David Hartley

David Hartley
Observations on Man

David Hartley (1705-1757)
Observations on man, 1749
Part First. Chapter IV. Section I

Part First. Chapter IV.
Of the six classes of intellectual pleasures and pains.

Section I

Of the Pleasures and Pains of Imagination

I begin with the pleasures and pains of imagination; and shall endeavour to derive each species of them by association, either from those of sensation, ambition, self-interest, sympathy, theopathy, and the moral sense, or from foreign ones of imagination. They may be distinguished into the seven kinds that follow.

First, the pleasures arising from the beauty of the natural world.
Secondly, those from the works of art.
Thirdly, from the liberal arts of music, painting, and poetry.
Fourthly, from the sciences.
Fifthly, from the beauty of the person.
Sixthly, from wit and humour.
Seventhly, the pains which arise from gross absurdity, inconsistency, or deformity..

Prop. 94.

To examine how the just-mentioned pleasures and pains of imagination are agreeable to the doctrine of association

Of the pleasures arising from the beauty of the natural world

The pleasures arising from the contemplation of the beauties of the natural world seem to admit of the following analysis.

The pleasant tastes, and smells, and the fine colours of fruits and flowers, the melody of birds, and the grateful warmth or coolness of the air, in the proper seasons, transfer miniatures of these pleasures upon rural scenes, which start up instantaneously so mixed with each other, and with such as will be immediately enumerated, as to be separately indiscernible.

If there be a precipice, a cataract, a mountain of snow, &c. in one part of the scene, the nascent ideas of fear and horror may magnify and enliven all the other ideas, and by degrees pass into pleasures, by suggesting the security from pain.

In like manner the grandeur of some scenes, and the novelty of others, by exciting surprise and wonder, i.e. by making a great difference in the preceding and subsequent states of mind, so as to border upon, or even enter the limits of pain, may greatly enhance the pleasure.

Uniformity and variety in conjunction are also principal sources of the pleasures of beauty, being made so partly by their association with the beauties of nature; partly by that with the works of art; and with the many conveniences which we receive from the uniformity and variety of the works of nature and art. They must therefore transfer part of the lustre borrowed from the works of art, and from the head of convenience, upon the works of nature.

Poetry and painting are much employed in setting forth the beauties of the natural world, at the same time that they afford us a high degree of pleasure from many other sources. Hence the beauties of nature delight poets and painters, and such as are addicted to the study of their works, more than others. Part of this effect is indeed owing to the greater attention of such persons to the other sources; but this comes to the same thing, as far as the general theory of the factitious, associated nature of these pleasures is concerned.

The many sports and pastimes, which are peculiar to the country, and whose ideas and pleasures are revived by the view of rural scenes, in an evanescent state, and so mixed together as to be separately indiscernible, do farther augment the pleasures suggested by the beauties of nature.

To these we may add, the opposition between the offensiveness, dangers, and corruption of populous cities, and the health, tranquillity, and innocence, which the actual view, or the mental contemplation, of rural scenes introduces; also the pleasures of sociality and mirth, which are often found in the greatest perfection in country retirements, the amorous pleasures, which have many connections with rural scenes, and those which the opinions and ",--iuna of others beget in us, in this, as in other cases, by means of the contagiousness observable in mental dispositions, as well as bodily ones.

Those persons who have already formed high ideas of the power, knowledge, and goodness, of the author of nature, with suitable affections, generally feel the exalted pleasures of devotion upon every view and contemplation of his works, either in an explicit and distinct manner, or in a more secret and implicit one. Hence, part of the general indeterminate pleasures, here considered, is deducible from the pleasures of theopathy.

We must not omit in this place to remind the reader of a remark made above; viz. that green, which is the middle colour of the seven primary ones, and consequently the most agreeable to the organ of sight, is also the general colour of the vegetable kingdom, i.e. of external nature.

These may be considered as some of the principal sources of the beauties of nature to mankind in general. Inquisitive and philosophical persons have some others, arising from their peculiar knowledge and study of natural history, astronomy, and philosophy, in general. For the profusion of beauties, uses, fitnesses, elegance in minute things, and magnificence in great ones, exceed all bounds of conception, surprise, and astonishment; new scenes, and those of unbounded extent, separately considered, ever presenting themselves to view, the more any one studies and contemplates the Works of God.

And, upon the whole, the reader may see, that there are sufficient sources for all those pleasures of imagination, which the beauties of nature excite in different persons; and that the differences which are found in different persons in this respect, are sufficiently analogous to the differences of their situations in life, and of the consequent associations formed in them.

An attentive person may also, in viewing or contemplating the beauties of nature, lay hold, as it were, of the remainders and miniatures of many of the particular pleasures here enumerated, while they recur in a separate state, and before they coalesce with the general indeterminate aggregate, and thus verify the history now proposed.

It is a confirmation of this history, that an attentive person may also observe great differences in the kind and degree of the relish which he has for the beauties of nature in different periods of his life; especially as the kind and degree may be found to agree in the main with this history.

To the same purpose we may remark, that these pleasures do not cloy very soon, but are of a lasting nature, if compared with the sensible ones; since this follows naturally from the great variety of their sources, and the evanescent nature of their constituent parts.

When a beautiful scene is first presented, there is generally great pleasure from surprise, from being struck with objects and circumstances which we did not expect. This presently declines; but is abundantly compensated afterwards by the gradual alternate exaltation of the several constiuent parts of the complex pleasures, which also do probably enhance one another. And thus we may take several reviews of the same scene, before the pleasure, which it affords, comes to its maximum. After this the pleasure must decline, if we review it often: but if at considerable intervals, so as that many foreign states of mind intervene, also so as that new sources of the pleasures of this kind be broken tip, the pleasure may recur for many successions of nearly the same magnitude.

The same observation, hold in respect of the pleasures from the beauties of nature in general, and indeed from all the other sources, works of art, liberal arts, sciences, &c. These all strike and surprise the young mind at first, but require a considerable time before they come to their maximum; after which some or other will always be at its maximum for a considerable tithe. However, tile pleasures of imagination in general, as ,veil as each particular set and individual, must decline at last from the nature of our frame. In what manner they ought to decline, so as to be consistent with our summum bonum, by yielding, in due time, to more exalted and pure pleasures, whose composition they enter, I will endeavour to show hereafter.

These pleasures are a principal source of those which are annexed to the view of uniformity with variety, as above noted, i.e. of analogies of various orders; and consequently are a principal incitement to our tracing Out real analogies, and forming artificial ones.

The novel, the grand, and the marvellous, are also most conspicuous in the works of nature; and the last strikes us particularly in many of the phaenomena of nature, by seeming to exceed all bounds of credibility, at the same time that we are certified by irrefragable evidences of the truth of the facts. The satiety which every pleasure begets in us, after some continuance, makes us thirst perpetually after the grand and novel; and, as it were, grasp at infinity in number and extent; there being a kind of tacit expectation, that the pleasure will be in proportion to the magnitude and variety of the causes, in the same manner as we observe, in other cases, the effects to be in some degree proportional to their causes.

The pleasures of novelty decline not only in this class, but also in all the others sensible and intellectual, partly from our bodily frame, partly from the intermixture, and consequent association of neutral circumstances (such as afford neither pleasure nor pain) in their successive recurrences.

A disposition to a pleasurable state is a general attendant upon health, and the integrity of our bodily faculties; and that in such a degree, as that actual pleasure will spring up from moderate incitements, from the transient introduction of the associated circumstances of former pleasurable states. If the body be indisposed in some degree, it is, however, possible to force it into a state of pleasure by the vivid introduction of various and powerful circumstances; but this unnatural state cannot last long; and, if the indisposition to pleasure be great, it cannot be introduced at all. On the contrary, where the disposition to pleasure is preternaturally prevalent, as after wine and opium, and in certain morbid cases, the least hint will excite profuse joy, leaning chiefly to the pleasures of imagination, ambition, sympathy, or devotion, according to the circumstances.

It is easy to see how the doctrine of vibrations, which appears to be the only one that admits of permanent states of motion, and disposition to motion, in the brain, suits these last remarks in a peculiar manner.

Of the Beauties of the Works of Art

The works of art, which afford us the pleasures of beauty, are chiefly buildings, public and private, religious, civil, and military, with their appendages and ornaments, and machines of the several kinds, from the great ones employed in War, commerce, and public affairs, such as ships, military engines, machines for manufacturing metals, &c. down to clocks, watches, and domestic furniture. The survey of these things, when perfect in their kinds, affords great pleasures to the' curious; and these pleasures increase for a certain time, by being cultivated and gratified, till at last they come to their height, decline, and give way to others, as has been already observed of the pleasures arising from the beauties of nature.

The chief sources of the pleasures, which the forementioned works of art afford, appear to be the following: the beautiful illuminations from gay colours; the resemblance which the playthings, that pleased us when we were children, bear to them; the great regularity and variety observable in them; the grandeur and magnificence of some, and the neatness and elegance of others, and that especially if they be small; the fitness to answer useful ends; their answering a multiplicity of these by simple means, or by analogous complex ones, not exceeding certain limits in complexness; the knowledge conveyed in many cases; the strong associations with religion, death, war, justice, power, riches, titles, high-birth, entertainments, mirth, &c.; fashion, with the opinions and encomiums of persons supposed to be judges; the vain desire of having a taste, and of being thought connoisseurs and judges, &c. &c.

In architecture there are certain proportions of breadths, lengths, depths, and entire magnitudes, to each other, which are by some supposed to be naturally beautiful, just as the simple ratios of 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, &c. in music, yield sounds, which are naturally pleasant to the ear. But it rather seems to me, that economical convenience first determined the ratios of doors, windows, pillars, &c. in a gross way; and then that the convenience of the artists fixed this determination to some few exact ratios, as in the proportion between the lengths and breadths of the pillars of the several orders. Afterwards these proportions became associated so often with a variety of beauties in costly buildings, that they could not but be thought naturally beautiful at all. In merely ornamental parts the beauty of the proportions seems to arise entirely from fashion, or from a supposed resemblance to something already fixed as a beautiful proportion. It is easy from these principles to account for the prevalency of different proportions, and general tastes, in different ages and countries.

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David Hartley
Observations on man, 1749
Source: Andrew Ashley & Peter de Bolla eds.
The Sublime: A Reader in British Eighteenth-Century Aesthetic Theory
Cambridge University Press, 1996 (pp.101-5)