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most important accession which the philosophy of the human mind has received since the time of Mr. Locke.

But although Dr. Reid has been at much pains to overturn the old ideal system, he has not ventured to substitute any hypothesis of his own in its place. And, indeed, he was too well acquainted with the limits prescribed to our philosophical inquiries, to think of indulging his curiosity, in such unprofitable speculations. All, therefore, that he is to be understood as aiming at, in his inquiries concerning our perceptive powers, is to give a precise state of the fact, diverted of all theoretical expressions ; in order to prevent philofophers from imposing on themselves any longer, by words without meaning; and to extort from them an acknowledgment, that, with respect to the process of nature in perception, they are no less ignorant than the vulgar.

According to this view of Dr. Reid's reasonings, on the subject of perception, the purpose to which they are subservient may appear to some to be of no very considerable importance; but the truth is, that one of the most valuable effects of genuine philosophy, is to remind us of the limited powers of the human understanding; and to revive those natural feelings of wonder and admiration, at the spectacle of the universe, which are apt to languish, in consequence of long familiarity. The most profound discoveries which are placed within the reach of our researches lead to a confession of human ignorance ; for, while they flatter the pride of man, and increase his power, by enabling him to trace the simple and beautiful laws by which physical events are regulated, they call his attention,


at the same time, to those general and ultimate facts which bound the narrow circle of his knowledge; and which, by evincing to him the operation of powers, whose nature must for ever remain unknown, serve to remind him of the insufficiency of his faculties to penetrate the secrets of the universe. Wherever we direct our inquiries; whether to the anatomy and physiology of animals, to the growth of vegetables, to the chemical attractions and repulsions, or to the motions of the heavenly bodies; we perpetually perceive the effects of powers which cannot belong to matter. To a certain length we are able to proceed ; but in every research, we meet with a fline, which no industry nor ingenuity can pass. It is a line too, which is marked with sufficient distinctness; and which no* man now thinks of passing, who has just views of the nature and object of philosophy. It forms the separation between that field which falls under the survey of the physical inquirer, and that unknown region, of which, though it was necessary that we should be alsured of the existence, in order to lay a foundation for the doctrines of natural theology, it hath not pleased the Author of the universe to reveal to us the wonders, in this infant state of our being. It was, in fact, chiefly by tracing out this line, that Lord Bacon did so much service to science.

Belide this effect, which is common to all our phi. losophical pursuits, of impressing the mind with a sense of that mysterious agency, or efficiency, into which general laws must be resolved; they have a tendency, in many cases, to counteract the influence of habit, in weakening those emotions of wonder and of curiosity, statement amount ?-Merely to this ; that the mind is so formed, that certain impressions produced on our organs of sense by external objects, are followed by correspondent sensations; and that these sensations, (which have no more resemblance to the qualities of matter, than the words of a language have to the things they denote,) are followed by a perception of the existence and qualities of the bodies by which the impreslions are made ; that all the steps of this process are equally incomprehensible; and that, for any thing we can prove to the contrary, the connexion between the sensation and the perception, as well as that be. tween the impression and the sensation, may be both arbitrary: that it is therefore by no means impossible, that our sensations may be merely the occasions on which the correspondent perceptions are excited ; and that, at any rate, the consideration of these sensations, which are attributes of mind, can throw no light on the manner in which we acquire our knowledge of the existence and qualities of body. From this view of the subject, it follows, that it is the external objects themselves, and not any species or images of these objects, that the mind perceives; and that, although, by the constitution of our nature, certain sensations are rendered the constant antecedents of our perceptions, yet it is just as difficult to explain how our perceptions are obtained by their means, as it would be, upon the supposition, that the mind were all at once inspired with them, without any concomitant sensations what


These remarks are general, and apply to all our various perceptions; and they evidently strike at the


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root of all the common theories upon the subject. The laws, however, which regulate these perceptions, are different in the case of the different senses, and form a very curious object of philosophical inquiry.— Those, in particular, which regulate the acquired perceptions of sight, lead to some very interesting and important speculations; and, I think, have never yet been explained in a manner completely satisfactory. To treat of them in detail, does not fall under the plan of this work; but I shall have occasion to make a few remarks on them, in the chapter on Conception.

In opposition to what I have here observed on the importance of Dr. Reid's speculations concerning our perceptive powers, I am sensible it may be urged, that they amount merely to a negative discovery; and it is possible, that some may even be forward to remark, that it was unnecessary to employ so much labour and ingenuity as he has done, to overthrow an hypothesis of which a plain account would have been a sufficient refutation.—To such persons, I would beg leave to suggest, that, although, in consequence of the juster views in pneumatology, which now begin to prevail, (chiefly, I believe, in consequence of Dr. Reid's writings,) the ideal system may appear to many readers unphilosophical and puerile; yet the case was very different when this author entered upon his inquiries : and I may even venture to add, that few positive discoveries, in the whole history of science, can be mentioned, which found a juster claim to literary reputa. tion, than to have detected, so clearly and unanswerably, the fallacy of an hypothesis, which has de. scended to us from the earliest ages of philosophy; and which, in modern times, has not only served to Berkeley and Hume as the basis of their sceptical systems, but was adopted as an indisputable truth by Locke, by Clarke, and by Newton.



Of the Origin of our Knowledge.

He philosophers who endeavoured to explain the

operations of the human mind by the theory of ideas, and who took for granted, that in every exertion of thought there exists in the mind some object distinct from the thinking substance, were naturally led to inquire whence these ideas derive their origin ; in particular, whether they are conveyed to the mind from without by means of the senses, or form part

of its original furniture ?'

With respect to this question, the opinions of the ancients were various ; but as the influence of these opinions on the prevailing systems of the present age is not very considerable, it is not necessary, for any of the purposes I have in view in this work, to consider them particularly. The moderns, too, have been much divided on the subject; some holding with Des Cartes, that the mind is furnished with certain innate ideas; others, with Mr. Locke, that all our ideas may be traced from sensation and reflection; and many, (especially among the later metaphysicians in France,) that they may be all traced from sensation alone.


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