« PreviousContinue »
§ 4. Of the pasions which arise from our
The passions and affections which I** have hitherto considered are those which belong to us as individuals, and do not necessarily suppose any relation to other beings, I shall now proceed to treat of those which are of this latter class, and first of the pleasure that we take in the good opinion of others concerning us, which gives rise to that passion which we call the love of fame.
This is a passion that discovers itself pretty early in life, and arises principally from our experience and observation of the many advantages that result from the good opinion of others.
In the early part of life this principle is of signal use to us, as a powerful incentive to those actions which procure us the esteem of our fellow creatures ; which are, in general, the same that are di&tated by the princi
ples of benevolence and the moral sense, and also by a regard to the will of God.
But though, by this account, the love of fame is an useful ally to virtue, the gratification of it ought by no means to be made our primary pursuit; because, if it were known that fame was the fole end of a man's actions, he would be so far from gaining this end, that he would be despised by mankind in general ; and efpecially if he were advanced in life, when it is commonly expected that men should be governed by higher and better principles. For no actions are looked upon by the bulk of inankind as properly praise worthy, but those which proceed from a principle of disinterested benevolence, obedience to God, or a regard to conscience.
2. Besides, humility is a principal fubject of praise ; and, indeed, without this, no other virtue is held in much esteem. Now this humility supposes such a diffidence of ones felf, such a readiness to ac
knowledge the superiority of others, and also so small a degree of complacence in the contemplation of our own excellencies, as must be inconsistent with our making this pleasure our chief pursuit, and the source of our greatest happiness.
3. In another respect, also, the love of fame, as a primary object of pursuit, tends to defeat itself. We are not pleased with praise, except it come from persons of whose judgment, as well as fincerity we have a good opinion ; but the love of fame, as our fupreme good, tends to beget fuch a degree of- self sufficiency, and conceit, as makes us despise the rest of mankind, that is, it makes their praise of little value to us; so that the sprightly pleasures of vanity naturally give place in time to all the fullenness and moroseness of pride.
4. If a man have no other object than reputation or popularity, he will be led to dwell frequently upon the subject of
his own merit, of which he will, consequently, entertain an overweening and unreasonable opinion; and this can hardly fail to produce, besides a most ridiculous degree of conceit, so much envy and jealousy, as will make him insufferable in fociety, and subject him to the most cutting mortifications.
5. If a man's principal object be those qualifications and actions which usually distinguish men, and make them much talked of, both in their own and future ages, such as eminence with respect to genius, excellence in the polite arts, difcoveries in science, or great achivements in the arts of peace or war, his chance of succeeding is very small; for it is not pofsible that more than a few persons, in comparison, can draw the attention of the rest of mankind upon them. And befides that the qualifications which are the foundation of this eminence are very rare among mankind, success depends upon the concurrence of many circumstances,
It is plain,
independent on a man's felf. therefore, that very few persons can reasonably hope to distinguish themselves in this manner, and it would certainly be very wrong to propose that as a principal object of pursuit to all mankind, which the bulk of thein cannot possibly obtain, or enjoy.
The proper use of this love of fame, as of the principle of self interest, is to be a means of bringing us within the influence of better and truly virtuous principles, in consequence of begetting a habit of doing the same things which better principles would prompt to. If, for instance, a man should, first of all, perform acts of charity and beneficence from oftentation only, the joy that he actually communicates to others, and the praises he receives for his generosity, from those who are strangers to his real motive, cannot but give him an idea of the purer pleasures of genuine benevolence, from which, and not from a desire of applause only, he will for the future act.