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without leaving a trace behind them ; while others become, as it were, a part of ourselves, and, by their accu nulations, lay a foundation for our perpetual progress in knowledge. Without pretending to exhauit the subject, I shall content myself at present with a partial solution of this difficulty, by illustrating the dependence of memory upon two principles of our nature, with which it is plainly very intimately con. nected ; attention, and the association of ideas.
I endeavored in a former chapter to fhew, that there is a certain act of the mind, (distinguished, both by philosophers and the vulgar, by the naine of attention.) without which even the objects of our perceptions make no impression on the memory. It is also matter of common remark, that the permanence of the impression which any thing leaves in the memory, is proportioned to the degree of atten. tion which was originally given to it. The obfervation has been so often repeated, and is so manifeft. ly true, that it is unneceffary to offer any illustration of it.*
I have only to observe farther, with respect to attention, considered in the relation in which it stands to memory, that although it be a voluntary act, it requires experience to have it always under command. In the case of objects to which we have been ta ught to attend at an early period of life, or which are calculated to rouse the curiosity, or to affect any of our passions, the attention fixes itself upon them, as it were spontaneously, and without any effort on our part, of which we are conscious
* It seems to be owing to this dependence of memory on attention, that it is easier to get by heart a composition, after a very few readings, with an attempt to repeat it at the end of each, than after a hundred readings without such an effort. The effort rouses the atiention from that languid state in which it remains, while the mind is giving a passive reception to foreign ideas. The fact is remarked by lord Bacon, and is explained by him on the same principle to which I have referred it.
" Quæ expectantur et attentionem excitant, melius hærent quam “quæ prætervolant. Itaque si scriptum aliquod vicies perlegeris, “ non tam facile illud meinoriter disces, quam si illud legas decies, “ tentando interim illud recitare, et ubi deficit memoria, inspiciendo + librum.”
BACON, Nov. Org.lib. ii. aph. 26.
How perfectly do we remember, and even retain, for a long course of years, the faces and the hand-writings of our acquaintances, although we never took any particular pains to fix them in the memory ? On the other hand, if an object does not interest fome principle of our nature, we may examine it again and again, with a wish to treasure up the knowledge of it in the mind, without our being able to command that degree of attention which
lead us to recognize it the next time we see it. A person, for example, who has not been accustomed to attend particularly to horses or to cattle, may study for a considerable time the appearance of a horse or of a bullock, without being able a few days afterwards to pronounce on his identity; while a horse-dealer or a grazier recollects many hundreds of that class of animals with which he is converfant, as perfectly as he does the faces of his acquaintances. In order to account for this, I would remark, that although attention be a voluntary act, and although we are always able, when we choose, to make a momentary exertion of it ; yet, unless the object to which it is derected be really interesting, in some degree, to the curiosity, the irain of our ideas goes on, and we immediately forget our purpose. When we are employed, therefore, in Itudying such an object, it is not an exclusive and steady attention that we give to it, but we are losing fight of it, and recurring to it every inftant; and the painful efforts of which we are conscious, are not (as we are apt to suppose them to be) efforts of uncommon attention, but unsuccessful attempts to keep the mind steady to its object, and to exclude
the extraneous ideas, which are from time to time foliciting its notice.
If thefe obfervations be well founded, they afford an explanation of a fact which has been often remarked, that objects are easily remembered which affect any of the passions.* The passion aslifts the memory, not in confequence of any immediate connection between them, but as it presents, during the time it continues, a steady and exclusive object to the attention.
The connection between memory and the affocia. tion of ideas, is so striking, that it has been fupposed hy fome, that the whole of its phenomena might be resolved into this principle. But this is evidently mot the case. The affociation of ideas connects our various thoughts with each other, so as to prefent them to the mind in a certain order; but it presup poses the existence of these thoughts in the mind; or, in other words, it presuppofes a faculty of retaining the knowledge which we acquire. It involves also a power of recognizing, as former objects of attention, the thoughts that from time to time occur to us ; a power which is not implied in that law of our nature which is called the affociation of ideas. It is pofsible, surely, that our thoughts inight have succeeded each other, according to the fame laws as at present, without suggesting to us at all the idea of the past ; and, in fact, this supposition is realised to a certain degree in the cafe of some old men, who retain pretty exactly the information which they rea ceive, but are sometimes unable to recollect in what manner the particulars which they find connected together in their thoughts, at first came into the mind; whether they occurred to them in a dream, or were communicated to them in conversation.
*“ Si quas res in vita videmus parvas, usitatas, quotidianas, eas « meminisse non solemus; propterea quod nulla nisi nova aut ad“ mirabili re commovetur animus. At si quid videmus aut audi“mus egregie turpe, aut honestum, inusitatum, magnum, incredi“bile, ridiculum, id dia meminisse consacvimus."
Ad Herenn. lib. 3.
On the other hand, it is evedent, that without the associating principle, the powers of retaining our thoughts, and of recognizing them when they ocur to us, would have been of little use; for the moft important articles of our knowledge might have remained latent in the mind, even when those occa. fions presented themselves to which they are imme. diately applicable. In consequence of this law of our nature, not only are all our various ideas made to pass, from time to time, in review before us, and to offer themselves to our choice as subjects of meditation, but when an occasion occurs which calls for the aid of our past experience, the occasion itself recals to us all the information upon the subject which that experience has accumulated.
The foregoing observations comprehend an analy. fis of memory sufficiently accurate for my present purpose : fome other remarks, tending to illustrate the same subject more completely, will occur in the remaining sections of this chapter.
It is hardly necessary for me to add, that when we have proceeded so far in our inquiries concerning Memory, as to obtain an analysis of that power, and to ascertain the relation in which it stands to the other principles of our conftitution, we have advanced as far towards an explanation of it as the nature of the subject permits. The various theories which have attempted to account for it by traces or impressions in the sensorium, are obviously too unphi. lofophical to deserve a particular refutation.* Such, indeed, is the poverty of language, that we cannot speak on the subject without employing expressions
* See Note (S.)
which suggest one theory or another ; but it is of importance for us always to recollect, that these expreffions are entirely figurative, and afford no explanation of the phenomena to which they refer. It is partly with a view to remind my readers of this consideration, that, finding it impossible to lay afide completely metaphorical or analogical words, I have studied to avoid such an uniformity in the employment of them, as might indicate a preference to one theory rather than another ; and by doing so, have perhaps sometimes been led to vary the metaphor oftener and more suddenly, than would be proper in a composition which aimed at any degree of elegance. This caution in the use of the common language concerning memory, it seemed to me the more necessary to attend to, that the general dispofition which every person feels at the commencement of his philosophical pursuits, to explain the phenomena of thought by the laws of matter, is, in the case of this particular faculty, encouraged by a variety of peculiar circumstances. The analogy between committing a thing to memory that we wilh to remember, and engraving on a tablet a fact that we wish to record, is so itriking as to present itself even to the vulgar ; nor is it perhaps less natural to indulge the fancy in considering memory as a sort of repository, in which we arrange and preserve for future use the materials of our information. The immediate dependence, too, of this faculty on the state of the body, which is more remarkable than that of any other faculty whatever, (as appears from the effects produced on it by old age, disease, and intoxication) is apt to strike those who have not been much conversant with these inquiries, as bestuwing some plausibility on the theory which attempts to explain its phenomena on mechanical principles.
I cannot help taking this opportunity of expreffing a wish, that medical writers would be at