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a general conviction that there is no ground for the feelings we experience, but the momentary influences of imagination are so powerful as to produce these feelings before reflection has time to come to our relief.
in the nursery.
the thoughts are apt to revert to their first channel, and to dwell on the conceptions to which they were accustomed
“Let custom," says Locke, “from the very childhood, have joined figure and shape to the idea of God, and what absurdities will that mind be liable to about Deity!" (Vol. ii. p. 144.) A person of a lively but somewhat gloomy imagination once acknowledged to me, that he could trace some of his superstitious impressions with respect to the Deity, to the stern aspect of a judge whom he had seen, when a school-boy, pronounce sentence of death upon a criminal. Hence it would appear that he who has the power of modelling the habitual conceptions of an infant mind, is, in a great measure, the arbiter of its future happiness or misery. By guarding against the spectres conjured up by superstitious weakness, and presenting to it only images of what is good, lovely, and happy, he may secure through life a perpetual sunshine to the soul, and may perhaps make some provision against the physical evils to which humanity is exposed. Even in those awful diseases which disturb the exercise of reason, I am apt to think that the complexion of madness, in point of gaiety or of despondency, depends much on the nature of our first conceptions; and it would surely be no inconsiderable addition to the comfort of any individual to know, that some provision had been made by the tender care of his first instructors, to lighten the pressure of this greatest of all earthly calamities, if it ever should be his lot to bear it. In truth, the only
effectual antidote against superstitious weaknesses, is to inspire the mind with just and elevated notions of the administration of the universe ; for, we may rest assured, that religion, in one form or another, is the natural and spontaneous growth of man's intellectual and moral constitution; and the only question in the case of individuals is, whether, under the regulation of an enlightened understanding, it is to prove the best solace of life and the surest support of virtue; or to be converted by the influ. ence of prejudices and a diseased imagination, into a source of imbecility, inconsistency, and suffering ?
“How happy," says Dr. Reid, “is that mind, in which the belief and reverence of a perfect all-governing mind casts ont all fear but the fear of acting wrong. In which serenity and cheerfulness, innocence, humanity, and candour, guard the imagination against the entrance of every unhallowed intruder, and invite more amiable and worthier guests to dwell!
“ There shall the muses, the graces, and the virtues, fix their abode, for everything that is great and worthy in human conduct must have been conceived in the imagination before it was brought into act. And many great and good designs have been formed there, which, for want of power and
Opportunity, have proved abortive.
" The man whose imagination is occupied by these guests must be wise, he must be good, and he must be happy." --Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Van, p. 430, 4to edit.]
SECT. I. -GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THIS FACULTY OF
The origin of appellatives, or, in other words, the origin of those classes of objects which, in the schools, are called genera and species, has been considered by some philosophers as one of the most difficult problems in metaphysics. The account of it which is given by Mr. Smith, in his Dissertation on the Origin of Languages, appears to me to be equally simple and satisfactory. “The assignation,” says he, "of particular names, to denote
“ particular objects,—that is, the institution of nouns substantive, would probably be one of the first steps towards the formation of Language. The particular cave, whose covering sheltered the savage from the weather, the particular tree, whose fruit relieved his hunger; the particular fountain, whose water allayed his thirst, would first be denominated by the words, Cave, Tree, Fountain ; or by whatever other appellations he might think proper, in that primitive jargon, to mark them. Afterwards, when the more enlarged experience of this savage had led him to observe, and his necessary occasions obliged him to make mention of, other caves, and other trees, and other fountains, he would naturally bestow upon each of those new objects the same name by which he had been accustomed to express the similar object he was first acquainted with. And thus, those words, which were originally the proper names of indi
viduals, would each of them insensibly become the common name of a multitude."1
a “ It is this application,” he continues, “of the name of an individual to a great number of objects, whose resemblance naturally recalls the idea of that individual, and of the name which expresses it, that seems originally to have given occasion to the formation of those classes and assortments, which, in the schools, are called genera and species ; and of which the ingenious and eloquent Rousseau finds himself so much at a loss to account for the origin. What constitutes a species, is merely a number of objects, bearing a certain degree of resemblance to one another, and, on that account, denominated by a single appellation, which may be applied to express any one of them.”2
This view of the natural progress of the mind, in forming classifications of external objects, receives some illustration from a fact mentioned by Captain Cook in his account of a small island called Wateeoo, which he visited in sailing from New Zealand to the Friendly Islands. “The inhabitants,"
were afraid to come near our cows and horses, nor did they form the least conception of their nature. But the sheep and goats did not surpass the limits of their ideas; for they gave us to understand that they knew them to be birds. It will appear," he adds,“ rather incredible, that human ignorance could ever make so strange a mistake, there not being the most distant similitude between a sheep or goat, and any winged animal. But these people seemed to know nothing of the existence of any other land animals, besides hogs, dogs, and birds. Our sheep and goats, they could see, were very
1 The same account of the progress of the mind in the formation of genera, is given by the Abbé de Condillac.
* Un enfant appelle du nom d'Arbre le premier arbre que nous lui montrons. Un second arbre qu'il voit ensuite lui rapelle la même idée ; il lui donne le même nom ; de même à un troisième, à un quatrième, et voilà le
mot d'Arbre donné d'abord à un individu, qui devient pour lui un nom de classe ou de genre, une idée abstraite qui comprend tous les arbres en général.”
2 Dissertation on the Origin of Languages, annexed to Mr. Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments.
different creatures from the two first, and, therefore, they inferred that they must belong to the latter class, in which they knew that there is a considerable variety of species.” I would add to Cook's very judicious remarks, that the mistake of these islanders probably did not arise from their considering a sheep or a goat as bearing a more striking resemblance to a bird, than to the two classes of quadrupeds with which they were acquainted; but to the want of a generic word, such as quadruped, comprehending these two species, which men in their situation would no more be led to form, than a person who had only seen one individual of each species, would think of an appellative to express both, instead of applying a proper name to each. In consequence of the variety of birds, it appears that they had a generic name comprehending all of them, to which it was not unnatural for them to refer any new animal they met with.
The classification of different objects supposes a power of attending to some of their qualities or attributes, without attending to the rest; for no two objects are to be found without some specific difference; and no assortment or arrangement can be formed among things not perfectly alike, but by losing sight of their distinguishing peculiarities, and limiting the attention to those attributes which belong to them in common. Indeed, without this power of attending separately to things which our senses present to us in a state of union, we never could have had any idea of number; for, before we can consider different objects as forming a multitude, it is necessary
· [The author of an article in the Quarterly Revier, (July 1815,) speaking of the interview between the English inhabitants of Pitcairn's Island, and the crew of the “ Briton,” commanded by Sir Thomas Staines, has favoured us with the following curious information with respect to the former:
“ They expressed great surprise on seeing a cow on board the Briton,' and were in doubt whether she was a great goat, or a lorneil sow."
The accuracy of Cook's statement, quoted in the text, is disputed by the learned Mr. Lumisden of Calcutta in his Persian Grammar; but, independently of the strong confirmation which it receives from the analogous fact mentioned by the reviewer, a very little consideration may satisfy us that it is precisely agreeable to what we should have expected a priori, in such circumstances as his islanders were placed
that we should be able to apply to all of them one common name; or, in other words, that we should reduce them all to the same genus. The various objects, for example, animate and inanimate, which are, at this moment before me, I may class and number in a variety of different ways, according to the view of them that I choose to take. I
reckon successively the number of sheep, of cows, of horses, of elms, of oaks, of beeches; or I may first reckon the number of animals, and then the number of trees; or I may at once reckon the number of all the organized substances which my senses present to me. But whatever be the principle on which my classification proceeds, it is evident that the objects, numbered together, must be considered in those respects only in which they agree with each other; and that, if I had no power of separating the combinations of sense, I never could have conceived them as forming a plurality.
This power of considering certain qualities or attributes of * an object apart from the rest; or, as I would rather choose to define it, the power which the understanding has, of separating * the combinations which are presented to it, is distinguished by l * logicians by the name of abstraction. It has been supposed, by some philosophers, (with what probability I shall not now inquire,) to form the characteristical attribute of a rational nature. That it is one of the most important of all our faculties, and very intimately connected with the exercise of our reasoning powers, is beyond dispute. And, I flatter myself, it will appear from the sequel of this chapter, how much the proper management of it conduces to the success of our philosophical pursuits, and of our general conduct in life.
The subserviency of Abstraction to the power of Reasoning, and also its subserviency to the exertions of a Poetical or Creative Imagination, shall be afterwards fully illustrated. At present, it is sufficient for my purpose to remark, that as Abstraction is the groundwork of classification, without this faculty of the mind we should have been perfectly incapable of general speculation, and all our knowledge must necessarily have been limited to individuals; and that some of the most