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EMOTIONS AND PASSIONS.
Of all the feelings raised in us by external objects, those only of the eye and the ear are honoured with the name of passion or emotion: the most pleasing feelings of taste, or touch, or smell, aspire not to that honour. From this observation appears the connexion of emotions and passions with the fine arts, which, as observed in the introduction, are all of them calculated to give pleasure to the eye or the ear; never once condescending to gratify any of the inferior senses. The design accordingly of this chapter is to delineate that connexion, with the view chiefly to ascertain what power the fine arts have to raise emotions and passions. To those who would excel in the fine arts, that branch of knowledge is indispensable; for without it the critic as well as the undertaker, ignorant of any rule, have nothing left but to abandon themselves to chance. Destitute of that branch of knowledge, in vain will either pretend to foretel what effect his work will have upon the heart.
The principles of the fine arts appear in this view to open a direct avenue to the heart of man. The inquisitive mind, beginning with criticism, the most agreeable of all amusements, and finding no obstruction in its progress, advances far into the sensitive part of our nature; and gains imperceptibly a thorough knowledge of the human heart, of its desires, and of every motive to action; a science which, of all that can be reached by man, is to him of the greatest importance.
Upon a subject so comprehensive, all that can be expected in this chapter, is a general or slight survey; and to shorten that survey, I propose to handle separately some emotions more peculiarly connected with the fine arts. Even after that circumscription, so much matter comes under the present chapter, that to avoid confusion, I find it necessary to divide it into many parts; and though the first of these is confined to such causes of emotion or passion as are the most commom and the most general, yet, upon examination I find this single part so extensive, as to require a subdivision into several sections. Human nature is a complicate machine, and is unavoidably so in order to answer its various purposes. The public indeed have been entertained with many systems of human nature that flatter the mind by their simplicity: according to some writers, man is entirely a selfish being; according to others, universal benevolence is his duty: one founds morality upon sympathy solely, and one upon utility. If any of these systems were copied from nature, the present subject might be soon discussed. But the variety of nature is not so easily reached; and for confuting such Utopian systems without the fatigue of reasoning, it appears the best method to take a survey of human nature, and to set before the eye, plainly and candidly, facts as they really exist.
CAUSES UNFOLDED OF THE EMOTIONS AND PASSIONS.
BETWEEN EMOTION AND
ARE THE MOST COMMON AND THE MOST GENERAL.-PASSION
CONSIDERED AS PRODUCTIVE OF ACTION.
THESE branches are so interwoven, that they cannot be handled separately. It is a fact universally admitted, that no emotion or passion ever starts up in the mind without a cause: if I love a person, it is for good qualities or good offices; if I have resentment against a man, it must be for some injury he has done me; and I cannot pity any one who is under no distress of body nor of mind.
The circumstances now mentioned, if they raise an emotion or passion, cannot be entirely indifferent; for if so, they could not make any impression. And we find upon examination, that they are not indifferent: looking back upon the foregoing examples, the good qualities or good offices that attract my love, are antecedently agreeable if an injury did not give uneasiness, it would not occa sion resentment against the author; nor would the passion of pity be raised by an object in distress, if that object did not give pain.
What is now said about the production of emotion or passion, resolves into a very simple proposition, That we love what is agreeable, and hate what is disagreeable. And indeed it is evident, that a thing must be agreeable or disagreeable, before it can be the object either of love or of hatred.
This short hint about the causes of passion and emotion, leads to a more extensive view of the subject. Such is our nature, that, upon perceiving certain external objects, we are instantaneously conscious of pleasure or pain: a gently-flowing river, a smooth extended plain, a spreading oak, a towering hill, are objects of sight that raise pleasant emotions: a barren heath, a dirty marsh, a rotten carcase, raise painful emotions. Of the emotions thus produced, we inquire for no other cause but merely the presence of the object. The things now mentioned, raise emotions by means of their perties and qualities: to the emotion raised by a large river, its size, its force, and its fluency, contribute each a share; the regu larity, propriety, and convenience of a fine building, contribute each to the emotion raised by the building.
If external properties be agreeable, we have reason to expect the same from those which are internal; and accordingly power, discernment, wit, mildness, sympathy, courage, benevolence, are agreeable in a high degree: upon perceiving these qualities in others, we instantaneously feel pleasant emotions, without the slightest act of reflection, or of attention to consequences. It is almost unnecessary to add, that certain qualities opposite to the
former, such as dulness, peevishness, inhumanity, cowardice, occasion in the same manner painful emotions.
Sensible beings affect us remarkably by their actions. Some actions raise pleasant emotions in the spectator without the least reflection; such as graceful motion, and genteel behaviour. But as intention, a capital circumstanee in human actions, is not visible, it requires reflection to discover their true character; I see one delivering a purse of money to another, but I can make nc thing of that action, till I learn with what intention the money is given; if it be given to discharge a debt, the action pleases me in a slight degree; if it be a grateful return, I feel a stronger emotion; and the pleasant emotion rises to a great height, when it is the intention of the giver to relieve a virtuous family from want. Thus actions are qualified by intention; but they are not qualified by the event; for an action well intended gives pleasure whatever the event be. Farther, human action are perceived to be right or wrong; and that perception qualifies the pleasure or pain that results from them.*
Emotions are raised in us not only by the qualities and actions of others, but also by their feelings; I cannot behold a man in distress, without partaking of his pain; nor in joy, without partaking of his pleasure.
The beings or things above described occasion emotions in us, not only in the original survey, but also when recalled to the memory in idea a field laid out with taste, is pleasant to the recollection, as well as when under our eye; a generous action described in words or colours, occasions a sensible emotion, as well as when we see it performed; and when we reflect upon the distress of any person, our pain is of the same kind with what we felt when eye-witnesses. In a word, an agreeable or disagreeable object recalled to the mind in idea, is the occasion of a pleasant or painful emotion of the same kind with that produced when the object was present; the only difference is that an idea being fainter than an original perception, the pleasure or pain produced by the former, is proportionably fainter than that produced by the latter.
* In tracing our emotions and passions to their origin, my first thought was, that qualities and actions are the primary causes of emotions; and that these emotions are afterward expanded upon the being to which these qualities and actions belong. But I am now convinced that this opiniou is erroneous. An attribute is not, even in imagination, separable from the being to which it belongs; and, for that reason, cannot of itself be the cause of any emotion. We have, it is true, no knowledge of any being or substance but by means of its attributes; and therefore no being can be agreeable to us otherwise than by their means. But still, when an emotion is raised, it is the being itself, as we apprehend the matter, that raises the emotion; and it raises it by means of one or other of its attributes. If it be urged, That we can in idea abstract a quality from the thing to which it belongs; it might be answered, that such abstraction may serve the purposes of reasoning, but is too faint to produce any sort of emotion. But it is sufficient for the present purpose to answer, That the eye never abstracts; by that organ we perceive things as they really exist, and never perceive a quality as separated from the subject. Hence it must be evident, that emotions are raised, not by qualities abstractly considered, but by the substance or body so and so qualified. Thus, a spreading oak raises a pleasant emotion, by means of its colour, figure, umbrage, &c.: it is not the colour, strictly speaking, that produces the emotion, but the tree coloured; it is not the figure abstractedly considered, that produces the emotion, but the tree of a certain figure. And hence, by the way, it appears, that the beauty of such an object is complex, resolvable into several beauties more simple.
Having explained the nature of an emotion, and mentioned several causes by which it is produced, we proceed to an observation of considerable importance in the science of human nature, which is, That desire follows some emotions, and not others. The emotions raised by a beautiful garden, a magnificent building, or a number of fine faces in a crowded assembly, is seldom accompanied with desire. Other emotions are accompanied with desire; emotions, for example, raised by human actions and qualities: a virtuous action raiseth in every spectator a pleasant emotion, which is commonly attended with desire to reward the author of the action; a vicious action, on the contrary, produceth a painful emotion, attended with desire to punish the delinquent. Even things inanimate often raise emotions accompanied with desire; witness the goods of fortune, which are objects of desire almost universally; and the desire, when immoderate, obtains the name of avarice. The pleasant emotion produced in a spectator by a capital picture in the possession of a prince, is seldom accompanied with desire; but if such a picture be exposed to sale, desire of having or possessing is the natural consequence of a strong emotion.
It is a truth verified by induction, that every passion is accom. panied with desire; and if an emotion be sometimes accompanied with desire, sometimes not, it comes to be a material inquiry in what respect a passion differs from an emotion. Is passion in its nature or feeling distinguishable from emotion? I have been apt to think that there must be such a distinction; but, after the strictest examination, I cannot perceive any: what is love, for example, but a pleasant emotion raised by a sight or idea of the beloved female, joined with the desire of enjoyment? in what else consists the passion of resentment, but in a painful emotion occasioned by the injury, accompanied with desire to chastise the guilty person? In general, as to passion of every kind, we find no more in its composition, but the particulars now mentioned, an emotion pleasant or painful, accompanied with desire. What then shall we say? Are passion and emotion synonymous terms? That cannot be averred; because no feeling nor agitation of the mind void of desire, is termed a passion; and we have discovered, that there are many emotions which pass away without raising desire of any kind. How is the difficulty to be solved? There appears to me but one solution, which I relish the more, as it renders the doctrine of the passions and emotions simple and perspicuous. The solution follows. An internal motion or agitation of the mind, when it passeth away without desire, is denominated an emotion: when desire follows, the motion or agitation is denominated a passion. A fine face, for example, raiseth in me a pleasant feeling; if that feeling vanish without producing any effect, it is in proper language an emotion; but if the feeling, by reiterated views of the object, become sufficiently strong to occasion desire, it loses its name of emotion, and acquires that of passion. The same holds in all the other passions: the painful feeling raised in a spectator by a slight injury done to a stranger, being accompanied with no desire of revenge, is termed an emotion; but that injury raiseth in the stranger a stronger emo. tion, which being accompanied with desire of revenge is a passion :
external expressions of distress produce in the spectator a painfar feeling, which being sometimes so slight as to pass away without any effect, is an emotion; but if the feeling be so strong as to prompt desire of affording relief, it is a passion, and is termed pity: envy is emulation in excess; if the exaltation of a competitor be barely disagreeable, the painful feeling is an emotion; if it produce desire to oppress him, it is a passion.
To prevent mistakes it must be observed, that desire here is taken in its proper sense, namely, that internal act which, by influencing the will, makes us proceed to aetion. Desire in a lax sense respects also actions and events that depend not on us, as when I desire that my friend may have a son to represent him, or that my country may flourish in arts and sciences; but such internal act is more properly termed a wish than a desire.
Having distinguished passion from emotion, we proceed to consider passion more at large, with respect especially to its power of producing action.
We have daily and constant experience for our authority, that no man ever proceeds to action but by means of an antecedent desire or impulse. So well established is this observation, and so deeply rooted in the mind, that we can scarce imagine a different system of action: even a child will say familiarly, What should make me do this or that, when I have no desire to do it? Taking it then for granted, that the existence of action depends on antecedent desire, it follows, that where there is no desire, there can be no action. This opens another shining distinction between emotions and passions. The former, being without desire, are in their nature quiescent: the desire included in the latter prompts one to act in order to fulfil that desire, or, in other words, to gratify the passion.
The cause of a passion is sufficiently explained above; it is that being or thing, which, by raising desire, converts an emotion into a passion. When we consider a passion with respect to its power of prompting action, that same being or thing is termed its object: a fine woman, for example, raises the passion of love, which is directed to her as its object; a man, by injuring me, raises my resentment, and becomes thereby the object of my resentment. Thus the cause of a passion, and its object, are the same in different respects. An emotion, on the other hand, being in its nature qui escent, and merely a passive feeling, must have a cause; but cannot be said, properly speaking, to have an object.
The objects of our passions may be distinguished into two kinds, general and particular. A man, a house, a garden, is a particular object; fame, esteem, opulence, honour, are general objects, because each of them comprehends many particulars. The passions directed to general objects are commonly termed appetites, in contradistinction to passions directed to particular objects, which retain their proper name; thus we say an appetite for fame, for glory, for conquest, for riches; but we say the passion of friendship, of love, of gratitude, of envy, of resentment. And there is a material difference between appetites and passions, which makes it proper to distinguish them by different names; the latter have no existence till a proper object be presented; whereas the former