Page images
PDF
EPUB

quite as difficult as Aristotle, perhaps more so, because he is at the same time more imaginative and less scientific. Dr. Hickok is difficult of comprehension, partly from the affectations of his style, a compound of Chalmers, Carlyle, and the Germans; partly because he has invented a terminology peculiar (so far as we know) to himself, which runs throughout his work, and seriously interferes with its intelligibility; partly from peculiarities of construction which it is difficult to characterise. But in regard to terminology, he is not altogether alone. There seems to be scarcely any writer who is tempted into metaphysics, who does not introduce some peculiar terminology ; and since German metaphysics have been studied in this country, the phraseology of our own writers has derived a tincture from theirs. Sir W. Hamilton, indeed, had surpassed all previous writers in that respect; for he introduced a whole vocabulary of new words and phrases, which have to be duly learnt and pondered, before it is possible to comprehend his subtle argumentation; such as cognizing,' concepts, representative objects,' ' natural and hypothetical Realism and Dualism,' and • cosmothetic Idealism.' But Dr. Hickok goes beyond this. He treats of subjective ideas' and objective laws, contents in the sense,' 'void thoughts,' pure intuitions and empirical intuitions,' representation-forces,' reason-conceptions and

understanding-conceptions,' periods to be constructed and filled with some phenomenal content;' or, without employing a single unusual word, he tells us that, all possible pure objects must be conjoined in the intellect in the primitive intuition, under the unity of self-consciousness.'

But, with all this pedantry, the work of Dr. Hickok is deserving the attention of those who study subjects of this description, if it were only for its undertaking the difficult task of founding what he calls a Rational Psychology,' i. e. of establishing a doctrine or science of the human mind upon à priori principles, and thus giving a death-blow to all Idealism, Materialism, and Scepticism,'or, as he (being an American) prefers to call it, 'Skepticism. Whether he has succeeded or not, the attempt is worthy of notice and attention, as showing the revival of ancient ideas and ancient modes of thinking in our own days, of which this is not a solitary instance; Gioberti's views being precisely in the same direction, although far from being as definite and as well sustained as Dr. Hickok's. In referring to ancient modes of thinking, we are alluding more particularly to such as for a long period obtained a command over the general philosophical mind; for indeed it is curious to remark how all modern metaphysics have been a revival of the ancient; when there has scarcely been a modern hypothesis which had not been in substance anticipated in very early days. Thus Hegel's doctrine, that the Absolute Intelligence or • Mind is in itself both the infinite substance of all natural and

spiritual life, and the infinite form, the active exterioration of • this substance,' is but a modification of the original Pantheism of Xenophanes, which made all existing things parts or developments of Deity. His doctrine that all things are never stationary, but fluxional and subject to incessant change,' dates as far back as Heraclitus. The doctrine that human knowledge is an emanation of the Deity, directly communicated to the minds of men, taken up by Leibnitz, Malebranche, Gioberti, and others, may be traced likewise to Heraclitus. The theory of Locke and his disciples, that all knowledge comes through sensation, was anticipated by Democritus, when he said that ' all truth is that which appears to the mind by means of sensation.' Condillac's extension of this view to the assertion that all mental operations are but transformed sensations, is nearly identical with the declaration of Democritus, that opovnois (intellectual perception) is nothing more than aio Onois (sensation). The absolute uncertainty of all knowledge, which legitimately follows from the doctrine of Democritus, and was developed by Gorgias, is nearly identical with that of Hume. And the doctrine of Protagoras, that all thought consists in the relation of the thinking mind to the thing thought of,' and therefore that man himself is the standard of all things,' may be regarded as the germ, on the one hand, of Kant's doctrine, that space and time are necessary forms of man's mind, which govern and condition his perception of all external objects,—and, on the other, of the doctrines of Berkeley and that developed by Fichte, that all knowledge is purely subjective, and cannot carry us with certainty beyond the states of our mind; unless indeed we trace Berkeley's higher up, to the doctrine of Xenophanes, that 'things which change cannot be said to have any real existence,' or at least to that of Heraclitus, that the knowledge of man, coming for the most part through the senses, is for the most part uncertain, and that the only certain knowledge is that which is communicated by the All-pervading Mind, or that which recognises in phenomena the Universal Life.

But it is time that we return to give an account of Dr. Hickok's attempt to construct an à priori science of Psychology and Ontology, and to examine how far he has been successful.

No one, so far as we are aware, has yet attempted an à priori argument, either in metaphysics or in natural theology, without beginning à posteriori. Lord Brougham pointed this out in regard to the arguments for the being of God; and Dr. Hickok is no exception. He says (p. 109), · It becomes

ne, *86 and to examuct an d mo give an

goushe first à prioriis. is attained by the power of he boundaries

necessary that we attain to a position which transcends all • experience, and in that pure region intelligibly and demon

strably possess ourselves of the conditioning idea, determi'native of how a knowledge in the sense, and in the under

standing, and in the reason respectively, is possible to be.' (This division of the human mind, it will be observed, is analogous to that of Kant.)

The first à priori idea with which he commences is that of space (p. 124). This is attained by looking mentally at any object, and abstracting from it, by the power of the imagination, all its material attributes, leaving only the boundaries which mark its outline. We have thus the void place,' which had been occupied by the qualities now abstracted; and this void place, according to Dr. Hickok, is entirely a creature of the intellect. This may perhaps be doubted; for the outline was received in sensation. However, to proceed: in imagination we remove the limits of this void place; and we have then sa void which is limitless, undefined, unconstructed, unconjoined

into any total, and which is simply a pure intuition of what is • possible for form and content;' i. e. of that in which all possible forms may be constructed, and which may contain anything possible. This is pure space, as given in the intuition.' • Pure space therefore is pure form for any possible phenomenon. This use of the word pure seems to have been adopted by Coleridge from the Germans.

The next à priori idea is that of time; and this is to be attained in a similar way, by taking as an object of contemplation a train of thought as passing in the mind.' The apprehension of the individual thoughts composing this train must necessarily be successive. We begin, then, by abstracting all the thoughts, and leaving only the succession as a void period. The next step is, to abstract the beginning and ending of this period; and then we have remaining only “a diversity of in

stants as possibility for any period to be constructed, and to • be filled with some phenomenal content. This is pure time, s as given in the intuition, immediately beheld as conditional

for all possible phenomena, prior to any period being actually • limited, and necessarily continuing, though all bounded period • be taken away. Pure space and time, then, ' are the pure forms for all possible phenomena, internal and external, and they are necessary and universal conceptions. The proof of this last assertion he rather hints at than draws out.

This, then, is our author's à priori position ; and from this he proceeds to build up gradually the several portions of his system, making his ground sure, as he supposes, at each step of his progress. It is of course impossible for us to do justice to

pure seems tony possiblen tuition

his system in the brief space allotted to a review; but we will endeavour to give such a sketch of it as may enable those at all conversant with the subject to judge in some degree respecting the value of the work itself.

Supposing, then, space and time to exist, but entirely vacant, the intellect cannot conceive of anything existing in them, as 'real form,' without first constructing it. The process of this construction of form in space may be as follows (p. 116):The mind or imagination fixes on a definite point, and from this moves from point to point, and conjoins these points as it proceeds, and thus produces a line; and it is evident that there is nothing to hinder it from proceeding further, either then or by new beginnings, to construct in imagination any possible forms. Thus it is possible to construct all real forms in space, and it is only by some such intellectual agency that they can be constructed.

A similar process effects construction in time. A point may be taken, as before, and an imaginary movement made along a line; and this movement, from point to point, produces a succession of affections in the internal sense, which determines that a time is passing; and when the movement ceases the time ceases. This is wholly an intellectual operation; and by a similar process any time or times may be constructed by the intellect, and by it alone can they be constructed in pure time.

This construction is effected by conjoining and collecting the different points from beginning to end, and uniting them (p. 161). This the intellect accomplishes by continually adding something more to what it begins with; and when the operation is completed, “this unity in the plurality becomes a whole, cutting

itself off from all that is not included in its own circumscrip‘tion, and standing out in the pure intuition as a real form,

definite in its own constructed totality.' Now any construction of form in space, or of period in time, comes under the denomination of quantity; so that the three essential elements of quantity are unity, plurality, and totality,

These, then, are the essentials for the result of the operation which we have been describing; but what are essentials for the intellectual agent? It would be impossible (p. 166) for this agent to produce this unity of different points and instants, if it were itself diverse, and its movement merely a repetition of single acts. It is therefore requisite that it should possess a unity in itself. What, then, is conditional or requisite for this higher unity ? It must be competent to more than single acts, and must continue one during the whole operation; it must perform the operation under the light of consciousness, and that one undivided consciousness; and this consciousness must

[ocr errors]

be the consciousness of one and the same self. If, therefore, we are to conceive of any one form in space, or any one period in time, we must do it by an intellect conscious of it as one operation, and as an operation performed by itself. It follows that these conceptions are those of that self only that forms them, and cannot be communicated to any other self, without some other provision than anything hitherto observed in our processes. It likewise appears that we become conscious of self by conceiving of something other than ourselves.

We have thus seen the possibility of an intellectual conception or construction of definite form and time in ideal space and time, and we have ascertained some conditions of any such construction.

Up to this point we have considered forms and periods as mere intellectual conceptions; we have now to consider them as subjects of what Dr. Hickok denominates empirical intuition;' that is, actual, or experimental, or sensible perception. The next step, therefore, in framing a science of sensation or perception is, to determine the à priori conditions of any such possible actual perception which, when tested by facts, may become established science.

The first point evidently is, that, in order to sensation, there must be what Dr. Hickok calls • content in the sensibility,' i. e. something actually in contact with the sensibility or sensitive faculty. Now this something may have all possible diversity of kind or variety' (p. 185), and it would be all confused sensation without some intellectual agency to distinguish amid the kinds and varieties in sensation. The first operation, therefore, which the intellect performs, is to distinguish that there is some real sensation appearing in the consciousness. The next step is, to distinguish that this or that appearance differs from all other possible appearances, and thus give it particularity. The next is, to find that 'in it which is not in any other reality;' to show, in short, what is peculiar to it. The operation by which we perform this may be called observation, and the complete results which we thus find by distinguishing the phenomena in sensation are called qualities; and thus we ascertain, as a principle, that all qualities possess reality, particularity, and peculiarity, and that they must be distinguished as qualities by these attributes.

These, again, are the essentials for all qualities as objects; but the discriminating agency likewise must have its characteristics. It must possess unity in itself, and it must likewise operate by a united sensibility; and both must be united under one consciousness, pertaining to one self as the subject of them.

But although all qualities must possess these three charac

« PreviousContinue »