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the Moral Sentiments in 1759 is not said of him there in 1790); and towards “the profligate Mandeville” (Edinburgh Review) he may perhaps have softened a little. His caustic description of an English youth on the Continent, sent there to spare his father the pain of seeing him going to ruin before his eyes, cannot, without slur on our author's gratitude, be supposed to apply to a particular case. He is rarely ironical, and never with the concealed satire of Hume, or the transparent innuendo of Gibbon.
His general judgments are formed cautiously from the facts, and expressed, where there is room for doubt, with a liberal use of qualifying phrases, “generally,” “perhaps," "as it were,” “it is said,” and “as nearly as we can judge.” Where he quotes authorities at all, he usually gives them in the text. In the Moral Sentiments there are (speaking broadly) no footnotes, and in the Wealth of Nations very few.
Dugald Stewart states that Hume wrote out his books with his own hand, Adam Smith dictated his to a secretary. This may partly explain the difference in style between the two authors. Several long letters of Adam Smith in his own handwriting are still preserved, and they have all the characteristics of the printed books; the habit of dictating and lecturing could not be shaken off.
The extracts given here are selected as examples of our author's work in four departments of study-Literature, the History of Science, Moral Philosophy, and Political Economy. If a philosopher's views could be summed up in short phrases, it might be said that he found the leading idea of Art to be imitation, of Ethics, sympathy, of Political Economy, commercial ambition and industrial liberty, while the spring of all science and philosophy was (to him) the desire of finding order and “connecting principles ” in a chaos of particular data.
His influence on literature and criticism was mainly personal; his work in philosophy is not comparable to Hume's in historical importance; but his Wealth of Nations was the starting-point of systematic economical study in this country. Adam Smith is to English economics what Kant is to German metaphysics. Finally, Adan Smith is one of the few authors whose writings have guided the action of statesmen and moulded the policy of nations.
HUMOUR, from the Latin humor, in its original signification, stands for moisture in general ; from whence it has been restrained to signify the moisture of animal bodies, or those fluids which circulate thro' them.
It is distinguished from moisture in general in this, that humours properly express the fluids of the body when, in a vitiated state, it would not be improper to say that the fluids of such a person's body were full of humours.
The only fluids of the body which, in their natural and healthful state, are called humours, are those in the eye; we talk of the aqueous humour, the crystalline humour, without meaning anything that is morbid or diseased : yet, when we say in general, that such a person has got a humour in his eye, we understand it in the usual sense of a vitiated fluid.
As the temper of the mind is supposed to depend upon the state of the fluids in the body, humour has come to be synonymous with temper and disposition.
A person's humour, however, is different from his disposition in this, that humour seems to be the disease of a disposition ; it would be proper to say that persons of a serious temper or disposition of mind, were subject to melancholy humours; that those of a delicate and tender disposition, were subject to peevish humours.
Humour may be agreeable, or disagreeable ; but it is still humour, something that is whimsical, capricious, and not to be depended upon : an ill-natured man may have fits of good humour, which seem to come upon him accidentally, without any regard to the common moral causes of happiness or misery.
i From the Review of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, Edinburgh Review, 1755, Jan. to July, Append. Art. III. pp. 71-2. The reviewer had found fault with Johnson's plan ; Johnson should have classified the senses of a word instead of simply enumerating them, and he ought to have ranged them under the principal sense, and taken more care to distinguish synonyms. To show what he wants, the reviewer takes the words “ But” and “Humour,” giving first Johnson's article and then his own. The above is the reviewer's version of Humour.
A fit of cheerfulness constitutes the whole of good humour ; and a man who has many such fits, is a good-humoured man : yet he may not be a good-natured ; which is a character that supposes something more constant, equable, and uniform, than what was requisite to constitute good humour.
Humour is often made use of to express the quality of the imagination which bears a considerable resemblance to wit.
Wit expresses something that is more designed, concerted, regular, and artificial; humour, something that is more wild, loose, extravagant, and fantastical ; something which comes upon a man by fits, which he can neither command nor restrain, and which is not perfectly consistent with true politeness. Humour, it has been said, is often more diverting than wit ; yet a man of wit is as much above a man of humour, as a gentleman is above a buffoon; a buffoon, however, will often divert more than a gentleman.
THE ASPECT OF NATURE TO THE SAVAGE
MANKIND, in the first ages of society, before the establishment of law, order, and security, have little curiosity to find out those hidden chains of events which bind together the seemingly disjointed appearances of nature. A savage, whose subsistence is precarious, whose life is every day exposed to the rudest dangers, has no inclination to amuse himself with searching out what, when discovered, seems to serve no other purpose than to render the theatre of nature a more connected spectacle to his imagination. Many of these smaller incoherences, which in the course of things perplex philosophers, entirely escape his attention. Those more magnificent irregularities, whose grandeur he cannot overlook, call forth his amazement. Comets, eclipses, thunder, lightning, and other meteors, by their greatness, naturally overawe him, and he views them with a reverence that approaches to fear. His inexperience and uncertainty with regard to everything about them, how they came, how they are to go, what went before,
what is to come after them, exasperate his sentiment into terror and consternation. But our passions, as Father Malebranche observes, all justify themselves ; that is, suggest to us opinions which justify them. As those appearances terrify him, therefore, he is disposed to believe everything about them which can render them still more the objects of his terror. That they proceed from some intelligent though invisible causes, of whose vengeance and displeasure they are either the signs or the effects, is the notion of all others most capable of enhancing this passion, and is that therefore which he is most apt to entertain. To this too, that cowardice and pusillanimity, so natural to man in his uncivilized state, still more disposes him : unprotected by the laws of society, exposed, defenceless, he feels his weakness upon all occasions ; his strength and security upon none.
(From Essay on the History of Astronomy. Before 1759.)
HOW ART PRODUCES ITS EFFECTS
THE works of the great masters in Statuary and Painting, it is to be observed, never produce their effect by deception. They never are, and it is never intended that they should be, mistaken for the real objects which they represent. Painted Statuary may sometimes deceive an inattentive eye; proper Statuary never does. The little pieces of perspective in Painting, which it is intended should please by deception, represent always some very simple as well as insignificant object; a roll of paper, for example, or the steps of a staircase in the dark corner of some passage or gallery. They are generally the works too of some very inferior artists. After being seen once, and producing the little surprise which it is meant they should excite, together with the mirth which commonly accompanies it, they never please more, but appear ever after insipid and tiresome.
The proper pleasure which we derive from those two imitative arts, so far from being the effect of deception, is altogether incompatible with it. That pleasure is founded altogether upon our wonder at seeing an object of one kind represent so well an object of a very different kind, and upon our admiration of the art which surmounts so happily that disparity which Nature had established between them. The nobler works of Statuary and Painting appear to us a sort of wonderful phenomena, differing in this respect from the wonderful phenomena of Nature that they carry, as it were, their own explication along with them, and demonstrate, even to the eye, the way and manner in which they are produced. The eye, even of an unskilful spectator, immediately discerns, in some measure, how it is that a certain modification of figure in Statuary, and of brighter and darker colours in Painting, can represent, with so much truth and vivacity, the actions, passions, and behaviour of men, as well as a great variety of other objects. The pleasing wonder of ignorance is accompanied with the still more pleasing satisfaction of science. We wonder and are amazed at the effect, and we are pleased ourselves, and happy to find that we can comprehend, in some measure, how that wonderful effect is produced.
A good looking-glass represents the objects which are set before it with much more truth and vivacity than either Statuary or Painting. But, though the science of optics may explain to the understanding, the looking-glass itself does not at all demonstrate to the eye how this effect is brought about. It may excite the wonder of ignorance; and in a clown, who had never beheld a looking-glass before, I have seen that wonder rise almost to rapture and ecstasy ; but it cannot give the satisfaction of science. In all looking-glasses the effects are produced by the same means, applied exactly in the same manner. In every different statue and picture the effects are produced, though by similar, yet not by the same means; and those means too are applied in a different manner in each. Every good statue and picture is a fresh wonder, which at the same time carries, in some measure, its own explication along with it. (From Essay on the Nature of that Imitation which takes place
in what are called the Imitative Arts. Before 1759.)
THE violator of the more sacred laws of justice can never reflect on the sentiments which mankind must entertain with regard to him, without feeling all the agonies of shame and horror and consternation. When his passion is gratified, and he begins coolly to reflect on his past conduct, he can enter into none of