« PreviousContinue »
their variety: these may be likened to storms and other elemental commotions that terrify and destroy. Violent passions, very properly expressed by the Latin word perturbationes, always discompose the mind, and impair reason to a certain degrec; and have been known to rise even to phrensy, and hurry men on to perpetrations, that have shortened their days, and made life miserable, and death infamous. Many of them are attended with feverish symptoms ; some give an unaccountable addition of bodily strength, which, however, soon ends in languor; and some have brought on fainting, apoplexy, and instant death. Nothing more needs be said to show the dreadful effects of violent passion, the indispensable duty of guarding against it, and the inexcusable temerity of speaking and acting under its influence.
292. The peripatetics, or followers of Aristotle, rightly thought, that the passions, dangerous as they are, ought not to be extinguished, even though that were possible ; for that, being natural, they must be useful; but that they are to be regulated by reason, and kept within the bounds of moderation. All those violent emotions, that urge us on to pleasure, or to the avoidance of pain, by a blind impulse, were by the schoolmen, who professed to derive their tenets from the same source, referred to what they called the sensitive appetite, because they seemed to partake more of the senses than of reason : and those calmer affections, that
prompt us to pursue good rationally and with tranquillity, they referred to the rational appetite, because more nearly allied to reason than to the
293. Pythagoras and Plato ascribe to the soul two natures, or, to give it in the words of Cicero, animum in duas partes dividunt, divide the soul into two parts, the one rational, the other irrational. In the rational nature they placed what they called tranquillity, that is, as Cicero explains the word, placida et quieta constantia, an easy and quiet consistency or uniformity. To the irrational part they referred what the Greeks called main, or passions, and the Latins, more properly, perturbationes, or discomposures, those turbulent emotions both of anger and of desire, which are contrary and unfriendly to reason. There is, in Cicero's fourth book of Tusculan Inquiries, a particular enumeration of the several sorts of perturbationes and constantia, according to the stoical system. The
passage deserves attention; not so much for the philosophy contained in it, as because it ascertains the signification of some Latin words, which are not, for the most part, exactly understood.
294. Indeed, it is not very easy to comprehend what the stoics say on this subject. Sometimes they would seem to require the extinction of all our passions, of all, at least, that are influenced by external things; for they hold, that nothing external is either good or evil, virtue being, ac
cording to them, not only the greatest, but the only good. At other times they are not so unfavourable to the passions ; but grant indulgence to those that interrupt not that calm constancy and steady uniformity, which they supposed to constitute the glory of the human character. Thus they allow, that guudium, or rational and tranquil joy, may be permitted to have a place in the human breast; but they proscribe lætitia, which it seems is a more tumultuous sort of gladness, as unworthy of a wise man. They are indeed licentious, and frequently whimsical, in their use of words ; so that it is difficult to understand them in their own tongues, the Greek and Latin, and still more so to translate their doctrines into any modern language. Mrs. Carter has, however, been singularly successful in her version of the discourses of Epictetus ; to which she has prefixed an elegant introduction, of more value than all the rest of the book. To that introduction I would refer those who wish to form a just idea of the spirit and genius of the stoical philosophy.
295. It cannot be doubted, that pure and created spirits may be susceptible of emotions somewhat similar to human passions, as joy, gratitude, admiration, esteem, love, and the like. Hence some authors, in treating of the passions, have divided them into spiritual and human.
The former we are supposed to be capable of in common with angels and other created spirits ; the
latter are peculiar to our present constitution as composed of soul and body. I need not take further notice of this division. Through the whole of the following arrangement I must be understood to speak of the passions, as they affect human creatures in the present state. Of the emotions of pure spirits we may form conjectures ; but we can speak with certainty, and scientifically, of those only which are known to us by experience.
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.
Passions and Affections. *
296. The first class of passions that I shall take notice of comprehends admiration, and some other emotions allied to it. What is either uncommon in itself, or endowed with uncommon qualities, raises admiration or wonder. The sun is seen every day, and therefore is, in one respect, not uncommon; yet who does not admire his extraordinary magnitude and splendour, and beneficial influences ! When, as in this example, the object we contemplate is transcendently excellent or great, admiration becomes astonishment ; and an uncommon or unexpected object appearing on a sudden, raises within us an emotion called surprise. The passions
of this class, when under no restraint, naturally express themselves by opening the mouth and eyes, raising the eyebrows, lifting up the hands and spreading the fingers : surprise, when violent, occasions starting and other nervous symptoms. These are all kindred emotions, and yet they are not the same.
297. Admiration and wonder may be distinguished. The former is generally a pleasurable passion, its object being for the most part good, or great, or both; the latter may be agreeable, or otherwise, according to circumstances. We wonder at the folly and wickedness of some people, but can hardly be said to admire it. We wonder at the ingenuity displayed in harnessing a flea to a microscopic chariot ; but the genius of the artist we do not admire, because it exerts itself in nothing that can be called either great or good ; and because, though at first view it may yield a slight gratification, one is rather vexed than pleased to think that so much skill and time should be thrown away upon such a trifle.
We may also distinguish between admiration and surprise. The sudden appearance of a person in a place where we did not expect him, may surprise us without being matter of admiration. And admiration, as already observed, is generally, if not always, pleasing ; but it is not so with surprise.
298. We speak of disagreeable as well as agreeable surprises, and of astonishment that confounds,