29 December 2014

He Said It: Binning

"Hills, Seas, Mountains, Rivers, Sun & Moon, & Clouds, Men & Beasts, Angels and Devils, all of them are acted, moved, and inclined according to his pleasure, all of them are about his work indeed, as the result of all in the end shal make it appear, & are servants at his command, by going where he bids go, and coming where he bids come, led by an invisible hand, though in the mean time they knew it not, but thinks they are about their own businesse . . . . Godly men who knows his Will and loves it, are led by it willingly, for they yeeld themselves up to his disposall: but wicked men who have contrary Wills of their own, they can gain no more by resisting, but to be drawn along with it."

--Hugh Binning (1627-53), The common principiles [sic] of Christian religion (Glasgow, 1666), 173. Quoted in Peter Harrison, "Adam Smith and the History of the Invisible Hand," Journal of the History of Ideas 72, 1 (January 2011): 43 (reprinted here exactly as it appears in Harrison's text; bold supplied)

22 December 2014

He Said It: Machiavelli

"Thus, since a prince is compelled of necessity to know well how to use the beast, he should pick the fox and the lion, because the lion does not defend itself from snares and the fox does not defend itself from wolves. So one needs to be a fox to recognize snares and a lion to frighten the wolves. Those who stay simply with the lion do not understand this. A prudent lord, therefore, cannot observe faith[*], nor should he, when such observance turns against him, and the causes that made him promise have been eliminated. And if all men were good, this teaching would not be good; but because they are wicked and do not observe faith with you, you also do not have to observe it with them." 

--Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 2nd ed., Harvey C. Mansfield, trans. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 69

*The phrase "observe faith" and its cognates is rendered as "keep one's word" by other translators. 

15 December 2014

He Said It: Smith

"I mean not, however, by any thing which I have here said, to throw any odious imputation upon the general character of the servants of the East India company, and much less upon that of any particular persons. It is the system of government, the situation in which they are placed, that I mean to censure; not the character of those who have acted in it. They acted as their situation naturally directed, and they who would have clamoured the loudest against them would, probably, not have acted better themselves." 

--Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), IV.vii.c.107

[H/T: Mike Munger]

01 December 2014

He Said It: Baier

"Moral talk is often rather repugnant. Leveling moral accusations, expressing moral indignation, passing moral judgment, allotting the blame, administering moral reproof, justifying oneself, and, above all, moralizing--who can enjoy such talk? And who can like or trust those addicted to it? The most outspoken critics of their neighbors' morals are usually men (or women) who wish to ensure that nobody should enjoy the good things in life which they themselves have missed and men who confuse the right and the good with their own advancement. When challenged, they can substantiate their charges only by fine phrases. [...]

"Suppose it is granted that [moral] sacrifices are necessary. Who is to say which individual or group ought to make them? Everyone is busily demanding that others should shoulder a burden, deny themselves this indulgence, or suffer that hardship, but let someone ask why a certain person should make a given sacrifice and usually he will be offered only bogus reasons. [...]

"But, really, how crude, how beside the point, how unconvincing all this is--particularly, when we compare it with the precision and the certainty of the natural sciences. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that by comparison with natural science, morality is a primitive, outmoded, inexact sort of enterprise. Its continuing popularity seems to be based largely on people's disappointment at being less well equipped than their neighbors, on envy of others who have succeeded where they have failed, on the instinct of revenge, and on superstitious hopes and fears that the Lazaruses of this world will be in the bosom of Abraham, while the men successful on earth will be tormented in hell." 

--Kurt Baier, The Moral Point of View: A Rational Basis of Ethics (New York: Random House, 1967), 3-5.