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to redress their influence, or adapt them better to our taste and sentiment. But in many orders of beauty, particularly those of the finer arts, 'tis requisite to employ much reasoning, in order to feel the proper sentiment; and a false relish may frequently be corrected by argument and reflection. There are just grounds to conclude, that moral beauty partakes much of this latter species, and demands the assistance of our intellectual faculties, in order to give it a suitable influence on the human mind.

But though this question, concerning the general principles of morals, be extremely curious and important, 'tis needless for us, at present, to employ farther care in our researches concerning it. For if we can be so happy, in the course of this inquiry, as to discover the true origin of morals, it will then easily appear how far either sentiment or reason enters into all determinations of this nature *. In order to attain this purpose, we shall endeavour to follow a very simple method : We shall analyze that complication of mental qualities which forms what, in common life, we call PERSONAL MERIT: We shall consider every attribute of the mind, which renders a man an object either of esteem and affection, or of hatred and contempt; every habit or fentiment or faculty, which, if ascribed to any person, implies either praise or blame, and may enter into any panegyric or fatire of his character and manners. The quick sensibility on this head, which is so universal among mankind, gives a philosopher sufficient assurance that he can never be considerably mistaken in framing the catalogue, or incur any danger of

jacing the obje&is of his contemplation : He need only .. :* See Appendix fis ft.

enter

enter into his own breast for a moment, and consider whether or not he would desire to have this or that quality ascribed to him, and whether such or such an imputation would proceed from a friend or an enemy. The very nature of language guides us almost infallibly in forming a judgment of this nature; and as every tongue possesses one set of words which are taken in a good sense, and another in the opposite, the leaft acquaintance with the idiom suffices, without any reasoning, to direct us in collecting and arranging the estimable or blameable qualities of men. The only object of reasoning is to discover the circumstances on both sides which are common to these qualities; to observe that particular in which the estimable qualities agree on the one hand, and the blameable on the other; and from thence to reach the foundation of ethics, and find those universal principles, from which all censure or approbation is ultimately derived. As this is a question of fact, not of abstract science, we can only expect success, by following the experimental method, and deducing general maxims from a comparison of particular instances. The other scientifical method, where a general abstract principle is first established, and is afterwards branched out into a va

riety of inferences and conclusions, may be more perfect in · itself, but suits less the imperfection of human nature, and is

a common source of illusion and mistake in this as well as in other subjects. Men are now cured of their passion for hypotheses and systems in natural philosophy, and will hearken to no arguments but those derived from experience. 'Tis full time that they should attempt a like reformation in all moral disquisitions; and reject every system of ethics, however VOL. H. I i

subtle

subtle or ingenious, which is not founded on fact and observation.

1 OU

We shall begin our enquiry on this head by the consideration of the social virtues, benevolence and justice. The explication of them will probably give us an opening by which the others may be accounted for.

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T HERE is a principle, supposed to prevail among many,

1 which is utterly incompatible with all virtue or moral sentiment; and as it can proceed from nothing but the most depraved disposition; so in its turn it tends still further to encourage that depravity. This principle is, that all benevolence is mere hypocrisy, friendship a cheat, public spirit a farce, fidelity a snare to procure trust and confidence; and that while all of us, at the bottom, pursue only our private intereft, we wear these fair disguises, in order to put others off their guard, and expose them the more to our wiles and machinations. What heart one must be possessed of who professes such principles, and who feels no internal sentiment that belies so pernicious a theory, 'tis easy to imagine: And also, what degree of affection and benevolence he can bear to a species, whom he represents under such odious colours, and supposes so little susceptible of gratitude or any return of affection. Or if we will not afcribe these principles wholly to a corrupted heart, we must, at least, account for them from the most careless and precipitant examination. Superficial reasoners, indeed, observing many Ii 2

false

false pretences among mankind, and feeling, perhaps, no very strong restraint in their own disposition, might draw a general and hafty conclusion, that all is equally corrupted, and that men, different from all other animals, and indeed from all other species of existence, admit of no degrees of good or bad, but are, in every instance, the same creatures, under different disguises and appearances.

There is another principle, somewhat resembling the former; which has been much insisted on by philosophers, and has been the foundation of many a system; that whatever affection one may feel, or imagine he feels for others, no passion is, or can be disinterested; that the most generous friendship, however sincere, is a modification of self-love; and that, even unknown to ourselves, we feek only our own gratifications while we appear the most deeply engaged in schemes for the liberty and happiness of mankind. By a turn of imagination, by a refinement of reflection, by an enthusiasm of passion, we seem to take part in the interests of others, and imagine ourfelves divested of all selfish considerations : But, at bottom, the most generous patriot and most nigardly miser, the bravest hero and most abject coward, have, in every action, an equal regard to their own happiness and welfare.

Whoever concludes, from the seeming tendency of this opis. nion, that those, who make profession of it, cannot possibly feel the true sentiments of benevolence, or have any regard for genuine virtue, will often find himself, in practice, very much mistaken. Probity and honour were no strangers to EPICURUS and his sect, Atticus and Horace seem to have enjoyed from nature, and cultivated by reflection, as generous

and'.

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