Sec 4-6: Natural Abilities

SEC 4: NATURAL ABILITIES

  • The distinction between natural abilities and moral virtues is the most usual in all systems of ethics.
    • Natural abilities are:
      • placed on the same footing with bodily endowments
      • supposed to have no merit or moral worth annexed to them.
  • A dispute on this would be merely a dispute of words.
    • Natural abilities and moral virtues are not the same.
      • But they agree in the most material circumstances.
      • Both:
        • are equally mental qualities
        • equally produce pleasure.
        • have an equal tendency to procure mankind’s love and esteem.
  • Many are jealous of people who have sense and knowledge, honour and courage, much more than they are jealous of those with temperance and sobriety.
    • Men are even afraid of passing for good-natured because it might imply a lack of understanding.
    • Men often boast of more debauches than they have been really engaged in, to give themselves airs of fire and spirit.
  • In short, all the following advantages depend almost as much on his good sense and judgment, as on any other part of his character:
    • the figure a man makes in the world
    • the reception he meets with in company
    • the esteem paid to him by his acquaintance.
  • A man with the best intentions, farthest from injustice and violence, will never be able to make himself be much regarded without a moderate share of parts and understanding.
    • Natural abilities are perhaps inferior to moral virtues but are on the same footing in terms of their causes and effects.
    • Why should we make any distinction between them?
  • We do not call natural abilities as virtues.
  • But we must admit that:
    • they procure mankind’s love and esteem
    • they give a new lustre to the other virtues
    • a man who has them is much more entitled to our goodwill and services than one who lacks them entirely.
  • The sentiment of approbation created by natural abilities is inferior and different from the sentiment which attends other virtues.
    • But I think this is not a sufficient reason to exclude them from the catalogue of virtues.
  • Each of the virtues, even benevolence, justice, gratitude, integrity, excites a different feeling in the spectator.
  • The characters of Caesar and Cato, as drawn by Sallust, are both virtuous but in a different way.
    • The sentiments arising from them are not entirely the same.
      • The one produces love; the other esteem.
      • The one is amiable; the other awful.
    • We wish to meet with:
      • the one character in a friend
      • the other character in ourselves.
  • In like manner, the approbation of natural abilities may be different to the feeling from the approbation of other virtues, without making them entirely of a different species.
    • Not all the natural abilities produce the same kind of approbation.
    • This is less true for the other virtues.
      • Good sense and genius beget esteem.
      • Wit and humour excite love.

Footnote 27

  • Love and esteem:
    • are at the bottom the same passions
    • arise from like causes.
  • The qualities that produce both:
    • are agreeable
    • give pleasure.
  • But where this pleasure is severe and serious; or where its object is great, and makes a strong impression
    • or where it produces any degree of humility and awe:
  • In all these cases, the passion arising from the pleasure, is more properly denominated esteem than love.
    • Benevolence attends both.
      • But it is connected with love in a more eminent degree.
  • Some think that the distinction between natural abilities and moral virtues are very material.
    • They say that natural abilities:
      • are entirely involuntary
      • have therefore no merit attending them since they do not depend on liberty and free will.
  1. I answer that:
    • many of those qualities, which all moralists, especially the ancients, called moral virtues are equally:
      • involuntary
      • necessary with the judgment and imagination.
        • Examples are:
          • constancy, fortitude, magnanimity
          • all the qualities which form the great man.
    • I might say the same of the others.
    • It is almost impossible for the mind to:
      • change its character in any considerable article, or
      • cure itself of a passionate or splenetic temper, when they are natural to it.
    • The greater degree there is of these blameable qualities:
      • the more vicious they become
      • yet they are the less voluntary.
  2. Why may virtue & vice and beauty & deformity not be involuntary?
    • These moral distinctions arise from the natural distinctions of pain and pleasure.
    • When we receive those feelings from any quality or character, we denominate it vicious or virtuous.
    • No one will assert that a quality can never produce pleasure or pain to the person who considers it, unless it is perfectly voluntary in the person who has it.
  3. Free will has no place with regard to men’s actions, no more than men’s qualities.
    • It is not a just consequence that what is voluntary is free.
    • Our actions are more voluntary than our judgments.
    • We do not have more liberty in the one than in the other.
  • This distinction between voluntary and involuntary is insufficient to justify the distinction between natural abilities and moral virtues.
    • Yet the voluntary distinction will afford us a plausible reason why moralists have invented the involuntary one.
  • Natural abilities and moral qualities are mainly on the same footing.
    • But there is this difference between them:
      • Natural abilities are almost invariable by any art or industry.
      • Moral qualities may be changed by the motives of rewards and punishments, praise and blame.
    • Hence legislators, divines, and moralists have principally:
      • applied themselves to regulate these voluntary actions
      • tried to produce additional motives for being virtuous.
    • They knew that little effect would result from:
      • punishing a man for a folly, or
      • exhorting him to be prudent and sagacious.
        • Even if the same punishments and exhortations might have a considerable influence with regard to justice and injustice.
  • But men commonly do not carry those ends in view.
    • They:
      • naturally praise or blame whatever pleases or displeases them
      • do not seem to regard this distinction much
      • consider prudence under:
        • virtue and benevolence
        • penetration and justice.
    • All moralists, whose judgment is not perverted by a strict adherence to a system, enter into the same way of thinking.
    • In particular, the ancient moralists made no scruple of placing prudence at the head of the cardinal virtues.
  • Any faculty of the mind in its perfect state can excite a sentiment of esteem and approbation.
    • It is the business of:
      • philosophers to account for this sentiment.
      • grammarians to examine what qualities are entitled to be called virtues.
        • They will not find this task so easy.
  • Natural abilities are esteemed principally because of their tendency to be useful to the person who has them.
    • It is impossible to execute any design successfully if it is not conducted with prudence and discretion.
    • The goodness of our intentions alone will not suffice to procure us happiness in our enterprises.
  • Men are superior to beasts principally by the superiority of their reason.
    • They are the degrees of the same faculty, which set such an infinite difference between one man and another.
  • All the advantages of art are owing to human reason.
    • Where fortune is not very capricious, the most considerable part of these advantages must fall to the share of the prudent and sagacious.
  • Which is more valuable?
    • a quick or a slow apprehension?
    • a character that can penetrate into a subject but perform nothing on study, or one which must work everything out by dint of application?
    • a clear head or a copious invention?
    • a profound genius or a sure judgment?
  • What character or understanding is more excellent than another?
  • We cannot answer these questions without considering which of those qualities:
    • capacitates a man for the world best
    • carries him farthest in any of his undertakings.
  • There are many other qualities of the mind whose merit is derived from the same origin, industry, perseverance, patience, activity, vigilance, application, constancy, with other virtues.
    • These virtues:
      • will be easy to recollect
      • are esteemed valuable upon no other account, than their advantage in the conduct of life.
  • It is the same case with temperance, frugality, economy, resolution:
  • As on the other hand, prodigality, luxury, irresolution, uncertainty, are vicious, merely because they draw ruin upon us, and incapacitate us for business and action.
  • Wisdom and good-sense are valued because they are useful to the person who has them.
    • Wit and eloquence are valued because they are immediately agreeable to others.
  • On the other hand, good humour is loved and esteemed because it is immediately agreeable to the person himself.
  • The conversation of a man of wit is very satisfactory.
    • A cheerful good-humoured companion diffuses a joy over his friends, from a sympathy with his gaiety.
  • These qualities are agreeable.
    • They naturally:
      • beget love and esteem
      • answer to all the characters of virtue.
  • It is often difficult to tell what renders:
    • one man’s conversation so agreeable and entertaining
    • another’s so insipid and distasteful.
  • Conversation is a transcript of the mind as well as books.
    • The same qualities which render the one valuable must give us an esteem for the other.
  • Generally, a man’s merit from his conversation arises only from the pleasure it conveys to those present.
  • Cleanliness is also a virtue, since it naturally:
    • renders us agreeable to others
    • is a very considerable source of love and affection.
  • Uncleanliness is a fault.
    • Faults are nothing but smaller vices.
    • This fault originates only from the uneasy sensation it excites in others.
    • In this trivial instance, we can discover the origin of the moral distinction of vice and virtue in other instances.
  • Besides those qualities which render a person lovely or valuable, there is also a certain je-ne-sais-quoi [indescribable quality], of agreeable and handsome, that concurs to the same effect.
    • In this case, as with wit and eloquence, we must have recourse to a certain sense which:
      • acts without reflection
      • does not regard the tendencies of qualities and characters.
  • Some moralists account for all the sentiments of virtue by this sense.
    • Their hypothesis is very plausible.
  • Only a particular enquiry can prefer any other hypothesis.
    • Qualities are approved of in proportion to their resulting advantage when we find that:
      • all virtues have advantageous tendencies
      • these tendencies are alone sufficient to give a strong sentiment of approbation
  • A quality’s decorum or in decorum, with regard to the age, character, or station, also contributes to its praise or blame.
    • This decorum depends on experience.
  • Men usually lose their levity as they advance in years.
    • Such a degree of gravity, therefore, and such years, are connected together in our thoughts.
    • When we observe them separated in any person’s character, a violence is imposed on our imagination and is disagreeable.
  • The memory is the soul’s faculty which:
    • is of the least consequence to the character
    • has the least virtue or vice in its several degrees
    • admits of a great variety of degrees.
  • We commonly do not notice of the memory’s variations unless it:
    • rises up to that stupendous height to surprise us, or
    • sink so low as to affect the judgment.
  • We do not mention its variations to receive praise or dispraise from anyone.
  • Having a good memory is so far from being a virtue.
    • Men generally:
      • complain of a bad memory
      • sacrifice memory to the praise of genius and judgment in order to persuade the world that what they say is entirely of their own invention.
  • It is difficult to say why the faculty of recalling past ideas truthfully and clearly, should not have as much merit as the faculty of placing our present ideas to form true propositions and opinions.
    • The reason must be that the memory:
      • is exerted without any sensation of pleasure or pain
      • in all its middling degrees, serves almost equally well in business and affairs.
  • But the smallest variations in the judgment are sensibly felt in their consequences.
    • Judgement is never exerted in any eminent degree without an extraordinary delight and satisfaction.
  • The sympathy with this utility and pleasure bestows a merit on the understanding.
    • The absence of sympathy makes us consider the memory as a faculty very indifferent to blame or praise.
  • One source of the esteem and affection, which attends natural abilities, is derived from the importance and weight which they bestow on the person who has them.
    • He becomes of greater consequence in life.
    • His resolutions and actions affect a greater number of his fellow-creatures.
      • His friendship and enmity are of moment.
  • Whoever is elevated in this way above the rest of mankind, must excite the sentiments of esteem and approbation in us.
  • Important things:
    • engage our attention
    • fix our thought
    • are contemplated with satisfaction.
  • The histories of kingdoms are more interesting than domestic stories.
    • The histories of great empires more interesting than those of small cities and principalities.
    • The histories of wars and revolutions are more interesting than those of peace and order.
  • We sympathize with the persons that suffer in all the sentiments from their fortunes.
    • The mind is occupied by:
      • the multitude of the objects
      • the strong passions that display themselves.
    • The mind’s occupation or agitation is commonly agreeable and amusing.
  • The same theory accounts for the esteem and regard we pay to men of extraordinary parts and abilities.
    • The good and bad of many are connected with the actions of extraordinary men.
    • Whatever they undertake:
      • is important
      • challenges our attention.
  • Nothing is to be over-looked and despised, that regards them.
    • Anyone who can excite these sentiments, soon acquires our esteem, unless other circumstances of his character render him odious and disagreeable.

SEC 5: FuRTHER REFLECTIONS on THE NATURAL VIRTUES

  • Pride & humility and love & hatred are excited by advantages or disadvantages of the mind, body, or fortune.
    • These advantages or disadvantages do this by producing pain or pleasure.
  • The pain or pleasure arising from the general survey or view of any action or quality of the mind:
    • constitutes its vice or virtue
    • gives rise to our approbation or blame
      • This is nothing but a fainter and more imperceptible love or hatred.
  • We have assigned four sources of this pain and pleasure.
    • The advantages or disadvantages of the body and fortune produce a pain or pleasure from the very same principles.
  • An object’s usefulness and ability to convey pleasure to its owner or to others:
    • convey an immediate pleasure to the person who considers the object
    • command his love and approbation.
  • The following example is a phenomenon with bodily advantages which proves this.
    • Though it might appear trivial and ludicrous.
  • Good women’s men are those:
    • who have signalized themselves by their amorous exploits, or
    • whose body promises extraordinary vigour in amorous exploits
  • They are well-received by women.
    • They naturally engage the affections even of those whose virtue prevents any design of ever giving employment to those talents.
  • The ability of such a man to give enjoyment is the real source of the love and esteem he gets from the females.
    • At the same time, the women who love and esteem him:
      • have no prospect of receiving that enjoyment themselves.
      • can only be affected by their sympathy with his lover.
  • This instance is singular and merits our attention.
  • Another source of the pleasure we receive from bodily advantages is their utility to the person who has them.
  • A considerable part of the beauty of men and other animals is in their:
    • strength and agility
    • capacity for action or exercise.
  • The following are beautiful in our species because they are signs of force and vigour:
    • broad shoulders
    • a lank belly
    • firm joints
    • taper legs
  • These are advantages we naturally sympathize with.
    • They convey to the beholder a share of that satisfaction they produce in the possessor.
  • As to the utility of the body.
  • As to the immediate pleasure, it is certain, that an air of health, as well as of strength and agility, makes a considerable part of beauty
  • A sickly air is always disagreeable because of that idea of pain and uneasiness it conveys to us.
  • On the other hand, we are pleased with the regularity of our own features.
  • Even if it is:
    • neither useful to ourselves nor others
    • necessary at a distance to make it convey to us any satisfaction.
  • We commonly:
    • consider ourselves as we appear in the eyes of others
    • sympathize with the advantageous sentiments they entertain with regard to us.
  • The advantages of fortune produce esteem and approbation from the same principles.
  • Our approbation of fortunate people may be ascribed to three causes:
    1. To that immediate pleasure given to us by a rich man from the view of his beautiful clothes, equipage, gardens, or houses.
    2. To the advantage we hope to reap from him by his generosity and liberality.
    3. To the pleasure and advantage he reaps from his possessions.
      • These produce an agreeable sympathy in us.
  • We clearly see traces of those principles which create the sense of vice and virtue whether we ascribe our esteem of the rich and great to one or all of these causes.
  • I believe most people initially will be inclined to ascribe our esteem of the rich to:
    • self-interest
    • the prospect of advantage.
  • But our esteem or deference extends beyond any prospect of advantage to ourselves, that sentiment must proceed from a sympathy with those who:
    • are dependent on the person we esteem and respect
    • have an immediate connection with him.
  • We consider him as a person capable of contributing to the happiness or enjoyment of his fellow-creatures, whose sentiments, with regard to him, we naturally embrace.
  • This consideration will justify my hypothesis in:
    • preferring the third principle to the other two
    • ascribing our esteem of the rich to a sympathy with the pleasure and advantage, which they themselves receive from their possessions.
  • For as even the other two principles cannot operate to a due extent, or account for all the phenomena, without having recourse to a sympathy of one kind or other;
    • It is much more natural to choose that immediate and direct sympathy, than the remote and indirect sympathy.
  • Where riches or power are very great and render the person globally important, the esteem attending them might be partly ascribed to another source, distinct from these three:
    • their interesting the mind by a prospect of the multitude
    • the importance of their consequences.
  • But to account for this principle’s operation , we must also have recourse to sympathy as in the preceding section.
  • It may correct to remark the flexibility of:
    • our sentiments
    • the several changes they so readily receive from the objects conjoined to them.
  • All the sentiments of approbation, which attend any species of objects, have a great resemblance to each other, though derived from different sources.
    • On the other hand, those sentiments, when directed to different objects, are different to the feeling, though derived from the same source.
  • Thus, the beauty of all visible objects causes a pleasure pretty much the same.
    • Though it is sometimes derived from:
      • the mere species and appearance of the objects
      • sympathy
      • an idea of their utility.
  • In like manner, whenever we survey men’s actions and characters without any interest in them, the pleasure or pain from the survey (with some minute differences) is mainly of the same kind,
    • though perhaps there be a great diversity in the causes, from which it is derived.
  • On the other hand, a convenient house, and a virtuous character do not cause the same feeling of approbation, even if the source of our approbation:
    •  is the same
    • flow from:
      • sympathy
      • an idea of their utility.
  • There is something very inexplicable in this variation of our feelings.
    • But we have experience of this with regard to all our passions and sentiments.

SEC 6: CONCLUSION OF THIS BOOK

  • I hope nothing is lacking to an accurate proof of this system of ethics.
    • Sympathy is a very powerful principle in human nature.
      • It has a great influence on our sense of beauty, when we:
        • regard external objects
        • judge of morals.
      • It has enough force to give us the strongest sentiments of approbation, when it operates alone, without the concurrence of any other principle; as in the cases of justice, allegiance, chastity, and good-manners.
  • All the circumstances needed for its operation are found in most of the virtues which do good for the society or the person who has them.
    • If we compare all these circumstances, we shall find that sympathy is the chief source of moral distinctions, especially when we reflect that no objection can be raised against this hypothesis, which will not extend to all cases.
  • Justice is approved of only because it has a tendency to the public good.
    • The public good is indifferent to us, except so far as sympathy interests us in it.
    • We may presume the like with regard to all the other virtues, which have a like tendency to the public good.
      • They must derive all their merit from our sympathy with those who reap any advantage from them, just as the virtues which do good to their possessors, derive their merit from our sympathy with those possessors.
  • Most people readily allow that the useful qualities of the mind are virtuous because of their utility.
    • This way of thinking is so natural.
      • It occurs on so many occasions that few will make any scruple of admitting it.
    • The force of sympathy must necessarily be acknowledged.
  • Virtue is considered as means to an end.
    • The means to an end are only valued so far as the end is valued.
  • But the happiness of strangers affects us by sympathy alone.
    • We therefore ascribe the sentiment of approbation to sympathy.
    • This approbation arises from surveying all those virtues useful to society or to the person possessed of them.
      • These form the most considerable part of morality.
  • If the reader could be convinced with bribes or anything but solid arguments, we would use topics here to engage the affections.
  • We are all lovers of virtue in thought, but we might degenerate in practice.
    • We are pleased to see moral distinctions derived from so noble a source, which gives us a just notion of human nature’s generosity and capacity.
  • Very little knowledge of human affairs is needed to perceive that a sense of morals is:
    • a principle inherent in the soul
    • one of the most powerful principle that enters into the composition.
  • But this sense must acquire new force when, reflecting on itself, it:
    • approves those principles from whence it is derived
    • finds nothing but what is great and good in its rise and origin.
  • Those who resolve the sense of morals into original instincts of the human mind, might defend the cause of virtue with sufficient authority.
    • But they lack the advantage of those who account for that sense by an extensive sympathy with mankind.
      • According to their system, the virtue, the sense of virtue, and the principles of this sense must be approved of, so that only the laudable and good are presented on any side.
  • This observation may be extended to justice and other virtues of that kind.
    • Though justice is artificial, the sense of its morality is natural.
  • Any act of justice is beneficial to society because of the combination of men in a system of conduct.
    • We naturally approve of it after it has that tendency.
    • If we did not approve of it, no combination or convention could ever produce that sentiment.
  • Most of men’s inventions are subject to change.
    • They:
      • depend on humour and caprice.
      • have a vogue for a time and then sink into oblivion.
  • It might be apprehended that, if justice were a human invention, it must be placed on the same footing.
    • But the cases are widely different.
  • Justice is founded on the greatest imaginable interest.
    • It extends to all times and places.
    • It cannot possibly be served by any other invention.
    • It is obvious.
    • It discovers itself on the very first formation of society.
  • All these causes render the rules of justice steadfast and at least, as immutable as human nature.
    • If they were founded on original instincts, could they have any greater stability?
  • The same system may:
    • help us to form a just notion of virtue’s happiness and dignity
    • interest every principle of our nature in the embracing and cherishing that noble quality.
  • Who does not feel eagerness in his pursuits of every knowledge and ability when he considers that, besides the advantages of these acquisitions, they:
    • also give him a new lustre in mankind’s eyes
    • are universally attended with esteem and approbation?
  • Who can think that the advantages of fortune are a sufficient compensation for the smallest breach of the social virtues, when he considers that:
    • his character, with regard to others, and his peace and inward satisfaction entirely depend on strictly observing them?
    • a mind, which is deficient in mankind and society, will never be able to bear its own survey?
  • But I refrain to insist on this subject.
    • Such reflections require a work very different from the present genius.
    • The anatomist should never emulate the painter.
      • His accurate dissections and portraits of the smaller body parts, pretend to give his figures any graceful and engaging attitude or expression.
  • There is even something hideous or minute in the views he presents.
    • To make objects engaging to the eye and imagination, they should be:
      • set more at a distance
      • more covered up from sight.
  • An anatomist, however, is admirably fitted to give advice to a painter.
    • It is even impractical to excel in painting the human body without the anatomist’s help.
  • Before we can design with any elegance or correctness, we must exactly know the situation and connection of the parts.
    • Thus the most abstract speculations on human nature, however cold and unentertaining:
      • become subservient to practical morality
      • may render practical morality more:
        • correct in its precepts
        • persuasive in its exhortations.

Words: 4255

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