Abbildungen der Seite

to appear, is in truth the kindest and most beautiful mistress in the world.

Hor. Prithee, Philocles, do not wrap yourself in allegory and metaphor: why do you tease me thus? I long to be satisfied what is this philosophical self-denial—the necessity and reason of it; I am impatient, and all on fire. Explain, therefore, in your beautiful, natural, easy way of reasoning, what I am to understand by this grave lady of yours, with so forbidding, downcast looks, and yet so absolutely necessary to my pleasures. I stand ready 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 allpowerful, 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 formed 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 passion and appetites, equal, 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 or 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 your health, convenience, or circumstances in the world; or, in other words, because 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 o most reasonable, but the most pleasant thing in the world.

Hor. We are just coming into town, so that we cannot pursue this argument any further 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!

[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 pleasure-hunter as you could bear being alone 2 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, ou 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 self-denial, 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-recognizing, self-acknowledging, or self-owning. But now, my friend, you are to perform another promise, and show me the path which 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 anything 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 everything within us 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 boast 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. 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 2 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 2 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 you ever find yourself weary of relieving the miserable, or of raising the distressed into life or happiness 2 Or, rather, do not you find the pleasure grow upon you by repetition, and that it is greater in 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 Z Can this pleasure ever be absent, or ever end but with your being 2 Does it not always accompany you ? Doth not it lie down and rise with you, live as long as you live, give you consolation in the article of death, and remain with you in that gloomy hour when all other things are going to forsake you, or you them 2 Hor. How glowingly you paint, Philocles! Methinks Horatio is amongst the enthusiasts. I feel the passion, I am enchantingly convinced; but I do not know why, overborne by something stronger than reason. Sure, some divinity speaks within me; but prithee, Philocles, give me coolly the cause why this rational and moral good so infinitely excels the mere natural or sensual. Phil. I think, Horatio, that I have clearly shown you the difference between merely natural or sensual good and rational or moral good. Natural or sensual pleasure continues no longer than the action itself; but this divine or moral pleasure continues when the action is over, and swells and grows upon your hand by reflection: the one is inconstant, unsatisfying, of short duration, and attended with numberless ills; the other is constant, yields full satisfaction, is durable, and no evils preceding, accompanying or following it. But, if you inquire further into the cause of this difference, and would know why the moral pleasures are greater than the sensual, perhaps the reason is the same as in all other creatures, – that their happiness or chief good consists in acting up to their chief faculty, or that faculty which distinguishes them from all creatures of a different species. The chief faculty in man is his reason; and, consequently, his chief good, or that which may be justly called his good, consists not merely in action, but in reasonable action. By reasonable actions we understand those actions which are preservative of the human kind, and naturally tend to produce real and unmixed happiness; and these actions, by way of distinction, we call actions morally ood. g Hor. You speak very clearly, Philocles; but, that no difficulty may remain upon your mind, pray tell me what is the real difference between natural good and evil and moral good and evil; for I know several people who use the terms without ideas. Phil. That may be: the difference lies only in this, – that natural good and evil are pleasure and pain, moral good and evil are pleasure or pain produced with intention and design. For, it is the intention only that makes the agent morally good or bad. Hor. But may not a man, with a very good intention, do an evil action ? Phil. Yes; but then he errs in his judgment, though his design be good. If his error is invincible, or such as, all things considered, he could not help, he is inculpable; but, if it arose through want of diligence in forming his judgment about the nature of human actions, he is immoral and culpable. Hor. I find, then, that, in order to please ourselves rightly, or to do good to others morally, we should take great care of our opinions. Phil. Nothing concerns you more; for, as the happiness or real good of men consists in right action, and right action can

« ZurückWeiter »