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Of the Utility of the Philofophy of the Human Mind.
IT has been often remarked, that there is a mutual connexion between the different arts and fciences, and that the improvements which are made in one branch of human knowledge, frequently throw light on others, to which it has apparently a very remote relation. The modern difcoveries in aftronomy, and in pure mathematics, have contributed to bring the art of navigation to a degree of perfection formerly unknown. The rapid progrefs which has been lately made in aftronomy, anatomy, and botany, has been chiefly owing to the aid which these sciences have received from the art of the optician.
Although, however, the different departments of science and of art mutually reflect light on each othér, it is not always neceffary either for the philofopher or the artist to aim at the acquifition of general knowledge. Both of them may fafely take many principles for granted, without being able to demonftrate their truth. A feaman, though ignorant of mathematics, may apply, with correctnefs and dexterity, the rules for finding the longitude: An aftronomer, or a botanift, though ignorant of optics, may avail himself of the ufe of the telescope, or the microscope.
These observations are daily exemplified in the cafe of the artift; who has feldom either inclination or leifure to fpeculate concerning the principles of his art. It is rarely, however, we meet with a man of fcience, who has confined his ftudies wholly to one branch of knowledge That curiofity, which he has been accustomed to indulge in the course of
his favorite pursuit, will naturally extend itself to every remarkable object which falis under his obfervation; and can scarcely fail to be a fource of perpetual diffatisfaction to his mind, till it has been fo far gratified as to enable him to explain all the various phenomena, which his profeffional habits are every day presenting to his view.
As every particular fcience is in this manner connected with others, to which it naturally directs the attention, fo all the purfuits of life, whether they terminate in fpeculation or action, are connected with that general fcience, which has the human mind for its object. The powers of the understanding are inftruments which all men employ; and his curiofity must be fmall indeed, who paffes through life in a total ignorance of faculties, which his wants and neceffities force him habitually to exercife, and which fo remarkably diftinguish man from the lower animals. The active principies of our nature, which, by their various modifications and combinations, give rife to all the moral differences among men, are fitted, in a ftill higher degree, if poffible, to interest thofe, who are either difpofed to reflect on their own characters, or to observe, with attention, the characters of others. The phenomena refulting from thefe faculties and principles of the mind, are every moment foliciting our notice; and open to our examination, a field of difcovery, as inexhauftible as the phenomena of the material world; and exhibiting not lefs ftriking marks of divine wisdom.
While all the fciences, and all the purfuits of life, have this common tendency to lead our inquiries to the philofophy of the human nature, this last branch of knowledge borrows its principles from no other science whatever. Hence there is fomething in the ftudy of it, which is peculiarly gratifying to a reflecting and inquifitive mind; and fomething in the conclufions to which it leads, on which the mind refts
with peculiar fatisfaction. Till once our opinions are in fome degree fixed with respect to it, we abandon ourselves, with reluctance, to particular scientific investigations; and on the other hand, a general knowledge of fuch of its principles as are most fitted to excite the curiofity, not only prepares us for engaging in other purfuits with more liberal and comprehenfive views, but leaves us at liberty to profecute them with a more undivided and concentrated attention.
It is not, however, merely as a subject of speculative curiofity, that the principles of the human mind deferve a careful examination. The advantages to be expected from a fuccessful analysis of it are various; and fome of them of fuch importance, as to render it astonishing, that, amidst all the success with which the fubordinate sciences have been cultivated, this, which comprehends the principles of all of them, fhould be ftill fuffered to remain in its infancy.
I fhall endeavor to illuftrate a few of these advantages, beginning with what appears to me to be the moft important of any; the light, which a philofophical analysis of the principles of the mind would neceffarily throw, on the fubjects of intellectual and moral education..
The most effential objects of education are the two following: First, to cultivate all the various principles of our nature, both speculative and active, in fuch a manner as to bring them to the greateft perfection of which they are fufceptible; and, Secondly, by watching over the impreffions and affociations which the mind receives in early life, to fecure it against the influence of prevailing errors; and, as far as poffible, to engage its prepoffeffions on the fide of truth. It is only upon a philofophical analysis of the mind, that a fyftematical plan can be founded, for the accomplishment of either of these purposes. There are few individuals, whofe education has
been conducted in every respect with attention and judgment. Almost every man of reflection is confcious, when he arrives at maturity, of many defects in his mental powers; and of many inconvenient habits, which might have been prevented or reme. died in his infancy or youth. Such a consciousness is the first step towards improvement; and the perfon who feels it, if he is poffeffed of refolution and. steadiness, will not fcruple to begin, even in advanced years, a new courfe of education for himself. The degree of reflection and obfervation, indeed, which is neceffary for this purpose, cannot be expected from any one at a very early period of life, as. these are the loft powers of the mind which unfold themselves; but it is never too late to think of the improvement of our faculties; and much progress may be made, in the art of applying them fuccefsfully to their proper objects, or in obviating the inconveniencies refulting from their imperfection, not only in manhood, but in old age.
It is not, however, to the mistakes of our early in. ftructors, that all our intellectual defects are to be afcribed. There is no profeffion or purfuit which has not habits peculiar to itself; and which does not leave fome powers of the mind dormant, while it exercises and improves the reft. If we wish, therefore, to cultivate the mind to the extent of its capacity, we must not reft satisfied with that employment which its faculties receive from our particular fituation in life. It is not in the awkward and profeffional form of a mechanic, who has ftrengthened particular muscles of his body by the habits of his trade, that we are to look for the perfection of our animal nature neither is it among men of confined purfuits, whether fpeculative or active, that we are to expect to find the human mind in its highest state of cultivation. A variety of exercises is neceffary to preferve the animal frame in vigour and beauty; and
a variety of those occupations which literature and fcience afford, added to a promifcuous intercourse with the world, in the habits of converfation and bu finefs, is no lefs neceffary for the improvement of the understanding. I acknowledge, that there are fome profeffions, in which a man of very confined acquifitions may arrive at the first eminence; and in which he will perhaps be the more likely to excel, the more he has concentrated the whole force of his mind to one particular object. But fuch a perfon, however diftinguished in his own fphere, is educated merely to be a literary artisan; and neither attains the perfection, nor the happiness of his nature. "That "education only can be confidered as complete and generous, which" (in the language of Milton)" fits a man to perform juftly, skilfully, and magnanim"oufly, all the offices, both private and public, of 66 peace, and of war","
I hope it will not be fuppofed, from the foregoing obfervations, that they are meant to recommend an indiscriminate attention to all the objects of fpeculation and of action. Nothing can be more evident, than the neceffity of limiting the field of our exertion, if we wish to benefit fociety by our labours. But it is perfectly confiftent with the moft intense application to our favourite purfuit, to cultivate that general acquaintance with letters and with the world, which may be fufficient to enlarge the mind, and to preferve it from any danger of contracting the pe. dantry of a particular profeffion. In many cafes, (as was already remarked,) the sciences reflect light on each other; and the general acquifitions which we have made in other purfuits, may furnish us with ufeful helps for the farther profecution of our own. But even in those inftances in which the cafe is oth erwife, and in which these liberal accomplishments must be purchased by the facrifice of a part of our
* Tractate of Education.