An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
general abstract principle is first established, and is afterwards branched out into a variety
of inferences and conclusions, may be more perfect in itself, but suits less the
imperfection of human nature, and is a common source of illusion and mistake in this as
well as in other subjects. Men are now cured of their passion for hypotheses and systems
in natural philosophy, and will hearken to no arguments but those which are derived from
experience. It is full time they should attempt a like reformation in all moral
disquisitions; and reject every system of ethics, however subtle or ingenious, which is not
founded on fact and observation.
We shall begin our enquiry on this head by the consideration of the social virtues,
Benevolence and Justice. The explication of them will probably give us an opening by
which the others may be accounted for.