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It must, I think, in justice, be acknowledged, that this theory, concerning the origin of our affect. ions, and of the moral sense, is a moft ingenious refinement upon the selfish fyftem, as it was formerly taught; and that, by means of it, the force of many of the common reasonings against that fyftem is é. luded. Among these reasonings, particular stress has always been laid on the instantaneousness with which our affections operate, and the moral sense approves or condemns; and on our total want of consciousness, in such cases, of any reference to our own happiness. The modern advocates for the selfidh fyftem admit the fact to be as it is ftated by their opponents; and grant, that after the moral sense and our various affections are formed, their exercise, in particular cases, may become completely disinterested ; but still they contend, that it is upon a regard to our own happiness that all these principles are originally grafted. The analogy of avarice will serve to illustrate the scope of this theory. It cannot be doubted that this principle of action is artificial. It is on account of the enjoyments which it enables us to purchase, that money is originally defired; and yet, in process of time, by means of the agreeable impressions which are associated with it, it comes to be desired for its own fake; and even continues to be an object of our pursuit, long after we have lost all relish for those enjoyments which it enables us to command. Without meaning to engage

any controverfy on the subject, I shall content myself with observing, in general, that there must be some limit, beyond


universality of its applications in the philosophy of mind, to that of the principle of attraction in physics. “Here,” says he,“ is a " kind of attraction, which in the mental world will be found to " have as extraordinary effects as in the natural, and to shew itself "in as many and as various forms.” Treat. of Hum. Nat. vol. 1

p. 30

which the theory of association cannot possibly be carried ; for the explanation which it gives, of the formation of new principles of action, proceeds on the supposition that there are other principles previously existing in the mind. The great question then is, when we are arrived at this limit; or, in other words, when we are arrived at the simple and original laws of our constitution.

In conducting this inquiry, philosophers have been apt to go into extremes. Lord Kaims, and some other authors, have been censured, and perhaps juftly, for a disposition to multiply original principles to an unnecessary degree. It may be questioned, whether Dr. Hartley, and his followers, have not sometimes been milled by too eager a desire of abridging their number.

Of these two errors, the former is the least common, and the least dangerous. It is the least common, because it is not so flattering as the other to the vanity of a theorist ; and it is the least dangerous, because it has no tendency, like the other, to give rise to a suppression, or to a misrepresentation of facts ; or to retard the progress of the science, by bestowing upon it an appearance of systematical perfection, to which, in its present state, it is not entitled.

Abstracting, however, from these inconveniences, which must always result from a precipitate reference of phenomena to general principles, it does not seem to me that the theory in question has any tendency to weaken the foundation of morals. It has, indeed, some tendency, in common with the philosophy of Hobbes and of Mandeville, to degrade the dignity of human nature ; but it leads to no sceptical conclufions concerning the rule of life. For, although we were to grant, that all our principles of action are acquired; fo striking a difference among them must still be admitted, as is sufficient to distinguish clearly

those univerfal laws which where intended to regu. late human conduct, from the local habits which are formed by education and fashion. It muft ftill be admitted, that while some active principles are confined to particular individuals, or to particular tribes of men ; there are others, which, arising from circumstances in which all the situations of mankind muft agree, are common to the whole species. Such active principles as fall under this last description, at whatever period of life they may appear, are to be regarded as a part of human nature, no less than the instinct of suction; in the fame manner as the acquired perception of distance by the eye, is to be ranked among the perceptive powers of man, no less than the original perceptions of any of our other senses.

Leaving, therefore, the question concerning the origin of our active principles, and of the moral faculty, to be the subject of future discussion, I fhall conclude this Section with a few remarks of a more practical nature.

It has been shewn by different writers, how much of the beauty and fublimity of material objects arises from the ideas and feelings which we have been taught to associate with them. The impression produced on the external senses of a poet, by the most striking scene in nature, is precisely the same with what is produced on the senses, of a peasant or a tradesman: yet how different is the degree of pleasure resulting from this impression! A great part of this difference is undoubtedly to be ascribed, to the ideas and feelings which the habitual studies and amusements of the poet have associated with his organica! perceptions.

A similar observation may be applied to all the various objects of our pursuit in life. Hardly any one of them is appreciated by any two men in the fame manner; and frequently what one man confiders as


effential to his happiness, is regarded with indifference or dislike by another. Of these differences of opinion, much is, no doubt, to be ascribed to a diversity of constitution, which renders a particular employment of the intellectual or active powers agreeable to one man, which is not equally so to another. But much is also to be ascribed to the effect of affociation ; which, prior to any experience of human life, connects pleasing ideas and pleasing feelings with different objects, in the minds of different persons.

In consequence of these associations, every man appears to his neighbor to pursue the object of his wilhes, with a zeal disproportioned to its intrinsic value; and the prilosopher (whose principal enjoy. ment arises froni speculation) is frequently apt to smile at the ardour with which the active part of mankind pursue, what appear to him to be mere shadows. This view of human affairs, some writers have carried so far, as to represent life as a fcene of mere illusions, where the mind refers to the objects around it, a coloring which exifts only in itself; and where, as the Poet exprefses it,

Opinion gilds with varying rays, “ Those painted clouds which beautify our days." It may be questioned, if these representations of human life be useful or just. That the casual affo. ciations which the mind forms in childhood, and in early youth, are frequently a source of inconvenience and of misconduct, is sufficiently obvious; but that this tendency of our nature increases, on the whole, the sum of human enjoyment, appears to me to be indisputable; and the instances in which it misleads us from our duty and our happiness, only prove, to what important ends it might be subservient, if it were kept under proper regulation.

Nor do theie representations of life (admitting them in their full extent) justify the practical infer

every case,

ences which have been often deduced from them,with respect to the vanity of our pursuits. In indeed, in which our enjoyment depends upon affo. ciation, it may be said, in one sense, that it arises from the mind itself ; but it does not therefore follow, that the external object which custom has rendered the cause or the occasion of agreeable emotions, is indifferent to our happiness. The effect which the beauties of nature produce on the mind of the poet, is wonderfully heightened by association ; but his enjoyment is not, on that account, the less exquifite : nor are the objects of his admiration of the less value to his happiness, that they derive their principal charms from the embellishments of his fancy.

It is the business of education, not to counteract, in any instance, the established laws of our constitution, but to direct them to their proper purposes. That the influence of early associations on the mind might be employed, in the most effectual manner, to aid our moral principles, appears evidently from the effects which we daily see it produce, in reconciling men to a course of action which their reason forces them to condemn; and it is no less obvious that, by means of it, the happiness of human life might be increased, and its pains diminished, if the agreeable ideas and feelings which children are so apt to connect with events and with fituations which depend on the caprice of fortune, were firmly associated in their apprehensions with the duties of their stations, with the pursuits of science, and with those beauties of nature which are open to all.

These observations coincide nearly with the antient stoical doctrine concerning the influence of imagination* on morals; a subject, on which many im

* According to the use which I make of the words Imagination and Association, in this work, their effects are obviously distinguish

I have thought it proper, however, to illustrate the difference between them a little more fully in Note [R.]


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