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be accounted for partly in the way I mentioned.* One striking proof of this is the powerful emotions which may be occasionally excited in the minds of the most callous, when the attention has once been fixed, and the imagination awakened, by eloquent and circumstantial and pathetic description.
A very amiable and profound moralist in the account which he has given of the origin of our sense of justice, has, I think, drawn a less pleasing picture of the natural conftitution of the human mind, than is agreeable to truth.
“ To disturb," (says he,) “ the happiness of our neighbor, merely because it 6 stands in the way of our own; to take from him “ what is of real use to him, merely because it may be “ of equal or of more use to us; or, to indulge, in this “ manner, at the expence of other people, the nat“ ural preference which every man has for his own “ happiness above that of other people, is what no “ impartial spectator can go along with. Every man “ is, no doubt, first and principally recommended to - his own care ; and as he is fitter to take care of “ himself than of any other person, it is fit and right " that it should be fo. Every man, therefore, is “ much more deeply interested in whatever imme. “ diately concerns himself, than in what concerns
any other man : and to hear, perhaps, of the “ death of another person with whom we have no “ particular connection, will give us less concern, “ will spoil our stomach, or break our reft, much “ less than a very insignificant difafter which has be« fallen ourselves. But though the ruin of our “ neighbor may affect us much less than a very small “ misfortune of our own, we must not ruin him to “ prevent that small misfortune, nor even to pre
* I say partly ; for habits of inattention to the situation of other men, undoubtedly presuppose some defect in the social affeetions.
“ vent our own ruin. We must here, as in all oth“ er cases, view ourselves not so much according to “ that light in which we may naturally appear to our“ selves, as according to that in which we naturally ap"pear to others. Tho' every man may, according to “ the proverb, be the whole world to himself, to the " rest of mankind he is a moft insignificant part w of it. Though his own happiness may be of more “ importance to him than that of all the world be“ fides, to every other person it is of no more con“ sequence than that of any other man. Though it “ may be true, therefore, that every individual, in “ his own breast, naturally prefers himself to all man“ kind, yet he dares not look mankind in the face, 66 and avow that, he acts according to this principle. “ He feels that, in this preference they can never go " along with him, and that how natural foever it '“ may be to him, it must always appear excessive “ and extravagant to them. When he views him“ self in the light in which he is conscious that oth“ ers will view him, he sees that to them he is but
one of the multitude, in no respect better than " any other in it. If he would act so as that the - impartial spectator may enter into the principles of « his conduct, which is what of all things he has the “ greatest desire to do, he must, upon this, as upon is all other occasions, humble the arrogance of his
self-love, and bring it down to something which “ other men can go along with.”
I am ready to acknowledge, that there is much truth in this paffage ; and that a prudential regard to the opinion of others, might teach a man of good sense, without the aid of more amiable motives, to conceal his unreasonable partialities in favor of himself, and to act agreeably to what he conceives to be the sentiments of impartial spectators. But I cannot help thinking, that the fact is much too strongly stated with respect to the natural partiality of self
love, fupposing the situation of our neighbors to be as completely presented to our view, as our own muft of neceffity be. When the Orator wishes to combat the selfish pafsions of his audience, and to rouse them to a sense of what they owe to mankind; what mode of persuasion does nature dictate to him? Is it to remind them of the importance of the good opinion of the world, and of the necesfity, in order to obtain it, of accommodating their conduct to the sentiments of others, rather than to their own feelings ? Such confiderations undoubtedly might, with fome men, produce a certain effect; and might lead them to assume the appearance of virtue ; but they would never excite a sentiment of indignation at the thought of injustice, or a sudden and involuntary burst of disinterested affection. If the Orator can only succeed in fixing their attention to facts, and in bringing these facts home to their imagination by the power of his eloquence, he has completely attained his object. No sooner are the facts apprehended, than the benevolent principles of our nature display themfelves in all their beauty. The most cautious and timid lose, for a moment, all thought of themselves, and despising every confideration of prudence or of safety, become wholly engrossed with the fortunes of others.
Many other facts, which are commonly alleged as proofs of the original felfishness of mankind, may be explained, in part, in a similar way; and may be traced to the habits of inattention, or to a want of imagination, ariling, probably, from fome fault in early education.
What has now been remarked with respect to the social principles, may be applied to all our other paffions, excepting those which take their rise from the body. They are commonly strong in proportion to the warmth and vigor of the imagination.
It is, however, extremely curious, that when an imagination, which is naturally phlegmatic,or which,
like those of the vulgar, has little activity from a want of culture, is fairly roused by the descriptions of the Orator or of the Poet, it is more apt to produce the violence of enthusiasm, than in minds of a fuperior order. By giving this faculty occasional ex. ercise, we acquire a great degree of command over it. As we can withdraw the attention at pleasure from objects of sense, and transport ourselves into a world of our own, so when we wish to moderate our enthusiasm, we can dismiss the objects of imagination, and return to our ordinary perceptions and occupations. But in a mind to which these intellectual visions are not familiar, and which borrows them completely from the genius of another, imagination, when once excited, becomes perfectly ungovernable, and produces something like a temporary insanity. Hence the wonderful effects of popular eloquence on the lower orders ; effects which are much more remarkable, than what it ever produces on men of education.
Continuation of the fame Subject.
Inconveniences resulting from an ill-regulated Imagination.
IT was undoubtedly the intention of Nature that the objects of perception should produce much stronger impressions on the mind than its own operations. And, accordingly, they always do so, when proper care has been taken in early life, to exercise the dif. ferent principles of our conftitution. But it is poffible, by long habits of solitary reflection, to reverse this order of things, and to weaken the attention to sensible objects to so great a degree, as to leave the conduct almost wholly under the influence of ima. gination. Removed to a disance from society, and from the pursuits of life, when we have been long accustomed to converse with our own thoughts, and have found our activity gratified by intellectual exertions, which afford scope to all our powers and af. fections, without expofing us to the inconveniences resulting from the bustle of the world, we are apt to contract an unnatural predilection for meditation,and to lose all interest in external occurrences. In such a situation too, the mind gradually loses that com. mand which education, when properly conducted, gives it over the train of its ideas ; till at length the most extravagant dreams of imagination acquire as powerful an influence in exciting all its passions, as if they were realities. A wild and mountainous country, which presents but a limited variety of objects, and these only of such a sort as “awake to fol. “emn thought,” has a remarkable effect in cherishing this enthusiasm.
When such disorders of the imagination have been long confirmed by habit, the evil may perhaps be beyond a remedy ; but in their inferior degrees, much may be expected from our own efforts ; in particular, from mingling gradually in the business and amusements of the world; or, if we have suffi. cient force of mind for the exertion, from refolutely plunging into those active and interesting and hazardous scenes, which, by compelling us to attend to external circumstances, may weaken the impreffions of imagination, and strengthen those produced by realities. The advice of the poet, in these cases, is e. qually beautiful and just :
“ Go, soft enthusiast ! quit the cypress groves,
Lay schemes for wealth, or power, or fame, the wish