Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

PARTI. Of the Nature and Object of the Philosophy of the Human

Mind. THE prejudice which is commonly entertained a gainst metaphysical speculations, seems to arite chief. ly from two causes : First, from an apprehension that the subjects about which they are employed, are placed beyond the reach of the human faculties; and, secondly, from a belief that these subjects have no relation to the business of life.

The frivolous and absurd discussions which abound in the writings of most Metaphysical authors, afford but too many arguments in juttification of these 0pinions; and if such discussions were to be admitted as a fair specimen of what the human mind is able to accomplish in this department of science, the contempt, into which it has fallen of late, might with

B В.

justice be regarded, as no inconsiderable evidence of the progress

which true philofophy has made in the present age. Among the various subjects of inqui. ry, however, which, in consequence of the vague use of language, are comprehended under the general ti. tle of Metaphysics, there are fome, which are essentially distinguished from the rest, both by the degree of evidence which accompanies their principles, and by the relation which they bear to the useful sciences and arts: and it has unfortunately happened, that these have shared in that general discredit, into which the other branches of metaphysics have justly fallen. To this circumstance is probably to be ascribed, the little progress which has hitherto been made in the Philosophy of the Human Mind; a science, so interesting in its nature, and so important in its applications, that it could scarcely have failed, in these inquisitive and enlightened times, to have excited a very general attention, if it had not accidentally been clafled, in the public opinion, with the vain and unprofitable disquisitions of the school-men.

In order to obviate these misapprehensions with respect to the subject of the following work, I have thought it proper, in this preliminary chapter, first, to explain the Nature of the truths which I propose to investigate; and, secondly, to point out some of the more important Applications of which they are susceptible. In stating these preliminary observations, I may perhaps appear to fome to be minute and tedious; but this fault, I am confident, will be readily pardoned by those, who have studied with care the principles of that science of which I am to treat; and who are anxious to reinove the prejudices which have, in a great measure, excluded it from the modern lystems of education. In the progress of my work, I flatter myself that I shall not often have occasion to solicit the indulgence of my readers, for an unnecessary diffusenels.

[ocr errors]

The notions we annex to the words, matter, and mind, as is well remarked by Dr. Reid,* are merely relative. If I am asked what I mean by matter? I can only explain myself by saying, it is that which is extended, figured, coloured, moveable, hard or soft, rough or smooth, hot or cold ;-that is, I can define it in no other way, than by enumerating its sensible qualities. It is not matter, or body, which I perceive by my senses ; but only extension, figure, colour, and certain other qualities, which the constitution of my nature leads me to refer to something, which is extended, figured, and coloured. The case is precisely similar with respect to Mind. We are not immediately conscious of its existence, but we are conscious of fenfation, thought, and volition ; operations, which imply the existence of something which feels, thinks, and wills. Every man too is impressed with an irresistible conviction, that all these sensations, thoughts, and volitions, belong to one and the same being; to that being, which he calls himself ; a being, which he is led, by the constitution of his nature, to consider as something diftinct from his body, and as not liable to be impaired by the loss or mutilation of any of his organs.

From these considerations, it appears, that we have the same evidence for the existence of mind, that we have for the existence of body; nay, if there be any difference between the two cases, that we have stronger evidence for it ; inasmuch as the one is suggested to us by the subjects of our own consciousness, and the other merely by the objects of our own perceptions: and in this light, undoubtedly, the fact would appear to every person, were it not, that, from our earliest years, the attention is engrofled with the qualities and laws of matter, an acquaintance with which is absolutely necessary for the pre{ervation of our animal existence. Hence it is, that these phenomena occupy our thoughts more than those of mind : that we are perpetually tempted to explain the latter by the analogy of the former, and even to endeavor to refer them to the same general laws; and that we acquire habits of inattention to the subjects of our consciousness, too strong to be afterwards furmounted, without the most persevering industry.

* Essays on the Active Powers of Man, p. 8, 9.

If the foregoing observations be well founded, they establish the distinction "etween mind and matter, without any long process of metaphysical reasoning*: for if our notions of both are merely relative; if we know the one, only by such fenfible qualities as extension, figure, and folidity; and the other, by such operations as sensation, thought, and volițion ; we are certainly entitled to say, that matter and mind, considered as objects of human ftudy, are efsentially different; the science of the former resting ultimately on the phenomena exhibited to our fenses ; that of the latter, on the phenomena of which we are conscious. Instead, therefore, of objecting to the scheme of materialism, that its conclusions are false, it would be more accurate to say, that its aim is unphilofophical. It proceeds on a misapprehenfion of the proper object of science; the difficulty which it professes to remove being manifestly placed beyond the reach of our faculties. Surely, when we attempt to explain the nature of that principle which feels and thinks and wills, by saying, that it is a material substance, or that it is the result of material organization, we impofe on ourselves by words -forgetting, that matter as well as mind is known to us by its qualities and attributes alone, and that we are totally ignorant of the essence of either.t

* See Note[A] at the end of the volume.

+ Some Metaphysicians, who appear to admit the truth of the foregoing reasoning, have farther urged, that for any thing we can

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »