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The Connexion between Taste and Morals
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of certain qualities in external objects, and then, according to the
nature of the object, an emotion of beauty, or of sublimity in the
mind. These emotions are, of course, incapable of definition except
by stating the occasions on which they arise, and can be known
only by being felt. To talk of an emotion to those who have not felt
it, is like talking of colors to the blind. And here I may remark, that
these terms, beauty and sublimity, have, in common with those
denoting sensations, an ambiguity which has often produced
confusion. As the term heat is used to denote both the sensation we
feel on approaching the fire, and that quality in the fire which
produces the sensation, so beauty and sublimity are sometimes
used to express the emotions in the mind, and sometimes those
qualities in external objects which are fitted to produce them,
though there is, of course, in the external object, no emotion, nor
any thing resembling one.
If this account of taste be correct, it will be perceived that it
cannot, with any propriety, be compared, as it often has been, to a
bodily sense. The impression upon a bodily sense, necessarily
follows the presence of the object, and is uniform in all mankind.
A tree clothed in fresh foliage is necessarily seen, and seen to be
green by all who turn their eyes upon it. The same tree, when seen,
may be pronounced by one individual to be beautiful, by another,
from some peculiar association, to be the reverse, and by a third,
however beautiful in itself, it may be looked upon without any
emotion at all. It is, therefore, a great mistake to suppose, as many
do, that those qualities in objects which awaken the emotions of
taste, act directly and necessarily upon us, like those which affect
A second preliminary inquiry is, What are the causes which
produce these emotions? And here I barely remark, without
inquiring after any common principle by which they produce
similar results, that these causes differ widely from each other. The
emotions may be awakened by natural objects, by sound, by the
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