Laws of Connections

mind, personal, pleasures, disinterestedness, ideas, means, desire, view, excite and object

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46. We shall think ourselves fortunate if we have succeeded in giving a distinct idea of the progress of the mind front self to disinterestedness. There are few things in mental investigations more inte resting, or of greater practical value, than the tendency to love and to desire to pro mote things which have no immmediate connection with our own good, without any reference to our own good.—That the human mind is capable of gross sel fishness, which defies all present disci pline to correct, is a fact which cannot be denied, and which should excite our vigilance and concern. But it is no less a fact, that it is also capable of disinterest edness which shall inn through the whole of the conduct, and prompt uniformly and steadily to the promotion of others' wel fare. The earliest pleasures are personal I wish not to call them selfish, because we seem to appropriate that term to those feelings which have an explicit reference to our own real or imaginary good, and which prompt to this even at the expense Of others; in this sense the human mind cannot with the least propriety be said to be originally selfish ; but its earliest plea sures are personal, and its earliest desires are consequently personal. Its interest in the pleasures of others, arises from their connection with the personal pleasures and consequently the desire of promoting their pleasures, the love of others is origi nally interested ; that is, it is in conse quence of its personal pleasures depend ing on the pleasures of others. There is nothing criminal in this, it is according to the laws of our mental frame ; it is only criminal when the mind rests here ; for it cannot, without being wrongfully imped ed. The good of others promotes our personal pleasures, and hence it is origi. Pally that we desire to promote their good. By degrees the desire is transferred com pletely from the original end, personal pleasures, to the good of others, the ori ginal means, and then this becomes an end, mid the desire is disinterested.

47. We feel the glow of pleasure in thus tracing the progress of the mind, and chewing that its tendency is to disinterest edness, and that it is often obtained in a comparatively universal extent. Let us not then listen to the degrading ideas of those who would persuade us that the most perfect benevolence is only the most refined selfishness ; that all which is said by philosophers and moralists respecting disinterestedness is unmeaning rant, and that when we call upon mankind to divest themselves of self and personal considera tions, we call upon them for something which they are not able to practise. We may, with the consistency of truth, have ' a nobler view of our species ; and we may ourselves hold up, as the object of our steady exertions, that state of mind, in which to perceive the practicable means of promoting the good of others, and to employ them, will be invariably associated, without any connecting inter vening bond of union.—On the other hand, let no one less highly value the exertions of disinterestedness because it can be shown to arise from a meaner origin.

Ought we not rather to admire the height which has been gained by a steady use of the general means of worth, and by a right employment of the discipline of Provi dence Is his conduct less lovely, who has gone through the trial, and brought from it disinterestedness, which prompts to ef forts of the noblest kind for the good of others The original disinterestedness of the mind may be pleasing in some points of view ; but in others it is the contrary : it diminishes the worth of character in those cases where it exists, for constitu tional disinterestedness has no more me rit than the possession of a good Sight ; and it damps too the efforts to obtain dis interestedness. Those who find them selves deficient, who discover feelings which disinterestedness owns not, have, on the theory here proposed, the best en couragement, the prospect of success, in their endeavours to transfer their affec tions from self: It leads too, hUmbly and gratefully, to acquiesce in every means which Providence may appoint, to disci pline the mind, and to purify it from all that can debase. In short, it points the view to the highest excellence, and di rects the means of attaining it.

4. Habitual Biases.

48. We now proceed to the last of those laws of association, which we propose to notice, and in what we shall advance on the subject, we shall make a free use of Stewart's Elements.—The leading fea ture of the operations of the associative power is, that when two or more ideas, &c. are presented to the mind together, or in close succession, they become con netted with one another, or blended to gether, so that the one when recalled to the view of the mind, is accompanied with the other. But we must not limit its exercise to this operation ; it not only connects ideas when they are thus pre sented together to the mind, but is the cause of the introduction of ideas with one another, which have never befiire been presented together to the mind. An object which has never before been pre sented to the mind, may excite numerous ideas, or trains of ideas ; while another may continually occur without exciting a single idea And the same object will affect different persons differently, so that in the mind of one it will excite trains of thought, while in another it will only produce a momentary impression ; and in different persons too the same object will excite different trains of thought ; and in the same person, at different times, dif ferent effects will be produced.—Now all this depends upon the habitual or acci dental biases to particular kinds of con nection, produced either by the habitual tendency of the mental constitution, or more usually, by the particular culture of the individual mind, owing to direct in struction, or to the effect of circumstan ces, operating without any intention either on his part or on that of others.

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