Chapter 3b

Peace and the freedom from misery Simplified

September 14, 2015 by Adam Smith

72 The Stoics said that there is no essential difference in the happiness in one permanent situation and another. If there were any difference, it was very little.

It was just enough to render that situation as objects of=

  • simple preference, but not of earnest desire,
  • simple rejection, but not of earnest aversion.

The certainty by which our happiness settles to match our permanent situation would make us think that the Stoics were correct.

Happiness consists in tranquility and enjoyment. Without tranquility, there can be no enjoyment. Where there is perfect tranquility, anything can be amusing.

But in every permanent situation, everyone’s mind soon returns to its natural and usual state of tranquility.

  • After a certain time in happiness, it falls back to that state.
  • After a certain time in unhappiness, it rises up to it.

Antoine Nompar de Caumont, duc de Lauzun

After some time in the Bastille’s solitary imprisonment, the fashionable and frivolous Count de Lauzun recovered enough tranquility to amuse himself with feeding a spider. A more philosophical mind would have recovered its tranquility faster and found a much better amusement in its own thoughts.

Human misery is from mistaking the impermanent as permanent.

73 The great source of human life’s misery and disorders comes from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another.

  • Avarice overrates the difference between poverty and riches.
  • Ambition overrates the difference between a private and a public station.
  • Vain-glory overrates the difference between obscurity and extensive reputation.

The person under those extravagant feelings is actually miserable. He often disturbs the society’s peace to arrive at that peace which he so foolishly admires.

In contrast, a well-disposed mind is equally calm, cheerful, and contented in all ordinary situations. None of those situations are worth violating justice or prudence.

Some of those situations might be preferred to others. But none of them deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to= violate the rules of prudence or justice, or corrupt the future tranquility of our minds by shame=

from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice. The man who attempts to change his situation plays the most unequal of all games of hazard wherever= prudence does not direct it, and justice does not permit it. He stakes everything against scarce anything.

When the King of Epirus finished saying to his Favourite all his proposed conquests, the Favourite said= ‘And what does your Majesty propose to do then? The King said= ‘I propose then to enjoy myself with friends and be good company over a bottle. The Favourite replied= “and what hinders your Majesty from doing so now?’ This may be applied to men in all the ordinary situations.

In the highest imaginary situation, our imagined pleasures are almost always the same with the actual pleasures in our lower station.

In the most humble station we may find= except the frivolous pleasures of vanity and superiority where there is only personal liberty, every other which the most exalted can afford; The pleasures of vanity and superiority are seldom consistent with perfect tranquillity. Perfect tranquility is the principle and foundation of all real and satisfactory enjoyment. It is not certain that those real pleasures in the splendid situation, which we aim at, can be enjoyed with the same security as in the humble one, which we are very eager to abandon. Most misfortunes arose from people not knowing= when they were well and when it was proper for them to sit still and be contented. This is proven by= examining history, and recollecting what happened within your own experience. attentively considering the conduct of those who were greatly unfortunate in life. On a the tombstone of the man who had tried to mend a tolerable constitution by taking pills and potions was written= ‘I was well, I wished to be better. Here I am; I may generally be applied with great justness to the distress of disappointed avarice and ambition.’

74 In the misfortunes which can be remedied, most men do not readily or universally recover their natural and usual tranquility, as in misfortunes which cannot be remedied.

In irreparable misfortunes, it is chiefly in the first attack that we discover any difference between the sentiments of the wise man and the weak man. Time is the great and universal comforter In the end, it gradually composes the weak man to the same tranquility which the wise man had in the beginning. The wise man’s regard to his own dignity and manhood teaches himself have that tranquility. The case of the man with the wooden leg is an obvious example of this. In irreparable misfortunes caused by the death of children, friends and relations, even a wise man may indulge in some moderated sorrow for some time. An affectionate, but weak woman, is often perfectly distracted on such occasions. However, Time never fails to compose the weakest woman to the same tranquility as the strongest man. In all calamities, a wise man tries to anticipate that future peace which he foresees to be restored to him after some time.

75In the misfortunes which have remedies which are not within the sufferer’s reach, man is chiefly hindered from resuming his natural tranquility by his=

vain and fruitless attempts to restore himself to his former situation continual anxiety for their success repeated disappointments on their miscarriage These frequently render him miserable for the rest of his life.

These do not disturb the man who had a greater irreparable misfortune. The man who struggles the least, and most easily acquiesces in his fortune, quickly recovers his natural tranquility from the following situations= the fall from royal favour to disgrace, the fall from power to insignificancy, the fall from riches to poverty, the fall from liberty to confinement, the fall from strong health to some chronic disease. He surveys his disagreeable circumstances in the same light than how the most indifferent spectator does.

Faction, intrigue, and cabal, disturb the quiet of the unfortunate statesman. Extravagant projects, visions of gold mines, interrupt the repose of the ruined bankrupt. The prisoner, who is continually plotting to escape, cannot enjoy that careless security of a prison. The physician’s medicines are often the incurable patient’s greatest torment. To comfort Joanna of Castile after the death of her husband Philip, the monk told her about a King who was restored to life by the prayers of his afflicted queen 14 years after he died. This legendary tale was unlikely to restore sedateness to Joanna. She tried to repeat the same experiment hoping for the same success. For a long time, she resisted the burial of her husband. She soon after raised his body from the grave. She attended it almost constantly herself. She watched impatiently the happy moment when her wishes were to be gratified by the revival of her beloved Philip.*8 Self-command is often opposite to humanity

76 Our sensibility to the feelings of others is the very principle on which the manhood of self-command is founded.

It is the very same principle or instinct which prompts us to compassion during our neighbour’s misfortune. In our own misfortune, it prompts us to restrain the miserable lamentations of our own sorrow. It is the same principle or instinct which prompts us to= congratulate his joy in his success restrain our own joy’s levity in our own success In both cases, the propriety of our own feelings is exactly proportional to the force with which we enter into and conceive his feelings.

77 We naturally love the man of the most perfect virtue.

He most perfectly controls his own selfish feelings He has the most exquisite sensibility to the original and to the sympathetic feelings of others. We naturally love most the man who joins all the great and respectable virtues with all the soft, amiable, and gentle ones.

78 The person best fitted by nature for acquiring the great, awful, and respectable virtues is likewise best fitted for acquiring the soft, amiable, and gentle ones.

The man who feels the most for the feelings of others, is best fitted for acquiring the most complete control of his feelings. The man of the most exquisite humanity, is naturally the most capable of acquiring the highest degree of self-command. However, he may not always have acquired it. He very frequently has not acquired it. He may have lived too much in ease and tranquillity. He may have never been exposed to= the violence of faction or the hardships and hazards of war He may have never experienced= the insolence of his superiors the jealous and malignant envy of his equals, or the pilfering injustice of his inferiors When some accidental change of fortune exposes him to all these in old age, they make too great an impression on him. He is fit for acquiring the most perfect self-command, but he never has had the opportunity of acquiring it. Exercise and practice have been lacking. Without these, no habit can ever be tolerably established. Hardships, dangers, injuries, misfortunes, are the only masters under whom we can learn the exercise of this virtue. But these are all masters to whom nobody willingly puts himself to school.

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