Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

inductive science of matter only in its subject and instruments; they are both essentially founded upon fact, and as the object of the latter is to investigate the general laws that regulate the material phenomena which we perceive, so the object of the former is to investigate the general laws that regulate the phenomena of which we are conscious.

From this view of the nature of the philosophy of the mind, it follows that all speculations regarding the causes or mechanism by which the intellectual phenomena are supposed to be produced, lie beyond its legitimate province. They belong to the region of conjecture, and not to that of inductive philosophy. Our propositions regarding the laws of thought may be verified by an appeal to experience; but no proposition regarding the essence of the thinking principle is capable of being examined by any such test; and it is therefore improper and unphilosophical to commix and confound these two very different classes of propositions under a common name. It is the great aim of the physiologico-metaphysical theories, so much in fashion in the present day, to explain how our different mental operations are produced by means of vibrations, and other changes in the state of the sensorium; but in truth, these speculations are exceedingly visionary, and at any rate it is quite clear that as they have neither the same objects nor the same evidence, so neither ought they to pass under the same name with conclusions founded upon consciousness. We admire the philosophy and the spirit of the following passage.

• For my part, I have no scruple to say that I consider the physiological problem in question, as one of those which are likely to remain for ever among the arcana of nature; nor am I afraid of being contradicted by any competent and candid judge, how sanguine soever may be his hopes concerning the progress of future discovery, when I assert that it has hitherto eluded completely all the efforts which have been madetowards its solution. As to the metaphysical romances above alluded to, they appear to me, after all the support and illustration which they have received from the ingenuity of Hartley, of Priestly, and of Darwin, to be equally unscientific in the design, and uninteresting in the execution; destitule, at once, of the sober charms of truth, and of those imposing attractions which fancy, when united to taste, can lend to fiction. In consequence of the unbounded praise which I have heard Lestowed upon them, I have repeatedly begun the study of them anew, suspecting that I might be under the influence of some latent and undue prejudice against this new mode of philosophizing, so much in vogue at present in England; but notwithstanding the strong predilection which I have always felt for such pursuits, my labour has uniformly ended in a sentiment of regret, at the time and attention which I had misemployed in so hopeless and so ungrateful a taski-Prel, Dissert. p. 4, A 2

То

To all the theories which attempt to materialize the mind, there is, according to Mr. Stewart, one decisive objection that they are unphilosophical and nugatory. Their object is to show that the qualities we call mental, belong to the same substance which upholds those we call material. But we know absolutely nothing of this substance but by its qualities, which are essentially different from the mental; and therefore when it is said that these two classes of qualities belong to the same substance, the proposition is not only purely hypothetical, but one which makes it just as proper to say that matter is spiritual as that mind is material. The line of distinction between the legitimate science of mind, and those spurious kinds of it to which we have alluded, is admirably illustrated by Mr. Stewart.

* The circumstance which peculiarly characterizes the inductive science of the mind is, that it professes to abstain from all speculations concerning its nature and essence; confining the attention entirely to phenomena, which every individual has it in his power to examine for himself, who chooses to exercise the powers of his understanding. In this respect, it differs equally in iis scope from the pneumatological discussions concerning the seat of the soul, and the possibility or the impossibility of its bearing any relation to space or to time, which so long gave employment to the subtility of the schoolmen ;-and from the physiological hypotheses which have made so much noise at a later period, concerning the mechanical causes on which its operations depend. Compared with the first, it differs, as the inquiries of Galileo concerning the laws of moving bodies differ from the disputes of the ancient sophists concerning the existence and the nature of motion. Compared with the other, the difference is analogous to what exists between the conclusions of Newton about the law of gravitation, and his query concerning the invisible ether, of which he supposed it might possibly be the effect.'- Prel. Dissert. p. 9.

In prosecuting these remarks upon the theories of Hartley and his followers, Mr. Stewart takes occasion to show, that their attempt to explain all the phenomena of the mind by the single principle of association, is directly at variance with the fundamental rules of inductive philosophy. It forms a complete counterpart, he justly observes, to the extravagant pursuits of the alchemists. All the sciences, indeed, have had their alchemists, who bave endeavoured to reduce all phenomena to one primary element or principle. To an alchemist, says Mr. Stewart, the new chemical nonienclature would only have afforded a subject of ridicule; and in like manner, the metaphysical alchemist of the Hartleian school treats with ridicule every system which admits of more than one explanatory principle of the mental phenomena. But what are the steps by which the Hartleian theory has attained to this boasted simplicity? Nothing can be more easy than to make discoveries upon the plan of its author. His generalizations are purely verbal; 'deriving,' as Mr. Stewart con

clusively clusively observes, whatever speciousness they may possess, from the unprecedented latitude given to the meaning of common terms. After telling us, for example, that “all our internal feelings, except. ing our sensations, may be called ideas," and giving to the word association a corresponding vagueness in its import, he seems to have flattered himself that he had resolved into one single law, all the various phenomena, both intellectual and moral, of the human mind.' When it is once determined to call every thing of which we are conscious, an idea, and every kind of connexion among our thoughts, an association, what difficulty is there in showing that all the phenomena of mind are cases of the association of ideas ? · But what advantage,' continues Mr. Stewart, .do we reap from this pretended discovery;-a discovery necessarily involved in the arbitrary definitions with which the author sets out? Its only effect is, by perverting ordinary language to retard the progress of a science, which depends more than any other, for its improvement, on the use of precise and definite expressions.'

Condillac, a greater philosopher than Hartley, furnishes, we may observe, another striking instance of this arbitrary sort of generalization in his attempt to shew that all the faculties and operations of the mind, are in reality only sensations transformed. All the just distinctions of words and things are here clearly sacriticed to a passion for generalization. This is indeed the rock upon which ingenious minds are most apt to split. But it ought to be recollected that if it is unphilosophical, unnecessarily to multiply ultimate principles, that it is no less unphilosophical prematurely to generalize. It is the business of the metaphysician to endeavour, by a refined analysis, to discover the primary principles of our intellectual nature; but he ought to take care that his advances have the sanction of the cautious maxims of inductive philosophy. Mr. Stewart, therefore, holds the language of a true philosopher when he expresses his determination rather to subject himself to ridicule for the timidity of his researches, than not to follow the footsteps of those faithful interpreters of nature, who, disclaiming all pretensions to conjectural sagacity, aspire to nothing higher, than to rise slowly from particular facts to general laws.

The philosophy of the mind, in order to have any chance of improving upon former advances, must share at least some degree of that estimation which the other sciences enjoy. But we are told, by some persons, that when the pretensions of this boasted philosophy are sifted to the bottom, it will be found that it is incapable of making any substantial additions either to our knowledge or to our power. To counteract these depretintory views, is the main object of Mr. Stewart in his preliininary dissertation. He rightly judges that his favourite science has much at issue in such an inves

A 3

tigation. ace. Te pues 2-3-mer's speed to neglect i po 1.>*: 10:

und that it has ECég ezer top

**92302.13 party clear that al recaune pan7 aire 75 de anual world warii beester, and a..ermeras of this great and interestinSTE: azz 250.oned. The ocrask a pierd: 12, code far greater part of the preliminar K.SUR: 1ST in the fol. 1.wing passice.

"Woen list vera* 100 de mettends is an aribor, I resedi ei.

Dumnes nariri" arrepatrovery in desence of Trends

te cern stand or to Llibr to ir owner case.- .15

sce. Seever, about the fa'e of my pas 1: crna

Tawa:es conviction, both of ice izrance - exs. Liind success of my pian, it was once frota de 5

criticisms as were directe: 41:-*: eres ut sesezi asscmptions. Sme entie:35 ofisies":122i i-gery, 2700 pied; and I wrzii active and are the intentoo my forme: work, if I had been aniveperX: vtbe insutation of prolix,y; by anannt un rectangereuse or refuting them. I kaze), trerete, for aa opportuno being ašle to state those objectians in the less surreaus wisi 33 ther; ar.d still more in tee words of some writer w.se taleas migat coatnbute to draw the public attention to an argument in whicoloacerved the credit of my favourite studies to be se pecuiarly interested. For such an opportunity, I am in iebted to a rery abie article in the Egindurg: Retiene, in replying to which I shall have occasica te obviate most of the objections which I had foreseen, as well as rancus others which, I must own, had never occurred to me.' Prel. Disseri. ff. 29, 30.

The article to which Mr. Stewart here particularly refers, is the review of the excellent account which be some years aço published of the Life and Writings of Dr. Reid. In his survey of the scope and spirit of that great philosopher's writings, he insisted a good deal upon the general analogy between the induce tive science of mind, and the inductive science of matter; maintaining that the same rules of philosophizing were equally applicable, and equally promised advancement to both. In the article alluded to, it was on the other band argued, that induction can only be applied to the study of the mind in the way of observation, that observation without experiment never increases our pwer, and that all that the observer of mind can do, is merely to classify and give names to phenomena perfectly notorious to all mankind. Mr. Stewart here largely controverts all those positions, and vindicates the claims of the philosophy of the mind to increase both our knowledge and our power, in terms to which all must allow

the

the praise of uncommon eloquence; but the vindication would, we think, have been more complete, bad he illustrated, with greater precision, the nature and results of intellectual analysis, and developed more fully the relations which connect this science with the other branches of our knowledge. His reply, however, is, upon the whole, powerful and conclusive ; and as it necessarily calls upon us to advert to the arguments of his antagonist, we think it right once for all to state, that we greatly admire the acuteness and fertility of thought with which they are supported, and regret that such rare talents for metaphysical speculation should be employed to underrate the importance of metaphysical science.

The position which this writer so confidently maintains, that the metaphysical enquirer can disclose nothing of which all his pupils were not previously aware,' appears to us, we must say, to be nothing less than absurd; and has led the critic into inconsistencies which all his ingenuity has not been able to veil. The epithets of important and · valuable, so liberally bestowed upon the speculations of Mr. Stewart, would come very well from a writer who admitted the usefulness of metaphysical inquiry; but we profess ourselves unable to discover how they can be made to tally with an argument intended to prove that all ideas of metaphysical utility are visionary, and that mankind would have lost nothing though the philosophy of the mind had never existed. Nei. ther do we see how any one can talk of Locke as worthy of being ranked with Newton, who wishes to make us believe that this great metaphysician could only draw the attention of mankind to conclusions just about as notorious as these,—that each of us has ten fingers and ten toes, and a certain number of teeth, distinguishable into masticators and incisors!' How, again, can any science be remarkable for profundity,' all the truths of which are said to be just as much known to the clown as to the philosopher? Or what can there be to gratify and exalt a keen and aspiring curiosity,' where discoveries are obvious and easy to such humble judges of intellectual resource as horse-jockies and bear-dancers !

But, leaving these incongruities and witticisms, we proceed to remark, that the metaphysical disputes which obtain among mankind, would be utterly unaccountable, were it true, as the Reviewer maintains, that all men have equal knowledge of all the operations of their minds. Without going back to those dark and unscientific ages, when false metaphysics constituted

• The schoolman's glory and the churchman's boast,' we would beg to be informed, how the most enlightened men come, at this day, to be divided in opinion regarding intellectual phenomena, as to which, upon this principle, every persop knows A 4

all

« IndietroContinua »