Fielding's Moral Psychology by MORRIS GOLDEN

By MORRIS GOLDEN

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In their sexual vagaries, for example, these heroes sin not because of their violent passions but rather out of a good-natured disposition to accede to impassioned ladies. The consequences of yielding, however, often are as bad psychologically as if evil had been intended: both Booth and Tom have exceedingly unhappy moments because of the muddle their good nature or credulity has made of their primary responsibilities. Just as a well-ordered mind undertakes right action, so only right action effects mental serenity.

A variety of answers was available in the contemporary store of ideas. One, of great prominence in Fielding's thinking, is in the classical inheritance, particularly the ethical systems of Aristotle, Plato, and the stoics (among whom he frequently cites Cicero and Seneca). All three assert the existence of moral absolutes; but Aristotle's influence is dominant in the direction of demanding such moral actions as those of the wayfaring Abraham Adams, Joseph Andrews, and Tom Jones, who move out of themselves to participate in the lives of others.

If the virtuous man is inexperienced, one of the imprudent like Tom or Booth, he must learn to use reason to curb this good will, which can manifest itself too readily in unguarded responses to the wishes of others. In their sexual vagaries, for example, these heroes sin not because of their violent passions but rather out of a good-natured disposition to accede to impassioned ladies. The consequences of yielding, however, often are as bad psychologically as if evil had been intended: both Booth and Tom have exceedingly unhappy moments because of the muddle their good nature or credulity has made of their primary responsibilities.

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