Chapter 2 of Part 2 Section 1

The Proper objects of Gratitude and Resentment

September 29, 2015

10-12 The gratitude and resentment that I mention is the natural gratitude and resentment and not the fake one.

13 We sympathize with the joy of our loved ones when in prosperity.

When we see one man assisted, protected, relieved by another, our sympathy with the beneficiary’s joy animates our fellow-feeling with his gratitude to his benefactor. We therefore readily sympathize with his gratitude and applaud the returns he makes to his benefactor.

The Origin of Superstition and Ghosts

14 In the same way, we sympathize with our fellow-creature’s abhorrence for whatever has caused his distress.

We accompany him in his sufferings with an indolent and passive fellow-feeling. This feeling becomes vigorous and active feeling when he tries to repel the cause of his distress. This is more true when man has caused them. When we see one man oppressed by another, we feel a sympathy with the sufferer’s distress. We are eager and ready to assist him whenever he defends himself or seeks a certain degree of revenge. If he dies in the quarrel, we sympathize with=

  • the real resentment of his friends and relations
  • the imaginary resentment of the dead, who are unable to feel anything.

We bring home his case to our own bosoms when we put ourselves in his situation by entering into his body and animating his carcass in our imaginations. We then feel something which he cannot feel.

We feel the imaginary resentment which we think his dead body would feel, but does not. We think that his blood calls aloud for vengeance and that his ashes seem disturbed at the thought that his injuries will pass unrevenged. This natural sympathy with the imaginary resentment of the slain creates=

  • the horrors which are supposed to haunt the murderer,
  • the ghosts which, superstition imagines, rise from their graves to demand vengeance on those who ended their lives

Murder is the most dreadful of all crimes. Nature has stamped very strongly on the human heart an immediate and instinctive approbation of the sacred and necessary law of retaliation. This comes before all reflections on the utility of punishment.


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