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FINAL CAUSES OF THE MORE FREQUENT EMOTIONS AND PASSIONS.
Actions always prompted by desire-All passions conducive to public good-An agreeable cause produces a pleasant emotion; a disagreeable cause, painfulInanimate objects agreeable-They promote happiness-They excite industry-Disagreeable objects hurtful-A's a mark of wisdom some objects are indifferent-Inanimate objects that are agreeable, are attractive; the contrary are repulsive-A sensible being agreeable by its attributes, inspires a pleasant emotion, accompanied with desire-Final cause-It promotes our happinessA painful emotion excited by a person in distress-Self-love would induce us to turn from it-Benevolence, to relieve it-Termed sympathy—Indignation excited by vice and wickedness-To secure us from injury, injury done to ourselves requires retaliation-Painful emotions excited in a delinquent by a disagreeable action, termed remorse-Right or wrong, actions never indifferent to the spectator-When right, they inspire esteem; when wrong, disgust-Good qualities in myself raise esteem as well as in another; mean qualities, inferiority-An appetite for fame useful, and of moral tendency-Communication of passion to related objects extends the social affections-The contrary tendency of malevolent passions-This regards savages only-The economy of the human passions entertaining to the rational mind.
It is a law of our nature, that we never act but by the impulse of desire; which in other words is saying, that passion, by the desire included in it, is what determines the will. Hence in the conduct of life, it is of the utmost importance, that our passions t directed to proper objects, tend to just and rational ends, and with relation to each other, be duly balanced. The beauty of contrivance, so conspicuous in the human frame, is not confined to the rational part of our nature, but is visible over the whole. Concerning the passions in particular, however irregular, headstrong, and perverse, in a slight view, they may appear, I hope to demonstrate, that they are, by nature, modelled and tempered with perfect wisdom, for the good of society as well as for private good. The subject, tre ted at large, would be too extensive for the present work: all there is room for is a few general observations upon the sensitive part of o r nature, without regarding that strange irregularity of passion discovered in some individuals. Such topical irregularities, if I may use the term, cannot fairly be held an objection to the present theory. We are frequently, it is true, misled by inordinate passion; but we are also, and perhaps no less frequently, misled by wrong judgment.
In order to fulfil my engagement, it must be premised, that an agreeable cause always produces a pleasant emotion; and a disagreeable cause, a painful emotion. This is a general law of nature, which admits not a single exception. Agreeableness in the cause is indeed so essentially connected with pleasure in the emotion, its effect, that an agreeable cause cannot be better defined, than by its power of producing a pleasant emotion: and disagreeableness in the cause has the same necessary connection with pain in the emotion produced by it.
From this preliminary it appears, that in order to know for what end an emotion is made pleasant or painful, we must begin with
inquiring for what end its cause is made agreeable or disagreeable. And, with respect to inanimate objects, considered as the causes of emotions, many of them are made agreeable in order to promote our happiness; and it proves invincibly the benignity of the Deity, that we are placed in the midst of objects for the most part agreeable. But that is not all. The bulk of such objects, being of real use in life, are made agreeable in order to excite our industry: witness a large tree, a well-dressed fallow, a rich field of grain, and others that may be named without end. On the other hand, it is not easy to specify a disagreeable object that is not at the same time hurtful. Some things are made disagreeable, such as a rotten carcase, because they are noxious: others, a dirty marsh, for example, or a barren heath, are made disagreeable, in order, as above, to excite our industry. And, with respect to the few things that are neither agreeable nor disagreeable, it will be made evident, that their being left indifferent is not a work of chance but of wisdom: of such I shall have occasion to give several instances.
Because inanimate objects that are agreeable fix our attention, and draw us to them, they in that respect are termed attractive: such objects inspire pleasant emotions, which are gratified by adhering to the objects, and enjoying them. Because disagreeable objects of the same kind repel us from them, they, in that respect, are termed repulsive: and the painful emotions raised by such objects are gratified by flying from them. Thus, in general, with respect to things inanimate, the tendency of every pleasant emotion is to prolong the pleasure; and the tendency of every painful emotion is to end the pain.
Sensible beings considered as objects of passion, lead into a more complex theory. A sensible being that is agreeable by its attributes, inspires us with a pleasant emotion accompanied with desire; and the question is, what is naturally the gratification of that desire? Were man altogether selfish, his nature would lead him to indulge the pleasant emotion, without making any acknowledgment to the person who gives him pleasure, more than to a pure air or temperate clime but as man is endued with a principle of benevolence as well as of selfishness, he is prompted by his nature to desire the good of every sensible being that gives him pleasure; and the happiness of that being is the gratification of his desire. The final cause of desire so directed is illustrious: it contributes to a man's own happiness, by affording him means of gratification beyond what selfishness can afford; and, at the same time, it tends eminently to advance the happiness of others. This lays open a beautiful theory in the nature of man. A selfish action can only benefit myself: a benevolent action benefits myself as much as it benefits others. In a word, benevolence may not improperly be said to be the most refined selfishness; which, by the way, ought to silence certain shallow philosophers, who, ignorant of human nature, teach a disgustful doctrine, that to serve others, unless with a view to our own happiness, is weakness and folly; as if self-love only, and not benevolence, contributed to our happiness. The hand of God is too visible in the
human frame, to permit us to think seriously, that there ever can be any jarring or inconsistency among natural principles, those especially of self-love and benevolence, which govern the bulk of our actions.*
Next in order come sensible beings that are in distress. A person in distress, being so far a disagreeable object, must raise in a spectator a painful passion; and, were man purely a selfish being, he would desire to be relieved from that pain, by turning from the object. But the principle of benevolence gives an opposite direction to his desire: it makes him desire to afford relief: and by relieving the person from distress, his passion is gratified. The painful passion thus directed, is termed sympathy; which, though painful, is yet in its nature attractive. And, with respect to its final cause, we can be at no loss: it not only tends to relieve a fellow-creature from distress, but in its gratification is greatly more pleasant than if it were repulsive.
We, in the last place, bring under consideration persons hateful by vice or wickedness. Imagine a wretch who has lately perpetrated some horrid crime: he is disagreeable to every spectator; and consequently raises in every spectator a painful passion. What is the natural gratification of that passion? I must here again observe, that, supposing man to be entirely a selfish being, he would be prompted by his nature to relieve himself from the pain, by averting his eye, and banishing the criminal from his thoughts. But man is not so constituted: he is composed of many principles, which, though seemingly contradictory, are perfectly concordant. actions are influenced by the principle of benevolence, as well as by that of selfishness: and in order to answer the foregoing question, I must introduce a third principle, no less remarkable in its influence than either of these mentioned; it is that principle, common to all, which prompts us to punish those who do wrong. An envious, a malicious, or a cruel action, being disagreeable, raises in the spectator the painful emotion of resentment, which frequently swells into a passion; and the natural gratification of the desire included in that passion, is to punish the guilty person: I must chastise the wretch by indignation at least and hatred, if not more severely. Here the final cause is self-evident.
An injury done to myself, touching me more than when done to
With shallow thinkers the selfish system naturally prevails in theory, I do not say in practice. During infancy, our desires centre mostly in ourselves: every one perceives intuitively the comfort of food and raiment, of a snug dwelling, and of every convenience. But that doing good to others will make us happy, is not so evident; feeding the hungry, for example, or clothing the naked. This truth is seen but obscurely by the gross of mankind, if at all seen the superior pleasure that accompanies the exercise of benevolence, of friendship, and of every social principle, is not clearly understood till it be frequently felt. To perceive the social principle in its triumphant state, a man must forget himself, and turn his thoughts upon the character and conduct of his fellow-creatures: he will feel a secret charm in every passion that tends to the good of others, and a secret aversion against every unfeeling heart that is indifferent to the happiness and distress of others. In a word, it is but too common for men to indulge selfishness in themselves; but all men abhor it in others.
others, raises my resentment to a higher degree. The desire, accordingly, included in this passion, is not satisfied with so slight a punishment as indignation or hatred; it is not fully gratified with retaliation; and the author must by my hand suffer mischief, as great, at least, as he has done to me. Neither can we be at any loss about the final cause of that higher degree of resentment: the whole vigor of the passion is required to secure individuals from the injustice and oppression of others.*
A wicked or disgraceful action is disagreeable not only to others, but even to the delinquent himself; and raises in both a painful emotion including a desire of punishment. The painful emotion felt by the delinquent, is distinguished by the name of remorse; which naturally excites him to punish himself. There cannot be imagined a better contrivance to deter us from vice; for remorse itself is a severe punishment. That passion, and the desire of selfpunishment derived from it, are touched delicately by Terence:
Menedemus. Ubi comperi ex iis, qui ei fuere conscii,
des mercede: quasi talenta ad quindecim
Nisi ubi ille huc salvos redierit meus particeps.t
Otway reaches the same sentiment:
Monimia. Let mischiefs multiply! let ev'ry hour
Ne'er shine again, but be eclips'd for ever!
See Historical Law Tracts, Tract 1.
+ As the sentiment contained in this extract from Terence is also found in the passage from Otway, that follows it, the editor thought it unnecessary to introduce a translation.
May every thing I look on seem a prodigy,
Orphan, Act IV.
In the cases mentioned, benevolence alone, or desire of punishment alone, governs without a rival; and it was necessary to handle these cases separately, in order to elucidate a subject which by writers is left in great obscurity. But neither of these principles operates always without rivalship: cases may be imagined, and cases actually exist, where the same person is an object both of sympathy and of punishment. Thus the sight of a profligate in the venereal disease, overrun with blotches and sores, puts both principles in motion: while his distress fixes my attention, sympathy prevails; but as soon as I think of his profligacy, hatred prevails, accompanied, sometimes, with a desire to punish. This, in general, is the case of distress occasioned by immoral action that are not highly criminal and if the distress and the immoral actions make impressions equal or nearly so, sympathy and hatred, counterbalancing each other, will not suffer me either to afford relief, or to inflict punishment. What then will be the result? The principle of selflove solves the question: abhorring an object so loathsome, I naturally avert my eye, and walk off as fast as I can, in order to be relieved from the pain.
The present subject gives birth to several other observations, for which I could not find room above, without relaxing more from the strictness of order and connection, than with safety could be indulged in discoursing upon an intricate subject. These observations I shall throw out loosely as they occur.
No action, right nor wrong, is indifferent, even to a mere spectator: if right, it inspires esteem; if wrong, disgust. But it is remarkable, that these emotions are seldom accompanied with desire the abilities of man are limited, and he finds sufficient employment, in relieving the distressed, in requiting his benefactors, and in punishing those who wrong him, without moving out of his sphere for the benefit or chastisement of those with whom he has no connection.
If the good qualities of others raise my esteem, the same qualities in myself must produce a similar effect in a superior degree, upon account of the natural partiality every man has for himself: and this increases self-love. If these qualities be of a high rank, they produce a conviction of superiority, which excites me to assume some sort of government over others. Mean qualities, on the other hand, produce in me a conviction of inferiority, which makes me submit to others. These convictions, distributed among individuals by mea sure and proportion, may justly be esteemed the solid basis of government; because upon them depends the natural submission of the many to the few, without which even the mildest government would be in a violent state, and have a constant tendency to dissolution.
No other branch of the human constitution shows more visibly our destination for society, nor tends more to our improvement, than