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last to be convinced, that they ought to be punished for their own demerits.
Anger raised by an accidental stroke upon a tender part of the body, is sometimes vented upon the undesigning cause. But as the passion in that case is absurd, and as there can be no solid gratification in punishing the innocent, the mind, prone to justify as well as to gratify its passion, deludes itself into a conviction of the action's being voluntary. The conviction, however, is but momentary: the first reflection shows it to be erroneous; and the passion vanisheth almost instantaneously with the conviction. But anger, the most violent of all passions, has still greater influence; it sometimes forces the mind to personify a stock or a stone, if it happen to occasion bodily pain, and even to believe it a voluntary agent, in order to be a proper object of resentment. And that we have really a momentary conviction of its being a voluntary agent, must be evi. dent from considering, that without such conviction the passion can neither be justified nor gratified: the imagination can give no aid; for a stock or a stone imagined sensible, cannot be an object of punishment, if the mind be conscious that it is an imagination merely without any reality. Of such personification, involving a conviction of reality, there is one illustrious instance : when the first bridge of boats over the Hellespont was destroyed by a storm, Xerxes fell into a transport of rage so excessive, that he commanded the sea to be punished with 300 stripes ; and a pair of fetters to be thrown into it, enjoining the following words to be pronounced: “O thou salt and bitter water ! thy master hath condemned thee to this punishment for offending him without cause; and is resolved to pass over thee in despite of thy insolence: with reason all men neglect to sacrifice to thee, because thou art both disagreeable and treacherous."*
Shakspeare exhibits beautiful examples of the irregular influence of passion in making us believe things to be otherwise than they are. King Lear in his distress, personifies the rain, wind, and thunder; and, in order to justify his resentment, believes them to be taking part with his daughters :
Lear. Rumble thy belly-full, spit fire, spout rain!
-Act 3. sc. 2.
King Richard, full of indignation against his favourite horse for carrying Boling broke, is led into the conviction of his being rational:
Groom. O, how it yearn'd my heart, when I beheld
* Herodotus, book 7.
When Bolingbroke rode on Roan Barbary,
K. Rich. Rode be on Barbary ? tell me, gentle friend, how went he under him.
Groom. So proud as he had disdain'd the ground.
K. Rich. So proud that Bolingbroke was on his back!
Hamlet, swelled with indignation at his mother's second marriage,
That it should come to this!
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.- Act 1. sc. 3. The power of passion to falsify the computation of time is remarkable in this instance; because time, which hath an accurate measure, is less obsequious to our desires and wishes than objects which have no precise standard of less or more.
Good news are greedily swallowed upon very slender evidence : our wishes magnify the probability of the event, as well as the veracity of the relater; and we believe as certain what at best is doubtful :
Quel che l'huom vede, amor gli fa invisibile;
For the same reason, bad news gain also credit upon the slightest evidence : fear, if once alarmed, has the same effect with hope, to magnify every circumstance that tends to conviction. Shakspeare, who shows more knowledge of human nature than any of our phi
losophers, hath in his Cymbeline * represented this bias of the mind; for he makes the person who alone was affected with the bad news, yield to evidence that did not convince any of his companions. And Othello † is convinced of his wife's infidelity from circumstances too slight to move any person less interested.
If the news interest us in so low a degree as to give place to reason, the effect will not be altogether the same : judging of the probability or improbability of the story, the mind settles in a rational conviction either that it is true or not. But, even in that case, the mind is not allowed to rest in that degree of conviction which is produced by rational evidence: if the news be in any degree favour: able, our belief is raised by hope to an improper height; and if unfavourable, by fear.
This observation holds equally with respect to future events: if a future event be either much wished or dreaded, the mind never fails to augment the probability beyond truth.
That easiness of belief with respect to wonders and prodigies, even the most absurd and ridiculous, is a strange phenomenon ; because nothing can be more evident than the following proposition, that the more singular an event is, the more evidence is required to produce belief; a familiar event daily occurring, being in itself extremely probable, finds ready credit, and therefore is vouched by the slightest evidence; but to overcome the improbability of a strange and rare event, contrary to the course of nature, the very strongest evidence is required. It is certain, however, that won. ders and prodigies are swallowed by the vulgar, upon evidence that would not be sufficient to ascertain the most familiar occurrence. It has been reckoned difficult to explain that irregular bias of mind; but we are now made acquainted with the influence of passion upon opinion and belief: a story of ghosts or fairies, told with an air of gravity and truth, raiseth an emotion of wonder, and S perhaps of dread : and these emotions imposing upon a weak mind, impress upon it a thorough conviction contrary to reason.
Opinion and belief are influenced by propensity as well as by passion. An innate propensity is all we have to convince us that the operations of nature are uniform : influenced by that propensity, we often rashly think that good or bad weather will never have an end; and in natural philosophy, writers, influenced by the same propensity, stretch commonly their analogical reasonings beyond just bounds.
Opinion and belief are influenced by affection as well as by propensity. The noted story of a fine lady and a curate viewing the moon through a telescope, is a pleasant illustration : I perceive, says the lady, two shadows inclining to each other ; they are certainly two happy lovers: Not at all, replies the curate, they are two steeples of a cathedral.
APPENDIX TO PART V.
METHODS THAT NATURE HATH AFFORDED FOR COMPUTING TIME
This subject is introduced, because it affords several curious ex amples of the influence of passion to bias the mind in its conceptions and opinions; a lesson that cannot be too frequently inculcated, as there is not perhaps another bias in human nature that hath an influence so universal to make us wander from truth as well as from justice.
I begin with time; and the question is, What was the measure of time before artificial measures were invented ; and what is the measure at present when these are not at hand? I speak not of months and days, which are computed by the moon and sun : but of hours, or in general of the time that passes between any two occurrences when there is not access to the sun. The only
, natural measure is the succession of our thoughts; for we always judge the time to be long or short, in proportion to the number of perceptions and ideas that have passed during that interval. This measure is indeed far from being accurate; because in a quick and in a slow succession it must evidently produce different computations of the same time : but however inaccurate, it is the only measure by which we naturally calculate time; and that measure is applied on all occasions, without regard to any casual variation in the rate of succession.
That measure would however be tolerable, did it labour under no other imperfection beside that mentioned : but in many instances it is much more fallacious; in order to explain which distinctly, an analysis will be necessary. Time is computed at two different periods; one while it is passing, another after it is past : these computations shall be considered separately, with the errors to which each of them is liable. Beginning with computation of time while it is passing, it is a common and trite observation, That to lovers absence appears immeasurably long, every minute an hour, and every day a year: the same computation is made in every case where we long for a distant event; as where one is in expectation of good news, or where a profligate heir watches for the death of an old rich miser. Opposite to these are instances not fewer in number : to a criminal the interval between sentence and execution appears wofully short : and the same holds in every case where one dreads an approaching event ; of which even a school-boy can bear witness : the hour allowed him for play, moves, in his apprehension, with a very swift pace; before he is thoroughly engaged, the hour is gone. A computation founded on the number of ideas will never produce estimates so regularly opposite to each other; for our wishes do not produce a slow succession of ideas, nor our fears a quick succession. What then moves nature, in the cases mentioned, to desert her ordinary measure for one very different? I know not that this question ever has been resolved; the false estimates I have suggested being so common and familiar, that no writer has thought
of their cause. And indeed, to enter upon this matter without preparation might occasion some difficulty; to encounter which, we luckily are prepared, by what is said upon the power of passion, to bias the mind in its perceptions and opinions. Among the circumstances that terrify a condemned criminal, the short time he has to live is one; which time, by the influence of terror, is made to appear still shorter than it is in reality. In the same manner, among the distresses of an absent lover, the time of separation is a capital circumstance, which for that reason is greatly magnified by his anxiety and impatience; he imagines that the time of meeting comes an very slow, or rather that it will never come; every minute is thought of an intolerable length. Here is a fair, and I hope, satisfactory reason, why time is thought to be tedious when we long for a future event, and not less fleet when we dread the event. The reason is confirmed by other instances. Bodily pain, fixed to one part, produceth a slow train of perceptions, which, according to the common measure of time, ought to make it appear short; yet we know, that in such a state, time has the opposite appearance ; and the reason is, that bodily pain is always attended with a degree of impatience, which makes us think every minute to be an hour. The same holds where the pain shifts from place to place; but not so remarkably, because such a pain is not attended with the same degree of impatience. The impatience a man hath in travelling through a barren country, or in a bad road, makes him think, during the journey, that time goes on with a very slow pace. We shall see afterward, that a very different computation is made when the journey is over.
How ought it to stand with a person who apprehends bad news? It will probably be thought, that the case of this person resembles that of the criminal, who, terrified at his approaching execution, believes every hour to be but a minute: yet the computation is directly opposite. Reflecting upon the difficulty, there appears one capital distinguishing circumstance: the fate of the criminal is determined; in the case under consideration, the person is still in suspense. Every one has felt the distress that accompanies suspense : we wish to get rid of it at any rate, even at the expense of bad news. This case, therefore, upon a more narrow inspection, resembles that of bodily pain : the present distress, in both cases makes the time appear extremely tedious.
The reader probably will not be displeased to have this branch of the subject illustrated by an author who is acquainted with every maze of the human heart, and who bestows ineffable grace and ornament upon every subject he handles:
Rosalinda. I pray you, what is't a-clock?
Ros. Then there is no true lover in the forest ; else, sighing every minute, and groaping every hour, would detect the lazy foot of Time as well as a clock.
Orla, Why not ihe swift foot of Time? Had not that been as proper? Ros. By no means, Sir. Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons. I'll tell you who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, whom Time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.
Drla, I prythee whom doth he trot withal ?