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that there should be fome sentiment which it touches; some internal taste or feeling, or whatever you please to call it, which distinguishes moral good and evil, and which embraces the one and rejects the other.

Thus the distinct boundaries and offices of reason and of taste are easily ascertained. The former conveys the knowledge of truth and falsehood: The latter gives the sentiment of beauty and deformity, vice and virtue. The one discovers objects, as they really stand in nature, without addition or diminution: The other has a productive faculty, and gilding or staining all natural objects with the colours, borrowed from internal sentiment, raises in a manner a new creation. Reason, being cool and disengaged, is no motive to action, and directs only the impulse received from appetite or inclination, by showing us the means of attaining happinefs or avoiding misery: Taste, as it gives pleasure or pain, and thereby constitutes happiness or misery, becomes a motive to action, and is the first spring or impulse to desire and volition. From circumstances and relations, known or supposed, the former leads us to the discovery of the concealed and unknown: After all circumstances and relations are laid before us, the latter makes us feel from the whole a new sentiment of blame or approbation. The standard of the one being founded on the nature of things, is eternal and inflexible, even by the will of the Supreme Being: The standard of the other arifing from the internal frame and constitution of animals, is ultimately derived from that Supreme Will, which bestowed on each being its peculiar nature, and arranged the several classes and orders of exittence.




HERE is a principle supposed to prevail among

many which is utterly incompatible with all virtue or moral sentiment; and as it can proceed from nothing but the most depraved difpofition, 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 bottom, pursue only our private interest, 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 poffeffed of who professes such principles, and who feels no internal sentiment that belies so pernicious a theory, it is 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 fo little fusceptible of gratitude or any return of affection. Or if we should not ascribe these principles wholly to a corrupted heart, we must at least account for them from the most careless and precipitate examination. Superficial reasoners, indeed, obferving many false pretences among mankind, and feeling, perhaps, no very strong restraint in their owni disposition, might draw a general and a hasty conclufion, 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 philofophers, 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 seek only our own gratification, 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 ourselves divested of all selfish confiderations: But, at bottom, the most generous patriot and most niggardly miser, the braveit 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 opinion, that those who make profession of it, cannot possibly feel the true sentiments of benevo. lence, 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 fect. Atticus and HORACE seem to have enjoyed from nature, and cultivated by reflection, as generous and friendly dispositions as any disciple of the austerer schools. And among the modern, HOBBES and Locke, who maintained the selfish system of morals, lived irreproachable lives; though the former lay not under any restraint of religion which might supply the defects of his philosophy.

An EPICUREAN or a HOBBist readily allows, that there is such a thing as friendship in the world without hypocrisy or disguise; though he may attempt, by a philosophical chemistry, to resolve the elements of this passion, if I may fo speak, into those of another,


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and explain every affection to be self-love, twisted and moulded, by a particular turn of imagination, into a variety of appearances. But as the same turn of imagination prevails not in every man, nor gives the same direction to the original passion; this is sufficient, even according to the selfish system, to make the widest difference in human characters, and denominate one man virtuous and humane, another vicious and meanly interested. I esteem the man, whose self-love, by whatever means, is fo directed as to give him a con.. cern for others, and render him serviceable to fociety: As I hate or despise him who has no regard to any thing beyond his own gratifications and enjoyments. In vain would you suggeft, that these characters, though seemingly opposite, are at bottom the same, and that a very inconsiderable turn of thought forms the whole difference between them. Each character, notwithstanding these inconsiderable differences, appears to me, in practice, pretty durable and untrantmutable. And I find not in this more than in other subjects, that the natural sentiments arising from the general appearances of things, are easily destroyed by subtile reflections concerning the minute origin of these appearances. Does not the lively, cheerful colour of a countenance inspire me 'with complacency and pleasure; even though I learn from philosophy, that all difference of complexion arises from the most minute differences of thickness in the most minute parts of the ikin; by means of which a superficies is qualified to reflect one of the original colours of light, and absorb the others?

But though the question concerning the universal or partial selfishness of man bè not fo material as is usually imagined to morality and practice, it is certainly of consequence in the speculative science of human nature, and is a proper object of curiosity and enquiry. It may not, therefore, be unsuitable in this place to bestow a few reflections upon it*.

The • See Note [00.]

The most obvious objection to the selfish hypothefis is, that as it is contrary to common feeling and our most unprejudiced notions, there is required the highest stretch of philosophy to establish fo extraordinary a paradox. To the most careless observer, there appear to be such difpofitions as benevolence and generosity; such affections as love, friendship, compassion, gratitude. These sentiments have their causes, effects, objects, and operations, marked by common language and observation, and plainly diltinguished from those of the selfish paffions. And as this is the obvious appearance of things, it must be admitted, till fome hypothefis be discovered, which, by penetrating deeper into human nature, may prove the former affections to be nothing but modifications of the latter. All attempts of this kind have hitherto proved fruitless, and seem to have proceeded entirely from that love of fimplicity which has been the source of much false reasoning in philosophy. I shall not here enter into any detail on the present subject. Many able philosophers have fhown the insufficiency of these fyftems. And I shall take for granted what, I believe, the smallest reflection will make evident to every impartial enquirer.

But the nature of the subject furnishes the strongeft presumption, that no better system will ever, for the future, be invented, in order to account for the origin of the benevolent from the felfish affections, and reduce all the various emotions of the human mind to a perfect fimplicity. The cafe is not the same in this species of philosophy as in phyfics. Many an hypothesis in nature, contrary to first appearances, has been found, on more accurate scrutiny, folid and satisfactory. Instances of this kind are so frequent, that a judicious as well as witty philosopher *, has ventured to affirm, if there be more than one way in which any phænomenon may be produced, that there is a general presumption for its arising from the causes VOL II.


which • Monf. FONTENELLE.

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