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Truth must be considered in a physical and moral point of view. Physical truth is very extensive, as it consists in the existence and universal order of nature; but moral truth is more limited, and cannot well be said to extend beyond the evidence of the senses. It has been said to be identical with belief ; but belief frequently runs short of truth. If truth and belief were the same, opinions could never be wrong, because a person's opinion must be his belief. In order that the difference between the two may be properly exposed, it is necessary, in the first place, to examine the extent of the ground upon which truth is founded, and then to enquire into the causes of the different degrees of belief.
Although most persons believe in the truth of their own existence, and in the existence of the material world, yet there have been some who have doubted both. A doubt of one's existence must necessarily lead to a doubt of every thing else. If it be true that we do not exist, and that there is no such thing as matter, this must be the only truth in nature, because every notion of other physical and moral truth can be only a phantom. In order to clear this point, although it may not appear very necessary, as most individuals believe in their own being, and in that of external objects, it shall be the first subject of enquiry.
The chief cause of this species of scepticism consists in a belief in universal immateriality. This led some to suppose, that every thing which we see, hear, feel, &c. is only mental, and that it has no absolute 'existence.' In a philosophical sense, such must be the necessary consequence of a belief that the mind existed previously to the body, and that ideas are innate, according to many metaphysical doctrines ; for, if ideas originally formed a part of the mind, they will have an existence there whether any external objects exist or not. These objects night, accordingly, be dispensed with, for they had an ideal existence since the mind was created. In other words, the mind, being an immaterial being, contains all matter within itself, or contains ideas of it, which amounts to nearly the same thing. Let us, at present, admit the existence of this ideal world, till we shall find how the parts of it will agree with the whole.
This subject has been generally discarded, without enquiring into either the truth or falsehood of the doctrine, by admitting it to be unanswerable, because the idealists deny the existence of matter, which is the only being by means of which their arguments could be overturned. Perhaps, the best means of overturning a false argument is to take it upon the same footing on which it is already placed; we shall, therefore, follow the subject upon mental principles.
If we admit external objects to be merely ideal, they must be admitted also to be coeval with the mind. Even if the mind can grow in power, it cannot well be supposed to become metamorphosed in its properties, or acquire new faculties after its first formation. Every idea of matter, then, must have existed in it since its creation. now is, how is it that I have ideas of things to-day, which ] never had before ? If there be no external objects to produce them, whence did they come? If it be said that they were dormant in the mind before, I ask, what power was it that called them into action to-day more than a twelvenonth ago? We cannot suppose an effect to take place without some cause; and, as the cause of these new ideas could not be external, according to the ideal argument, where are we to seek for it?
But the query
There must have been one general creation of minds, or else we must suppose there to be a continual creation of them going forward. If they were all formed at the same time, and as they must consist of ideas of objects which we call external, they ought to possess a memory of these ideas from their very creation down to the present time; instead of which, we are sensible of their continually receiving new ideas. Again, if we suppose a constant creation of minds to be going forward, they ought still to manifest the same number of ideas at first as at last, which every mind is conscious is not the case. Before the ideal doctrine can stand good, it is not sufficient to admit the mind to have one creation only, or to be all formed at once; but it must be also admitted that new parts are continually added to it, which consist of new ideas of things which have no absolute existence.
Whether we suppose things to be ideal or not, memory must be considered a property of the mind.
The memory of no one extends beyond a certain period. Even if the mind existed before that period, and was supplied with certain ideas, it has no degree of recollection of them; whereas, if ideas formed a part of it, it ought to be always in the same state, and to possess the same ideas, because it could not derive any from without; for, according to the doctrine in question, nothing exists without. According, then, to this ideal view of the subject, the doctrine of idealism is quite inconsistent with itself, and with the properties of the mind itself, whether we consider it immaterial, or to depend upon material agency.
Had there existed only one generation of mankind, the commencement of memory might have been supposed to be co-existent with creation, inasmuch as one individual must remember as far back as another; but the history of things, and of occurrences, agreeing with the present order of nature, proves that things have existed of which we have no memory. It follows, therefore, according to the notion of one general creation, that the properties of the mind undergo a new development at a particular period of its existence.
The next questions which occur are:-first, at what period does this change take place ? secondly, can we have a notion of a new relation taking place between ideal objects? It is evident that the mind is dormant, except so far as it regards instinct, and physical sensibility, till the time of birth. This is proved by instances of imperfections of the senses, and from want of memory of consciousness of existence previous to this time. During the age of infancy, also, the mind remains nearly passive; for it is only as we advance towards maturity
that its activity increases, and its properties become developed. The change which takes place in the constitution of the mind, is, consequently, not a sudden transformation, but a gradual development of new properties, according to its particular relations with something exterior to itself.
In the next place, is this change ideal, or real? The same mind in a state of embryonism, supposing it to be eternally in that state, by a deficiency of the senses, would, most probably, remain in one state of existence, without producing a development of any new faculties. Such a mind must be unconscious of its own existence. This point is proved, so far as it will admit of proof, by cases of deficiency of the senses. But, according to its inherent properties, the mind can prove its own existence, and the changes in the degree of power with which it is endowed, by the phenomena which are connected with it: thus, if a person were to go into a strange room with his eyes shut, in which room there is a bust of Apollo, he could have no idea of the existence of the bust, provided he did not approach near enough to feel it. Others who may be in the room, with their eyes open, must be conscious of its existence. So far as this goes, every thing may be ideal, because the mind of one individual may have been formed with an idea of Apollo constituting a part of it, and that of another may have been formed without that idea. But, how is it that the mind which had a blank corresponding with the bust of the god becomes impressed with it, as soon as he opens his eyes? It must necessarily follow that the bust must have existed exterior to the mind itself. So far as it regards vision, therefore, external objects cannot be merely ideal, but something independent of the property which takes cognizance of them; and the mind becomes sensible of the changes which occur in its different ideas respecting them. Again, a blind person enters a room which he
to be empty; he, therefore, can have no idea of any thing to obstruct his course across it; but in the middle of the room he runs his head against a statue of Achilles, which puts a stop to his career, and not at the expence of a broken fore-head. A mind under such circumstances would be very likely to admit the existence of something harder than itself. The same line of proof will hold good with respect to the origin of all our ideas. The mind is not conscious of any until a relation is established between it and objects, exterior to itself. It must be understood, however, that we except here ideas connected with intuitive knowledge or instinct.
A proof of the existence of external objects by the mind must, necessarily, be a proof of the existence of the mind it. self; but it is no proof of the nature of that mind. Whether it be immaterial or material is of little consequence, as we know that its relations with the external world are by material media ; and that these media are not illusions, or parts of the mind itself. The relations of the mind are with objects exterior to itself, objects constituted of that substance which we call matter ****
If we examine again the natural propensities which constitute the interest of man and animals, we shall find that they all have a relation to place and circumstances, both of which are inseparable from matter; for instance, the instinct to selfpreservation in the young, by seeking nourishment; the migration of birds, &c. All these propensities, however intuitive, seek their objects in something external to themselves. Far, therefore, from every thing being an illusion, or a world of immateriality, the mind cannot even form an idea of any thing immaterial, without attaching to it the qualities of matter. It may have an idea of power, wisdom, foreknowledge, and all the attributes of Deity, but all these properties are associated with body, possessing form, colour, and other qualities common to matter.
It is far from being intended here to deny the existence of immateriality, for things may exist of a thousand qualities of which we can have no conception, inasmuch as we are not endowed with organs bearing an alliance with them. The intention here is to disprove by arguments the tenableness of the opinions in favour of the entire non-existence of matter; and this will be best done by showing that the relations of mind are chiefly with materiality, or with objects possessing the properties of matter..
If there be such a thing as truth, therefore, which the ideal doctrine must necessarily deny, it is as true that matter exists, as it is that the mind itself exists; because we have the same proof of the existence of the one as of the other. This proof consists in the mutual alliance of the one with the other.
Admitting, therefore, that things exist as they appear to us, and that objects surrounding us do not constitute a part of the mind itself, we proceed to enquire into the nature of truth in general.
Every body of matter bears its particular relations with objects around it, according to its inherent constitution and modified condition. Inanimate substances have their particular affinities, and these affinities are also observable in modified states, in matter endowed with life. Thus, living bodies in general are related with air, nutriment, and caloric; the eye is related with colours, the skin with hardness and soft. ness, the ear with sound, &c. The apparent difference between this affinity and that subsisting between different species of inanimate matter, consist in nothing more than the dif