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he has expressed the same feeling, which, in all ages and nations, has led good men, unaccustomed to reasoning, to an implicit faith in the creed of their infancy ;-a feeling which affords an evi- . dence of the existence of the Deity, incomparably more striking, than if, unmixed with error and undebased by superstition, this most important of all principles had commanded the universal afsent of mankind. Where are the other truths, in the whole circle of the sciences, which are so effential to human happiness, as to procure an easy access, not only for themselves, but for whatever opinions may happen to be blended with them? Where are the truths so venerable and commanding, as to impart their own sublimity to every trifling memorial which recals them to our remembrance; to bestow folemnity and eleva. tion on every mode of expression by which they are conveyed ; and which, in whatever scene they have habitually occupied the thoughts, consecrate every object which it presents to our senses, and the very ground we have been accustomed to tread? To attempt to weaken the authority of such impressions, by a detail of the endless variety of forms, which they derive from casual associations, is surely an employment unsuitable to the dignity of philosophy. To the vulgar, it may be amusing, in this, as in other instances, to indulge their wonder at what is new or uncommon; but to the philosopher it belongs to perceive, under all these various disguises, the workings of the fame common nature ; and in the supersti. tions of Egypt, no less than in the lofty visions of Plato, to recognize the existence of those moral ties
which unite the heart of man to the Author of his being.
Influence of the Asociation of Ideas on our Judgments in
Matters of Tafte.
in this Section, do not presuppose any particular theory concerning the nature of Taste. It is sufficient for my purpose to remark, that Taste is not a simple and original faculty, but a power gradually formed by experience and observation. It implies, indeed, as its ground-work, a certain degree of natural sensibility; but it implies also the exercise of the judgment; and is the flow result of an attentive examination and comparison of the agreeable or disagreeable effects produced on the mind by external objects.
Such of my readers as are acquainted with “ An « Essay on the Nature and Principles of Taste," lately published by Mr. Alison, will not be surprised that I decline the discussion of a subject which he has treated with so much ingenuity and elegance.
The view which was formerly given of the process by which the general laws of the material world are investigated, and which I endeavoured to illustrate by the state of medicine among rude nations, is strictly applicable to the history of Taste. That certain objects are fitted to give pleasure, and others disgust, to the mind, we know from experience alone ; and it is Bb
impos. impossible for us, by any reasoning a priori, to explain, how the pleasure or the pain is produced. In the works of nature we find, in many instances, Beauty and Sublimity involved among circumstances, which are either indifferent, or which obstruct the general effect: and it is only by a train of experiments, that we can separate those circumstances from the rest, and ascertain with what particular qualities the pleasing effect is connected. Accordingly, the inexperienced artist, when he copies Nature, will copy her servilely, that he may be certain of securing the pleasing effect; and the beauties of his performances will be encumbered with a number of superfluous or of disagreeable concomitants. Experience and obfervation alone can enable him to make this discri. mination : to exhibit the principles of beauty pure unadulterated, and to form a creation of his own, more faultless than ever fell under the observation of his fenfes.
This analogy between the progress of Taste from rudeness to refinement; and the progress of physical knowledge from the superstitions of a favage tribe, to the investigation of the laws of nature, proceeds on the supposition, that, as in the material world there are general facts, beyond which philosophy is unable to proceed; so, in the constitution of man, there is an inexplicable adaptation of the mind to the objects with which these faculties are conversant; in consequence of which, these objects are fitted to produce agreeable or disagreeable emotions. In both cases, reasoning may be employed with propriety to refer particular phenomena to general principles; but in
both cases, we must at last arrive at principles of which no account can be given, but that such is the will of our Maker.
A great part, too, of the remarks which were made in the last Section on the origin of popular prejudices, may be applied to explain the influence of casual associations on Taste; but these remarks do not so completely exhaust the subject, as to supersede the necessity of farther illustration. In matters of Taste, the effects which we consider, are produced on the Mind itself; and are accompanied either with pleasure or with pain. Hence the tendency to casual association, is much stronger than it commonly is, with respect to physical events; and when such affociations are once formed, as they do not lead to any important inconvenience, similar to those which result from physical mistakes, they are not so likely to be corrected by mere experience, unaslisted by study. To this it is owing, that the influence of association on our judgments concerning beauty and deformity, is still more remarkable than on our speculative conclusions; a circumstance which has led some philosophers to suppose, that association is sufficient to account for the origin of these notions; and that there is no such thing as a standard of Taste, founded on the principles of the human constitution. But this is undoubtedly pushing the theory a great deal too far. The association of ideas can never account for the origin of a new notion; or of a pleasure essentially different from all the others which we know. It may, indeed, enable us to conceive how a thing indifferent in itself, may become a source of pleasure, by being connected in the mind with something else which is naturally agreeable; but it presupposes, in every instance, the existence of those notions and those feel. ings which it is its province to combine: insomuch that, I apprehend, it will be found, wherever afsociation produces a change in our judgments on matters of Taste, it does so, by co-operating with some natural principle of the mind, and implies the existence of certain original sources of pleasure and uneasiness.
B b 2
A mode of dress, which at first appeared awkward, ist. acquires, in a few weeks or months, the appearance
of elegance. By being accustomed to see it worn by those whom we consider as models of Taste, it becomes associated with the agreeable impressions which we receive from the ease and grace and refinement of their manners. When it pleases by itself, the effect is to be ascribed, not to the object actually before us, but to the impressions with which it has been generally connected, and which it naturally recalls to the mind.
This observation points out the cause of the perpe. tual viciffitudes in dress, and in every thing whose chief recommendation arises from fashion. It is evi. dent that, as far as the agreeable effect of an ornament arises from association, the effect will continue only while it is confined to the higher orders. When it is adopted by the multitude, it not only ceases to be associated with ideas of taste and refinement, but it is associated with ideas of affectation, absurd imitation, and vulgarity. It is accordingly laid aside by the higher orders, who studiously avoid every cir