Her beneficence was unbounded; indeed the natural tenderness of her heart might have been argued, by the frigidity of a casuist, as detracting from her virtue in this respect, for her humanity was a feeling, not a principle: but minds like Harley's are not very apt to make this distinction, and generally give our virtue credit for all that benevolence which is instinctive in our nature.
This passage, satirical in tone, shuts down the objection which it raises: that benevolence which comes from good nature is not virtuous (or, in the terms that Kant will use in 1785, it has no moral value). This passage seems comfortable with a virtue in concord with feeling, maybe too comfortable, because in its gloating, it raises serious objections to a certain aspect of books like The Man of Feeling. If virtue is a product of feeling, and feeling is an attribute which some simply have and some simply don't, then sensibility becomes stabilizing, perhaps cloying. The passage above seems to scorn the kinds of revolutions in feeling that characterize a more fluid sensibility.Related terms: