An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals HTML version

Now as virtue is an end, and is desirable on its own account, without fee and reward,
merely for the immediate satisfaction which it conveys; it is requisite that there should be
some sentiment which it touches, some internal taste or feeling, or whatever you may
please to call it, which distinguishes moral good and evil, and which embraces the one
and rejects the other.
Thus the distinct boundaries and offices of REASON and of TASTE are easily
ascertained. The former conveys the knowledge of truth and falsehood: the latter gives
the sentiment of beauty and deformity, vice and virtue. The one discovers objects as they
really stand in nature, without addition and diminution: the other has a productive faculty,
and gilding or staining all natural objects with the colours, borrowed from internal
sentiment, raises in a manner a new creation. Reason being cool and disengaged, is no
motive to action, and directs only the impulse received from appetite or inclination, by
showing us the means of attaining happiness or avoiding misery: Taste, as it gives
pleasure or pain, and thereby constitutes happiness or misery, becomes a motive to
action, and is the first spring or impulse to desire and volition. From circumstances and
relations, known or supposed, the former leads us to the discovery of the concealed and
unknown: after all circumstances and relations are laid before us, the latter makes us feel
from the whole a new sentiment of blame or approbation. The standard of the one, being
founded on the nature of things, is eternal and inflexible, even by the will of the Supreme
Being: the standard of the other arising from the eternal frame and constitution of
animals, is ultimately derived from that Supreme Will, which bestowed on each being its
peculiar nature, and arranged the several classes and orders of existence.