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and act, or there could evidently be no such thing as feeling or action. If therefore it had even been implied as a condition in the love of others, that this love should not be felt by the person who loves them, this would be to say that he must love them and not love them at the same time, which is too palpable an absurdity to be thought of for a moment. It could never, I say,
be imagined that in order to feel for others, we must in reality feel nothing, or that benevolence, to exist at all, must exist no where. This kind of reasoning is therefore the most arrant trifling. To call my motives or feelings selfish, because they are felt by myself, is an abuse of all language it might just as well be said that my idea of the monument is a selfish idea, or an idea of myself, because it is I who perceive it. By a selfish feeling must be meant, therefore, a feeling, not which belongs to myself (for that all feelings do, as is understood by every one) but which relates to myself, and in this sense benevolence is not a selfish feeling. It is the individual who feels both for himself and others; but by self-love is meant that he feels only for himself; for it is presumed that the word self has some meaning in it, and it would have absolutely none at all, if nothing more were intended by it than any object or im
pression existing in the mind. It therefore becomes necessary to set limits to the meaning of the terms. If we except the burlesque interpretation of the word just noticed, self-love can mean only one of these three things. 1. The conscious pursuit of our own good as such; 2. The love of physical pleasure and aversion to physical pain; 3. The gratification derived from our sympathy with others. If all our actions do not proceed from one of these three principles, they are all resolvable into self-love.
First, then, self-love may properly signify, as already explained, the love or affection excited by the idea of our own interest, and the conscious pursuit of it as a general, remote, ideal object. In this sense, that is, considered with respect to the proposed end of our actions, I have shown sufficiently that there is no exclusive principle of self-love in the human mind which constantly impels us, as a set purpose, to pursue our own advantage and nothing but that.
Secondly, any being would be strictly a selfish agent, all whose impulses were excited by mere physical pleasure or pain, and who had no sense or imagination, or anxiety about any thing but its own bodily feelings. Such a being could have no idea beyond its actual, momentary existence, and would be equally incapable of ra
tional self-love or benevolence. But it is allowed on all hands that the wants and desires of the human mind are not confined within the limits of his bodily sensations.
Thirdly, it is said that though man is not merely a physical agent, but is naturally capable of being influenced by imagination and sympathy, yet that this does not prove him to be possessed of any degree of disinterestedness or real good-will to others; since he pursues the good of others only from its contributing to his own gratification; that is, not for their sakes, but for his own, which is still selfishness. That is, the indulgence of certain affections necessarily tends, without our thinking of it, to our own immediate gratification, and the impulse to prolong a state of pleasurable feeling and put a stop to whatever gives the mind the least uneasiness, is the real spring and over-ruling principle of our actions. If our benevolence and sympathy with others arose out of and was entirely regulated by this principle of self-gratification, then these might indeed be with justice regarded as the ostensible accidental motives of our actions, as the form or vehicle which served only to transmit the efficacy of any other hidden principle, as the mask and cover of selfishness. But the supposition itself is the absurdest that can
well be conceived. Self-love and sympathy are inconsistent. The instant we no longer suppose man to be a physical agent, and allow him to have ideas of things out of himself and to be influenced by them, that is, to be endued with sympathy at all, he must necessarily cease to be a merely selfish agent. The instant he is supposed to conceive and to be affected by the ideas. of other things, he cannot be wholly governed by what relates to himself. The terms "selfish" and “natural agent" are a contradiction. For the one expression implies that the mind is actuated solely by the impulse of self-love, and the other that it is in the power and under the control of other motives. If our sympathy with others does not always originate in the pleasure with which it is accompanied to ourselves, or does not cease the moment it becomes troublesome to us, then man is not entirely and necessarily the creature of self-love. He is under another law and another necessity, and in spite of himself is forced out of the direct line of his own interest, both future and present, by other principles inseparable from his nature as an intelligent being. Our sympathy therefore is not the servile, ready tool of our self-love, but this latter principle is itself subservient to and over-ruled by the former; that is, an attachment to others
is a real independent principle of human action. What I wish to state is this: that the mind neither constantly aims at nor tends to its own individual interest. That in benevolence, compassion, friendship, &c. the mind does aim at its good, is what every one must acknowledge. The only sense then in which our sympathy with others can be construed into self-love, must be that the mind is so constituted that without forethought or any reflection in itself, or when seeming most occupied with others, it is still governed by the same universal feeling of which it is wholly unconscious; and that we indulge in compassion, &c. only because and in as far as it coincides with our own immediate gratification. If it could be shown that the current of our desires always runs the same way, either with or without knowledge, I should confess that this would be a strong presumption of what has been called the falsity of human virtue. But it is not true that such is the natural disposition of the mind. It is not so constructed as to receive no impressions but those which gratify its desire of happiness, or to throw off every the least uneasiness relating to others, like oil from water. It is not true that the feelings of others have no natural hold upon the mind but by their connexion with self-interest. Nothing can be more