« PreviousContinue »
thus carried out, and affected towards the interests of others, For, if there be any appetite, or any inward principle besides self-love; why may there not be an affection to the good of our fellow creatures, and delight from that affection being gratified, and uneasiness from things going contrary to it? *
*There being manifestly this appearance of men's substituting others for themselves, and being carried out and affected towards them as towards themselves; some persons, who have a system which excludes every affection of this sort, have taken a pleasant method to solve it; and tell you, it is not another you are at all concerned about, but your self only, when you feel the affection called compassion: ie. Here is a plain matter of fact, which men cannot reconcile with the general account they think fit to give of things; they, therefore, instead of that manifest fact, substitute another, which is reconcileable to their own scheme. For, does not every body by compassion mean, an affection the object of which is another in distress? Instead of this, but designing to have it mistaken for this, they speak of an affection, or passion, the object of which is ourselves, or danger to ourselves. Hobbs defines pity, imagination, or fiction, of future calamity to ourselves, proceeding from the sense (he means sight, or knowledge) of another man's calamity. Thus, fear and compassion would be the same idea, and a fearful and a compassionate man the same character, which every one immediately sees are totally different. Further, to those who give any scope to their affections, there is no perception, or inward feeling, more universal than this; that one who has been merciful and compassionate throughout the course of his behaviour, should himself be treated with kindness, if he happens to fall into circumstances of distress. Is fear, then, or cowardice, so great a recommendation to the favor of the bulk of mankind? Or, is it not plain, that mere fearlessness (and, therefore, not the contrary) is one of the most popular qualifications? This shows that mankind are not affected towards compassion as fear, but as somewhat totally different.
Nothing would more expose such accounts as these of the affections which are favorable and friendly to our fellow-creatures, than to substitute the definitions which this author, and others who follow his steps, give of such affections, instead of the words by which they are commonly expressed. Hobbs, after having laid down, that pity, or compassion, is only fear for ourselves, goes on to explain the reason why we pity our friends in distress more than others. Now, substitute the definition instead of the word pity in this place, and the inquiry will be, why we fear our friends? &c. which words (since he really does not mean why we are afraid of them) make no question, or sentence at all. So that common language, the words to compassionate, to pity, cannot be accommodated to his account of compassion. The very joining of the words to pity our
Of these two, delight in the prosperity of others and compassion for their distresses, the last is felt much more generally than the former. Though men do not universally rejoice with all whom they see rejoice, yet, accidental obstacles removed, they naturally compassionate all in some degree whom they see in distress; so far as they have any real perception or sense of that distress: Insomuch that words expressing this latter, pity, compas
friends, is a direct contradiction to his definition of pity: Because those words, so joined, necessarily express, that our friends are the objects of the passion; whereas his definition of it asserts, that ourselves (or danger to ourselves) are the only objects of it. He might, indeed, have avoided this absurdity, by plainly saying what he is going to account for; namely, why the sight of the innocent, or of our friends in distress, raises greater fear for ourselves than the sight of other persons in distress. But had he put the thing thus plainly, the fact itself would have been doubted; that the sight of our friends in distress, raises in us greater fear for ourselves, than the sight of others in distress. And, in the next place, it would immediately have occurred to every one, that the fact now mentioned, which, at least, is doubtful, whether true or false, was not the same with this fact, which nobody ever doubted, that the sight of our friends in distress raises in us greater compassion than the sight of others in distress; every one, I say, would have seen that these are not the same, but two different inquiries; and, consequently, that fear and compassion are not the same. Suppose a person to be in real danger, and, by some means or other, to have forgot it, any trifling accident, any sound might alarm him, recall the danger to his remembrance, and renew his fear., But it is almost too grossly ridiculous (though it is to show an absurdity) to speak of that sound, or accident, as an object of compassion; and yet, according to Mr Hobbs, our greatest friend in distress is no more to us, no more the object of compassion, or of any affection in our heart. Neither the one nor the other raises any emotion in our mind, but only the thoughts of our liableness to calamity, and the fear of it; and both equally do this. It is fit such sorts of accounts of human nature should be shown to be what they really are, because there is raised upon them a general scheme, which undermines the whole foundation of common justice and honesty. See HOBBS of Hum. Nat. c. 9. sec. 10. There are often three distinct perceptions, or inward feelings, upon sight of persons in distress: real sorrow and concern for the misery of our fellow creatures; some degree of satisfaction, from a consciousness of our freedom from that misery: and, as the mind passes on from one thing to another, it is not unnatural, from such an occasion, to reflect upon our own liableness to the same or other calamities. The two last frequently accompany the first, but it is the first only which is properly compassion, of which the distressed are
sion, frequently occur, whereas we have scarce any single one, by which the former is distinctly expressed. Congratulation, indeed, answers condolence: but both these words are intended to signify certain forms of civility, rather than any inward sensation, or feeling. This difference, or inequality, is so remarkable, that we plainly consider compassion as itself an original, distinct, particular affection in human nature; whereas to rejoice in the good of others, is only a consequence of the general affection of love and good will to them. The reason and account of which matter is this: When a man has obtained any particular advantage or felicity, his end is gained; and he does not in that particular want the assistance of another: There was, therefore, no need of a distinct affection towards the felicity of another already obtained; neither would such affection directly carry him. on to do good to that person: Whereas, men in distress. want assistance; and compassion leads us directly to assist them. The object of the former is the present felicity of another; the object of the latter is the present misery of another. It is easy to see, that the latter wants a particular affection for its relief, and that the former does not want one, because it does not want assistance.
the objects, and which directly carries us with calmness and thought to their assistance. Any one of these, from various and complicated reasons, may, in particular cases, prevail over the other two; and there are, I suppose, instances where the bare sight of distress, without our feeling any compassion for it, may be the occasion of either or both of the two latter perceptions. One might add, that if there be really any such thing as the fiction or imagination of danger to ourselves, from sight of the miseries of others, which Hobbs speaks of, and which he has absurdly mistaken for the whole of compassion; if there be any thing of this sort common to mankind, distinct from the reflection of reason, it would be a most remarkable instance of what was furthest from his thoughts, namely, of a mutual sympathy between each particular of the species, a fellow-feeling common to mankind. It would not, indeed, be an example of our substituting others for ourselves, but it would be an example of our substituting ourselves for others. And as it would not be an instance of benevolence, so neither would it be any instance of self-love; for this phantom of danger to ourselves, naturally rising to view upon sight of the distresses of others, would be no more an instance of love to ourselves, than the pain of hunger is.
And, upon supposition of a distinct affection in both cases, the one must rest in the exercise of itself, having nothing further to gain; the other does not rest in itself, but carries us on to assist the distressed.
But, supposing these affections natural to the mind, particularly the last, "Has not each man troubles enough. of his own? must he indulge an affection which appropriates to himself those of others? which leads him to contract the least desirable of all friendships, friendships with the unfortunate? Must we invert the known rule of prudence, and choose to associate ourselves with the distressed? Or, allowing that we ought, so far as it is in our power, to relieve them, yet is it not better to do this from reason and duty? Does not passion and affection of every kind perpetually mislead us? Nay, is not passion and affection itself a weakness, and what a perfect being must be entirely free from?" Perhaps so: but it is mankind I am speaking of; imperfect creatures, and who naturally, and from the condition we are placed in, necessarily depend upon each other. With respect to such creatures, it would be found of as bad consequence to eradicate all natural affections, as to be entirely governed by them. This would almost sink us to the condition of brutes; and that would leave us without a sufficient principle of action. Reason alone, whatever any one may wish, is not, in reality, a sufficient motive of virtue in such a creature as man; but this reason, joined with those affections which God has impressed upon his heart. And when these are allowed scope to exercise themselves, but under strict government and direction of reason; then it is we act suitably to our nature, and to the circumstances God has placed us in. Neither is affection itself at all a weakness; nor does it argue defect, any otherwise than as our senses and appetites do; they belong to our condition of nature, and are what we cannot be without. God Almighty is, to be sure, unmoved by passion or appetite, unchanged by affection; but then it is to be added, that he neither sees, nor hears,
nor perceives things by any senses like ours; but in a manner infinitely more perfect. Now, as it is an absurdity almost too gross to be mentioned, for a man to endeavor to get rid of his senses, because the Supreme Being discerns things more perfectly without them; it is as real, though not so obvious an absurdity, to endeavor to eradicate the passions he has given us, because He is without them. For, since our passions are as really a part of our constitution as our senses; since the former as really belong to our condition of nature as the latter; to get rid of either, is equally a violation of, and breaking in upon, that nature and constitution he has given us. Both our senses and our passions are a supply to the imperfection of our nature: thus they show, that we are such sort of creatures, as to stand in need of those helps which higher orders of creatures do not. But it is not the supply, but the deficiency; as it is not a remedy, but a disease, which is the imperfection. However, our appetites, passions, senses, no way imply disease; nor, indeed, do they imply deficiency or imperfection of any sort; but only this, that the constitution of nature, according to which God has made us, is such as to require them. And it is so far from being true, that a wise man must entirely suppress compassion, and all fellow-feeling for others, as a weakness, and trust to reason alone to teach and enforce upon him the practice of the several charities we owe to our kind; that, on the contrary, even the bare exercise of such affections would itself be for the good and happiness of the world; and the imperfection of the higher principles of reason and religion in man, the little influence they have upon our practice, and the strength and prevalency of contrary ones, plainly require these affections to be a restraint upon these latter, and a supply to the deficiencies of the former.
First, The very exercise itself of these affections, in a just and reasonable manner and degree, would, upon the whole, increase the satisfactions, and lessen the miseries of life.