Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/756

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pleasure or happiness of the object. But I should think it a great mistake to define it in this latter way. It would reduce the field of benevolence by excluding all inanimate beings, and make the definition far too narrow. Benevolence, I assert, can be felt quite as well toward inanimate, non-sentient beings as toward sentient organisms. It can be felt toward any being of which it is believed that its welfare or perfection can be procured. As the parent toward his child, the master toward his dog, so the sculptor feels benevolence toward his statue, the author toward his book. The perfection of it makes him happy, its imperfection or destruction causes him pain. Whether the object is a living being or not, whether it is real or imaginary, the sentiment of benevolence is the same in all cases.

Disinterested I shall call such benevolence, if its origin cannot be traced directly to some egoistical motive or to some other moral or æsthetic feeling. Gratitude, which is dictated by a feeling of equity, admiration, which takes its origin in an aesthetic judgment, or the aversion to inflict pain, which is the result of our habits, I shall not call disinterested benevolence, and in this short essay I do not inquire into their origin.

To explain the growth of the special sentiment of disinterested benevolence I must assume a certain number of qualities of the mind, the existence of which, however, has generally been admitted. Whether these qualities are native or acquired is here of no importance; all I require is that they be found in man very soon after his birth. These qualities are, first, the impulse toward self-preservation and self-augmentation inherent to every living organism, and without which it could not exist and develop itself; the wish to be and to be more and more, in a word, to grow. The second quality of mind which I have to assume is the consciousness of existing, not only as a passive sentient being, but as an active being too. And these two qualities once admitted, there follows from them a third, which is the wish to exist as an active being either actually or potentially, to be either acting or capable of acting—the wish for power. The fourth quality is that known under the name of capacity of associating ideas, and the fifth the capacity and tendency of the mind to fuse or confuse such associated ideas, so as not to distinguish them any longer from one another. The first four qualities just enumerated have long ago been generally admitted and amply illustrated. The fifth, that of confusing ideas, has likewise been admitted; it has even been most admirably illustrated in the works of many a philosopher of great repute, but I am not aware that its importance for morals has ever been sufficiently insisted upon.

The specimen case of confusion is that between the ego and the body. All men in early life confuse the two notions of self and body, and most men continue to do so forever. Here already the confusion produces a kind of disinterested benevolence; we feel well inclined toward our body irrespective of any advantage to ourself.