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* that time of the day it was a place where there was “ no resort of company. Accordingly, at the hour
appointed, we went to Piso's. We passed the “ time in conversing on different matters during our * short walk from the double gate, till we came to “ the academy, that justly celebrated spot ; which, • as we wilhed, we found a perfect folitude." "I “ know not,” (faid Piso,) " whether it be a natural
feeling, or an illusion of the imagination founded “ on habit, that we are more powerfully affected by " the fight of those places which have been much “ frequented by illustrious men, than when we either " listen to the recital, or read the detail, of their great " actions. At this moment, I feel strongly the emo“tion which I speak of. I see before me, the per« fect form of Plato, who was wont to dispute in * this very place : these gardens not only recal him es to my memory, but present his very person to my “ senses, I fancy to myself, that here ftood Speusip
pus; there Xenocrates, and here, on this bench, “ fat his disciple Polemo. To me, our antient fenate“ house seems peopled with the like visionary Forms; “ for, often, when I enter it, the shades of Scipio, of “ Cato, and of Lælius, and, in particular, of my ven“ erable grandfather, rise to iny imagination. In 6 short, such is the effect of local situation in recall.
ing associated ideas to the mind, that it is not “ without reason, fome philosophers have founded “ on this principle a species of artificial memory: ”
This influence of perceptible objects, in awakening affociated thoughts and affociated feelings, seems to arise, in a great measure, from their permanent operation as exciting or suggesting causes. When a train of thought takes its rise from an idea or conception, the first idea foon disappears, and a series of others succeeds, which are gradually less and less related to that with which the train commenced ; but, in the case of perception, the exciting cause remains steadily before us; and all the thoughts and feelings which have any relation to it, crowd into the mind in rapid succession ; strengthening each other's effects, and all conspiring in the same general impression.
I already observed, that the connections which exist among our thoughts, have been long familiarly known to the vulgar, as well as to philofophers. It is, indeed, only of late, that we have been possessed of an appropriated phrase to express them; but that the general fact is not a recent discovery, may be inferred from many of the common maxims of prudence and of propriety, which have plainly been luggested by an attention to this part of our constitution. When we lay it down, for example, as a general rule, to avoid in conversation all expressions, and all topics of discourse, which have any relation, however remote, to ideas of an unpleasant nature, we plainly proceed on the supposition that there are certain connections among our thoughts, which have an influence over the order of their fucceffion. It is unnecessary to remark, how much of the comfort and good-humor of social life depends on an at. tention to this confideration. Such attentions are more particularly essential in our intercourse with men of the world ; for the commerce of society has a wonderful effect in increasing the quickness and the facility with which we affociate all ideas which have any reference to life and manners ;* and, of
* The superiority wbieh the man of the world possesses over the recluse student, in his knowledge of mankind, is partly the result of this quickness and facility of association.
Those trifling circumstances in conversation and beliavior, which, to the latter, convey only their most obvious and avowed meaning, lay open to the former, many of the trains of thought which are connected with them, and frequently give him a distinct view of a character, on that very side where it is supposed to be most concealed from his observation.
confequence, it must render the sensibility alive to many circumstances which, from the remoteness of their relation to the fituation and history of the parties, would otherwise have passed unnoticed.
When an idea, however, is thus suggested by aflociation, it produces a slighter impression, ot, at least, it produces its impression more gradually, than if it were presented more directly and immediately to the mind. And hence, when we are under the necefsity of communicating any disagreeable information to another, delicacy leads us, instead of mentioning the thing itself, to mention fomething else from which our meaning may be understood. In this manner, we prepare our hearers for the unwelcome intelligence. The
distinction between gross and delicate flattery, is founded upon the same principle. As nothing is more offensive than flattery which is direct and pointed, praise is considered as happy and elegant, in proportion to the flightness of the affociations by which it is conveyed.
To this tendency which one thought has to introduce another, philosophers have given the name of the Asociation of ideas ; and, as I would not wifh, excepting in a case of necefsity, to depart from common language, or to expose myself to the charge of delivering old doctrines in a new form, I shall continue to make use of the fame exprefsion. I am sensible, indeed, that the expreffion is by no means unexceptionable ; and that, if it be used (as it frequently has been) to comprehend those laws by which the fuccéffion of all our thoughts and of all our mental operations is regulated, the word idea must be under. stood in a fenfe much more extensive than it is commonly employed in. It is very juftly remarked by Dr. Reid, that " memory, judgment, reasoning, s passions, affections, and purposes ; in a word, every
operation of the mind, excepting those of sense, is
* excited occasionally in the train of our thoughts : 6 fo that, if we make the train of our thoughts to be "only a train of ideas, the word idea must be under“ ftood to denote all these operations.” In contin. uing, therefore, to employ, upon this subject, that language, which has been consecrated by the practice of our best philosophical writers in England, I would not be understood to dispute the advantages which might be derived from the introduction of a new phrase, more precise and more applicable to the fact. · The ingenious author whom I last quoted, seems to think that the association of ideas has no claim to be considered as an original principle, or as an ultimate fact in our nature. “ I believe,” (says he, “that “ the original principles of the mind, of which we “ can give no account, but that such is our conftitu« tion, are more in number than is commonly " thought. But we ought not to multiply them 56 without neceffity. That trains of thinking, which, s by frequent repetition, have become familiar, 6 should spontaneously offer themselves to our fancy, 16 seems to require no other original quality but the power of habit.”
. With this observation I cannot agree ; because I think it more philosophical to resolve the power of babit into the affociation of ideas, than to resolve the association of ideas into habit.
The word habit, in the fense in which it is commonly employed, expresses that facility which the mind acquires, in all its exertions, both animal and intellectual, in consequence of practice. We apply it to the dexterity of the workman ; to the extemporary fluency of the orator ; to the rapidity of the arithmetical accountant. That this facility is the effect of practice, we know from experience to be a fact : but it does not seem to be an ultimate fact, nor incapable of analyfis.
In the Effay on Attention, I shewed that the effects of practice are produced partly on the body, and partly on the mind. The muscles which we employ in mechanical operations, become stronger, and become more obedient to the will. This is a fact, of which it is probable that philofophy will never be able to give any explanation,
But even in mechanical operations, the effects of practice are produced partly on the mind; and, as far as this is the case, they are resolvable into what philosophers call, the association of ideas ; or into that general fact, which Dr. Reid himself has stated, “ that “ trains of thinking, which, by frequent repetition, “ have become familiar, fpontaneously offer them.
selves to the mind." In the case of habits which are purely intellectual, the effects of practice resolve themselves completely into this principle : and it appears to me more precise and more satisfactory, to ftate the principle itself as a law of our constitution, than tu flur it over under the concise appellation of habit, which we apply in common to mind and to body.
The tendency in the human mind to affociate or connect its thoughts together, is fometimes called (but very improperly) the imagination. - Between ' these two parts of our conftitution, there is indeed a very intimate relation; and it is probably owing to this relation, that they have been fo generally confounded under the same name. When the mind is Occupied about absent objects of sense, (which, I believe, it is habitually in the great majority of mankind,) its train of thought is merely a series of con. ceptions; or, in common language, of imaginations.* In the case, too, of poetical imagination, it is the af
* Accordingly, Hobbes calls the train of thought in the mind, " Consequentia sive series imaginationum.” “ Per seriem imagi- , “nationum intelligo successionem unius cogitationis ad aliam," LEVIATHAN, cap. iji.