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here the fentimen, and glory, and structure of humoard to beauty,
contented with merely surveying its objects, as they stand in themselves : It also feels a sentiment of delight or uneasiness, approbation or blame, consequent to that survey; and this sentiment determines it to pronounce the object beautiful or deformed, desirable or odious. Now, 'tis evident, that this sentiment must depend upon the particular fabric or structure of the mind, which enables such particular objects to operate in such a particular manner, and produces a sympathy or conformity between the mind and the objects. Vary the structure of the mind or inward organs, the fentiment no longer follows, tho' the objects remain the same. The sentiment being different from the object, and arising from its operation upon the organs of the mind, an alteration upon the latter must vary the effect, nor can the same object, presented to a mind totally different, produce the same fenciment.
This conclusion every one is apt to form of himfelf, without much philosophy, where the fentiment is evidently distinguishable from the object. Who is not sensible, that power, and glory, and vengeance, are not desirable of themfelves, but derive all their value from the structure of human passions, which begets a desire towards such particular objects? But with regard to beauty, either natural or moral, the case is commonly supposed to be different. The agreeable quality is thought to lie in the object, not in the sentiment; and that merely because the sentiment is not so turbulent and violent as to distinguish itself, in an evident manner, from the perception of the object.
But a very little reflection suffices to distinguish them. A man may know exactly all the circles and ellipses of the COPERNICAN system, and all the irregular fpirals of the PTOLOMAIC, without perceiving that the former is more beautiful than the latter. Euclid has very fully explained every quality of the circle, but has not, in any proposition, said a word of its beauty. The reason is evident. Beauty is not a quality of the circle. It lies not in any part of the line whose parts are all equally distant from a common center. It is only the effect, which that figure operates upon the mind, whose particular fabric or structure renders it sufceptible of such sentiments. In vain would you look for it in the circle, or seek it, either by your senses, or by mathematical reasonings, in all the properties of that figure.
The mathematician, who took no other pleasure in reading Virgil, but that of examining ENEAS’s voyage by the map, might understand perfectly the meaning of every Latin word, imployed by that divine author; and consequently, might have a distinct idea of the whole narration. He would even have a more distinct idea of it, than they could have who had not studied so exactly the geography of the poem. He knew, therefore, every thing in the poem : But he was ignorant of its beauty ; because the beauty, properly speaking, lies not in the poem, but in the sentiment or taste of the reader. And where a man has no such delicacy of temper, as to make him feel this sentiment, he must be ignorant of the beauty, tho' possessed of the science and understanding of an angel*.
The * WERB I not afraid of appearing too. philofo- times, “ That tastes and colors, and all other phical, I would remind my reader of that famous “ sensible qualities, lie not in the bodies, but: doctrine, fupposed to be fully proved in modern “ merely in the senses.” The case is the fame:
The inference upon the whole is, that it is not from the value or worth of the object, which any person pursues, that we can determine his enjoyment, but merely from the passion with which he pursues it, and the success which he meets with in his pursuit. Objects have absolutely no worth or value in themselves. They derive their worth merely from the passion. If that be strong, and steady, and successful, the person is happy. It cannot reasonably be doubted, but a little miss, dreit in a new gown for a dancing-school ball, receives as compleat enjoyment as the greatest orator, who triumphs in the splendor of his eloquence, while he governs the passions and resolutions of a numerous assembly.
All the difference, therefore, betwixt one man and another, with regard to life, consists either in the pallion, or in the enjoyment: And these differences are sufficient to produce the wide extremes of happiness and misery.
To be happy, the pasion must neither be too violent nor too remiss. In the first case, the mind is in a perpetual hurry and tumult; in the second, it sinks into a disagreeable indolence and lethargy. .
To be happy, the passion must be benign and social ; not rough or fierce. The affections of the latter kind are not near so agreeable, to the feeling, as those of the former. Who will compare rancor and animosity, envy and revenge, to friendship, benignity, clemency and gratitude ?
To be happy, the passion must be chearful and gay, not gloomy and melancholy. A propensity to hope and joy is real riches : One to fear and forrow, real poverty. .. .
SOME pafsions or inclinations, in the enjoyment of their object, are not so steady or constant as others, nor convey such durable pleasure and satisfaction. Philofophical devotion, for instance, like the enthusiasm of a poet, is the transitory effect of high spirits, great leisure, a fine genius, and a habit of study and contemplation: But notwithstanding all these circumstances, an abstracted, invisible object, like that which natural religion alone presents to us, cannot long actuate the mind, or be of any moment in life. To render the passion of continuance, we must find some method of affecting the senses and imagination, and must embrace some historical as well as philosophical accounts of the divinity. Popular superstitions and observances are even found to be of use in this particular.
Tho' the tempers of men be very different, yet we may safely pronounce in general, that a life of pleasure cannot support itself fo long as one of business, but is much more subject to satiety and disgust. The amusements, which are the most durable, have all a mixture of application and attention in them; such as gaming and hunting. And in general, business and action fill up all the great vacancies of human life.
with beauty and deformity, virtue and vice. This to make all these qualities the objects of art and doctrine, however, takes off no more from the reasoning, and to have the greatest influence on life réality of the latter qualities, than from that of the and manners. And as 'tis certain, that the discoformer; nor need it give any umbrage either to very above-mentioned in natural philosophy, makes critics or moralists. Tho' colors were allowed to no alteration on action and conduct; why should a lie only in the eye, would dyers or painters ever be like discovery in moral philofophy make any alless regarded or esteemed? There is a sufficient teration ? uniformity in the senses and feelings of mankind,
BUT But where the temper is the best disposed for any enjoyment, the object is often Kanting ; And in this respect, the passions, which pursue external objects, contribute not so much to happiness, as those which rest in ourselves ; since we are neither to certain of attaining such objects, nor fo fecure of poflefling them, A passion for learning is preferable, with regard to happinefs, to one for riches..
Some men are poflessed of great strength of mind; and even when they pursue external objects, are not much affected by a disappointment, but renew their application and industry with the greatest chearfulness. Nothing contributes more to happiness than this turn of mind.
ACCORDING to this short and imperfect sketch of human life, the happiest difposition of mind is the virtuous; or, in other words, that which leads to action and employment, renders us fenfible to the focial passions, steals the heart against the assaults of fortune, reduces the affections to a just moderation, makes our own thoughts an entertainment to us, and inclines us rather to the pleasures of society and conversation, than to those of the fenses. This, in the mean time, must be obvious to the most carelefs reasoner, that all dispositions of mind are not alike fa. vorable to happiness, and that one passion or humor may be extremely desirable, while another is equally disagreeable. And indeed, all the difference between the conditions of life depends upon the mind ; nor is there any one situation of affairs. in itself, preferable to another. Good and ill, both natural and moral, are entirely relative to human sentiment and affection. No man would ever be unhappy, could he alter his feelings. PROTEUS-like, he would elude all attacks, by the continual alterations of his shape and form.
But of this resource nature has, in a great measure, deprived us. The fabric and constitution of our mind no-more depends on our choice, than that of our body. The generality of men have not even the smalleft notion, that any alteration in this respect can ever be desirable. As a stream necessarily follows the feveral inclinations of the ground, on which it runs ; fo are the ignorant and thoughtless part of mankind actuated by their natural propensities. Such are. effeétually excluded from all pretensions to philofophy, and the medicine of the mind, iso much boasted. But even upon the wife and thoughtful, nature has a prodigious in*fluence; nor is it always in a man's power, by the utmost art and industry, to correct his temper, and attain that virtuous character, to which he aspires. The empire of philosophy extends over a few; and with regard to these too, her authority is very weak and limited. Men may well be sensible of the value of virtue.
pre: Popimio de muchos con enco: cher auand may desire to attain it ; . but 'tis not always certain, that they will be success"ful in their wishes.
Whoever considers, without prejudice, the course of human actions, will find that mankind are almost entirely guided by constitution and temper, and that general maxims have little influence, but so far as they affeet our taste or sentiment. If a man have a lively fense of honor and virtue, with moderate passions, his conduct will always be conformable to the rules of morality; or if he depart from them, his return will be easy and expeditious. But on the other hand, where one is born of ro perverse, a frame of mind, of so callous and insensible a disposition, as to have no relish for virtue and humanity, no fynipathy with his fellow-ereatures, no desire of esteem and applause, such a one must be allowed entirely incurable, nor is: there any remedy in philosophy. He reaps no satisfaction but from low and sensual
objects, or from the indulgence of malignant passions : He feels no remorse to controul his vicious inclinations: He has not even that sense or taste, which is requisite to make him desire a better character: For my part, I know not how I should address myself to such a one, or by what arguments I should endeavor to reform him. Should I tell him of the inward satisfaction which results from laudable and humane actions, the delicate pleasures of disinterested love and friendship, the lasting enjoyments of a good name and an established character, he might still reply, that these were, perhaps, pleasures to such as were susceptible of them; but that, for his part, he finds himself of a quite different turn and disposition. I must repeat it; my philosophy affords no remedy in such a case, nor could I do any thing but lament this person's unhappy condition. But then I ask, If any other philofophy can afford a remedy; or if it be possible, by any system, to render all mankind virtuous, however perverse may be their natural frame of mind ? Experience will soon convince us of the contrary ; and I will venture to affirm, that, perhaps, the chief benefit, which results from philosophy, arises in an indisect manner, and proceeds more from its secret, insensible influence, than from its immediate application.
'Tis certain, that a serious attention to the sciences and liberal arts, softens and Humanizes the temper, and cherishes those fine emotions, in which true virtue and honor cinsists. It rarely, very rarely happens, that a man of taste and learning is not, at least, an honest man, whatever frailties may attend him. The bent of his mind to speculative studies must mortify in him the passions of interest and ambition, and must, at the same time, give him a greater sensibility of all the decencies and duties of life. He feels more fully a moral distinction in characters and manners; nor is his sense of this kind diminished, but, on the contrary, it is much encreased, by his speculations.
BESIDES such insensible changes upon the temper and disposition, 'tis highly probable, that others may be produced by study and application. The prodigious effects of education may convince us, that the mind is not altogether stubborn and inflexible, but will admit of many alterations from its original make and structure. Let a man propose to himself the model of a character, .which he approves of; let him be well acquainted with those particulars, in which his own character deviates from this model : Let him keep a constant watch over himself, and bend his mind, by a continual effort, from the vices, towards the virtues; and I doubt not but, in time, he will find, in his temper, an alteration, to the better.
Habit is another powerful means of reforming the mind, and implanting in it good dispositions and inclinations. A man who continues in a course of sobriety and temperance, will hate riot and disorder : If he engage in business or study, indolence will seem a punishment to him: If he constrain himself to practise beneficence and affability, he will soon abhor all instances of pride and violence. Where one is thorowly convinced, that the virtuous course of life is preferable ; if he has but resolution enough, for some time, to impose a violence on himself, his re
formation need not be despaired of. The misfortune is, that this conviction , and this resolution never can have place, unless a man be, before-hand, tolerably virtuous,
Herė then is the chief triumph of art and philosophy: It insensibly refines the temper, and it points out to us those dispositions which we should endeavor to attain, by a constant bent of mind, and by repeated babit. Beyond this I cannot acknowlege it to have great influence ; and I must entertain doubts concerning all those exhortations and consolations, which are in such vogue among all speculative reasoners.
We have already obferved, that no objects are, of themselves, desirable or odious, valuable or despicable ; but that objects acquire these qualities from the particular character and constitution of the mind, which surveys chem. To diminish therefore, or augment any person's value for an object, to excite or moderate his passions, there are no direct arguments or reasons, which can be employed with any force or influence. The catching Áies, like DOMITIAN, if it give more pleasure, is preferable to the hunting wild beasts, like WILLIAM Rufus, or conquering kingdoms, like ALEXANDER.
But tho' the value of every object can be determined only by the sentiments or paflions of every individual, we may observe, that the passions, in pronouncing their verdict, consider not the object simply, as it is in itself, but survey it with all the circumstances, which attend it. A man transported with joy, on account of his possessing a diamond, confines not his view to the glistering stone before him : He also considers its rarity, and from thence chiefly arises his pleasure and exultation. Here therefore a philosopher may step in, and suggest particular views and considerations, and circumstances, which otherwise would have escaped us; and, by that means, he may either moderate or excite any particular passion.
It may feem unreasonable absolutely to deny the authority of philofophy in this respect: But it must be confessed, that there lies this strong presumption against it, that if these views be natural and obvious, they would have occurred of themselves, without the assistance of philosophy; if they be not natural, they never can have ány influence on the affections. These are of a very delicate nature, and cannot be forced or constrained by the utmost art and industry. A consideration, which we seek for on purpose, which we enter into with difficulty, which we retain with care and attention, can never produce those genuine and durable movements of passion, which are the result of nature, and the constitution of the mind. A man may as well pretend to cure himself of love, by viewing his mistress thro' the artificial medium of a microscope, or prospect, and beholding there the 'coarseness of her skin, and monstrous disproportion of her features, as hope to excite or moderate any parfion by the artificial arguments of a SENECA or an ÉPICTETUS. The remembrance of the natural aspect and situation of the objects will, in both cases, still return upon hion. The reflections of philosophy are too subtile and distant to take place in common life, or eradicate any affection. The air is too fine to breathe in, where it is above the winds and clouds of the atmosphere.
ANOTHER defect of those refined reflections, which philosophy presents to us, is, that commonly they cannot diminish or extinguish our vicious passions, without diminishing or extinguishing such as are virtuous, and rendering the mind totally indifferent and inactive. They are for the most part, general, and are applicable to all our affections. In vain do we hope to direct their influence only to one side. If by inceffant study and meditation we have rendered them very intimate and present to us, they will operate thro'out, and spred an universal insensi