Chap. 3: The Influences and Authority of Conscience

3.1.43. The approbation of man’s own conscience can content his own weaknesses only during some extraordinary occasions.

  • The testimony of the impartial spectator, the great inmate of the breast, cannot always support him alone.
  • Yet its influence and authority is always very great.
  • It is only by consulting this judge within that we can ever:
    • see what relates to ourselves in its proper dimensions, or
    • properly compare between our own interests and those of others.


The Eye of the Impartial Spectator

3.1.44. Objects appear big or small to the eye according to their distance from it, not so much according to their real dimensions.

  • So do objects appear to the mind’s natural eye.
  • We remedy the defects of both these organs in the same way.
  • Currently, an immense landscape of lawns, woods, and distant mountains, seems to:
    • merely cover the window I write by, and
    • be out of proportion with my room.
  • I can only fairly compare those big objects and the small objects near me by transporting myself in fancy, to a place from where I can:
    • survey both at equal distances, and
    • judge their real proportions.
  • Habit and experience have taught me to do this so easily and so readily, that I do not know that I do it.
  • A man must know the science of vision so that he can be convinced that those distant objects, small to the eye, are as big as his imagination can make them, from knowing their real sizes.


3.1.45. In the same way, the loss or gain of our own very small interest appears to be vastly more important to the selfish and original passions of human nature.

  • It excites a more passionate joy, sorrow, desire, or aversion, than the greatest concern of another person who we are unconnected with.
    • As long as they are surveyed from this station, his interests can never:
      • be put into the balance with our own, and
      • restrain us from doing whatever promotes our own interest, no matter how ruinous to him.
    • Before we can compare those opposite interests, we must change our position.
      • We must view them neither:
        • from our own place nor from his,
        • with our own eyes nor with his.
      • We must view them from the place and with the eyes of a third person who:
        • has no particular connection with either, and
        • judges impartially between us.
  • Here, too, habit and experience have taught us to do this so easily and readily.
    • We do not know that we do it.
    • We need some reflection and philosophy to convince us:
      • how little interest we should take in our neighbour’s greatest concerns, and
      • how little we should be affected by whatever relates to him, if the sense of propriety and justice did not correct the natural inequality of our sentiments.


3.1.46. Let us suppose that the entire Chinese empire was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake.

  • Let us consider how a European man of humanity, who was totally unconnected with China, would be affected upon knowing this calamity.
    • I imagine that he would express his sorrow very strongly for the misfortune of the Chinese.
    • He would make many melancholy reflections on:
      • the precariousness of human life, and
      • the vanity of all of man’s labours which could thus be annihilated in a moment.
    • If he were a man of speculation, he might also enter into many reasonings about the effects of this disaster on European commerce, world trade, and business in general.
    • When all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or pleasure.
      • He would take his repose or his diversion with the same ease and tranquility as if no such accident had happened.
    • The most frivolous disaster which could happen to him would create a more real disturbance.
      • If he were to lose his little finger tomorrow, he would not sleep tonight.
      • But provided he never saw those millions of Chinese, he will snore with the most profound security over their ruin.
        • Their destruction seems plainly less interesting to him than this paltry misfortune of his own.

Would a man of humanity be willing to sacrifice the lives of millions of his brethren, provided he had never seen them, to prevent this paltry misfortune to himself?

  • Human nature is horrified at the thought.
  • In its greatest depravity and corruption, the world never produced such a villain that could entertain it.
  • But what makes this difference?
    • When our passive feelings are almost always so sordid and selfish, why are our active principles often so generous and noble?
  • We are always so much more deeply affected by whatever concerns ourselves, than by whatever concerns others.
    • What always prompts the generous, and the mean on many occasions, to sacrifice their own interests for the greater interests of others?
    • It is not the soft power of humanity.
      • The power of humanity is the feeble spark of benevolence which Nature has lit in the human heart.
        • It can counteract the strongest impulses of self-love.
    • It is a stronger power.
      • It is a more forceful motive which exerts itself on such occasions.

It is reason, principle, conscience, the inhabitant of the breast, the man within, the great judge and arbiter of our conduct.

  • He calls to us with a voice which astonishes our most presumptuous passions, whenever we are about to affect the happiness of others.
  • It tell us:
    • that we are but one of the multitude, no better than any other in it, and
    • that when we prefer ourselves so shamefully and so blindly to others, we become the proper objects of resentment, abhorrence, and swearing.
  • It is only by this impartial spectator’s eye that:
    • we learn the real littleness of:
      • ourselves, and
      • of whatever relates to ourselves.
    • the natural misrepresentations of self-love can be corrected.
  • He shows us:
    • the propriety of generosity,
    • the deformity of injustice,
    • the propriety of resigning our greatest interests for the greater interests of others, and
    • the deformity of doing the smallest injury to another to obtain the greatest benefit to ourselves.
  • We are prompted many times to practice those divine virtues not from the love of our neighbour nor the love of mankind.
    • It is a stronger love, a more powerful affection, which generally takes place on such occasions:
      • The love of what is honourable and noble, of the grandeur, and dignity, and superiority of our own characters.


3.1.47. When the happiness or misery of others depends on our conduct, we dare not, as self-love might suggest to us, prefer the interest of one to the interest of many.

  • The man within immediately tells us that:
    • we value ourselves too much, and
    • we value others too little.
      • By doing so, we render ourselves the proper object of our brethren’s contempt and indignation.
  • This sentiment is not confined to men of extraordinary magnanimity and virtue.
    • It is deeply impressed on every good soldier.
      • He feels that his companions would scorn him if he:
        • shrank from danger, or
        • hesitated to throw away his life when required.


3.1.48. A person must never prefer himself so much as to hurt or injure others in order to benefit himself, even if his benefit should be much greater than the hurt to the other.

  • The poor man must neither defraud nor steal from the rich, even if the acquisition might be much more beneficial to the poor man than the loss could be hurtful to the rich man.
  •  The man within immediately tells him that:
    • he is no better than his neighbour, and
    • by this unjust preference, he renders himself the proper object of:
      • mankind’s contempt and indignation, and
      • the punishment naturally due to him for having violated one of those sacred rules.
        • Society’s peace and security depends on the tolerable observation of those rules.
  • Commonly, an honest man dreads less suffering the greatest external calamity which was not caused by him, than:
    • the inward disgrace of his unjust action, and
    • the indelible stain it would forever stamp on his own mind.
  • The great stoical maxim is:
    • Death, poverty, pain, and all of man’s external misfortunes are less contrary to nature, than it is for one man to:
      • deprive another unjustly of anything, or
      • unjustly promote his own advantage by another’s loss.
    • All honest men inwardly feel this truth.


3.1.49. We do not always need to restrain our natural anxiety on our own affairs or our natural indifference on the affairs of others when:

  • the happiness or misery of others do not depend on our conduct, and
  • our interests are detached from theirs, so that there is no connection nor competition between them.

The most vulgar education teaches us to act with some impartiality between ourselves and others on important times.

  • Even ordinary world commerce is capable of adjusting our active principles to some degree of propriety.
  • But, it has been said, that only the most artificial and refined education can correct the inequalities of our passive feelings.
    • It has been pretended that we must have recourse to the severest and profoundest philosophy.


Two Sets of Philosophers

3.1.50. Two sets of philosophers have tried to teach us this hardest of all the lessons of morality.

  • One set tried to increase our sensibility to the interests of others.
    • These would have us feel for others as we naturally feel for ourselves.
  • Another tried to reduce our sensibility to our own interest.
    • These would have us feel for ourselves as we naturally feel for others.
  • Perhaps both carried their doctrines beyond the just standard of nature and propriety.


3.1.51. The first are those whining and melancholy moralists.

  • They regard the natural joy of prosperity as impious.
    • This joy does not think of the many wretches that always are:
      • labouring under calamities
      • in the languor of poverty
      • in the agony of disease
      • in the horrors of death
      • under the insults and oppression of their enemies.
  • They are perpetually reproaching us with our happiness while so many of our brethren are in misery, *7
  • They think that we should have sympathy for those miseries which we never saw or heard of, but which we may be assured are always infesting our fellow-creatures.
    • This sympathy should:
      • damp the pleasures of the fortunate
      • render a certain melancholy dejection habitual to all
  • But first, this extreme sympathy with misfortunes which we do not know seems absurd.
    • Take the whole earth at an average.
      • For one man who suffers pain or misery, you will find 20:
        • in prosperity and joy, or
        • in tolerable circumstances, at least.
      • Surely there is no reason why we should weep with the one than rejoice with the 20.
  • This artificial sympathy is absurd and unattainable.
    • Those who feel this way commonly only have a certain sentimental sadness.
      • Without reaching the heart, it only renders the countenance and conversation impertinently dismal and disagreeable.
  • Lastly, this disposition could be attained.
    • But it would be perfectly useless.
    • It could only render the person who possessed it miserable.
  • Whatever interest we take in the fortune of people we are not connected with can only produce anxiety to ourselves.
    • It does not produce any advantage to them.
  • Why should we trouble ourselves about the world on the moon?
    • Everyone is entitled to our good wishes.
      • We naturally give them our good wishes.
    • But if they are unfortunate, it is not our duty to give ourselves any anxiety about it.
    • Nature seems to have wisely ordered that we should be but little interested in the fortune of people who:
      • we can neither serve nor hurt, and
      • are so very remote from us
    • We could still gain nothing if this original constitution changed.


3.1.52. It is never objected to us that we have too little fellow-feeling with the joy of success.

  • Wherever envy does not prevent it, our favour to prosperity is often  too great.
  • The same moralists who blame us for lack of sufficient sympathy with the miserable reproach us for our levity in admiring the fortunate, powerful, and the rich.


3.1.53. All the ancient sects of philosophers, particularly the Stoics, tried to correct the natural inequality of our passive feelings by reducing our sensibility to what concerns ourselves.

  • According to the Stoics, man should regard himself as:
    • a citizen of the world,
    • a member of the vast commonwealth of nature, not as something separated.
  • He should always be willing to sacrifice his own little interest to the interest of this great community.
    • Whatever concerns himself should affect him no more than whatever concerns any other equally important part of this immense system.
    • We should view ourselves as how any other person would view us, not as how our own selfish passions place us.
    • What befalls ourselves we should regard as what befalls our neighbour, or, what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour regards what befalls us.
  • Epictetus says:
    • ‘When our neighbour loses his wife or son, everyone knows that this is a human calamity.
      • It is a natural event according to the ordinary course of things.
    • But, when the same thing happens to ourselves, we cry out, as if we had suffered the most dreadful misfortune.
      • However, we should remember how we were affected when it happened to another.
        • Such as we were in his case, such we should be in our own case.’


Direct and Indirect Misfortunes

3.1.54. There are two kinds of private misfortunes which our feelings tend to go beyond the bounds of propriety for:

  1. Those that affect us only indirectly.
    • They firstly affect other persons particularly dear to us such as our:
      • parents,
      • children,
      • brothers and sisters,
      • intimate friends
  2. Those that affect ourselves immediately and directly
    • They affect our:
      • body,
      • fortune, or
      • reputation.
    • Examples are pain, sickness, approaching death, poverty, disgrace, etc.


3.1.55. In the first kind of misfortunes, our emotions might go very much beyond what exact propriety will admit of.

  • But they may likewise fall short of it.
    • They frequently do so.
  • The man who feels no more for the death or distress of his own father or son than for any other man’s father or son, would appear neither a good son nor a good father.
    • Such unnatural indifference would incur our highest disapprobation.
  • However, of those domestic affections:
    • some are most apt to offend by their excess
    • others offend by their defect.
  • For the wisest purposes, Nature has rendered in everyone a parental tenderness.
    • It is a much stronger affection than filial piety.
    • The continuance and propagation of the species depend on parental tenderness and not on filial piety.
    • Ordinarily, the child’s existence and preservation depend on the parents’ care.
      • The parents’ existence and preservation seldom depend on the child’s care.
  • Therefore, Nature has rendered the parental tenderness so strong.
    • It generally requires not to be excited, but to be moderated.
    • Moralists generally teach us how to restrain our:
      • fondness
      • excessive attachment
      • our unjust preference to our own children above those of other people.
    • They seldom try to teach us how to indulge these.
    • On the contrary, they exhort us to:
      • an affectionate attention to our parents, and
      • make a proper return to them in their old age for their kindness during our infancy and youth.
  • In the Decalogue, we are commanded to honour our fathers and mothers.
    • No mention is made of the love of our children.
      • Nature had sufficiently prepared us to perform this latter duty.
      • Men are seldom accused of being fonder of their children than they really are.
      • They have sometimes been suspected of displaying their piety to their parents with too much ostentation.
  • Similarly, the ostentatious sorrow of widows has been suspected of insincerity.
    • Even the excess of such kind affections should be respected, if they were sincere.
    •  Even if we might not approve of it, we should not severely condemn it.
    •  The very affectation is a proof that it appears praise-worthy, at least in the eyes of those who affect it.


  • We blame a parent’s excessive fondness and anxiety as something which may be hurtful to the child in the end
    • In the meantime, it is excessively inconvenient to the parent.
  • But we easily pardon it.
    • We never regard it with hatred and detestation.
  • But the defect of this excessive affection always appears peculiarly odious.
    • The most detestable of all brutes is the man who feels nothing for his own children.
      • He always treats them with unmerited severity and harshness.
  • The sense of propriety is always much more offended by the defect than by the excess of that sensibility.
  • In such cases, the stoical apathy is never agreeable.
    • All the metaphysical sophisms which supports it only blows up a vain man’s hard insensibility to 10 times its native impertinence.
  • The poets and romance writers best paint the refinements and delicacies of love and friendship and of all other private and domestic affections.
    • Examples are Racine, Voltaire, Richardson, Maurivaux, and Riccoboni.
    • In such cases, they are much better instructors than Zeno, Chrysippus, or Epictetus.


3.1.57. The following are not undelicious sensations:

  • that moderated sensibility to the misfortunes of others, which does not disqualify us from doing any duty,
  • the melancholy and affectionate remembrance of our departed friends,
  • the pang to secret sorrow dear, as Gray says.
    • They outwardly wear pain and grief.
    • But they are all inwardly stamped with virtue and self-approbation.


3.1.58. It is otherwise in the misfortunes which affect ourselves immediately and directly, in our body, fortune, or reputation.

  • The sense of propriety is often offended by the excess, than by the defect of our sensibility.
  • There are very few cases where we can approach too near to the stoical apathy.


3.1.59. We have very little fellow-feeling with bodily passions.

  • That pain from the cutting of flesh is, perhaps, the bodily affection which the spectator feels the most lively sympathy with.
  • His neighbour’s approaching death also affects him much.
  • However in both cases, he feels so little compared to what the person principally concerned feels.
    • The latter can scarce ever offend the spectator by appearing to suffer with too much ease.


3.1.60. Mere poverty excites little compassion.

  • Its complaints are often the objects of contempt than of fellow-feeling.
  • We despise a beggar.
    • Though his importunities may extort alms from us, he is scarce ever the object of any serious sympathy.
  • The fall from riches to poverty commonly brings the most real distress to the sufferer.
    • It seldom fails to excite the spectator’s most sincere sympathy.
  • Though presently in society, this misfortune can seldom happen without some very considerable misconduct in the sufferer.
    • Yet he is almost always so much pitied.
      • He is scarce ever allowed to fall into extreme poverty:
        • by his friends, and
        • frequently by the indulgence of those very creditors who complain of his imprudence.
      • He is almost always supported in some decent, though humble, mediocrity.
  • We might easily pardon some weakness in such unfortunate persons.
    • But, at the same time, we always approve of persons who:
      • carry the firmest countenance,
      • accommodate themselves with the greatest ease to their new situation, and
      • feel no humiliation from the change.
    • They always command our highest admiration in resting their rank in society on their character and conduct, instead of their fortune.


3.1.61. The undeserved loss of reputation is certainly the greatest external misfortune which can affect an innocent man immediately and directly.

  • A sensibility to whatever caused so great a calamity is not always ungraceful or disagreeable.
    • We often esteem a young man the more he resents, though with some violence, any unjust reproach on his character or honour.
    • The affliction of an innocent young lady from the groundless surmises circulated about her conduct appears often perfectly amiable.
  • Old persons have long experience of the world’s folly and injustice.
    • They have learned to pay little regard to its censure or applause.
    • They neglect and despise verbal abuse.
    • They do not even deign to honour its futile authors with any serious resentment.
      • This indifference is founded on a firm confidence in their own well-tried and well-established characters.
        • It would be disagreeable in young people who cannot and should not have any such confidence.
        • It might create in them a most improper insensibility to real honour and infamy in their advancing years.


3.1.62. In all other private misfortunes which affect ourselves immediately and directly, we can very seldom offend by appearing to be too little affected.

  • We frequently remember our sensibility to the misfortunes of others with pleasure and satisfaction.
  • We can seldom remember our sensibility to our own misfortunes without some shame and humiliation.


3.1.63. If we examine our weakness and self-command in common life, we will see that this control of our passive feelings is acquired from:

  • that great discipline which Nature established for the acquisition of virtues.
  • a regard to the sentiments of the real or supposed spectator of our conduct.

It is not acquired from the abstruse syllogisms of a quibbling dialectic.


3.1.64. A very young child has no self-command.

  • By the violence of its outcries, it always tries to alarm its nurse’s or parents’ attention, whatever its emotions are.
    • While it remains with such partial protectors, its anger is the first and, perhaps, the only passion which it is taught to moderate.
      • By noise and threats, they often frighten it into good temper for their own ease.
      • The passion which incites the child to attack, is restrained by the passion which teaches it to attend to its own safety.
  • When it is old enough to go to school or mix with its equals, it soon finds that they have no such indulgent partiality.
    • It naturally wishes to:
      • gain their favour, and
      • avoid their hatred or contempt.
    • It is taught to do so from a regard to its own safety.
    • It soon finds that it can do so only by moderating its anger and all its other passions to the degree which its play-fellows are pleased with.
  • It thus enters into the great school of self-command.
    • It studies to be master of itself more and more.
    • It begins to exercise a discipline over its own feelings.
      • The longest life is very seldom enough to perfect this discipline.


3.1.65. In all private misfortunes, pain, sickness, sorrow, the weakest man is immediately impressed with the view that visiting friends or strangers are likely to have on his situation.

  • Their view calls off his attention from his own view.
  • His breast is somewhat calmed when they come into his presence.
  • This effect is produced instantaneously and mechanically.
    • But it does not last long with a weak man.
      • His own view of his situation immediately recurs on him.
      • He abandons himself, as before, to sighs and tears and lamentations.
      • Like a child that has not yet gone to school, he tries to produce some harmony between his own grief and the spectator’s compassion.
        • He does this by importunately calling on the spectator instead of moderating his grief.


3.1.66. With a firmer man, the effect is somewhat more permanent.

  • He tries, as much as he can, to fix his attention on the view which the visitors are likely to take of his situation.
    • At the same time, he feels their natural esteem and approbation for him when he preserves his tranquility.
    • Though under the pressure of some great calamity, he appears to feel for himself no more than what they really feel for him.
    • He approves and applauds himself by sympathy with their approbation.
    • His pleasure from this enables him more easily to continue this generous effort.
  • In most cases, he avoids mentioning his own misfortune.
    • If his visitors are tolerably well bred, they would not anything which can remind him of it.
    • He tries to:
      • entertain them in his usual way on indifferent subjects or
      • if he feels himself strong enough to venture to mention his misfortune, he tries to talk of it as he thinks they are capable of talking of it.
        • He even feels it no further than they are capable of feeling it.
      • if he has not been well inured to the hard discipline of self-command, he soon grows weary of this restraint.
        • A long visit fatigues him.
          • Towards its end, he is constantly in danger of abandoning himself to all the weakness of excessive sorrow.
            • He always does this when the visit is over.
  • Modern good manners are extremely indulgent to human weakness.
    • For some time, they forbid the visits of strangers to persons under great family distress.
    • They only allow the visits of nearest relations and most intimate friends.
      • The presence of intimate friends is thought to impose less restraint than the presence of the nearest relations.
      • The sufferers can more easily accommodate themselves to the feelings of those, from whom they have reason to expect a more indulgent sympathy.
  • Secret enemies are frequently fond of making those charitable visits as early as the most intimate friends.
    • In this case, the weakest man in the world tries to support his manly countenance.
    • He tries to behave with as much gaiety and ease as he can, from indignation and contempt of their malice.


3.1.67. The man of real constancy and firmness is the wise and just man who has been thoroughly bred in:

    • the great school of self-command
    • the bustle and business of the world
  • He has been perhaps exposed to:
    • the violence and injustice of faction
    • the hardships and hazards of war
  • Such a man always maintains this control of his passive feelings.
    • He wears nearly the same countenance whether in solitude or in society.
    • He is affected very nearly in the same manner.
    • He has often been under the necessity of supporting this manhood:
      • in success and in disappointment
      • in prosperity and in adversity before friends and enemies
    • He has never dared to forget for one moment the judgment which the impartial spectator would pass on his sentiments and conduct.
    • He has never dared to suffer the man within the breast to be absent one moment from his attention.
      • With the eyes of this great inmate he has always been accustomed to regard whatever relates to himself.
      • This habit has become perfectly familiar to him.
      • He has been in the constant practice and under the constant necessity of modelling or of trying to model:
        • his outward conduct and behaviour
        • even his inward sentiments and feelings as much as he can, according to those of this awful and respectable judge.
      • He does not merely affect the sentiments of the impartial spectator.
        • He really adopts them.
        • He almost identifies himself with it.
        • He almost becomes himself that impartial spectator.
        • He even only feels what that great arbiter of his conduct directs him to feel.


3.1.68. The self-approbation which every man uses to survey his own conduct, is proportional to the degree of self-command needed to obtain that self-approbation.

  • Where little self-command is necessary, little self-approbation is due.
  • The man who has only scratched his finger cannot applaud himself much even if he immediately forgets this paltry misfortune.
  • The man who has lost his leg by a cannon shot but acts with his usual coolness naturally feels a higher degree of self-approbation because he exerts more self-command.
    • Most men would entirely erase all other views from the vivacity and strength  such a misfortune.
    • They would feel nothing.
    • They could only attend to their own pain and fear.
    • The judgment of the real spectators and of the ideal man within the breast would be entirely overlooked and disregarded.


3.1.69. The reward which Nature bestows on good behaviour under misfortune, is thus exactly proportioned to the degree of that good behaviour.

  • The only compensation she could make for the bitterness of pain and distress is thus too, in equal degrees of good behaviour, exactly proportioned to the degree of that pain and distress.
  • The pleasure and pride of the conquest are so much greater relative to the degree of the self-command necessary to conquer our natural sensibility.
    • This pleasure and pride are so great that all men who completely enjoys them cannot be unhappy.
    • Misery and wretchedness can never enter the breast of the person who has complete self-satisfaction.
  • With the Stoics, the wise man’s happiness under such an accident is equal to his happiness in any other circumstance.
    • Yet this complete enjoyment of his own self-applause alleviates his own sufferings.
      • Though it might not extinguish them.


3.1.70. In such attacks of distress, the wisest and firmest man is obliged to make a considerable and even a painful exertion to preserve his equanimity.

  • The following presses hard on him:
    • his own natural feeling of his own distress and
    • his own natural view of his own situation.
  • He needs a very great effort to fix his attention on the view of the impartial spectator.
    • Both views present themselves to him at the same time.
  • His whole attention is directed to the view of the impartial spectator by his:
    • sense of honour, and
    • regard to his own dignity
  • He is being continually called off to the his own natural view by his untaught and undisciplined feelings.
    • In this case, he does not perfectly identify himself with the ideal man within the breast.
    • He does not become the impartial spectator of his own conduct.
  • The different views of both characters exist in his mind separate from one another.
    • Each directs him to a behaviour different from what the other directs him to.
  • When he follows that view which honour and dignity point out to him, Nature does not leave him without a recompense.
    • He enjoys:
      • his own complete self-approbation and
      • the applause of every candid and impartial spectator.
    • By Nature’s unalterable laws, however, he still suffers.
      • The recompense she bestows is very considerable.
        • But it is not enough to compensate the sufferings inflicted by those laws.
        • Neither is it fit that it should.
        • If it did completely compensate them, he could not have any motive from self-interest to avoid an accident which would reduce his utility to himself and society.
        • Nature, from her parental care of both, meant that he should anxiously avoid all such accidents.
  • Therefore he suffers in the attack of distress.
    • He maintains:
      • the manhood of his countenance and
      • the sedateness and sobriety of his judgment.
    • It requires his utmost exertions to do so.



3.1.71. However, agony can never be permanent.

  • If he survives the agony, he effortlessly enjoys his ordinary tranquility.
  • A man with a wooden leg suffers.
    • He foresees that he must continue to suffer much inconvenience for the rest of his life.
  • However, he soon views it as an inconvenience under which he can enjoy all the ordinary pleasures of solitude and society.
    • This is exactly how every impartial spectator views it.
    • He soon identifies himself with the ideal man within the breast.
      • He soon becomes himself the impartial spectator of his own situation.
    • He no longer weeps, laments, or grieves over it, as a weak man sometimes does in the beginning.
  • The view of the impartial spectator becomes so perfectly habitual to him.
    • He never thinks of surveying his misfortune in any other view.


3.1.72. Everyone has a never-failing certainty which eventually accommodates us to whatever becomes our permanent situation.

  • This might induce us to think that the Stoics were very nearly correct in saying that:
    • with regard to real happiness, there was no essential difference between one permanent situation and another.
      • If there were any difference, it was just enough to render some situations simply preferred to others.
        • It was not out of any earnest or anxious desire.
        • The other situations were rejected simply to be avoided.
          • They were not rejected from earnest or anxious aversion.
  • Happiness consists in tranquility and enjoyment.
    • Without tranquility, there can be no enjoyment.
    • Where there is perfect tranquility, anything can be amusing.
  • But in every permanent situation, everyone’s mind soon returns to its natural and usual state of tranquility.
    • After a certain time in prosperity, it falls back to that state.
    • After a certain time in adversity, it rises up to it.

Antoine Nompar de Caumont, duc de Lauzun

  • After some time in the Bastille’s confinement and solitude, the fashionable and frivolous Count de Lauzun recovered enough tranquility to amuse himself with feeding a spider.
    • A mind better furnished would, perhaps, have sooner:
      • recovered its tranquility, and
      • found a much better amusement in its own thoughts.


3.1.73. The great source of human life’s misery and disorders seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another.

  • Avarice overrates the difference between poverty and riches.
  • Ambition overrates the difference between a private and a public station.
  • Vain-glory overrates the difference between obscurity and extensive reputation.

The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions is actually miserable.

  • He often disturbs the society’s peace to arrive at that peace which he so foolishly admires.
  • However in all ordinary situations, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, cheerful, and contented.
    • Some of those situations might be preferred to others.
    • But none of them deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to:
      • violate the rules of prudence or justice, or
      • corrupt the future tranquility of our minds by shame:
        • from the remembrance of our own folly, or
        • by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.
  • The man who attempts to change his situation plays the most Unequal of all games of hazard wherever:
    • prudence does not direct it, and
    • justice does not permit it.
  • He stakes everything against scarce anything.


  • When the King of Epirus finished recounting to his favourite all his proposed conquests, the Favourite said:
    • ‘And what does your Majesty propose to do then?
  • The King said:
    • ‘I propose then to enjoy myself with my friends and try to be good company over a bottle.
  • The Favourite replied:
    • “and what hinders your Majesty from doing so now?’
  • This may be applied to men in all the ordinary situations.


In the most exalted imagined situation, our imagined pleasures are almost always the same with our actual pleasures in our humble station.

  • In the most humble station we may find:
    • except the frivolous pleasures of vanity and superiority
    • where there is only personal liberty, every other which the most exalted can afford;
    • The pleasures of vanity and superiority are seldom consistent with perfect tranquillity.
      • Perfect tranquility is the principle and foundation of all real and satisfactory enjoyment.
  • It is not certain that those real pleasures in the splendid situation, which we aim at, can be enjoyed with the same security as in the humble one, which we are very eager to abandon.
  • Most misfortunes arose from people not knowing:
    • when they were well and
    • when it was proper for them to sit still and be contented.
  • This is proven by:
    • examining history, and
    • recollecting what happened within your own experience.
    • attentively considering the conduct of those who were greatly unfortunate in life.
  • On a the tombstone of the man who had tried to mend a tolerable constitution by taking pills and potions was written:
    • ‘I was well, I wished to be better.
    • Here I am; I may generally be applied with great justness to the distress of disappointed avarice and ambition.’


3.1.74. In the misfortunes which can be remedied, most men do not readily or universally recover their natural and usual tranquility, as in misfortunes which cannot be remedied.

  • In irreparable misfortunes, it is chiefly in the first attack that we discover any difference between the sentiments of the wise man and the weak man.
  • Time is the great and universal comforter.
    • In the end, it gradually composes the weak man to the same tranquility which the wise man had in the beginning.
      • The wise man’s regard to his own dignity and manhood teaches himself have that tranquility.
  • The case of the man with the wooden leg is an obvious example of this.
    • In irreparable misfortunes caused by the death of children, friends and relations, even a wise man may indulge in some moderated sorrow for some time.
    • An affectionate, but weak woman, is often perfectly distracted on such occasions.
  • However, Time never fails to compose the weakest woman to the same tranquility as the strongest man.
    • In all the irreparable calamities which affect himself immediately and directly, a wise man tries to anticipate and enjoy beforehand, that tranquility which he foresees to be restored to him after a few months or years.


3.1.75. In the misfortunes which have remedies which are not within the sufferer’s reach, man is chiefly hindered from resuming his natural tranquility by his:

  • vain and fruitless attempts to restore himself to his former situation
  • continual anxiety for their success
  • repeated disappointments on their miscarriage

These frequently render him miserable for the rest of his life.

  • These do not disturb the man who had a greater irreparable misfortune.
  • The man who struggles the least, and most easily acquiesces in his fortune, quickly recovers his natural tranquility from the following situations:
    • the fall from royal favour to disgrace,
    • the fall from power to insignificancy,
    • the fall from riches to poverty,
    • the fall from liberty to confinement,
    • the fall from strong health to some chronic disease.
  • He surveys his disagreeable circumstances in the same light or in a much less unfavourable light, than how the most indifferent spectator does.


Faction, intrigue, and cabal, disturb the quiet of the unfortunate statesman.

  • Extravagant projects, visions of gold mines, interrupt the repose of the ruined bankrupt.
  • The prisoner, who is continually plotting to escape, cannot enjoy that careless security of a prison.
  • The physician’s medicines are often the incurable patient’s greatest torment.
  • To comfort Joanna of Castile after the death of her husband Philip, the monk told her about a King who was restored to life by the prayers of his afflicted queen 14 years after he died.
    • This legendary tale was unlikely to restore sedateness to Joanna’s distempered mind.
      • She tried to repeat the same experiment in hopes of the same success.
      • For a long time, she resisted the burial of her husband.
      • She soon after raised his body from the grave.
      • She attended it almost constantly herself.
      • She watched impatiently the happy moment when her wishes were to be gratified by the revival of her beloved Philip.*8


3.1.76. Our sensibility to the feelings of others is the very principle on which the manhood of self-command is founded.

  • It is the very same principle or instinct which prompts us to compassion during our neighbour’s misfortune.
    • In our own misfortune, it prompts us to restrain the abject and miserable lamentations of our own sorrow.
  • It is the same principle or instinct which:
    • prompts us to congratulate his joy in his prosperity and success
    • prompts us to restrain our own joy’s levity and intemperance in our own prosperity and success
  • In both cases, the propriety of our own feelings is exactly proportional to the force with which we enter into and conceive his feelings.


3.1.77. We naturally love and revere most the man of the most perfect virtue.

  • He most perfectly commands his own original and selfish feelings
  • He has the most exquisite sensibility both to the original and sympathetic feelings of others.
  • We surely naturally love and admire most the man who joins all the great and respectable virtues with all the soft, amiable, and gentle ones.


3.1.78. The person best fitted by nature for acquiring the great, awful, and respectable virtues is likewise best fitted for acquiring the soft, amiable, and gentle ones.

  • The man who feels the most for the joys and sorrows of others, is best fitted for acquiring the most complete control of his own joys and sorrows.
  • The man of the most exquisite humanity, is naturally the most capable of acquiring the highest degree of self-command.
    • However, he may not always have acquired it.
      • He very frequently has not acquired it.
    • He may have lived too much in ease and tranquillity.
    • He may have never been exposed to:
      • the violence of faction or
      • the hardships and hazards of war
  • He may have never experienced:
    • the insolence of his superiors
    • the jealous and malignant envy of his equals, or
    • the pilfering injustice of his inferiors
  • When some accidental change of fortune exposes him to all these in old age, they all make too great an impression on him.
  • He has the disposition which fits him for acquiring the most perfect self-command.
    • But he never has had the opportunity of acquiring it.
  • Exercise and practice have been lacking.
    • Without these, no habit can ever be tolerably established.
  • Hardships, dangers, injuries, misfortunes, are the only masters under whom we can learn the exercise of this virtue.
  • But these are all masters to whom nobody willingly puts himself to school.


3.1.79.Humanity is a gentle virtue.

  • Self-command is an austere virtue.
  • Humanity can be most happily cultivated in situations different from those best fitted for forming self-command.
  • The man who is at ease can best attend to the distress of others.
  • The man who is exposed to hardships is most immediately called on to control his own feelings.
  • Humanity flourishes the most in:
    • the mild sunshine of undisturbed tranquillity, and
    • the calm retirement of philosophical leisure.
  • It is capable of the highest improvement.
  • But, in such situations, the greatest and noblest exertions of self-command have little exercise.
  • During war, faction, public tumult and confusion, the sturdy severity of self-command:
    • prospers the most, and
    • can be cultivated most successfully.
      • But in such situations, the strongest suggestions of humanity must frequently be stifled or neglected.
      • Every such neglect necessarily weakens the principle of humanity.
  • As it may frequently be the duty of a soldier not to take, so it may sometimes be his duty not to give quarter.
  • The humanity of the man who has been several times needed to submit to this disagreeable duty, can scarce fail to suffer a considerable reduction.
    • For his own ease, he is too apt to learn to make light of the misfortunes which he is so often under the necessity of occasioning.
    • The sacred regard to life and property is the foundation of justice and humanity.
      • The situations which need the noblest exertions of self-command always tend to reduce and often extinguish that sacred regard, by imposing the need to violate our neighbour’s life and property.
  • Because of this, we so frequently find men of great humanity who have little self-command.
    • They are indolent and irresolute and easily disheartened, by difficulty or danger, from the most honourable pursuits.
  • On the contrary, we find men of the most perfect self-command.
    • They are not discouraged by any difficulty or danger.
    • They are always ready for the most daring and desperate enterprises.
    • But at the same time, they seem to be hardened against all sense of justice or humanity.


3.1.80. In solitude, we tend to feel too strongly for whatever relates to ourselves.

  • We tend to over-rate:
    • the good offices we may have done, and
    • the injuries we may have suffered.
  • We tend to be:
    • too much elated by our own good fortune, and
    • too much dejected by our own bad fortune.
  • Our friend’s conversation brings us to a better temper.
    • A stranger’s conversation brings us to a still better temper.
  • The man within the breast is the abstract and ideal spectator of our sentiments and conduct.
    • It often requires to be awakened and put in mind of his duty by the presence of the real spectator.
      • We are likely to learn the most complete lesson of self-command always from the real spectator.
      • We can expect the least sympathy and indulgence from it.

3.1.81. Are you in adversity?

  • Do not mourn in the darkness of solitude.
  • Do not regulate your sorrow according to the indulgent sympathy of your intimate friends.
  • Return to the daylight of the world and society as soon as possible.
  • Live with strangers, with those who know nothing or care nothing about your misfortune.
  • Do not even shun the company of enemies.
    • Give yourself the pleasure of mortifying their malignant joy by:
      • making them feel how little you are affected by your calamity, and
      • how much you are above it.

3.1.82. Are you in prosperity?

  • Do not confine the enjoyment of your good fortune to:
    • your own house, and
    • the company of your:
      • own friends, and
      • flatterers, perhaps those who build on your fortune in the hopes of mending their own.
  • Frequent those who are independent of you.
    • They can value you only for your character and conduct and not for your fortune.
  • Do not seek, shun, intrude yourself into, or run away from your former superiors.
    • They may be hurt at finding you their equal or even their superior.
      • The impertinence of their pride might render their company too disagreeable.
        • But if it should not, be assured that it is the best company you can possibly keep.
        • If, by the simplicity of your unassuming demeanour, you can gain their favour and kindness, you may rest satisfied that:
          • you are modest enough
          • your head has been not turned by your good fortune



3.1.83. The propriety of our moral sentiments is easily corrupted when the indulgent and partial spectator is near, while the indifferent and impartial one is far.


3.1.84. Neutral nations are the only indifferent and impartial spectators of the conduct of one independent nation towards another.

  • But they are placed so far that they are almost quite out of sight.
  • When two nations are at variance, the citizen of each pays little regard to the feelings of foreign nations on his own conduct.
    • His whole ambition is to obtain his fellow-citizens’ approbation.
      • They are all animated by the same hostile passions which animate himself.
      • He can please them by enraging and offending their enemies.
  • The partial spectator is very near.
    • The impartial one is very far.
  • Therefore, in war and negotiation, the laws of justice are very seldom observed.
    • Truth and fair dealing are almost totally disregarded.
    • Treaties are violated.
      • The advantageous violation does not give any dishonour on the violator.
        • The ambassador who dupes a foreign minister is admired and applauded.
  • In all private transactions, the just man who disdains to take or give any advantage would be most beloved and esteemed.
    • In those public transactions he is regarded as:
      • a fool and an idiot, and
      • someone who does not understand his business.
        • He always incurs his fellow-citizens’ contempt and sometimes their detestation.
  • In war, the laws of nations are frequently violated without the violator getting any considerable dishonour from his own fellow-citizens.
    • The violator only regards their judgments.
  • But most of those laws are laid down with very little regard to the most obvious rules of justice.
    • One of the most obvious rules of justice is that the innocent should not suffer or be punished for the guilty.
      • The innocent might be unable to help being somewhat connected or dependent on the guilty.
    • In the most unjust war, only the rulers are commonly guilty.
      • The subjects are almost always perfectly innocent.
  • However, whenever it suits a public enemy’s convenience, the peaceful citizens’ goods are seized at land and sea.
    • Their lands are laid waste.
    • Their houses are burnt.
    • They are murdered or captured if they resist.
  • All this conforms perfectly to ‘the laws of nations’.


3.1.85. The animosity of hostile civil or ecclesiastical factions, is often more furious than the animosity of hostile nations.

  • Their conduct towards one another is often more atrocious.
  • The laws of faction have often been laid down by grave authors with less regard to the rules of justice than the laws of nations.
  • The most ferocious patriot never stated it as a serious question, whether faith should be kept with:
    • public enemies?
    • rebels?
    • heretics?
  • These are questions which have been often furiously agitated by celebrated civil and ecclesiastical doctors.
  • Rebels and heretics are those unlucky persons who have the misfortune of being the weaker party.
  • In a nation distracted by faction, there are very few who preserve their judgment untainted by the contagion.
    • They seldom amount to more than a solitary individual here and there.
      • He does not have any influence.
      • He is excluded by his own candour from the confidence of either party.
      • He is one of the most insignificant men in the society because he might be one of the wisest.
    • All such people are held in contempt and derision, frequently in detestation, by the furious zealots of both parties.
  • A true party-man hates and despises candour.
    • In reality, the virtue of candour effectively disqualifies him the best for the role of a party-man.
    • The real, revered, and impartial spectator, therefore, is at its farthest during the violence and rage of contending parties.
      • To them, no such spectator exists anywhere in the universe.
      • They impute all their own prejudices even to the great Judge of the universe.
        • They often view that Divine Being as animated by all their own vindictive and implacable passions.
  • Of all the corrupters of moral sentiments, therefore, faction and fanaticism have always been by far the greatest.


3.1.86. Our admiration for the man who continues to behave with fortitude and firmness under the heaviest and most unexpected misfortunes, always supposes that his sensibility to those misfortunes:

  • is very great
  • requires a very great effort to conquer or command

The man who was altogether insensible to bodily pain, could deserve no applause from enduring the torture with the most perfect patience and equanimity.

  • The man who had been created without the natural fear of death, could claim no merit from preserving his coolness and presence of mind in the midst of the most dreadful dangers.
  • Seneca was a Stoical wise man who had such extravagant self command which was, in this respect, superior even to a God.
  • The security of the God was altogether the benefit of nature, which had exempted him from suffering.
    • But that the security of Seneca was his own benefit.
      • It was derived altogether from himself and from his own exertions.


3.1.87. However, the sensibility of some men to some of the objects which immediately affect themselves, is sometimes so strong as to render all self-command impossible.

  • No sense of honour can control the fears of the man falls into convulsions upon the approach of danger.
  • It may be doubtful whether such weakness of nerves cannot be cured by gradual exercise and proper discipline.
    • It seems certain that such weakness should never be trusted or employed.



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