An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals HTML version

indeed, sufficiently engage every heart, on the first apprehension of them; and it is
difficult to abstain from some sally of panegyric, as often as they occur in discourse or
reasoning. But our object here being more the speculative, than the practical part of
morals, it will suffice to remark, (what will readily, I believe, be allowed) that no
qualities are more intitled to the general good-will and approbation of mankind than
beneficence and humanity, friendship and gratitude, natural affection and public spirit, or
whatever proceeds from a tender sympathy with others, and a generous concern for our
kind and species. These wherever they appear seem to transfuse themselves, in a manner,
into each beholder, and to call forth, in their own behalf, the same favourable and
affectionate sentiments, which they exert on all around.
We may observe that, in displaying the praises of any humane, beneficent man, there is
one circumstance which never fails to be amply insisted on, namely, the happiness and
satisfaction, derived to society from his intercourse and good offices. To his parents, we
are apt to say, he endears himself by his pious attachment and duteous care still more
than by the connexions of nature. His children never feel his authority, but when
employed for their advantage. With him, the ties of love are consolidated by beneficence
and friendship. The ties of friendship approach, in a fond observance of each obliging
office, to those of love and inclination. His domestics and dependants have in him a sure
resource; and no longer dread the power of fortune, but so far as she exercises it over
him. From him the hungry receive food, the naked clothing, the ignorant and slothful skill
and industry. Like the sun, an inferior minister of providence he cheers, invigorates, and
sustains the surrounding world.
If confined to private life, the sphere of his activity is narrower; but his influence is all
benign and gentle. If exalted into a higher station, mankind and posterity reap the fruit of
his labours.
As these topics of praise never fail to be employed, and with success, where we would
inspire esteem for any one; may it not thence be concluded, that the utility, resulting from
the social virtues, forms, at least, a PART of their merit, and is one source of that
approbation and regard so universally paid to them?
When we recommend even an animal or a plant as USEFUL and BENEFICIAL, we give
it an applause and recommendation suited to its nature. As, on the other hand, reflection
on the baneful influence of any of these inferior beings always inspires us with the
sentiment of aversion. The eye is pleased with the prospect of corn-fields and loaded
vine-yards; horses grazing, and flocks pasturing: but flies the view of briars and
brambles, affording shelter to wolves and serpents.
A machine, a piece of furniture, a vestment, a house well contrived for use and
conveniency, is so far beautiful, and is contemplated with pleasure and approbation. An
experienced eye is here sensible to many excellencies, which escape persons ignorant and