« PreviousContinue »
ever contempt Mr. Cooper and his friends may regard ue, we must be permitted to say a word or two in defence of the vulgar opinion.
The sum of the argument against the existence of mind, in case any of our readers should be ignorant of it, is shortly as follows. The phenomena of thinking, or perception, are always found connected with a certain mass of organised matter, and have never been known to exist in a separate or detached Mate. It seems natural, therefore, to consider them as qualities of that substance: Nor is it any objection to say, that the quality of thinking has no sort of resemblance or affinity to any of the other qualities with which we know matter to be endowed. This is equally true of all the primary qualities of matter, when compared with each other. Solidity, for instance, bears no sort of resemblance or affinity to extension; nor is there any other reason for our considering them as qualities of the same substance, but that they are always found in conjunction—that they occupy ihe same portion of space, and present themselves together, on all occasions, to our observation. Now, this may be said, with equal force, of the quality of thinking. It ig always found in conjunction with a certain mass of ¿olid and extended matter—it inhabits the same portion of space, and presents itself invariably aloriir with those other qualities the assemblage of which makes up our idea of organised matter. Whatever substratum can support and unile the qualities of solidity and extension, may therefore support the quality of thinking also; and it is eminently unphilosophical to suppose, that it inheres in a separate substance to which we should give the appellation of Mind All the phenomena of thought, it is said, may be resolved by the assistance of Dr. Hartley, into perception and aisociation. Xow, perception is evidently produced by certain mechanical impulses upon the nerves, transmitted to the brain, and can therefore be directly proved lo be merely a peculiar species of motion; and association is something very like the vibration of musical cords in juxtaposition, and is strictly within the analogy of material movement.
In answering this argument, we will fairly confess that we have no distinct idea of Substance; and that we are perfectly aware that it is impossible to combine three propositions upon the subject, without involving a contradiction. All that we know of substance, are its qualities; yet qualities must belong to something—and of that something lo which they belong, and by which they are united, we neither know anything nor can form any conception. We cannot help believing that it exists; but we have no distinct notion as to the mode of ils existence.
Admitting this, therefore, in the first place, we may perhaps be permitted to observe, that it seems a little disorderly and unphilosophical. to class perception among Ihe qualities of matter, when it is obvious, that it is by means of perception alone that we get any notion of matter or its qualities; and that it is possible, with perfect consistency, to main
fain the existence of our perceptions, and to deny that of matter altogether. The other qualities of matter are perceived by us; but perception cannot be perceived: And all we» know about it is, that it is that by which we perceive every thing else. It certainly does sound somewhat absurd and unintelligible, therefore, to say, that perception is that quality of matter by which it becomes conscious of its own existence, and acquainted with its other qualities: Since it is plain that this is not a quality, but a knowledge of qualities; and that t he percipient must necessarily be distinct from that which is perceived. We must always begin with perception; and Ihe followers of Berkeley will tell us, that we must end there also. At all events, it certainly never entered into the head of any plain man lo conceive that the faculty of perception was itself one of the qualities with which that faculty made him acquainted : or that it could possibly belong to a substance, which his earliest intimations and most indestructible impressions taught him to regard as something external and separate.*
This, ihen, is the first objection to the doctrine of Materialism, — that it makes the faculty of perception a quality of the thing perceived; and converts, in a way that must at first sight appear absurd to all mankind, our knowledge of the qualities of matter into another quality of the same substance. The truth is, however, that it is a gross and unwarrantable abuse of language, to call perception a quality at all. It is an act or an event— a fact or a phenomenon—of w hich the percipient is conscious: but it cannot be intelligibly conceived as a quality; and. least of all, as a quality of that substance which is known to us as solid and extended. 1st, All the qualities of matter, it has been already stated, are perceived by the senses: but the sensation itself cannot be so perceived; nor is it possible to call it an object of sense, without the grossest perversion of language. 2<%, All the qualities of matter have a direct reference to Space or extension; and are conceived, in some measure, as attributes or qualities of the space within which they exist. When we say thai a particular body is solid, we mean merely that a certain portion of space is impenetrable: when we say that it ie coloured, we
* We are rot very partial to the practice of quoling poetry in illustration of metaphysics; but the following lines seem to express so forcibly the universal and natural impression of mankind on this subject, that we cannot help offering them lo the consideration of the reader. '• Am I but what I seem, mere flesh and blood? A branching channel, and a mazy flood? The purple stream, that through my vessels glides, Dull and unconscious flows like common tides. The pip*1«, through which the circling juices stray, Are not that thinking I, no more than they. 1 his frame, compacted with transcendent «kill, Of moving joints, obedient to my will, Nurs'd from the fruitful glebe like yonder tree, Waxes and wastes: I call it Mine, not Mi. New matter still the mould'ring mass sustains; The mansion chang'd, the tenant still remains. And. from the decline stream repair'd by food, Distinct, as is the swimmer from the flood."
mean that the same portion of space appears of one hue,—and so of the other qualities: but sensation or thought is never conceived •o to occupy space, or to characterise it; nor can those faculties be at all conceived as being merely definite portions of space, endued with perceptible properties. In the third place, all the primary qualities of matter are inseparable from it, and enter necessarily into its conception and definition. All matter must necessarily be conceived as extended, solid, and figured: and also as universally capable of all the secondary qualities. It is obvious, however, that thought or sensation is not an inseparable attribute of matter; as by far the greater part of matter is entirely destitute of it; and it is found in connection only with those parts which we term organised; and with those, only while they are in a certain state, which we call alive. If it be said, however, that thought may resemble those accidental qualities of matter, such as heat or colour, which are not inseparable or permanent; then we reply, that neither of these things can, in strictness, be termed qualities of matter, more than thought or sensation: They are themselves substances, or matter possessed of inseparable and peculiar qualities, as well as those which address themselves to the other senses. Light is a material substance, from which the quality of colour is inseparable; and heat is a material substance, which has universally the quality of exciting the sensation of warmth: and both address themselves to, and are distinctly perceived through, our senses. If thought be allowed to be a substance in this sense, it will remain to show that it also is material; by being referable to space, capable of subsisting in every sort of body, of being perceived by the senses, of being transferred from one body to another, and liable to attraction, repulsion, condensation, or reflection—like heat or light.
It is to be remarked also, that wherever any proper quality, primary or secondary, can be ascribed generally to any perceptible body or mass of matter, that quality must exist and be recognised in every part of it. If the whole of any such body is hard, or coloured, or weighty, or hot. or cold, every part of it, whether merely considered and examined as separable, or actually separated and detached, must be hard, coloured, and weighty also: those qualities being truly conditions, and, in fact, the only real proofs of the material existence of such a body, and of all the parts of it. But though thought or volition may be said to have their residence somewhere within a human body, they certainly are not qualities of its material mas?, in this sense; or to the effect of being sensibly present in every part or portion of it! We never, at least, have happened to hear it surmised tl\at there is thouirht in the elbow-joint, or volition in the nail of the great toe: and if it be said 'hat these phenomena are results only of the /irtn<r organisation as a whole, it seems to us that this is a substantial abandonment of the whole argument, and an admission that they
are not qualities of matter (for results arrf qualities belong not to the same catejron I. bit mere facts or phenomena of a totally diiiei«: description, for the production ol which the apparatus of some such organisation may. fci the time, be necessarv.
But the material thing is, that it is го; :r. the whole mass of our bodies, or their Irvine organisation in general, that these phenornera are said by Dr. Priestley and his disciple-' ii. belong, as proper qualities. On the contrary. they distinctly admit that they are notqui;:tr' of that physical mass generally, nor eren of those finer parts of it which constitute Ol.: organs of sense. They admit that iLr e;, and the ear act the parts merely of optics! i r acoustic instruments; and are only usfial.. transmitting impulses (or, it may be. line ?l':stances) to the nervous part of the braii, >: which alone, therefore, and indeed only of il» minute and invisible portions, these emfnilar phenomena are alleged to be proper phyticil qualities! It is difficult, we think, to n.£¿the absurdity of such a doctrine more apparent than by this plain statement of its import and amount. The only ground, it must a]u,.' • be recollected, for holding that mind andail its phenomena are mere qualities of the broad and popular one. that we a find them connected with a certain mass of organised matter, called a living But when it is admitted that they are :<". qualities of this mass generally, or even '<: any part of it which is visible or perceptibif by our senses, the allegation of their fr^: mere material qualities of a part of the bra-1 must appear not merely gratuitous, but inconsistent and absolutely absurd. If the eyf and the ear, w-ith their delicate etrocrorfs and fine sensibility, are but vehicles anl ¿\ • paratus, why should the attenuated ard unknown tissues of the cerebral nerves be rapposed to be any thing else t or why fhouiJ the resulting sensations, to which bo;h . • apparently ministran!, and no more than ministran!, and which have no conceivable resemblance or analogy to any altribote of matter, but put on the list of the physical qnalit.f^ of the latter—which is of itself too slight u<l subtle to enable us to say what are its common physical qualities'? But we have yft another consideration to suggest, before fitiily closing this discussion.
It probably has not escaped observs!/' that throughout the preceding anmmer;;. have allowed the advocates for Material"?'' to assume that what (to oblige them) v>> haf called thought or perception eenerallV; wa? one uniform and identical thing: to why.'!. therefore, the appellation of a qttality mi-i! possibly be given, without manifest and p'pable absurdity. But in reality there i> -'• ground, or even room, for claiming such in allowance. The acts or functions which e* ascribe to mind, are at all érente not one. bet many and diverse. Perception no doubt is one of them—but it is not identical with sensation; and still less with memory or imagination, or volition.—or with love, anger. ¡Vrr. deliberation, or hatred. Each of these, on the contrary, is a separate and distinguishable act, function, or phenomenon, of the existence of which we1 become aware, not through perception, or the external senses at all, but through consciousness or reflection alone: and none of them (with the single exception, perhaps, of perception) have any necessary or natural reference to any external or material existence whatever. It is not disputed, however, that it is only by perception and the senses, that we can gain any Knowledge of matter; and, consequently, whatever we come to know by consciousness only, cannot possibly belong to that category, or be either material or external. But we are not aware that any materialist has ever gone the length of directly maintaining that volition for example, or memory, or anger, or fear, or any other ?uch affection, were proper material qualities of our bodily frames, or could be perceived and recognised as such, by the agency of the external senses; in the same way as the weight, heat, colour, or elasticity which may belong to these frames. But if they are not each of them capable of being so perceived, as separate physical qualities, it is plain that nothing can be gained in argument, by affecting to disregard their palpable diversity, and seeking to class them all under one vague name, of thought or perception. Even with that advantage, we have seen that the doctrine, of perception or thought being a mere quality of matter, is not only untenable, but truly self-contradictory and unintelligible. But when the number and diversity of the phenomena necessarily covered by that general appellation is considered, along with the fact that most of them have no reference to matter, and do in no way imply its existence, the absurdity of representing them as so many of its distinct perceptible qualities, must be too apparent, we think, to admit of any serious defence.
The sum of the whole then is, that all the knowledge which we gain only by Perception and the use of our external Senses, is knowledge of Matter, and its qualities and attributes alone; and all which we gain only by Consciousness and Reflection on our own inward feelings, is necessarily knowledge of Mind, and its states, attributes, and functions. This in fact is the whole basis, and rationale of the distinction between mind and matter: and, consequently, unless it can be shown that love, anger, and sorrow, as well as memory and volition, are direct objects of sense or external perception, like heat and colour, or figure and solidity, there must be an end, we think, of all question as to their being material qualities.
But, though the very basis and foundation of the argument for Materialism is placed upon the assumption, that thought and perception are qualities of our bodies, it is remarkable that Dr. Priestley, and the other champions of that doctrine, do ultimately give up that point altogether, and maintain, that thought ie nothing else than Motion! Now, this, we cannot help thinking, was very impolitic and injudicious in these learned per
sons: For, so long as they stuck to the general assertion, that thought might, in some way or other, be represented as a quality of matter,—although it was not perceived by the senses, and bore no analogy to any of its other qualities.—and talked about the inherent rapacity of substance, to support all sorts of qualities; although their doctrine might elude our comprehension, and revolt all our bil'iiM of thinking,—still it might be difficult to demonstrate its fallacy; and a certain perplexing argumentation might be maintained, by a person well acquainted with the use, and abuse, of words: But when they cast away the protection of this most convenient obscurity, and, instead of saying that they do not know what thought is, have the courage to refer it to the known category of ЭДоtion. they evidently subject their theory to the test of rational examination, and furnish us with :i criterion by which its truth may be easily determined.
We shall not be so rash as to attempt any definition of motion; but we believe we may take it for granted, that our readers know pretty well what it is. At all events, it is not a quality of matter. It is an act, a phenomenon, or a fact :—but it makes no part of the description or conception of matter; though it can only exist with reference to that substance. Let any man ask himself, however, whether the motion of matter bears any sort of resemblance to thought or sensation; or whether it be even conceivable that these should be one and the same thing 1—But, it is said, we lind sensation always produced by motion; and as we can discover nothing else in conjunction with it, we are justified in ascribing it to motion. But this, we beg leave to say, is not the question. It is not necessary to inquire, whether motion may produce sensation or not, but whether sensation ie motion, and nothing else1? It seems pretty evident, to be sure, that motion can never produce any thing but motion or impulse; ami that it is at least as inconceivable that it should ever produce sensation in matter, as that it should produce a separate substance, called mind. But this, we repeat, is not the question with the materialists. Their proposition is, not that motion produces sensation—which might be as well in the mind as in the bodv; but, th it 'en-ation 1.1 motion; and that all the ph"i)omena of thought and perception are intelligibly accounted for by saying, that they are certain little shakings in the pulpy part of the brain.
There are certain propositions which it is difficult to confute, only because it is impossible to comprehend them: and this, the substantive article in the creed of Materialism, really seems to be of this description. To say that thought is motion, is as unintelligible to us, as to say that it is space, or time, or proportion.
There may be little shakings in the brain, for any thing we know, and there may even be shakings of a different kind, accompanying every act of thought or perception ;—but, that the shakings themselves are the thought or perception, we are so far from admitting, that | we find it absolutely impossible to compre-: hend what is meant by the assertion. The i shakings are certain throbbinss, vibrations, or j stirrings, in a whitish, half-fluid substance | like custard, which we might see perhaps, or feel, if we had eyes and fingers sufficiently small or fine for the office. But what should we see or feel, upon the 8up[X>silion that we could detect, by our senses, every thing that actually took place in the brain? We should see the particles of this substance change their place a little, move a little up or down, to the i right or to the left, round about, or zig-zaj. or! in some other course or direction. This is all that we could see, if Hartley's conjecture were proved by actual observation; because this is all that exists in motion,—according to our conception of it; and all that we mean, when we say that there is motion in any substance. Is it intelligible, then, to say, that this motion, the whole of whicli we see and comprehend, is thought and feeling?—and that thought and feeling will exist wherever we can excite a similar motion in a similar substance ?—In our humble apprehension, the proposition is not so much false, as utterly unmeaning and incomprehensible. That sensation may follow motion in the brain, or mayeven be produced by it, is conceivable at least, and may be affirmed with perfect precisiou and consistency; but that the motion is itself sensation, and that the proper and complete definition of thought and feeling is. that they are certain vibrations in the brain, is a doctrine, we think, that can only be wondered at. and that must be comprehended before it be answered.
No advocate for the existence of mind, ever thought it necessary to deny that there was a certain bodily apparatus necessary to thought and sensation in man—and that, on many occasions, the sensation was preceded or introduced by certain impulses and corresponding movements of this material machinery:—we cannot see without eyes and licht, nor think without living bodies. All that they maintain is, that these impulses and movements are not eelings or thought, but merely the occasions of feeling and thought; and that it is impossible for them to confound the material motions which precede those sensations, with j the sensations themselves, which have no conceivable affinity with matter.
The theory of Materialism, then, appears to us to be altogether unintelligible and absurd; and, without recurring to the reasoning of the
Berkeleians, it seems quite enough to detn mine us to reject it, that it confounds the ac: of perception with the qualities perceived, a: •! classes among the objects of perception, the faculty by which these objects are introduced to our knowledge.—and which faculty nri^ be exercised, before we can attain to any conception, either of matter or its qualities.
We do not pretend to have looked thrmu-h the whole controversy which Dr. Priestlev « publications on this subject appears to have excited: But nothing certainly has struck us with more astonishment, than the zeal » iih which he maintains that this doctrine, ar'i that of Necessity, taken together, afford thgreatest support to the cause of religion a:: morality! We are a little puzzled, iiidetd. :o discover what use. or what room, there can be for a God at all, upon this hypothesis of Msterialism; as well as to imagine what ?pec:t« of being the God of the materialist must ЬР. If the mere organisation of matter product « reason, memory, imagination, and all th* other attributes of mind,—and if these d:rffent phenomena be the necessary result of «:tain motions impressed upon matter: thc-n there is no need for any other reason or • •-.ergy in the universe: and tilings may be ajministered very comfortably, by the hiu-llfct spontaneously evolved in the different combinations of matter. But if Dr. Priestley win have a superfluous Deity notwithstandin?. wtmay ask what sort of a Deity he can eipec:' He denies the existence of mind or spirit altogether; so that his Deity must be materia! and his wisdom, power, and goodness mu^ be the necessary result of a certain опгзт:,*!tion. But how can a material deity be irrmortal? How could he have been forrm '.' Or why should there not be more,—formfJ by himself, or by his creator? We will r<: affirm that Dr. Priestley has not attempted to answer these questions; but we will take it upon us to say. that he cannot have answer' 1 them in a satisfactory manner. As to fc..« paradoxical doctrines, with regard to the ::itnral mortality of man, and the incomprehensible gift of immortality conferred on • material structure which visibly moulders ar.I is dissolved, we shall only say that it exec*:« in absurdity any of the dogmas of the Catholics; and can only be exceeded by his ow:¡ supposition, that our Saviour, being only a man, and yet destined to live to the day of judgment, is still alive in his original huroar. body upon earth, and is really the Wander i£ Jew of vulgar superstition!
Academical Questions. By the Right Honourable William Drummond. K. C., F. R. S.. F. R. S E Authorof a Translation of Persius. Vol. I. 4to. pp. 412. Cadell and Davies. London: 180J
We do not know very well what to say of I that it is occupied with Metaphysical specn this very learned publication. To some read- lations. To others, it may convey a morr era it will probably be enough to announce, | precise idea of its character, to be told, that
(bough it gave a violent headache, in less than an hour, to the most intrepid logician of our fraternity, he could not help reading on till he came to the end of the volume.*
Mr. Drummond begins with the doctrine of Locke; aud exposes, we think, very successfully, the futility of that celebrated author's definition of Substance, as "one knows not what" support of euch qualities as are capable of producing simple ideas in us. This notion of substance he then shows to be derived from the old Platonic doctrine of the primary matter, or vx>j, to which the same objections are applicable.
Having thus discarded Substance in general ¡rom the list of existences, Mr. Drummond proceeds to do as much for the particular substance called Matter, and all its qualities. In this chapter, accordingly, he avows himself to be a determined Idealist; and it is the scope of his whole argument to prove, that what we call qualities in external substances, are in fact nothing more than sensations in our own miade; and that what have been termed primary qualities, are in this respect entirely upon a footing with those which are called secondary. His reasoning upon this subject coincides very nearly with that of Bishop Berkeley; of -whom, indeed, he says, that if his arguments be not really conclusive, it is certainly to be lamented that they should have been ao imperfectly answered.
To us. we will confess, it does not seem of тегу great consequence to determine whether there be any room for a distinction between the primary arid secondary qualities of matter; for moniih we are rather inclined to hold that Dr. Reid's observations have established its possibility, we cannot help saying, that it is a distinction which does not touch at all upon lie fundamental question, as to the evidence which we have, by our senses, for the existence of a material world. Dr. Reid and his followers contend as strenuously for the real existence of those material qualities which produce in us the sensations of heat, or of colour, as of those which give us intimations of solidity, figure, or extension. We know a little more, indeed, according to them, about the one sort of qualities than the other; but the evidence we have for their existence is exactly the same in both cases; nor is it more a law of our nature, that the sensation of rewlance should suggest to us the definable Quality of solidity in an external object, than that the sensation of heat should suggest to us, that quality in an external object, which we cannot define otherwise than as the external cause of this sensation.
Mr. Drummond, we think; has not attended •efficiently to this part of his antagonist's petition; and after assuming, somewhat too pre
'For the reasons slated in the note prefixed 10 tilt* division of the book, I refrain from reprinting tie greater part of thia review; and give only that рэп of ¡i which is connected with the (peculations m the preceding anieles, and beers upon the question of the existence of an external world, and the Eulh to be given, to the intimations of our senses, lud other internal convictions. 63
cipitately, that secondary qualities are universally admitted to have no existence but in the mind of him who perceives them, proceeds, with an air of triumph that is at all events premature, to demonstrate, that there is nothing in the case of primary qualities by which they can be distinguished in this respect from the secondary. The fact unquestionably is, that Dr. Reid and his followers assert the positive and independent existence of secondary, as well as of primary qualities in matter ; ana that there is, upon their hypothesis, exactly the same evidence for the one as for the other. The general problem, as to the probable existence of matter—unquestionably the most fundamental and momentous in the whole science of metaphysics—may be fairly and intelligibly stated in a very few words.
Bishop Berkeley, and after him Mr. Drummond, have observed, that by our senses, we can have nothing but sensations; and that sensations, being affections of mind, cannot possibly bear any resemblance to matter, or any of its qualities ; and hence they infer, that we cannot possibly have any evidence for the existence of matter; and that what we term our perception of its qualities, is in fact nothing else than a sensation in our own minds. Dr. Reid, on the other hand, distinctly admitting that the primary functions of our senses is to make us conscious of certain sensations, which can have no sort of resemblance or affinity to the qualities of matter, has asserted it as a. fact admittingof no dispute, but recognised by every human creature, that these sensations necessarily suggest to us the notion of certain external existences, endowed with particular definable qualities; and that these perceptions, by which our sensations are accompanied, are easily and clearly distinguishable from the sensations themselves, and cannot be confounded with them, without the most wilful perversity. Perception, again, he holds, necessarily implies the existence of the object perceived ; and the reality of a material world is thus as clearly deduced from the exercise of this faculty, as the reality of our ow,n existence can be from our consciousness, or other sensations. It appears, therefore, that there are two questions to be considered in determining on the merits of this controversy. First, whether there be any room for a distinction between sensation and perception; and, secondly, if we shall allow such a distinction, whether perception does necessarily imply the real and external existence of the objects perceived.
If by perception, indeed, we understand, as Dr. Reid appears to have done, the immediate and positive discovery of external existences, it is evident that the mere assumption of this faculty puts an end to the whole question; since it necessarily takes those existences for granted, and, upon that hypothesis, defines the faculty in question to be that by which we discover their qualities. This, however, it is plain, is not reasoning, but assertion ; and it is not the mere assertion of a fact, which in these subjects is the whole perhaps of our legitimate philosophy, but of something which 2 к 2