Chapter 1: Objects of gratitude appear to deserve reward. Objects of resentment appear to deserve punishment
Merit and Demerit are another set of qualities ascribed to mankind's actions and conduct, distinct from propriety or decency.
- Merit is the quality deserving reward.
- Demerit is the quality deserving punishment.
- These are the objects of a distinct species of approbation.
Sentiments may be considered under two aspects or relations:
- In relation to the cause which excites it
- An action's propriety or decency depends on the suitableness of the sentiment, which creates the action, to the cause which excites it.
- In relation to the end which it proposes or the effect it tends to produce.
- An action's merit depends on the beneficial or hurtful effects of the sentiments creating the action.
- Part 1 explained what makes up our sense of the propriety or impropriety.
- Part 2 will explain what makes up our sense of merit or demerit.
Chapter 1: Objects of Gratitude Deserve Reward and Objects of Resentment Deserve Punishment
3 An action must appear to deserve reward if it appears to be the proper object of that sentiment which immediately and directly prompts us to reward or do good.
- In the same way, an action must appear to deserve punishment if it appears to be the proper object of that sentiment which immediately and directly prompts us to punish or inflict evil.
4 Gratitude most immediately and directly prompts us to reward.
- Resentment most immediately and directly prompts us to punish.
5 An action must appear to deserve reward if it appears to be the proper object of gratitude.
- On the other hand, an action must appear to deserve punishment if it appears to be the proper object of resentment.
6 To reward is to recompense, remunerate, or return good for good received.
- To punish is to recompense, remunerate, in a different manner, to return evil for evil that has been done.
7 Besides gratitude and resentment, there are other passions which interest us in the happiness or misery of others.
- But there are none which so directly excite us to be the instruments of happiness or misery.
- Love and esteem grow from acquaintance and habitual approbation.
- These necessarily lead us to be pleased with the good fortune of the person we love and esteem.
- Consequently, we will be willing to promote it.
- However, our love is fully satisfied even if his good fortune comes without our help.
- Love only wants to see him happy, without regarding who caused it.
But gratitude is not satisfied in this way.
- A person to whom we owe many obligations can become happy without our help.
- This pleases our love.
- But it does not content our gratitude.
- We feel loaded with our debt to him until we:
- have recompensed him, and
- have been instrumental in promoting his happiness.
8 Hatred and dislike grow on habitual disapprobation.
- These often lead us to take a malicious pleasure in the misfortune of the person we hate.
- Hatred and dislike harden us against all sympathy.
- They even sometimes dispose us to rejoice at another's distress.
- But hatred would not naturally lead us to bring distress to others if:
- there is no resentment in the case, and
- neither we nor our friends have received any great personal provocation.
- Even if we would not be punished for bringing this distress, we would rather have it happen by other means.
One dominated by violent hatred might find it agreeable to hear that the person he hated was killed by some accident.
- It would hurt him very much to be the cause of his accident himself, even if he had the least spark of justice.
- The thought of voluntarily contributing to it would shock him beyond all measure.
- He would reject with horror even the imagination of doing so.
- Even if he could imagine himself capable of it, he would regard himself in the same odious light as the person he hated.
But it is quite otherwise with resentment.
- For example, if the person who murdered our brother dies of a fever or be brought to the scaffold because of some other crime, it would not fully gratify our resentment.
- But it might sooth our hatred.
- Resentment would prompt us to want him punished by our means, because of the injury he did to us.
- Resentment cannot be fully gratified unless the offender is made:
- to grieve in his turn, and
- to grieve for that wrong which we have suffered from him.
- He must be made to repent and be sorry for this very action, so that others may be terrified from doing the like offence from a fear of the like punishment.
- The natural gratification of resentment naturally produces all the political ends of punishment:
- the correction of the criminal, and
- the example to the public.
9 Therefore, gratitude and resentment are the sentiments which most immediately and directly prompt us to reward and punish.
- To us:
- he who appears to be the proper and approved object of gratitude must appear to deserve reward, and
- he who appears to be the proper and approved object of resentment must appear to deserve punishment.
Next: Chapter 2: Gratitude and Resentment