Chap. 3. The Unsocial Passions

21 Hatred and resentment, with all their modifications, are another set of passions which must always be regulated before we can enter into them.

  • Our sympathy with them is divided between:
    • its subject, or the person who feels them, and
    • its object, or the person whom he is angry at.
  • The interests of these two are directly opposite.
    • Our sympathy with the subject person would prompt us to wish for fear.
      • Our sympathy with the subject necessarily is less than the anger which he feels.
        • This is:
          • because all sympathetic passions are inferior to the original ones and
          • because of our opposite sympathy with the object person.
    • Our fellow-feeling with the object person would lead us to fear.
      • Our fear for what the object may suffer, damps our resentment for what the subject has suffered.
    • Therefore, for resentment to be graceful and agreeable, it must be more humbled and brought down below what it would naturally rise to, than almost any other passion.


22 People have a very strong sense of the injuries done to one another.

  • The villain in a tragedy or romance is an object of our indignation just as the hero is the object of our sympathy and affection.
  • We detest Iago as much as we esteem Othello.
    • We delight as much in Iago’s punishment as we are grieved at Othello’s distress.
  • Mankind has so strong a fellow-feeling with the injuries done to their brethren.
    • But they do not always resent them more than the sufferer.
    • Usually, the greater his patience, mildness, and humanity, the higher their resentment against the person who injured him.
    • His amiableness exasperates their sense of the injury’s atrocity.


23 However, anger and resentment are regarded as necessary parts of human nature.

  • A person becomes contemptible if he tamely sits still and submits to insults, without attempting to repel or revenge them.
  • We cannot enter into his indifference and insensibility.
  • We call his behaviour ‘mean-spiritedness’.
  • We are as really provoked by it as by his adversary’s insolence.
  • Even the mob is enraged to see any man submit patiently to such insults.
    • They want to see this insolence resented by the sufferer.
    • They cry to him furiously to defend or revenge himself.
    • They heartily applaud and sympathize with him after he finally becomes angry.
      • It enlivens their own anger against his enemy.
      • They rejoice to see him attack in his turn.
      • They are as really gratified by his revenge, provided it is moderate, as if the injury had been done to themselves.

24 Anger and resentment is useful by rendering insult and injuries dangerous.

  • These passions turn the public into the guardians and administrators of justice.
  • Yet there is still something disagreeable in them.
    • It makes us averse to other people’s anger and resentment.
  • Anger towards anybody is regarded as:
    • an insult to that person and
    • rudeness to the group.
  • Respect for them should have restrained us from giving way to so boisterous and offensive an emotion.
    • It is the remote effects of these passions which are agreeable.
    • Its immediate effects are mischief to the person the anger is directed.
  • But it is the immediate, and not the remote effects, which render them agreeable or disagreeable to the imagination.
  • A prison is certainly more useful to the public than a palace.
    • The person who builds a prison is generally directed by the just spirit of patriotism, than he who builds a palace.
    • But the immediate effects of a prison are disagreeable.
      • The imagination either does not take time to trace out the remote effects, or sees them at too far to be much affected by them.
    • A prison, therefore, will always be a disagreeable object.
      • It will be more disagreeable to more it is fit for its purpose.
    • A palace, on the contrary, will always be agreeable.
    • Yet its remote effects may often be inconvenient to the public.
    • It may promote luxury and set the example of the dissolution of manners.
  • Its immediate effects are the conveniency, pleasure, and gaiety of the people who live in it.
    • These are all agreeable and suggest a thousand agreeable ideas to the imagination
    • The imagination generally rests on them and seldom goes further in tracing its more distant consequences.
  • Trophies, made of agricultural instruments, are the common and agreeable ornaments of our halls and dining rooms.
    • A trophy made of surgical instruments and bone saws would be absurd and shocking.
      • Instruments of surgery, however, are always more finely polished.
      • They are generally more nicely adapted to the purposes for which they are intended, than instruments of agriculture.
      • Their remote effect is the patient’s health, which is agreeable.
        • Yet their immediate effect is pain and suffering, so their sight always displeases us.
  • Instruments of war are agreeable, though their immediate effect is pain and suffering.
    • But then it is the pain and suffering of our enemies, with whom we have no sympathy.
    • With regard to us, they are immediately connected with the agreeable ideas of courage, victory, and honour.
    • They are, therefore, the noblest parts of dress and make one of the finest ornaments of architecture.
  • It is the same case with the qualities of the mind.
  • To the ancient stoics, the world was governed by the all-ruling providence of a wise, powerful, and good God.
    • Every event should be regarded as a necessary part of the universal plan.
      • Every event tends to promote the general order and happiness of the whole.
      • Therefore, mankind’s vices and follies were a necessary part of this plan just as mankind’s wisdom and virtue was.
      • By inferring good from bad, the vices and follies were made to tend equally to nature’s prosperity and perfection.
  • However, no speculation of this kind, no matter how deeply rooted in the mind, could reduce our natural abhorrence for vice.
    • The immediate effects of vice are so destructive.
    • Its remote effects are too distant to be traced by the imagination.

25 It is the same case with anger and resentment.

  • Their immediate effects are so disagreeable.
    • Even when they are most justly provoked, there is still something about them which disgusts us.
  • Therefore, these are the only passions of which the expressions, do not dispose and prepare us to sympathize with them, before we are informed of their cause.
  • The sad voice of misery, when heard at a distance, will not allow us to be indifferent about the person from whom it comes.
    • As soon as we hear it, it interests us in his fortune.
    • If continued, it forces us almost involuntarily to fly to his assistance.
  • In the same way, a smile elevates even the pensive into that gay and airy mood, which disposes him to sympathize with, and share the joy it expresses.
    • He feels instantly expanded and elated.
  • But it is otherwise with hatred and resentment.
    • The hoarse, boisterous, and discordant voice of anger, when heard at a distance, inspires us with fear or aversion.
    • We do not fly towards it.
    • Women, and men of weak nerves, tremble and are overcome with fear, even if they themselves are not the objects of the anger.
      • They conceive fear by putting themselves in that person’s situation.
    • Even those of stouter hearts are disturbed enough to make them angry, for they would feel anger in the other person’s situation.
  • It is the same case with hatred.
    • Mere expressions of spite inspire hatred only against the man who uses them.
  • We are both averse to anger and hatred.
    • Their disagreeable and boisterous appearance never excites, never prepares, and often disturbs our sympathy.
  • Grief does not more powerfully engage and attract us to the grieving person than anger and resentment do to angry and hateful persons.
    • While we are ignorant of their cause, disgust and detach us from him.
    • It was Nature’s intention that those rougher and more unamiable emotions, which drive men from one another, should be less easily and more rarely communicated.

26 When music imitates grief or joy, it inspires us with those passions, or at least makes us easy to conceive them.

  • But when music imitates anger, it inspires us with fear.
  • Joy, grief, love, admiration, devotion, are passions which are naturally musical.
    • Their natural tones are all soft, clear, and melodious.
    • They naturally express themselves with regular pauses that are easily adapted to regular periods of tune.
  • The voice of anger and all its similar passions, on the contrary, are harsh and discordant.
    • Its periods are:
      • all irregular,
      • sometimes very long,
      • sometimes very short, and
      • distinguished by no regular pauses.
    • Therefore, it is difficult for music to imitate anger and hatred.
      • The music which does imitate them is not the most agreeable.
  • A whole entertainment may consist, without any impropriety, of the imitation of the social and agreeable passions.
    • It would be strange to have entertainment made altogether of the imitations of hatred and resentment.


27 If those passions are disagreeable to the observer, they are not less so to the person who feels them.

  • Hatred and anger are the greatest poison to the happiness of a good mind.
  • In the very feeling of those passions, there is:
    • something harsh, jarring, and convulsive,
    • something  that tears and distracts the breast.
  • It destroys the mind’s composure and tranquility which are so necessary to happiness.
    • This composure is best promoted by the contrary passions of gratitude and love.
  • The generous and humane are most apt to regret the idea of treachery and ingratitude done by others towards them, and not what they lose by their treachery and ingratitude.
    • Whatever they may have lost, they can generally be very happy without it.
    • The suffer most from discordant and disagreeable passions excited by treachery and ingratitude.

28 How can revenge be rendered completely agreeable?

  • How can we make the observer thoroughly sympathize with our revenge?

First of all, the provocation must be:

  • contemptible, and
  • exposed to perpetual insults, if we did not resent it in some measure.

Smaller offences are always better neglected.

  • The contrary and faultfinding humour in every small quarrel is most despicable.
  • Our resentment should be based more on what people expect of us, than on what our furies dictate.
  • The human mind’s natural sense of propriety is most capable of judging:
    • the justness of resentment,
    • how much we should indulge in it, and
    • what will be the the sentiments of the cool and impartial spectator regarding it

Magnanimity is the regard to maintain our own rank and dignity in society.

  • It is the only motive which can ennoble the expressions of resentment.
  • Magnanimity must characterize our whole behaviour when judging it.
  • Our behaviour must be:
    • plain, open, and direct,
    • determined without positiveness,
    • elevated without insolence,
    • free from bad temper and offensiveness, and
    • generous, candid, and full of all proper regards, even for the person who has offended us.
  • In short, our behaviour must show that our humanity remains.
    • We must yield to revenge only:
      • from from necessity,
      • in consequence of great and repeated provocations, and
      • reluctantly.
  • When resentment is guarded and qualified in this way, it may be even seen as generous and noble.


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