Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/265

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253
PASCAL

that you are interpreting the moral law itself, and declaring what is the morality of an action in the sight of Omniscience; and when, at the same time, you are forced to adopt the legislator's method—to classify acts apart from the agent, to say this or that act is wrong whatever the concrete circumstances or the motives which led to it; you are at once both claiming to be a moralist and omitting the characteristically moral aspect. You are trying to define the intrinsic quality of conduct by circumstances which are of necessity more or less accidental. Here, as I think, is the fundamental difficulty, though it is not presented exactly in this way by Pascal.

Pascal's indignation was roused by results which follow logically from this position. He specially attacks the two great doctrines of the Jesuits—the doctrine of 'probability,' and the doctrine of 'intention.' By their help morality may be moulded and perverted to any extent. What, then, are these doctrines? The analogy of law gives the explanation. The English law, for example, has been developed by familiar processes. As new cases arise, they are decided by the judges, who, while nominally applying the settled rules, are in reality extending and modifying them.