Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 2: The Feelings from the Imagination
Chapter 2: The Feelings from the Imagination
Romantic love is natural but is not commonly expressed because it might be odious or ridiculous15
The passions from the imagination which are habitual are perfectly natural.
- But they are little sympathized with.
- People's imaginations might not have acquired those habits.
- They cannot enter into them.
- Thus, such passions are always somewhat ridiculous.
- This happens with strong romantic attachment.
- We are unable to imagine what the lover experiences, so we are not as eager as he or she is.
- If our friend has been injured, we readily sympathize with his resentment,
- We grow angry with the very person with whom he is angry.
- If he has received a benefit, we readily enter into his gratitude.
- We have a very high sense of the merit of his benefactor.
- But if he is in love, we never think to be bound by the same love which he feels nor to love the person he loves.
- This love appears to everybody else, entirely disproportioned to the object's value.
- Though natural, it is always laughed at, because we cannot enter into it.
- All serious and strong expressions of it appear ridiculous to a third person.
- A lover may be good company to his mistress, but not to anyone else.
- He himself knows this.
- As long as his senses are sober, he teases and ridicules his own passion.
- We only care about his love in this way, because this is the only way we can see it.
- We grow weary of the grave, pedantic, and long-sentenced love of Cowley and Petrarca.
- They always exaggerate their love.
- But Ovid's gaiety and Horace's gallantry are always agreeable.
Despite this, we may have conceived the same kind of passions and we readily enter into:
- the hopes which he feels from the gratification of his passion, and
- the distress which he fears from its disappointment.
His passion interests us as a situation which creates other passions which interest us.
- The hope and fear of the results of a sea voyage interests us, and not the voyage itself.
- We are interested in the distress which hunger creates, not the hunger itself.
- We properly do not enter into a man's attachment to his lover.
- But we readily go along with those expectations of romantic happiness which he derives from it.
- When the mind is relaxed with indolence and tired with the violence of desire, we feel that it is natural:
- to long for serenity and quiet,
- to hope to find serenity and quiet in the gratification of the passion which distracts the mind,
- to have the idea of that life of pastoral tranquility and retirement as described by Tibillus with pleasure
- Tibullus was elegant, tender, and passionate.
- He described a life like what the poets describe in the Fortunate Islands, a life:
- of friendship, liberty, and repose,
- free from:
- care, and
- all the turbulent passions which attend labour and care.
- These scenes interest us most when they are painted as what is hoped, than what is actual.
- This desire mixes with such love and is perhaps the foundation of that love.
- This love disappears when this desire cannot be gratified.
- This love then becomes offensive.
- It then interests us much less than the fear and sadness.
- We tremble for whatever can disappoint such natural and agreeable hopes.
- We thus enter into the lover's anxiety, concern, and distress.
Hence, in some modern tragedies and romances, this love appears so wonderfully interesting.
- The distress of the love between Castalio and Monimia interests us in the tragedy The Orphan.
- Those two lovers, perfectly secure in expressing their love for each other, would excite laughter, not sympathy.
- It is always improper to admit this scene into a tragedy.
- It is only acceptable from the concern for the dangers and difficulties which the audience foresees will come to it.
The reserve which the laws of society impose on women renders it more distressful to them.
- This makes it more deeply interesting.
- We are charmed with the love of Phaedra, despite all its extravagance and guilt.
- That very extravagance and guilt recommends it to us.
- Her fear, shame, remorse, horror, despair, become more natural and interesting.
- Her secondary passions which arise from her love, become necessarily more furious and violent.
- We can then sympathize with her secondary passions.
19 Of all the passions which are so disproportioned to the value of their objects, romantic love is the only one that appears to have anything graceful or agreeable in it.
- Romantic love in itself is not naturally odious, even if it may be ridiculous.
- Though its consequences are often fatal and dreadful, its intentions are seldom mischievous.
- Though there is little propriety in this love itself, there is more propriety in its accompanying passions.
- In romantic love, there is a strong mixture of humanity, generosity, kindness, friendship, and esteem.
- We have the greatest propensity to sympathize with these passions, even if they are excessive.
- Our sympathy for these passions render them less disagreeable and supports it in our imagination, despite all its vices.
- Its vices in men leads to ruin and infamy.
- Its vices in women is the least fatal and leads to an incapacity for labour, neglect of duty, and contempt of fame and reputation.
- Despite all this, it is supposed to be accompanied by sensibility and generosity.
- These renders such love as the object of vanity to many people.
- They are fond of appearing capable of feeling such sensibility and generosity.
Because of this, a certain reserve is necessary when we talk of our own friends, our own studies, or our own professions.
- All these do not interest our friends in the same degree that they interest us.
- It is because of the lack of this reserve, that half of mankind make bad company to the other.
- A philosopher is company only to a small club of philosophers.
Next: Chapter 3: The Unsocial Feelings