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that few, if any illustrations, were taken from this branch of science, which certainly presents to a philosopher the most interesting and important of all exemplifications of the mutual influence which language and opinions have on each other; but, on reflection, I was led to indulge a hope, that the illustrations borrowed from sciences relating to the material world, will be turned to good account by the logicians who cultivate the science of mind; for nothing can be more evident than this, that all the conclusions of the author concerning the errors produced by the abuse of words in such sciences as botany and the other branches of natural history, must hold a fortiori in all those speculations which have the mental phenomena for their object. As this, however, is an inference not likely to occur to ordinary readers, the subject may be considered as still open to future inquiries, who, after all that has yet been said upon it, will find an ample field for original remarks, as well as for new strictures on the reasonings of their predecessors. It is a topic, indeed, which cannot be pressed too often upon the attention of philosophical students.

With the importance of this last subject, considered as a branch of logic, I am so strongly impressed, that I once intended to have brought together, and repeated in this place, the different passages from my former publications above re ferred to. But the dread of being tedious, has induced me to relinquish this design. Two passages alone I beg leave to transcribe, partly as they originally appeared in a different work, and may not, therefore, be known to all my readers; but chiefly as they contain some practical suggestions, of the utility of which I have long had experience. They appear to me, therefore, on both accounts, to have a claim to a place in these Elements.

"In speaking of the faculty of memory, (and the same ob"servation may be extended to our other mental powers,) "every-body must have remarked, how numerous and how "incongruous are the similitudes involved in our expressions. "At one time, we liken it to a receptacle, in which the ima(6 ges of things are treasured up in a certain order; at another "time, we fancy it to resemble a tablet, on which these ima


ges are stamped, more or less deeply; on other occasions, "again, we seem to consider it as something analogous to the "canvass of the painter. Instances of all these modes of "speaking may be collected from no less a writer than Mr. "Locke. Methinks,' says he, in one place, the under"standing is not much unlike a closet, wholly shut up from


"light, with only some little opening left, to let in external "visible resemblances, or ideas, of things without: Would "the pictures coming into such a dark room but stay there, "and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would 66 very much resemble the understanding of a man, in refer66 ence to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them.' In a "different part of his Essay, he has crowded into a few sen"tences a variety of such theories, shifting backwards and "forwards from one to another, as they happen at the mo"ment to strike his fancy. The memory in some men (he "observes) is very tenacious, even to a miracle; but yet "there seems to be a constant decay of all our ideas, even of "those which are struck deepest, and in minds the most re"tentive; so that, if they be not sometimes renewed by 66 repeated exercise of the senses, or reflection on those kind "of objects which at first occasioned them, the print wears "out, and at last there remains nothing to be seen. Thus the "ideas, as well as children of our youth, often die before us : "and our minds represent to us those tombs to which we are "approaching; where, though the brass and marble remain,"





yet the inscriptions are effaced by time, and the imagery "moulders away. The pictures drawn in our minds are "laid in fading coloures, and, if not sometimes refreshed, "vanish and disappear.' He afterwards adds, that, we "sometimes find a disease strip the mind of all its ideas, and "the flames of a fever, in a few days, calcine all those images to dust and confusion, which seemed to be as lasting "as if graved on marble.' Such is the poverty of language, "that it is, perhaps, impossible to find words with respect to memory, which do not seem to imply one or other of these "different hypotheses; and to the sound philosopher, they "are all of them (when considered merely as modes of expression) equally unexceptionable; because, in employing "them, he, in no case, rests his reasoning upon the sign, but "only upon the thing signified. To the materialist, however, "it may not be improper to hint, that the several hypotheses "already alluded to are completely exclusive of each other; "and to submit to his consideration, whether the indiscrimi"nate use, among all our most precise writers, of these ob"viously inconsistent metaphors, does not justify us in 66 concluding, that none of them has any connexion with the "true theory of the phenomena which he conceives them to 66 explain; and that they deserve the attention of the meta66 physician, merely as familiar illustrations of the mighty in


"fluence exerted over our most abstrated thoughts, by lan66 guage and by early associations.”*

"Strongly impressed with the errors to which we are lia"ble, in the Philosophy of the Human Mind, by the imper"fections of our present phraseology, a philosophical gram"marian of the first eminence long ago recommended the total "proscription of figurative terms from all abstract discussions.t "To this proposal D'Alembert objects, that it would require "the creation of a new language, unintelligible to all the "world for which reason he advises philosophers to adhere "to the common modes of speaking, guarding themselves as "much as possible against the false judgments which they may have a tendency to occasion. To me it appears, that "the execution of the design would be found, by any person "who should attempt it, to be wholly impracticable, at least "in the present state of metaphysical science. If the new "nomenclature were coined out of merely arbitrary sounds, it "would be altogether ludicrous; if analogous, in its formation, "to that lately introduced into chemistry, it would, in all proba"bility, systematize a set of hypotheses, as unfounded as those "which we are anxious to discard."


"Neither of these writers has hit on the only effectual reme"dy against this inconvenience; to vary, from time to time, "the metaphors we employ, so as to prevent any one of them "from acquiring an undue ascendant over the others, either "in our own minds, or in those of our readers. It is by the "exclusive use of some favourite figure, that careless thinkers "are gradually led to mistake a simile or distant analogy for "a legitimate theory."§

To this general rule I have endeavoured to adhere through the whole of these Elements; and, accordingly, I have expressed myself nearly to the above purpose when treating of Memory. At the same time, when I published my first volume, I


Philosophical Essays, pp. 227, 228, 229.

† Du Marsais. Article Abstraction in the Encyclopédie. § Philosophical Essays, p. 232, et seq. 3d edition.

"Such, indeed, is the poverty of language, that we cannot speak on the sub"ject without employing expressions which suggest one theory or another; but "it is of importance for us always to recollect, that these expressions 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 aside completely metaphorical or analogical words, I have "studied to avoid such a uniformity in the employment of them, as might indi"cate 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 aspired to the praise of elegance." -Elem. Phil. Human Mind, Vol. I. pp. 412, 413, 6th edition.

Mélanges, Tome V.
p. 30.


acknowledge that I was not fully aware of its importance, and that I then indulged the idea of attempting to introduce various innovations in the common phraseology of metaphysics. A hint of this kind is given at the end of Section IV. of the fourth chapter.* On more mature consideration, however, I abandoned this project, and adopted less presumptuous, and, I hope, sounder views. These the reader will easily understand, if he peruses the preliminary observations prefixed to my second volume. What contributed to open my eyes on this subject was a passage in D'Alembert's Mélanges, which I beg leave to transcribe, in order to add the weight of his authority to some logical precepts which I conceive to be of essential use.

"En gènèral il est beaucoup plus simple, et par conséquent "plus utile, de se servir dans les sciences des termes reçus en "fixant bien les idées qu'on doit y attacher, que d'y substituer "des termes nouveaux, sur tout dans les sciences qui n'ont "point, ou qui n'ont guère, d'autre langue que la langue com66 mune, ou dont les termes sont assez généralement connus, "comme la métaphysique, la morale, la logique, et la gram"maire; il en coute moins au commun des hommes de réform"er leur idêes que de changer leur langage. Il faut du "moins, si la nécessité oblige à créer de nouveaux termes, "n'en hasarder qu'un tres-petit nombre à la fois, pour ne pas "rebuter par une langue trop nouvelle ceux qu'on se propose "d'instruire. On doit en user pour changer la langue des "sciences, comme pour notre orthographe, qui quoique tres "vicieuse et pleine d'inconséquences et de contradictions, ne "pourra cependant être réformée que peu-a-peu, et comme 66 par degrés insensibles; les changemens trop considérables "et trop nombreux, qu'on voudroit y faire tout-a-coup, ne ser"viroient qu'à perpétuer le mal au lieu d'y remédier. Hatez "vous lentement, doit être, ce me semble, la devise de presque "tous les reformateurs."+

This passage struck me the more forcibly, as I knew that D'Alembert was much more aware than most French philosophers of his time, how fruitful a source of erroneous judgments, particularly in metaphysical researches, is an incautious use of language as an instrument of thought. He seemed to me, indeed, from various remarks scattered over his works, to have entered completely into the spirit of Locke's observations on this important subject, and to have been led by his own reflections into the very same train of thinking, without borrowing

* Vol. I. p. 203, 6th edition.

† Mélanges, Tome V. p. 31,


his lights from his great predecessor. On one occasion he expresses himself thus:-"Nous ressemblons, bien plus souvent que nous ne le croyons, à cet aveugle né qui disoit que la "couleur rouge lui paroissoit devoir tenir quelque chose du 66 son de la trompette. Il est facile, ce me semble, de trou"C ver la raison de ce jugement si bisarre et si absurde; l'aveu"gle avoit entendu dire souvent du son de la trompette (qu'il "connoisoit) que c'étoit un son éclatant; il avoit entendu "dire aussi que la couleur rouge (qu'il ne connoissoit pas) "étoit une couleur éclatante; ce même mot, employé à ex"primer deux choses si différentes, lui avoit fait croire qu'elles "avoient ensemble de l'analogie. Voilà l'image de nos juge"mens en mille occasions, et un exemple bien sensible de l'in"fluence des langues sur les opinions des hommes.


When D'Alembert quoted this anecdote, he was evidently ignorant that it is of English origin, and that it had been employed as an illustration of the same argument in the Essay on Human Understanding. "A studious blind man, who had "mightily beat his head about visible objects, and made use "of the explication of his books and friends, to understand "those names of light and colours which often came in his way, bragged one day that he now understood what scarlet signified. Upon which his friend demanded what scarlet (6. was? The blind man answered, it was like the sound of a "trumpet."+



I cannot dismiss this subject without taking notice of the infelicity of D'Alembert's theory with respect to the source of the blind man's mistake. A much more simple one must immediately occur to every inhabitant of this country, from the appropriation of red to the military uniform; combined with the conspicuous rank which the trumpet has occupied, in all ages, among the musical instruments employed in war.

The peculiarly strong and impressive effect produced on the blind man's ear by the brazen din of the trumpet, accompanying and overpowering the other instruments of martial music, would naturally be the signal which announced to him the pomp of some military parade; and, such is the strength of the association between scarlet and the military profession, that among the lower orders red-coats and soldiers are synonymous terms. Dryden has even admitted this cant phrase into his poetry:

*Not having D'Alembert's works at hand, I cannot refer to the place from which I copied the above passage, but as it is transcribed in my own hand, I can rely upon the exactness of the quotation.

† Book III. chap. 4. sect. 11.

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