« AnteriorContinua »
for granted, that the existence of action depends on antecedent desire; it follows, that where there is no desire, there can be no action. This opens another shining distinction between emotions and passions. The former, being without desire, are in their nature quiescent: the desire included in the latter, prompts one to act in order to fulfil that desire, or, in other words, to gratify the passion.
The cause of a passion is sufficiently explained above: it is that being or thing, which, by raising desire, converts an emotion into a passion. When we consider a passion with respect to its power of prompting action, that same being or thing is termed its object : a fine woman, for example, raises the passion of love, which is directed to her as its object: a man, by injuring me, raises my resentment, and becomes thereby the object of my resentment. Thus the cause of a passion, and its object are the same in different respects. An emotion on the other hand, being in its nature quiescent, and merely a passive feeling, must have a cause; but cannot be said, properly speaking, to have an object.
The objects of our passions may be distinguished into two kinds, general and particular. A man, a house, a garden, is a particular object : fame, esteem, opulence, honour, are general objects, because each of them comprehends many particulars. The passions directed to general objects are commonly termed appetites, in contradistinction to passions directed to particular objects, which retain their proper name: thus we say an appetite for fame, for glory, for conquest, for riches: but we say the passion of friendship, of love, of gratitude, of envy, of resentment. And there is a material difference between appetites and passions, which makes it proper to distinguish them by different names: the latter have no existence till a proper object be presented; whereas the for
mer exist first, and then are directed to an object: a passion comes after its object; an appetite goes before it,
which is obvious in the appetites of hunger, thirst, and i animal love, and is the same in the other appetites above mentioned.
By an object so powerful as to make a deep impression, the mind is inflamed, and hurried to action with a strong impulse. Where the object is less powerful, so as not to inflame the mind, nothing is felt but desire without any sensible perturbation. The principle of duty affords one instance: the desire generated by an object of duty, being commonly moderate, moves us to act calmly, without any violent impulse; but if the mind happen to be inflamed with the importance of the object, in that case desire of doing our duty becomes a warm passion.
The actions of brute creatures are generally directed by instinct, meaning blind impulse or desire, without any view to consequences. Man is framed to be governed by reason; he commonly acts with deliberation, in order to bring about some desirable end; and in that case his actions are means employed to bring about the end desired : thus I give charity in order to relieve a person from want : I perform a grateful action as a duty incumbent on me; and I fight for my country in order to repel its enemies. At the same time, there are human actions that are not governed by reason, nor are done with any view to consequences. Infants, like brutes, are mostly governed by instinct, without the least view to any end, good or ill. And even adult persons act sometimes instinctively: thus one in extreme hunger snatches at food, without the slightest consideration whether it be salutary: avarice prompts to accumulate wealth, without the least view of use; and thereby absurdly converts means into an end : and animal love often hurries to fruition, without a thought even of gratification.
A passion when it flames so high as to impel us to act blindly without any view to consequences, good or ill, may in that state be termed instinctive; and when it is so moderate as to admit reason, and to prompt actions with a view to an end, it may in that state be termed delibera. tive.
With respect to actions exerted as means to an end, desire to bring about the end is what determines one to exert the action; and desire considered in that view is termed a motive: thus the same mental act that is termed desire with respect to an end in view, is termed a motive with respect to its power of determining one to act. Instinctive actions have a cause, namely, the impulse of the passion; but they cannot be said to have a motive, because they are not done with any view to consequences. X
We learn from experience, that the gratification of desire is pleasant; and the foresight of that pleasure becomes often an additional motive for acting. Thus a child eats by the mere impulse of hunger: a young man thinks of the pleasure of gratification, which being a motive for him to eat, fortifies the original impulse : and a man farther advanced in life, hath the additional motive, that it will contribute to his health.
From these premises, it is easy to determine with accuracy, what passions and actions are selfish, what social. It is the end in view that ascertains the class to which they belong: where the end in view is my own good, they are selfish; where the end in view is the good of another, they are social. Hence it follows, that instinctive actions, where we act blindly and merely by impulse, cannot be reckoned either social or selfish : thus eating, when
* One exception there is, and that is remorse, when it is so violent as to make a man desire to punish himself. The gratification here is far from being pleasant. See Part vii. T9, of this chapter. But a single exception, instead of overturning a general rule, is rather a confirmation of it.
prompted by an impulse merely of nature, is neither social nor selfish ; but add a motive, that it will contribute to my pleasure or my health, and it becomes in a measure 'selfish. On the other hand, when affection moves me to exert an action to the end solely of advancing my friend's happiness, without regard to my own gratification, the action is justly denominated social ; and so is also the affection that is its cause: if another motive be added, that gratifying the affection will also contribute to my own happiness, the action becomes partly selfish. If charity be given with the single view of relieving a person from distress, the action is purely social; but if it be partly in view to enjoy the pleasure of a virtuous act, the action is so far selfish.* Animal love when carried into action by natural impulse singly, is neither social nor selfish: when exerted with a view to gratification, it is selfish: when the motive of giving pleasure to its object is superadded, it is partly social, partly selfish. A just action, when prompted by the principle of duty solely, is neither social nor selfish. When I perform an act of justice with a view to the pleasure of gratification, the action is selfish: I pay a debt for my own sake, not with a view to benefit my creditor. But suppose the money has been advanced by a friend without interest, purely to oblige me: in that case, together with the motive of gratification, there arises a motive of gratitude, which respects the creditor solely, and prompts me to act in order to do him good; and the action is partly social, partly selfish. Suppose again I meet with a surprising and unexpected act of generosity,that inspires me with love to my benefactor, and the utmost gratitude: I burn to do him good: he is the sole object of my desire; and my own pleasure in gratifying the desire, vanisheth out of sight: in this case, the action I perform is purely social. Thus it happens, that when a social motive becomes strong, the action is exerted with a view singly to the object of the passion, and self never comes in view. The same effect of stifling selfish motives, is equally remarkable in other passions that are in no view social. An action, for example, done to gratify my ambitious views, is selfish; but if my ambition becomes headstrong, and blindly impels me to action, the action is neither selfish nor social. A slight degree of resentment, where my chief view in acting is the pleasure arising to myself from gratifying the passion, is justly denominated selfish: where revenge flames so high as to have no other aim but the destruction of its object, it is no longer selfish; but, in opposition to a social passion may be termed dissocid.
* A selfish motive proceeding from a social principle, such as that mentioned, is the most respectable of all selfish motives. To enjoy the pleasure of a virtuous action, one must be virtuous; and to enjoy the pleasure of a charitable action, one must think charity laudable at least, if not a duty. It is otherwise where a man gives charity merely for the sake of ostentation : for this he may do without having any pity or benevolence in his temper.
When this analysis of human nature is considered, not one article of which can with truth be controverted, there is reason to be surprised at the blindness of some philosophers, who, by dark and confused notions, are led to deny all motives to action bouwhatsavise from self-love. Man, for aught appears, might possibly have been so framed, as to be susceptible of no passions but what have self for their object : but man thus framed, would be illfitted for society : his constitution, partly selfish, partly social, fits him much better for his present situation.f
* This word, hitherto not in use, seems to fulfil all that is required by Demetrius Phalereus (Of Elocution, Sect. 96.) in coining a new word: first, that it be perspicuous; and next, that it be in the tone of the language; that we may not, says our author, introduce among the Grecian vocables, words that sound like those of Phrygia or Scythia.
* As the benevolence of many human actions is beyond the possibility VOL.I.