Page images

perception, we are so far from admitting, that Berkeleians, it seems quite enough to deterwe find it absolutely impossible to compre- mine us to reject it, that it confounds the act hend what is meant by the assertion. The of perception with the qualities perceived, and shakings are certain throbbings, vibrations, or classes among the objects of perception, the stirrings, in a whitish, half-fluid substance faculty by which these objects are introduced like custard, which we might see perhaps, or to our knowledges-and which faculty must feel, if we had eyes and fingers sufficiently be exercised, before we can attain to any consmall or fine for the office. But what should ception, either of matter or its qualities. we see or feel, upon the supposition that we We do not pretend to have looked through could detect, by our senses, every thing that the whole controversy which Dr. Priestley's actually took place in the brain ? We should publications on this subject appears to have see the particles of this substance change their excited : But nothing certainly has struck us place a little, move a little up or down, to the with more astonishment, than the zeal with right or to the left, round about, or zig-zag, or which he maintains that this doctrine, and in some other course or direction. This is that of Necessity, taken together, afford the all that we could see, if Hartley’s conjecture greatest support to the cause of religion and were proved by actual observation; because morality! We are a little puzzled, indeed, to this is all that exists in motion,-according to discover what use, or what room, there can be our conception of it; and all that we mean, for a God at all, upon this hypothesis of Ma. when we say that there is motion in any sub- terialism; as well as to imagine what species stance. Is it intelligible, then, to say, that of being the God of the materialist must be. this motion, the whole of which we see and If the mere organisation of matter produces comprehend, is thought and feeling?--and reason, memory, imagination, and all the that thought and feeling will exist wherever other attributes of mind,-and'if these differwe can excite a similar motion in a similar ent phenomena be the necessary result of cersubstance ?-In our humble apprehension, the tain motions impressed upon matter; then proposition is not so much false, as utterly there is no need for any other reason or enunmeaning and incomprehensible. That sen- ergy in the universe: and things may be adsation may follow motion in the brain, or may ministered very comfortably, by the intellect even be produced by it, is conceivable at spontaneously evolved in the different combileast, and may be aflirmed with perfect pre- nations of matter. But if Dr. Priestley will cision and consistency; but that the motion is have a superfluous Deity notwithstanding, we itself sensation, and that the proper and com- may ask what sort of a Deity he can expect? plete definition of thought and feeling is, that He denies the existence of mind or spirit al. they are certain vibrations in the brain, is a together; so that his Deity must be material: doctrine, we think, that can only be wondered and his wisdom, power, and goodness must at, and that must be comprehended before it be the necessary result of a certain organisa. be answered.

tion. But how can a material deity be imNo advocate for the existence of mind, ever mortal ? How could he have been formed! thought it necessary to deny that there was a Or why should there not be more,—formed certain bodily apparatus necessary to thought by himself, or by his creator? We will not and sensation in man—and that, on many oc- affirm that Dr. Priestley has not attempted to casions, the sensation was preceded or intro- answer these questions; but we will take it duced by certain impulses and corresponding upon us to say, that he cannot have answered movements of this material machinery :-we them in a satisfactory manner. As to his cannot see without eyes and light, nor think paradoxical doctrines, with regard to the nawithout living bodies. All that they maintain tural mortality of man, and the incompreis, that these impulses and movements are hensible gift of immortality conferred on a not 'eelings or thought, but merely the occa- material structure which visibly moulders and sions of feeling and thought; and that it is is dissolved, we shall only say that it exceeds impossible for them to confound the material in absurdity any of the dogmas of the Cathomotions which precede those sensations, with lics; and can only be exceeded by his own the sensations themselves, which have no supposition, that our Saviour, being only a conceivable affinity with matter.

man, and yet destined to live to the day of The theory of Materialism, then, appears to judgment, is still alive in his original human us to be altogether unintelligible and absurd; body upon earth, and is really the Wandering and, without recurring to the reasoning of the Jew of vulgar superstition !

(October, 1805.) Academical Questions. By the Right Honourable William DRUMMOND, K. C., F. R. S., F.R.S. E. Author of a Translation of Persius. Vol. I. 4to. pp. 412. Cadell and Davies. London : 1805.

We do not know very well what to say of that it is occupied with Me:aphysical specilthis very learned publication. To some read- lations. To others, it may convey a more ers it will probably be enough to announce, I precise idea of its character, to be told, that

though it gave a violent headache, in less than cipitately, that secondary qualities are un:. an hour, to the most intrepid logician of our versally aclmitted to have no existence but in fraternity, he could not help reading on till he the mind of him who perceives them, proceeds, came to the end of the volume. *

with an air of triumph that is at all events Mr. Drummond begins with the doctrine premature, to demonstrate, that there is nothof Locke; and exposes, we think, very suc- ing in the case of primary qualities by which cessfully, the futility of that celebrated au- they can be distinguished in this respect from thor's definition of Substance, as “one knows the secondary. The fact unquestionably is. not whatsupport of such qualities as are ca- that Dr. Reid and his followers assert the posipable of producing simple ideas in us. This tive and independent existence of secondary; notion of substance he then shows to be de- as well as of primary qualities in matter; and rived from the old Platonic doctrine of the that there is, upon their hypothesis, exactly the primary matter, or van, to which the same same evidence for the one as for the other. objections are applicable.

The general problem, as to the probable existHaving thus discarded Substance in general ence of matter-unquestionably the most funfrom the list of existences, Mr. Drummond damentaland momentous in the whole science proceeds to do as much for the particular sub- of metaphysics—may be fairly and intelligibly stance called Matter, and all its qualities. In stated in a very few words. this chapter, accordingly, he avows himself Bishop Berkeley, and after him Mr. Drumto be a determined Idealist; and it is the scope mond, have observed, that by our senses, we of his whole argument to prove, that what we can have nothing but sensations; and that call qualities in external substances, are in sensations, being affections of mind, cannot fact nothing more than sensations in our own possibly bear any resemblance to matter, or minds; and that what have been termed pri- any of its qualities; and hence they infer, that mary qualities, are in this respect entirely we cannot possibly have any evidence for the upon a footing with those which are called existence of matter; and that what we term secondary. His reasoning upon this subject our perception of its qualities, is in fact nothcoincides very nearly with that of Bishop ing else than a sensation in our own minds. Berkeley; of whom, indeed, he says, that if Dr. Reid, on the other hand, distinctly admithis arguments be not really conclusive, it is ting that the primary functions of our senses certainly to be lamented that they should have is to make us conscious of certain sensations, been so imperfectly answered.

which can have no sort of resemblance or afTo us, we will confess, it does not seem of finity to the qualities of matter, has asserted very great consequence to determine whether it as a fact admitting of no dispute, but recog. there be any room for a distinction between nised by every human creature, that these the primary and secondary qualities of matter; sensations necessarily suggest to us the notion for though we are rather inclined to hold that of certain external existences, endowed with Dr. Reid's observations have established its particular definable qualities; and that these possibility, we cannot help saying, that it is a perceptions, by which our sensations are acdistinction which does not touch at all upon companied, are easily and clearly distinguishthe fundamental question, as to the evidence able from the sensations themselves, and which we have, by our senses, for the exist- cannot be confounded with them, without the ence of a material world. Dr. Reid and his most wilful perversity. Perception, again, he followers contend as strenuously for the real holds, necessarily implies the existence of the existence of those material qualities which objecí perceived'; and the reality of a material produce in us the sensations of heat, or of world is thus as clearly deduced from the colour, as of those which give us intimations exercise of this faculty, as the reality of our of solidity, figure, or extension. We know a own existence can be from our consciousness, little more, indeed, according to them, about or other sensations. It appears, therefore, the one sort of qualities than the other; but that there are two questions to be considered the evidence we have for their existence is in determining on the merits of this controexactly the same in both cases; nor is it more versy. First, whether there be any room for a law of our nature, that the sensation of re- a distinction between sensation and percepsistance should suggest to us the definable tion; and, secondly, if we shall allow such a quality of solidity in an external object, than distinction, whether perception does necesthat the sensation of heat should suggest to sarily imply the real and external existence us, that quality in an external object, which of the objects perceived. we cannot define otherwise than as the external

If by perception, indeed, we understand, as cause of this sensation.

Dr. Reid appears to have done, the immediate Mr. Drummond, we think, has not attended and positive discovery of external existences, sufficiently to this part of his antagonist's po- it is evident that the mere assumption of this sition; and after assuming, somewhat too pre- faculty puts an end to the whole question ;

since it necessarily takes those existences for For the reasons stated in the note prefixed to granted, and, upon that hypothesis, defines this division of the book, I refrain from reprinting the faculty in question to be that by which the greater part of this review; and give only that we discover their qualities. This, however, part of it which is connected with the speculations it is plain, is not reasoning, but assertion ; and in the preceding articles, and bears upon the ques. it is not the mere assertion of a fact, which tion of the existence of an external world, and the faith to be given to the intimations of our senses, in these subjects is the whole perhaps of our and other internal convictions.

legitimate philosophy, but of something which 63

2 R 2

may or may not be inferred from the fact, ac- asmuch as there is a distinction between our cording to the views of the inquirer. The feelings of pain, resistance, &c., and our coninquiry is an inquiry into the functions and ceplion and belief of real external existences: operations of mind; and all that can possibly But they differ merely as one affection of be stated as fact on such an occasion, must re- mind may differ from another; and it is plainly late to the state and affections of mind only; unwarrantable to assume the real existence But to assume the existence of a material of external objects as a part of the statement world, in order afterwards to define one func- of a purely intellectual phenomenon. After tion of mind to be that by which it discovers allowing the reality of this distinetion, there material qualities, is evidently blending hy- is still room therefore for considering the pothesis in the statement, and prejudging the second question to which we alluded in the controversy by assumption. The fact itself, outset, viz. Whether perception does neceswe really conceive not to be liable to any kind sarily imply the existence of external obof doubt or dispute; and yet the statement of jects. it, obvious as it is, seems calculated to retrench Upon this subject, we entertain an opinion a good deal from each of the opposite asser- which will not give satisfaction, we are afraid, tions. The fact, if we be not greatly mis- to either of the contending parties. We think taken, is confessedly as follows.

that the existence of external objects is not We have occasionally certain sensations necesso

essarily implied in the phenomena of perwhich we call heat, pain, resistance, &c. ception ; but we think that there is no comThese feelings, of course, belong only to the plete proof of their nonexistence; and that mind, of which they are peculiar affections; philosophy, instead of being benefited, would and both parties are agreed in asserting, that be subjected to needless embarrassments

, by they have no resemblance, or necessary refer- the absolute assumption of the ideal theory. ence, to any thing external. Dr. Reid has The reality of external existences is not made this indeed the very ground-work of his necessarily implied in the phenomena of perreasonings on the subject of perception; and ception; because we can easily imagine that it will not probably be called in question by our impressions and conceptions might have his antagonists, who go the length of inferring been exactly as they are, although matter had from it, that nothing but mind can be con- never been created. Belief, we familiarly ceived to have an existence in nature. This, know, to be no infallible criterion of actual then, is one fact which we may safely assume existence; and it is impossible to doubt, that as quite certain and indisputable, viz. that we might have been so framed as to receive our sensations are affections of the mind, and all the impressions which we now ascribe to have no necessary reference to any other ex- the agency of external objects, from the meistence. But there is another fact at least as chanism of our own minds, or the particular obvious and indisputable, which the one party volition of the Deity. The phenomena of seems disposed to overlook, and the other to dreaming, and of some species of madness, invest with undue authority, in the discussion. seem to form experimental proofs of the posThis second fact is, that some of the sensations sibility we have now stated; and demonstrate, in question are uniformly and irresistibly ac- in our apprehension, that perception, as we companied by the apprehension and belief of have defined it, (i.e. an apprehension and becertain external existences, distinguished by lief of external existences,) does not necessapeculiar qualities. The fact certainly admits rily imply the independent reality of its obof no dispute ; and, accordingly, the philoso-jects. Nor is it less absurd to say that we phers who first attempted to prove that this have the same evidence for the existence of belief was without foundation, have uniformly external objects that we have for the exist. claimed the merit of disabusing mankind of a ence of our own sensations: For it is quite natural and universal illusion. Now this ap- plain, that our belief in the former is founded prehension and belief of external existences, altogether on our consciousness of the latter; is in itself as much an affection of mind, as and that the evidence of this belief is consethe sensations by which it is accompanied ; quently of a secondary nature. We cannot and those who deny the distinction between doubt of the existence of our sensations, perception and sensation, might be justified without being guilty of the grossest contra. perhaps in asserting, that it is only a sensa- diction ; but we may doubt of the existence tion of another kind: at the same time, as the of the material world, without any contradic. essence of it consists in the apprehension of tion at all. If we annihilate our sensations, an independent existence, there can be no we annihilate ourselves; and, of course, leave harm in distinguishing it, by a separate appel- no being to doubt or to reason. If we anniJation, from those sensations which centre in hilate the external world, we still leave entire the sentient being, and suggest to him no idea all those sensations and perceptions which a of any other existence. It is in this sense different hypothesis would refer to its mystealone, it appears to us, that perception can be rious agency on our minds. understood in strict philosophical language. On the other hand, it is certainly going too It means no more than that affection of the far to assert, that the nonexistence of matter mind which consists in an apprehension and is proved by such evidence as necessarily to belief in the existence of external objects. command our assent: Since it evidently im.

Now in this sense of the word, there can plies no contradiction to suppose, that such a be no doubt that there is a real distinction thing as matter may exist, and that an omnipbetween mere sensation and perception; in otent being might make us capable of dis

covering its qualities. The instinctive and

This is the legitimate and inevitable terinsurmountable belief that we have of its mination of that determined scepticism which existence, certainly is not to be surrendered, refuses to believe any thing without the highmerely because it is possible to suppose it est of all evidence, and chooses to conclude erroneous; or difficult to comprehend how a positively that every thing is not, which may material and immaterial substance can act possibly be conceived not to be. The process upon each oiher. The evidence of this uni- of reasoning which it implies, is neither long versal and irresistible belief, in short, is not nor intricate; and its conclusion would be to be altogether disregarded ; and, unless it undeniably just, if everything was necessarily can be shown that it leads to actual contra- true which could be asserted without a condictions and absurdities, the utmost length tradiction. It is perfectly true, that we are that philosophy can warrantably go, is to con- absolutely sure of nothing but what we feel at clude that it may be delusive; but that it the present moment; and that it is possible may also be true.

to distinguish between the evidence we have The rigorous maxim, of giving no faith to for the existence of the present impression, any thing short of direct and immediate con- and the evidence of any other existence. The sciousness, seems more calculated, we think, first alone is complete and unquestionable; to perplex than 10 simplify our philosophy, we may hesitate about all the rest without and will run us up, in two vast strides, to the any absolute contradiction. But the distincvery brink of absolute annihilation. We deny tion, we apprehend, is in itself of as little use the existence of the material world, because in philosophy, as in ordinary life; and the abwe have not for it the primary evidence of solute and positive denial of all existence, consciousness; and because the clear concep- except that of our immediate sensation, altotion and indestructible belief we have of it, gether rash and unwarranted. The objects may be fallacious, for any thing we can prove of our perception and of our recollection, certo the contrary. This conclusion annihilates tainly may exist, although we cannot demonat once all external objects; and, among strate that they must; and when in spite of them, our own bodies, and the bodies anil all our abstractions, we find that we must minds of all other men; for it is quite evident come back, and not only reason with our felthat we can have no evidence of the exist-low creatures as separaie existences, but enence of other minds, except through the me- gage daily in speculations about the qualities diation of the matter they are supposed to and properties of matter, it must appear, at

, an affection of our own minds, there is an end leail us to dwell much on the possibility of to the existence of every other. This first step, their nonexistence. There is no sceptic, protherefore, reduces the whole universe to the bably; 'ho would be bold enough to maintain, mind of the individual reasoner; and leaves that this single cloctrine of the nonexistence no existence in nature, but one mind, with its of any thing but our present impressions, compliment of serisations and ideas. The would constitute a just or useful system of second step goes still farther; and no one can logic and moral philosophy; and if, after hesitate to take it, who has ventured deliber- flourishing with it as an unfruitful paradox in ately on the first. If our senses may vleceive the outset, we are obliged to recur to the orus, so may our memory :-if we will not be- dinary course of observation and conjecture lieve in the existence of matter, because it is as to the nature of our faculties, it may be not vouched by interual consciousness, and loubted whether any real benefit has been because it is conceivable that it should not verived from iis promulgation, or whether the exist, we cannot consistently believe in the hypothesis can be received into any sober reality of any past impression : for which, in system of philosophy. To deny the existence like manner, we camot have the direct evi- of matter and of mind, indeed, is not to phidence of consciousness, and of which our losophise, but to destroy the materials of phipresent recollection may possibly be falla- losophy. It requires no extraordinary incious. Even upon the vulgar hypothesis, we genuity or power of reasoning to perceive the know that memory is much more deceitful grounds upon which their existence may be than perception; and there is still greater doubted ; but we acknowledge that we cannot hazard in assuming the reality of any past see how it can be said to have been disproved ; existence from our present recollection of it, and think we perceive very clearly, that phithan in relying on the reality of a present losophy will neither be simplified nor abridged existence from our immediate perception. If by refusing to take it for granted. we discredit our memory, however, and deny Upon the whole, then, we are inclined to all existence of which we have not a present think, that the conception and belief which consciousness or sensation, it is evident that we have of material objects (which is what we must annihilate our own personal identity, we mean by the perception of them) does not and refuse to believe that we had thought or amount to a complete proof of their existence, sensation at any previous moment. There but renders it sufficiently probable : that the can be no reasoning, therefore, nor know- superior and complete assurance we have of ledge, nor opinion; and we must end by vir- the existence of our present sensations, does tually annihilating ourselves, and denying by no means entitle us positively to deny the that any thing whatsoever exists in nature, reality of every other existence; and that as but the present solitary and momentary im- this speculative scepticism neither renders us pression.

independent of the ordinary modes of investigation, nor assists us materially in the use of Now, nothing, we conceive, is more obvious them, it is inexpedient to dwell long upon it than the fallacy of this reasoning. The li. in the course of our philosophical inquiries, king, or disliking, of men to a particular object, and much more advisable to proceed upon has nothing to do with the perception of its the supposition that the real condition of things external qualities; and they may differ en. is conformable to our natural apprehensions. tirely as to their opinion of its agreeableness,

The little sketch we have now ventured to though they concur perfectly as to the deoffer of the abstract, or thorough-going phi- scription of all its properties. One man may losophy of scepticism, will render it unneces- admire a tall woman, and another a short one; sary for us to follow our author minutely but it would be rather rash to infer, that they through the different branches of this inquiry. did not agree in recognising a difference in Overlooking, or at least undervaluing the in- stature, or that they had no uniform ideas of disputable fact, that our sensations are uni- magnitude in general. In the same way, one formly accompanied with a distinct apprehen- person may have an antipathy to sali, and sion, and firm belief in the existence of real another a liking for it; but they both perceive external objects, he endeavours to prove, that it to be salt, and both agree in describing it the qualities which we ascribe to them are in by that appellation. To give any degree of reality nothing more than names for our pecu- plausibility to Mr. Drummond's inferences, it liar sensations; and maintains accord ingly, would be necessary for him to show that some that because men differ in their opinions of men thought brandy and Cayenne pepper inthe same object, it is impossible to suppose sipid and tasteless, and objected at the same that they actually perceive any real object at time to milk and spring water as excessively all; as a real existence must alırays appear acrid and pungent. the same to those who actually perceive it. In the concluding part of his book, Mr.

His illustrations are of this nature. Water, Drummond undertakes nothing less than a which feels tepid to a Laplander, would appear defence of the theory of Ideas, against the cold to a native of Sumatra : But the same arguments of Dr. Reid. This is a bold atwater cannot be both hot and cold: therefore tempt; but, we are inclined to think, not a it is to be inferred that neither of them is successful one. Mr. Drummond begins with affected by any real quality in the external the old axiom, that nothing can act but where body, but that each describes merely his it is; and infers, that as real material objects own sensations. Now, the conclusion here is cannot penetrate to the seat of the soul, that plainly altogether unwarranted by the fact; sentient principle can only perceive certain since it is quite certain that both the persons images or ideas of them ; against the assumpin question perceive the same quality in the tion of which he conceives there can be no water, though they are affected by it in a dif- considerable obstacle. Now, it is needless, ferent manner. The solution of the whole we think, to investigate the legitimacy of this puzzle is, that heat and cold are not different reasoning very narrowly, because the fourdaqualities; but different degrees of the same tion, we are persuaded, is unsound. The quality, and probably exist only relatively to axiom, we believe, is now admitied to be each other. If the water is of a higher tem- fallacious (in the sense at least here assigned perature than the air, or the body of the to it) by all who have recently paid any aiten. person who touches it, he will call it warm; tion to the subject. But what does Mr. Drumif of a lower temperature, he will call it cold. mond understand exactly by ideas? Does he But this does not prove by any means, that mean certain films, shadows, or simulacra, the difference between two distinct tempera- proceeding from real external existences, and tures is ideal, or that it is not always perceived passing through real external organs to the by all individuals in the very same way. If local habitation of the soul? If he means Mr. Drummond could find out a person who this, then he admits the existence of a manot only thought the water cold which other terial world, as clearly as Dr. Reid does; people called warm, but also thought that and subjects himself to all the ridicule which warm which they perceived to be cold, he he has himself so justly bestowed upon the might have some foundation for his inference; hypothesis of animal spirits, or any other but while all mankind agree that ice is cold, supposition, which explains the intercourse and steam hot, and concur indeed most exactly between mind and matter, by imagining some in their judgments of the comparative heat of matter, of so fine a nature as almost to gra. all exterual bodies, it is plainly a mere quib-duate into mind! If, on the other hand, by ble on the convertible nature of these quali- ideas, Mr. Drummond really means nothing ties, to call in question the identity of their but sensations and perceptions (as we have perceptions, because they make the variable already explained that word), it is quite obstandard of their own temperature the rule vious that Dr. Reid has never called their for denominating other bodies hot or cold. existence in question ; and the whole debate

In the same way, Mr. Drummond goes on comes back to the presumptions for the exist. to say, one man calls the flavour of assafætida ence of an external world, or the reasonablenauseous, and another thinks it agreeable ;- ness of trusting to that indestructible belief one nation delights in a species of food which which certainly accompanies those sensations, to its neighbours appears disgusting. How, I as evidence of their having certain extemal then, can we suppose that they perceive the causes. We cannot help doubting, whether same real qualities, when their judgments in Mr. Drummond has clearly stated to himself

, regard to them are so diametrically opposite? in which of these two senses he proposes 10

« PreviousContinue »