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even seem to have been aware of the distinction between, self-love, considered as a rational principle of action, or the voluntary and deliberate pursuit of our own good as such, and that immediate interest or gratification which the mind may have in the pursuit of any object either relating to ourselves or others. He sometimes evidently considers the former of these, that is, a deliberating, calculating, conscious selfishness, as the only rational principle of action, and treats all other feelings as romance and folly, or even denies their existence; while at other times he contends that the most disinterested generosity, patriotism, and love of fame, are equally and in the strictest sense self-love, because the pursuit of these objects is connected with and tends immediately and intentionally to the gratification of the individual who has an attachment to them.
After stating the sentiment of Rousseau, that without an innate and abstract sense of right and wrong we should not see the just man and the true citizen consult the public good to his own prejudice, Helvetius goes on thus :-“No one, I reply, has ever been found to promote the public good when it injured his own interest. The patriot who risks his life to crown himself with glory, to gain the public esteem, and
to deliver his country from slavery, yields to the feeling which is most agreeable to him. Why should he not place his happiness in the exercise of virtue, in the acquisition of public respect, and in the pleasure consequent upon
this respect? For what reason, in a word, should he not expose his life for his country, when the sailor and soldier, the one at sea, and the other in the trenches, daily expose theirs for a shilling? The virtuous man who seems to sacrifice his own good to that of the public is only governed by a sentiment of noble self-interest. Why should M. Rousseau deny here that interest is the exclusive and universal motive of action, when he himself admits it in a thousand places of his works?” The author then quotes the following passage from Rousseau's ‘Emilius' in support of his doctrine:-“A man may indeed pretend to prefer my interest to his own; however plausibly he colours over this falsehood, I am quite sure it is one.” But I would ask why, on the principle just stated by Helvetius, he should not prefer another to himself, “if it is agreeable to him?” Why should he not place his happiness in the exercise of friendship? Why should he not risk his life for his friend, as well as the patriot for his country, or as the soldier or sailor for a shilling a day? What is become, all of
a sudden, of that noble self-interest which identifies us with our country and our kind ? Is it quite forgot? Has it evaporated with a breath? Is there nothing of it left? When
instances are brought, or supposed, of the sacrifice of private interest to principle, or virtue, or passion, it is immediately pretended that these instances are not at all inconsistent with the grand universal principle of self-interest, which embraces all the sentiments and affections of the human mind, even the most heroical and disinterested. But the moment these instances are out of sight and the evasion is no longer necessary, this expansive principle shrinks into its own natural littleness again ; and excludes all regard to the good of others as romantic and idle folly. All those instances of virtue which are at one moment, perfectly compatible with this “universal principle of action” next moment said to be incompatible with it, and the author after his little rhetorical glozings on the extensive views and generous sacrifices of self-interest, immediately descends into the vulgar proverb that “the misfortunes of others are but a dream.” To proceed: Helvetius says, (p. 14):
“What we understand by goodness or the moral sense in man, is his benevolence towards
others : and this benevolence we always find in proportion to the utility they are of to him. I prefer my fellow-citizens to strangers, and my friend to my fellow-citizens. The welfare of my friend is reflected upon me.
If he becomes more rich and more powerful, I partake of his riches and his
Benevolence towards others is nothing, then, but the effect of love to ourselves.”
The inference here stated, that benevolence is merely a reflection from self-love, is founded on the assumption that we always feel for others in proportion to the advantage they are of to us, and this assumption is a false one. That the habitual or known connexion between our own welfare and that of others, is one great source of our attachment to them, one bond of society, is what I do not wish to deny: the question is whether it is the only one in the mind, or whether benevolence has not a natural basis of its own to rest upon, as well as self-love. Grant this, and the actual effects which we observe in human life will follow from both principles combined : but to say that our attachment to others is in the exact ratio of our obligations to them, is contrary to all we know of human nature. I would ask whether the affection of a mother for her child is owing to the good received or be
stowed; to the child's power of conferring benefits, or its standing in need of assistance ? Are not the fatigues which the mother undergoes for the child, its helpless condition, its little vexations, its sufferings from ill health or accidents, additional ties upon maternal tenderness, which by increasing the attention to the wants of the child and anxiety to supply them, produce a proportionable interest in and attachment to its welfare? Helvetius justly observes that we prefer a friend to a stranger, but the reason which he assigns for it, that our interests and pleasures are more closely allied, is not the only one. We participate in the successes of our friends, it is true, but we also participate in their distresses and disappointments, and it is not always found that this lessens our regard for them. Benevolence, therefore, is not a mere physical reflection from self-love. His account of friendship agrees exactly with that which the grave historian of Jonathan Wild has given of the friendship between his hero and Count La Ruse : “Mutual interest, the greatest of all purposes, was the cement of this alliance, which nothing of consequence but superior interest was capable of dissolving.”
The mechanical principle of association, understood in a strict sense, will not account for