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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 believe, and on a greater variety of subjects, than any other English author; and probably believed, as his friend Mr. Cooper appears to do at this moment, that his several publications were destined to make an æra in the respective branches of speculation to which they bore reference. We are not exactly of that opinion: But we think Dr. Priestley a person of no common magnitude in the history of English literature; and have perused this miscellaneous volume with more interest than we have usually found in publications of the same description. The memoirs are written with great conciseness and simplicity, and present a very singular picture of that indefatigable activity, that bigotted vanity, that precipitation, cheerfulness, and sincerity, which made up the character of this restless philosopher. The ob

servations annexed by Mr. Cooper are the work, we think, of a powerful, presumptious, and most untractable understanding. They are written in a defying, dogmatical, unaccomodating style; with much force of reasoning, in many places, but often with great rashness and arrogance; and occasionally with a cant of philosophism, and a tang of party politics, which communicate an air of vulgarity to the whole work, and irresistibly excite a smile at the expense of the

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magnanimous despiser of all sorts of prejudice and bigotry.*

In the Second part of his book, Mr. Cooper professes to estimate the Metaphysical writings of Dr. Priestley, and delivers a long and very zealous defence of the doctrines of Materialism, and of the necessity of human actions. A good deal of learning and a good deal of talent are shown in this production: But we believe that most of our readers will be surprised to find that Mr. Cooper considers both these questions as having been finally set at rest by the disquisitions of his learned friend!

"Indeed," he observes, "those questions must now be considered as settled; for those who can resist Collins's philosophical inquiry, the section of Dr. Hartley on the mechanism of the mind, and the review of the subject taken by Dr. Priestley and his opponents, are not to be reasoned with. Interest reipublicæ ut denique sic finis litium, is a maxim of technical law. It will apply equally to the republic of letters; and the time seems to have arrived, when the separate existence of the human Soul, the freedom of the Will, and the eternal duration of Future punishment, like the doctrines of the Trinity! and Transubstantiation, may be regarded as no longer entitled to public discussion."- p. 335.

The advocates of Necessity, we know, have long been pretty much of this opinion; and we have no inclination to disturb them at present with any renewal of the controversy: But we really did not know that the advocates of Materialism laid claim to the same triumph; and certainly find some difficulty in admitting that all who believe in the existence of mind are unfit to be reasoned with. To us, indeed, it has always appeared that it was much easier to prove the existence of mind, than the existence of matter; and with whatever contempt Mr. Cooper and his friends may regard us, we must be permitted to say a word or two in defence of the vulgar opinion.

The sum of the argument against the existence of

* I omit now a very considerable portion of this review, containing a pretty full account of Dr. Priestley's life and conversation, and of his various publications on subjects of theology, natural philosophy, and chemistry; retaining only the following examination of his doctrine of Materialism.



mind, in case any of our readers should be ignorant of it, is shortly as follows. The phenomena of thinking, or perception, are always found connected with a certain mass of organised matter, and have never been known to exist in a separate or detached state. It seems natural, therefore, to consider them as qualities of that substance: Nor is it any objection to say, that the quality of thinking has no sort of resemblance or affinity to any of the other qualities with which we know matter to be endowed. This is equally true of all the primary qualities of matter, when compared with each other. Solidity, for instance, bears no sort of resemblance or affinity to extension; nor is there any other reason for our considering them as qualities of the same substance, but that they are always found in conjunction — that they occupy the same portion of space, and present themselves together, on all occasions, to our observation. Now, this may be said, with equal force, of the quality of thinking. It is always found in conjunction with a certain mass of solid and extended matter-it inhabits the same portion of space, and presents itself invariably along with those other qualities the assemblage of which makes up our idea of organised matter. Whatever substratum can support and unite the qualities of solidity and extension, may therefore support the quality of thinking also; and it is eminently unphilosophical to suppose, that it inheres in a separate substance to which we should give the appellation of Mind. All the phenomena of thought, it is said, may be resolved, by the assistance of Dr. Hartley, into perception and association. Now, perception is evidently produced by certain mechanical impulses upon the nerves, transmitted to the brain, and can therefore be directly proved to be merely a peculiar species of motion; and association is something very like the vibration of musical chords in juxtaposition, and is strictly within the analogy of material movement.

In answering this argument, we will fairly confess that we have no distinct idea of Substance; and that we are perfectly aware that it is impossible to combine three propositions upon the subject, without involving a con


tradiction. All that we know of substance, are its qualities; yet qualities must belong to something and of that something to which they belong, and by which they are united, we neither know anything nor can form any conception. We cannot help believing that it exists; but we have no distinct notion as to the mode of its existence.

Admitting this, therefore, in the first place, we may perhaps be permitted to observe, that it seems a little disorderly and unphilosophical, to class conception among the qualities of matter, when it is obvious, that it is by means of perception alone that we get any notion of matter or its qualities; and that it is impossible, with perfect consistency, to maintain the existence of our perceptions, and to deny that of matter altogether. The other qualities of matter are perceived by us; but perception cannot be perceived: And all we know about it is, that it is that by which we perceive every thing else. It certainly does sound somewhat absurd and unintelligible, therefore, to say, that perception is that quality of matter by which it becomes conscious of its own existence, and acquainted with its other qualities: Since it is plain that this is not a quality, but a knowledge of qualities; and that the percipient must necessarily be distinct from that which is perceived. We must always begin with perception; and the followers of Berkeley will tell us, that we must end there also. At all events, it certainly never entered into the head of any plain man to conceive that the faculty of perception was itself one of the qua lities with which that faculty made him acquainted: or that it could possibly belong to a substance, which his earliest intimations and most indestructable impres sions taught him to regard as something external and separate.

*We are not very partial to the practice of quoting poetry in illustration of metaphysics; but the following lines seem to express so forcibly the universal and natural impression of mankind on this subject, that we cannot help offering them to the consideration of the reader.

"Am I but what I seem, mere flesh and blood?
A branching channel, and a mazy flood?



This, then, is the first objection to the doctrine of Materialism, that it makes the faculty of perception a quality of the thing perceived; and converts, in a way that must at first sight appear absurd to all mankind, our knowledge of the qualities of matter into another quality of the same substance. The truth is, however, that it is a gross and unwarrantable abuse of language, to call perception a quality at all. It is an act or an event a fact or a phenomenon of which the percipient is conscious: but it cannot be intelligibly conceived as a quality; and, least of all, as a quality of that substance which is known to us as solid and extended. 1st, All the qualities of matter, it has been already stated, are perceived by the senses: but the sensation itself cannot be so perceived; nor is it possible to call it an object of sense, without the grossest perversion of language. 2ndly, All the qualities of matter have a direct reference to Space or extension; and are conceived, in some measure, as attributes or qualities of the space within which they exist. When we say that a particular body is solid, we mean merely that a certain portion of space is impenetrable: when we say that it is coloured, we mean that the same portion of space appears of one hue, and so of the other qualities: but sensation or thought is never conceived so to occupy space, or to characterise it; nor can these faculties be at all conceived as being merely definite portions of space, endued with perceptible properties. In the third place, all the primary qualities of matter are inseparable from it, and

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The purple stream, that through my vessels glides,
Dull and unconscious flows like common tides.
The pipes, through which the circling juices stray,
Are not that thinking I, no more than they.
This frame, compacted with transcendent skill,
Of moving joints, obedient to my will,
Nurs'd from the fruitful glebe, like yonder tree,
Waxes and wastes: I call it MINE, not ME.
New matter still the mould'ring mass sustains;
The mansion chang'd, the tenant still remains,
And, from the fleeting stream repair'd by food,
Distinct, as is the swimmer from the flood."

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