Superphysics Superphysics
Section 7


by David Hume Icon
5 minutes  • 1044 words

With these limitations, let us:

  • examine the causes of pride and humility.
  • see whether in every case we can discover the double relations by which they operate on the passions.

There will be no further scruple with the present system if we find that all these causes:

  • are related to self
  • produce a pleasure or uneasiness separate from the passion.

We shall principally prove the latter point as the former is obvious. • Vice and virtue are the most obvious causes of these passions. ◦ In recent years, a controversy has so much excited the public’s curiosity: whether these moral distinctions: ▪ are founded on natural and original principles, or ▪ arise from interest and education. • I will examine this in the following book. • In the meantime, I shall show that my system maintains its ground on these hypotheses. ◦ It will be a strong proof of its solidity. • If morality had no foundation in nature, vice and virtue from self-interest or the prejudices of education would produce a real pain and pleasure in us. ◦ This is strenuously asserted by the defenders of that hypothesis. ◦ They say that every passion, habit, or turn of character which has a tendency to our advantage or prejudice, gives a delight or uneasiness. ▪ Approbation or disapprobation arises from this. • We easily gain from the liberality of others. ◦ But we are always in danger of losing by their avarice. • Courage defends us. ◦ Cowardice lays us open to every attack. • Justice is the support of society. ◦ Injustice would quickly prove the ruin of society. • Humility exalts us. ◦ Pride mortifies. • This why the those qualities are esteemed as virtues and vices. ◦ There is a delight or uneasiness attending the merit or demerit of every kind. • I agree with this. • This moral hypothesis is an absolute and invincible proof of my present system. • If all morality is founded on the pain or pleasure from the prospect of our own loss or advantage or those of others, all the effects of morality must be derived from: ◦ the same pain or pleasure ◦ pride and humility, among other passions. • The very essence of: ◦ virtue is to produce pleasure ◦ vice is to give pain. • Virtue and vice must be part of our character to excite pride or humility. ◦ What further proof can we want for the double relation of impressions and ideas? • Some people maintain that morality is something real, essential, and founded on nature. ◦ From this opinion, the same unquestionable argument may be derived. • From a primary constitution of nature, certain characters and passions produce a pain and others excite a pleasure, by the very view and contemplation. ◦ This is the most probable hypothesis which has been advanced to explain the distinction between: ▪ vice and virtue ▪ the origin of moral rights and obligations • Uneasiness and satisfaction: ◦ are inseparable from vice and virtue ◦ constitute their very nature and essence. • To approve of a character is to feel an original delight on its appearance. ◦ To disapprove of it is to be sensible of an uneasiness. • Therefore, pain and pleasure are the primary causes of vice and virtue. ◦ They must also be the causes of: ▪ all their effects ▪ consequently, of pride and humility, which unavoidably attends that distinction. • But if this hypothesis of moral philosophy is false, pain and pleasure are at least inseparable from vice and virtue, if not their causes. ◦ A generous and noble character affords a satisfaction. ◦ It never fails to charm and delight us even if presented only in a poem or fable. • On the other hand, cruelty and treachery displease from their very nature. ◦ It is impossible ever to reconcile us to these qualities in ourselves or others. • Thus one hypothesis of morality is an undeniable proof of the foregoing system, and the other at worst agrees with it. • According to the vulgar systems of ethics, pride and humility: ◦ have been comprehended as parts of moral duty ◦ arise from these qualities connected with pleasure and uneasiness and not the qualities of the mind alone. • Nothing flatters our vanity more than the talent of pleasing by our wit, good humour, or any other accomplishment. ◦ Nothing gives us more mortification than a disappointment in any attempt of that nature. • No one has ever been able: ◦ to tell what wit is ◦ to show why such a system of thought must be received under that denomination, and another system rejected. • We can decide on it only by taste. ◦ We do not have any other standard to form a judgment of this kind. • What is this taste: ◦ from which true and false wit receive their being ◦ without which no thought can have a title to either of these denominations? • It is only from a sensation of pleasure from true wit, and of uneasiness from false. ◦ We are unable to tell why we have that pleasure or uneasiness. • Therefore, the power of bestowing these opposite sensations is the very essence of true and false wit. ◦ Consequently, it is the cause of that pride or humility which arises from them. • The following people might be surprised to hear me talk of: ◦ virtue as exciting pride, when they look instead at vice ◦ vice as producing humility, instead of virtue. • I understand pride to be that agreeable impression arising in the mind, when our virtue, beauty, riches or power makes us satisfied with ourselves. ◦ I understand humility to be the opposite impression. • Pride is not always vicious. ◦ Humility is not always virtuous. • The most rigid morality allows us to receive a pleasure from reflecting on a generous action. ◦ It is not a virtue to feel any fruitless remorses on the thoughts of past villainy and baseness. • Therefore, let us: ◦ examine these impressions considered in themselves. ◦ inquire into their causes, whether placed on the mind or body, without troubling ourselves with that merit or blame attending them.

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