Chapter 4 of The Theory of Moral Sentiments Part 1 Section 2

The Social Feelings

October 27, 2015

The Amiable Virtues are Social Feelings

29 A divided sympathy makes anger and resentment so disagreeable. The social and benevolent feelings are opposite to these. They cause a redoubled sympathy which almost always render them agreeable.

The indifferent observer is almost always pleased with=

  • Generosity
  • Humanity
  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Mutual friendship
  • Esteem

The observer’s sympathy with the subject-person generating those feelings exactly coincides with his sympathy for the object-person who is receiving those feelings. The observer takes in the object-person’s happiness which then enlivens his fellow-feeling with the subject-person’s feelings.

Therefore, we always sympathize with the benevolent affections. We enter into the satisfaction both of its subject and object persons.

  • Being the object of hatred gives us pain.
    • We detest a person who takes pleasure to sow dissent among friends and turn their love into hatred
  • Being the object of benevolence gives us satisfaction.
    • To a sensible person, this is more important to happiness than all the other advantages he can get from it.

The harmony and commerce between friends are felt by both the most refined people and the crudest people. These are more important to happiness than all the little services which flow from them.

30 The sentiment of love is, in itself, agreeable to its subject-person, or to the person who feels it. It soothes and composes the breast. It seems to=

  • favour the vital motions and
  • promote the health.

Love becomes more delightful through the gratitude and satisfaction which it excite in the people loved. Their mutual regard renders them happy for one another. Sympathy, with this mutual regard, makes them agreeable to every other person.

We feel happy for to see a loving family in which=

  • the parents and children are companions for one another,
  • the children respect the parents,
  • the parents show kind indulgence to the children,
  • there is peace, cheerfulness, harmony, and contentment,

Their freedom, fondness, mutual humour, and kindness show=

  • no opposing interests which divides brothers and sisters
  • no rivalry of favour between them.

On the contrary, how uneasy it is to enter a house of an unloving family where the members=

  • have a jarring contention between each other,
  • have mutual jealousies, and
  • are always ready to burst out through all the restraints which the presence of the company imposes.

31 Those amiable passions, even when excessive, are never regarded with aversion. There is something agreeable even in the weakness of friendship and humanity. The following might sometimes be looked on with pity with a mixture of love=

  • The too tender mother
  • The too indulgent father
  • The too generous and affectionate friend.

It is always regarded with concern, sympathy and kindness. We blame them instead for the extravagance of their attachment. Extreme humanity has nothing in itself which renders it disagreeable. However, it has a helplessness which interests our pity more than anything. We only regret that it is unfit for the world, because=

  • the world is unworthy of it
  • it must expose the person who has it, as a prey to=
    • the treachery and ingratitude of falsehood
    • a thousand pains and uneasinesses, which he is the least deserving to feel and is least capable of supporting.

It is quite otherwise with hatred and resentment. Too violent a hatred renders its subject person the object of universal dread and abhorrence. We think that he should be hunted out of all civil society like a wild beast.

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