Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

It is not our intention here to attempt a complele essay on education ; all we propose is, to fix the basis of a good system of instruction, by putting moral education before all other kinds of education, as indeed it seems to us to claim the pre-eminence.

It appears that three conditions are necessary to enable a man to decide as to any course of action, and at the same time to decide well. He requires something to excite him, such as wants, instincts, feelings, or imagination; something to enlighten or direct him, as intelligence and reason ; and lastly, he requires an inward strength which renders him capable of submitting instinct to intelligence, the exciting to the directing faculties, and hasty determination to mature reflection.

Without imagination and instincts, a man would not act at all. Without reason and intelligence, he would be in danger of acting ill, and if he had not the power of subjngating passion to reason, of what use would reason be to him? It would be better for him to have been confined to the simple impulses of nature like the brutes, than to have received reason without the power of profiting by it. Reason, if he had not the power to follow its dictates, would only serve to embitter his life, and fill it with useless remorse.

These three orders of faculties, feeling, understanding, and virtue, are not developed at the same time. At first, man only follows his imagination and his passions, and his early determinations are all instinctive. Afterwards his understanding is formed; but habit and inclination continue to make him follow the track of his first impressions, and he persists in doing evil a long time after he is convinced that he could do better. At length, but slowly, he learns to make his actions

coincide in some measure with his understanding, and the impulses of passion with the dictates of knowledge.

The development of his activity follows precisely the same track whatever direction it may take ; that is to say, in his actions as in his conduct, in his relation to things as in his relation to himself or his fellow-creatures, he always begins by acting instinctively; then experience begins to warn, and observation to instruct him, and at last he learns to act consistently with his judgment; he does not suffer himself to be led so blindly by his feelings, and his actions are distinguished by less impulse and more reflection.

Now, in what way can his activity become moral, and when may we say that it is so ?

The adjective moral is evidently derived from the Latin mos, moris, moralis. Taking this word then according to its etymology, it would appear that we ought to apply it to every mode of action which has become a habit, custom, or practice, and that we should call an action moral when it is habitual, and the constant practice of the people or the individual who performs it.

This, however, is not the case ; for, in the first place, we do not call those actions which relate to labour moral, however regular and habitual they may be; we reserve this qualification for those which relate to conduct. We make a distinction between the morals of a people and their skill; and whatever name we may give to those habits which direct us in the conduct of life, we do not always say that these habits are moral. We only give the name of moral to those habits which govern us when they are worthy to govern us, to serve us for rules, and are proper to form our character or manners. It is universally acknowledged that there are moral habits or manners, and immoral habits or manners.

Thus, as long as our activity is confined to mere labour, as long as it is confined to industry, skill, dexterity, and intelligence, it can neither be moral nor immoral; whether our labours are governed by one unchanging routine, or are in a state of progressive amelioration, they are equally destitute of morality. We may say of an ingenious workman that he is clever, but that does not mean that he is moral; of an orator, that he is eloquent ; of a professor, that he is a man of talent, but we do not say that they are moral. Once more, we repeat, this qualification is only applicable to those of our actions which relate to the conduct of life.

Again, with respect to conduct, we must observe, that it is not moral while a man's resolves are purely instinctive, and so long as he only follows the impulses of desire, passion, and feeling. Indeed, it is well known that the best feelings may lead a man to do wrong. It is possible that love, friendship, and paternal tenderness may induce a man to commit bad actions: much more then would those feelings which are usually connected with terms of dispraise, such as self-love, hatred, anger, pride or avarice, if he gave himself up to their impulses, lead a man to that which is criminal; though even these feelings are capable of producing happy effects if well directed. In general, our affections, which are almost all good, and worthy of being cherished as stimulants and moving powers, are of no value as directors; and a line of conduct which is only governed by feeling, is very far from deserving the name of moral, as there is no one of our feelings, even amongst the most pure and sympathetic, which does not indispensably require to be regulated.

Further, a man's conduct is not called moral, simply because his feeling is enlightened by intelligence. He must doubtless learn to know what is good before lie is

capable of doing good ; but, because he learns to know it, it does not follow that he is able to practise it. Demonstrate to a man as much as you please that virtue consists in a certain line of conduct, it is still very doubtful if he will follow it: it is highly probable that, although he knows what is right, he will continue to do wrong.

Such is the effect of the disposition of the greater part of mankind.

We know what a wide difference there is between an educated man and a virtuous man, between a man who merely knows what morality is and a moral inan; and how much remains for us to do in order to become honest and honourable men, after we have perfectly understood in what honour and honesty consist.

Our conduct, therefore, is not moral so long as we live under the dominion of feeling, because our feeling's are liable to lead us astray every moment; nor does it become so by merely enlightening the understanding, for knowledge in the understanding does not necessarily excite the faculties or the heart, and the perception of that which is good does not always give strength to do it. We only become moral men when we accustom our affections and talents to be directed by reason. It is a work that stands alone, a work totally different from that which has for its object the awakening of our sensibility, and from that which tends to perfect our knowledge : for the artist excites our feelings in vain, if he does not teach us the knowledge of what is good ; and the philosopher enlightens us in vain, if he does not accustom us to practise it. It is absolutely necessary that, while art moves our feelings, and science instructs our understanding, another kind of labour should teach us to submit our passions to the counsels of reason.

Such is properly, or such at least ought to be, the object of that art which proposes to make us acquire good moral habits. Practical morality certainly requires that our sensibility should be awakened, and our intelligence perfected, for virtue is only composed of feeling and reason; but the grand point, which is totally distinct from the two former, consists in accustoming our feeling faculties to act consistently with what is taught by our intellectual faculties; it consists in making us acquire, by certain exercises, the habit of coming to a good resolution, just as art and philosophy consist in accustoming us, also by practice, the one to have a nice perception, and the other to exercise a sound judgment. We

may observe in society several classes of persons and professions, who labour, or have attempted to labour, for the formation of morals. This is, or ought to be, one of the principal objects of domestic education, and of that of schools. This also is the principal object that should be aimed at by those who profess to teach of things relating to a future life; those who, under all systems of religion, devote themselves to the office of the priesthood. Indeed, government has no duty more imperative, no task more important, than that of forming the morals of the people, and if the immediate object of its intervention is to settle quarrels, to put a stop to or remedy disorders, its true and final duty is to prevent all these evils by endeavouring to correct the vicious habits which produce them. But to return to our subject : moral instruction we consider to be an integral and essential part of all education.

The first thing that strikes us in the present day, when we reflect upon domestic education, and especially that of schools in their relation to the formation of

« AnteriorContinuar »