Sec 9-10: Habits

SEC. 9: THE EFFECTS OF OTHER RELATIONS AND OTHER HABITS

  • We must turn the subject of belief on every side to find some new points of view from which we may illustrate and confirm such fundamental principles.
  • A scrupulous hesitation to receive any new hypothesis is a laudable disposition in philosophers.
    • It is so necessary to the examination of truth, that it:
      • deserves to be complied with
      • requires that every:
        • argument be produced to satisfy them
        • objection be removed which may stop them in their reasoning.
  • Besides cause and effect, the two relations of resemblance and contiguity are often considered as:
    • associating principles of thought
    • capable of conveying the imagination from one idea to another.
  • When of one of two objects, connected together by these relations, is immediately presented to the memory or senses, the mind:
    • is conveyed to its co-relative through the associating principle
    • conceives it with an additional force and vigour through the united operation of the associating principle and the present impression.
  • All this I have observed to confirm by analogy, my exlanation of our judgments on cause and effect.
  • But this very argument can be turned against me.
    • It can be used to object to my hypothesis.
    • For if all the parts of that hypothesis were true, that these three species of relations are derived from the same principles, then:
      • their effects in informing and enlivening our ideas are the same.
      • belief is nothing but a more forcible and vivid conception of an idea.
    • It follows that that action of the mind may not only be derived from the relation of cause and effect, but also from those of contiguity and resemblance.
  • There is some error in that reasoning which leads us into such difficulties because we find by experience that:
    • belief arises only from causation
    • we can draw no inference from one object to another, except those connected by this relation.
  • Let us consider the solution to this objection.
    • Whatever is presented to the memory, striking the mind with a vivacity, which resembles an immediate impression, must:
      • become of considerable moment in all the operations of the mind
      • easily distinguish itself above the mere fictions of the imagination.
  • We form a system of these impressions or ideas of the memory, comprehending whatever we remember.
    • Every part of that system, joined to the present impressions, we call a reality.
  • But the mind does not stop not here.
    • The mind finds that there is another system of perceptions connected by custom, or by the relation of cause or effect, with this system of perceptions.
      • The mind proceeds to consider the ideas of this other system.
        • It feels that it needs is necessarily determined to view these ideas.
        • It forms them into a new system since the custom or relation, by which it is determined, does not admit of change.
        • It likewise calls them as realities.
    • The first of these systems is the object of the memory and senses.
      • The second is of the judgment.
  • Judgement:
    • peoples the world
    • makes us acquainted with existences beyond the reach of the senses and memory, as they are removed in time and place.
  • Through it, I:
    • paint the universe in my imagination
    • fix my attention on any part of it I please.
  • I form an idea of ROME, which I do not see nor remember.
    • But this idea is connected with such impressions as I remember from the conversation and books of travelers and historians.
    • I place this idea of Rome in a certain situation on the idea of an object I call the globe.
    • I join to it the conception of a particular government, religion, and manners.
    • I look back and consider its first foundation, revolutions, successes, and misfortunes.
  • All this which I believe, are nothing but ideas.
    • Their force and settled order arises from custom and the relation of cause and effect.
      • These distinguish themselves from the other ideas, which are merely the offspring of the imagination.
  • As to the influence of contiguity and resemblance:
    • if the contiguous and resembling object is comprehended in this system of realities, these two relations will:
      • assist cause and effect
      • infix the related idea with more force in the imagination.
  • I shall enlarge on this.
    • Meanwhile, I shall carry my observation a step farther.
    • I will assert that even where the related object is feigned, the relation will:
      • enliven the idea
      • increase its influence.
  • A poet can form a stronger description of the Elysian fields if he views a beautiful meadow or garden.
    • In other times, he can imagine himself in these fabulous regions, so that he may enliven his imagination by the feigned contiguity.
  • I cannot altogether exclude the relations of resemblance and contiguity from operating on the fancy in this way.
    • But when single, their influence is very feeble and uncertain.
  • The relation of cause and effect is needed to persuade us of any real existence.
    • This persuasion is also needed to give force to these other relations.
  • There is only a small effect on the mind when, upon the appearance of an impression, we:
    • feign another object arbitrarily
    • give it a relation to the impression by our mere goodwill and pleasure.
  • There no reason why, on the return of the same impression, we should place the same object in the same relation to it.
  • The mind does not need to feign any resembling and contiguous objects.
    • If it does, there little need for it to always confine itself to the objects without any variation.
  • Such a fiction is founded on so little reason, that nothing but pure caprice can determine the mind to form it.
    • That principle is fluctuating and uncertain.
      • Thus, it is impossible that it can ever operate with any degree of force and constancy.
  • The mind foresees and anticipates the change.
    • It feels:
      • the looseness of its actions from the very first instant
      • its weak hold of its objects.
    • This imperfection is very sensible in every instance.
    • It further increases by experience and observation, when we:
      • compare the several instances we may remember
      • form a general rule against the reposing any assurance in those momentary glimpses of light, which arise in the imagination from a feigned resemblance and contiguity.
  • The relation of cause and effect has all the opposite advantages.
    • The objects it presents are fixed and unalterable.
    • The impressions of the memory never change in any considerable degree.
  • Each impression draws along with it a precise idea, which takes its place in the imagination as something solid and real, certain and invariable.
  • The thought is always determined to pass from the impression to the idea, and from that particular impression to that particular idea, without any choice or hesitation.
  • I am not content with removing this objection
    • I shall try to extract from it a proof of the present doctrine.
  • The effect of contiguity and resemblance are much inferior to causation.
    • But it still has some effect.
    • It adds to:
      • the conviction of any opinion
      • the vivacity of any conception.
  • If this can be proven in several new instances, then it follows that belief is nothing but a lively idea related to a present impression.
  • According to Muslims and Christians, the pilgrims who have seen Mecca or the Holy Land are ever after more faithful and zealous believers, than those who have never seen them.
    • A man who sees a lively image of the Red Sea, the Desert, Jerusalem, and Galilee, can never doubt any miraculous events related by Moses or the Evangelists.
    • The lively idea of those places:
      • passes by an easy transition to the facts related to them by contiguity
      • increases the belief by increasing the vivacity of the conception.
    • The remembrance of these fields and rivers has the same influence on the vulgar as a new argument, and from the same causes.
  • We may form a like observation concerning resemblance.
  • The conclusion we draw from a present object to its absent cause or effect, is never founded on any qualities in that object itself.
    • In other words, it is impossible to determine what will result from any phenomenon, or what has preceded it, other than by experience.
  • This does not seem to require any proof.
    • Yet some philosophers imagined that:
      • there is a cause for the communication of motion
      • a reasonable man might immediately infer the motion of one body from the impulse of another, without having recourse to any past observation.
    • It easy to prove this opinion as false.
      • For if such an inference may be drawn merely from the ideas of body, motion, and impulse, it must amount to a demonstration.
        • It must imply the absolute impossibility of any contrary supposition.
      • Every effect, then, beside the communication of motion, implies a formal contradiction.
        • It is impossible not only that it can exist, but also that it can be conceived.
  • We can satisfy ourselves of the contrary, by forming a clear and consistent idea of:
    • one body’s moving on another
    • its rest immediately on the contact, or
    • its returning back in the same line in which it came, or
    • its annihilation, or
    • its circular or elliptical motion.
      • In short, of an infinite number of other changes, which we may suppose it to undergo.
  • These suppositions are all consistent and natural.
  • We imagine the communication of motion to be more consistent and natural than those suppositions and also than any other natural effect because of the relation of resemblance between the cause and effect.
    • This relation is united to experience.
      • This relation binds the objects in the closest and most intimate manner to each other, to make us imagine them inseparable.
  • Resemblance, then, has the same or a parallel influence with experience.
    • The only immediate effect of experience is to associate our ideas together.
      • It follows, that all belief arises from the association of ideas, according to my hypothesis.
  • At all times, the eye sees an equal number of physical points.
  • A man on the top of a mountain has the same image presented to his senses as when he is in the narrowest room.
    • It is only by experience that he infers the greatness of the object from some peculiar qualities of the image.
    • He commonly confounds this inference of the judgment with sensation.
    • The inference of the judgment is here much more lively than what is usual in our common reasonings.
  • A man has a more vivid conception of the ocean’s vastness from seeing it from the top of a high promontory than merely from hearing the roaring waters.
    • He feels a more sensible pleasure from its magnificence; which is a proof of a more lively idea.
    • He confounds his judgment with sensation, which is another proof of it.
    • The inference is equally certain and immediate in both cases.
  • Thus, our conception’s superior vivacity in one case can proceed only from the resemblance between the image and the object we infer, when we draw an inference from sight beside the customary conjunction.
    • This relation:
      • strengthens the relation
      • conveys the impression’s vivacity to the related idea with an easier and more natural movement.
  • Credulity is the too easy faith in the testimony of others.
    • This weakness of human nature is most universal and conspicuous.
      • It is also very naturally accounted for from the influence of resemblance.
  • When we receive any fact on human testimony, our faith arises from the very same origin as our inferences from causes to effects, and from effects to causes.
    • Only our experience of the governing principles of human nature can give us any assurance of the veracity of men.
  • Experience is the true standard of this and other judgments.
    • But we seldom regulate ourselves entirely by it.
    • We have a remarkable propensity to believe whatever is reported, even concerning apparitions, enchantments, and prodigies, however contrary to daily experience.
  • The words or discourses of others are intimately connected with certain ideas in their mind.
    • These ideas are also connected with the facts or objects they represent.
    • This latter connection is generally much overrated.
      • It commands our assent beyond what experience will justify.
      • This proceeds only from the resemblance between the ideas and the facts.
  • Other effects only point out their causes in an oblique manner.
  • But men’s testimony does it directly.
    • It is considered as an image and as an effect.
  • No wonder, we are:
    • so rash in drawing our inferences from it
    • less guided by experience in our judgments concerning it, than in those upon any other subject.
  • Many eminent theologians have reasonably not scrupled to affirm that:
    • the vulgar have no formal principles of infidelity
    • but they are really infidels in their hearts
    • they do not have a belief of the eternal duration of their souls.
  • Mankind’s negligence on their approaching condition brings:
    • wonder to the studious
    • regret to the pious man.
  • A remarkable example is the universal carelessness and stupidity of men about the future which they are incredulous about, just as they have blind credulity on other occasions.
  • When conjoined with causation, resemblance fortifies our reasonings.
    • The lack of resemblance in any great degree can almost entirely destroy our reasonings.
  • Let us reflect:
    • on the importance of eternity as displayed by the divines
    • that though matters of rhetoric are exaggerated, its strongest figures are infinitely inferior to the subject.
  • Let us then view, the prodigious security of men in this.
    • I ask:
      • if these people really believe what is inculcated on them
      • what they pretend to affirm.
    • Their answer is obviously negative.
  • Belief is an act of the mind arising from custom.
    • It is not strange the lack of resemblance should:
      • overthrow what custom has established
      • reduce the force of the idea, as much as that latter principle increases it.
  • A future state is so far removed from our comprehension.
    • We have so obscure an idea of how we shall exist after we die
    • All the reasons we can invent can never:
      • surmount this difficulty, or
      • bestow authority and force on the idea, no matter how:
        • strong in themselves
        • assisted by education.
  • I rather ascribe this incredulity to our faint idea of our future condition derived from:
    • its lack of resemblance to the present, than to
    • its remoteness.
  • Men are everywhere concerned about what may happen after their death in this world if many people have a regard for them.
  • The lack of resemblance in this case so entirely destroys belief.
    • Very few people truly believe in the soul’s immortality in the same way as travelers and historians believe their own testimonies.
    • Exceptions are people who have repeatedly meditated to imprint in their minds the arguments for a future state, upon cool reflection on the importance of the soul’s immortality.
  • This appears very conspicuously wherever men compare the pleasures and pains, the rewards and punishments of this life with those of a future, even though:
    • the case does not concern themselves
    • there is no violent passion to disturb their judgment.
  • The Roman Catholics are certainly the most zealous Christian sect.
    • Yet you’ll find few sensible Catholics who do not regard, as cruel and barbarous:
      • the Gunpowder-treason
      • the massacre of St. Bartholomew
    • Those acts were executed against Catholics who were condemned to eternal and infinite punishments without any scruple.
  • All we can say in excuse for this inconsistency is that they really do not believe what they affirm concerning a future state.
    • This is the best proof of that inconsistency or of their lack of belief in their own beliefs of the future state.
  • In matters of religion:
    • men take a pleasure in being terrified
    • the most popular preachers are those who excite the most dismal and gloomy passions.
  • In the common affairs of life, where we feel and are penetrated with the solidity of the subject, nothing can be more disagreeable than fear and terror.
    • Only in dramatic performances and religious discourses can fear and terror ever give pleasure.
  • In these latter cases, the imagination rests itself indolently on the idea.
    • The passion is softened by the want of belief in the subject.
      • It enlivens the mind and fixes its attention.
  • The present hypothesis will receive additional confirmation if we examine the effects of other kinds of custom and relations.
    • To understand this, we must consider that custom, to which I attribute all belief and reasoning, may invigorate an idea in two ways.
  • If we have found two objects to have been always conjoined together in all past experience, that on the appearance of one, we easily transition to the idea of the object which usually attends it, we must conceive that idea in a stronger and more lively way than any loose floating image of the fancy.
    • Let us next suppose, that a mere idea alone, without any of this curious and almost artificial preparation, should frequently appear in the mind.
      • This idea must:
        • acquire a facility by degrees
        • force by its firm hold and easy introduction
        • distinguish itself from any new and unusual idea.
      • This is the only part in which these two kinds of custom agree.
    • If it appears that their effects on the judgment are similar and proportional, we may conclude that the foregoing explanation of judgement is satisfactory.
  • But can we doubt of this agreement in their influence on the judgment, when we consider the nature and effects of education?
  • All those opinions and notions of things we have been use to since infancy take such deep root.
    • It is impossible for us to eradicate them by all the powers of reason and experience.
      • This habit approaches in its influence and even on many occasions prevails over that which arises from the constant and inseparable union of causes and effects.
  • Here we must not be content with saying that the idea’s vividness produces the belief.
    • We must maintain that they are individually the same.
  • The frequent repetition of any idea fixes it in the imagination.
    • But repetition could never possibly produce belief by itself, if it was annexed only to a reasoning and comparison of ideas, by the original constitution of our natures.
    • Custom may lead us into some false comparison of ideas.
  • This is the utmost effect we can conceive of it.
  • But it is certain it could never:
    • supply the place of that comparison
    • produce any act of the mind which naturally belonged to that principle.
  • A person that has lost a leg or an arm by amputation, tries for a long time to serve himself with them.
    • After the death of any one, the whole family, especially the servants, commonly remark that they cannot believe him to be dead.
    • They still imagine him to be in his room or any place where they used to find him.
  • I have often heard in conversation, after talking of a celebrated person, that his the person who has no acquaintance with him, will say, I have never seen him.
    • But I almost fancy that I have met him.
    • So often have I heard others talk of him.
  • All these are parallel instances.
  • If we consider this argument from education in a proper light, it will appear very convincing.
    • It will be more convincing that it is founded on one of the most common phenomena anywhere.
  • We shall find more than half of mankind’s opinions are owing to education.
    • The principles implicitly embraced, overbalance those which are owing to abstract reasoning or experience.
  • As liars, by the frequent repetition of their lies, come to remember them.
    • So the judgment, or rather the imagination, by the like means, may have ideas so strongly imprinted on it.
    • The imagination conceives those ideas in so full a light, that they may operate on the mind in the same manner with those, which the senses, memory, or reason present to us.
  • Education is never recognized by philosophers because:
    • it is an artificial and not a natural cause
    • its maxims are frequently contrary to reason even to themselves in different times and places
  • Though in reality, education is built almost on the same foundation of custom and repetition as our reasonings from causes and effects.

Footnote 7. 

  • In general, our assent to all probable reasonings is founded on the vivacity of ideas.
    • It resembles many of those whims and prejudices which are rejected as the offspring of the imagination.
    • By this expression, it appears that the word ‘imagination’ is commonly used in two ways.
    • This inaccuracy is most contrary to true philosophy.
    • Yet in the following reasonings, I have been obliged to fall into it.
  • When I oppose the imagination to the memory, I mean the imagination which we use to form our fainter ideas.
  • When I oppose it to reason, I mean imagination excluding only our demonstrative and probable reasonings.
  • When I oppose it to neither, it is indifferent whether it is taken in the larger or more limited sense, or at least the context will sufficiently explain the meaning.

SEC 10: THE INFLUENCE OF BELIEF

  • Education is disclaimed by philosophy as a fallacious ground of assent to any opinion.
    • Nevertheless, it prevails in the world.
    • Education is the cause why all systems are apt to be initially rejected as new and unusual.
  • This perhaps will be the fate of what I have advanced here concerning belief.
    • My proofs appear perfectly conclusive to me.
    • But I do not expect to make many converts to my opinion.
  • Men will never be persuaded that the effects of such consequence can flow from principles:
    • which are so inconsiderable
    • that all our actions and passions are derived from nothing but custom and habit.
  • To obviate this objection, I shall anticipate a topic which we shall take up when we treat of the passions and the sense of beauty.
    • A perception of pain and pleasure is implanted in the human mind as the chief spring and moving principle of all its actions.
    • But pain and pleasure have two ways of appearing in the mind.
    • The effects of these two ways are very different.
    • They may appear:
      • in impression to the actual feeling, or
      • only in idea.
    • The influence of these on our actions is not equal.
  • Impressions always actuate the soul in the highest degree.
    • But not every idea has the same effect.
  • Nature has proceeded in this case with caution.
    • It has carefully avoided the inconveniences of two extremes.
  • If impressions alone influenced the will, we would always be subject to the greatest calamities.
    • Because, though we foresaw their approach, we would not be provided by nature with any principle of action which might impel us to avoid them.
  • On the other hand, if every idea influenced our actions, our condition would not be much mended.
    • For such is the unsteadiness and activity of thought, that the images of everything, especially of goods and evils, are always wandering in the mind.
    • Were it moved by every idle conception of this kind, it would never enjoy a moment’s peace.
  • Nature, therefore, has chosen a medium.
    • It has not:
      • bestowed the power of actuating the will on every idea of good and evil
      • entirely excluded the idea of good and evil from this influence.
  • An idle fiction has no efficacy.
    • The ideas of those objects, which we believe are or will be existent, produce in a lesser degree those impressions which are immediately present to the senses and perception.
  • The effect then, of belief is to:
    • raise up a simple idea to an equality with our impressions
    • bestow on it a like influence on the passions.
      • It can only have this effect by making an idea approach an impression in force and vivacity.
  • The different degrees of force make all the original difference between an impression and an idea.
    • They must be the source of all the differences in the effects of these perceptions.
    • Their removal must be the cause of every new resemblance they acquire.
      • Wherever we can make an idea approach the impressions in force and vivacity, it will likewise imitate them in its influence on the mind.
      • Vice versa, where it imitates them in that influence as in the present case, this must proceed from its approaching them in force and vivacity.
  • Belief causes an idea to imitate the effects of the impressions.
    • Therefore, belief must make it resemble them in these qualities.
      • Belief is nothing but a more vivid and intense conception of any idea.
  • This may both:
    • serve as an additional argument for the present system
    • give us a notion how our reasonings from causation are able to operate on the will and passions.
  • Belief is almost absolutely requisite to excite our passions.
    • The passions in their turn are very favourable to belief.
      • The facts that convey agreeable and painful emotions become more readily the objects of faith and opinion.
  • A coward has his fears easily awakened.
  • He readily assents to every account of danger he meets with, as a sorrowful person is very credulous of everything that nourishes his sadness.
    • When any affecting object is presented, it gives the alarm.
    • It immediately excites its proper passion, especially in persons naturally inclined to that passion.
    • This emotion passes through an easy transition to the imagination.
      • It diffuses itself over our idea of the affecting object.
      • It makes us form that idea with greater force and vivacity.
      • We consequently assent to it, according to the precedent system.
  • Admiration and surprise have the same effect as the other passions.
    • Because of their magnificent pretensions, quacks and projectors meet with a more easy faith among the vulgar, than if they had moderation.
  • The first astonishment which naturally attends their miraculous relations, spreads itself over the whole soul.
    • It so vivifies and enlivens the idea, that it resembles the inferences we draw from experience.
  • We shall find less difficulty in explaining the effects of beliefs on the imagination, however extraordinary they may appear.
    • We cannot take pleasure in any discourse where we cannot assent to those images presented to our fancy.
  • The conversation of those who have acquired a habit of lying, never gives any satisfaction.
    • The ideas they present to us are not attended with belief.
    • They make no impression on the mind.
  • Poets themselves are liars by profession.
    • They always try to give an air of truth to their fictions.
    • Where truth is totally neglected, their performances, however ingenious, will never be able to afford much pleasure.
  • Even when ideas have no influence on the will and passions, truth and reality are still needed to make them entertaining.
  • But if we compare together all the phenomena that occur on this head, we shall find, that the only effect of truth is to:
    • procure an easy reception for the ideas
    • make the mind acquiesce in them with satisfaction, or at least without reluctance.
  • But this is an effect supposed to flow from that solidity and force which attend those ideas established by reasonings from causation.
    • It follows that all the influence of belief on the fancy may be explained by that system.
    • Wherever that influence arises from any other principles beside truth or reality, they:
      • supply its place
      • give an equal entertainment to the imagination.
  • Poets have formed what they call a poetical system of things, which is not believed by themselves nor by readers.
    • But it is commonly a sufficient foundation for any fiction.
  • We have been so used to the names of Mars, Jupiter, Vernus, that the constant repetition of these ideas makes them:
    • enter into the mind with facility in the same way that education infixes any opinion.
    • prevail on the fancy without influencing the judgment.
  • In like manner tragedians always borrow their fable or the names of their principal actors from some known passage in history.
    • They will frankly confess that they are not true, not to avoid deceiving the spectators, but to procure an easier reception into the imagination for those extraordinary events which they represent.
  • But this is a precaution not required of comic poets.
    • Their personages and incidents:
      • are a more familiar kind
      • enter easily into the conception
      • are received without any such formality, even though at first night they are known to be fictitious.
  • This mixture of truth and falsehood in the fables of tragic poets shows that the imagination can be satisfied without any absolute belief or assurance.
    • In another view, it may be regarded as a very strong confirmation of this system.
  • Poets borrow the names and chief events of their poems from history, in order to:
    • procure an easier reception for the whole
    • cause it to make a deeper impression on the fancy and affections.
  • The several incidents acquire a relation by being united into one poem or representation.
    • If any of these incidents are an object of belief, it bestows a force and vivacity on the others related to it.
  • The vividness of the first conception diffuses itself along the relations.
    • It is conveyed, as by so many pipes or canals, to every idea that has any communication with the primary one.
  • This can never amount to a perfect assurance.
    • Because the union among the ideas is accidental in a manner.
  • But still it approaches so near in its influence.
    • It may convince us that they are derived from the same origin.
  • Belief must please the imagination by its force and vivacity, since every idea which has force and vivacity is agreeable to that faculty.
    • To confirm this, we may observe that:
      • the assistance is mutual between:
        • the judgment and fancy
        • the judgment and passion
    • belief gives vigour to the imagination
    • a vigorous and strong imagination is the most proper of all talents to procure belief and authority.
  • It is difficult for us to not assent to what is painted with eloquence.
    • The vivacity produced by the fancy is in many cases greater than the vivacity which arises from custom and experience.
  • We are hurried away by the lively imagination of an author or companion.
    • Even he himself is often a victim to his own fire and genius.
    • A lively imagination very often:
      • degenerates into madness or folly
      • makes the imagination resemble madness in its operations.
      • influences the judgment after the same manner
      • produces belief from the very same principles.
  • When the imagination is intoxicated with alcohol, it acquires a vivacity that disorders all its powers and faculties.
    • It loses the means of distinguishing truth from falsehood.
    • But every loose idea, having the same influence as the impressions of the memory, or the conclusions of the judgment:
      • is received on the same footing
      • operates with equal force on the passions.
    • A present impression and a customary transition are then no longer necessary to enliven our ideas.
    • The brain’s every fancy is as vivid and intense as:
      • any of those inferences we formerly called conclusions on matters of fact
      • the present impressions of the senses, sometimes.
  • Poetry has the same effect in a lesser degree.
    • This is common both to poetry and madness.
    • The vivacity they bestow on the ideas is not derived from the particular situations or connections of the objects of these ideas.
      • It is derived from the person’s present temper and disposition.
    • No matter how great the pitch this vivacity rises in poetry, it never has the same feeling with the pitch which arises in the mind, when we reason on the lowest species of probability.
      • The mind can easily distinguish between the one and the other.
      • Whatever emotion the poetical enthusiasm cause in the spirits, it is still the mere phantom of belief or persuasion.
    • The case is the same with the idea, as with the passion it occasions.
    • There is no passion of the human mind but what may arise from poetry.
    • Though at the same time, the feelings of the passions are very different when excited by poetical fictions, from what they are when they are from belief and reality.
  • A disagreeable passion may afford the highest entertainment in a tragedy, or epic poem.
    • It does not lie with that weight on us.
    • It feels less firm and solid.
    • It has an agreeable effect of exciting the spirits and rousing the attention.
  • The difference in the passions is a clear proof of a like difference in those ideas from which the passions are derived.
    • Where the vivacity arises from a customary conjunction with a present impression; though the imagination may not, in appearance, be so much moved;
    • yet there is always something more forcible and real in its actions, than in the fervors of poetry and eloquence.
  • The force of our mental actions in this case are no more than in any other.
    • It is not to be measured by the mind’s apparent agitation.
  • A poetical description may have a more sensible effect on the fancy than an historical narration.
    • It may:
      • collect more of those circumstances, that form a complete image.
      • set the object before us in more lively colours.
    • But the ideas it presents are different to the feeling from the ideas which arise from the memory and judgment.
  • There is something weak and imperfect amidst all that seeming vehemence of thought and sentiment which attends the fictions of poetry.
    • We shall afterwards remark the resemblance and differences between:
      • a poetical enthusiasm
      • a serious conviction.
    • The great difference in their feeling proceeds from reflection and general rules.
  • The vigour of conception, which fictions receive from poetry and eloquence, is a merely accidental circumstance, which every idea is equally susceptible.
    • Such fictions are connected with nothing real.
  • This observation makes us only lend ourselves to the fiction.
    • It causes the idea to feel very different from the eternal established persuasions founded on memory and custom.
    • They are somewhat of the same kind.
      • But the one is much inferior to the other, both in its causes and effects.
  • A like reflection on general rules keeps us from adding our belief on every increase of the force and vivacity of our ideas.
  • We attribute a full conviction on an opinion that admits no doubt or opposite probability.
    • Though the lack of resemblance or contiguity may render its force inferior to that of other opinions.
  • The understanding corrects the appearances of the senses.
    • It makes us imagine that an object 20 feet away is as large to the eye as one of the same dimensions, 10 feet away.
  • We may observe the same effect of poetry in a lesser degree.
    • The only difference is that the least reflection:
      • dissipates the illusions of poetry
      • places the objects in their proper light.
  • In the warmth of a poetical enthusiasm, a poet has:
    • a counterfeit belief
    • a kind of vision of his objects.
  • A blaze of poetical figures and images, which have their effect on the poet himself and on his readers, contributes most to his full conviction.

Words: 5757

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