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acquire the habit the larger these organs are, and the less controlled by others. If these organs are small, or if the higher organs decidedly predominate, the boy will be naturally indisposed to quarrelling, and will acquire the habit of it with great difficulty, wherever he may be placed. He may repel unjust aggressions made upon him, but he will not be the promoter of mischief, nor leader in the broils of his companions.
Exercise causes the organs to act with greater facility, and it is in this way that the real effects of habit on the mind, which are important, may be accounted for; but still the organ must possess considerable natural power and activity, to render it susceptible of the exercise by which habit is formed. The practice of debate by advocates at the bar, gives them great facility in delivering extempore harangues, compared with that enjoyed by persons whose avocations never lead them to make speeches ; and this facility may be said to be acquired by the habit of speaking; but it will always bear a proportion to the original endowment of the faculties, and we shall find, that, while habit gives to one individual great fluency and copiousness of diction, it often leaves another in much poverty and embarrassment of utterance. The powers of both will be greatly superior to what they would have been without the practice of speaking; but disparity in eloquence will continue to characterize them, owing to differences in their original constitution.
The metaphysicians, as we have seen, attribute many important mental phenomena to the effects of habit, and yet they altogether neglect the influence of organization on the mind: According to our views, it is the organ which acquires activity and superior facility in performing its functions, by being properly exercised, just as the fingers of the musician acquire rapidity and facility of motion by the practice of playing; and hence the effects of habit in giving readiness and ease are accounted for, in a manner that is at least intelligible and supported by analogy. The
metaphysicians, on the other hand, must imagine that it is the immaterial principle itself which improves by exercise, and gains strength by habit,-a notion which is altogether inconceivable, and in opposition to the attributes of a purely spiritual Being. The doctrine of a plurality of organs also, explains why, by practising music, we do not acquire the habit of speaking or writing with facility, or why, by studying mathematics, we do not acquire the habit of reasoning deeply in moral or political science. It teaches that the organ of Tune is distinct from that of Language; that the organs of Size, Order, Locality, Individuality, and Comparison, on which mathematical talent depends, are different from the organ of Causality, by which general reasoning is performed; and that it is quite possible to exercise one organ, and leave another in inactivity. Those physiologists, however, who hold the brain to be a single organ, and every part of it to be employed in every act of the mind, require to explain how it happens, that exercising it in one way does not improve it in all; or, in short, (to use an illustration applied by Dr Johnson to genius), to inform us why the man who can walk east is unable to walk west : If the organs by means of which he walks east be different from those by which he walks west, no difficulty will occur ; but if they be the same, the question certainly will require some portion of ingenuity on the part of the disciples of the old school for its satisfactory solution.
TASTE. Mr Stewart speaks of Taste as a power or faculty, and, as already mentioned, supposes it to be acquired by habit. I am not aware that any other metaphysician coincides with him in these views; but a great deal has been written upon the subject, and no satisfactory theory of it yet exists. I shall point out the manner in which it might be treated phrenologically, but the subject is too extensive to allow me to enter into it in detail.
In the first place, every act of the mind must be a manifestation of some faculty or other; and every act must be
characterized either by good or bad taste, or be wholly indifferent in this respect. Let us inquire into the origin of bad taste, and this will lead us to distinguish its opposite, or correct taste. Bad taste, then, appears to arise from an excessive or improper manifestation of any of the faculties. Lord Byron is guilty of very bad taste in some passages
of Don Juan, in which he exhibits the passion of love in all the grossness of an animal feeling: this arises from an excessive manifestation of Amativeness, not purified and dignified by the moral sentiments and reflection. In the same work, there is a scene in a boat, in which Don Juan and his companions are made to devour his tutor. To a being under the sole dominion of Destructiveness, such a representation may perhaps be gratifying; but unless this propensity be very powerful, it will be impossible for any mind deliberately to invent and enjoy such a picture of human misery. No thoughtlessness, levity, freak of fancy, or other folly, could produce it, without a predominant Destructiveness. This great defect of taste, therefore, may be ascribed to an excessive manifestation of this faculty, unrelieved by Benevolence, or other higher feelings. MOORE, also, in his earlier verses, was guilty of sins against taste, from excessive manifestations of the amative propensity; but this error he has greatly corrected in his later productions.
Faults in taste, however, arise not only from unbecoming manifestations of the lower propensities, but also from an inordinate expression of the sentiments and intellectual faculties. In Peter Bell and Christabell, and in the productions of the Lake School of Poetry in general, much bad taste springs from mawkish and infantine manifestations of Benevolence, Philoprogenitiveness and Adhesiveness. Even Ideality itself may be abused. It is undoubtedly the fountain of beauty, but in excess it degenerates into bombast, rant and exaggeration; or that species of composition which a contemporary critic has appropriately designated by the epithet of “drunken sublimity.” WORDS
worth affords examples of errors in taste, arising from an abuse of Causality; he introduces abstruse and unintelligible metaphysical disquisitions into his poetry, and mistifies it, in place of rendering it profound.
In like manner, the expression of any sentiment or propensity in an undue degree in conversation or conduct, is essentially characteristic of bad taste. An excess of vanity, and the tendency to engross conversation, is one form of it which occurs in society, and arises from over active Love of Approbation and Self-Esteem. The tendency to wrangle, dispute and contradict, is another fault which springs from an excessive activity of Combativeness. The disposition to flatter, and utter a profusion of agreeable things to persons whom we do not esteem, but wish to please, is also characterized by bad taste, and arises from an improper manifestation of Secretiveness and Love of Approbation.
The question naturally occurs, What is the distinction betwixt bad taste and bad morality? I would answer, that bad morality always implies bad taste, for it springs from an improper manifestation of some lower feeling, to the outrage of the sentiments of Justice, Benevolence and Veneration. Bad taste, however, may occur without moral turpitude, and this arises from an undue activity of any of the faculties, without offence against justice. The effeminacies of Peter Bell, for example, stand low enough in the scale of taste; but as the greatest tenderness for asses does not necessarily imply any breach of justice to other beings, the taste only is bad, and not the morality. In like manner, when an individual, under the influence of an excessive Self-Esteem and Love of Approbation, constitutes himself the bore of a party, as his offence does not amount to an attack upon such rights as we guard by the sentiment of justice, we set him down as ill-bred, but not as immoral.
CHESTERFIELD, and some dictators in manners, deliberately recommend slight offences against candour, not
only as not liable to the imputation of bad taste, but as essential to good taste. Thus, CHESTERFIELD admits a great deal of deceitful compliance into his characteristics of a gentleman; but, with great deference to his Lordship’s authority, I cannot subscribe to the doctrine that bad morality and good taste are in any degree compatible in the same action. An individual may act very improperly in many parts of his conduct, and shew considerable refinement in other instances; and this is easily understood; for the higher sentiments may co-exist with great animal propensities, and one occasion may call forth the former, and another excite only the latter, and the conduct may thus assume different aspects at different times; but the question is, Whether the same action can be characterized both as immoral and as possessed of good taste? In my opinion it cannot. It is good taste to restrain the expression of our opinions or views in society, when an opposite conduct would cause only dissensions and broils ; but this is good morality also. CHESTERFIELD, however, goes farther, and allows an expression of sentiments, which we do not entertain, if they be pleasing to those to whom they are addressed, as perfectly compatible with good manners; and this is a breach of candour. This practice is an insult to the person who is the object of it; and if he saw the real motives he would feel it to be such. Nothing which, when examined in all its lights, and its true colours, is essentially rude, can possibly be correct in point of taste; so that it has only the appearance, and not the true qualities, of politeness. In short, purity in the motive is equally requisite to good taste as to sound morality; for the motive constitutes the essence of the action.
The sources of good taste may now be adverted to. The nervous and sanguine temperaments, by giving fineness to the substance, and vivacity to the action of the brain, are highly conducive to refinement. All authors and artists whose works are characterized by great delicacy and beau