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Covetousness, cruelty, treachery, and other vicious passions, are so far from raising any emotion similar to themselves, to incite a spectator to imitation, that they have an opposite effect: they raise abhorrence, and fortify the spectator in his aversion to such actions. When anger is immoderate, it cannot fail to produce the same effect.
FINAL CAUSES OF THE MORE FREQUENT EMOTIONS AND PASSIONS.
Ir is a law in 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 be 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 pas sions 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 treated at large, would be too extensive for the present work: all there is room for are a few general observations upon the sensitive part our 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 produceth always 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 connexion 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 selflove 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.*
*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 the doing good to others will make us happy, is
Next in order come sensible beings that are in distress. 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 raiseth 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. His 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 raiseth 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 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 without 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 vigour of the passion is required to secure individuals from the injustice and oppression of others.*
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.
See Historical Law Tracts, Tract 1,
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,
Otway reaches the same sentiment:
Monimia. Let mischiefs multiply! let ev'ry hour
And grow a curser of the works of nature!—Orphan, act 4.
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 figured, 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, over-run with blotches and sores, puts both principles in motion: while his distress fixes my attention, sympathy prevails:
but as soon as I can think of his profligacy, hatred prevails, accompanied sometimes with a desire to punish. This in general is the case of distress occasioned by immoral actions that are not highly criminal; and if the distress and the immoral action 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 connexion, 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; disgust, if wrong. But it is remarkable, that these emotions seldom are 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 connexion.
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 hath 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 measure and proportion, may justly be esteemed the solid basis of government; because upon them depend 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 appetite for fame or esteem: for as the whole conveniencies of life are derived for mutual aid and support in society, it ought to be a capital aim to secure these conveniencies, by gaining the esteem and affection of others. Reason, indeed, dictates that lesson: but reason alone is not sufficient in a matter of such importance; and the appetite mentioned is a motive more powerful than reason, to be active in gaining esteem and affection. That appetite, at the same time, is finally adjusted to the moral branch of our constitution, by promoting all the moral virtues: for what means are there to attract love and esteem so effectual as a virtuous course of life? if a man be just and beneficent, if he be temperate, modest, and prudent, he will infallibly gain the esteem and love of all who know him.
Communication of passion to related objects, is an illustrious in