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cording to the views of the inquirer. The inquiry is an inquiry into the functions and operations of mind; and all that can possibly be stated as fact on such an occasion, must relate to the state and affections of mind only But to assume the existence of a material world, in order afterwards to define one function of mind to be that by which it discovers material qualities, is evidently blending hypothesis in the statement, and prejudging the controversy by assumption. The fact itself, we really conceive not to be liable to any kind of doubt or dispute; and yet the statement of it, obvious as it is, seems calculated to retrench a good deal from each of the opposite assertions. The fact, if we be not greatly mistaken, is confessedly as follows.
may or may not be inferred from the fact, ac- | asmuch as there is a distinction between on? feelings of pain, resistance, &c., and our conception and belief of real external existences. But they differ merely as one affection of mind may differ from another; and it is plainly unwarrantable to assume the real existence of external objects as a part of the statement of a purely intellectual phenomenon. After allowing the reality of this distinction, there is still room therefore for considering the second question to which we alluded in the outset, viz. Whether perception does necessarily imply the existence of external objects.
We have occasionally certain sensations which we call heat, pain, resistance, &c. These feelings, of course, belong only to the mind, of which they are peculiar affections; and both parties are agreed in asserting, that they have no resemblance, or necessary reference, to any thing external. Dr. Reid has made this indeed the very ground-work of his reasonings on the subject of perception; and it will not probably be called in question by his antagonists, who go the length of inferring from it, that nothing but mind can be conceived to have an existence in nature. This, then, is one fact which we may safely assume as quite certain and indisputable, viz. that our sensations are affections of the mind, and have no necessary reference to any other existence. But there is another fact at least as obvious and indisputable, which the one party seems disposed to overlook, and the other to invest with undue authority, in the discussion. This second fact is, that some of the sensations in question are uniformly and irresistibly accompanied by the apprehension and belief of certain external existences, distinguished by peculiar qualities. The fact certainly admits of no dispute; and, accordingly, the philosophers who first attempted to prove that this belief was without foundation, have uniformly claimed the merit of disabusing mankind of a natural and universal illusion. Now this apprehension and belief of external existences, is in itself as much an affection of mind, as the sensations by which it is accompanied; and those who deny the distinction between perception and sensation, might be justified perhaps in asserting, that it is only a sensation of another kind: at the same time, as the essence of it consists in the apprehension of an independent existence, there can be no harm in distinguishing it, by a separate appellation, from those sensations which centre in the sentient being, and suggest to him no idea of any other existence. It is in this sense alone, it appears to us, that perception can be understood in strict philosophical language. It means no more than that affection of the mind which consists in an apprehension and belief in the existence of external objects.
Now in this sense of the word, there can be no doubt that there is a real distinction between mere sensation and perception; in
Upon this subject, we entertain an opinion which will not give satisfaction, we are afraid, to either of the contending parties. We think that the existence of external objects is not necessarily implied in the phenomena of perception; but we think that there is no com plete proof of their nonexistence; and that philosophy, instead of being benefited, would be subjected to needless embarrassments, by the absolute assumption of the ideal theory.
The reality of external existences is not necessarily implied in the phenomena of perception; because we can easily imagine that our impressions and conceptions might have been exactly as they are, although matter had never been created. Belief, we familiarly know, to be no infallible criterion of actual existence; and it is impossible to doubt, that we might have been so framed as to receive all the impressions which we now ascribe to the agency of external objects, from the mechanism of our own minds, or the particular volition of the Deity. The phenomena of dreaming, and of some species of madness, seem to form experimental proofs of the pos sibility we have now stated; and demonstrate, in our apprehension, that perception, as we have defined it, (i. e. an apprehension and belief of external existences,) does not necessa rily imply the independent reality of its objects. Nor is it less absurd to say that we have the same evidence for the existence of external objects that we have for the exist ence of our own sensations: For it is quite plain, that our belief in the former is founded altogether on our consciousness of the latter; and that the evidence of this belief is consequently of a secondary nature. We cannot doubt of the existence of our sensations, without being guilty of the grossest contradiction; but we may doubt of the existence of the material world, without any contradic tion at all. If we annihilate our sensations, we annihilate ourselves; and, of course, leave no being to doubt or to reason. If we annihilate the external world, we still leave entire all those sensations and perceptions which a different hypothesis would refer to its mysterious agency on our minds.
On the other hand, it is certainly going too far to assert, that the nonexistence of matter is proved by such evidence as necessarily to command our assent: Since it evidently implies no contradiction to suppose, that such a thing as matter may exist, and that an omnipotent being might make us capable of dis
This is the legitimate and inevitable termination of that determined scepticism which refuses to believe any thing without the highest of all evidence, and chooses to conclude positively that every thing is not, which may possibly be conceived not to be. The process of reasoning which it implies, is neither long nor intricate; and its conclusion would be undeniably just, if every thing was necessarily true which could be asserted without a contradiction. It is perfectly true, that we are absolutely sure of nothing but what we feel at the present moment; and that it is possible to distinguish between the evidence we have The rigorous maxim, of giving no faith to for the existence of the present impression, any thing short of direct and immediate con- and the evidence of any other existence. The sciousness, seems more calculated, we think, first alone is complete and unquestionable; to perplex than to simplify our philosophy, we may hesitate about all the rest without and will run us up, in two vast strides, to the any absolute contradiction. But the distincvery brink of absolute annihilation. We deny tion, we apprehend, is in itself of as little use the existence of the material world, because in philosophy, as in ordinary life; and the abwe have not for it the primary evidence of solute and positive denial of all existence, consciousness; and because the clear concep- except that of our immediate sensation, altotion and indestructible belief we have of it, gether rash and unwarranted. The objects may be fallacious, for any thing we can prove of our perception and of our recollection, certo the contrary. This conclusion annihilates tainly may exist, although we cannot demonat once all external objects; and, among strate that they must; and when in spite of them, our own bodies, and the bodies and all our abstractions, we find that we must ninds of all other men; for it is quite evident come back, and not only reason with our felthat we can have no evidence of the exist- low creatures as separate existences, but enence of other minds, except through the me- gage daily in speculations about the qualities diation of the matter they are supposed to and properties of matter, it must appear, at animate; and if matter be nothing more than least, an unprofitable refinement which would an affection of our own minds, there is an end lead us to dwell much on the possibility of to the existence of every other. This first step, their nonexistence. There is no sceptic, protherefore, reduces the whole universe to the bably, who would be bold enough to maintain, mind of the individual reasoner; and leaves that this single doctrine of the nonexistence no existence in nature, but one mind, with its of any thing but our present impressions, compliment of sensations and ideas. The would constitute a just or useful system of second step goes still farther; and no one can logic and moral philosophy; and if, after hesitate to take it, who has ventured deliber- flourishing with it as an unfruitful paradox in ately on the first. If our senses may deceive the outset, we are obliged to recur to the orus, so may our memory-if we will not be- dinary course of observation and conjecture lieve in the existence of matter, because it is as to the nature of our faculties, it may be not vouched by internal consciousness, and doubted whether any real benefit has been because it is conceivable that it should not derived from its promulgation, or whether the exist, we cannot consistently believe in the hypothesis can be received into any sober reality of any past impression: for which, in system of philosophy. To deny the existence like manner, we cannot have the direct evi- of matter and of mind, indeed, is not to phidence of consciousness, and of which our losophise, but to destroy the materials of phipresent recollection may possibly be falla-losophy. It requires no extraordinary incious. Even upon the vulgar hypothesis, we genuity or power of reasoning to perceive the know that memory is much more deceitful grounds upon which their existence may be than perception; and there is still greater doubted; but we acknowledge that we cannot hazard in assuming the reality of any past see how it can be said to have been disproved; existence from our present recollection of it, and think we perceive very clearly, that phithan in relying on the reality of a present losophy will neither be simplified nor abridged existence from our immediate perception. If by refusing to take it for granted. we discredit our memory, however, and deny all existence of which we have not a present consciousness or sensation, it is evident that we must annihilate our own personal identity, and refuse to believe that we had thought or sensation at any previous moment. There can be no reasoning, therefore, nor knowledge, nor opinion; and we must end by virtually annihilating ourselves, and denying that any thing whatsoever exists in nature, but the present solitary and momentary impression.
Upon the whole, then, we are inclined to think, that the conception and belief which we have of material objects (which is what we mean by the perception of them) does not amount to a complete proof of their existence, but renders it sufficiently probable: that the superior and complete assurance we have of the existence of our present sensations, does by no means entitle us positively to deny the reality of every other existence; and that as this speculative scepticism neither renders us independent of the ordinary modes of investi
covering its qualities. The instinctive and insurmountable belief that we have of its existence, certainly is not to be surrendered, merely because it is possible to suppose it erroneous; or difficult to comprehend how a material and immaterial substance can act upon each other. The evidence of this universal and irresistible belief, in short, is not to be altogether disregarded; and, unless it can be shown that it leads to actual contradictions and absurdities, the utmost length that philosophy can warrantably go, is to conclude that it may be delusive; but that it may also be true.
gation, nor assists us materially in the use of | Now, nothing, we conceive, is more obvious them, it is inexpedient to dwell long upon it than the fallacy of this reasoning. The l in the course of our philosophical inquiries, king, or disliking, of men to a particular object, and much more advisable to proceed upon has nothing to do with the perception of its the supposition that the real condition of things external qualities; and they may differ enis conformable to our natural apprehensions. tirely as to their opinion of its agreeableness, though they concur perfectly as to the description of all its properties. One man may admire a tall woman, and another a short one;
The little sketch we have now ventured to offer of the abstract, or thorough-going philosophy of scepticism, will render it unnecessary for us to follow our author minutely but it would be rather rash to infer, that they through the different branches of this inquiry. did not agree in recognising a difference in Overlooking, or at least undervaluing the in-stature, or that they had no uniform ideas of disputable fact, that our sensations are uni-magnitude in general. In the same way, one formly accompanied with a distinct apprehen-person may have an antipathy to salt, and sion, and firm belief in the existence of real another a liking for it; but they both perceive external objects, he endeavours to prove, that it to be salt, and both agree in describing it the qualities which we ascribe to them are in by that appellation. To give any degree of reality nothing more than names for our pecu- plausibility to Mr. Drummond's inferences, it liar sensations; and maintains accordingly, would be necessary for him to show that some that because men differ in their opinions of men thought brandy and Cayenne pepper inthe same object, it is impossible to suppose sipid and tasteless, and objected at the same that they actually perceive any real object at time to milk and spring water as excessively all; as a real existence must always appear acrid and pungent. the same to those who actually perceive it.
His illustrations are of this nature. Water, which feels tepid to a Laplander, would appear cold to a native of Sumatra: But the same water cannot be both hot and cold: therefore it is to be inferred that neither of them is affected by any real quality in the external body, but that each describes merely his own sensations. Now, the conclusion here is plainly altogether unwarranted by the fact; since it is quite certain that both the persons in question perceive the same quality in the water, though they are affected by it in a different manner. The solution of the whole puzzle is, that heat and cold are not different qualities; but different degrees of the same quality, and probably exist only relatively to each other. If the water is of a higher temperature than the air, or the body of the person who touches it, he will call it warm; if of a lower temperature, he will call it cold. But this does not prove by any means, that the difference between two distinct temperatures is ideal, or that it is not always perceived by all individuals in the very same way. If Mr. Drummond could find out a person who not only thought the water cold which other people called warm, but also thought that warm which they perceived to be cold, he might have some foundation for his inference; but while all mankind agree that ice is cold, and steam hot, and concur indeed most exactly in their judgments of the comparative heat of all external bodies, it is plainly a mere quib-duate into mind! If, on the other hand, by ideas, Mr. Drummond really means nothing but sensations and perceptions (as we have already explained that word), it is quite obvious that Dr. Reid has never called their existence in question; and the whole debate comes back to the presumptions for the existence of an external world; or the reasonable
In the concluding part of his book, Mr. Drummond undertakes nothing less than a defence of the theory of Ideas, against the arguments of Dr. Reid. This is a bold attempt; but, we are inclined to think, not a successful one. Mr. Drummond begins with the old axiom, that nothing can act but where it is; and infers, that as real material objects cannot penetrate to the seat of the soul, that sentient principle can only perceive certain images or ideas of them; against the assumption of which he conceives there can be no considerable obstacle. Now, it is needless, we think, to investigate the legitimacy of this reasoning very narrowly, because the foundation, we are persuaded, is unsound. The axiom, we believe, is now admitted to be fallacious (in the sense at least here assigned to it) by all who have recently paid any attention to the subject. But what does Mr. Drummond understand exactly by ideas? Does he mean certain films, shadows, or simulacra, proceeding from real external existences, and passing through real external organs to the local habitation of the soul? If he means this, then he admits the existence of a material world, as clearly as Dr. Reid does; and subjects himself to all the ridicule which he has himself so justly bestowed upon the hypothesis of animal spirits, or any other supposition, which explains the intercourse between mind and matter, by imagining some matter, of so fine a nature as almost to gra
ble on the convertible nature of these qualities, to call in question the identity of their perceptions, because they make the variable standard of their own temperature the rule for denominating other bodies hot or cold.
In the same way, Mr. Drummond goes on to say, one man calls the flavour of assafœtida nauseous, and another thinks it agreeableness of trusting to that indestructible belief one nation delights in a species of food which which certainly accompanies those sensations, to its neighbours appears disgusting. How, as evidence of their having certain external then, can we suppose that they perceive the causes. We cannot help doubting, whether same real qualities, when their judgments in Mr. Drummond has clearly stated to himself, regard to them are so diametrically opposite? in which of these two senses he proposes to
defend the doctrine of ideas. The doctrine | guished by its colour, from the other portions of IMAGES proceeding from actual external that were perceived at the same time. It existences, is the only one in behalf of which seems equally impossible to dispute, however, he can claim the support of the ancient phi-that we should receive from this impression losophers; and it is to it he seems to allude, the belief and conception of an external exin several of the remarks which he makes on istence, and that we should have the very the illusions of sight. On the other supposi- same evidence for its reality, as for that of the tion, however, he has no occasion to dispute objects of our other senses. But if the exterwith Dr. Reid about the existence of ideas; for nal existence of light be admitted, a very the Doctor assuredly did not deny that we slight attention to its laws and properties, will had sensations and perceptions, notions, re- show its appearances must vary, according to collections, and all the other affections of our distance from the solid objects which emit mind to which the word idea may be applied, it. We perceive the form of bodies by sight, in that other sense of it. There can be no in short, very nearly as a blind man perceives question upon that supposition, but about the them, by tracing their extremities with his origin of these ideas-which belongs to stick It is only the light in one case, and the another chapter. stick in the other, that is properly felt or perceived; but the real form of the object is indicated, in both cases, by the state and disposition of the medium which connects it with our sensations. It is by intimations formerly received from the sense of Touch, no doubt, that we ultimately discover that the rays of light which strike our eyes with the impressions of form and colour, proceed from distant objects, which are solid and extended in three dimensions; and it is only by recollecting what we have learned from this sense, that we are enabled to conceive them as endued with these qualities. By the eye itself we do not perceive these qualities: nor, in strictness of speech, do we perceive, by this sense, any qualities whatever of the reflecting object; we perceive merely the light which it reflects; distinguished by its colour from the other light that falls on the eye along with it, and assuming a new form and extension, according as the distance or position of the body is varied in regard to us. These variations are clearly explained by the known properties of light, as ascertained by experiment; and evidently afford no ground for supposing any alteration in the object which emits it, or for throwing any doubts upon the real existence of such an object. Because the divergence of the rays of light varies with the distance between their origin and the eye, is there the slightest reason for pretending, that the magnitude of the object from which they proceed must be held to have varied also?
Mr. Drummond seems to lay the whole stress of his argument upon a position of Hume's, which he applies himself to vindicate from the objections which Dr. Reid has urged against it. "The table which I see," says Dr. Hume, "diminishes as I remove from it; but the real table suffers no alteration:-it could be nothing but its image, therefore, which was present to my mind." Now this statement, we think, admits pretty explicitly, that there is a real table, the image of which is presented to the mind: but, at all events, we conceive that the phenomenon may be easily reconciled with the supposition of its real existence. Dr. Reid's error, if there be one, seems to consist in his having asserted positively, and without any qualification, that it is the real table which we perceive, when our eyes are turned towards it. When the matter however is considered very strictly, it will be found that by the sense of seeing we can perceive nothing but light, variously arranged and diversified; and that, when we look towards a table, we do not actually see the table itself, but only the rays of light which are reflected from it to the eye. Independently of the co-operation of our other senses, it seems generally to be admitted, that we should perceive nothing by seeing but an assemblage of colours, divided by different lines; and our only visual notion of the table (however real it might be) would, therefore, be that of a definite portion of light, distin
An account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie, LL. D. late Professor of Moral Philosophy and Logic in the Marischal College and University of Aberdeen: including many of his original Letters. By Sir W. FORBES of Pitsligo, Baronet, one of the Executors of Dr. Beattie. 2 vols. 4to. pp. 840. Edinburgh and London: 1806.
DR. BEATTIE'S great work, and that which was undoubtedly the first foundation of his celebrity, is the "Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth;" on which such un
The greater part of this article also is withheld from the present reprint, for the reasons formerly stated; and only those parts given which bear upon points of metaphysics.
measured praises are bestowed, both by his present biographer, and by all the author's male and female correspondents, that it is with difficulty we can believe that they are speaking of the performance which we have just been wearying ourselves with looking over. That the author's intentions were good, and his convictions sincere, we entertain noi
the least doubt; but that the merits of his | book have been prodigiously overrated, we think, is equally undeniable. It contains absolutely nothing, in the nature of argument, that had not been previously stated by Dr. Reid in his "Inquiry into the Human Mind;" and, in our opinion, in a much clearer and more unexceptionable form. As to the merits of that philosophy, we have already taken occasion, in more places than one, to submit our opinion to the judgment of our readers; and, after having settled our accounts with Mr. Stewart and Dr. Reid, we really do not think it worth while to enter the lists again with Dr. Beattie. Whatever may be the excellence of the common-sense school of philosophy, he certainly has no claim to the honours of a founder. He invented none of it; and it is very doubtful with us, whether he ever rightly understood the principles upon which it depends. It is unquestionable, at least, that he has exposed it to considerable disadvantage, and embarrassed its more enlightened supporters, by the misplaced confidence with which he has urged some propositions, and the fallacious and fantastic illustrations by which he has aimed at recommending many others.
His confidence and his inaccuracy, however, might have been easily forgiven. Every one has not the capacity of writing philosophically: But every one may at least be temperate and candid; and Dr. Beattie's book is still more remarkable for being abusive and acrimonious, than for its defects in argument or originality. There are no subjects, however, in the wide field of human speculation, upon which such vehemence appears more groundless and unaccountable, than the greater part of those which have served Dr. Beattie for topics of declamation or invective.
His first great battle is about the real existence of external objects. The sceptics say, that perception is merely an act or affection of the mind, and consequently might exist without any external cause. It is a sensation or affection of the mind, to be sure, which consists in the apprehension and belief of such external existences: But being in itself a phenomenon purely mental, it is a mere supposition or conjecture to hold that there are any such existences, by whose operation it is produced. It is impossible, therefore, to bring any evidence for the existence of material objects; and the belief which is admitted to be inseparable from the act of perception, can never be received as such evidence. The whole question is about the grounds of this belief, and not about its existence; and the phenomena of dreaming and madness prove experimentally, that perception, as characterised by belief, may exist where there is no external object. Dr. Beattie answers, after Dr. Reid, that the mere existence of this instinctive and indestructible belief in the ality of external objects, is a complete and sufficient proof of their reality; that nature meant us to be satisfied with it; and that we cannot call it in question, without running into the greatest absurdity.
This is the whole dispute; and a pretty correct summary of the argument upon both sides of the question. But is there any thing here that could justify the calling of names, or the violation of decorum among the dis putants? The question is, of all other questions that can be suggested, the most purely and entirely speculative, and obviously disconnected from any practical or moral consequences. After what Berkeley has written on the subject, it must be a gross and wilful fallacy to pretend that the conduct of men can be in the smallest degree affected by the opinions they entertain about the existence or nonexistence of matter. The system which maintains the latter, leaves all our sensations and perceptions unimpaired and entire; and as it is by these, and by these only, that our conduct can ever be guided, it is evident that it can never be altered by the adoption of that system. The whole dispute is about the cause or origin of our perceptions; which the one party ascribes to the action of external bodies, and the other to the inward development of some mental energy. It is a question of pure curiosity; it never can be decided; and as its decision is perfectly indifferent and immaterial to any practical purpose, so, it might have been expected that the discussion should be conducted without virulence or abuse.
The next grand dispute is about the evidence of Memory. The sceptics will have it, that we are sure of nothing but our present sensations; and that, though these are sometimes characterised by an impression and belief that other sensations did formerly exist, we can have no evidence of the justice of this belief, nor any certainty that this illusive conception of former sensation, which we call memory, may not be an original affection of our minds. The orthodox philosophers, on the other hand, maintain, that the instinctive reliance we have on memory is complete and satisfactory proof of its accuracy; that it is absurd to ask for the grounds of this belief; and that we cannot call it in question without manifest inconsistency. The same observations which were made on the argument for the existence of matter, apply also to this controversy. It is purely speculative, and without application to any practical conclusion. The sceptics do not deny that they remember like other people, and, consequently, that they have an indestructible belief in past events or existences. All the question is about the origin, or the justice of this belief;-whether it arise from such events having actually happened before, or from some original affection of the mind, which is attended with that impression.
The argument, as commonly stated by the sceptics, leads only to a negative or sceptical conclusion. It amounts only to this, that the present sensation, which we call memory, re-affords no conclusive evidence of past existence and that for any thing that can be proved to the contrary, nothing of what we remember may have existed. We think this undeniably true; and so we believe did Dr. Beattie. thought it also very useless; and there, too,