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Libr. Wreden 18.43 41000
AMIDST the numerous' Branches of
Knowledge which claim the attention of the human mind, no one can be more important than that which constitutes the subject of the following Treatise.' Whatever most intimately concerns ourselves must be of the first moment. The principle of self-love, which is inherent in our nature, immediately suggests that no other species of knowledge can stand in competition with it. Every thing is justly deemed interesting which has an immediate relation to ourselves; and the degrees of its importance, are measured by the degress of its influence upon our Well-being. Therefore, to attend to the workings of our own minds; to trace
the power which external objects have over us to discover the nature of our emotions and affections ;-to comprehend the reason of our being affected in a particular manner, must have a direct influence upon our pursuits, our characters, and our happiness.
It may with justice be advanced, that the history of ourselves in this department, is of much greater utility than abstruser speculations concerning the metaphysical nature of the human soul, or even the most accurate knowledge of its intellectual powers. For it is according as the passions and affections are excited ; and directed towards the objects investigated by these intellectual powers, that we become useful to ourselves or others; that we rise into respectability or sink into contempt; that we diffuse or enjoy happiness, diffuse or suffer misery.
An accurate Analysis of the passions and affections, is to the Moralist, what the science of Anatomy is to the Surgeon. It constitutes the first principles of rational practice. It is in a moral view, the anatomy of the heart. It discovers why it beats, and how it beats; indicates appearances in a sound and healthy state ; detects diseases with their cause; and it is infinitely more fortunate in the power it communicates of applying suitable remedies.
Yet, notwithstanding the superior importance of this Science, it has not engaged the attention of philosophers, to an equal degree with the intellectual powers of man. Those who are conscious of the acuteness of their own intellects, have loved to employ them upon subjects the most difficult and abstruse. Their chief delight has been in the study of natures and essences; and their ambition, to solve difficulties which have repeatedly occupied and embarrassed the strongest minds. Patient attention to
appears to them an employment best adapted to plain and common understandings : it is the province of Genius to soar above the common level, and penetrate the mists which surround the regions of intellect.
When it is asserted that the passions of the mind have not employed the attention of the philosophic world, equally with the other branches which relate to Man, the assertion implies that they have not been totally neglected. Philosophers, in their study of human nature, have not passed them over in silence. They have treated them occasionally, but generally speaking superficially ; chiefly as appendages to their other philosophical pursuits. This circumstance, it is acknowledged, has been productive of a train of thought peculiar to each speculator; and thus has each been able to throw some light upon a subject, which