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the cautious reserve of some, from whose friendship I should have expected a more encouraging reception, is a gratification, to which I cannot be insensible: yet the predominant effect upon my mind has been depression, rather than elation. * How is this? Opposition and in
happiness, as to approve whatever promoted, and blame whatever obstructed that end, reason could no more excite these emotions from such tendencies, than Euclid could inflame me with love for a triangle, or aversion to a circle, from the remotest of their geometrical relations. The very theory, which places virtue in utility, presumes on a general affection for the general good, (which is the end of utility,) or it would not otherwise be of power to delude the public for a moment. If Mr. Godwin, who has discreetly passed over this high matter in silence, relying on an internal sentiment thus existing in his favour, if Mr. Godwin can shew me any reason, not founded on a feeling independent of all argument, why I should abstractedly prefer the production of good to the production of evil — erit mihi magnus Apollo ; and I will subscribe to his dogmas as oracles tomorrow.
“ Holding this to be utterly impossible; and assuming that our moral sentiments, as original principles of action, operating through an affection of the mind, must proceed from some cause distinct from reason, and adapted to that effect, where, let me ask, are we
[* Whether the one effect or the other would be produced in such a case, would depend entirely on the disposition of the person, to whom the praise was addressed; and I am rather surprised that a man of such philosophical reflection, as Mr. Green exhibited, should not have perceived that the effect would be different on minds of different construction. Mr. Green was a modest, reserved, retired, pensive, and somewhat timid man; and was therefore very likely to suffer the depression, which he describes. Dr. Parr, through Lord Chedworth, expressed a desire, and intimated an intention of visiting Mr. Green at his residence. Had such a desire been expressed, and such an intention intimated to any other scholar, or to scholars in general, the effect on their
dignity, I believe, have a natural tendency to rouse, contlense, and invigorate; excessive favor and commendation to dissipate, relax, and enfeeble our energies and spirits. When stung with neglect, or galled by injuries, the mind, bent back
upon itself, and driven to its own resources for
to look for this cause, but in the immediate objects in which and on which it acts; in the qualities, which strike us as moral or immoral, and in the acknowledged properties of the human mind. To deduce these sentiments from a general sentiment,(for to some sentiment we must at last recur,) in favour of their ultimate end, is perfectly preposterous. The greater part of our moral sentiments are not resolvable into any such sentiment at all, general or particular; and of those, which seem so, the particular must have conducted to the general sentiment, and cannot be derived from it. We might as well affirm, that particular objects struck us as beautiful, from a reference to some abstract idea of universal beauty, as that particular acts of beneficence excited our approbation, from our general approbation of beneficence. Particular objects must have struck us as beautiful, before we had ascertained the general properties, in which beauty consists: particular actions must have excited our approbation as beneficent, before we had formed a notion of beneficence in the abstract.
If you ask me, after this, from whence I derive our moral sen
minds would have been exhilarating — they would have rejoiced with exceeding joyfulness at the thoughts of welcoming such a venerable guest. But the effect on Mr. Green's mind was the very reverse of delight - he was distressed beyond measure - he knew not how he was to conduct himself towards such a guest he was puzzled how he could best entertain him, and what sort of company he could invite to meet him — all was difficulty and tribulation, doubt and hesitation, puzzle and vexation, helplessness and confusion, fearfulness and consternation; and thus the intended visit was never paid by Dr. Parr.
If the general effect of praise, whether appropriate or excessive, were rather depressing than exhilarating, what would become of
support, collects its scattered strength, fastens on whatever is excellent in its faculties or achievements, and dilates with conscious pride*:— when hailed with eulogy, which we are sensible far exceeds our deserts, after the first throbbings have subsided, all our defects and infirmities
timents, in what I place the efficient cause of moral distinction, I do not hesitate to refer you to the account of these sentiments by Adam Smith; not as adopting all his inferences with unqualified assent, nor as supposing that he has exhausted a subject productive, in its nature, to the power of the searcher; but from a firm and rooted conviction, that he has opened and explored the only quarry, from which any solid conclusion on the subject will ever be deduced. Passing over all speculations on the relative properties or ultimate tendency of moral qualities, as totally incompetent to form such impressions, and disdaining the clumsy artifice of a moral sense peculiarly adapted to receive them, he has looked for our moral sentiments in the acknowledged properties of the objects we regard as moral or immoral, acting on the acknowledged properties of the mind of man and he has found them there. His solution, as far as I know, has never been contested; and, if its influence has not been adequate to its merits, it is imputable to our being but little interested in the origin of principles, which operate independently of all our speculations about
youthful ambition? No man ever heard of any boy at school finding his generous ardour repressed by the great praises, which the master had bestowed on some particular compositions ; the contrary the noble-minded youth tries to improve on his past performances, to excel himself, to become entitled to yet higher praise, and to reach the perfection of that model, which is set be
[* This observation is perfectly just, and we may instance in confirmation of it Lowth's Letter to Warburton, Bentley's Dissertation on Phalaris, Parr's Dedication to Hurd, and many other controversial pieces written in self-defence, and constituting the most finished compositions of their respective writers. E. H. B.]
rise up in appalling array before the judgment; and the heart, sickening at the spectacle, sinks in despondency within us. Such, I should suppose, would be the general feeling, except with very superior minds, who are above all disturbance from such causes; or with those
them. We consider such enquiries as at best but matters of curious research. Burke, who with far greater powers, has explored an analogous subject, and developed the sources of the sublime and beautiful, has perhaps been still less efficacious. What effect, indeed, would we require from such works? The object of these writers has not been presumptuously to lay down new laws of their own, for the direction of our taste and the regulation of our conduct; but carefully to investigate the processes, which nature has adopted for this purpose: and it is not till we are staggered, perplexed, and disgusted, by mischievous and phantastic theories, spun out of false principles, that we resort with a genuine relish to the true. If you should read the work I have quoted, after the perusal of this Letter, you will feel, I think, the full force of this observation.
“Nothing can be better founded than the principle of the theory there stated, or more natural and satisfactory than the solution it affords. It places the grounds of our moral approbation and our blame, not in a painful scrutiny into the consequenccs of actions,
fore him in reality, or strongly pictured in his mind.
I well remember that the praises, which Dr. Parr bestowed on my diligence, accuracy, and learning, such as it was, had an encouraging, and not a depressing effect ; and in many instances his well-directed praises of useful and valuable works promoted further and higher exertions in the delighted authors, who had perhaps no personal claims to his notice.
Dr. Parr was not the only great man, who discerned the merit of Mr. Green as a philosopher. “Mr. Green was higldy gratified," says his biographer p. 63,“ by the warm approbation bestowed upon it by those, whose judgment he most valued ; and, in an especial manner, by the commendation of that candid and en
happily-gifted beings, those fools of fortune, provoking rather our spleen than our envy, who enjoy the blessing of self-satisfaction and complacency, and, as they are completely callous from vanity to censure, are enabled by the same principle to swallow, without being cloyed, any measure of praise.” P. 161.*
which we rarely regard, and which it is an effort to pursue, but in the sentiments and passions from whence they spring, and which they kindle ; affections, which touch us by an involuntary sympathy, and find an echo in every breast. We enter into the feelings of those around us — without this their conduct could operate upon us no otherwise than if they were mere automata. We enter thus into their feelings, because, as susceptible of the same impressions ourselves, the occasion immediately suggests how we should feel so circumstanced. No ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco, is the language of poetry and truth, and applicable to every sympathy, as well as to compassion. When the feelings of others are found, on this suggestion, in concord with our own, they touch us with delight, and excite our approbation; when otherwise, they affect us with disgust, and provoke our censure. Had we been so constituted, accordingly, as to feel for others as acutely as they feel for themselves, our approbation would have been indiscriminate; all conduct would have affected us alike; and no such consequence as moral distinction could possibly have
lightened scholar, Dugald Stewart, conveyed to him in a very Aattering Letter soon after its appearance. Praise from such a quarter Mr. Green estimated highly as it deserved ; nor do I think there existed any one, whose testimonial of applause could be, in his estimation, of greater or more intrinsic worth.” According to Mr. Green's theory, this Letter, if it exhilarated him at first, ong!it to have soon produced a depressing effect; and about such an affect the biographer is silent. E. H. B.]
In the Bibl. Parr. 653, under the title of this tract, Mr. Green is termed “ a sensible man.” “ Among the academics, who, during