Front Page Titles (by Subject) § 1.: Of Benevolent Affection in General - Selections from the Scottish Philosophy of Common Sense
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§ 1.: Of Benevolent Affection in General - Thomas Reid, Selections from the Scottish Philosophy of Common Sense 
Selections from the Scottish Philosophy of Common Sense, edited, with an introduction by G.A. Johnston (Chicago: Open Court, 1915).
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Of Benevolent Affection in General
There are various principles of action in man, which have persons for their immediate object, and imply, in their very nature, our being well or ill affected to some person, or, at least, to some animated being.
Such principles, I shall call by the general name of affections, whether they dispose us to do good or hurt to others.
The principles which lead us immediately to desire the good of others, and those that lead us to desire their hurt, agree in this, that persons, and not things, are their immediate object. Both imply our being some way affected towards the person. They ought, therefore, to have some common name to express what is common in their nature; and I know no name more proper for this than affection.
Taking affection, therefore, in this extensive sense, our affections are very naturally divided into benevolent and malevolent, according as they imply our being well or ill affected towards their object.
There are some things common to all benevolent affections, others wherein they differ.
They differ both in the feeling or sensation, which is an ingredient in all of them, and in the objects to which they are directed.
They all agree in two things—to wit, That the feeling which accompanies them is agreeable; and, That they imply a desire of good and happiness to their object.
A thing may be desired either on its own account, or as the means in order to something else. That only can properly be called an object of desire, which is desired upon its own account; and it is only such desires that I call principles of action. When anything is desired as the means only, there must be an end for which it is desired; and the desire of the end is, in this case, the principle of action. The means are desired only as they tend to that end; and, if different, or even contrary means, tended to the same end, they would be equally desired.
On this account, I consider those affections only as benevolent, where the good of the object is desired ultimately, and not as the means only, in order to something else.
To say that we desire the good of others, only in order to procure some pleasure or good to ourselves, is to say that there is no benevolent affection in human nature.
This, indeed, has been the opinion of some philosophers, both in ancient and in later times. I intend not to examine this opinion in this place, conceiving it proper to give that view of the principles of action in man, which appears to me to be just, before I examine the systems wherein they have been mistaken or misrepresented.
I observe only at present, that it appears as unreasonable to resolve all our benevolent affections into self-love, as it would be to resolve hunger and thirst into self-love.
These appetites are necessary for the preservation of the individual. Benevolent affections are no less necessary for the preservation of society among men, without which man would become an easy prey to the beasts of the field.
We are placed in this world by the Author of our being, surrounded with many objects that are necessary or useful to us, and with many that may hurt us. We are led, not by reason and self-love only, but by many instincts, and appetites, and natural desires to seek the former and to avoid the latter.
But of all the things of this world, man may be the most useful or the most hurtful to man. Every man is in the power of every man with whom he lives. Every man has power to do much good to his fellow-men, and to do more hurt.
We cannot live without the society of men; and it would be impossible to live in society, if men were not disposed to do much of that good to men, and but little of that hurt, which it is in their power to do.
But how shall this end, so necessary to the existence of human society, and consequently to the existence of the human species, be accomplished?
If we judge from analogy, we must conclude that in this, as in other parts of our conduct, our rational principles are aided by principles of an inferior order, similar to those by which many brute animals live in society with their species; and that, by means of such principles, that degree of regularity is observed, which we find in all societies of men, whether wise or foolish, virtuous or vicious.
The benevolent affections planted in human nature appear therefore no less necessary for the preservation of the human species, than the appetites of hunger and thirst.1
[1 ]“Essays on the Active Powers of Man,” Works, vol. ii. pp. 558-560. (In reprinting this and the following sections on Morals several passages have been silently omitted.)