Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

one.

which are the least obvious and familiar. But the presumption always lies on the other fide, in all enquiries concerning the origin of our passions, and of the internal operations of the human mind. The simplest and most obvious cause which can there be afligned for any phænomenon, is probably the true

When a philosopher, in the explication of his system, is obliged to have recourse to some very intricate and refined reflections, and to suppose them essential to the production of any passion or emotion, •Ive have reason to be extremely on our guard against so fallacious an hypothesis. The affections are not susceptible of any impression from the refinements of reason or imagination; and it is always found, that a vigorous exertion of the latter faculties, neceffarily, from the narrow capacity of the human mind, destroys all activity in the former. Our predominant motive or intention is, indeed, frequently concealed from ourselves, when it is mingled and confounded with other motives, which the mind, from vanity or self-conceit, is desirous of supposing more prevalent: But there is no instance, that a concealment of this nature has ever arisen from the abstruseness and intricacy of the motive. A man, that has lost a friend and patron, may flatter himself, that all his grief arises from generous sentiments, without any mixture of narrow or interested considerations: But a man that grieves for a valuable friend who needed his patronage and protection; how can we suppose that his passionate tenderness arises from some metaphysical regards to a self-interest which has no foundation or reality? We may as well imagine, that minute wheels and springs, like those of a watch, give motion to a loaded waggon, as account for the origin of passion from such abftrufe reflections.

Animals are found susceptible of kindness, both to their own species and to ours; nor is there, in this case, the least suspicion of disguise or artifice. Shall we account for all their sentiments too from refined

deductions

deductions of self-interest? Or if we admit a difinterested benevolence in the inferior species, by what rule of analogy can we refuse it in the superior?

Love between the sexes begets a complacency and good-will very distinct from the gratification of an appetite. Tenderness to their offspring, in all sensible beings, is commonly able alone to counterbalance the strongest motives of self-love, and has no manner of dependance on that affection. What interest can a fond mother have in view who loses her health by affiduous attendance on her fick child, and afterwards languishes and dies of grief, when freed by its death from the slavery of that attendance?

Is gratitude no affection of the human breast, or is that a word merely without any meaning or reality? Have we no satisfaction in one man's company above another's, and no desire of the welfare of our friend, even though absence or death should prevent us from all participation in it? Or what is it commonly that gives us any participation in it, even while alive and present, but our affection and regard to him?

These and a thousand other instances are marks of a general benevolence in human nature, where no real interest binds us to the object. And how an imaginary interest, known and avowed for such, can be the origin of any passion or emotion, seems diffi. cult to explain. No fatisfactory hypothesis of this kind has yet been discovered; nor is there the smallest probability, that the future industry of men will ever be attended with more favourable success.

But farther, if we consider rightly of the matter, we shall find, that the hypothesis, which allows of a disinterested benevolence distinct from self-love, has really more fimplicity in it, and is more conformable to the analogy of nature, than that which pretends to resolve all friendship and humanity into this latter principle. There are bodily wants or appetites, acknowledged by every one, which necessarily precede all sensual enjoyment, and carry us directly to seek

X 2

poffeffion

poffeffion of the object. Thus hunger and thirst have eating and drinking for theirend: and from the gratification of these primary appetites arises a pleasure which may become the object of another species of desireorinclination that is fecondaryand interested. In the same manner, there are mental passions by which we are impelled immediately to seek particular objects, such as fame, or power, or vengeance, without any regard to intereft; and when these objects are attained, a pleafing enjoyment ensues as the consequence of our indulged affections. Nature must, by the internal frame and conftitution of the mind, give an original propensity to fame, ere we can reap any pleasure from that acquifition, or pursue it from motives of self-love, and a defire of happiness. If I bave no vanity, I take no delight in praise: Jf I be void of ambition, power gives me no enjoyment: If I be not angry, the punishment of an adversary is totally indifferent to me. In all these cases, there is a paffion which points immediately to the object, and conftitutes it our good or happiness; as there are other secondary passions which afterwards arise, and pursue it as a part

of our happiness, when once it is constituted fuch by our original affections. Were there no appetite of any kind antecedent to self-love, that propensity could fcarcely ever exert itself; because we should, in that cafe, have felt few and slender pains or pleasures, and have little misery or happiness to avoid or to pursue.

Now where is the difficulty in conceiving that this may likewise be the case with benevolence and friend. fhip, and that, from the original frame of our temper, we may feel a desire of another's happiness or good, which, by means of that affection, becomes our own good, and is afterwards pursued from the combined motives of benevolence and self-enjoyment? Who fees not that vengeance, from the force alone of paffion, may be so eagerly pursued as to make us knowingly neglect every confideration of eafe, intereft, or safety? and, like some vindidive animals, infuse our

very fouls into the wounds we give an enemy*? And what a malignant philosophy must it be, that will not allow to humanity and friendship the fame privileges which are indisputably granted to the darker paffions of enmity and resentment? Such a philosophy is more like a satire than a true delineation or description of human nature; and may be a good foundation for paradoxical wit and raillery, but is a very bad one for any serious argument or reasoning.

A P P E N D I X III.

SOME FARTHER CONSIDERATIONS with regard to

Justice.

TH

"HE intention of this Appendix is to give fome

more particular explication of the origin and nature of Justice, and to mark some differences between it and the other virtues.

The social virtues of humanity and benevolence exert their influence immediately, by a direct tendency or instinct, which chiefly keeps in view the simple object, moving the affections, and comprehends not any scheme or system, nor the consequences resulting from the concurrence, imitation, or example, of others. A parent flies to the relief of his child; transported by that natural sympathy which actuates him, and which affords no leisure to reflect on the sentiments or conduct of the rest of mankind in like circumstances. A generous man cheerfully embraces X 3

an Animasque in vulnere ponunt.

VIRG. Dum alteri noceat, fui negligegs, says SENECA of anger, De Ira, lib. i.

an opportunity of serving his friend; because he then feels himself under the dominion of the beneficent affections, nor is he concerned whether any other person in the universe were ever before actuated by luch noble motives, or will ever afterwards prove their influence. In all these cases, the social passions have in view a single individual object, and pursue the safety or happiness alone of the person loved and esteemed. With this they are satisfied: In this they acquiesce. And as the good resulting from their benign influence, is in itself complete and entire, it alio excites the moral sentiment of approbation, without any reflection on farther consequences, and without any more enlarged views of the concurrence or. imitation of the other members of society. On the contrary, were the generous friend or disinterested patriot to stand alone in the practice of beneficence; this would rather inhance his value in our eyes, and join the praise of rarity and novelty to his other more exalted merits.

The case is not the same with the social virtues of justice and fidelity. They are highly useful, or indeed absolutely neceffáry, to the welì-being of mankind : But the benefit, resulting from them, is not the confequence of every individual single act; but arises from the whole scheme or system, concurred in by the whole, or the greater part, of the society. General peace and order are the attendants of justice, or a general abstinence from the possessions of others: But a particular regard to the particular right of one individual citizen may frequently, considered in itself, be productive of pernicious consequences. The refult of the individual acts is here, in many instances, directly opposite to that of the whole system of actions; and the former may be extremely hurtful, while the latter is, to the highest degree, advantageous. Riches, inherited from a parent, are, in a bad man's hand, the instrument of mischief. The right of succession may, in one instance, be hurtful. Its benefit arises only

from

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »