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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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5527. MORALITY, Foundations of.—[further continued].
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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5527. MORALITY, Foundations of.—[further continued].

Egoism in a broader
sense, has been thus presented as the source
of moral action. It has been said that we feed
the hungry, clothe the naked, bind up the
wounds of the man beaten by thieves, pour oil
and wine into them, set him on our own beast
and bring him to the inn, because we receive
ourselves pleasure from these acts. So Helvetius,
one of the best men on earth, and the most
ingenious advocate of this principle, after defining
“interest” to mean not merely that which
is pecuniary, but whatever may procure us


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pleasure, or withdraw us from pain (De l'Esprit
2, 1), says (ib. 2, 2), “the humane man
is he to whom the sight of misfortune is insupportable,
and who to rescue himself from
this spectacle, is forced to succor the unfortunate
object”. This, indeed, is true. But it
is one step short of the ultimate question.
These good acts give us pleasure, but how happens
it that they give us pleasure? Because
nature hath implanted in our breasts a love of
others, a sense of duty to them, a moral instinct,
in short, which prompts us irresistibly to
feel and to succor their distresses, and protests
against the language of Helvetius (ib. 2,
5), “what other motive than self-interest could
determine a man to generous actions? It is as
impossible for him to love what is good for the
sake of good, as to love evil for the sake of
To Thomas Law. Washington ed. vi, 349.
(M. 1814)