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But when we examine the phenomena of our own minds, the train of ideas, so to speak, is continually doubling back on itself. The feeling cannot exist, the mental phenomenon cannot be manifested, and be examined at the same instant. The metaphysician, like the anatomist, must operate on the dead subject. He does not study the present state of his own mind, for the very reason, that his mind is now engaged in study, and does not manifest the phenomenon in question; but he examines his recollection of what was its condition a moment before, when it put forth the feeling, or existed under the phasis, which is now the object of his researches. What is called consciousness is always a reflex act, never immediLocke is not only right in admitting but one faculty, but the appellation he gives to it is the better chosen of the
Cousin devotes nearly a whole lecture to a minute examination of Locke's theory respecting the idea of Space. The criticism is founded entirely on Kant's doctrine respecting the same idea, though the skeptical conclusion of the German philosopher, that space has no objective existence, is not admitted by his French copyist. Respecting the justice of the criticism we have nothing to say, except to remark on the unfairness of accusing Locke of confounding the two ideas of body and space, where the very opposite doctrine is maintained in the "Essay," and the essential difference between the two conceptions is established at great length. Cousin's proof of this charge is so curious, that we extract the passage.
"Locke says; the idea of place we have by the same means that we get the idea of space, (whereof this is but a particular and limited consideration,) namely, by our sight and touch Same chapter, same section; 'to say that the world is somewhere, means no more than that it does exist; *****.' It is clear, that is to say, that the space [?] of the universe is equivalent to neither more nor less than to the universe itself, and as the idea of the universe is, after all, nothing but the idea of body, it is to this idea, that the idea of space is reduced. Such is the necessary genesis of the idea of space in the system of Locke."- Elements of Psychology, pp. 79, 80. We now give at length the two sentences, of which Cousin has quoted but a small part.
That our idea of place is nothing else but such a relative
position of any thing, as I have before mentioned, I think is plain, and will be easily admitted, when we consider that we can have no idea of the place of the universe, though we can of all the parts of it; because beyond that we have not the idea of any fixed, distinct, particular beings, in reference to which we can imagine it to have any relation of distance; but all beyond it is one uniform space or expansion, wherein the mind finds no variety, no marks. For to say that the world is somewhere, means no more than that it does exist; this, though a phrase borrowed from place, signifying only its existence, not location; and when one can find out and frame in his mind, clearly and distinctly, the place of the universe, he will be able to tell us whether it moves or stands still in the undistinguishable inane of infinite space: though it be true that the word place has sometimes a more confused sense, and stands for the space which any body takes up; and so the universe is in a place."-Locke, on Human Understanding, Book 2. Ch. xiii. § 10.
Locke's doctrine clearly is, that place is mere "relation of distance"; therefore he affirms, that we have no idea of the place of the universe, because the universe has no fixed points of reference beyond itself. Cousin adopts that other "more confused sense" of the word place, by which it stands for the space which any body takes up, though Locke expressly mentions this meaning of the term, and admits, that in this sense the universe is in a place. It is but right to add, that this is the only instance we have noticed in Cousin of gross unfairness in making quotations. The perversion of meaning which is here caused by garbling the passage is quite ludicrous. But it was necessary in order to afford a peg, on which to hang a long argument, all borrowed from Kant, respecting the opposition between the ideas of body and space.
The chapter on the origin of our idea of Duration is one of the most satisfactory portions of Locke's whole treatise. The doctrine is so fully stated and with such clearness of language, that we know not how to account for Cousin's entire misconception of its meaning. Locke affirms, that the idea of time is first acquired by reflecting upon the succession of our ideas, and this account receives the full assent of his critic. In proof of his doctrine, Locke mentions the fact, that when the succession of ideas ceases, our perception of duration ceases along with it; as, for example, in dreamless sleep or profound reverie, where the current of thought is
stopped, or is concentrated on a single idea. Will it be believed, that on the ground of this simple illustration he is charged with confounding the two distinct ideas of succession and duration, the measure and the thing measured, and consequently with maintaining the monstrous doctrine, that when the train of thought stops, time stops also? Cousin says, that the necessary consequence of Locke's theory is, that the timepiece, which marked the lapse of hours during the sleep was wrong; "and the sun, like the timepiece, should have stopped." We copy Cousin's own quotation.
"That we have our notion of succession and duration from this original, viz. from reflection on the train of ideas which we find to appear one after another in our own minds, seems plain to me in that we have no perception of duration, but by considering the train of ideas that take their turns in our understandings. When that succession of ideas ceases, our perception of duration ceases with it; which every one clearly experiments in himself, whilst he sleeps soundly, whether an hour or a day, a month or a year; of which duration of things, while he sleeps or thinks not, he has no perception at all, but it is quite lost to him; and the moment wherein he leaves off to think, till the moment he begins to think again, seems to him to have no distance. And so I doubt not it would be to a waking man, if it were possible for him to keep only one idea in his mind, without variation and the succession of others."Locke, on Human Understanding, Book 2, Ch. xiv. § 4.
Can any language more clearly repudiate the very consequence which Cousin endeavours to draw? It is not duration itself, which ceases while we sleep, but "our perception of duration"; the timepiece goes right, but the "perception of the time is quite lost to him" who sleeps. The critic surely does not mean to deny the fact, that in sound slumber we are unconscious of the flight of hours. To remove all doubt, in another section of the same chapter, the 21st, Locke directly controverts the very doctrine here put into his mouth. "We must therefore carefully distinguish betwixt duration itself, and the measures we make use of to judge of its length"; and in a subsequent part of the same section, "the train of our own ideas" is mentioned, as being this measure. And yet Cousin argues at great length this point, as if in opposition to Locke, finding under this head no other heresy with which to accuse the English philosopher. It is a fine specimen of the method of setting up pins, that one may have the pleasure
of knocking them down again. Better instances still are to
The idea of the Infinite is the next point, on which our author tries his strength with the founder of the Empirical school, as it is called. We shall not enter into the general discussion on this point, though it forms the corner stone of the Eclectic system, for it has already been discussed and refuted with great ability by the present accomplished professor of philosophy at Edinburgh, whose article on the subject, though well known to Cousin, he has for sound reasons never attempted to answer. Our remarks will be confined to the incidental glimpse of this theory, which is afforded in the commentary upon Locke. The following paragraph contains the substance of the criticism on this head.
"After having sported awhile with the idea of the infinite as obscure, Locke objects again that it is purely negative, that it has nothing positive in it. B. II. ch. XVII. § 13; 'We have no positive idea of infinity.' §16; We have no positive idea of an infinite duration.' § 18; We have no positive idea of infinite space.' Here we have the accusation, so often since repeated, against the conceptions of reason, that they are not positive. But first, observe that there can no more be an idea of succession without the idea of time, than of time without the previous idea of succession; and no more idea of body without the idea of space, than of space without the previous idea of body; that is to say, there can no more be the idea of the finite without the idea of infinite, than of the infinite without the previous idea of the finite. From whence it follows in strictness, that these ideas suppose each other, and if any one pleases to say, reciprocally limit each other; and consequently, the idea of the infinite is no more the negative of that of the finite, than the idea of the finite is the negative of that of the infinite. They are both negatives on the same ground, or they are both positives; for they are two simultaneous affirmations, and every affirmation gives a positive idea." - Elements of Psychology, p. 109.
It would be difficult to find in any writer on philosophy a more remarkable instance of confused thought and incorrect reasoning. Because the idea of body involves that of space, and succession presupposes time, therefore the conception of the finite necessarily requires that of the infinite. If he had said, that because bread is fabricated of flour, therefore the moon consists of green cheese, the logic would be quite as
conclusive. Because in a given instance, two ideas mutually contain and limit each other, it does not follow that any other two, taken at random, bear the same correlation. The argument means nothing at all, unless the premise be construed into the affirmation, that the conception of body involves that of infinite space, and succession presupposes eternity; and in this form, the argument takes for granted the very point in question. Moreover, the assertion when thus interpreted is wholly untrue. The idea of pure space is the only necessary concomitant of body, that of infinite space being a subsequent deduction of the reason. Still further, the relations between the ideas in the two cases are wholly dissimilar, the comparison being drawn between perfectly incongruous things. The proposition, that the finite presupposes the infinite, corresponds to the assertion, that eternity is implied in time, or unlimited expansion in bounded extension. The relation between body and space, succession and duration, belongs to a different category.
The assertion of Locke, that the infinite is to our minds. only a negative idea, as it is defended by those who were never suspected of favoring the doctrines of Condillac, is not enough to identify him with the Sensualist school. Cousin seeks for some remark, which shall appear tantamount to a denial of the existence of any such idea, but can find nothing which answers his purpose better than the following; “Number affords us the clearest idea of infinity." This observation is construed to mean, that the idea in every case may be resolved into that of number; though it really affirms no such thing, for it is not said, that number gives us the only notion of the infinite, but that the clearest conception of it is derived from this source. In many passages of the same chapter Locke expatiates upon this idea as applicable to time, space, and the attributes of the Supreme Being. On the latter point he holds the following decisive language. "I think it unavoidable for every considering rational creature, that will but examine his own or any other existence, to have the notion of an eternal wise Being, who had no beginning; and such an idea of infinite duration I am sure I have."
But, though the assertion should be held to convey all the meaning that Cousin attributes to it, we may well ask, What follows? The reply is so curious, that it deserves to be given in the writer's own words.