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REASONS FOR ITS SLOWER PROGRESS.
limits by which they are controlled, and the means by which they may be improved.” In accordance with this, we find in his course, lectures on external perception, on taste, and on wit and humor, while in his whole twentyseven lectures he did not treat of the conscience, or of right and wrong, at all.
Such a blending of departments, all covered by one name, in a single professorship, could not be favorable to accurate analysis. There were reasons for it. Mental and moral science are nearly related; but all knowledge is related to all other knowledge at some points, and it would be scarcely more incongruous to assign geography to the astronomer because the earth is one of the planets, than to group external perception and the knowledge of duty under the same science because they both belong to the mind.
A third cause of the slower progress of moral science is its greater complexity.
All science supposes uniformity in the phenomena, and so, in their cause or law, which is what science seeks. If there be no cause acting uniformly, and tending to entire uniformity of results, there is no basis for science. But with such a cause, the complexity will be in proportion to the number of disturbing forces that may come in between it and the phenomena as seen by us. In astronomy these disturbing causes are .comparatively few. Gravitation towards the sun only, would cause the planets to move in a perfect ellipse. But none of them do thus move, and it is obvious that disturbing forces might be multiplied so as to render a science of the stars, or at least any other than a hypothetical one, impossible. Here lies the obstacle to a science of the winds. There is doubtless uniformity of causation, but the phenomena, as known to us, are so modified that we cannot trace each one back to its cause, or predict the future. So of human conduct. Men are themselves unlike, and in endless variety. Motives are complex. The effects of education, of social position, of political institutions and of climate, are to be estimated; and even though all the actions of men might be referred to one principle, it would be impossible to trace them to it, or to predict with certainty the course of any one individual under its guidance.
When we look, then, at this greater complexity, and remember that the study of processes within us, mental and moral, is connected with no such pleasure as observation by the senses, and can have no such aid from others, we find a reason of no little weight for the slower progress of this science.
A fourth reason is to be found in the fact, which we should not have anticipated, that the nearer we come to that in our being which is most intimate and central, which is our very self, the more difficult observation and analysis become.
As early, certainly, as the time of Cicero, the mind was compared to the eye, because that sees other things but not itself. The power of making itself an object to itself belongs to the mind of man as he is distinguished from the brutes; it is the last power that is developed, and in most men is scarcely developed at all. But where this power is developed it begins with those phenomena which are most outward and least essential. Hence, not only in matter, but in mind, completed science will probably travel from that which is more remote, or more outward, to that which is nearer, or more inward.
It is now generally conceded that there are two kinds of knowledge, or cognitions, - one which we gain of,
REASONS FOR ITS SLOWER PROGRESS.
and from, the external world through the senses; and the other that which springs from the mind itself after its powers have been waked into consciousness. It is not supposed that there are innate ideas, but that the mind has fixed capacities by which, in connection with the exercise of consciousness, it necessarily and universally forms certain ideas and affirms certain truths. These ideas and truths, if such there are, must be more intimate to us than any other part of our mental furniture; but it is precisely respecting these, and the field which they claim, that the most subtle and difficult of all the problems in philosophy have arisen. That we have ideas through the senses no one has ever doubted, and they are readily classified and their characteristics given; but nothing could more strikingly illustrate my present point than the fact that the very existence of any such truths and ideas as those just mentioned has been doubted, and still is. The reception or rejection of these cognitions as elements of philosophy has been the dividing line between its different schools from Plato down. Probably the preponderance in numbers has been against them, and even now they are rejected by such men as Comte and Mill.
As we should anticipate from the fact just stated, the advocates of these cognitions have failed to give their characteristics, and thus to bring them out into distinct consciousness. Before Leibnitz, no one had ever mentioned their two great characteristics, - necessity and universality, — and it was not till the time of Kant that these were at all signalized and properly applied. Meantime, there was no uniform and accepted designation either for the cognitions, or the faculty in which they originated. The faculty was called “ intuition, and the “dry light of the mind," and “common sense,” and “the reason," and by Hamilton it is called “the regulative faculty,” while the names for the cognitions themselves were still more numerous.
But remarkable as all this is, it is still more so that no one has even claimed to explore all the recesses and sound the depths of this faculty. Some ideas, as those of existence, identity, and space, are recognized by all of this general school as given by it, but no one has claimed to make an accurate and full statement of these native, necessary, and universal cognitions. They have lain, and still lie, like a nebula in the depths of the heavens, which no instrument has as yet been able fully to resolve.
Among and concerning these it has been that the great battle with skepticism — that is, philosophical skepticism — has been fought. Hume denied their validity. Their legitimacy and place was not recognized in formal logic, then the test of truth, and the mass of philosophers were in the unfortunate position of holding to principles clearly involving consequences which they could not accept. Skepticism had thus an apparent triumph. Meantime, Reid began groping about in this region, and found the means, as he and others thought, of bridging the chasm of inconsistency dug by the skeptics; but so great was the want of precise terms, and so subtle the elements he dealt with, that even the acute Brown not only did not comprehend him, but imputed to him opinions the very reverse of those he held. In such a state of terms and ideas, men are like Indians fighting in a thicket. It is not easy to find and dislodge your adversary; and when you do, he can easily gain another place of concealment, and deny that he has been dislodged at all. If a clear exposition of these truths of reason, or native cognitions, or first truths, or maxims of common sense, or fundamental laws of be
REASONS FOR ITS SLOWER PROGRESS.
lief, or whatever we may choose to call them, could have been made before the time of Hume, he would probably never have been heard of as a philosophical skeptic. The mind of Hume had in perfection the acuteness of the skeptic, which enabled him to see defects, and so to destroy, but had not the comprehensiveness needed for construction.
But to take a plainer case. What can be more intimate to a man, or more perfectly known, than that of which he is conscious ? If a man cannot know what he is conscious of, it would seem that he cannot know anything; and yet the whole question, between Reid and Hamilton on the one side, and the great mass of philosophers on the other, respects simply the fact whether there is or is not given in an act of consciousness, both a subject and an object that are not, in the last analysis, identical. What consciousness testifies to must be accepted. This all allow. Not to do it would be suicidal even to the skeptic; for he would have no ground for affirming that he doubted. The only question is, what it is that consciousness gives. If we say that it does thus give both the subject and the object, that simple affirmation sweeps away in a moment the whole basis of the ideal and skeptical philosophy. It becomes as the spear of Ithuriel, and its simple touch will change what seemed whole continents of solid speculation into mere banks of German fog. If we say that the subject and object are not both given, we are then left to find as we may a solid basis for our belief in the existence of an external world. But however we may decide it, the fact that the great philosophical dispute of the day would be settled at once by a precise statement of what is given in the consciousness of every man, shows clearly that our investigations become more difficult as we approach the