Page images
PDF

some object of thought, that we should be ready to suppose nothing but opposition to a pre-formed hypothesis could lead a person to doubt, whether in such cases the muscular action excited the consciousness. Such an immense variety of muscular actions are continually taking place, in cases in which volition was once concerned, without in any way whatever attracting the notice of the mind, and this is so obvious a fact, and so satisfactorily accounted for by Hartley, that, however plausible the counter-considerations of the great northern philosopher, Dugald Stewart, (see Elements, chap. ii.) we cannot suppose that they can gain admission where the principle of association is thoroughly understood. 13. If this distinction between sensible and ideal changes, and sensations and ideas, be just ; or rather, if the existence of sensorial changes, without consciousness, be admitted (and we more and more feel satisfied that it is a fact, and if so, a very important one in our mental frame), then the four preceding faculties, or capacities of the mind, are to be referred to the sensorium, and are, in reality, the properties or powers of the mental organs. We feel disposed to admit, that the sensorium ; the medullary substance of the brain; but we beg our readers to bear in mind, that what we have advanced is entirely independent of this opinion, and that indeed it is rather clogged by it. We use the term sensorium and mental organs, because, in our opinion, they tend to give greater distinctness to our reflections on what passes within us; but it is with no view to decide, whether they are material or immaterial. Consciousness, or the percipient faculty, we consider as a distinct faculty from those already mentioned; it is the faculty or capacity by which the mind is affected by sensorial changes, whether sensible, ideal, or motory. Consciousness is, in fact, the notice of the mind itself; and the term is applied to that state, with which every sensorial change which excites the notice of the mind is attended. When the consciousness is continued, either on a particular object, or on a particular succession of objects, whether or not that continuance is caused by volition, the state of the mind is called attention. It is by consciousness alone that we have any knowledge of the other powers of the mind; and when directed to their operations, the appellation is peculiarly appropriate. When it is excited by sensible changes, it is usu

ally called perception; consciousness referring to the operations of the mind as such; perception, to them as produced by external objects. (For an account of perceptions as distinct from sensations, see SENSAtion.) We are conscious of ideas and sensations; we perceive the external objects which produce impressions on the external organs. When the consciousness is suspended, as it often is, during sleep, &c. the ever active mechanism of the mental organs proceeds; in such cases, its operations sometimes excite the consciousness ; otherwise we know of their existence only by their effects. On the other hand, consciousness necessarily implies sensorial changes; for to speak of the consciousness of nothing is an absurdity.

I. Of The SENSITIVE POWER.

14. For a consideration of the leading facts respecting this faculty, we beg our readers to consult in this place the following articles, in their order; viz. SEN'sATio N, SIGHT, SMELL, Soux D or HEARING, TAstE, and Touch. In the first will be found a brief account of the physical organ of sensation and motion.

II. or The RETENTIVE POWER.

15. Respecting this faculty, see the article RETENTION, where will also be found a few notices respecting ocular 'spectra.

III. OF THE ASSOCIATIVE POWER.

16. This principle, if not the sole cause of all our mental phenomena, except the original production of sensorial changes and tendencies to them, has some effect in the origin and modification of all of them. It is owing to this important principle, that sensations become the signs of thoughts and feelings, by which means man becomes a social being ; that the whole mental furniture of perceptions, notions, affections, passions, sentiments, emotions, &c. is formed from the simple relics of sensation; that man from mere sensation rises to intellect; that he becomes capable of reflection, of action. In short, whatever mental operation we attend to, except at the very earliest period of mental culture, we find association the cause of its production, or intimately concerned in it.

17. The fact of the connection which exists between many of our sensorial changes has been long known; but it has

generally been referred to the memory. Mr. Locke appears to have been the first who employed the principle of association to account for aberrations of judgment and feeling, and for customary connections of ideas; but he does not seem to have been at all aware, that all our ideas, except those which are produced by mere repetitions of uncompounded sensible changes (i. e. ideas of sensation, or simple ideas, $8.) are in reality formed by the influence of the same principle; that all our affections, and our mental pleasures and pains, are nothing more that the relics of sensation variously combined by association.—It seems that Mr. Gay, a clergyman in the west of England, was the first who endeavoured to show the possibility of deducing all our passions and affections from association: his observations on this subject, however, as Dr. Priestley observes, amount to little more than conjecture. These, however, led Dr. Hartley to direct his thoughts to the subject; and by an union of talents in moral science, in natural philosophy, and in a professional knowledge of the human frame, with a mind unobscured by selfish tendencies, he was enabled to bring into one extensive system the progress of the mind, from its first rudiments of sensation, through the maze of complex ideas and affections, to show how man rises from sensation to intellect. “After giving the closest attention to the subject in a course of several years, it appeared to him very probable, not only that all our intellectual pleasures and pains, but that all the phenomena of Inemory, imagination, volition, reasoning, and every other mental affection and operation, are only different modes or cases of the association of ideas” (more generally of sensorial changes); “so that nothing is requisite to make any man whatever he is, but a sentient principle, with this single property, which however admits of great variety, and the influence of such circumstances as he has actually been exposed to.” His great work was begun when he was about twenty-five years of age; it was published in the beginning of 1749, when he was little more than forty-three years of age. He lived nine years after, but he left it without any change; and he does not appear to have written any additional paper on the subject.—As Dr. H. expected, his work remained for a considerable time unnoticed. Tucker (A. Search) was obviously acquainted with it, and owed much to it; but he seldom speaks of Hartley, except

respecting his hypothesis of vibrations. Dr. Priestley had the merit of bringing Hartley’s system forward to the public notice; and the celebrity which he had acquired among different classes of the philosophic world attracted the attention of thinking people to the doctrine of association. About thirty years after the publication of the original work, he published an abridgement of it; in which he left out the deductions from the principal theory respecting the rule of life, the truth of Christianity, &c. and as much as he could of the hypothesis of vibrations. Since that time the system of Hartley has been rapidly gaining ground in South Britain; and it is now, probably, pretty generally adopted by those who think closely on the subject. In North Britain, owing partly to theological and metaphysical prepossessions, still more perhaps to Dr. Priestley’s rough and unjustifiably severe attack upon three of the Scotch philosophers, whose mental and moral characterranked high among their countrymen, the principles of Hartley have made but little progress. The philosophical systems of Scotland have been somewhat modified by it; but those who rank the highest seem little inclined to admit it in its full extent. However, the writings of Dugald Stewart show that he has done something towards clearing the way, and the Glasgow Professor of Moral Philosophy in his lectures does more; and there is reason to hope, that when the present generation has passed away, the true principles of mental science will gain a firm. hold there, as well as in South Britain. We ardently wish the extensive adoption of the Hartleyan system, because, while it satisfactorily explains the causes of our mental phenomena, it furnishes the best guide in the moral and mental culture of the mind. 18. We have already stated, that the associative power has two grand modes of operation, connection and composition: it is not easy to keep them distinct; but in many cases it is practicable, and often tends to precision in our reflections and reasonings. In what we shall advance respecting the operations of this power, we shall keep this distinction somewhat in view. We shall state, first, the classes of connections which exist among our sensorial changes; and, secondly, some of the principal laws of connections: we shall then proceed to detail some of the leading facts relative to compositions, and the formation of our compound notions and feelings. It would be most strictly philosophical to begin with compositions, because connections are formed not only among simple sensorial changes, but among those also which are compounded; in other words, not only among sensations, simple ideas, and single muscular actions, but also among those which have been blended together into complex states; and we shall sometimes have occasion, in what we state as to connections, to suppose such compositions actually formed. On the other hand, connections are much more obvious and more easily comprehended than compositions; and a statement of some facts respecting the former will lead to an easier acquaintance with the latter. 19. “That one thought is suggested to the mind by another,” says the elegant and philosophic Stewart, “ and that the sight of an external object often recals former occurrences and revives former feelings, are facts which are perfectly familiar, even to those who are least disposed to speculate concerning the principles of their nature. In passing along a road which we have formerly travelled in the company of a friend, the particulars of the conversation in which we were then engaged are frequently suggested to us by the objects we meet with. In such a scene we recollect that such a particular subject was started; and in passing the different houses, and plantations, and rivers, the arguments we were discussing when we last saw them, recur spontaneously to the memory.— The connection which is formed in the mind between the words of a language and the ideas they denote; the connection which is formed between different words of a discourse which we have committed to memory; and the connection between the different notes of a piece of music in the mind of a musician, are all obvious instances of the same general law of our nature.—The influence of sensible objects, in reviving former thoughts and former feelings, is more particularly remarkable. After time has in some degree reconciled us to the loss of a friend, how wonderfully are we affected the first time we enter the house where he lived. Every thing we see, the apartment where he studied, the chair upon which he sat, recal to us the happiness we enjoyed together, and we should feel it a sort of violation of that respect which we owe to his memory, to engage in any light or indifferent discourse when such objects are before us.”—So, again, every one must have noticed the connections which exist

between our thoughts or sensations and muscular actions. A performer looks at the notes of his book, and the appropriate motions of his hands and fingers follow with immediate succession. While we are writing, the thoughts we wish to communicate suggest the appropriate words, and these, with an almost instantaneous succession of motions, are written on the paper before us. We are, perhaps, more struck with this in writing short-hand than long; the characters appear as the representatives of the thoughts of our mind, almost without knowing how they are made. 20. All these facts are obviously nothing else than cases of those connections, which are formed by the operation of the associative power among our sensorial changes; in other words, among our sensible, ideal, and motory changes; in other words again, but less generally, among our sensations, ideas, and motory changes.—We should prefer employing, in what follows, the terms sensible changes and ideal changes, rather than the terms sensations, and ideas, because these imply consciousness, which we have before stated is not necessarily excited by the operations of the sensitive and associative powers; we shall however, content ourselves with requesting the reader to bear in mind, that whatever may be said respecting connections among sensations and ideas, might be stated more generally respecting connections among sensible and ideal changes. Whatever the sensorium be, or whatever be those changes of it which excite the consciousness, it is among those changes, that is, among the sensorial changes, that connections and compositions take place.

CLASSES OF CONNECTIONS.

First: a sensation may be associated with other sensations, ideas, and motory changes.

21. A sensation, after having been associated a sufficient number of times with another sensation, will, when impressed alone, excite the simple idea ($8.), corresponding with that other sensation.— Thus the names, smells, tastes, &c. of external objects, suggest the idea of their visible appearance; and the sight of them suggests their names, &c. In the same manner, a word half pronounced excites the idea of the whole word; the mention of the letters a, b, suggests the idea, of c, d, &c.; the sight of part of an object suggests the idea of the whole;

and the sight of one object recals the visual idea of other objects which have been uniformly or very frequently seen with it.—Innumerable other instances might be given with little trouble, but we shall mention only one other, which may assist some of our readers in accounting for certain cases of apparitions. L. was one day hastily passing by a room in which a very excellent friend had usually sat in a particular chair, and in a particular part of the room. His thoughts at the time were employed on some object which did not excite deep attention, and the sight of the chair excited in his mind a vivid visual idea of his friend, as sitting in that chair. The friend had been dead some weeks, and L. involuntarily came back for another vision, but without effect.—Such visual ideas, and similar ideas derived from the other senses, particularly from the hearing, are by Dugald Stewart called conceptions; and where they are vivid and easily excited, they frequently lead those who are inattentive to their sensations to suppose that they actually saw and heard, at a particular time, what they did not then see or hear. 22. Sensations become connected with ideas, so that the repetition of the sensation will excite the connected idea.—Of this case of connections the following will serve as examples. Words associated with ideas will readily excite them, even when very complex: the words hero, philosopher, justice, benevolence, truth, and the like, whether written or pronounced, immediately call up with precision the corresponding idea. The hearing of a particular national tune is said to overpower the Swiss soldier in a foreign land with melancholy and despair; and it is, therefore, forbidden in the armies in which they serve. The sound recals various heartfelt recollections; the idea of the peace, and the freedom of their country, of the home from which they are torn, and to which they may never return. What trains of interesting thought and feeling are usually called up in the mind by the sight of the scenes of early pleasure, where passed those years when novelty gave charms to every sensation, every employment of the faculty; when hope presented no prospects but what were decked in “fancy’s fairy frostwork,” and present joys precluded all regret for the past. 23. Sensations may become connected with muscular action, that is, with those sensorial changes which are followed by muscular action; so that the sensation

will excite the muscular action, without the intervention of that state of mind which is called will.—A person automatically (that is without any volition), turns his head towards another who calls him by his name. When the hand of another is rapidly moved towards the eye, we shut the eye, without thinking about it, or even being conscious of it. When copy. ing from any book, if a person is very familiar with the employment, the appropriate motion of the fingers immediately follows the impression produced by the appearance of the word. In the same manner the visible impression derived from musical notes regulates the motions of the performer. “While I am walking through that grove before my window,” says Darwin, “I do not run against the trees , or the branches, though my thoughts are completely engaged on some other object:” the sensible impression produced by the objects around excite in the sensorium the appropriate connected motory changes, and these the action of certain muscles. Secondly, ideas may be connected with sensations, ideas, or motory motions. 24. An idea, associated a sufficient num ber of times with a sensation, will excite the simple idea belonging to that sensation. —Thus the ideas, whether simple or complex, which have been sufficiently associated with names, excite the ideas of their respective names. Hence it is that . we find ourselves continually thinking in words; that is, the trains of ideas which pass in our minds are accompanied with their corresponding expressions, when those expressions are familiar to us ; and it may be remarked, that the habit of thinking in words is one which contributes greatly to accuracy and facility of thought, and therefore one which the young reasoner will do well to cultivate. —Those who are habituated to reasoning find their trains of reasoning so generally clothed in words, and words so necessary to their intellectual operations, that the words are what they most attend to, and some have even gone so far as to suppose that general reasoning is concerned merely about words, and not about ideas. They seem to lie under a similar error with those, who imagine that the vi sible appearance of objects is all we attend to when we speak of magnitude, shape, &c.; whereas the fact is, that the visible appearance is nothing more than a symbol, which serves to introduce the connected complex idea into the mind, and to keep its parts connected; and this

then is the grand end of words in general reasoning.—We are conscious, while we are thinking, of employing the relics of audible sensations ; we seem to have faint sensations of sounds passing in the sensorium; but it appears probable that those who have long lost the use of their hearing, and have generally employed sight as the inlet of knowledge, have a train of visual, instead of audible conceptions. All, however, which we particularly wish to have noticed here is, that these things afford instances of the connections of ideas with sensations, so that the idea introduces the simple idea belonging to that sensation. 25. Next, an idea associated with an idea, (whether notion or feeling) will excite that idea. Thus the idea of benevolence will excite that of merit; of courage, that of honour; of great talents, that of respect; of cruelty, that of horror; of meanness, that of contempt. 26. Again, an idea associated with a motory change will excite that motory change (and its consequent muscular action).-Thus the desire to perform a particular action will produce the corresponding voluntary motion of the limbs; joy produces a pleasing cast of countenance; fear excites trembling ; and horror distortion. In the same manner, when we are employed in committing our thoughts to writing, the idea of the words which we intend to commit to paper, if the character be not peculiar, or novel, will immediately suggest and be followed by the appropriate motion of the fingers, and this without the intervention of volition, sometimes without even the consciousness of the motory changes, or of the muscular actions produced by them. So also in speaking, unless some difficult pronunciation occur, the muscular actions requisite for the formation of the sounds follow immediately the conception of the words, without the intervention of the will. Thirdly, motory changes (and their correspondent muscular actions) may be connected with sensations, ideas, and other motory changes (and their correspondent muscular actions). 27. Muscular actions may be associated with sensations; that is, when muscular actions have been sufficiently long associated with sensations, the repetition of the muscular action alone will excite the simple idea belonging to that sensation. Thus the action of dancing will bring to mind the conception of the mu

sic with which it has been often accornpanied. Again, children often accustom themselves to particular motions of the limbs, while committing to memory, or while repeating what they have learnt; and those muscular actions, in many instances, become necessary to their correct and ready recollection, and even to their recollection at all. Addison, says Miss Edgeworth, represents with much humour the case of a poor man, who had the habit of twirling a bit of thread round his finger; the thread was accidentally broken, and the orator stood mute. 28. So again muscular actions may be associated with ideas; that is, when muscular actions have been sufficiently long associated with ideas, those muscular actions will excite those ideas: thus dancing will introduce cheerfulness into the mind. So particular muscular actions have, from habitual connection, a tendency to excite certain trains of thought, or states of mind : those who have been accustomed to one posture, while studying, find it difficult to study so well in any other posture; and persons who, while engaged in deep meditation, have been accustomed to any little motions of body, find the continuance of those motions requisite for the continuance of their abstraction of mind. It is upon the same principle that certain postures of body have a tendency to produce those feelings, which all should have when addressing the Supreme Being.—The cases, however, in which muscular action introduces ideas, either simple or compound, are much less numerous than those in which sensations and ideas introduce muscular actions. In fact it is not the usual order of association; and, besides, it is sometimes very difficult to say what effect is produced by the muscular action itself, and what by the sensations which generally accompany muscular action. In the next case the point is clearer. 29. Muscular actions become connected with other muscular actions (that is, the motory changes which produce the one with those which produce the other), so that the former may introduce the latter without the intervention of the will. —If different muscular actions are produced together, they are called synchronous; if one immediately follows the other, they are called successive, and the association is in like manner termed synchronous or successive.—The motions of the hands when a person is playing upon

« PreviousContinue »