Chap. 4: How We Judge

Chap. 4: The Same Subject Continued

1.1.30 We may judge of the propriety or impropriety of another person’s sentiments by their correspondence or disagreement with our own, on two occasions:

  1. When their causes are unrelated to either ourselves or to the person observed, or
  2. When their causes affect us


1.1.31 1. When their causes are unrelated to ourselves or to the person observed, we ascribe good taste and judgment to the person observed.

  • The following have no peculiar relation to the ourselves or to the person observed:
    • the beauty of a plain
    • the greatness of a mountain
    • the ornaments of a building
    • the expression of a picture
    • the conduct of a third person
    • all the subjects of science and taste
  • We both look at them from the same point of view.
    • We have no occasion for sympathy.
  • If we are often differently affected by such objects, it is caused by:
    • the different level of attention which we give to those objects, from our different habits, and
    • the different levels of natural acuteness of the mind


1.1.32 When our friend’s sentiments easily coincide with our own, we think that he deserves no praise or admiration.

  • But he appears deserving of much admiration and applause when his sentiments:
    • coincide with our own, and
    • lead our own sentiments.
  • This is especially true when:
    • he attends to many things which we had overlooked, and
    • shows uncommon acuteness and comprehensiveness.
  • Admiration is the approval heightened by wonder and surprise.
    • Applause is the natural expression of admiration.
  • A man must certainly be approved of by all the world if he judges that:
    • exquisite beauty is preferable to the grossest deformity, or
    • 2 x 2 = 4
  • But he surely will not be much admired.
  • Our admiration is excited and our applause is deserved by:
    • the acute and delicate discernment of the man of taste who can distinguish the minute differences of beauty and deformity,
    • the comprehensive accuracy of the experienced mathematician who easily unravels the most intricate and perplexed proportions, and
    • the great leader in science and taste who directs our own sentiments.
      • His wide and superior justness and his talents astonish us with wonder and surprise.
  • The praise for the intellectual virtues is based on this admiration.


1.1.33 The utility of those qualities first recommends those people to us and gives those people a new value.

  • Originally, however, we approve of another man’s judgment, not as something useful.
    • We approve of it as something right, accurate, and agreeable to truth and reality.
    • We approve of another person’s judgment and qualities only because they agree with our own.
  • In the same way, taste is originally approved of, not as useful, but as just and suitable to its object.
  • The utility of all these kind of qualities is plainly an afterthought.
    • It is not what first recommends our approval.


1.1.34 2. With regard to those objects which affect us or the person observed, it is more difficult to preserve this harmony and correspondence.

  • My friend does not naturally look on my misfortune in the same way I do.
    • My misfortunes affect me much more.
    • We do not view them from the same station, as we do a picture, a poem, or a system of philosophy.
    • Therefore, we are affected by them very differently.
  • But I can much more easily overlook his lack of correspondence with my sentiments about such indifferent objects which concern neither of us, than with objects which interest me so much.
    • Though you despise that picture, poem, or even that system of philosophy which I admire, we do not quarrel about it.
      • We both are not much interested in them.
    • But it is otherwise with objects which affect you or me directly.
      • Your judgments in some things are opposite to mine.
        • But I can easily overlook this opposition.
      • If I can control my temper, I might be entertained by our conversation even on those subjects.
    • But if you have no fellow-feeling for my misfortunes, injuries, resentment, or my grief, we cannot talk about these subjects.
      • We become intolerable to one another.
      • I can neither support your company, nor you mine.
      • You are confounded at my violence and passion.
      • I am enraged at your cold insensibility and lack of feeling.


1.1.35 In all such cases, there may be some correspondence of sentiments between the observer and the person observed.

  • First of all, the observer must put himself in the situation of the person observed.
  • He must:
    • bring home to himself every little distress of the person observed,
    • adopt the whole case of his friend with all its smallest details, and
    • recreate in his imagination the suffering on which his sympathy is founded.


1.1.36 After all this, the observer’s emotions will still fall short of what is felt by the sufferer.

  • Mankind is naturally sympathetic.
    • We can never conceive the passion which naturally is animated in the sufferer.
  • Their sympathy is founded on that imaginary change of situation which is but momentary.
  • We always think:
    • of our own safety, and
    • that we ourselves are not the real sufferers.
  • These thoughts do not hinder us from conceiving a passion similar to what is felt by the sufferer.
    • But these thoughts hinder use from having the same degree of passion.
  • The person observed is knows this.
    • He passionately desires a more complete sympathy.
    • He longs for that relief which can only be brought by the entire concord of the observers’ affections.
  • His sole consolation is seeing the emotions of our hearts beat in time to his own during those disagreeable passions.
    • But he can only hope to obtain this by lowering his passion allowed by the observers.
    • He must flatten the sharpness of its natural tone, in order to reduce it to harmony with the emotions of the observers.
  • What they feel will always be different from what he feels.
    • Compassion can never be exactly the same with original sorrow.
    • Because of the secret awareness that the conceived suffering is:
      • only imaginary,
      • lower in degree, and
      • quite different.
  • The imagination of observer and the voluntary reduction of observed person’s passion, may correspond with one another.
    • This correspondence is sufficient for the harmony of society.
    • Though they will never be unisons, they may be concords.
    • This is all that is wanted or required.


1.1.37 To produce this concord, nature teaches the observers to assume the circumstances of the person observed just as she teaches the person observed to assume the circumstances of the observers.

  • The observers are continually placing themselves in the situation of the person observed and conceiving similar emotions.
  • The person observed is also constantly placing himself in the situation of the observers.
    • He conceives some coolness about his own fortune which is in view of the observers.
  • They are constantly considering what they themselves would feel if they were the sufferers.
    • The sufferer is as constantly led to imagine how he would be affected if he was an observer of his own situation.
  • The sympathy of the observers makes them look at the sufferer’s misfortune through his eyes.
    • The sufferer’s sympathy makes him look at his suffering through the eyes of the observers.
      • The reflected passion he conceives is much weaker than his own original passion.
        • It necessarily abates the violence of what he felt before he was observed.
        • He begins to view his own situation in this candid and impartial light.


1.1.38 Friends restore the mind to some degree of tranquility and sedateness.

  • The breast is calmed and composed the moment our friends come.
  • We are immediately put in mind of the light in which he will view our situation.
    • We begin to view it ourselves in the same light.
  • The effect of sympathy is instantaneous.
  • We expect less sympathy from a common acquaintance than from a friend.
    • We cannot tell to an acquaintance everything we can tell our friends.
    • We therefore assume more tranquility before an acquaintance.
    • We fix our thoughts on our general situation which he is willing to consider.
  • We expect still less sympathy from strangers.
    • We therefore, assume still more tranquility before them.
    • We always bring down our passion to what strangers are expected to go along with.
  • This happens in reality.
    • We compose ourselves more in the presence of a mere acquaintance than that of our friend.
    • We compose ourselves still more in the presence of strangers than that of an acquaintance.


1.1.39 Therefore, society and conversation are:

  • the most powerful remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquility, and
  • the best preservatives of that equal and happy temper necessary for self-satisfaction.

Speculators and retired men who sit brooding at home over grief or resentment seldom possess that equality of temper which is so common among men of the world.

Words: 1,441

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