Chapter 2a

The Love of Praise and Dread of Blame

September 29, 2015

Praise is different from Praisworthiness, Blame is different from blameworthiness

8 Man naturally desires to be loved and dreads to be hated.

  • He wants praise and praiseworthiness, even if he should be praised by nobody
  • He dreads blame and blame-worthiness, even if he should be blamed by nobody

9 The love of praise-worthiness is not all derived from the love of praise. Those two principles resemble, are connected, and often blended with one another. Yet they are distinct and independent in many respects.


10 We naturally love people that we approve of. This love makes us want=

  • to be as amiable and admirable as them, and
  • to become the objects of similar agreeable feelings.

Emulation is the anxious desire that we ourselves should excel. It is originally founded in our admiration of the excellence of others. We are not satisfied with being merely admired for what other people are admired. We must at least believe ourselves to be admirable for what they are admirable. To attain this satisfaction, we must=

  • become the impartial spectators of our own character and
  • try to view it as other people would view them.

We are happy if our character appears as how we want them to appear to others.

  • Their approbation confirms our own self-approbation.
  • Their praise strengthens our own sense of our own praiseworthiness.

In this case, the love of praise-worthiness is not derived from the love of praise. The love of praise thus seems to be derived from the love of praise-worthiness.

11 The most sincere praise gives little pleasure if it is not a proof of praiseworthiness. We will not be satisfied if a man admires us by mistake. He really applauds someone else, not us.

A woman who wears makeup gets some vanity from the compliments paid to her complexion. We expect that these compliments should mortify her instead, by the contrast between her makeup and her real complexion. Being pleased with such groundless applause is vanity.

  • It is a proof of the most superficial levity and weakness.
  • It is the foundation of the most ridiculous and contemptible vices of affectation and common lying.

The following are pleased with the applause that they get=

  • the foolish liar who tries to excite the people’s admiration by adventure stories which never existed,
  • the vain man who gives himself airs of rank and distinction.

But their vanity arises from so gross an illusion of the imagination. It is hard to understand how any rational creature could be imposed on by it. When they think of the people who they think they have deceived, they give the highest admiration for themselves. They look on themselves as how they think their companions actually look at them, not as how they know they should appear. Their superficial weakness hinder them=

  • from ever looking inwards, or
  • from seeing themselves as despicable.

Their own consciences would tell them that they would appear descicable to everybody, if everybody knew the truth.

12 Groundless praise can give no solid joy. On the contrary, we feel assured when we know that our conduct deserved praise even if no praise was given We are pleased with praise and with doing what is praise-worthy. We are mortified if we merited the blame of other people even if that feeling should never actually be exerted against us.

The man who knows that his own actions are proper, is satisfied on the propriety of his own behaviour. When he views it in the light viewed by the impartial spectator, he thoroughly enters into all the motives which influenced it. He looks back on every part of it with approbation.

Mankind might never knew what he did. But he sees himself more as how people regard him if they knew, and not how they actually see him. Men have voluntarily thrown away life to acquire a renown which they could no longer enjoy after death. Their imagination anticipated=

  • that fame to be bestowed on them,
  • those applauses which they would never hear,

the thoughts of that admiration, whose effects they were never to feel. These=

  • played about their hearts,
  • banished the strongest of all natural fears, and
  • led them to perform actions almost beyond the reach of human nature.

But in reality, there is no great difference between=

  • that approbation which would not be bestowed until we can no longer enjoy it, and
  • that approbation which would only be bestowed if the world understood the real circumstances of our behaviour.

If the one often produces such violent effects, we cannot wonder that the other should always be highly regarded. The love of Praise and Praisworthiness, and Dread of Blame and blameworthiness come from Nature

13 When Nature formed man for society, she endowed him with=

  • an original desire to please, and
  • an original aversion to offend his brethren.

She taught him to feel=

  • pleasure in their favourable regard, and
  • pain in their unfavourable regard.

She rendered=

  • their approbation most agreeable to him for its own sake, and
  • their disapprobation most offensive.

14 But this desire of approbation and aversion to disapprobation could not alone have rendered him fit for society. Accordingly, Nature has endowed him with=

  • a desire of being approved of, and This desire could only have made him wish to appear to be fit for society. This could only have prompted him to=
  • the affectation of virtue, and
  • the concealment of vice.
  • a desire of being what should be approved of; or of being what he himself approves of in other men.

This desire was necessary to=

  • render him anxious to be really fit, and
  • inspire him with=
    • the real love of virtue, and
    • the real abhorrence of vice.

In every well-formed mind, this second desire seems to be the strongest of the two. It is only the weakest and most superficial who can be much delighted with that praise which they know they do not deserve. A weak man may sometimes be pleased with it, but a wise man always rejects it. A wise man feels little pleasure from praise where he knows there is no praise-worthiness.

But he often feels the highest pleasure in doing what he knows to be praise-worthy, though he knows that no praise is ever to be bestowed on it. To obtain mankind’s approbation where no approbation is due, can never be important to him. To obtain that approbation where it is really due, may sometimes be not important to him.

But to be that thing which deserves approbation, must always be the most important.

15 To desire, or even to accept of praise, where no praise is due, can be the effect only of the most contemptible vanity. To desire it where it is really due, is to desire justice to be done to us. Even a wise man is worthy of the love of just fame, true glory, even for its own sake, independent of any advantage from it. However, he sometimes neglects and even despises it. He does not neglect it only when he is perfectly sure of the perfect propriety of his own conduct. In this case, his self-approbation does not need any confirmation from the approbation of other men. It is sufficient alone, and he is contented with it. This self-approbation, if not the only, is at least the principal object which he can or should be anxious about. The love of it, is the love of virtue.

16 Our natural love for some characters dispose us to wish to be loved ourselves. Our natural hatred for others dispose us perhaps more strongly, to dread being hated ourselves. We are not so much afraid of being hated, as that of being hateful and despicable. We dread doing anything which can make us hated, even if we know that that hatred would never be exerted against us. It is useless for a person to hide his wrong conduct from others even if he could hide them perfectly. When he looks back on it and views it how the impartial spectator would view it, he finds that he can enter into none of the motives which influenced it. He is abashed and confounded at the thoughts of it. He feels that shame which he would feel if his actions were known. His imagination anticipates the contempt and derision. Only the ignorance of those he lives with saves him from these. He still feels that he is the natural object of hatred. He still trembles at what he would suffer if they were ever actually exerted against him. If he had been guilty of those enormous crimes which excite detestation and resentment, he could never think of them without feeling the agony of horror and remorse. He would still feel both these sentiments to embitter the whole of his life, even if= he could be assured that no man was ever to know it, and he could even bring himself to believe that there was no God to revenge it. He would still regard himself as the natural object of everyone’s hatred and indignation. If his heart has not grown callous by the habit of crimes, he could not think without terror and astonishment even of= how mankind would look on him what would be the expression of their eyes and faces if the dreadful truth were known.

These natural pangs of an fearful conscience=

  • are the demons, the avenging furies which haunt the guilty in this life,
  • allow them neither quiet nor repose,
  • often drive them to despair and distraction from which=
  • no assurance of secrecy can protect them,
  • no principles of irreligion can entirely deliver them, and
  • nothing can free them but the vilest and most abject of all states= a complete insensibility to honour and infamy, vice and virtue.

The most detestable men have taken their measures so coolly as to avoid the suspicion of guilt in executing the most dreadful crimes. Sometimes, they have been driven to discover their guilt by themselves through their situation’s horror. No human sagacity could ever have investigated their guilt. By=

  • acknowledging their guilt,
  • submitting themselves to the resentment of their offended fellow-citizens,
  • satiating that vengeance which they knew were meant for them,
  • their death, they hoped= to reconcile themselves to mankind’s natural sentiments, to be less worthy of hatred and resentment, to atone for their crimes, and to die in peace, with the forgiveness of all, by becoming the objects of compassion instead of horror. Compared to what they felt before the discovery of their guilt, even the thought of this was happiness.

17 In such cases, the horror of blame-worthiness completely conquers the dread of blame, even in persons who have no extraordinary sensibility of character.

To pacify the remorse of their own consciences, they voluntarily submitted themselves to the punishment which they might easily have avoided.

18 Only the most frivolous and superficial people can be much delighted with unmerited praise.

However, unmerited reproach can frequently very severely mortify even people with ordinary constancy. People with ordinary constancy learn to despise those foolish tales frequently circulated in society. Those tales always die away after a few weeks or days, from their own falsehood. But an innocent man is often shocked by the false imputation of a crime, especially when that imputation is supported by some circumstances.

He is perfectly conscious of his own innocence. But the very imputation throws a shadow of disgrace on his character. His just indignation at so gross an injury might frequently be improper and sometimes even impossible to revenge. But it itself is a very painful sensation. The greatest tormentor of the human breast is a violent resentment which cannot be gratified. An innocent man, brought to the scaffold by the false imputation of an infamous or odious crime, suffers the most cruel misfortune. His agony might frequently be greater than the agony of criminals who are really guilty. Profligate criminals, such as common thieves and highwaymen, frequently have little sense of their own conduct’s baseness. Consequently, they have no remorse. They do not trouble themselves on the punishment’s justice or injustice. They always expected the gibbet to fall to them. When it does fall, they= consider themselves only as less lucky than their companions, submit to their fortune with only the uneasiness from the fear of death. Such worthless wretches, frequently see such fear and can easily conquer them completely. On the contrary, the innocent man is tormented by the injustice done to him, over and above his uneasiness from this fear of death.

He is horrified at the thoughts of the infamy which the punishment may shed on his memory. He foresees, with the most exquisite anguish, that he will be remembered by his dearest friends and relations with shame and horror for his supposed disgraceful conduct, instead of with regret and affection. The shades of death bring him a darker and more melancholy gloom than natural. We hope that such fatal accidents happen very rarely in any country, for mankind’s tranquility.

But they happen sometimes in all countries, even in those where justice is well administered. Galas was an unfortunate man of much more than ordinary constancy. He broke upon the wheel and burnt at Tholouse for the supposed murder of his own son, of which he was perfectly innocent. He seemed to deprecate, not so much the cruelty of the punishment, as the disgrace which the imputation might bring on his memory. After he had been broken and before going into the fire, a monk who attended the execution, exhorted him to confess his crime. Galas said, “My Father, can you bring yourself to believe that I am guilty?”

19 To persons in such unfortunate circumstances, that humble philosophy which confines its views to this life, perhaps can afford little consolation.

Everything that could render life or death respectable is taken from them. They are condemned to death and everlasting infamy. Only religion can afford them any effectual comfort. She alone can tell them, that it is of little importance what man may think of their conduct, while the all-seeing Judge of the world approves of it. She alone can present to them the view of another world. It is a world of more candour, humanity, and justice, than the present. It is where= their innocence in due time will be declared, and their virtue to be finally rewarded. The same great principle which can alone strike terror into triumphant vice, affords the only effectual consolation to disgraced and insulted innocence. 20 In smaller offences and greater crimes, a person of sensibility is frequently much more hurt by the unjust imputation, than the real criminal is by the actual guilt.

A woman of gallantry laughs even at the well-founded surmises circulated about her conduct. The worst founded surmise of the same kind is a mortal stab to an innocent virgin. We may lay as a general rule, that the person who is deliberately guilty of a disgraceful action can seldom have much sense of the disgrace. The person who is habitually guilty of it, can scarce ever have any sense of disgrace 21 Why does unmerited reproach can severely mortify men of the best judgement?

22 In almost all cases, pain is a more pungent sensation than pleasure.

Pain almost always depresses us far below our natural state of happiness than pleasure raises us above it. A man of sensibility is more humiliated by just censure than he is ever elevated by just applause. A wise man always rejects unmerited applause with contempt. But he often feels the injustice of unmerited censure very severely. He feels that he is guilty of a mean falsehood by= being applauded for something that he has not done, assuming a merit which does not belong to him, and deserving the contempt of those persons who admired him by mistake. He might be pleased to find that he has been thought capable by many people of doing something that he did not do. But he would think himself guilty of the greatest baseness if he did not immediately undeceive them. It gives him little pleasure to look on himself as how others would actually look on him. When he is conscious that, if they knew the truth, they would see him in a very different light. A weak man, however, is often much delighted with viewing himself in this false and delusive light. He assumes the merit of every laudable action that is ascribed to him. He pretends to the merit of many actions which nobody ever thought of ascribing to him. He pretends to= have done what he never did, have written what another wrote, have invented what another discovered. He is led into all the miserable vices of plagiarism and common lying. No man of middling good sense can derive much pleasure from the imputation of a laudable action which he never performed. Yet a wise man may suffer great pain from the serious imputation of a crime which he never committed. In this case, Nature has rendered the pain more pungent than the opposite and correspondent pleasure. She has rendered it so in a much greater than the ordinary degree. A denial rids a man at once of the foolish and ridiculous pleasure. But it will not always rid him of the pain. When he refuses the merit ascribed to him, nobody doubts his veracity. It may be doubted when he denies the crime which he is accused of. He is at once enraged at the falsehood of the imputation. He is mortified to find that any credit should be given to it. He feels that his character is insufficient to protect him. He feels that his brethren, far from looking on him in that light in which he anxiously desires to be viewed by them, think him capable of being guilty of what he is accused of. He knows perfectly= that he has not been guilty what he has done but perhaps scarce any man can know perfectly what he himself is capable of Every person might doubt what his own mind may or may not admit of. The trust and good opinion of his friends and neighbours, relieves him the most from this doubt. Their distrust and unfavourable opinion to increase it He may think himself very confident that their unfavourable judgment is wrong= but this confidence can seldom be so great as to hinder that judgment from making some impression upon him. This impression will likely be greater the greater his= The greater his sensibility, the greater his delicacy, the greater his worth in short