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orator, to be excited in the hearers? How is an unfavourable passion or disposition to be calmed ? As to the first, it was said already in general, that passion must be awakened by communicating lively ideas of the object. The reason will be obvious from the following remarks: A passion is most strongly excited by sensation. The sight of danger, immediate or near, instantly rouseth fear; the feeling of an injury, and the presence of the injurer, in a moment kindle anger. Next to the influence of sense, is that of memory, the effect of which upon passion, if the fact be recent and remembered distinctly and circumstantially, is almost equal. Next to the influence of memory, is that of imagination ; by which is here solely meant, the faculty of apprehending what is neither perceived by the senses, nor remembered. Now, as it is this power of which the orator must chiefly avail himself, it is proper to inquire what those circumstances are, which will make the ideas he summons up in the imaginations of his hearers, resemble, in lustre and steadiness, those of sensation and remembrance. For the same circumstances will infallibly make them resemble also in their effects ; that is, in the influence they will have upon the passions and affections of the heart.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ARE CHIEFLY INSTRUMENTAL IN OPE
RATING ON THE PASSIONS.
These are perhaps all reducible to the seven following, probability, plausibility, importance, proximity of time, connexion of place, relation of the actors or sufferers to the hearers or speaker, interest of the hearers or speaker in the consequences. *
Part I. - Probability.
The first is probability, which is now considered only as an expedient for enlivening passion. Here again there is commonly scope for argument.† Probability results from evidence, and begets belief.
* I am not quite positive as to the accuracy of this enumeration, and shall therefore freely permit my learned and ingenious friend Dr. Reid, to annex the et cætera, he proposes in such cases, in order to supply all defects. See Sketches of the History of Man. B. ii. Sk. 1. Appendix, c. ii. sect. 2.
| In the judiciary orations of the ancients, this was the principal scope for argument. That to condemn the guilty, and to acquit the innocent, would gratify their indignation against the injurious, and their love of right was too manifest to require a proof. The fact, that there was guilt in the prisoner, or that there was innocence, did require it. It was otherwise in deliberative orations, as the conduct recommended was more remotely connected with the emotions raised.
Belief invigorates our ideas. Belief raised to the highest becomes certainty. Certainty flows either from the force of the evidence real or apparent, that is produced; or without any evidence produced by the speaker, from the previous notoriety of the fact. If the fact be notorious, it will not only be superfluous in the speaker to attempt to prove it, but it will be pernicious to his design. The reason is plain. By proving he supposeth it questionable, and by supposing actually renders it so to his audience: he brings them from viewing it in the stronger light of certainty, to view it in the weaker light of probability : in lieu of sunshine he gives them twilight. Of the different means and kinds of probation I have spoken already..
PART II. — Plausibility.
The second circumstance is plausibility, a thing totally distinct from the former, as having an effect upon the mind quite independent of faith or probability. It ariseth chiefly from the consistency of the narration, from its being what is commonly called natural and feasible. This the French critics have aptly enough denominated in their language vraisemblance, the English critics more improperly in theirs probability. In order to avoid the manifest ambiguity there is in this application of the word, it had been better to retain the word verisimilitude, now almost obsolete. That there is a relation between those two qualities must, notwithstanding, be admitted. This, however, is an additional reason for assigning them different names. An homonymous term, whose differing significations have no affinity to one another, is very seldom liable to be misunderstood.
But as to the nature and extent of this relation, let it be observed, that the want of plausibility implies an internal improbability, which it will require the stronger external evidence to surmount. Nevertheless, the implausibility may be surmounted by such evidence, and we may be fully ascertained of what is in itself exceedingly implausible. Implausibility, is, in a certain degree, positive evidence against a narrative ; whereas plausibility implies no positive evidence for it. We know that fiction may be as plausible as truth. A narration may be possessed of this quality in the highest degree, which we not only regard as improbable, but know to be false. Probability is a light darted on the object, from the proofs, which for this reason are pertinently enough styled evidence. Plausibility is a native lustre issuing directly from the object. The former is the aim of the historian, the latter of the poet. That every one may be satisfied that the second is generally not inferior to the first, in its influence on the mind, we need but appeal to the effects of tragedy, of epic, and even of romance, which, in its principal characters, participates of the nature of of poesy, though written in prose. .
İt deserves, however, to be remarked, that though plausibility alone hath often greater efficacy in rousing the passions than probability, or even certainty; yet, in any species of composition wherein truth, or at least probability, is expected, the mind quickly nauseates the most plausible tale, which is unsupported by proper arguments.
For this reason it is the business of the orator, as much as his subject will permit, to avail himself of both qualities. There is one case, and but one, in which plausibility itself may be dispensed with ; that is, when the fact is so incontestable, that it is impossible to entertain a doubt of it ; for when implausibility is incapable of impairing belief, it hath sometimes, especially in forensic causes, even a good effect. By presenting us with something monstrous in its kind, it raises astonishment, and thereby heightens every passion which the narrative is fitted to excite.
But to return to the explication of this quality. When I explained the nature of experience, I showed, that it consisteth of all the general truths collected from particular facts remembered; the mind forming to itself often insensibly, and as it were mechanically, certain maxims, from comparing, or rather associating, the similar circumstances of different incidents.* Hence it is, that when a number of ideas relating to any fact or event are successfully introduced into my mind by a speaker; if the train he deduceth coincide with the general current of my experience; if in nothing it thwart those conclusions and anticipations which are become habitual to me, my mind accompanies him with facility, glides along from one idea to another, and admits the whole with pleasure. If, on the contrary, the train he introduceth, run counter to the current of my experience; if in many things it shock those conclusions and anticipations which are become habitual to me, my mind attends him with difficulty, suffers a sort of violence in passing from one idea to another, and rejects the whole with disdain:
For while upon such monstrous scenes we gaze,
In the former case I pronounce the narrative natural and credible ; in the latter I say it is unnatural and incredible, if not impossible ; and, which is particularly expressive of the different appearances in respect of connexion made by the ideas in my mind, the one tale I call coherent, the other incoherent. When therefore the orator can obtain no direct aid from the memory of his hearers, which is rarely to be obtained, he must, for the sake of brightening, and strengthening, and, if I may be permitted to use so bold a metaphor, cementing his ideas, bespeak the assistance of experience. This, if properly employed, will prove a potent ally, by adding the grace of verisimilitude to the whole. It is therefore first of all requisite, that the circumstances of the narration, and the order in which they are exhibited, be what is commonly called natural, that is, congruous to general experience.
Where passion is the end, it is not a sufficient reason for introducing any circumstance that it is natural, it must also be pertinent. It is pertinent, when either necessary for giving a distinct and consistent apprehension of the object, at least for obviating some objec
* Chap. V. Sect. ii. Part 2.
Hor. De Arte Poet.
tion that may be started, or doubt that may be entertained concerning it; or when such as in its particular tendency promotes the general aim. All circumstances, however plausible, which serve merely for decoration, never fail to divert the attention, and so become prejudicial to the proposed influence on passion.
But I am aware that, from the explication I have given of this quality, it will be said, that I have run into the error, if it be an error, which I intended to avoid, and have confounded it with probability, by deriving it solely from the same origin, experience. In answer to this, let it be observed, that in every plausible tale, which is unsupported by external evidence, there will be found throughout the whole, when duly canvassed, a mixture of possibilities and probabilities, and that not in such a manner as to make one part or incident probable, another barely possible, but so blended as equally to affect the whole, and every member. Take the Iliad for an example, That a haughty, choleric, and vindictive hero, such as Achilles is represented to have been, should, upon the public affront and injury he received from Agamemnon, treat that general with indignity, and form a resolution of withdrawing his troops, remaining thenceforth an unconcerned spectator of the calamities of his countrymen, our experience of the baleful influences of pride and anger, renders in some degree probable : again, that one of such a character as Agamemnon, rapacious, jealous of his pre-eminence as commander in chief, who envied the superior merit of Achilles, and harboured resentment against him ; that such a one, I say, on such an occurrence as is related by the poet, should have given the provocation, will be acknowledged also to have some probability. But that there were such personages, of such characters, in such circumstances, is merely possible. Here there is a total want of evidence. Experience is silent. Properly indeed the case comes not within the verge of its jurisdiction. Its general conclusions may serve in confutation, but can never serve in proof of particular or historical facts. Sufficient testimony, and that only, will answer here. The testimony of the poet in this case goes for nothing. His object, we know, is not truth, but likelihood. Experience, however, advances nothing against those allegations of the poet, therefore we call them possible ; it can say nothing for them, therefore we do not call them probable. The whole at most amounts to this : If such causes existed, such effects probably followed. But we have no evidence of the existence of causes ; therefore we have no evidence of the existence of the effects. Consequently, all the probability implied in this quality is a hypothetical probability, which is in effect none at all. It is an axiom among dialecticians, in relation to the syllogistic art, that the conclusion always follows the weaker of the premises. To apply this to the present purpose, an application not illicit though unusual ; if one of the premises, suppose the major, contain an affirmation that is barely possible, the minor one that is probable, possibility only can be deduced in the conclusion.
These two qualities, therefore, PROBABILITY and PLAUSIBILITY, (if I may be indulged a little in the allegoric style,) I shall call Sister-graces, daughters of the same father, Experience, who is the progeny of Memory, the first-born and heir of Sense. These daughters Experience had by different mothers. The elder is the offspring of Reason, the younger is the child of Fancy. The elder, regular in her features, and majestic both in shape and mien, is admirably fitted for commanding esteem, and even a religious veneration; the younger, careless, blooming, sprightly, is entirely formed for captivating the heart, and engaging love. The conversation of each is entertaining and instructive, but in different ways. Sages seem to think that there is more instruction to be gotten from the just observations of the elder; almost all are agreed that there is more entertainment in the lively sallies of the younger. The principal companion and favourite of the first is Truth, but whether Truth or Fiction share most in the favour of the second, it were often difficult to say. Both are naturally well-disposed, and even friendly to Virtue, but the elder is by much the inore steady of the two; the younger, though perhaps not less capable of doing good, is more easily corrupted, and hath sometimes basely turned procuress to Vice. Though rivals, they have a sisterly affection to each other, and love to be together. The elder, sensible that there are but a few who can for any time relish her society alone, is generally anxious that her sister be of the party ; the younger, conscious of her own superior talents in this respect, can more easily dispense with the other's company. Nevertheless, when she is discoursing on great and serious subjects, in order to add weight to her words, she often quotes her sister's testimony, which she knows is better credited than her own, a compliment that is but sparingly returned by the elder. Each sister hath her admirers. Those of the younger are more numerous, those of the elder more constant. In the retinue of the former, you will find the young, the gay, the dissipated; but these are not her only attendants. The middle-aged, however, and the thoughtful, more commonly attach themselves to the latter. To conclude; as something may be learned of characters from the invectives of enemies, as well as from the encomiums of friends, those who have not judgment to discern the good qualities of the first-born, accuse her of dulness, pedantry, and stiffness ; those who have not taste to relish the charms of the second, charge her with folly, levity, and falseness. Meantime, it appears to be the universal opinion of the impartial, and such as have been best acquainted with both, that though the attractives of the younger be more irresistible at sight, the virtues of the elder will be longer remembered.
So much for the two qualities, probability and plausibility, on which I have expatiated the more, as they are the principal, and in some respect indispensable. The others are not compatible with every subject; but as they are of real moment, it is necessary to attend to them, that so they may not be overlooked in cases wherein the subject requires that they be urged.