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Natural Law and the Theory of PropertyGrotius to Hume$

Stephen Buckle

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198240945

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198240945.001.0001

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(p.299) Appendix. The Psychology of Moral Action: From Locke's Essay to Hutcheson's Inquiry

(p.299) Appendix. The Psychology of Moral Action: From Locke's Essay to Hutcheson's Inquiry

Natural Law and the Theory of Property
Oxford University Press

For Locke, happiness and misery are the two great springs of human action.1 Happiness, he says in the Essay, ‘every one constantly pursues, and desires what makes any part of it’.2 Happiness is then defined as a simple relation between pleasure and pain: ’Happiness…in its full extent is the utmost Pleasure we are capable of, and Misery the utmost Pain: and the lowest degree of what can be called Happiness, is so much ease from all Pain, and so much present pleasure, as without which any one cannot be content.'3 Furthermore, pleasure and pain are the source of our valuations:

Now because Pleasure and Pain are produced in us, by the operation of certain Objects, either on our Minds or our Bodies; and in different degrees: therefore what has an aptness to produce Pleasure in us, is that we call Good, and what is apt to produce Pain in us, we call Evil, for no other reason, but for its aptness to produce Pleasure and Pain in us, wherein consists our Happiness and Misery.4

Since we always pursue our happiness, this means that we also pursue what is good. Human action naturally is directed at achieving pleasure, a reasonable predominance of which is happiness, and this amounts to the pursuit of natural goodness. Moral goodness is a distinctive species of natural goodness. It introduces further features which will be described below.

What is it that prompts us to pursue happiness? After all, it is one thing to show that happiness is, of all possible ends, the most desirable, but quite (p.300) another to show that we therefore (or even in fact) pursue it. The question first of all requires an answer to the more general question, What is it that moves us to action? By what means do human beings act? As a psychological (rather than physiological) question, it is to ask: What determines the will? Locke's original answer to this question was, simply, that the will is determined by its apprehension of the greatest good in view. However, in the second edition of the Essay he offers a different solution:

what is it that determines the Will in regard to our Actions? And that upon second thoughts I am apt to imagine is not, as is generally supposed, the greater good in view: But some (and for the most part the most pressing) uneasiness a Man is at present under. This is that which successively determines the Will, and sets us upon those Actions, we perform.5

This uneasiness of the will is the psychological state called desire: ‘This Uneasiness we may call, as it is, Desire; which is an uneasiness of the Mind for want of some absent good.’6

This introduces a problem: if desire is the want of an absent good, is not the account of action in terms of the uneasiness of the will equivalent to the account it replaces, that the will is determined by the apprehension of the greatest good in view? The difference, Locke holds, is this:

I am forced to conclude, that good, the greater good, though apprehended and acknowledged to be so, does not determine the will, until our desire, raised proportionably to it, makes us uneasy in the want of it. Convince a Man never so much, that plenty has its advantages over poverty; make him see and own, that the handsome conveniences of life are better than nasty penury: yet as long as he is content with the latter, and finds no uneasiness in it, he moves not; his will never is determin'd to any action, that shall bring him out of it.7

The revised account thus differs in two respects. It shows that human action is not always directed to the greatest good (although it is always directed to some good), and it provides an efficient cause for human action. The efficient cause identified is, in fact, the flight from pain, since uneasiness is a kind of pain. Locke comes close to explicitly asserting this when he says that ‘all pain of the body of what sort soever, and disquiet of the mind, is uneasiness’.8 In another passage the identity is implicit:

whilst we are under any uneasiness, we cannot apprehend ourselves happy, or in the way to it. Pain and uneasiness being … inconsistent with happiness; spoiling the relish, even of those good things which we have … And therefore that, which of course determines the choice of our will to (p.301) the next action, will always be the removing of pain … as the first and necessary step towards happiness.9

Locke's psychology of action thus hinges not so much on the pursuit of pleasure as on the flight from pain. It is of course a flight towards pleasure, but the actual motivating force, what ‘determines the will’, is the attempt to escape present pain. The pursuit of happiness, or of the greatest good, is thus rather haphazard, or zigzagging. The zigzagging is partly a function of our limited knowledge—a theme of great importance in the Essay—since our perception of our good will not always be accurate; but it is the perception, rather than the genuine good, which plays a role in our behaviour. The account of action in terms of uneasiness, however, provides a further reason for allowing misperceptions to be efficacious, since the greater the unease, the more pressing is the need to act—and hence the greater possibility of acting on insufficient reflection. The proverbial inadequacies of hasty action are to the point here. The account of action in terms of unease implicitly recognizes the problems of hasty, misdirected actions.

Locke's account of the efficient cause of human action therefore weakens the case for allotting a major role to the final cause which, he tells us, ‘when I first published my thoughts on this Subject, I took … for granted’.10 If motivated by unease, human actions aim only haphazardly at the greatest good. Locke's revised psychology of action thus weakens the supports of the ‘workmanship’ model, with its strong teleology. This is not to say, of course, that it fatally or irreparably weakens them—especially since Locke was almost certainly aware of ways of reconciling mechanistic and teleological types of explanation. Given his close association with Robert Boyle, it is unlikely that he was unaware of the latter's views on efficient causes and teleology. According to Boyle, ends can be either sought by purposive actions, or served by non-purposive causes. An explanation in terms of efficient causes is compatible with a teleological explanation as long as the end in question is served. It does not have to be sought. Locke's shift from an account couched in terms of the pursuit of the greatest good to one couched in terms of unease is thus a shift from a teleological explanation in which the end (human happiness) is sought to an explanation in which that end may still be served. The problem, of course, is that there is no guarantee that unease will reliably serve the end of human happiness.

However, Locke is not without a response to this problem. His view is that, by reflecting on the nature and order of the world, we are able to recognize that the world has a designer, and that this designer has not only power, but legitimate power over his creatures. Once we recognize that we are subject to ‘the Will and Law of a God, who sees Men in the dark, has in (p.302) his Hand Rewards and Punishments, and Power enough to call to account the Proudest Offender’,11 we also recognize that there is one class of pleasures and pains which, although distant, are unavoidable, and that these therefore have an overriding significance. These are the moral pleasures and pains, which comprise moral good and evil. So moral goodness has an overriding significance not because moral goods are intrinsic goods, nor because they are qualitatively different from other natural goods. Moral goodness is just the pleasure afforded by the rewards attached to conforming to the laws which express the divine will.12 The overriding significance of moral good or evil is identical to the unparalleled uneasiness excited by the contemplation of the pleasures or pains to be dispensed by the ‘God, who sees Men in the Dark’.

Locke also recognizes that even the contemplation, or at least awareness, of such ultimate happiness or misery is not always sufficient to determine the will, and that moral practices therefore do not always measure up to moral professions.13 However, the gap can be narrowed (if not bridged) because, although men have no natural veneration for moral rules,14 they can learn to take pleasure in virtue: even though ‘the Mind has a different relish, as well as the Palate’, and therefore ‘the Philosophers of old did in vain enquire, whether Summum bonum consisted in Riches, or bodily Delights, or Virtue, or Contemplation’,15 nevertheless through education men can be ‘made alive to virtue and can taste it’.16 The task of education is thus clearly an important one, and Locke devotes a number of works to the topic.

As several passages in the writings on education suggest, the (admittedly rocky) path to a state in which virtue is enjoyed depends on the natural sociability of human beings, especially their desire to be esteemed by others. Children are, from a very early age, ‘sensible of Praise and Commendation’, and ‘find a Pleasure in being esteemed, and valued’. As a result they come to care about those things which will win them approval, at first for the sake of approval, but later simply for the things themselves. At first, ‘the Objects of their own Desires are made assisting to Virtue’, and from being ‘in Love with Pleasure of being well thought on’ they can come to be ‘in Love with all the ways of Virtue’.17 In this way a self-centred (p.303) psyche—concerned only with its own pleasures—can come to care for wider social goods for their own sakes. The necessity of society for human survival as well as for the peculiar pleasures it affords a nature which has a strong inclination to sociability and the social life makes adaptation of this kind a rational development which supports human ends.18 So Locke is able to conclude that the preoccupation with self-interest has ‘always been opposed by the more rational part of men, in whom there was some sense of a common humanity, some concern for fellowship’.19 The concern for virtue for its own sake arises steadily and in parallel with the development of this sense of common humanity.

This feature of Locke's view—the construction of the disinterested love of virtue from an originally self-regarding psychology—implies an important further conclusion. In the Essay, he holds that there are three ‘Laws that Men generally refer their Actions to, to judge of their Rectitude, or Obliquity’.20 They are the Divine Law, the Civil Law, and the ‘Law of Opinion or Reputation’. The Divine Law includes both special divine positive laws, and also natural laws; it specifies strict moral rectitude—duties and sins. The Civil Law determines which actions are criminal. Unlike the former, it measures actions by rewards or punishments imposed by the force of the Commonwealth, not by God.21 The third law concerns virtue and vice. It therefore may have the same content as the Divine Law, as Locke observes: ‘Vertue and Vice are names pretended, and supposed every where to stand for actions in their own nature right and wrong: And so far as they really are so applied, they so far are co-incident with the divine Law abovementioned.’22 The Law of Opinion is not, therefore, a law whose content is inferior to, or necessarily distinct from, the provisions of natural law. It is distinguished from natural and other Divine Law in that it reflects what men happen to believe, whether or not those beliefs are grounded in right reason. It is constituted by the established beliefs of particular societies, and so varies from society to society. Virtue and vice, in this sense, are constituted by the actual judgements of men concerning praiseworthiness or blameworthiness:

this is visible, that these Names, Vertue and Vice, in the particular instances of their application, through the several Nations and Societies of Men in the World, are constantly attributed only to such actions, as in each Country and Society are in reputation or discredit. Nor is it to be (p.304) thought strange, that Men every where should give the name of Vertue to those actions, which amongst them are judged praise worthy; and call that Vice, which they account blamable: Since otherwise they would condemn themselves, if they should think any thing Right, to which they allow'd not Commendation; any thing Wrong, which they let pass without Blame. Thus the measure of what is every where called and esteemed Vertue and Vice is this approbation or dislike, praise or blame, which by a secret and tacit consent establishes itself in the several Societies, Tribes, and Clubs of Men in the World: whereby several actions come to find Credit or Disgrace amongst them, according to the Judgment, Maxims, or Fashions of that place …

That this is the common measure of Vertue and Vice will appear to any one, who considers, that though that passes for Vice in one Country, which is counted a Vertue, or at least not Vice in another; yet every-where Vertue and Praise, Vice and Blame, go together.23

So, unlike Divine Law and Civil Law, the Law of Opinion is distinguished not by a different kind of formal obligation—a difference in the power which enforces it—but by the manner of its generation, and in fact by an absence of formal obligation. It comes about because certain practices are considered praiseworthy, and it is maintained by the efficacy of praise and blame.24

As the passages on the education of children show, the ‘Law of Opinion’ is the pre-eminent motivation of human action. Human practice, even if it properly should conform to the provisions of the Divine Law (or to a lesser degree, of the Civil Law), is in fact principally shaped by the forces of opinion. It is therefore very important for human society that there exist a general agreement between the Law of Opinion and the other two laws. In particular, the Law of Opinion is necessary to support, to encourage adherence to, the Divine Law, since the remoteness of the latter's rewards and punishments (in the future life), leaves it most vulnerable to abuse. In fact, Locke's account of the development of virtuous conduct through the child's simple desire to please shows that the Law of Opinion is a crucial support for the law of nature, where their provisions coincide, and, where they do not, is a powerful obstacle to the pursuit of natural justice.

(p.305) When, if ever, can we expect the provisions of the two laws to coincide? There is room for confidence in those cases where a particular rule is necessary for human social life itself. But such necessity is precisely the distinguishing mark of natural law itself. As Pufendorf puts it, natural law is distinguished by the fact that ‘the reason for [it] is sought from the condition of mankind as a whole’, it ‘so harmonizes with the natural and social nature of man that the human race can have no wholesome peaceful social organization without it’.25 In similar vein, Hume describes the law of nature as ‘what is common to any species, or even … what is inseparable from the species’.26 So the very necessity of natural law will serve to secure a rough harmony between it and the Law of Opinion, even though the latter implies a great variety of views concerning the farther reaches of virtue and vice amongst the ‘Clubs of Men in the World’. For this reason, the law of nature's dependence on the Law of Opinion in order to secure general compliance is not so much a weakness as a strength: the Law of Opinion will generally support the rational dictates of the natural law, and, since it is the ‘law’ which most effectively motivates human beings, it will therefore help to ensure that the law of nature is not merely recognized, but practised.

Recognizing this broad harmony between opinion and nature allows us also to see a significant further implication. If, in the spirit of Grotius's etiamsi daremus, the theory of natural law were to be revised by denying the necessity of the formal element of obligation, and affirming instead the sufficiency of the material element (so that the obligatory force of the natural law could be derived entirely from the constitution of human nature itself), then, because the operations of the Law of Opinion are sufficient to generate rules of behaviour which conform to the rational dictates of the natural law, this would open up the possibility that the kind of pre-reflective, or semi-reflective, practices presupposed by the Law of Opinion are themselves sufficient to generate the content of the natural law. The rationality of the natural law could then be shown not by affirming the rationality of the processes that produce it, but by rational reflection on the results of non-reflective (non-rational) processes. In other words, by distinguishing between the context of discovery and the context of justification (a distinction which becomes necessary in order to maintain such a view), it would then be possible to account for the development of dictates of right reason, natural laws, entirely by means of non-reflective practices, or conventions. This is just what Hume does. His account of the origins of justice is an account of the establishment, through conventions, of rules necessary for human social life. Rational reflection on the rules thus established affirms their real utility for human life, so the rules can then be recognized to be dictates of right reason—laws natural to human beings. (p.306) The first task of political authority is then to establish civil laws to protect these rational underpinnings of the social order.

This speculation about the origins of Hume's theory can be pressed to two further conclusions. In the first place, it may be possible to explain why Hume ignores the jurisprudential language of rights and duties in his account of natural law, preferring instead to speak entirely in terms of virtues and vices. If the system of justice arises as the result of processes whose tendency and ultimate justification are sensed only dimly, if at all, by the actors who serve to bring it about, it is inappropriate to describe their behaviour in terms which draw on the features of that final outcome. Law is the end of the process, not the beginning, so juristic notions like right and duty would, if applied to the behaviour of the participants in its formation, substantially misrepresent that behaviour. It would be far preferable to rely on concepts which reflect the important roles played by habit and character in that process, and the language of virtues and vices therefore fits the bill.27

Secondly, it may help to explain the meaning of the concept of opinion which plays such an important role in his account of the foundations of the social and political order.28 If Locke's ‘Law of Opinion’ is in the back of his mind in these passages, then to ground the social order in opinion is to ground it in the beliefs specific to each actual society. It is, first and foremost, to deny the existence of a general (universal) justification of any form of political order. As beliefs in any given society change, so too will the considerations which serve to justify (or not) its political system. This conclusion is clearly implicit in his account of the foundations of the English political order in The History of England, and it also underlies his apparent tendency to argue from right to fact in some of the political essays—in particular, in ‘Of the Original Contract’. So, on this interpretation, by founding political society on opinion Hume clearly opposes those who sought to find a timeless or even ‘ancient’ foundation for the political order. He does not, however, advance a sceptical thesis—at least, no more than Locke does by advancing the idea of a ‘Law of Opinion’. His aim is not to reduce politics to mere (fickle) opinion, rather than to secure beliefs. It is to argue, firstly, that it is precisely beliefs that are fundamental in this sphere, and, secondly, that therefore the justification of political order varies across (p.307) time and space. It could perhaps be described as a thesis in the sociology of knowledge.29

To return to Locke. It has been shown that his account of the psychology of action, despite holding that all human beings aim only at their own pleasure (albeit indirectly, by fleeing painful uneasiness), is nevertheless able to show how the desire for praise presupposed by the Law of Opinion can lead to a disinterested pursuit of the sociable maxims of natural law. This aspect of his thought was not always recognized by his contemporary critics, and, given also his very limited account of the content of the suum,30 he thus came to be charged with failing to understand the full ramifications of the sociable nature of human beings. In particular, he was charged with failing to recognize that the story of the origins of political society, property, etc., is, even at its most atomic, the story of the interactions of human families.31

This is argued most forcefully by Bolingbroke, who attacks Locke for overlooking the intimate interconnection of natural law and sociability. However, Bolingbroke accepts the standard natural law view of the centrality of self-love. Sociability is not thought to be incompatible with self-love, but to be implied by it. Thus in an important passage in his collected ‘fragments’ of essays, he argues that:

There is a sort of genealogy of law, in which nature begets natural law, natural law sociability, sociability union of societies by consent, and this union by consent the obligation of civil laws. When I make sociability the daughter of natural law, and the granddaughter of nature, I mean plainly this. Self-love, the original spring of human actions, directs us necessarily to sociability.32

(p.308) In Bolingbroke's view, Locke's errors all come down to the failure properly to understand sociability, and in particular the intimacy of its connection with the self-love which founds natural law. He goes on to argue that, by representing mankind ‘like a number of savage individuals out of all society’, Locke, one of ‘our best writers’, has reasoned ‘both inconsistently, and on a false foundation’.33

A more radical critique than Bolingbroke's, however, comes from Locke's own former pupil, the third Earl of Shaftesbury. In the Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711), and even more forcefully in his letters, Shaftesbury denounces the very attempt to derive moral practices from self-love. It is, he believes, to abolish sociableness and morality, and to replace it with mere self-interest.34 Against the self-love account he both stresses the strength of the social passions, and also argues against their reducibility to any hidden principles of self-love. He suggests that even social disorder can be traced to the strength of the social passions: ‘For my own part, methinks, this herding principle, and associating inclinations, is seen so natural and strong in most men, that one might readily affirm’ twas even from the violence of this passion that so much disorder arose in the general society of mankind.’35 The irreducibility of the social passions is affirmed by the crucial doctrine of the moral sense, the importance of which for the later Scottish natural law theorists is difficult to overstress. It provides the cornerstone of a psychology of action in which irreducibly social passions are at the heart. Sociability comes to be constructed directly from the social passions.

This is best shown by Hutcheson's defence of Shaftesbury's doctrine of the reality of a moral sense, a fundamental benevolent principle in human nature. In Hutcheson's terms, we are so constituted to perceive ‘an immediate natural Good in the Actions call'd Virtuous; that is, That we are (p.309) determin'd to perceive some Beauty in the Actions of others, and to love the Agent, even without reflecting upon any Advantage which can in any way rebound to us from the Action’.36 Of course, if, as Bolingbroke and others believed, self-love itself suffices to generate social affections, and generally drive us to the social life, then there will be no special incentive to abandon the self-love account in favour of a moral sense theory. This will be so even if the latter is able to capture some of our intuitions about how we see ourselves to be affected by the actions, or the fortunes or misfortunes, of others. A well-worked-out theory of the springs of action will survive apparent weaknesses if it is thought to offer a unifying account of human action. If the alternative theory is itself seen to embody seriously implausible assumptions, then the established theory will win by default. This is Bolingbroke's view. He holds that the moral sense alternative requires committing oneself to discredited or absurd views. In his Essays on Human Knowledge he rejects any appeal to a moral sense, ‘for to assume any such natural instinct is as absurd as to assume innate ideas, or any other of the Platonic whimsies’.37

Bolingbroke is mistaken, but the mistake is understandable. Shaftesbury's view is Platonic in this sense, apparently because he believes that the objects of moral sensing, if they are not to be dangerously changeable, must be innate. In his view, innate ideas are an integral part of true morality, the only sure defence against morality's enemies, the self-love theorists. This explains the hostility of his reaction to Locke's critique of innate ideas: it is, for him, an attack on the very foundation of moral virtue. Shaftesbury's conclusion is that Locke is therefore an even greater enemy of morals than Hobbes: although the latter's reduction of all virtue to self-interest manifests an opposition to morals, Locke's account of morals in terms of experience and custom makes him a more dangerous, because more insidious, enemy of virtue:

It was Mr. Locke that struck the home blow: for Mr Hobbes’ character and base slavish principles in government took off the poison of his philosophy. 'Twas Mr Locke that struck at all fundamentals, threw all order and virtue out of the world and made the very ideas of these … unnatural and without foundation in our minds.

(p.310) This is so because

virtue, according to Mr. Locke, has no other measure, law, or rule, than fashion and custom; morality, justice, equity, depend only on law and will … And thus neither right nor wrong, virtue nor vice, are anything in themselves; nor is there any trace or idea of them naturally imprinted on human minds. Experience and our catechism teach us all.38

Hutcheson, however, does not go along with this. Although he presents himself as a defender of Shaftesbury's doctrine, and identifies the self-love theory of morals as his target—represented by Hobbes,39 and also by ‘the Author of the Fable of the Bees’40—he explicitly detaches moral sense theory from the doctrine of innate ideas: ‘We are not to imagine that this moral Sense, more than the other Senses, supposes any innate ideas, Knowledge, or practical Proposition.’41 As a result, Hutcheson shows none of Shaftesbury's antipathy to Locke. Although the latter founds morality on self-love, this does not make him (or even Hobbes, for that matter) an enemy of morality. The self-love theory fails not because it undermines morality, but because it does not measure up to the facts. It is thereby forced to provide tortuous stories for the most simple and familiar of unselfish acts. Hutcheson sums up its deficiencies as follows: in treating of ‘our Desires or Affections’, the self-love theorists have been forced to make ‘the most generous, kind, and disinterested of them, to proceed from Self-Love, by some subtle Trains of Reasoning, to which honest Hearts are often wholly Strangers’.42 Moral sense theory thus embarks on the plausible and attractive programme of deriving our beneficent behaviours directly from an original benevolent impulse. The problem it encounters, as Chapters 4 and 5 show, is that sociability depends on benevolence or fellow-feeling only to a limited degree. The fundamental virtue of justice, respect for what is another's, is founded in a rational utility which inevitably comes into conflict with benevolent impulses. The central problem for moral sense theory, as a putative science of moral behaviour, is to explain how this virtue comes into being, without threatening its stability or restricting its scope.


(1) This is most explicit in ‘Of Ethick in General’—see J. Colman, John Locke's Moral Philosophy (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1983), 179. Colman goes on to argue that Locke shifts ‘from a quasi-mechanistic theory of the “springs” of action to a hedonistic theory of reasons for action’ (pp. 179–80). This is, I think, mistaken. Locke's account of the springs of action is an account of the causes of action, but it is not thereby a denial of reasons. Colman appears to require a sharp distinction between reasons and causes, and in doing so tends to misrepresent Locke, who allows reason a role in a causal story. (Locke does separate rational from ‘mechanistic’ accounts, but because the latter are defined as non-rational, not because they are causal, see Essay, 1. 3. 14.)

(2) Essay, 11. 21. 43.

(3) Ibid. 42.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Essay, 11. 21. 31.

(6) Ibid.

(7) Ibid. 35.

(8) Ibid. 31.

(9) Ibid. 36.

(10) Ibid. 35.

(11) Essay, 1. 3. 6.

(12) Locke distinguishes between natural and moral good along these lines in ‘Of Ethick in General’. Moral good ‘draws pleasure or paine after it … by the intervention of divine power’ (quoted in Colman, John Locke's Moral Philosophy, 168).

(13) Essay, 1. 3. 7.

(14) Ibid.

(15) Ibid. 11. 21. 55.

(16) Commonplace Book entry ‘Ethica’ (1693), quoted in Colman, John Locke's Moral Philosophy, 206.

(17) Some Thoughts concerning Education (sects. 57–8), in J. Axtell (ed.), The Educational Writings of John Locke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

(18) Locke's account of the necessity and pleasures of the social life is clearly indebted to the natural lawyers. God, he says, put Man ‘under strong Obligations of Necessity, Convenience, and Inclination to drive him into Society, as well as fitted him with Understanding and Language to continue and enjoy it’ (Two Treatises, ii. 77).

(19) Essay VIII, ELN 205.

(20) Essay, 11. 28. 7.

(21) Ibid. 8–9.

(22) Ibid. 10.

(23) Essay, 11. 28. 10–11.

(24) Since the Law of Opinion is not dependent on any legitimate authority, it is doubtful whether Locke can appropriately describe it as a law. On his account, a law is the decree of a rightful authority; laws depend on both a material and a formal obligation. He argues that the Law of Opinion is truly a law because it effectively motivates compliant behaviour, but this is beside the point. It simply affirms the effectiveness of the material element; the rightfulness of the effect—which must be established if there is to be a valid law—is not addressed. So the Law of Opinion cannot be properly described as a law. Although it controls, it does not govern, human actions. See Essay, 11. 28. 12; and Colman, John Locke's Moral Philosophy, 170.

(25) DJNG 11. 3. 24; 1. 6. 18.

(26) Hume, Treatise, 484.

(27) This is a suggestion only. It is certainly not meant as a definitive account, nor is it intended to rule out other (perhaps other complementary) possibilities. To take just 2 exs.: his avoidance of the notion of rights could be attributed simply to the desire to avoid associations with Hutcheson's doctrine. Alternatively, it may reflect his enthusiasm for the ancient moralists, with their greater emphasis on the virtues of character.

(28) Hume stresses the importance of opinion in the essays ‘Of the First Principles of Government’ and ‘Of the Original Contract’, in Essays Moral, Political, and Literary, i, esp. 110, 460.

(29) The sociological interpretation of ‘opinion’ proposed here is also indicated by the title of Shaftesbury's Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711), a work which enjoyed great popularity amongst early 18th-cent. moralists, Hume included. So Nicholas Phillipson's interpretation of the meaning of ‘opinion’—see his Hume (London: Weidenfeld Nicolson, 1989), ch. 4 (esp. p. 62)—seems unnecessarily sceptical.

(30) Even Hobbes's account of the suum gives more recognition of the importance of the social. In Leviathan, his account of ‘things held in propriety’ includes not only life and limbs, but also those relations ‘that concern conjugall affection’ (ch. 30). Locke, in contrast, explicitly identifies only life, liberty, and estate. Admittedly, he does not discuss the possibility of different levels of propriety, and perhaps if he had a more generous conclusion would be possible, since he does insist that men are ‘under strong Obligations of Necessity, Convenience, and Inclination’ to enter into society, and are adapted for the sociable life (Two Treatises, ii. 77).

(31) This is not to defend such criticisms. Locke frequently is more individualistic than his contemporaries, but he nevertheless did understand the natural state to be an association of natural families. See e.g. R. Ashcraft, Locke's Two Treatises of Government (London: Unwin Hyman, 1987), ch. 5.

(32) Viscount Bolingbroke, Works (Farnborough: Gregg International, 1969), iv. 164.

(33) Viscount Bolingbroke, Works (Farnborough: Gregg International, 1969), iv. 194–5.

(34) Lord Shaftesbury, Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969), 2 vols. in 1, i. 63–5, 280–2, in particular. Shaftesbury's position is neatly summed up in D. F. Norton, David Hume: Common-Sense Moralist, Sceptical Metaphysician (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982): ‘Such words as courage, friendship, love, and public interest, words which seem to denote altruistic acts or tendencies, are found to mean [on the self-love view] nothing different from their apparent opposites, for all acts and tendencies are similarly motivated and hence all are at bottom alike’ (pp. 34–5).

(35) Shaftesbury, Characteristics, i. 75. Hume acknowledges his indebtedness to Shaftesbury on just this point. In the earlier versions of the essay ‘Of the Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature’, he says: ‘I shall observe, what has been prov'd beyond Question by several great Moralists of the present Age, that the social Passions are by far the most powerful of any, and that even all the other Passions receive from them their chief Force and Influence. Whoever desires to see this Question treated at large, with the greatest Force of Argument and Eloquence, may consult my Lord SHAFTSBURY'S Enquiry concerning Virtue’ (Essays, i. 154 n.).

(36) Inquiry, (2nd edn.), 115. Hutcheson shows himself to be offering a defence of Shaftesbury in the subtitle to the 1st edn., where he says that in this work ‘the Principles of the late Earl of Shaftesbury are explained and defended’. The subtitle was dropped from later edns., but not because of any change of heart by the author. Shaftesbury remains ‘that ingenious Nobleman’, his works a model of humane learning: ‘To recommend the Lord SHAFTESBURY'S Writings to the World, is a very needless Attempt. They will be esteemed while any Reflection remains among Men’ (2nd edn., p. xxi).

(37) Works, iii. 399.

(38) Letters of the Earl of Shaftesbury to a Student at the University (1716), 45; quoted in J. Aronson, ‘Shaftesbury on Locke’, American Political Science Review, 53 (1959), 1103. Cf. also Norton, David Hume, 35.

(39) The doctrine that ‘all the desires of the human Mind, nay of all thinking Natures, are reducible to Self-Love, or Desire of private Happiness’ is the doctrine of ‘the old Epicureans’, now ‘revived by Mr Hobbes, and followed by many better Writers’ (introd. to Illustrations on the Moral Sense, Collected Works, ii. 207–8).

(40) Inquiry (1st edn., 1725), subtitle.

(41) Inquiry, 135. See also the revised and expanded discussion of the nature of moral perception in the 4th edn. (1738), 129–31.

(42) Preface to Passions and Affections (and see also introd. to Illustrations), Collected Works, ii, p. vi (and p. 209).