Laws of Connections

money, pleasurable, object, feelings, means, desire, objects, desired, reference and mind

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

42. Two opposite opinions have long been entertained, and are still often ad vanced, respecting the disinterestedness of the human mind; some have main tained, that the mind, in all its feelings and promptings to actions, is actuated by selfish motives ; that, in fact, there is no action or feeling which can be called dis interested. Others have with more success maintained, that the mind can be, and of ten is disinterested ; that a person fre quently performs an action tending to the good of others, in a greater or less degree, without the remotest reference to himself, with no other motive than a desire to do the good which is the effect of the action. The degrading system of the former is seldom adopted but by speculative men, who have been led by circumstances, hap pily not universal, to see merely the dark side of human nature, and to form a more gloomy picture of its selfishness than truth would allow ; or by others who have expected too much from the beauti ful speculations of theory, and having been disappointed by comparing them with their own feelings in many instances, or with the general conduct of men, have thence gone to the unfounded opinion, that all the actions of all men are selfish. If the opinion of those who maintain the disinterestedness of the human mind, had not been carried to an extreme, it would have been attended with but little incon venience ; but unhappily its virtuous ad vocates have thought disinterestedness an innate principle ofthe mind, and have con sidered it as the first step towards true worth of character, whereas it is in reality the last ; and have, therefore, decked the commencement of virtue in colours which belong only to its completion : and hence two practical ill consequences have fol lowed ; some persons have neglected the culture of disinterestedness, both in their own minds and in those of others, from supposing it to be a necessary quality of the mind : and others have been driven to despair, on comparing the representa tions of theory with the faulty state of their own minds ; supposing that they could never attain to what is considered as alone intitled to the appellation of vir tue.—The more correct views, surely, are, that disinterestedness is the last stage of an affection ; that it may be has. tended or retarded, by attention, or ne glect of the culture of that affection ; and that disinterestedness, as the general character of the mind, is the highest point of excellence, and what should be our object, but can only be acquired by a long course of religious culture.—When an affection has arrived at its most complete state, in which it has no further end than its own immediate object, (that is, when the object is desired for its own sake,) the affection may be called disin. terested ; but as this term would thus be applied, not only to the worthy, but the baneful affections, we should be compell ed to speak of disinterested cruelty, dis interested avarice, &c. we shall therefore call those affections which are in their ul timate state, ultimate affections.—Premis ing this, we shall adduce some instances which will explain the progress of an af fection, from the state in which the object out is a mean, to that in which the object of it becomes the sole end ; that is, in which it is an ultimate affection.

43. The most simple instance, and what is frequently adduced for this pur pose, is the love of money. Money is first an object of pleasurable feeling, merely as a means of procuring other things which are regarded as objects of desire. For a moment we may sometimes think of it as having some intrinsic value, independently of its utility as a means ; but we may satisfy ourselves that this is not the case, by observing how little it is an object of interest to children who have not heard much about it, or seen it em ployed, or employed it themselves. A

child is perhaps pleased with a piece of money as a plaything, but nothing further, and children sometimes advance consi derably far in life before they feel its value. E. (a boy of 7 years old) was presented by his father with half a crown, as a reward for a very successful and persevering effort; he was delighted with the approbation which was shewn him, and as far as the money was a mark of that approbation it pleased him ; but obviously nothing further. In small families children generally learn the value of money early, and we therefore mention the circumstance as an illustra tion of what we have just said, that ori ginally it is merely desired as a mean. As persons advance in life, money is conti nually found to be the mean of a great number and variety of the sources of pre sent enjoyment ; hence pleasurable feel ings are continually connected with it, and it becomes more and more an object of desire. In this stage of the progress of the love of money, it is desired as the means of procuring certain pleasurable feelings, without reference to the objects by which those pleasurable feelings are directly produced. And even in this state of it we find an instance of the law of transference. The pleasurable feelings resulting from the objects procured, or to be procured, by money, are associated with the money itself, without reference to those objects. To revert to one of the modes in which the law was proposed ; here the pleasurable feelings which pur chasable objects produce ; the idea of those objects; and the idea of money, are the three sets of ideas. Money procures the object, the pleasurable feeling ; hence the pleasurable feeling becomes connect ed by means of the intermediate links with money ; and hence money becomes an object of desire, without any reference to the means of gratification which it pro cures —Here, to use the other statement, the pleasurable feelings may be termed A, the object which produces them B, and money which produces those objects C ; and by frequent connection between A and C by means of B, A is transferred to C; the pleasurable feelings are trans ferred to the idea of money (and conse quently to money itself) and are called up by it without any reference to B, the object by which those pleasurable feel ings were excited. The law of transfer ence may, in this instance, and many others, be carried one step further. In this state money is desired, on account of the pleasurable feelings with which it is connected ; but by degrees the desire is transferred from the pleasurable feelings with which it is connected to money it self, and money is loved for itself, without any reference to those pleasurable feel ings. This is so important a fact in our mental constitution, and what can be ex plained only by association, that we deem no apology necessary for endeavouring so much at length to point out its appli cation. Here A is the desire which is ex cited by B, the pleasurable feeling con nected with C, the idea of money by means of B, A, the desire is transferred to C, the idea of the money ; and thus the money comes to be desired for itself, without any reference to the pleasurable feelings which it is the means of procur ing. In this state the desire of money is become an ultimate affection ; it is no longer desired as a means, but as an end ; it is desired on its own account.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8