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Right and wrong, as mentioned above, are qualities of voluntary actions, and of no other kind. - An instinctive action may be agreeable, may be disagreeable ; but it cannot properly be denominated either right or wrong. An involuntary act is hurtful to the agent, and disagreeable to the spectator; but it is neither right nor wrong. Thefe qualities also depend in no degree on the event. Thus, if to save my friend from drowning I plunge into a river, the action is right, tho? I happen to come too late. And if I aim a stroke at a man behind his back, the action is wrong, tho' I happen not to touch him.
The qualities of right and of agreeable, are inseparable; and so are the qualities of wrong and of disagreeable. A right action is agreeable, not only in the direct perception, but equally so in every
fubfequent recollection. And in both circumstances equally, a wrong action is disagreeable.
Right actions are distinguished by the moral sense into two kinds, what ought to be done, and what may be done, or left undone. Wrong actions admit not that distinction: they are all prohibited to be done. To say that an action ought to be done, means that we are tied or obliged to perform ; and to say that an action ought not to be done, means that we are restrained from doing it. Tho' the neceffity implied in the being tied or obliged, is not physical, but only what is commonlý termed moral; yet we conceive ourselves deprived of liberty or freedom, and necessarily bound to act or to forbear acting, in opposition to every other motive. The necessity here described is termed duty. The moral necessity we are under to forbear harming the innocent, is a proper example : the moral sense declares the restraint to be our duty, which no motive whatever will excuse us for transgressing.
The duty of performing or forbearing any action, implies a right in some person to exact performance of that duty; and accordingly, a duty or obligation necessarily infers a corresponding right. My promise to pay L. 100 to John, confers a right on him to demand performance. The man who commits an injury, violates the right of the person injured; which entitles that person to demand reparation
of the wrong
Duty is twofold; duty to others, and duty to ourselves. With respect to the former, the doing what we ought to do, is termed juft : the doing what we ought not to do, and the omitting what we ought to do, are termed unjust. With respect to ourselves,, the doing what we ought to do, is termed proper : the doing what we ought not to do, and the omitting what we ought to do, are termed improper. Thus, right, signifying a quality of certain actions, is a genus ; of which just and proper, are species : wrong, fignifying a quality of other actions, is a genus ; of which unjust and improper are species.
Right actions left to our free will, to be done or left undone, come next in order. They are, like the former, right when done ; but they differ, in not being wrong when left undone. To remit a just debt for the sake of a growing family, to yield a subject in controversy rather than go to law with a neighbour, generously to return good for ill, are examples of this fpecies. They are universally approved as right actions: but as no person has a right or title to oblige us to perform such actions, the leaving them undone is not a
wrong: no person is injured by the forbearance: Actions that come under this class, shall be termed arbitrary or discretionary, for want of a more proper defignationgian
So much for right actions, and their divisions. Wrong actions are of two kinds, criminal and culpable. . What are done intentionally to produce mischief; are criminal : rash or 'unguarded actions that produce mischief without intention, are culpable. The former are restrained by punishment, to be handled in the sth section; the latter by separation, tol be handled in the 6th. Hilfija
* The divisions of voluntary actions are not yet exhausted. Some there are that, properly speaking, cannot be denominated either right or wrong. - Actions done merely for amufement or pastime, without intention to produce good or ill, are of that kind ; leaping, for example, running, jumping over a stick, throwing a stone to make circles in the water. Such actions are neither approved nor disapproved : they may be termed indifferent.
There is no cause for doubting the exjfence of the moral sense, more than for
doubting the existence of the sense of beauty, of seeing, or of hearing. In fact, the perception of right and wrong as qualities of actions, is no less distinct and clear, than that of beauty, of colour, or of any other quality; and as every perception is an act of fense, the fenfe of beauty is not with greater certainty evinced from the perception of beauty, than the moral sense is from the perception of right and wrong. We find this sense distributed among individuals in different degrees of perfection : but there perhaps never existed any one above the condition of an idiot, who possessed it not in some degree; and were any man entirely destitute of it, the terms right and wrong would be to him no less unintelligible, than the term colour is to one born blind.
individual is endued with a sense of right and wrong, more or less distinct, will probably be granted; but whether there be among men what may be termed a
common sense of right and wrong, producing uniformity of opinion as to right and wrong, is not so evident, "There is no absurdity in supposing the on I