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Of the Nature and Object of the Philofophy of the Human Mind.


THE prejudice which is commonly entertained a gainst metaphyfical speculations, feems to arife chiefly from two causes: First, from an apprehenfion that the fubjects about which they are employed, are placed beyond the reach of the human faculties; and, fecondly, from a belief that these subjects have no relation to the bufinefs of life.

The frivolous and abfurd difcuffions which abound in the writings of moft Metaphysical authors, afford but too many arguments in juftification of these opinions; and if fuch difcuffions were to be admitted as a fair fpecimen of what the human mind is able to accomplish in this department of science, the contempt, into which it has fallen of late, might with


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juftice be regarded, as no inconfiderable evidence of
the progrefs which true philofophy has made in the
prefent age. Among the various fubjects of inqui
ry, however, which, in confequence of the vague use
of language, are comprehended under the general ti
tle of Metaphyfics, there are fome, which are effen-
tially diftinguished from the reft, both by the degree
of evidence which accompanies their principles, and
by the relation which they bear to the useful sciences
and arts and it has unfortunately happened, that
these have shared in that general difcredit, into which
the other branches of metaphyfics have justly fallen.
To this circumftance is probably to be ascribed, the
little progrefs which has hitherto been made in the
Philofophy of the Human Mind; a fcience, fo intereft-
ing in its nature, and fo important in its applications,
that it could scarcely have failed, in thefe inquifitive
and enlightened times, to have excited a very gener-
al attention, if it had not accidentally been claffed, in
the public opinion, with the vain and unprofitable
difquifitions of the school-men.

In order to obviate these misapprehenfions with
respect to the fubject of the following work, I have
thought it proper, in this preliminary chapter, first,
to explain the Nature of the truths which I propose
to investigate; and, fecondly, to point out fome of
the more important Applications of which they are
fufceptible. In ftating thefe preliminary obferva-
tions, I may perhaps appear to fome to be minute
and tedious; but this fault, I am confident, will be
readily pardoned by thofe, who have studied with
care the principles of that fcience of which I am to
treat; and who are anxious to remove the prejudi-
ces which have, in a great measure, excluded it from
the modern fyftems of education. In the progress
of my work, I flatter myself that I fhall not often
have occafion to folicit the indulgence of
ers, for an unneceffary diffusenefs.

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The notions we annex to the words, matter, and mind, as is well remarked by Dr. Reid,* are merely relative. If I am asked what I mean by matter? I can only explain myself by faying, it is that which is extended, figured, coloured, moveable, hard or foft, rough or smooth, hot or cold;-that is, I can define it in no other way, than by enumerating its fenfible qualities. It is not matter, or body, which I perceive by my senses; but only extenfion, figure, colour, and certain other qualities, which the conftitution of my nature leads me to refer to fomething, which is extended, figured, and coloured. The cafe is precifely fimilar with respect to Mind. We are not immediately confcious of its existence, but we are conscious of fenfation, thought, and volition; operations, which imply the existence of fomething which feels, thinks, and wills. Every man too is impreffed with an irrefiftible conviction, that all these fenfations, thoughts, and volitions, belong to one and the fame being; to that being, which he calls himself; a being, which he is led, by the conftitution of his nature, to confider as fomething diftinct from his body, and as not liable to be impaired by the lofs or mutilation of any of his organs.

From these confiderations, it appears, that we have the fame evidence for the existence of mind, that we have for the existence of body; nay, if there be any difference between the two cafes, that we have ftronger evidence for it; inasmuch as the one is fuggefted to us by the fubjects of our own confciousness, and the other merely by the objects of our own perceptions: and in this light, undoubtedly, the fact would appear to every perfon, were it not, that, from our earliest years, the attention is engroffed with the qualities and laws of matter, an acquaintance with which is abfolutely neceffary for the prefervation of our animal exiftence. Hence it is,

* Essays on the Active Powers of Man, p. 8, 9.

that these phenomena occupy our thoughts more than thofe of mind: that we are perpetually tempt ed to explain the latter by the analogy of the former, and even to endeavor to refer them to the fame general laws; and that we acquire habits of inattention to the fubjects of our consciousness, too ftrong to be afterwards furmounted, without the most perfevering industry,

If the foregoing obfervations be well founded, they establish the diftinction between mind and matter, without any long process of metaphyfical reasoning*; for if our notions of both are merely relative; if we know the one, only by fuch fenfible qualities as extenfion, figure, and folidity; and the other, by fuch operations as fenfation, thought, and volition; we are certainly entitled to fay, that matter and mind, confidered as objects of human ftudy, are ef fentially different; the science of the former refting ultimately on the phenomena exhibited to our fenfes; that of the latter, on the phenomena of which we are conscious. Inftead, therefore, of objecting to the scheme of materialism, that its conclufions are falfe, it would be more accurate to fay, that its aim is unphilofophical. It proceeds on a misapprehenfion of the proper object of fcience; the difficulty which it profeffes to remove being manifeftly placed beyond the reach of our faculties. Surely, when we attempt to explain the nature of that principle which feels and thinks and wills, by faying, that it is a material fubftance, or that it is the refult of material organization, we impofe on ourselves by words -forgetting, that matter as well as mind is known to us by its qualities and attributes alone, and that we are totally ignorant of the effence of either.t

*See Note [A] at the end of the volume.

+ Some Metaphysicians, who appear to admit the truth of the foregoing reasoning, haye farther urged, that for any thing we can

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