Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

so unable to govern themselves as they appear to be: but, where passion is new, it is unsuspected, unaccustomed to any check, and much more likely to hurry on to excesses, because its excesses are not feared, and hardly known. There is a certain analogy to this in drunkenness. Profest regular drunkards, preserve a certain glimmering of reason, and are seldom very extravagant in their behaviour: drunkenness in a person unaccustomed to it is often perfect madness.

Such are a few of the most striking phenomena of the passions, which move the world, and make up the secret life and inward existence of man; for what we do see and know with certainty of any human creature, is, whether he is lodged in marble or in clay, - whether down or straw is his bed, - whether he is clothed in the purple of the world, or moulders in rags. The inward world, the man within the breast, the dominion of thought, the region of passion, — all this we cannot penetrate: we can never tell how a kind and benevolent heart, can cheer a desperate fortune; the comfort which the lowest man may feel in a spotless mind, - the firmness which a man derives from loving justice, — the glory with which he rebukes the bad emotion, and bids his passions be still. Therefore, not to the accidents of life, but to the fountains of thought, and to the springs of pleasure and pain, should the efforts of man be directed to rear up such sentiments as shall guard us from the pangs of envy; to make us rejoice in the happiness of every sentient being; to feel too happy ourselves for hatred and resentment; to forget the body, or to enslave it for ever; seeking to purify, to exalt, and to refine our nature. This is the rigid discipline of moral philosophy, which, rigid as it is, is so beautiful and so good, that without it no condition of life is tolerable; with it, none wretched, sordid, or II].68.I].

360

LECTURE XXIV.
ON THE DESIRES.

DR. REID, in his essay upon the Active Powers, remarks of our desires, that they have, all of them, things, not persons, for their object. They neither imply any good nor ill affection towards any person, nor even towards ourselves. They cannot, therefore, with propriety be called either selfish or social. But there are various principles of actions in men, which have persons for their immediate objects, and imply in their very nature, our being well or ill affected to some person, or at least to some animated being. “Such principles,” says Dr. Reid, “I call by the general name of affections; whe“ther they dispose us to do good or hurt to others.” This method, by which passions are referred to persons, and desires to things, has been also adopted by Mr. Dugald Stewart, in his “Outlines of Moral Philosophy,” without any alteration. But if desire concern only things, why is the love of esteem classed among the desires? for that, surely, respects persons: and why are joy and grief classed among the passions without any limitation ? for grief may be occasioned by the loss of 20,000l., as by the loss of an aunt or a cousin. There is a grief occasioned by persons, and a grief occasioned by things; but both Dr. Reid and Mr. Stewart would not scruple to call grief— let its cause be what it would – by the name of passion. The first object, surely, in all investigations of this nature, is to ascertain in what sense such words are actually used : and then, after showing that such uses are unsatisfactory or vague, to propose that deviation from the established meaning, which, being the most useful, is the least violent. In chemistry, mineralogy, or any science remote from common life, the popular language which respects them, is commonly not only useless, but it conduces to error; and is better kept out of view: but in the language of feeling, words are of great importance, because every man feels they are the repositories of human judgments, upon a subject on which all men are, more or less, calculated to judge. It will appear, I believe, that, in all this business of feeling, there are three things which have particularly attracted our notice : — the violent perturbation or derangement the mind suffers; the wish to do something, or obtain something, with which that perturbation is accompanied; and the cause from which that perturbation is derived.

“Achilles heard: with grief and rage opprest,
His heart swell'd high, and labour'd in his breast;
Distracting thoughts by turns his bosom ruled,
Now fired by wrath, and now by reason cool'd:
That prompts his hand to draw the deadly sword,
Force through the Greeks, and pierce their haughty lord;
This whispers soft, his vengeance to control,
And calm the rising tempest of the soul."

In this, and in every other picture of extreme passion, it is to the perturbation itself, its causes, and its consequences, that we direct our inquiry. Whenever the emotion proceeds from a bodily cause, and is accompanied with a wish to act, or to obtain, we give to that emotion the name of appetite; — as in the instance of hunger and thirst. Here the mind is thrown into a state of emotion, — the body is the cause of that emotion; and it is accompanied by a wish to obtain, and to act. No one would now call hunger and thirst, passions; or imagine that the celebrated authoress of the Plays on the Passions, is bound, in the prosecution of her task, to bring forward a hero who has not eaten anything for fortyeight hours, and to conclude such a play with the catastrophe of a dinner or a supper. We say a desire for food, as well as an appetite for food; but in speaking of the desires, and the appetites, we should hardly class together the desire of knowledge, and the desire of drink. It seems generally agreed, where any kind of precision is required, to call the bodily emotions by the name of appetites; and the mental ones, by those of passion or desire. When the cause, then, of the emotion is the body, and when it is accompanied with an active tendency, it is called appetite; when it is not, it receives simply the name of bodily pain or pleasure. We may say metaphorically, that gout, rheumatism, and lumbago, are the unpleasant passions of the body; that warmth and repletion are its agreeable passions. Whenever we see any emotion of the mind which has not the body for its cause, we call it desire, if it lead to action; — passion, if it do not. No one calls grief and joy, hope and fear, by the name of desire. To suffer from the desire of grief, is nonsense; to suffer from the passion of grief, is the customary phrase. They are not called desires, because they are not the immediate causes of action. We say the desire of knowledge, the desire of esteem, the desire of power, because they are emotions leading immediately to action. Some emotions we call indiscriminately by the name of passion or desire: but this exactly confirms what I say; for when we speak of the passion of revenge, we are more particularly thinking of the perturbation the mind endures; when we speak of revenge as a desire, we have in mind the tendency to action which it occasions: therefore, if I am right, the idea of referring desires to things, and passions to persons, is quite unfounded; and this will turn out to be somewhere near their meaning. Appetites are emotions of mind, proceeding from a bodily cause, and leading immediately to action: there are also animal pains and pleasures, which are emotions of the mind proceeding from a bodily cause, and not leading immediately to action. — Passions are emotions of the mind, not proceeding from a bodily cause, and not leading immediately to action. — Desires are emotions of the mind not proceeding from a bodily cause, and leading to action. — And lastly, whenever we use the two words, desire, and passion, for the same affection of mind, it is because in the one, we consider what the mind endures from the emotion; in the other, how it is impelled to act by the emotion. I am aware it would be very curious, as well as very useful, here to consider how far the same divisions and distinctions obtain in other languages, which are adopted in our own : it would not be very difficult to do it, but it would necessarily lead to long verbal discussions, which might be very agreeable to two or three persons, and very tiresome to every one besides. I have already classed those emotions of the neutral class, which are called either desires or passions, among the latter; because I found them so classed, and because it did not then occur to me, what was the distinguishing circumstance between the passions and desires. The desires, of which I shall treat at present, are, the desire of knowledge, the desire of esteem, the desire of power, the desire of possession, and the desire of activity: not that these are the only desires which possess the mind, but that almost all the lesser motives are immediately resolvable into them. Let any man consider the innumerable principles of action by which he is every day impelled, and he will very soon discover that these desires are the origin of them all. You take a walk; that is, you are under the influence of that principle of

« AnteriorContinuar »