Chap 1b: Friendship and Kindness


6.2.18. Among well-disposed people, the necessity or convenience of mutual accommodation frequently produces a friendship like the friendship of those born to live in the same family.

  • Colleagues in office, partners in trade, call one another brothers.
  • They frequently feel towards one another as if they really were brothers.
  • Their good agreement is an advantage to all.
  • If they are reasonable people, they are naturally disposed to agree.
  • We expect that they should do so.
  • Their disagreement is a sort of a small scandal.
  • The Romans expressed this sort of attachment by the word necessitudo.
    • It seems to denote that it was imposed by the situation’s necessity.


6.2.19. Even the trifling circumstance of living in the same neighbourhood has some effect of the same kind.

  • We respect the face of a man whom we see everyday, provided he has never offended us.
  • Neighbours can be very convenient.
    • They can be very troublesome to one another.
    • If they are good people, they are naturally disposed to agree.
  • We expect their good agreement.
    • To be a bad neighbour is a very bad character.
  • Accordingly, there are certain small good offices universally due to a neighbour that is not due to non-neighbours.


6.2.20. The cause of the contagious effects of good and bad company is this natural disposition to accommodate and assimilate our own sentiments, principles, and feelings, to people we live and converse much with.

  • The man who associates chiefly with the wise and the virtuous cannot help having respect for wisdom and virtue.
    • Even though he may not himself become wise or virtuous.
  • The man who associates chiefly with the profligate and the dissolute, must soon lose all his original abhorrence of profligacy and dissolution of manners.
    • Even though he may not himself become profligate and dissolute.

We frequently see the similarity of family characters transmitted through several successive generations.

  • Such characters might be partly owing to this disposition to assimilate ourselves to people whom we are obliged to live and converse much with.
  • However, the family character, like the family’s physical features, seems not all due to the moral connection, but partly to the physical connection.
    • The family countenance is certainly altogether owing to the physical connection.

6.2.21. But the most respectable of all the attachments to an individual by far is the attachment founded on the esteem and approbation of his good conduct and behaviour.

  • This attachment is confirmed by much experience and long acquaintance.
  • Only among men of virtue can such friendships exist, arising from:
    • a natural sympathy, and
    • an involuntary feeling that the persons to whom we attach ourselves are the natural and proper objects of esteem and approbation.
  • It does not arise from:
    • a constrained sympathy, nor
    • a sympathy which has been assumed and rendered habitual for the sake of conveniency and accommodation.
  • Only men of virtue can feel that entire confidence in the conduct and behaviour of one another.
    • This conduct can always assure them that they can never offend or be offended by one another.
  • Vice is always capricious.
    • Virtue only is regular and orderly.
  • The attachment founded on the love of virtue is the most virtuous of all attachments.
    • It is likewise the happiest and the most permanent and secure.
  • Such friendships need not be confined to a single person.
    • They may safely embrace all the wise and virtuous:
      • with whom we have been long and intimately acquainted, and
      • upon whose wisdom and virtue we can entirely depend.
  • The people who confine friendship to two persons seem to confound the wise security of friendship with the jealousy and folly of love.
    • The hasty, fond, and foolish intimacies of young people are founded commonly on:
      • some slight similarity of character unconnected with good conduct,
      • a taste for the same studies, amusements, diversions, or
      • their agreement in some singular principle or opinion, not commonly adopted.
    • Those intimacies with a freak cannot deserve the sacred and venerable name of friendship, no matter how agreeable they appear.


6.2.22. Our beneficence is most properly directed by nature towards the people whose beneficence we have already experienced.

  • Nature formed men for that mutual kindness so necessary for their happiness.
    • Nature renders every man the object of kindness to the persons he has been kind to.
    • Their gratitude do not always correspond to his beneficence.
      • Yet the sense of his merit, the impartial spectator’s sympathetic gratitude, will always correspond to it.
    • Other people’s general indignation against the baseness of their ingratitude will sometimes even increase the general sense of his merit.
  • No benevolent man ever lost the fruits of his benevolence altogether.
    • If he does not always gather them from the persons from whom he should have gathered them, he seldom fails to gather them from other people, with a tenfold increase.
  • Kindness is the parent of kindness.
    • If to be beloved by our brethren is the great object of our ambition, the surest way of obtaining it is for us to show that we really love them.


6.2.23. The first persons recommended to our beneficence are those:

  • connected with ourselves
  • have personal qualities
  • have done us past services

The second persons recommended to our benevolent attention and good offices are not our friends, but those who are distinguished by their extraordinary situation:

  • the greatly fortunate and unfortunate
    • the rich and the powerful
    • the poor and the wretched

The distinction of ranks, the peace and order of society, are founded in a great measure on our respect for the rich and the powerful.

  • The relief and consolation of human misery all depend on our compassion for the poor and the wretched.
  • The peace and order of society is more important than even the relief of the miserable.
  • Our respect for the great, accordingly, is most apt to offend by its excess.
    • Our fellow-feeling for the miserable, by its defect.
  • Moralists exhort us to charity and compassion.
    • They warn us against the fascination of greatness.
  • This fascination is so powerful, that the rich and the great are too often preferred to the wise and the virtuous.
    • Nature has wisely judged that the distinction of ranks, the peace and order of society, would rest more securely on the plain and palpable difference of birth and fortune than on the invisible and often uncertain difference of wisdom and virtue.
  • The undistinguishing eyes of mankind can well enough perceive birth and fortune.
    • The nice discernment of the wise and the virtuous can sometimes distinguish wisdom and virtue with difficulty.
    • In the order of all those recommendations, the benevolent wisdom of nature is equally evident.


6.2.24. The combination of the causes of kindness, increases the kindness.

  • When there is no envy, our natural favour and partiality to greatness are much increased when it is joined with wisdom and virtue.
    • If, despite that wisdom and virtue, the great man should fall into those misfortunes, dangers, and distresses often encountered by the most exalted stations, we have a much deeper interest in his fortune than our interest for a person equally virtuous, but in a humbler situation.
  • The most interesting subjects of tragedies and romances are the misfortunes of virtuous and magnanimous kings and princes.
    • If they can extricate themselves from those misfortunes, by wise and brave exertions, and completely recover their former superiority and security, we admire them most enthusiastically and even extravagantly.
    • The following seem to combine to enhance our partial admiration for the station and character:
      • our grief for their distress, and
      • our joy for their prosperity.


6.2.25. When those different beneficent affections happen to draw different ways, it is perhaps impossible to determine by any precise rules in:

  • what cases we should comply with the one, and in what with the other,
  • what cases friendship should yield to gratitude, or gratitude to friendship,
  • what cases the strongest of all natural affections should yield to a regard for the safety of those superiors on whose safety depends the whole society’s safety, and
  • what cases natural affection may, without impropriety, prevail over that regard

These must be left to the decision of the man within the breast, the supposed impartial spectator, the great judge and arbiter of our conduct.

  • His voice will never deceive us if we:
    • place ourselves completely in his situation,
    • really view ourselves with his eyes, and
    • listen to diligently and reverently what he suggests to us.
  • We shall need no casuistic rules to direct our conduct.
  • These casuistic rules are often impossible to accommodate:
    • to all the different shades and gradations of circumstance, character, and situation,
    • to differences and distinctions which, though not imperceptible, are often undefinable because of their nicety and delicacy.

The Orphan of China is Voltaire’s beautiful tragedy.

  • Zamti was willing to sacrifice his own child’s life to preserve the life of the only feeble remnant of his ancient sovereigns and masters.
  • While we admire his magnanimity, we pardon and love the maternal tenderness of Idame.
    • At the risque of discovering Zamti’s important secret, she reclaims her infant from the cruel hands of the Mongols.

Words: 1,495

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