"For if Virtue is something that deserves our Esteem and Love, then it must exist before Conscience is exerted, or gives its Testimony."

— Fordyce, David (bap. 1711, d. 1751)

Place of Publication
1748, 1754
"For if Virtue is something that deserves our Esteem and Love, then it must exist before Conscience is exerted, or gives its Testimony."
Metaphor in Context
[...] Philosophers, or contemplative Men, may very laudably amuse themselves with such charming Theories, and often do contemplate every the minutest Trace of Virtue about themselves, with a parental Fondness and Admiration, and by those amiable Images, reflected from themselves, they may perhaps be more confirmed in the Esteem of whatever is honest and praise-worthy. However, it is not generally among this recluse Set of Men, that we expect to find the highest Flights of Virtue; but rather among Men of Action and Business, who, through the Prevalence of a natural good Temper, or from generous Affections to their Friends, their Country, and Mankind, are truly and transcendently good. Whatever that Quality is which we approve in any Action, and count worthy our Esteem, and which excites an Esteem and Love of the Agent, we call the Virtue, Merit, or formal Goodness of that Action. And if Actions, invested with such a Quality, have the Ascendant in a Character, we call that Character virtuous or good. Now it is certain that those Qualities or Principles mentioned above, especially those of the public and benevolent kind, how simple, how instinctive soever, are viewed with Approbation and Love. The very Nature of that Principle we call Conscience, which approves these benevolent Affec- tions, and whatever is done through their Influence, intimates that Virtue or Merit is present in the Mind before Conscience is exercised, and that its Office is only to observe it there, or to applaud it. For if Virtue is something that deserves our Esteem and Love, then it must exist before Conscience is exerted, or gives its Testimony. Therefore to say that the Testimony of Conscience is necessary to the Being or Form of a virtuous Action, is, in plain Terms, to affirm, that Virtue is not Virtue, till it is reflected on and approved as Virtue. The proper Business of Reason, in forming the virtuous Character, is to guide the several Affections of the Mind to their several Objects, and to direct us to that Conduct or to those Measures of Action, which are the most proper Means of acquiring them. Thus, with respect to Benevolence, which is the Virtue of a Character, or a principal Ingredient of Merit, its proper Object is the public Good. The Business of Reason then is to inform us wherein consists the greatest public Good, what Conduct and which Actions are the most effectual Means of promoting it. After all, the Motions of the Mind are so quick and imperceptible, and so complicated with each other, that perhaps seldom do any indulge the virtuous or good Affections without an approving Consciousness; and certainly the more that Virtue is contemplated with Admiration and Love, the more firm and inflexible will the Spectator be in his Attachment to it.
(pp. 57-8)
Searching "mind" in Liberty Fund OLL
At least 14 entries in ESTC (1748, 1749, 1754, 1758, 1761, 1763, 1765, 1769, 1775, 1783, 1786, 1793). First available in Dodsley's Preceptor in 1748, published posthumously in 1754. The Elements also appeared as an article in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Thomas Kennedy notes in the introduction to his edition: "Few essays of eighteenth-century moral philosophy can be said to have circulated so widely."

See The Elements of Moral Philosophy. In Three Books. 1. Of Man, and His Connexions. Of Duty or Moral Obligation. - Various Hypotheses Final Causes of Our Moral Faculties of Perception and Affection. 2. The Principal Distinction of Duty or Virtue. Man's Duties to Himself. - To Society. - To God. 3. Of Practical Ethics, or the Culture of the Mind. Motives to Virtue from Personal Happiness. - From the Being and Providence of God. - From the Immortality of the Soul. The Result, or Conclusion. By the Late Rev. Mr. David Fordyce. Professor of Moral Philosophy, and Author of the Art of Preaching, Inscribed to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. (London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley in Pallmall, 1754). <Link to ESTC>

See also The Preceptor: Containing a General Course of Education. Wherein the First Principles of Polite Learning Are Laid Down in a Way Most Suitable for Trying the Genius, and Advancing the Instruction of Youth. In Twelve Parts. Viz. I. On Reading, Speaking, and Writing Letters. II. On Geometry. III. On Geography and Astronomy. IV. On Chronology and History. V. On Rhetoric and Poetry. VI. On Drawing. VII. On Logic. VIII. On Natural History. IX. On Ethics, or Morality. X. On Trade and Commerce. XI. On Laws and Government. XII. On Human Life and Manners. Illustrated With Maps and Useful Cuts. 2 vols. (London: Printed for R. Dodsley, at Tully's-Head in Pall-Mall, 1748). <Link to ESTC> [The Preceptor was reprinted 1748, 1749, 1754, 1758, 1761-65, 1763, 1765, 1769, 1775, 1783, 1786, and 1793.]

Reading and searching The Elements of Moral Philosophy, in Three Books with A Brief Account of the Nature, Progress and Origin of Philosophy, ed. Thomas Kennedy (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003). [The Liberty Fund text is based on the 1754 edition.] <Link to OLL>
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The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.