To become a man of gentle heart

Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be
such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or
incongruous to it — believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could
merit, our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt. The reason why
Coleridge agreed with the tourist who called the cataract sublime and disagreed
with the one who called it pretty was of course that he believed inanimate nature
to be such that certain responses could be more ‘just’ or ‘ordinate’ or ‘appropriate’
to it than others. And he beheved (correctly) that the tourists thought the same.
The man who called the cataract sublime was not intending simply to describe his
own emotions about it: he was also claiming that the object was one which merited
those emotions. But for this claim there would be nothing to agree or disagree
about.  This is pretty, if those words simply described the lady’s
feelings, would be absurd: if she had said I feel sick Coleridge would hardly have
replied, No, I feel quite well. When Shelley, having compared the human sensibility
to an Aeolian lyre, goes on to add that it differs from a lyre in having a power of
‘internal adjustment’ whereby it can ‘accommodate its chords to the motions of
that which strikes them’, he is assuming the same belief. ‘Can you be righteous’,
asks Traherne, ‘unless you be just in rendering to things their due esteem? All
things were made to be yours and you were made to prize them according to their
St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections
in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate
to it.” Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike
what he ought. When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has
been thus trained in ‘ordinate affections’ or ‘just sentiments’ will easily find the first
principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he
can make no progress in that science.’ Plato before him had said the same. The
little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to
feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant,
likeable, disgusting and hateful. In the Republic, the well-nurtured youth is one
‘who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-
grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly
even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it
into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man of gentle heart.