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RUE PHILOSOPHY.—What are the practical lessons
how the human character is formed, and how the
which are rendered to an entire nation are entitled to a still higher estimate. Happy is he who is enabled to confer some benefits upon his contemporaries; but still happier is his lot whose services extend also from them to posterity. Nature has established an elevated relationship between succeeding generations ; without acquaintance they communicate illumination, and without contact they transmit an accumulation of riches. The mass of useful truths is eternal; and each individual carries to it his particular tribute, in the certainty that no power can retrench the smallest fraction from this imperishable treasure. The friend of liberty and justice thus bequeaths to futurity the most valuable portion of himself; he places it beyond the reach of their injustice, which overlooks him, and of the oppression which menaces him. He commits it to a sanctuary which no debasing or turbulent passion can approach. He whose meditation discovers a single principle, whose hand traces a single truth, whose victorious eloquence founds one salutary institution, may, without inquietude, risk his life in contest with tyrants, or a not less unjust populace ; his existence will not have been vain ; his thoughts will remain impressed upon that eternal whole, upon which no circumstance can annihilate his influence.—Constant.
JEELINGS NO CRITERION OF RIGHT OR WRONG.—The
feelings of mankind are as different as their opinions
different inclinations, propensities, and habits of the district. The Spaniard and the Turk feel it an obligation of personal honour to conceal their wives and concubines from the eyes of men. The wild Arab feels it to be honourable to live by the plunder of unwary travellers ; and the ambitious sovereign to subjugate inoffensive nations. An ardent youth feels it his duty to serve his country in the conflicts of war; a cautious father feels it to be his duty to keep the youth from being shot through the head by intermeddling with the quarrels of states. A Spartan feels it honourable to steal; a virtuous Christian feels it to be ignominious. According to the system under consideration, they are advised to act according to their feelings, without argumentation, and they will all act perfectly right.—Cogan.
CL. .NFLUENCE OF HABIT.—Mankind act more from habit
than reflection. It is in few instances only and on
great occasions that men deliberate at all; on fewer still that they institute any thing like a regular inquiry into the moral rectitude or depravity of what they are about to do, or wait for the result of it. We are for the most part determined at once; and by an impulse, which is the effect and energy of pre-established habits. And this constitution seems well adapted to the exigences of human life, and to the imbecility of our moral principle. In the current occasions and rapid opportunities of life, there is oftentimes little leisure for reflection ; and were there more, a man who has to reason about his duty, when the temptation to transgress it is upon him, is almost sure to reason himself into an error.
If we are in so great a degree passive under our habits, where, it is asked, is the exercise of virtue, the guilt of vice, or any use of moral and religious knowledge ?-I answer, in the forming and contracting of these habits.—Paley.
EWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS APPLIED TO OPINIONS.—
The only rational aim of rewards and punishments .
U is to encourage and repress those actions or events to which they are applied. When they have no tendency to produce these effects, it is evidently absurd to apply them; since it is an employment of means which have no connexion with the end to be produced. In this predicament is the application of rewards and punishments to the state of the understanding, or, in other words, to opinions. The allurements and the menaces of power are alike incapable of establishing opinions in the mind, or eradicating those which are already there. They may draw hypocritical professions from avarice and ambition, or extort verbal renunciations from fear and feebleness; but this is all they can accomplish. The way to alter belief is not to address motives to the will, but arguments to the intellect. To do otherwise, to apply rewards and punishments to opinions, is as absurd as to raise men to the peerage for their ruddy complexions, to whip them for the gout, and hang them for the scrofula.—Essay on the Formation of Opinions.
CLII. HINKING.—Thinking leads man to knowledge. He may see and hear, and read and learn, whatever he pleases, and as much as he pleases : he will never
know any thing of it, except that which he has thought over, that which by thinking he has made the property of his mind. Is it then saying too much, if I say that man, by thinking only, becomes truly man. Take away thought from man's life, and what remains.—Pestalozzi.
much reluctance as advice. We look upon the man . who gives it us as offering an affront to our under het standing, and treating us like children or idiots. We consider the instruction as an implicit censure, and the zeal which any one shows for our good on such an occasion, as a piece of presumption or impertinence. The truth of it is, the person who pretends to advise, does, in that particular, exercise a superiority over us, and can have no other reason for it, but that, in comparing us with himself, he thinks us defective either in our conduct or our understanding. For these reasons, there is nothing so difficult as the art of making advice agreeable; and, indeed, all the writers, both ancient and modern, have distinguished themselves among one another, according to the perfection at which they arrived in this art. How many devices have been made use of, to render this bitter potion palateable ! Some convey their instructions to us in the best chosen words, others in the most harmonious numbers, some in point of wit, and others in short proverbs.— Addison.