« PreviousContinue »
Now, it appears to us to be pretty evident and accounts for his forgetfulness, by acknov. that the phenomena of the Human Mind are ledging that he had paid no attention. A almost all of the latter description. We feel, groom, who never heard of the association of and perceive, and remember, without any ideas, feeds the young war-horse to the sound purpcse or contrivance of ours, and have evi- of a drum; and the unphilosophical artists dently no power over the mechanism by which who tame elephants and train dancing dogs, those functions are performed. We may ob- proceed upon the same obvious and admitted serve and distinguish those operations of principle. The truth is, that as we only know mind, indeed, with more or less attention or the existence of mind by the exercise of its exactness; but we cannot subject them to functions according to certain laws, it is imexperiment, or alter their nature by any pro- possible that any one should ever discover or cess of investigation. We cannot decompose bring to light any functions or any laws of our perceptions in a crucible, nor divide our which men would admit the existence, unless sensations with a prism; nor can we, by art they were previously convinced of their operand contrivance, produce any combination of ation on themselves. A philosopher may be thoughts or emotions, besides those with which the first to state these laws, and to describe all men have been provided by nature. No their operation distinctly in words; but men metaphysician expects by analysis to discover must be already familiarly acquainted with a new power, or to excite a new sensation in them in reality, before they can assent to the the mind, as a chemist discovers a new earth justice of his descriptions. or a new metal; nor can he hope, by any For these reasons, we cannot help thinking process
of synthesis, to exhibit a mental com- that the labours of the metaphysician, instead bination different from any that nature has of being assimilated to those of the chemist produced in the minds of other persons. The or experimental philosopher, might, with less science of metaphysics, therefore, depends impropriety, be compared to those of the gramupon observation, and not upon experiment: marian who arranges into technical order the And all reasonings upon mind proceed ac- words of a language which is spoken familcordingly upon a reference to that general iarly by all his readers ; or of the artist who ex: observation which all men are supposed to hibits to them a correct map of a district with have made, and not to any particular experi- every part of which they were previously ments, which are known only to the inventor. acquainted. We acquire a perfect knowledge
- The province of philosophy in this depart of our own minds without study or exertion, ment, therefore, is the province of observation just as we acquire a perfect knowledge of our only; and in this department the greater part native language or our native parish; yet we of that code of laws which Bacon has pro- cannot, without much study and reflection, vided for the regulation of experimental in-compose a grammar of the one, or a map of duction is plainly without authority. In meta- the other. To arrange in correct order all the physics, certainly, knowledge is not power; particulars of our practical knowledge, and to and instead of producing new phenomena to set down, without omission and without dis. elucidate the old, by well-contrived and well- tortion, every thing that we actually know conducted experiments, the most diligent in- upon a subject, requires a power of abstracquirer can do no more than register and arrange tion, recollection, and disposition, that falls 10 the appearances, which he can neitheraccount the lot of but few. In the science of mind, for nor co
perhaps, more of those qualities are required But though our power can in no case be than in any other; but it is not the less true directly increased by the most vigilant and of this, than of all the rest, that the materials correct observation alone, our knowledge may of the description must always be derived often be very greatly extended by it. In the from a previous acquaintance with the sub. science of mind, however, we are inclined to ject—that nothing can be set down technically suspect that this is not the case. From the that was not practically known—and that nc very nature of the subject, it seems necessa- substantial addition is made to our knowledge rily to follow, that all men must be practically by a scientific distribution of its particulars. familiar with all the functions and qualities After such a systematic arrangement has been of their minds; and with almost all the laws introduced, and a correct nomenclature apby which they appear to be governed. Every plied, we may indeed conceive more clearly, one knows exactly what it is to perceive and and will certainly describe more justly, the to feel, to remember, imagine, and believe; nature and extent of our information ; but our and though he may not always apply the information itself is not really increased, and words that denote these operations withi per- the consciousness by which we are supplied fect propriety, it is not possible to suppose that with all the materials of our reflections, does any one is ignorant of the things. Even those not become more productive, by this dispolaws of thought, or connections of mental sition of its contributions. operation, that are not so commonly stated in But though we have been induced in this words, appear to be universally known; and way to express our scepticism, both as to the are found to regulate the practice of those probable improvement and practical utility who never thought of enouncing them in pre- of metaphysical speculations, we would by cise or abstract propositions. A man who no means be understood as having asserted never heard it asserted that memory depends that these studies are absolutely without upon attention, yet attends with uncommon interest or importance. With regard to Percare to any thing that he wishes to remember; Iception, indeed, and some of the other primary
functions of mind, it seems now to be admit- 1 stated the perceptible improvement that has ted, that philosophy can be of no use to us, lately taken place in the method of considerand that the profoundest reasonings lead us ing those intellectual .phenomena, he conback to the creed, and the ignorance, of the cludes with the following judicious and elovulgar. As to the laws of Association, how- quent observations: ever, the case is somewhat different. In
" The authors who form the most conspicuous stances of the application of such laws are exceptions to this gradual progress, consist chiefly indeed familiar to every one, and there are of men, whose errors may be easily accounted for, few who do not of themselves arrive at some by the prejudices connected with their circumscribed imperfect conception of their general limits habits of observation and inquiry ;-of Physioloand application : But that they are sooner gists, accustomed to attend to ihal part alone of the
human frame, which the knife of the Anatomist learned, and may be more steadily and ex
can lay open; or of Chemists, who enter on the tensively applied, when our observations are analysis of Thought, fresh from the decompositions assisted by the lessons of a judicious instruc-of the laboratory; carrying into the Theory of Mind tor, seems scarcely to admit of doubt; and itself (what Bacon expressly calls) the smoke and though there are no errors of opinion perhaps tarnish of the furnace. Of the value of such purthat may not be corrected without the help suits, none can think more highly than niyself; but of metaphysical principles, it cannot be distinguished pre-eminence in them does not necesputed, that an habitual acquaintance with sarily imply a capacity of collected and abstracted those principles leads us more directly to the reflection ; or an understanding superior to the presource of such errors, and enables us more judices of early association, and the illusions of readily to explain and correct some of the popular language. I will not go so far as Cicero, most formidable aberrations of the human when he ascribes to those who possess these ad understanding. After all, perhaps, the chief · Magni est ingenii revocare mentem a sensibus, et
vaniages, a more ihan ordinary vigour of intellect : value of such speculations will be found to cogitationem a consuetudine abducere.' I would consist in the wholesome exercise which only claim for them, the merit of patient and cau. they afford to the faculties, and the delight rious research ; and would exact from their anwhich is produced by the consciousness of ragonists the same qualifications."--pp. 110, 111. intellectual exertion. Upon this subject, we The second great objection that has been gladly borrow from Mr. Stewart the following made to the doctrines of Dr. Reid, is, that admirable quotations :
they tend to damp the ardour of philosophical " An author well qualified to judge, from his curiosity, by stating as ultimate facts many own experience, of whatever conduces to invigo. phenomena which might be resolved into rate or to embellish the understanding, has beauti, simpler principles; and perplex the science fully remarked, that, “by turning the soul inward of mind with an unnecessary multitude of on itself, its forces are concentrated, and are fitted for stronger and bolder flights of science ; and that, internal and unaccountable properties. As in sach pursuits, whether we iake, or whether we
to the first of these objections, we agree enlose the game, the Chase is certainly of service.' tirely with Mr. Stewart. It is certainly betIn this respect, the philosophy of the niind (abstract. ter to damp the ardour of philosophers, by ing entirely from that pre-eminence which belongs exposing their errors and convincing them of to it in consequence of its practical applications, their ignorance, than to gratify it by subparatory disciplines, which another writer of equal scribing to their blunders. It is one step totalents has happily compared to the crops which wards a true explanation of any phenomenon, are raised, not for the sake of the harvesi, but to to expose the fallacy of an erroneons one; be ploughed in as a dressing to the land.' and though the contemplation of such errors
pp. 166, 167.
may render us more diffident of our own sucIn following out his observations on the cess, it will probably teach us some lessons scope and spirit of Dr. Reid's philosophy, Mr. that are far from diminishing our chance of Stewart does not present his readers with any obtaining it. But to the charge of multiplygeneral outline or summary of the peculiar ing unnecessarily the original and instinctive doctrines by which it is principally distin- principles of our nature, Mr. Stewart, we guished. This part of the book indeed ap- think, has not made by any means so satispears to be addressed almost exclusively to factory an answer. The greater part of what those who are in some degree initiated in the he says indeed upon this subject, is rather an studies of which it treats, and consists of a apology for Dr. Reid, than a complete justifivindication of Dr. Reid's philosophy from the cation of him. In his classification of the most important objections that had been made active powers, he admits that Dr. Reid has to it by his antagonists. The first is proposed multiplied, without necessity, the number of by the materialist, and is directed against the our original affections; and that, in the other gratuitous assumption of the existence of parts of his doctrine, he has manifested a mind. To this Mr. Stewart answers with leaning to the same extreme. It would have irresistible force, that the philosophy of Dr. been better if he had rested the defence of Reid has in reality no concern with the theo- his author upon those concessions; and upon ries that may be formed as to the causes of the general reasoning with which they are vur mental operations, but is entirely confined very skilfully associated, to prove the supeto the investigation of those phenomena which rior safety and prudence of a tardiness to are known to us by internal consciousness, generalise and assimilate : For, with all our and not by external perception. On the deference for the talents of the author, we theory of Materialism itself, he makes some find it impossible to agree with him in those admirable observations: and, after having particular instances in which he has endeav. oured to expose the injustice of the accusa- , objection to Dr. Reid's philosophy, the allege! tion. After all that Mr. Stewart has said, we tendency of his doctrines on the subject oi can still see no reason for admitting a prin- common sense, to sanction an appeal from the ciple of credulity, or a principle of veracity, decisions of the learned to the voice of the in human nature; nor can we discover any multitude. Mr. Stewart, with great candour, sort of evidence for the existence of an in- admits that the phrase was unluckily chosen; siinctive power of interpreting natural signs. and that it has not always been employed with
Dr. Reid's only reason for maintaining that perfect accuracy, either by Dr. Reid or his the belief we commonly give to the testimo- followers: But he maintains, that the greater ny of others is not derived from reasoning part of the truths which Dr. Reid has referred and experience, is, that this credulity is more to this authority, are in reality originally and apparent and excessive in children, than in unaccountably impressed on the human unthose whose experience and reason is mature. derstanding, and are necessarily implied in Now, to this it seems obvious to answer, that the greater part of its operations. These, he the experience of children, though not exten- says, may be better denominated, “ Fundasive, is almost always entirely uniform in fa- mental laws of belief;' and he exemplifies vour of the veracity of those about them. them by such propositions as the following: There can scarcely be any temptation to utter "I am the same person to-day that I was serious falsehood to an infant; and even if yesterday. The material world has a real that should happen, they have seldom such a existence.—The future course of nature will degree of memory or attention as would be resemble the past." We shall have occasion necessary for its detection. In all cases, be- immediately to offer a few observations on sides, it is admitted that children learn the some of those propositions. general rule, before they begin to attend to With these observations Mr. Stewart conthe exceptions; and it will not be denied that cludes his defence of Dr. Reid's philosophy: the general rule is, that there is a connection but we cannot help thinking that there was between the assertions of mankind and the room for a farther vindication, and that some realities of which they are speaking. False- objections may be stated to the system in hood is like those irregularities in the con question, as formidable as any of those which struction of a language, which children always Mr. Stewart has endeavoured to obviate. We overlook for the sake of the general analogy. shall allude very shortly to those that appear
The principle of veracity is in the same the most obvious and important. Dr. Reid's situation. Men speak and assert, in order to great achievement was undoubtedly the subaccomplish some purpose: But if they did not version of the Ideal system, or the confutation generally speak truth, their assertions would of that hypothesis which represents the imanswer no purpose at all--not even that of mediate objects of the mind in perception, as deception. To speak falsehood, too, even if certain images or pictures of external objects we could suppose it to be done without a conveyed by the senses to the sensorium. motive, requires a certain exercise of imagi- This part of his task, it is now generally ad. nation and of the inventive faculties, which is mitted that he has performed with exemplary not without labour: While truth is suggested diligence and complete success : But we are spontaneously-not by the principle of veraci- by no means so entirely satisfied with the ty, but by our consciousness and memory. uses he has attempted to make of his victory. Even if we were not rational creatures, there. After considering the subject with some attenfore, but spoke merely as a consequence of tion, we must confess that we have not been our sensations, we would speak truth much able to perceive how the destruction of the oftener than falsehood; but being rational, and Ideal theory can be held as a demonstration addressing ourselves to other beings with a of the real existence of matter, or a confutaview of influencing their conduct or opinions, tion of the most ingenious reasonings which it follows, as a matter of necessity, that we have brought into question the popular faith must almost always speak truth: Even the upon this subject. The theory of images and principle of credulity would not otherwise be pictures, in fact, was in its original state more sufficient to render it worth while for us to closely connected with the supposition of a speak at all.
real material prototype, than the theory of With regard to the principle by which we direct perception; and the sceptical doubts are enabled to interpret the natural signs of that have since been suggested, appear to us the passions, and of other connected events, to be by no means exclusively applicable to we cannot help entertaining a similar scepti- the former hypothesis. He who believes that cism. There is no evidence, we think, for the certain forms or images are actually transmit. existence of such a principle; and all the ted through the organs of sense to the mind, phenomena may be solved with the help of must believe, at least, in the reality of the memory and the association of ideas. The organs and the images, and probably in their “inductive principle" is very nearly in the origin from real external existences. He who same predicament; though the full discussion is contented with stating that he is conscious of the argument that might be maintained of certain sensations and perceptions, by no upon that subject would occupy more room means assumes the independent existence of than we can now spare.
matter, and gives a safer account of the preAfter some very excellent observations on nomena than the idealist. the nature and the functions of instinct, Mr. Dr. Reid's sole argument for the real existStewart proceeds to consider, as the last great lence of a material world, is founded in the irresistible belief of it that is implied in Per- | bodily organs at all.” But it is surely altoception and Memory; a belief, the founda- gether as reasonable to say, that we might lions of which, he seems to think, it would have had all those perceptions, without the be something more than absurd to call in aid or intervention of any material existence question. Now the reality of this general at all. Those perceptions, too, might still have persuasion or belief, no one ever attempted to been accompanied with a belief that would deny. The question is only about its justness not have been less universal or irresistible for or truth. It is conceivable, certainly, in every being utterly without a foundation in reality. case, that our belief should be erroneous; In short, our perceptions can never afford any and there can be nothing absurd in suggesting complete or irrefragable proof of the real exreasons for doubting of its conformity with istence of external things; because it is easy truth. The obstinacy of our belief, in this to conceive that we might have such percepinstance, and its constant recurrence, even tions without them. We do not know, thereafter all our endeavours to familiarise our- fore, with certainty, that our perceptions are selves with the objections that have been ever produced by external objects; and in the made to it, are not absolutely without parallel cases to which we have just alluded, we acin the history of the human faculties. All tually find perception and its concomitant bechildren believe that the earth is at rest; and lief, where we do know with certainty that it that the sun and fixed stars perform a diurnal is not produced by any external existence. revolution round it. They also believe that It has been said, however, that we have the the place which they occupy on the surface same evidence for the existence of the mateis absolutely the uppermost, and that the in- rial world, as for that of our own thoughts or habitants of the opposite surface must be conceptions ;-as we have no reason for besuspended in an inverted position. Now of lieving in the latter, but that we cannot help this universal, practical, and irresistible belief, it; which is equally true of the former. Now, all persons of education are easily disabused this appears to us to be very inaccurately arin speculation, though it influences their ordi- gued. Whatever we doubt, and whatever we nary language, and continues, in fact, to be prove, we must plainly begin with consciousness. the habitual impression of their minds. In That alone is certain—all the rest is inference. the same way, a Berkleian might admit the Does Dr. Reid mean to assert, that our perconstant recurrence of the illusions of sense, ception of external objects is not a necessary although his speculative reason were suffi- preliminary to any proof of their reality, or ciently convinced of their fallacy.
that our belief in their reality is not founded The phenomena of Dreaming and of De- upon our consciousness of perceiving them? It lirium, however, appear to afford a sort of is only our perceptions, then, and not the exexperimentum crucis, to demonstrate that a istence of their objects, which we cannot help real external existence is not necessary to believing; and it would be nearly as reasonproduce sensation and perception in the hu- able to say that we must take all our dreams man mind. Is it utterly absurd and ridiculous for realities, because we cannot doubt that we to maintain, that all the objects of our thoughts dream, as it is to assert that we have the same may be such stuff as dreams are made of ?) evidence for the existence of an external or that the uniformity of Nature gives us some world, as for the existence of the sensations reason to presume that the perceptions of ma- by which it is suggested to our minds. niacs and of rational men are manufactured, We dare not now venture farther into this like their organs, out of the same materials ? subject; yet we cannot abandon it without obThere is a species of insanity known among serving, that the question is entirely a matter medical men by the epithet notional, in which, of philosophical and abstract speculation, and as well as in delirium tremens, there is fre- that by far the most reprehensible passages quently no general depravation of the reason- Dr. Reid's writings, are those in which he ing and judging faculties, but where the has represented it as otherwise. When we disease consists entirely in the patient mis- consider, indeed, the exemplary candour, and taking the objects of his thought or imagina- temper, and modesty, with which this excel. tion for real and present existences. The lent man has conducted the whole of his error of his perceptions, in such cases, is only speculations, we cannot help wondering that detected by comparing them with the per- he should ever have forgotten himself so far ceptions of other people; and it is evident as to descend to the vulgar raillery which he that he has just the same reason to impute has addressed, instead of argument, to the error to them, as they can have individually abettors of the Berkleian hypothesis. The for imputing it to him. The majority, indeed, old joke, of the sceptical philosophers running necessarily carries the point, as to all practi- their noses against posts, tumbling into kencal consequences: But is there any absurdity nels
, and being sent to madhouses, is repeated in alleging that we can have no absolute or at least ten times in different parts of Dr. infallible assurance of that as to which the Reid's publications, and really seems to have internal conviction of an individual must be been considered as an objection not less forci. supported, and may be overruled by the testi- ble than facetious. Yet Dr. Reid surely could mony of his fellow-creatures?
not be ignorant that those who have questioned Dr. Reid has himself admitted that " we the reality of a material universe, never afmight probably have been so made, as to have fected to have perceptions, ideas, and sensaall the perceptions and sensations which we tions, of a different nature from other people. now have, without any impression on our | The debate was merely about the origin of these sensations; and could not possibly affect and necessity. In the former, we cannot hely the conduct or feelings of the individual. The thinking that he has dogmatised, with a de. sceptic, therefore, who has been taught by gree of confidence which is scarcely justified experience that certain perceptions are con- by the cogency of his arguments; and has nected with unpleasant sensations, will avoid endeavoured to draw ridicule on the reasoning the occasions of them as carefully as those of his antagonists, by illustrations that are utwho look upon the object of their perceptions terly inapplicable. In the latter, also, he has as external realities. Notions and sensations made something more than a just use of the he cannot deny to exist; and this limited prejudices of men and the ambiguity of lanfaith will regulate his conduct exactly in the guage; and has more than once been guilty, same manner as the more extensive creed of if we be not mistaken, of what, in a less his antagonists. We are persuaded that Mr. respectable author, we should not have scruStewart would reject the aid of such an argu- pled to call the most palpable sophistry. We ment for the existence of an external world. are glad that our duty does not require us to
The length to which these observations enter into the discussion of this very perhave extended, deters us from prosecuting plexing controversy; though we may be perany farther our remarks on Dr. Reid's philoso- mitted to remark, that it is somewhat extraphy. The other points in which it appears to ordinary to find the dependence of human us that he has left his system vulnerable are, actions on Motives so positively denied by his explanation of our idea of cause and effect, those very philosophers with whom the docand his speculations on the question of liberty trine of Causation is of such high authority.
(October, 1806.) Memoirs of Dr. Joseph Priestley, to the year 1795, written by himself: With a Continuation to
the time of his decease, by his Son Joseph Priestley; and Observations on his Writings. By Thomas Cooper, President Judge of the Fourth District of Pennsylvania, and the Reverend WILLIAM CHRISTIE. 8vo. pp. 481. London : 1805.
DR. PRIESTLEY has written more, we be- In the Second part of his book, Mr. Cooper lieve, and on a greater variety of subjects, professes to estimate the Metaphysical wri,
other English author; and probably tings of Dr. Priestley, and delivers a long and believed, as his friend Mr. Cooper appears to very zealous defence of the doctrines of Mado at this moment, that his several publica- terialism, and of the Necessity of human ac. tions were destined to make an æra in the tions. A good deal of learning and a good respective branches of speculation to which deal of talent are shown in this production : they bore reference. We are not exactly of But we believe that most of our readers will that opinion : But we think Dr. Priestley a be surprised to find that Mr. Cooper conperson of no common magnitude in the his- siders both these questions as having been tory of English literature; and have perused finally set at rest by the disquisitions of his this miscellaneous volume with more interest learned friend ! than we have visually found in publications of the same description. The memoirs are
Indeed,” he observes, those questions must
now be considered as settled; for those who can written with great conciseness and simplicity, resist Collins' philosophical inquiry, the section of and present a very singular picture of that in- Dr. Hartley on the mechanism of the mind, and defatigable activity, that bigotted vanity, that the review of the subject taken by Dr. Priestley precipitation, cheerfulness, and sincerity, and his opponents, are not to be reasoned with. which made the character of this restless maxim of technical law. It will apply equally to ир.
Interest reipublicæ ut denique si finis litium, is a philosopher. The observations annexed by the republic of letters; and the time seems to have Mr. Cooper are the work, we think, of a pow- arrived, when the separate existence of the human erful, presumptuous, and most úntractable Soul, the freedom of the Will, and the eternal understanding. They are written in a defy- duration of Future punishment, like the doctrines ing, dogmatical, unaccommodating style: with of the Trinity! and Transubstantiation, may be much force of reasoning, in many places, but regarded as no longer entitled 10 public discusoften with great rashness and arrogance;
and occasionally with a cant of philosophism, and
The advocates of Necessity, we know, have a tang of party politics, which communicate long been pretty much of this opinion; and an air of vulgarity to the whole work, and ir- we have no inclination to disturb them at resistibly excite a smile at the expense of this present with any renewal of the controversy: magnanimous despiser of all sorts of prejudice But we really did not know that the advoand bigotry.*
cates of Materialism laid claim to the same
triumph; and certainly find some difficulty in I omit now a very considerable portion of this admitting that all who believe in the existence review, containing a pretty full account of Dr. of mind are unfit to be reasoned with. To us, Priestley's life and conversation, and of his various indeed, it has always appeared that it was publications on subjects of theology, natural philoso. phy, and chemistry; retaining only the following much easier to prove the existence of mind, examination of his doctrine of Materialism. than the existence of matter; and with what