THE object of this volume is not the construction of a system of Moral Philosophy. It is very far from attempting either an exhaustive or a systematic treatment of ethical questions. Nor is the Author so much as prepared to define the sphere of Moral Philosophy, to say what does fall within it and what does not.
The writer's object in this work has been mainly critical. He sees that ethical theories rest in the end on preconceptions metaphysical and psychological. He believes that many of the fundamental ideas now current, especially in England, are confused or even false; and he has endeavoured, by the correction of some of these, at least to remove what seem obstacles to the apprehension of moral facts. These Essays are a critical discussion of some leading questions in Ethics, and are so far connected that, for the most part, they must be read in the order in which they stand.
The writer knows how much is demanded by his task. It demands an acquaintance with the facts of the world which he does not possess; and it demands that clearness of view on the main conceptions which govern our thoughts, which comes, if at all, to the finished student of metaphysic. The reader must not expect this either.
These Essays may be dogmatic and one-sided. They were produced and are published because the writer knows no English moral philosophy which does not, rightly or wrongly, seem to him to be at least as one-sided and even more dogmatic. Whatever they may be, if they bring any