Front Page Titles (by Subject) section i: Of Man and His Connections - The Elements of Moral Philosophy
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section i: Of Man and His Connections - David Fordyce, The Elements of Moral Philosophy 
The Elements of Moral Philosophy, in Three Books with a Brief Account of the Nature, Progress, and Origin of Philosophy, ed. Thomas Kennedy (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Of Man and His Connections
In giving a rude Sketch or History in Miniature of Man, we must remember that he rises from small Beginnings, unfolds his Faculties and Dispositions by degrees, as the Purposes of Life require their Appearance, advances slowly thro’ different Stages to Maturity, and when he has reached it, gradually declines till he sinks into the Grave. Let us accompany him in his Progress through these successive Stages, and mark the Principles which actuate, and the Fortunes which attend him in each, that we may have a full View of him in each.
Man’s Infant StateMan is born a weak, helpless, delicate Creature, unprovided with Food, Cloathing, and whatever else is necessary for Subsistence, or Defence. And yet, exposed as the Infant is to numberless Wants and Dangers, he is utterly incapable of supplying the former, or securing himself against the latter. But though thus feeble and exposed, he finds immediate and sure Resources in the Affection and Care of his Parents, who refuse no Labours, and forego no Dangers, to nurse and rear up the tender Babe. By these powerful Instincts, as by some mighty Chain, does Nature link the Parent to the Child, and form the strongest Moral Connection on his Part, before the Child has the least Apprehension of it. Hunger and Thirst, with all the Sensations that accompany or are connected with them, explain themselves by a Language strongly expressive, and irresistibly moving. As the several Senses bring in Notices and Informations of surrounding Objects, we may perceive in the young Spectator, early Signs of a growing Wonder and Admiration. Bright Objects and striking Sounds are beheld and heard with a sort of Commotion and Surprize. But without resting on any, he eagerly passes on from Object to Object, still pleased with whatever is most new. Thus the Love of Novelty is formed, and the Passion of Wonder kept awake. By degrees he becomes acquainted with the most familiar Objects, his Parents, his Brethren, and those of the Family who are most conversant with him. He contracts a Fondness for them, is uneasy when they are gone, and charmed to see them again. Those Feelings become the Foundation of a Moral Attachment on his Side, and by this reciprocal Sympathy he forms the Domestic Alliance with his Parents, Brethren, and other Members of the Family. Hence he becomes interested in their Concerns, and feels Joy, or Grief, Hope, or Fear on their Account, as well as his own. As his Affections now point beyond himself to others, he is denominated a good or ill Creature, as he stands well or ill affected to them. These then are the first Links of the Moral Chain, the early Rudiments, or Out-lines of his Character, his first rude Essays towards Agency, Freedom, Manhood.
His ChildhoodWhen he begins to make Excursions from the Nursery, and extend his Acquaintance abroad, he forms a little Circle of Companions, engages with them in Play, or in quest of Adventures; and leads, or is led by them, as his Genius is more or less aspiring. Though this is properly the Season in which Appetite and Passion have the Ascendant, yet his Imagination and Intellectual Powers open apace; and as the various Images of Things pass before the Mental Eye, he forms a Variety of Tastes; relishes some things and dislikes others, as his Parents, Companions, and a thousand other Circumstances lead him to combine agreeable, or disagreeable Sets of Ideas, or represent to him Objects in alluring or odious Lights.
As his Views are enlarged, his Active and Social Powers expand themselves in proportion; the Love of Action, of Imitation, and of Praise, Emulation, Docility, a Passion for Command, and Fondness of Change. His Passions are quick, variable, and pliant to every Impression, his Attachments and Disgusts quickly succeed each other. He compares Things, distinguishes Actions, judges of Characters, and loves or hates them, as they appear well or ill affected to himself, or to those he holds dear. Mean while he soon grows sensible of the Consequences of his own Actions, as they attract Applause, or bring Contempt; he triumphs in the former, and is ashamed of the latter; wants to hide them, and blushes when they are discovered. By means of these Powers he becomes a fit Subject of Culture, the Moral Tie is drawn closer, he feels that he is accountable for his Conduct to others as well as to himself, and thus is gradually ripening for Society and Action.
His YouthAs Man advances from Childhood to Youth, his Passions as well as Perceptions take a more extensive Range. New Senses of Pleasure invite him to new Pursuits; he grows sensible to the Attractions of Beauty, feels a peculiar Sympathy with the Sex, and forms a more tender kind of Attachment than he has yet experienced. This becomes the Cement of a new Moral Relation, and gives a softer Turn to his Passions and Behaviour. In this turbulent Period he enters more deeply into a Relish of Friendship, Company, Exercises and Diversions; the Love of Truth, of Imitation and of Design grows upon him; and as his Connections spread among his Neighbours, Fellow-Citizens and Countrymen, his Thirst of Praise, Emulation, and Social Affections grow more intense and active. Mean while, it is impossible for him to have lived thus long without having become sensible of those more august Signatures of Order, Wisdom, and Goodness, which are stamped on the visible Creation; and of those strong Suggestions within himself of a Parent-Mind, the Source of all Intelligence and Beauty; and Object as well as Source of that Activity, and those Aspirations which sometimes rouze his inmost Frame, and carry him out of himself to an all-mighty and all-governing Power: Hence arise those Sentiments of Reverence, and those Affections of Gratitude, Resignation, and Love, which link the Soul with the Author of Nature, and form that most sublime and god-like of all Connections.
His ManhoodMan having now reached his Prime, either new Passions succeed, or the old Set are wound up to an higher Pitch. For, growing more sensible of his Connection with the Public, and that particular Community to which he more immediately belongs; and taking withal a larger Prospect of Human Life, and its various Wants and Enjoyments, he forms more intimate Friendships, grasps at Power, courts Honour, lays down cooler Plans of Interest, and becomes more attentive to the Concerns of Society; he enters into Family-Connections, and indulges those Charities which arise from thence. The reigning Passions of this Period, powerfully prompt him to provide for the Decays of Life; and in it Compassion and Gratitude exert their Influence in urging the Man, now in full Vigour, to requite the Affection and Care of his Parents, by supplying their Wants and alleviating their Infirmities.
Old AgeAt length human Life verges downwards, and Old Age creeps on apace with its Anxiety, Love of Ease, Interestedness, Fearfulness, Foresight, and Love of Offspring. The Experience of the Aged is formed to direct, and their Coolness to temper the Heat of Youth; the former teaches them to look back on past Follies, and the latter to look forward into the Consequences of Things, and provide against the worst.* Thus every Age has its peculiar Genius and Set of Passions, corresponding to that Period, and most conducive to the Prosperity of the rest. And thus are the Wants of one Period supplied by the Capacities of another, and the Weaknesses of one Age tally to the Passions of another.
Passions of every AgeBesides these, there are other Passions and Affections of a less ambulatory Nature, not peculiar to one Period, but belonging to every Age, and acting more or less in every Breast throughout Life. Such are, Self-Love, Benevolence, Love of Life, Honour, Shame, Hope, Fear, Desire, Aversion, Joy, Sorrow, Anger, and the like. The two first are Affections of a cooler Strain, one pointing to the Good of the Individual, the other to that of the Species; Joy and Sorrow, Hope and Fear, seem to be only Modifications, or Exertions of the same Original Affections of Love and Hatred, Desire and Aversion, arising from the different Circumstances or Position of the Object desired or abhorred, as it is present or absent. From these likewise arise other Secondary, or Occasional Passions, which depend, as to their Existence and several Degrees, upon the Original Affections being gratified or disappointed, as Anger, Complacence, Confidence, Jealousy, Love, Hatred, Dejection, Exultation, Contentment, Disgust, which do not form Leading Passions, but rather hold of them.
Their joint EffectsBy these simple, but powerful Springs, whether periodical or fixed, the Life of Man, weak and indigent as he is, is preserved and secured, and the Creature is prompted to a constant Round of Action, even to supply his own numerous and ever-returning Wants, and to guard against the various Dangers and Evils to which he is obnoxious. By these Links, Men are connected with each other, formed into Families, drawn into particular Communities, and all united, as by a common League, into one System or Body, whose Members feel and sympathize one with another. By this admirable Adjustment of the Constitution of Man to his State, and the gradual Evolution of his Powers, Order is maintained, Society upheld, and Human Life filled with that Variety of Passion and Action, which at once enliven and diversify it.
The Directing PowerThis is a short Sketch of the Principal Movements of the Human Mind. Yet, these Movements are not the Whole of Man; they impel to Action, but do not direct it; they need a Regulator to guide their Motions, to measure and apply their Forces. And accordingly they have one that naturally superintends and directs their Action. We are conscious of a Principle within us, which examines, compares and weighs Things, notes the Differences, observes the Forces, and foresees the Consequences of Affections and Actions. By this Power we look back on past Times, and forward into Futurity, gather Experiences, estimate the real and comparative Value of Objects, lay out Schemes, contrive Means to execute them, and settle the whole Order and Oeconomy of Life. This Power we commonly distinguish by the Name of Reason, or Reflection, the Business of which is not to suggest any original Notices or Sensations, but to canvass, range, and make Deductions from them.
The judging or approving PowersWe are intimately conscious of another Principle within us, which approves of certain Sentiments, Passions and Actions, and disapproves of their Contraries. In consequence of the Decisions of this inward Judge, we denominate some Actions and Principles of Conduct, right, honest, good, and others wrong, dishonest, ill. The former excite our Esteem, Moral Complacence, and Affection, immediately and originally of themselves, without regard to their Consequences, and whether they affect our Interest or not. The latter do as naturally and necessarily call forth our Contempt, Scorn, and Aversion. That Power, by which we perceive this Difference in Affections and Actions, and feel a consequent Relish or Dislike, is commonly called Conscience, or the MoralSense. Whether such a Power belongs to human Nature or not, must be referred to every one’s Experience of what passes within himself.
These Powers different from AffectionsThese two Powers of Reason and Conscience, are evidently Principles different in Nature and Kind from the Passions and Affections. For the Passions are mere Force or Power, blind Impulses, acting violently and without Choice, and ultimately tending each to their respective Objects, without regard to the Interest of others, or of the whole System. Whereas the Directing and Judging Powers distinguish and ascertain the different Forces, mutual Proportions and Relations, which the Passions bear to each other and to the Whole; recognize their several Degrees of Merit, and judge of the whole Temper and Conduct, as they respect either the Individual or the Species; and are capable of directing or restraining the blind Impulses of Passion in a due Consistency one with the other, and a regular Subordination to the Whole System.—Let this Difference be remembered.
Division of the PassionsThis is some Account of the Constituent Principles of our Nature, which, according to their different Mixtures, Degrees, and Proportions, mould our Character and sway our Conduct in Life. In reviewing that large Train of Affections which fill up the different Stages of Human Life, we perceive this obvious Distinction among them; that some of them respect the Good of the Individual, and others carry us beyond Ourselves to the Good of the Species, or Kind. The former have therefore been called Private, and the latter Public Affections. Of the first Sort are Love of Life, of Pleasure, of Power, and the like. Of the last are Compassion, Gratitude, Friendship, Natural Affection, and the like. Of the Private Passions,* some respect merely the Security and Defence of the Creature, such as Resentment, and Fear; whereas others aim at some Positive Advantage or Good, as Wealth, Ease, Fame.Defensive Passions The former sort therefore, because of this Difference of Objects, may be termed Defensive Passions. These answer to our Dangers, and prompt us to avoid them if we can, or boldly to encounter them when we cannot.
Private or Appetitive PassionsThe other Classes of Private Passions, which pursue private positive Good, may be called Appetitive. However we shall still retain the Name of Private, in Contradistinction to the Defensive Passions. Man has a great Variety of Wants to supply, and is capable of many Enjoyments, according to the several Periods of his Life, and the different Situations in which he is placed. To these therefore, a suitable Train of Private Passions correspond, which engage him in the Pursuit of whatever is necessary for his Subsistence, or Welfare.
Public PassionsOur Public or Social Affections are adapted to the several Social Connections and Relations which we bear to others, by making us sensible of their Dangers, and interesting us in their Wants, and so prompting us to secure them against one, and supply the other.
The AppealWhether this historic Draught of Man, and of that Groupe of Figures and Connections with which he is environed be just or not, is a Matter, not so much of Reasoning, as common Sense and common Experience. Therefore let every one consult his Experience of what he feels within, and his Knowledge of what is transacted abroad, in the little, or the great World in which he lives; and by that Experience, and that Knowledge, let the Picture be acknowledged Just, or pronounced the Contrary. For to that Experience, and to that Knowledge, and to these alone, the Designer appeals.
This is the first Step then to discover the Duty and Destination of Man, the having analyzed the Principles of which he is composed. It is necessary, in the next place, to consider in what Order, Proportion, and Measure of those inward Principles, Virtue, or a sound Moral Temper, and right Conduct consists; that we may discover whence Moral Obligation arises.
[*] See Hor. de Art. Poet. [In Ars Poetica, c. 20 b.c., the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, or Horace (65–8 b.c.), advises poets to “note the characteristics of each stage of life and … grant what is appropriate to changing natures and ages.” See lines 153–78, translated by Leon Golden in O. B. Hardison Jr. and Leon Golden, Horace for Students of Literature: The Ars Poetica and Its Tradition (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995), 12.]
[*] Here we use Passions and Affections without Distinction. Their Difference will be marked afterwards.