Comparison is in every case a sure method of augmenting our esteem of any thing. A rich man feels the felicity of his condition better by opposing it to that of a beggar. But there is a peculiar advantage in power, by the contrast, which is, in a manner, presented to us, betwixt ourselves and the person we command. The comparison is obvious and natural: The imagination finds it in the very subject: The passage of the thought to its conception is smooth and easy. And that this circumstance has a considerable effect in augmenting its influence, will appear afterwards in examining the nature of malice and envy.
Comparison is one of Hume’s favourite epistemological methods: the relations between ideas are almost always born out of resemblance and contiguity (as in the animal component of humans). The philosopher would not miss out on using it, especially since it speaks so clearly to common sense.
Even in love, humans (who make for little rationality) keep making comparisons; it is where some of the most terrifying passions emerge, Hume underlines, those of envy and malice—but let’s not discuss those just now. We’ll recall that once again, it is being seen through the eyes of others which counts the most, and that one behaves not by pure kindness, but always for their own esteem.