The Moral Law
The Philosophy of the Good Life : Being the Gifford Lectures delivered in the University of St. Andrews, 1929.30, by Charles Gore, D.D. (Murray. 108. lid.) A WRITER in the last number of the Review of the Churches congratulates himself on having turned Bishop Gore from his original intention of delivering a set of Gifford Lectures on the " Art of Good Living " ; a title which he thought too suggestive of the Ritz. Certainly, the " philosophy of the good life " has less obviously gastronomic associations ; though it may seem at first sight to held out a moral carrot to that considerable group of worthy persons which can see no point in ,philosophy unless it is " helpful." Indeed, average human nature, as the Bishop points out, is always more easily interested in moral philosophy than in the more speculative aspects of our quest for reality, for the sanctions which govern conduct concern all decent men. Dr. Gore's true thesis, however, is at once more profound and more interesting than his title might at first suggest. He does not claim too much when he warns us, that " it will be found to involve the whole topic of the nature of reality and the reason of man " ; for a consideration of the origin and meaning of that ethical obligation and ethical ideal which are present in some form to all awakened minds and wills, leads directly to metaphysical thinking. Hence the external plot of these lectures, " the idea of the good life as it is to be found in history "—illustrated by studies of a succession of moral teachers from Zarathustra to Christ—is merely the vehicle of an interpretation of Reality and man's obligation in respect of it, which is found in the end to have its fullest and most life-giving expression in Christian theism.
The moral upheaval of the present day, when all ethical judgments are being called in question and required to justify themselves at the bar of experience, makes it necessary to re-examine what history teaches as to the character of the " good life " and the way in which this conception emerges amongst men. Such an examination discloses a remarkable fundamental agreement among all the great moral prophets of mankind ; in whom that " masterful conviction of the claim of the good " which must be for the naturalist one of the most mysterious things in human nature, takes definite form and imposes itself as an overwhelming moral obligation. Amos and Zeno, Lao Tze and Plato, Buddha and Mohamed— all proclaim an " ought " which is rooted in their conception of reality. This " moral consciousness of men as shown in history"_ is, therefore, the starting point, the indisputable fact, which demands recognition in any theory we may form of the character of that Reality in which our life is .immersed ; and philosophy of course is committed to the task of making, criticising and purifying such theories. The philosophic mind is consumed by a longing to correlate experiences, make the universe fit ; it is never content to keep different kinds of knowledge—scientific and aesthetic, spiritual and sensible--in different compartments. It looks in all for an expression of " one purpose" ! and this one purpose cannot adequately be envisaged unless we take account of the moral insights and demands of the greatest leaders of men. In the course_ of its quest, then, 'philosophy is required to give rational content to the gradually emerging moral ideal of the human race ; this universal yet not obviously natural notion that we ought to " live well," forsake evil and do good. Whence does this come, and what does it mean? When we con• sider this problem historically we are at once; as Dr. Gore points out, met by the fact that all great proclamations of " the good life " have been felt by those who made them to be the delivery of a message which came from beyond them- selves ; to be in the nature of a revelation. It is difficult to discover why this should be so, if theories of emergent evolution and the like tell all the truth about human per- sonality. But the great ethical teachers of man—Zarathustra, the'Hebrew Prophets, Mohamed, Christ—have all based their demands, not on human betterment or convenience, but on the absolute moral obligation to obey a law believed to be divine. Beginning far back in history and ever growing in power, their authority is rooted in the conviction that the Ultimate Reality " wills goodness," and that man is capable of a free choice between rebellion and obedience . The whole history of prophecy, and especially its culmination • in the New Testament, asks us to acknowledge that somehow and at least sometimes the soul of man is accessible to a direct message from God ; " something coming from above conveying a divine certitude " and recognized by something within—the two-fold witness of reason and conscience to the claims of the good life. Here, then, " nature " testifies to the reality of " supernature " ; conscience to the conclusions of faith ; spirit immanent to spirit transcendent. Moreover, there is, as the Bishop shows, an impressive unity of witness as to " the content as well as the authority of the moral law "—a real " good life " for men discerned again and again under various sanctions and limitations, and somehow felt to abide in a correspondence with the absolute Will recognized as Divine.
" Man is dependent, whether he likes it or not, on the Power which encompasses and controls him. In it he lives and moves and has his being. And this Power is realized in the human conscience as holiness and goodness ; and also as having given to man the perilous dignity of a conditioned freedom, whereby he must choose either to rebel against the moral law to his destruction, or to rejoice in its service to his