Sec 3-4: Will, Violent Passions

SEC 3: THE INFLUENCING MOTIVES OF THE WILL

 

  • The combat of passion and reason is the most usual talk in philosophy and common life.
    • Reason is preferred.
    • Philosophers assert that men are virtuous if they conform to reason.
      • They say that:
        • every rational creature should regulate his actions by reason.
        • he should oppose any other motive or principle that challenges reason.
          • He should entirely subdue it make it conform to reason.
  • Most ancient and modern moral philosophy seems to be founded on this way of thinking.
    • Metaphysical arguments are also founded on this supposed pre-eminence of reason above passion.
  • The eternity, invariableness, and divine origin of reason has been displayed to the best advantage.
    • The blindness, unconstancy, and deceitfulness of passion has been as strongly insisted on.
  • To show the fallacy of all this philosophy, I shall prove that reason alone:
    1. can never be a motive to any action of the will
    2. can never oppose passion in the direction of the will.

 

  • The understanding exerts itself in two different ways:
    • as it judges from demonstration or probability
    • as it regards the abstract relations of our ideas, or those relations of objects, of which experience only gives us information.
  • I believe that reasoning alone is ever the cause of any action.
    • The proper province of reason is the world of ideas.
    • The will always places us in the province of realities.
      • Demonstration and volition seem, on that account, to be totally removed from each other.
  • Mathematics is useful in all mechanical operations.
    • Arithmetic is useful in almost every art and profession.
    • But they themselves do not have any influence.
  • Mechanics is the art of regulating the motions of bodies to some designed purpose.
    • We employ arithmetic in fixing the proportions of numbers only so that we may discover the proportions of their influence and operation.
  • A merchant wants to know the total of his accounts with anyone.
    • Why? So that he may learn what amount sum will be needed to:
      • pay his debt
      • go to market, as all the articles taken together.
  • Abstract or demonstrative reasoning, therefore, never influences any of our actions, but only as it directs our judgement concerning causes and effects.
    • This leads us to the second operation of the understanding.

 

  • When we have the prospect of pain or pleasure from any object, we:
    • feel a consequent emotion of aversion or propensity
    • avoid or embrace what will give us this uneasiness or satisfaction.
  • This emotion does not rest here.
    • It makes us cast our view on every side.
    • It comprehends whatever objects are connected with its original one by the relation of cause and effect.
  • Reasoning takes place to discover this relation.
    • Our actions receive a subsequent variation according as our reasoning varies.
    • But the impulse does not arise from reason, but is only directed by it.
  • It is from the prospect of pain or pleasure that the aversion or propensity arises towards any object.
    • These emotions extend themselves to the causes and effects of that object, as they are pointed out to us by reason and experience.
  • It can never concern us to know that such objects are causes and others effects, if both the causes and effects are indifferent to us.
    • If the objects themselves do not affect us, their connection can never give them any influence.
    • Reason is nothing but the discovery of this connection.
      • The objects are able to affect us not through reason.

 

  • Since reason alone can never produce any action, or give rise to volition, I infer that the same faculty is as incapable of:
    • preventing volition, or
    • disputing the preference with any passion or emotion.
  • This consequence is necessary.
    • It is impossible that reason could have the latter effect of preventing volition, but by giving an impulse in a contrary direction to our passion;
    • and that impulse, had it operated alone, would have been able to produce volition.
  • Nothing can oppose or retard the impulse of passion, but a contrary impulse.
    • If this contrary impulse ever arises from reason, that latter faculty must have an original influence on the will, and must be able to cause, as well as hinder any act of volition.
  • But if reason has no original influence, it is impossible it can withstand any principle, which has such an efficacy, or ever keep the mind in suspense a moment.
  • Thus the principle which opposes our passion cannot be the same with reason.
    • It is only called so in an improper sense.
  • We do not speak strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason.
    • Reason is, and should only be the slave of the passions.
      • It can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.
  • This opinion may appear extraordinary.
    • It may not be improper to confirm it by some other considerations.

 

  • A passion is an original existence or modification of existence.
    • It does not contain any representative quality which renders it a copy of any other existence or modification.
  • When I am angry, I actually have the passion.
    • In that emotion, I have no more a reference to any other object, than when I am thirsty, or sick, or more than five foot high.
  • Therefore, it is impossible that this passion can be opposed by or be contradictory to truth and reason, since this contradiction consists in the disagreement of ideas, considered as copies, with the objects they represent.

 

  • Nothing can be contrary to truth or reason except what has a reference to it.
    • As the judgements of our understanding only have this reference, it follows that passions can be contrary to reason only so far as they are accompanied with some judgement or opinion.
  • This principle is so obvious and natural.
    • Accordingly, it is only in two senses that any affection can be called unreasonable.
      1. When a passion, such as hope or fear, grief or joy, despair or security, is founded on the supposition or the existence of objects, which really do not exist.
      2. When in exerting any passion in action, we:
        1. choose means insufficient for the designed end
        2. deceive ourselves in our judgement of causes and effects.
  • Where a passion is neither founded on false suppositions, nor chooses means insufficient for the end, the understanding can neither justify nor condemn it.
    • It is not contrary to reason for me:
      • to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.
      • to choose my total ruin
      • to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me.
      • to prefer my own acknowledged lesser good to my greater good
      • to have a more ardent affection for my lesser good than my greater good.
  • In some circumstances, a trivial good might produce a desire superior to what arises from the greatest and most valuable enjoyment.
    • There is nothing more extraordinary in this, than in mechanics to see one pound weight raise 100 pounds by the advantage of its situation.
  • In short, a passion must be accompanied with some false judgement for it to be unreasonable.
    • Even then, it is the judgement that is unreasonable, not the passion.

 

  • The consequences are evident.
    • A passion can only be called unreasonable when it:
      • is founded on a false supposition, or
      • chooses means insufficient for the designed end.
    • It is therefore impossible that reason and passion can ever:
      • oppose each other, or
      • dispute for the government of the will and actions.
  • Our passions yield to our reason without any opposition the moment we perceive the:
    • falsehood of any supposition, or
    • the insufficiency of any means.
  • I may desire any fruit as of an excellent relish.
    • But whenever you convince me of my mistake, my longing ceases.
  • I may will the performance of certain actions as means of obtaining any desired good.
    • But my willing of these actions is:
      • only secondary
      • founded on the supposition that they are causes of the proposed effect.
    • As soon as I discover the falsehood of that supposition, they must become indifferent to me.

 

  • It is natural for someone not philosophical to imagine that the mind’s actions are entirely the same.
    • Its actions:
      • do not produce a different sensation
      • are not immediately distinguishable to the feeling and perception.
  • Reason, for instance, exerts itself without producing any sensible emotion.
    • Reason scarce ever conveys any pleasure or uneasiness except in:
      • the more sublime disquisitions of philosophy, or
      • the frivolous subtleties of the school.
  • Hence every action of the mind, which operates with the same calmness and tranquility, is confounded with reason by people who judge things from the first appearance.
  • There are certain calm desires and tendencies, which though are real passions:
    • produce little emotion in the mind.
    • are more known by their effects than by the immediate feeling or sensation.
  • These are two kinds of desires:
    • instincts originally implanted in our natures, such as:
      • benevolence and resentment
      • the love of life
      • kindness to children; or
    • the general appetite to good and aversion to evil.
  • When any of these passions are calm, and cause no disorder in the soul, they are:
    • very readily taken for the determinations of reason
    • supposed to proceed from the same faculty with that, which judges of truth and falsehood.
  • Their nature and principles have been supposed the same.
    • Because their sensations are not evidently different.

 

  • Beside these calm passions which often determine the will, there are certain violent emotions of the same kind which have likewise a great influence on the will.
    • When I receive any injury from another, I often feel a violent passion of resentment.
      • This makes me desire his evil and punishment, independent of all considerations of pleasure and advantage to myself.
    • When I am immediately threatened with any grievous ill, my fears, apprehensions, and aversions:
      • rise to a great height
      • produce a sensible emotion.

 

  • The common error of metaphysicians is in:
    • ascribing the direction of the will entirely to one of these principles
    • supposing the other to have no influence.
  • Men often act knowingly against their interest.
    • For which reason the view of the greatest possible good does not always influence them.
  • Men often counteract a violent passion in prosecution of their interests and designs.
    • It is not therefore the present uneasiness alone which determines them.
  • Both these principles operate on the will.
    • Where they are contrary, either of them prevails according to the person’s general character or present disposition.
  • The strength of mind implies the prevalence of the calm passions above the violent ones.
    • No one constantly has this virtue to never yield to the solicitations of passion and desire.
  • From these variations of temper proceeds the great difficulty of deciding on people’s actions and resolutions, where there is any contrariety of motives and passions.

SEC 4: THE CAUSES OF THE VIOLENT PASSIONS

  • The causes and effects of the calm and violent passions is a subject of the nicest speculation in philosophy.
    • Passions do not influence the will in proportion to their violence, or the disorder they occasion in the temper;
    • but on the contrary, that when a passion has once become a settled principle of action, and is the predominant inclination of the soul, it commonly produces no longer any sensible agitation.
  • Repeated custom and its own force have made everything yield to it.
    • It directs the actions and conduct without that opposition and emotion, which so naturally attend every momentary gust of passion.
  • We must, therefore, distinguish between:
    • a calm and a weak passion
    • a violent and a strong one.
  • When we would govern a man and push him to any action, it will commonly be better to:
    • work on the violent than the calm passions
    • take him by his inclination, than what is vulgarly called his reason.
      • We should place the object in such situations as are proper to increase the violence of the passion.
  • All depends on the situation of the object.
    • A variation in this will be able to change the calm and the violent passions into each other.
      • Both these kinds of passions:
        • pursue good, and avoid evil.
        • are increased or reduced by the increase or reduction of the good or evil.
  • The difference between them is that:
    • when near, the good will cause a violent passion
    • when remote, the good produces only a calm passion.
  • This subject belongs very properly to the present question concerning the will.
    • We shall:
      • examine it to the bottom
      • consider those circumstances and situations of objects which render a passion calm or violent.

 

  • It is a remarkable property of human nature that any emotion, which attends a passion, is easily converted into it.
    • Though in their natures, they are originally different from and even contrary to each other.
  • To make a perfect union among passions, a double relation of impressions and ideas is always required.
    • One relation is insufficient for that purpose.
  • But though this is confirmed by undoubted experience, we must:
    • understand it with its proper limitations
    • regard the double relation, as requisite only to make one passion produce another.
  • When two passions are produced by their separate causes and are both present in the mind, they readily mingle and unite, though they have but one or no relation.
    • The predominant passion swallows up the inferior, and converts it into itself.
  • The spirits, when once excited, easily receive a change in their direction.
    • It is natural to imagine this change will come from the prevailing affection.
  • The connection is in many respects closer between any two passions, than between any passion and indifference.

 

  • When a person is once heartily in love, the little faults and caprices of his mistress, the jealousies and quarrels, to which that commerce is so subject are found to give additional force to one’s love.
    • No matter how unpleasant and related they are to anger and hatred.
  • It is a common artifice of politicians,
  • When politicians very much want to affect any person by a fact they intend to inform him, they:
    • first excite his curiosity
    • delay as long as possible its satisfaction before they give him a full insight into the business.
      • This raises his anxiety and impatience to the utmost.
      • They know his curiosity will precipitate him into the passion they design to raise.
      • They assist the object in its influence on the mind.
  • A soldier advancing to the battle, is naturally inspired with courage and confidence, when he thinks of his friends and fellow-soldiers.
    • He is struck with fear and terror when he reflects on the enemy.
  • Whatever new emotion, therefore, proceeds from his friends naturally increases his courage.
    • The emotions proceeding from the enemy adds to fear by:
      • the relation of ideas
      • the conversion of the inferior emotion into the predominant.
  • Hence in military discipline, the uniformity and lustre of our habit, the regularity of our figures and motions, with all the pomp and majesty of war, encourage ourselves and allies.
    • The same objects in the enemy strike terror into us, though agreeable and beautiful in themselves.

 

  • If both passions are present at the same time, they are naturally transfused into each other.
  • If good and evil are present at the same time to cause any emotion, evil must acquire new force and violence.

 

  • This happens whenever any object excites contrary passions.
    • An opposition of passions commonly:
      • causes a new emotion in the spirits
      • produces more disorder than the concurrence of any two affections of equal force.
  • This new emotion:
    • is easily converted into the predominant passion
    • increases its violence, beyond the pitch it would have arrived at had it met with no opposition.
      • Hence we naturally:
        • desire what is forbidden
        • take a pleasure in performing actions, merely because they are unlawful.
  • The notion of duty, when opposite to the passions, is seldom able to overcome them.
    • When duty fails, duty increases the opposite passions by producing an opposition in our motives and principles.
  • The same effect follows whether the opposition arises from internal motives or external obstacles.
    • The passion commonly acquires new force and violence in both cases.

 

  • The efforts which the mind makes to surmount the obstacle, excite the spirits and enlivens the passion.

 

  • Uncertainty has the same influence as opposition.
  • All the following produce an agitation in the mind and transfuse themselves into the predominant passion:
    • the agitation of the thought
    • the quick turns it makes from one view to another
    • the variety of passions which succeed each other according to the different views

 

  • I think there is not  any other natural cause, why security reduces the passions, than because it removes that uncertainty which increases them.
  • When left to itself, the mind immediately languishes.
    • To preserve its ardour, it must be supported by a new flow of passion every moment.
  • For the same reason, despair, though contrary to security, has a like influence.

 

  • Nothing more powerfully animates any affection than to conceal some part of its object by throwing it into a shade.
    • It chews enough to pre-possess us in favour of the object yet leaves still some work for the imagination.
    • That obscurity is always attended with a kind of uncertainty.
    • The effort the fancy makes to complete the idea:
      • rouses the spirits
      • gives an additional force to the passion.

 

  • Despair and security are contrary to each other but produce the same effects.
    • Absence is observed to have contrary effects.
    • In different circumstances, it increases or reduces our affections.
  • Duc de La Rochefoucault has very well observed that absence destroys weak passions, but increases the strong passions, as the wind extinguishes a candle but blows up a fire.
    • Long absence naturally weakens our idea and reduces the passion.
    • But where the idea is so strong and lively as to support itself, the uneasiness from absence:
      • increases the passion
      • gives it new force.

 


 

Words: 2945

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