Page images

and perseverance, that unless future sceptics should occupy a ground very different from that of their predecessors, it is not likely that the controversy will ever be renewed. The rubbish being now removed, and the foundations laid, it is time to begin the superstructure. The progress which I have made in it is, I am sensible, very inconsiderable; yet I flatter myself, that the little I have done, will be fufficient to illustrate the importance of the study, and to recommend the subjects of which I am to treat, to the attention of others.

Aft the remarks which I have now made, the reader will not be surprised to find, that I have studiously avoided the consideration of those questions which have been agitated in the present age, between the patrons of the sceptical philosophy, and their opponents. These controversies have, in truth, no peculiar connexion with the inquiries on which I am to enter. It is indeed only by an examination of the principles of our nature, that they can be brought to a satisfactory conclufion; but supposing them to remain undecided, our sceptical doubts concerning the certainty of human knowledge, would no more affect the philosophy of mind, than they would affect any of the branches of physics ; nor would our doubts concerning even the existence of mind, affect this branch of science, any more than the doubts of the Berkeleian, concerning the existence of matter, affect his opinions in natural philosophy.

To what purposes the philosophy of the human mind, according to the view which I propose to take of it, is subfervient, I shall endeavour to explain, at some length, in the following section.



of the Utility of the Philosophy of the Human Mind.


T has been often remarked, that there is a mutual

connexion between the different arts and sciences; and that the improvements which are made in one branch of human knowledge, frequently throw light on others, to which it has apparently a very remote relation. The modern discoveries in astronomy, and in pure mathematics, have contributed to bring the art of navigation to a degree of perfection formerly unknown. The rapid progress which has been lately made in astronomy, anatomy, and botany, has been chiefly owing to the aid which these sciences have received from the art of the optician.

Although, however, the different departments of science and of art mutually reflect light on each other, it is not always necessary either for the philosopher or the artist to aim at the acquisition of general knowledge. Both of them may safely take many principles for granted, without being able to demonstrate their truth. A seaman, though ignorant of mathematics, may apply, with correctness and dex. terity, the rules for finding the longitude: An astronomer, or a botanist, though ignorant of optics, may avail himself of the use of the telescope, or the microscope.



These observations are daily exemplified in the case of the artist; who has seldom either inclination or leisure to fpeculate concerning the principles of his art. It is rarely, however, we meet with a man of science, who has confined his studies wholly to one branch of knowledge. That curiosity, which he has been accustomed to indulge in the course of his favourite pursuit, will naturally extend itself to every remarkable object which falls under his observation ; and can scarcely fail to be a source of perpetual dissatisfaction to his mind, till it has been so far gratified as to enable him to explain all the various phenomena, which his professional habits are every day presenting to his view.

As every particular science is in this manner connected with others, to which it naturally directs the attention, so all the pursuits of life, whether they terminate in speculation or action, are connected with that general science, which has the human mind for its object. The powers of the understanding are instruments which all men employ; and his curiosity must be small indeed, who passes through life in a total ignorance of faculties, which his wants and necessities force him habitually to exercise, and which so remarkably distinguish man from the lower animals. The active principles of our nature, which, by their various modifications and combinaa tions, give rise to all the moral differences among men, are fitted, in a still' higher degree, if possible, to interest those, who are either disposed to reflect on their own characters, or to observe, with attention, the characters of others. The phenomena re.


[ocr errors]

sulting from these faculties and principles of the mind, are every moment foliciting our notice; and open to our examination, a field of discovery, as inexhaustible as the phenomena of the material world ; and exhibiting not less striking marks of wicze. divine wisdom.

While all the sciences, and all the pursuits of life, have this common tendency to lead our inquiries to the philosophy of human nature, this last branch of knowledge borrows its principles from no other science whatever. Hence there is something in the study of it, which is peculiarly gratifying to a reflecting and inquisitive mind; and something in the conclusions to which it leads, on which the mind rests with peculiar satisfaction. Till once our opinions are in some degree fixed with respect to it, we abandon ourselves, with reluctance, to particular scientific investigations; and on the other hand, a general knowledge of such of its principles as are most fitted to excite the curiosity, not only prepares us for engaging in other pursuits with more liberal and comprehensive views, but leaves us at liberty to prosecute them with a more undivided and concentrated attention.

It is not, however, merely as a subject of speculative curiosity, that the principles of the human mind deserve a careful examination. The advan. tages to be expected from a successful analysis of it are various; and some of them of such importance, as to render it astonishing, that, amidst all the success with which the subordinate sciences have been cultivated, this, which comprehends the principles

of all of them, should be still suffered to remain in its infancy.

I shall endeavour to illustrate a few of these advantages, beginning with what appears to me to be the most important of any; the light, which a philosophical analysis of the principles of the mind would necessarily throw, on the subjects of intellectual and moral education.

The most essential objects of education are the two following: First, to cultivate all the various principles of our nature, both speculative and active, in such a manner as to bring them to the greatest perfection of which they are susceptible ; and, Secondly, by watching over the impressions and affociations which the mind receives in early life, to secure it against the influence of prevailing errors ; and, as far as possible, to engage its prepossessions on the side of truth. It is only upon a philosophical analysis of the mind, that a systematical plan can be founded, for the accomplishment of either of these purposes.

There are few individuals, whose education has been conducted in every respect with attention and judgment. Almost every man of reflection is conscious, when he arrives at maturity, of many defects in his mental powers; and of many inconvenient habits, which might have been prevented or remedied in his infancy or youth. Such a consciousness is the first step towards improvement; and the perfon who feels it, if he is possessed of resolution and steadiness, will not scruple to begin, even in advanced years, a new course of education for him.


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »