us, and not contained in us. The first ethical problem is necessarily, What is good ? It is the old question of the summum bonum ; and till this is answered, we cannot proceed a single step in the construction of the science of ethics, whether speculative or practical. Now, this question M. Jouffroy does not answer, or, at least, not correctly. He, indeed, contends that order is the supreme good, but wrongly ; for order is but a mere state or condition, wholly dependent on the parts ordered, and good only as the means of enabling the beings ordered to gain good.
His next mistake is in confounding the end for which we were made with the mere fulfilment of our nature, or the realization of its most perfect type. According to him, our nature contains its destiny in itself ; which is to say, that man is his own final cause.
But man can no more be his own final cause than his own first cause. None but a self-existent and self-subsistent being can be its own final cause. Man is neither self-existent nor self-subsistent. This final cause, or end he is to gain, is therefore not in himself, but out of himself, — something not possessed, but to be attained to.
The second great ethical problem is that of obligation. The first is the problem of good, and its solution reveals to us the end to be sought. The second establishes our duty to seek that end, —not only stating the fact that we feel we ought to seek it, but disclosing the grounds of the obligation. This is the problem which M. Jouffroy has chiefly labored in the volumes before us. There can be no morals unless there is a moral law, and none if a law which does not bind. Now, after all his labor, M. Jouffroy fails entirely to establish the reality of such law. He recognizes ro lawgiver but human nature. Man,
then, is under no law, but the law imposed by his own nature, which is to say, no law at all. Why am I bound to obey the law of my nature ?
Failing to establish a real moral law, M. Jouffroy of course fails to establish the possibility of virtue, of merit; for virtue can be found only in obedience, actual or intentional, to the moral law. But if no moral law, then no virtue, then no merit, no praise, no blame. M. Jouffroy really comes to this conclusion ; for he recognizes no distinction in actions but such as
2 exists solely in the mind of the actor. We say, then, with truth, that his whole system, as a system, whatever the ingenuity, learning, and ability it indicates, is a complete failure, and leaves us no wiser than it found us.
This mournful result was the necessary consequence of M. Jouffroy's vicious method. From the study of man's nature it is impossible to conclude to man's destiny or end, or to deduce the rules for the conduct of his life; because man was not made to follow nature, but God. This is the grand fact which the author began by discarding, and hence all his mistakes and errors. Having begun wrong, started in the wrong direction, no speed he could make could bring him to the right termination. The faster he travelled, the farther he departed from the truth. Yet he errs only in common with all our great German, English, and Scotch moralists. All these, or nearly all, adopt the rule, that we must follow nature, and assume that the end to be sought is the perfection of our nature. M. Jouffroy tells us that we are predestinated by our organization to a certain end, which is our good. Follow nature, and you will gain it. Here the fulfilment of our nature, or the complete satisfaction of our natural tendencies, is assumed to be the good. Obtain this, and you obtain good. This is the case also with our Fourierists. M. Jouffroy and Charles Fourier adopt precisely the same ethical system, with this simple difference, that what the one calls tendencies the other calls passions, what the one terms order the other terms harmony. Absolute good with the former is universal order, with the latter it is universal harmony ; the means of attaining to it is with the one the satisfaction of our natural tendencies, with the other the satisfaction of the primitive passions. And even this, not because by this satisfaction the individual is placed in relation with an order or harmony which exists independent of him ; but because by establishing order or harmony in the individual, it contributes so much towards the general order or harmony of the universe. It is not good for the reason that it participates of absolute VOL. II. NO, I.
good, but because it contributes to it; and it can contribute to it only on condition of its being good in itself, that is to say, itself the absolute good! Now, what authority has any man for saying that this satisfaction is absolutely good in itself?
But it is vain to tell us to follow nature. Nature herself recoils from her own teachings, and universally shrieks out, “Save me from myself.” They who follow her as ultimate never find good. She herself sees that she is not sufficient for herself, — that there must be something above her, of which we must participate, or there is no good for us. But at the same time she sees and feels that she is impotent to discover what that something is, or to elevate us to its participation. This is demonstrated by the fact, that natural reason itself rejects all the great ethical systems founded on natural reason alone, and is daily seeking and concocting new systems, to yield in turn to others still newer, and thus on for ever.
Nature never satisfies nature. Nature never finds her good in herself. We may gain all the natural objects craved by our natural tendencies or passions, and still ask, from the depths of our souls, “Who will show us any good ?” Our tendencies grow, and demand. more, the more we obtain ; they become morbidly active, crying out, like the daughters of the horseleech, “Give, give!” or they become satiated, surcharged, wearied, and, all things palling on our hearts and senses, we cry out with the Preacher, * Vanitas vanitatum, vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas.”
We take the wrong road. It is not in following nature alone that we find the country we seek. Not in that direction lies our veritable good. The sad experience of all ages and climes proclaims it in a voice too loud not to be heard, too distinct not to be understood. True wisdom requires us to return from our weary wanderings to the fountain of living waters. If nature could have sufficed, no other teacher would have been vouchsafed us; no supernatural revelation, as we have said, would have been needed, none would have been made.
But a supernatural revelation has been made, and because we needed it for our guide in the conduct of life.
In the light of this revelation all becomes plain and easy. The problem of our destiny ceases to be a problem. Man was made, not for a natural, but a supernatural destiny ; not for pleasure, not for happiness, but for beatitude, which consists in our being elevated by the light of glory to know and love God as he is in himself, with a knowledge and love, though different in degree, yet the same in kind as the knowledge and love with which God knows and loves himself. Here is our sublime destiny. We have but to remember that God is infinite truth, wisdom, beauty, goodness, and to consider what is the joy the soul finds in knowing and loving truth, wisdom, beauty, goodness, to be assured that eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, what is reserved for us in the heaven to which we are destined. God made us that we might become partakers of his own infinite blessedness, because he is good and delights to communicate his goodness.
To this blessedness we are not naturally equal, we do not attain to it by natural development, the famous self-culture,” of which in these days we hear so inuch; because it is not the fulfilment of our nature, the realization of its most perfect type, but something far transcending nature, graciously bestowed by our Heavenly Father. A Goethe, with his long life of study, with his “many-sided” culture, bringing his whole nature to the highest possible state of perfection, is farther from it than the little child over whom the priest has just pronounced the baptismal formula. It is hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes, that no flesh may glory in the presence of God. Here learn the vanity of all your earth-born greatness and wisdom, of all that the wisdom of this world applauds. Not by the wisdom to which we attain by natural culture and development, -not by a vain philosophy which sees neither behind nor before, — not even by natural elevation, nobility, kindness, and love, do we attain to the end to which our God in his ineffable goodness has appointed us. The great man of the earth must become as the little child, the rich man poor as the poorest beggar, and the wise man as the fool. All pride must humble itself, all towering thoughts be brought down, all self-importance, all self-confidence, be laid aside; meek and lowly in heart, we must bow down at the foot of the altar, and receive it as a free bounty, which we have done nothing to merit, and could do nothing to merit. Behold us, O Lord! We are nothing, – yea, less than nothing ; do unto us according to thy will, — not according to ours.
Human pride revolts at this. We shrink from this profound humility. We would have the reward, we would possess the infinite beatitude; but we would earn it by our own labor, win it by our own stout hearts and strong arms; we would receive it not as a largess, but as a due, and claim it as our right. Hence it is that we seek in human nature, by means which nature alone has placed in our hands, to wring out the secrets we must know, and to gain the end without which there is no