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well be conceived. Self-love and sympathy are inconsistent. The instant we no longer suppose man to be a physical agent, and allow him to have ideas of things out of himself and to be influenced by them, that is, to be endued with sympathy at all, he must necessarily cease to be a merely selfish agent. The instant he is supposed to conceive and to be affected by the ideas of other things, he cannot be wholly governed by what relates to himself. The terms “selfish” and “natural agent” are a contradiction. For the one expression implies that the mind is actuated solely by the impulse of self-love, and the other that it is in the power and under the control of other motives. If our sympathy with others does not always originate in the pleasure with which it is accompanied to ourselves, or does not cease the moment it becomes troublesome to us, then man is not entirely and necessarily the creature of self-love. He is under another law and another necessity, and in spite of himself is forced out of the direct line of his own interest, both future and present, by other principles inseparable from his nature as an intelligent being. Our sympathy therefore is not the servile, ready tool of our self-love, but this latter principle is itself subservient to and over-ruled by the former; that is, an attachment to others
is a real independent principle of human action. What I wish to state is this: that the mind neither constantly aims at nor tends to its own individual interest. That in benevolence, compassion, friendship, &c. the mind does aim at its good, is what every one must acknowledge. The only sense then in which our sympathy with others can be construed into self-love, must be that the mind is so constituted that without forethought or any reflection in itself, or when seeming most occupied with others, it is still governed by the same universal feeling of which it is wholly unconscious ; and that we indulge in compassion, &c. only because and in as far as it coincides with our own immediate gratification. If it could be shown that the current of our desires always runs the same way, either with or without knowledge, I should confess that this would be a strong presumption of what has been called the falsity of human virtue. But it is not true that such is the natural disposition of the mind. It is not so constructed as to receive no impressions but those which gratify its desire of happiness, or to throw off every the least uneasiness relating to others, like oil from water. It is not true that the feelings of others have no natural hold upon the mind but by their connexion with self-interest. Nothing can be more
evident than that we do not on any occasion blindly consult the interest of the moment; there is no instinctive unerring bias to our own good, which in the midst of contrary motives and doubtful appearances, puts aside all other impulses and guides them but to its own purposes. It is against all experience to say
that in giving way to the feelings of sympathy, any more than to those of rational self-interest (for the argument is the same in both cases), I always yield to that impulse which is accompanied with most pleasure at the time. It is true that I yield to the strongest impulse, but not that my strongest impulse is to pleasure. The idea, for instance, of the relief I may afford to a person in extreme distress, is not necessarily accompanied by a correspondent degree of pleasurable sensation to counterbalance the painful sensation his immediate distress occasions in my mind. It is certain that sometimes the one and sometimes the other may prevail without altering my purpose in the least. I am led to persevere in it by the idea of what are the sufferings, and that it is in my power to alleviate them : though that idea is not always the most agreeable contemplation I could have. Those who voluntarily perform the most painful duties of friendship or humanity do not do them from the immediate gratification
arising therefrom ; it is as easy to turn away from a beggar as to relieve him; and if the mind were not actuated by a sense of truth, and of the real consequences of its actions, we should uniformly listen to the distresses of others with the same sort of feeling as we go to see a tragedy, only because we calculate that the pleasure is greater than the pain. But I appeal to every one whether this is a true account of human nature. There is indeed a false and bastard kind of feeling commonly called sensibility, which is governed altogether by this reaction of pity on our own minds, and which instead of disproving only serves more strongly to distinguish the true. Upon the theory here stated the mind is supposed to be imperceptibly attached to or to fly from every idea or impression simply as it affects it with pleasure or pain : all other impulses are carried into effect or remain powerless according as they touch this great spring of human affection, which determines every other movement and operation of the mind. Why then do we not reject at first every tendency to what may give us pain? Why do we sympathise with the distresses of others at all?
“ The jealous God at sight of human ties,
Spreads his light wings and in a moment flies."
Why does not our self-love in like manner, if it is so perfectly indifferent and unconcerned a principle as it is represented, immediately disentangle itself from every feeling or idea which it finds becoming painful to it? It should seem we are first impelled by self-love to feel uneasiness at another's sufferings, in order that the same principle of tender concern for ourselves may afterwards impel us to get rid of that uneasiness by endeavouring to remove the suffering which is the cause of it. In desiring to relieve the distress of another, it is pretended that our only wish is to remove the uneasiness it occasions us : do we also feel this uneasiness in the first instance for the same reason, or from regard to ourselves ! It is absurd to say that in compassionating others I am only occupied with my own pain or uneasiness, since this very uneasiness arises from my compassion.
It is to take the effect for the cause. One half of the process, namely, our connecting the sense of pain with the idea of it, has evidently nothing to do with self-love: nor do I see any more reason for ascribing the active impulse which follows to this principle, since it does not tend to remove the idea of the object as it gives me pain, or as it actually affects myself, but as it is supposed to affect another. Self, mere positive