XII.—New Books

XII.—New Books[35]

Fragments on Ethical Subjects, by the late George Grote, Murray.

From the large accumulation of manuscripts left by Mr. Grote, it has been possible to rescue some interesting fragments, partly didactic and partly historical, bearing upon Ethics. These are now collected into a volume, and arranged into six separate Essays.(12, item 1 ¶ 1)

Four of the Essays are occupied with the more usual questions discussed in modern times in connection with Ethics--the nature of Conscience and the Standard of Morals. To the first of the two--the nature and mental origin of the Moral Sentiment or Conscience--the greatest part of these four Essays is devoted.(12, item 1 ¶ 2)

Mr. Grote's positions are much the same as those taken by Utilitarians generally. He disputes the instinctive origin of the moral sentiment, endeavouring to show how it can be otherwise accounted for. He disputes the personal or individual nature of conscience, alleging that it has neither meaning nor existence except with reference to society. On the same ground he lays great stress on the correlation of Obligation and Right; the ethical sentiment, he says, is a sentiment of regulated social reciprocity as between the agent and the society wherein he lives.(12, item 1 ¶ 3)

With regard to the way in which ethical sentiment was first generated, on the original coalescence of rude men into a permanent social communion, we have no direct observation to consult, and must therefore content ourselves with assigning some unexceptionable theory. But with regard to the way in which ethical sentiment is sustained and transmitted, in a society once established, we have ample experience and opportunity for observing before our eyes. We know perfectly that children are not born with any ethical sentiment: they acquire it in the course of early education, and we can trace the various stages of the process from its earliest rudiments to its complete maturity.(12, item 1 ¶ 4)

You may call it a natural sentiment if you will--meaning thereby a sentiment which is formed by association, but which is quite certain to be formed more or less in every variety of human society. The foundations of the sentiment are doubtless laid in human nature; but the sentiment itself is composed of ideas and feelings gradually, and at last indissolubly, united together; the causes which determine such ideas and feelings to become associated together, being quite universal in their operation, and acting upon every individual (with certain modifications and varieties) who is brought up in anything like an established form of social relations.(12, item 1 ¶ 5)

He accordingly traces what he considers to be the course of the sentiment in the child, first, under self-regarding motives, and next, with the addition of sympathy; and shows it finally as naturalised in the mature mind. He sets forth with great force of illustration the sway of society over the mind of the individual--the influence of communication on the one hand, and of reproach on the other.(12, item 1 ¶ 6)

To be reproached with weakness, impotence, unfitness for the duties incumbent upon a man, ignorance of those accomplishments which are common with men of good condition, want of virile power, bastardy, ugliness, infamy of one's family, is an imputation quite as terrible and cutting as that of any ethical fault, such as dishonesty, mendacity, injustice, cruelty, or ingratitude. The reproach of Euryalus to Ulysses, that he is no ἀτλητές, nothing better than a shipmaster, is more warmly resented than almost any other reproach in the poem.(12, item 1 ¶ 7)

The genuine ethical motive is--the desire at all events of acquiring a right to the esteem of others, and if possible consistently with this, the desire of actually enjoying it--the desire of escaping conscious liability to the disesteem of others, and if possible consistently with this, the desire of escaping their actual disesteem. To a perfectly virtuous man, the consciousness that he deserves esteem will be more gratifying than the actual enjoyment of it--the consciousness of deserving disesteem will be more painful than the actual suffering of it--if he is reduced to choose between the two.(12, item 1 ¶ 8)

Moralists often speak of the sentiment of ethical obligation as if it stood alone and unconnected with any sentiment of right. Looking at the matter with reference to practice, one can easily understand why they have done this; for every man is certain to set quite sufficient value on his own rights, but he is not equally certain to be sufficiently attentive to his obligations. But it is nevertheless an error to suppose that the sense of obligation stands alone; for the sense of right is indissolubly connected with it, and forms an equally essential part of the ethical man.(12, item 1 ¶ 9)

When I say that obligation and right are correlative and mutually imply each other, I do not mean that every specific act which we perform, under a sense of obligation, must necessarily correspond to a specific right vested in some other determinate persons. In performing any obligatory act, the sentiment by which we are impelled is not one peculiar to that act alone, but common to that act along with a great many others; and it is that general sentiment of ethical obligation which correlates and is indissolubly conjoined with the general sentiment of ethical right; making up both together, when joined by the ideal vinculum, called a sanction, what is properly called ethical sentiment.(12, item 1 ¶ 10)

He grapples with the case where the individual is at variance with the surrounding public, or the recognised authority at the time. The judgment of others, such as an individual actually sees or hears it pronounced upon himself or upon his own conduct, very often differs seriously from the judgment of others as he conceives it. What is called his own judgment of himself, is the idea which he forms of the judgment of others as it would be if they possessed the same fulness of knowledge, and contemplated the matter with the same intensity of interest, as he does himself.(12, item 1 ¶ 11)

This appeal to the ideal spectators, thoroughly well-informed and enlightened, is what constitutes the sense of good or ill desert, or merit and demerit. That estimation which I suppose myself to deserve, and that estimation which I suppose that a right-minded and well-informed spectator would accord to me--are only two modes of expressing the same thing. If the actual spectators around do not accord me this estimation, I regard them either as not right-minded or as not well-informed--I constitute myself their censor, instead of recognising them as mine.(12, item 1 ¶ 12)

The two concluding essays are on the Ethics and the Politics of Aristotle. As regards the Ethics, there is a very full discussion of two capital points, namely, Happiness, and what, according to Aristotle, is the chief ingredient of Happiness--Virtue. Mr. Grote comes face to face with his author at every possible phase of the theory of Happiness; and it is a curious spectacle to see Aristotle in the hands of a modern Utilitarian of the most advanced type. Doing full justice to the merits of Aristotle's conceptions, he exposes its defects with his characteristic vigour of polemic.(12, item 1 ¶ 13)

No less subtle and clear is his handling of Aristotle's doctrine of virtue. He is also full on the distinction of the Voluntary and the Involuntary. As to the virtues in detail, the chief stress of the exposition is laid on Justice and Equity.(12, item 1 ¶ 14)

The last essay on the Politics of Aristotle, short as it is, is the gem of the collection. It displays the author in his happiest vein. Placing himself exactly at the point of view of the work he is describing, he is in full sympathy with the end that Aristotle had in view; he examines critically the means proposed for that end, and shows the bearing of Aristotle's ideal upon actual societies.(12, item 1 ¶ 15)

Oligarchical reasoners in modern times employ the bad part of Aristotle's principle without the good. They represent the rich and great as alone capable of reaching a degree of virtue consistent with the full enjoyment of political privileges: but then they take no precautions, as Aristotle does, that the men so preferred shall really answer to this exalted character. They leave the rich and great to their own self-indulgence and indolent propensities, without training them by any systematic process to habits of superior virtue. So that the select citizens on this plan are at the least no better, if indeed they are not worse, than the remaining community, while their unbounded indulgences excite either undue envy or undue admiration, among the excluded multitude. The select citizens of Aristotle are both better and wiser than the rest of their community: while they are at the same time so hemmed in and circumscribed by severe regulations, that nothing except the perfection of their character can appear worthy either of envy or admiration. Though therefore these oligarchical reasoners concur with Aristotle in sacrificing the bulk of the community to the pre-eminence of a narrow class, they fail of accomplishing the end for which alone he pretends to justify such a sacrifice--the formation of a few citizens of complete and unrivalled virtue.(12, item 1 ¶ 16)

Considering that these were the two treatises of Aristotle that Mr. Grote was considered as most especially qualified to deal with, it is in some degree consoling to find that, while he unfortunately failed to reach them in the regular course of his exposition, he has not altogether left himself without a witness on several of the more vital themes.(12, item 1 ¶ 17)

A. Bain

The Emotions and the Will, by Alexander Bain, LL.D. 3rd Edition, Longmans & Co., 1875.

The present edition has been thoroughly revised, and in great part rewritten. The chapters on the leading Emotions, on Ideal Emotions, on Sympathy, and on Aesthetic Emotions (in respect of which last the author has largely profited by the investigations of Mr. James Sully), also the chapter on Belief, appear in a new form. Additions have been made to the handling of Desire, Free-will (in view of Mr. Sidgwick's position), and Consciousness. Part of the introductory chapter is devoted to a consideration of the question how far there can be a quantitative treatment of Feeling. The author also fully discusses the bearing of the Evolution hypothesis on the Emotions, and, as regards the Will, maintains that his leading assumptions (which are well-known) are equally required under that hypothesis.(12, item 2 ¶ 1)

The Economy of Thought, by T. Hughes. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1875.

This book is intended to enlighten, at the same time, the student and the ordinary reader. Hence, perhaps, it is that the author seeks to embrace, within the compass of a small volume, such extensive subjects as Logic, Ethics, Psychology, and Religious Philosophy. The transitions of the authors thought are not always quite obvious. In Logic, which is intended to form the main topic, the subjectively-formal point of view is adopted.(12, item 3 ¶ 1)

Gott und die Natur, von Dr. Hermann Ulrici. 3te neu bearbeite Auflage. Leipzig, 1875.

In this edition, as in the preceding one, the author has endeavoured to estimate the result of recent scientific inquiry; a task rendered unusually difficult by the differences of opinion of scientific men on many points of fundamental importance. These disputes touch ultimately upon the ground-problem of all science, the notion of Being--the old controversy whether Being and Matter are identical. Here the philosopher is entitled to a hearing on his own account; and the author declares himself emphatically against the growing monistic tendency of the students of Nature. He cannot allow that Monism explains phenomena better than Dualism. He is a hostile critic of the hypothesis of Evolution; but, both on that subject and also on Pessimism, is concerned rather with the practical consequences (real or supposed), than with the theoretical aspects, of the doctrines brought under review.(12, item 4 ¶ 1)

Kant und Darwin. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Entwichlungslehre, von Fritz Schultze. Jena, 1875.

An attempt to display the germs of the modern theory of Development in the speculation of Kant. The author has collected all the passages bearing on the subject. He thinks that men of science have been great losers by neglecting the study of Kant, and declares that they have much still to learn from the greatest philosopher of Germany.(12, item 5 ¶ 1)

Grenzen der Philosophie, constatirt gegen Riemann und Helmholtz, vertheidigt gegen von Hartmann und Lasker, von Wilhelm Tobias. Berlin, 1875.

In this large polemical work the author discusses a number of subjects which appear to him to lie near the boundary line between science and philosophy, and which are therefore likely, from a misapprehension of their true nature, to render this boundary indistinct. Among the principal themes enlarged on are the rational possibility of a space of more than three dimensions, as conceived by Riemann and Helmholtz; the controversy between the empiricists and the nativists, with respect to the origin of space-notions; the attempt of von Hartmann to arrive at a metaphysical principle by the inductive methods of natural science, and finally a number of problems connected with art, ethics, and politics, suggested by a work of Eduard Lasker (Ueber Welt- und Staats-weisheit). The author cotnends for a philosophical solution of certain questions as a necessary complement to the constructions of the sciences (that is a distinct meta-physic), which he commonly defines in Kantian terms as a determination of the nature of knowledge (Erkenntnisstheorie), but which, in other places, he makes to include all departments of subjective knowledge (psychology).(12, item 6 ¶ 1)

Die philosophischen Schriften von Gottfriend Wilhelm Leibniz. Herausgegeben von G. J. Gerhardt. Bd. I. Berlin, 1875.

This new edition of the philosophical writings of Leibniz will contain all that has been printed hitherto, together with whatever of value may not have seen the light, which the editor is able to procure or discover. In the arrangement of the collection, the entire correspondence will precede the regular treatises. The present volume contains the letters which passed between Leibniz and Thomasius, Otto von Guericke, Spinoza, Conring, Eckhard, Molanus, Malebranche, Foucher; letters to Duke Johann Friedrich; a long letter (undated) to Arnauld, and two unanswered communications to Hobbes. The correspondence seems to be arranged, as far as possible, with a view to showing the course of Leibniz's speculation. Some matter, not strictly philosophical, is included, but generally for the sake of the metaphysical references.(12, item 7 ¶ 1)

W. C. Coupland