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"he was firft acquainted with. And thus, those "woods, which were originally the proper names of "individuals, would each of them infenfibly become "the common name of a multitude."*

"It is this application" (he continues)" of the name of an individual to a great number of objects, "whofe resemblance naturally recals the idea of that ❝ individual, and of the name which expreffes it, "that seems originally to have given occafion to the "formation of thofe claffes, and affortments, which, "in the schools, are called genera and fpecies; and of "which the ingenious and eloquent Rouffeau finds "himself fo much at a lofs to account for the origin. "What conftitutes a fpecies, is merely a number of "objects, bearing a certain degree of refemblance to "one another; and, on that account, denominated " by a fingle appellation, which may be applied to "exprefs any one of them."+

This view of the natural progrefs of the mind, in forming claffifications of external objects, receives fome illuftration from a fact mentioned by Captain Cook in his account of a small ifland called Wateeoo, which he vifited in failing from New Zealand to the Friendly iflands. "The inhabitants," says he, were "afraid to come near our cows and horfes, nor did "they form the leaft conception of their nature. "But the fheep and goats did not surpass the limits

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*The same account of the progress of the mind in the formation of genera, is given by the Abbé de Condillac.


"Un enfant appelle du nom d'Arbre le premier arbre nous lui montrons. que Un second arbre qu'il voit en"suite lui rapelle la même idée; il lui donne le même nom; de même à un troisième, à un quatrième, et voilà "" le mot d'Arbre donné d'abord à un individu, qui devient - cc pour lui un nom de classe ou de g nre, une ideé abstraite "qui comprend tous les arbres en général."

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Dissertation on the Origin of Languages, annexed to Mr. Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments.

"of their ideas; for they gave us to understand that "they knew them to be birds. It will appear," he adds, "rather incredible, that human ignorance could ever make fo frange a mistake, there not being "the moft diftant fimilitude between a fheep or



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goat, and any winged animal. But these people "feemed to know nothing of the existence of any "other land animals, befides hogs, dogs, and birds. "Our sheep and goats, they could fee, were very "different creatures from the two firft, and therefore they inferred that they muft belong to the latter "clafs, in which they knew that there is a confider"able variety of fpecies."-I would add to Cook's very judicious remarks, that the miftake of these iflanders probably did not arise from their confidering a fheep or a goat as bearing a more ftriking refemblance to a bird, than to the two claffes of quadrupeds with which they were acquainted; but to the want of a generic word, fuch as quadruped, comprehending these two fpecies; which men in their fituation would no more be led to form, than a perfon who had only feen one individual of each fpecies, would think of an appellative to exprefs both, inftead of applying a proper name to each. In confequence of the variety of birds, it appears, that they had a generic name comprehending all of them, to which it was not unnatural for them to refer any new animal they met with.

The claffification of different objects fuppofes a power of attending to fome of their qualities or attributes, without attending to the reft; for no two objects are to be found without fome fpecific difference; and no affortment or arrangement can be formed among things not perfectly alike, but by lofing fight of their diftinguishing peculiarities, and limit. ing the attention to thofe attributes which belong to them in common. Indeed, without this power of attending separately to things which cur fenfes

prefent to us in a ftate of union, we never could have had any idea of number; for, before we can confider different objects as forming a multitude, it is neces fary that we should be able to apply to all of them one common name; or, in other words, that we fhould reduce them all to the fame genus. The various objects, for example, animate and inanimate, which are, at this moment, before me, I may class and number in a variety of different ways, according to the view of them that I chufe to take. I may reckon fucceffively the number of sheep, of cows, of horses, of elms, of oaks, of beeches; or I may first reckon the number of animals, and then the number of trees; or I may at once reckon the number of all the organized fubftances which my fenfes present to me. But whatever be the principle on which my claffification proceeds, it is evident, that the objects. numbered together, must be confidered in those refpects only in which they agree with each other; and that it I had no power of feparating the combinations of fenfe, I never could have conceived them as forming a plurality.


This power of confidering certain qualities or attributes of an object apart from the reft; or, as I would rather chufe to define it, the power which the understanding has, of feparating the combinations which are prefented to it, is diftinguished by logicians by the name of abstraction. It has been fuppofed, by fome philofophers, (with what probability I fhall not now inquire,) to form the characteristical attribute of a rational nature. That it is one of the most important of all our faculties, and very intimately connected with the exercise of our reasoning powers, is beyond difpute. And, I flatter myself, it will appear from the fequel of this chapter, how much the proper management of it conduces to the fuccefs of our philofophical purfuits, and of our gen eral conduct in life,



The fubferviency of Abstraction to the power of Reasoning, and also, its fubferviency to the exertions of a Poetical or Creative Imagination, shall be afterwards fully illuftrated. At prefent, it is fufficient for my purpose to remark, that as abftraction is the ground-work of claffification, without this faculty of the mind we should have been perfectly incapable of general fpeculation, and all our knowledge must neceffarily have been limited to individuals; and that fome of the most useful branches of fcience, particularly the different branches of mathematics, in which the very fubjects of our reasoning are abftractions of the understanding, could never have. poffibly had an exiftence. With respect to the fubferviency of this faculty to poetical imagination, it is no less obvious, that, as the poet is fupplied with all his materials by experience; and as his province is limited to combine and modify things which really exift, fo as to produce new wholes of his own; fo every exertion which he thus makes of his powers, prefuppofes the exercise of abftraction in decompofing and feparating actual combinations. And it was on this account, that, in the chapter on Conception, I was led to make a diftinction between that faculty, which is evidently fimple and uncompounded, and the power of Imagination, which (at. leaft in the sense in which I employ the word in these inquiries) is the result of a combination of various other powers.

I have introduced these remarks, in order to point out a difference between the abstractions which are fubfervient to reasoning, and those which are fubfervient to imagination. And, if I am not mistaken, it is a diftinction which has not been fufficiently attended to by fome writers of eminence. In every inftance in which imagination is employed in forming new wholes, by decompounding and combining the perceptions of fenfe, it is evidently neceffary that the

poet or the painter fhould be able to ftate to himfelf the circumftances abftracted, as feparate objects of conception. But this is by no means requifite in every cafe in which abstraction is fubfervient to the power of reasoning; for it frequently happens, that we can reafon concerning one quality or property of an object abftracted from the reft, while, at the fame time, we find it impoffible to conceive it feparately. Thus, I can reafon concerning extenfion and figure, without any reference to color; although it may be doubted, if a perfon poffeffed of fight can make extension and figure fteady objects of conception, without connecting with them one color or another. Nor is this always owing (as it is in the instance now mentioned) merely to the affociation of ideas; for there are cafes, in which we can reason concerning things feparately, which it is impoffible for us to fuppofe any being fo conftituted as to conceive apart. Thus, we can reafon concerning length, abstracted from any other dimenfion; although, furely, no understanding can make length, without breadth, an object of conception. And, by the way, this leads me to take notice of an error, which mathematical teachers are apt to commit, in explaining the first principles of geometry. By dwelling long on Euclid's firft definitions, they lead the ftudent to fuppofe that they relate to notions which are extremely mysterious; and to ftrain his powers in fruitless attempts to conceive, what cannot poffibly be made an object of conception. If these definitions were omitted, or very flightly touched upon, and the attention at once directed to geometrical reasonings, the student would immediately perceive, that although the lines in the diagrams are really extended in two dimenfions, yet that the demonstrations relate only to one of them; and that the human understanding has the faculty of reafoning concerning things feparately, which are always

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