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you, Horatio! for amidst all your foibles, and painful pursuits of pleasure, I have oft observed in you an honest heart, and a mind strongly bent towards virtue. I wish from my soul I could assist you in acting steadily the part of a reasonable creature; for, if you would not think it a paradox, I should tell you I love you better than you do yourself.
Hor. A paradox indeed! better than I do myself ! when I love my dear self so well, that I love every thing else for my own sake.
Phil. He only loves himself well, who rightly and judiciously loves himself.
Hor. What do you mean by that, Philocles? you men of reason and virtue are always dealing in mysteries, though you laugh at them when the church makes them. I think he loves himself very well and very judiciously too, as you call it, who allows himself to do whatever he pleases.
Phil. What, though it be the ruin and destruction of that very self which he loves so well! That man alone loves hinself rightly, who procures the greatest possible good to himself, through the whole of his existence; and so pursues pleasure as not to give for it more than it is worth.
Hor. That depends all upon opinion. Who shall judge what the pleasure is worth? Suppose that pleasure in general is so favorite a mistress, that I will take her as men do their wives, for better, for worse; minding no consequences, nor regarding what is to come. Why should I not do it?
Phil. Suppose, Horatio ! that a friend of yours entered into the world, about two and twenty, with a healthful and vigorous body, and a fair plentiful estate of about five hundred pounds a year; and yet before he had reached thirty, should, by following his pleasures, and not, as you say, duly regarding consequences, have run out of his estate, and disabled his body to that degree, that he had neither the means nor capacity of enjoyment left; what would you say to this man's conduct? Is it wrong by opinion or fancy only? Or is there really a right and a wrong in the case ? Is not one opinion of life and action juster than another? Or, one sort of conduct preferable to another? Or, does that miserable son of pleasure, appear as reasonable and lovely a being in your eyes, as a man who, by prudently and rightly gratifying his natural passions, had preserved his body in full health, and his estate entire, and enjoyed both to a good old age, and then died with a thankful heart for the good things he had received, and with an entire submission to the will of him who first called him into being. Say, Horatio! are these men equally wise and happy? And is every thing to be measured by mere fancy and opinion, without considering whether that fancy or opinion be right?
Hor. Hardly so, neither, I think; yet, sure the wise and good Author of nature could never make us to plague us! He could never give us passions, on purpose to subdue and conquer them; nor produce this self of mine, or any other self, only that it may be denied; for, that is denying the works of the great Creator himself. Self-denial, then, which is what I suppose you mean by prudence, seems to me not only absurd, but very dishonorable to that supreme Wisdom and Goodness which is supposed to make so contradictory a creature, that must be always fighting with himself in order to be at rest, and undergo voluntary hardships in order to be happy: Are we created sick only to be commanded to be sound? Are we born under one law, our passions, and yet bound to another, that of reason? Answer me, Philocles, for I am warmly concerned for the honor of nature, the mother of us all.
Phil. I find, Horatio, my two characters have frightened you, so that you decline the trial of what is good, by reason; and had rather make a bold attack upon Providence, the usual way of you gentlemen of fashion, who, when, by living in defiance of the eternal rules of reason, you have plunged yourselves into a thousand difficulties, endeavor to make yourselves easy, by throwing the burden upon nature. Horatio, in a very miserable condition indeed; for you say, you cannot be happy if you control your passions; and you feel yourself miserable by an unrestrained gratification of them; so that here is evil, irremediable evil either way.
Hor. That is very true, at least it appears so to me. Pray, what have you to say, Philocles, in honor of Nature or Providence; methinks I am in pain for her. How do you rescue her?
Phil. This, my dear Horatio, I have to say, that what you find fault with, and clamor against, as the most terrible evil in the world, self-denial, is really the greatest good, and the highest gratification: If indeed you use the word in the sense of some sour moralists, you will have just reason to laugh at it; but if you take it as understood by philosophers, and men of sense, you will presently see her charms, and fly to her embraces, notwithstanding her demure looks, as absolutely necessary to produce even your own darling sole good, pleasure: for, self-denial is a natural means of procuring more pleasure than you can taste without it, so that this grave saint
like guide to happiness, as rough and dreadful as she has been made to appear, is in truth, the kindest and most beautiful mistress in the world.
Hor. Prithee, Philocles, do not wrap yourself in allegory and metaphor; why do you teaze me thus? I long to be satisfied: what is this philosophical self-denial; the necessity and reason of it? I am impatient and all on fire: explain, therefore, in your beautiful, natural, easy way of reasoning, what I am to understand by this grave lady of yours, with so forbidding, downcast looks, and yet so absolutely necessary to my pleasures. I stand ready to embrace her, for you know, pleasure I court under all shapes and forms.
Phil. Attend then, and you shall see the reason of this philosophical self-denial. There can be no absolute perfection in any creature; because every creature is derived from something of a superior existence, and dependent on that source for its own existence: no created being can be all-wise, allgood, and all-powerful, because his powers and capacities are finite and limited; consequently whatever is created must, in its own nature, be subject to error, irregularity, excess, and imperfectness. All intelligent rational agents, find in themselves a power of judging what kind of beings they are; what actions are proper to preserve them; and what consequences will generally attend them; what pleasures they are formed for, and to what degree their natures are capable of receiving them. All we have to do then, Horatio, is to consider, . when we are surprised with a new object, and passionately desire to enjoy it, whether the gratifying that passion be consistent with the gratifying other passions and appetites equal, if not more necessary to us, and whether it consists with our happiness, to-morrow, next week, or next year, for, as we all wish to live, we are obliged, by reason, to take as much care for our future, as our present happiness, and not build one upon the ruins of the other: but, if through the strength and power of a present passion, and through want of attending to consequences, we have erred, and exceeded the bounds which nature or reason have set us; we are then, for our own sakes, to refrain, or deny ourselves a present momentary pleasure, for a future, constant, and durable one: so that this philosophical self-denial is only refusing to do an action, which you strongly desire; because it is inconsistent with your health, convenience, or circumstances in the world: or in other words, because it costs you more than it was worth, You would lose by it as a man of pleasure. Thus you see,
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 yirtue praised, without laughing: Do not I bid fair for conversion, 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, we were then obliged, for our own sakes, to refrain, or deny ourselves a present, momentary pleasure, 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 ona Phil. That can never be the good of a creature which, when present, the creature may be miserable, and when ab sent, is certainly so.
Hor. I think not; but pray explain what you mean; for I m nat much used to this abstract way of reasoning.