Philosopher David Hume on Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Others Summary

SECTION VIII: on Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Others


211-16. Virtue can be defined as a quality of the mind approved by all who reflect on it. Some virtues produce pleasure because they are useful to society or to the individual. Others produce pleasure immediately, which is the case of the following.

In opposition to self-interest and self-love, and in order to preserve the advantages of mutual protection and assistance, human beings have established laws of justice. Rules of good manners have been introduced to facilitate the communication of minds, and the flow of conversation and commerce. Those who have regulated their behaviour by these rules have been immediately agreeable to others held in esteem.

Rules of good manners vary but express the same sentiment. In Spain, when a guest is leaving, the host steps out of his house first to indicate that the guest is the master; in other countries, the guest is encouraged to leave first as a mark of regard.

Wit also is immediately agreeable to others. Metaphysical analysis could be applied to identify its various types and show how they affect taste and sentiment. I have often observed that the first question about a stranger by the French is, Is he polite? Has he wit? In Britain it is, Is he good natured? Is he sensible?

In conversation, the teller of long stories is not agreeable. Nor is the teller of tall stories, who lies in telling of the marvelous. But if his tall story is humourous and intended for appropriate amusement, it is agreeable.

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Eloquence, good sense and sound reasoning are agreeable, as is modesty, which flatters the other person. Men tend to over-value themselves, to speak often of themselves and to indulge in self-praise. Nor is arrogance acceptable in young people. As Cicero praised Socrates for his display of spirit under oppression, so has he been celebrated in all ages since. To courageously support your own self-value under distress has merit from its immediate agreeableness. But the excess of this virtue, insolence or haughtiness, is immediately disagreeable to others and is a vice. Such also is excessive display of honours and accomplishments showing a lack of dignity. No need to seek applause; those who deserve it, get it.

Further, there is a mysterious quality [charisma] that is observed in the passion between the sexes where the magic can be explained, but it also prevails in the awarding of personal merit, and is a testimony to taste and sentiment.

Philosopher David Hume on Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Others Summary

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