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I perceive that your reasoning is conclusive, but I am not affected by it. Why? I have no passion for the object. I am indifferent whether 1 procure it or not. You have demonstrated that such a step will mortify my enemy. I believe it; but I have no resentment, and will not trouble myself to give pain to another. Your arguments evince that it would gratify my vanity. But I prefer my ease. sion is the mover to action, reason is the guide. Good is the object of the will, truth is the object of the understanding. *
* Several causes have contributed to involve this subject in confusion. One is the ambiguity and imperfection of language. Motives are often called arguments, and both motives and arguments are promiscuously sty. led reasons. Another is, the idle disputes that have arisen among philosophers concerning the nature of good, both physical and moral. “Truth and good are one,” says the author of the Pleasures of Imagination, an author whose poetical merit will not be questioned by persons of taste. The expression nright have been passed in the poet, whose right to the use of catachresis, one of the many privileges comprehended under the name poetic license, preseription hath fully established. But by philosophizing on this passage in his notes, he warrants us to canvass his reasoning, for no such privilege hath as yet been conceded to philosophers. Indeed, in attempting to illustrate, he has, I think, confuted it, or, to speak more properly, shown it to have no meaning. He mentions two opinions concerning the connex. ion of truth and beauty, which is one species of good. “Some philosophers,” says he, "assert an independent and invariable law in Nature, in consequence of which all rational beings must alike perceive beauty in some certain proportions, and deformity in the contrary.” Now, though I do not conceive what is meant either by independent law or by contrary proportions, this, if it proves anything, proves as clearly that deformity and truth are one, as that beauty and truth are one; for those contrary proportions are surely as much proportions, or, if you will, as true proportions, as some certain proportions are. Accordingly, is, in the conclusion deduced, you put the word deformity instead of beauty, and the word beauty instead of defor. mity, the sense will be equally complete. “Others,” he adds, “there are, who believe beauty to be merely a relative and arbitrary thing; and that it is not impossible, in a physical sense, that two beings of equal capacities for truth should perceive, one of them beauty, and the other deformity, in the same relations. And upon this supposition, by that truth which is always connected with beauty, nothing more can be meant than the conformity of any object to those proportions, upon which, after careful examination, the beauty of that species is found to depend." This opinion, if I am able to comprehend it differs only in one point from the preceding. It supposes the standard or law of beauty not invariable and universal. It is liable to the same objection, and that rather more glaringly; for if the same relations must be always equally true relations, deformity is as really one with truth as beauty is, since the very same relations can exhibit both appearances. In short, no hypothesis hitherto invented hath shown that by means of the discursive faculty, without the aid of any other mental power, we could ever obtain a notion of either the beautiful or the good; and till this be shown, nothing is shown to the purpose. The author aforesaid, far from attempting this, proceeds on the supposition that we first perceive beauty, he says not how, and then, having by a careful examination discovered the proportions which gave rise to the perception, denominate them true ; so that all those elaborate disquisitions with which we are amused amount only to a few insignificant identical propositions very improperly expressed. For out of a vast profusion of learned phrases, this is all the informatiria we can pick, that “ Beauty is—truly beautv," and that “Good
It may be thought that when the motive is the equity, tho generosity, or the intrinsic merit of the action recommended, argument may be employed to evince the reasonableness of the end, as well as the fitness of the means.
But this way of speaking suits better the popular dialect than the philosophical. The term reasonableness, when used in this manner, means nothing but the goodness, the amiableness, or moral excellence. If, therefore, the hearer hath no love of justice, no benevolence, no regard to right, although he were endowed with the perspicacity of a cherub, your harangue could never have any influence on his mind. The reason is, when you speak of the fitness of the means, you address, yourself only the head; when you speak of the goodness of the end, you address yourself to the heart, of which we supposed him destitute. Are we, then, to class. the virtues among the passions ? By no means. But without entering into a discussion of the difference, which would be foreign to our purpose, let it suffice to observe, that they have this in common with passion. They necessarily imply an habitual propensity to a certain species of conduct, an habitual aversion to the contrary; a veneration for such a character, an abhorrence of such another. They are, therefore, though is-truly good.” “Moral good,” says a celebrated writer, “consisteth in fitness." From this account, any person would at first really conclude that morals, according to him, are not concerned in the ends which we pursue, but solely in the choice of means for attaining our ends; that if this choice be judicious, the conduct is moral ; if injudicious, the contrary. But this truly pious author is far from admitting such an interpretation of his words. Fitness, in his sense, hath no relation to a farther end. It is an absolute fitness, a fitness in itself. We are obliged to ask, What, then, is that fitness which you call absolute ? For the application of the word in every other case invariably implying the proper direction of means to an end, far from affording light to the meaning it has here, tends directly to mislead us. The only answer, as far as I can learn, that hath ever been given to this question, is neither more nor less than this, “ That alone is absolutely fit which is morally good ;" so that in saying moral good consisteth in fitness, no more is meant than that it consisteth in moral good. Another moralist appears who hath made a most wonderful discovery. It is, that there is not a vice in the world but lying, and that acting virtuously in any situation is but one way or other of telling truth. When this curious theory comes to be explained, we find the practical lie results solely from acting contrary to what those moral sentiments dictate, which, instead of deducing, he everywhere presupposeth to be known and acknowledged by us. Thus he reasons perpetually in a circle, and without advancing a single step beyond it, makes the same things both causes and effects reciprocally. Conduct appears to be false for no other reason but because it is immoral, and immoral for no other reason but because it is false. Such philosophy would not have been unworthy those profound ontologists who have blessed the world with the discovery that “One being is but one being,” that “A being is truly a being,” and that “Every being has all the properties that it has," and who, to the unspeakable increase of useful knowledge, have denominated these the general attributes of being, and distinguished them by the titles unity, truth, and goodness This, if it be anything, is the very sublimate of science.
not passions, so closely related to them, that they are properly considered as motives to action, being equally capable of giving an impulse to the will. The difference is akin to that, if not the same, which rhetoricians observe between pathos and ethos, passion and disposition.* Accordingly, what is addressed solely to the moral powers of the mind, is not so properly denominated the pathetic as the sentimental. The term, I own, is rather modern, but is nevertheless convenient, as it fills a vacant room, and doth not, like most of our newfangled words, justle out older and wortheir occupants, to the no small detriment of the language. It occupies, so to speak, the middle place between the pathetic and that which is addressed to the imagination, and partakes of both, adding to the warmth of the former the grace and attractions of the latter.
Now the principal questions on this subject are these two: How is a passion or disposition that is favourable to the design of the orator to be excited in the hearers? How is an unfavourable passion or disposition to be calmed? As to the first, it was said already in general, that passion must be awakened by communicating lively ideas of the object. The reason will be obvious from the following remarks : A passion is most strongly excited by sensation. The sight of danger, immediate or near, instantly rouseth fear; the feeling of an injury, and the presence of the injurer, in a moment kindle anger. Next to the influence of sense is that of mem. ory, the effect of which upon passion, if the fact be recent, and remembered distinctly and circumstantially, is almost equal. Next to the influence of memory is that of imagination, by which is here solely meant the faculty of apprehending what is neither perceived by the senses nor remembered. Now, as it is this power of which the orator must chiefly avail himself, it is proper to inquire what these circumstances are which will make the ideas he summons up in the imaginations of his hearers resemble, in lustre and steadiness, those of sensation and remembrance ; for the same circumstances will infallibly make them resemble also in their effects; that is, in the influence they will have upon the passions and affections of the heart.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ARE CHIEFLY INSTRUMENTAL IN OPERATING
ON THE PASSIONS.
These are perhaps all reducible to the seven following:
* This seems to have been the sense which Quintilian had of the difference between malos and ndos, when he gave umor for an example of the first, and charitas of the second. The word noos is also sometimes used for moral sentiment.-- Inst., l. vi, c. ii.
probability, plausibility, importance, proximity of time, connexion of place, relation of the actors or sufferers to the hear ers or speaker, interest of the hearers or speaker in the consequences.*
PART I. Probability. The first is probability, which is now considered only as an expedient for enlivening passion. Here again there is commonly scope for argument.f Probability results from evidence, and begets belief. Belief invigorates our ideas. Belief raised to the highest becomes certainty. Certainty flows either from the force of the evidence, real or apparent, that is produced; or without any evidence produced by the speaker, from the previous notoriety of the fact. If the fact be notorious, it will not only be superfluous in the speaker to attempt to prove it, but it will be pernicious to his design. The reason is plain. By proving, he supposeth it questionable, and by supposing, actually renders it so to his audience: he brings them from viewing it in the stronger light of certainty, to view it in the weaker light of probability : in lieu of sunshine he gives them twilight. Of the different means and kinds of probation I have spoken already.
Part II. Plausibility, The second circumstance is plausibility, a thing totally distinct from the former, as having an effect upon the mind quite independent of faith or probability. It ariseth chiefly from the consistency of the narration, from its being what is commonly called natural and feasible. This the French critics have aptly enough denominated in their language vraisemblance, the English critics more improperly in theirs probability. In order to avoid the manifest ambiguity there is in this application of the word, it had been better to retain the word verisimilitude, now almost obsolete. That there is a relation between those two qualities must, notwithstanding, be admitted. This, however, is an additional reason for assigning them different names. An homonymous term, whose differing significations have no affinity to one another, is very seldom liable to be misunderstood.
* I am not quite positive as to the accuracy of this enumeration, and shall therefore freely permit my learned and ingenious friend, Dr. Reid, to annex the et cætera he proposes in such cases, in order to supply all defects. See Sketches of the History of Man. b. iii., sk. i., Appendix, c. ii., sect. ii.
+ In the judiciary orations of the ancients, this was the principal scope for argument. That to condemn the guilty and acquit the innocent would gratify their indignation against the injurious, and their love of right was too manifest to require a proof. The fact that there was guilt in the prisoner, or that there was innocence, did require it. It was otherwise in deliberative orations, as the conduct recommended was more remotely connected with the emotions raised.
But as to the nature and extent of this relation, let it be observed, that the want of plausibility implies an internal improbability, which it will require the stronger external evidence to surmount. Nevertheless, the implausibility may be surmounted by such evidence, and we may be fully ascertained of what is in itself exceedingly implausible. Implausibility is, in a certain degree, positive evidence against a narrative, whereas plausibility implies no positive evidence for it. We know that fiction may be as plausible as truth. A narration may be possessed of this quality in the highest degree, which we not only regard as improbable, but know to be false. Probability is a light darted on the object from the proofs, which for this reason are pertinently enough styled evidence. Plausibility is a native lustre issuing directly from the object. The former is the aim of the historian, the latter of the poet. That every one may be satisfied that the second is generally not inferior to the first in its influence on the mind, we need but appeal to the effects of tragedy, of epic, and even of romance, which, in its principal characters, participates of the nature of poesy, though written in prose.
It deserves, however, to be remarked, that though plausibility alone hath often greater efficacy in rousing the passions than probability or even certainty, yet in any species of composition wherein truth, or at least probability, is expected, the mind quickly nauseates the most plausible tale which is unsupported by proper arguments. For this reason, it is the business of the orator, as much as his subject will permit, to avail himself of both qualities. There is one case, and but one, in which plausibility itself may be dispensed with; that is, when the fact is so incontestable that it is impossible to entertain a doubt of it; for when implausibility is incapable of impairing belief, it hath sometimes, especially in forensic causes, even a good effect. By presenting us with something monstrous in its kind, it raises astonishment, and thereby heightens every passion which the narrative is fitted to excite.
But to return to the explication of this quality. When I explained the nature of experience, I showed that it consisteth of all the general truths collected from particular facts remembered; the mind forming to itself often insensibly, and, as it were, mechanically, certain maxims, from comparing, or, rather, associating the similar circumstances of different incidents.* Hence it is that when a number of ideas relating to any fact or event are successfully introduced into my mind by a speaker, if the train he deduceth coincide with the general current of my experience, if in nothing it thwart those conclusions and anticipations which are become habitual to me, my mind accompanies him with facility, glides along
* Chap. v., sect. ii., part ii.