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THESE Elementary Lectures, on Moral (or Mental) Philosophy, were delivered at the Royal Institution in the years 1804-5-6, before a mixed audience of ladies and gentlemen, upon a subject very little considered then in this country. They are scarcely more than an enumeration of those great men that have originated and treated on this important science, with a short account of their various opinions, and frequent compilations from their works. Though Mr. Sydney Smith had had the advantage of a close attendance, for five years, upon the beautiful lectures delivered by Mr. Dugald Stewart in the University of Edinburgh, and an almost daily communication with him, and with that remarkable man Dr. Thomas Brown, who succeeded Mr. Stewart in the professor's chair of Moral Philosophy, yet these Lectures, from the circumstances under which they were delivered, were necessarily very superficial; it being impossible to fix the attention of persons wholly unaccustomed to such abstruse and difficult subjects, with any beneficial effect, for the prescribed time of the Lecture. Some portions of the first course of Lectures were, a few years after, amplified and embodied in the “Edinburgh Review,” under the titles of Professional Education f, Female Education, and Public Schools; and as
f These subjects were introduced in the Lectures on Memory, on Imagination, and on Association. *B
he considered what remained could be of no further use, he destroyed several, and was proceeding to destroy the whole. An earnest entreaty was made that those not yet torn up might be spared, and it was granted.
These Lectures then (the first course being rendered very imperfect, though from the ninth they are perfect and consecutive) profess to be nothing more than a popular colloquial sketch of a very curious and interesting subject, written to be spoken. They are given in clear language, often illustrated by happy allusions, by eloquence, and by a playfulness of fancy that was eminently his own.
Though very far from a learned book, it may prove perhaps an interesting one; conveying great truths, and much useful knowledge, in a less dry and repulsive shape than in a discussion on Moral Philosophy they are commonly to be found.
By the term Moral Philosophy, is popularly understood ethical philosophy; or that science which teaches the duties of life; but Moral Philosophy, properly speaking, is contrasted to natural philosophy; comprehending every thing spiritual, as that comprehends every thing corporeal, and constituting the most difficult and the most sublime of those two divisions under which all human knowledge must be arranged. In this sense, Moral Philosophy is used by Berkeley, by Hartley, by Hutcheson, by Adam Smith, by Hume, by Reid, and by Stewart. In this sense it is taught in the Scotch Universities, where alone it is taught in this island; and in this sense it comprehends all the intellectual, active, and moral faculties of man; the laws by which they are governed; the limits by which they are controlled; and the means by which they may be improved: it aims at discovering, by the accurate analysis of his spiritual part, the system of action most agreeable to the intentions of his Maker, and most conducive to the happiness of man. There is a word of dire sound and horrible import which I would fain have kept concealed if I possibly could ; but as this is not feasible, I shall even meet the danger at once, and get out of it as well as I can. The