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DIALOGUE IN THE SHADES,
ou appear very melancholy, for a phia losopher of the new stoical sect. regret the glory, which you
doubtless enjoyed in the other world? Or do you dislike the grim equality of the stalking skeletons which surround you? We cannot boast, indeed, of our gaiety, but we have tranquillity, which to a philosopher is much better. We enjoy our exemption from the perturbations of life, as the wearied mariner reposes in the still gloom, succeeding a mighty tempest,
Neodidactus. Enjoy yourselves as you will; I am tormented by anxiety and doubt. By professing the doctrines of the new and pure philosophy upon earth, my character was ruined, and I was abandoned by society. Here, I find no one disposed to investigate my principles, excepting yourself, who, I suppose, intend to laugh at me, according to your custom. I had learned, indeed, from our master, that “ the wise man is satisfied with nothing:" that “ he is not satisfied with his own attainments, or even with his principles and opinions:** but I feel that mine have produced the extremity of wretchedness.
Lucian. You must then be extremely wise, on your own principles. But be not dejected. The world, I perceive, preserves its old
Godwin's Enquiry concerning Political Jus. tice, vol. i. p. 218. ed edition.
character: mankind have seldom troubled their benefactors with expressions of gratitude.
Neodidactus. I beg that you may never again mention so disagreeable a word to me. Gratitude, according to the new philosophy, 6 is no part either of justice or virtue;"* nay we hold it to be actually a vice,t when it results merely from our sense of benefits conferred on us.
Lucian. By the Graces! this is very strange philosophy. In teaching men to be ungrateful, do you not render them wicked?
Neodidactus. We do not embarrass ourselves much with the distinctions of virtue and vice; the motives and the tendencies of human actions are so complex, and their results so
Enquiry concerning Political Justice, vol, i, P. 130.
# Ibid. p. 266,
uncertain, that we find it difficult to assign them places under those designations. We even doubt whether there be any such thing as vice.
Lucian. You puzzle me: let me beg that you would explain yourself a little more clearly; unless your philosophy enjoins you to be obscure,
Neodidactus. I will explain myself most gladly. Know then, that 6 vice, as it is commonly understood, is, so far as regards the motive, purely negative,"'* and that “ actions in the highest degree injurious to the public have often proceeded from motives uncommonly conscientious. The most determined political assassins, Clement, Ravaillac, Damiens, and Gerard, seem to have been deeply penetrated with anxiety for the eternal welfare of mankind."** Our sublime contemplations lead us also to believe, that “ benç, volence probably had its part in lighting the fires of Smithfield, and pointing the daggers of St. Bartholomew."*
* Enquiry, vol. i. p. 153, 154,
Lucian. If I rightly understand you, murder and persecution are justifiable on the principles of the new philosophy.
Neodidactus. Our only rule is the promotion of general good, by strict, impartial justice; whatever inconveniences may arise to individuals from this system, we disregard them, and as we allow no merit to actions which respect the good of individuals only, so we perceive no demerit in those which benefit the public, though they may considerably injure individuals. Justice, eternal justice must prevail.
Lucian. But how shall this over-ruling justice bę
* Enquiry, vol. i. p. 153, 154.