Chap. 2: The Proper Objects of Gratitude and Resentment

Chap. 2: The Proper objects of gratitude and resentment

2.1.10. Being the approved objects of gratitude or resentment is the same as being the object of that gratitude and that resentment, which are naturally approved of.

2.1.11. But human nature’s passions are approved of when:

  • every impartial spectator’s heart entirely sympathizes with them, and
  • every indifferent bystander entirely enters into, and goes along with them.

2.1.12. Therefore, a person appears to deserve reward if he is the natural object of gratitude by persons who applaud him.

  • He appears to deserve punishment if he is the natural object of a resentment by persons who reasonable men can sympathize with.
  • An action must appear to deserve reward if everybody who knows of it would:
    • wish to reward it, and
    • delight to see rewarded.
  • An action must appear to deserve punishment if everybody who hears it:
    • becomes angry with it and
    • rejoices to see it punished.

2.1.13. 1. We sympathize with our companions’ joy when in prosperity.

  • We join them in their satisfaction with the cause of their good fortune.
  • We enter into the love and affection which they conceive for it.
    • We begin to love it too.
  • We are sorry for their sakes if it were destroyed or placed out of their care and protection, even though they lose nothing by its absence except the pleasure of seeing it.
    • This is more true if a man caused another person’s happiness.
  • When we see one man assisted, protected, relieved by another, our sympathy with the beneficiary’s joy animates our fellow-feeling with his gratitude to his benefactor.
    • When we look at his benefactor through his eyes, we see his benefactor in the most engaging and amiable light.
      • We therefore readily sympathize with his grateful sentiment for his benefactor.
      • We consequently applaud the returns he is disposed to make for the good offices conferred on him.
      • As we entirely enter into this sentiment, it necessarily seems suitable to its object in every way.

2.1.14. 2. In the same way, as we sympathize with our fellow-creature’s sorrow whenever we see his distress, so we enter into his abhorrence for whatever has caused it.

  • Our heart adopts and beats in time to his grief.
    • It is likewise animated with that spirit by which he tries to drive away or destroy the cause of this grief.
  • We accompany him in his sufferings with an indolent and passive fellow-feeling.
    • This feeling readily gives way to that more vigorous and active sentiment by which we go along with him in his effort:
      • to repel them or
      • to gratify his aversion to what has caused them.
    • This is more true when man has caused them.
  • When we see one man oppressed or injured by another, we feel a sympathy with the sufferer’s distress.
    • It animates our fellow-feeling with his resentment against the offender.
    • We are rejoiced to see him attack his adversary.
    • We are eager and ready to assist him whenever he:
      • defends himself or
      • seeks a certain degree of revenge.
    • If the injured perish in the quarrel, we sympathize with:
      • the real resentment of his friends and relations
      • the imaginary resentment of the dead, who are unable to feel anything.
        • We bring home his case to our own bosoms when we put ourselves in his situation by entering into his body and animating the slain’s mangled carcass in our imaginations.
          • We then feel an emotion which the principally concerned cannot feel.
          • Yet we feel by a illusory sympathy with him.
          • We imagine him sustaining an immense loss.
            • We shed sympathetic tears for his loss.
            • Our tears seem but a small part our duty to him.
          • We think that the injury which he has suffered demands most of our attention.
          • We feel the imaginary resentment which we think his dead body would feel.
          • We think that his blood calls aloud for vengeance.
          • The dead’s ashes seem disturbed at the thought that his injuries will pass unrevenged.
  • We feel that resentment which we imagine he should feel and which he would feel if there was any consciousness in his lifeless body.
  • This natural sympathy with the imaginary resentment of the slain creates:
    • the horrors which are supposed to haunt the murderer,
    • the ghosts which, superstition imagines, rise from their graves to demand vengeance on those who ended their lives
  • Murder is the most dreadful of all crimes.
    • Nature has stamped very strongly on the human heart an immediate and instinctive approbation of the sacred and necessary law of retaliation.
      • This is antecedent to all reflections on the utility of punishment.


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