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fituations are equal; and, that the perfect man would be equally PART II. happy in the bull of Phalaris, as on a bed of rofes.
SECT. VI. v
Fortitude, of a very inferior measure to this, is furely a valuable quality; but, in whatever measure or degree a wife man poffefs it, he will not, without neceffity, or fome adequate inducement, run himself into fufferings of any fort. Such pain or inconvenience, as he has actually incurred, he will be happy to endure, without repining at providence, or intermitting the exercife of his mind and his faculties. If he be in profperity, he will think the happy part committed to his choice is moderation, equanimity, and beneficence; if, in adversity, the fame virtues ftill remain to be exercised in the manner which the occafion prescribes.
Of the actual Meafures and Sources of Good and Evil in human Life.
PART II. THE value of virtue, as we have endeavoured to define it, will not be questioned: For who can doubt the value of a wisdom, which cannot err; of a temper, which is ever joyful and ferene, in its exertions for the good of mankind; of a temperance, which no allurement of false pleasure can mislead; or, of a fortitude, which no difficulty or danger can embarrass or appal? This, we may be told, is first to imagine perfect happiness, and then to give it the name of virtue; whilst the whole is ideal, and never realized in the cafe of any human creature.
Such, indeed, is the nature of abstract science, we systematize our own thoughts, leaving the application to be separately made. On the fubject of morals, more especially, we propofe to inquire, not what men actually are; but what they ought to be, or what are the ideas, upon which they may, and ought to determine their choice in particular instances. But, although this be a fufficient answer to the objection which is fometimes made to moral
CHAP. I. SECT. VII.
science, as a scheme of vifionary and unattainable perfection. It PART II. may not be improper to confider what are termed virtues and vices. in the minds of ordinary men; with their various degrees and occafions, in order to fhew that there is not any intention to obtrude definitions and divifions for hiftorical facts; and even, that the impracticability of perfect virtue is no reafon why we fhould abate our endeavours to do well. Perfection is ever to be aimed at, even by those who incur defects; and defects always to be shunned, even by those who come the fartheft fhort of perfection. If the moralist is not to enjoin perfection, he must do, what of all things is most contrary to reafon, recommend defects. The conditions. of men are extremely unequal; yet, no one is fo high in the fcale of being, as that he may not move a step higher, and no one fo low, as that he of advancement. way may not get into the Although he may not attain to all the perfections of the wife as defcribed in any of the antient fects of philofophy; yet he may not incur all the mistakes of the foolish, and the fewer the better. Happiness, it fhould feem from the obfervations of the last and fome of the preceding fections, is a term of praise equivalent to merit, and confifting in the uniform tenor of a virtuous life: But, as honefty confifts in meaning well, it fhould alfo feem that happiness is within the competence of every human creature: Whence is it, then, in any inftance fo imperfectly obtained? And whence is it, that fo many complain it is placed beyond their reach? They furely do not confider it as an attribute of their own will and affections..
Men of fpeculation have rifked a conjecture, that all the difference of genius or character, which have appeared in the world.
Laudandaque velle fit fatis.
CHAP. I. SECT. VII.
may be traced to fome cafual fuggeftion of fentiment or thought; or to fome specific occafion, that stirred the peculiar paffion, and roufed the original effort, which, continued into habit, gave the individual his bias to a distinguishing caft of genius or character through life t. But, without pretending, in this manner, to level the original diftinctions of nature, we may venture to affume, that men are much affected by early impreffions; and continue to take much of their characters from the notions they entertain, and the habits of thinking they have acquired.
As we may know what a person thinks from his actions, fo we may guefs how a perfon will act, from our knowledge of his habitual ways of thinking, let it be conceived, that to live virtuously is to be happy, that to have an evil or malicious thought is mifery; and let these ideas be ever present to the mind, as the idea of his treasure is ever present to the mifer, or the importance of his own person is ever prefent to the coxcomb; and the apprehenfion of a happiness fo conftituted, will amount to a steady principle of integrity and beneficence; as their respective habits of thinking are, to the mifer, and the coxcomb, the effence of avarice, impertinence, and folly.
Self-conceit must appear in oftentation, or in a continual obtrufion on the notice of other men. The admiration of birth and fortune, in one clafs of men, may betray itself in pride and contemptuousness, in another class, may appear equally in envy and malice, or in fervility or meannefs. The temper alfo re-acts upon the judgement. The chearful are inclined to think of gay fubjects; the melancholy, to entertain gloomy apprehenfions of things; as
+ Helvetius de L' Efprit.
the courageous are inclined to confide in their fellow creatures, PART. II. CHAP. I. and the cowardly are inclined to distrust them. SECT. VII.
We are difpofed towards the objects around us, either as the other animals are difpofed towards the objects of fenfe, by an original instinct, or blind propenfity of nature, or by a relation, peculiar to intelligent being, that of the conception we have formed, or the habit of thinking we have acquired.
Such is the foil, in which the moralist is destined to fow, to plant, and to make his trial of what can be reaped; without being discouraged, because the full bloom of terrestrial paradise is not every where, or perhaps not any where, to be seen on the earth; and the fairest fruits come, mixed with the noisome productions of the wilderness.
Moral science operates for our good, only by mending our conceptions of things, and correcting or preventing the errors from which moral depravity or mifery proceeds. The very appellation of good, though no more than a name habitually bestowed upon its subject, has great effect, on particular occafions, in warping the judgement, and in directing the choice. It was for this reason, probably, that philofophers of old appeared fo anxious to fix the application of terms, as well as to store the mind, with just conceptions. They proposed, that the first principle of morality should eradicate every false apprehenfion on the subject of good and evil; and fo become fufficient to give a just direction to the will and affections, wherever they proceed on the pre-conceived notion of things.
Epictetus feems to rest the foundations of virtue and happiness on the proper difcernment and choice of objects, which are in VOL. II.