Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/758

This page has been validated.

ferred upon some individual may subsist. And if this sentiment under favorable circumstances produces further action, this time intentional, it will become stronger thereby; far more power is felt to be exerted, and more interest is consequently felt in the effect. The wish to maintain the effect increases in proportion to the exertions already made, and it may finally become strong enough to overcome counteracting influences of considerable moment.

But this is not all. As it is a condition of the persistence of the beneficial effect, that the being upon whom it has been produced continues to exist, a secondary wish, very slight at first, will be generated, that the whole individual may continue to be. At the same time that the wish for the persistence of the beneficial effect becomes stronger, this secondary feeling augments and may produce action tending to the conservation and the welfare of the individual benefited. But, as soon as the fact is realized that good has been done to the whole individual, this new secondary benefit will become the starting-point of a growing disinterested benevolence, directed no longer toward a single quality but toward the whole being. The secondary feeling may now grow much quicker than the primary one, which may in due time be entirely forgotten, and nothing will remain but true disinterested benevolence toward the individual. A benefit conferred by mere chance has produced true devotion.

To illustrate my meaning, which otherwise might remain obscure, let me adduce an example: A man had to throw away some water, and, stepping out of his house, threw it upon a heap of rubbish, where some faded plants were nearly dying. At that moment he paid no attention to them, took no interest in their pitiable state. The next day, having again some water to throw away, the man stepped out at the same place, when he remarked that the plants had raised their stems and regained some life. He understood that this was the result of his act of the day before, his interest was awakened, and, as he held a jar with water in his hand, he again threw its contents over the plants. On the following day the same took place; the benevolent feeling, the interest in the recovery and welfare of the plants augmented, and the man tended the plants with increasing care. When he found one day that the rubbish and plants had been carted away, he felt a real annoyance. The feeling of the man in this case was real disinterested benevolence. The plant's were neither fine nor useful, and the place where they stood was ugly and out of the way, so the man had no advantage from their growth. Nor had the man a general wish to rear plants, for there were a number of other plants sorely in want of care, but to which the man did not transfer his affection. He had loved those individual plants; the benevolence toward the effect he had at first produced had by confusion become benevolence toward the plant itself, and the first feeling had been entirely forgotten.

In this case there was a complete confusion between the effect and