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justify our passions as well as our actions, not to others only, but even to ourselves. That tendency is peculiarly remarkable with respect to disagreeable passions : by its influence, objects are magnified or lessened, circumstances supplied or suppressed, every thing coloured and disguised, to answer the end of justification. Hence the foundation of self-deceit, where a man imposes upon himself innocently, and even without suspicion of a bias.
There are subordinate means that contribute to pervert the judgment, and to make us form opinions contrary to truth; of which I shall mention two. First, it was formerly observed,* that though ideas seldom start up in the mind without connexion, yet that ideas suited to the present tone of mind are readily suggested by any slight connexion ; the arguments for a favourite opinion are always at hand, while we often search in vain for those that cross our inclination. Second, The mind taking delight in agreeable circumstances or arguments, is deeply impressed with them ; while those that are disagreeable are hurried over so as scarce to make an impression : the same argument, by being relished or not relished, weighs so differently, as in truth to make conviction depend more on passion than on reasoning. This observation is fully justified by experience: to confine myself to a single instance; the numberless absurd religious tenets that at different times have pestered the world, would be altogether unaccountable but for that irregular bias of passion.
We proceed to a more pleasant task, which is, to illustrate the foregoing observations by proper examples. Gratitude, when warm, is often exerted upon the children of the benefactor; especially where he is removed out of reach by death or absence. The passion in this case being exerted for the sake of the benefactor, requires no peculiar excellence in his children: but the practice of doing good to these children produces affection for them, which never fails tu advance them in our esteem. By such means, strong connexions of affection are often formed among individuals, upon the slight foundation now mentioned.
* Chapter I. + See part I. sect. 1. of the present chapter.
Envy is a passion, which, being altogether unjustifiable, cannot be excused but by disguising it under some plausible name. At the same time, no passion is more eager than envy, to give its object a disagreeable appearance : it magnifies every bad quality, and fixes on the most humbling circumstances :
Cassius. I cannot tell what you and other men
Is now become a god, and Cassius is
Julius Cæsar, Act I. Sc. 3.
Glo’ster, inflamed with resentment against his son Edgar, could even force himself into a momentary conviction that they were not related :
O strange fasten’d villain !
King Lear, Act II. Sc. 3.
When by great sensibility of heart, or other means, grief becomes immoderate, the mind, in order to justify itself, is prone to magnify the cause : and if the real cause admit not of being magnified the mind seeks a cause for its grief in imagined future events :
Busby. Madam, your Majesty is much too sad;
Queen. To please the King, I did ; to please myself,
Why I should welcome such a guest as grief;
Richard II. Act II. Sc. 5.
Resentment at first is vented on the relations of the ofsender, in order to punish hinı : but as resentment, when so outrageous, is contrary to conscience, the mind, to justify its passion, is disposed to paint these relations in the blackest colours; and it comes at last to be convinced, that they ought to be punished for their own demerits.
Anger raised by an accidental stroke upon a tender part of the body is sometimes vented upon the undesigning
But as the passion in that case is absurd, and as there can be no solid gratification in punishing the innocent; the mind, prone to justify as well as to gratify its passion, deludes itself into a conviction of the action's being voluntary. The conviction, however, is but momentary: the first reflection shows it be erroneous ; and the passion vanisheth almost instantaneously with the conviction. But anger, the most violent of all passions has still greater influence : it sometimes forces the mind to personify a stock or a stone, if it happen to occasion bodily pain, and even to believe it a voluntary agent, in order to be a proper object of resentment. And that we have really a momentary conviction of its being a voluntary agent, must be evident from considering, that, without such conviction, the passion can neither be justified nor gratified: the imagination can give no aid; for a stock or a stone imagined sensible, cannot be an object of punishment, if the mind be conscious that it is an imagination merely without any reality. Of such personification, involving a
conviction of reality, there is one illustrious instance: when the first bridge of boats over the Hellespont was destroyed by a storm, Xerxes fell into a transport of rage, so excessive, that he commanded the sea to be punished with 300 stripes; and a pair of fetters to be thrown into it, enjoining the following words to be pronounced : “O “ thou salt and bitter water ! thy master hath condemned " thee to this punishment for offending him without cause : " and is resolved to pass over thee in despite of thy inso“ lence: with reason all men neglect to sacrifice to thee, “ because thou art both disagrecable and treacherous."*
Shakspeare exhibits beautiful examples of the irregular influence of passion in making us believe things to be otherwise than they are. King Lear, in his distress, personifies the rain, wind, and thunder; and in order to justify his resentment, believes them to be taking part with his daughters :
Lear. Rumble thy bellyful, spit fire, spout rain!
Act III. Sc. 2.
King Richard, full of indignation against his favourite horse for carrying Bolingbroke, is led into the conviction of his being rational :
* Herodotus, book vii.