« AnteriorContinuar »
governed by instinct, without the least view to any end, good or ill. And even adult persons act sometimes instinctively. Thus one in extreme hunger snatches at food, without the slightest consideration whether it be salutary: avarice prompts to accumulate wealth, without the least view of use; and thereby absurdly converts means into an end: and animal love often hurries to fruition, without a thought even of gratification.
A passion when it flames so high as to impel us to act blindly without any view to consequences, good or ill, may in that state be termed instinctive; and when it is so moderate as to admit reason, and to prompt actions with a view to an end, it may, in that state, be termed deliberative.
With respect to actions exerted as means to an end, desire to bring about the end is what determines one to exert the action; and desire considered in that view is termed a motive. Thus the same mental act that is termed desire with respect to an end in view, is termed a motive with respect to its power of determining one to act. Instinctive actions have a cause; namely, the impulse of the passion; but they cannot be said to have a motive, because they are not done with any view to consequences,
We learn from experience, that the gratification of desire is pleasant; and the foresight of that pleasure becomes often an additional motive for acting. Thus a child eats by the mere impulse of hunger: a young man thinks of the pleasure of gratification, which being a motive for him to eat, fortifies the original impulse: and a man far. ther advanced in life, has the additional motive, that it will contribute to his health.*
From these premises, it is easy to determine with accuracy, what passions and actions are selfish, and what social. It is the end in view that ascertains the class to which they belong: where the end in view is my own good, they are selfish : where the end in view is the good of another, they are social. Hence it follows, that instinctive actions, where we act blindly and merely by impulse, cannot be reckoned either social or selfish. Thus eating, when prompted by an impulse merely of nature, is neither social nor selfish; but add a motive, that it will contribute to my pleasure or my health, and it becomes in a measure selfish. On the other hand, when affection moves me to exert an action to the end solely of advancing my friend's happiness, without regard to my own gratification, the action is justly denominated social ; and so is also the affection that is its cause: if another motive be added, that gratifying the affection will also contribute to my own happiness, the action becomes partly selfish. If charity be given with the single view of relieving a person from distress, the action is purely social; but if it be partly in view to enjoy the pleasure of a virtuous act, the action is so far selfish.f
* One exception there is, and that is remorse, when it is so violent as to make a man desire to punish himself. The gratification here is far from being pleasant. See p. 99 of this volume. But a single exception, instead of overturning a general rule, is rather a confirmation of it.
+ A selfish motive proceeding from a social principle, such as that mentioned, is the most respectable of all selfish motives. To enjoy the pleasure of a virtuous
Animal love when carried into action by natural impulse singly, is neither social nor selfish: when exerted with a view to gratification, it is selfish : when the motive of giving pleasure to its object is superadded, it is partly social, partly selfish. A just action, when prompted by the principle of duty solely, is neither social nor selfish. When I perform an act of justice with a view to the pleasure of gratification, the action is selfish: I pay debt for my own sake, not with a view to benefit my creditor. But suppose the money has been advanced by a friend without interest, purely to oblige me: in that case, together with the motive of gratification, there arises a motive of gratitude, which respects the creditor solely, and prompts me to act in order to do him good; and the action is partly social, partly selfish. Suppose again I meet with a surprising and unexpected act of generosity, that inspires me with love to my benefactor, and the utmost gratitude. I burn to do him good: he is the sole object of my desire; and my own pleasure in gratifying the desire, vanishes out of sight. In this case, the action I perform is purely social. Thus it happens, that when a social motive becomes strong, the action is exerted with a view singly to the object of the passion, and self never comes in view. The same effect of stifling selfish motives, is equally remarkable in other passions that are in no view social. An action, for example, done to gratify my ambitious views, is selfish; but if my ambition become headstrong, and blindly impel me to action, the action is neither selfish nor social. A slight degree of resentment, where my chief view in acting is the pleasure arising to myself from gratifying the passion, is justly denominated selfish. Where revenge flames so high as to have no other aim but the destruction of its object, it is no longer selfish; but, in opposition to a social passion, may be termed dissocial.*
When this analysis of human nature is considered, not one article of which can with truth be controverted, there is reason to be surprised at the blindness of some philosophers, who, by dark and confused notions, are led to deny all motives to action but what arise from self-love. Man, for aught appears, might possibly have been so framed, as to be susceptible of no passions but what have self for their object: but man thus framed would be ill fitted for society: his constitution partly selfish, partly social, fits him much better for his present situation. action, one must be virtuous; and to enjoy the pleasure of a charitable action, one must think charity laudable at least, if not a duty. It is otherwise where a man gives charity merely for the sake of ostentation; for this he may do without having any pity or benevolence in his temper.
* This word, hitherto not in use, seems to fulfil all that is required by Demetrius Phalereus (Of Elocution, sect. 96.) in coining a new word: first, that it be perspicuous; and next, that it be in the tone of the language; that we may not, says our author, introduce among the Grecian vocables, words that sound like those of Phrygia or Scythia.
+ As the benevolence of many human actions is beyond the possibility of doubt, the argument commonly insisted on for reconciling such actions to the selfish system, is, that the only motive I can have to perform a benevolent action, or an action of any kind, is the pleasure that it affords me. So much then is yielded, that we are pleased when we do good to others: which is a fair admission of the principle of benevolence; for without that principle, what pleasure could one have in
Of self, every one has a direct perception; of other things we have no knowledge but by means of their attributes: and hence it is, that of self the perception is more lively than of any other thing. Self is an agreeable object: and for the reason now given, must be more agreeable than any other object. Is this sufficient to account for the prevalence of self-love?
In the foregoing part of this chapter it is suggested, that some circumstances make beings or things fit objects for desire, others not. This hint ought to be pursued. It is a truth ascertained by universal experience, that a thing which in our apprehension is beyond reach, never is the object of desire. No man in his right senses desires to walk on the clouds, or to descend to the centre of the earth : we may amuse ourselves in a reverie, with building castles in the air, and wishing for what can never happen: but such things never move desire. And indeed a desire to do what we are sensible is beyond our power, would be altogether absurd. In the next place, though the difficulty of attainment, with respect to things within reach, often inflames desire; yet, where the prospect
of attain. ment is faint, and the event extremely uncertain, the object, however agreeable, seldom raises any strong desire. Thus beauty, or any other good quality, in a woman of rank, seldom raises love in a man greatly her inferior. In the third place, different objects, equally within reach, raise emotions in different degrees; and when desire accompanies any of these emotions, its strength, as is natural, is proportioned to that of its cause. Hence the remarkable difference among desires, directed to beings inanimate, animate, and rational. The emotion caused by a rational being, is out of measure stronger than any caused by an animal without reason; and an emotion raised by such an animal, is stronger than what is caused by any thing inanimate. There is a separate reason why desire of which a rational being is the object, should be the strongest : our desires swell by partial gratification; and the means we have of gratifying desire, by benefiting or harming a rational being, are without end. Desire directed to an inanimate being, susceptible
neither of pleasure nor pain, is not capable of a higher gratification than that of acquiring the property. Hence it is, that though every emotion accompanied with desire, is strictly speaking a passion; yet commonly none of these are denominated passions, but where a sensible being, capable of pleasure and pain, is the object.
Speech the most powerful means by which one being can display himself to another-Music may be rendered the means of promoting effeminacy and luxury; but its refined pleasures humanize and polish the mind— The effect of music on the Arcadians, an example— The pernicious effect of English comedy.
Upon a review I find the foregoing section, almost wholly employed upon emotions and passions raised by objects of sight, though doing good to others? And admitting a principle of benevolence, why may it not be a motive to action, as well as selfishness is, or any other principle ?
they are also raised by objects of hearing. As this happened without intention, merely because such objects are more familiar than others, I find it proper to add a short section upon
power of sounds to raise emotions and passions.
I begin with comparing sounds and visible objects with respect to their influence upon the mind. It has already been observed that of all external objects, rational beings, especially of our own species, have the most powerful influence in raising emotions and passions; and, as speech is the most powerful of all the means by which one human being can display itself to another, the objects of the eye must so far yield preference to those of the ear. With respect to inanimate objects of sight, sounds may be so contrived as to raise both terror and mirth beyond what can be done by any such object. Music has a commanding influence over the mind, especially in conjunction with words. Objects of sight may indeed contribute to the same end, but more faintly; as where a love poem is rehearsed in a shady grove, or on the bank of a purling stream. But sounds, which are vastly more ductile and various, readily accompany all the social affections expressed in a poem, especially emotions of love and pity:
Music having at command a great variety of emotions, may, like many objects of sight, be made to promote luxury and effeminacy of which we have instances, without number, especially in vocal music. But, with respect to its pure and refined pleasựres, music goes hand in hand with gardening and architecture, her sister-arts, in humanizing and polishing the mind ;* of which none can doubt who have felt
the charms of music. But, if authority be required, the following passage from a grave historian, eminent for solidity of judgment, must have the greatest weight. Polybius, speaking of the people of Cynætha, an Arcadian tribe, has the following train of reflections. “ As the Arcadians have always been celebrated for their piety, humanity, and hospitality, we are naturally led to inquire, how it has happened that the Cynætheans are distinguished from the other Arcadians, by savage manners, wickedness, and cruelty. I can attribute this difference to no other cause, but a total neglect among the people of Cynætha, of an institution established among the ancient Arcadians with a nice regard to their manners and their climate : I mean the discipline and exercise of that genuine and perfect music, which is useful in every state, but necessary to the Arcadians; whose manners, originally rigid and austere, made it of the greatest importance to incorporate this art into the very essence of their government. All men know that, in Arcadia, the children are early taught to perform hymns and songs composed in honor of their gods and heroes; and that, when they have learned the music of Timotheus and Philoxenus, they assemble yearly in the public theatres, dancing with emulation to the sound of flutes, and acting in games adapted to their tender years. The Arcadians, even in their private feasts, never employ hirelings, but each man sings in his turn. They are also taught all the military steps and
* See Chapter 24.
·motions to the sound of instruments, which they perform yearly in the theatres, at the public charge. To me it is evident, that these solemnities were introduced, not for idle pleasure, but to soften the rough and stubborn temper of the Arcadians, occasioned by the coldness of a high country. But the Cynætheans, neglecting these arts, have become so fierce and savage, that there is not another city in Greece so remarkable for frequent and great enormities. This consideration ought to engage the Arcadians never to relax, in any degree, their musical discipline; and it ought to open the eyes of the Cynætheans, and make them sensible of what importance it would be to restore music to their city, and every discipline that may soften their manners; for otherwise they can never hope to subdue their brutal ferocity.”
No one will be surprised to hear such influence attributed to music, when, with respect to another of the fine arts, he finds a living instance of an influence no less powerful. It is unhappily indeed the reverse of the former; for it has done more mischief by corrupting British manners, than music ever did good by purifying those of Arcadia.
The licentious court of Charles II., among its many disorders, engendered a pest, the virulence of which subsists to this day. The English comedy, copying the manners of the court, became abominably licentious; and continues so with very little softening: It is there an established rule, to deck out the chief characters with every vice in fashion, however gross. But, as such characters viewed in a true light would be disgustful, care is taken to disguise their deformity under the embellishments of wit, sprightliness, and good humor, which in mixed company makes a capital figure. It requires not much thought to discover the poisonous influence of such plays. A young man of figure, emancipated, at last, from the severity and restraint of a college education, repairs to the capital disposed to every sort of excess. The playhouse becomes his favorite amusement; and he is enchanted with the gayety and splendor of the chief personages. The disgust which vice gives him at first, soon wears off
, to make way for new notions, more liberal in his opinion; by which a sovereign contempt of religion, and a declared war upon the chastity of wives, maids, and widows, are converted from being infamous vices to be fashionable virtues. The infection spreads gradually through all ranks, and becomes universal. How gladly would I listen to any one who should undertake to prove, that what I have been describing is chimerical ! but the dissoluteness of our young men of birth will not suffer me to doubt its reality. Sir Harry Wildair has completed many a rake; and in the Suspicious Husband, Ranger, the humble imitator of Sir Harry, has had no slight influence in spreading that character. What woman, tinctured with the playhouse morals, would not be the sprightly, the witty, though dissolute Lady Townly, rather than the cold, the sober, though virtuous Lady Grace? How odious ought writers to be, who thus employ the talents they have received from their Maker
* Polybius, Lib. 4. cap. 3.