. 2
( 13)


But the poor wretch, who is in it, laughs and sings perhaps, and is
altogether insensible of his own misery. The anguish which humanity
feels, therefore, at the sight of such an object, cannot be the re¬‚ection
of any sentiment of the sufferer. The compassion of the spectator must
arise altogether from the consideration of what he himself would feel
if he was reduced to the same unhappy situation, and, what perhaps
is impossible, was at the same time able to regard it with his present
reason and judgment.

± What are the pangs of a mother, when she hears the moanings of her
infant that during the agony of disease cannot express what it feels?
In her idea of what it suffers, she joins, to its real helplessness, her
own consciousness of that helplessness, and her own terrors for the
unknown consequences of its disorder; and out of all these, forms, for
her own sorrow, the most complete image of misery and distress. The
infant, however, feels only the uneasiness of the present instant, which
can never be great. With regard to the future, it is perfectly secure,
and in its thoughtlessness and want of foresight, possesses an antidote
against fear and anxiety, the great tormentors of the human breast,

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from which reason and philosophy will, in vain, attempt to defend it,
when it grows up to a man.

± We sympathize even with the dead, and overlooking what is of real
importance in their situation, that awful futurity which awaits them,
we are chie¬‚y affected by those circumstances which strike our senses,
but can have no in¬‚uence upon their happiness. It is miserable, we
think, to be deprived of the light of the sun; to be shut out from life
and conversation; to be laid in the cold grave, a prey to corruption and
the reptiles of the earth; to be no more thought of in this world, but
to be obliterated, in a little time, from the affections, and almost from
the memory, of their dearest friends and relations. Surely, we imagine,
we can never feel too much for those who have suffered so dreadful a
calamity. The tribute of our fellow-feeling seems doubly due to them
now, when they are in danger of being forgot by every body; and, by
the vain honours which we pay to their memory, we endeavour, for our
own misery, arti¬cially to keep alive our melancholy remembrance of
their misfortune. That our sympathy can afford them no consolation
seems to be an addition to their calamity; and to think that all we can
do is unavailing, and that, what alleviates all other distress, the regret,
the love, and the lamentations of their friends, can yield no comfort
to them, serves only to exasperate our sense of their misery. The
happiness of the dead, however, most assuredly, is affected by none of
these circumstances; nor is it the thought of these things which can
ever disturb the profound security of their repose. The idea of that
dreary and endless melancholy, which the fancy naturally ascribes to
their condition, arises altogether from our joining to the change which
has been produced upon them, our own consciousness of that change,
from our putting ourselves in their situation, and from our lodging,
if I may be allowed to say so, our own living souls in their inanimated
bodies, and thence conceiving what would be our emotions in this
case. It is from this very illusion of the imagination, that the foresight
of our own dissolution is so terrible to us, and that the idea of those
circumstances, which undoubtedly can give us no pain when we are
dead, makes us miserable while we are alive. And from thence arises
one of the most important principles in human nature, the dread of
death, the great poison to the happiness, but the great restraint upon

Of the propriety of action

the injustice of mankind, which, while it af¬‚icts and morti¬es the
individual, guards and protects the society.

Chapter II Of the pleasure of mutual sympathy
± But whatever may be the cause of sympathy, or however it may be
excited, nothing pleases us more than to observe in other men a fellow-
feeling with all the emotions of our own breast; nor are we ever so much
shocked as by the appearance of the contrary. Those who are fond of
deducing all our sentiments from certain re¬nements of self-love, think
themselves at no loss to account, according to their own principles, both
for this pleasure and this pain. Man, say they, conscious of his own
weakness, and of the need which he has for the assistance of others,
rejoices whenever he observes that they adopt his own passions, because
he is then assured of that assistance; and grieves whenever he observes
the contrary, because he is then assured of their opposition. But both
the pleasure and the pain are always felt so instantaneously, and often
upon such frivolous occasions, that it seems evident that neither of them
can be derived from any such self-interested consideration. A man is
morti¬ed when, after having endeavoured to divert the company, he
looks round and sees that nobody laughs at his jests but himself. On
the contrary, the mirth of the company is highly agreeable to him, and
he regards this correspondence of their sentiments with his own as the
greatest applause.

 Neither does his pleasure seem to arise altogether from the additional
vivacity which his mirth may receive from sympathy with theirs, nor
his pain from the disappointment he meets with when he misses this
pleasure; though both the one and the other, no doubt, do in some
measure.µ When we have read a book or poem so often that we can no
longer ¬nd any amusement in reading it by ourselves, we can still take
pleasure in reading it to a companion. To him it has all the graces of
novelty; we enter into the surprise and admiration which it naturally
 Cf. Smith™s discussion of Bernard Mandeville in VII.ii. and of Thomas Hobbes in VII.iii.±; and
compare Joseph Butler, Fifteen Sermons, V, and David Hume, Inquiry Concerning the Principles of
Morals, V.µ“, IX.µ“·, and App. .
µ Cf. I.iii.±..

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excites in him, but which it is no longer capable of exciting in us; we
consider all the ideas which it presents rather in the light in which
they appear to him, than in that in which they appear to ourselves, and
we are amused by sympathy with his amusement which thus enlivens
our own. On the contrary, we should be vexed if he did not seem to be
entertained with it, and we could no longer take any pleasure in reading
it to him. It is the same case here. The mirth of the company, no doubt,
enlivens our own mirth, and their silence, no doubt, disappoints us. But
though this may contribute both to the pleasure which we derive from
the one, and to the pain which we feel from the other, it is by no means
the sole cause of either; and this correspondence of the sentiments of
others with our own appears to be a cause of pleasure, and the want
of it a cause of pain, which cannot be accounted for in this manner.
The sympathy, which my friends express with my joy, might, indeed,
give me pleasure by enlivening that joy: but that which they express
with my grief could give me none, if it served only to enliven that grief.
Sympathy, however, enlivens joy and alleviates grief. It enlivens joy
by presenting another source of satisfaction; and it alleviates grief by
insinuating into the heart almost the only agreeable sensation which it
is at that time capable of receiving.

 It is to be observed accordingly, that we are still more anxious to com-
municate to our friends our disagreeable than our agreeable passions,
that we derive still more satisfaction from their sympathy with the for-
mer than from that with the latter, and that we are still more shocked
by the want of it.

 How are the unfortunate relieved when they have found out a person
to whom they can communicate the cause of their sorrow? Upon his
sympathy they seem to disburthen themselves of a part of their distress:
he is not improperly said to share it with them. He not only feels a
sorrow of the same kind with that which they feel, but as if he had
derived a part of it to himself, what he feels seems to alleviate the
weight of what they feel. Yet by relating their misfortunes they in
some measure renew their grief. They awaken in their memory the
remembrance of those circumstances which occasioned their af¬‚iction.
Their tears accordingly ¬‚ow faster than before, and they are apt to
abandon themselves to all the weakness of sorrow. They take pleasure,

Of the propriety of action

however, in all this, and, it is evident, are sensibly relieved by it; because
the sweetness of his sympathy more than compensates the bitterness
of that sorrow, which, in order to excite this sympathy, they had thus
enlivened and renewed. The cruelest insult, on the contrary, which
can be offered to the unfortunate, is to appear to make light of their
calamities. To seem not to be affected with the joy of our companions
is but want of politeness; but not to wear a serious countenance when
they tell us their af¬‚ictions, is real and gross inhumanity.

µ Love is an agreeable; resentment, a disagreeable passion; and accord-
ingly we are not half so anxious that our friends should adopt our
friendships, as that they should enter into our resentments. We can
forgive them though they seem to be little affected with the favours
which we may have received, but lose all patience if they seem indif-
ferent about the injuries which may have been done to us: nor are we
half so angry with them for not entering into our gratitude, as for not
sympathizing with our resentment. They can easily avoid being friends
to our friends, but can hardly avoid being enemies to those with whom
we are at variance. We seldom resent their being at enmity with the
¬rst, though upon that account we may sometimes affect to make an
awkward quarrel with them; but we quarrel with them in good earnest
if they live in friendship with the last. The agreeable passions of love
and joy can satisfy and support the heart without any auxiliary pleasure.
The bitter and painful emotions of grief and resentment more strongly
require the healing consolation of sympathy.

 As the person who is principally interested in any event is pleased
with our sympathy, and hurt by the want of it, so we, too, seem to
be pleased when we are able to sympathize with him, and to be hurt
when we are unable to do so. We run not only to congratulate the
successful, but to condole with the af¬‚icted; and the pleasure which we
¬nd in the conversation of one whom in all the passions of his heart
we can entirely sympathize with, seems to do more than compensate the
painfulness of that sorrow with which the view of his situation affects
us. On the contrary, it is always disagreeable to feel that we cannot
sympathize with him, and instead of being pleased with this exemption
from sympathetic pain, it hurts us to ¬nd that we cannot share his
uneasiness. If we hear a person loudly lamenting his misfortunes, which

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

however, upon bringing the case home to ourselves, we feel, can produce
no such violent effect upon us, we are shocked at his grief; and, because
we cannot enter into it, call it pusillanimity and weakness. It gives us
the spleen, on the other hand, to see another too happy or too much
elevated, as we call it, with any little piece of good fortune. We are
disobliged even with his joy; and, because we cannot go along with it,
call it levity and folly. We are even put out of humour if our companion
laughs louder or longer at a joke than we think it deserves; that is, than
we feel that we ourselves could laugh at it.

Chapter III Of the manner in which we judge of the propriety
or impropriety of the affections of other men, by their concord
or dissonance with our own
± When the original passions of the person principally concerned are in
perfect concord with the sympathetic emotions of the spectator, they
necessarily appear to this last just and proper, and suitable to their
objects; and, on the contrary, when, upon bringing the case home to
himself, he ¬nds that they do not coincide with what he feels, they
necessarily appear to him unjust and improper, and unsuitable to the
causes which excite them. To approve of the passions of another,
therefore, as suitable to their objects, is the same thing as to observe
that we entirely sympathize with them; and not to approve of them as
such, is the same thing as to observe that we do not entirely sympathize
with them. The man who resents the injuries that have been done to
me, and observes that I resent them precisely as he does, necessarily
approves of my resentment. The man whose sympathy keeps time
to my grief, cannot but admit the reasonableness of my sorrow. He
who admires the same poem, or the same picture, and admires them
exactly as I do, must surely allow the justness of my admiration. He
who laughs at the same joke, and laughs along with me, cannot well
deny the propriety of my laughter. On the contrary, the person who,
upon these different occasions, either feels no such emotion as that
which I feel, or feels none that bears any proportion to mine, cannot
avoid disapproving my sentiments on account of their dissonance with
his own. If my animosity goes beyond what the indignation of my
friend can correspond to; if my grief exceeds what his most tender
compassion can go along with; if my admiration is either too high or

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too low to tally with his own; if I laugh loud and heartily when he
only smiles, or, on the contrary, only smile when he laughs loud and
heartily; in all these cases, as soon as he comes from considering the
object, to observe how I am affected by it, according as there is more
or less disproportion between his sentiments and mine, I must incur a
greater or less degree of his disapprobation: and upon all occasions his
own sentiments are the standards and measures by which he judges
of mine.

 To approve of another man™s opinions is to adopt those opinions,
and to adopt them is to approve of them. If the same arguments
which convince you convince me likewise, I necessarily approve of
your conviction; and if they do not, I necessarily disapprove of it:
neither can I possibly conceive that I should do the one without the
other. To approve or disapprove, therefore, of the opinions of others is
acknowledged, by every body, to mean no more than to observe their
agreement or disagreement with our own. But this is equally the case
with regard to our approbation or disapprobation of the sentiments
or passions of others.

 There are, indeed, some cases in which we seem to approve without
any sympathy or correspondence of sentiments, and in which, con-
sequently, the sentiment of approbation would seem to be different
from the perception of this coincidence. A little attention, however,
will convince us that even in these cases our approbation is ultimately
founded upon a sympathy or correspondence of this kind. I shall give
an instance in things of a very frivolous nature, because in them the
judgments of mankind are less apt to be perverted by wrong systems.
We may often approve of a jest, and think the laughter of the company
quite just and proper, though we ourselves do not laugh, because,
perhaps, we are in a grave humour, or happen to have our attention
engaged with other objects. We have learned, however, from experi-
ence, what sort of pleasantry is upon most occasions capable of making
us laugh, and we observe that this is one of that kind. We approve,
therefore, of the laughter of the company, and feel that it is natural
and suitable to its object; because, though in our present mood we
cannot easily enter into it, we are sensible that upon most occasions
we should very heartily join in it.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

 The same thing often happens with regard to all the other passions.
A stranger passes by us in the street with all the marks of the deepest
af¬‚iction; and we are immediately told that he has just received the
news of the death of his father. It is impossible that, in this case, we
should not approve of his grief. Yet it may often happen, without any
defect of humanity on our part, that, so far from entering into the
violence of his sorrow, we should scarce conceive the ¬rst movements
of concern upon his account. Both he and his father, perhaps, are en-
tirely unknown to us, or we happen to be employed about other things,
and do not take time to picture out in our imagination the different
circumstances of distress which must occur to him. We have learned,
however, from experience, that such a misfortune naturally excites
such a degree of sorrow, and we know that if we took time to consider
his situation, fully and in all its parts, we should, without doubt, most
sincerely sympathize with him. It is upon the consciousness of this
conditional sympathy, that our approbation of his sorrow is founded,
even in those cases in which that sympathy does not actually take
place; and the general rules derived from our preceding experience of
what our sentiments would commonly correspond with, correct upon
this, as upon many other occasions, the impropriety of our present

µ The sentiment or affection of the heart from which any action pro-
ceeds, and upon which its whole virtue or vice must ultimately depend,
may be considered under two different aspects, or in two different re-
lations; ¬rst, in relation to the cause which excites it, or the motive
which gives occasion to it; and secondly, in relation to the end which
it proposes, or the effect which it tends to produce.

 In the suitableness or unsuitableness, in the proportion or dispropor-
tion which the affection seems to bear to the cause or object which
excites it, consists the propriety or impropriety, the decency or un-
gracefulness of the consequent action.

· In the bene¬cial or hurtful nature of the effects which the affection
aims at, or tends to produce, consists the merit or demerit of the
action, the qualities by which it is entitled to reward, or is deserving
of punishment.

Of the propriety of action

 Philosophers have, of late years, considered chie¬‚y the tendency of
affections, and have given little attention to the relation which they
stand in to the cause which excites them. In common life, however,
when we judge of any person™s conduct, and of the sentiments which
directed it, we constantly consider them under both these aspects.
When we blame in another man the excesses of love, of grief, of re-
sentment, we not only consider the ruinous effects which they tend
to produce, but the little occasion which was given for them. The
merit of his favourite, we say, is not so great, his misfortune is not
so dreadful, his provocation is not so extraordinary, as to justify so
violent a passion. We should have indulged, we say; perhaps, have
approved of the violence of his emotion, had the cause been in any
respect proportioned to it.

 When we judge in this manner of any affection, as proportioned or
disproportioned to the cause which excites it, it is scarce possible that
we should make use of any other rule or canon but the correspondent
affection in ourselves. If, upon bringing the case home to our own
breast, we ¬nd that the sentiments which it gives occasion to, coincide
and tally with our own, we necessarily approve of them as proportioned
and suitable to their objects; if otherwise, we necessarily disapprove
of them, as extravagant and out of proportion.

±° Every faculty in one man is the measure by which he judges of the
like faculty in another. I judge of your sight by my sight, of your ear
by my ear, of your reason by my reason, of your resentment by my
resentment, of your love by my love. I neither have, nor can have, any
other way of judging about them.

Chapter IV The same subject continued
± We may judge of the propriety or impropriety of the sentiments of
another person by their correspondence or disagreement with our
own, upon two different occasions; either, ¬rst, when the objects which
excite them are considered without any peculiar relation, either to
ourselves or to the person whose sentiments we judge of; or, secondly,
when they are considered as peculiarly affecting one or other of us.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

 With regard to those objects which are considered without any pe-
culiar relation either to ourselves or to the person whose sentiments
we judge of; wherever his sentiments entirely correspond with our
own, we ascribe to him the qualities of taste and good judgment. The
beauty of a plain, the greatness of a mountain, the ornaments of a
building, the expression of a picture, the composition of a discourse,
the conduct of a third person, the proportions of different quantities
and numbers, the various appearances which the great machine of the
universe is perpetually exhibiting, with the secret wheels and springs
which produce them; all the general subjects of science and taste, are
what we and our companion regard as having no peculiar relation
to either of us. We both look at them from the same point of view,
and we have no occasion for sympathy, or for that imaginary change
of situations from which it arises, in order to produce, with regard
to these, the most perfect harmony of sentiments and affections. If,
notwithstanding, we are often differently affected, it arises either from
the different degrees of attention, which our different habits of life
allow us to give easily to the several parts of those complex objects, or
from the different degrees of natural acuteness in the faculty of the
mind to which they are addressed.

 When the sentiments of our companion coincide with our own in
things of this kind, which are obvious and easy, and in which, per-
haps, we never found a single person who differed from us, though
we, no doubt, must approve of them, yet he seems to deserve no praise
or admiration on account of them. But when they not only coincide
with our own, but lead and direct our own; when in forming them he
appears to have attended to many things which we had overlooked, and
to have adjusted them to all the various circumstances of their objects;
we not only approve of them, but wonder and are surprised at their
uncommon and unexpected acuteness and comprehensiveness, and
he appears to deserve a very high degree of admiration and applause.
For approbation heightened by wonder and surprise, constitutes the
sentiment which is properly called admiration, and of which applause
is the natural expression. The decision of the man who judges that

 Cf. I.ii.±.±; and concerning the general role of wonder and surprise in human knowledge, see
˜History of Astronomy™, I“II (in EPS).

Of the propriety of action

exquisite beauty is preferable to the grossest deformity, or that twice
two are equal to four, must certainly be approved of by all the world,
but will not, surely, be much admired. It is the acute and delicate
discernment of the man of taste, who distinguishes the minute, and
scarce perceptible differences of beauty and deformity; it is the com-
prehensive accuracy of the experienced mathematician, who unravels,
with ease, the most intricate and perplexed proportions; it is the great
leader in science and taste, the man who directs and conducts our own
sentiments, the extent and superior justness of whose talents astonish
us with wonder and surprise, who excites our admiration, and seems
to deserve our applause: and upon this foundation is grounded the
greater part of the praise which is bestowed upon what are called the
intellectual virtues.

 The utility of those qualities, it may be thought, is what ¬rst recom-
mends them to us; and, no doubt, the consideration of this, when we
come to attend to it, gives them a new value.· Originally, however, we
approve of another man™s judgment, not as something useful, but as
right, as accurate, as agreeable to truth and reality: and it is evident we
attribute those qualities to it for no other reason but because we ¬nd
that it agrees with our own. Taste, in the same manner, is originally
approved of, not as useful, but as just, as delicate, and as precisely
suited to its object. The idea of the utility of all qualities of this kind,
is plainly an after-thought, and not what ¬rst recommends them to
our approbation.

µ With regard to those objects, which affect in a particular manner
either ourselves or the person whose sentiments we judge of, it is at
once more dif¬cult to preserve this harmony and correspondence,
and at the same time, vastly more important. My companion does not
naturally look upon the misfortune that has befallen me, or the injury
that has been done me, from the same point of view in which I consider
them. They affect me much more nearly. We do not view them from the
same station, as we do a picture, or a poem, or a system of philosophy,
and are, therefore, apt to be very differently affected by them. But
I can much more easily overlook the want of this correspondence of

· Cf. the discussion of Hume at IV.ii.“·.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

sentiments with regard to such indifferent objects as concern neither
me nor my companion, than with regard to what interests me so
much as the misfortune that has befallen me, or the injury that has
been done me. Though you despise that picture, or that poem, or
even that system of philosophy, which I admire, there is little danger
of our quarrelling upon that account. Neither of us can reasonably be
much interested about them. They ought all of them to be matters
of great indifference to us both; so that, though our opinions may
be opposite, our affections may still be very nearly the same. But it
is quite otherwise with regard to those objects by which either you
or I are particularly affected. Though your judgments in matters of
speculation, though your sentiments in matters of taste, are quite
opposite to mine, I can easily overlook this opposition; and if I have
any degree of temper, I may still ¬nd some entertainment in your
conversation, even upon those very subjects. But if you have either no
fellow-feeling for the misfortunes I have met with, or none that bears
any proportion to the grief which distracts me; or if you have either
no indignation at the injuries I have suffered, or none that bears any
proportion to the resentment which transports me, we can no longer
converse upon these subjects. We become intolerable to one another. I
can neither support your company, nor you mine. You are confounded
at my violence and passion, and I am enraged at your cold insensibility
and want of feeling.

 In all such cases, that there may be some correspondence of senti-
ments between the spectator and the person principally concerned,
the spectator must, ¬rst of all, endeavour, as much as he can, to put
himself in the situation of the other, and to bring home to himself
every little circumstance of distress which can possibly occur to the
sufferer. He must adopt the whole case of his companion with all its
minutest incidents; and strive to render as perfect as possible, that
imaginary change of situation upon which his sympathy is founded.

· After all this, however, the emotions of the spectator will still be
very apt to fall short of the violence of what is felt by the sufferer.
Mankind, though naturally sympathetic, never conceive, for what has
befallen another, that degree of passion which naturally animates the

Of the propriety of action

person principally concerned. That imaginary change of situation,
upon which their sympathy is founded, is but momentary. The thought
of their own safety, the thought that they themselves are not really the
sufferers, continually intrudes itself upon them; and though it does
not hinder them from conceiving a passion somewhat analogous to
what is felt by the sufferer, hinders them from conceiving any thing
that approaches to the same degree of violence. The person principally
concerned is sensible of this, and at the same time passionately desires
a more complete sympathy. He longs for that relief which nothing can
afford him but the entire concord of the affections of the spectators
with his own. To see the emotions of their hearts, in every respect,
beat time to his own, in the violent and disagreeable passions, con-
stitutes his sole consolation. But he can only hope to obtain this by
lowering his passion to that pitch, in which the spectators are capable
of going along with him. He must ¬‚atten, if I may be allowed to say so,
the sharpness of its natural tone, in order to reduce it to harmony and
concord with the emotions of those who are about him. What they feel,
will, indeed, always be, in some respects, different from what he feels,
and compassion can never be exactly the same with original sorrow;
because the secret consciousness that the change of situations, from
which the sympathetic sentiment arises, is but imaginary, not only
lowers it in degree, but, in some measure, varies it in kind, and gives it
a quite different modi¬cation. These two sentiments, however, may,
it is evident, have such a correspondence with one another, as is suf¬-
cient for the harmony of society. Though they will never be unisons,
they may be concords, and this is all that is wanted or required.

 In order to produce this concord, as nature teaches the spectators to
assume the circumstances of the person principally concerned, so she
teaches this last in some measure to assume those of the spectators. As
they are continually placing themselves in his situation, and thence
conceiving emotions similar to what he feels; so he is as constantly
placing himself in theirs, and thence conceiving some degree of that
coolness about his own fortune, with which he is sensible that they
will view it. As they are constantly considering what they themselves
would feel, if they actually were the sufferers, so he is as constantly led
to imagine in what manner he would be affected if he was only one of

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the spectators of his own situation. As their sympathy makes them look
at it, in some measure, with his eyes, so his sympathy makes him look
at it, in some measure, with theirs, especially when in their presence
and acting under their observation: and as the re¬‚ected passion, which
he thus conceives, is much weaker than the original one, it necessarily
abates the violence of what he felt before he came into their presence,
before he began to recollect in what manner they would be affected
by it, and to view his situation in this candid and impartial light.

 The mind, therefore, is rarely so disturbed, but that the company of
a friend will restore it to some degree of tranquillity and sedateness.
The breast is, in some measure, calmed and composed the moment we
come into his presence. We are immediately put in mind of the light in
which he will view our situation, and we begin to view it ourselves in
the same light; for the effect of sympathy is instantaneous. We expect
less sympathy from a common acquaintance than from a friend: we
cannot open to the former all those little circumstances which we can
unfold to the latter: we assume, therefore, more tranquillity before
him, and endeavour to ¬x our thoughts upon those general outlines
of our situation which he is willing to consider. We expect still less
sympathy from an assembly of strangers, and we assume, therefore,
still more tranquillity before them, and always endeavour to bring
down our passion to that pitch, which the particular company we are
in may be expected to go along with. Nor is this only an assumed
appearance: for if we are at all masters of ourselves, the presence of
a mere acquaintance will really compose us, still more than that of a
friend; and that of an assembly of strangers still more than that of an

±° Society and conversation, therefore, are the most powerful remedies
for restoring the mind to its tranquillity, if, at any time, it has unfortu-
nately lost it; as well as the best preservatives of that equal and happy
temper, which is so necessary to self-satisfaction and enjoyment. Men
of retirement and speculation, who are apt to sit brooding at home
over either grief or resentment, though they may often have more
humanity, more generosity, and a nicer sense of honour, yet seldom
possess that equality of temper which is so common among men of the

Of the propriety of action

Chapter V Of the amiable and respectable virtues
± Upon these two different efforts, upon that of the spectator to enter
into the sentiments of the person principally concerned, and upon
that of the person principally concerned, to bring down his emotions
to what the spectator can go along with, are founded two different
sets of virtues. The soft, the gentle, the amiable virtues, the virtues of
candid condescension and indulgent humanity, are founded upon the
one: the great, the awful and respectable, the virtues of self-denial, of
self-government, of that command of the passions which subjects all
the movements of our nature to what our own dignity and honour,
and the propriety of our own conduct require, take their origin from
the other.

 How amiable does he appear to be, whose sympathetic heart seems
to re-echo all the sentiments of those with whom he converses, who
grieves for their calamities, who resents their injuries, and who rejoices
at their good fortune! When we bring home to ourselves the situation
of his companions, we enter into their gratitude, and feel what conso-
lation they must derive from the tender sympathy of so affectionate
a friend. And for a contrary reason, how disagreeable does he appear
to be, whose hard and obdurate heart feels for himself only, but is
altogether insensible to the happiness or misery of others! We enter,
in this case too, into the pain which his presence must give to every
mortal with whom he converses, to those especially with whom we are
most apt to sympathize, the unfortunate and the injured.

 On the other hand, what noble propriety and grace do we feel in
the conduct of those who, in their own case, exert that recollection
and self-command which constitute the dignity of every passion, and
which bring it down to what others can enter into! We are disgusted
with that clamorous grief, which, without any delicacy, calls upon our
compassion with sighs and tears and importunate lamentations. But
we reverence that reserved, that silent and majestic sorrow, which
discovers itself only in the swelling of the eyes, in the quivering of
the lips and cheeks, and in the distant, but affecting, coldness of the
whole behaviour. It imposes the like silence upon us. We regard it with
 Cf. III.iii.µ; VII.ii.±“µ; and Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, III.iii.; Inquiry, App. ..

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

respectful attention, and watch with anxious concern over our whole
behaviour, lest by any impropriety we should disturb that concerted
tranquillity, which it requires so great an effort to support.

 The insolence and brutality of anger, in the same manner, when we
indulge its fury without check or restraint, is, of all objects, the most
detestable. But we admire that noble and generous resentment which
governs its pursuit of the greatest injuries, not by the rage which they
are apt to excite in the breast of the sufferer, but by the indignation
which they naturally call forth in that of the impartial spectator; which
allows no word, no gesture, to escape it beyond what this more equi-
table sentiment would dictate; which never, even in thought, attempts
any greater vengeance, nor desires to in¬‚ict any greater punishment,
than what every indifferent person would rejoice to see executed.

µ And hence it is, that to feel much for others and little for ourselves,
that to restrain our sel¬sh, and to indulge our benevolent affections,
constitutes the perfection of human nature; and can alone produce
among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which
consists their whole grace and propriety. As to love our neighbour
as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great
precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or
what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us.

 As taste and good judgment, when they are considered as qualities
which deserve praise and admiration, are supposed to imply a deli-
cacy of sentiment and an acuteness of understanding not commonly
to be met with; so the virtues of sensibility and self-command are not
apprehended to consist in the ordinary, but in the uncommon degrees
of those qualities. The amiable virtue of humanity requires, surely,
a sensibility, much beyond what is possessed by the rude vulgar of
mankind. The great and exalted virtue of magnanimity undoubtedly
demands much more than that degree of self-command, which the
weakest of mortals is capable of exerting. As in the common degree
of the intellectual qualities, there is no abilities; so in the common
degree of the moral, there is no virtue. Virtue is excellence, something
uncommonly great and beautiful, which rises far above what is vulgar
 Cf. III.vi.±.

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and ordinary. The amiable virtues consist in that degree of sensibility
which surprises by its exquisite and unexpected delicacy and ten-
derness. The awful and respectable, in that degree of self-command
which astonishes by its amazing superiority over the most ungovern-
able passions of human nature.

· There is, in this respect, a considerable difference between virtue and
mere propriety; between those qualities and actions which deserve
to be admired and celebrated, and those which simply deserve to be
approved of. Upon many occasions, to act with the most perfect pro-
priety, requires no more than that common and ordinary degree of
sensibility or self-command which the most worthless of mankind are
possest of, and sometimes even that degree is not necessary.±° Thus,
to give a very low instance, to eat when we are hungry, is certainly,
upon ordinary occasions, perfectly right and proper, and cannot miss
being approved of as such by every body. Nothing, however, could be
more absurd than to say it was virtuous.

 On the contrary, there may frequently be a considerable degree of
virtue in those actions which fall short of the most perfect propriety;
because they may still approach nearer to perfection than could well
be expected upon occasions in which it was so extremely dif¬cult to
attain it: and this is very often the case upon those occasions which
require the greatest exertions of self-command. There are some situa-
tions which bear so hard upon human nature, that the greatest degree
of self-government, which can belong to so imperfect a creature as
man, is not able to sti¬‚e, altogether, the voice of human weakness, or
reduce the violence of the passions to that pitch of moderation, in
which the impartial spectator can entirely enter into them. Though
in those cases, therefore, the behaviour of the sufferer fall short of the
most perfect propriety, it may still deserve some applause, and even in
a certain sense, may be denominated virtuous. It may still manifest an
effort of generosity and magnanimity of which the greater part of men
are incapable; and though it fails of absolute perfection, it may be a
much nearer approximation towards perfection, than what, upon such
trying occasions, is commonly either to be found or to be expected.

±° Cf. VII.ii.±.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

 In cases of this kind, when we are determining the degree of blame or
applause which seems due to any action, we very frequently make use
of two different standards. The ¬rst is the idea of complete propriety
and perfection, which, in those dif¬cult situations, no human conduct
ever did, or ever can come up to; and in comparison with which the
actions of all men must for ever appear blameable and imperfect. The
second is the idea of that degree of proximity or distance from this
complete perfection, which the actions of the greater part of men com-
monly arrive at. Whatever goes beyond this degree, how far soever it
may be removed from absolute perfection, seems to deserve applause;
and whatever falls short of it, to deserve blame.

±° It is in the same manner that we judge of the productions of all the arts
which address themselves to the imagination. When a critic examines
the work of any of the great masters in poetry or painting, he may some-
times examine it by an idea of perfection, in his own mind, which nei-
ther that nor any other human work will ever come up to; and as long as
he compares it with this standard, he can see nothing in it but faults and
imperfections. But when he comes to consider the rank which it ought
to hold among other works of the same kind, he necessarily compares it
with a very different standard, the common degree of excellence which
is usually attained in this particular art; and when he judges of it by
this new measure, it may often appear to deserve the highest applause,
upon account of its approaching much nearer to perfection than the
greater part of those works which can be brought into competition
with it.

Section II Of the degrees of the different passions
which are consistent with propriety
± The propriety of every passion excited by objects peculiarly related
to ourselves, the pitch which the spectator can go along with, must
lie, it is evident, in a certain mediocrity. If the passion is too high,
or if it is too low, he cannot enter into it. Grief and resentment for
private misfortunes and injuries may easily, for example, be too high,
and in the greater part of mankind they are so. They may likewise,

Of the propriety of action

though this more rarely happens, be too low. We denominate the excess,
weakness and fury: and we call the defect stupidity, insensibility, and
want of spirit. We can enter into neither of them, but are astonished
and confounded to see them.

 This mediocrity, however, in which the point of propriety consists, is
different in different passions. It is high in some, and low in others.
There are some passions which it is indecent to express very strongly,
even upon those occasions, in which it is acknowledged that we cannot
avoid feeling them in the highest degree. And there are others of which
the strongest expressions are upon many occasions extremely graceful,
even though the passions themselves do not, perhaps, arise so necessar-
ily. The ¬rst are those passions with which, for certain reasons, there
is little or no sympathy: the second are those with which, for other
reasons, there is the greatest. And if we consider all the different pas-
sions of human nature, we shall ¬nd that they are regarded as decent,
or indecent, just in proportion as mankind are more or less disposed to
sympathize with them.

Chapter I Of the passions which take their origin from the body
± It is indecent to express any strong degree of those passions which
arise from a certain situation or disposition of the body; because the
company, not being in the same disposition, cannot be expected to
sympathize with them. Violent hunger, for example, though upon
many occasions not only natural, but unavoidable, is always indecent,
and to eat voraciously is universally regarded as a piece of ill manners.
There is, however, some degree of sympathy, even with hunger. It
is agreeable to see our companions eat with a good appetite, and all
expressions of loathing are offensive. The disposition of body which
is habitual to a man in health, makes his stomach easily keep time, if I
may be allowed so coarse an expression, with the one, and not with the
other. We can sympathize with the distress which excessive hunger
occasions when we read the description of it in the journal of a siege, or
of a sea voyage. We imagine ourselves in the situation of the sufferers,
and thence readily conceive the grief, the fear and consternation,
which must necessarily distract them. We feel, ourselves, some degree
of those passions, and therefore sympathize with them: but as we do

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

not grow hungry by reading the description, we cannot properly, even
in this case, be said to sympathize with their hunger.

 It is the same case with the passion by which Nature unites the two
sexes. Though naturally the most furious of all the passions, all strong
expressions of it are upon every occasion indecent, even between per-
sons in whom its most complete indulgence is acknowledged by all
laws, both human and divine, to be perfectly innocent. There seems,
however, to be some degree of sympathy even with this passion. To
talk to a woman as we would to a man is improper: it is expected that
their company should inspire us with more gaiety, more pleasantry,
and more attention; and an intire insensibility to the fair sex, renders
a man contemptible in some measure even to the men.

 Such is our aversion for all the appetites which take their origin from
the body: all strong expressions of them are loathsome and disagree-
able. According to some ancient philosophers, these are the passions
which we share in common with the brutes, and which having no con-
nexion with the characteristical qualities of human nature, are upon
that account beneath its dignity. But there are many other passions
which we share in common with the brutes, such as resentment, natu-
ral affection, even gratitude, which do not, upon that account, appear
to be so brutal. The true cause of the peculiar disgust which we con-
ceive for the appetites of the body when we see them in other men,
is that we cannot enter into them. To the person himself who feels
them, as soon as they are grati¬ed, the object that excited them ceases
to be agreeable: even its presence often becomes offensive to him; he
looks round to no purpose for the charm which transported him the
moment before, and he can now as little enter into his own passion
as another person. When we have dined, we order the covers to be
removed; and we should treat in the same manner the objects of the
most ardent and passionate desires, if they were the objects of no other
passions but those which take their origin from the body.

 In the command of those appetites of the body consists that virtue
which is properly called temperance. To restrain them within those
bounds, which regard to health and fortune prescribes, is the part
of prudence. But to con¬ne them within those limits, which grace,

Of the propriety of action

which propriety, which delicacy, and modesty, require, is the of¬ce of

µ It is for the same reason that to cry out with bodily pain, how
intolerable soever, appears always unmanly and unbecoming. There
is, however, a good deal of sympathy even with bodily pain. If, as has
already been observed,±± I see a stroke aimed, and just ready to fall
upon the leg, or arm, of another person, I naturally shrink and draw
back my own leg, or my own arm: and when it does fall, I feel it in
some measure, and am hurt by it as well as the sufferer. My hurt,
however, is, no doubt, excessively slight, and, upon that account, if he
makes any violent out-cry, as I cannot go along with him, I never fail
to despise him. And this is the case of all the passions which take their
origin from the body: they excite either no sympathy at all, or such a
degree of it, as is altogether disproportioned to the violence of what
is felt by the sufferer.

 It is quite otherwise with those passions which take their origin from
the imagination. The frame of my body can be but little affected by
the alterations which are brought about upon that of my companion:
but my imagination is more ductile, and more readily assumes, if
I may say so, the shape and con¬guration of the imaginations of those
with whom I am familiar. A disappointment in love, or ambition,
will, upon this account, call forth more sympathy than the greatest
bodily evil. Those passions arise altogether from the imagination. The
person who has lost his whole fortune, if he is in health, feels nothing
in his body. What he suffers is from the imagination only, which
represents to him the loss of his dignity, neglect from his friends,
contempt from his enemies, dependance, want, and misery, coming
fast upon him; and we sympathize with him more strongly upon this
account, because our imaginations can more readily mould themselves
upon his imagination, than our bodies can mould themselves upon his

· The loss of a leg may generally be regarded as a more real calamity
than the loss of a mistress. It would be a ridiculous tragedy, however,

±± I.i.±..

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

of which the catastrophe was to turn upon a loss of that kind. A
misfortune of the other kind, how frivolous soever it may appear to
be, has given occasion to many a ¬ne one.

 Nothing is so soon forgot as pain. The moment it is gone the whole
agony of it is over, and the thought of it can no longer give us any sort
of disturbance. We ourselves cannot then enter into the anxiety and
anguish which we had before conceived. An unguarded word from a
friend will occasion a more durable uneasiness. The agony which this
creates is by no means over with the word. What at ¬rst disturbs us
is not the object of the senses, but the idea of the imagination. As it is
an idea, therefore, which occasions our uneasiness, till time and other
accidents have in some measure effaced it from our memory, the
imagination continues to fret and rankle within, from the thought
of it.

 Pain never calls forth any very lively sympathy unless it is accompanied
with danger. We sympathize with the fear, though not with the agony
of the sufferer. Fear, however, is a passion derived altogether from the
imagination, which represents, with an uncertainty and ¬‚uctuation
that increases our anxiety, not what we really feel, but what we may
hereafter possibly suffer. The gout or the tooth-ach, though exquisitely
painful, excite very little sympathy; more dangerous diseases, though
accompanied with very little pain, excite the highest.

±° Some people faint and grow sick at the sight of a chirurgical oper-
ation, and that bodily pain which is occasioned by tearing the ¬‚esh,
seems, in them, to excite the most excessive sympathy. We conceive
in a much more lively and distinct manner the pain which proceeds
from an external cause, than we do that which arises from an internal
disorder. I can scarce form an idea of the agonies of my neighbour
when he is tortured with the gout, or the stone; but I have the clearest
conception of what he must suffer from an incision, a wound, or a
fracture. The chief cause, however, why such objects produce such
violent effects upon us, is their novelty. One who has been witness
to a dozen dissections, and as many amputations, sees, ever after, all
operations of this kind with great indifference, and often with perfect

Of the propriety of action

insensibility. Though we have read or seen represented more than ¬ve
hundred tragedies, we shall seldom feel so entire an abatement of our
sensibility to the objects which they represent to us.

±± In some of the Greek tragedies there is an attempt to excite compas-
sion, by the representation of the agonies of bodily pain. Philoctetes
cries out and faints from the extremity of his sufferings. Hippolytus
and Hercules are both introduced as expiring under the severest tor-
tures, which, it seems, even the fortitude of Hercules was incapable
of supporting.± In all these cases, however, it is not the pain which
interests us, but some other circumstance. It is not the sore foot, but
the solitude, of Philoctetes which affects us, and diffuses over that
charming tragedy, that romantic wildness, which is so agreeable to
the imagination. The agonies of Hercules and Hippolytus are inter-
esting only because we foresee that death is to be the consequence. If
those heroes were to recover, we should think the representation of
their sufferings perfectly ridiculous. What a tragedy would that be of
which the distress consisted in a colic! Yet no pain is more exquisite.
These attempts to excite compassion by the representation of bodily
pain, may be regarded as among the greatest breaches of decorum of
which the Greek theatre has set the example.±

± The little sympathy which we feel with bodily pain is the foundation
of the propriety of constancy and patience in enduring it. The man,
who under the severest tortures allows no weakness to escape him,
vents no groan, gives way to no passion which we do not entirely
enter into, commands our highest admiration. His ¬rmness enables
him to keep time with our indifference and insensibility. We admire
and entirely go along with the magnanimous effort which he makes for
this purpose. We approve of his behaviour, and from our experience of
the common weakness of human nature, we are surprised, and wonder
how he should be able to act so as to deserve approbation. Approbation,
mixed and animated by wonder and surprise, constitutes the sentiment

± Smith is referring to episodes in Sophocles™ Philoctetes, Euripides™ Hippolytus, and Sophocles™
Trachiniae, respectively.
± Cf. Smith™s discussion of the drama in Rhetoric ±.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

which is properly called admiration, of which, applause is the natural
expression, as has already been observed.±

Chapter II Of those passions which take their origin from a particular
turn or habit of the imagination
± Even of the passions derived from the imagination, those which take
their origin from a peculiar turn or habit it has acquired, though they
may be acknowledged to be perfectly natural, are, however, but little
sympathized with. The imaginations of mankind, not having acquired
that particular turn, cannot enter into them; and such passions, though
they may be allowed to be almost unavoidable in some part of life,
are always, in some measure, ridiculous. This is the case with that
strong attachment which naturally grows up between two persons of
different sexes, who have long ¬xed their thoughts upon one another.
Our imagination not having run in the same channel with that of the
lover, we cannot enter into the eagerness of his emotions. If our friend
has been injured, we readily sympathize with his resentment, and grow
angry with the very person with whom he is angry. If he has received a
bene¬t, we readily enter into his gratitude, and have a very high sense
of the merit of his benefactor. But if he is in love, though we may think
his passion just as reasonable as any of the kind, yet we never think
ourselves bound to conceive a passion of the same kind, and for the
same person for whom he has conceived it. The passion appears to
every body, but the man who feels it, entirely disproportioned to the
value of the object; and love, though it is pardoned in a certain age
because we know it is natural, is always laughed at, because we cannot
enter into it. All serious and strong expressions of it appear ridiculous to
a third person; and though a lover may be good company to his mistress,
he is so to nobody else. He himself is sensible of this; and as long as he
continues in his sober senses, endeavours to treat his own passion with
raillery and ridicule. It is the only style in which we care to hear of it;
because it is the only style in which we ourselves are disposed to talk
of it. We grow weary of the grave, pedantic, and long-sentenced love
of Cowley and Petrarca, who never have done with exaggerating the

± I.i...

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violence of their attachments; but the gaiety of Ovid, and the gallantry
of Horace, are always agreeable.±µ

 But though we feel no proper sympathy with an attachment of this
kind, though we never approach even in imagination towards conceiv-
ing a passion for that particular person, yet as we either have conceived,
or may be disposed to conceive, passions of the same kind, we read-
ily enter into those high hopes of happiness which are proposed from
its grati¬cation, as well as into that exquisite distress which is feared
from its disappointment. It interests us not as a passion, but as a situ-
ation that gives occasion to other passions which interest us; to hope,
to fear, and to distress of every kind: in the same manner as in a de-
scription of a sea voyage, it is not the hunger which interests us, but
the distress which that hunger occasions. Though we do not prop-
erly enter into the attachment of the lover, we readily go along with
those expectations of romantic happiness which he derives from it.
We feel how natural it is for the mind, in a certain situation, relaxed
with indolence, and fatigued with the violence of desire, to long for
serenity and quiet, to hope to ¬nd them in the grati¬cation of that
passion which distracts it, and to frame to itself the idea of that life
of pastoral tranquillity and retirement which the elegant, the tender,
and the passionate Tibullus takes so much pleasure in describing; a life
like what the poets describe in the Fortunate Islands, a life of friend-
ship, liberty, and repose;± free from labour, and from care, and from
all the turbulent passions which attend them. Even scenes of this kind
interest us most, when they are painted rather as what is hoped, than
as what is enjoyed. The grossness of that passion, which mixes with,
and is, perhaps, the foundation of love, disappears when its grati¬ca-
tion is far off and at a distance; but renders the whole offensive, when
described as what is immediately possessed. The happy passion, upon
this account, interests us much less than the fearful and the melancholy.
We tremble for whatever can disappoint such natural and agreeable
±µ Abraham Cowley (±±“·); Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, ±°“·); Ovid ( BC“AD ±·); Horace
(µ“ BC).
± The references here are to Tibullus, Elegies, and to the descriptions in Hesiod, Works and Days
±·±, Pindar, Olympian Odes, II.ff., Lucian, A True Story, II, et al., of the mythical Blessed Islands,
as Plato called them, Symposium, ±°b, where the virtuous lived in eternal summer after death.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

hopes: and thus enter into all the anxiety, and concern, and distress of
the lover.

 Hence it is, that, in some modern tragedies and romances, this passion
appears so wonderfully interesting. It is not so much the love of Castalio
and Monimia which attaches us in the Orphan, as the distress which
that love occasions.±· The author who should introduce two lovers, in
a scene of perfect security, expressing their mutual fondness for one
another, would excite laughter, and not sympathy. If a scene of this
kind is ever admitted into a tragedy, it is always, in some measure,
improper, and is endured, not from any sympathy with the passion that
is expressed in it, but from concern for the dangers and dif¬culties with
which the audience foresee that its grati¬cation is likely to be attended.

 The reserve which the laws of society impose upon the fair sex, with
regard to this weakness, renders it more peculiarly distressful in them,
and, upon that very account, more deeply interesting. We are charmed
with the love of Ph¦dra, as it is expressed in the French tragedy of
that name, notwithstanding all the extravagance and guilt which attend
it.± That very extravagance and guilt may be said, in some measure, to
recommend it to us. Her fear, her shame, her remorse, her horror, her
despair, become thereby more natural and interesting. All the secondary
passions, if I may be allowed to call them so, which arise from the
situation of love, become necessarily more furious and violent; and it
is with these secondary passions only that we can properly be said to

µ Of all the passions, however, which are so extravagantly disproportioned
to the value of their objects, love is the only one that appears, even
to the weakest minds, to have any thing in it that is either graceful
or agreeable. In itself, ¬rst of all, though it may be ridiculous, it is
not naturally odious; and though its consequences are often fatal and
dreadful, its intentions are seldom mischievous. And then, though there
is little propriety in the passion itself, there is a good deal in some of

±· The Orphan (±°) by Thomas Otway (±µ“µ) which is also discussed at II.iii..µ and in Rhetoric,
± The Ph`dre (±··) by Jean Racine (±“).

Of the propriety of action

those which always accompany it. There is in love a strong mixture
of humanity, generosity, kindness, friendship, esteem; passions with
which, of all others, for reasons which shall be explained immediately,±
we have the greatest propensity to sympathize, even notwithstanding we
are sensible that they are, in some measure, excessive. The sympathy
which we feel with them, renders the passion which they accompany
less disagreeable, and supports it in our imagination, notwithstanding
all the vices which commonly go along with it; though in the one sex it
necessarily leads to the last ruin and infamy; and though in the other,
where it is apprehended to be least fatal, it is almost always attended
with an incapacity for labour, a neglect of duty, a contempt of fame, and
even of common reputation. Notwithstanding all this, the degree of
sensibility and generosity with which it is supposed to be accompanied,
renders it to many the object of vanity; and they are fond of appearing
capable of feeling what would do them no honour if they had really
felt it.

 It is for a reason of the same kind, that a certain reserve is necessary
when we talk of our own friends, our own studies, our own professions.
All these are objects which we cannot expect should interest our com-
panions in the same degree in which they interest us. And it is for want
of this reserve, that the one half of mankind make bad company to the
other. A philosopher is company to a philosopher only; the member of
a club, to his own little knot of companions.

Chapter III Of the unsocial passions
± There is another set of passions, which, though derived from the imag-
ination, yet before we can enter into them, or regard them as graceful
or becoming, must always be brought down to a pitch much lower than
that to which undisciplined nature would raise them. These are, hatred
and resentment, with all their different modi¬cations. With regard to
all such passions, our sympathy is divided between the person who
feels them, and the person who is the object of them. The interests of
these two are directly opposite. What our sympathy with the person
who feels them would prompt us to wish for, our fellow-feeling with the

± I.ii..

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

other would lead us to fear. As they are both men, we are concerned for
both, and our fear for what the one may suffer, damps our resentment
for what the other has suffered. Our sympathy, therefore, with the man
who has received the provocation, necessarily falls short of the passion
which naturally animates him, not only upon account of those general
causes which render all sympathetic passions inferior to the original
ones, but upon account of that particular cause which is peculiar to
itself, our opposite sympathy with another person. Before resentment,
therefore, can become graceful and agreeable, it must be more humbled
and brought down below that pitch to which it would naturally rise,
than almost any other passion.

 Mankind, at the same time, have a very strong sense of the injuries that
are done to another. The villain, in a tragedy or romance, is as much
the object of our indignation, as the hero is that of our sympathy and
affection. We detest Iago as much as we esteem Othello; and delight as
much in the punishment of the one, as we are grieved at the distress of
the other.° But though mankind have so strong a fellow-feeling with
the injuries that are done to their brethren, they do not always resent
them the more that the sufferer appears to resent them. Upon most
occasions, the greater his patience, his mildness, his humanity, provided
it does not appear that he wants spirit, or that fear was the motive of
his forbearance, the higher their resentment against the person who
injured him. The amiableness of the character exasperates their sense
of the atrocity of the injury.

 Those passions, however, are regarded as necessary parts of the charac-
ter of human nature. A person becomes contemptible who tamely sits
still, and submits to insults, without attempting either to repel or to
revenge them. We cannot enter into his indifference and insensibility:
we call his behaviour mean-spiritedness, and are as really provoked by
it as by the insolence of his adversary. Even the mob are enraged to
see any man submit patiently to affronts and ill usage. They desire to
see this insolence resented, and resented by the person who suffers
from it. They cry to him with fury, to defend, or to revenge himself.
If his indignation rouses at last, they heartily applaud, and sympathize

° Cf. a similar point made about Shakespeare™s Othello in the Rhetoric ±.ii.±.

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with it. It enlivens their own indignation against his enemy, whom they
rejoice to see him attack in turn, and are as really grati¬ed by his re-
venge, provided it is not immoderate, as if the injury had been done to

 But though the utility of those passions to the individual, by rendering
it dangerous to insult or injure him, be acknowledged; and though their
utility to the public, as the guardians of justice, and of the equality of its
administration, be not less considerable, as shall be shewn hereafter;±
yet there is still something disagreeable in the passions themselves,
which makes the appearance of them in other men the natural object
of our aversion. The expression of anger towards any body present, if
it exceeds a bare intimation that we are sensible of his ill usage, is re-
garded not only as an insult to that particular person, but as a rudeness
to the whole company. Respect for them ought to have restrained us
from giving way to so boisterous and offensive an emotion. It is the
remote effects of these passions which are agreeable; the immediate
effects are mischief to the person against whom they are directed. But
it is the immediate, and not the remote effects of objects which render
them agreeable or disagreeable to the imagination. A prison is certainly
more useful to the public than a palace; and the person who founds
the one is generally directed by a much juster spirit of patriotism, than
he who builds the other. But the immediate effects of a prison, the
con¬nement of the wretches shut up in it, are disagreeable; and the
imagination either does not take time to trace out the remote ones, or
sees them at too great a distance to be much affected by them. A prison,
therefore, will always be a disagreeable object; and the ¬tter it is for the
purpose for which it was intended, it will be the more so. A palace, on
the contrary, will always be agreeable; yet its remote effects may of-
ten be inconvenient to the public. It may serve to promote luxury, and
set the example of the dissolution of manners. Its immediate effects,
however, the conveniency, the pleasure, and the gaiety of the people
who live in it, being all agreeable, and suggesting to the imagination a
thousand agreeable ideas, that faculty generally rests upon them, and
seldom goes further in tracing its more distant consequences. Trophies
of the instruments of music or of agriculture, imitated in painting or

± II.ii..

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

in stucco, make a common and an agreeable ornament of our halls and
dining-rooms. A trophy of the same kind, composed of the instruments
of surgery, of dissecting and amputation-knives, of saws for cutting the
bones, of trepanning instruments, etc. would be absurd and shocking.
Instruments of surgery, however, are always more ¬nely polished, and
generally more nicely adapted to the purposes for which they are in-
tended, than instruments of agriculture. The remote effects of them
too, the health of the patient, is agreeable; yet as the immediate effect
of them is pain and suffering, the sight of them always displeases us.
Instruments of war are agreeable, though their immediate effect may
seem to be in the same manner pain and suffering. But then it is the
pain and suffering of our enemies, with whom we have no sympathy.
With regard to us, they are immediately connected with the agreeable
ideas of courage, victory, and honour. They are themselves, therefore,
supposed to make one of the noblest parts of dress, and the imitation of
them one of the ¬nest ornaments of architecture. It is the same case with
the qualities of the mind. The ancient stoics were of opinion, that as the
world was governed by the all-ruling providence of a wise, powerful,
and good God, every single event ought to be regarded, as making a
necessary part of the plan of the universe, and as tending to promote
the general order and happiness of the whole: that the vices and follies
of mankind, therefore, made as necessary a part of this plan as their
wisdom or their virtue; and by that eternal art which educes good from
ill, were made to tend equally to the prosperity and perfection of the
great system of nature. No speculation of this kind, however, how
deeply soever it might be rooted in the mind, could diminish our nat-
ural abhorrence for vice, whose immediate effects are so destructive,
and whose remote ones are too distant to be traced by the imagination.

µ It is the same case with those passions we have been just now consider-
ing. Their immediate effects are so disagreeable, that even when they
are most justly provoked, there is still something about them which
disgusts us. These, therefore, are the only passions of which the ex-
pressions, as I formerly observed, do not dispose and prepare us to
sympathize with them, before we are informed of the cause which ex-
cites them. The plaintive voice of misery, when heard at a distance, will

 Cf. VII.ii.±.

Of the propriety of action

not allow us to be indifferent about the person from whom it comes.
As soon as it strikes our ear, it interests us in his fortune, and, if con-
tinued, forces us almost involuntarily to ¬‚y to his assistance. The sight
of a smiling countenance, in the same manner, elevates even the pen-
sive into that gay and airy mood, which disposes him to sympathize
with, and share the joy which it expresses; and he feels his heart, which
with thought and care was before that shrunk and depressed, instantly
expanded and elated. But it is quite otherwise with the expressions of
hatred and resentment. The hoarse, boisterous, and discordant voice of
anger, when heard at a distance, inspires us either with fear or aversion.
We do not ¬‚y towards it, as to one who cries out with pain and agony.
Women, and men of weak nerves, tremble and are overcome with fear,
though sensible that themselves are not the objects of the anger. They
conceive fear, however, by putting themselves in the situation of the
person who is so. Even those of stouter hearts are disturbed; not in-
deed enough to make them afraid, but enough to make them angry;
for anger is the passion which they would feel in the situation of the
other person. It is the same case with hatred. Mere expressions of spite
inspire it against nobody, but the man who uses them. Both these pas-
sions are by nature the objects of our aversion. Their disagreeable and
boisterous appearance never excites, never prepares, and often disturbs
our sympathy. Grief does not more powerfully engage and attract us
to the person in whom we observe it, than these, while we are ignorant
of their cause, disgust and detach us from him. It was, it seems, the
intention of Nature, that those rougher and more unamiable emotions,
which drive men from one another, should be less easily and more rarely

 When music imitates the modulations of grief or joy, it either actually
inspires us with those passions, or at least puts us in the mood which
disposes us to conceive them. But when it imitates the notes of anger,
it inspires us with fear. Joy, grief, love, admiration, devotion, are all of
them passions which are naturally musical. Their natural tones are all
soft, clear, and melodious; and they naturally express themselves in pe-
riods which are distinguished by regular pauses, and which upon that
account are easily adapted to the regular returns of the correspondent
airs of a tune. The voice of anger, on the contrary, and of all the pas-
sions which are akin to it, is harsh and discordant. Its periods too are all

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

irregular, sometimes very long, and sometimes very short, and distin-
guished by no regular pauses. It is with dif¬culty, therefore, that music
can imitate any of those passions; and the music which does imitate them
is not the most agreeable. A whole entertainment may consist, without
any impropriety, of the imitation of the social and agreeable passions.
It would be a strange entertainment which consisted altogether of the
imitations of hatred and resentment.

· If those passions are disagreeable to the spectator, they are not less so to
the person who feels them. Hatred and anger are the greatest poison to
the happiness of a good mind. There is, in the very feeling of those pas-
sions, something harsh, jarring, and convulsive, something that tears
and distracts the breast, and is altogether destructive of that composure
and tranquillity of mind which is so necessary to happiness, and which
is best promoted by the contrary passions of gratitude and love. It is
not the value of what they lose by the per¬dy and ingratitude of those
they live with, which the generous and humane are most apt to regret.
Whatever they may have lost, they can generally be very happy without
it. What most disturbs them is the idea of per¬dy and ingratitude exer-
cised towards themselves; and the discordant and disagreeable passions
which this excites, constitute, in their own opinion, the chief part of
the injury which they suffer.

 How many things are requisite to render the grati¬cation of resentment
completely agreeable, and to make the spectator thoroughly sympathize
with our revenge? The provocation must ¬rst of all be such that we
should become contemptible, and be exposed to perpetual insults, if we
did not, in some measure, resent it. Smaller offences are always better
neglected; nor is there any thing more despicable than that froward and
captious humour which takes ¬re upon every slight occasion of quarrel.
We should resent more from a sense of the propriety of resentment, from
a sense that mankind expect and require it of us, than because we feel in
ourselves the furies of that disagreeable passion. There is no passion,
of which the human mind is capable, concerning whose justness we
ought to be so doubtful, concerning whose indulgence we ought so

 Cf. Smith™s theory of music in Of . . . the Imitative Arts, II and the Annexe, here esp. II.± (in EPS).

Of the propriety of action

carefully to consult our natural sense of propriety, or so diligently to
consider what will be the sentiments of the cool and impartial spectator.
Magnanimity, or a regard to maintain our own rank and dignity in
society, is the only motive which can ennoble the expressions of this
disagreeable passion. This motive must characterize our whole stile
and deportment. These must be plain, open, and direct; determined
without positiveness, and elevated without insolence; not only free from
petulance and low scurrility, but generous, candid, and full of all proper
regards, even for the person who has offended us. It must appear, in
short, from our whole manner, without our labouring affectedly to
express it, that passion has not extinguished our humanity; and that if we
yield to the dictates of revenge, it is with reluctance, from necessity, and
in consequence of great and repeated provocations. When resentment
is guarded and quali¬ed in this manner, it may be admitted to be even
generous and noble.

Chapter IV Of the social passions
± As it is a divided sympathy which renders the whole set of passions just
now mentioned, upon most occasions, so ungraceful and disagreeable;
so there is another set opposite to these, which a redoubled sympathy
renders almost always peculiarly agreeable and becoming. Generosity,
humanity, kindness, compassion, mutual friendship and esteem, all the
social and benevolent affections, when expressed in the countenance or
behaviour, even towards those who are not peculiarly connected with
ourselves, please the indifferent spectator upon almost every occasion.
His sympathy with the person who feels those passions, exactly coin-
cides with his concern for the person who is the object of them. The
interest, which, as a man, he is obliged to take in the happiness of
this last, enlivens his fellow-feeling with the sentiments of the other,
whose emotions are employed about the same object. We have always,
therefore, the strongest disposition to sympathize with the benevolent
affections. They appear in every respect agreeable to us. We enter into
the satisfaction both of the person who feels them, and of the per-
son who is the object of them. For as to be the object of hatred and
indignation gives more pain than all the evil which a brave man can
fear from his enemies; so there is a satisfaction in the consciousness

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

of being beloved, which, to a person of delicacy and sensibility, is of
more importance to happiness, than all the advantage which he can
expect to derive from it. What character is so detestable as that of
one who takes pleasure to sow dissension among friends, and to turn
their most tender love into mortal hatred? Yet wherein does the atroc-
ity of this so much abhorred injury consist? Is it in depriving them
of the frivolous good of¬ces, which, had their friendship continued,
they might have expected from one another? It is in depriving them
of that friendship itself, in robbing them of each other™s affections,
from which both derived so much satisfaction; it is in disturbing the
harmony of their hearts, and putting an end to that happy commerce
which had before subsisted between them. These affections, that har-
mony, this commerce, are felt, not only by the tender and the delicate,
but by the rudest vulgar of mankind, to be of more importance to hap-
piness than all the little services which could be expected to ¬‚ow from

 The sentiment of love is, in itself, agreeable to the person who feels it.
It sooths and composes the breast, seems to favour the vital motions,
and to promote the healthful state of the human constitution; and it
is rendered still more delightful by the consciousness of the gratitude
and satisfaction which it must excite in him who is the object of it.
Their mutual regard renders them happy in one another, and sympathy,
with this mutual regard, makes them agreeable to every other person.
With what pleasure do we look upon a family, through the whole of
which reign mutual love and esteem, where the parents and children
are companions for one another, without any other difference than what
is made by respectful affection on the one side, and kind indulgence
on the other; where freedom and fondness, mutual raillery and mutual
kindness, show that no opposition of interest divides the brothers, nor
any rivalship of favour sets the sisters at variance, and where every
thing presents us with the idea of peace, cheerfulness, harmony, and
contentment? On the contrary, how uneasy are we made when we go
into a house in which jarring contention sets one half of those who
dwell in it against the other; where amidst affected smoothness and
complaisance, suspicious looks and sudden starts of passion betray the
mutual jealousies which burn within them, and which are every moment

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ready to burst out through all the restraints which the presence of the
company imposes?

 Those amiable passions, even when they are acknowledged to be ex-
cessive, are never regarded with aversion. There is something agree-
able even in the weakness of friendship and humanity. The too tender
mother, the too indulgent father, the too generous and affectionate
friend, may sometimes, perhaps, on account of the softness of their
natures, be looked upon with a species of pity, in which, however, there
is a mixture of love, but can never be regarded with hatred and aver-
sion, nor even with contempt, unless by the most brutal and worthless
of mankind. It is always with concern, with sympathy and kindness,
that we blame them for the extravagance of their attachment. There is
a helplessness in the character of extreme humanity which more than
any thing interests our pity. There is nothing in itself which renders
it either ungraceful or disagreeable. We only regret that it is un¬t for
the world, because the world is unworthy of it, and because it must
expose the person who is endowed with it as a prey to the per¬dy and
ingratitude of insinuating falsehood, and to a thousand pains and un-
easinesses, which, of all men, he the least deserves to feel, and which
generally too he is, of all men, the least capable of supporting. It is
quite otherwise with hatred and resentment. Too violent a propensity
to those detestable passions, renders a person the object of universal
dread and abhorrence, who, like a wild beast, ought, we think, to be
hunted out of all civil society.

Chapter V Of the sel¬sh passions
± Besides those two opposite sets of passions, the social and unsocial,
there is another which holds a sort of middle place between them; is
never either so graceful as is sometimes the one set, nor is ever so
odious as is sometimes the other. Grief and joy, when conceived upon
account of our own private good or bad fortune, constitute this third
set of passions. Even when excessive, they are never so disagreeable as
excessive resentment, because no opposite sympathy can ever interest
us against them: and when most suitable to their objects, they are never
so agreeable as impartial humanity and just benevolence; because no

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

double sympathy can ever interest us for them. There is, however, this
difference between grief and joy, that we are generally most disposed to
sympathize with small joys and great sorrows. The man who, by some
sudden revolution of fortune, is lifted up all at once into a condition of
life, greatly above what he had formerly lived in, may be assured that the
congratulations of his best friends are not all of them perfectly sincere.
An upstart, though of the greatest merit, is generally disagreeable, and
a sentiment of envy commonly prevents us from heartily sympathizing
with his joy. If he has any judgment, he is sensible of this, and instead of
appearing to be elated with his good fortune, he endeavours, as much
as he can, to smother his joy, and keep down that elevation of mind
with which his new circumstances naturally inspire him. He affects
the same plainness of dress, and the same modesty of behaviour, which
became him in his former station. He redoubles his attention to his
old friends, and endeavours more than ever to be humble, assiduous,
and complaisant. And this is the behaviour which in his situation we
most approve of; because we expect, it seems, that he should have more
sympathy with our envy and aversion to his happiness, than we have
with his happiness. It is seldom that with all this he succeeds. We suspect
the sincerity of his humility, and he grows weary of this constraint. In a
little time, therefore, he generally leaves all his old friends behind him,
some of the meanest of them excepted, who may, perhaps, condescend
to become his dependents: nor does he always acquire any new ones;
the pride of his new connections is as much affronted at ¬nding him
their equal, as that of his old ones had been by his becoming their
superior: and it requires the most obstinate and persevering modesty
to atone for this morti¬cation to either. He generally grows weary too
soon, and is provoked, by the sullen and suspicious pride of the one, and
by the saucy contempt of the other, to treat the ¬rst with neglect, and
the second with petulance, till at last he grows habitually insolent,
and forfeits the esteem of all. If the chief part of human happiness
arises from the consciousness of being beloved, as I believe it does,
those sudden changes of fortune seldom contribute much to happiness.


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