Conclusion on Part 6

September 1, 2015

54 Prudence is recommended to us by the concern for our own happiness.

Justice and beneficence are recommended to us by the concern for the happiness of others. Justice restrains us from hurting that happiness. Beneficence prompts us to promote it.

Prudence is originally recommended to us by our selfish affections. Justice and beneficence are recommended to us by our benevolent affections. These are recommended to us independent of any regard to:

  • what are,
  • what should be, or
  • what would be the sentiments of other people.

However, the regard to other people’s sentiments comes afterwards to enforce and direct the practice of prudence, justice, and beneficence.

Everyone trods steadily and uniformly in the paths of prudence, justice, or proper beneficence. We are directed by a regard to the sentiments of the supposed impartial spectator. This spectator is:

  • the great inmate of the breast, and
  • the great judge and arbiter of conduct.

In the evening, this inmate calls us to account for all our following daytime violations:

  • if we have swerved from the rules which he prescribes to us
  • if we have exceeded or relaxed in our frugality or industry
  • if we have hurt our neighbour’s interest or happiness, through our passion or inadvertency
  • if we have neglected a plain and proper opportunity of promoting that interest and happiness

The reproaches of this impartial spectator often makes us blush inwardly for our:

  • folly,
  • inattention to our own happiness,
  • greater indifference and inattention, perhaps, to the happiness of others.

55 Prudence, justice, and beneficence may be recommended to us almost equally by two different principles.

The virtues of self-command are principally and almost entirely recommended to us only by the sense of propriety. This sense is the regard to the sentiments of the supposed impartial spectator. Without this principle’s restraint, every passion would often rush headlong to its own gratification. Anger would follow the suggestions of its own fury. Fear would follow the suggestions of its own violent agitations. Vanity would always create the loudest and most impertinent ostentation, or voluptuousness from the most open, indecent, and scandalous indulgence. The sole principle which often overawes all those mutinous and turbulent passions is the respect for other people’s sentiments. It brings those passions into that tone and temper which the impartial spectator can enter into and sympathize with.

56 Sometimes, those passions are restrained by prudential considerations of their bad consequences, not so much by a sense of their impropriety.

In such cases, the restrained passions are not always subdued. They often remain lurking with all their original fury. The man whose anger is restrained by fear, does not always lay aside his anger. He only reserves its gratification for a safer opportunity. But the man who talks to his friend about an injury done to him, feels his anger cooled by the sympathy from his friend’s more moderate sentiments. This restrains his anger and somewhat subdues it. His friend views that injury in the much milder and fairer light than his companion. The anger becomes really less than it was before. It becomes less capable of exciting him to the violent and bloody revenge which he might have thought of inflicting.

57 The passions which are restrained by the sense of propriety, are all moderated and subdued by it in some degree.

But those which are restrained only by prudential considerations are frequently inflamed by the restraint. Sometimes they burst out with tenfold fury and violence, absurdly and unexpectedly. This happens= long after the provocation, and when nobody is thinking about it.

58 Anger and the other passions can often be restrained by prudential considerations.

Some exertion of manhood and self-command is even necessary for this sort of restraint. The impartial spectator may sometimes view it with that cold esteem due to vulgar prudence. But it will never view that conduct with affectionate admiration. He may frequently see some propriety and even virtue in the restraint of anger. But it is a much inferior propriety and virtue compared to the restraints of other affections. We always admire the restraints of those other affections.

59 Prudence, justice, and beneficence only produce the most agreeable effects.

These effects are originally recommend them to the actor and afterwards to the impartial spectator. In our approbation of the prudent man’s character, we feel his security with peculiar complacency. In our approbation of the just man’s character, we feel the security of all those connected with him, with equal complacency. They derive this security from his scrupulous anxiety never to hurt or offend. In our approbation of the beneficent man’s character, we feel= the gratitude of those within the sphere of his good offices, and the highest sense of his merit. In our approbation of those virtues, our sense of their agreeable effects and utility= joins with our sense of their propriety, and always constitutes a big part, frequently a major part, of that approbation.

60 But in our approbation of the virtues of self-command, complacency with their effects sometimes constitutes no part, frequently a small part, of that approbation.

Those effects may be agreeable or disagreeable. Our approbation is stronger when self-command produces agreeable effects. But our approbation is not destroyed altogether when self-command produces disagreeable effects. The most heroic valour can be employed indifferently in the cause of justice or injustice. It is much more loved in the cause of justice. But it still retains a great and respectable quality even in the cause of injustice. In all the virtues of self-command, the splendid and dazzling qualities are always= the greatness and steadiness of the exertion, and the strong sense of propriety to create and maintain that exertion. The effects are too often regarded too little.


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