Page images

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, ar"i remember, without any

Surpcse or contrivance of ours, and have eviently no powerover 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, or alter their nature by any process of investigation. We 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 mat 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 •nly; 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 wellconducted experiments, the most diligent inquirer 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 alone, 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 ¡snot possible to suppose that any one is ignorant of the things. Even those laws of thought, or connections 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 precise or abstract propositions. 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 forgerfulneee, b}~ 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 art» who tame elephants and tram daricmg dog?, proceed upon the same obvious and adm.::-..' principle. The truth is. that a« we only k.i-.-j the existence of mind by the е.\егс;г« of iu functions according to certain laws, it i* impossible that any one should ever discuvrr: bring to light any functions or any laws of which men would admit the existence, atuve they were previously convinced of their oj- •ation 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.

For these reasons, we cannot help thinking that the labours of the metaphysician, instead of being assimilated to those of the chenu-; or experimental philosopher, might, with lee impropriety, be compared to those of the grjnmarian who arranges into technical order tie words of a language which is spoken facJiarly by all his readers ; or of the artist w ho nhibits to them a correct map of a district with every part of which they were previously acquainted. We acquire a perfect knowlrj;-.1 of our own minds without study or exertion. just as we acquire a perfect knowledeeof voi native language or our native parish: yet we cannot, without much study aud rerlecb'-i compose a grammar of the one, or a map o; the other. To arrange in correct order all the particulars of our practical knowledge, aiui '.. set down, without omission and without d.~ tortion, every thing that we actually k.-io* upon a subject, requires a power of abstraction, recollection, and disposition, that falb r> the lot of but few. In the science oí m¡i' perhaps, more of those qualities are reouir i than in any other; but it is not the lea true of this, than of all the rest, that the materas of the description must always be derived from a previous acquaintance with thf ject—that nothing can be set down technically that was not practically known—and that cc substantial addition is made to our knowleihe by a scientific distribution of it« part;cu!.vAfter such a systematic arrangement has t" •" introduced, and a correct nomenclature applied, we may indeed conceive more clearly, and will certainly describe more justly, inc nature and extent of our information ; but «:' information itself is not really increased, ян: the consciousness bv which we are supp!;''-' with all the materials of our reflection«, .tot« not become more productive, by this di'pf»sition of its contributions.

But though we have been induced in tb,.« way to express our scepticism, both a? to the probable improvement and practical utility of metaphysical speculations, we would by no means be understood as having asscrteii that these studies are absolutely without interest or importance. With regard to Perception, indeed, and some of the other primar; functions of mind, it set-ins now to be admitted, that philosophy can be of no use to us. and that the profoundest reasonings lead us back to the creed, and the ignorance, of the vulgar. As to the laws of Association, howетег, the case is somewhat different. laitances of the application of such laws are indeed familiar to every one, and there are few who do not of themselves arrive at some imperfect conception of their general limits and application: But that they are sooner learned, and may be more steadily and extetiäively applied, when our observations are assisted by the lessons of a judicious instructor, eeeme scarcely to admit of doubt; and though there are no errors of opinion perhaps that may not be corrected without the help of metaphysical principles, it cannot be disputed, that an habitual acquaintance with those principles leads us more directly to the fource of such errors, and enables us more reajily to explain and correct some of the most formidable aberrations of the human understanding. After all, perhaps, the chief value of such speculations will be found to consist in the wholesome exercise which they afford to the faculties, and the delight which is produced by the consciousness of intellectual exertion. Upon this subject, we gladly borrow from Mr. Stewart the following admirable quotations :—

"An author well qualified to judge, from his П'АП experience, of whatever conduces to invigorate or to embellish the understanding, has beautifully remarked, that, 'by turning the soul inward on iiseif, its lorces ore concentrated, and are fitted for stronger and bolder flights of science ; and that, in such pursuits, whether we lake, or whether we !o« the game, the Chase is certainly of service.' b ihw respect, the philosophy of the mind (abstracting entirely from that pre-eminence which belongs to if m conséquence of ¡is practical applications) may claim a dieiinguishod rank among those preparatory disciplines, which another writer of equal lilealB has happily compared to ' the crops which '•e raised, not for the sake of the harvest, but to 1-е ploughed in аз a dressing to the land.'"

pp. 166, 167.

In following out his observations on the »cope and spirit of Dr. Reid's philosophy, Mr. Stewart does not present his readers with any general outline or summary of the peculiar doctrines by which it is principally distinguished. This part of the book indeed apJ»ars to be addressed almost exclusively to those who are in some degree initiated in the studies of which it treats, and consists of a vindication of Dr. Reid's philosophy from the most important objections that had been made tn it by his antagonists. The first is proposed by the materialist, and is directed against the -'aluitous assumption of the existence of mind. To this Mr. Stewart answers with irresistible force, that the philosophy of Dr. Reid has in reality no concern with the theories that may be formed as to the causes of «ur mental operations, but is entirely confined t« the investigation of those phenomena which ire known to us by internal consciousness, înd not by external perception. On the ¡Wry of Materialism itself, he makes some admirable observations: and, after having

stated the perceptible improvement that has lately taken place in the method of considering those intellectual .phenomena, he concludes with the following judicious and eloquent observations:—

"The authors who form the most conspicuous exceptions to this gradual progress, consist chiefly of men, whose errors may be easily accounted for, by the prejudices connected with their circumscribed habits of observation and inquiry ;—of Physiologists, accustomed to attend lo that part alone of the human frame, which the knife 01 the Anatomist can lay open; or of Chemists, who enter on the analysis of Thought, fresh from the decompositions of the laboratory ; carrying into the Theory oi Mind itself (what Bacon expressly calls) 'the smoke and tarnish of the furnace.' Ol the value of such pursuits, none can think more highly than myself; but I must be allowed lo observe, that the most distinguished pre-eminence in them does not necessarily imply a capacity of collected and abstracted reflection ; or an understanding superior to the prejudices of early association, and the illusions of popular language. I will not go so far »s Cicero, when he ascribes to those who possess these advantages, a more lhan ordinary vigour of intellect: 1 .A/aifwi P*' ingcjiii revocare mentem a sensibus, ct fogilalioncm a cansueiudine abductre,' I would only claim for them, the merit of patient and caulious research; and would exact from their antagonists the same qualifications."—pp. HO, 111.

The second great objection that has been made to the doctrines of Dr. Reid, is, that they tend to damp the ardour of philosophical curiosity, by stating as ultimate facts many phenomena which might be resolved into simpler principles; and perplex the science of mind with an unnecessary multitude of internal and unaccountable properties. Аз to the first of these objections, we agree entirely with Mr. Stewart. It is certainly better to damp the ardour of philosophers, by exposing their errors and convincing them of their ignorance, than to gratify it by subscribing to their blunders. It is one step towards a true explanation of any phenomenon, to expose the fallacy of an erroneous one; and though the contemplation of such errors may render us more diffident of our own success, it will probably teach us some lessons that are far from diminishing our chance of obtaining it. But to the charge of multiplying unnecessarily the original and instinctive principles of our nature, Mr. Stewart, we think, has not made by any means so satisfactory an answer. The greater part of what he says indeed upon this subject, is rather an apology for Dr. Reid, than a complete justification of him. In his classification of the active powers, he admits that Dr. Reid has multiplied, without necessity, the number of our original affections; and that, in the other parts of his doctrine, he has manifested a leaning to the same extreme. It would hare been better if he had rested the defence of his author upon those concessions; and upon the general reasoning with which they are very skilfully associated, to prove the superior safety and prudence of a tardiness to eeneralise and assimilate: For, with all our deference for the talents of the author, we find it impossible to agree with him in those particular instances in which he has endeavcured to expose the injustice of the accusation. Alter all tliat Mr. Stewart has said, we can still see no reasou, for admitting a principle of credulity, or a principle of veracity, in human nature; nor can we discover any son of evidence for the existence of an insliuctive power of interpreting natural signs.

Dr. Reid's only reason for maintaining that the belief we commonly give to the testimony of others is not derived from reasoning and experience, is, that this credulity is more apparent and excessive in children, than in those whose experience and reason is mature. Now, to this it seems obvious to answer, that the experience of children, though not extensive, is almost always entirely uniform in favour of the veracity of those about them. There can scarcely be any temptation to utter serious falsehood to an infant; and even if that should happen, they have seldom such a degree of memory or attention as would be necessary for its detection. In all cases, besides, it is admitted that children learn the general rule, before they begin to attend to the exceptions; and it will not be denied that the general rule is, that there is a connection between the assertions of mankind and the realities of which they are speaking. Falsehood is like those irregularities in the construction of a language, which children always overlook for the sake of the general analogy.

The principle of veracity is in the same situation. Men speak and assert, in order to accomplish some purpose: But if they did not generally speak truth, their assertions would answer no purpose at all—not even that of deception. To speak falsehood, too. even if we could suppose it to be done without a motive, requires a certain exercise of imagination and of the inventive faculties, which is not without labour: While truth is suggested spontaneously—not by the principle of veracity, but by our consciousness and memory. Even if we were not rational creatures, therefore, but spoke merely as a consequence of our sensations, we would speak truth much ottener than falsehood ; but being rational, and addressing ourselves to other beings with a view of influencing their conduct or opinions, it follows, as a matter of necessity, that we must almost always speak truth: Even the principle of credulity would not otherwise be sufficient to render it worth while for us to speak at all.

With regard to the principle by which we arc enabled to interpret the natural signs of the passions, and of other connected events, we cannot help entertaining a similar scepticism. There is no evidence, we think, for the existence of such a principle; and all the phenomena may be solved with the help of memory and the association of ideas. The <: inductive principle" is very nearly in the вате predicament; though the full discussion of the argument that might be maintained upon that subject would occupy more room than we can now spare.

After some very excellent observations on the nature and the functions of instinct, Mr. Stewart proceeds to consider, as the last great

objection to Dr. Reid's philosophy, t tendency of his doctrines on the fubjec; 01 common sense, to sanction an appeal from ;r.e decisions of the learned to the voice of tin: multitude. Mr. Stewart, with great canoour. admits that the phrase was unluckily cho^r: and that it has not always been employed w ui perfect accuracy, either by Dr. Keid or ia followers: But he maintains, that the en-alt г part of the truths which Dr. Reid has reiVrr^l to this authority, are in reality originally aaj unaccountably impressed on the human Obderstanding, and are necessarily implies in the greater part of its operations. Thesr. Ь says, may be better denominated, "Fondamental laws of belief;" and he exempiiLr; them by such propositions as the folio«,ц:: "I am the same person to-day that I si¿ yesterday.—The material world has a re»l existence.—The future course of nature м^ resemble the past." We shall have occas.ic. immediately to offer a few observations cc some of those propositions.

With these observations Mr. Stewart cc:.cludes his defence of Dr. Reid's рЫ]<ж pb but we cannot help thinking that there «¿; room for a farther vindication, arid that sod? objections may be stated to the system ¡a question, as formidable as any of those wbi'r. Mr. Stewart has endeavoured to obvíale. We shall allude very shortly to those that appea: the most obvious and important. Dr. Kt.. í great achievement was undoubtedly thi л!version of the Ideal system, or the confutation of that hypothesis which represents the ¡г.mediate objects of the mind in perceplio::.;certain images or pictures of external objects conveyed by the senses to the eensorram. This part of his task, it is now general'.)1 admitted that he has performed with exemplary diligence and complete success: But wr i'by no means so entirely satisfied with ituses he has attempted to make of his r¡din. After considering the subject with some ai;er.tion, we must confess that we have not been able to perceive how the destruction ol Ie? Ideal theory can be held as a demoMtriti' i of the real existence of matter, or a cor.iuation of the most ingenious reasonings « ha.-a have brought into question the popula: la.:.' upon this subject. The theory of images a:..: pictures, in fact, was in its original slate rao r closely connected with the supposition ui з real material prototype, than the theory n direct perception: and the sceptical ¿ииг.;з that have since been suggested, appear to u? to be by no means exclusively applicable к the former hypothesis. He who believes tiu certain forms or images are actually transmitted through the organs of sense to the mi'-i must believe, at least, in the reality of :b? organs and the images, and probably in th-.r origin from real external existences. He «if is contented with stating that he is coiuciou? of certain sensations and perceptions, by iw means assumes the independent existence u¡ matter, and gives a safer account of the pnfriomena than the idealist.

Dr. Reid's sole argument for the real «жence of a material world, is founded <ш Im irresistible belief of it that is implied in Perception and Memory; a belief, the foundations of which, he seems to think, it would Ы something more than absurd to call in question. Now the reality of this general persuasion or belief, no one ever attempted to deny. The question is only about its justness Ik truth. It is conceivable, certainly, in every case, that our belief should be erroneous; and there can be nothing absurd in suggesting reasons for doubting of its conformity with truth. The obstinacy of our belief, in this instance, and its constant recurrence, even after all our endeavours to familiarise ourselves with the objections that have been made to it. aro not absolutely without parallel i:i the history of the human faculties. All children believe that the earth is at rest: and tliat the sun and fixed stars perform a diurnal revolution round it. They also believe that tlie place which they occupy on the surface is absolutely the uppermost, and that the inhabitants of the opposite surface must be suspended in an inverted position. Now of this universal, practical, and irresistible belief, all persons of education are easily disabused in speculation, though it influences their ordinary language, and continues, in fact, to be the habitual impression of their minds. In the same way, a Berkleian might admit the constant recurrence of the illusions of sense, although his speculative reason were sufficiently convinced of their fallacy.

The phenomena of Dreaming and of Delirium, however, appear to afford a sort of eiperimentum crucis. to demonstrate that a real external existence is not necessary to produce sensation and perception in the human mind. Is it utterly absurd and ridiculous to maintain, that all the objects of our thoughts may be "such stuff as dreams are made of?" or that the uniformity of Nature gives us some reason to presume that the perceptions of maniacs and of rational men are manufactured, 'ike their organs, out of the same materials? There is a species of insanity known among medical men b/ the epithet notional, in which, as well as in delirium tremens, there is frequently no general depravation of the reasonins and judging faculties, but where the disease consists entirely in the patient mistaking the objects of his thought or imagination for real and present existences. The error of his perceptions, in such cases, is only detected by comparing them with the perceptions of other people; and it is evident that he has just the samt> reason to impute error to them, as they can have individually for imputing it to him. The majority, indeed, necessarily carries the point, as to all practical consequences: But is there any absurdity in alleging that we can have no absolute or infallible assurance of that as to which the internal conviction of an individual must be supported, and may be overruled by the testimony of his fellow-creatures?

Dr. Reid has himself admitted that "we might probably have been so made, as to have all the perceptions and sensations which we now have, without any impression on our

bodily organs at all." But it is surely altogether as reasonable to say, that we might have had all those perceptions, without the aid or intervention oí any material existence at all. Those perceptions, too, might still have been accompanied with a belief that would not have been less universal or irresistible for being utterly without a foundation in reality. In short, our perceptions can never afford any complete or irrefragable proof of the real existence of external things; because it is easy to conceive that we might have such perceptions without them. We do not know, therefore, with certainty, that our perceptions are ever produced by external objects; and in the cases to which we have just alluded, we actually find perception and its concomitant belief, where we do know with certainty that it is not produced by any external existence.

It has been said, however, that we have the same evidence for the existence of the material world, as for that of our own thoughts or conceptions;—as we have no reason for believing in the latter, but that we cannot help it; which is equally true of the former. Now, this appears to us to be very inaccurately argued. Whatever we doubt, and whatever we prove, we must plainly begin with consciousness. That alone is certain—all the rest is inference. Does Dr. Reid mean to assert, that our perception of external objects is not a necessary preliminary to any proof of their reality, or that our belief in their reality is not founded upon our consciousness of perceiving them t It is only our perceptions, then, and not the existence of their objects, which we. cannot help believing; and it would be nearly as reasonable to say that we must take all our dreams for realities, because we cannot doubt that we dream, as it is to assert that we have the same evidence for the existence of an external world, as for the existence of the sensations by which it is suggested to our minds.

We dare not now venture farther into this subject; yet we cannot abandon it without observing, that the question is entirely a matter of philosophical and abstract speculation, and that by far the most reprehensible passages in Dr. Reid's writings, are those in which he has represented it as otherwise. When we consider, indeed, the exemplary candour, and temper, and modesty, with which this excellent man has conducted the whole of his speculations, we cannot help wondering that he should ever have forgotten himself so far as to descend to the vulgar raillery which he has addressed, instead of argument, to the abettors of the Berkleian hypothesis. The old joke, of the sceptical philosophers running their noses against posts, tumbling into kennels, and being sent to madhouses, is repeated at least ten times in different parts of Dr. Reid's publications, and really seems to have been considered as an objection not less forcible than facetious. Yet Dr. Reid surely could not be ignorant that those who have questioned the reality of a material universe, never affected to have perceptions, ideas, and sensations, of a different nature from other people. The debate was merely about the origin of these sensations; and could not possibly affect the conduct or feelings of the individual. The sceptic, therefore, who has been taught by experience that certain perceptions are connected with unpleasant sensations, will avoid the occasions of them as carefully as those who look upon the object of their perceptions as external realities. Notions and sensations he cannot deny to exist: and this limited faith will regulate his conduct exactly in the same manner as the more extensive creed of his antagonists. We are persuadid that Mr. Stewart would reject the aid of such an argument for the existence of an external world.

The length to which these observations have extended, deters us from prosecuting any farther our remarks on Dr. Reid's philosophy. The other points in which it appears to us that he has left his system vulnerable are, his explanation of our idea of cause and effect, and his speculations on the question of liberty

and necessity. In the former, we cannot he!)/ thinking that he has dogmatised, with a degree of confidence which is scarcely justified by the cogency of his arguments; and ha* endeavoured to draw ridicule on the reasonu.r of his antagonist, by illustrations that are u;terly inapplicable. In the latter, also, he ha? made something more than a just nee of the prejudices of men and the ambiguity of language; and has more than once bet-n guiity. if we be not mistaken, of what, in a lea* respectable author, we should not have scrupled to call the most palpable sophistry. We are glad that our duty does not require us to enter into the discussion of this very perplexing controversy; though we may be permitted to remark, "that it is somewhat extraordinary to find the dependence of Ьшмш actions on Motives so positively denied by those very philosophers with w horn the doctrine of Causation is of such high authority.

((Drtobtr, 1806.)

Memoirs of Dr. Joseph Priestley, to the year 1795, written by himself: With a Continuation to the time of his decease, by his Son Joseph Priestley; and Observations on his Writings. By Thomas Cooper, President Judge of the Fourth District of Pennsylvania, and the Reverend William Christie. 8vo. pp. 481. London: 1805.

Dr. Priestley has written more, we belieye, and on a greater variety of subjects, than any other English author; and probably believed, as his friend Mr. Cooper appears to do at this moment, that his several publications were destined to make an œra in the respective branches of speculation to which they bore reference. We are not exactly of that opinion: But we think Dr. Priestley a person of no common magnitude in the history of English literature; and have perused this miscellaneous volume with more interest than we have usually found in publications of the same description. The memoirs are •written with great conciseness and simplicity, and present a very singular picture of that indefatigable activity, that bigotted vanity, that precipitation, cheerfulness, and sincerity, which made up the character of this restless philosopher. The observations annexed by Mr. Cooper are the work, \ve think, of a powerful, presumptuous, and most untractable understanding. They are written in a defying, dogmatical, unaccommodating style: with much force of reasoning, in many places, but often with great rashness and arrogance; and occasionally with a cant of philosophism. and a tang of party politics, which communicate an air of vulgarity to the whole work, and irresistibly excite a smile at the expense of this magnan imous despiser of all sorts of prejudice and bigotry.»

* I omit now a very considerable portion of this review, containing a pretty full Recount of Dr. Priestley's life and conversation, and of his various publications on subjects of theology, natural philosophy, and chemistry; retaining only the following examination of his doctrine of Materialism.

In the Second part of his book. Mr. Cooper professes to estimate the Metaphysical writings of Dr. Priestley, and delivers a long and very zealous defence of the doctrines of Materialism, and of the Necessity of human actions. A good deal of learning and a joei deal of talent are shown in this product;^: But we believe that most of our reader* wffl be surprised to find that Mr. Соорт considers both these questions as having bren finally set at rest by the disquisitions of ha learned friend!

"Indeed," he observes, " those question шМ now be considered as settled; for those who Л5 resist Collins' philosophical inquiry, the section of Dr. Hartley on the mechanism of the mintl. ara the review of the subject taken by Dr. Pnes'Jey and his opponents, are not to be reasoned »i'JIntereel reipublica ut deniqvc tit fini* litt»*, » • maxim of technical law. It will apply equity t» the republic of letters; and the lime seems to м« arrived, when the separate existence of the hur.r. Soul, the freedom of the Will, and the etenal duration of Future punishment, like the dncir.nts of the Trinity! and Transubsiantiation. m«y be regarded as no longer entitled to public discussion."—p. 335.

The advocates of Necessity, we know, hate ! long been pretty much of this opinion: ai.J we have no inclination to disturb them at present with any renewal of the controversy: But we really did not know that the iJ«> cates of Materialism laid claim to the same triumph; and certainly find some difficult12 admitting that all who believe in the existence of mind are unfit to be reasoned w ith. To us. indeed, it has always appeared that it vu much easier to prove the existence of mini than tte existence of matter; and with wb»t

« PreviousContinue »