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moral obligation and consequently of right and wrong developed. If moral obligation respects the choice of an end, the obligation cannot exist until the end is apprehended. When the end is apprehended the affirmation of moral obligation to choose it, and of the rightness of compliance, and the wrongness of noncompliance with the obligation, is made by a law of necessity. The mind is so constituted that when the idea of the intrinsically valuable is developed, the correlated ideas of moral obligation, of right and wrong, of praise and blameworthiness, of justice and injustice, &c., are developed by a law of necessity.
The theory under consideration was held by the ancient Greek and Roman Philosophers. It was the theory of Kant, and is now the theory of the transcendental school in Europe and America. Cousin, in manifest accordance with the views of Kant, states the theory in these words; "Do right for the sake of the right, or rather, will the right for the sake of the right. Morality has to do with the intentions."-(Enunciation of moral law-Elements of Psychology p. 162.) Those who follow Kant, Cousin and Coleridge state the theory either in the same words, or in words that amount to the same thing. They regard right as the foundation of moral obligation. “Will the right for the sake of the right." This, if it has any meaning, means, Will the right as an ultimate end, that is, for its own sake. Let us examine this very popular philosophy, first, in the light of its own principles, and secondly in the light of Revelation.
1. In the light of its own principles. And,
(1.) This philosophy strenuously maintains that Moral Obligation respects the ultimate intention only, that is, that it respects the choice of an ultimate end. It also maintains that to choose an ultimate end is to choose something for its own intrinsic value, either to self or being in general, and not as a means or condition of any other end. This, it will be seen, is the same as to say that the choice of an ultimate end is the choice of the intrinsically valuable to being, that is, to self or to the universe. This, again, it will be seen, is the same as to say that ultimate intention is and must be synonymous either with good will to being in general or identi cal with disinterested benevolence, or with willing good to self in particular. But how does this teaching consist with choosing the right for the sake of the right? Are the good of being, the intrinsically valuable to being, and the right the same thing? Are the right and the intrinsically valuable the
same thing? Are the right, and the highest well being of God and of the universe identical? To choose, will, intend the highest good of God and the universe, as an ultimate end, or for its own value, is right. For this is choosing the proper, fit, suitable, right end. But to will the right for the sake of the right is to will another end, and this is not right. To will the good for the sake of the good, that is, to will it disinterestedly, is right. But to will the right for the sake of the right, is not right.
But does this philosophy mean that right is the supreme and ultimate good upon which intention ought to terminate? If so, in what sense of the term right does this theory regard it as the intrinsically and supremely valuable? Is it in the sense of Objective Right? But Objective Right is a mere abstract idea or law. It is impossible that this should possess any intrinsic value. It may be and is a condition or means of virtue, and hence of ultimate satisfaction or good, and therefore may be relatively valuable. But to make a mere idea of the reason, an abstract idea or law the intrinsically valuable thing which all moral agents are bound to choose as the supreme good, and to which they are bound to consecrate themselves for its own sake, is absurd. To prefer this to the highest well being of God and the universe is not right. It can not be right.
(2.) It is absurd to talk of making objective right an ultimate end. Make law an ultimate end! Law is a rule of choice or willing, as this philosophy maintains. But what does law require a moral agent to will, choose, intend? Why, according to this philosophy, it requires him to will, choose, intend no end whatever but itself. A very important law surely that requires its subject to will only its own existence and nothing else! And what is its own existence or self that it should make itself the supreme good? Why, forsooth, it is a mere abstract idea. But it is impossible for the mind to choose this as the supreme good, or as an ultimate end, for the plain reason that it can not be regarded as intrinsically valuable.
(3.) It is absurd to represent the moral law as requiring its subjects to make itself the end to which they ought to consecrate themselves. The law must require the choice of some intrinsically and supremely valuable end. This must be the highest good or well-being of God and of the universe, and can not be a mere abstract law or idea. What, a mere idea of greater intrinsic value than the infinite and eternal happiness or well being of God and of the universe! Impossible.
But does this philosophy teach that subjective right is the foundation of moral obligation? Subjective right is a compliance with moral obligation, and can not therefore be the foundation of the obligation. Subjective right, is virtue, righteousness. It must, as has been said, consist either in ultimate intention, or it must be a quality or attribute of that intention. If it be regarded as identical with that ultimate choice or intention which the moral law requires, then, according to this philosophy, moral agents are bound to choose their own choice or to intend their own intention as an ultimate end, that is, to intend their own intention for its own intrinsic value. This is absurd and nonsensical.
If subjective right is to be regarded, not as identical with ultimate choice or intention, but as a quality, element, or attribute of the choice or intention, then moral agents, if this philosophy be true, are under a moral obligation to choose, will, intend nothing out of their choice or intention, but to choose or intend an element, attribute or quality of their intention as an ultimate end. Upon one supposition ultimate intention must terminate upon itself as an end; upon the other it must terminate upon a quality or attribute of itself. Either supposition is a gross absurdity and an impossibility. What! choose my own choice as an end! This is a natural impossibility. Choose an attribute of my own choice as an end or object of the very choice of which it is an attribute! This is equally a natural impossibility. Choice must of necessity terminate on some object out of itself, else there is no object of choice. Thus we see that subjective right cannot be chosen as an ultimate end, because it is not an ultimate. In what possible or conceivable sense, then, can right be the foundation of moral obligation? I answer in no possible or conceivable sense. It is grossly inconsistent and self contradictory for this philosophy to maintain at the same breath, that moral obligation respects the choice of an ultimate end, and that right is the foundation of moral obligation. Why, right, as we have just seen, consists either in the law or idea of obligation, or in obedience to this law or obligation. It is therefore stark nonsense to affirm that right is the foundation of the obligation. Obedience to law can not be identical with the reason for this obedience. Compliance with an obligation, can not be identical with the reason or foundation of the obligation. In other words, intending in accordance with obligation, can not be identical with the thing or end intended. If objective right be the end to be intended, then obedience to
the law is identical with choosing the law as an ultimate end. Choosing the law as an ultimate end is obedience to the law!
(4.) But here it is objected that we really affirm our obligation to love God because of his moral excellence. To this I reply-That this objection in the mouth of a Rightarian must mean that it is right to love God for or because of his moral excellence and that we are, bound to love Him because it is right? But to love Him because it is right, and to love Him for his moral excellence are not identical. The objection involves a contradiction. This love, let it be remembered, is willing, intending an end. But what am I bound to will or intend to God in view of his moral excellence. Am I bound to will his goodness as an end? This must be, if his goodness is the foundation of the obligation, for as we have repeatedly seen the reason for choosing any thing as an ultimate end and the end chosen are identical. But to will the divine goodness, which consists in benevolence, as an ultimate end is absurd. But am I to will the right for the sake of the right? Is this loving God or willing any thing to Him? Or am I to will good to God because it is right to will good to Him? This is absurd and a contradiction. To will good to God as an ultimate end, is to will it for its own sake or because of its own intrinsic value. It is impossible to will good to God for its own sake, because it is right. It is the same as to will good to God for its intrinsic value, yet not for its intrinsic value, but because it is right. This is willing the right and not the good as an end. The assumption, that we affirm our obligation to love God to be founded in his moral excellence, will be fully considered in its proper place, I would only here remark that it is not very consistent in a rightarian to urge this objection.
(5.) But right here it will be well to inquire into the ground of the mistake of rightarians. Kant, and if consistent, all rightarians, consider the law itself as imposing obligation, and therefore of course as being the foundation of obligation. Hence Kant affirms that ethics or morality or virtue does not imply any religion, but only the adoption into the will of a maxim, "at all times fit for law universal." He holds that the mind needs no end upon which to fix, nothing at which to aim beside or out of the law itself; nothing to intend, no motive out of the precept or maxim itself, but simply the adoption of the maxim just named, and which Cousin expresses thus, "Do right for the sake of the right," or "Will the right for the sake of the right." Now it is a fundamen
tal mistake to represent the law itself, as imposing obligation, and therefore as the foundation of the obligation. Law is a rule according to which moral agents are bound to will. God and reason affirm their obligation to will in accordance with law, or in other words, to will that which the law requires. But the law requires that something shall be willed for its own sake, and this is the same as to say that the end to be willed deserves to be willed on its own account, which again, is the same as to affirm that the obligation is founded, not in the law, but in the end which the law requires us to seek. The law requires us to seek the end simply and only because of its intrinsic value, and not because the law can of itself impose obligation. Now the idea that right or law can impose obligation is founded in a radical misapprehension of the nature of law. It is a rule of willing or a rule that declares how moral agents ought to will or what they ought to choose. But it is not the foundation of the obligation to choose that which the law requires to be chosen as an end. For the reason for choosing this is and must be its intrinsic value, and were it not intrinsically valuable, the law could not require it to be chosen as an ultimate end. But for its intrinsic value, a requirement to choose it as an ultimate end could not be law. Objective right and law, as we have before seen, are identical. If right is the foundation of obligation, then law is the foundation of obligation. This is and must be Rightarianism. But it is a gross absurdity and a contradiction to make the law requiring the choice of an ultimate end or of something for its own intrinsic value, the reason, or foundation of the obligation instead of the intrinsic value of that which is to be chosen for its value. Nothing can by any possibility impose obligation to choose an ultimate end but the intrinsic value of the end. Neither law nor any lawgiver in earth or heaven can impose such an obligation. This philosophy represents the moral law as requiring its subjects to will the right for the sake of the right or to will the right as an ultimate end. Of course it must represent subjective right or virtue as consisting in willing objective right or as an ultimate end. This we have seen is absurd.
2. But let us examine this philosophy in the light of the oracles of God.
(1.) In the light of the Moral Law. The whole Law is expressed by the Great Teacher thus: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, with