Chap. 2: The Sense of Justice, Remorse, and the Consciousness of Merit

2.2.11. Only the just indignation for evil done to us is the only proper motive for us to:

  • hurt our neighbour and
  • incite us to do evil to another

No impartial spectator can go along with a person’s natural preference for his own happiness above that of others to:

  • disturb the happiness of others merely because it stands in the way of our own,
  • take from others what is really useful to them merely because it may more useful to us, and
  • indulge at the expence of other people.

By nature, everyone is first and principally recommended to his own care.

  • He is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person.
  • Therefore, every person is much more deeply interested in whatever immediately concerns oneself, than in what concerns others.
    • Hearing the death of another person unconnected to us will give us less concern than our own very insignificant disaster.
    • Our neighbour’s ruin may affect us much less than our own very small misfortune.
      • But we must not:
        • ruin him to prevent that small misfortune, and
        • prevent our own ruin.
  • As in all other cases, we must view ourselves not so much according to how we may naturally appear to ourselves, as according to how we naturally appear to others.
    • According to the proverb:
      • Every man may be the whole world to himself.
        • But to others, he is a most insignificant part of it.
      • His own happiness may more important to him than all the world’s happiness.
        • But to every other person, it is of no more consequence than that of any other man.
    • It may be true that every individual naturally prefers himself to all mankind.
    • Yet he does not dare look mankind in the face and avow that he acts according to this principle.
      • He feels that:
        • in this preference they can never go along with him
        • how natural soever it may be to him, it must always appear excessive and extravagant to them
      • When he views himself as how others will view him, he sees that to them, he is but one of the multitude no better than others.
  • If he wants the impartial spectator to enter into the principles of his conduct, which he has the greatest desire to do, he must:
    • humble the arrogance of his self-love, as on all other occasions
    • bring his self-love down to something which other men can go along with
      • They will indulge it so far as to:
        • allow him to be more anxious about his own happiness
        • pursue his happiness with more earnest attention
      • Thus, whenever they place themselves in his situation, they will readily go along with him.
  • In the race for wealth, honours, preferments, he may run as hard as he can.
    • He can strain every nerve and muscle to outstrip all his competitors.
    • But if he should jostle or throw down any of them, the spectators’ indulgence will entirely end.
      • It is a violation of fair play which they cannot admit of.
        • To them, the other man is as good as he.
        • They do not enter into his self-love
        • They cannot go along with the offender’s motive.
        • They readily, therefore, sympathize with the natural resentment of the injured
          • The offender becomes the object of their hatred and indignation.
          • He is sensible that he becomes so.
          • He feels that those sentiments are ready to burst out from all sides against him.

2.2.12. The sufferer’s resentment runs naturally higher the greater and more irreparable the evil that is done.

  • Likewise, the spectators’ sympathetic indignation and the agent’s sense of guilt runs higher.
  • Death is the greatest evil which one man can inflict on another.
    • It excites the highest degree of resentment in those who are immediately connected with the slain.
    • Therefore, murder is the most atrocious of all crimes.
  • To be deprived of that which we have, is a greater evil than to be disappointed of what we could have had.
    • Therefore, breach of property, theft and robbery, which take from us what we have, are greater crimes than breach of contract, which only disappoints us of what we expected.
  • Therefore, the laws which guard the life of our neighbour are the most sacred laws of justice.
    • The next are those which guard his property and possessions.
    • The last are those which guard his personal rights, or what is due to him from the promises of others.


2.2.13. The violator of the more sacred laws of justice can never reflect on the sentiments which mankind must entertain with regard to him, without feeling all the agonies of shame, horror, and consternation.

  • When his passion is gratified, he coolly begins to reflect on his past conduct.
    • He can enter into none of the motives which influenced it.
    • They appear now as detestable to him as they did always to other people.
  • By sympathizing with the hatred of others for him, he becomes the object of his own hatred.
    • The person who suffered by his injustice now calls on his pity.
    • He is grieved at the thought of it.
    • He regrets the unhappy effects of his own conduct.
    • He feels that they have rendered him the proper object of:
      • the resentment and indignation of mankind
      • the natural consequence of resentment, vengeance and punishment
        • The thought of this perpetually haunts him and fills him with terror.
        • He dares no longer look society in the face.
        • He imagines himself as it were rejected and thrown out from the affections of all mankind.
        • He cannot hope for the consolation of sympathy in this, his greatest and most dreadful distress.
        • The remembrance of his crimes has shut out all fellow-feeling from his fellow-creatures.
        • Their sentiments about him are the very thing which he is most afraid of.
        • Everything seems hostile.
        • He would be glad to fly to some inhospitable desert, where he cannot see any human creature nor read the condemnation of his crimes.
        • But solitude is still more dreadful than society.
          • His own thoughts present him only with what is black, unfortunate, and disastrous, the melancholy forebodings of incomprehensible misery and ruin.
          • The horror of solitude drives him back into society.
          • He comes again into the presence of mankind.
          • He is astonished to appear before them.
          • He is loaded with shame and distracted with fear, in order to supplicate some protection from those very judges, who he knows have already condemned him.
  • Such is the nature of that sentiment called remorse.
    • It is the most dreadful of all the sentiments which can enter the human breast.
    • It is made up of:
      • shame from the sense of the impropriety of past conduct,
      • grief for its effects,
      • pity for those who suffer by it, and
      • the dread and terror of punishment from the consciousness of the justly provoked resentment of all rational creatures.


2.2.14. The opposite behaviour naturally inspires the opposite sentiment.

  • The man who has performed a generous action from proper motives feels himself as the natural object of:
    • the love and gratitude of those whom he has served, and
    • mankind’s esteem and approbation, by sympathy with those he has served.
  • When he looks back to his motives and surveys it as an indifferent spectator, he still continues to enter into it.
    • He applauds himself by sympathy with the approbation of this supposed impartial judge.
  • In both these points of view, his own conduct appears to him every way agreeable.
    • His mind is filled with cheerfulness, serenity, and composure.
    • He is in friendship and harmony with all mankind.
    • He looks on his fellow-creatures with confidence and benevolent satisfaction.
    • He is secure that he has rendered himself worthy of their most favourable regards.
    • The combination of all these sentiments consists the consciousness of merit, or of deserved reward.

Words: 1,290

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