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fon, it may appear as luminous as the sun in his meridian, is so infinitely removed as to affect the senses neither with light nor heat. Bring this virtue nearer, by our acquaintance or connection with the perfons, or even by an elegant recital of the case; our hearts are immediately caught, our sympathy enlivened, and our cool approbation converted into the warmest fen timents of friendship and regard. These seem necefsary and infallible consequences of the general principles of human nature, as discovered in common life and practice.
Again; reverse these views and reasonings: Consider the matter à pofteriori; and weighing the confequences, enquire if the merit of social virtue be not in a great measure derived from the feelings of humanity, with which it affects the spectators It appears to be a matter of fact, that the circumstance of utility, in all subjects, is a source of praise and approbation: That it is constantly appealed to in all moral decisions concerning the merit and demerit of actions: That it is the sole source of that high regard paid to justice; fidelity, honour, allegiance, and chastity: That it is inseparable from all the other social virtues, humanity, generosity, charity, affability, lenity, mercy, and moderation: And, in a word, that it is a foundation of the chief part of morals, which has a reference to mankind and our fellow-creatures.
It appears also, that, in our general approbation of characters and manners, the useful tendency of the social virtues moves us not by any regards to selfinterest, but has an influence much more universal and extensive. It appears, that a tendency to public good, and to the promoting of peace, harmony, and order in society, does always, by affecting the benes volent principles of our frame, engage us on the side. of the social virtues. And it appears, as an additional confirmation, that these principles of humanity and fympathy enter so deeply into all our sentiments, and have so powerful an influence, as may enable them to VOL. II.
excite the strongest censure and applause. The prefent theory is the simple result of all these inferences; each of which seems founded on uniform experience and observation.
Were it doubtful, whether there were any fuohr principle in our nature as humanity or a concern for others, yet when we see, in numberless instances, that whatever has a tendency to promote the interests of society, is so highly approved of, we ought thence to hearn the force of the benevolent principle; fince it is impossible for any thing to please as means to an end, where the end is totally indifferent. On the other hand, were it doubtful whether there were implanted in our nature any general principle of moral blame and approbation; yet when we see, in numberless instances, the influence of humanity, we ought thence to conclude, that it is impossible but that every thing which promotes the interest of fociety, must communicate pleasure, and what is pernicious give uneasiness: But when thefe different reflections and observations concur in establishing the same conclu. fion, must they not bestow an undisputed evidence
It is however hoped, that the progrefs of this argument will bring a farther confirmation of the present theory, by showing the rise of other sentiments of esteem and regard from the same or like principles.
S E C TI ON VI.
OF QUALITIES Useful to Ourselves.
T seems evident, that where a quality or habit is
subjected to our examination, if it appear in any respect prejudicial to the person possessed of it, or such as incapacitates him for business and action, it is instantly blamed; and ranked among his faults and imperfections. Indolence, negligence, want of order and method, obstinacy, fickleness, rashness, credulity; these qualities were never esteemed by any one indifferent to a character; much less extolled as accomplishments or virtues. The prejudice, resulting from them, immediately strikes our eye, and gives us the sentiment of pain and disapprobation.
No quality, it is allowed, is absolutely either blameable or praise-worthy. It is all according to its degree. A due medium, say the PERIPATETICS, is the characteristic of virtue. But this medium is chiefly determined by utility. A proper celerity, for instance, and dispatch in business, is commendable. When defective, no progress is ever made in the execution of any purpose: When excessive, it engages us in precipitate and ill-concerted measures and enterprises : By such reasonings, we fix the proper and commendable mediocrity in all moral and prudential disquisitions; and never lose view of the advantages which result from any character or habit. Now as these advantages are enjoyed by the person R2
possessed of the character, it can never be self-lote which renders the prospect of them agreeable to us, the fpectators, and prompts our esteem and approbation No force of imagination can colivert us into another person, and make us fancy, that we, being that perfon, reap benefit from those valuable qualities which belong to him: Or if it did, to celerity of imagination could immediately tranfport us back into ourselves, and make us love and esteem the person as different from us. Views and sentiments fo opposite to known truth, and to each other, could never have place, at the same time, in the fame person. All suspicion, therefore, of selfish regards, is here totally excluded. It is a quite different principle which actuates our bofom, and interefts us in the felicity of the person whom we contemplate. Where his natural talents and acquired abilities give as the prospect of elevation, advancement, a figure in life, profperous fuccefs, a steady command over fortune, and the execution of great or advantageous undertakings; we are ftruck with such agreeable images, and feel a complacency and regard immediately arise towards him. The ideas of happiness, joy, triumph, profperity, are connected with every circumstance of his character, and diffuse over our minds a pleasing fentiment of fympathy and humanity *.
Let us suppose a person originally framed so as to have no manner of concern for his fellow-creatures, but to regard the happiness and misery of all senfible beings with greater indifference than even two contiguous shades of the same colour. Let us fuppose, if the prosperity of nations were laid on the one hand, and their ruin on the other, and he were defired to choose; that he would stand, like the schoolman's ass, irresolute and undetermined, between equal motives; or rather, like the same ass between two pieces of wood or marble, without any inclination or propenfity to either side. The consequence, I believe, must
be • See NOTE [FF.)
be allowed just, that such a person being absolutely unconcerned, either for the public good of a community, or the private utility of others, would look on every quality, however pernicious, or however bene, ficial to fociety, or to its poffeffor, with the same indifference as on the most common and uninteresting object.
But if, instead of this fancied monster, we suppose a man to form a judgment or determination in the case, there is to him a plain foundation of preference, where every thing else is equal; and however cool his choice may be, if his heart be felfish, or if the persons interested be remote from him; there must Atill be a choice or distinction between what is useful and what is pernicious. Now this distinction is the fame in all its parts, with the moral distinction, whose foundation has been so often, and so much in vain, enquired after. The fame endowments of the mind, in every circumstance, are agreeable to the sentiment of morals and to that of humanity: The same temper is susceptible of high degrees of the one sentiment and of the other; and the fame alteration in the objects, by their nearer approach or by connections, enlivens the one and the other. By all the rules of philosophy, therefore, we must conclude, that these sentiments are originally the same; since, in each particular, even the most minute, they are governed by the same laws, and are moved by the fame cbjects.
Why do philosophers infer, with the greatest certainty, that the moon is kept in its orbit by the same force of gravity that makes bodies fall near the surface of the earth, but because these effects are, upon computation, found similar and equal ? And must not this argument bring as strong conviction in moral as in natural disquisitions?
To prove, by any long detail, that all the qualigies useful to the possessor are approved of, and the confrary censured, would be superfluous, The least re