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able; and which, when he cannot taste, he is necessarily so? Can that be our good, which costs us a great deal of pains to obtain, which cloys in possessing, for which we cannot wait the return of appetite before we can enjoy again? Or is that our good, which we can come at without difficulty, which is heightened by possession, which never ends in weariness and disappointment, and which, the more we enjoy, the better qualified we are to enjoy on 1
Hor. The latter, I think; but why do you torment me thus? Philocles, show me this good immediately.
Phil. I have showed you what it is not; it is not sensual, but it is rational and moral good. It is doing all the good we can to others, by acts of humanity, friendship, generosity, and benevolence: this is that constant and durable good, which will afford contentment and satisfaction always alike, without variation or diminution. I speak to your experience now, Horatio: did you ever find yourself weary of relieving the miserable? or of raising the distressed into life or happiness? or rather, do not you find the pleasure grow upon you by repetition, and that it is greater in the reflection than in the act itself? Is there a pleasure upon earth to be compared with that which arises from the sense of making others happy? Can this pleasure ever be absent, or ever end but with your being? Does it not always accompany you? Doth not it lie down and rise with you, live as long as you live, give you consolation in the hour of death, and remain with you when all other things are going to forsake you, or you them?
Hor. How glowingly you paint, Philocles: methinks Horatio is amongst the enthusiasts. I feel the passion: I am enchantingly convinced; but I do not know why: overborne by something stronger than reason. Sure some divinity speaks within me: but prithee, Philocles, give me the cause, why this rational and moral good so infinitely excels the mere natural or sensual.
Phil. I think, Horatio, that I have clearly shown you the difference between merely natural or sensual good, and rational or moral good. Natural or sensual pleasure continues no longer than the action itself; but this divine or moral pleasure continues when the action is over, and swells and grows upon your hand by reflection: the one is inconstant, unsatisfying, of short duration, and attended with numberless ills; the other is constant, yields full satisfaction, is durable, and no evils preceding, accompanying, or following it. But if you inquire farther into the cause of this difference, and would know why the moral pleasures are greater than the sensual, perhaps the reason is the same as in all other creatures, that their happiness or chief good consists in acting up to their chief faculty, or that faculty which distinguishes them from all creatures of a different species. The chief faculty in man is his reason, and consequently his chief good; or, that which may be justly called his good, consists not merely in action, but in reasonable action. By reasonable actions, we understand those actions which are preservative of the human kind, and naturally tend to produce real and unmixed happiness; and these actions, by way of distinction, we call actions morally good.
Hor. You speak very clearly, Philocles; but, that no difficulty may remain on my mind, pray tell me what is the real difference between natural good and evil, and moral good and evil? for I know several people who use the terms without ideas.
Phil. That may be: the difference lies only in this; that natural good and evil are pleasure and pain; moral good and evil are pleasure or pain produced with intention and design: for it is the intention only that makes the agent morally good or bad.
Hor. But may not a man, with a very good intention, do an evil action?
Phil. Yes; but then he errs in his judgment, though his design be good: if his error is inevitable, or such as, all things considered, he could not help, he is inculpable; but, if it arose through want of diligence in forming his judgment about the nature of human actions, he is immoral and culpable.
Hor. I find, then, that in order to please ourselves rightly, or to do good to others morally, we should take great care of our opinions.
Phil. Nothing concerns you more; for, as the happiness or real good of men consists in right action, and right action cannot be produced without right opinion, it behoves us, above all things in this world, to take care that our own opinions of things be according to the nature of things. The foundation of all virtue and happiness is thinking rightly. He who sees an action is right, that is, naturally tending to good, and does it because of that tendency, he only is a moral man; and he alone is capable of that constant, durable, and invariable good, which has been the subject of this conversation.
Hor. How, my dear philosophical guide, shall I be able to know, and determine certainly, what is right and wrong in life?
Phil. As easily as you distinguish a circle from a square, or light from darkness. Look, Horatio, into the sacred book of nature; read your own nature, and view the relation which other men stand in to you, and you to them, and you will immediately see what constitutes human happiness, and consequently, what is right.
Hor. We are just coming into town, and can say no more at present. You are my good genius, Philocles; you have showed me what is good; you have redeemed me from the slavery and misery of folly and vice, and made me a free and happy being.
Phil. Then I am the happiest man in the world: be you steady, Horatio: never depart from reason and virtue.
Hor. Sooner will I lose my existence. Good night, Philocles.
Phil. Adieu, dear Horatio!
From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 95, Sept. 3, 1730.
The following is a dialogue between Socrates, the great Athenian philosopher, and one Glaucon, a private man, of mean abilities, but ambitious of being chosen a senator, and of governing the republic; wherein Socrates, in a pleasant manner, convinces him of his incapacity for public affairs, by making him sensible of his ignorance of the interests of his country, in their several branches, and entirely dissuades him from any attempt of that nature. There is also added, at the end, part of another dialogue the same Socrates had with one Charmidas, a worthy man, but too modest, wherein he endeavors to persuade him to put himself forward and undertake public business, as being very capable of it. The whole is taken from Xenophon's Memorable Things of Socrates, lib. 3.