Of Moral Philosophy and Moralists

Moral philosophy is a severe school, for there is no arithmetician so exact in his accounts, or doth divide and substract2 his numbers more subtly, than they the passions; and as arithmetic can multiply numbers above all use, so passions may be divided beyond all practice. But moralists live the happiest lives of mankind, because most contented—for they do not only subdue the passions, but can make the best use of them, to the tranquility of the mind: as for example,3 fear to make them circumspect, hope to make them industrious,4 hate to evil, desire to good, love to virtue, jealous5 of indiscretions, angry at follies, and so the like of6 all the rest. For they do not only subdue the fiercest of them, making them slaves to execute several works in several places, but those passions that are mild and of gentle nature they make perfect friendship with. For the passions are like privy counselors, where some counsel for peace, others for war, and some, being bribed with the world and appetite, persuade to mutiny, which causes7 a rebellion. But moralists are like powerful monarchs, which can make their passions obedient at their pleasure, condemning them at the bar of justice, and cutting off8 their heads with the sword of reason; or, like skillful musicians, making the passions musical instruments, which they can tune so exactly, and play so well and sweetly, as every several note shall strike the ears of the soul with delight, and when they play concords, the mind dances in measure, the saraband9 of tranquility. Whereas when they are out of tune, they do not only sound harsh and unpleasant, but when the notes disagree,10 the mind takes wrong steps, and keeps false time, and the soul is disquieted with the noise. But there is no humour or passion so troublesome as desire, because it yields no sound satisfaction, for it11 is mixed most commonly with pleasing hopes, and12 hope is a greater pleasure than enjoyment, just as eating is a greater pleasure to the hungry than when the stomach is fully satisfied. Yet13 desire and curiosity make a man to be above other creatures: for, by desiring knowledge, man is as much14 above a beast as want of perfect knowledge makes him less than God; and man, as he hath a transcending15 soul to outlive the world to all eternity, so he hath a transcending16 desire to live in the world’s memory, as long as the world lasts, that he might not die like a beast and be forgotten, but that his works may beget another soul, though of shorter life—which is fame: for17 fame is like the18 soul, an incorporeal being.19