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Notwithstanding, however, the great merit of these writers, in defending and illustrating the system of the Nominalists, none of them seem to me to have been fully aware of the important consequences to which it leads. The Abbé de Condillac was, I be: lieve, the first (if we except, perhaps, Leibnitz) who perceived that, if this system be true, a talent for reasoning must consist, in a great measure, in a kilful use of language as an instrument of thought. The most valuable of his remarks on this subject are contained in a treatise De l'Art de Penser, which forins the fourth volume of his “ Cours d'Eiude."
Dr. Campbell, too, in his Philosophy of Rhetoric, has founded, on the principles of Berkeley and Hume, a very curious and interesting speculation, of which I shall have occasion afterwards to take notice.
The explanation which the doctrines of these wri. ters afford, of the process of the mind in general rea. soning, is so simple, and at the same time, in my apprehension, so satisfactory, that, I own, it is with some degree of surprise I have read the atten. pts which have lately been made to revive the fyftem of the Realists. One of the ableft of these attempts
is by Dr. Price ; who in his very valuable Treatile on Morals, has not only employed his ingenuity in fupport of some of the old tenets of the Platonic school, but has even gone fo far as to follow Piato's exanıple, in connecting this speculation about universais, with the sublime questions of natural theology. The observations which he has offered in fupport of these opinions, I have repeatedly perused with all the attention in my power ; but without being able to enter into his views, or even to comprehend fully his meaning. Indeed, I must acknowledge, that it appears to me to afford no flight presumption against the principles on which he proceeds, when I obferve, that an author, remarkable, on most occasions, for precision of ideas, and for perspicuity of style, never
fails to lose himself in obfcurity and mystery, when he enters on these disquisitions.
Dr. Price's reasonings in proof of the existence of universals, are the more curious, as he acquiefces in fome of Dr. Reid's conclusions with respect to the ideal theory of perception. That there are in the mind, images or resemblances of things external, he grants to be impoffible; but still he seems to fuppofe, that, in every exertion of thought, there is something immediately present to the mind, which is the ob ject of its attention. " When abstract truth is con
templated, is not” (says he)“ the very object itself “ present to the mind ? When millions of intellects “ contemplate the equality of every angle of a femi“ circle to a right angle, have they not all the same
object in view ? Is this object nothing ? Or is it “ only an image, or kind of shadow ? These inqui. '« ries,” he adds, “ carry our thoughts high.
The difficulty which has appeared fo puzzling to this ingenious writer, is, in truth, more apparent than real. In the case of Perception, Imagination,
* The whole
is as follows: “ The word idea is some“ times used to signify the immediate object of the mind in think
ing, considered as something in the mind, which represents the
real object, but is different from it. This sense of an idea is de. "rived from the notion, that when we think of any external exist“enee, there is something immediately present to the mind, which " it contemplates distinct from the object itself, that being at a “ distance. "But what is this? It is bad language to call it an im
age in the mind of the object. Shall we say then, that there is « indeed no such thing? But would not this be the same as to say " that, when the mind is employed in viewing and examining any “ object, which is either not present to it, or does not exist, it is * employed in viewing and examining nothing, and therefore does " not then think at all?_When abstract truth is contemplated, is " not the very object itself present to the mind ? When millions of “ intellects contemplate the equality of every angle in a semicircle “ to a right angle, have they not all the same object in view ? Is * this object nothing? Or is it only an image or kind of shadow? These inquiries carry our thoughts high."
and Memory, it has been already fully shewn, that we have no reason to believe the existence of any thing in the mind distinct from the mind itself; and that, even upon the supposition that the fact were otherwise, our intellectual operations would be just as inexplicable as they are at present. Why then should we fuppofe, that, in our general speculations, there must exist in the mind some object of its thoughts, when it appears that there is no evidence of the exiftence of any such object, even when the mind is employed about individuals ?
Still, however, it may be urged, that, although, in such cases, there fhould be no object of thought in the mind, there must exist fomething or other to which its attention is directed. To this difficulty I have no answer to make, but by repeating the fact which I have already endeavored to eflablish ; that there are only two ways in which we can posibly speculate about classes of objects ; the one, by means of a word or generic term; the other, by means of one particular individual of the class which we consider as the representative of the rest; and that these two methods of carrying on our general speculations, are at bottom so much the same, as to authorife us to lay down as a principle, that, without the use of figns, all our thoughts must have related to individuals. When we reason therefore, concerning classes or genera, the objects of our attention are merely figns; or if, in any instance, the generic word should recal fome individual, this circumstance is to be regarded only as the consequence of an accidental affociation, which has rather a tendency to disturb, than to affist us in our reafoning.
Whether it might not have been possible for the Deity to have so formed us, that we might have been capable of reasoning concerning claffes of objects, without the use of signs, I shall not take upon me to determine. But this we may venture to affirm with confidence, that man is not such a being. And indeed, even if he were, it would not therefore neceffarily follow, that there exifts any thing in a genus, distinct from the individuals of which it is composed; for we know that the power which we have of thinking of particular objects without the medium of signs, does not in the least depend on their exiftence or non-existence, at the moment we think of them.
It would be wain, however, for us, in inquiries of this nature, to indulge ourselves in speculating about poflibilities. It is of more consequence to remark the advantages which we derive from our actual conftitution; and which, in the present instance, appear to me to be important and admirable : inasmuch as it fits mankind for an easy interchange of their intellectual acquisitions ; by impofing on them the necefsity of employing, in their folitary speculations, the fame inftrument of thought, which forms the established medium of their communications with each other.
In the very slight sketch which I have given of the controversy between the Nominalists and the Realifts about the existence of universals, I have taken no notice of an intermediate sect called Conceptualists; whose distinguishing tenet is said to have been, that the mind has a power of forming general conceptions.* From the indistinctness and inaccuracy of their language on the subject, it is not a very easy matter to ascertain precisely what was their opinion on the point in question ; but, on the whole, I am inclined to think, that it amounted to the two fol, lowing propositions : first, that we have no reason to believe the exiftence of any effences, or universal ideas, corresponding to general terms; and secondly, that the mind has the power of reasoning concerning genera, or classes of individuals, without the mediation of language. Indeed I cannot think of any other hypothesis which it is possible to form on the subject, distinct from those of the two celebrated sects already mentioned. In denying the existence of universals, we know that the Conceptualists agreed with the Nominalists, In what, then, can we suppose that they differed from them, but about the necefsity of language as an instrument of thought, in carrying on our general speculations ?
*“ Nominaies, deserta paulo Abelardi hypothesi, universalia in “ notionibus atque conceptibus mentis ex rebus singularibus ab. 66 stractione formatis consistere statuebant, unde conceptuales dicti " sunt."-BRUCKER, vol. iii. p. 908. (Lips. 1766.)
“ Nominalium tres erant familiæ. Aliqui ut Rocelinus, univer6 salia meras esse voces docuerunt. Alii iterum in solo intellectu
possuerunt, atqne'meros animi conceptus esse autumarunt, quos conceptuales aliqui vocant, et a nominalibus distinguunt, quan
quam alii etiam confundant. Alii fuerunt, qui universalia quæ. 5,5 siyerunt, non tam in vocibus, quam in sermonibus integris, quod
With this sect of Conceptualifts, Dr. Reid is difposed to rank Mr. Locke ; and I agree with him so far as to think, that, if Locke had any decided opinion on the point in dispute, it did not differ materi. ally from what I have endeavored to express in the two general propositions which I have just now ftated. The apparent inconsistencies which occur in that part of his Effay in which the question is discusfed, have led subsequent authors to represent his fentiments in different lights ; but as these inconsistencies plainly shew, that he was neither satisfied with the fyftem of the Realifts nor with that of the Nom. inalists ; they appear to me to demonstrate that he leaned to the intermediate hypothesis already men.
# Joh. Sarisberiensis adscribit Pet, Abelardo ; quo quid intelligat #ille, mihi non satis liquet."- -MORHOF. Polyhistor. Tom. Sec. lib. i. cap. xiii. 9 2.
I have taken no notice of the last class of Nominalists here mentioned ; as I find myself unable to comprehend their doctrine.