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« uncertainty, and fufpense, appear the only result “ of our most accurate scrutiny concerning this sub
ject ?" Or should not rather the melancholy histories which he has exhibited of the follies and ca. prices of superstition, direct our attention to those sacred and indelible characters on the human mind, which all these perversions of reason are unable to obliterate ; like that image of himself, which Phidias wished to perpetuate, by stamping it so deeply on the buckler of his Minerva ; “ut nemo delere pof“ fet aut divellere, qui totam ftatuam non imminuer.
In truth, the more striking the contradice tions, and the more ludicrous the ceremonies to which the pride of human reason has thus been reconciled; the stronger is our evidence that religion has a foundation in the nature of man. When the greatest of modern philosophers declares, that “ he « would rather believe all the fables in the Legend, " and the Talmud, and Alcoran, than that this uni66 versal frame is without mind;"+ he has expressed the same feeling, which, in all ages and nations, has led good men, unaccustomed to reasoning, to an implicit faith in the creed of their infancy ;-a feel. ing which affords an evidence of the existence of the Deity, incomparably more striking, than if, unmixed with error and undebased by superstition, this most important of all principles had commanded the universal affent of mankind. Where are the other truths, in the whole circle of the sciences, which are so efsential to human happiness, as to procure an easy access, not only for themselves, but for whatever opinions may happen to be blended with them? Where are the truths fo venerable and commanding, as to impart their own sublimity to every
* Select Discourses by JOHN SMITH, p. 119. Cambridge, 1678.
Lord Bacon, in his Essays.
trifling memorial which recals them to our remembrance; to bestow folemnity and elevation on every mode of expression by which they are conveyed; and which, in whatever scene they have habitually occupied the thoughts, consecrate every object which it presents to our senses, and the very ground we have been accustomed to tread? To attempt to weaken the authority of such impressions, by a detail of the endless variety of forms, which they derive from casual associations, is surely an employment unsuitable to the dignity of philosophy. To the vulgar, it may be amuling, in this, as in other instances, to indulge their wonder at what is new or uncommon ; but to the philosopher it belongs to perceive, under all these various disguises, the workings of the fame common nature; and in the superstitions of Egypt, no less than in the lofty visions of Plato, to recognize the existence of those moral ties which unite the heart of man to the Author' of his being.
Influence of the Asociation of Ideas on our Judgments in
Matters of Taste.
THE very general observations which I am to make in this section, do not presuppose any particuJar theory concerning the nature of Taste. It is sufficient for my purpose to remark, that Tafte is not a simple and original faculty, but a power gradually formed by experience and observation. It implies, indeed, as its ground-work, a certain degree of natural sensibility ; but it implies also the exercise of the judgment; and is the slow result of an attentive examination and comparison of the agreeable or disagreeable effects produced on the mind by external objects.
Such of my readers as are acquainted with “ An Essay on the Nature and Principles of Tatte," lately published by Mr. Alison, will not be surprised that I decline the discussion of a subject which he has treated with so much ingenuity and elegance.
The view which was formerly given of the process, by which the general laws of the material world are investigated, and which I endeavoured to illustrate by the Itate of medicine among rude nations, is strictly applicable to the history of Taste. That certain objects are fitted to give pleasure, and others disgust, to the mind, we know from experi. ence alone ; and it is impossible for us, by any reasoning a priori, to explain, how the pleasure or the pain is produced In the works of nature we find, in many instances, Beauty and Sublimity involved among circumstances, which are either indifferent, or which obstructs the general effect: and it is only by a train of experiments, that we can separate those circumstances from the rest, and ascertain with what particular qualities the pleasing effect is connected. Accordingly, the inexperienced artist, when he copies Nature, will copy her fervilely, that he may be certain of securing the pleasing effect; and the beauties of his performances will be encumbered with a number of superfluous or of disagreeable concomitants. Experience and observation a- . lone can enable him to make this discrimination : to exhibit the principles of beauty pure and unadulterated, and to form a creation of his own, more faultless than ever fell under the observation of his fenfes.
This analogy between the progress of Taste from rudeness to refinement ; and the progress of physical knowledge from the superstitions of a savage tribe, to the investigation of the laws of nature, proceeds on the fuppolition, that, as in the material world there are general facts, beoynd which philosophy is
unable to proceed; fo, in the constitution of man, there is an inexplicable adaptation of the mind to the objects with which his faculties are conversant; in consequence of which, these objects are fitted to produce agreeable or disagreeable emotions. In both cafes, reafoning may be employed with propriety to refer particular phenomená to general principles ; but in both cases, we must at last arrive at principles of which no account can be given, but that such is the will of our Maker.
A great part, too, of the remarks which were made in the last Section on the origin of popular prejudices, may be applied to explain the influence of casual associations on Taste; but these remarks do not fo completely exhaust the subject, as to supersede the neceffity of farther illustration. In matters of Tafte, the effects which we consider, are produced on the Mind itself; and are accompanied either with pleasure or with pain. Hence the tendency to casual affociation, is much stronger than it commonly is, with respect to physical events ; and when such as sociations are once formed, as they do not lead to any important inconvenience, similar to those which result from physical mistakes, they are not fo likely to be corrected by mere experience, unaflifted by study. To this it is owing, that the influence of alfociation on our judgments concerning beauty and deformity, is still more remarkable than on our speculative conclusions ; a circumstance which has led fome philosophers to suppose, that association is sufficient to account for the origin of these notions and that there is no such thing as a ftandard of Taste, founded on the principles of the human constitution. But this is undoubtedly pushing the theory a great deal too far. The affociation of ideas can never account for the origin of a new notion ; or of a pleafure essentially different from all the others which we know. It may indeed, enable us to conceive
how a thing indifferent in itself, may become a source of pleasure, by being connected in the mind with something else which is naturally agreeable ; but it presupposes, in every instance, the existence of those notions and those feelings which it is its province to combine : insomuch that, I apprehend, it will be found, wherever afsociation produces a change in our judgments on matters of Taste, it does to, by cooperating with some natural principle of the mind, and implies the existence of certain original sources of pleasure and uneasiness.
A mode of dress, which at first appeared awkward, acquires, in a few weeks or months, the appearance of elegance. By being accustomed to see it worn by those whom we consider as models of Tafte, it becomes affociated with the agreeable impressions which we receive from the ease and grace and refinement of their manners. When it pleases by it. felf, the effect is to be ascribed, not to the object actually before us, but to the impressions with which it has been generally connected, and which it naturally recals to the mind.
This observation points out the cause of the perpet. ual viciffitudes in dress, and in every thing whose chief recommendation arises from fashion. It is evi, dent that, as far as the agreeable effect of an ornament arises from afsociation, the effect will continue only while it is confined to the highest orders. When it is adopted by the multitude, it not only ceases to be associated with ideas of taste and refinement, but it is associated with ideas of affectation, absurd imitation, and vulgarity. It is accordingly laid aside by the higher orders, who ftudiouly avoid every circumstance in external appearance, which is debafed by low and common use; and they are led to exercise their invention, in the introduction of some new peculiarities, which first become fashionable, then common, and last of all, are abandoned as vulgar.