An occasional criticism which a German translation of some of these lectures1 received, leads me at the outset to disclaim for this volume any scientific pretensions. It is not even a connected series of discourses; there are repetitions in it. These lectures were not written in the first place for publication at all, but to quicken, if they might, the thoughts and lives of those to whom they were orally addressed. There is possibly one lecture, " What is a Moral Action ?" which, as an attempt to analyze and fix a conception, may be thought to have some scientific worth. After writing it, I was gratified to learn that Aristotle had made a somewhat similar analysis, — though the master says in a few words what I spread out in as many pages.2 But had I attempted to write a philosophical treatise, the whole method would have been different. I should then perhaps have been able to clear up some of the confusion and inconsistencies with which my thoughts may seem to be involved. For example, I should have attempted to explain my inability to assent either to theism on the one hand or to positivism on the other; I should have sought to reconcile varying points of view in speaking of religion, God, ethics, Christianity; I should have attempted particularly to develop my own theory of ethics, which I cannot call either Utilitarian or Intuitional. I say " attempted," for I do not assume that my intellectual positions are necessarily final and complete; speaking from my own brief experience, the intellectual life is one of change and progress, and it is possible that in attempting to state my views philosophically, I should be led somewhat to modify and enlarge them.
1 Published under the title, " Die Religion der Moral," translated by [Professor Dr.] Georg von Gizycki, Leipzig and Berlin, Wilhelm Friedrich, 1885. A Dutch translation of the same, by the hand of the Rev. P. H. Hugenholtz, Jr., of Amsterdam, appeared in 1888 under the title, " Zedelijke Religie," Amsterdam, Tj. van Holkema.
2 See the Nicomachean Ethics, ii. 4, § 3.
My purpose in allowing this book to come before the public is not intellectual, but practical and moral. I do not ask scholars to read it, but men and women who are in the midst of the stress of life. My only fear is that it may be too scholastic for the latter class, as I know it lacks too much in thoroughness and precision to satisfy the former. But if it should by chance refresh or invigorate, or help to refine, the moral life of any one who reads it; if it should stir in any one a divine discontent with himself and the state of society about him; if it should give any one courage to fight with the evil and contend for the good in the world; if it should nourish any one's secret hope that there is but one outcome of the course and evolution of things, namely, the victory of the good, — if it should thus make any one more gladly co-operate with the Deep Tendency of Things, then I should count myself happy indeed.
I wish to thank Mr. A. W. Stevens, of Cambridge, for valuable counsels and assistance as the book was passing through the press.
W. M. S.
Chicago, March, 1889.