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It is not more absurd to command a human being to invest his external sensations with space, than to command him to listen to sounds which are ever speaking to his heart, and from which it is impossible for him, in any situation, to withhold his attention. If any new duty could be taught by it, a maxim might be of value. But duty can receive no addition, since it is wholly independent of experience. It cannot be taught; for we teach only that which can be known: and duty is merely felt.
If, however, maxims be of importance, the negative part of the first should certainly have been omitted : for, though it be perhaps better, upon the whole, that we should consider every thinking being as an end in himself, so far as not to injure him for the good of another, there are innumerable situations in common life in which an individual may be employed, without injury, but at the same time without reference to himself, for the good of a third person. Even where himself is the great object, it is surely no want of virtue to consider him also as a mean, in the good which our action, with respect to him, may produce to others. The beautiful progression of good, by which a virtuous action is diffused in its effects over a multitude of unknown beings, is at once a delightful contemplation and a powerful excitement to the benevolent mind. Had the first liberators of an injured country, if we may be allowed to take a melancholy example from the recent events of our own time, foreseen a period of future invasion of its rights, and trusted, in rousing their little band, that their example might, after many ages, inspirit their descendants to a similar resistance of oppression; we surely cannot think that their zeal would have been less ardent, or that, as an object of our interest, it would excite feelings of less virtuous sublimity.
The second maxim, when stripped of the mysterious majesty of its terms, is only the common doctrine of utility ; but with an expression so very complicated and artificial that it loses all the effect of a proverb, for which alone such maxims are valuable. An universal law of nature is not an object apprehensible by the multitude. It might have been more simply, and therefore better stated,-Do that which it would be of advantage, upon the whole, that every one should in a similar situation imitate. Even this, however, is without that quick-felt application to self, which is of such power in the proverbial Christian maxim, and which inuch more than compensates the cases to which that maxim is inapplicable.
The belief of the reality of a future state forms a very inconsistent part of a theory which denies the actual succession of time : nor, omitting this fundamental objection, do we understand the poetry with which the state of future being is described. The mind cannot quit the phenomenal world, unless it cease to exist with all its necessary and independent forms. Though around it (for we have yet no noumenal language) be a system of things in themselves, there is a subject, as well as objects, and this subject cannot fail to modify the external influences. Our knowledge of external things must be combined, as at present, of objective and subjective elements; and the world may change its laws, but in all its changes it must to us be phenomenal.
In reviewing the Transcendental theism, we own that it is very difficult for us to restrain that feeling of the ludicrous, which, on a system so respectable , in its celebrity at least, we are unwilling to indulge. An absolute unity, which is neither one, nor more than one, a creator of all things without causation or priority, a judge of the past without succession of
time, a being who does not exist, * are so utierly inconceivable by us, that if theism depend on the conception of them, we must overcome the strongest reluctance of our nature, and be atheists, when the most delightful of our feelings has ceased to be possible.
The animadversions we have made on the Transcendental theory have, we trust, justified our assertion, that its originality consists merely in inlermingling, as parts of one system, without regard to its general harmony, the practical belief which the sceptic has always feli, with the tenets which he speculatively avows. The critical philosophy has not connected these discordant opinions ; it has merely placed them together; and, when tbus exhibited, we do not feel more strongly the possibility of their coalescence. It is acknowledged by M. Villers, that Kant is thoroughly acquainted with the metaphysical writings of every country in Europe; and we think we trace in him a peculiar acquaintance with those of our own language. The egotism of Berkeley and Hume is largely incorporated in his system, and combined with the opposing tenets of the school of Dr. Reid. If, to the common sense of that school, we add the innate susceptibilities of Leibnitz, and the denial by Hume of necessary connexion in causation, and of the reality of external perception, we bring before us the theory of cognition of Kant. But the force of common sense, and of the distinction of innate ideas, is invalidated by the denial of the reality of our external knowledge; and the denial of the reality of our perception of objects in space, is invalidated by the adoption of the principle of common sense. +
ON REID'S SYSTEM OF PHILOSOPHY, AND DUGALD
STEWART'S ELUCIDATION OF IT.
In proceeding to the consideration of Mr. Stewart's observations on the spirit and scope of Dr. Reid's philosophy, we feel ourselves divided between a suspicion of the author's partiality to the memory and the tenets of his venerable instructor, and an upfeigned deference and respect for every thing that Mr. Stewart may deliver upon a subject which he has studied so profoundly. We hope that no one will suspect us of any design to insinuate that Mr. Stewart has represented the doctrines of Dr. Reid in any other light than that in which they really appeared to him : but it is not always easy to point out the imperfections of a system to which the mind has been long habituated ; and in criticising the works of a departed friend, we neither expect nor wish for that severe impartiality which may be exacted as a duty from a stranger. Although it is impossible, therefore, to entertain greater respect for any names than we do for those that are united in the title of this work, we must be permitted to say, that there are several things with which we cannot agree, both in the system of Dr. Reid, and in Mr. Stewart's elucidation and defence of it.
* M. Villers adds, in a note, as if astonished at the fact, that it was for denying the existence of God that Fichte was declared an atheist by the theologians of Dresden. P. 341.
t. This able review of the Philosophy of Kant was written by Dr. Browu, late Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh. Several other valuable articles were contributed to the early Numbers of the E. Review by ihat eminent metaphysician; amongst others may be mentioned a severe critique, in Vol. ii. p. 147., on the work of Villers upon the subject of Phrenology a science to the doctrines of which Dr. Brown, in the latter part of his life, became more favourable. I have transcribed some interesting particulars of Dr. Brown's short-lived connexion with the E. Review, from the account of his Life and Writings, edited by the Rev. David Welsh; a production in which the impartiality of the biographer is no less conspicuous than the sincerity and gratitude of the friend. See Appendix.
Account of the Life and Writings of Thomas Reid, D.D., F.R.S. Edinburgh, late Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow. By Dugald Stewart, F.R.S. Edinburgh. Read at different Meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Svo, p. 225. Edinburgh and London, 1803.-Vol. iii. page 272. January, 1503.
The present section begins with a remark, the justice of which we are not at all disposed to controvert, that the distinguishing feature of Dr. Reid's philosophy is the systematical steadiness with which he has adhered to the course of correct observation, and the admirable self-command by which he has confined himself to the clear statement of the facts he has collected.' Mr. Stewart, however, follows up this observation with a warm encomium on the inductive philosophy of Lord Bacon, and a copious and eloquent exposition of the incalculable utility and advantage that may be expected from applying to the science of mind those sound rules of experimental philosophy that have undoubtedly guided us to all the splendid improvements in modern physics. From the time, indeed, that Mr. Hume published his treatise of human nature, down to the latest speculations of Condorcet and Mr. Stewart, we have observed this to be a favourite topic with all melaphysical writers, and that those who have differed in almost every thing else have agreed in magnifying the importance of such enquiries, and in predicting the approach of some striking improvement in the manner of conducting them.*
Now, in these speculations, we cannot help suspecting that those philosophers have been misled in a considerable degree by a false analogy, and that their zeal for the promotion of their favourile studies has led them to form expectations somewhat sanguine and extravagant, both as to their substantial utility and as to the possibility of their ultimate improvement. In reality, it does not appear to us that any great advancement in our knowledge of the operations of mind is to be expected from any improvement in the plan of investigation, or that the condition of mankind is likely to derive any great benefit from the cultivation of this interesting but abstracted study.
Inductive philosophy, or that which proceeds upon the careful observation of facts, may be applied to two different classes of phenomena. The first are those that can be made the subject of proper experiment, where the substances are actually in our power, and the judgment and artifice of the enquirer can be effectually employed to arrange and combine them in such a way as to disclose their most hidden properties and relations. The other class of phenomena are those that occur in substances that are placed altogether beyond our reach, the order and succession of which we are generally unable to control, and as to which we can do little more than collect and record the laws by which they appear to be governed. These substances are not the subject of experiment, but of observation, and the knowledge we may obtain, by carefully watching their variations, is of a kind that does not directly increase the power which we might otherwise have had over them. It seems evident, however, that it is principally in the former of these departments, or the strict experimental philosophy, that those splendid improvements have been made which have erected so vast a trophy to the prospective genius of Bacon. The astronomy of Sir Isaac Newton is no exception to this general remark : all that mere observation could do to determine the movements of the heavenly bodies, had been accomplished by the star-gazers who preceded him; and the law of gravitation, which he afterwards applied to the planetary system, was first calculated and ascertained by experiments performed upon substances which were entirely at his disposal.
* The opinions maintained in this Essay, on the comparative uniinportance of metaphysical enquiries, elicited a clever reply from Dugald Stewart, in the Preliminary Dissertation to his Philosophical Essays. The Edinburgh Reviewers, in their beautiful critique on that masterly work, took occasion to reiterate their sentiments, and to defend them with that plausibility of argument and felicity of expression which are distinguishing characteristics of the eminent critic to. whom the article has been ascribed. A writer in the Quarterly Review, of first-rate talent, entered the field of controversy, and combated, with consummate skill
, the positions of his northern contemporary, which, he conceived, were calculated to undervalue the importance and to discourage the study of mental science.-See Vol. vi. of the Q. Review, page 5. A part of the article here alluded to is embodied in the Appendix to this volume.
It will scarcely be denied, either, that it is almost exclusively to this department of experiment that Lord Bacon has directed the attention of his followers. His fundamental maxim is, that knowledge is power; and the great problem which he constantly aims at resolving is, in what manner the nature of any substance or quality may, by experiment, be so detected and ascertained as to enable us to manage it at our pleasure. The greater part of the Novum Organum accordingly is taken up with rules and examples for contriving and conducting experiments; and the chief advantage which he seems to have expected from the progress of these enquiries appears to be centred in the enlargement of man's dominion over the material universe which he inhabits. To the mere observer, therefore, his laws of philosophising, except where they are prohibitory laws, have but little application; and to such an enquirer, the rewards of his philosophy scarcely appear lo have been promised. It is evident, indeed, that no direct utility can result from the most accurate observation of occurrences which we cannot control; and that for the uses to which such observation may afterwards be turned we are indebted, not so much to the observer, as to the person who discovered the application. It also appears to be prelty evident that, in the art of observation itself, no very great or sundamental improvement can be expected. Vigilance and attention are all that can ever be required in an observer; and though a talent for methodical arrangement may facilitate to others the study of the facts that have been collected, it does not appear how our knowledge of these facts can be increased by any new method of describing them. Facts that we are unable to modify or direct, in short, can only be the objects of observation; and observation can only inform us that they exist, and that their succession appears to be governed by certain general laws.
In the proper experimental phylosophy, every acquisition of knowledge is an increase of power; because the knowledge is necessarily derived from some intentional disposition of materials which we may always command in the same manner. In the philosophy of observation, it is merely a gratification of our curiosity. By experiment, too, we generally acquire a prelly correct knowledge of the causes of the phenomena we produce, as we ourselves distribute and arrange the circumstances upon which they depend; while in matters of mere observation, the assigment of causes must always be in a good degree conjectural, inasmuch as we have no means of seperating the preceding phenomena, or deciding, otherwise than by analogy, to which of them the succeeding event is to be attributed.
Now, it appears to us to be pretty evident that the phenomena of the human mind are almost all of the latter description. We feel, and perceive, and remember, without any purpose or contrivance of ours, and have evidently no power over the mechanism by which those functions are performed. We may observe and distinguish those operations of mind, indeed, with more or less attention or exactness; but we cannot subject them to experiment, nor alter their nature by any process of investigation. cannot decompose our perceptions in a crucible, nor divide our sensations with a prism; nor can we, by art and contrivance, produce any combination of thoughts or emotions, besides those with which all men have been provided by nature. No metaphysician expects by analysis to discover a new power, or to excite a new sensation in the mind, as a chemist discovers a new earth or a new metal; nor can he hope, by any process of synthesis, to exhibit a mental combination different from any that nature has produced in the minds of other persons. The science of metaphysics, therefore, depends upon observation, and not upon experiment; and all reasonings upon mind proceed accordingly upon a reference to that general observation which all men are supposed to have made, and not to any particular experiments which are known only to the inventor. The province of philosophy in this department, therefore, is the province of observation only; and in this department, the greater part of that code of laws which Bacon has provided for the regulation of experimental induction is plainly without authority. In metaphysics, certainly, knowledge is not power; and instead of producing new phenomena to elucidate the old by well contrived and well-conducted experiments, the most diligent enquirer can do no more than register and arrange the appearances, which he can neither account for nor control.
But though our power can in no case be directly increased by the most vigilant and correct observation, our knowledge may often be very greatly extended by it. In the science of mind, however, we are inclined to suspect that this is not the case. From the very nature of the subject, it seems necessarily to follow, that all men must be practically familiar with all the functions and qualities of their minds, and with almost all the laws by which they appear to be governed. Every one knows exactly what it is to perceive and to feel, to remember, imagine, and believe ; and though he may not always apply the words that denote these operations with perfect propriety, it is not possible to suppose that any one is ignorant of the ihings. Even those laws of thought, or connexions of mental operation, that are not so commonly stated in words, appear to be universally known, and are found to regulate the practice of those who never thought of enouncing them in an abstract proposition. A man who never heard it asserted that memory depends upon attention , yet attends with uncommon care to any thing that he wishes to remember; and accounts for his forgetfulness, by acknowledging that he had paid no attention. A groom, who never heard of the association of ideas, feeds the young war-horse to the sound of a drum; and the unphilosophical artists that tame elephants and train dancing dogs, proceed upon the same obvious and admitted principle. The truth is, that as we only know the existence of mind by the exercise of its functions according to certain laws, it is impossible that anyone should ever discover or bring to light any functions or any laws of which men would admit the existence, unless they were previously convinced of their operations on themselves. A philosopher may be the first to state these laws, and to describe their operation distinctly in words; but men must be already familiarly acquainted with them in reality before they can assent to the justice of his descriptions.