Front Page Titles (by Subject) HUTCHESON: On the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections - British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 1
Return to Title Page for British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
HUTCHESON: On the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections - Lewis Amherst Selby-Bigge, British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 1 
British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, edited with an Introduction and analytical Index by L.A. Shelby-Bigge in two volumes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897). Vol. 1.
Part of: British Moralists, being Selections from Writers principally of the Eighteenth Century, 2 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
On the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections
* * * * * * * *
431 Some strange Love of Simplicity in the Structure of human Nature, or Attachment to some favourite Hypothesis, has engaged many Writers to pass over a great many simple Perceptions, which we may find in ourselves. We have got the number Five fixed for our external Senses, though a larger Number might perhaps as easily be defended. We have Multitudes of Perceptions which have no relation to any external Sensation; if by it we mean Perceptions immediately occasioned by Motions or Impressions made on our Bodies, such as the Ideas of Number, Duration, Proportion, Virtue, Vice, Pleasures of Honour, of Congratulation; the Pains of Remorse, Shame, Sympathy, and many others. It were to be wished, that those who are at such Pains to prove a beloved Maxim, that 'all Ideas arise from Sensation and Reflection,' had so explained themselves, that none should take their Meaning to be, that all our Ideas are either external Sensations, or reflex Acts upon external Sensations: Or if by Reflection they mean an inward Power of Perception, as Mr. Locke declares expressly, calling it internal Sensation, that they had as carefully examined into the several kinds of internal Perceptions, as they have done into the external Sensations: that we might have seen whether the former be not as natural and necessary and ultimate, without reference to any other, as the latter. Had they in like manner considered our Affections without a previous Notion, that they were all from Self-Love, they might have felt an ultimate Desire of the Happiness of others as easily conceivable, and as certainly implanted in the human Breast, though perhaps not so strong as Self-Love.
* * * * * * * *
432 One may easily see from the great variety of Terms, and diversity of Schemes invented, that all Men feel something in their own Hearts recommending Virtue, which yet it is difficult to explain. This Difficulty probably arises from our previous Notions of a small Number of Senses, so that we are unwilling to have recourse in our Theories to any more; and rather strain out some Explication of moral Ideas, with relation to some of the natural Powers of Perception universally acknowledged. The like difficulty attends several other Perceptions, to the Reception of which Philosophers have not generally assigned their distract Senses; such as natural Beauty, Harmony, the Perfection of Poetry, Architecture, Designing, and such like affairs of Genius, Taste, or Fancy; The Explications or Theories on these Subjects are in like manner full of Confusion and Metaphor.
* * * * * * * *
—A general Account of our several Senses and Desires. Selfish or Publick.
* * * * * * * *
433 I. If we may call 'every Determination of our Minds to receive Ideas independently of our Will, and to have Perceptions of Pleasure and Pain, a Sense' we shall find many other Senses beside those commonly explained. Though it is not easy to assign accurate Divisions on such Subjects, yet we may reduce them to the following Classes, leaving it to others to arrange them as they think convenient. A little Reflection will shew that there are such Natural Powers in the human Mind, in whatever Order we place them. In the 1st Class are the External Senses, universally known. In the 2nd, the Pleasant Perceptions arising from regular, harmonious, uniform Objects; as also from Grandeur and Novelty. These we may call, after Mr. Addison, the Pleasures of the Imagination; or we may call the Power of receiving them, an Internal Sense. Whoever dislikes this Name may substitute another. 3. The next Class of Perceptions we may call a Publick Sense, viz. 'our Determination to be pleased with the Happiness of others, and to be uneasy at their Misery.' This is found in some degree in all Men, and was sometimes called Κοτνονοημοσύνη, or Sensus Communis by some of the Antients. This inward Pain of Compassion cannot be called a Sensation of Sight. It solely arises from an Opinion of Misery felt by another, and not immediately from a visible Form. The same Form presented to the Eye by the exactest Painting, or the Action of a Player, gives no Pain to those who remember that there is no Misery felt. When Men by Imagination conceive real Pain felt by an Actor, without recollecting that it is merely feigned, or when they think of the real Story represented, then, as there is a confused Opinion of real Misery, there is also Pain in Compassion. 4. The fourth Class we may call the Moral Sense, by which 'we perceive Virtue or Vice, in ourselves, or others.' This is plainly distinct from the former Class of Perceptions, since many are strongly affected with the Fortunes of others, who seldom reflect upon Virtue or Vice, in themselves, or others, as an Object: as we may find in Natural Affection, Compassion, Friendship, or even general Benevolence to Mankind, which connect our Happiness or Pleasure with that of others, even when we are not reflecting upon our own Temper, nor delighted with the Perception of our own Virtue. 5. The fifth Class is a Sense of Honour, which makes the Approbation, or Gratitude of others, for any good Actions we have done, the necessary occasion of pleasure; and their Dislike, Condemnation, or Resentment of Injuries done by us, the occasion of that uneasy Sensation called Shame, even when we fear no further evil from them.
434 There are perhaps other Perceptions distinct from all these Classes, such as some Ideas 'of Decency, Dignity, Suitableness to human Nature in certain Actions and Circumstances; and of an Indecency, Meanness, and Unworthiness, in the contrary Actions or Circumstances, even without any conception of Moral Good, or Evil.' Thus the Pleasures of Sight, and Hearing, are more esteemed than those of Taste or Touch: The Pursuits of the Pleasures of the Imagination, are more approved than those of simple external Sensations. Plato makes one of his Dialogists1 account for this difference from a constant opinion of Innocence in this sort of Pleasures, which would reduce this Perception to the Moral Sense. Others may imagine that the difference is not owing to any such Reflection upon their Innocence, but that there is a different sort of Perceptions in these cases, to be reckoned another Class of Sensations.
435 II. Desires arise in our Mind, from the Frame of our Nature, upon Apprehension of Good or Evil in Objects, Actions, or Events, to obtain for ourselves or others the agreeable Sensation, when the Object or Event is good: or to prevent the uneasy Sensation, when it is evil. Our original Desires and Aversions may therefore be divided into five Classes, answering to the Classes of our Senses. 1. The Desire of sensual Pleasure, (by which we mean that of the external Senses, of Taste and Touch chiefly); and Aversion to the opposite Pains. 2. The Desires of the Pleasures of Imagination or Internal Sense 1 , and Aversion to what is disagreeable to it. 3. Desires of the Pleasures arising from Public Happiness, and Aversion to the Pains arising from the Misery of others. 4. Desires of Virtue, and Aversion to Vice, according to the Notions we have of the Tendency of Actions to the Public Advantage or Detriment. 5. Desires of Honour, and Aversion to Shame2 .
436 And since we are capable of Reflection, Memory, Observation, and Reasoning about the distant Tendencies of Objects and Actions, and not confined to things present, there must arise, in consequence of our original Desires, 'secondary Desires of every thing imagined useful to gratify any of the primary Desires, and that with strength proportioned to the several original Desires, and the imagined Usefulness, or Necessity of the advantageous Object.' Thus as soon as we come to apprehend the Use of Wealth or Power to gratify any of our original Desires, we must also desire them. Hence arises the Universality of these Desires of Wealth and Power since they are the Means of gratifying all other Desires. How foolish then is the Inference, some would make, from the universal Prevalence of these Desires, that human Nature is wholly selfish, or that each one is only studious of his own Advantage; since Wealth or Power are as naturally fit to gratify our Publick Desires, or to serve virtuous Purposes, as the selfish ones?'
437 Let it be premised, that there is a certain Pain or Uneasiness accompanying most of our violent Desires. Though the Object pursued be Good, or the Means of Pleasure, yet the Desire of it generally is attended with an uneasy Sensation. When an Object or Event appears Evil, we desire to shun or prevent it. This Desire is also attended with uneasy Sensation of Impatience: Now this Sensation immediately connected with the Desire, is a distinct Sensation from those which we dread, and endeavour to shun. It is plain then,
1. (That no Desire of any Event is excited by any yaw of removing the uneasy Sensation attending this Desire itself.' Uneasy Sensations previously felt, will raise a Desire of whatever will remove them: and this Desire may have its concomitant Uneasiness. Pleasant Sensations expected from any Object may raise our Desire of it; this Desire too may have its concomitant uneasy Sensations: But the uneasy Sensation, accompanying and connected with the Desire itself, cannot be a Motive to that Desire which it presupposes. The Sensation accompanying Desire is generally uneasy, and consequently our Desire is never raised with a view to obtain or continue it; nor is the Desire raised with a view to remove this uneasy Sensation, for the Desire is raised previously to it. This holds concerning all Desire publick or private.
There is also a peculiar pleasant Sensation of Joy, attending the Gratification of any Desire, beside the Sensation received from the Object itself, which we directly intended. 'But Desire does never arise from a View of obtaining that Sensation of Joy, connected with the Success or Gratification of Desire; otherwise the strongest Desires might arise toward any Trifle, or an Event in all respects indifferent: Since, if Desire arose from this View, the stronger the Desire were, the higher would be the Pleasure of Gratification; and therefore we might desire the turning of a Straw as violently as we do Wealth or Power.' This Expectation of that Pleasure which merely arises from gratifying of Desire, would equally excite us to desire the Misery of others as their Happiness; since this Pleasure of Gratification might be obtained from both Events alike.
438 2. It is certain that 'that Desire of the Happiness of others which we account virtuous, is not directly excited by prospects of any secular Advantage, Wealth, Power, Pleasure of the external Senses, Reward from the Deity, or future Pleasures of Self-Approbation. To prove this let us consider, 'That no Desire of any Event can arise immediately or directly from an Opinion in the Agent, that his having such a Desire will be the Means of private Good.' This Opinion would make us wish or desire to have that advantageous Desire or Affection; and would incline us to use any means in our power to false that Affection: but no Affection or Desire Is raised in us, directly by our volition or desiring it. That alone which raises in us from Self-Love the Desire of any Event, is an Opinion that that Event is the Means of private Good. As soon as we form this Opinion, a Desire of the Event immediately arises: But if having the Desire, or the mere Affection, be imagined the Means of private Good, and not the Existence of the Event desired, then from Self-Love we should only desire or wish to have the Desire of that Event, and should not desire the Event itself, since the Event is not conceived as the Means of Good.
439 3. 'There are in Men Desires of the Happiness of others, when they do not conceive this Happiness as the Means of obtaining any sort of Happiness to themselves.' Self-Approbation, or Rewards from the Deity, might be the Ends, for obtaining which we might possibly desire or will from Self-Love, to raise in ourselves kind Affections; but we could not from Self-Love desire the Happiness of others, except we imagined their Happiness to be the Means of our own. Now it is certain that sometimes we may have this subordinate Desire of the Happiness of others, conceived as the Means of our own; as suppose one had laid a Wager upon the Happiness of a Person of such Veracity, that he would own sincerely whether he were happy or not; when Men are Partners in Stock, and share in Profit or Loss; when one hopes to succeed to, or some way to share in the Piosperity of another; or if the Deity had given such Threatnings, as they tell us Telamon gave his Sons when they went to War, that he would reward or punish one according as others were happy or miserable: In such Cases one might have this subordinate Desire of another's Happiness from Self-Love. But as we are sure the Deity has not given such Comminations, so we often are conscious of the Desire of the Happiness of others, without any such Conception of it as the Means of our own; and are sensible that this subordinate Desire is not that virtuous Affection which we approve. The virtuous Benevolence must be an ultimate Desire, which would subsist without view to private Good. Such ultimate publick Desires we often feel, without any subordinate Desire of the same Event, as the Means of private Good. The subordinate may sometimes, nay often does concur with the ultimate; and then indeed the whole Moment of these conspiring Desires may be greater than that of either alone: But the subordinate alone is not that Affection which we approve as virtuous.
440 Art. IV. This will clear our Way to answer the chief Difficulty: 'May not our Benevolence be at least a Desire of the Happiness of others, as the Means of obtaining the Pleasure of the publick Sense, from the Contemplation of their Happiness?' If it were so, it is very unaccountable, that we should approve this subordinate Desire as virtuous, and yet not approve the like Desire upon a Wager, or other Considerations of Interest. Both Desires proceed from Self-Love in the same manner: In the latter case the Desires might be extended to multitudes, if any one would wager so capriciously; and, by increasing the Sum wagered, the Motive of Interest might, with many Tempers, be made stronger than that from the Pleasures of the publick Sense.
Do not we find that we often desire the Happiness of others without any such selfish Intention? How few have thought upon this part of our Constitution which we call a Publick Sense? Were it our only View, in Compassion to free ourselves from the Pain of the publick Sense; should the Deity propose it to our Choice, either to obliterate all Ideas of the Person in Distress, or to harden our Hearts against all feelings of Compassion, on the one hand, while yet the Object continued in Misery; or on the other hand to relieve him from it; should we not upon this Scheme be perfectly indifferent, and chase the former as soon as the latter? Should the Deity assure us that we should be immediately annihilated, so that we should be incapable of either Pleasure or Pain, but that it should depend upon our Choice at our very Exit, whether our Children, our Friends, or our Country should be happy or miserable; should we not upon this Scheme be entirely indifferent? Or, if we should even desire the pleasant Thought of their Happiness, in our last Moment, would not this Desire be the faintest imaginable?
It is true, our Publick Sense might be as acute at our Exit as ever; as a Man's Taste of Meat or Drink and his Sensations of Hunger and Thirst might be as lively the instant before his Dissolution as in any part of his Life. But would any Man have as strong Desires of the Means of obtaining these Pleasures, only with a view to himself, when he was to perish the next Moment? Is it supposable that any Desire of the Means of private Pleasure can be as strong when we only expect to enjoy it a Minute, as when we expect the Continuance of it for many Years? And yet, it is certain, any good Man would as strongly desire at his Exit the Happiness of others, as in any part of his Life, which must be the Case with those who voluntarily hazard their Lives, or resolve on Death for their Country or Friends. We do not therefore desire it as the Means of private Pleasure.
* * * * * * * *
441 The Occasion of the imagined Difficulty in conceiving distinterested Desires, has probably been from the attempting to define this simple Idea, Desire. It is called an uneasy Sensation in the absence of Good1 . Whereas Desire is as distinct from any Sensation, as the Will is from the Understanding or Senses. This every one must acknowledge, who speaks of desiring to remove Uneasiness or Pain.
* * * * * * * *
—Of the Affections and Passions: The natural Laws of pure Affection: The confused Sensations of the Passions with their final Causes.
442 There is a Distinction to be observed on this Subject, between 'the calm Desire of Good, and Aversion to Evil, either selfish or publick, as they appear to our Reason or Reflection; and the particular Passions towards Objects immediately presented to some Sense.' Thus nothing can be more distinct than the general calm Desire of private Good of any kind, which alone would incline us to pursue whatever Objects were apprehended as the Means of Good, and the particular selfish Passions, such as Ambition, Covetousness, Hunger, Lust, Revenge, Anger, as they arise upon particular Occasions. In like Manner our publick Desires may be distinguished into the general calm Desire of the Happiness of others, or Aversion to their Misery upon Reflection; and the particular Affections or Passions of Love, Congratulation, Compassion, natural Affection.
* * * * * * * *
We obtain Command over the particular Passions, principally by strengthening the general Desires through frequent Reflection, and making them habitual, so as to obtain Strength superior to the particular Passions 1 .
* * * * * * * *
443 If it seems too rash to assert a Distinction between Affections and Passions, or that Desire may subsist without any uneasiness, since perhaps we are never conscious of any Desire absolutely free from all uneasiness; 'let it be considered, that the simple Idea of Desire is different from that of Pain of any kind, or from any Sensation whatsoever: Nor is there any other Argument for their Identity than this, that they occur to us at once: But this Argument is inconclusive, otherwise it would prove Colour and Figure to be the same, or Incision and Pain.'
* * * * * * * *
—Particular Divisions of the Affections and Passions.
444 Since our Moral Sense represents Virtue as the greatest Happiness to the Person possessed of it, our publick Affections will naturally make us desire the Virtue of others. When the Opportunity of a great Action occurs to any Person against whom we are no way prejudiced, we wish he would attempt it, and desire his good Success. If he succeeds we feel Joy; if he is disappointed, or quits the Attempt, we feel Sorrow. Upon like Opportunity of, or Temptation to a base Action, we have Aversion to the Event: If he resists the Temptation, we feel Joy; if he yields to it, Sorrow. Our Affections toward the Person arise jointly with our Passions about this Event, according as he acquits himself virtuously or basely.
—How far our several Affections and Passions are in our Power, either to govern them when raised, or to prevent their arising: with some general Observations about their Objects.
* * * * * * * *
445 II. The Government of our Passions must then depend much upon our Opinions: But we must here observe an obvious Difference among our Desires, viz. that 'some of them have a previous, painful, or uneasy Sensation, antecedently to any Opinion of Good in the Object; nay, the Object is often chiefly esteemed good, only for its allaying this Pain or Uneasiness; or if the Object gives also positive Pleasure, yet the uneasy Sensation is previous to, and independent of this Opinion of Good in the Object.' 'These Desires we may call Appetites.' 'Other Desires and Aversions necessarily pre-suppose an Opinion of Good and Evil in their Objects; and the Desires or Aversions, with their concomitant uneasy Sensations, are produced or occasioned by this Opinion or Apprehension.' Of the former kind are Hunger and Thirst, and the Desires between the Sexes; to which Desires there is an uneasy Sensation previous, even in those who have little other Notion of Good in the Objects, than allaying this Pain or Uneasiness. There is something like to this in the Desire of Society, or the Company of our Fellow-creatures.
* * * * * * * *
446 In other Desires the Case is different. No Man is distressed for want of fine Smells, harmonious Sounds, beautiful Objects, Wealth, Power, or Grandeur, previously to some Opinion formed of these things as good, or some prior Sensation of their Pleasures. In like manner, Virtue and Honour as necessarily give us Pleasure, when they occur to us, as Vice and Contempt give us Pain; but, antecedently to some Experience or Opinion of this Pleasure, there is no previous uneasy Sensation in the Absence, as there is in the Absence of the Objects of Appetite. The Necessity of these Sensations previous to our Appetites, has been considered already1 . The Sensations accompanying or subsequent to our other Desires, by which they are denominated Passions, keep them in a just Ballance with our Appetites, as was before observed.
But this holds in general, concerning all our Desires or Aversions, that according to the Opinion or Apprehension of Good or Evil, the Desire or Aversion is increased or diminished: Every Gratification of any Desire gives at first Pleasure; and Disappointment Pain, generally proportioned to the Violence of the Desire. In like manner, the escaping any Object of Aversion, tho' it makes no permanent Addition to our Happiness, gives at first a pleasant Sensation, and relieves us from Misery, proportioned to the Degree of Aversion or Fear. So when any Event, to which we had an Aversion, befals us, we have at first Misery proportioned to the Degree of Aversion. So that some Pain is subsequent upon all Frustration of Desire or Aversion, but it is previous to those Desires only, which are called Appetites.
 Hippias Major. See also Treat. II. Sect, 5. Art. 7.
 See Treat. I.
 See Treat. II. Sect. 5. Art. 3–8.
 See Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding in the Chap. on the Passions.
 The Schoolmen express this Distinction by the Appetitus rationalis, and the Appetitus Sensitivus. All Animals have in common the External Senses suggesting notions of things as pleasant or painful: and have also the Appetitus Sensitivus, or some instinctive Desires and Aversions. Rational Agents have, superadded to these, two higher analogous Powers; viz. the Understanding, or Reason, presenting farther notions, and attended with an higher sort of Sensations; and the Appetitus rationalis. This latter is a 'constant natural Disposition of Soul to desire what the Understanding, or these sublimer Sensations, represent as Good, and to shun what they represent as Evil, and this either when it respects ourselves or others.' This many call the Will as distinct from the Passions. Some later Writers seem to have forgot it, by ascribing to the Understanding not only Ideas, Notions, Knowledge; but Action, Inclinations, Desires, Prosecution, and their Contraries.
 Sect. 2. Art. 6.