« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
tempt an explanation of the affociation of ideas, by certain fuppofed vibrations, or other changes, in the ftate of the brain; or to explain memory, by means of fuppofed impreffions and traces in the fenforium; we evidently blend a collection of important and well afcertained truths, with principles which reft wholly on conjecture.*
* There is indeed one view of the connexion between Mind and Matter, which is perfectly agreeable to the just rules of philosophy. The object of this is, to ascertain the laws which regulate their union, without attempting to explain in what manner they are united.
Lord Bacon was, I believe, the first who gave a distinct idea of this sort of speculation; and I do not know that much progress has yet been made in it. In his books de Augmentis Scientiarum, a variety of subjects are enumerated, in order to illustrate its nature; and, undoubtedly, most of these are in a high degree curious and important. The following list comprehends the chief of those he has mentioned; with the addition of several others, recommended to the consideration of Philosophers and of Medical Inquirers, by the late Dr. Gregory. See his Lectures on the Duties and Qualifications of a Physician.
1. The doctrine of the preservation and improvement of the dif ferent senses.
2. The history of the power and influence of imagination.
3. The history of the several species of enthusiasm.
4 The history of the various circumstances in parents, that have an influence on conception, and the constitution and characters of their children. 瞥
5. The history of dreams.
6. The history of the laws of custom and habit.
7. The history of the effects of music, and of such other things as operate on the mind and body, in consequence of impressions made on the senses.
8. The history of natural signs and language, comprehending the doctrine of physiognomy and of outward gesture.
9. The history of the power and laws of the principle of imitation.
To this list various other subjects might be added; particularly, the history of the laws of memory, in so far as they appear to be connected with the state of the body; and the history of the dif ferent species of madness.
This view of the connection between Mind and Matter does not fall properly under the plan of the following work; in which my
The obfervations which have been now stated, with refpect to the proper limits of philofophical curiofity, have too frequently efcaped the attention of fpeculative men, in all the different departments of fcience. In none of thefe, however, has this inattention produced fuch a variety of errors and abfurdities, as in the science of mind; a fubject to which, till of late, it does not seem to have been fufpected, that the general rules of philofophifing are applicable. The ftrange mixture of fact and hypothefis, which the greater part of metaphyfical inquiries exhibit, had led almost universally to a belief, that it is only a very faint and doubtful light, which human reafon can ever expect to throw on this dark, but interesting, field of fpeculation.
Befide this inattention to the proper limits of philofophical inquiry, other fources of error, from which the fcience of phyfics is entirely exempted, have contributed to retard the progrefs of the philofophy of mind. Of thefe, the most important proceed from that difpofition which is fo natural to every perfon at the commencement of his philofophical pursuits, to explain intellectual and moral phenomena by the analogy of the material world.
I before took notice of those habits of inattention to the fubjects of our confcioufnefs, which take their rife in that period of our lives when we are neceffarily employed in acquiring a knowledge of the properties and laws of matter. In confequence of this early familiarity with the phenomena of the material world, they appear to us lefs mysterious than thofe of mind; and we are apt to think that
leading object is to ascertain the principles of our nature, in so far as they can be discovered by attention to the subjects of our own consciousness; and to apply these principles to explain the phenomena arising from them. Various incidental remarks, however, will occur in the course of our inquiries, tending to illustrate some of the subjects comprehended in the foregoing enumeration.
we have advanced one step in explaining the latter, when we can point out fome analogy between them and the former. It is owing to the fame circum. ftance, that we have fcarcely any appropriated language with respect to mind, and that the words which exprefs its different operations, are almost all borrowed from the objects of our fenfes. It muft, however, appear manifeft, upon a very little reflection, that as the two fubjects are effentially diftinct, and as each of them has its peculiar laws, the analogies we are pleafed to fancy between them, can be of no ufe in illuftrating either; and that it is no less unphilosophical to attempt an explanation of perception, or of the affociation of ideas, upon mechanical principles; than it would be to explain the phenomena of gravitation, by fuppofing, as fome of the ancients did, the particles of matter to be animated with principles of motion; or to explain the chemical phenomena of elective attractions, by fuppofing the fubftances among which they are obferved, to be endowed with thought and volition. The analogy of matter, therefore, can be of no ufe in the inquiries which form the object of the following work; but, on the contrary, is to be guarded againft, as one of the principal fources of the errors to which we are liable,
Among the different philofophers who have fpeculated concerning the human mind, very few indeed can be mentioned, who have at all times been able to guard against analogical theories. At the fame time, it must be acknowledged, that fince the publication of Des Cartes' writings, there has been a gradual, and, on the whole, a very remarkable improvement in this branch of science. One ftriking proof of this is, the contraft between the metaphyfical fpeculations of fome of the most eminint philofophers in England at the end of the laft century, and those which we find in the fyftems, however imperfect, of
the prefent age. Would any writer now offer to the world, fuch conclufions with respect to the mind, as are contained in the two following paffages from Locke and Newton? "Habits," (fays Locke,) “feem "to be but tra ns of motion, in the animal fpirits, "which, once fet a-going, continue in the fame fteps "they had been used to, which, by often treading, are worn into a smooth path." And Newton himfelf has proposed the following query, concerning the manner in which the mind perceives external objects. "Is not," (fays he,)" the fenforium of animals the "place where the fentient fubftance is prefent, and "to which the fenfible fpecies of things are brought, "through the nerves and brain, that they may be perceived by the mind present in that place?"In the course of the foliowing Effays, I fhall have occafion to quote various other piffages from later writers, in which an attempt is made to explain the other phenomena of mind upon fimilar principles.
It is however much to be regretted, that even fince the period when philofophers began to adopt a more rational plan of inquiry with refpect to fuch fubjects, they have been obliged to spend fo much of their time in clearing away the rubbish collected by their predeceffors. This indeed was a preliminary step, which the state of the science, and the conciufions to which it had led, rendered abfolutely neceffary; for, however important the pofitive advantages may be, which are to be expected from its future progrefs, they are by no means fo effential to human improvement and happiness, as a fatisfactory refutation of that fceptical philosophy, which had struck at the root of all knowledge, and all belief. Such a refutation feems to have been the principal object which Dr. Reid propofed to himself in his metaphysical inquiries; and to this object his labours have been directed with fo much a ility, candor, and perfeverance, that unlefs future fceptics fhould occupy
a ground very different from that of their predeceffors, it is not likely that the controverfy will ever be renewed. The rubbish being now removed, and the foundations laid, it is time to begin the fuperftructure. The progrefs which I have made in it is, I am fenfible, very inconfiderable; yet I flatter myfelf, that the little I have done, will be fufficient to illuftrate the importance of the ftudy, and to recommend the fubjects of which I am to treat, to the attention of others.
After the remarks which I have now made, the reader will not be surprised to find, that I have studioufly avoided the confideration of those questions which have been agitated in the prefent age, between the patrons of the sceptical philofophy, and their opponents. These controverfies have, in truth, no peculiar connexion with the inquiries on which I am to enter. It is indeed only by an examination of the principles of our nature, that they can be brought to a fatisfactory conclufion; but fuppofing them to remain undecided, our sceptical doubts concerning the certainty of human knowledge, would no more affect the philofophy of mind, than they would affect any of the branches of phyfics; nor would our doubts concerning even the existence of mind, affect this branch of fcience, any more than the doubts of the Berkeleian, concerning the existence of matter, affect his opinions in natural philofophy.
To what purposes the philofophy of the human mind according to the view which I propofe to take of it, is fubfervient, I fhall endeavor to explain, at fome length, in the following fection.