« PreviousContinue »
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.
5. Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base,
Shall to-morrow find its place.
6. Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
And one boundless reach of sky.
UNCLE TIM’S METAPHYSICS
1. “ That that is, is.” Most people in happy ignorance indulge in this belief. But, strange to say, an introduction to pen and ink, may reverse this opinion. No sooner do we begin to study metaphysics, than we find how egregiously we have been mistaken.
2. The science of metaphysics is highly useful for this, if for no other reason, because it teaches people what sheer nobodies they are.
The only objection is, they are not disposed to lay this truth sufficiently to heart, but continue to give themselves airs, just as if some folks were really some folks.
3. The most venerable personage in Pumpkinville, where I lived in my youth, was one of the metaphysical doctors of the old school, who could cavil upon the ninth part of a hair about entities and quiddities. I remember a conversation at my grandfather's, in which the doctor had some difficulty in making his metaphysics all “ as clear as preaching."
4. Something was under discussion, and my grandfather could make nothing of it; but the doctor said it was “metaphysically true.”
5. “ Pray, doctor," said uncle Tim, “tell me something about metaphysics ; I have often heard of that science, but never for my life could find out what it was."
Metaphysics,” said the doctor, “is the science of abstractions.”
6. "I am no wiser for that explanation,” said uncle Tim.
“ It treats," said the doctor, “ of matters most profound and sublime, a little difficult perhaps for a common intellect or an unschooled capacity to fathom, but not the less important, on that account, to all living beings."
7. "What does it teach ?" asked the schoolmaster
“ It is not applied so much to the operation of teaching,” answered the doctor, “ as to that of inquiring; and the chief inquiry is, whether things are, or whether they are not."
8. “I don't understand the question," said uncle Tim, taking the pipe out of his mouth.
“For example, whether this earth on which we tread,” said the doctor, giving a heavy stamp on the floor, and setting his foot slap on the cat's tail, “whether this earth does really exist, or whether it does not exist.”
9. “ That is a point of considerable consequence to settle," said my grandfather.
Especially,” added the schoolmaster, “to the holders of real estate."
“Now, the earth,” continued the doctor, “ may exist
10. 66 Who ever doubted that?" asked uncle
“A great many men," said the doctor, “and some very learned ones.”
Uncle Tim stared a moment, and then began to Sll up his pipe, whistling the tune of “ High Betty Martin," while the doctor went on.
11. “ The earth, I say, may exist, although Bishop Berkeley has proved, beyond all possible gainsaying or denial, that it does not exist. He has made his case clear ; the only difficulty is, to know whether we shall believe it or not.”
12. “ And how," asked uncle Tim, “is all this to be found out ?”
• By digging down to the first principles," answered the doctor.
“Ay," interrupted Malachi, our hired man, “ there is nothing equal to the spade and pickaxe.”
13. “ That is true," said my grandfather, going on in Malachi's way; “'tis by digging for the foundation, that we shall find out whether the world exists or not; for if we dig to the bottom of the earth and find a foundation, why, then we are sure of it. But if we find no foundation, it is clear that the world stands upon nothing, or, in other words, that it does not stand at all; therefore, it stands to
14. “I beg your pardon,” interrupted the doctor, “but you totally mistake me; I use the word digging metaphorically, meaning the profoundest cogitation and research into the nature of things. That is the way in which we may ascertain whether things are, or whether they are not.”
15. “But if a man can't believe his eyes,” said uncle Tim, “what signifies talking about it?”
“ Our eyes," said the doctor, "are nothing but the inlets of sensation; and when we see a thing, all we are aware of is, that we have a sensation of it; we are not sure that the thing exists. We are sure of nothing that we see with our eyes."
16. “ Not without spectacles," said aunt Judy, who could knit good stockings, but could not syllogize.
“ Plato, for instance,” continued the doctor, “ maintains that the sensation of any object, is produced by a perpetual succession of copies, images, or counterfeits, streaming off from the object to the organs of sensation. Descartes, too, has explained the matter upon the principle of whirligigs."
17. “ But does not the world exist ?” asked the schoolmaster.
“ A good deal may be said upon both sides," replied the doctor, “ though the ablest heads are for non-existence.”
18. “In common cases," said uncle Tim, “ those who utter nonsense are considered blockheads."
“ But in metaphysics,” said the doctor, “ the case is different.”
19. “ Now all this is hocus pocus to me said aunt Judy, suspending her knitting work; “I don't understand a bit more of the business than I did at first."
20. “ I'll be bound, there is many a learned professor," said uncle Tim," who could say the same, after spinning a long yarn of metaphysics.”
21. The doctor did not admire this gibe at his favorite science. - That is as the case may be,” said he; “this thing or that thing may be dubious; but what then? Doubt is the beginning of wisdom.”
22. “ No doubt of that,” said my grandfather, beginning to poke the fire; “but when a man has got through his doubting, what does he begin to build upon in the metaphysical way?”
“ Why, he begins by taking something for granted," said the doctor.
“But is that a sure way of going to work ?.”
23. “ It is the only thing he can do," replied the doctor, after a pause, and rubbing his forehead, as if he was not altogether satisfied that his foundation was a solid one. My grandfather might have posed him with another question, but he poked the fire and let him go on.
24. “Metaphysics, to speak exactly
“ Ah!” interrupted the schoolmaster," bring it Jown to vulgar fractions, and then we shall understand it."
25. 5° Tis the consideration of immateriality, or the mere spirit and essence of things.”
“ Come, come,” said aunt Judy, taking a pinch of snuff, “ now I see into it.”
26. “Thus, man is considered,” continued the doctor, “not in his corporeality, but in his essense or capability of being; for a man metaphysically, hath two natures, that of spirituality and that of corporeality, which may be considered separate.”
6 What man ?” asked uncle Tim.
27. “ Why, any man; Malachi there, for example; I may consider him as Malachi spiritual or Malachi corporeal.”
“ That is true,” said Malachi, “ for when I was in the militia, they made me a sixteenth corporal, and I carried grog to the drummer."
28. “ That is another affair," said the doctor, in continuation; we speak of man in his essence ; we speak also of the essence of locality, the essence of duration
“ And essence of peppermint,” said aunt Judy..
29. “ Poh!” said the doctor ; 66 the essence I mean is quite a different concern."
“ Something too fine to be dribbled through the worm of a still,” said my grandfather.
“ Then I am all in the dark again,” rejoined aunt Judy.
30. “By the spirit and essence of things, I mean things in the abstract," said the doctor.
“ And what becomes of a thing when it gets into the abstract ?” asked uncle Tim.
" Why, it becomes an abstraction"