Зображення сторінки

it." 2

notion is recognised in such statements as the following: "Was it possible that a human creature could grow up to manhood in some solitary place without any communication with his own species, he could no more think of his own character, of the propriety or demerit of his own sentiments and conduct, of the beauty or deformity of his own mind, than of the beauty or deformity of his own face. Bring him into society, and he is immediately provided with the mirror which he wanted before."'ı

Every man may be the whole world to himself, but to the rest of mankind he is a most insignificant part of

This last saying is applicd specially to a man's desire of" wealth and honours and preferments." There are rules of the game which he must observe, there are unfair advantages which must not be taken, though within certain limits he is not only allowed but expected to be more assiduous on his own behalf than for others.3

What these limits are, will appear specially from our author's view of Justice. The members of a society may or may not be kind and generous and affectionate to each other, but they must be just, or else their

society, like the robber bands mentioned by Plato in the Republic, will dissolve. As Adam Smith curiously puts it :

Society may, subsist among different men, as among different merchants, from a sense of its utility, without any mutual love or affection,"+ if only they refrain from doing injury to each other. “Justice is the main pillar” of the whole political edifice : "if it is removed, the great, the immense fabric of human society, that fabric which to raise and support seems in this world (if I may say so) to have been the peculiar and darling care of nature, must in a moment crumble into atoms.' Accordingly Nature has implanted in man a consciousness of good and ill desert, and a fear of merited punishment as "the great safeguards of the association of mankind.” But for them “a man would enter an assembly of men as he enters a den of lions." 0 Yet, advantageous as justice is, it is not its advantageousness that gave rise to it in

1 ist ed., p. 254. Contrast Rousseau. See note to this chapter.
2 Ib., 181.
3 lb., 183.

4 lb., p. 189.

ist ed., 191. 5 lb., 190, cf. 6th, I. 407.


the first instance, but the fellow feeling which we have with our fellow-men simply as such. Even justice begins with sympathy, though (as Adam Smith tells us), it is a weak sympathy compared to others.? Adam Smith is less Utilitarian than Hume ; regard for consequences is always secondary to immediate regard to virtue for its own sake. The state of the agent's mind must be the great consideration in ethics ; the action must be done for duty's sake, éveka Toû kalow, or it is not ethical. Even rules of conduct are secondary; they are generalised from individual acts. Yet moral rules are binding, and they are as truly “laws” as any other general rules, being especially analogous to the laws which a sovereign prescribes to his subjects. They were intended by the Author of Nature to be governing principles of human action. In framing them He could have had no other purpose in view than " the happiness of mankind as well as of all other rational creatures" ;5 and, if we examine the works of nature, we find them all “ intended to promote happiness and guard against misery." By obeying His moral laws, therefore, we are furthering the plan of Providence, and are fellow-workers with God (ist ed., p. 284). Even in human fortunes the disorder is less real than apparent. Success in business is the reward most adopted to encourage industry, prudence, and circumspection, and it is the reward they usually obtain. The goodwill of others is the reward most adapted to encourage truth, justice, and humanity ; and except in rare cases this reward is secured by them. We are prone to wish that, besides their own proper reward, truth, justice, and humanity should be crowned with wealth and power, with which they have in fact no necessary connection. So we grieve to see the “industrious knave” prospering and the “indolent good man” reaping no harvest ; but it is the “natural course of things” that decides in favour of the knave; he used the proper means to the proper ends. What a man soweth that shall he also reap,

[ocr errors]




ist ed., p. 199.

1.8., 203. e.g. ist ed., 208. This is one of the positions in which Oncken finds Adam Smith akin to Kant; but it is really Greek. ist ed., 283 ; cf. 6th, I. 395.

6 ist ed., 284. 6 Cf. Dante, Inf., VII. 68. 7 ist. ed., 289; cf. 6th, II. 50, etc. 6 M. S., ist ed., 351.

not something else. Man is disposed to correct nature in such cases; he tries to “alter that distribution of things which natural events would make if left to themselves “ like the gods of the poets, he is perpetually interposing by extraordinary means in favour of virtue, and in opposition to vice, and, like them, endeavours to turn away the arrow that is aimed at the head of the righteous, but accelerates the sword of destruction that is lifted up against the wicked; yet he is by no means able to render the fortune of either quite suitable to his own sentiments and wishes. The industry and attention of men are best aroused by the very rigour of Nature's laws, and the impossibility of securing any end except by the means that she prescribes.

The optimism of the above view of Fortune has a counterpart (as we already saw) in our author's view of Happiness. He thinks that men differ in happiness far less than in wealth and fortune. He points to the “never-failing certainty with which all men sooner or later accommodate themselves to whatever becomes their permanent situation,” and thinks there is something to be said for the opinion of the Stoics, that in real happiness there is "no essential difference" between one situation and another. But he agrees with this view only under reservation of a minimum; as there are necessaries of life, so there are necessaries of a happy life. Happiness consists in tranquillity and enjoyment,' and “in all the ordinary situations of human life a welldisposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented." “În ease of body and peace of mind, all the different ranks of life are nearly upon a

“What can be added to the happiness of the man who is in health, who is out of debt, and has a clear

" 5

level." 6

1 See the well-known sermon of Robertson of Brighton on this text.

2 Moral Sent., ist. ed., 290-292 ; 6th, II. 65. Such passages lead Oncken to say that Adam Smith re-introduced Teleology into Philosophy. Adam Smith und Im. Kant (1877), p. 61.

3 Optimism, he considers, is natural to men; most men have an overweening confidence in their own luck (Wealth of Nations, I. X. 48, 2).

4 Moral Sent., 6th ed., I. 366. Ib., 368. Happiness depends more on the mind than on the body. Cf. IVealth of Nations, V. 1. 353, 1.


choly. "5

conscience ? To one in this situation all accessions of fortune may properly be said to be superfluous.” Yet (he adds) this is the ordinary state of mankind everywhere. Irregularity and uncertainty of employment would seem from this point of view to be real evils, destroying “tranquillity”; and yet on the other hand, either excessive labour or deficient food by destroying good health will destroy the power of “enjoyment.” Below a certain point poverty is associated with misery ;' and savage life, though sometimes noble, is rarely happy.* The happiest time for the bulk of any society is when that society is advancing towards its maximum of wealth, but has not yet reached it.

“ The progressive state is in reality the cheerful and hearty state to all the different orders of the society. The stationary is dull, the declining melan

When there is evidently much to be done, and every one can feel assured that, if he works, "bread shall be given to him, and water shall be sure,” the necessary conditions of happiness are present. Unfortunately it would seem from our author's own statement that every nation reaches its full complement of wealth some day, and therewith passes from the progressive into the stationary state. It thus becomes a question how far the stationary state can be deferred indefinitely, or else be made as happy as the progressive. Both these alternatives are discussed by later economists; they are not even suggested with any distinctness by Adam Smith, who leaves us to draw (if we like) a somewhat pessimistic conclusion from his silence. Mandeville's proposition that private vices are public benefits, would imply that the progress of the progressive state was made at the expense of morality. Adam Smith sees the fallacy here. Mandeville, he says, wrongly represents every passion as wholly vicious which is so in any degree and in any direction. The result would be that all beyond the necessaries of an ascetic would be culpable luxury. Custom, however, as well as physical requirements, may


ist ed., 97, 98.

2 Wealth of Nations, I. VIII. 37, 2. 3 Ib., I. viii. 36.

4 Moral Sint., ist ed., 398. 5 Wealth of Nations, I. vill. 37, 1. 6 Moral Sent., ist ed., p. 485; cf. whole passage, 474 to 486.

rightly convert into necessaries “those things which the established rules of decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people";' and even indulgence in luxuries, when kept within bounds, has no vice in it. Progress in wealth, therefore, may carry us quite lawfully beyond physical necessaries to superfluities. At the same time we must never forget that wealth and happiness are not cause and effect, still less identical.

The satisfaction shown in the Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations) at the growing improvement in the production and distribution of wealth, that seemed to be discernible in the author's own century, as compared with previous epochs, is not due so much to the philanthropic thought of the increased happiness which would result, as to the

philosopher's recognition of natural laws, working themselves out, in spite of would-be lawbreakers, and even by means of their hallucinations. Men struggle for wealth in a great measure because they take an illusory view of the pleasures obtainable by it, and they are thus decoyed into a course of action which has beneficent consequences due to no human designing. The power of imagination, as a factor of industrial progress, is finely described in the Moral Sentiments : " It is well that nature imposes on us in this manner. It is this deception which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind. It is this which first prompted them to cultivate the ground, to build houses, to found cities and commonwealths, and to invent and improve all the sciences and arts which ennoble and embellish human life, which have entirely changed the whole face of the globe, have turned the rude forests of nature into agreeable and fertile plains, and made the trackless and barren ocean a new fund of subsistence and the great high road of communication to the different nations of the earth. The earth by these labours of mankind has been obliged to redouble her natural fertility and to maintain a greater number of inhabitants. It is to no purpose that the proud and unfeeling landlord

i Wealth of Nations, V. 11., art. iv. 393.

2 Necessity is a great spur to exertion. See Wealth of Nations, V. 1. II. 341, etc.

But ambition is treated as a greater, throughout.

« НазадПродовжити »