Page images
PDF
EPUB

irresistible belief of it that is implied in Per- | bodily organs at all.” But it is surely altoception and Memory; a belief, the founda- gether as reasonable to say, that we might tions of which, he seems to think, it would have had all those perceptions, without the be something more than absurd to call in aid or intervention of any material existence question. Now the reality of this general at all. Those perceptions, too, might still have persuasion or belief, no one ever attempted to been accompanied with a belief that would deny. The question is only about its justness not have been less universal or irresistible for or truth. It is conceivable, certainly, in every being utterly without a foundation in reality. case, that our belief should be erroneous; In short, our perceptions can never afford any and there can be nothing absurd in suggesting complete or irrefragable proof of the real exreasons for doubting of its conformity with istence of external things; because it is easy truth. The obstinacy of our belief, in this to conceive that we might have such percepinstance, and its constant recurrence, even tions without them. We do not know, thereafter all our endeavours to familiarise our fore, with certainty, that our perceptions are selves with the objections that have been ever produced by external objects; and in the made to it, are not absolutely without parallel cases to which we have just alluded, we acin the history of the human faculties. All tually find perception and its concomitant bechildren believe that the earth is at rest; and lief, where we do know with certainty that it that the sun and fixed stars perform a diurnal is not produced by any external existence. revolution round it. They also believe that It has been said, however, that we have the the place which they occupy on the surface same evidence for the existence of the mateis absolutely the uppermost, and that the in- rial world, as for that of our own thoughts or habitants of the opposite surface must be conceptions ;-as we have no reason for besuspended in an inverted position. Now of lieving in the latter, but that we cannot help this universal, practical, and irresistible belief, it; which is equally true of the former. Now, all persons of education are easily disabused this appears to us to be very inaccurately arin speculation, thongh it influences their ordi- gued. Whatever we doubt, and whatever we nary language, and continues, in fact, to be prove, we must plainly begin with consciousness. the habitual impression of their minds. In That alone is certain-all the rest is inference. the same way, a Berkleian might admit the Does Dr. Reid mean to assert, that our perconstant recurrence of the illusions of sense, ception of external objects is not a necessary although his speculative reason were suffi- preliminary to any proof of their reality, or ciently convinced of their fallacy.

that our belief in their reality is not founded The phenomena of Dreaming and of De: upon our consciousness of perceiving them? It lirium, however, appear to afford a sort of is only our perceptions, then, and not the exexperimentum crucis, to demonstrate that a istence of their objects, which we cannot help real external existence is not necessary to believing; and it would be nearly as reasonproduce sensation and perception in the hu- able to say that we must take all our dreams man mind. Is it utterly absurd and ridiculous for realities, because we cannot doubt that we to maintain, that allihe objects of our thoughts dream, as it is to assert that we have the same may be "such stuff as dreams are made of?" evidence for the existence of an external or that the uniformity of Nature gives us some world, as for the existence of the sensations reason to presume that the perceptions of ma- by which it is suggested to our minds. niacs and of rational men are manufactured, We dare not now venture farther into this like their organs, out of the same materials ? subject; yet we cannot abandon it without obThere is a species of insanity known among serving, that the question is entirely a matter medical men by the epithet notional, in which, of philosophical and abstract speculation, and as well as in delirium tremens, there is fre- that by far the most reprehensible passages quently no general depravation of the reason in Dr. Reid's writings, are those in which he ing and judging faculties, but where the has represented it as otherwise. When we disease consists entirely in the patient mis- consider, indeed, the exemplary candour, and taking the objects of his thought or imagina- temper, and modesty, with which this exceltion for real and present existences. The lent man has conducted the whole of his error of his perceptions, in such cases, is only speculations, we cannot help wondering that detected by comparing them with the per- he should ever have forgotten himself so far ceptions of other people; and it is evident as to descend to the vulgar raillery which he that he has just the same reason to impute has addressed, instead of argument, to the error to them, as they can have individually abettors of the Berkleian hypothesis. The for imputing it to him. The majority, indeed, old joke, of the sceptical philosophers running necessarily carries the point, as to al practi- their noses against posts, tumbling into ken. cal consequences: But is there any absurdity nels, and being sent to madhouses, is repeated in alleging that we can have no 'absolute or at least ten times in different parts of Dr. infallible assurance of that as to which the Reid's publications, and really seems to have internal conviction of an individual must be been considered as an objection not less forcisupported, and may be overruled by the testi- ble than facetious. Yet Dr. Reid surely could mony of his fellow-creatures?

not be ignorant that those who have questioned Dr. Reid has himself admitted that we the reality of a material universe, never afmight probably have been so made, as to have fected to have perceptions, ideas, and sensaall the perceptions and sensations which we tions, of a different nature from other people. now have, without any impression on our The debate was merely about the origin of these sensations; and could not possibly affect and necessity. In the former, we cannot help the conduct or feelings of the individual. The thinking that he has dogmatised, with a desceptie, therefore, who has been taught by gree of confidence which is scarcely justified experience that certain perceptions are con- by the cogency of his arguments, and has nected with unpleasant sensations, will avoid endeavoured to draw ridicule on the reasoning the occasions of them as carefully as those of his antagonists, by illustrations that are utwho look upon the object of their perceptions I terly inapplicable. In the latter, also, he has as external realities. Notions and sensations made something more than a just use of the he cannot deny to exist; and this limited prejudices of men and the ambiguity of lanfaith will regulate his conduct exactly in the guage; and has more than once been guilty, same manner as the more extensive creed of if we be not mistaken, of what, in a less his antagonists. We are persuaded that Mr. respectable author, we should not have scruStewart would reject the aid of such an argu- pled to call the most palpable sophistry. We ment for the existence of an external world. are glad that our duty does not require us to

The length to which these observations enter into the discussion of this very perhave extended, deters us from prosecuting plexing controversy; though we may be perany farther our remarks on Dr. Reid's philoso- mitted to remark, that it is somewhat extraphy. The other points in which it appears to ordinary to find the dependence of human us that he has left his system vulnerable are, actions on Motives so positively denied by his explanation of our idea of cause and effect, those very philosophers with whom the docand his speculations on the question of liberty trine of Causation is of such high authority.

(October, 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 be- In the Second part of his book, Mr. Cooper lieve, and on a greater variety of subjects, professes to estimate the Metaphysical wri. than any other English author; and probably tings of Dr. Priestley, and delivers a long and believed, as his friend Mr. Cooper appears to very zealous defence of the doctrines of Mado at this moment, that his several publica- terialism, and of the Necessity of human actions were destined to make an æra in the tions. A good deal of learning and a good respective branches of speculation to which deal of talent are shown in this production : they bore reference. We are not exactly of But we believe that most of our readers will that opinion : But we think Dr. Priestley a be surprised to find that Mr. Cooper conperson of no common magnitude in the his- siders both these questions as having been tory of English literature; and have perused finally set at rest by the disquisitions of his this miscellaneous volume with more interest learned friend! than we have sually found in publications

Indeed," he observes, "those questions must of the same description. The memoirs are

now be considered as setiled; for those who can written with great conciseness and simplicity, resist Collins' philosophical inquiry, the section of and present a very singular picture of that in- Dr. Hartley on the mechanism of the mind, and defatigable activity, that bigotted vanity, that the review of the subject taken by Dr. Priestley precipitation, cheerfulness, and sincerity, and his opponents, are not to be reasoned with. which made up the character of this restless Interest reipublicæ ut denique sit finis litium, is a

maxim of technical law. It will apply equally to philosopher. The observations annexed by the republic of letters; and the time seems to have Mr. Cooper are the work, we think, of a pow- arrived, when the separate existence of the human erful, presumptuous, and most untractable Soul, the freedom of the Will, and the eternal understanding. They are written in a defy- duration of Future punishment, like the doctrines ing, dogmatical, unaccommodating style: with of the Trinity! and Transubstantiation, may be much force of reasoning, in many places, but regarded as no longer entitled 10 public discus

p335 often with great rashness and arrogance; and occasionally with a cant of philosophism, and

The advocates of Necessity, we know, havę a lang of party politics, which communicate long been pretty much of this opinion'; and an air of vulgarity to the whole work, and ir- we have no inclination to disturb them at resistibly excite a smile at the expense of this present with any renewal of the controversy: magnanimous despiser of all sorts of prejudice cates of Materialism laid claim

to the same and bigotry.

triumph; and certainly find some difficulty in * I omit now a very considerable portion of this admitting that all who believe in the existence review, containing a pretty full account of Dr. of mind are unfit to be reasoned with. Tous Priestley's life and conversation, and of his various indeed, it has always appeared that it was phy, and chemistry; retaining only the following much easier to prove the existence of mind, examination of his doctrine of Materialism. than the existence of matter; and with whai.

ever contempt Mr. Cooper and his friends may tain the existence of our perceptions, and to regard us, we must be permitted to say a word deny that of matter altogether. The other or two in defence of the vulgar opinion. qualities of matter are perceived by us; but

The sum of the argument against the exist-perception cannot be perceived: And all we ence of mind, in case any of our readers know about it is, that it is that by which we should be ignorant of it, is shortly as follows. perceive every thing else. It certainly does The phenomena of thinking, or perception, sound somewhat absurd and unintelligible, are always found connected with a certain therefore, to say, that perception is thai mass of organised matter, and have never quality of matter by which it becomes conbeen known to exist in a separate or detached scious of its own existence, and acquainted state. It seems natural, therefore, to consider with its other qualities: Since it is plain that them as qualities of that substance : Nor is it this is not a quality, but a knowledge of qualiany objection to say, that the quality of think- ties; and that the percipient must necessarily ing has no sort of resemblance or affinity to be distinct from that which is perceived. We any of the other qualities with which we must always begin with perception; and the know matter to be endowed. This is equally followers of Berkeley will tell us, that we true of all the primary qualities of matter, must end there also. At all events, it certainly when compared with each other. Solidity, never entered into the head of any plain man for instance, bears no sort of resemblance or to conceive that the faculty of perception was affinity to extension ; nor is there any other itself one of the qualities with which that reason for our considering them as qualities faculty made him acquainted : or that it could of the same substance, but that they are al- possibly belong to a substance, which his ways found in conjunction—that they occupy earliest intimations and most indestructible the same portion of space, and present them- impressions taught him to regard as someselves together, on all occasions, to our obser- thing external and separate.* vation. Now, this may be said, with equal This, then, is the first objection to the docforce, of the quality of thinking. It is al- trine of Materialism, - that it makes the ways found in conjunction with a certain mass faculty of perception a quality of the thing of solid and extended matter-it inhabits the perceived; and converts, in a way that must same portion of space, and presents itself in- at first sight appear absurd to all mankind, variably along with those other qualities the our knowledge of the qualities of matter into assemblage of which makes up our idea of another quality of the same substance. The organised matter. Whatever substratum can truth is, however, that it is a gross and unsupport and unite the qualities of solidity and warrantable abuse of language, to call percepextension, may therefore support the quality tion a quality at all. It is an act or an eventof thinking also; and it is eminently unphilo- a factor a phenomenon-of which the percipi. sophical to suppose, that it inheres in a sepa- ent is conscious: but it cannot be intelligibly raie substance to which we should give the conceived as a quality; and, least of all, as a appellation of Mind All the phenomena of quality of that substance which is known to thought, it is said, may be resolved by the us as solid and extended. 1st, All the qualities assistance of Dr. Hartley, into perception and of matter, it has been already stated, are perassociation. Now, perception is evidently ceived by the senses : but the sensation itself produced by certain mechanical impulses cannot be so perceived; nor is it possible to call upon the nerves, transmitted to the brain, it an object of sense, without the grossest perand can therefore be directly proved to be version of language. 2dly, All the qualities merely a peculiar species of motion; and as- of matter have a direct reference to Space or sociation is something very like the vibration extension ; and are conceived, in some meaof musical cords in juxtaposition, and is strictly sure, as attributes or qualities of the space within the analogy of material movement. within which they exist. When we say that

In answering this argument, we will fairly a particular body is solid, we mean merely confess that we have no distinct idea of Sub- that a certain portion of space is impenetrastance; and that we are perfectly aware ble: when we say that it is coloured, we that it is impossible to combine three propositions upon the subject, without involving a * We are not very partial to the practice of quocontradiction. All that we know of substance, ting poetry in illustration of metaphysics ; but the are its qualities; yet qualities must belong to versal and natural impression of mankind on this something--and of that something 10 which subject, that we cannot help offering them to the they belong, and by which they are united, consideration of the reader. we neither know anything nor can form any "Am I but what I seem, mere flesh and blood ? conception. We cannot help believing that it A branching channel, and a mazy flood ? exists; but we have no distinct notion as to The purple stream, that through my vessels glides, the mode of its existence.

Dulland unconscious flows like common tides. Admitting this, therefore, in the first place, Are not that thinking I, no more than they.

The pipes, through which the circling juices stray, we may perhaps be permitted to observe, that This frame, compacted with transcendent skill, it seems a little disorderly and unphilosophi- of moving joints, obedient 10 my will, cal, to class perception among the qualities Nurs'd from the fruitful glebe like yonder tree, of matter, when it is obvious, that it is by New matter still the mould'ring mass sustains ; means of perception alone that we get any The mansion chang’d, the tenant still remains, notion of matter or its qualities; and that it And, from the fleeting stream repair'd by food, is possible, with perfect consistency, to main- Distinct, as is the swimmer from the flood."

mean that the same portion of space appears are not qualities of matter (for results ad of one hue,-and so of the other qualities: qualities belong not to the same category). but but sensation or thought is never conceived mere facts or phenomena of a totally duiere: so to occupy space, or to characterise it; nor description, for the production of which the can those faculties be at all conceived as apparatus of some such organisat.09 may, for beirg merely definite portions of space, en- the time, be necessary. dued with perceptible properties. In the third But the material thing is that it is not to place, all the primary qualities of matter are the whole mass of our bodies or theu kons inseparable from it, and enter necessarily into organisation in general, that these phenomera its conception and definition. All matter are said by Dr. Priestley and his disciples !0 must necessarily be conceived as extended, belong, as proper qualities. On the contrary, solid, and figured: and also as universally they distinctiv admit that they are not qualities capable of all the secondary qualities. It is of that physical mass generally, nor eren of obvious, however, that thought or sensation those finer parts of it which constitute our is not an inseparable attribute of matter; as organs of sense. They admit that ihe eve by far the greater part of matter is entirely and the ear act the paris merely of optical or destitute of it; and it is found in connection acoustic instruments; and are only useiul in only with those parts which we term organ- transmitting impulses (or, it may be tine subised; and with those, only while they are stances) to the nervous part of the brea: of in a certain state, which we call alive. If which alone, therefore, and indeed ori of his it be said, however, that thought may re- minute and invisible portions these sircular semble those accidental qualities of matter, ' phenomena are alleged to be proper physical such as heat or colour, which are not insepa- qualities! It is difficult, we think, to make rable or permanent; then we reply, that the absurdity of such a doctrine more appaneither of these things can, in strictness, be rent than by this plain statement of its import termed qualities of matter, more than thought and amount. The only ground, it must always or sensation : They are themselves substan- be recollected, for holding that niind and ail ces, or matter possessed of inseparable and its phenomena are mere qualities of matter, is peculiar qualities, as well as those which the broad and popular one that we always address themselves to the other senses. Light find them connected with a certain nobis is a material substance, from which the mass of organised matter, called a livmy body: quality of colour is inseparable; and heat is But when it is admitted that they are not a material substance, which has universally qualities of this mass generally, or even of the quality of exciting the sensation of any part of it which is esible or perceptible warmth: and both address themselves to, by our senses, the allegation of their being and are distinctly perceived through, our mere material qualities of a part of the brain, senses. If thought be allowed to be a sub- must appear noi merely gratuitous, but inconstance in this sense, it will remain to show sistent and absolutely absund. If the eve that it also is material; by being referable to and the ear, with their delicate structures space, capable of subsisting in every sort of and fine sensibility, are but vehicles and apbody, of being perceived by the senses, of paratus, why should the attenuated and unbeing transferred from one body to another, known tissues of the cerebral nerves be sur and liable to attraction, repulsion, condensa- posed to be any thing else? or why shoulj tion, or reflection-like heat or light. The resulting sensations, to which both are

It is to be remarked also, that wherever apparently ministrant, and no more than minany proper quality, primary or secondary, can istrant, and which have no conceivable rebe ascribed generally to any perceptible body semblance or analogy to any attribute of maior mass of matter, that quality must exist and ter, but put on the list of the physical qualities be recognised in every part of it. If the whole of the latter—which is of itseli 100 slight and of any such body is hard, or coloured, or subtle to enable us to say what are ris comweighty, or hot, or cold, every part of it, mon physical qualities ! But we have yet whether merely considered and examined as another consideration to suggest, before tinal. separable, or actually separated and detached, ly closing this discussion. must be hard, coloured, and weighty also : It probably has not escaped ohservation, these qualities being truly conditions, and, in that throughout the preceding argument ve fact, the only real proofs of the material er. have allowed the advocates for Materal y istence of such a body, and of all the parts of to assume that what (to oblige them, we are it. But though thought or volition may be called thought or perception generaily. was said to have their residence somewhere with one uniform and identical thing; to i bich. in a human body, they certainly are not quali- therefore, the appellation of a quality might ties of its material mass, in this sense ; or to possibly be given, without maniles! and pathe effect of being sensibly present in every pable absurdity. But in reality there is :20 part or portion of it! We never, at least, ground, or even room, for claiming such an have happened to hear it surmised that there allowance. The acts or functions which se is thought in the elbow-joint, or volition in ascribe to mind, are at all events noi ore, but the nail of the great toe: and if it be said many and diverse. Perception no doubt that these phenomena are results only of the one of them—but it is not identical wil ser living organisation as a whole, it seems to us sation; and still less with memory or imagthat ihis is a substantial abandonment of the nation, or volition,-or with love, ånger, fear, whole argument, and an admission that they I deliberation, or hatred. Each of these, on time

contrary, is a separate and distinguishable sons: For, so long as they stuck to the geneact, function, or phenomenon, of the existence ral assertion, that thought might, in some way of which we become aware, not through per- or other, be represented as a quality of matception, or the external senses at all, but ter,-although it was not perceived by the through consciousness or reflection alone: and senses, and bore no analogy to any of its other none of them (with the single exception, per qualities, -and talked about the inherent cahaps, of perception) have any necessary or pacity of substance, to support all sorts of natural reference to any external or material qualities; although their doctrine might elude existence whatever. It is not disputed, how- our comprehension, and revolt all our habits ever, that it is only by perception and the of thinking, -still it might be difficult to senses, that we can gain any knowledge of demonstrate its fallacy; and a certain permatter; and, consequently, whatever we come plexing argumentation might be maintained, to know by consciousness only, cannot pos- by a person well acquainted with the use, sibly belong to that category, or be either ma- and abuse, of words: But when they cast terial or external. But we are not aware that away the protection of this most convenient any materialist has ever gone the length of obscurity, and, instead of saying that they directly maintaining that volition for example, do not know what thought is, have the couror memory, or anger, or fear, or any other age to refer it to the known category of Mosuch affection, were proper material qualities tion, they evidently subject their theory to the of our bodily frames, or could be perceived test of rational examination, and furnish us and recognised as such, by the agency of with a criterion by which its truth may be the external senses; in the same way as the easily determined. weight, heat, colour, or elasticity which may We shall not be so rash as to attempt any belong to these frames. But if they are not definition of motion; but we believe we may each of them capable of being so perceived, take it for granted, that our readers know as separate physical qualities, it is plain that pretty well what it is. At all events, it is not nothing can be gained in argument, by affect a quality of matter. It is an act, a phenomeing to disregard their palpable diversity, and non, or a fact :-—but it makes nó part of the seeking to class them all under one vague description or conception of matter; though name, of thought or perception. Even with it can only exist with reference to that subthat advantage, we have seen that the doc- stance. Let any man ask himself, however, trine, of perception or thought being a mere whether the motion of matter bears any sort quality of matter, is not only untenable, but of resemblance to thought or sensation; or truly self-contradictory and unintelligible. whether it be even conceivable that these But when the number and diversity of the should be one and the same thing ?—But, it is phenomena necessarily covered by that gene- said, we find sensation always produced by ral appellation is considered, along with the motion; and as we can discover nothing else fact that most of them have no reference to in conjunction with it, we are justified in asmatter, and do in no way imply its existence, cribing it to motion. But this, we beg leave the absurdity of representing them as so to say, is not the question. It is not necesmany of its distinct perceptible qualities, sary to inquire, whether motion may produce must be too apparent, we think, to admit of sensation or not, but whether sensation be moany serious defence.

tion, and nothing else? It seems pretty evi. The sum of the whole then is, that all the dent, to be sure, that motion can never proknowledge which we gain only by Perception duce any thing but motion or impulse; and and the use of our external Senses, is know that it is at least as inconceivable that it should ledge of Matter, and its qualities and attri- ever produce sensation in matter, as that it butes alone; and all which we gain only by should produce a separate substance, called Consciousness and Reflection on our own in mind. But this, we repeat, is not the ques. ward feelings, is necessarily knowledge of tion with the materialists. Their proposition Mind, and its states, attributes, and functions. is, not that motion produces sensation—which This in fact is the whole basis, and rationale might be as well in the mind as in the body; of the distinction between mind and matter: but, thit sensation is motion; and that all the and, consequently, unless it can be shown phenomena of thought and perception are in. that love, anger, and sorrow, as well as memo- telligibly accounted for by saying, that they ry and volition, are direct objects of sense or are certain little shakings in the pulpy part of external perception, like heat and colour, or the brain. figure and solidity, there must be an end, we There are certain propositions which it is think, of all question as to their being ma- difficult to confute, only because it is imposterial qualities.

sible to comprehend them; and this, the subBut, though the very basis and foundation stantive article in the creed of Materialism, of the argument for Materialism is placed really seems to be of this description. To say upon the assumption, that thought and per- that thought is motion, is as unintelligible to ception are qualities of our bodies, it is re- us, as to say that it is space, or time, or promarkable that Dr. Priestley, and the other portion. champions of that doctrine, do ultimately give There may be little shakings in the brain, up that point altogether, and maintain, that for any thing we know, and there may even thought is nothing else than Motion ! Now, be shakings of a different kind, accompanying this, we cannot help thinking, was very im- every act of thought or perception ;-but, that politic and injudicious in these learned per- the shakings themselves are the thought or

« PreviousContinue »