Chap 1: The Bodily Passions


1 The spectator can go along with our passions which lie in a certain mediocrity.

  • If our passion is too high or too low, he cannot enter into it.
  • For example, grief for private misfortunes and injuries may easily be too high in many people.
    • They may also be too low, but rarely.
  • We call excessive grief as ‘weakness’ and ‘fury’.
    • We call the shortage of grief as ‘stupidity’, ‘insensibility’, and ‘lack of spirit’.
    • We cannot enter into either.
    • We are astonished and confounded to see them.


2 However, this proper mediocrity is different in different passions.

  • It is high in some and low in others.
  • There are some passions which are indecent to express very strongly.
    • These passions have little or no sympathy from other people.
  • There are others of which the strongest expressions are extremely graceful.
    • These passions have the greatest sympathy from other people.
  • All passions are decent or indecent depending on the sympathy it gets from other people.


Chap. 1: the Bodily Passions

  1. 3 It is indecent to strongly express the passions from the body because others, who are not in the same disposition, cannot be expected to sympathize with them.
  • For example, violent hunger is natural and unavoidable, but is always indecent.
    • Eating voraciously is universally regarded as bad manners.
    • However, there is some sympathy even with hunger.
    • It is agreeable to see our friends eat with a good appetite.
      • All our expressions of loathing are offensive.
  • The body’s disposition makes his stomach easily keep time with the hungry man, and not with the man who hates to eat.
    • We can sympathize with the distress from excessive hunger when we read about a siege or a sea voyage.
    • We imagine ourselves in the sufferers’ situation.
    • We readily conceive their grief, fear and consternation.
    • We feel some degree of those passions.
    • We therefore sympathize with them.
    • But we do not grow hungry by reading the description.
      • Even in this case, we cannot properly be said to sympathize with their hunger.


1.2.4 It is the same case with the passion by which Nature unites the two sexes.

  • It is naturally the most furious of all the passions.
  • All its strong expressions are always indecent, even between the persons who do them innocently.
  • However, there is some degree of sympathy even with it.
  • It is improper to talk to a woman as we would to a man.
  • The company of women is expected to inspire men with more gaiety, pleasantry, and attention.
    • An entire insensibility to women renders a man contemptible even to other men.


1.2.5 Such is our aversion for all the appetites originating from the body:

  • Their strong expressions are loathsome and disagreeable.
    • According to some ancient philosophers, these are the passions which we share in common with the brutes.
    • These have no connection with the qualities of human nature.
    • These are beneath its dignity.
  • But there are many other passions which we share in common with brutes such as resentment, natural affection, even gratitude.
    • These do not seem so brutal.
  • The true cause of our disgust for the bodily appetites we see in others, is that we cannot enter into them.
    • As soon as those bodily passions are gratified, their cause ceases to be agreeable to the person who originally felt them.
      • Even its presence often offends him.
      • He looks for the charm which transported him the moment before, to no purpose.
      • He can now as little enter into his own passion as another person.
  • After dining, we order the covers to be removed.
    • In the same way, we should remove the objects of the most passionate bodily desires.


1.2.6 The virtue of temperance is founded in the command of those bodily appetites.

  • Prudence is to restrain those appetites as prescribed by health and fortune.
  • But temperance is to restrain them with grace, propriety, delicacy, and modesty.


1.2.7 2. For the same reason, crying out with bodily pain, no matter how intolerable, always appears unmanly and unbecoming.

  • However, there is much sympathy even with bodily pain.
  • I see a stroke just ready to fall on another person’s leg.
    • I naturally shrink and draw back my own leg.
    • When it falls, I feel it in some measure.
    • I am hurt by it as well as the sufferer.
    • However, my hurt is excessively slight.
      • Because of that, I always despise him if he cries out violently, as I cannot go along with him.
  • This is the case of all the bodily passions.
    • They excite either no sympathy or a disproportional sympathy to the violence felt by the sufferer.


1.2.8. It is quite otherwise with those passions originating from the imagination.

  • My body can be little affected by the changes on my companion’s body.
  • But my imagination is more ductile.
    • It more readily assumes the shape and configuration of the imaginations of those I am familiar with.
  • A disappointment in love or ambition will call forth more sympathy than the greatest bodily evil.
    • Those passions all arise from the imagination.
    • The person who has lost his whole fortune, feels nothing in his body if he is healthy.
  • What he suffers is from the imagination only.
    • It represents to him the:
      • loss of his dignity,
      • neglect from his friends,
      • contempt from his enemies,
      • dependance,
      • want, and
      • misery, coming fast on him.
    • We sympathize with him more strongly because of this.
      • Because our imaginations can more readily mould themselves on his imagination, than our bodies can mould themselves on his body.


1.2.9. The loss of a leg may generally be regarded as a more real calamity than the loss of a mistress.

  • However, a tragedy would be ridiculous if its catastrophe was a loss of a leg.
  • The loss of a mistress is seemingly frivolous.
    • But it has created many fine tragedies.


1.2.10. Nothing is so soon forgotten as pain.

  • The moment it is gone, its whole agony is over.
    • Its thought can no longer disturb us.
  • We then cannot enter into our previous anxiety and anguish.
    • An unguarded word from a friend will bring a more durable uneasiness.
    • The agony which this creates is not over with the word.
  • The object of the senses is not what first disturbs us.
    • It is the idea of the imagination.
  • Since an idea causes our uneasiness, its memory continues to make us fret from the thought of it, until time and other accidents have erased it from our memory.


1.2.11. Pain only brings lively sympathy when accompanied with danger.

  • We sympathize with the fear, though not with the sufferer’s agony.
  • However, fear is a passion derived from the imagination.
  • It represents what we may possibly suffer, with an uncertainty and fluctuation that increases our anxiety.
    • The painful gout or the toothache excites very little sympathy.
    • More dangerous but less painful diseases excite the highest.


1.2.12. Some people faint and grow sick at the sight of a surgery.

  • The pain of tearing flesh seems to excite the most excessive sympathy.
  • We conceive in a much more lively manner the pain from external causes, than from internal ones.
    • I have no idea of the agonies of my neighbour who has gout or kidney stones.
    • But I have the clearest conception of his pain from an incision, wound, or a fracture.
  • The novelty of such objects causes them to produce such violent effects on us.
    • One who has witnessed many dissections and amputations sees these operations with great indifference.
    • We are not as sensible of the sorrows of tragedies after we have read or seen more than 500 of them.


1.2.13. In some Greek tragedies, there is an attempt to excite compassion through the agonies of bodily pain.

  • Philoctetes cries out and faints from his extreme sufferings.
    • Hippolytus and Hercules are both introduced as dying under the severest tortures, which even Hercules’ fortitude could not support.
  • However, in all these cases, some other circumstances interest us, not the pain.
    • The solitude of Philoctetes affects us, not his sore foot.
      • His tragedy’s charm and romantic wildness is so agreeable to the imagination.
      • His solitude diffuses over it.
    • The agonies of Hercules and Hippolytus are interesting only because we foresee death as the consequence.
      • If those heroes were to recover, we would think that their sufferings are perfectly ridiculous.
    • What a tragedy would that be of which the distress consisted in a colic.
      • Yet no pain is more exquisite.
  • The Greek theatre is an example of these attempts to excite compassion through bodily pain.


1.2.14. The little sympathy which we feel with bodily pain is the foundation of the propriety of constancy and patience in enduring it.

  • We have the highest admiration for the man who:
    • allows no weakness to escape him under the severest tortures,
    • does not groan, and
    • gives way to no passion which we do not entirely enter into.
  • His firmness enables him to keep time with our indifference and insensibility.
    • We admire and entirely go along with his magnanimous effort for this purpose.
    • We approve of his behaviour.
    • From our experience of the weakness of human nature, we are surprised and wonder how he can act so as to deserve approbation.
  • Admiration is made up of approval, mixed and animated by wonder and surprise.
    • Applause is its natural expression.

Words: 1,525

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