Superphysics Superphysics
Section 5

Our Esteem For The Rich And Powerful

by David Hume Icon
13 minutes  • 2619 words

Nothing has a greater tendency to give us an esteem or a contempt for any person, than his power and riches, or his poverty and meanness.

Esteem and contempt are a species of love and hatred. ◦ It will be proper in this place to explain these phenomena. • Most fortunately, the greatest difficulty is not to discover a principle capable of producing such an effect, but to choose the chief and predominant among several principles that present themselves. • Our satisfaction in the riches of others and our esteem for their possessors may be ascribed to three causes. 1. To the objects they possess which are agreeable in themselves. ▪ These necessarily produce a sentiment of pleasure in anyone who considers them. 2. To the expectation of advantage from the rich and powerful, by our sharing their possessions. 3. To sympathy. ▪ This makes us partake of the satisfaction of every one, that approaches us.

All these principles may concur in producing the present phenomenon. 1. The question is, to which of them we should principally ascribe it.

The first principle, the reflection on agreeable objects, has a greater influence than what we might imagine. ◦ We seldom reflect on what is beautiful or ugly, agreeable or disagreeable, without an emotion of pleasure or uneasiness. ◦ These sensations do not appear much in our common indolent way of thinking. ▪ But it is easy to discover them in reading or conversation. • Men of wit always turn their discourse on subjects that are entertaining to the imagination. ◦ Poets only present objects that are entertaining. • Mr. Philips has chosen cyder for the subject of an excellent poem. ◦ Beer would not have been so proper, as it is not so agreeable to the taste nor the eye. ◦ But he would certainly have preferred wine could his native country have afforded it to him. • We may learn from this that everything agreeable to the senses: ◦ is also agreeable to the fancy ◦ conveys an image of that satisfaction to the thought which it gives by its real application to the bodily organs. • Many other reasons may keep us from regarding these three reasons as the principal ones. • The ideas of pleasure can influence only through their vivacity, which makes them approach impressions. • Those ideas naturally should have: ◦ that influence favoured by most circumstances ◦ a tendency to become strong and lively, such as our ideas of the passions and sensations of any human. • Every human resembles ourselves. ◦ This resemblance gives us an advantage above any other object in operating on the imagination. • No matter how lively and agreeable the ideas of a rich man’s pleasant wines, music, or gardens may become, the fancy will not confine itself to them. ◦ The imagination will carry its view to: ▪ the related objects ▪ to the person who possesses them, in particular. • The pleasant idea or image here naturally produces a passion towards the person, through his relation to the object. ◦ He unavoidably enters into the original conception, since he makes the object of the derivative passion. • But it is sympathy which causes the affection, if he: ◦ enters into the original conception ◦ is considered as enjoying these agreeable objects. • The third principle is more powerful and universal than the first. • Riches and power alone, even though unemployed, naturally cause esteem and respect. ◦ Consequently, these passions do not arise from the idea of any beautiful or agreeable objects. • Money implies a kind of representation of such objects, by the power it affords of obtaining them. ◦ For that reason, it is still proper to convey those agreeable images, which may give rise to the passion. • But this prospect is very distant. ◦ It is more natural for us to take a contiguous object, namely the satisfaction, which this power affords the person who has it. • Riches represent the goods of life, only through the will which employs them. ◦ Riches in their very nature, therefore, imply an idea of the person. ▪ It cannot be considered without a kind of sympathy with his sensations and enjoyments. • We can confirm this by a subtle and refined reflection. ◦ Power, as distinguished from its exercise: ▪ has no meaning at all, or ▪ is nothing but a possibility of existence by which any object: • approaches to reality • has a sensible influence on the mind. • By an illusion of the fancy, this approach appears much greater when we ourselves have the power, than when it is enjoyed by another. ◦ In the former case, the objects seem to: ▪ touch on the very verge of reality ▪ convey almost an equal satisfaction, as if actually in our possession. • Where we esteem a person on account of his riches, we must enter into this sentiment of the proprietor ◦ Without such a sympathy, the idea of the agreeable objects, which they give him the power to produce, would have but a feeble influence on us. • An avaritious man is respected for his money, even if he does not have a power. ◦ There is no probability or even possibility of his employing it to acquire life’s pleasures and conveniences. ◦ To himself alone, this power seems perfect and entire. ◦ We must receive his sentiments by sympathy before we can: ▪ have a strong idea of these enjoyments, or ▪ esteem him because of them. • Thus the first principle: ◦ resolves itself into the third ◦ becomes a sympathy with the person we esteem or love. • Let us now examine the second principle. • Riches and authority undoubtedly give their owner a power of doing us service. ◦ Yet this power is not on the same footing with the power he has in pleasing himself. • Self-love approaches the power and exercise very near each other in the latter case. ◦ But to produce a similar effect in the former, we must suppose a friendship and goodwill to be conjoined with the riches. • Without that circumstance, it is difficult to conceive what can be the basis of our hope of advantage from the riches of others. ◦ Though we naturally esteem and respect the rich, even before we discover any such favourable disposition in them towards us. • We respect the rich and powerful when: ◦ they show no inclination to serve us ◦ we lie so much out of their sphere of activity, that they cannot even have that power. • Prisoners of war are always treated with a respect suitable to their condition. ◦ Riches go very far towards fixing the condition of any person. • If birth and quality enter for a share, this still affords us an argument of the same kind. ◦ A ‘man of birth’ is but one who: ▪ is descended from a long succession of rich and powerful ancestors ▪ acquires our esteem by his relation to persons whom we esteem. ◦ His dead ancestors are respected, in some measure: ▪ because of their riches ▪ consequently, without any kind of expectation. • Let us observe those phenomena that occur in common life. • A man of a competent fortune, upon coming into a company of strangers, naturally treats them with different degrees of respect and deference, as he is informed of their different fortunes and conditions. ◦ Even if he can never propose and perhaps would not accept of any advantage from them. • A traveler is always admitted into company and meets with civility proportional to his fortune expressed by his train and equipage. ◦ In short, the different ranks of men, the superiors, inferiors, strangers, acquaintances are regulated by riches in a great measure. • These arguments have an answer drawn from the influence of general rules. ◦ It may be pretended, that being accustomed to expect succour and protection from the rich and powerful, and to esteem them upon that account, we extend the same sentiments to those who are as rich but from whom we can never hope for any advantage. • The general rule still prevails. ◦ By giving a bent to the imagination it draws along the passion, in the same way as if its proper object were real and existent. • But this principle does not take place here. ◦ To establish a general rule and extend it beyond its proper bounds, we need: ▪ a certain uniformity in our experience ▪ a great superiority of those instances conformable to the rule, above the contrary. ◦ But here the case is quite otherwise. ▪ Of 100 men of credit and fortune, I do not meet anyone from whom I can expect advantage, so it is impossible that any custom can ever prevail in the present case. • Only the principle of sympathy can give us: ◦ an esteem for power and riches ◦ a contempt for meanness and poverty. • By sympathy, we: ◦ enter into the sentiments of the rich and poor ◦ partake of their pleasure and uneasiness. • Riches give satisfaction to their possessor. ◦ This satisfaction is conveyed to the beholder by the imagination, which produces an idea resembling the original impression in force and vivacity. ◦ This agreeable idea or impression is connected with love. ◦ It proceeds from a thinking conscious being, which is the very object of love. • According to my hypothesis, love arises from this relation of impressions and identity of ideas. • The best method of reconciling us to this opinion is to: ◦ take a general survey of the universe ◦ observe the force of sympathy through: ▪ the whole animal creation ▪ the easy communication of sentiments from one thinking being to another. • There is a remarkable desire of company in creatures that: ◦ do not prey on others ◦ are not agitated with violent passions. • This desire associates them together, without any advantages they can ever propose to reap from their union. ◦ This is still more conspicuous in man who: ▪ has the most ardent desire of society ▪ is fitted for society by the most advantages. • We can form no wish, which has not a reference to society. ◦ A perfect solitude is, perhaps, the greatest punishment we can suffer. ◦ Every pleasure languishes when: ▪ enjoyed apart from company ▪ every pain becomes more cruel and intolerable. • Sympathy is the soul or animating principle of pride, ambition, avarice, curiosity, revenge or lust. ◦ They do not have any force if we abstracted them entirely from the thoughts and sentiments of others. • Let all the powers and elements of nature serve and obey one man. ◦ Let the: ▪ sun rise and set at his command. ▪ sea and rivers roll as he pleases ▪ earth furnish spontaneously whatever may be useful or agreeable to him. ◦ He will still be miserable until you give him some one person at least: ▪ with whom he may share his happiness ▪ whose esteem and friendship he may enjoy. • We may confirm this conclusion from a general view of human nature, by particular instances, wherein the force of sympathy is very remarkable. • Most kinds of beauty are derived from this origin. • Though our first object is some senseless inanimate piece of matter, we seldom there. • We do not carry our view to its influence on sensible and rational creatures. • A man who shows us any house or building, takes particular care among other things to: ◦ point out the convenience of the apartments ◦ the advantages of their situation ◦ the little room lost in the stairs and passages. • The chief part of the beauty consists in these particulars. ◦ The observation of convenience gives pleasure, since convenience is a beauty. ◦ But after what manner does it give pleasure? • Our own interest is not concerned. • This is a beauty of interest, not of form. • It must delight us merely by: ◦ communication ◦ our sympathizing with the proprietor of the lodging. • We enter into his interest by the force of imagination. • We feel the same satisfaction that the objects naturally occasion in him. • This observation extends to tables, chairs, chimneys, coaches, saddles, ploughs, and every work of art. • It is an universal rule that their beauty is chiefly derived from: ◦ their utility ◦ their fitness for their destined purpose. • But this is an advantage that concerns only the owner. ◦ Only sympathy can interest the spectator. • Nothing renders a field more agreeable than its fertility. ◦ No advantages of ornament or situation will be able to equal this beauty. • It is the same case with particular trees and plants, as with the field on which they grow. ◦ To me, a plain, overgrown with furze and broom is as beautiful as a hill covered with vines or olive-trees. ◦ But it will never appear as beautiful to a person who knows the value of each. • But this is a beauty merely of imagination. ◦ It has no foundation in what appears to the senses. • Fertility and value have a plain reference to use, riches, joy, and plenty. ◦ Though we have no hope of partaking of these, yet we: ▪ enter into them by the vivacity of the fancy ▪ share them, in some measure, with the proprietor. • The most reasonable rules in painting are those of: ◦ balancing the figures ◦ placing them with the greatest exactness on their proper centers of gravity. • An imbalanced figure is disagreeable because it conveys the ideas of its fall, harm, and pain. ◦ These ideas are painful when they acquire force and vivacity by sympathy. • The principal part of personal beauty is: ◦ an air of health and vigour ◦ a construction of members as promises strength and activity. • This idea of beauty cannot be accounted for but by sympathy.

In general, the minds of men are mirrors to one another because: ◦ they reflect each others emotions ◦ those rays of passions, sentiments and opinions may often: ▪ be reverberated ▪ decay away by insensible degrees. • Thus, the pleasure of a rich man from his possessions is thrown on the beholder. ◦ This causes a pleasure and esteem. ◦ The possessor perceives and sympathizes with these sentiments again, increasing his pleasure. ◦ This pleasures is again reflected to the beholder and become a new foundation for his pleasure and esteem. • In riches, there is an original satisfaction of enjoying all of life’s pleasures, derived from that power they bestow. ◦ This is their very nature and essence. ◦ It must be the first source of all the passions arising from them. ◦ One of the most considerable of these passions is the love or esteem in others. ▪ This therefore proceeds from a sympathy with the possessor’s pleasure. • But the possessor also has a secondary satisfaction in riches, arising from the love and esteem he acquires by them. ◦ This satisfaction is nothing but a second reflection of that original pleasure, which proceeded from himself. ◦ This secondary satisfaction or vanity becomes one of the principal recommendations of riches. ◦ It is the chief reason, why we desire them for ourselves or esteem them in others. • Here then is a third rebound of the original pleasure. ◦ After this, it is difficult to distinguish the images and reflections because of their faintness and confusion.

Any Comments? Post them below!