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An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals

And can it possibly be doubted, that this talent itself of poets, to move the passions, this
pathetic and sublime of sentiment, is a very considerable merit; and being enhanced by its
extreme rarity, may exalt the person possessed of it, above every character of the age in
which he lives? The prudence, address, steadiness, and benign government of Augustus,
adorned with all the splendour of his noble birth and imperial crown, render him but an
unequal competitor for fame with Virgil, who lays nothing into the opposite scale but the
divine beauties of his poetical genius.
The very sensibility to these beauties, or a delicacy of taste, is itself a beauty in any
character; as conveying the purest, the most durable, and most innocent of all
enjoyments.
These are some instances of the several species of merit, that are valued for the
immediate pleasure which they communicate to the person possessed of them. No views
of utility or of future beneficial consequences enter into this sentiment of approbation; yet
is it of a kind similar to that other sentiment, which arises from views of a public or
private utility. The same social sympathy, we may observe, or fellow-feeling with human
happiness or misery, gives rise to both; and this analogy, in all the parts of the present
theory, may justly be regarded as a confirmation of it.
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