The Project Gutenberg Etext An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
by David Hume

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Title: An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals

Author: David Hume

Release Date: August, 2003 [Etext# 4320]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on January 5, 2002]

Edition: 10

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by David Hume
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The following is an e-text of a 1912 reprint of the 1777 edition
of David Hume's An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.
Each page was cut out of the original book with an X-acto knife
and fed into an Automatic Document Feeder Scanner to make this
e-text, so the original book was disbinded in order to save it.

Some adaptations from the original text were made while
formatting it for an e-text. Italics in the original book are
capitalized in this e-text. The original spellings of words are
preserved, such as "connexion" for "connection," "labour" for
"labor," etc. Original footnotes are put in brackets "[]" at the
points where they are cited in the text.




Most of the principles, and reasonings, contained in this volume,

[Footnote: Volume II. of the posthumous edition of Hume's works
published in 1777 and containing, besides the present ENQUIRY, A
UNDERSTANDING. A reprint of this latter treatise has already
appeared in The Religion of Science Library (NO. 45)]

were published in a work in three volumes, called A TREATISE OF
HUMAN NATURE: A work which the Author had projected before he
left College, and which he wrote and published not long after.
But not finding it successful, he was sensible of his error in
going to the press too early, and he cast the whole anew in the
following pieces, where some negligences in his former reasoning
and more in the expression, are, he hopes, corrected. Yet several
writers who have honoured the Author's Philosophy with answers,
have taken care to direct all their batteries against that
juvenile work, which the author never acknowledged, and have
affected to triumph in any advantages, which, they imagined, they
had obtained over it: A practice very contrary to all rules of
candour and fair-dealing, and a strong instance of those
polemical artifices which a bigotted zeal thinks itself
authorized to employ. Henceforth, the Author desires, that the
following Pieces may alone be regarded as containing his
philosophical sentiments and principles.


I. Of the General Principles of Morals
II. Of Benevolence
III. Of Justice
IV. Of Political Society
V. Why Utility Pleases
VI. Of Qualities Useful to Ourselves
VII. Of Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Ourselves
VIII. Of Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Others
IX. Conclusion


I. Concerning Moral Sentiment
II. Of Self-love
III. Some Farther Considerations with Regard to Justice
IV. Of Some Verbal Disputes




DISPUTES with men, pertinaciously obstinate in their principles,
are, of all others, the most irksome; except, perhaps, those with
persons, entirely disingenuous, who really do not believe the
opinions they defend, but engage in the controversy, from
affectation, from a spirit of opposition, or from a desire of
showing wit and ingenuity, superior to the rest of mankind. The
same blind adherence to their own arguments is to be expected in
both; the same contempt of their antagonists; and the same
passionate vehemence, in inforcing sophistry and falsehood. And
as reasoning is not the source, whence either disputant derives
his tenets; it is in vain to expect, that any logic, which speaks
not to the affections, will ever engage him to embrace sounder

Those who have denied the reality of moral distinctions, may be
ranked among the disingenuous disputants; nor is it conceivable,
that any human creature could ever seriously believe, that all
characters and actions were alike entitled to the affection and
regard of everyone. The difference, which nature has placed
between one man and another, is so wide, and this difference is
still so much farther widened, by education, example, and habit,
that, where the opposite extremes come at once under our
apprehension, there is no scepticism so scrupulous, and scarce
any assurance so determined, as absolutely to deny all
distinction between them. Let a man's insensibility be ever so
great, he must often be touched with the images of Right and
Wrong; and let his prejudices be ever so obstinate, he must
observe, that others are susceptible of like impressions. The
only way, therefore, of converting an antagonist of this kind, is
to leave him to himself. For, finding that nobody keeps up the
controversy with him, it is probable he will, at last, of
himself, from mere weariness, come over to the side of common
sense and reason.

There has been a controversy started of late, much better worth
examination, concerning the general foundation of Morals; whether
they be derived from Reason, or from Sentiment; whether we attain
the knowledge of them by a chain of argument and induction, or by
an immediate feeling and finer internal sense; whether, like all
sound judgement of truth and falsehood, they should be the same
to every rational intelligent being; or whether, like the
perception of beauty and deformity, they be founded entirely on
the particular fabric and constitution of the human species.

The ancient philosophers, though they often affirm, that virtue
is nothing but conformity to reason, yet, in general, seem to
consider morals as deriving their existence from taste and
sentiment. On the other hand, our modern enquirers, though they
also talk much of the beauty of virtue, and deformity of vice,
yet have commonly endeavoured to account for these distinctions
by metaphysical reasonings, and by deductions from the most
abstract principles of the understanding. Such confusion reigned
in these subjects, that an opposition of the greatest consequence
could prevail between one system and another, and even in the
parts of almost each individual system; and yet nobody, till very
lately, was ever sensible of it. The elegant Lord Shaftesbury,
who first gave occasion to remark this distinction, and who, in
general, adhered to the principles of the ancients, is not,
himself, entirely free from the same confusion.

It must be acknowledged, that both sides of the question are
susceptible of specious arguments. Moral distinctions, it may be
said, are discernible by pure reason: else, whence the many
disputes that reign in common life, as well as in philosophy,
with regard to this subject: the long chain of proofs often
produced on both sides; the examples cited, the authorities
appealed to, the analogies employed, the fallacies detected, the
inferences drawn, and the several conclusions adjusted to their
proper principles. Truth is disputable; not taste: what exists in
the nature of things is the standard of our judgement; what each
man feels within himself is the standard of sentiment.
Propositions in geometry may be proved, systems in physics may be
controverted; but the harmony of verse, the tenderness of
passion, the brilliancy of wit, must give immediate pleasure. No
man reasons concerning another's beauty; but frequently
concerning the justice or injustice of his actions. In every
criminal trial the first object of the prisoner is to disprove
the facts alleged, and deny the actions imputed to him: the
second to prove, that, even if these actions were real, they
might be justified, as innocent and lawful. It is confessedly by
deductions of the understanding, that the first point is
ascertained: how can we suppose that a different faculty of the
mind is employed in fixing the other? On the other hand, those
who would resolve all moral determinations into sentiment, may
endeavour to show, that it is impossible for reason ever to draw
conclusions of this nature. To virtue, say they, it belongs to be
amiable, and vice odious. This forms their very nature or
essence. But can reason or argumentation distribute these
different epithets to any subjects, and pronounce beforehand,
that this must produce love, and that hatred? Or what other
reason can we ever assign for these affections, but the original
fabric and formation of the human mind, which is naturally
adapted to receive them?

The end of all moral speculations is to teach us our duty; and,
by proper representations of the deformity of vice and beauty of
virtue, beget correspondent habits, and engage us to avoid the
one, and embrace the other. But is this ever to be expected from
inferences and conclusions of the understanding, which of
themselves have no hold of the affections or set in motion the
active powers of men? They discover truths: but where the truths
which they discover are indifferent, and beget no desire or
aversion, they can have no influence on conduct and behaviour.
What is honourable, what is fair, what is becoming, what is
noble, what is generous, takes possession of the heart, and
animates us to embrace and maintain it. What is intelligible,
what is evident, what is probable, what is true, procures only
the cool assent of the understanding; and gratifying a
speculative curiosity, puts an end to our researches.

Extinguish all the warm feelings and prepossessions in favour of
virtue, and all disgust or aversion to vice: render men totally
indifferent towards these distinctions; and morality is no longer
a practical study, nor has any tendency to regulate our lives and

These arguments on each side (and many more might be produced)
are so plausible, that I am apt to suspect, they may, the one as
well as the other, be solid and satisfactory, and that reason and
sentiment concur in almost all moral determinations and
conclusions. The final sentence, it is probable, which pronounces
characters and actions amiable or odious, praise-worthy or
blameable; that which stamps on them the mark of honour or
infamy, approbation or censure; that which renders morality an
active principle and constitutes virtue our happiness, and vice
our misery; it is probable, I say, that this final sentence
depends on some internal sense or feeling, which nature has made
universal in the whole species. For what else can have an
influence of this nature? But in order to pave the way for such a
sentiment, and give a proper discernment of its object, it is
often necessary, we find, that much reasoning should precede,
that nice distinctions be made, just conclusions drawn, distant
comparisons formed, complicated relations examined, and general
facts fixed and ascertained. Some species of beauty, especially
the natural kinds, on their first appearance, command our
affection and approbation; and where they fail of this effect, it
is impossible for any reasoning to redress their influence, or
adapt them better to our taste and sentiment. But in many orders
of beauty, particularly those of the finer arts, it is requisite
to employ much reasoning, in order to feel the proper sentiment;
and a false relish may frequently be corrected by argument and
reflection. There are just grounds to conclude, that moral beauty
partakes much of this latter species, and demands the assistance
of our intellectual faculties, in order to give it a suitable
influence on the human mind.

But though this question, concerning the general principles of
morals, be curious and important, it is needless for us, at
present, to employ farther care in our researches concerning it.
For if we can be so happy, in the course of this enquiry, as to
discover the true origin of morals, it will then easily appear
how far either sentiment or reason enters into all determinations
of this nature [Footnote: See Appendix I]. In order to attain
this purpose, we shall endeavour to follow a very simple method:
we shall analyse that complication of mental qualities, which
form what, in common life, we call Personal Merit: we shall
consider every attribute of the mind, which renders a man an
object either of esteem and affection, or of hatred and contempt;
every habit or sentiment or faculty, which, if ascribed to any
person, implies either praise or blame, and may enter into any
panegyric or satire of his character and manners. The quick
sensibility, which, on this head, is so universal among mankind,
gives a philosopher sufficient assurance, that he can never be
considerably mistaken in framing the catalogue, or incur any
danger of misplacing the objects of his contemplation: he needs
only enter into his own breast for a moment, and consider whether
or not he should desire to have this or that quality ascribed to
him, and whether such or such an imputation would proceed from a
friend or an enemy. The very nature of language guides us almost
infallibly in forming a judgement of this nature; and as every
tongue possesses one set of words which are taken in a good
sense, and another in the opposite, the least acquaintance with
the idiom suffices, without any reasoning, to direct us in
collecting and arranging the estimable or blameable qualities of
men. The only object of reasoning is to discover the
circumstances on both sides, which are common to these qualities;
to observe that particular in which the estimable qualities agree
on the one hand, and the blameable on the other; and thence to
reach the foundation of ethics, and find those universal
principles, from which all censure or approbation is ultimately
derived. As this is a question of fact, not of abstract science,
we can only expect success, by following the experimental method,
and deducing general maxims from a comparison of particular
instances. The other scientific method, where a general abstract
principle is first established, and is afterwards branched out
into a variety of inferences and conclusions, may be more perfect
in itself, but suits less the imperfection of human nature, and
is a common source of illusion and mistake in this as well as in
other subjects. Men are now cured of their passion for hypotheses
and systems in natural philosophy, and will hearken to no
arguments but those which are derived from experience. It is full
time they should attempt a like reformation in all moral
disquisitions; and reject every system of ethics, however subtle
or ingenious, which is not founded on fact and observation.

We shall begin our enquiry on this head by the consideration of
the social virtues, Benevolence and Justice. The explication of
them will probably give us an opening by which the others may be
accounted for.




It may be esteemed, perhaps, a superfluous task to prove, that
the benevolent or softer affections are estimable; and wherever
they appear, engage the approbation and good-will of mankind. The
FRIENDLY, GENEROUS, BENEFICENT, or their equivalents, are known
in all languages, and universally express the highest merit,
which HUMAN NATURE is capable of attaining. Where these amiable
qualities are attended with birth and power and eminent
abilities, and display themselves in the good government or
useful instruction of mankind, they seem even to raise the
possessors of them above the rank of HUMAN NATURE, and make them
approach in some measure to the divine. Exalted capacity,
undaunted courage, prosperous success; these may only expose a
hero or politician to the envy and ill-will of the public: but as
soon as the praises are added of humane and beneficent; when
instances are displayed of lenity, tenderness or friendship; envy
itself is silent, or joins the general voice of approbation and

When Pericles, the great Athenian statesman and general, was on
his death-bed, his surrounding friends, deeming him now
insensible, began to indulge their sorrow for their expiring
patron, by enumerating his great qualities and successes, his
conquests and victories, the unusual length of his
administration, and his nine trophies erected over the enemies of
the republic. YOU FORGET, cries the dying hero, who had heard

In men of more ordinary talents and capacity, the social virtues
become, if possible, still more essentially requisite; there
being nothing eminent, in that case, to compensate for the want
of them, or preserve the person from our severest hatred, as well
as contempt. A high ambition, an elevated courage, is apt, says
Cicero, in less perfect characters, to degenerate into a
turbulent ferocity. The more social and softer virtues are there
chiefly to be regarded. These are always good and amiable [Cic.
de Officiis, lib. I].

The principal advantage, which Juvenal discovers in the extensive
capacity of the human species, is that it renders our benevolence
also more extensive, and gives us larger opportunities of
spreading our kindly influence than what are indulged to the
inferior creation [Sat. XV. 139 and seq.]. It must, indeed, be
confessed, that by doing good only, can a man truly enjoy the
advantages of being eminent. His exalted station, of itself but
the more exposes him to danger and tempest. His sole prerogative
is to afford shelter to inferiors, who repose themselves under
his cover and protection.

But I forget, that it is not my present business to recommend
generosity and benevolence, or to paint, in their true colours,
all the genuine charms of the social virtues. These, indeed,
sufficiently engage every heart, on the first apprehension of
them; and it is difficult to abstain from some sally of
panegyric, as often as they occur in discourse or reasoning. But
our object here being more the speculative, than the practical
part of morals, it will suffice to remark, (what will readily, I
believe, be allowed) that no qualities are more intitled to the
general good-will and approbation of mankind than beneficence and
humanity, friendship and gratitude, natural affection and public
spirit, or whatever proceeds from a tender sympathy with others,
and a generous concern for our kind and species. These wherever
they appear seem to transfuse themselves, in a manner, into each
beholder, and to call forth, in their own behalf, the same
favourable and affectionate sentiments, which they exert on all


We may observe that, in displaying the praises of any humane,
beneficent man, there is one circumstance which never fails to be
amply insisted on, namely, the happiness and satisfaction,
derived to society from his intercourse and good offices. To his
parents, we are apt to say, he endears himself by his pious
attachment and duteous care still more than by the connexions of
nature. His children never feel his authority, but when employed
for their advantage. With him, the ties of love are consolidated
by beneficence and friendship. The ties of friendship approach,
in a fond observance of each obliging office, to those of love
and inclination. His domestics and dependants have in him a sure
resource; and no longer dread the power of fortune, but so far as
she exercises it over him. From him the hungry receive food, the
naked clothing, the ignorant and slothful skill and industry.
Like the sun, an inferior minister of providence he cheers,
invigorates, and sustains the surrounding world.

If confined to private life, the sphere of his activity is
narrower; but his influence is all benign and gentle. If exalted
into a higher station, mankind and posterity reap the fruit of
his labours.

As these topics of praise never fail to be employed, and with
success, where we would inspire esteem for any one; may it not
thence be concluded, that the utility, resulting from the social
virtues, forms, at least, a PART of their merit, and is one
source of that approbation and regard so universally paid to

When we recommend even an animal or a plant as USEFUL and
BENEFICIAL, we give it an applause and recommendation suited to
its nature. As, on the other hand, reflection on the baneful
influence of any of these inferior beings always inspires us with
the sentiment of aversion. The eye is pleased with the prospect
of corn-fields and loaded vine-yards; horses grazing, and flocks
pasturing: but flies the view of briars and brambles, affording
shelter to wolves and serpents.

A machine, a piece of furniture, a vestment, a house well
contrived for use and conveniency, is so far beautiful, and is
contemplated with pleasure and approbation. An experienced eye is
here sensible to many excellencies, which escape persons ignorant
and uninstructed.

Can anything stronger be said in praise of a profession, such as
merchandize or manufacture, than to observe the advantages which
it procures to society; and is not a monk and inquisitor enraged
when we treat his order as useless or pernicious to mankind?

The historian exults in displaying the benefit arising from his
labours. The writer of romance alleviates or denies the bad
consequences ascribed to his manner of composition.

In general, what praise is implied in the simple epithet USEFUL!
What reproach in the contrary!

Your Gods, says Cicero [De Nat. Deor. lib. i.], in opposition to
the Epicureans, cannot justly claim any worship or adoration,
with whatever imaginary perfections you may suppose them endowed.
They are totally useless and inactive. Even the Egyptians, whom
you so much ridicule, never consecrated any animal but on account
of its utility.

The sceptics assert [Sext. Emp. adrersus Math. lib. viii.],
though absurdly, that the origin of all religious worship was
derived from the utility of inanimate objects, as the sun and
moon, to the support and well-being of mankind. This is also the
common reason assigned by historians, for the deification of
eminent heroes and legislators [Diod. Sic. passim.].

To plant a tree, to cultivate a field, to beget children;
meritorious acts, according to the religion of Zoroaster.

In all determinations of morality, this circumstance of public
utility is ever principally in view; and wherever disputes arise,
either in philosophy or common life, concerning the bounds of
duty, the question cannot, by any means, be decided with greater
certainty, than by ascertaining, on any side, the true interests
of mankind. If any false opinion, embraced from appearances, has
been found to prevail; as soon as farther experience and sounder
reasoning have given us juster notions of human affairs, we
retract our first sentiment, and adjust anew the boundaries of
moral good and evil.

Giving alms to common beggars is naturally praised; because it
seems to carry relief to the distressed and indigent: but when we
observe the encouragement thence arising to idleness and
debauchery, we regard that species of charity rather as a
weakness than a virtue.

Tyrannicide, or the assassination of usurpers and oppressive
princes, was highly extolled in ancient times; because it both
freed mankind from many of these monsters, and seemed to keep the
others in awe, whom the sword or poinard could not reach. But
history and experience having since convinced us, that this
practice increases the jealousy and cruelty of princes, a
Timoleon and a Brutus, though treated with indulgence on account
of the prejudices of their times, are now considered as very
improper models for imitation.

Liberality in princes is regarded as a mark of beneficence, but
when it occurs, that the homely bread of the honest and
industrious is often thereby converted into delicious cates for
the idle and the prodigal, we soon retract our heedless praises.
The regrets of a prince, for having lost a day, were noble and
generous: but had he intended to have spent it in acts of
generosity to his greedy courtiers, it was better lost than
misemployed after that manner.

Luxury, or a refinement on the pleasures and conveniences of
life, had not long been supposed the source of every corruption
in government, and the immediate cause of faction, sedition,
civil wars, and the total loss of liberty. It was, therefore,
universally regarded as a vice, and was an object of declamation
to all satirists, and severe moralists. Those, who prove, or
attempt to prove, that such refinements rather tend to the
increase of industry, civility, and arts regulate anew our MORAL
as well as POLITICAL sentiments, and represent, as laudable or
innocent, what had formerly been regarded as pernicious and

Upon the whole, then, it seems undeniable, THAT nothing can
bestow more merit on any human creature than the sentiment of
benevolence in an eminent degree; and THAT a PART, at least, of
its merit arises from its tendency to promote the interests of
our species, and bestow happiness on human society. We carry our
view into the salutary consequences of such a character and
disposition; and whatever has so benign an influence, and
forwards so desirable an end, is beheld with complacency and
pleasure. The social virtues are never regarded without their
beneficial tendencies, nor viewed as barren and unfruitful. The
happiness of mankind, the order of society, the harmony of
families, the mutual support of friends, are always considered as
the result of their gentle dominion over the breasts of men.

How considerable a PART of their merit we ought to ascribe to
their utility, will better appear from future disquisitions;
[Footnote: Sect. III. and IV.] as well as the reason, why this
circumstance has such a command over our esteem and approbation.
[Footnote: Sect. V.]




THAT Justice is useful to society, and consequently that PART of
its merit, at least, must arise from that consideration, it would
be a superfluous undertaking to prove. That public utility is the
SOLE origin of justice, and that reflections on the beneficial
consequences of this virtue are the SOLE foundation of its merit;
this proposition, being more curious and important, will better
deserve our examination and enquiry.

Let us suppose that nature has bestowed on the human race such
profuse ABUNDANCE of all EXTERNAL conveniencies, that, without
any uncertainty in the event, without any care or industry on our
part, every individual finds himself fully provided with whatever
his most voracious appetites can want, or luxurious imagination
wish or desire. His natural beauty, we shall suppose, surpasses
all acquired ornaments: the perpetual clemency of the seasons
renders useless all clothes or covering: the raw herbage affords
him the most delicious fare; the clear fountain, the richest
beverage. No laborious occupation required: no tillage: no
navigation. Music, poetry, and contemplation form his sole
business: conversation, mirth, and friendship his sole amusement.
It seems evident that, in such a happy state, every other social
virtue would flourish, and receive tenfold increase; but the
cautious, jealous virtue of justice would never once have been
dreamed of. For what purpose make a partition of goods, where
every one has already more than enough? Why give rise to
property, where there cannot possibly be any injury? Why call
this object MINE, when upon the seizing of it by another, I need
but stretch out my hand to possess myself to what is equally
valuable? Justice, in that case, being totally useless, would be
an idle ceremonial, and could never possibly have place in the
catalogue of virtues.

We see, even in the present necessitous condition of mankind,
that, wherever any benefit is bestowed by nature in an unlimited
abundance, we leave it always in common among the whole human
race, and make no subdivisions of right and property. Water and
air, though the most necessary of all objects, are not challenged
as the property of individuals; nor can any man commit injustice
by the most lavish use and enjoyment of these blessings. In
fertile extensive countries, with few inhabitants, land is
regarded on the same footing. And no topic is so much insisted on
by those, who defend the liberty of the seas, as the unexhausted
use of them in navigation. Were the advantages, procured by
navigation, as inexhaustible, these reasoners had never had any
adversaries to refute; nor had any claims ever been advanced of a
separate, exclusive dominion over the ocean.

It may happen, in some countries, at some periods, that there be
established a property in water, none in land [Footnote: Genesis,
cbaps. xiii. and xxi.]; if the latter be in greater abundance
than can be used by the inhabitants, and the former be found,
with difficulty, and in very small quantities.

Again; suppose, that, though the necessities of human race
continue the same as at present, yet the mind is so enlarged, and
so replete with friendship and generosity, that every man has the
utmost tenderness for every man, and feels no more concern for
his own interest than for that of his fellows; it seems evident,
that the use of justice would, in this case, be suspended by such
an extensive benevolence, nor would the divisions and barriers of
property and obligation have ever been thought of. Why should I
bind another, by a deed or promise, to do me any good office,
when I know that he is already prompted, by the strongest
inclination, to seek my happiness, and would, of himself, perform
the desired service; except the hurt, he thereby receives, be
greater than the benefit accruing to me? in which case, he knows,
that, from my innate humanity and friendship, I should be the
first to oppose myself to his imprudent generosity. Why raise
landmarks between my neighbour's field and mine, when my heart
has made no division between our interests; but shares all his
joys and sorrows with the same force and vivacity as if
originally my own? Every man, upon this supposition, being a
second self to another, would trust all his interests to the
discretion of every man; without jealousy, without partition,
without distinction. And the whole human race would form only one
family; where all would lie in common, and be used freely,
without regard to property; but cautiously too, with as entire
regard to the necessities of each individual, as if our own
interests were most intimately concerned.

In the present disposition of the human heart, it would, perhaps,
be difficult to find complete instances of such enlarged
affections; but still we may observe, that the case of families
approaches towards it; and the stronger the mutual benevolence is
among the individuals, the nearer it approaches; till all
distinction of property be, in a great measure, lost and
confounded among them. Between married persons, the cement of
friendship is by the laws supposed so strong as to abolish all
division of possessions; and has often, in reality, the force
ascribed to it. And it is observable, that, during the ardour of
new enthusiasms, when every principle is inflamed into
extravagance, the community of goods has frequently been
attempted; and nothing but experience of its inconveniencies,
from the returning or disguised selfishness of men, could make
the imprudent fanatics adopt anew the ideas of justice and of
separate property. So true is it, that this virtue derives its
existence entirely from its necessary USE to the intercourse and
social state of mankind.

To make this truth more evident, let us reverse the foregoing
suppositions; and carrying everything to the opposite extreme,
consider what would be the effect of these new situations.
Suppose a society to fall into such want of all common
necessaries, that the utmost frugality and industry cannot
preserve the greater number from perishing, and the whole from
extreme misery; it will readily, I believe, be admitted, that the
strict laws of justice are suspended, in such a pressing
emergence, and give place to the stronger motives of necessity
and self-preservation. Is it any crime, after a shipwreck, to
seize whatever means or instrument of safety one can lay hold of,
without regard to former limitations of property? Or if a city
besieged were perishing with hunger; can we imagine, that men
will see any means of preservation before them, and lose their
lives, from a scrupulous regard to what, in other situations,
would be the rules of equity and justice? The use and tendency of
that virtue is to procure happiness and security, by preserving
order in society: but where the society is ready to perish from
extreme necessity, no greater evil can be dreaded from violence
and injustice; and every man may now provide for himself by all
the means, which prudence can dictate, or humanity permit. The
public, even in less urgent necessities, opens granaries, without
the consent of proprietors; as justly supposing, that the
authority of magistracy may, consistent with equity, extend so
far: but were any number of men to assemble, without the tie of
laws or civil jurisdiction; would an equal partition of bread in
a famine, though effected by power and even violence, be regarded
as criminal or injurious?

Suppose likewise, that it should be a virtuous man's fate to fall
into the society of ruffians, remote from the protection of laws
and government; what conduct must he embrace in that melancholy
situation? He sees such a desperate rapaciousness prevail; such a
disregard to equity, such contempt of order, such stupid
blindness to future consequences, as must immediately have the
most tragical conclusion, and must terminate in destruction to
the greater number, and in a total dissolution of society to the
rest. He, meanwhile, can have no other expedient than to arm
himself, to whomever the sword he seizes, or the buckler, may
belong: To make provision of all means of defence and security:
And his particular regard to justice being no longer of use to
his own safety or that of others, he must consult the dictates of
self-preservation alone, without concern for those who no longer
merit his care and attention.

When any man, even in political society, renders himself by his
crimes, obnoxious to the public, he is punished by the laws in
his goods and person; that is, the ordinary rules of justice are,
with regard to him, suspended for a moment, and it becomes
equitable to inflict on him, for the BENEFIT of society, what
otherwise he could not suffer without wrong or injury.

The rage and violence of public war; what is it but a suspension
of justice among the warring parties, who perceive, that this
virtue is now no longer of any USE or advantage to them? The laws
of war, which then succeed to those of equity and justice, are
rules calculated for the ADVANTAGE and UTILTIY of that particular
state, in which men are now placed. And were a civilized nation
engaged with barbarians, who observed no rules even of war, the
former must also suspend their observance of them, where they no
longer serve to any purpose; and must render every action or
recounter as bloody and pernicious as possible to the first

Thus, the rules of equity or justice depend entirely on the
particular state and condition in which men are placed, and owe
their origin and existence to that utility, which results to the
public from their strict and regular observance. Reverse, in any
considerable circumstance, the condition of men: Produce extreme
abundance or extreme necessity: Implant in the human breast
perfect moderation and humanity, or perfect rapaciousness and
malice: By rendering justice totally USELESS, you thereby totally
destroy its essence, and suspend its obligation upon mankind. The
common situation of society is a medium amidst all these
extremes. We are naturally partial to ourselves, and to our
friends; but are capable of learning the advantage resulting from
a more equitable conduct. Few enjoyments are given us from the
open and liberal hand of nature; but by art, labour, and
industry, we can extract them in great abundance. Hence the ideas
of property become necessary in all civil society: Hence justice
derives its usefulness to the public: And hence alone arises its
merit and moral obligation.

These conclusions are so natural and obvious, that they have not
escaped even the poets, in their descriptions of the felicity
attending the golden age or the reign of Saturn. The seasons, in
that first period of nature, were so temperate, if we credit
these agreeable fictions, that there was no necessity for men to
provide themselves with clothes and houses, as a security against
the violence of heat and cold: The rivers flowed with wine and
milk: The oaks yielded honey; and nature spontaneously produced
her greatest delicacies. Nor were these the chief advantages of
that happy age. Tempests were not alone removed from nature; but
those more furious tempests were unknown to human breasts, which
now cause such uproar, and engender such confusion. Avarice,
ambition, cruelty, selfishness, were never heard of: Cordial
affection, compassion, sympathy, were the only movements with
which the mind was yet acquainted. Even the punctilious
distinction of MINE and THINE was banished from among the happy
race of mortals, and carried with it the very notion of property
and obligation, justice and injustice.

This POETICAL fiction of the GOLDEN AGE, is in some respects, of
a piece with the PHILOSOPHICAL fiction of the STATE OF NATURE;
only that the former is represented as the most charming and most
peaceable condition, which can possibly be imagined; whereas the
latter is painted out as a state of mutual war and violence,
attended with the most extreme necessity. On the first origin of
mankind, we are told, their ignorance and savage nature were so
prevalent, that they could give no mutual trust, but must each
depend upon himself and his own force or cunning for protection
and security. No law was heard of: No rule of justice known: No
distinction of property regarded: Power was the only measure of
right; and a perpetual war of all against all was the result of
men's untamed selfishness and barbarity.

[Footnote: This fiction of a state of nature, as a state of war,
was not first started by Mr. Hobbes, as is commonly imagined.
Plato endeavours to refute an hypothesis very like it in the
second, third, and fourth books de republica. Cicero, on the
contrary, supposes it certain and universally acknowledged in the
following passage. 'Quis enim vestrum, judices, ignorat, ita
naturam rerum tulisse, ut quodam tempore homines, nondum neque
naturali neque civili jure descripto, fusi per agros ac dispersi
vagarentur tantumque haberent quantum manu ac viribus, per caedem
ac vulnera, aut eripere aut retinere potuissent? Qui igitur primi
virtute & consilio praestanti extiterunt, ii perspecto genere
humanae docilitatis atque ingenii, dissipatos unum in locum
congregarunt, eosque ex feritate illa ad justitiam ac
mansuetudinem transduxerunt. Tum res ad communem utilitatem, quas
publicas appellamus, tum conventicula hominum, quae postea
civitates nominatae sunt, tum domicilia conjuncta, quas urbes
dicamus, invento & divino & humano jure moenibus sepserunt. Atque
inter hanc vitam, perpolitam humanitate, & llam immanem, nihil
tam interest quam JUS atque VIS. Horum utro uti nolimus, altero
est utendum. Vim volumus extingui. Jus valeat necesse est, idi
est, judicia, quibus omne jus continetur. Judicia displicent, ant
nulla sunt. Vis dominetur necesse est. Haec vident omnes.' Pro
Sext. sec. 42.]

Whether such a condition of human nature could ever exist, or if
it did, could continue so long as to merit the appellation of a
STATE, may justly be doubted. Men are necessarily born in a
family-society, at least; and are trained up by their parents to
some rule of conduct and behaviour. But this must be admitted,
that, if such a state of mutual war and violence was ever real,
the suspension of all laws of justice, from their absolute
inutility, is a necessary and infallible consequence.

The more we vary our views of human life, and the newer and more
unusual the lights are in which we survey it, the more shall we
be convinced, that the origin here assigned for the virtue of
justice is real and satisfactory.

Were there a species of creatures intermingled with men, which,
though rational, were possessed of such inferior strength, both
of body and mind, that they were incapable of all resistance, and
could never, upon the highest provocation, make us feel the
effects of their resentment; the necessary consequence, I think,
is that we should be bound by the laws of humanity to give gentle
usage to these creatures, but should not, properly speaking, lie
under any restraint of justice with regard to them, nor could
they possess any right or property, exclusive of such arbitrary
lords. Our intercourse with them could not be called society,
which supposes a degree of equality; but absolute command on the
one side, and servile obedience on the other. Whatever we covet,
they must instantly resign: Our permission is the only tenure, by
which they hold their possessions: Our compassion and kindness
the only check, by which they curb our lawless will: And as no
inconvenience ever results from the exercise of a power, so
firmly established in nature, the restraints of justice and
property, being totally USELESS, would never have place in so
unequal a confederacy.

This is plainly the situation of men, with regard to animals; and
how far these may be said to possess reason, I leave it to others
to determine. The great superiority of civilized Europeans above
barbarous Indians, tempted us to imagine ourselves on the same
footing with regard to them, and made us throw off all restraints
of justice, and even of humanity, in our treatment of them. In
many nations, the female sex are reduced to like slavery, and are
rendered incapable of all property, in opposition to their lordly
masters. But though the males, when united, have in all countries
bodily force sufficient to maintain this severe tyranny, yet such
are the insinuation, address, and charms of their fair companions,
that women are commonly able to break the confederacy, and share
with the other sex in all the rights and privileges of society.

Were the human species so framed by nature as that each
individual possessed within himself every faculty, requisite both
for his own preservation and for the propagation of his kind:
Were all society and intercourse cut off between man and man, by
the primary intention of the supreme Creator: It seems evident,
that so solitary a being would be as much incapable of justice,
as of social discourse and conversation. Where mutual regards and
forbearance serve to no manner of purpose, they would never
direct the conduct of any reasonable man. The headlong course of
the passions would be checked by no reflection on future
consequences. And as each man is here supposed to love himself
alone, and to depend only on himself and his own activity for
safety and happiness, he would, on every occasion, to the utmost
of his power, challenge the preference above every other being,
to none of which he is bound by any ties, either of nature or of
interest. But suppose the conjunction of the sexes to be
established in nature, a family immediately arises; and
particular rules being found requisite for its subsistence, these
are immediately embraced; though without comprehending the rest
of mankind within their prescriptions. Suppose that several
families unite together into one society, which is totally
disjoined from all others, the rules, which preserve peace and
order, enlarge themselves to the utmost extent of that society;
but becoming then entirely useless, lose their force when carried
one step farther. But again suppose, that several distinct
societies maintain a kind of intercourse for mutual convenience
and advantage, the boundaries of justice still grow larger, in
proportion to the largeness of men's views, and the force of
their mutual connexions. History, experience, reason sufficiently
instruct us in this natural progress of human sentiments, and in
the gradual enlargement of our regards to justice, in proportion
as we become acquainted with the extensive utility of that


If we examine the PARTICULAR laws, by which justice is directed,
and property determined; we shall still be presented with the
same conclusion. The good of mankind is the only object of all
these laws and regulations. Not only is it requisite, for the
peace and interest of society, that men's possessions should be
separated; but the rules, which we follow, in making the
separation, are such as can best be contrived to serve farther
the interests of society.

We shall suppose that a creature, possessed of reason, but
unacquainted with human nature, deliberates with himself what
rules of justice or property would best promote public interest,
and establish peace and security among mankind: His most obvious
thought would be, to assign the largest possessions to the most
extensive virtue, and give every one the power of doing good,
proportioned to his inclination. In a perfect theocracy, where a
being, infinitely intelligent, governs by particular volitions,
this rule would certainly have place, and might serve to the
wisest purposes: But were mankind to execute such a law; so great
is the uncertainty of merit, both from its natural obscurity, and
from the self-conceit of each individual, that no determinate
rule of conduct would ever result from it; and the total
dissolution of society must be the immediate consequence.
SAINTS ALONE INHERIT THE EARTH; but the civil magistrate very
justly puts these sublime theorists on the same footing with
common robbers, and teaches them by the severest discipline, that
a rule, which, in speculation, may seem the most advantageous to
society, may yet be found, in practice, totally pernicious and

That there were RELIGIOUS fanatics of this kind in England,
during the civil wars, we learn from history; though it is
probable, that the obvious TENDENCY of these principles excited
such horror in mankind, as soon obliged the dangerous enthusiasts
to renounce, or at least conceal their tenets. Perhaps the
LEVELLERS, who claimed an equal distribution of property, were a
kind of POLITICAL fanatics, which arose from the religious
species, and more openly avowed their pretensions; as carrying a
more plausible appearance, of being practicable in themselves, as
well as useful to human society. It must, indeed, be confessed,
that nature is so liberal to mankind, that, were all her presents
equally divided among the species, and improved by art and
industry, every individual would enjoy all the necessaries, and
even most of the comforts of life; nor would ever be liable to
any ills but such as might accidentally arise from the sickly
frame and constitution of his body. It must also be confessed,
that, wherever we depart from this equality, we rob the poor of
more satisfaction than we add to the rich, and that the slight
gratification of a frivolous vanity, in one individual,
frequently costs more than bread to many families, and even
provinces. It may appear withal, that the rule of equality, as it
would be highly USEFUL, is not altogether IMPRACTICABLE; but has
taken place, at least in an imperfect degree, in some republics;
particularly that of Sparta; where it was attended, it is said,
with the most beneficial consequences. Not to mention that the
Agrarian laws, so frequently claimed in Rome, and carried into
execution in many Greek cities, proceeded, all of them, from a
general idea of the utility of this principle.

But historians, and even common sense, may inform us, that,
however specious these ideas of PERFECT equality may seem, they
are really, at bottom, IMPRACTICABLE; and were they not so, would
be extremely PERNICIOUS to human society. Render possessions ever
so equal, men's different degrees of art, care, and industry will
immediately break that equality. Or if you check these virtues,
you reduce society to the most extreme indigence; and instead of
preventing want and beggary in a few, render it unavoidable to
the whole community. The most rigorous inquisition too is
requisite to watch every inequality on its first appearance; and
the most severe jurisdiction, to punish and redress it. But
besides, that so much authority must soon degenerate into
tyranny, and be exerted with great partialities; who can possibly
be possessed of it, in such a situation as is here supposed?
Perfect equality of possessions, destroying all subordination,
weakens extremely the authority of magistracy, and must reduce
all power nearly to a level, as well as property.

We may conclude, therefore, that, in order to establish laws for
the regulation of property, we must be acquainted with the nature
and situation of man; must reject appearances, which may be
false, though specious; and must search for those rules, which
are, on the whole, most USEFUL and BENEFICIAL. Vulgar sense and
slight experience are sufficient for this purpose; where men give
not way to too selfish avidity, or too extensive enthusiasm.

Who sees not, for instance, that whatever is produced or improved
by a man's art or industry ought, for ever, to be secured to him,
in order to give encouragement to such USEFUL habits and
accomplishments? That the property ought also to descend to
children and relations, for the same USEFUL purpose? That it may
be alienated by consent, in order to beget that commerce and
intercourse, which is so BENEFICIAL to human society? And that
all contracts and promises ought carefully to be fulfilled, in
order to secure mutual trust and confidence, by which the general
INTEREST of mankind is so much promoted?

Examine the writers on the laws of nature; and you will always
find, that, whatever principles they set out with, they are sure
to terminate here at last, and to assign, as the ultimate reason
for every rule which they establish, the convenience and
necessities of mankind. A concession thus extorted, in opposition
to systems, has more authority than if it had been made in
prosecution of them.

What other reason, indeed, could writers ever give, why this must
be MINE and that YOURS; since uninstructed nature surely never
made any such distinction? The objects which receive those
appellations are, of themselves, foreign to us; they are totally
disjoined and separated from us; and nothing but the general
interests of society can form the connexion.

Sometimes the interests of society may require a rule of justice
in a particular case; but may not determine any particular rule,
among several, which are all equally beneficial. In that case,
the slightest analogies are laid hold of, in order to prevent
that indifference and ambiguity, which would be the source of
perpetual dissension. Thus possession alone, and first
possession, is supposed to convey property, where no body else
has any preceding claim and pretension. Many of the reasonings of
lawyers are of this analogical nature, and depend on very slight
connexions of the imagination.

Does any one scruple, in extraordinary cases, to violate all
regard to the private property of individuals, and sacrifice to
public interest a distinction which had been established for the
sake of that interest? The safety of the people is the supreme
law: All other particular laws are subordinate to it, and
dependent on it: And if, in the COMMON course of things, they be
followed and regarded; it is only because the public safety and
interest COMMONLY demand so equal and impartial an

Sometimes both UTILITY and ANALOGY fail, and leave the laws of
justice in total uncertainty. Thus, it is highly requisite, that
prescription or long possession should convey property; but what
number of days or months or years should be sufficient for that
purpose, it is impossible for reason alone to determine. CIVIL
LAWS here supply the place of the natural CODE, and assign
different terms for prescription, according to the different
UTILITIES, proposed by the legislator. Bills of exchange and
promissory notes, by the laws of most countries, prescribe sooner
than bonds, and mortgages, and contracts of a more formal nature.

In general we may observe that all questions of property are
subordinate to the authority of civil laws, which extend,
restrain, modify, and alter the rules of natural justice,
according to the particular CONVENIENCE of each community. The
laws have, or ought to have, a constant reference to the
constitution of government, the manners, the climate, the
religion, the commerce, the situation of each society. A late
author of genius, as well as learning, has prosecuted this
subject at large, and has established, from these principles, a
system of political knowledge, which abounds in ingenious and
brilliant thoughts, and is not wanting in solidity.

[Footnote: The author of L'ESPRIT DES LOIX, This illustrious
writer, however, sets out with a different theory, and supposes
all right to be founded on certain RAPPORTS or relations; which
is a system, that, in my opinion, never will be reconciled with
true philosophy. Father Malebranche, as far as I can learn, was
the first that started this abstract theory of morals, which was
afterwards adopted by Cudworth, Clarke, and others; and as it
excludes all sentiment, and pretends to found everything on
reason, it has not wanted followers in this philosophic age. See
Section I, Appendix I. With regard to justice, the virtue here
treated of, the inference against this theory seems short and
conclusive. Property is allowed to be dependent on civil laws;
civil laws are allowed to have no other object, but the interest
of society: This therefore must be allowed to be the sole
foundation of property and justice. Not to mention, that our
obligation itself to obey the magistrate and his laws is founded
on nothing but the interests of society.

If the ideas of justice, sometimes, do not follow the
dispositions of civil law; we shall find, that these cases,
instead of objections, are confirmations of the theory delivered
above. Where a civil law is so perverse as to cross all the
interests of society, it loses all its authority, and men judge
by the ideas of natural justice, which are conformable to those
interests. Sometimes also civil laws, for useful purposes,
require a ceremony or form to any deed; and where that is
wanting, their decrees run contrary to the usual tenour of
justice; but one who takes advantage of such chicanes, is not
commonly regarded as an honest man. Thus, the interests of
society require, that contracts be fulfilled; and there is not a
more material article either of natural or civil justice: But the
omission of a trifling circumstance will often, by law,
invalidate a contract, in foro humano, but not in foro
conscientiae, as divines express themselves. In these cases, the
magistrate is supposed only to withdraw his power of enforcing
the right, not to have altered the right. Where his intention
extends to the right, and is conformable to the interests of
society; it never fails to alter the right; a clear proof of the
origin of justice and of property, as assigned above.]

WHAT IS A MAN'S PROPERTY? Anything which it is lawful for him,
and for him alone, to use. BUT WHAT RULE HAVE WE, BY WHICH WE CAN
DISTINGUISH THESE OBJECTS? Here we must have recourse to
statutes, customs, precedents, analogies, and a hundred other
circumstances; some of which are constant and inflexible, some
variable and arbitrary. But the ultimate point, in which they all
professedly terminate, is the interest and happiness of human
society. Where this enters not into consideration, nothing can
appear more whimsical, unnatural, and even superstitious, than
all or most of the laws of justice and of property.

Those who ridicule vulgar superstitions, and expose the folly of
particular regards to meats, days, places, postures, apparel,
have an easy task; while they consider all the qualities and
relations of the objects, and discover no adequate cause for that
affection or antipathy, veneration or horror, which have so
mighty an influence over a considerable part of mankind. A Syrian
would have starved rather than taste pigeon; an Egyptian would
not have approached bacon: But if these species of food be
examined by the senses of sight, smell, or taste, or scrutinized
by the sciences of chemistry, medicine, or physics, no difference
is ever found between them and any other species, nor can that
precise circumstance be pitched on, which may afford a just
foundation for the religious passion. A fowl on Thursday is
lawful food; on Friday abominable: Eggs in this house and in this
diocese, are permitted during Lent; a hundred paces farther, to
eat them is a damnable sin. This earth or building, yesterday was
profane; to-day, by the muttering of certain words, it has become
holy and sacred. Such reflections as these, in the mouth of a
philosopher, one may safely say, are too obvious to have any
influence; because they must always, to every man, occur at first
sight; and where they prevail not, of themselves, they are surely
obstructed by education, prejudice, and passion, not by ignorance
or mistake.

It may appear to a careless view, or rather a too abstracted
reflection, that there enters a like superstition into all the
sentiments of justice; and that, if a man expose its object, or
what we call property, to the same scrutiny of sense and science,
he will not, by the most accurate enquiry, find any foundation
for the difference made by moral sentiment. I may lawfully
nourish myself from this tree; but the fruit of another of the
same species, ten paces off, it is criminal for me to touch. Had
I worn this apparel an hour ago, I had merited the severest
punishment; but a man, by pronouncing a few magical syllables,
has now rendered it fit for my use and service. Were this house
placed in the neighbouring territory, it had been immoral for me
to dwell in it; but being built on this side the river, it is
subject to a different municipal law, and by its becoming mine I
incur no blame or censure. The same species of reasoning it may
be thought, which so successfully exposes superstition, is also
applicable to justice; nor is it possible, in the one case more
than in the other, to point out, in the object, that precise
quality or circumstance, which is the foundation of the

But there is this material difference between SUPERSTITION and
JUSTICE, that the former is frivolous, useless, and burdensome;
the latter is absolutely requisite to the well-being of mankind
and existence of society. When we abstract from this circumstance
(for it is too apparent ever to be overlooked) it must be
confessed, that all regards to right and property, seem entirely
without foundation, as much as the grossest and most vulgar
superstition. Were the interests of society nowise concerned, it
is as unintelligible why another's articulating certain sounds
implying consent, should change the nature of my actions with
regard to a particular object, as why the reciting of a liturgy
by a priest, in a certain habit and posture, should dedicate a
heap of brick and timber, and render it, thenceforth and for
ever, sacred.

[Footnote: It is evident, that the will or consent alone never
transfers property, nor causes the obligation of a promise (for
the same reasoning extends to both), but the will must be
expressed by words or signs, in order to impose a tie upon any
man. The expression being once brought in as subservient to he
will, soon becomes the principal part of the promise; nor will a
man be less bound by his word, though he secretly give a
different direction to his intention, and withhold the assent of
his mind. But though the expression makes, on most occasions, the
whole of the promise, yet it does not always so; and one who
should make use of any expression, of which he knows not the
meaning, and which he uses without any sense of the consequences,
would not certainly be bound by it. Nay, though he know its
meaning, yet if he use it in jest only, and with such signs as
evidently show, that he has no serious intention of binding
himself, he would not lie under any obligation of performance;
but it is necessary, that the words be a perfect expression of
the will, without any contrary signs. Nay, even this we must not
carry so far as to imagine, that one, whom, by our quickness of
understanding, we conjecture, from certain signs, to have an
intention of deceiving us, is not bound by his expression or
verbal promise, if we accept of it; but must limit this
conclusion to those cases where the signs are of a different
nature from those of deceit. All these contradictions are easily
accounted for, if justice arise entirely from its usefulness to
society; but will never be explained on any other hypothesis.

It is remarkable that the moral decisions of the JESUITS and
other relaxed casuists, were commonly formed in prosecution of
some such subtilties of reasoning as are here pointed out, and
proceed as much from the habit of scholastic refinement as from
any corruption of the heart, if we may follow the authority of
Mons. Bayle. See his Dictionary, article Loyola. And why has the
indignation of mankind risen so high against these casuists; but
because every one perceived, that human society could not subsist
were such practices authorized, and that morals must always be
handled with a view to public interest, more than philosophical
regularity? If the secret direction of the intention, said every
man of sense, could invalidate a contract; where is our security?
And yet a metaphysical schoolman might think, that, where an
intention was supposed to be requisite, if that intention really
had not place, no consequence ought to follow, and no obligation
be imposed. The casuistical subtilties may not be greater than
the snbtilties of lawyers, hinted at above; but as the former are
PERNICIOUS, and the latter INNOCENT and even NECESSARY, this is
the reason of the very different reception they meet with from
the world.

It is a doctrine of the Church of Rome, that the priest, by a
secret direction of his intention, can invalidate any sacrament.
This position is derived from a strict and regular prosecution of
the obvious truth, that empty words alone, without any meaning or
intention in the speaker, can never be attended with any effect.
If the same conclusion be not admitted in reasonings concerning
civil contracts, where the affair is allowed to be of so much
less consequence than the eternal salvation of thousands, it
proceeds entirely from men's sense of the danger and
inconvenience of the doctrine in the former case: And we may
thence observe, that however positive, arrogant, and dogmatical
any superstition may appear, it never can convey any thorough
persuasion of the reality of its objects, or put them, in any
degree, on a balance with the common incidents of life, which we
learn from daily observation and experimental reasoning.]

These reflections are far from weakening the obligations of
justice, or diminishing anything from the most sacred attention
to property. On the contrary, such sentiments must acquire new
force from the present reasoning. For what stronger foundation
can be desired or conceived for any duty, than to observe, that
human society, or even human nature, could not subsist without
the establishment of it; and will still arrive at greater degrees
of happiness and perfection, the more inviolable the regard is,
which is paid to that duty?

The dilemma seems obvious: As justice evidently tends to promote
public utility and to support civil society, the sentiment of
justice is either derived from our reflecting on that tendency,
or like hunger, thirst, and other appetites, resentment, love of
life, attachment to offspring, and other passions, arises from a
simple original instinct in the human breast, which nature has
implanted for like salutary purposes. If the latter be the case,
it follows, that property, which is the object of justice, is
also distinguished by a simple original instinct, and is not
ascertained by any argument or reflection. But who is there that
ever heard of such an instinct? Or is this a subject in which new
discoveries can be made? We may as well expect to discover, in
the body, new senses, which had before escaped the observation of
all mankind.

But farther, though it seems a very simple proposition to say,
that nature, by an instinctive sentiment, distinguishes property,
yet in reality we shall find, that there are required for that
purpose ten thousand different instincts, and these employed
about objects of the greatest intricacy and nicest discernment.
For when a definition of PROPERTY is required, that relation is
found to resolve itself into any possession acquired by
occupation, by industry, by prescription, by inheritance, by
contract, &c. Can we think that nature, by an original instinct,
instructs us in all these methods of acquisition?

These words too, inheritance and contract, stand for ideas
infinitely complicated; and to define them exactly, a hundred
volumes of laws, and a thousand volumes of commentators, have not
been found sufficient. Does nature, whose instincts in men are
all simple, embrace such complicated and artificial objects, and
create a rational creature, without trusting anything to the
operation of his reason?

But even though all this were admitted, it would not be
satisfactory. Positive laws can certainly transfer property. It
is by another original instinct, that we recognize the authority
of kings and senates, and mark all the boundaries of their
jurisdiction? Judges too, even though their sentence be erroneous
and illegal, must be allowed, for the sake of peace and order, to
have decisive authority, and ultimately to determine property.
Have we original innate ideas of praetors and chancellors and
juries? Who sees not, that all these institutions arise merely
from the necessities of human society?

All birds of the same species in every age and country, built
their nests alike: In this we see the force of instinct. Men, in
different times and places, frame their houses differently: Here
we perceive the influence of reason and custom. A like inference
may be drawn from comparing the instinct of generation and the
institution of property.

How great soever the variety of municipal laws, it must be
confessed, that their chief outlines pretty regularly concur;
because the purposes, to which they tend, are everywhere exactly
similar. In like manner, all houses have a roof and walls,
windows and chimneys; though diversified in their shape, figure,
and materials. The purposes of the latter, directed to the
conveniencies of human life, discover not more plainly their
origin from reason and reflection, than do those of the former,
which point all to a like end.

I need not mention the variations, which all the rules of
property receive from the finer turns and connexions of the
imagination, and from the subtilties and abstractions of law-
topics and reasonings. There is no possibility of reconciling
this observation to the notion of original instincts.

What alone will beget a doubt concerning the theory, on which I
insist, is the influence of education and acquired habits, by
which we are so accustomed to blame injustice, that we are not,
in every instance, conscious of any immediate reflection on the
pernicious consequences of it. The views the most familiar to us
are apt, for that very reason, to escape us; and what we have
very frequently performed from certain motives, we are apt
likewise to continue mechanically, without recalling, on every
occasion, the reflections, which first determined us. The
convenience, or rather necessity, which leads to justice is so
universal, and everywhere points so much to the same rules, that
the habit takes place in all societies; and it is not without
some scrutiny, that we are able to ascertain its true origin. The
matter, however, is not so obscure, but that even in common life
we have every moment recourse to the principle of public utility,
distinction or separation of possessions entirely useless, can
any one conceive, that it ever should have obtained in society?

Thus we seem, upon the whole, to have attained a knowledge of the
force of that principle here insisted on, and can determine what
degree of esteem or moral approbation may result from reflections
on public interest and utility. The necessity of justice to the
support of society is the sole foundation of that virtue; and
since no moral excellence is more highly esteemed, we may
conclude that this circumstance of usefulness has, in general,
the strongest energy, and most entire command over our
sentiments. It must, therefore, be the source of a considerable
part of the merit ascribed to humanity, benevolence, friendship,
public spirit, and other social virtues of that stamp; as it is
the sole source of the moral approbation paid to fidelity,
justice, veracity, integrity, and those other estimable and
useful qualities and principles. It is entirely agreeable to the
rules of philosophy, and even of common reason; where any
principle has been found to have a great force and energy in one
instance, to ascribe to it a like energy in all similar
instances. This indeed is Newton's chief rule of philosophizing
[Footnote: Principia. Lib. iii.].



Had every man sufficient SAGACITY to perceive, at all times, the
strong interest which binds him to the observance of justice and
equity, and STRENGTH OF MIND sufficient to persevere in a steady
adherence to a general and a distant interest, in opposition to
the allurements of present pleasure and advantage; there had
never, in that case, been any such thing as government or
political society, but each man, following his natural liberty,
had lived in entire peace and harmony with all others. What need
of positive law where natural justice is, of itself, a sufficient
restraint? Why create magistrates, where there never arises any
disorder or iniquity? Why abridge our native freedom, when, in
every instance, the utmost exertion of it is found innocent and
beneficial? It is evident, that, if government were totally
useless, it never could have place, and that the sole foundation
of the duty of allegiance is the ADVANTAGE, which it procures to
society, by preserving peace and order among mankind.

When a number of political societies are erected, and maintain a
great intercourse together, a new set of rules are immediately
discovered to be USEFUL in that particular situation; and
accordingly take place under the title of Laws of Nations. Of
this kind are, the sacredness of the person of ambassadors,
abstaining from poisoned arms, quarter in war, with others of
that kind, which are plainly calculated for the ADVANTAGE of
states and kingdoms in their intercourse with each other.

The rules of justice, such as prevail among individuals, are not
entirely suspended among political societies. All princes pretend
a regard to the rights of other princes; and some, no doubt,
without hypocrisy. Alliances and treaties are every day made
between independent states, which would only be so much waste of
parchment, if they were not found by experience to have SOME
influence and authority. But here is the difference between
kingdoms and individuals. Human nature cannot by any means
subsist, without the association of individuals; and that
association never could have place, were no regard paid to the
laws of equity and justice. Disorder, confusion, the war of all
against all, are the necessary consequences of such a licentious
conduct. But nations can subsist without intercourse. They may
even subsist, in some degree, under a general war. The observance
of justice, though useful among them, is not guarded by so strong
a necessity as among individuals; and the moral obligation holds
proportion with the USEFULNESS. All politicians will allow, and
most philosophers, that reasons of state may, in particular
emergencies, dispense with the rules of justice, and invalidate
any treaty or alliance, where the strict observance of it would
be prejudicial, in a considerable degree, to either of the
contracting parties. But nothing less than the most extreme
necessity, it is confessed, can justify individuals in a breach
of promise, or an invasion of the properties of others.

In a confederated commonwealth, such as the Achaean republic of
old, or the Swiss Cantons and United Provinces in modern times;
as the league has here a peculiar UTILITY, the conditions of
union have a peculiar sacredness and authority, and a violation
of them would be regarded as no less, or even as more criminal,
than any private injury or injustice.

The long and helpless infancy of man requires the combination of
parents for the subsistence of their young; and that combination
requires the virtue of chastity or fidelity to the marriage bed.
Without such a UTILITY, it will readily be owned, that such a
virtue would never have been thought of.

[Footnote: The only solution, which Plato gives to all the
objections that might be raised against the community of women,
established in his imaginary commonwealth, is, [Greek quotation
here]. Scite enim istud et dicitur et dicetur, Id quod utile sit
honestum esse, quod autem inutile sit turpe esse. [De Rep lib v p
457 ex edit Ser]. And this maxim will admit of no doubt, where
public utility is concerned, which is Plato's meaning. And indeed
to what other purpose do all the ideas of chastity and modesty
serve? "Nisi utile est quod facimus, frustra est gloria," says
Phaedrus." [Greek quotation here]," says Plutarch, de vitioso
pudore. "Nihil eorum quae damnosa sunt, pulchrum est." The same
was the opinion of the Stoics [Greek quotation here; from Sept.
Emp lib III cap 20].

An infidelity of this nature is much more PERNICIOUS in WOMEN
than in MEN. Hence the laws of chastity are much stricter over
the one sex than over the other.

These rules have all a reference to generation; and yet women
past child-bearing are no more supposed to be exempted from them
than those in the flower of their youth and beauty. GENERAL RULES
are often extended beyond the principle whence they first arise;
and this in all matters of taste and sentiment. It is a vulgar
story at Paris, that, during the rage of the Mississippi, a hump-
backed fellow went every day into the Rue de Quincempoix, where
the stock-jobbers met in great crowds, and was well paid for
allowing them to make use of his hump as a desk, in order to sign
their contracts upon it. Would the fortune, which he raised by
this expedient, make him a handsome fellow; though it be
confessed, that personal beauty arises very much from ideas of
utility? The imagination is influenced by associations of ideas;
which, though they arise at first from the judgement, are not
easily altered by every particular exception that occurs to us.
To which we may add, in the present case of chastity, that the
example of the old would be pernicious to the young; and that
women, continually foreseeing that a certain time would bring
them the liberty of indulgence, would naturally advance that
period, and think more lightly of this whole duty, so requisite
to society.

Those who live in the same family have such frequent
opportunities of licence of this kind, that nothing could prevent
purity of manners, were marriage allowed, among the nearest
relations, or any intercourse of love between them ratified by
law and custom. Incest, therefore, being PERNICIOUS in a superior
degree, has also a superior turpitude and moral deformity annexed
to it.

What is the reason, why, by the Athenian laws, one might marry a
half-sister by the father, but not by the mother? Plainly this:
The manners of the Athenians were so reserved, that a man was
never permitted to approach the women's apartment, even in the
same family, unless where he visited his own mother. His step-
mother and her children were as much shut up from him as the
woman of any other family, and there was as little danger of any
criminal correspondence between them. Uncles and nieces, for a
like reason, might marry at Athens; but neither these, nor half-
brothers and sisters, could contract that alliance at Rome, where
the intercourse was more open between the sexes. Public utility
is the cause of all these variations.

To repeat, to a man's prejudice, anything that escaped him in
private conversation, or to make any such use of his private
letters, is highly blamed. The free and social intercourse of
minds must be extremely checked, where no such rules of fidelity
are established.

Even in repeating stories, whence we can foresee no ill
consequences to result, the giving of one's author is regarded as
a piece of indiscretion, if not of immorality. These stories, in
passing from hand to hand, and receiving all the usual
variations, frequently come about to the persons concerned, and
produce animosities and quarrels among people, whose intentions
are the most innocent and inoffensive.

To pry into secrets, to open or even read the letters of others,
to play the spy upon their words and looks and actions; what
habits more inconvenient in society? What habits, of consequence,
more blameable?

This principle is also the foundation of most of the laws of good
manners; a kind of lesser morality, calculated for the ease of
company and conversation. Too much or too little ceremony are
both blamed, and everything, which promotes ease, without an
indecent familiarity, is useful and laudable.

Constancy in friendships, attachments, and familiarities, is
commendable, and is requisite to support trust and good
correspondence in society. But in places of general, though
casual concourse, where the pursuit of health and pleasure brings
people promiscuously together, public conveniency has dispensed
with this maxim; and custom there promotes an unreserved
conversation for the time, by indulging the privilege of dropping
afterwards every indifferent acquaintance, without breach of
civility or good manners.

Even in societies, which are established on principles the most
immoral, and the most destructive to the interests of the general
society, there are required certain rules, which a species of
false honour, as well as private interest, engages the members to
observe. Robbers and pirates, it has often been remarked, could
not maintain their pernicious confederacy, did they not establish
a pew distributive justice among themselves, and recall those
laws of equity, which they have violated with the rest of

I hate a drinking companion, says the Greek proverb, who never
forgets. The follies of the last debauch should be buried in
eternal oblivion, in order to give full scope to the follies of
the next.

Among nations, where an immoral gallantry, if covered with a thin
veil of mystery, is, in some degree, authorized by custom, there
immediately arise a set of rules, calculated for the conveniency
of that attachment. The famous court or parliament of love in
Provence formerly decided all difficult cases of this nature.

In societies for play, there are laws required for the conduct of
the game; and these laws are different in each game. The
foundation, I own, of such societies is frivolous; and the laws
are, in a great measure, though not altogether, capricious and
arbitrary. So far is there a material difference between them and
the rules of justice, fidelity, and loyalty. The general
societies of men are absolutely requisite for the subsistence of
the species; and the public conveniency, which regulates morals,
is inviolably established in the nature of man, and of the world,
in which he lives. The comparison, therefore, in these respects,
is very imperfect. We may only learn from it the necessity of
rules, wherever men have any intercourse with each other.

They cannot even pass each other on the road without rules.
Waggoners, coachmen, and postilions have principles, by which
they give the way; and these are chiefly founded on mutual ease
and convenience. Sometimes also they are arbitrary, at least
dependent on a kind of capricious analogy like many of the
reasonings of lawyers.

[Footnote: That the lighter machine yield to the heavier, and, in
machines of the same kind, that the empty yield to the loaded;
this rule is founded on convenience. That those who are going to
the capital take place of those who are coming from it; this
seems to be founded on some idea of dignity of the great city,
and of the preference of the future to the past. From like
reasons, among foot-walkers, the right-hand entitles a man to the
wall, and prevents jostling, which peaceable people find very
disagreeable and inconvenient.]

To carry the matter farther, we may observe, that it is
impossible for men so much as to murder each other without
statutes, and maxims, and an idea of justice and honour. War has
its laws as well as peace; and even that sportive kind of war,
carried on among wrestlers, boxers, cudgel-players, gladiators,
is regulated by fixed principles. Common interest and utility
beget infallibly a standard of right and wrong among the parties




It seems so natural a thought to ascribe to their utility the
praise, which we bestow on the social virtues, that one would
expect to meet with this principle everywhere in moral writers,
as the chief foundation of their reasoning and enquiry. In common
life, we may observe, that the circumstance of utility is always
appealed to; nor is it supposed, that a greater eulogy can be
given to any man, than to display his usefulness to the public,
and enumerate the services, which he has performed to mankind and
society. What praise, even of an inanimate form, if the
regularity and elegance of its parts destroy not its fitness for
any useful purpose! And how satisfactory an apology for any
disproportion or seeming deformity, if we can show the necessity
of that particular construction for the use intended! A ship
appears more beautiful to an artist, or one moderately skilled in
navigation, where its prow is wide and swelling beyond its poop,
than if it were framed with a precise geometrical regularity, in
contradiction to all the laws of mechanics. A building, whose
doors and windows were exact squares, would hurt the eye by that
very proportion; as ill adapted to the figure of a human
creature, for whose service the fabric was intended.

What wonder then, that a man, whose habits and conduct are
hurtful to society, and dangerous or pernicious to every one who
has an intercourse with him, should, on that account, be an
object of disapprobation, and communicate to every spectator the
strongest sentiment of disgust and hatred.

[Footnote: We ought not to imagine, because an inanimate object
may be useful as well as a man, that therefore it ought also,
according to this system, to merit he appellation of VIRTUOUS.
The sentiments, excited by utility, are, in the two cases, very
different; and the one is mixed with affection, esteem,
approbation, &c., and not the other. In like manner, an inanimate
object may have good colour and proportions as well as a human
figure. But can we ever be in love with the former? There are a
numerous set of passions and sentiments, of which thinking
rational beings are, by the original constitution of nature, the
only proper objects: and though the very same qualities be
transferred to an insensible, inanimate being, they will not
excite the same sentiments. The beneficial qualities of herbs and
minerals are, indeed, sometimes called their VIRTUES; but this is
an effect of the caprice of language, which out not to be
regarded in reasoning. For though there be a species of
approbation attending even inanimate objects, when beneficial,
yet this sentiment is so weak, and so different from that which
is directed to beneficent magistrates or statesman; that they
ought not to be ranked under the same class or appellation.

A very small variation of the object, even where the same
qualities are preserved, will destroy a sentiment. Thus, the same
beauty, transferred to a different sex, excites no amorous
passion, where nature is not extremely perverted.]

But perhaps the difficulty of accounting for these effects of
usefulness, or its contrary, has kept philosophers from admitting
them into their systems of ethics, and has induced them rather to
employ any other principle, in explaining the origin of moral
good and evil. But it is no just reason for rejecting any
principle, confirmed by experience, that we cannot give a
satisfactory account of its origin, nor are able to resolve it
into other more general principles. And if we would employ a
little thought on the present subject, we need be at no loss to
account for the influence of utility, and to deduce it from
principles, the most known and avowed in human nature.

From the apparent usefulness of the social virtues, it has
readily been inferred by sceptics, both ancient and modern, that
all moral distinctions arise from education, and were, at first,
invented, and afterwards encouraged, by the art of politicians,
in order to render men tractable, and subdue their natural
ferocity and selfishness, which incapacitated them for society.
This principle, indeed, of precept and education, must so far be
owned to have a powerful influence, that it may frequently
increase or diminish, beyond their natural standard, the
sentiments of approbation or dislike; and may even, in particular
instances, create, without any natural principle, a new sentiment
of this kind; as is evident in all superstitious practices and
observances: But that ALL moral affection or dislike arises from
this origin, will never surely be allowed by any judicious
enquirer. Had nature made no such distinction, founded on the
original constitution of the mind, the words, HONOURABLE and
place in any language; nor could politicians, had they invented
these terms, ever have been able to render them intelligible, or
make them convey any idea to the audience. So that nothing can be
more superficial than this paradox of the sceptics; and it were
well, if, in the abstruser studies of logic and metaphysics, we
could as easily obviate the cavils of that sect, as in the
practical and more intelligible sciences of politics and morals.

The social virtues must, therefore, be allowed to have a natural
beauty and amiableness, which, at first, antecedent to all
precept or education, recommends them to the esteem of
uninstructed mankind, and engages their affections. And as the
public utility of these virtues is the chief circumstance, whence
they derive their merit, it follows, that the end, which they
have a tendency to promote, must be some way agreeable to us, and
take hold of some natural affection. It must please, either from
considerations of self-interest, or from more generous motives
and regards.

It has often been asserted, that, as every man has a strong
connexion with society, and perceives the impossibility of his
solitary subsistence, he becomes, on that account, favourable to
all those habits or principles, which promote order in society,
and insure to him the quiet possession of so inestimable a
blessing, As much as we value our own happiness and welfare, as
much must we applaud the practice of justice and humanity, by
which alone the social confederacy can be maintained, and every
man reap the fruits of mutual protection and assistance.

This deduction of morals from self-love, or a regard to private
interest, is an obvious thought, and has not arisen wholly from
the wanton sallies and sportive assaults of the sceptics. To
mention no others, Polybius, one of the gravest and most
judicious, as well as most moral writers of antiquity, has
assigned this selfish origin to all our sentiments of virtue.
[Footnote: Undutifulness to parents is disapproved of by mankind,
[Greek quotation inserted here]. Ingratitude for a like reason
(though he seems there to mix a more generous regard) [Greek
quotation inserted here] Lib. vi cap. 4. (Ed. Gronorius.) Perhaps
the historian only meant, that our sympathy and humanity was more
enlivened, by our considering the similarity of our case with
that of the person suffering; which is a just sentiment.] But
though the solid practical sense of that author, and his aversion
to all vain subtilties, render his authority on the present
subject very considerable; yet is not this an affair to be
decided by authority, and the voice of nature and experience
seems plainly to oppose the selfish theory.

We frequently bestow praise on virtuous actions, performed in
very distant ages and remote countries; where the utmost subtilty
of imagination would not discover any appearance of self-
interest, or find any connexion of our present happiness and
security with events so widely separated from us.

A generous, a brave, a noble deed, performed by an adversary,
commands our approbation; while in its consequences it may be
acknowledged prejudicial to our particular interest.

Where private advantage concurs with general affection for
virtue, we readily perceive and avow the mixture of these
distinct sentiments, which have a very different feeling and
influence on the mind. We praise, perhaps, with more alacrity,
where the generous humane action contributes to our particular
interest: But the topics of praise, which we insist on, are very
wide of this circumstance. And we may attempt to bring over
others to our sentiments, without endeavouring to convince them,
that they reap any advantage from the actions which we recommend
to their approbation and applause.

Frame the model of a praiseworthy character, consisting of all
the most amiable moral virtues: Give instances, in which these
display themselves after an eminent and extraordinary manner: You
readily engage the esteem and approbation of all your audience,
who never so much as enquire in what age and country the person
lived, who possessed these noble qualities: A circumstance,
however, of all others, the most material to self-love, or a
concern for our own individual happiness. Once on a time, a
statesman, in the shock and contest of parties, prevailed so far
as to procure, by his eloquence, the banishment of an able
adversary; whom he secretly followed, offering him money for his
support during his exile, and soothing him with topics of
consolation in his misfortunes. ALAS! cries the banished
WHERE EVEN ENEMIES ARE SO GENEROUS! Virtue, though in an enemy,
here pleased him: And we also give it the just tribute of praise
and approbation; nor do we retract these sentiments, when we
hear, that the action passed at Athens, about two thousand years
ago, and that the persons' names were Eschines and Demosthenes.

WHAT IS THAT TO ME? There are few occasions, when this question
is not pertinent: And had it that universal, infallible influence
supposed, it would turn into ridicule every composition, and
almost every conversation, which contain any praise or censure of
men and manners.

It is but a weak subterfuge, when pressed by these facts and
arguments, to say, that we transport ourselves, by the force of
imagination, into distant ages and countries, and consider the
advantage, which we should have reaped from these characters, had
we been contemporaries, and had any commerce with the persons. It
is not conceivable, how a REAL sentiment or passion can ever
arise from a known IMAGINARY interest; especially when our REAL
interest is still kept in view, and is often acknowledged to be
entirely distinct from the imaginary, and even sometimes opposite
to it.

A man, brought to the brink of a precipice, cannot look down
without trembling; and the sentiment of IMAGINARY danger actuates
him, in opposition to the opinion and belief of REAL safety. But
the imagination is here assisted by the presence of a striking
object; and yet prevails not, except it be also aided by novelty,
and the unusual appearance of the object. Custom soon reconciles
us to heights and precipices, and wears off these false and
delusive terrors. The reverse is observable in the estimates
which we form of characters and manners; and the more we
habituate ourselves to an accurate scrutiny of morals, the more
delicate feeling do we acquire of the most minute distinctions
between vice and virtue. Such frequent occasion, indeed, have we,
in common life, to pronounce all kinds of moral determinations,
that no object of this kind can be new or unusual to us; nor
could any FALSE views or prepossessions maintain their ground
against an experience, so common and familiar. Experience being
chiefly what forms the associations of ideas, it is impossible
that any association could establish and support itself, in
direct opposition to that principle.

Usefulness is agreeable, and engages our approbation. This is a
matter of fact, confirmed by daily observation. But, USEFUL? For
what? For somebody's interest, surely. Whose interest then? Not
our own only: For our approbation frequently extends farther. It
must, therefore, be the interest of those, who are served by the
character or action approved of; and these we may conclude,
however remote, are not totally indifferent to us. By opening up
this principle, we shall discover one great source of moral


Self-love is a principle in human nature of such extensive
energy, and the interest of each individual is, in general, so
closely connected with that of the community, that those
philosophers were excusable, who fancied that all our concern for
the public might be resolved into a concern for our own happiness
and preservation. They saw every moment, instances of approbation
or blame, satisfaction or displeasure towards characters and
actions; they denominated the objects of these sentiments,
VIRTUES, or VICES; they observed, that the former had a tendency
to increase the happiness, and the latter the misery of mankind;
they asked, whether it were possible that we could have any
general concern for society, or any disinterested resentment of
the welfare or injury of others; they found it simpler to
consider all these sentiments as modifications of self-love; and
they discovered a pretence, at least, for this unity of
principle, in that close union of interest, which is so
observable between the public and each individual.

But notwithstanding this frequent confusion of interests, it is
easy to attain what natural philosophers, after Lord Bacon, have
affected to call the experimentum crucis, or that experiment
which points out the right way in any doubt or ambiguity. We have
found instances, in which private interest was separate from
public; in which it was even contrary: And yet we observed the
moral sentiment to continue, notwithstanding this disjunction of
interests. And wherever these distinct interests sensibly
concurred, we always found a sensible increase of the sentiment,
and a more warm affection to virtue, and detestation of vice, or
what we properly call, GRATITUDE and REVENGE. Compelled by these
instances, we must renounce the theory, which accounts for every
moral sentiment by the principle of self-love. We must adopt a
more public affection, and allow, that the interests of society
are not, even on their own account, entirely indifferent to us.
Usefulness is only a tendency to a certain end; and it is a
contradiction in terms, that anything pleases as means to an end,
where the end itself no wise affects us. If usefulness,
therefore, be a source of moral sentiment, and if this usefulness
be not always considered with a reference to self; it follows,
that everything, which contributes to the happiness of society,
recommends itself directly to our approbation and good-will. Here
is a principle, which accounts, in great part, for the origin of
morality: And what need we seek for abstruse and remote systems,
when there occurs one so obvious and natural?

[FOOTNOTE: It is needless to push our researches so far as to
ask, why we have humanity or a fellow-feeling with others. It is
sufficient, that this is experienced to be a principle in human
nature. We must stop somewhere in our examination of causes; and
there are, in every science, some general principles, beyond
which we cannot hope to find any principle more general. No man
is absolutely indifferent to the happiness and misery of others.
The first has a natural tendency to give pleasure; the second,
pain. This every one may find in himself. It is not probable,
that these principles can be resolved into principles more simple
and universal, whatever attempts may have been made to that
purpose. But if it were possible, it belongs not to the present
subject; and we may here safely consider these principles as
original; happy, if we can render all the consequences
sufficiently plain and perspicuous!]

Have we any difficulty to comprehend the force of humanity and
benevolence? Or to conceive, that the very aspect of happiness,
joy, prosperity, gives pleasure; that of pain, suffering, sorrow,
communicates uneasiness? The human countenance, says Horace ['Uti
ridentibus arrident, ita flentibus adflent Humani vultus,'--
Hor.], borrows smiles or tears from the human countenance. Reduce
a person to solitude, and he loses all enjoyment, except either
of the sensual or speculative kind; and that because the
movements of his heart are not forwarded by correspondent
movements in his fellow-creatures. The signs of sorrow and
mourning, though arbitrary, affect us with melancholy; but the
natural symptoms, tears and cries and groans, never fail to
infuse compassion and uneasiness. And if the effects of misery
touch us in so lively a manner; can we be supposed altogether
insensible or indifferent towards its causes; when a malicious or
treacherous character and behaviour are presented to us?

We enter, I shall suppose, into a convenient, warm, well-
contrived apartment: We necessarily receive a pleasure from its
very survey; because it presents us with the pleasing ideas of
ease, satisfaction, and enjoyment. The hospitable, good-humoured,
humane landlord appears. This circumstance surely must embellish
the whole; nor can we easily forbear reflecting, with pleasure,
on the satisfaction which results to every one from his
intercourse and good-offices.

His whole family, by the freedom, ease, confidence, and calm
enjoyment, diffused over their countenances, sufficiently express
their happiness. I have a pleasing sympathy in the prospect of so
much joy, and can never consider the source of it, without the
most agreeable emotions.

He tells me, that an oppressive and powerful neighbour had
attempted to dispossess him of his inheritance, and had long
disturbed all his innocent and social pleasures. I feel an
immediate indignation arise in me against such violence and

But it is no wonder, he adds, that a private wrong should proceed
from a man, who had enslaved provinces, depopulated cities, and
made the field and scaffold stream with human blood. I am struck
with horror at the prospect of so much misery, and am actuated by
the strongest antipathy against its author.

In general, it is certain, that, wherever we go, whatever we
reflect on or converse about, everything still presents us with
the view of human happiness or misery, and excites in our breast
a sympathetic movement of pleasure or uneasiness. In our serious
occupations, in our careless amusements, this principle still
exerts its active energy.

A man who enters the theatre, is immediately struck with the view
of so great a multitude, participating of one common amusement;
and experiences, from their very aspect, a superior sensibility
or disposition of being affected with every sentiment, which he
shares with his fellow-creatures.

He observes the actors to be animated by the appearance of a full
audience, and raised to a degree of enthusiasm, which they cannot
command in any solitary or calm moment.

Every movement of the theatre, by a skilful poet, is
communicated, as it were by magic, to the spectators; who weep,
tremble, resent, rejoice, and are inflamed with all the variety
of passions, which actuate the several personages of the drama.

Where any event crosses our wishes, and interrupts the happiness
of the favourite characters, we feel a sensible anxiety and
concern. But where their sufferings proceed from the treachery,
cruelty, or tyranny of an enemy, our breasts are affected with
the liveliest resentment against the author of these calamities.
It is here esteemed contrary to the rules of art to represent
anything cool and indifferent. A distant friend, or a confident,
who has no immediate interest in the catastrophe, ought, if
possible, to be avoided by the poet; as communicating a like
indifference to the audience, and checking the progress of the

Few species of poetry are more entertaining than PASTORAL; and
every one is sensible, that the chief source of its pleasure
arises from those images of a gentle and tender tranquillity,
which it represents in its personages, and of which it
communicates a like sentiment to the reader. Sannazarius, who
transferred the scene to the sea-shore, though he presented the
most magnificent object in nature, is confessed to have erred in
his choice. The idea of toil, labour, and danger, suffered by the
fishermen, is painful; by an unavoidable sympathy, which attends
every conception of human happiness or misery.

When I was twenty, says a French poet, Ovid was my favourite: Now
I am forty, I declare for Horace. We enter, to be sure, more
readily into sentiments, which resemble those we feel every day:
But no passion, when well represented, can be entirely
indifferent to us; because there is none, of which every man has
not, within him, at least the seeds and first principles. It is
the business of poetry to bring every affection near to us by
lively imagery and representation, and make it look like truth
and reality: A certain proof, that, wherever that reality is
found, our minds are disposed to be strongly affected by it.

Any recent event or piece of news, by which the fate of states,
provinces, or many individuals is affected, is extremely
interesting even to those whose welfare is not immediately
engaged. Such intelligence is propagated with celerity, heard
with avidity, and enquired into with attention and concern. The
interest of society appears, on this occasion, to be in some
degree the interest of each individual. The imagination is sure
to be affected; though the passions excited may not always be so
strong and steady as to have great influence on the conduct and

The perusal of a history seems a calm entertainment; but would be
no entertainment at all, did not our hearts beat with
correspondent movements to those which are described by the

Thucydides and Guicciardin support with difficulty our attention;
while the former describes the trivial encounters of the small
cities of Greece, and the latter the harmless wars of Pisa. The
few persons interested and the small interest fill not the
imagination, and engage not the affections. The deep distress of
the numerous Athenian army before Syracuse; the danger which so
nearly threatens Venice; these excite compassion; these move
terror and anxiety.

The indifferent, uninteresting style of Suetonius, equally with
the masterly pencil of Tacitus, may convince us of the cruel
depravity of Nero or Tiberius: But what a difference of
sentiment! While the former coldly relates the facts; and the
latter sets before our eyes the venerable figures of a Soranus
and a Thrasea, intrepid in their fate, and only moved by the
melting sorrows of their friends and kindred. What sympathy then
touches every human heart! What indignation against the tyrant,
whose causeless fear or unprovoked malice gave rise to such
detestable barbarity!

If we bring these subjects nearer: If we remove all suspicion of
fiction and deceit: What powerful concern is excited, and how
much superior, in many instances, to the narrow attachments of
self-love and private interest! Popular sedition, party zeal, a
devoted obedience to factious leaders; these are some of the most
visible, though less laudable effects of this social sympathy in
human nature.

The frivolousness of the subject too, we may observe, is not able
to detach us entirely from what carries an image of human
sentiment and affection.

When a person stutters, and pronounces with difficulty, we even
sympathize with this trivial uneasiness, and suffer for him. And
it is a rule in criticism, that every combination of syllables or
letters, which gives pain to the organs of speech in the recital,
appears also from a species of sympathy harsh and disagreeable to
the ear. Nay, when we run over a book with our eye, we are
sensible of such unharmonious composition; because we still
imagine, that a person recites it to us, and suffers from the
pronunciation of these jarring sounds. So delicate is our

Easy and unconstrained postures and motions are always beautiful:
An air of health and vigour is agreeable: Clothes which warm,
without burthening the body; which cover, without imprisoning the
limbs, are well-fashioned. In every judgement of beauty, the
feelings of the person affected enter into consideration, and
communicate to the spectator similar touches of pain or pleasure.
[Footnote: 'Decentior equus cujus astricta suntilia; sed idem
velocior. Pulcher aspectu sit athleta, cujus lacertos execitatio
expressit; idem certamini paratior nunquam enim SPECIES ab
UTILITATE dividitur. Sed hoc quidem discernere modici judicii
est.'- Quintilian, Inst. lib. viii. cap. 3.]

What wonder, then, if we can pronounce no judgement concerning
the character and conduct of men, without considering the
tendencies of their actions, and the happiness or misery which
thence arises to society? What association of ideas would ever
operate, were that principle here totally unactive.

[Footnote: In proportion to the station which a man possesses,
according to the relations in which he is placed; we always
expect from him a greater or less degree of good, and when
disappointed, blame his inutility; and much more do we blame him,
if any ill or prejudice arise from his conduct and behaviour.
When the interests of one country interfere with those of
another, we estimate the merits of a statesman by the good or
ill, which results to his own country from his measures and
councils, without regard to the prejudice which he brings on its
enemies and rivals. His fellow-citizens are the objects, which
lie nearest the eye, while we determine his character. And as
nature has implanted in every one a superior affection to his own
country, we never expect any regard to distant nations, where a
competition arises. Not to mention, that, while every man
consults the good of his own community, we are sensible, that the
general interest of mankind is better promoted, than any loose
indeterminate views to the good of a species, whence no
beneficial action could ever result, for want of a duly limited
object, on which they could exert themselves.]

If any man from a cold insensibility, or narrow selfishness of
temper, is unaffected with the images of human happiness or
misery, he must be equally indifferent to the images of vice and
virtue: As, on the other hand, it is always found, that a warm
concern for the interests of our species is attended with a
delicate feeling of all moral distinctions; a strong resentment
of injury done to men; a lively approbation of their welfare. In
this particular, though great superiority is observable of one
man above another; yet none are so entirely indifferent to the
interest of their fellow-creatures, as to perceive no
distinctions of moral good and evil, in consequence of the
different tendencies of actions and principles. How, indeed, can
we suppose it possible in any one, who wears a human heart, that
if there be subjected to his censure, one character or system of
conduct, which is beneficial, and another which is pernicious to
his species or community, he will not so much as give a cool
preference to the former, or ascribe to it the smallest merit or
regard? Let us suppose such a person ever so selfish; let private
interest have ingrossed ever so much his attention; yet in
instances, where that is not concerned, he must unavoidably feel
SOME propensity to the good of mankind, and make it an object of
choice, if everything else be equal. Would any man, who is
walking along, tread as willingly on another's gouty toes, whom
he has no quarrel with, as on the hard flint and pavement? There
is here surely a difference in the case. We surely take into
consideration the happiness and misery of others, in weighing the
several motives of action, and incline to the former, where no
private regards draw us to seek our own promotion or advantage by
the injury of our fellow-creatures. And if the principles of
humanity are capable, in many instances, of influencing our
actions, they must, at all times, have some authority over our
sentiments, and give us a general approbation of what is useful
to society, and blame of what is dangerous or pernicious. The
degrees of these sentiments may be the subject of controversy;
but the reality of their existence, one should think, must be
admitted in every theory or system.

A creature, absolutely malicious and spiteful, were there any
such in nature, must be worse than indifferent to the images of
vice and virtue. All his sentiments must be inverted, and
directly opposite to those, which prevail in the human species.
Whatever contributes to the good of mankind, as it crosses the
constant bent of his wishes and desires, must produce uneasiness
and disapprobation; and on the contrary, whatever is the source
of disorder and misery in society, must, for the same reason, be
regarded with pleasure and complacency. Timon, who probably from
his affected spleen more than an inveterate malice, was
denominated the manhater, embraced Alcibiades with great
CALAMITIES TO THEM [Footnote: Plutarch fit vita Ale.]. Could we
admit the two principles of the Manicheans, it is an infallible
consequence, that their sentiments of human actions, as well as
of everything else, must be totally opposite, and that every
instance of justice and humanity, from its necessary tendency,
must please the one deity and displease the other. All mankind so
far resemble the good principle, that, where interest or revenge
or envy perverts not our disposition, we are always inclined,
from our natural philanthropy, to give the preference to the
happiness of society, and consequently to virtue above its
opposite. Absolute, unprovoked, disinterested malice has never
perhaps place in any human breast; or if it had, must there
pervert all the sentiments of morals, as well as the feelings of
humanity. If the cruelty of Nero be allowed entirely voluntary,
and not rather the effect of constant fear and resentment; it is
evident that Tigellinus, preferably to Seneca or Burrhus, must
have possessed his steady and uniform approbation.

A statesman or patriot, who serves our own country in our own
time, has always a more passionate regard paid to him, than one
whose beneficial influence operated on distant ages or remote
nations; where the good, resulting from his generous humanity,
being less connected with us, seems more obscure, and affects us
with a less lively sympathy. We may own the merit to be equally
great, though our sentiments are not raised to an equal height,
in both cases. The judgement here corrects the inequalities of
our internal emotions and perceptions; in like manner, as it
preserves us from error, in the several variations of images,
presented to our external senses. The same object, at a double
distance, really throws on the eye a picture of but half the
bulk; yet we imagine that it appears of the same size in both
situations; because we know that on our approach to it, its image
would expand on the eye, and that the difference consists not in
the object itself, but in our position with regard to it. And,
indeed, without such a correction of appearances, both in
internal and external sentiment, men could never think or talk
steadily on any subject; while their fluctuating situations
produce a continual variation on objects, and throw them into
such different and contrary lights and positions.

[Footnote: For a little reason, the tendencies of actions and
characters, not their real accidental consequences, are alone
regarded in our more determinations or general judgements; though
in our real feeling or sentiment, we cannot help paying greater
regard to one whose station, joined to virtue, renders him really
useful to society, then to one, who exerts the social virtues
only in good intentions and benevolent affections. Separating the
character from the furtone, by an easy and necessary effort of
thought, we pronounce these persons alike, and give them the
appearance: But is not able entirely to prevail our sentiment.

Why is this peach-tree said to be better than that other; but
because it produces more or better fruit? And would not the same
praise be given it, though snails or vermin had destroyed the
peaches, before they came to full maturity? In morals too, is not
THE TREE KNOWN BY THE FRUIT? And cannot we easily distinguish
between nature and accident, in the one case as well as in the

The more we converse with mankind, and the greater social
intercourse we maintain, the more shall we be familiarized to
these general preferences and distinctions, without which our
conversation and discourse could scarcely be rendered
intelligible to each other. Every man's interest is peculiar to
himself, and the aversions and desires, which result from it,
cannot be supposed to affect others in a like degree. General
language, therefore, being formed for general use, must be
moulded on some more general views, and must affix the epithets
of praise or blame, in conformity to sentiments, which arise from
the general interests of the community. And if these sentiments,
in most men, be not so strong as those, which have a reference to
private good; yet still they must make some distinction, even in
persons the most depraved and selfish; and must attach the notion
of good to a beneficent conduct, and of evil to the contrary.
Sympathy, we shall allow, is much fainter than our concern for
ourselves, and sympathy with persons remote from us much fainter
than that with persons near and contiguous; but for this very
reason it is necessary for us, in our calm judgements and
discourse concerning the characters of men, to neglect all these
differences, and render our sentiments more public and social.
Besides, that we ourselves often change our situation in this
particular, we every day meet with persons who are in a situation
different from us, and who could never converse with us were we
to remain constantly in that position and point of view, which is
peculiar to ourselves. The intercourse of sentiments, therefore,
in society and conversation, makes us form some general
unalterable standard, by which we may approve or disapprove of
characters and manners. And though the heart takes not part
entirely with those general notions, nor regulates all its love
and hatred by the universal abstract differences of vice and
virtue, without regard to self, or the persons with whom we are
more intimately connected; yet have these moral differences a
considerable influence, and being sufficient, at least for
discourse, serve all our purposes in company, in the pulpit, on
the theatre, and in the schools.

[Footnote: It is wisely ordained by nature, that private
connexions should commonly prevail over univeral views and
considerations; otherwise our affections and actions would be
dissopated and lost, for want of a proper limited object. Thus a
small benefit done to ourselves, or our near friends, excites
more lively sentiments of love and approbation than a great
benefit done to a distant commonwealth: But still we know here,
as in all the senses, to correct these inequalities by
reflection, and retain a general standard of vice and virtue,
founded chiefly on a general usefulness.]

Thus, in whatever light we take this subject, the merit, ascribed
to the social virtues, appears still uniform, and arises chiefly
from that regard, which the natural sentiment of benevolence
engages us to pay to the interests of mankind and society. If we
consider the principles of the human make, such as they appear to
daily experience and observation, we must, A PRIORI, conclude it
impossible for such a creature as man to be totally indifferent
to the well or ill-being of his fellow-creatures, and not
readily, of himself, to pronounce, where nothing gives him any
particular bias, that what promotes their happiness is good, what
tends to their misery is evil, without any farther regard or
consideration. Here then are the faint rudiments, at least, or
outlines, of a GENERAL distinction between actions; and in
proportion as the humanity of the person is supposed to increase,
his connexion with those who are injured or benefited, and his
lively conception of their misery or happiness; his consequent
censure or approbation acquires proportionable vigour. There is
no necessity, that a generous action, barely mentioned in an old
history or remote gazette, should communicate any strong feelings
of applause and admiration. Virtue, placed at such a distance, is
like a fixed star, which, though to the eye of reason it may
appear as luminous as the sun in his meridian, is so infinitely
removed as to affect the senses, neither with light nor heat.
Bring this virtue nearer, by our acquaintance or connexion with
the persons, or even by an eloquent recital of the case; our
hearts are immediately caught, our sympathy enlivened, and our
cool approbation converted into the warmest sentiments of
friendship and regard. These seem necessary and infallible
consequences of the general principles of human nature, as
discovered in common life and practice.

Again; reverse these views and reasonings: Consider the matter a
posteriori; and weighing the consequences, enquire if the merit
of social virtue be not, in a great measure, derived from the
feelings of humanity, with which it affects the spectators. It
appears to be matter of fact, that the circumstance of UTILITY,
in all subjects, is a source of praise and approbation: That it
is constantly appealed to in all moral decisions concerning the
merit and demerit of actions: That it is the SOLE source of that
high regard paid to justice, fidelity, honour, allegiance, and
chastity: That it is inseparable from all the other social
virtues, humanity, generosity, charity, affability, lenity,
mercy, and moderation: And, in a word, that it is a foundation of
the chief part of morals, which has a reference to mankind and
our fellow-creatures.

It appears also, that, in our general approbation of characters
and manners, the useful tendency of the social virtues moves us
not by any regards to self-interest, but has an influence much
more universal and extensive. It appears that a tendency to
public good, and to the promoting of peace, harmony, and order in
society, does always, by affecting the benevolent principles of
our frame, engage us on the side of the social virtues. And it
appears, as an additional confirmation, that these principles of
humanity and sympathy enter so deeply into all our sentiments,
and have so powerful an influence, as may enable them to excite
the strongest censure and applause. The present theory is the
simple result of all these inferences, each of which seems
founded on uniform experience and observation.

Were it doubtful, whether there were any such principle in our
nature as humanity or a concern for others, yet when we see, in
numberless instances, that whatever has a tendency to promote the
interests of society, is so highly approved of, we ought thence
to learn the force of the benevolent principle; since it is
impossible for anything to please as means to an end, where the
end is totally indifferent. On the other hand, were it doubtful,
whether there were, implanted in our nature, any general
principle of moral blame and approbation, yet when we see, in
numberless instances, the influence of humanity, we ought thence
to conclude, that it is impossible, but that everything which
promotes the interest of society must communicate pleasure, and
what is pernicious give uneasiness. But when these different
reflections and observations concur in establishing the same
conclusion, must they not bestow an undisputed evidence upon it?

It is however hoped, that the progress of this argument will
bring a farther confirmation of the present theory, by showing
the rise of other sentiments of esteem and regard from the same
or like principles.




IT seems evident, that where a quality or habit is subjected to
our examination, if it appear in any respect prejudicial to the
person possessed of it, or such as incapacitates him for business
and action, it is instantly blamed, and ranked among his faults
and imperfections. Indolence, negligence, want of order and
method, obstinacy, fickleness, rashness, credulity; these
qualities were never esteemed by any one indifferent to a
character; much less, extolled as accomplishments or virtues. The
prejudice, resulting from them, immediately strikes our eye, and
gives us the sentiment of pain and disapprobation.

No quality, it is allowed, is absolutely either blameable or
praiseworthy. It is all according to its degree. A due medium,
says the Peripatetics, is the characteristic of virtue. But this
medium is chiefly determined by utility. A proper celerity, for
instance, and dispatch in business, is commendable. When
defective, no progress is ever made in the execution of any
purpose: When excessive, it engages us in precipitate and ill-
concerted measures and enterprises: By such reasonings, we fix
the proper and commendable mediocrity in all moral and prudential
disquisitions; and never lose view of the advantages, which
result from any character or habit. Now as these advantages are
enjoyed by the person possessed of the character, it can never be
SELF-LOVE which renders the prospect of them agreeable to us, the
spectators, and prompts our esteem and approbation. No force of
imagination can convert us into another person, and make us
fancy, that we, being that person, reap benefit from those
valuable qualities, which belong to him. Or if it did, no
celerity of imagination could immediately transport us back, into
ourselves, and make us love and esteem the person, as different
from us. Views and sentiments, so opposite to known truth and to
each other, could never have place, at the same time, in the same
person. All suspicion, therefore, of selfish regards, is here
totally excluded. It is a quite different principle, which
actuates our bosom, and interests us in the felicity of the
person whom we contemplate. Where his natural talents and
acquired abilities give us the prospect of elevation,
advancement, a figure in life, prosperous success, a steady
command over fortune, and the execution of great or advantageous
undertakings; we are struck with such agreeable images, and feel
a complacency and regard immediately arise towards him. The ideas
of happiness, joy, triumph, prosperity, are connected with every
circumstance of his character, and diffuse over our minds a
pleasing sentiment of sympathy and humanity.

[Footnote: One may venture to affirm, that there is no human
nature, to whom the appearance of happiness (where envy or
revenge has no place) does not give pleasure, that of misery,
uneasiness. This seems inseparable from our make and
constitution. But they are only more generous minds, that are
thence prompted to seek zealously the good of others, and to have
a real passion for their welfare. With men of narrow and
ungenerous spirits, this sympathy goes not beyond a slight
feeling of the imagination, which serves only to excite
sentiments of complacency or ensure, and makes them apply to the
object either honorable or dishonorable appellations. A griping
miser, for instance, praises extremely INDUSTRY and FRUGALITY
even in others, and sets them, in his estimation, above all the
other virtues. He knows the good that results from them, and
feels that species of happiness with a more lively sympathy, than
any other you could represent to him; though perhaps he would not
part with a shilling to make the fortune of the industrious man,
whom he praises so highly.]

Let us suppose a person originally framed so as to have no
manner of concern for his fellow-creatures, but to regard the
happiness and misery of all sensible beings with greater
indifference than even two contiguous shades of the same colour.
Let us suppose, if the prosperity of nations were laid on the one
hand, and their ruin on the other, and he were desired to choose;
that he would stand like the schoolman's ass, irresolute and
undetermined, between equal motives; or rather, like the same ass
between two pieces of wood or marble, without any inclination or
propensity to either side. The consequence, I believe, must be
allowed just, that such a person, being absolutely unconcerned,
either for the public good of a community or the private utility
of others, would look on every quality, however pernicious, or
however beneficial, to society, or to its possessor, with the
same indifference as on the most common and uninteresting object.

But if, instead of this fancied monster, we suppose a MAN to form
a judgement or determination in the case, there is to him a plain
foundation of preference, where everything else is equal; and
however cool his choice may be, if his heart be selfish, or if
the persons interested be remote from him; there must still be a
choice or distinction between what is useful, and what is
pernicious. Now this distinction is the same in all its parts,
with the MORAL DISTINCTION, whose foundation has been so often,
and so much in vain, enquired after. The same endowments of the
mind, in every circumstance, are agreeable to the sentiment of
morals and to that of humanity; the same temper is susceptible of
high degrees of the one sentiment and of the other; and the same
alteration in the objects, by their nearer approach or by
connexions, enlivens the one and the other. By all the rules of
philosophy, therefore, we must conclude, that these sentiments
are originally the same; since, in each particular, even the most
minute, they are governed by the same laws, and are moved by the
same objects.

Why do philosophers infer, with the greatest certainty, that the
moon is kept in its orbit by the same force of gravity, that
makes bodies fall near the surface of the earth, but because
these effects are, upon computation, found similar and equal? And
must not this argument bring as strong conviction, in moral as in
natural disquisitions?

To prove, by any long detail, that all the qualities, useful to
the possessor, are approved of, and the contrary censured, would
be superfluous. The least reflection on what is every day
experienced in life, will be sufficient. We shall only mention a
few instances, in order to remove, if possible, all doubt and

The quality, the most necessary for the execution of any useful
enterprise, is discretion; by which we carry on a safe
intercourse with others, give due attention to our own and to
their character, weigh each circumstance of the business which we
undertake, and employ the surest and safest means for the
attainment of any end or purpose. To a Cromwell, perhaps, or a De
Retz, discretion may appear an alderman-like virtue, as Dr. Swift
calls it; and being incompatible with those vast designs, to
which their courage and ambition prompted them, it might really,
in them, be a fault or imperfection. But in the conduct of
ordinary life, no virtue is more requisite, not only to obtain
success, but to avoid the most fatal miscarriages and
disappointments. The greatest parts without it, as observed by an
elegant writer, may be fatal to their owner; as Polyphemus,
deprived of his eye, was only the more exposed, on account of his
enormous strength and stature.

The best character, indeed, were it not rather too perfect for
human nature, is that which is not swayed by temper of any kind;
but alternately employs enterprise and caution, as each is useful
to the particular purpose intended. Such is the excellence which
St. Evremond ascribes to Mareschal Turenne, who displayed every
campaign, as he grew older, more temerity in his military
enterprises; and being now, from long experience, perfectly
acquainted with every incident in war, he advanced with greater
firmness and security, in a road so well known to him. Fabius,
says Machiavel, was cautious; Scipio enterprising: And both
succeeded, because the situation of the Roman affairs, during the
command of each, was peculiarly adapted to his genius; but both
would have failed, had these situations been reversed. He is
happy, whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is more
excellent, who can suit his temper to any circumstances.

What need is there to display the praises of industry, and to
extol its advantages, in the acquisition of power and riches, or
in raising what we call a FORTUNE in the world? The tortoise,
according to the fable, by his perseverance, gained the race of
the hare, though possessed of much superior swiftness. A man's
time, when well husbanded, is like a cultivated field, of which a
few acres produce more of what is useful to life, than extensive
provinces, even of the richest soil, when over-run with weeds and

But all prospect of success in life, or even of tolerable
subsistence, must fail, where a reasonable frugality is wanting.
The heap, instead of increasing, diminishes daily, and leaves its
possessor so much more unhappy, as, not having been able to
confine his expences to a large revenue, he will still less be
able to live contentedly on a small one. The souls of men,
according to Plato [Footnote: Phaedo.], inflamed with impure
appetites, and losing the body, which alone afforded means of
satisfaction, hover about the earth, and haunt the places, where
their bodies are deposited; possessed with a longing desire to
recover the lost organs of sensation. So may we see worthless
prodigals, having consumed their fortune in wild debauches,
thrusting themselves into every plentiful table, and every party
of pleasure, hated even by the vicious, and despised even by

The one extreme of frugality is avarice, which, as it both
deprives a man of all use of his riches, and checks hospitality
and every social enjoyment, is justly censured on a double
account. PRODIGALITY, the other extreme, is commonly more hurtful
to a man himself; and each of these extremes is blamed above the
other, according to the temper of the person who censures, and
according to his greater or less sensibility to pleasure, either
social or sensual.

Qualities often derive their merit from complicated sources.
Honesty, fidelity, truth, are praised for their immediate
tendency to promote the interests of society; but after those
virtues are once established upon this foundation, they are also
considered as advantageous to the person himself, and as the
source of that trust and confidence, which can alone give a man
any consideration in life. One becomes contemptible, no less than
odious, when he forgets the duty, which, in this particular, he
owes to himself as well as to society.

Perhaps, this consideration is one CHIEF source of the high
blame, which is thrown on any instance of failure among women in
point of CHASTITY. The greatest regard, which can be acquired by
that sex, is derived from their fidelity; and a woman becomes
cheap and vulgar, loses her rank, and is exposed to every insult,
who is deficient in this particular. The smallest failure is here
sufficient to blast her character. A female has so many
opportunities of secretly indulging these appetites, that nothing
can give us security but her absolute modesty and reserve; and
where a breach is once made, it can scarcely ever be fully
repaired. If a man behave with cowardice on one occasion, a
contrary conduct reinstates him in his character. But by what
action can a woman, whose behaviour has once been dissolute, be
able to assure us, that she has formed better resolutions, and
has self-command enough to carry them into execution?

All men, it is allowed, are equally desirous of happiness; but
few are successful in the pursuit: One considerable cause is the
want of strength of mind, which might enable them to resist the
temptation of present ease or pleasure, and carry them forward in
the search of more distant profit and enjoyment. Our affections,
on a general prospect of their objects, form certain rules of
conduct, and certain measures of preference of one above another:
and these decisions, though really the result of our calm
passions and propensities, (for what else can pronounce any
object eligible or the contrary?) are yet said, by a natural
abuse of terms, to be the determinations of pure REASON and
reflection. But when some of these objects approach nearer to us,
or acquire the advantages of favourable lights and positions,
which catch the heart or imagination; our general resolutions are
frequently confounded, a small enjoyment preferred, and lasting
shame and sorrow entailed upon us. And however poets may employ
their wit and eloquence, in celebrating present pleasure, and
rejecting all distant views to fame, health, or fortune; it is
obvious, that this practice is the source of all dissoluteness
and disorder, repentance and misery. A man of a strong and
determined temper adheres tenaciously to his general resolutions,
and is neither seduced by the allurements of pleasure, nor
terrified by the menaces of pain; but keeps still in view those
distant pursuits, by which he, at once, ensures his happiness and
his honour.

Self-satisfaction, at least in some degree, is an advantage,
which equally attends the fool and the wise man: But it is the
only one; nor is there any other circumstance in the conduct of
life, where they are upon an equal footing. Business, books,
conversation; for all of these, a fool is totally incapacitated,
and except condemned by his station to the coarsest drudgery,
remains a useless burthen upon the earth. Accordingly, it is
found, that men are extremely jealous of their character in this
particular; and many instances are seen of profligacy and
treachery, the most avowed and unreserved; none of bearing
patiently the imputation of ignorance and stupidity. Dicaearchus,
the Macedonian general, who, as Polybius tells us [Footnote: Lib.
xvi. Cap. 35.], openly erected one altar to impiety, another to
injustice, in order to bid defiance to mankind; even he, I am
well assured, would have started at the epithet of FOOL, and have
meditated revenge for so injurious an appellation. Except the
affection of parents, the strongest and most indissoluble bond in
nature, no connexion has strength sufficient to support the
disgust arising from this character. Love itself, which can
subsist under treachery, ingratitude, malice, and infidelity, is
immediately extinguished by it, when perceived and acknowledged;
nor are deformity and old age more fatal to the dominion of that
passion. So dreadful are the ideas of an utter incapacity for any
purpose or undertaking, and of continued error and misconduct in

When it is asked, whether a quick or a slow apprehension be most
valuable? Whether one, that, at first view, penetrates far into a
subject, but can perform nothing upon study; or a contrary
character, which must work out everything by dint of application?
Whether a clear head or a copious invention? Whether a profound
genius or a sure judgement? In short, what character, or peculiar
turn of understanding, is more excellent than another? It is
evident, that we can answer none of these questions, without
considering which of those qualities capacitates a man best for
the world, and carries him farthest in any undertaking.

If refined sense and exalted sense be not so USEFUL as common
sense, their rarity, their novelty, and the nobleness of their
objects make some compensation, and render them the admiration of
mankind: As gold, though less serviceable than iron, acquires
from its scarcity a value which is much superior.

The defects of judgement can be supplied by no art or invention;
but those of memory frequently may, both in business and in
study, by method and industry, and by diligence in committing
everything to writing; and we scarcely ever hear a short memory
given as a reason for a man's failure in any undertaking. But in
ancient times, when no man could make a figure without the talent
of speaking, and when the audience were too delicate to bear such
crude, undigested harangues as our extemporary orators offer to
public assemblies; the faculty of memory was then of the utmost
consequence, and was accordingly much more valued than at
present. Scarce any great genius is mentioned in antiquity, who
is not celebrated for this talent; and Cicero enumerates it among
the other sublime qualities of Caesar himself. [Footnote: Fruit
in Illo Ingenium, ratio, memoria, literae, cura, cogitatio,
diligentia &c. Phillip. 2.].

Particular customs and manners alter the usefulness of qualities:
they also alter their merit. Particular situations and accidents
have, in some degree, the same influence. He will always be more
esteemed, who possesses those talents and accomplishments, which
suit his station and profession, than he whom fortune has
misplaced in the part which she has assigned him. The private or
selfish virtues are, in this respect, more arbitrary than the
public and social. In other respects they are, perhaps, less
liable to doubt and controversy.

In this kingdom, such continued ostentation, of late years, has
prevailed among men in ACTIVE life with regard to PUBLIC SPIRIT,
and among those in SPECULATIVE with regard to BENEVOLENCE; and so
many false pretensions to each have been, no doubt, detected,
that men of the world are apt, without any bad intention, to
discover a sullen incredulity on the head of those moral
endowments, and even sometimes absolutely to deny their existence
and reality. In like manner I find, that, of old, the perpetual
cant of the STOICS and CYNICS concerning VIRTUE, their
magnificent professions and slender performances, bred a disgust
in mankind; and Lucian, who, though licentious with regard to
pleasure, is yet in other respects a very moral writer, cannot
sometimes talk of virtue, so much boasted without betraying
symptoms of spleen and irony. But surely this peevish delicacy,
whence-ever it arises can never be carried so far as to make us
deny the existence of every species of merit, and all distinction
of manners and behaviour. Besides DISCRETION, CAUTION,
PRUDENCE, DISCERNMENT; besides these endowments, I say, whose
very names force an avowal of their merit, there are many others,
to which the most determined scepticism cannot for a moment
refuse the tribute of praise and approbation. TEMPERANCE,
and a thousand more of the same kind, no man will ever deny to be
excellencies and perfections. As their merit consists in their
tendency to serve the person, possessed of them, without any
magnificent claim to public and social desert, we are the less
jealous of their pretensions, and readily admit them into the
catalogue of laudable qualities. We are not sensible that, by
this concession, we have paved the way for all the other moral
excellencies, and cannot consistently hesitate any longer, with
regard to disinterested benevolence, patriotism, and humanity.

It seems, indeed, certain, that first appearances are here, as
usual, extremely deceitful, and that it is more difficult, in a
speculative way, to resolve into self-love the merit which we
ascribe to the selfish virtues above mentioned, than that even of
the social virtues, justice and beneficence. For this latter
purpose, we need but say, that whatever conduct promotes the good
of the community is loved, praised, and esteemed by the
community, on account of that utility and interest, of which
every one partakes; and though this affection and regard be, in
reality, gratitude, not self-love, yet a distinction, even of
this obvious nature, may not readily be made by superficial
reasoners; and there is room, at least, to support the cavil and
dispute for a moment. But as qualities, which tend only to the
utility of their possessor, without any reference to us, or to
the community, are yet esteemed and valued; by what theory or
system can we account for this sentiment from self-love, or
deduce it from that favourite origin? There seems here a
necessity for confessing that the happiness and misery of others
are not spectacles entirely indifferent to us; but that the view
of the former, whether in its causes or effects, like sunshine or
the prospect of well-cultivated plains (to carry our pretensions
no higher), communicates a secret joy and satisfaction; the
appearance of the latter, like a lowering cloud or barren

landscape, throws a melancholy damp over the imagination. And
this concession being once made, the difficulty is over; and a
natural unforced interpretation of the phenomena of human life
will afterwards, we may hope, prevail among all speculative


It may not be improper, in this place, to examine the influence
of bodily endowments, and of the goods of fortune, over our
sentiments of regard and esteem, and to consider whether these
phenomena fortify or weaken the present theory. It will naturally
be expected, that the beauty of the body, as is supposed by all
ancient moralists, will be similar, in some respects, to that of
the mind; and that every kind of esteem, which is paid to a man,
will have something similar in its origin, whether it arise from
his mental endowments, or from the situation of his exterior

It is evident, that one considerable source of BEAUTY in all
animals is the advantage which they reap from the particular
structure of their limbs and members, suitably to the particular
manner of life, to which they are by nature destined. The just
proportions of a horse, described by Xenophon and Virgil, are the
same that are received at this day by our modern jockeys; because
the foundation of them is the same, namely, experience of what is
detrimental or useful in the animal.

Broad shoulders, a lank belly, firm joints, taper legs; all these
are beautiful in our species, because signs of force and vigour.
Ideas of utility and its contrary, though they do not entirely
determine what is handsome or deformed, are evidently the source
of a considerable part of approbation or dislike.

In ancient times, bodily strength and dexterity, being of greater
USE and importance in war, was also much more esteemed and
valued, than at present. Not to insist on Homer and the poets, we
may observe, that historians scruple not to mention FORCE OF BODY
among the other accomplishments even of Epaminondas, whom they
acknowledge to be the greatest hero, statesman, and general of
all the Greeks. [Footnote: CUM ALACRIBUS, SALTU; CUMM VELOCIBUS,
praise is given to Pompey, one of the greatest of the Romans.
[Footnote: Diodorus Siculus, lib. xv. It may be improper to give
the character of Epaminondas, as drawn by the historian, in order
to show the idea of perfect merit, which prevailed in those ages.
In other illustrious men, say he, you will observe, that each
possessed some one shining quality, which was the foundation of
his fame: In Epaminondas all the VIRTUES are found united; force
of body. eloquence of expression, vigour of mind, contempt of
riches, gentleness of disposition, and what is chiefly to be
regarded, courage and conduct of war.] This instance is similar
to what we observed above with regard to memory.

What derision and contempt, with both sexes, attend IMPOTENCE;
while the unhappy object is regarded as one deprived of so
capital a pleasure in life, and at the same time, as disabled
from communicating it to others. BARRENNESS in women, being also
a species of INUTILITY, is a reproach, but not in the same
degree: of which the reason is very obvious, according to the
present theory.

There is no rule in painting or statuary more indispensible than
that of balancing the figures, and placing them with the greatest
exactness on their proper centre of gravity. A figure, which is
not justly balanced, is ugly; because it conveys the disagreeable
ideas of fall, harm, and pain.

[Footenote: All men are equally liable to pain and disease and
sickness; and may again recover health and ease. These
circumstances, as they make no distinction between one man and
another, are no source of pride or humility, regard or contempt.
But comparing our own species to superior ones, it is a very
mortifying consideration, that we should all be so liable to
diseases and infirmities; and divines accordingly employ this
topic, in order to depress self-conceit and vanity. They would
have more success, if the common bent of our thoughts were not
perpetually turned to compare ourselves with others.

The infirmities of old age are mortifying; because a comparison
with the young may take place. The king's evil is industriously
concealed, because it affects others, and is often transmitted to
posterity. The case is nearly the same with such diseases as
convey any nauseous or frightful images; the epilepsy, for
instance, ulcers, sores, scabs, &c.]

A disposition or turn of mind, which qualifies a man to rise in
the world and advance his fortune, is entitled to esteem and
regard, as has already been explained. It may, therefore,
naturally be supposed, that the actual possession of riches and
authority will have a considerable influence over these

Let us examine any hypothesis by which we can account for the
regard paid to the rich and powerful; we shall find none
satisfactory, but that which derives it from the enjoyment
communicated to the spectator by the images of prosperity,
happiness, ease, plenty, authority, and the gratification of
every appetite. Self-love, for instance, which some affect so
much to consider as the source of every sentiment, is plainly
insufficient for this purpose. Where no good-will or friendship
appears, it is difficult to conceive on what we can found our
hope of advantage from the riches of others; though we naturally
respect the rich, even before they discover any such favourable
disposition towards us.

We are affected with the same sentiments, when we lie so much out
of the sphere of their activity, that they cannot even be
supposed to possess the power of serving us. A prisoner of war,
in all civilized nations, is treated with a regard suited to his
condition; and riches, it is evident, go far towards fixing the
condition of any person. If birth and quality enter for a share,
this still affords us an argument to our present purpose. For
what is it we call a man of birth, but one who is descended from
a long succession of rich and powerful ancestors, and who
acquires our esteem by his connexion with persons whom we esteem?
His ancestors, therefore, though dead, are respected, in some
measure, on account of their riches; and consequently, without
any kind of expectation.

But not to go so far as prisoners of war or the dead, to find
instances of this disinterested regard for riches; we may only
observe, with a little attention, those phenomena which occur in
common life and conversation. A man, who is himself, we shall
suppose, of a competent fortune, and of no profession, being
introduced to a company of strangers, naturally treats them with
different degrees of respect, as he is informed of their
different fortunes and conditions; though it is impossible that
he can so suddenly propose, and perhaps he would not accept of,
any pecuniary advantage from them. A traveller is always admitted
into company, and meets with civility, in proportion as his train
and equipage speak him a man of great or moderate fortune. In
short, the different ranks of men are, in a great measure,
regulated by riches; and that with regard to superiors as well as
inferiors, strangers as well as acquaintance.

What remains, therefore, but to conclude, that, as riches are
desired for ourselves only as the means of gratifying our
appetites, either at present or in some imaginary future period,
they beget esteem in others merely from their having that
influence. This indeed is their very nature or offence: they have
a direct reference to the commodities, conveniences, and
pleasures of life. The bill of a banker, who is broke, or gold in
a desert island, would otherwise be full as valuable. When we
approach a man who is, as we say, at his ease, we are presented
with the pleasing ideas of plenty, satisfaction, cleanliness,
warmth; a cheerful house, elegant furniture, ready service, and
whatever is desirable in meat, drink, or apparel. On the
contrary, when a poor man appears, the disagreeable images of
want, penury, hard labour, dirty furniture, coarse or ragged
clothes, nauseous meat and distasteful liquor, immediately strike
our fancy. What else do we mean by saying that one is rich, the
other poor? And as regard or contempt is the natural consequence
of those different situations in life, it is easily seen what
additional light and evidence this throws on our preceding
theory, with regard to all moral distinctions.

[Footnote: There is something extraordinary, and seemingly
unaccountable in the operation of our passions, when we consider
the fortune and situation of others. Very often another's
advancement and prosperity produces envy, which has a strong
mixture of hatred, and arises chiefly from the comparison of
ourselves with the person. At the very same time, or at least in
very short intervals, we may feel the passion of respect, which
is a species of affection or good-will, with a mixture of
humility. On the other hand, the misfortunes of our fellows often
cause pity, which has in it a strong mixture of good-will. This
sentiment of pity is nearly allied to contempt, which is a
species of dislike, with a mixture of pride. I only point out
these phenomena, as a subject of speculation to such as are
curious with regard to moral enquiries. It is sufficient for the
present purpose to observe in general, that power and riches
commonly cause respect, poverty and meanness contempt, though
particular views and incidents may sometimes raise the passions
of envy and of pity.]

A man who has cured himself of all ridiculous pre-possessions,
and is fully, sincerely, and steadily convinced, from experience
as well as philosophy, that the difference of fortune makes less
difference in happiness than is vulgarly imagined; such a one
does not measure out degrees of esteem according to the rent-
rolls of his acquaintance. He may, indeed, externally pay a
superior deference to the great lord above the vassal; because
riches are the most convenient, being the most fixed and
determinate, source of distinction. But his internal sentiments
are more regulated by the personal characters of men, than by the
accidental and capricious favours of fortune.

In most countries of Europe, family, that is, hereditary riches,
marked with titles and symbols from the sovereign, is the chief
source of distinction. In England, more regard is paid to present
opulence and plenty. Each practice has its advantages and
disadvantages. Where birth is respected, unactive, spiritless
minds remain in haughty indolence, and dream of nothing but
pedigrees and genealogies: the generous and ambitious seek honour
and authority, and reputation and favour. Where riches are the
chief idol, corruption, venality, rapine prevail: arts,
manufactures, commerce, agriculture flourish. The former
prejudice, being favourable to military virtue, is more suited to
monarchies. The latter, being the chief spur to industry, agrees
better with a republican government. And we accordingly find that
each of these forms of government, by varying the utility of
those customs, has commonly a proportionable effect on the
sentiments of mankind.



Whoever has passed an evening with serious melancholy people, and
has observed how suddenly the conversation was animated, and what
sprightliness diffused itself over the countenance, discourse,
and behaviour of every one, on the accession of a good-humoured,
lively companion; such a one will easily allow that cheerfulness
carries great merit with it, and naturally conciliates the good-
will of mankind. No quality, indeed, more readily communicates
itself to all around; because no one has a greater propensity to
display itself, in jovial talk and pleasant entertainment. The
flame spreads through the whole circle; and the most sullen and
morose are often caught by it. That the melancholy hate the
merry, even though Horace says it, I have some difficulty to
allow; because I have always observed that, where the jollity is
moderate and decent, serious people are so much the more
delighted, as it dissipates the gloom with which they are
commonly oppressed, and gives them an unusual enjoyment.

From this influence of cheerfulness, both to communicate itself
and to engage approbation, we may perceive that there is another
set of mental qualities, which, without any utility or any
tendency to farther good, either of the community or of the
possessor, diffuse a satisfaction on the beholders, and procure
friendship and regard. Their immediate sensation, to the person
possessed of them, is agreeable. Others enter into the same
humour, and catch the sentiment, by a contagion or natural
sympathy; and as we cannot forbear loving whatever pleases, a
kindly emotion arises towards the person who communicates so much
satisfaction. He is a more animating spectacle; his presence
diffuses over us more serene complacency and enjoyment; our
imagination, entering into his feelings and disposition, is
affected in a more agreeable manner than if a melancholy,
dejected, sullen, anxious temper were presented to us. Hence the
affection and probation which attend the former: the aversion and
disgust with which we regard the latter.

[Footnote: There is no man, who, on particular occasions, is not
affected with all the disagreeable passions, fear, anger,
dejection, grief, melancholy, anxiety, &c. But these, so far as
they are natural, and universal, make no difference between one
man and another, and can never be the object of blame. It is only
when the disposition gives a PROPENSITY to any of these
disagreeable passions, that they disfigure the character, and by
giving uneasiness, convey the sentiment of disapprobation to the

Few men would envy the character which Caesar gives of Cassius:

He loves no play,
As thou do'st, Anthony: he hears no music:
Seldom he smiles; and smiles in such a sort,
As if he mock'd himself, and scorn'd his spirit
That could be mov'd to smile at any thing.

Not only such men, as Caesar adds, are commonly DANGEROUS, but
also, having little enjoyment within themselves, they can never
become agreeable to others, or contribute to social
entertainment. In all polite nations and ages, a relish for
pleasure, if accompanied with temperance and decency, is esteemed
a considerable merit, even in the greatest men; and becomes still
more requisite in those of inferior rank and character. It is an
agreeable representation, which a French writer gives of the
situation of his own mind in this particular, VIRTUE I LOVE, says
WITHOUT FEARING ITS END. [Footnote: 'J'aime la vertu, sans
rudesse; J'aime le plaisir, sans molesse; J'aime la vie, et n'en
crains point la fin.'-ST. EVREMONT.]

Who is not struck with any signal instance of greatness of mind
or dignity of character; with elevation of sentiment, disdain of
slavery, and with that noble pride and spirit, which arises from
conscious virtue? The sublime, says Longinus, is often nothing
but the echo or image of magnanimity; and where this quality
appears in any one, even though a syllable be not uttered, it
excites our applause and admiration; as may be observed of the
famous silence of Ajax in the Odyssey, which expresses more noble
disdain and resolute indignation than any language can convey
[Footnote: Cap. 9.].

PARMENIO. This saying is admirable, says Longinus, from a like
principle. [Footnote: Idem.]

GO! cries the same hero to his soldiers, when they refused to
follow him to the Indies, GO TELL YOUR COUNTRYMEN, THAT YOU LEFT
the Prince of Conde, who always admired this passage, 'abandoned
by his soldiers, among barbarians, not yet fully subdued, felt in
himself such a dignity and right of empire, that he could not
believe it possible that any one would refuse to obey him.
Whether in Europe or in Asia, among Greeks or Persians, all was
indifferent to him: wherever he found men, he fancied he should
find subjects.'

The confident of Medea in the tragedy recommends caution and
submission; and enumerating all the distresses of that
unfortunate heroine, asks her, what she has to support her
against her numerous and implacable enemies. MYSELF, replies she;
MYSELF I SAY, AND IT IS ENOUGH. Boileau justly recommends this
passage as an instance of true sublime [Footnote: Reflexion 10
sur Longin.].

When Phocion, the modest, the gentle Phocion, was led to
execution, he turned to one of his fellow-sufferers, who was
lamenting his own hard fate, IS IT NOT GLORY ENOUGH FOR YOU, says
he, THAT YOU DIE WITH PHOCION? [Footnote: Plutarch in Phoc.]

Place in opposition the picture which Tacitus draws of Vitellius,
fallen from empire, prolonging his ignominy from a wretched love
of life, delivered over to the merciless rabble; tossed,
buffeted, and kicked about; constrained, by their holding a
poinard under his chin, to raise his head, and expose himself to
every contumely. What abject infamy! What low humilation! Yet
even here, says the historian, he discovered some symptoms of a
mind not wholly degenerate. To a tribune, who insulted him, he

[Footnote: Tacit. hist. lib. iii. The author entering upon the
misericordiam abstulerat. To enter thoroughly into this method of
thinking, we must make allowance for the ancient maxims, that no
one ought to prolong his life after it became dishonourable; but,
as he had always a right to dispose of it, it then became a duty
to part with it.]

We never excuse the absolute want of spirit and dignity of
character, or a proper sense of what is due to one's self, in
society and the common intercourse of life. This vice constitutes
what we properly call MEANNESS; when a man can submit to the
basest slavery, in order to gain his ends; fawn upon those who
abuse him; and degrade himself by intimacies and familiarities
with undeserving inferiors. A certain degree of generous pride or
self-value is so requisite, that the absence of it in the mind
displeases, after the same manner as the want of a nose, eye, or
any of the most material feature of the face or member of the

[Footnote: The absence of virtue may often be a vice; and that of
the highest kind; as in the instance of ingratitude, as well as
meanness. Where we expect a beauty, the disappointment gives an
uneasy sensation, and produces a real deformity. An abjectness of
character, likewise, is disgustful and contemptible in another
view. Where a man has no sense of value in himself, we are not
likely to have any higher esteem of him. And if the same person,
who crouches to his superiors, is insolent to his inferiors (as
often happens), this contrariety of behaviour, instead of
correcting the former vice, aggravates it extremely by the
addition of a vice still more odious. See Sect. VIII.]

The utility of courage, both to the public and to the person
possessed of it, is an obvious foundation of merit. But to any
one who duly considers of the matter, it will appear that this
quality has a peculiar lustre, which it derives wholly from
itself, and from that noble elevation inseparable from it. Its
figure, drawn by painters and by poets, displays, in each
feature, a sublimity and daring confidence; which catches the
eye, engages the affections, and diffuses, by sympathy, a like
sublimity of sentiment over every spectator.

Under what shining colours does Demosthenes [Footnote: De
Corona.] represent Philip; where the orator apologizes for his
own administration, and justifies that pertinacious love of
liberty, with which he had inspired the Athenians. 'I beheld
Philip,' says he, 'he with whom was your contest, resolutely,
while in pursuit of empire and dominion, exposing himself to
every wound; his eye gored, his neck wrested, his arm, his thigh
pierced, what ever part of his body fortune should seize on, that
cheerfully relinquishing; provided that, with what remained, he
might live in honour and renown. And shall it be said that he,
born in Pella, a place heretofore mean and ignoble, should be
inspired with so high an ambition and thirst of fame: while you,
Athenians, &c.' These praises excite the most lively admiration;
but the views presented by the orator, carry us not, we see,
beyond the hero himself, nor ever regard the future advantageous
consequences of his valour.

The material temper of the Romans, inflamed by continual wars,
had raised their esteem of courage so high, that, in their
language, it was called VIRTUE, by way of excellence and of
distinction from all other moral qualities. THE Suevi, in the
opinion of Tacitus, tus, [Footnote: De moribus Germ.] DRESSED
historian, which would sound a little oddly in other nations and
other ages.

The Scythians, according to Herodotus, [Footnote: Lib. iv.]
after scalping their enemies, dressed the skin like leather, and
used it as a towel; and whoever had the most of those towels was
most esteemed among them. So much had martial bravery, in that
nation, as well as in many others, destroyed the sentiments of
humanity; a virtue surely much more useful and engaging.

It is indeed observable, that, among all uncultivated nations,
who have not as yet had full experience of the advantages
attending beneficence, justice, and the social virtues, courage
is the predominant excellence; what is most celebrated by poets,
recommended by parents and instructors, and admired by the public
in general. The ethics of Homer are, in this particular, very
different from those of Fenelon, his elegant imitator; and such
as were well suited to an age, when one hero, as remarked by
Thucydides [Lib.i.], could ask another, without offence, whether
he were a robber or not. Such also very lately was the system of
ethics which prevailed in many barbarous parts of Ireland; if we
may credit Spencer, in his judicious account of the state of that

[Footnote from Spencer: It is a common use, says he, amongst
their gentlemen's sons, that, as soon as they are able to use
their weapons, they strait gather to themselves three or four
stragglers or kern, with whom wandering a while up and down idly
the country, taking only meat, he at last falleth into some bad
occasion, that shall be offered; which being once made known, he
is thenceforth counted a man of worth, in whom there is courage.]

Of the same class of virtues with courage is that undisturbed
philosophical tranquillity, superior to pain, sorrow, anxiety,
and each assault of adverse fortune. Conscious of his own virtue,
say the philosophers, the sage elevates himself above every
accident of life; and securely placed in the temple of wisdom,
looks down on inferior mortals engaged in pursuit of honours,
riches, reputation, and every frivolous enjoyment. These
pretentious, no doubt, when stretched to the utmost, are by far
too magnificent for human nature. They carry, however, a grandeur
with them, which seizes the spectator, and strikes him with
admiration. And the nearer we can approach in practice to this
sublime tranquillity and indifference (for we must distinguish it
from a stupid insensibility), the more secure enjoyment shall we
attain within ourselves, and the more greatness of mind shall we
discover to the world. The philosophical tranquillity may,
indeed, be considered only as a branch of magnanimity.

Who admires not Socrates; his perpetual serenity and contentment,
amidst the greatest poverty and domestic vexations; his resolute
contempt of riches, and his magnanimous care of preserving
liberty, while he refused all assistance from his friends and
disciples, and avoided even the dependence of an obligation?
Epictetus had not so much as a door to his little house or hovel;
and therefore, soon lost his iron lamp, the only furniture which
he had worth taking. But resolving to disappoint all robbers for
the future, he supplied its place with an earthen lamp, of which
he very peacefully kept possession ever after.

Among the ancients, the heroes in philosophy, as well as those in
war and patriotism, have a grandeur and force of sentiment, which
astonishes our narrow souls, and is rashly rejected as
extravagant and supernatural. They, in their turn, I allow, would
have had equal reason to consider as romantic and incredible, the
degree of humanity, clemency, order, tranquillity, and other
social virtues, to which, in the administration of government, we
have attained in modern times, had any one been then able to have
made a fair representation of them. Such is the compensation,
which nature, or rather education, has made in the distribution
of excellencies and virtues, in those different ages.

The merit of benevolence, arising from its utility, and its
tendency to promote the good of mankind has been already
explained, and is, no doubt, the source of a CONSIDERABLE part of
that esteem, which is so universally paid to it. But it will also
be allowed, that the very softness and tenderness of the
sentiment, its engaging endearments, its fond expressions, its
delicate attentions, and all that flow of mutual confidence and
regard, which enters into a warm attachment of love and
friendship: it will be allowed, I say, that these feelings, being
delightful in themselves, are necessarily communicated to the
spectators, and melt them into the same fondness and delicacy.
The tear naturally starts in our eye on the apprehension of a
warm sentiment of this nature: our breast heaves, our heart is
agitated, and every humane tender principle of our frame is set
in motion, and gives us the purest and most satisfactory

When poets form descriptions of Elysian fields, where the blessed
inhabitants stand in no need of each other's assistance, they yet
represent them as maintaining a constant intercourse of love and
friendship, and sooth our fancy with the pleasing image of these
soft and gentle passions. The idea of tender tranquillity in a
pastoral Arcadia is agreeable from a like principle, as has been
observed above. [Footnote: Sect. v. Part 2.]

Who would live amidst perpetual wrangling, and scolding, and
mutual reproaches? The roughness and harshness of these emotions
disturb and displease us: we suffer by contagion and sympathy;
nor can we remain indifferent spectators, even though certain
that no pernicious consequences would ever follow from such angry

As a certain proof that the whole merit of benevolence is not
derived from its usefulness, we may observe, that in a kind way
of blame, we say, a person is TOO GOOD; when he exceeds his part
in society, and carries his attention for others beyond the
proper bounds. In like manner, we say, a man is too HIGH-
reproaches, which really, at bottom, imply more esteem than many
panegyrics. Being accustomed to rate the merit and demerit of
characters chiefly by their useful or pernicious tendencies, we
cannot forbear applying the epithet of blame, when we discover a
sentiment, which rises to a degree, that is hurtful; but it may
happen, at the same time, that its noble elevation, or its
engaging tenderness so seizes the heart, as rather to increase
our friendship and concern for the person.

[Footnote: Cheerfulness could scarce admit of blame from its
excess, were it not that dissolute mirth, without a proper cause
or subject, is a sure symptom and characteristic of folly, and on
that account disgustful.]

The amours and attachments of Harry the IVth of France, during
the civil wars of the league, frequently hurt his interest and
his cause; but all the young, at least, and amorous, who can
sympathize with the tender passions, will allow that this very
weakness, for they will readily call it such, chiefly endears
that hero, and interests them in his fortunes.

The excessive bravery and resolute inflexibility of Charles the
XIIth ruined his own country, and infested all his neighbours;
but have such splendour and greatness in their appearance, as
strikes us with admiration; and they might, in some degree, be
even approved of, if they betrayed not sometimes too evident
symptoms of madness and disorder.

The Athenians pretended to the first invention of agriculture and
of laws: and always valued themselves extremely on the benefit
thereby procured to the whole race of mankind. They also boasted,
and with reason, of their war like enterprises; particularly
against those innumerable fleets and armies of Persians, which
invaded Greece during the reigns of Darius and Xerxes. But though
there be no comparison in point of utility, between these
peaceful and military honours; yet we find, that the orators, who
have writ such elaborate panegyrics on that famous city, have
chiefly triumphed in displaying the warlike achievements. Lysias,
Thucydides, Plato, and Isocrates discover, all of them, the same
partiality; which, though condemned by calm reason and
reflection, appears so natural in the mind of man.

It is observable, that the great charm of poetry consists in
lively pictures of the sublime passions, magnanimity, courage,
disdain of fortune; or those of the tender affections, love and
friendship; which warm the heart, and diffuse over it similar
sentiments and emotions. And though all kinds of passion, even
the most disagreeable, such as grief and anger, are observed,
when excited by poetry, to convey a satisfaction, from a
mechanism of nature, not easy to be explained: Yet those more
elevated or softer affections have a peculiar influence, and
please from more than one cause or principle. Not to mention that
they alone interest us in the fortune of the persons represented,
or communicate any esteem and affection for their character.

And can it possibly be doubted, that this talent itself of poets,
to move the passions, this pathetic and sublime of sentiment, is
a very considerable merit; and being enhanced by its extreme
rarity, may exalt the person possessed of it, above every
character of the age in which he lives? The prudence, address,
steadiness, and benign government of Augustus, adorned with all
the splendour of his noble birth and imperial crown, render him
but an unequal competitor for fame with Virgil, who lays nothing
into the opposite scale but the divine beauties of his poetical

The very sensibility to these beauties, or a delicacy of taste,
is itself a beauty in any character; as conveying the purest, the
most durable, and most innocent of all enjoyments.

These are some instances of the several species of merit, that
are valued for the immediate pleasure which they communicate to
the person possessed of them. No views of utility or of future
beneficial consequences enter into this sentiment of approbation;
yet is it of a kind similar to that other sentiment, which arises
from views of a public or private utility. The same social
sympathy, we may observe, or fellow-feeling with human happiness
or misery, gives rise to both; and this analogy, in all the parts
of the present theory, may justly be regarded as a confirmation
of it.



[Footnote: It is the nature and, indeed, the definition of
qualities produce pleasure, because they are useful to society,
or useful or agreeable to the person himself; others produce it
more immediately, which is the case with the class of virtues
here considered.]

AS the mutual shocks, in SOCIETY, and the oppositions of interest
and self-love have constrained mankind to establish the laws of
JUSTICE, in order to preserve the advantages of mutual assistance
and protection: in like manner, the eternal contrarieties, in
COMPANY, of men's pride and self-conceit, have introduced the
rules of Good Manners or Politeness, in order to facilitate the
intercourse of minds, and an undisturbed commerce and
conversation. Among well-bred people, a mutual deference is
affected; contempt of others disguised; authority concealed;
attention given to each in his turn; and an easy stream of
conversation maintained, without vehemence, without interruption,
without eagerness for victory, and without any airs of
superiority. These attentions and regards are immediately
AGREEABLE to others, abstracted from any consideration of utility
or beneficial tendencies: they conciliate affection, promote
esteem, and extremely enhance the merit of the person who
regulates his behaviour by them.

Many of the forms of breeding are arbitrary and casual; but the
thing expressed by them is still the same. A Spaniard goes out of
his own house before his guest, to signify that he leaves him
master of all. In other countries, the landlord walks out last,
as a common mark of deference and regard.

But, in order to render a man perfect GOOD COMPANY, he must have
Wit and Ingenuity as well as good manners. What wit is, it may
not be easy to define; but it is easy surely to determine that it
is a quality immediately AGREEABLE to others, and communicating,
on its first appearance, a lively joy and satisfaction to every
one who has any comprehension of it. The most profound
metaphysics, indeed, might be employed in explaining the various
kinds and species of wit; and many classes of it, which are now
received on the sole testimony of taste and sentiment, might,
perhaps, be resolved into more general principles. But this is
sufficient for our present purpose, that it does affect taste and
sentiment, and bestowing an immediate enjoyment, is a sure source
of approbation and affection.

In countries where men pass most of their time in conversation,
and visits, and assemblies, these COMPANIONABLE qualities, so to
speak, are of high estimation, and form a chief part of personal
merit. In countries where men live a more domestic life, and
either are employed in business, or amuse themselves in a
narrower circle of acquaintance, the more solid qualities are
chiefly regarded. Thus, I have often observed, that, among the
French, the first questions with regard to a stranger are, IS HE
POLITE? HAS HE WIT? In our own country, the chief praise bestowed
is always that of a GOOD-NATURED, SENSIBLE FELLOW.

In conversation, the lively spirit of dialogue is AGREEABLE, even
to those who desire not to have any share in the discourse: hence
the teller of long stories, or the pompous declaimer, is very
little approved of. But most men desire likewise their turn in
the conversation, and regard, with a very evil eye, that
LOQUACITY which deprives them of a right they are naturally so
jealous of.

There is a sort of harmless LIARS, frequently to be met with in
company, who deal much in the marvellous. Their usual intention
is to please and entertain; but as men are most delighted with
what they conceive to be truth, these people mistake extremely
the means of pleasing, and incur universal blame. Some
indulgence, however, to lying or fiction is given in HUMOROUS
stories; because it is there really agreeable and entertaining,
and truth is not of any importance.

Eloquence, genius of all kinds, even good sense, and sound
reasoning, when it rises to an eminent degree, and is employed
upon subjects of any considerable dignity and nice discernment;
all these endowments seem immediately agreeable, and have a merit
distinct from their usefulness. Rarity, likewise, which so much
enhances the price of every thing, must set an additional value
on these noble talents of the human mind.

Modesty may be understood in different senses, even abstracted
from chastity, which has been already treated of. It sometimes
means that tenderness and nicety of honour, that apprehension of
blame, that dread of intrusion or injury towards others, that
Pudor, which is the proper guardian of every kind of virtue, and
a sure preservative against vice and corruption. But its most
usual meaning is when it is opposed to IMPUDENCE and ARROGRANCE,
and expresses a diffidence of our own judgement, and a due
attention and regard for others. In young men chiefly, this
quality is a sure sign of good sense; and is also the certain
means of augmenting that endowment, by preserving their ears open
to instruction, and making them still grasp after new
attainments. But it has a further charm to every spectator; by
flattering every man's vanity, and presenting the appearance of a
docile pupil, who receives, with proper attention and respect,
every word they utter.

Men have, in general, a much greater propensity to overvalue than
undervalue themselves; notwithstanding the opinion of Aristotle
[Footnote: Ethic. ad Nicomachum.]. This makes us more jealous of
the excess on the former side, and causes us to regard, with a
peculiar indulgence, all tendency to modesty and self-diffidence;
as esteeming the danger less of falling into any vicious extreme
of that nature. It is thus in countries where men's bodies are
apt to exceed in corpulency, personal beauty is placed in a much
greater degree of slenderness, than in countries where that is
the most usual defect. Being so often struck with instances of
one species of deformity, men think they can never keep at too
great a distance from it, and wish always to have a leaning to
the opposite side. In like manner, were the door opened to self-
praise, and were Montaigne's maxim observed, that one should say
BEAUTY, OR WIT, as it is sure we often think so; were this the
case, I say, every one is sensible that such a flood of
impertinence would break in upon us, as would render society
wholly intolerable. For this reason custom has established it as
a rule, in common societies, that men should not indulge
themselves in self-praise, or even speak much of themselves; and
it is only among intimate friends or people of very manly
behaviour, that one is allowed to do himself justice. Nobody
finds fault with Maurice, Prince of Orange, for his reply to one
who asked him, whom he esteemed the first general of the age, THE
MARQUIS OF SPINOLA, said he, IS THE SECOND. Though it is
observable, that the self-praise implied is here better implied,
than if it had been directly expressed, without any cover or

He must be a very superficial thinker, who imagines that all
instances of mutual deference are to be understood in earnest,
and that a man would be more esteemable for being ignorant of his
own merits and accomplishments. A small bias towards modesty,
even in the internal sentiment, is favourably regarded,
especially in young people; and a strong bias is required in the
outward behaviour; but this excludes not a noble pride and
spirit, which may openly display itself in its full extent, when
one lies under calumny or oppression of any kind. The generous
contumacy of Socrates, as Cicero calls it, has been highly
celebrated in all ages; and when joined to the usual modesty of
his behaviour, forms a shining character. Iphicrates, the
Athenian, being accused of betraying the interests of his
country, asked his accuser, WOULD YOU, says he, HAVE, ON A LIKE
other. AND CAN YOU THEN IMAGINE, cried the hero, that Iphicrates
WOULD BE GUILTY? [Footnote: Quinctil. lib. v. cap. 12.]--In
short, a generous spirit and self-value, well founded, decently
disguised, and courageously supported under distress and calumny,
is a great excellency, and seems to derive its merit from the
noble elevation of its sentiment, or its immediate agreeableness
to its possessor. In ordinary characters, we approve of a bias
towards modesty, which is a quality immediately agreeable to
others: the vicious excess of the former virtue, namely,
insolence or haughtiness, is immediately disagreeable to others;
the excess of the latter is so to the possessor. Thus are the
boundaries of these duties adjusted.

A desire of fame, reputation, or a character with others, is so
far from being blameable, that it seems inseparable from virtue,
genius, capacity, and a generous or noble disposition. An
attention even to trivial matters, in order to please, is also
expected and demanded by society; and no one is surprised, if he
find a man in company to observe a greater elegance of dress and
more pleasant flow of conversation, than when he passes his time
at home, and with his own family. Wherein, then, consists Vanity,
which is so justly regarded as a fault or imperfection. It seems
to consist chiefly in such an intemperate display of our
advantages, honours, and accomplishments; in such an importunate
and open demand of praise and admiration, as is offensive to
others, and encroaches too far on their secret vanity and
ambition. It is besides a sure symptom of the want of true
dignity and elevation of mind, which is so great an ornament in
any character. For why that impatient desire of applause; as if
you were not justly entitled to it, and might not reasonably
expect that it would for ever at tend you? Why so anxious to
inform us of the great company which you have kept; the obliging
things which were said to you; the honours, the distinctions
which you met with; as if these were not things of course, and
what we could readily, of ourselves, have imagined, without being
told of them?

Decency, or a proper regard to age, sex, character, and station
in the world, may be ranked among the qualities which are
immediately agreeable to others, and which, by that means,
acquire praise and approbation. An effeminate behaviour in a man,
a rough manner in a woman; these are ugly because unsuitable to
each character, and different from the qualities which we expect
in the sexes. It is as if a tragedy abounded in comic beauties,
or a comedy in tragic. The disproportions hurt the eye, and
convey a disagreeable sentiment to the spectators, the source of
blame and disapprobation. This is that INDECORUM, which is
explained so much at large by Cicero in his Offices.

Among the other virtues, we may also give Cleanliness a place;
since it naturally renders us agreeable to others, and is no
inconsiderable source of love and affection. No one will deny,
that a negligence in this particular is a fault; and as faults
are nothing but smaller vices, and this fault can have no other
origin than the uneasy sensation which it excites in others; we
may, in this instance, seemingly so trivial, clearly discover the
origin of moral distinctions, about which the learned have
involved themselves in such mazes of perplexity and error.

But besides all the AGREEABLE qualities, the origin of whose
beauty we can, in some degree, explain and account for, there
still remains something mysterious and inexplicable, which
conveys an immediate satisfaction to the spectator, but how, or
why, or for what reason, he cannot pretend to determine. There is
a manner, a grace, an ease, a genteelness, an I-know-not-what,
which some men possess above others, which is very different from
external beauty and comeliness, and which, however, catches our
affection almost as suddenly and powerfully. And though this
MANNER be chiefly talked of in the passion between the sexes,
where the concealed magic is easily explained, yet surely much of
it prevails in all our estimation of characters, and forms no
inconsiderable part of personal merit. This class of
accomplishments, therefore, must be trusted entirely to the
blind, but sure testimony of taste and sentiment; and must be
considered as a part of ethics, left by nature to baffle all the
pride of philosophy, and make her sensible of her narrow
boundaries and slender acquisitions.

We approve of another, because of his wit, politeness, modesty,
decency, or any agreeable quality which he possesses; although he
be not of our acquaintance, nor has ever given us any
entertainment, by means of these accomplishments. The idea, which
we form of their effect on his acquaintance, has an agreeable
influence on our imagination, and gives us the sentiment of
approbation. This principle enters into all the judgements which
we form concerning manners and characters.




IT may justly appear surprising that any man in so late an age,
should find it requisite to prove, by elaborate reasoning, that
Personal Merit consists altogether in the possession of mental
qualities, USEFUL or AGREEABLE to the PERSON HIMSELF or to
OTHERS. It might be expected that this principle would have
occurred even to the first rude, unpractised enquirers concerning
morals, and been received from its own evidence, without any
argument or disputation. Whatever is valuable in any kind, so
naturally classes itself under the division of USEFUL or
AGREEABLE, the UTILE or the DULCE, that it is not easy to imagine
why we should ever seek further, or consider the question as a
matter of nice research or inquiry. And as every thing useful or
agreeable must possess these qualities with regard either to the
PERSON HIMSELF or to OTHERS, the complete delineation or
description of merit seems to be performed as naturally as a
shadow is cast by the sun, or an image is reflected upon water.
If the ground, on which the shadow is cast, be not broken and
uneven; nor the surface from which the image is reflected,
disturbed and confused; a just figure is immediately presented,
without any art or attention. And it seems a reasonable
presumption, that systems and hypotheses have perverted our
natural understanding, when a theory, so simple and obvious,
could so long have escaped the most elaborate examination.

But however the case may have fared with philosophy, in common
life these principles are still implicitly maintained; nor is any
other topic of praise or blame ever recurred to, when we employ
any panegyric or satire, any applause or censure of human action
and behaviour. If we observe men, in every intercourse of
business or pleasure, in every discourse and conversation, we
shall find them nowhere, except the schools, at any loss upon
this subject. What so natural, for instance, as the following
dialogue? You are very happy, we shall suppose one to say,
addressing himself to another, that you have given your daughter
to Cleanthes. He is a man of honour and humanity. Every one, who
has any intercourse with him, is sure of FAIR and KIND treatment.
[Footnote: Qualities useful to others.] I congratulate you too,
says another, on the promising expectations of this son-in-law;
whose assiduous application to the study of the laws, whose quick
penetration and early knowledge both of men and business,
prognosticate the greatest honours and advancement. [Footnote:
Qualities useful to the person himself.] You surprise me, replies
a third, when you talk of Cleanthes as a man of business and
application. I met him lately in a circle of the gayest company,
and he was the very life and soul of our conversation: so much
wit with good manners; so much gallantry without affectation; so
much ingenious knowledge so genteelly delivered, I have never
before observed in any one. [Footnote: Qualities immediately
agreeable to others,] You would admire him still more, says a
fourth, if you knew him more familiarly. That cheerfulness, which
you might remark in him, is not a sudden flash struck out by
company: it runs through the whole tenor of his life, and
preserves a perpetual serenity on his countenance, and
tranquillity in his soul. He has met with severe trials,
misfortunes as well as dangers; and by his greatness of mind, was
still superior to all of them [Footnote: Qualities immediately
agreeable to the person himself]. The image, gentlemen, which you
have here delineated of Cleanthes, cried I, is that of
accomplished merit. Each of you has given a stroke of the pencil
to his figure; and you have unawares exceeded all the pictures
drawn by Gratian or Castiglione. A philosopher might select this
character as a model of perfect virtue.

And as every quality which is useful or agreeable to ourselves or
others is, in common life, allowed to be a part of personal
merit; so no other will ever be received, where men judge of
things by their natural, unprejudiced reason, without the
delusive glosses of superstition and false religion. Celibacy,
fasting, penance, mortification, self-denial, humility, silence,
solitude, and the whole train of monkish virtues; for what reason
are they everywhere rejected by men of sense, but because they
serve to no manner of purpose; neither advance a man's fortune in
the world, nor render him a more valuable member of society;
neither qualify him for the entertainment of company, nor
increase his power of self-enjoyment? We observe, on the
contrary, that they cross all these desirable ends; stupify the
understanding and harden the heart, obscure the fancy and sour
the temper. We justly, therefore, transfer them to the opposite
column, and place them in the catalogue of vices; nor has any
superstition force sufficient among men of the world, to pervert
entirely these natural sentiments. A gloomy, hair-brained
enthusiast, after his death, may have a place in the calendar;
but will scarcely ever be admitted, when alive, into intimacy and
society, except by those who are as delirious and dismal as

It seems a happiness in the present theory, that it enters not
into that vulgar dispute concerning the DEGREES of benevolence or
self-love, which prevail in human nature; a dispute which is
never likely to have any issue, both because men, who have taken
part, are not easily convinced, and because the phenomena, which
can be produced on either side, are so dispersed, so uncertain,
and subject to so many interpretations, that it is scarcely
possible accurately to compare them, or draw from them any
determinate inference or conclusion. It is sufficient for our
present purpose, if it be allowed, what surely, without the
greatest absurdity cannot be disputed, that there is some
benevolence, however small, infused into our bosom; some spark of
friendship for human kind; some particle of the dove kneaded into
our frame, along with the elements of the wolf and serpent. Let
these generous sentiments be supposed ever so weak; let them be
insufficient to move even a hand or finger of our body, they must
still direct the determinations of our mind, and where everything
else is equal, produce a cool preference of what is useful and
serviceable to mankind, above what is pernicious and dangerous. A
MORAL DISTINCTION, therefore, immediately arises; a general
sentiment of blame and approbation; a tendency, however faint, to
the objects of the one, and a proportionable aversion to those of
the other. Nor will those reasoners, who so earnestly maintain
the predominant selfishness of human kind, be any wise
scandalized at hearing of the weak sentiments of virtue implanted
in our nature. On the contrary, they are found as ready to
maintain the one tenet as the other; and their spirit of satire
(for such it appears, rather than of corruption) naturally gives
rise to both opinions; which have, indeed, a great and almost an
indissoluble connexion together.

Avarice, ambition, vanity, and all passions vulgarly, though
improperly, comprised under the denomination of SELF-LOVE, are
here excluded from our theory concerning the origin of morals,
not because they are too weak, but because they have not a proper
direction for that purpose. The notion of morals implies some
sentiment common to all mankind, which recommends the same object
to general approbation, and makes every man, or most men, agree
in the same opinion or decision concerning it. It also implies
some sentiment, so universal and comprehensive as to extend to
all mankind, and render the actions and conduct, even of the
persons the most remote, an object of applause or censure,
according as they agree or disagree with that rule of right which
is established. These two requisite circumstances belong alone to
the sentiment of humanity here insisted on. The other passions
produce in every breast, many strong sentiments of desire and
aversion, affection and hatred; but these neither are felt so
much in common, nor are so comprehensive, as to be the foundation
of any general system and established theory of blame or

When a man denominates another his ENEMY, his RIVAL, his
ANTAGONIST, his ADVERSARY, he is understood to speak the language
of self-love, and to express sentiments, peculiar to himself, and
arising from his particular circumstances and situation. But when
he bestows on any man the epithets of VICIOUS or ODIOUS or
DEPRAVED, he then speaks another language, and expresses
sentiments, in which he expects all his audience are to concur
with him. He must here, therefore, depart from his private and
particular situation, and must choose a point of view, common to
him with others; he must move some universal principle of the
human frame, and touch a string to which all mankind have an
accord and symphony. If he mean, therefore, to express that this
man possesses qualities, whose tendency is pernicious to society,
he has chosen this common point of view, and has touched the
principle of humanity, in which every man, in some degree,
concurs. While the human heart is compounded of the same elements
as at present, it will never be wholly indifferent to public
good, nor entirely unaffected with the tendency of characters and
manners. And though this affection of humanity may not generally
be esteemed so strong as vanity or ambition, yet, being common to
all men, it can alone be the foundation of morals, or of any-
general system of blame or praise. One man's ambition is not
another's ambition, nor will the same event or object satisfy
both; but the humanity of one man is the humanity of every one,
and the same object touches this passion in all human creatures.

But the sentiments, which arise from humanity, are not only the
same in all human creatures, and produce the same approbation or
censure; but they also comprehend all human creatures; nor is
there any one whose conduct or character is not, by their means,
an object to every one of censure or approbation. On the
contrary, those other passions, commonly denominated selfish,
both produce different sentiments in each individual, according
to his particular situation; and also contemplate the greater
part of mankind with the utmost indifference and unconcern.
Whoever has a high regard and esteem for me flatters my vanity;
whoever expresses contempt mortifies and displeases me; but as my
name is known but to a small part of mankind, there are few who
come within the sphere of this passion, or excite, on its
account, either my affection or disgust. But if you represent a
tyrannical, insolent, or barbarous behaviour, in any country or
in any age of the world, I soon carry my eye to the pernicious
tendency of such a conduct, and feel the sentiment of repugnance
and displeasure towards it. No character can be so remote as to
be, in this light, wholly indifferent to me. What is beneficial
to society or to the person himself must still be preferred. And
every quality or action, of every human being, must, by this
means, be ranked under some class or denomination, expressive of
general censure or applause.

What more, therefore, can we ask to distinguish the sentiments,
dependent on humanity, from those connected with any other
passion, or to satisfy us, why the former are the origin of
morals, not the latter? Whatever conduct gains my approbation, by
touching my humanity, procures also the applause of all mankind,
by affecting the same principle in them; but what serves my
avarice or ambition pleases these passions in me alone, and
affects not the avarice and ambition of the rest of mankind.
There is no circumstance of conduct in any man, provided it have
a beneficial tendency, that is not agreeable to my humanity,
however remote the person; but every man, so far removed as
neither to cross nor serve my avarice and ambition, is regarded
as wholly indifferent by those passions. The distinction,
therefore, between these species of sentiment being so great and
evident, language must soon be moulded upon it, and must invent a
peculiar set of terms, in order to express those universal
sentiments of censure or approbation, which arise from humanity,
or from views of general usefulness and its contrary. Virtue and
Vice become then known; morals are recognized; certain general
ideas are framed of human conduct and behaviour; such measures
are expected from men in such situations. This action is
determined to be conformable to our abstract rule; that other,
contrary. And by such universal principles are the particular
sentiments of self-love frequently controlled and limited.

[Footnote: It seems certain, both from reason and experience,
that a rude, untaught savage regulates chiefly his love and
hatred by the ideas of private utility and injury, and has but
faint conceptions of a general rule or system of behaviour. The
man who stands opposite to him in battle, he hates heartedly, not
only for the present moment, which is almost unavoidable, but for
ever after; nor is he satisfied without the most extreme
punishment and vengeance. But we, accustomed to society, and to
more enlarged reflections, consider, that this man is serving his
own country and community; that any man, in the same situation,
would do the same; that we ourselves, in like circumstances,
observe a like conduct; that; in general, human society is best
supported on such maxims: and by these suppositions and views, we
correct, in some measure, our ruder and narrower positions. And
though much of our friendship and enemity be still regulated by
private considerations of benefit and harm, we pay, at least,
this homage to general rules, which we are accustomed to respect,
that we commonly perver our adversary's conduct, by imputing
malice or injustice to him, in order to give vent to those
passions, which arise from self-love and private interest. When
the heart is full of rage, it never wants pretences of this
nature; though sometimes as frivolous, as those from which
Horace, being almost crushed by the fall of a tree, effects to
accuse of parricide the first planter of it.]

From instances of popular tumults, seditions, factions, panics,
and of all passions, which are shared with a multitude, we may
learn the influence of society in exciting and supporting any
emotion; while the most ungovernable disorders are raised, we
find, by that means, from the slightest and most frivolous
occasions. Solon was no very cruel, though, perhaps, an unjust
legislator, who punished neuters in civil wars; and few, I
believe, would, in such cases, incur the penalty, were their
affection and discourse allowed sufficient to absolve them. No
selfishness, and scarce any philosophy, have there force
sufficient to support a total coolness and indifference; and he
must be more or less than man, who kindles not in the common
blaze. What wonder then, that moral sentiments are found of such
influence in life; though springing from principles, which may
appear, at first sight, somewhat small and delicate? But these
principles, we must remark, are social and universal; they form,
in a manner, the PARTY of humankind against vice or disorder, its
common enemy. And as the benevolent concern for others is
diffused, in a greater or less degree, over all men, and is the
same in all, it occurs more frequently in discourse, is cherished
by society and conversation, and the blame and approbation,
consequent on it, are thereby roused from that lethargy into
which they are probably lulled, in solitary and uncultivated
nature. Other passions, though perhaps originally stronger, yet
being selfish and private, are often overpowered by its force,
and yield the dominion of our breast to those social and public

Another spring of our constitution, that brings a great addition
of force to moral sentiments, is the love of fame; which rules,
with such uncontrolled authority, in all generous minds, and is
often the grand object of all their designs and undertakings. By
our continual and earnest pursuit of a character, a name, a
reputation in the world, we bring our own deportment and conduct
frequently in review, and consider how they appear in the eyes of
those who approach and regard us. This constant habit of
surveying ourselves, as it were, in reflection, keeps alive all
the sentiments of right and wrong, and begets, in noble natures,
a certain reverence for themselves as well as others, which is
the surest guardian of every virtue. The animal conveniencies and
pleasures sink gradually in their value; while every inward
beauty and moral grace is studiously acquired, and the mind is
accomplished in every perfection, which can adorn or embellish a
rational creature.

Here is the most perfect morality with which we are acquainted:
here is displayed the force of many sympathies. Our moral
sentiment is itself a feeling chiefly of that nature, and our
regard to a character with others seems to arise only from a care
of preserving a character with ourselves; and in order to attain
this end, we find it necessary to prop our tottering judgement on
the correspondent approbation of mankind.

But, that we may accommodate matters, and remove if possible
every difficulty, let us allow all these reasonings to be false.
Let us allow that, when we resolve the pleasure, which arises
from views of utility, into the sentiments of humanity and
sympathy, we have embraced a wrong hypothesis. Let us confess it
necessary to find some other explication of that applause, which
is paid to objects, whether inanimate, animate, or rational, if
they have a tendency to promote the welfare and advantage of
mankind. However difficult it be to conceive that an object is
approved of on account of its tendency to a certain end, while
the end itself is totally indifferent: let us swallow this
absurdity, and consider what are the consequences. The preceding
delineation or definition of Personal Merit must still retain its
evidence and authority: it must still be allowed that every
quality of the mind, which is USEFUL or AGREEABLE to the PERSON
HIMSELF or to OTHERS, communicates a pleasure to the spectator,
engages his esteem, and is admitted under the honourable
denomination of virtue or merit. Are not justice, fidelity,
honour, veracity, allegiance, chastity, esteemed solely on
account of their tendency to promote the good of society? Is not
that tendency inseparable from humanity, benevolence, lenity,
generosity, gratitude, moderation, tenderness, friendship, and
all the other social virtues? Can it possibly be doubted that
industry, discretion, frugality, secrecy, order, perseverance,
forethought, judgement, and this whole class of virtues and
accomplishments, of which many pages would not contain the
catalogue; can it be doubted, I say, that the tendency of these
qualities to promote the interest and happiness of their
possessor, is the sole foundation of their merit? Who can dispute
that a mind, which supports a perpetual serenity and
cheerfulness, a noble dignity and undaunted spirit, a tender
affection and good-will to all around; as it has more enjoyment
within itself, is also a more animating and rejoicing spectacle,
than if dejected with melancholy, tormented with anxiety,
irritated with rage, or sunk into the most abject baseness and
degeneracy? And as to the qualities, immediately AGREEABLE to
OTHERS, they speak sufficiently for themselves; and he must be
unhappy, indeed, either in his own temper, or in his situation
and company, who has never perceived the charms of a facetious
wit or flowing affability, of a delicate modesty or decent
genteelness of address and manner.

I am sensible, that nothing can be more unphilosophical than to
be positive or dogmatical on any subject; and that, even if
excessive scepticism could be maintained, it would not be more
destructive to all just reasoning and inquiry. I am convinced
that, where men are the most sure and arrogant, they are commonly
the most mistaken, and have there given reins to passion, without
that proper deliberation and suspense, which can alone secure
them from the grossest absurdities. Yet, I must confess, that
this enumeration puts the matter in so strong a light, that I
cannot, at PRESENT, be more assured of any truth, which I learn
from reasoning and argument, than that personal merit consists
entirely in the usefulness or agreeableness of qualities to the
person himself possessed of them, or to others, who have any
intercourse with him. But when I reflect that, though the bulk
and figure of the earth have been measured and delineated, though
the motions of the tides have been accounted for, the order and
economy of the heavenly bodies subjected to their proper laws,
and Infinite itself reduced to calculation; yet men still dispute
concerning the foundation of their moral duties. When I reflect
on this, I say, I fall back into diffidence and scepticism, and
suspect that an hypothesis, so obvious, had it been a true one,
would, long ere now, have been received by the unanimous suffrage
and consent of mankind.


Having explained the moral APPROBATION attending merit or virtue,
there remains nothing but briefly to consider our interested
OBLIGATION to it, and to inquire whether every man, who has any
regard to his own happiness and welfare, will not best find his
account in the practice of every moral duty. If this can be
clearly ascertained from the foregoing theory, we shall have the
satisfaction to reflect, that we have advanced principles, which
not only, it is hoped, will stand the test of reasoning and
inquiry, but may contribute to the amendment of men's lives, and
their improvement in morality and social virtue. And though the
philosophical truth of any proposition by no means depends on its
tendency to promote the interests of society; yet a man has but a
bad grace, who delivers a theory, however true, which, he must
confess, leads to a practice dangerous and pernicious. Why rake
into those corners of nature which spread a nuisance all around?
Why dig up the pestilence from the pit in which it is buried? The
ingenuity of your researches may be admired, but your systems
will be detested; and mankind will agree, if they cannot refute
them, to sink them, at least, in eternal silence and oblivion.
Truths which are pernicious to society, if any such there be,
will yield to errors which are salutary and ADVANTAGEOUS.

But what philosophical truths can be more advantageous to
society, than those here delivered, which represent virtue in all
her genuine and most engaging charms, and makes us approach her
with ease, familiarity, and affection? The dismal dress falls
off, with which many divines, and some philosophers, have covered
her; and nothing appears but gentleness, humanity, beneficence,
affability; nay, even at proper intervals, play, frolic, and
gaiety. She talks not of useless austerities and rigours,
suffering and self-denial. She declares that her sole purpose is
to make her votaries and all mankind, during every instant of
their existence, if possible, cheerful and happy; nor does she
ever willingly part with any pleasure but in hopes of ample
compensation in some other period of their lives. The sole
trouble which she demands, is that of just calculation, and a
steady preference of the greater happiness. And if any austere
pretenders approach her, enemies to joy and pleasure, she either
rejects them as hypocrites and deceivers; or, if she admit them
in her train, they are ranked, however, among the least favoured
of her votaries.

And, indeed, to drop all figurative expression, what hopes can we
ever have of engaging mankind to a practice which we confess full
of austerity and rigour? Or what theory of morals can ever serve
any useful purpose, unless it can show, by a particular detail,
that all the duties which it recommends, are also the true
interest of each individual? The peculiar advantage of the
foregoing system seems to be, that it furnishes proper mediums
for that purpose.

That the virtues which are immediately USEFUL or AGREEABLE to the
person possessed of them, are desirable in a view to self-interest,
it would surely be superfluous to prove. Moralists, indeed, may
spare themselves all the pains which they often take in
recommending these duties. To what purpose collect arguments to
evince that temperance is advantageous, and the excesses of
pleasure hurtful, when it appears that these excesses are only
denominated such, because they are hurtful; and that, if the
unlimited use of strong liquors, for instance, no more impaired
health or the faculties of mind and body than the use of air or
water, it would not be a whit more vicious or blameable?

It seems equally superfluous to prove, that the COMPANIONABLE
virtues of good manners and wit, decency and genteelness, are
more desirable than the contrary qualities. Vanity alone, without
any other consideration, is a sufficient motive to make us wish
for the possession of these accomplishments. No man was ever
willingly deficient in this particular. All our failures here
proceed from bad education, want of capacity, or a perverse and
unpliable disposition. Would you have your company coveted,
admired, followed; rather than hated, despised, avoided? Can any
one seriously deliberate in the case? As no enjoyment is sincere,
without some reference to company and society; so no society can
be agreeable, or even tolerable, where a man feels his presence
unwelcome, and discovers all around him symptoms of disgust and

But why, in the greater society or confederacy of mankind, should
not the case be the same as in particular clubs and companies?
Why is it more doubtful, that the enlarged virtues of humanity,
generosity, beneficence, are desirable with a view of happiness
and self-interest, than the limited endowments of ingenuity and
politeness? Are we apprehensive lest those social affections
interfere, in a greater and more immediate degree than any other
pursuits, with private utility, and cannot be gratified, without
some important sacrifice of honour and advantage? If so, we are
but ill-instructed in the nature of the human passions, and are
more influenced by verbal distinctions than by real differences.

Whatever contradiction may vulgarly be supposed between the
SELFISH and SOCIAL sentiments or dispositions, they are really no
more opposite than selfish and ambitious, selfish and revengeful,
selfish and vain. It is requisite that there be an original
propensity of some kind, in order to be a basis to self-love, by
giving a relish to the objects of its pursuit; and none more fit
for this purpose than benevolence or humanity. The goods of
fortune are spent in one gratification or another: the miser who
accumulates his annual income, and lends it out at interest, has
really spent it in the gratification of his avarice. And it would
be difficult to show why a man is more a loser by a generous
action, than by any other method of expense; since the utmost
which he can attain by the most elaborate selfishness, is the
indulgence of some affection.

Now if life, without passion, must be altogether insipid and
tiresome; let a man suppose that he has full power of modelling
his own disposition, and let him deliberate what appetite or
desire he would choose for the foundation of his happiness and
enjoyment. Every affection, he would observe, when gratified by
success, gives a satisfaction proportioned to its force and
violence; but besides this advantage, common to all, the
immediate feeling of benevolence and friendship, humanity and
kindness, is sweet, smooth, tender, and agreeable, independent of
all fortune and accidents. These virtues are besides attended
with a pleasing consciousness or remembrance, and keep us in
humour with ourselves as well as others; while we

retain the agreeable reflection of having done our part towards
mankind and society. And though all men show a jealousy of our
success in the pursuits of avarice and ambition; yet are we
almost sure of their good-will and good wishes, so long as we
persevere in the paths of virtue, and employ ourselves in the
execution of generous plans and purposes. What other passion is
there where we shall find so many advantages united; an agreeable
sentiment, a pleasing consciousness, a good reputation? But of
these truths, we may observe, men are, of themselves, pretty much
convinced; nor are they deficient in their duty to society,
because they would not wish to be generous, friendly, and humane;
but because they do not feel themselves such.

Treating vice with the greatest candour, and making it all
possible concessions, we must acknowledge that there is not, in
any instance, the smallest pretext for giving it the preference
above virtue, with a view of self-interest; except, perhaps, in
the case of justice, where a man, taking things in a certain
light, may often seem to be a loser by his integrity. And though
it is allowed that, without a regard to property, no society
could subsist; yet according to the imperfect way in which human
affairs are conducted, a sensible knave, in particular incidents,
may think that an act of iniquity or infidelity will make a
considerable addition to his fortune, without causing any
considerable breach in the social union and confederacy. That
HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY, may be a good general rule, but is
liable to many exceptions; and he, it may perhaps be thought,
conducts himself with most wisdom, who observes the general rule,
and takes advantage of all the exceptions. I must confess that,
if a man think that this reasoning much requires an answer, it
would be a little difficult to find any which will to him appear
satisfactory and convincing. If his heart rebel not against such
pernicious maxims, if he feel no reluctance to the thoughts of
villainy or baseness, he has indeed lost a considerable motive to
virtue; and we may expect that this practice will be answerable
to his speculation. But in all ingenuous natures, the antipathy
to treachery and roguery is too strong to be counter-balanced by
any views of profit or pecuniary advantage. Inward peace of mind,
consciousness of integrity, a satisfactory review of our own
conduct; these are circumstances, very requisite to happiness,
and will be cherished and cultivated by every honest man, who
feels the importance of them.

Such a one has, besides, the frequent satisfaction of seeing
knaves, with all their pretended cunning and abilities, betrayed
by their own maxims; and while they purpose to cheat with
moderation and secrecy, a tempting incident occurs, nature is
frail, and they give into the snare; whence they can never
extricate themselves, without a total loss of reputation, and the
forfeiture of all future trust and confidence with mankind.

But were they ever so secret and successful, the honest man, if
he has any tincture of philosophy, or even common observation and
reflection, will discover that they themselves are, in the end,
the greatest dupes, and have sacrificed the invaluable enjoyment
of a character, with themselves at least, for the acquisition of
worthless toys and gewgaws. How little is requisite to supply the
necessities of nature? And in a view to pleasure, what comparison
between the unbought satisfaction of conversation, society,
study, even health and the common beauties of nature, but above
all the peaceful reflection on one's own conduct; what
comparison, I say, between these and the feverish, empty
amusements of luxury and expense? These natural pleasures,
indeed, are really without price; both because they are below all
price in their attainment, and above it in their enjoyment.



IF the foregoing hypothesis be received, it will now be easy for
us to determine the question first started, [FOOTNOTE: Sect. 1.]
concerning the general principles of morals; and though we
postponed the decision of that question, lest it should then
involve us in intricate speculations, which are unfit for moral
discourses, we may resume it at present, and examine how far
either REASON or SENTIMENT enters into all decisions of praise or

One principal foundation of moral praise being supposed to lie in
the usefulness of any quality or action, it is evident that
REASON must enter for a considerable share in all decisions of
this kind; since nothing but that faculty can instruct us in the
tendency of qualities and actions, and point out their beneficial
consequences to society and to their possessor. In many cases
this is an affair liable to great controversy: doubts may arise;
opposite interests may occur; and a preference must be given to
one side, from very nice views, and a small overbalance of
utility. This is particularly remarkable in questions with regard
to justice; as is, indeed, natural to suppose, from that species
of utility which attends this virtue [Footnote: See App. II.].
Were every single instance of justice, like that of benevolence,
useful to society; this would be a more simple state of the case,
and seldom liable to great controversy. But as single instances
of justice are often pernicious in their first and immediate
tendency, and as the advantage to society results only from the
observance of the general rule, and from the concurrence and
combination of several persons in the same equitable conduct; the
case here becomes more intricate and involved. The various
circumstances of society; the various consequences of any
practice; the various interests which may be proposed; these, on
many occasions, are doubtful, and subject to great discussion and
inquiry. The object of municipal laws is to fix all the questions
with regard to justice: the debates of civilians; the reflections
of politicians; the precedents of history and public records, are
all directed to the same purpose. And a very accurate REASON or
JUDGEMENT is often requisite, to give the true determination,
amidst such intricate doubts arising from obscure or opposite

But though reason, when fully assisted and improved, be
sufficient to instruct us in the pernicious or useful tendency of
qualities and actions; it is not alone sufficient to produce any
moral blame or approbation. Utility is only a tendency to a
certain end; and were the end totally indifferent to us, we
should feel the same indifference towards the means. It is
requisite a SENTIMENT should here display itself, in order to
give a preference to the useful above the pernicious tendencies.
This SENTIMENT can be no other than a feeling for the happiness
of mankind, and a resentment of their misery; since these are the
different ends which virtue and vice have a tendency to promote.
Here therefore REASON instructs us in the several tendencies of
actions, and HUMANITY makes a distinction in favour of those
which are useful and beneficial.

This partition between the faculties of understanding and
sentiment, in all moral decisions, seems clear from the preceding
hypothesis. But I shall suppose that hypothesis false: it will
then be requisite to look out for some other theory that may be
satisfactory; and I dare venture to affirm that none such will
ever be found, so long as we suppose reason to be the sole source
of morals. To prove this, it will be proper t o weigh the five
following considerations.

I. It is easy for a false hypothesis to maintain some appearance
of truth, while it keeps wholly in generals, makes use of
undefined terms, and employs comparisons, instead of instances.
This is particularly remarkable in that philosophy, which
ascribes the discernment of all moral distinctions to reason
alone, without the concurrence of sentiment. It is impossible
that, in any particular instance, this hypothesis can so much as
be rendered intelligible, whatever specious figure it may make in
general declamations and discourses. Examine the crime of
INGRATITUDE, for instance; which has place, wherever we observe
good-will, expressed and known, together with good-offices
performed, on the one side, and a return of ill-will or
indifference, with ill-offices or neglect on the other: anatomize
all these circumstances, and examine, by your reason alone, in
what consists the demerit or blame. You never will come to any
issue or conclusion.

Reason judges either of MATTER OF FACT or of RELATIONS. Enquire
then, first, where is that matter of fact which we here call
crime; point it out; determine the time of its existence;
describe its essence or nature; explain the sense or faculty to
which it discovers itself. It resides in the mind of the person
who is ungrateful. He must, therefore, feel it, and be conscious
of it. But nothing is there, except the passion of ill-will or
absolute indifference. You cannot say that these, of themselves,
always, and in all circumstances, are crimes. No, they are only
crimes when directed towards persons who have before expressed
and displayed good-will towards us. Consequently, we may infer,
that the crime of ingratitude is not any particular individual
FACT; but arises from a complication of circumstances, which,
being presented to the spectator, excites the SENTIMENT of blame,
by the particular structure and fabric of his mind.

This representation, you say, is false. Crime, indeed, consists
not in a particular FACT, of whose reality we are assured by
reason; but it consists in certain MORAL RELATIONS, discovered by
reason, in the same manner as we discover by reason the truths of
geometry or algebra. But what are the relations, I ask, of which
you here talk? In the case stated above, I see first good-will
and good-offices in one person; then ill-will and ill-offices in
the other. Between these, there is a relation of CONTARIETY. Does
the crime consist in that relation? But suppose a person bore me
ill-will or did me ill-offices; and I, in return, were
indifferent towards him, or did him good offices. Here is the
same relation of CONTRARIETY; and yet my conduct is often highly
laudable. Twist and turn this matter as much as you will, you can
never rest the morality on relation; but must have recourse to
the decisions of sentiment.

When it is affirmed that two and three are equal to the half of
ten, this relation of equality I understand perfectly. I
conceive, that if ten be divided into two parts, of which one has
as many units as the other; and if any of these parts be compared
to two added to three, it will contain as many units as that
compound number. But when you draw thence a comparison to moral
relations, I own that I am altogether at a loss to understand
you. A moral action, a crime, such as ingratitude, is a
complicated object. Does the morality consist in the relation of
its parts to each other? How? After what manner? Specify the
relation: be more particular and explicit in your propositions,
and you will easily see their falsehood.

No, say you, the morality consists in the relation of actions to
the rule of right; and they are denominated good or ill,
according as they agree or disagree with it. What then is this
rule of right? In what does it consist? How is it determined? By
reason, you say, which examines the moral relations of actions.
So that moral relations are determined by the comparison of
action to a rule. And that rule is determined by considering the
moral relations of objects. Is not this fine reasoning?

All this is metaphysics, you cry. That is enough; there needs
nothing more to give a strong presumption of falsehood. Yes,
reply I, here are metaphysics surely; but they are all on your
side, who advance an abstruse hypothesis, which can never be made
intelligible, nor quadrate with any particular instance or
illustration. The hypothesis which we embrace is plain. It
maintains that morality is determined by sentiment. It defines
contrary. We then proceed to examine a plain matter of fact, to
wit, what actions have this influence. We consider all the
circumstances in which these actions agree, and thence endeavour
to extract some general observations with regard to these
sentiments. If you call this metaphysics, and find anything
abstruse here, you need only conclude that your turn of mind is
not suited to the moral sciences.

II. When a man, at any time, deliberates concerning his own
conduct (as, whether he had better, in a particular emergence,
assist a brother or a benefactor), he must consider these
separate relations, with all the circumstances and situations of
the persons, in order to determine the superior duty and
obligation; and in order to determine the proportion of lines in
any triangle, it is necessary to examine the nature of that
figure, and the relation which its several parts bear to each
other. But notwithstanding this appearing similarity in the two
cases, there is, at bottom, an extreme difference between them. A
speculative reasoner concerning triangles or circles considers
the several known and given relations of the parts of these
figures; and thence infers some unknown relation, which is
dependent on the former. But in moral deliberations we must be
acquainted beforehand with all the objects, and all their
relations to each other; and from a comparison of the whole, fix
our choice or approbation. No new fact to be ascertained; no new
relation to be discovered. All the circumstances of the case are
supposed to be laid before us, ere we can fix any sentence of
blame or approbation. If any material circumstance be yet unknown
or doubtful, we must first employ our inquiry or intellectual
faculties to assure us of it; and must suspend for a time all
moral decision or sentiment. While we are ignorant whether a man
were aggressor or not, how can we determine whether the person
who killed him be criminal or innocent? But after every
circumstance, every relation is known, the understanding has no
further room to operate, nor any object on which it could employ
itself. The approbation or blame which then ensues, cannot be the
work of the judgement, but of the heart; and is not a speculative
proposition or affirmation, but an active feeling or sentiment.
In the disquisitions of the understanding, from known
circumstances and relations, we infer some new and unknown. In
moral decisions, all the circumstances and relations must be
previously known; and the mind, from the contemplation of the
whole, feels some new impression of affection or disgust, esteem
or contempt, approbation or blame.

Hence the great difference between a mistake of FACT and one of
RIGHT; and hence the reason why the one is commonly criminal and
not the other. When Oedipus killed Laius, he was ignorant of the
relation, and from circumstances, innocent and involuntary,
formed erroneous opinions concerning the action which he
committed. But when Nero killed Agrippina, all the relations
between himself and the person, and all the circumstances of the
fact, were previously known to him; but the motive of revenge, or
fear, or interest, prevailed in his savage heart over the
sentiments of duty and humanity. And when we express that
detestation against him to which he himself, in a little time,
became insensible, it is not that we see any relations, of which
he was ignorant; but that, for the rectitude of our disposition,
we feel sentiments against which he was hardened from flattery
and a long perseverance in the most enormous crimes.

In these sentiments then, not in a discovery of relations of any
kind, do all moral determinations consist. Before we can pretend
to form any decision of this kind, everything must be known and
ascertained on the side of the object or action. Nothing remains
but to feel, on our part, some sentiment of blame or approbation;
whence we pronounce the action criminal or virtuous.

III. This doctrine will become still more evident, if we compare
moral beauty with natural, to which in many particulars it bears
so near a resemblance. It is on the proportion, relation, and
position of parts, that all natural beauty depends; but it would
be absurd thence to infer, that the perception of beauty, like
that of truth in geometrical problems, consists wholly in the
perception of relations, and was performed entirely by the
understanding or intellectual faculties. In all the sciences, our
mind from the known relations investigates the unknown. But in
all decisions of taste or external beauty, all the relations are
beforehand obvious to the eye; and we thence proceed to feel a
sentiment of complacency or disgust, according to the nature of
the object, and disposition of our organs.

Euclid has fully explained all the qualities of the circle; but
has not in any proposition said a word of its beauty. The reason
is evident. The beauty is not a quality of the circle. It lies
not in any part of the line, whose parts are equally distant from
a common centre. It is only the effect which that figure produces
upon the mind, whose peculiar fabric of structure renders it
susceptible of such sentiments. In vain would you look for it in
the circle, or seek it, either by your senses or by mathematical
reasoning, in all the properties of that figure.

Attend to Palladio and Perrault, while they explain all the parts
and proportions of a pillar. They talk of the cornice, and
frieze, and base, and entablature, and shaft, and architrave; and
give the description and position of each of these members. But
should you ask the description and position of its beauty, they
would readily reply, that the beauty is not in any of the parts
or members of a pillar, but results from the whole, when that
complicated figure is presented to an intelligent mind,
susceptible to those finer sensations. Till such a spectator
appear, there is nothing but a figure of such particular
dimensions and proportions: from his sentiments alone arise its
elegance and beauty.

Again; attend to Cicero, while he paints the crimes of a Verres
or a Catiline. You must acknowledge that the moral turpitude
results, in the same manner, from the contemplation of the whole,
when presented to a being whose organs have such a particular
structure and formation. The orator may paint rage, insolence,
barbarity on the one side; meekness, suffering, sorrow, innocence
on the other. But if you feel no indignation or compassion arise
in you from this complication of circumstances, you would in vain
ask him, in what consists the crime or villainy, which he so
vehemently exclaims against? At what time, or on what subject it
first began to exist? And what has a few months afterwards become
of it, when every disposition and thought of all the actors is
totally altered or annihilated? No satisfactory answer can be
given to any of these questions, upon the abstract hypothesis of
morals; and we must at last acknowledge, that the crime or
immorality is no particular fact or relation, which can be the
object of the understanding, but arises entirely from the
sentiment of disapprobation, which, by the structure of human
nature, we unavoidably feel on the apprehension of barbarity or

IV. Inanimate objects may bear to each other all the same
relations which we observe in moral agents; though the former can
never be the object of love or hatred, nor are consequently
susceptible of merit or iniquity. A young tree, which over-tops
and destroys its parent, stands in all the same relations with
Nero, when he murdered Agrippina; and if morality consisted
merely in relations, would no doubt be equally criminal.

V. It appears evident that--the ultimate ends of human actions
can never, in any case, be accounted for by reason, but recommend
themselves entirely to the sentiments and affections of mankind,
without any dependance on the intellectual faculties. Ask a man
HIS HEALTH. If you then enquire, WHY HE DESIRES HEALTH, he will
readily reply, BECAUSE SICKNESS IS PAINFUL. If you push your
enquiries farther, and desire a reason WHY HE HATES PAIN, it is
impossible he can ever give any. This is an ultimate end, and is
never referred to any other object.

Perhaps to your second question, WHY HE DESIRES HEALTH, he may
If you ask, WHY HE IS ANXIOUS ON THAT HEAD, he will answer,
INSTRUMENT OF PLEASURE, says he. And beyond this it is an
absurdity to ask for a reason. It is impossible there can be a

IN INFINITUM; and that one thing can always be a reason why
another is desired. Something must be desirable on its own
account, and because of its immediate accord or agreement with
human sentiment and affection.

Now as virtue is an end, and is desirable on its own account,
without fee and reward, merely for the immediate satisfaction
which it conveys; it is requisite that there should be some
sentiment which it touches, some internal taste or feeling, or
whatever you may please to call it, which distinguishes moral
good and evil, and which embraces the one and rejects the other.

Thus the distinct boundaries and offices of REASON and of TASTE
are easily ascertained. The former conveys the knowledge of truth
and falsehood: the latter gives the sentiment of beauty and
deformity, vice and virtue. The one discovers objects as they
really stand in nature, without addition and diminution: the
other has a productive faculty, and gilding or staining all
natural objects with the colours, borrowed from internal
sentiment, raises in a manner a new creation. Reason being cool
and disengaged, is no motive to action, and directs only the
impulse received from appetite or inclination, by showing us the
means of attaining happiness or avoiding misery: Taste, as it
gives pleasure or pain, and thereby constitutes happiness or
misery, becomes a motive to action, and is the first spring or
impulse to desire and volition. From circumstances and relations,
known or supposed, the former leads us to the discovery of the
concealed and unknown: after all circumstances and relations are
laid before us, the latter makes us feel from the whole a new
sentiment of blame or approbation. The standard of the one, being
founded on the nature of things, is eternal and inflexible, even
by the will of the Supreme Being: the standard of the other
arising from the eternal frame and constitution of animals, is
ultimately derived from that Supreme Will, which bestowed on each
being its peculiar nature, and arranged the several classes and
orders of existence.



THERE is a principle, supposed to prevail among many, which is
utterly incompatible with all virtue or moral sentiment; and as
it can proceed from nothing but the most depraved disposition, so
in its turn it tends still further to encourage that depravity.
This principle is, that all BENEVOLENCE is mere hypocrisy,
friendship a cheat, public spirit a farce, fidelity a snare to
procure trust and confidence; and that while all of us, at
bottom, pursue only our private interest, we wear these fair
disguises, in order to put others off their guard, and expose
them the more to our wiles and machinations. What heart one must
be possessed of who possesses such principles, and who feels no
internal sentiment that belies so pernicious a theory, it is easy
to imagine: and also what degree of affection and benevolence he
can bear to a species whom he represents under such odious
colours, and supposes so little susceptible of gratitude or any
return of affection. Or if we should not ascribe these principles
wholly to a corrupted heart, we must at least account for them
from the most careless and precipitate examination. Superficial
reasoners, indeed, observing many false pretences among mankind,
and feeling, perhaps, no very strong restraint in their own
disposition, might draw a general and a hasty conclusion that all
is equally corrupted, and that men, different from all other
animals, and indeed from all other species of existence, admit of
no degrees of good or bad, but are, in every instance, the same
creatures under different disguises and appearances.

There is another principle, somewhat resembling the former; which
has been much insisted on by philosophers, and has been the
foundation of many a system; that, whatever affection one may
feel, or imagine he feels for others, no passion is, or can be
disinterested; that the most generous friendship, however
sincere, is a modification of self-love; and that, even unknown
to ourselves, we seek only our own gratification, while we appear
the most deeply engaged in schemes for the liberty and happiness
of mankind. By a turn of imagination, by a refinement of
reflection, by an enthusiasm of passion, we seem to take part in
the interests of others, and imagine ourselves divested of all
selfish considerations: but, at bottom, the most generous patriot
and most niggardly miser, the bravest hero and most abject
coward, have, in every action, an equal regard to their own
happiness and welfare.

Whoever concludes from the seeming tendency of this opinion, that
those, who make profession of it, cannot possibly feel the true
sentiments of benevolence, or have any regard for genuine virtue,
will often find himself, in practice, very much mistaken. Probity
and honour were no strangers to Epicurus and his sect. Atticus
and Horace seem to have enjoyed from nature, and cultivated by
reflection, as generous and friendly dispositions as any disciple
of the austerer schools. And among the modern, Hobbes and Locke,
who maintained the selfish system of morals, lived irreproachable
lives; though the former lay not under any restraint of religion
which might supply the defects of his philosophy.

An epicurean or a Hobbist readily allows, that there is such a
thing as a friendship in the world, without hypocrisy or
disguise; though he may attempt, by a philosophical chymistry, to
resolve the elements of this passion, if I may so speak, into
those of another, and explain every affection to be self-love,
twisted and moulded, by a particular turn of imagination, into a
variety of appearances. But as the same turn of imagination
prevails not in every man, nor gives the same direction to the
original passion; this is sufficient even according to the
selfish system to make the widest difference in human characters,
and denominate one man virtuous and humane, another vicious and
meanly interested. I esteem the man whose self-love, by whatever
means, is so directed as to give him a concern for others, and
render him serviceable to society: as I hate or despise him, who
has no regard to any thing beyond his own gratifications and
enjoyments. In vain would you suggest that these characters,
though seemingly opposite, are at bottom the same, and that a
very inconsiderable turn of thought forms the whole difference
between them. Each character, notwithstanding these
inconsiderable differences, appears to me, in practice, pretty
durable and untransmutable. And I find not in this more than in
other subjects, that the natural sentiments arising from the
general appearances of things are easily destroyed by subtile
reflections concerning the minute origin of these appearances.
Does not the lively, cheerful colour of a countenance inspire me
with complacency and pleasure; even though I learn from
philosophy that all difference of complexion arises from the most
minute differences of thickness, in the most minute parts of the
skin; by means of which a superficies is qualified to reflect one
of the original colours of light, and absorb the others?

But though the question concerning the universal or partial
selfishness of man be not so material as is usually imagined to
morality and practice, it is certainly of consequence in the
speculative science of human nature, and is a proper object of
curiosity and enquiry. It may not, therefore, be unsuitable, in
this place, to bestow a few reflections upon it.

[Footnote: Benevolence naturally divides into two kinds, the
GENERAL and the PARTICULAR. The first is, where we have no
friendship or connexion or esteem for the person, but feel only a
general sympathy with him or a compassion for his pains, and a
congratulation with his pleasures. The other species of
benevolence is founded on an opinion of virtue, on services done
us, or on some particular connexions. Both these sentiments must
be allowed real in human nature: but whether they will resolve
into some nice considerations of self-love, is a question more
curious than important. The former sentiment, to wit, that of
general benevolence, or humanity, or sympathy, we shall have
occasion frequently to treat of in the course of this inquiry;
and I assume it as real, from general experience, without any
other proof.]

The most obvious objection to the selfish hypothesis is, that, as
it is contrary to common feeling and our most unprejudiced
notions, there is required the highest stretch of philosophy to
establish so extraordinary a paradox. To the most careless
observer there appear to be such dispositions as benevolence and
generosity; such affections as love, friendship, compassion,
gratitude. These sentiments have their causes, effects, objects,
and operations, marked by common language and observation, and
plainly distinguished from those of the selfish passions. And as
this is the obvious appearance of things, it must be admitted,
till some hypothesis be discovered, which by penetrating deeper
into human nature, may prove the former affections to be nothing
but modifications of the latter. All attempts of this kind have
hitherto proved fruitless, and seem to have proceeded entirely
from that love of SIMPLICITY which has been the source of much
false reasoning in philosophy. I shall not here enter into any
detail on the present subject. Many able philosophers have shown
the insufficiency of these systems. And I shall take for granted
what, I believe, the smallest reflection will make evident to
every impartial enquirer.

But the nature of the subject furnishes the strongest
presumption, that no better system will ever, for the future, be
invented, in order to account for the origin of the benevolent
from the selfish affections, and reduce all the various emotions
of the human mind to a perfect simplicity. The case is not the
same in this species of philosophy as in physics. Many an
hypothesis in nature, contrary to first appearances, has been
found, on more accurate scrutiny, solid and satisfactory.
Instances of this kind are so frequent that a judicious, as well
as witty philosopher, [Footnote: Mons. Fontenelle.] has ventured
to affirm, if there be more than one way in which any phenomenon
may be produced, that there is general presumption for its
arising from the causes which are the least obvious and familiar.
But the presumption always lies on the other side, in all
enquiries concerning the origin of our passions, and of the
internal operations of the human mind. The simplest and most
obvious cause which can there be assigned for any phenomenon, is
probably the true one. When a philosopher, in the explication of
his system, is obliged to have recourse to some very intricate
and refined reflections, and to suppose them essential to the
production of any passion or emotion, we have reason to be
extremely on our guard against so fallacious an hypothesis. The
affections are not susceptible of any impression from the
refinements of reason or imagination; and it is always found that
a vigorous exertion of the latter faculties, necessarily, from
the narrow capacity of the human mind, destroys all activity in
the former. Our predominant motive or intention is, indeed,
frequently concealed from ourselves when it is mingled and
confounded with other motives which the mind, from vanity or
self-conceit, is desirous of supposing more prevalent: but there
is no instance that a concealment of this nature has ever arisen
from the abstruseness and intricacy of the motive. A man that has
lost a friend and patron may flatter himself that all his grief
arises from generous sentiments, without any mixture of narrow or
interested considerations: but a man that grieves for a valuable
friend, who needed his patronage and protection; how can we
suppose, that his passionate tenderness arises from some
metaphysical regards to a self-interest, which has no foundation
or reality? We may as well imagine that minute wheels and
springs, like those of a watch, give motion to a loaded waggon,
as account for the origin of passion from such abstruse

Animals are found susceptible of kindness, both to their own
species and to ours; nor is there, in this case, the least
suspicion of disguise or artifice. Shall we account for all THEIR
sentiments, too, from refined deductions of self-interest? Or if
we admit a disinterested benevolence in the inferior species, by
what rule of analogy can we refuse it in the superior?

Love between the sexes begets a complacency and good-will, very
distinct from the gratification of an appetite. Tenderness to
their offspring, in all sensible beings, is commonly able alone
to counter-balance the strongest motives of self-love, and has no
manner of dependance on that affection. What interest can a fond
mother have in view, who loses her health by assiduous attendance
on her sick child, and afterwards languishes and dies of grief,
when freed, by its death, from the slavery of that attendance?

Is gratitude no affection of the human breast, or is that a word
merely, without any meaning or reality? Have we no satisfaction
in one man's company above another's, and no desire of the
welfare of our friend, even though absence or death should
prevent us from all participation in it? Or what is it commonly,
that gives us any participation in it, even while alive and
present, but our affection and regard to him?

These and a thousand other instances are marks of a general
benevolence in human nature, where no REAL interest binds us to
the object. And how an IMAGINARY interest known and avowed for
such, can be the origin of any passion or emotion, seems
difficult to explain. No satisfactory hypothesis of this kind has
yet been discovered; nor is there the smallest probability that
the future industry of men will ever be attended with more
favourable success.

But farther, if we consider rightly of the matter, we shall find
that the hypothesis which allows of a disinterested benevolence,
distinct from self-love, has really more SIMPLICITY in it, and is
more conformable to the analogy of nature than that which
pretends to resolve all friendship and humanity into this latter
principle. There are bodily wants or appetites acknowledged by
every one, which necessarily precede all sensual enjoyment, and
carry us directly to seek possession of the object. Thus, hunger
and thirst have eating and drinking for their end; and from the
gratification of these primary appetites arises a pleasure, which
may become the object of another species of desire or inclination
that is secondary and interested. In the same manner there are
mental passions by which we are impelled immediately to seek
particular objects, such as fame or power, or vengeance without
any regard to interest; and when these objects are attained a
pleasing enjoyment ensues, as the consequence of our indulged
affections. Nature must, by the internal frame and constitution
of the mind, give an original propensity to fame, ere we can reap
any pleasure from that acquisition, or pursue it from motives of
self-love, and desire of happiness. If I have no vanity, I take
no delight in praise: if I be void of ambition, power gives me no
enjoyment: if I be not angry, the punishment of an adversary is
totally indifferent to me. In all these cases there is a passion
which points immediately to the object, and constitutes it our
good or happiness; as there are other secondary passions which
afterwards arise, and pursue it as a part of our happiness, when
once it is constituted such by our original affections. Were
there no appetite of any kind antecedent to self-love, that
propensity could scarcely ever exert itself; because we should,
in that case, have felt few and slender pains or pleasures, and
have little misery or happiness to avoid or to pursue.

Now where is the difficulty in conceiving, that this may likewise
be the case with benevolence and friendship, and that, from the
original frame of our temper, we may feel a desire of another's
happiness or good, which, by means of that affection, becomes our
own good, and is afterwards pursued, from the combined motives of
benevolence and self-enjoyments? Who sees not that vengeance,
from the force alone of passion, may be so eagerly pursued, as to
make us knowingly neglect every consideration of ease, interest,
or safety; and, like some vindictive animals, infuse our very
souls into the wounds we give an enemy; [Footnote: Animasque in
vulnere ponunt. VIRG, Dum alteri noceat, sui negligens says
Seneca of Anger. De Ira, I. i.] and what a malignant philosophy
must it be, that will not allow to humanity and friendship the
same privileges which are undisputably granted to the darker
passions of enmity and resentment; such a philosophy is more like
a satyr than a true delineation or description of human nature;
and may be a good foundation for paradoxical wit and raillery,
but is a very bad one for any serious argument or reasoning.



The intention of this Appendix is to give some more particular
explication of the origin and nature of Justice, and to mark some
differences between it and the other virtues.

The social virtues of humanity and benevolence exert their
influence immediately by a direct tendency or instinct, which
chiefly keeps in view the simple object, moving the affections,
and comprehends not any scheme or system, nor the consequences
resulting from the concurrence, imitation, or example of others.
A parent flies to the relief of his child; transported by that
natural sympathy which actuates him, and which affords no leisure
to reflect on the sentiments or conduct of the rest of mankind in
like circumstances. A generous man cheerfully embraces an
opportunity of serving his friend; because he then feels himself
under the dominion of the beneficent affections, nor is he
concerned whether any other person in the universe were ever
before actuated by such noble motives, or will ever afterwards
prove their influence. In all these cases the social passions
have in view a single individual object, and pursue the safety or
happiness alone of the person loved and esteemed. With this they
are satisfied: in this they acquiesce. And as the good, resulting
from their benign influence, is in itself complete and entire, it
also excites the moral sentiment of approbation, without any
reflection on farther consequences, and without any more enlarged
views of the concurrence or imitation of the other members of
society. On the contrary, were the generous friend or
disinterested patriot to stand alone in the practice of
beneficence, this would rather inhance his value in our eyes, and
join the praise of rarity and novelty to his other more exalted

The case is not the same with the social virtues of justice and
fidelity. They are highly useful, or indeed absolutely necessary
to the well-being of mankind: but the benefit resulting from them
is not the consequence of every individual single act; but arises
from the whole scheme or system concurred in by the whole, or the
greater part of the society. General peace and order are the
attendants of justice or a general abstinence from the
possessions of others; but a particular regard to the particular
right of one individual citizen may frequently, considered in
itself, be productive of pernicious consequences. The result of
the individual acts is here, in many instances, directly opposite
to that of the whole system of actions; and the former may be
extremely hurtful, while the latter is, to the highest degree,
advantageous. Riches, inherited from a parent, are, in a bad
man's hand, the instrument of mischief. The right of succession
may, in one instance, be hurtful. Its benefit arises only from
the observance of the general rule; and it is sufficient, if
compensation be thereby made for all the ills and inconveniences
which flow from particular characters and situations.

Cyrus, young and unexperienced, considered only the individual
case before him, and reflected on a limited fitness and
convenience, when he assigned the long coat to the tall boy, and
the short coat to the other of smaller size. His governor
instructed him better, while he pointed out more enlarged views
and consequences, and informed his pupil of the general,
inflexible rules, necessary to support general peace and order in

The happiness and prosperity of mankind, arising from the social
virtue of benevolence and its subdivisions, may be compared to a
wall, built by many hands, which still rises by each stone that
is heaped upon it, and receives increase proportional to the
diligence and care of each workman. The same happiness, raised by
the social virtue of justice and its subdivisions, may be
compared to the building of a vault, where each individual stone
would, of itself, fall to the ground; nor is the whole fabric
supported but by the mutual assistance and combination of its
corresponding parts.

All the laws of nature, which regulate property, as well as all
civil laws, are general, and regard alone some essential
circumstances of the case, without taking into consideration the
characters, situations, and connexions of the person concerned,
or any particular consequences which may result from the
determination of these laws in any particular case which offers.
They deprive, without scruple, a beneficent man of all his
possessions, if acquired by mistake, without a good title; in
order to bestow them on a selfish miser, who has already heaped
up immense stores of superfluous riches. Public utility requires
that property should be regulated by general inflexible rules;
and though such rules are adopted as best serve the same end of
public utility, it is impossible for them to prevent all
particular hardships, or make beneficial consequences result from
every individual case. It is sufficient, if the whole plan or
scheme be necessary to the support of civil society, and if the
balance of good, in the main, do thereby preponderate much above
that of evil. Even the general laws of the universe, though
planned by infinite wisdom, cannot exclude all evil or
inconvenience in every particular operation.

It has been asserted by some, that justice arises from Human
Conventions, and proceeds from the voluntary choice, consent, or
combination of mankind. If by CONVENTION be here meant a PROMISE
(which is the most usual sense of the word) nothing can be more
absurd than this position. The observance of promises is itself
one of the most considerable parts of justice, and we are not
surely bound to keep our word because we have given our word to
keep it. But if by convention be meant a sense of common
interest, which sense each man feels in his own breast, which he
remarks in his fellows, and which carries him, in concurrence
with others, into a general plan or system of actions, which
tends to public utility; it must be owned, that, in this sense,
justice arises from human conventions. For if it be allowed (what
is, indeed, evident) that the particular consequences of a
particular act of justice may be hurtful to the public as well as
to individuals; it follows that every man, in embracing that
virtue, must have an eye to the whole plan or system, and must
expect the concurrence of his fellows in the same conduct and
behaviour. Did all his views terminate in the consequences of
each act of his own, his benevolence and humanity, as well as his
self-love, might often prescribe to him measures of conduct very
different from those which are agreeable to the strict rules of
right and justice.

Thus, two men pull the oars of a boat by common convention for
common interest, without any promise or contract; thus gold and
silver are made the measures of exchange; thus speech and words
and language are fixed by human convention and agreement.
Whatever is advantageous to two or more persons, if all perform
their part; but what loses all advantage if only one perform, can
arise from no other principle There would otherwise be no motive
for any one of them to enter into that scheme of conduct.

[Footnote: This theory concerning the origin of property, and
consequently of justice, is, in the main, the same with that
hinted at and adopted by Grotius, 'Hinc discimus, quae fuerit
causa, ob quam a primaeva communione rerum primo mobilium, deinde
et immobilinm discessum est: nimirum quod cum non contenti
homines vesci sponte natis, antra habitare, corpore aut nudo
agere, aut corticibus arborum ferarumve pellibus vestito, vitae
genus exquisitius delegissent, industria opus fuit, quam singuli
rebus singulls adhiberent. Quo minus autem fructus in commune
conferrentur, primum obstitit locorum, in quae homines
discesserunt, distantia, deinde justitiae et amoris defectus, per
quem fiebat, ut nee in labore, nee in consumtione fructuum, quae
debebat, aequalitas servaretur. Simul discimus, quomodo res in
proprietatem iverint; non animi actu solo, neque enim scire alii
poterant, quid alil suum esse vellent, ut eo abstinerent, et idem
velle plures poterant; sed pacto quodam aut expresso, ut per
divisionem, aut tacito, ut per occupationem.' De jure belli et
pacis. Lib. ii. cap. 2. sec. 2. art. 4 and 5.]

The word NATURAL is commonly taken in so many senses and is of so
loose a signification, that it seems vain to dispute whether
justice be natural or not. If self-love, if benevolence be
natural to man; if reason and forethought be also natural; then
may the same epithet be applied to justice, order, fidelity,
property, society. Men's inclination, their necessities, lead
them to combine; their understanding and experience tell them
that this combination is impossible where each governs himself by
no rule, and pays no regard to the possessions of others: and
from these passions and reflections conjoined, as soon as we
observe like passions and reflections in others, the sentiment of
justice, throughout all ages, has infallibly and certainly had
place to some degree or other in every individual of the human
species. In so sagacious an animal, what necessarily arises from
the exertion of his intellectual faculties may justly be esteemed

[Footnote: Natural may be opposed, either to what is UNUSUAL,
MIRACULOUS or ARTIFICIAL. In the two former senses, justice and
property are undoubtedly natural. But as they suppose reason,
forethought, design, and a social union and confederacy among
men, perhaps that epithet cannot strictly, in the last sense, be
applied to them. Had men lived without society, property had
never been known, and neither justice nor injustice had ever
existed. But society among human creatures had been impossible
without reason and forethought. Inferior animals, that unite, are
guided by instinct, which supplies the place for reason. But all
these disputes are merely verbal.]

Among all civilized nations it has been the constant endeavour to
remove everything arbitrary and partial from the decision of
property, and to fix the sentence of judges by such general views
and considerations as may be equal to every member of society.
For besides, that nothing could be more dangerous than to
accustom the bench, even in the smallest instance, to regard
private friendship or enmity; it is certain, that men, where they
imagine that there was no other reason for the preference of
their adversary but personal favour, are apt to entertain the
strongest ill-will against the magistrates and judges. When
natural reason, therefore, points out no fixed view of public
utility by which a controversy of property can be decided,
positive laws are often framed to supply its place, and direct
the procedure of all courts of judicature. Where these too fail,
as often happens, precedents are called for; and a former
decision, though given itself without any sufficient reason,
justly becomes a sufficient reason for a new decision. If direct
laws and precedents be wanting, imperfect and indirect ones are
brought in aid; and the controverted case is ranged under them by
analogical reasonings and comparisons, and similitudes, and
correspondencies, which are often more fanciful than real. In
general, it may safely be affirmed that jurisprudence is, in this
respect, different from all the sciences; and that in many of its
nicer questions, there cannot properly be said to be truth or
falsehood on either side. If one pleader bring the case under any
former law or precedent, by a refined analogy or comparison; the
opposite pleader is not at a loss to find an opposite analogy or
comparison: and the preference given by the judge is often
founded more on taste and imagination than on any solid argument.
Public utility is the general object of all courts of judicature;
and this utility too requires a stable rule in all controversies:
but where several rules, nearly equal and indifferent, present
themselves, it is a very slight turn of thought which fixes the
decision in favour of either party.

[Footnote: That there be a separation or distinction of
possessions, and that this separation be steady and constant;
this is absolutely required by the interests of society, and
hence the origin of justice and property. What possessions are
assigned to particular persons; this is, generally speaking,
pretty indifferent; and is often determined by very frivolous
views and considerations. We shall mention a few particulars.

Were a society formed among several independent members, the most
obvious rule, which could be agreed on, would be to annex
property to PRESENT possession, and leave every one a right to
what he at present enjoys. The relation of possession, which
takes place between the person and the object, naturally draws on
the relation of property.

For a like reason, occupation or first possession becomes the
foundation of property.

Where a man bestows labour and industry upon any object, which
before belonged to no body; as in cutting down and shaping a
tree, in cultivating a field, &c., the alterations, which he
produces, causes a relation between him and the object, and
naturally engages us to annex it to him by the new relation of
property. This cause here concurs with the public utility, which
consists in the encouragement given to industry and labour.

Perhaps too, private humanity towards the possessor concurs, in
this instance, with the other motives, and engages us to leave
with him what he has acquired by his sweat and labour; and what
he has flattered himself in the constant enjoyment of. For though
private humanity can, by no means, be the origin of justice;
since the latter virtue so often contradicts the former; yet when
the rule of separate and constant possession is once formed by
the indispensable necessities of society, private humanity, and
an aversion to the doing a hardship to another, may, in a
particular instance, give rise to a particular rule of property.

I am much inclined to think, that the right succession or
inheritance much depends on those connexions of the imagination,
and that the relation to a former proprietor begetting a relation
to the object, is the cause why the property is transferred to a
man after the death of his kinsman. It is true; industry is more
encouraged by the transference of possession to children or near
relations: but this consideration will only have place in a
cultivated society; whereas the right of succession is regarded
even among the greatest Barbarians.

Acquisition of property by accession can be explained no way but
by having recourse to the relations and connexions of the

The property of rivers, by the laws of most nations, and by the
natural turn of our thoughts, is attributed to the proprietors of
their banks, excepting such vast rivers as the Rhine or the
Danube, which seem too large to follow as an accession to the
property of the neighbouring fields. Yet even these rivers are
considered as the property of that nation, through whose
dominions they run; the idea of a nation being of a suitable bulk
to correspond with them, and bear them such a relation in the

The accessions, which are made to land, bordering upon rivers,
follow the land, say the civilians, provided it be made by what
they call alluvion, that is, insensibly and imperceptibly; which
are circumstances, that assist the imagination in the

Where there is any considerable portion torn at once from one
bank and added to another, it becomes not his property, whose
land it falls on, till it unite with the land, and till the trees
and plants have spread their roots into both. Before that, the
thought does not sufficiently join them.

In short, we must ever distinguish between the necessity of a
separation and constancy in men's possession, and the rules,
which assign particular objects to particular persons. The first
necessity is obvious, strong, and invincible: the latter may
depend on a public utility more light and frivolous, on the
sentiment of private humanity and aversion to private hardship,
on positive laws, on precedents, analogies, and very fine
connexions and turns of the imagination.]

We may just observe, before we conclude this subject, that after
the laws of justice are fixed by views of general utility, the
injury, the hardship, the harm, which result to any individual
from a violation of them, enter very much into consideration, and
are a great source of that universal blame which attends every
wrong or iniquity. By the laws of society, this coat, this horse
is mine, and OUGHT to remain perpetually in my possession: I
reckon on the secure enjoyment of it: by depriving me of it, you
disappoint my expectations, and doubly displease me, and offend
every bystander. It is a public wrong, so far as the rules of
equity are violated: it is a private harm, so far as an
individual is injured. And though the second consideration could
have no place, were not the former previously established: for
otherwise the distinction of MINE and THINE would be unknown in
society: yet there is no question but the regard to general good
is much enforced by the respect to particular. What injures the
community, without hurting any individual, is often more lightly
thought of. But where the greatest public wrong is also conjoined
with a considerable private one, no wonder the highest
disapprobation attends so iniquitous a behaviour.



Nothing is more usual than for philosophers to encroach upon the
province of grammarians; and to engage in disputes of words,
while they imagine that they are handling controversies of the
deepest importance and concern. It was in order to avoid
altercations, so frivolous and endless, that I endeavoured to
state with the utmost caution the object of our present enquiry;
and proposed simply to collect, on the one hand, a list of those
mental qualities which are the object of love or esteem, and form
a part of personal merit; and on the other hand, a catalogue of
those qualities which are the object of censure or reproach, and
which detract from the character of the person possessed of them;
subjoining some reflections concerning the origin of these
sentiments of praise or blame. On all occasions, where there
might arise the least hesitation, I avoided the terms VIRTUE and
VICE; because some of those qualities, which I classed among the
objects of praise, receive, in the English language, the
appellation of TALENTS, rather than of virtues; as some of the
blameable or censurable qualities are often called defects,
rather than vices. It may now, perhaps, be expected that before
we conclude this moral enquiry, we should exactly separate the
one from the other; should mark the precise boundaries of virtues
and talents, vices and defects; and should explain the reason and
origin of that distinction. But in order to excuse myself from
this undertaking, which would, at last, prove only a grammatical
enquiry, I shall subjoin the four following reflections, which
shall contain all that I intend to say on the present subject.

First, I do not find that in the English, or any other modern
tongue, the boundaries are exactly fixed between virtues and
talents, vices and defects, or that a precise definition can be
given of the one as contradistinguished from the other. Were we
to say, for instance, that the esteemable qualities alone, which
are voluntary, are entitled to the appellations of virtues; we
should soon recollect the qualities of courage, equanimity,
patience, self-command; with many others, which almost every
language classes under this appellation, though they depend
little or not at all on our choice. Should we affirm that the
qualities alone, which prompt us to act our part in society, are
entitled to that honourable distinction; it must immediately
occur that these are indeed the most valuable qualities, and are
commonly denominated the SOCIAL virtues; but that this very
epithet supposes that there are also virtues of another species.
Should we lay hold of the distinction between INTELLECTUAL and
MORAL endowments, and affirm the last alone to be the real and
genuine virtues, because they alone lead to action; we should
find that many of those qualities, usually called intellectual
virtues, such as prudence, penetration, discernment, discretion,
had also a considerable influence on conduct. The distinction
between the heart and the head may also be adopted: the qualities
of the first may be defined such as in their immediate exertion
are accompanied with a feeling of sentiment; and these alone may
be called the genuine virtues: but industry, frugality,
temperance, secrecy, perseverance, and many other laudable powers
or habits, generally stiled virtues are exerted without any
immediate sentiment in the person possessed of them, and are only
known to him by their effects. It is fortunate, amidst all this
seeming perplexity, that the question, being merely verbal,
cannot possibly be of any importance. A moral, philosophical
discourse needs not enter into all these caprices of language,
which are so variable in different dialects, and in different
ages of the same dialect. But on the whole, it seems to me, that
though it is always allowed, that there are virtues of many
different kinds, yet, when a man is called virtuous, or is
denominated a man of virtue, we chiefly regard his social
qualities, which are, indeed, the most valuable. It is, at the
same time, certain, that any remarkable defect in courage,
temperance, economy, industry, understanding, dignity of mind,
would bereave even a very good-natured, honest man of this
honourable appellation. Who did ever say, except by way of irony,
that such a one was a man of great virtue, but an egregious

But, Secondly, it is no wonder that languages should not be very
precise in marking the boundaries between virtues and talents,
vices and defects; since there is so little distinction made in
our internal estimation of them. It seems indeed certain, that
the SENTIMENT of conscious worth, the self-satisfaction
proceeding from a review of a man's own conduct and character; it
seems certain, I say, that this sentiment, which, though the most
common of all others, has no proper name in our language,

[Footnote: The term, pride, is commonly taken in a bad sense; but
this sentiment seems indifferent, and may be either good or bad,
according as it is well or ill founded, and according to the
other circumstances which accompany it. The French express this
sentiment by the term, AMOUR PROPRE, but as they also express
self-love as well as vanity by the same term, there arises thence
a great confusion in Rochefoucault, and many of their moral

arises from the endowments of courage and capacity, industry and
ingenuity, as well as from any other mental excellencies. Who, on
the other hand, is not deeply mortified with reflecting on his
own folly and dissoluteness, and feels not a secret sting or
compunction whenever his memory presents any past occurrence,
where he behaved with stupidity of ill-manners? No time can
efface the cruel ideas of a man's own foolish conduct, or of
affronts, which cowardice or impudence has brought upon him. They
still haunt his solitary hours, damp his most aspiring thoughts,
and show him, even to himself, in the most contemptible and most
odious colours imaginable.

What is there too we are more anxious to conceal from others than
such blunders, infirmities, and meannesses, or more dread to have
exposed by raillery and satire? And is not the chief object of
vanity, our bravery or learning, our wit or breeding, our
eloquence or address, our taste or abilities? These we display
with care, if not with ostentation; and we commonly show more
ambition of excelling in them, than even in the social virtues
themselves, which are, in reality, of such superior excellence.
Good-nature and honesty, especially the latter, are so
indispensably required, that, though the greatest censure attends
any violation of these duties, no eminent praise follows such
common instances of them, as seem essential to the support of
human society. And hence the reason, in my opinion, why, though
men often extol so liberally the qualities of their heart, they
are shy in commending the endowments of their head: because the
latter virtues, being supposed more rare and extraordinary, are
observed to be the more usual objects of pride and self-conceit;
and when boasted of, beget a strong suspicion of these

It is hard to tell, whether you hurt a man's character most by
calling him a knave or a coward, and whether a beastly glutton or
drunkard be not as odious and contemptible, as a selfish,
ungenerous miser. Give me my choice, and I would rather, for my
own happiness and self-enjoyment, have a friendly, humane heart,
than possess all the other virtues of Demosthenes and Philip
united: but I would rather pass with the world for one endowed
with extensive genius and intrepid courage, and should thence
expect stronger instances of general applause and admiration. The
figure which a man makes in life, the reception which he meets
with in company, the esteem paid him by his acquaintance; all
these advantages depend as much upon his good sense and
judgement, as upon any other part of his character. Had a man the
best intentions in the world, and were the farthest removed from
all injustice and violence, he would never be able to make
himself be much regarded, without a moderate share, at least, of
parts and understanding.

What is it then we can here dispute about? If sense and courage,
temperance and industry, wisdom and knowledge confessedly form a
considerable part of PERSONAL MERIT: if a man, possessed of these
qualities, is both better satisfied with himself, and better
entitled to the good-will, esteem, and services of others, than
one entirely destitute of them; if, in short, the SENTIMENTS are
similar which arise from these endowments and from the social
virtues; is there any reason for being so extremely scrupulous
about a WORD, or disputing whether they be entitled to the
denomination of virtues? It may, indeed, be pretended, that the
sentiment of approbation, which those accomplishments produce,
besides its being INFERIOR, is also somewhat DIFFERENT from that
which attends the virtues of justice and humanity. But this seems
not a sufficient reason for ranking them entirely under different
classes and appellations. The character of Caesar and that of
Cato, as drawn by Sallust, are both of them virtuous, in the
strictest and most limited sense of the word; but in a different
way: nor are the sentiments entirely the same which arise from
them. The one produces love, the other esteem: the one is
amiable, the other awful: we should wish to meet the one
character in a friend; the other we should be ambitious of in
ourselves. In like manner the approbation, which attends
temperance or industry or frugality, may be somewhat different
from that which is paid to the social virtues, without making
them entirely of a different species. And, indeed, we may
observe, that these endowments, more than the other virtues,
produce not, all of them, the same kind of approbation. Good
sense and genius beget esteem and regard: wit and humour excite
love and affection.

[Footnote: Love and esteem are nearly the same passion, and arise
from similar causes. The qualities, which produce both, are such
as communicate pleasures. But where this pleasure is severe and
serious; or where its object is great, and makes a strong
impression, or where it produces any degree of humility and awe;
in all these cases, the passion, which arises from the pleasure,
is more properly denominated esteem than love. Benevolence
attends both; but is connected with love in a more eminent
degree. There seems to be still a stronger mixture of pride in
contempt than of humility in esteem; and the reason would not be
difficulty to one, who studied accurately the passions. All these
various mixtures and compositions and appearances of sentiment
from a very curious subject of speculation, but are wide for our
present purpose. Throughout this enquiry, we always consider in
general, what qualities are a subject of praise or of censure,
without entering into all the minute differences of sentiment,
which they excite. It is evident, that whatever is contemned, is
also disliked, as well as what is hated; and we here endeavour to
take objects, according to their most simple views and
appearances. These sciences are but too apt to appear abstract to
common readers, even with all the precautions which we can take
to clear them from superfluous speculations, and bring them down
to every capacity.]

Most people, I believe, will naturally, without premeditation,
assent to the definition of the elegant and judicious poet:

Virtue (for mere good-nature is a fool)
Is sense and spirit with humanity.

[Footnote: The Art of preserving Health. Book 4]

What pretensions has a man to our generous assistance or good
offices, who has dissipated his wealth in profuse expenses, idle
vanities, chimerical projects, dissolute pleasures or extravagant
gaming? These vices (for we scruple not to call them such) bring
misery unpitied, and contempt on every one addicted to them.

Achaeus, a wise and prudent prince, fell into a fatal snare,
which cost him his crown and life, after having used every
reasonable precaution to guard himself against it. On that
account, says the historian, he is a just object of regard and
compassion: his betrayers alone of hatred and contempt [Footnote:
Polybius, lib. iii. cap. 2].

The precipitate flight and improvident negligence of Pompey, at
the beginning of the civil wars, appeared such notorious blunders
to Cicero, as quite palled his friendship towards that great man.
In the same manner, says he, as want of cleanliness, decency, or
discretion in a mistress are found to alienate our affections.
For so he expresses himself, where he talks, not in the character
of a philosopher, but in that of a statesman and man of the
world, to his friend Atticus. [Lib. ix. epist. 10]. But the same
Cicero, in imitation of all the ancient moralists, when he
reasons as a philosopher, enlarges very much his ideas of virtue,
and comprehends every laudable quality or endowment of the mind,
under that honourable appellation. This leads to the THIRD
reflection, which we proposed to make, to wit, that the ancient
moralists, the best models, made no material distinction among
the different species of mental endowments and defects, but
treated all alike under the appellation of virtues and vices, and
made them indiscriminately the object of their moral reasonings.
The prudence explained in Cicero's Offices [Footnote: Lib. i.
cap. 6.] is that sagacity, which leads to the discovery of truth,
and preserves us from error and mistake. MAGNANIMITY, TEMPERANCE,
DECENCY, are there also at large discoursed of. And as that
eloquent moralist followed the common received division of the
four cardinal virtues, our social duties form but one head, in
the general distribution of his subject.

[Footnote: The following passage of Cicero is worth quoting, as
being the most clear and express to our purpose, that any thing
can be imagined, and, in a dispute, which is chiefly verbal,
must, on account of the author, carry an authority, from which
there can be no appeal.

'Virtus autem, quae est per se ipsa laudabilis, et sine qua
nihil laudari potest, tamen habet plures partes, quarum alia est
alia ad laudationem aptior. Sunt enim aliae virtutes, quae
videntur in moribus hominum, et quadam comitate ac beneficentia
positae: aliae quae in ingenii aliqua facultate, aut animi
magnitudine ac robore. Nam clementia, justitia, benignitas,
fides, fortitudo in periculis communibus, jucunda est auditu in
laudationibus. Omnes enim hae virtutes non tam ipsis, qui eas in
se habent, quam generi hominum fructuosae putantur. Sapientia et
magnitude animi, qua omnes res humanae tenues et pro nihilo
putantur, et in cogitando vis quaedam ingenii, et ipsa eloquentia
admirationis habet non minus, jucunditatis minus. Ipsos enim
magis videntur, quos laudamus, quam illos, apud quos laudamus
ornare ac tueri: sed tamen in laudenda jungenda sunt eliam haec
genera virtutum. Ferunt enim aures bominum, cum ilia quae jucunda
et grata, tum etiam ilia, quae mirabilia sunt in virtute,
laudari.' De orat. lib. ii. cap. 84.

I suppose, if Cicero were now alive, it would be found difficult
to fetter his moral sentiments by narrow systems; or persuade
him, that no qualities were to be admitted as virtues, or
acknowledged to be a part of PERSONAL MERIT, but what were
recommended by The Whole Duty of Man.]

We need only peruse the titles of chapters in Aristotle's Ethics
to be convinced that he ranks courage, temperance, magnificence,
magnanimity, modesty, prudence, and a manly openness, among the
virtues, as well as justice and friendship.

To SUSTAIN and to ABSTAIN, that is, to be patient and continent,
appeared to some of the ancients a summary comprehension of all

Epictetus has scarcely ever mentioned the sentiment of humanity
and compassion, but in order to put his disciples on their guard
against it. The virtue of the Stoics seems to consist chiefly in
a firm temper and a sound understanding. With them, as with
Solomon and the eastern moralists, folly and wisdom are
equivalent to vice and virtue.

Men will praise thee, says David, [Footnote: Psalm 49th.] when
thou dost well unto thyself. I hate a wise man, says the Greek
poet, who is not wise to himself [Footnote: Here, Hume quotes
Euripedes in Greek]. Plutarch is no more cramped by systems in
his philosophy than in his history. Where he compares the great
men of Greece and Rome, he fairly sets in opposition all their
blemishes and accomplishments of whatever kind, and omits nothing
considerable, which can either depress or exalt their characters.
His moral discourses contain the same free and natural censure of
men and manners.

The character of Hannibal, as drawn by Livy, [Footnote: Lib. xxi.
cap. 4] is esteemed partial, but allows him many eminent virtues.
Never was there a genius, says the historian, more equally fitted
for those opposite offices of commanding and obeying; and it
were, therefore, difficult to determine whether he rendered
himself DEARER to the general or to the army. To none would
Hasdrubal entrust more willingly the conduct of any dangerous
enterprize; under none did the soldiers discover more courage and
confidence. Great boldness in facing danger; great prudence in
the midst of it. No labour could fatigue his body or subdue his
mind. Cold and heat were indifferent to him: meat and drink he
sought as supplies to the necessities of nature, not as
gratifications of his voluptuous appetites. Waking or rest he
used indiscriminately, by night or by day.--These great Virtues
were balanced by great Vices; inhuman cruelty; perfidy more than
punic; no truth, no faith, no regard to oaths, promises, or

The character of Alexander the Sixth, to be found in Guicciardin,
[Footnote: Lib. i.] is pretty similar, but juster; and is a proof
that even the moderns, where they speak naturally, hold the same
language with the ancients. In this pope, says he, there was a
singular capacity and judgement: admirable prudence; a wonderful
talent of persuasion; and in all momentous enterprizes a
diligence and dexterity incredible. But these VIRTUES were
infinitely overbalanced by his VICES; no faith, no religion,
insatiable avarice, exorbitant ambition, and a more than
barbarous cruelty.

Polybius, [Footnote: Lib. xii.] reprehending Timaeus for his
partiality against Agathocles, whom he himself allows to be the
most cruel and impious of all tyrants, says: if he took refuge in
Syracuse, as asserted by that historian, flying the dirt and
smoke and toil of his former profession of a potter; and if
proceeding from such slender beginnings, he became master, in a
little time, of all Sicily; brought the Carthaginian state into
the utmost danger; and at last died in old age, and in possession
of sovereign dignity: must he not be allowed something prodigious
and extraordinary, and to have possessed great talents and
capacity for business and action? His historian, therefore, ought
not to have alone related what tended to his reproach and infamy;
but also what might redound to his Praise and Honour.

In general, we may observe, that the distinction of voluntary or
involuntary was little regarded by the ancients in their moral
reasonings; where they frequently treated the question as very
Menone, Seneca de otio sap. cap. 31. So also Horace, Virtutem
doctrina paret, naturane donet, Epist. lib. I. ep. 18. Aeschines
Socraticus, Dial. I.]? They justly considered that cowardice,
meanness, levity, anxiety, impatience, folly, and many other
qualities of the mind, might appear ridiculous and deformed,
contemptible and odious, though independent of the will. Nor
could it be supposed, at all times, in every man's power to
attain every kind of mental more than of exterior beauty.

And here there occurs the FOURTH reflection which I purposed to
make, in suggesting the reason why modern philosophers have often
followed a course in their moral enquiries so different from that
of the ancients. In later times, philosophy of all kinds,
especially ethics, have been more closely united with theology
than ever they were observed to be among the heathens; and as
this latter science admits of no terms of composition, but bends
every branch of knowledge to its own purpose, without much regard
to the phenomena of nature, or to the unbiassed sentiments of the
mind, hence reasoning, and even language, have been warped from
their natural course, and distinctions have been endeavoured to
be established where the difference of the objects was, in a
manner, imperceptible. Philosophers, or rather divines under that
disguise, treating all morals as on a like footing with civil
laws, guarded by the sanctions of reward and punishment, were
necessarily led to render this circumstance, of VOLUNTARY or
INVOLUNTARY, the foundation of their whole theory. Every one may
employ TERMS in what sense he pleases: but this, in the mean
time, must be allowed, that SENTIMENTS are every day experienced
of blame and praise, which have objects beyond the dominion of
the will or choice, and of which it behoves us, if not as
moralists, as speculative philosophers at least, to give some
satisfactory theory and explication.

A blemish, a fault, a vice, a crime; these expressions seem to
denote different degrees of censure and disapprobation; which
are, however, all of them, at the bottom, pretty nearly all the
same kind of species. The explication of one will easily lead us
into a just conception of the others; and it is of greater
consequence to attend to things than to verbal appellations. That
we owe a duty to ourselves is confessed even in the most vulgar
system of morals; and it must be of consequence to examine that
duty, in order to see whether it bears any affinity to that which
we owe to society. It is probable that the approbation attending
the observance of both is of a similar nature, and arises from
similar principles, whatever appellation we may give to either of
these excellencies.

End of Project Gutenberg's An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
by David Hume

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