Love grows with the knowledge of its object, he proceeds, and at the highest stage self-love is so merged in love to God that we love ourselves only for God's sake or because God has loved us.
Through all the fables runs the thought that man's morality springs wholly from self-love, and that if that self-love is directed and restrained by reason, happiness must follow.
Indeed, we may say that an egoist must be doubly self-regulative, since rational self-love ought to restrain not only other impulses, but itself also; for as happiness is made up of feelings that result from the satisfaction of impulses other than self-love, any over-development of the latter, enfeebling these other impulses, must proportionally diminish the happiness at which self-love aims. If, then, it be admitted that human impulses are naturally under government, the natural claim of conscience or the moral faculty to be the supreme governor will hardly be denied.
Until this is done, the utmost demonstration of the abstract reasonableness of social duty only leaves us with an irreconcilable antagonism between the view of abstract reason and the self-love which is allowed to be the root of man's appetitive nature.
It was from Helvetius that he learnt that, men being universally and solely governed by self-love, the so-called moral judgments are really the common judgments of any society as to its common interests; that it is therefore futile on the one hand to propose any standard of virtue, except that of conduciveness to general happiness, and on the other hand useless merely to lecture men on duty and scold them for vice; that the moralist's proper function is rather to exhibit the coincidence of virtue with private happiness; that, accordingly, though nature has bound men's interests together in many ways, and education by developing sympathy and the habit of mutual help may much extend the connexion, still the most effective moralist is the legislator, who by acting on self-love through legal sanctions may mould human conduct as he chooses.
Calm self-love Hutcheson regards as morally indifferent; though he enters into a careful analysis of the elements of happiness,' in order to show that a true regard for private interest always coincides with the moral sense and with benevolence.
The people of the west moved eastwards to slay their fellow men, and by the law of coincidence thousands of minute causes fitted in and co- ordinated to produce that movement and war: reproaches for the nonobservance of the Continental System, the Duke of Oldenburg's wrongs, the movement of troops into Prussia--undertaken (as it seemed to Napoleon) only for the purpose of securing an armed peace, the French Emperor's love and habit of war coinciding with his people's inclinations, allurement by the grandeur of the preparations, and the expenditure on those preparations and the need of obtaining advantages to compensate for that expenditure, the intoxicating honors he received in Dresden, the diplomatic negotiations which, in the opinion of contemporaries, were carried on with a sincere desire to attain peace, but which only wounded the self-love of both sides, and millions of other causes that adapted themselves to the event that was happening or coincided with it.
It also offended the self-love of most of the nobles and the clergy who were loath that a few of their number should be erected into a House of Lords.
It is a state in which every one has a right to everything that may conduce to his preservation; but it is therefore also a state of war - a state so wretched that it is the first dictate of rational self-love to emerge from it into social peace and order.
Now, so far as I can judge, self-love is the root of all evil; but, of course, I may be wrong, for La Fontaine had greater opportunities of observing men than I am likely ever to have.