Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
The Effects of Custom
By Richard Price (17231791)
From Questions in Morals
ALL that custom and education can do is to alter the direction of natural sentiments and ideas, and to connect them with wrong objects. It is that part of our moral constitution which depends on instinct, that is chiefly liable to the corruption produced by these causes. The sensible horror at vice and attachment to virtue, may be impaired, the conscience seared, the nature of particular practices mistaken, the sense of shame weakened, the judgment darkened, the voice of reason stifled, and self-deception practised, to the most lamentable and fatal degree. Yet the grand lines and primary principles of morality are so deeply wrought into our hearts, and one with our minds, that they will be for ever legible. The general approbation of certain virtues, and dislike of their contraries, must always remain, and cannot be erased but with the destruction of all intellectual perception. The most depraved never sink so low as to lose all moral discernment, all ideas of right and wrong, justice and injustice, honour and dishonour. This appears sufficiently from the judgments they pass on the actions of others; from the resentment they discover whenever they are themselves the object of ill-treatment; and from the inward uneasiness and remorse which they cannot avoid feeling, and by which, on some occasions, they are severely tormented.