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gesticulations of the body, forms of the countenance, or tones of the voice, it is well known, is immediately understood by all men, without the intervention of language, or any previous communication. Smiling, frowning, laughing, crying, are universal expressions of thought, which are perfectly understood by all nations of the world, and by all ranks and descriptions of men.
It has been the opinion of some philosophers, that these, and such natural signs, are understood only in consequence of convention and experience, in like manner as the mere arbitrary expressions of a language. But the fallacy of this doctrine is clearly demonstrated by the well-known fact, that natural signs are as completely intelligible to an infant, as to a person of mature years. Other philosophers are inclined to state the interpretation of natural signs as an ultimate fact in human nature, of which no explanation can be given. Among this number is Dr. Reid, who reckons among the intuitive truths, which are immediately discerned by our judgment, or which cannot be rendered plainer by any other intermediate truths, this one, “ that certain features of the countenance, sounds of the voice, and gestures of the body, indicate certain thoughts and dispositions of the mind.” (Essay on the Intellectual Powers. While other philosophers have attempted to explain in what manner natural signs come to be interpreted even without the help of convention, and their explanations seem generally to involve a reference to the principle of Imitation.
Terror, it has just been remarked, is contagious ; but so also is strong emotion of any kind. We cannot behold another enraged, displeased, delighted, or agitated greatly in any manner, without participating, to a certain extent, in his emotion, and, consequently, without understanding its external indications. The very features of the countenance, as well as feelings of the mind, become faithful copies of what arrests our attention in other men. It has often been remarked, that the vulgar, when their passions are interested by any public representation, or performance, exhibit in their varying countenances all the emotions of the actors, even with exaggeration. They have been observed, at an exhibition of rope-dancing, or wire-balancing, to writhe their bodies into the attitudes which the performer finds necessary for his safety. Nor can the body thus participate in the expressions of others, without a corresponding influence on the mind; so that we may y-be said actually to feel as others do, when we intuitively interpret the external indications of their feelings. It is observed by Mr. Burke, (Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful,) that he could never imitate the looks and actions of an angry man, without feeling a certain degree of the corresponding passion rising in his breast; so wonderful is the connection between our minds and bodies.
Such are the important effects which may be traced to the operation of what I have called the social principle, as it is exhibited in an ardent desire for the intercourse of our fellow-men, in a sympathetic participation of their joys and sorrows, and an instinctive imitation of their manners, actions, and emotions. Some, however, may be of opinion, that sympathy, and the principle of imitation, have too many marks of discrimination to admit of being classed together, or to be considered as only modifications of that principle, which prompts us
to associate with our own species. Whether this be granted or not, I trust it will be generally allowed, that all these principles of action play a very important part in the human constitution, that they have a very remarkable connexion with one another, and therefore have been properly placed together in an enumeration of the leading social principles of action in man.
I proceed now to a class of man's social principles, which have a place in every enumeration of his Active Powers, and have at all times been attentively examined by the inquirers into the human constitution; I mean his affections. The affections have been treated of more fully by Dr. Reid than by any other writer; and, according to that philosopher, they may be divided into two kinds, the benevolent and the malevolent. The former dispose us to do good to our fellowcreatures, the latter dispose us to injure them; and he justifies the application of the term malevolent to an affection, by the common usage of language, according to which we speak of being well or ill affected towards any person. And it is further to be observed, that the term malevolent, as here employed, does not denote any thing intrinsically bad in itself, but merely, that the object of these active principles is not the welfire of our fellow-creatures, nor is their exercise amiable or agreeable, as is the case with the benevolent affections.
The benevolent affections, according to our author, all agree in two particulars, viz. that they are accompanied with an agreeable feeling, and that they all imply a desire of good and happiness to their object. Much of the happiness of human life is derived from the reciprocal exercise of the kind affections, and without them our existence would be indeed a blank. Sometimes, perhaps, pain may 'arise from the exercise of a benevolent affection; a father may be distressed by the disobedience of a son, a friend by the infidelity of the person to whom he is attached ; but the pain thus arising is not necessarily inherent in the nature of the affection, but accidentally joined to it. Pleasure, it may be laid down, is essential to the exercise of benevolent affection, and pleasure, too, of the most exalted kind. It is not, however, precisely the same as that derived from the practice of virtue, although it may be said to occupy the next degree. The man who is addicted to vicious indulgences, the epicure, the libertine, and even the lawless plunderer, are all capable of feeling the kind affections; and these but too frequently give a charm to vice, by being blended with criminal indulgences.
If it be allowed that those active principles denominated Appetites and Desires, although their proper object be the good of the individual, are not reaily selfish in their exercise, but pursue each its own end, without any reference to self-love, much more will it be granted, that our benevolent affections, which point immediately at the good of other men, do not originate in a selfish principle. Yet there have not been wanting philosophers, both ancient and modern, as I have had occasion already to observe, who have endeavoured to reduce the operation even of our affections to the suggestions of self-love. They maintain, that we are never benevolent or friendly to others, but from a remote consideration of our own advantage, and with a view to
receive similar kindness, when we may have occasion for it. The reasonings of such philosophers have served to show the admirable harmony which exists among the various principles of human nature, and to prove that none of them tend to the injury, while others tend to the well-being, of the individual. But it by no means follows, that all our actions flow from considerations of our own interest alone ; nor will such a doctrine serve to explain many of the most remarkable examples of human conduct, as has been already shown in Sect. 1.
Other writers, who are by no means disposed to countenance the conclusions which arise from this selfish philosophy, have yet denied the independent operation of the affections as original principles of our nature, and refer those effects, which are commonly ascribed to the affections, to the agency of the understanding, or rational principle of man. This doctrine, in fact, nearly coincides with the system of the selfish philosophers, who ascribe every praise-worthy action to a rational regard to our own advantage, although those who bave espoused it seem not to have been aware of the coincidence. It is the doctrine of Dr. Price, although that author's zeal for the purity of the motives, which prompt to virtuous conduct, cannot be doubted. In his “ Review of the principal questions and difficulties in Morals,” Dr. Price endeavours to prove, that benevolence, as well as self-love, have their rise from the intelligent principle in man, and are not implanted principles of action. The same account he likewise gives of our desires, of ambition and curiosity. But he admits that the appetites are original and independent principles of action.
“ This, perhaps," (says he) “ will afford us a good reason for distinguishing between affections and passions. The former, which we apply indiscriminately to all reasonable beings, may most properly signify the desires and inclinations founded in the reasonable nature itself, and essential to it; such as self-love, benevolence, and the love of truth. These, when aided and strengthened by instinctive determinations, take the latter denomination ; or are, properly, passions. Those tendencies within us, that are merely arbitrary and instinctive, such as hunger and thirst, and the desires between the sexes, we commonly call appetites or passions, indifferently, but seldom or never affections." (Ch. 3d.)
Were man, indeed, a being completely under the guidance of reason, this principle alone would provide for all the useful purposes which are answered by the benevolent affections; but our daily experience convinces us that man is by no means so perfect a creature; and as the acquisition of those ends, which conduce immediately to our own individual welfare, is not left to the suggestions of reason alone, so neither is the good of our neighbour entirely intrusted to the uncertain dictates of that power. It is left to the more unerring impulse of the benevolent affections, of whose existence in our breasts we have sufficient evidence, were we to consult no other monitor than our own consciousness. It is certainly both reasonable and prudent, that we should attend to the comfort and well-being of our neighbours; so it is that we should seek after knowledge, and provide needful food for our bodies. But, since to answer these last purposes
the principles of curiosity and hunger come much more certainly to our aid than reason, so neither was the good of our neighbours left entirely to the precarious admonitions of this power, but was intrusted to the surer impulse of the benevolent affections.
The most remarkable of man's benevolent affections appear to be the following-Parental or natural Affection, Pity, Friendship, Love, and Gratitude ; to which Dr. Reid adds, Esteem and Public Spirit. Whether these two last be intitled to the rank of original and independ. ent principles of action, or not, there appears but little doubt, that all the rest are.
Every man may be conscious of their existence in him. self, by the distinct admonitions which he at times receives from them; and we have equally plain evidence of their existence in other men, by their conduct in those circumstances, which naturally incite the benevolent affections. We may likewise clearly trace the existence of almost all these principles in the brute animals, although some of them operate more powerfully than others, and none of them attain to that permanency and stability, which they generally possess in the human character.
Natural affection, while it exists in the brutes, produces as powerful effects as it perhaps ever exhibits in man. The solicitude of the various tribes of animals about their young, their fearless exertions in their defence, their lamentations on being deprived of them, are some of the most affecting circumstances in the brute economy. When, however, the exercise of this strong natural affection is no longer necessary for the well-being of the young, it ceases for ever in all the species of animals. But in man, the influence of natural affection is permanent, and the pleasure derived from it ceases only with life itself. We may comprehend under it not only the affection of parents for their children, and the reciprocal affections of children for their parents, but, in general, all the affections of kindred, which evidently possess the same characteristics, in as far as they cannot be reduced to the simple operation of friendship. It is certainly a radical defect in our own language, as well as many others, that it is destitute of a specific term to express this amiable principle of the human mind, which is so emphatically denoted by the croer of the Greeks.
It has been often remarked, that natural affection is more powerful in the descending than in the ascending line ; or, that parental affection exceeds, in degree, the corresponding filial affection : and we can discern a sufficient reason in the natural economy of things for this diversity. Without a tigh degree of parental affection, the long and helpless infancy of man would be exposed to the most imminent dangers ; but by the powerful stimulus of this monitor, all the care and solicitude, which the infant man requires, is most amply provided for.
“ How common is it,” says Dr. Reid, “ to see a young woman, in the gayest period of life, who has spent her days in mirth, and her nights in profound sleep, without solicitude or care, all at once transformed into the careful, the solicitous, the watchful nurse of her dear infant ; doing nothing by day but gazing upon it, and serving it in the meanest offices; by night depriving herself of sound sleep for months, that it may lie safe in her arms, Forgetful of herself, her
whole care is centred in this little object. Such a sudden transformation of her whole habits and occupations, and turn of mind, if we did not see it every day, would appear a more wonderful metamorphosis than any that Ovid has described. This, however, is the work of nature, and not the effect of reason and reflection. For we see it in the good, and in the bad, in the most thoughtless, as well as in the thoughtful.” (Essay 3d. on the Active Powers, c. 4.)
Some of the ancient legislators seemed to consider the operation of natural affection as hostile to patriotism and public spirit. Lycurgus decreed, that the Lacedemonian youth should be separated from their mothers, and educated at the public charge; the same regulation appears to have been adopted by Minos, the legislator of Crete; and Plato, in his theoretical republic, expressly declares that the operation of natural affection has a tendency to render the mind effeminate, and to curb the spirit of patriotism; he therefore proposes that children should be immediately removed from their parents, and educated at the charge, and under the superintendance, of the public. These legislators certainly did not consider, that by such a mode of education, they not only extirpated some of the finest feelings of the heart, but even destroyed some of the strongest motives for patriotic exertion, to wit, the protection and defence of those, who are endeared to us by the ties of nature and affection.
Pity, or compassion for the distressed, stands next in our enumera. tion of the benevolent affections, and of its real existence, and powerful operation in the human breast, we have the most convincing proofs, although there is scarcely any thing resembling it to be observed among the brutes. On the contrary, many animals are known to persecute and torment a fellow in distress, instead of endeavouring to alleviate its sufferings. This reproach is particularly due to the dog, though in most particulars so affectionate and friendly an animal. But the author of our nature has planted in the human breast a powerful monitor for the alleviation of distress, by which we are immediately prompted to administer relief to that condition, which stands most of all in need of our good offices.
The gloomy philosophy of some sceptics, indeed, denies the existe ence of this amiable human attribute. According to Hobbes, pity is nothing more than the imagination, or fiction of those evils, which we see inflicted upon others, as falling upon ourselves. But the insuffin ciency of this account of the origin of pity, is very easily shown, and has indeed been satisfactorily shown long ago by the able Butler. “ Thus,” says that author, “fear and compassion would be the same idea, and a fearful and a compassionate man the same character, which every man 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
1« Les loix de Crète,” says Montesquieu, 5 étoient l'original de celles de Lacédémone ; et celles de Platon en étoient la correction.” (L'Esprit des Loix, 1. iv. c. 6.) Plutarch informs us, that Philopæmen constrained the Lacedemo. nians to abandon this method of bringing up their children, judging that to be the best means of softening and humanising their manners. (Life of Philop.)