Page images




* nerves and brain, that there they may be perceivsed by the mind present in that place ?” Dr. Clarke has expressed the same idea ftill more confidentiy, in the following passage of one of his letters to Leibnitz. 6 Without being present* to the images of “ the things perceived, the soul could not possibly

perceive them. A living substance can only there

perceive, where it is present. Nothing can any " more act, or be acted upon, where it is not present, than it can when it is not.'

“ How body " acts upon mind, or mind upon body,” (says Dr. Porterfield,t) “I know not; but this I am very certain “' of, that nothing can act, or be acted upon, where 6 it is not; and therefore, our mind can never per66 ceive any thing but its own proper modifications, 66 and the various states of the sensorium, to which

it is present: so that it is not the external sun and

moon, which are in the heavens, which our mind “ perceives, but only their image or representation, “ impressed upon the sensorium. How the foul of “ a seeing man fees these images, or how it receives

those ideas, from such agitations in the sensorium, $ I know not ; but I am sure it can never perceive 6 the external bodies themselves, to which it is not “ present.”

* This phrase of “the soul being present to the images of external objects,” has been used by many philosophers, since the time of Des Cartes ; evidently from a desire to avoid the absurdity of supposing, that images of extension and figure can exist in an un. extended mind.

« Quæris,” (says Des Cartes himself, in replying to the objec. tions of one of his antagonists) "quomodo existimem in me sub

extenso recipi posse speciem, ideamve corporis quod ex“ tensum est. Respondeo nullam speciem corpoream in mente re

cipi, sed puram intellectionem tam rei corporeæ quam incorporeæ “ fieri absque ulla specie corporea; ad imaginationem vero, quæ “ non nisi de rebus corporeis esse potest, opus quidem esse specie quæ sit verum corpus, et ad

quam viens se applicet, sed non quæ in “mente recipiatur." - It appears, therefore, that this philosopher sopposed his images, or ideas, to exist in the brain, and not in the mind. Mr. Locke's expressions sometimes imply the one supposition, and sometimes the other.

+ See his Treatise on the Eye, vol. ii. p. 356.

* The same train of thinking, which had led these philosophers to suppose, that external objects are perceived by means of species proceeding from the object to the mind, or by means of some material impression made on the mind by the brain, has suggefted to a late writer a very different theory; that the mind, when it perceives an external object, quits the body, and is prefent to the object of perception. “ The mind,” says the learned author of Antient Metaphysics,)." is not where the body is, when it “perceives what is distant from the body, either in “ time or place, because nothing can act, but when,

and where, it is. Now, the mind acts when it “ceives. The mind, therefore, of every animal who “ has memory or imagination, acts, and by conse

quence exists, when and where the body is not ; “ for it perceives objects distant from the body both “ in time and place.”+ Indeed, if we take for grano ted, that in perception the mind acts upon the object, or the object upon the mind, and, at the same time, admit the truth of the maxim, that “nothing can « act but where it is," we must, of neceffity, conclude, either that objects are perceived in a way fimilar to what is fupposed in the ideal theory, or that,

*“ The slightest philosophy" says Mr. Hume) “teaches us, that & nothing can ever be present to the mind, but an image, or per

ception; and that the senses are only the inlėts through which á these images are conveyed; without being able to produce any * immediate intercourse between the mind and the object. The “ table, which we see, seems to diminish, as we remove farther « from it : but the real table, which exists independent of us, suf* fers no alteration : it was, therefore, nothing but its image which " was present to the mind. These (he adds) are the obvious dicki tates of reason."


# Ant. Met. vol. ii. p. 306.

in every act of perception, the foul quits the body, and is present to the object perceived. And accordingly this alternative is expressly stated by Malebranche; who differs, however, from the writer last quoted, in the choice which he makes of his hypothesis ; and even rests his proof of its truth on the im. probability of the other opinion. “I suppofe,” says he, “ that every one will grant, that we perceive not “ external objects immediately, and of themselves. “ We see the sun, the stars, and an infinity of objects “ without us; and it is not at'all likely that, upon “ such occasions, the soul fallies out of the body, in or “ der to be present to the objects perceived. She sees " them not therefore by themselves; and the im“ mediate object of the mind is not the thing per« ceived, but something which is intimately united " to the soul ; and it is that which I call an idea : fo « that by the word idea, I understand nothing else " here but that which is nearest to the mind when " we perceive any object. It ought to be careful

ly observed, that, in order to the mind's perceiv“ing any object, it is absolutely necessary that the “ idea of that object be actually present to it. Of “ this it is not poslible to doubt. The things which “ the soul perceives, are of two kinds. They are 5 either in the soul, or they are without the soul. “ Those that are in the soul, are its own thoughts ; " that is to say, all its different modifications. The “ soul has no need of ideas for perceiving these

things. But with regard to things without the “ soul, we cannot perceive them but by means of 6 ideas.”

To these quotations, I shall add another, which contains the opinion of Buffon upon the subject. As I do not understand it so completely, as to be able to translate it in a manner intelligible to myself, I shall transcribe it in the words of the author.

L'ame s'unit intimement à tel objet qu'il lui piâit,

[ocr errors]

* la distance, la grandeur, la figure, rien ne peut “ nuire à cette union lorsque l'ame la veut : elle se « fait et se fait en un instant

. la volonté “ n'est-elle donc qu'un mouvement corporel, et la

contemplation un simple attouchement ? Com. “ment cet attouchement pourroit-il se faire sur un “ objet éloigné, sur un sujet abftrait ? Comment

pourroit-il s'opérer en un instant indivisible? A-t-on “ jamais conçu du mouvement, sans qu'il y êut de “ l'espace et du tems? La volonté, si c'est un mouve“ment, n'est donc pas un mouvement matériel, et " fi l'union de l'ame à fon objet est un attouchement,

un contact, cet attouchement ne se fait. il pas au “ loin ? ce contact n'eft il pas une pénétration ?"

All these theories appear to me to have taken rise, first, from an inattention to the proper object of philosophy, and an application of the same general maxims to physical and to efficient causes; and, secondly, from an apprehension, that we understand the connexion between impulse and motion, better than any other physical fact. From the detail which I have given, it appears how extensive an influence this prejudice has had on the inquiries both of ratural philosophers and of metaphysicians.

In the foregoing reasonings, I have taken for granted, that motion may be produced by inpulse; and have contented myself with afferting, that this fact is not more explicable, than the motions which the Newtonians refer to gravitation ; or than the intercourse which is carried on between the mind and external objects in the case of perception. The truth, however, is, that some of the ableft philofophers in Europe are now satisfied, not only that there is no evidence of motion being in any


produced by the actual contact of two bodies; but that very strong proofs may be given, of the absolute impoflibility of such a supposition; and hence they have been led to conclude, that all the effects which


are commonly referred to impulse, arise from a power of repulsion, extending to a small and imperceptible distance round every element of matter. If this doctrine shall be confirmed by future speculations in physics, it must appear to be a curious circumstance in the history of science, that philosophers have been so long occupied in attempting to trace all the phenomena of matter, and even fome of the phenomena of mind, to a general fact, which, upon an accurate examination, is found to have no exiftence. I do not make this observation with a view to depreciate the labours of these philosophers ; for, although the system of Boscovich were completely establithed, it would not diminish, in the smallest dégree, the value of those physical inquiries, which have proceeded on the common hypothesis, with re. fpect to impulse. The laws which regulate the communication of motion, in the case of apparent contact, are the moft general facts we observe among the terrestrial phenomena ; and they are, of all physical events, thote which are the most familiar to us, from our earliest infancy. It was therefore not only natural but proper, that philosophers should begin their physical inquiries, with attempting to refer to these, (which are the most general laws of nature, exposed to the examination of our senses,) the particular appearances they wished to explain. And, if ever the theory of Boscovich should be coin plete. ly established, it will have no other effect, than to resolve these laws into fome principle still more general, without affecting the folidity of the common doctrine, so far as it goes..


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »