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on that operation of the mind which is commonly called recollection or intentional memory.
It is evident, that before we attempt to recollect the particular circumftances of any event, that event in general must have been an object of our attention. We remember the outlines of the ftory, but cannot at first give a complete account of it. If we wish to recal thefe circumftances, there are only two ways in which we can proceed. We must either form dif. ferent fuppofitions, and then confider which of these tallies best with the other circumftances of the event; or, by revolving in our mind the circumftances we remember, we must endeavour to excite the recollection of the other circumstances affociated with them. The first of these proceffes is, properly speaking, an inference of reafon, and plainly furnishes no exception to the doctrine already delivered. We have an inftance of the other mode of recollection, when we are at a lofs for the beginning of a fentence in reciting a composition that we do not perfectly remember; in which case we naturally repeat over, two or three times, the concluding words of the preceding fentence, in order to call up the other words which used to be connected with them in the memory. In this inftance, it is evident, that the circumstances we defire to remember, are not recalled to the mind in immediate confequence of an exertion of volition, but are fuggefted by fome other circumftances with which they are connected, independently of our will, by the laws of our conftitution.
Notwithstanding, however, the immediate dependence of the train of our thoughts on the laws of
affociation, it must not be imagined that the will poffeffes no influence over it. This influence, indeed, is not exercised directly and immediately, as we are apt to suppose, on a fuperficial view of the fubject but it is, nevertheless, very extenfive in its effects; and the different degrees in which it is poffeffed by different individuals, conftitute fome of the most ftriking inequalities among men, in point of intellectual capacity.
Of the powers which the mind poffeffes over the train of its thoughts, the most obvious is its power of fingling out any one of them at pleasure; of detaining it; and of making it a particular object of attention. By doing fo, we not only ftop the fucceffion that would otherwife take place; but, in confequence of our bringing to view the lefs obvious relations among our ideas, we frequently divert the current of our thoughts into a new channel. If, for example, when I am indolent and inactive, the name of Sir Ifaac Newton accidentally occur to me, it will perhaps fuggeft, one after another, the names of fome other eminent mathemati cians and aftronomers, or of fome of his illustrious contemporaries and friends: and a number of them may pass in review before me, without engaging my curiofity in any confiderable degree. In a different ftate of mind, the name of Newton will lead my thoughts to the principal incidents of his life, and the more ftriking features of his character : or, if my mind be ardent and vigorous, will lead my attention to the fublime difcoveries he made; and gradually engage me in fome philofophical investigation.
veftigation. To every object, there are others which bear obvious and ftriking relations; and others, alfo, whofe relation to it does not readily occur to us, unless we dwell upon it for fome time, and place it before us in different points of view.
But the principal power we poffefs over the train of our ideas, is founded on the influence which our habits of thinking have on the laws of Affociation; an influence which is fo great, that we may often form a pretty fhrewd judgment concerning a man's prevailing turn of thought, from the tranfitions he makes in converfation or in writing. It is well known, too, that by means of habit, a particular affociating principle may be ftrengthened to fuch a degree, as to give us a command of all the different ideas. in our mind, which have a certain relation to each other; fo that when any one of the clafs occurs to us, we have almost a certainty that it will fuggeft the rest. What confidence in his own powers muft a speaker poffefs, when he rifes without premeditation, in a popular affembly, to amufe his audience with a lively or an humorous fpeech! Such a confidence, it is evident, can only arise from a long experience of the ftrength of particular affociating principles.
To how great a degree this part of our conftitution may be influenced by habit, appears from facts which are familiar to every one. A man who has an ambition to become a punfter, feldom or never fails in the attainment of his object; that is, he feldom or never fails in acquiring a power which other men have not, of fummoning up, on a particular occafion,
a number of words different from each other in meaning, and resembling each other, more or less, in found. I am inclined to think that even genuine wit is a habit acquired in a fimilar way; and that, although fome individuals may, from natural conftitution, be more fitted than others to acquire this habit; it is founded in every cafe on a peculiarly ftrong affociation among certain claffes of our ideas, which gives the perfon who poffeffes it, a command over those ideas which is denied to ordinary men. But there is no inftance in which the effect of habits of affociation is more remarkable, than in those men who poffefs a facility of rhyming. That a man should be able to exprefs his thoughts perfpicuously and elegantly, under the restraints which rhyme imposes, would appear to be incredible, if we did not know it to be fact. Such a power implies a wonderful command both of ideas and of expreffions; and yet daily experience fhews that it may be gained with very little practice. Pope tells us with respect to himself, that he could exprefs himself not only more concifely, but more eafily, in rhyme than in profe *.
Nor is it only in these trifling accomplishments that we may trace the influence of habits of affocia tion. In every inftance of invention, either in the
"When habit is once gained, nothing fo eafy as practice. Cicero writes, that Antipater the Sidonian could pour forth " hexameters extempore; and that, whenever he chofe to verfify, "words followed him of courfe. We may add to Antipater, "the antient rhapfodifts of the Greeks, and the modern impro"vifatori of the Italians." HARRIS'S Phil. Inq. 108, 110.
fine arts, in the mechanical arts, or in the fciences, there is fome new idea, or fome new combination of ideas, brought to light by the inventor. This, undoubtedly, may often happen in a way which he is unable to explain; that is, his invention may be suggested to him by fome lucky thought, the origin of which he is unable to trace But when a man poffeffes a habitual fertility of invention in any particular art or fcience, and can rely, with confidence, on his inventive powers, whenever he is called upon to exert them, he must have acquired, by previous habits of study, a command over certain claffes of his ideas, which enables him, at pleafure, to bring them under his review. The illuftration of these fubjects may throw light on fome proceffes of the mind, which are not in general well understood: and I fhall, accordingly, in the following Section, offer a few hints with refpect to those habits of affociation which are the foundation of wit; of the power of rhyming; of poetical fancy; and of invention in matters of science.