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In these cases, the fact that I wish to establish is so striking, that it has never been called in question; but in most cases, the impression which the objects of imagination make on the mind is so momentary, and is fo immediately corrected by the surrounding objects of perception, that it has not time to influence our conduct. Hence we are apt to conclude on a superficial view, that imagination is attended with no belief; and the conclusion is surely just in most cases, if by belief we mean a permanent conviction which influences our conduct. But if the word be used in the strict logical

sense, I am inclined to think, after the most careful its numa attention to what I experience in myself, that the ex

ercise both of conception and imagination is always accompanied with a belief that their objects exist *.


* As the foregoing reasoning, though satisfactory to myself, has not appeared equally so to some of my friends ; I should wish the reader to consider the remarks which I now offer, as amount. ing rather to a query, than to a decided opinion.

May I take the liberty of adding, that one of the arguments which I have stated, in opposition to the common doctrine concerning imagination, appears to me to be authorised, in some measure, by the following reasoning of Dr. Reid's on a different subje&t? In considering those sudden bursts of passion, which lead us to wreak our vengeance upon inanimate obje&s, he endeavours to Thew, that we have, in such cases, a momentary belief that the object is alive. “I confess," says he, “it seems to me impor- . “ fible, that there should be resentment against a thing, which, at " that very moment, is considered as inanimate ; and consequently « incapable either of intending hurt, or of being punished. « There must, therefore, I conceive, be some momentary notion “ or conception, that the object of our resentment is capable of “ punishment.”

When a painter conceives the face and figure of an absent friend, in order to draw his picture, he believes for the moment that his friend is before him. The belief, indeed, is only momentary ; for it is extremely difficult, in our waking hours, to keep up a steady and undivided attention to any object we conceive or imagine; and, as soon as the conception or the ima. gination is over, the belief which attended it is at an end. We find that we can recal and dismiss the ob

In another passage, the same author remarks, that “ men may “ be governed, in their practice, by a belief, which, in specu« lation, they reject."

“ I knew a man,” (says he,) “who was as much convinced as “ any man, of the folly of the popular belief of apparitions in the “ dark : yet he could not sleep in a room alone, nor go alone into

a room in the dark. Can it be faid, that his fear did not imply “ a belief of danger? This is impossible. Yet his philosophy « convinced him, that he was in no more danger in the dark when u alone, than with company. Here an unreasonable belief, which “ was merely a prejudice of the nursery, stuck fo fast as to govern “ his conduct, in opposition to his speculative belief as a philoso“ pher, and a man of sense.”

“ There are few persons who can look down from the battle“ ment of a very high tower without fear; while their reason con. “ vinces them, that they are in no more danger than when stand“ ing upon the ground.”

These facts are easily explicable, on the supposition, that when ever the objects of imagination engross the attention wholly, (which they may do, in opposition to any speculative opinion with respect to their non-existence,) they produce a temporary belief of their reality.-Indeed, in the last passage, Dr. Reid seems to admit this to be the case ; for, to say that a man who has a dread of apparitions, believes himself to be in danger when left alone in the dark, is to ay, in other words, that he believes (for the time) that the objects of his imagination are real,

jects jects of these powers at pleasure; and therefore we learn to consider them as creations of the mind, which have no separate and independent existence.

The compatibility of such a speculative disbelief, as I have here supposed, of the existence of an object, with a contrary momentary belief, may perhaps be more readily admitted, if the following experiment be considered with attention.

Suppose a lighted candle to be so placed before a concave mirror, that the image of the flame may be seen between the mirror and the eye of the observer. In this case, a person who is acquainted with the principles of optics, or who has seen the experiment made before, has so strong a speculative conviction of the non-existence of the object in that place where he sees its image, that he would not hesitate to put his finger to the apparent flame, without any apprehension of injury.

Suppose, however, that in such a case it were posfible for the observer to banish completely from his thoughts all the circumstances of the experiment, and to confine his attention wholly to his perception ; would he not believe the image to be a reality; and would he not expect the same consequences from touching it, as from touching a real body in a state of inflammation ? If these questions be answered in the affirmative, it will follow ; that the effect of the perception, while it engages the attention completely to itself, is to produce belief; and that the speculative disbelief, according to which our conduct in ordinary cases is regulated, is the result of a recollection of the various circumstances with which the experiment is accompanied.


If, in such a cafe as I have now supposed, the appearance exhibited to us is of such a nature, as to threaten us with any immediate danger, the effect is the same as if we were to banish from our thoughts the circumstances of the experiment, and to limit our attention solely to what we perceive : for here the belief, which is the first effect of the perception, alarms our fears, and influences our conduct, before refiexion has time to operate.. In a very ingenious optical deception, which was lately exhibited in this city, the image of a flower was presented to the spectator ; and when he was about to lay hold of it with his hand, a stroke was aimed at him by the image of a dagger. If a person who has seen this experiment is asked, in his cooler moments, whether or not he believes the dagger which he saw to be real, he will readily answer in the negative; and yet the accurate statement of the fact undoubtedly is, that the first and the proper effect of the perception is belief; and that the disbelief he feels, is the effect of subsequent reflexion.

The speculative disbelief which we feel with respect to the illusions of imagination, I conceive to be analogous to our speculative disbelief of the existence of the object exhibited to the eye in this optical deception; as our belief that the illusions of imagination are real, while that faculty occupies the mind exclufively, is analogous to the belief produced by the optical deception while the attention is limited to our


perception, perception, and is withdrawn from the circumstances in which the experiment is made *.

These observations lead me to take notice of a circumstance with respect to the belief accompanying perception, which it appears to me necessary to state, in order to render Dr. Reid's doctrine on that subject completely satisfactory. He has shewn, that certain sensations are, by a law of our nature, accompanied with an irresistible belief of the existence of certain qualities of external objects. But this law extends no farther than to the present existence of the quality; that is, to its existence while we feel the corresponding sensation. Whence is it then, that we ascribe to the quality, an existence independent of our perception? I apprehend we learn to do this by experience alone. We find that we cannot, as in the case of imagination, dismiss or recal the perception of an external object. If I open my eyes, I cannot prevent myself froin seeing the prospect which is before me. I learn, therefore, to ascribe to the objects of my senses, not only an existence at the time I perceive them, but an in. dependent and a permanent existence.

It is a strong confirmation of this doctrine, that in sleep, when (as I shall endeavour afterwards to shew) the influence of the will over the train of our thoughts is suspended, and when, of consequence, the time of

* It may appear to some readers rather trifling to add, and yet to others the remark may not be altogether superfluous, that it is not my intention to insinuate by the foregoing illustrations, that the relation between perception and imagination has the most diltant analogy to that between the perception of the object, and the perception of its optical image.

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