Sec 2-3: Greatness of Mind, Goodness

SEC 2: GREATNESS OF MIND

 

  • I will illustrate this general system of morals by:
    • applying it to particular instances of virtue and vice, and
    • showing how their merit or demerit arises from the four sources here explained.
  • We shall begin by examining pride and humility.
    • We shall consider the vice or virtue in their excesses or just proportion.
  • An excessive pride or overweening conceit of ourselves is:
    • always esteemed vicious
    • universally hated.
  • Modesty, or a just sense of our weakness:
    • is esteemed virtuous
    • procures the goodwill of everyone.
  • Of the four sources of moral distinctions, this is to be ascribed to the third or to the immediate agreeableness and disagreeableness of a quality to others, without any reflections on the tendency of that quality.

 

  • To prove this, we must have recourse to two principles very conspicuous in human nature.
    • The first is the sympathy and communication of sentiments and passions.
      • So close and intimate is the correspondence of human souls, that no sooner any person approaches me, than he:
        • diffuses on me all his opinions
        • draws along my judgment in a greater or lesser degree.
      • My sympathy with him often goes not so far as entirely to change my sentiments and way of thinking.
        • Yet it is seldom so weak as to not disturb my thought and give an authority to the opinion recommended to me by his assent and approbation.
  • It is not material in any way on what subject he and I employ our thoughts.
    • Whether we judge of an indifferent person or of my own character, my sympathy gives equal force to his decision.
    • Even his sentiments of his own merit make me consider him in the same light, in which he regards himself.

 

  • This principle of sympathy has so powerful and insinuating a nature.
    • It enters into most of our sentiments and passions
    • It often takes place under the appearance of its contrary.
  • It is remarkable that when a person opposes me in anything I am strongly bent on and rouses my passion by contradiction, I always have sympathy with him.
    • My commotion does not proceed from any other origin.
  • Here is an evident conflict of opposite principles and passions.
    • On the one side, is that passion or sentiment natural to me
      • The stronger the passion, the greater is the commotion.
    • There must also be some passion or sentiment on the other side.
      • This passion can only proceed from sympathy.
  • The sentiments of others can only affect us by becoming our own.
    • In this case, they operate on us by opposing and increasing our passions in the same way as if they had been originally derived from our own temper and disposition.
    • While they remain concealed in the minds of others, they can never influence us.
    • Even when they are known, if they went no farther than the imagination or conception, the imagination is so accustomed to different objects.
      • A mere idea, though contrary to our sentiments and inclinations, would never alone be able to affect us.

 

  • The second principle is that of comparison, or the variation of our judgments concerning objects, according to their proportion to those with which we compare them.
    • We judge more of objects by comparison, than by their intrinsic worth and value.
    • We regard everything as mean, when set in opposition to what is superior of the same kind.
  • The most obvious comparison is that with ourselves.
    • It always takes place and mixes with most of our passions.
    • This kind of comparison is directly contrary to sympathy in its operation, as we have observed in compassion and malice.
  • In all kinds of comparison, an object always makes us receive a sensation from another object it is compared to.
    • This sensation is contrary to what arises from itself, in its direct and immediate survey.
    • The direct survey of another’s pleasure naturally gives us pleasure.
      • It produces pain when compared with our own pain.
    • His pain is painful.
      • But his pleasure augments the idea of our own happiness and gives us pleasure. (Book 2, Part 2, Sec 8)

 

  • Those principles of sympathy, and a comparison with ourselves, are directly contrary.
    • It thus may be worthwhile to consider what general rules can be formed beside the person’s particular temper for the prevalence of the one or the other.
  • Suppose I am now in safety at land, and would willingly reap some pleasure from this consideration.
    • I must:
      • think of the miserable condition of those at sea in a storm
      • must render this idea as strong and lively as possible to make me more sensible of my own happiness.
  • Whatever pains I may take, the comparison will never have an equal efficacy, as if I:
    • were really on the shore [Footnote 26]
    • saw a ship at a distance:
      • tossed by a tempest
      • in danger of perishing on a rock.
  • But suppose this idea became more lively.
    • Suppose the ship was driven so near me, that I can distinctly:
      • perceive the horror of the seamen and passengers
      • hear their lamentable cries
      • see their dearest friends:
        • give their last goodbye, or
        • embrace, resolving to perish in each others arms.
    • No one has so savage a heart to:
      • reap any pleasure from this.
      • withstand the motions of the tenderest compassion and sympathy.
    • It is evident, therefore, there is a medium in this case.
    • If the idea is too faint, it has no influence by comparison.
      • On the other hand, if it is too strong, it operates on us entirely by sympathy, which is the contrary to comparison.
  • Sympathy is the conversion of an idea into an impression.
    • It demands a greater force and vivacity in the idea than is requisite to comparison.

 

Footnote 26:

  • “From dry land, there is something pleasant in watching the great difficulties of another man in going out to the high seas, with the winds lashing the waters.
    • This is not because one derives delight from any man’s distress.
    • It is because it is pleasurable to perceive what troubles oneself is free of.”

 

 

  • All this is easily applied to the present subject.
    • We sink very much in our own eyes, when in the presence of:
      • a great man, or
      • one of a superior genius.
    • This humility makes a considerable ingredient in the respect we pay our superiors, according to our foregoing reasonings on that passion [Book 2, Part 2, Sect. 10].
  • Sometimes, even envy and hatred arise from the comparison.
    • But in the greatest part of men, it rests at respect and esteem.
  • Sympathy has such a powerful influence on the human mind.
    • It causes pride to have the same effect as merit.
    • By making us enter into those elevated sentiments which the proud man has of himself, it presents that comparison so mortifying and disagreeable.

 

  • Our judgment does not entirely accompany him in his flattering conceit.
    • But it is still so shaken as to receive the idea it presents, and to give it an influence above the loose conceptions of the imagination.
  • A man, who, in an idle humour, forms a notion of a person of a merit very much superior to his own, would not be mortified by that fiction.
    • But when a man of inferior merit is presented to us; if we observe in him any extraordinary degree of pride and self-conceit; the firm persuasion he has of his own merit,
      • takes hold of the imagination
      • reduces us in our own eyes, in the same way as if he really had all the good qualities he so liberally attributes to himself.
  • Our idea is here precisely in that medium requisite to make it operate on us by comparison.
    • It would have a contrary effect, and would operate on us by sympathy if:
      • if it were accompanied with belief, and did the person appear to have the same merit, which he assumes to himself, .
  • The influence of that principle would then be superior to that of comparison, contrary to what happens where the person’s merit seems below his pretensions.

 

  • The consequence of these principles is that pride must be vicious.
    • Since it:
      • causes uneasiness in all men
      • always presents a disagreeable comparison to all men.
  • Our own pride makes us so much displeased with the pride of other people
    • Vanity becomes insupportable to us merely because we are vain.
  • The gay naturally associate themselves with the gay, and the amorous with the amorous.
    • But the proud can never endure the proud.
    • They rather seek the company of those who are of an opposite disposition.
    • Pride is universally blamed and condemned by all mankind because all of us are proud in some degree.
      • Pride is blamed as having a natural tendency to cause uneasiness in others by means of comparison.
  • This effect must follow the more naturally.
    • Those who have an ill-grounded conceit of themselves are forever making those comparisons.
    • They do not have any other method of supporting their vanity.
  • A man of sense and merit is pleased with himself, independent of all foreign considerations.
    • But a fool must always find some person more foolish to stay happy with himself.

 

  • But valuing ourselves when we really have valuable qualities, is most laudable.
  • The utility and advantage of any quality to ourselves is a source of virtue, as well as its agreeableness to others.
  • A due degree of pride is most useful to us in life.
    • This:
      • makes us sensible of our own merit
      • gives us a confidence and assurance in all our projects and enterprises.
  • A person’s ability is useless if he :
    • does not know it
    • cannot form designs suitable to it.
  • We always need to know our own force.
    • If we were to make a mistake in this, it would be more advantageous to overrate our merit, than to put it below its just standard.
  • Fortune commonly favours the bold and enterprising.
    • Nothing inspires us with more boldness, than a good opinion of ourselves.

 

  • This kind of pride or self-applause is sometimes disagreeable to others.
    • But it is always agreeable to ourselves, just as modesty often produces uneasiness in the modest person, though it gives pleasure to everyone who observes it..
  • Our own sensations determine:
    • the vice and virtue of any quality
    • those sensations it may excite in others.

 

  • Thus self-satisfaction and vanity are allowable and requisite in a character.
    • However, good-breeding and decency require that we avoid all signs and expressions which directly show vanity.
  • All of us:
    • have a wonderful partiality for ourselves
    • would mutually cause the greatest indignation in each other if we always vented our sentiments by the:
      • immediate presence of so disagreeable a subject of comparison
      • contrariety of our judgments.
  • In like manner, therefore, as we establish the laws of nature to secure property in society, and prevent the opposition of self-interest;
  • we establish the rules of good-breeding to prevent the opposition of men’s pride and render conversation agreeable and inoffensive.
  • Nothing is more disagreeable than a man’s pride.
    • Everyone almost has a strong propensity to pride.
  • No one can well:
    • distinguish in himself between the vice and virtue,
    • be certain that his esteem of his own merit is well-founded.
  • For these reasons, all direct expressions of this passion are condemned.
    • We do not make any exception to this rule in favour of men of sense and merit.
  • They are not allowed to do themselves justice openly, in words, no more than other people.
    • Even if they show a reserve and secret doubt in doing themselves justice in their own thoughts, they will be more applauded.
  • That impertinent, and almost universal propensity of men, to over-value themselves, has given us such a prejudice against self-applause,
    • that we are apt to condemn it, by a general rule, wherever we meet with it;
    • and it is with some difficulty we give a privilege to men of sense, even in their most secret thoughts.
  • At least, some disguise in this is absolutely requisite.
    • If we harbour pride in our breasts, we must:
      • carry a fair outside,
      • have the appearance of modesty and mutual deference in our behaviour.
  • We must always be ready to:
    • prefer others to ourselves
    • treat them with a kind of deference, even though they are our equals
    • seem always the lowest and least in the company, where we are not very much distinguished above them.
  • If we observe these rules in our conduct, men will have more indulgence for our secret sentiments, when we discover them in an oblique manner.

 

  • I believe no one will assert that:
    • the humility required by good-breeding and decency goes beyond the outside, or
    • a thorough sincerity in this, is esteemed a real part of our duty.
  • On the contrary, a genuine and hearty pride or self-esteem, if well concealed and well-founded, is essential to an honourable man’s character.
    • It is absolutely needed to procure mankind’s esteem and approbation.
  • Custom requires certain deferences and mutual submissions of the different ranks of men towards each other.
  • Whoever exceeds in this, if through interest, is accused of meanness;
    • if through ignorance, of simplicity.
  • We therefore need to know our rank and station in the world, whether it is fixed by our birth, fortune, employments, talents or reputation.
    • It is necessary to:
      • feel the sentiment and passion of pride in conformity to it
      • regulate our actions accordingly.
  • If prudence is enough to regulate our actions in this, without any real pride:
    • the object of prudence here is to conform our actions to the general usage and custom.
    • it is impossible those tacit airs of superiority should ever have been established and authorized by custom, unless:
      • men were generally proud
      • pride was generally approved, when well-grounded.

 

  • If we pass from common life and conversation to history, this reasoning acquires new force, when we observe, that all those great actions and sentiments, which have become the admiration of mankind, are founded only on pride and self-esteem.
    • Alexander the Great says ‘go’ to his soldiers, when they refused to follow him to the Indies.
    • Go tell your countrymen, that you left Alexander completing the conquest of the world.
  • This passage was always particularly admired by the prince of Conde, as we learn from St Evremond.

 

  • That prince said:
    • “ALEXANDER, abandoned by his soldiers, among barbarians, not yet fully subdued, felt such a dignity of right and empire in himself.
    • He could not believe anyone could refuse to obey him.
    • In Europe or Asia, among Greeks or Persians, all was indifferent to him.
    • Wherever he found men, he fancied he found subjects.”

 

  • A heroic virtue is the character of greatness and elevation of mind which we admire.
    • It is merely a steady and well-established pride and self-esteem, or it partakes largely of self-esteem.
  • Courage, intrepidity, ambition, love of glory, magnanimity, and all the other shining virtues of that kind:
    • have a strong mixture of self-esteem in them
    • derive a great part of their merit from self-esteem.
  • Accordingly, many religious declaimers:
    • decry those virtues as purely pagan and natural
    • represent to us the excellency of Christianity which:
      • places humility in the rank of virtues
      • corrects the judgment of the world, and even of philosophers, who admire the efforts of pride and ambition.
  • I shall not decide whether this virtue of humility has been rightly understood.
    • I am content with the concession, that the world naturally esteems a well-regulated pride, which secretly animates our conduct, without breaking out into such indecent expressions of vanity, as many offend the vanity of others.

 

  • The merit of pride or self-esteem is derived from two circumstances:
    • its utility
    • its agreeableness to ourselves
      • These capacitate us for business and give us an immediate satisfaction.
  • When it goes beyond its just bounds, it loses the first advantage, and even becomes prejudicial.
    • This is why we condemn an extravagant pride and ambition, however regulated by the decorums of good-breeding and politeness.
  • But as such a passion is still agreeable, and conveys an elevated and sublime sensation to the person, who is actuated by it, the sympathy with that satisfaction reduces considerably the blame,
    • which naturally attends its dangerous influence on his conduct and behaviour.
  • Accordingly, an excessive courage and magnanimity, especially when it displays itself under the frowns of fortune, contributes in a great measure, to the character of a hero, and will render a person the admiration of posterity.
    • at the same time, that it ruins his affairs, and leads him into dangers and difficulties, with which otherwise he would never have been acquainted.

 

  • Heroism, or military glory, is much admired by mankind.
    • Men consider it as the most sublime kind of merit.
    • Men of cool reflection are not so sanguine in their praises of it.
      • The infinite confusions and disorder it has caused in the world reduce much of its merit in their eyes.
      • They always paint out the evils produced by heroism in human society:
        • the subversion of empires
        • the devastation of provinces
        • the sack of cities.
          • As long as these are present to us, we are more inclined to hate than admire the ambition of heroes.
          • But when we view the person himself, there is something so dazzling in his character.
            • Its mere contemplation so elevates the mind, that we cannot refuse to admire it.
            • The pain we receive from its prejudice of society is over-powered by a stronger and more immediate sympathy.

 

  • Thus our explanation of the merit or demerit, which attends pride serves as a strong argument for the preceding hypothesis, by showing the effects of those principles above explained in all our judgments on pride.
  • This reasoning will not be advantageous to us only by showing that the distinction of vice and virtue arises from the four principles of the advantage and of the pleasure of the person himself, and of others
    • But may also afford us a strong proof of some under-parts of that hypothesis.

 

  • Anyone who considers this matter will allow that any in-breeding or expression of pride and haughtiness, is displeasing to us merely because it:
    • shocks our own pride
    • leads us by sympathy into a comparison, which causes the disagreeable passion of humility.
  • An insolence of this kind is blamed even in a person:
    • who has always been civil to us.
    • whose name is only known to us in history.
  • It follows that our disapprobation proceeds from:
    • a sympathy with others
    • the reflection that such a character is highly displeasing and odious to everyone who converses or has any intercourse with the person who has it.
  • We sympathize with those people in their uneasiness.
    • Their uneasiness proceeds partly from a sympathy with the person who insults them.
    • A double rebound of the sympathy occurs.
      • This is a principle very similar to what we have observed. (Book 2, Part 2, Sec. 5)

SEC 3: GOODNESS AND BENEVOLENCE

  • We have explained the origin of praise and approbation in everything we call great in human affections.
  • We now:
    • give an account of their goodness
    • show from where its merit is derived.

 

  • When experience has once given us a competent knowledge of human affairs, and has taught us the proportion they bear to human passion, we perceive that men’s generosity:
    • is very limited
    • seldom extends beyond their friends and family or beyond their native country at most.
  • We therefore do not expect any impossibilities from a man.
    • Instead, we confine our view to that narrow circle to form a judgment of his moral character.
  • When the natural tendency of his passions leads him to be serviceable and useful within his sphere, we approve of his character, and love his person, by a sympathy with the sentiments of those, who are more connected with him.
    • We are quickly obliged to forget our own interest in our judgments of this kind, by reason of the perpetual contradictions, we meet with in society and conversation, from persons that are not placed in the same situation, and have not the same interest with ourselves.
  • The only point of view, in which our sentiments concur with those of others is when we consider the tendency of any passion to the advantage or harm of those who have any immediate connexion or intercourse with the person possessed of it.
  • This advantage or harm is often very remote from ourselves.
    • Yet it:
      • is sometimes very near us
      • interests us strongly by sympathy.
  • We readily extend this concern to other resembling cases.
    • When these are very remote:
      • our sympathy is proportionably weaker
      • our praise or blame is fainter and more doubtful.
  • This is the same as our judgments on external bodies.
    • All objects seem to become smaller by their distance.
    • The appearance of objects is the original standard we judge them by.
      • But we do not say that they actually get smaller by the distance.
      • We correct the appearance by reflection and arrive at a more constant and established judgment on them.
  • Similarly, sympathy is much fainter than our concern for ourselves.
    • A sympathy with persons remote from us is much fainter than that with persons near and contiguous.
    • But we neglect all these differences in our calm judgments on men’s characters.
  • We often change our situation in this ourselves.
    • We meet persons everyday who are in a different situation from ourselves,
    • They could never converse with us on any reasonable terms if we remain constantly in that situation and point of view peculiar to us.
  • The intercourse of sentiments, therefore makes us form some general inalterable standard, by which we approve or disapprove of characters and manners.
    • The heart does not always:
      • take part with those general notions, or
      • regulate its love and hatred by them,
    • But they:
      • are sufficient for discourse
      • serve all our purposes in company, in the pulpit, on the theatre, and in the schools.

 

  • From these principles we may easily account for that merit commonly ascribed to qualities which form the character of good and benevolent:
    • generosity, humanity, compassion, gratitude, friendship, fidelity, zeal, disinterestedness, liberality, etc.
  • A propensity to the tender passions:
    • makes a man agreeable and useful in life
    • gives a just direction to all his other qualities, which otherwise may become prejudicial to society.
  • When courage and ambition are not regulated by benevolence, they are fit only to make a tyrant and robber.
    • The same is true of judgment and capacity, and all the qualities of that kind.
  • They are indifferent in themselves to the interests of society.
    • They have a tendency to the good or ill of mankind, according as they are directed by these other passions.

 

  • Love is immediately agreeable to the person who is actuated by it.
    • Hatred is immediately disagreeable.
  • This is why we:
    • praise all the passions that have love
    • blame all the passions that have hatred.
  • We are infinitely touched with a tender sentiment, as well as with a great one.
    • Our conception of it naturally causes us tears.
      • We cannot refrain giving a loose to the same tenderness to the person who exerts it.
  • To me, all this seems proof that our approbation in those cases has a different origin from the prospect of utility and advantage to ourselves or others.
    • Men naturally, without reflection, approve of the character most like their own.
  • The man of a mild disposition and tender affections, in forming a notion of the most perfect virtue, mixes in it more of benevolence and humanity, than the man of courage and enterprise, who naturally looks on a certain elevation of mind as the most accomplished character.
    • This must evidently proceed from an immediate sympathy which men have with characters similar to their own.
    • They enter with more warmth into such sentiments.
    • They more sensibly feel the pleasure arising from them.

 

  • Remarkably, nothing touches a man of humanity more than extraordinary delicacy in love or friendship, where a person is:
    • attentive to the smallest concerns of his friend
    • willing to sacrifice his own most considerable interest for them.
  • Such delicacies have little influence on society, because they make us regard the greatest trifles.
    • But they are the more engaging, the more minute the concern is.
    • They are a proof of the highest merit in anyone capable of them.
  • The passions are so contagious.
    • They pass with the greatest facility from one person to another.
    • They produce correspondent movements in all human breasts.
  • Where friendship appears in very signal instances, my heart:
    • catches the same passion
    • is warmed by those warm sentiments that display themselves before me.
  • Such agreeable movements must give me an affection to everyone that excites them.
    • This is the case with everything agreeable in any person.
  • The transition from pleasure to love is easy.
    • But the transition must here be easier, since:
      • love itself is excited by sympathy
      • there is nothing required but to change the object.

 

  • Hence the peculiar merit of benevolence in all its shapes and appearances.
    • Even its weaknesses are virtuous and amiable.
  • A person, whose grief upon the loss of a friend was excessive, would be esteemed..
    • His tenderness bestows a merit on his melancholy, as it does a pleasure.

 

  • However, we should not imagine that all the angry passions are vicious, though they are disagreeable.
    • There is a certain indulgence due to human nature in this respect.
  • Anger and hatred are passions inherent in our very frame and constitutions.
    • Sometimes, their lack may even be a proof of weakness and imbecility.
    • If they appear a little, we:
      • excuse them because they are natural;
      • even bestow our applauses on them because they are inferior to what most of mankind has.

 

  • Where these angry passions rise up to cruelty, they form the most detested of all vices.
    • All the pity and concern which we have for the miserable sufferers by this vice, turns against the person guilty of it, and produces a stronger hatred than we are sensible of on any other occasion.
  • Even when the vice of inhumanity does not rise to this extreme degree, our sentiments on it are very much influenced by reflections on the harm that results from it.
    • Generally, if we can find any quality in a person rendering him incommodious to those who live with him, we always allow it to be a fault or blemish, without any farther examination.
    • On the other hand, when we enumerate anyone’s good qualities, we always mention those parts of his character, which render him:
      • a safe companion
      • an easy friend
      • a gentle master
      • an agreeable husband, or
      • an indulgent father.
    • We consider him with all his relations in society.
      • We love or hate him according to how he affects those close to him.
  • And it is a most certain rule, that if there is no relation of life, in which I could not wish to stand to a particular person, his character must so far be allowed to be perfect.
  • If he be as little wanting to himself as to others, his character is entirely perfect.
    • This is the ultimate test of merit and virtue.

 

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