Page images
PDF
EPUB

stances with which that science is conversant; but over other substances which stand in some relation to them; and to which, accordingly, that science is capable of being applied. It is over the earth and the ocean that we have extended our dominion by means of our knowledge of the stars. Now, applying this case to that of the philosophy of Mind, and assuming, as we seem here entitled to assume, that it has invested us with no new power over mind itself,—what, we would ask, are the other objects over which our power is increased by means of our knowledge of mind? Is there any other substance to which that knowledge can possibly be applied? Is there any thing else that we either know better, or can dispose of more effectually in consequence of our observations on our own intellectual constitution Í It is evident, we humbly conceive, that these questions must be answered in the negative. The most precise knowledge which the metaphysician can acquire by reflecting on the subjects of his consciousness, can give him no new power over the mind in which he discovers those subjects; and it is almost a self-evident proposition, that the most accurate knowledge of the subjects of consciousness can give him no power over any thing but mind.

There is one other little point connected with this argument, which we wish to settle with Mr. Stewart. In speaking of the useful applications that may be ultimately made of the knowledge derived from observation, we had said, that for the power or the benefit so obtained, mankind were indebted—not to the observer, but to him who suggested the application. Mr. Stewart admits the truth of this—but adds, that the case is exactly the вате with the knowledge derived from experiment :—and that the mere empiric is on a footing with the mere observer. Now, we do not think the cases exactly the same ;—and it is in their difference that we conceive the great disadvantage of observation to consist. Whoever makes an experiment, muet have the power at least to repeat that experiment —and, in almost every case, to repeat it with eome variation of circumstances. Here, therefore, is one power necessarily ascertained and established, and an invitation held out to increase that power, by tracing it through all the stages and degrees of its existence: while he who merely observes a phenomenon over which he has no control, neither exercises any power, nor holds out the prospect of acquiring any power, either over the subject of his observation, or over any other substance. He who first ascertained, by experiment, the expansive force of steam, and its destruction by cold—or the identity of lightning and electricity, and the consequent use of the conducting roil, plainly bestowed, in that instant, a great power upon mankind, of which it was next to impossible that some important application should not be speedily made. But he who first observed the periodical immersions and emersions of the satellites of Jupiter, certainly neither acquired nor bestowed any power in the first instance; and seems to

have been but a remote and casual auxiliary to him whose genius afterwards found L¿ means of employing those phenomena it. guide him through the trackless waters of the ocean.—Epxeriment. therefore, necefsir:ly implies power: and, by suggesting ar.akgous experiments, leads naturally to the interminable expansion of inquiry and of kuovledge:—but observation, for the most part centres in itself, and tends rather to grainy and allay our curiosity, than 10 rouse or inflame it.

After having thus attemped to prove thai experiment has no prerogative above mere'/teeivation, Mr. Stewart thinks it worth while to recur again to the assertion, that the philosophy of mind does admit of experiment»; and, after remarking, rather rashly, that "the whole of a philosopher's life, ¡l he spends it to any purpose, is one continued scries of cxpcrimuntn on his own faculties aai powers," he goes on to slate, that

"—— hardly eny experiment can be imagined, which has not already been tried by ihe b'r.s ci Nature; displaying, in the infinite varieties of human genius and pursuits, the astonishingly dirtrs:tied effects, resulting from the possible combinations, of those elementary faculties and principles, of which every man is conscious in himself. Sanct society, and all the different modes oí emitían«-: —the different callings and profession» of indurabais, whether liberal or mechanical; the prejudiced clown ;—ihe factitious man of fashion ;—the vsrjing phases of character from infancy to old an ;— the prodigies effected by human art in all the objects around us; — laws,— government,— conmerce,—religion :—but above all, the record» o: though!, preserved in those volumes which fill c<u libraries; what are they but rxpernmenii, by »bici Nature illustrates, for our instruction, on her 0*1 grand scale, the varied range ol man's inteliwcb faculties, and the omnipotence of education fashioning his mind ?"—P réf. Dits. pp. il», ini

If experiment be rightly defined the intentional arrangement of substances in our po* «. for the purpose of observing the result, theo these are not experiments; and neither imply, nor tend to bestow, that power whicb enters into the conception of all expeiine-: But the argument, m our apprehension, .í chargeable with a still more radical fallacy. The philosophy of mind is distinctly detintd, by Mr. Stewart himself, to be that which a employed "on phenomena of which we are conscious;" its peculiar object and aim л stated to be, "to ascertain the Jaws oi our constitution, in so far as they can be asor;tained. by attention to the subject» of our consciousness;" and, in a great variety of passages, it is explained, that the powers by which all this is to be effected, are. reflection upon our mental operations, and the facuiiv of calm and patient attention to the sensatiou» of which we are conscious. Bot, if this be the proper province and object of the philosophy of mind, what benefit is the studen; w receive from observing the \arious effects ol manners and situation, in imparting a peculiar colour or bias to the character of the savage and the citizen. "the prejudiced cloirn. and factitious man of fashion?" The ob«rvation of such varieties is, no doubt, a Twj

curious and a very interesting occupation ;— but we humbly conceive it to form no part, or, at least a very small and inconsiderable part, of the occupation of a student of philosophy. It is an occupation which can only be effectually pursued, in the world, by travelling, and intercourse with society; and, at all events, by vigilant observation of what is shown to us. by our senses, of the proceedings of our fellow-men. The philosophy of mind, however, is to be cultivated in solitude and silence —by calm reflection on our own mental experiences, and patient attention to the subjects of our own consciousness. But can we етег be conscious of those varieties of temper and character that distinguish the different conditions of human life?—or, even independent of Mr. Stewart's definition—is it reconcilable to common usage or general understanding, to call our attention to such particulars the study of the philosophy of mind ?—Is it not, on the contrary, universally understood lo be the peculiar and limited province of that philosophy, lo explain the nature and distinctions of those primary functions of the mind, which are possessed in common by men of all vocations and a/2 conditions?—to treat, in short, of perception, and attention, anil memory, and imagination, and volition, •mil judgment, and all the other powers or faculties into which our intellectual nature may be distinguished ΗIs it not with these. that Hobbes, anil Locke, and Berkeley, and Reid, and all the other philosophers who have reasoned or philosophised about mind, have been occupied ?—or, what share of Mr. Stewart's own invaluable publications is devoted lo those slighter shades of individual character, to which alone his supposed experiments bave any reference Î The philosophy of the human mind, we conceive, is conversant oidy with what is common to all human beings— and with those faculties of which every individual of the species is equally conscious: »ml though it may occasionally borrow illustrations, or even derive some reflected light from the contemplation of those slighter varieties that distinguish one individual from another, this evidently forms no part of the study of the subjects of our consciousness, and can never be permitted to rank as a legitimate part of that philosophy.

This exhausts almost all that we have to say ¡n defence of our supposed heresies as to the importance and practical value of the philosophy of mind, considered with reference to the primary and more elementary faculties of man. With regard to the Associating principle, we have still a word or two to add. In our original observations we admitted, that this principle seemed to stand in a situation somewhat different from the simpler phenomena of the mind—and that the elucidations which Philosophy had furnished «ith regard to its operations, were not so easily recognised as previously impressed on <rar consciousness, as most of her revelations. We allowed, therefore, that some utility might be derived from the clear exposition of this more complicated part of our mental organi

sation, in respect both (o the certainty and the extent of its application: at the same time that we felt ourselves constrained to add, that, even as to this habit of the jnind, Philosophy could lay no claim to the honours of a discovery; since the principle was undoubtedly "amifiar lo the feelings of all men, and was acted upon, with unvarying sagacity, in almost every case where it could be employed with advantage: though by persons who had never thought of embodying it in a maxim, or at:ending to it as a law of general application. The whole scheme of education, it was observed, has been founded on this principle, in every age of the world. "The groom," it was added, " who never heard of ideas or associations, feeds the young war-horse lo the sound of the trumpet; anil the unphilosophical artists who tame elephants, or train dancing dogs, proceed on the same obvious and familiar principle."

As this part of our speculations has incurred more of Mr. Stewart's disapprobation than any thing which we have hitherto attempted to defend, we think ourselves called upon to state the substance of his objections, in his own eloquent and impressive words. After quoting the sentence we have already transcribed, he proceeds :—

"This argument, I suspect, leads a little too far for the purpose of its author; inasmuch as it concludes siill more forcibly (in consequence of the great familiarity of the subjeci) against Physics, strictly so called, than ngainst the Science of Mind. The savage, who never heard of the accelerating force of gravity, yet knows how to add to the mo. menium of his missile weapons, by gaining an eminence; though a stranger to Newton's third law of motion, he applies it to its practical use, when he sets his canoe afloat, by pushing with a pole against the shore: in the use of his sling, he illustrates. with equal success, the doctrine of centrifugal forces, as he exemplifies (without any knowledge of the experimenta of Robins) the principle of the rifle-barrel, in feathering his arrow. Tin- game groom who, "in feeding his young war-horse to the sound of the drum," has nothing to learn from Locke or from Hume concerning the laws of association, might boast, with làr greater reason, that, without having looked into Borelli, he can train that animal to his various paces; and that, when he exercises him with the lange, he exhibits an experimental illustration of thé centrifugal force, and of the centre of gravity, which was known ¡n the riding-school long before their theories were unfolded in the Principia of Newton. Even the operations of the animal which is the subject of hi* discipline, seem to involve an acquaintance with the same physical laws, when we attend to the mathematical accuracy with which he adapts the obliquity of his body to the rate of his circular speed. In both cases (in that of the man as well as of the brute) this practical knowledge is obtruded on the organs of external sense by the hand of Nature herself: But it is not on that account the less useful lo evolve the general theorems which are thus embodied with their particular applications; and to combine them in a systematical and scientific form, for our own instruction and that of others. Doee it detract from the value of the theory of pneuma ties to remark, that the same effects of a vacuum, and of the elasticity and pressure of the air, which afford an explanation of its most curious phenomena, are recognized in an instinctive procès» coeval with the first breath which we draw; and exemplified in the mouth of every babe »nd suckling?"—Рта. Diu. p. Ix. Ixi.

Now, without recurring to what we have already said as to the total absence of power in all cases of mere observation, we shall merely request our readers to consider, what is the circumstance that bestows a value, an importance, or an utility, upon the discovery and statement of those general laws, which are admitted, in the passage now quoted^ to have been previously exemplified in practice. Is it any thing else, than their capacity of a more extensive application ?—the possibility or facility of employing them to accomplish many things to which they had not been previously thought applicable? If Newton's third law of motion could never have been employed for any other purpose than to set afloat the canoe of the savage—or if the discovery of the pressure of the atmosphere had led to nothing more than an explanation of the operation of sucking—would there have been any thing gained by stating that law, or that discovery, in general and abstract terms? Would there have been any utility, any dignity or real advancement of knowledge, in the mere technical arrangement of these limited and familiar phenomena under a new classification?

There can be but one answer to these interrogatories. But we humbly conceive, that all the laws of mental operation which philosophy may collect and digest, are exactly in this last predicament. They have no application to any other phenomena than the particular ones by which they are suggested— and which they were familiarly employed to produce. They are not capable of being extended to any other cases; and all that is gained by their digestion into a system, is a more precise and methodical enumeration of truths that were always notorious.

From the experience and consciousness of all men, in all ages, we learn that, when two or more objects are frequently presented together, the mind passes spontaneously from one to the other, and invests both with something of the colouring which belongs to the most important. This is the law of association; which is known to every savage, and to every clown, in a thousand familiar instances: and, with regard to its capacity of useful application, it seems to be admitted, that it has been known and acted upon by parents, pedagogues, priests, and legislators, in all ages of the world; and has even been employed, as an obvious and easy instrument, by such humble judges of intellectual resources, a's common horse-jockies and bear-dancere.

If this principle, then, was always known, and regularly employed wherever any advantage could be expected from its employment, what reason have we to imagine, that any substantial benefit is to be derived from ils scientific investigation, or any important uses hereafter discovered for it, in consequence merely of investing it with a precise name, and statins, under one general theorem, the common law of its operation? If such persons as grooms and masters of menageries have been guided, by their low intellects and sordid motives, to its skilful application as a тчапв of directing even the lower animals,

is it to be believed, that there can be палу occasions for its employment in the оттегаment of the human mind, of which пня have never yet had the sense to bethmk themselves? Or, can it be seriously maintained, that it is capable of applications u much more extensive and important than those which have been vulgarly made in ;¿.sl ages, as are the uses of Newton's third law of motion, compared with the operation of the savage in pushing his canoe from the shore? If Mr. Stewart really entertained any such opinion as this, it was incumbent upon him to have indicated, in a general way. the departments in which he conceived that the* great discoveries were to be made; and to have pointed out some, at least, of the г.--:applications, on the assumption of wLcb alone he could justify so ambitious a parallel.* Instead of this, however, we do not find that he has contemplated any other spheres for the application of this prinoplt than those which have been so long eoniv.''.: to it—the formation of taste, and the conduct of education: and, with regard to the bul and most important of these, he has him;..!: ••• corded an admission, which to us, we vrul confess, appears a full justification ot aL ':c'. we have now been advancing, and a suncient answer to the positions we hare bt:. endeavouring to combat. "In so far." Mr Stewart observes, "as education is ulfc:;-l and salutary, it is founded on thos.' pr.;.c.ples of our nature which Acre forced u-.nselves upon general observation, т о sequence of the experience of ages." Thst me principle of association is to be reck'--: in the number of these, Mr. Stewart ct-ra., \ will not deny; and our proposition i.v tb: -' the principles of our nature which are capable of any useful application, havr tho! "forced themselves on general observation many centuries ago, and can now ree«:«1 little more than a technical nomenclature description from the best efforts of phi!c*o;' The sentiments to which we hare ventured to give expression in these and our !' ¡":' hasty observations, were suggested to u?. *» will confess, in a great degree, by the s: ^ contrast between the wonders which k?w been wrought by the cultivation of m&itr-., Physics, and the absolute nothing:iP?í f! effects that have hitherto been produce the labours of the philosopher? of mind. We have only to mention the names of Astrosomy; Chemistry, Mechanics, Optics, and Navigation ;—nay. we have only to lookaroi:; •.••in public or in private,—to cast a elai.r the machines and manufactures. the

observatories, steam engines, ami eaor;'. • ries, by which we are perpetually surroun:-1 — or to turn our eyes on the most rommou

• Upwards of thirty years have no» since (his was written; during which > ine« *' metaphysical inquiry has revived in France, sni been greatly encouraged in German». Tel I «" not aware to what useful applications of ihe ?i'-' г с its votaries can yet point ; or what practical ¡r.>p » ment or increase of human power they ctn tra* "> it* cultivation.

articles of our dress and furniture,—on the mirrors, engravings, books, fire-arms, watches, barometers, thunder-rods and opera-glasses, that present themselves in our ordinary dwellings, to feel how vast a progress has been made in exploring and subduing the physical elements of nature, and how stupendous an increase the power of man has received, by the experimental investigation of her laws. Now is any thing in this astonishing survey more remarkable, than the feeling with which it is always accompanied, that what we have hitherto done in any of these departments is but a small part of what we are yet destined to accomplisn; and that the inquiries which have led us so far, will infallibly carry us still farther. When we ask, however, for the trophies of the philosophy of mind, or inquire for the vestiges of her progress in the more plastic and susceptible elements of human genius and character, we are answered only by ingenuous silence, or vague anticipations—and rind nothing but a blank in the record of her actual achievements. The knowledge and the power of man over inanimate nature has been increased tenfold in the course of the last two centuries. The knowledge and the power of man over the mind of man remains almost exactly where it was at the first development of his faculties. The natural philosophy of antiquity is mere childishness and dotage, and their physical inquirers are mere pigmies and drivellers, compared with their successors in the present age; but their logicians, and metaphysicians, and moralists, and, what is of infinitely more consequence, the practical maxims and the actual effects resulting from their philosophy of mind, are very nearly on a level with the philosophy of the present day. The end and aim of all that philosophy is to make education rational and effective, and to train men to such sagacity and force of judgment, as to induce them to cast off the bondage of prejudices, and to follow happiness and virtue with assured and steady steps. We do not know, however, what modern work contains juster, or more profound views on the subject of education. than may be collected from the writings of Xenophon and Quintilian, Polybius, Plutarch, and Cicero: and, as to that sagacity and justness of thinking, which, after all, is the fruit by which this tree of knowledge must be ultimately known, we are not aware of many modern performances that exemplify it in a stronger degree, than many parts of the histories of Tacitus and Thucydkles, or the Satires and Epistles of Horace. In the conduct of business and affairs, we shall find Pericles, and Caesar, and Cicero, but little inferior to the philosophical politicians of the present day; and, for lofty and solid principles of practical ethics, we might safely match Epictetus and Antoninus (without mentioning Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch, Xenophon. or Polybius,) with most of oar modern speculators.

Where, then, it may be asked, are the performances of this philosophy, which makes «uch large promises 1 or, what are the grounds upon which we should expect to eee so much

accomplished, by an instrument which has hitherto effected so little? It is in vain for Mr. Stewart to say, that the science is yet but in its infancy, and that it will bear its fruit in due season. The truth is, that it has, of necessity, been more constantly and diligently cultivated than any other. It has alwajs been the first object with men of talent ai.d good affections, to influence and to form the minds of others, and to train their own to the highest pitch of vigour and perfection: and accordingly, it is admitted by Mr. Stewart, that the most important principles of this philosophy have been long ago "forced upon general observation" by the feelings and experience of past ages. Independently, however, of this, the years that have passed since Hobbes, and Locke, and Malebranche, and Leibnitz drew the attention of Europe to this study, and the very extraordinary genius and talents of those who have since addicted themselves to it, are far more than enough to have brought it, if not to perfection, at least to such a degree of excellence, as no longer to leave it a matter of dispute, whether it was really destined to add to our knowledge and our power, or to produce any sensible effects upon the happiness and condition of mankind. That society has made great advances in comfort and intelligence, during that period, is indisputable; but we do not find that Mr. Stewart himself imputes any great part of this improvement to our increased knowledge of our mental constitution ; and indeed it is quite obvious, that it is an effect resulting from the increase of political freedom—the influences of reformed Christianity — the invention of printing—and that improvement and multiplication of the mechanical arts, that have rendered the body of the people far more busy, wealthy, inventive and independent, than they ever were in any former period of society.

To us, therefore, it certainly does appear, that the lofty estimate which Mr. Stewart has again made of the practical importance of his favourite studies, is one of those splendid visions by which men of genius have been во often misled, in the enthusiastic pursuit of science and of virtue. That these studies are of a very dignified and interesting nature, wo admit most cheerfully-;—that they exercise and delight the understanding, by reasonings and inquiries, at once subtle, cautious, aud profound, and either gratify or exalt a keen and aspiring curiosity, must be acknowledged by all who have been initiated into their elements. Those who have had the good fortune to be so initiated by the writings of Mr. Stewart, will be delighted to add, that they are blended with so many lessons of gentli- and of ennobling virtue—ею many striking précepte and bright examples of liberality, high-mindedness, and pure taste—as to be calculated, in an eminent degree, to make men love goodnes« and aspire to elegance, and to improve at one» the understanding, the imagination, and tho heart. But this must be the limit of our praise.

The sequel of this article is not now reprinted, for the reasons already stated.

NOVELS, TALES,

AND

PROSE WORKS OF FICTION.

As I perceive I have, in some of the following papers, made a sort of apology for ее? king to direct the attention of my readers to things so insignificant as Novels, it may be worth while to inform the present generation tbat, in my youth, writings of this sort were riled very low with us—scarcely allowed indeed to pass as part of a nation's permanent Ijtera.'jrt —and generally deemed altogether unworthy of any grave critical notice. Nor, in irctlt— in spite of Cervantes and Le Sage—and Marivaux, Rousseau, and Voltaire abroad—and етег our own Richardson and Fielding at home—would it have been easy to controvert that cp:.v ion, in our England, at the time: For certainly a greater mass of trash and rubbish петег disgraced the press of any country, than the ordinary Novels that filled and supported ma circulating libraries, down nearly to the time of Miss Edgeworth's first appearance. Th»re had been, the Vicar of Wakefield, to be sure, before; and Miss Bumey's Evelina and ОсГ.л —and Mackenzie's Man of Feeling, and some bolder and more varied fictions of the Mis-« Lee. But the staple of our Novel market was, beyond imagination, despicable: aLd Ы consequently sunk and degraded the whole department of literature, of which it had usurjcd the name.

All this, however, has since been signally, and happily, changed; and that rabble roof of abominations driven from our confines for ever. The Novels of Sir Walter Scott are, beyond all question, the most remarkable productions of the present age; and have made a Kb» lion, and produced an effect, all over Europe, to which nothing parallel can be mentior.eJ since the days of Rousseau and Voltaire; while, in our own country, they have attained s place, inferior only to that which must be filled for ever by the unapproachable clon- oí Shakespeare. With the help, no doubt, of their political revolutions, they have product.-1. in France, Victor Hugo, Balsac, Paul 4le Cocq, &c., the promessi sposi in Italy—and Conpf :. at least, in America.—In England, also, they have had imitators enough; in the perso:-.я: Mr. James, Mr. Lover, and others. But the works most akin to them in excellence haie rather, I think, been related as collaterals than as descendants. Miss Edgeworth, indent stands more in the line of their ancestry; and I take Miss Austen and Sir E. L. Bulwer ;c be as intrinsically original ;—as well as the great German writers. Goethe, Tiek, Jean Pan! Richter, &c. Among them, however, the honour of this branch of literature has at any ra'f been splendidly redeemed ;—and now bids fair to maintain its place, at the head of all tbt is graceful and instructive in the productions of modern genius.

(Jnltj, 1809.)

Tales of Fashionable Life. By Miss Edceworth, Author of "Practical Education," "Belinda," "Castle Rackrent," &c. 12mo. 3 vols. London: 1809.

If it were possible for reviewers to Envy any other writer, male or female, of her gfufthe authors who are brought before them for ration. Other arts and sciences hare thei; judgment, we rather think we should be use; no doubt; and, Heaven knows, they hire tempted to envv Miss Edgeworth ; — not, ! their reward and their fame. But the p«' however, so much for her matchless powers art is the art of living: and the chief science of probable invention—her never-failing good , the science of being happy. Where there и sense and cheerfulness—nor her fine discrimi- an absolute deficiency of gi

nation of characters—as for the delightful consciousness of having done more good than

good nen«e,

cannot indeed be taught; and, with
ordinary share of it, they may be

« PreviousContinue »