« PreviousContinue »
or compofition: They can have recourse to them for a renewal of their ideas when they grow languid or obfcure, or when they feel their minds vigorous, and dispofed to philofophize. But paffions are excited independent of our volition, and arife or fubfide without our defire or concurrence. Compaffion is never awakened but by the view of pain or of forrow. Refentment is never kindled but by actual fuffering, or by the view of injuftice. Will anger, jealousy, and revenge, attend the fummons of the difpaffionate fage, that he may examine their conduct, and difmifs them? Will pride and ambition obey the voice of the humble hermit, and affift him in explaining the principles of human nature? Or by what powerful spell can the abstracted philofopher; whofe paffions are all chaftened and fubdued, whofe heart never throbs with defire, prevail or the amorous affections to
vifit the ungenial clime of his breaft, and fubmit their features to the rigour of his unrelenting fcrutiny? The philofopher, accustomed to moderate his paffions, rather than indulge them, is of all men least able to provoke their violence; and, in order to fucceed in his refearches, he must recal the idea of feelings perceived at fome former period; or he must feize their impreffion, and mark their operations at the very moment they are accidentally excited. Thus, with other obvious disadvantages, he will often lofe the opportunity of a happy mood, unable to avail himself of those animating returns of vivacity and attention effential to genius, but independent of the will.
Obfervations made, while the mind is inflamed, are difficult in the execution, incomplete, and erroneous. Eager paffions admit no partners, and endure no rivals in their authority. The moment reflection,
reflection, or any foreign or oppofing principle, begins to operate, they are either exceedingly exafperated, agitating the mind, and leaving it no leisure for fpeculation; or, if they are unable to maintain their afcendant, they become cool and indiftin&t; their afpect grows dim; and obfervations made during their decline are imperfect. The paffions are fwift and evanefcent: We cannot arreft their celerity, nor fufpend them in the mind during pleasure. You are moved by ftrong affection: Seize the opportunity, let none of its motions efcape you, and obferve every fentiment it excites. You cannot. While the paffion prevails, you have no leifure for fpeculation; and be affured it hath fuffered abatement, if you have time to philofophize.
But you proceed by recollection. Still, however, your obfervations are limited, your theory partial. To be acquainted with
with the nature of any paffion, we muft know by what combination of feelings it is excited; to what temperament it is allied; in what proportion it gathers force and swiftness; what propenfities, and what affociations of ideas either retard or accelerate its impetuofity; and how it may be oppofed, weakened, or fuppreffed. But, if thefe circumftances escape the moft vigilant and abftracted attention, when the mind is actually agitated, how can they be recollected when the paffion is entirely quieted? Moreover, every paffion is compounded of inferior and fubordinate feelings, effential to its existence, in their own nature nicely and minutely varied, but whose different fhades and gradations are difficult to be difcerned. To thefe we must be acutely attentive; to mark how they are combined, blended, or oppofed; how they are suddenly extinguished, in a moment renewed, and again extinguished.
tinguished. But these fleet volatile feelings, perceived only when the mind is affected, elude the most dexterous and active memory. Add to this, that an idea of memory is ever fainter and lefs diftinct than an actual perception, especially if the idea to be renewed is of a spiritual nature, a thought, fentiment, or internal fenfation.
Even allowing the poffibility of accurate obfervation, our theories will continue partial and inadequate. We have only one view of the subject, and know not what afpects it may affume, or what powers it may poffefs in the conftitution of another. No principle hath been more variously treated, nor hath given rife to a greater number of fyftems, than that by which we are denominated moral agents, and determine the merit or deme
Dr. Reid's Inquiry, chap, I. fect. 2,