which governs its pursuit of the greatest injuries


Hi, everyone:

The insolence and brutality of anger, in the same manner, when we indulge its fury without check or restraint,is, of all objects, the most detestable. But we admire that noble and generous resentment which governs its pursuit of the greatest injuries, not by the rage which they are apt to excite in the breast of the sufferer, but by the indignation which they naturally call forth in that of the impartial spectator; which allows no word, no gesture, to escape it beyond what this more equitable sentiment would dictate; which never, even in thought, attempts any greater vengeance, nor desires to inflict any greater punishment, than what every indifferent person would rejoice to see executed.

Could explain to me the red part?
I'm not sure of the meaning of the “govern" in ”which governs its pursuit of the greatest injuries“
I think it goes with "by".

More info

Best wishes
  • palomnik

    Senior Member
    As far as I can tell, it describes resentment leading to a desire to right a wrong, as opposed to going crazy with anger.

    Adam Smith? Pretty turgid stuff. Are you reading it for fun?


    Senior Member
    Briefly paraphrased, I'd say the passage says that unbridled rage is detestable, but rage born of outrage over those who have victimized others, that seeks justice for victims and retribution for their oppressors, is admired.

    The "which governs" is describing the motivation for the rage - the "noble and generous resentment". "Its pursuit of the greatest injuries" means its pursuit of punishment for those who have victimized others.

    That's my impression of it on a quick read. I hope that helps. Perhaps others can give you a more detailed (and more accurate :) ) response.

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Smith is contasting wild uncontrolled anger with a resentment (notice the positive adjectives, noble and generous), which conrols its attempts to right the greatest wrongs. The red bit is my attempt to paraphrase the red bit in your post.

    Some wrongs should be redressed - wild uncontrolled anger is detestable, but controlled resentment which single-mindedly sets about putting right these wrongs is admirable.

    I think that's what he's saying.

    P.S. I like James's 'rage born of outrage'.
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