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may or may not be inferred from the fact, ac- | asmuch as there is a distinction between on: cording to the views of the inquirer. The feelings of pain, resistance, &c., and our con. inquiry is an inquiry into the functions and ception and belief of real external existences: operations of mind; and all that can possibly But they differ merely as one affection of be stated as fact on such an occasion, must re- mind may differ from another; and it is plainly late to the state and affections of mind only: unwarrantable to assume the real existence But to assume the existence of a material of external objects as a part of the statement world, in order afterwards to define one func- of a purely intellectual phenomenon. After tion of mind to be at by which it discovers allowing the reality of this distinction, there material qualities, is evidently blending hy- is still room therefore for considering the pothesis in the statement, and prejudging the second question to which we alluded in the controversy by assumption. The fact itself, outset, viz. Whether perception does neceswe really conceive not to be liable to any kind sarily imply the existence of external obof doubt or dispute; and yet the statement of jects. it, obvious as it is, seems calculated to retrench Upon this subject, we entertain an opinion a good deal from each of the opposite asser- which will not give satisfaction, we are afraid, tions. The fact, if we be not greatly mis- to either of the contending parties. We think taken, is confessedly as follows.
that the existence of external objects is not We have occasionally certain sensations necessarily implied in the phenomena of perwhich we call heat, pain, resistance, &c. ception; but we think that there is no com. These feelings, of course, belong only to the plete proof of their nonexistence; and that mind, of which they are peculiar affections; philosophy, instead of being benefited, would and both parties are agreed in asserting, that be subjected to needless embarrassments, by they have no resemblance, or necessary refer- the absolute assumption of the ideal theory. ence, to any thing external. Dr. Reid has The reality of external existences is not made this indeed the very ground-work of his necessarily implied in the phenomena of perreasonings on the subject of perception; and ception ; because we can easily imagine that it will not probably be called in question by our impressions and conceptions might have his antagonists, who go the length of inferring been exactly as they are, although matter had from it, that nothing but mind can be con- never been created. Belief, we familiarly ceived to have an existence in nature. This, know, to be no infallible criterion of actual then, is one fact which we may safely assume existence; and it is impossible to doubt, that as quite certain and indisputable, viz. that we might have been so framed as to receive our sensations are affections of the mind, and all the impressions which we now ascribe to have no necessary reference to any other ex- the agency of external objects, from the meistence. But there is another fact at least as chanism of our own minds, or the particular obvious and indisputable, which the one party volition of the Deity. The phenomena of seems disposed to overlook, and the other to dreaming, and of some species of madness, invest with undue authority, in the discussion. seem to form experimental proofs of the posThis second fact is, that some of the sensations sibility we have now stated; and demonstrate, in question are uniformly and irresistibly ac- in our apprehension, that perception, as we companied by the apprehension and belief of have defined it, (i.e. an apprehension and becertain external existences, distinguished by lief of external existences,) does not necessa. peculiar qualities. The fact certainly admits rily imply the independent reality of its obof no dispute ; and, accordingly, the philoso-jects. Nor is it less absurd to say that we phers who first attempted to prove that this have the same evidence for the existence of belief was without foundation, have uniformly external objects that we have for the existclaimed the merit of disabusing mankind of a ence of our own sensations: For it is quite natural and universal illusion. Now this ap- plain, that our belief in the former is founded prehension and belief of external existences, altogether on our consciousness of the latter; is in itself as much an affection of mind, as and that the evidence of this belief is consethe sensations by which it is accompanied ; quently of a secondary nature. We cannot and those who deny the distinction between doubt of the existence of our sensations, perception and sensation, might be justified without being guilty of the grossest contra. perhaps in asserting, that it is only a sensa- diction ; but we may doubt of the existence tion of another kind: at the same time, as the of the material world, without any contradicessence of it consists in the apprehension of tion at all. If we annihilate our sensations, an independent existence, there can be no we annihilate ourselves; and, of course, leave harm in distinguishing it, by a separate appel- no being to doubt or to reason. If we annilation, from those sensations which centre in hilate the external world, we still leave entire the sentient being, and suggest to him no idea all those sensations and perceptions which a of any other existence. It is in this sense different hypothesis would refer to its mystealone, it appears to us, that perception can be rious agency on our minds. understood in strict philosophical language. On the other hand, it is certainly going too It means no more than that affection of the far to assert, that the nonexistence of matter mind which consists in an apprehension and is proved by such evidence as necessarily to belief in the existence of external objects. command our assent: Since it evidently im
Now in this sense of the word, there can plies no contradiction to suppose, that such a be no doubt that there is a real distinction thing as matter may exist, and that an omnipbetween mere sensation and perception; in. otent being might make us capable of discovering its qualities. The instinctive and This is the legitimate and inevitable terinsurmountable belief that we have of its mination of that determined scepticism which existence, certainly is not to be surrendered, refuses to believe any thing without the highmerely because it is possible to suppose it est of all evidence, and chooses to conclude erroneous; or difficult to comprehend how a positively that every thing is not, which may material and immaterial substance can act possibly be conceived not to be. The process upon each other. The evidence of this uni- of reasoning which it implies, is neither long versal and irresistible belief, in short, is not nor intricate; and its conclusion would be to be altogether disregarded; and, unless it undeniably just, if everything was necessarily can be shown that it leads to actual contra- true which could be asserted without a condictions and absurdities, the utmost length tradiction. It is perfectly true, that we are that philosophy can warrantably go, is to con- absolutely sure of nothing but what we feel at clude that it may be delusive; but that it the present moment; and that it is possible may also be true.
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 philosopłıy, 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 boilies and all our abstractions, we find that we must minds 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 esist, 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 évi- 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 doubled ; 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 Upon the whole, then, we are inclined to all existence of which we have not a present think, that the conception and belief which consciousness or sensation, it is evident that we have of material objects (which is what we must annihilate our own personal identity, we mean by the perception of them) does no? and refuse to believe that we had thought or amount to a complete proof of their existence, sensation at any previous moment. There but renders it sufficiently probable : that the can be no reasoning, therefore, nor know- superior and complete assurance we have of ledge, nor opinion; and we must end by vir- the existence of our present sensations, does tually annihilating ourselves, and denying by no means entitle us positively to deny the that any thing whatsoever exists in nature, reality of every other existence; and that as but the present solitary and momentary im- this speculative scepticism neither renders us pression.
independent of the ordinary modes of investi. 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 lzin 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,
The little sketch we have now ventured to though they concur perfectly as to the deoffer of the abstract, or thorough-going phi- scription of all its properties. One man may losophy of scepticism, will render it unneces- admire a tall woman, and another a short one; sary for us to follow our author minutely but it would be rather rash to inser, 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. In the concluding part of his book, Mr.
His illustrations are of this nature. Water, Drummond undertakes nothing less than a which feels tepid to a Laplander, would appear defence of the theory of Ideas, against the cold to a native of Sumatra : But the same arguments of Dr. Reid. This is a bold ata water cannot be both hot and cold: therefore tempt; but, we are inclined to think, not a it is to be inferred that neither of them is successful one. Mr. Drummond begins with affected by any real quality in the external the old axiom, that nothing can act but where body, but that each describes merely his it is; and infers, that as real material objects own sensations. Now, the conclusion here is cannot penetrate to the seat of the soul, that plainly altogether unwarranted by the fact; sentient principle can only perceive certain since it is quite certain that both the persons images or ideas of them; against the assumpin question perceive the same quality in the tion of which he conceives there can be no water, though they are affected by it in a dif- considerable obstacle. Now, it is needless, ferent manner, The solution of the whole we think, to investigate the legitimacy of this puzzle is, that heat and cold are not different reasoning very narrowly, because the foundaqualities; but different degrees of the same tion, we are persuaded, is unsound. The quality, and probably exist only relatively to axiom, we believe, is now admitted to be each other. If the water is of a higher tem- fallacious (in the sense at least here assigned perature than the air, or the body of the to it) by all who have recently paid any atten. person who touches it, he will call it warm; tion to the subject. But what does Mr. Drumif of a lower temperature, he will call it cold. mond understand exactly by ideas? Does he But this does not prove by any means, that mean certain films, shadows, or simulacra, the difference between two distinct tempera- proceeding from real external existences, and tures is ideal, or that it is not always perceived passing through real external organs to the by all individuals in the very same way. If local habitation of the soul? If he means Mr. Drummond could find out a person who this, then he admits the existence of a ma. not only thought the water cold which other terial world, as clearly as Dr. Reid does; people called warm, but also thought that and subjects himself to all the ridicule which warm which they perceived to be cold, he he has himself so justly bestowed upon the might have some foundation for his inference; hypothesis of animal spirits, or any other but while all mankind agree that ice is cold, supposition, which explains the intercourse and steam hot, and concur indeed most exactly between mind and matter, by imagining some in their judgments of the comparative heat of matter, of so fine a nature as almost to graall external bodies, it is plainly a mere quib- duate into mind! If, on the other hand, by ble on the convertible nature of these quali- ideas, Mr. Drummond really means nothing ties, to call in question the identity of their but sensations and perceptions (as we have perceptions, because they make the variable already explained that word), it is quite obstandard of their own temperature the rule vious that Dr. Reid has never called their for denominating other bodies hot or cold. existence in question; and the whole debate
In the same way, Mr. Drummond goes on comes back to the presumptions for the existe to say, one man calls the flavour of assafetida ence of an external world, or the reasonablenauseous, and another thinks it agreeable ;- ness 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, 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 nó 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 perMr. Drummond seems to lay the whole ceived; but the real form of the object is stress of his argument upon a position of indicated, in both cases, by the state and disHume’s, which he applies himself to vindicate position of the medium which connects it with from the objections which Dr. Reid has urged our sensations. It is by intimations formerly against it." The table which I see," says received from the sense of Touch, no doubt, Dr. Hume," diminishes as I remove from it; that we ultimately discover that the rays of but the real table suffers no alteration :-it light which strike our eyes with the imprescould be nothing but its image, therefore, sions of form and colour, proceed from distant which was present to my mind.” Now this objects, which are solid and extended in three statement, we think, admits pretty explicitly, dimensions; and it is only by recollecting that there is a real table, the image of which what we have learned from this sense, that is presented to the mind: but, at all events, we are enabled to conceive them as endued we conceive that the phenomenon may be with these qualities. By the eye itself we easily reconciled with the supposition of its do not perceive these qualities: nor, in strictreal existence. Dr. Reid's error, if there be ness of speech, do we perceive, by this sense, one, seems to consist in his having asserted any qualities whatever of the reflecting obpositively, and without any qualification, that ject; we perceive merely the light which it it is the real table which we perceive, when reflects; distinguished by its colour from the our eyes are turned towards it. When the other light that falls on the eye along with it, matter however is considered very strictly, it and assuming a new form and extension, acwill be found that by the sense of seeing we cording as the distance or position of the body can perceive nothing but light, variously ar- is varied in regard to us. These variations ranged and diversified ; and that, when we are clearly explained by the known properties look towards a table, we do not actually see of light, as ascertained by experiment; and the table itself, but only the rays of light evidently afford no ground for supposing any which are reflected from it to the eye. Inde- alteration in the object which emits it, or für pendently of the co-operation of our other throwing any doubts upon the real existence senses, it seems generally to be admitted, that of such an object. Because the divergence we should perceive nothing by seeing but an of the rays of light varies with the distance assemblage of colours, divided by different between their origin and the eye, is there the lines; and our only visual notion of the table slightest reason for pretending, that the mag, (however real it might be) would, therefore, nitude of the object from which they proceed be that of a definite portion of light, distin- I must be held to have varied also ?
(April, 1807.) An account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie, LL. D. late Professor of Moral Philoso
phy 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 measured praises are bestowed, both by his was undoubtedly the first foundation of his ce- present biographer, and by all the author's lebrity, is the “ Essay on the Nature and male and female correspondents, that it is Immutability of Truth ;" on which such un- with difficulty we can believe that they are
* The greater part of this article also is withheld speaking of the performance which we have from the present reprint, for the reasons formerly just been wearying ourselves with looking stated; and only those parts given which bear upon over. That the author's intentions were good, points of metaphysics.
and his convictions sincere, we entertain noi the least doubt; but that the merits of his This is the whole dispute; and a pretty book have been prodigiously overrated, we correct summary of the argument upon both think, is equally undeniable. It contains ab- sides of the question. But is there any thing solutely nothing, in the nature of argument, here that could justify the calling of names, that had not been previously stated by Dr. or the violation of decorum among the disReid in his “ Inquiry into the Human Mind;": putants? The question is, of all other quesand, in our opinion, in a much clearer and tions that can be suggested, the most purely more unexceptionable form. As to the merits and entirely speculative, and obviously disof that philosophy, we have already taken connected from any practical or moral conoccasion, in more places than one, to submit sequences. After what Berkeley has written our opinion to the judgment of our readers; on the subject, it must be a gross and wilful and, after having settled our accounts with fallacy to pretend that the conduc of men can Mr. Stewart and Dr. Reid, we really do not be in the smallest degree affected by the think it worth while to enter the lists again opinions they entertain about the existence with Dr. Beattie. Whatever may be the ex. or nonexistence of matter.
The system cellence of the common-sense school of phi- which maintains the latter, leaves all our sen. losophy, he certainly has no claim to the sations and perceptions unimpaired and enhonours of a founder. He invented none of tire; and as it is by these, and by these only; it; and it is very doubtful with us, whether that our conduct can ever be guided, it is he ever rightly understood the principles upon evident that it can never be altered by the which it depends. It is unquestionable, at adoption of that system. The whole dispute least, that he has exposed it to considerable is about the cause or origin of our perceptions; disadvantage, and embarrassed its more en- which the one party ascribes to the action of lightened supporters, by the misplaced con- external bodies, and the other to the inward fidence with which he has urged some development of some mental energy. It is a propositions, and the fallacious and fantastic question of pure curiosity; it never can be illustrations by which he has aimed at recom- decided ; and as its decision is perfectly in. mending many others.
different and immaterial to any practical pur. His confidence and his inaccuracy, however, pose, so, it might have been expected that might have been easily forgiven. Every one the discussion should be conducted without has not the capacity of writing philosophically: virulence or abuse. But every one may at least be temperate and The next grand dispute is about the evi. candid; and Dr. Beattie's book is still more dence of Memory. The sceptics will have remarkable for being abusive and acrimonious, it, that we are sure of nothing but our present than for its defects in argument or originality sensations; and that, though these are some There are no subjects, however, in the wide times characterised by an impression and field of human speculation, upon which such belief that other sensations did formerly exist, vehemence appears more groundless and un- we can have no evidence of the justice of this accountable, than the greater part of those belief, nor any certainty that this illusive con. which have served Dr. Beattie for topics of ception of former sensation, which we call declamation or invective.
memory, may not be an original affection of His first great battle is about the real exist- our minds. The orthodox philosophers, on ence of external objects. The sceptics say, the other hand, maintain, that the instinctive that perception is merely an act or affection reliance we have on memory is complete and of the mind, and consequently might exist satisfactory proof of its accuracy; that it is without any external cause. It' is a sensation absurd to ask for the grounds of this belief; or affection of the mind, to be sure, which and that we cannot call it in question without consists in the apprehension and belief of such manifest inconsistency. The same observaexternal existences: But being in itself a phe- tions which were made on the argument for nomenon purely mental, it is a mere supposition the existence of matter, apply also to this con. or conjecture to hold that there are any such troversy. It is purely speculative, and withexistences, by whose operation it is produced. out application to any practical conclusion. It is impossible, therefore, to bring any evi- The sceptics do not deny that they remember dence for the existence of material objects; like other people, and, consequently, that they and the belief which is admitted to be in- have an indestructible belief in past events or separable from the act of perception, can existences. All the question is about the origin, never be received as such evidence. The or the justice of this belief;—whether it arise whole question is about the grounds of this from such events having actually happened belief, and not about its existence; and the before, or from some original affection of the phenomena of dreaming and madness prove mind, which is attended with that impression. experimentally, that perception, as character- The argument, as commonly stated by the ised by belief, may exist where there is no sceptics, leads only to a negative or sceptical external object. Dr. Beattie answers, after conclusion. It amounts only to this, that the Dr. Reid, that the mere existence of this in- present sensation, which we call memory, stinctive and indestructible belief in the re-affords no conclusive evidence of past existence ality of external objects, is a complete and and that for any thing that can be proved to sufficient proof of their reality; that nature the contrary, nothing of what we remember meant us to be satisfied with it; and that we may have existed. We think this undeniably cannot call it in question, without running into true; and so we believe did Dr. Beattie. He the greatest absurdity.
thought it also very useless; and there, too,