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An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals by David Hume

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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.

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