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with fear in other cases., Despair may exist, therefore, in a greater or less degree, and with a greater or less amount of mental anguish, in accordance with the nature of the thing, whatever it is, which occasions it. When great present or future interests are at stake, and the mind in relation to those interests is in a state of despair, the wretchedness which is experienced is necessarily extreme.
§. 334. Perversions of the benevolent affections.
There are some singular perversions of the benevolent af fections, which are worthy of notice here. It is not unfrequently the case, that persons in a state of mental alienation are entirely indifferent to, and sometimes they even hate those, whom at other times they love most sincerely and deeply. It is perhaps difficult to explain this, although it is practically important to know the fact.-Dr Rush in speaking of a singular apathy or torpor of the passions, which is sometimes found to exist, says; "I was once consulted by a citizen of Philadelphia, who was remarkable for his strong affection for his wife and children when his mind was in a sound state, who was occasionally afflicted with this apathy, and when under its influence lost his affection for them all, so entirely, that he said he could see them butchered before his eyes without feeling any distress, or even inclination to rise from his chair to protect them."(2) There are other cases, where there seems to be not merely an extinction of the benevolent affection; but its positive conversion into hatred. The same philosophic physician mentions the case of a young lady, who was confined as a lunatic in the Pennsylvania Hospital in the year 1802. One of the characteristics of her insanity was hatred for her father. She was gradually restored; and for several weeks before she was discharged from the Hospital, discovered all the marks of a sound mind, excepting the continuance of this unnatural feeling of hatred. On a certain day she acknowledged with pleasure a return of her filial attachment and affection; and soon after was discharged as cured.*(3) There are other cases, where insanity is the indirect result of the mere intensity of the benevolent affections. In cases of this kind the affections are
* Rush on the Diseases of the Mind pp. 255, 345.
so strong, so intense, that they are unable to withstand the shock of sudden and great opposition and disappointments."A peasant woman, (says Dr. Gall,) became insane three times; the first, at the death of her brother; the second, at the death of her father; and the third, at that of her mother. After she had recovered the third time, she came to consult me. As she was very religious, she complained to me of her unfortunate disposition to be afflicted, at the loss of persons who were dear to her, more than religion permits; an evident proof that she had yielded to grief, although she had combatted it by motives, which were within her reach." Pinel also mentions the case of a young man, who became a violent maniac, a short time after losing a father and mother, whom he tenderly loved. It is true, that in these cases the proximate cause of the insanity is sorrow or grief; but the remote cause, and that without which the unfortunate result would not have existed, is an unrestrained and excessive position of the benevolent affections.It may be proper to add here, that sudden and strong feelings of joy have in repeated instances caused a permanent mental disorganization, and even death itself.- "The son of the famous Leibnitz died from this cause, upon his opening an old chest, and unexpectedly finding in it a large quantity of gold. Joy, from the successful issue of political schemes or wishes, has often produced the same effect. Pope Leo the Tenth died of joy, in consequence of hearing of a great calamity that had befallen the French nation. Several persons died from the same cause, Mr. Hume tells us, upon witnessing the restoration of Charles the Second to the British throne; and it is well known the door-keeper of Congress died of an apoplexy, from joy, upon hearing the news of the capture of lord Cornwallis and his army, during the American revolutionary
* Rush on the Diseases of the Mind, p. 339.
DISORDERED ACTION OF THE MORAL SENSIBILITIES.
§. 335. Nature of voluntary moral derangement.
THE moral, as well as the natural or pathematic Sensibilities, the Conscience as well as the Heart, may be the subject of a greater or less degree of disorder and alienation. There are probably two leading forms, at least, of moral derangement, viz. VOLUNTARY, and NATURAL or CONGENITAL.—In regard to voluntary moral derangement, we remark, as an interesting and practically important fact, that man may virtually destroy his conscience. There is sound philosophy in the well known passage of Juvenal, "NEMO REPENTE FUIT TURPISSIMUS." The truth, implied in this passage, is unquestionably applicable to all persons with the exception of those few cases, where the moral derangement is natural or congenital. A man is not in the first instance turpissimus or a villain, because his conscience makes resistance, and will not let him be so. But if the energies of the will are exercised in opposition to the conscience, if on a systematic plan and by a permanent effort the remonstrances of conscience are unheeded and its action repressed, its energies will be found to diminish, and its very existence will be put at hazard. There is no doubt, that in this way the conscience may be so far seared, as to be virtually annihilated. Multitudes have prepared themselves for the greatest wickedness, and have become in fact morally insane, by their own voluntary doing. There is a passage in Beaumont in his "King and no King," which strikingly indicates the progress of the mind in such cases.
"There is a method in man's wickedness;
We say in such cases the conscience is virtually annihilated. And by this remark we mean, that it is inert, inefficient, dormant, paralyzed. We do not mean, that it is dead. The conscience never dies. Its apparent death is impregnated with the elements of a real and terrible resurrection. It seems to gather vivification and strength in the period of its inactivity; and at the appointed time of its reappearance inflicts a stern and fearful retribution, not only for the crimes which are committed against others; but for the iniquity, which has been perpetrated against itself.
§. 336. Of accountability in connection with this form of disordered conscience.
If the moral sensibility, under the system of repression which has been mentioned, refuses to act, the question arises, whether at such a time a person is morally accountable for his conduct. As his conscience does not condemn him in what he does, is the transaction, whatever its nature, a criminal one? There can be but one answer to this question. If the individual is not condemned by his conscience, it is the result of his own evil course. We may illustrate the subject by a case, which is unhappily too frequent. A man, who commits a crime in a state of drunkenness, may plead, that he was not at the time aware of the guilt of his conduct. And this may be true. But he was guilty for placing himself in a situation, where he knew he would be likely to injure His others, or in some other way commit unlawful acts. crime, instead of being diminished, is in fact increased. It is two-fold. He is guilty of drunkenness, and he is guilty of every thing evil, which he knew, or might have known, would result from his drunkenness.
In like manner, a man is not at liberty to plead, that he was not in the commission of his crimes condemned by conscience, if it be the fact, that he has by a previous process voluntarily perverted, or hardened the conscience. On the
contrary, it would be fair to say, as in the case of drunkenness, that he has increased his guilt; for he has added to the guilt of the thing done the antecedent and still greater crime of aiming a blow at the mind, of striking at the very life of the soul. Practically he is not self-condemned, for the mere reason, that he has paralyzed the principle, by which the sentence of self-condemnation is pronounced. But in the eye of immutable justice, there is not only no diminution of his guilt, but it is inexpressibly enhanced by the attempts to murder, if we may so express it, the principle, which more than any thing else constitutes the dignity, and glory of man's nature. (See §.§. 236, 237.)
§. $37. Of natural or congenital moral derangement.
The other form of moral derangement is NATURAL OF CONGENITAL. We do not know, that we are authorized to say, that men are by nature,in any case whatever,absolutely destitute of a conscience; nor, on the other hand, have we posi. tive grounds for asserting, that this is not the case. There is no more inconsistency or impossibility in a man's coming into the world destitute of a conscience, than there is in his being born without the powers of memory, comparison, and reasoning, which we find to be the case in some idiots. But certain it is, that there are some men, who appear to have naturally a very enfeebled conscience; a conscience which but very imperfectly fulfils its office; and who, in this respect at least, appear to be constituted very differently from the great body of their fellow-men. They exhibit an imbecility, or, if the expression may be allowed, an idiocy of conscience, which unquestionably diminishes, in a very considerable degree, their moral accountability. A number of those writers, who have examined the subject of Insanity, have taken this view, and have given instances in support of it.
"In the course of my life, (says Dr. Rush,) I have been consulted in three cases of the total perversion of the moral faculties. One of them was in a young man, the second in a young woman, both of Virginia, and the third was in the daughter of a citizen of Philadelphia. The last was addicted to every kind of mischief. Her wickedness had no intervals while she was awake, except when she was kept busy in