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my pleasures. I stand to embrace her, for, you know, pleasure I court under all shapes and forms.
Phil. Attend, then, and you will see the reason of this philosophical self-denial. There can be no absolute perfection in any creature; because every creature is derived from something of a superior existence, and dependent on that source for its own existence. No created being can be all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful, because his powers and capacities are finite and limited; consequently whatever is created must, in its own nature, be subject to error, irregularity, excess, and imperfectness. All intelligent, rational agents find in themselves a power of judging what kind of beings they are, what actions are proper to preserve them, and what consequences will generally attend them, what pleasures they are for, and to what degree their natures are capable of receiving them. All we have to do then, Horatio, is to consider, when we are surprised with a new object, and passionately desire to enjoy it, whether the gratifying that passion be consistent with the gratifying other passions and appetites, equally if not more necessary to us; and whether it consists with our happiness to-morrow, next week, or next year; for, as we all wish to live, we are obliged by reason to take as much care for our future, as our present happiness, and not build one upon the ruins of the other. But if, through the strength and power of a present passion, and through want of attending to consequences, we have erred and exceeded the bounds which nature and reason have set us; we are then, for our own sakes, to refrain, or deny ourselves a present momentary pleasure for a future, constant, and durable one.
So that this philosophical self-denial is only refusing to do an action which you strongly desire, because it is inconsistent with health, convenience, or circumstances in the world ; or, in other words, because the key it would cost you more than it was worth. You would lose by it, as a man of pleasure. Thus you see, Horatio, that self-denial is not only the most reasonable, but the most pleasant thing in the world.
1780 Hor. We are just coming into town, so that we cannot pursue this argument any farther at present; 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 HORA
TIO, CONCERNING VIRTUE AND PLEASURE.
FROM THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE, 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 pleasurehunter as you could bear being alone?
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 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;
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 self-denia, 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, self-recognising, self-acknowledging, or selfowning. 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 everything 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 never-fading 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 skepticism 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.
Hor. 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 checkered, 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 must 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 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