Tuesday, July 25, 2017

M and A

Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, pp. 187, 190:

The Virtue then of Agents, or their Benevolence, is always directly as the Moment of Good produc'd in like Circumstances, and inversely as their Abilitys: or B=(M/A)....

Since then Benevolence, or Virtue in any Agent, is as M/A, or as in (M+1)/A, and no Being can act above his natural Ability; must be the Perfection of Virtue where M=A, or when the Being acts to the utmost of his Power for the publick Good; and hence the Perfection of Virtue in this Case, or M/A, is as Unity. And this may shew us the only Foundation for the boasting of the Stoicks, "That a Creature suppos'd Innocent, by pursuing Virtue with his utmost Power, may in Virtue equal the Gods." For in their Case, if [A] or the Ability be Infinite, unless [M] or the Good to be produc'd in the whole, be so too, the Virtue is not absolutely perfect; and the Quotient can never surmount Unity.

Jane Austen, Emma, Volume III, Chapter VII:

“No, no,” said Emma, “it will not reckon low. A conundrum of Mr. Weston’s shall clear him and his next neighbour. Come, sir, pray let me hear it.”

“I doubt its being very clever myself,” said Mr. Weston. “It is too much a matter of fact, but here it is.—What two letters of the alphabet are there, that express perfection?”

“What two letters!—express perfection! I am sure I do not know.”

“Ah! you will never guess. You, (to Emma), I am certain, will never guess.—I will tell you.—M. and A.—Em-ma.—Do you understand?”

Understanding and gratification came together. It might be a very indifferent piece of wit, but Emma found a great deal to laugh at and enjoy in it—and so did Frank and Harriet.—It did not seem to touch the rest of the party equally; some looked very stupid about it, and Mr. Knightley gravely said,

“This explains the sort of clever thing that is wanted, and Mr. Weston has done very well for himself; but he must have knocked up every body else. Perfection should not have come quite so soon.”

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