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Horatio, that self-denial is not only the most reasonable, but the most pleasant thing in the world.
Hor. We are just coming into town, so that we cannot pursue this argument any farther at present; you have said a great deal for Nature, Providence and Reason : happy are they who can follow such divine guides.
Phil. Horatio, good night; I wish you wise in your pleasures.
Hor. I wish, Philocles, I could be as wise in my pleasures, as you are pleasantly wise; your wisdom is agreeable; your virtue is amiable; and your philosophy the highest luxury. Adieu ! thou enchanting reasoner.
SECTION II. A second dialogue on the same subject. Government of the passions, and doing good to others, the surest means of attaining uninterrupted happiness.
Philocles. Dear Horatio, where hast thou been these three or four months ? What new adventures have you fallen upon since I met you in these delightful all-inspiring fields, and wondered how such a pleasure-hunter as you could bear to be alone?
Horatio. O Philocles! thou best of friends, because a friend to reason and virtue! I am very glad to see you: Do not you remember, I told you then, that some misfortunes in my pleasures had sent me to philosophy for relief; but now I do assure you, I can, without a sigh, leave other pleasures for those of philosophy : I can hear the word reason mentioned, and virtue praised, without laughing: Do not I bid fair for conver sion, think you ?
Phil. Very fair, Horatio, for I remember the time when reason, virtue, and pleasure, were the same thing with you; when you counted nothing good but what pleased, nor any thing reasonable but what you gained by; when you made a jest of a mind and the pleasures of reflection, and elegantly placed your sole happiness, like the rest of the animal creation, in the gratification of sense.
Hor. I did so; but in our last conversation, when walking upon the brow of this hill, and looking down on that broad, rapid river, and yon widely extended, beautifully varied plain, you taught me another doctrine : you showed me that self-denial, which above all things I abhorred, was really the greatest good and the highest gratification, and absolutely necessary to produce even my own darling, sole good, pleasure.
Phil. True: I told you that reasonable self-denial was a natural means of procuring more pleasure than we could taste without it; that, as we all strongly desire to live, and to live only to enjoy, we should take as much care about our future as our present happiness, and not build one upon the ruins of the other; that we should look to the end, and regard consequences; and if, through want of attention, we had erred, and exceeded the bounds which nature had set us, w were then obliged, for our own sakes, to refrain, or deny ourselves a present, momentary pleasurè, for a future, constant, and durable good.
Hor. You have shown, Philocles, that self-denial, which weak or interested men have rendered the most forbidding, is really the most delightful and amiable, the most reasonable and pleasant thing in the world. In a word, if I understand you aright, self-denial is, in truth, self-recognizing, self-acknowledging, or self-owning. But now, my friend, you are to perform another promise, and show me the path which leads up to that constant, durable, and invariable good, which I have heard you so beautifully describe, and which you seem so fully to possess. Is not this good of yours a mere chimera ? Can any thing be constant in a world which is eternally changing, and which appears to exist by an everlasting revolution of one thing into another, and where every thing without us, and every thing within us, is in perpetual motion? What is this constant, durable good, then, of yours?
Phil. You seem enthusiastically warm, Horatio. I will wait till you are cool enough to attend to the sober, dispassionate voice of reason.
Hor. You mistake me, my dear Philocles, my warmth is not so great as to run away with my reason; it is only just raised enough to open my faculties, and fit them to receive those eternal truths, and that durable good, which you so triumphantly boast of. Begin, then, I am prepared.
Phil. I will, I believe, Horatio, with all your scepticism about you; you will allow that good to be constant which is never absent from you, and that to be durable, which never ends but with your being.
Hor. Yes; go on. Phil. That can never be the good of a creature which, when present, the creatare may be miserable, and when absent, is certainly so.
Hor. I think not; but pray explain what you mean; for I i not much used to this abstract way of reasoning.
Phil. I mean all the pleasures of sense. The good of man cannot consist in the mere pleasures of sense; because, when any one of those objects which you love is absent, or cannot be come at, you are certainly miserable; and if the faculty be impaired, though the object be present, you can not enjoy it. So that this sensual good depends upon a thou sand things without and within you, and all out of your power. Can this, then, be the good of man? Say, Horatio, what think you, is not this a checkered, fleeting, fantastical good ? Can that, in any propriety of speech, be called the good of man, in which even, while he is tasting, he may be miserable, and in which, when he cannot taste, he is necessarily so ? Can that be our good which costs us a great deal of pains to obtain, which cloys in possessing, for which we must wait the return of appetite before we can enjoy again ? Or, is that our good which we can come at without difficulty, which is heightened by possession, which never ends in weariness and disappointment, and which, the more we enjoy, the better qualified we are to enjoy on?
Hor. The latter, I think; but why do you torment me thus? Philocles, show me this good immediately.
Phil. I have showed you what it is not; it is not sensual, but it is rational and moral good. It is doing all the good we can to others, by acts of humanity, friendship, generosity, and benevolence : this is that constant and durable good, which will afford contentment and satisfaction always alike, without variation or diminution. I speak to your experience now, Horatio: Did you ever find yourself weary of relieving the miserable? Or of raising the distressed into life or happiness? Or rather, do not you find the pleasure grow upon you by repetition; and that it is greater in reflection than in the act itself? Is there a pleasure upon earth to be compared with that which arises from the sense of making others happy? Can this pleasure ever be absent, or ever end but with your being? Does it not always accompany you? Doth it not lie down and rise with you, live as long as you live, give you consolation in the article of death, and remain with you
in that gloomy hour, when all things are going to forsake you, or you them?
Hor. How glowingly you paint, Philocles! Methinks Horatio is among the enthusiasts. I feel the passion; I am enchantingly convinced; but I know not why: overborne by something stronger than reason: sure, some divinity speaks within me.
But prithee, Philocles, give me coolly the cause
why this rational and moral good so infinitely excels the mere natural or sensual.
Phil. I think, Horatio, that I have clearly shown you the difference between the merely natural or sensual good, and rational or moral good. Natural or sensual pleasure continues no longer than the action itself; but this divine or moral pleasure continues when the action is over, and swells
your hand by reflection: the one is inconstant, unsatisfying, of short duration, and attended with numberless ills; the other is constant, yields full satisfaction, is durable, and no evils preceding, accompanying, or following it. But if you inquire farther into the cause of this difference, and would know why the moral pleasures are greater than the sensual, perhaps the reason is the same as in all other creatures, that their happiness or chief good consists in acting up to their chief faculty, or that faculty which distinguishes them from all creatures of a different species. The chief faculty in man is his reason; and consequently, his chief good; or, that which may justly be called his good, consists not merely in action, but in reasonable action. But in reasonable actions, we understand those actions, which are preservative of the human kind; and naturally tend to produce real and unmixed happiness; and these actions, by way of distinction, we call actions morally good.
Hor. You speak very clearly, Philocles, but, that no difficulty may remain upon my mind, pray, tell me, what is the real difference between natural good and evil, and moral good and evil ; for I know several people who use the terms without ideas.
Phil. That may be: the difference lies only in this, that natural good and evil, are pleasure and pain: moral good and evil, are pleasure or pain produced with intention and design. For, it is the intention only that makes the agent morally good or bad.
Hor. But may not a man, with a very good intention, do an evil action ?
Phil. Yes; but then he errs in his judgment, though his design be good: if his error is invincible, or such as, allthings considered, he could not help, he is inculpable: but, if it arose from want of diligence in forming his judgment about the nature of human actions, he is immoral and culpable.
Hor. I find then, that in order to please ourselves rightly, or to do good to others morally, we should take great care of our opinions.
Phil. Nothing concerns you more ; for as the happiness or
real good of man consists in right action; and right action cannot be produced without right opinion; it behoves us, above all things in this world, to take care that our opinions of things be according to the nature of things. The foundation of all virtue and happiness is thinking rightly. He who sees an action is right, that is, naturally tending to good, and does it because of that tendency, he only is a moral man; and he alone is capable of that constant, durable, and invariable good, which has been the subject of this conversation.
Hor. How, my dear philosophical guide, shall I be able to know, and determine certainly, what is right and wrong in life?
Phil. As easily as you distinguish a circle from a square, or light from darkness. Look, Horatio, into the sacred book of Nature; read your own nature, and view the relation, which other men stand in to you, and you to them, and you will immediately see what constitutes human happiness, and consequently what is right.
Hor. We are just coming into town, and can say no more at present. You are my good genius, Philocles, you have showed me what is good; you have redeemed sie from the slavery and misery of folly and vice; and made me a free and happy being.
Phil. Then am I the happiest man in the world; be you steady, Horatio, never depart from reason and virtue.
Hor. Sooner will I lose my existence. Good night, Philocles.
Phil. Adieu, dear Horatio!
POOR RICHARD ;* PUBLISHED BY DR. FRANKLIN IN. 1757,
1 I have heard, that nothing gives an author so great pleasure, as to find his works respectfully quoted by others. Judge,
* See page 196.