Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/761

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741
GENESIS OF DISINTERESTED BENEVOLENCE.

he will become a really patriotic citizen. The official will devote more than the strictly due time and energy to the fulfillment of his task, the statesman will give up his personal ambition, and often risk what must be dear to him, popularity and power, in order to carry the measures he thinks necessary to the welfare of his country.

And when some extraordinary man has made a discovery, has introduced a measure or proclaimed a truth beneficial to the whole world, the sentiment that he has been useful to so many millions of people gives a distinctive character to his benevolent impulses. Such a man, the benefactor of humanity, will refuse his sympathy to no part of it; he will at once feel benevolence toward any man with whom he comes into contact. He knows that he has done him some good, and is well inclined toward him.

I hope I have now shown that my theory agrees with the facts known by experience, that it can bear the crucial test. That being so, I think myself entitled to hold that the genesis of every single benevolent sentiment is that some good is done to an individual, either unintentionally or from another motive than that of disinterested benevolence, as from gratitude, sense of equity, religious feeling, or hope of advantage, and that, the benefit itself being loved by its author, this love or disinterested benevolence is by confusion extended to the individual upon whom the benefit has been conferred and maintained. It now remains for me to explain how, from single benevolent feelings, there arises a general benevolent disposition, how the benevolent character is formed.

I think we shall again have to trace back the origin of the benevolent disposition to confusion. After having felt benevolence toward a number of individuals of a class, we come to confuse them with one another, and to transfer part of our feeling to the whole class. When any member of it presents itself, benevolence is at once excited.

That such is the case will appear more clearly if we remember how often we are favorably disposed toward a perfect stranger, simply because in his outward appearance, his manner, his voice, or any other characteristic, he is like some other person we love. We have a confused but strong benevolent feeling toward a cluster of attributes belonging to the friend we have learned to cherish. Some of these attributes are suddenly and strikingly presented to us, and we feel well inclined toward them. We confuse the attributes with the present possessor of them, and benevolence is felt toward the stranger. In this case the genesis is so clear, the confusion so glaring, that they cannot, be overlooked. In other cases they will not be so apparent, but the process will be the same. The cluster of attributes—man, Englishman, or man of a certain type—is liked, because a number of persons dear to us possess these attributes. Men of another type or nation are often not liked at all, even by such people as are generally considered benevolent. The difference in this case is stronger than the