Adam Smith's Simple Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 2, Section 1, Chatper 5: The Analysis of the Sense of Merit and Demerit
Chap. 5: The analysis of the sense of Merit and Demerit
2.1.22. 1. Our sense of the propriety of conduct comes from a direct sympathy with the actor's affections and motives.
- Our sense of its merit arises from an indirect sympathy with the gratitude of the person acted on.
2.1.23. We cannot thoroughly enter into the beneficiary's gratitude, unless we approve of the benefactor's motives beforehand.
- Thus, the sense of merit is a compounded sentiment.
- It is made up of two distinct emotions:
- A direct sympathy with the agent's sentiments
- An indirect sympathy with the gratitude of those who receive the benefit of his actions
2.1.24. Many times, we may plainly distinguish those two emotions uniting together in our sense of the good desert of a particular character or action.
- When we read in history about actions of beneficent greatness of mind:
- How eagerly do we enter into such designs?
- How much are we animated by that high-spirited generosity which directs them?
- How keen are we for their success?
- How grieved are we at their disappointment?
- We imagine that we are the very person whose actions are represented to us.
- We transport ourselves to the scenes of those adventures, in fancy.
- We imagine ourselves acting the part of a Scipio, Camillus, Timoleon or Aristides.
- So far, our sentiments are founded on the direct sympathy with the person who acts.
- The indirect sympathy with those who receive the benefit of such actions are not less sensibly felt.
- Whenever we place ourselves in their situation, we enter into their gratitude towards those who served them, with a warm and affectionate fellow-feeling.
- We embrace their benefactor along with them.
- Our heart readily sympathizes with their grateful affection.
- We think that no honours, no rewards can be too great for them to bestow on him.
- When they make this proper return, we heartily applaud and go along with them.
- But we are shocked if they appear to have little sense of the obligations conferred on them.
- In short, the sympathetic emotions of gratitude and love is the source of our whole sense of:
- the merit and good desert of such actions,
- the propriety and fitness of recompensing them, and
- making the person who performed them rejoice in his turn.
- With the emotions of gratitude and love, we bring home to our own breast the situation of those who feel the gratitude.
- We feel naturally transported towards the man who acted with such noble beneficence.
2.1.25. 2. Our sense of the impropriety of conduct arises from a lack of sympathy or from a direct antipathy to the agent's affections and motives.
- Likewise, our sense of its demerit arises from an indirect sympathy with the sufferer's resentment.
2.1.26. We cannot enter into the sufferer's resentment unless our heart beforehand:
- disapproves the agent's motives and
- renounces all fellow-feeling with them.
Likewise, the sense of merit and demerit are compounded sentiments made up of two distinct emotions:
- a direct antipathy to the agent's sentiments, and
- an indirect sympathy with the sufferer's resentment.
2.1.27. Here we can plainly distinguish those two emotions uniting in our sense of the ill desert of a particular character or action.
- When we read in history about the cruelty of a Borgia or a Nero, our heart:
- rises up against the detestable sentiments which influenced their conduct, and
- renounces with horror all fellow-feeling with such execrable motives.
- So far, our sentiments are founded on:
- the direct antipathy to the agent's affections, and
- the indirect sympathy with the sufferer's resentment is still more sensibly felt.
- When we bring home to ourselves the situation of the persons they insulted, murdered, or betrayed, do we not feel indignation against such oppressors?
- Our sympathy with the unavoidable distress of the innocent sufferers is not more real nor more lively, than our fellow-feeling with their just and natural resentment.
- The former sentiment only heightens the latter.
- The idea of their distress only inflames our animosity against those who caused it.
- When we think of the sufferers' anguish, we take part with them more earnestly against their oppressors.
- We more eagerly enter into all their schemes of vengeance.
- We feel wreaking that punishment, which our sympathetic indignation tells us their oppressors must receive.
- The sympathetic indignation naturally boils up in the spectator's breast whenever he thoroughly brings home to himself the sufferer's case.
- This indignation causes:
- our sense of the horror and dreadful atrocity of such conduct,
- our delight in hearing that it was properly punished,
- our indignation when it escapes this punishment, and
- our whole sense and feeling, in short, of its ill desert:
- of the propriety and fitness of inflicting evil on the guilty person, and
- making him grieve in his turn.
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