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may be grand without being virtuous, or little without being faulty. Every action of dignity creates respect and esteem for the author; and a mean action draws upon him contempt. A man is always admired for a grand action, but frequently is neither loved nor esteemed for it: neither is a man always contemned for a low or little action.
As it appears to me, dignity and meanness are founded on a natural principle not hitherto mentioned. Man is endued with a sense of the worth and excellence of his
He deems it to be more perfect than that of the other beings around him ; and he feels that the perfection of his nature confifts in virtue, particularly in virtue of the highest rank. To'express this sense, the term dignity is appropriated. Further, to behave with dignity, and to refrain from all mean actions, is felt to be, not a virtue only, but a duty: it is a duty every man owes to himself. By acting in this manner, he attracts love and esteem. By acting meanly or below himself, he is disapproved and contemned.
According to the description here given of dignity and meanness, they will be found to be a species of propriety and impropriety. Many actions may
proper or improper, to which dignity or meanness cannot be applied. To eat when one is hungry is proper, but there is no dignity in this action. Revenge fairly taken, if against law, is improper, but it is not mean. But every action of dignity is also
and every mean action is also improper.
This sense of the dignity of human nature, reaches even our pleasures and amusements. If they enlarge the mind by raising grand or elevated emotions, or if they humanize the mind by exercising our sympathy, they are approved as suited to our nature: if they contract the mind by fixing it on trivial objects, they are contemned as low and mean. Hence in general, every occupation, whether of use or amusement, that corresponds to the dignity of man, obtains the epithet of manly; and every occupation below his nature, obtains the epithet of childish. To those who study human nature, there
is a point which has always appeared intricate. How comes it that generosity and courage are more valued and bestow more dignity, than good-nature, or even justice, though the latter contribute more than the former, to private as well as to public hap
This question bluntly proposed, might puzzle a cunning philosopher ; but by means of the foregoing observations will easily be solved. Human virtues, like other objects, obtain a rank in our estimation, not from their utility, which is a subject of reflection, but from the direct impression they make on us. Justice and good-nature are a sort of negative virtues, that make no figure unless when they are transgressed. Courage and generosity producing elevated emotions, enliven greatly the sense of a man's dignity, both in himself and in others; and for that reason, courage and generosity are in higher regard than the other virtues mentioned. We describe them as grand and elevated, as of greater dignity, and more praise-worthy.
This leads us to examine more directly emotions and passions with respect to the
present present subject. And it will not be difficult to form a scale of them, beginning at the meanest, and ascending gradually to those of the highest rank and dignity. Pleasure felt as at the organ of sense, named corporeal pleasure, is perceived to be low; and when indulged to excess, beyond what nature demands, is perceived also to be mean.
Persons therefore of any delicacy, dissemble the pleasure they have in eating and drinking. The pleasures of the eye and ear, which have no organic feeling *, are free from any sense of meanness; and for that reason are indulged without any shame. They even arise to a certain degree of dignity, when their objects are grand or elevated. The same is the case of the sympathetic passions. They raise the character considerably, when their objects are of importance. A virtuous person behaving with fortitude and dignity under the most cruel misfortunes, makes a capital figure; and the sympathising spectator feels in himself the same dignity. Sympathetic distress at
See the Introduction.
the same time never is mean : on the contrary, it is agreeable to the nature of a social being, and has the general approbation. The rank that love possesses in this scale, depends in a great measure on its object. It poffeffes a low place when founded on external properties merely, and is mean when bestowed upon a person of a rank much inferior without any extraordinary qualification. But when founded on the more elevated internal properties, it aflumes a considerable degree of dignity. The fame is the case of friendship. . When gratitude is warm, it animates the mind; but it scarce rises to dignity. Joy bestows dignity when it proceeds from an elevated cause.
So far as I can gather from induction, dignity is not a property of any disagreeable passion. One is flight another severe, one depresses the mind another rouses and animatęs it; but there is no elevation, far less dignity, in any of them. Revenge, in particular, though it inflame and swell the mind, is not accompanied with dignity, not even with elevation. It is not however felt 1. Vol. II.