« ZurückWeiter »
sent; you have said a great deal for nature, Providence, and reason: happy are they who can follow such divine guides.
Phil. Horatio, good night; I wish you wise in your pleasures.
Hor. I wish, Philocles, I could be as wise in my pleasures as you are pleasantly wise; your wisdom is agreeable, your virtue is amiable, and your philosophy the highest luxury. Adieu, thou enchanting reasoner!
A SECOND DIALOGUE BETWEEN PHILOCLES AND HORATIO, CONCERNING VIRTUE AND PLEASURE.
From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 86, July 9,1730.
Philocles. Dear Horatio, where hast thou been these three or four months? What new adventures have you fallen upon since I met you in these delightful all-inspiring fields, and wondered how such a pleasure-hunter as you could bear being alone 1
Horatio. O Philocles! thou best of friends, because a friend to reason and virtue! I am very glad to see you. Do not you remember, I told you then, that some misfortunes in my pleasures had sent me to philosophy for relief? but now I do assure you I can, without a sigh, leave other pleasures for those of philosophy: I can hear the
word reason mentioned, and virtue praised, without laughing. Do not I bid fair for conversion, think you?
Phil. Very fair, Horatio; for I remember the time when reason, virtue, and pleasure, were the same thing with you: when you counted nothing good but what pleased, nor any thing reasonable but what you gained by: when you made a jest of a mind, and the pleasures of reflection; and elegantly placed your sole happiness, like the rest of the animal creation, in the gratification of sense.
Hor. I did so: but in our last conversation, when walking upon the brow of this hill, and looking down on that broad rapid river, and yon widely-extended beautifully-varied plain, you taught me another doctrine; you showed me, that self-denial, which above all things I abhorred, was really the greatest good, and the highest self-gratification, and absolutely necessary to produce even my own darling sole good, pleasure.
Phil. True: I told you that self-denial was never a duty, but when it was a natural means of procuring more pleasure than we could taste without it: that as we all strongly desire to live, and to live only to enjoy, we should take as much care about our future as our present happiness, and not build one upon the ruins of the other: that we should look to the end, and regard consequences: and if through want of attention we had erred, and exceeded the bounds which nature had set us, we
were then obliged, for our own sakes, to refrain or deny ourselves a present momentary pleasure for a future, constant, and durable good.
Hor. You have shown, Philocles, that selfdenial, which weak or interested men have rendered the most forbidding, is really the most delightful and amiable, the most reasonable and pleasant thing in the world. In a word, if I understand you aright, self-denial is, in truth, selfrecognising, self-acknowledging, or self-owning. But now, my friend, you are to perform another promise, and show me the path that leads up to that constant, durable, and invariable good, which I have heard you so beautifully describe, and which you seem so fully to possess. Is not this good of yours a mere chimera? Can any thing be constant in a world which is eternally changing, and which appears to exist by an everlasting revolution of one thing into another, and where every thing without us, and every thing within us, is in perpetual motion? What is this constant durable good, then, of yours? Prithee satisfy my soul, for I am all on fire, and impatient to enjoy her. Produce this eternal blooming goddess with neverfading charms, and see whether I will not embrace her with as much eagerness and rapture as you.
Phil. You seem enthusiastically warm, Horatio; I will wait till you are cool enough to attend to the sober dispassionate voice of reason.
Hor. You mistake me, my dear Philocles; my warmth is not so great as to run away with my reason: it is only just raised enough to open my faculties, and fit them to receive those eternal truths, and that durable good, which you so triumphantly boasted of. Begin, then; I am prepared.
Phil. I will. I believe, Horatio, with all your scepticism about you, you will allow that good to be constant which is never absent from you, and that to be durable which never ends but with your being.
Hot. Yes, go on.
Phil. That can never be the good of a creature, which, when present, the creature may be miserable, and when absent, is certainly so.
Hor. I think not; but pray explain what you mean; for I am not much used to this abstract way of reasoning.
Phil. I mean all the pleasures of sense. The good of man cannot consist in the mere pleasures of sense; because, when any one of those objects which you love is absent, or cannot be come at, you are certainly miserable: and if the faculty be impaired, though the object be present, you cannot enjoy it. So that this sensual good depends upon a thousand things without and within you, and all out of your power. Can this then be the good of man? Say, Horatio, what think you, is not this a chequered, fleeting, fantastical good? Can that, in any propriety of speech, be called the good of man which, even while he is tasting, he may be miserable; and which, when he cannot taste, he is necessarily so? Can that be our good, which costs us a great deal of pains to obtain, which cloys in possessing, for which we cannot wait the return of appetite before we can enjoy again? Or is that our good, which we can come at without difficulty, which is heightened by possession, which never ends in weariness and disappointment, and which, the more we enjoy, the better qualified we are to enjoy on?
•. Hor. The latter, I think; but why do you torment me thus? Philocles, show me this good immediately.
Phil. I have showed you what it is not; it is not sensual, but it is rational and moral good. It is doing all the good we can to others, by acts of humanity, friendship, generosity, and benevolence: this is that constant and durable good, which will afford contentment and satisfaction always alike, without variation or diminution. I speak to your experience now, Horatio: did you ever find yourself weary of relieving the miserable? or of raising the distressed into life or happiness? or rather, do not you find the pleasure grow upon you by repetition, and that it is greater in the reflection than in the act itself? Is there a pleasure upon earth to be compared with that which arises from the sense of making others happy? Can this pleasure ever be absent, or ever end but with your being? Does it not always accompany you? Doth not it lie