Images de page


surround him with a panorama of illusive and imaginary appearances, would seem to be beneath both truth and goodness.

Admitting, therefore, the existence of the material world without further remarks on the subject, we come to a FOURTH PRIMARY TRUTH, which will be found to enter very extensively into all our investigations concerning the mind.

§. 18. Confidence is to be reposed in the memory.

When we say, that confidence is to be reposed in the memory, it is not meant to be asserted, that we are liable to no mistakes from that source. It is merely meant, that when we are satisfied, that our memory fully and correctly retains any perceptions of whatever kind of a former period, we receive such remembrances with as much confidence and act upon them as readily, as if the original perceptions were now present to the mind. Without this confidence in the memory we could hardly sustain an existence; we certainly could not derive any thing in aid of that existence from the experience of the past.

Our past life has been a series of sensations or of different states of the mind, following each other in rapid and almost unbroken succession.

But if we are asked in what way we are able to connect the past states of the mind with the present, and to make our former sensations a part of the sum of our knowledge now; all the answer, which can be given to these inquiries, is, that, in the original designation of those principles, which were selected for the composition of our intellectual being, we are so constituted as to place a perfect reliance on the reports of that mental operation, which we term the memory; and this statement is equally satisfactory and the only satisfactory account, whether we consider the memory a simple or a complex exercise of the mind. There is one more of those principles, which are justly considered primary and original, to be mentioned. It is this.

§. 19. Man is so constituted, as to be susceptible of a variety of emotions.

This characteristick in our constitution will be the better understood by being briefly illustrated.

We behold certain appearances in the external, material world; for instance, a sloping hill, fields waving with verdure, with the accompaniments of brooks and forest. This combination of natural scenery is presented before the mind; and this presentation of it to the intellectual principle is immediately succeeded by an EMOTION OF Beauty.

We are subsequently removed from this pleasing combination of natural scenery to the brow of some rugged precipice. Beneath us are giant oaks, which toss their hundred arms, and desert caves, from whose mysterious bosoms the hollow winds sigh responsive to the more awful voice of the torrent. When such a combination of the works of nature is held up to the soul's inspection, it is immediately followed, as in the case already mentioned, by an emotion; and we term it, by way of distinction from other states of the mind, an EMOTION OF SUBLIMITY.

Other emotions are excited, when different combinations of natural objects are beheld, which will vary also with differences in the situation and circumstances of the beholder.

But this is a principle, which extends in its application not only to those inanimate works, by which we are surrounded, but to human actions also.

Any actions of our fellow beings, when beheld by us, are immediately connected in the mind with certain emotions, which exist in consequence of the previous existence of those actions. Those actions, which discover jus→ tice, beneficence, and propriety, are in general followed by pleasure and approbation. Other actions of an opposite character are attended with pain and disapprobation.

Hence it may be laid down as a principle of our mental constitution, that certain emotions follow the exhibition of objects or actions to the mind, much the same as vision follows the opening of the eyelids, or that sounds

will be produced, when the vibrations of the air reach the organ of hearing.

No reason whatever can be given, why any combination of objects or of actions, why any exhibition of purpose or of power, causes a new state of mind of that class termed emotions any more, than actions and objects, purposes and powers utterly unknown to us, except it be this, that a susceptibility of emotions is one of the constituent and original characteristicks of the intellectual principle.


With these admitted principles in view, which seem to spring up before us from our very nature and to claim our undoubting assent, the philosophy of the mind at once assumes an interest, which it could not otherwise possess. ceases, at least in a great measure, to be charged with that vagueness, and uncertainty, and spirit of trifling, which have hitherto been brought against it.

§. 20. Admission of preliminary truths agreeable to right feelings towards the Supreme Being.

When we consider, how short-sighted we are, it was to be expected, that we should find ourselves in the onset, under the necessity of taking certain principles for granted, as the conditions and auxiliaries of our subsequent inquiries.

If we are under the necessity of taking for granted these preliminary or primary truths, which have been mentioned, in all our investigations, which, we have seen to be the case, we may well say, that we find them agreeable to fact; and we ought, therefore, to find the fact accordant with our feelings, and not to complain of it.

Not to be satisfied with such views and such admissions, when we puzzle ourselves in vain to get rid of them, may justly be thought to indicate an unhappy perversity in the moral disposition, and is a sort of complaint against God himself. To undertake to explain every thing, independently of the creating power, and without a careful regard to those ultimate principles, which that creating power has ordained, betrays at least an ignorance of our limit

ed ability, and, if it should not impeach one's piety, is an indication of weakness. If to know what our Creator has done be the part of philosophy, to acknowledge and revere him in his doings seems to be the part of religion; and he, who is not in some degree possessed of the latter, wants that state of mind, which would be an essential aid to him in the investigations of the former. Since it is true, whereever we go, wherever we push our inquiries, whether in regard to mind or matter, we find, in the result of those inquiries, Him, who has given to us whatever capacity of knowledge we may possess, saying to men, as he does to the expanse of the ocean, "there shall thy proud waves be stayd."



§. 21. On classifications of our intellectual


Ir is a matter of convenience and helps to the more ready understanding and recollection of these subjects, to class together and to assign a name to certain intellectual operations or to combinations of them of the same kind. To certain operations of the mind of one sort we give the name, PERCEPTION; while operations of another kind, differing from perception and also from each other, are designated by the terms, memory, imagination, &c.

But it is not necessary to our purpose to attempt any classification more general than this, what may be termed a partitioning of the states or affections of the mind, as, for instance, in the old division of the understanding and will.

The classification of certain operations of the same sort under the names, PERCEPTION, MEMORY, IMAGINATION, &c. is only a subordinate division; one which, if it be not clearly made, is at least suggested, by nature; and is very

different from that of assigning a distinctive, general name to a number of operations, essentially differing from each other, with the intention of having them considered an entirely separate fraternity. Some remarks further may be made to justify us in not attempting those more general classifications, which have been formerly proposed.

§. 22. Of the classification into understanding and will.

The operations of the mind have formerly been divided and classed under the two general names of the understanding and will.

Under the will seems to have been included that abili. ty, in whatever way it might exhibit itself, which was supposed to be necessary in bringing the mental constitution to action; it was the mind's operative and controlling principle; something which moved and governed it. Agreeably, then, to this division, we find, on the one hand, the will, and, on the other, as its opposite, was the understanding. To determine, however, what operations belonged to the one and what belonged to the other, was by no means a matter well settled, but of great contention; and a zeal in this particular was exhibited similar to that, when rival powers strive for the annexation of a disputed province to their respective empires. But of what benefit was this general classification it is now difficult to say, and it has at last fallen into comparative discredit.

§. 23. Of the classification into active and intellectual


Another general classsification of the powers of the mind was this, into the intellectual and the active powers.

Under the intellectual, were comprehended perception, memory, judgment, reasoning, abstraction, &c.; under the active powers, volition, and a variety of emotions, such as pleasure, pain, aversion. This classification, excepting the difference of names, was very similar to the one above mentioned. But, very evidently, positive or active power must be implied in some of the operations termed intellectual,

« PrécédentContinuer »