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tioned whether Dr. Hartley and his followers have not sometimes been misled by too eager a desire of abridging their number.
Of these two errors the former is the least common and the least dangerous. It is the least common, because it is not so flattering as the other to the vanity of a theorist; and it is the least dangerous, because it has no tendency, like the other, to give rise to a suppression or to a misrepresentation of facts, or to retard the progress of the science by bestowing upon it an appearance of systematical perfection, to which in its present state it is not entitled.
Abstracting, however, from these inconveniences which must always result from a precipitate reference of phenomena to general principles, it does not seem to me that the theory in question has any tendency to weaken the foundation of morals. It has, indeed, some tendency, in common with the philosophy of Hobbes and of Mandeville, to degrade the dignity of human nature, but it leads to no sceptical conclusions concerning the rule of life. For, although we were to grant that all our principles of action are acquired, so striking a difference among them must still be admitted, as is sufficient to distinguish clearly those universal laws which were intended to regulate human conduct, from the local habits which are formed by education and fashion. It must still be admitted that while some active principles are confined to particular individuals, or to particular tribes of men, there are others which, arising from circumstances in which all the situations of mankind must agree, are common to the whole species. Such active principles as fall under this last description, at whatever period of life they may appear, are to be regarded as a part of human nature no less than the instinct of suction; in the same manner as the acquired perception of distance by the eye, is to be ranked among the perceptive powers of man, no less than the original perceptions of any of our other senses.
Leaving, therefore, the question concerning the origin of our active principles, and of the moral faculty, to be the subject of future discussion, I shall conclude this Section with a few remarks of a more practical nature.
It has been shewn by different writers, how much of the beauty and sublimity of material objects arises from the ideas and feelings which we have been taught to associate with them. The impression produced on the external senses of a poet by the most striking scene in nature, is precisely the same with what is produced on the senses of a peasant or a tradesman; yet how different is the degree of pleasure resulting from this impression! A great part of this difference is undoubtedly to be ascribed to the ideas and feelings which the habitual studies and amusements of the poet have associated with his organical perceptions. A similar observation may be applied to all the various objects of our pursuit in life. Hardly any one of them is appreciated by any two men in the same manner, and frequently what one man considers as essential to his happiness, is regarded with indifference or dislike by another. Of these differences of opinion, much is no doubt to be ascribed w a diversity of constitution, which renders a particular employment of the intellectual or active powers agreeable to one inan which is not equally so to another. But much is also to be ascribed to the effect of association, which, prior to any experience of human life, connects pleasing ideas and pleasing feelings with different objects in the minds of different persons.
In consequence of these associations, every man appears to his neighbour to pursue the object of his wishes with a zeal disproportioned to its intrinsic value, and the philosopher (whose principal enjoyment arises from speculation) is frequently apt to smile at the ardour with which the active part of mankind pursue what appear to him to be mere shadows. This view of human affairs some writers have carried so far, as to represent life as a scene of mere illusions, where the mind refers to the objects around it a colouring which exists only in itself; and where, as the poet expresses it,
Opinion gilds with varying rays,
Those painted clouds which beautify our days." It may be questioned, if these representations of human life be useful or just. That the casual associations which the mind forms in childhood and in early youth, are frequently a
source of inconvenience and of misconduct, is sufficiently obvious; but that this tendency of our nature increases, on the whole, the sum of human enjoyment, appears to me to be indisputable, and the instances in which it misleads us from our duty and our happiness, only prove to what important ends it might be subservient, if it were kept under proper regulation.
Nor do these representations of life (admitting them in their full extent) justify the practical inferences which have been often deduced from them, with respect to the vanity of our pursuits.
In every case, indeed, in which our enjoyment depends upon association, it may be said in one sense that it arises from the mind itself; but it does not therefore follow that the external object which custom has rendered the cause or the occasion of agreeable emotions, is indifferent to our happiness. The effect which the beauties of nature produce on the mind of the poet is wonderfully heightened by association, but his enjoyment is not on that account the less exquisite; nor are the objects of his admiration of the less value to his happiness, that they derive their principal charms from the embellishments of his fancy.
[After all the complaints that have been made of the peculiar distresses which are incident to cultivated minds, who would exchange the sensibilities of his intellectual and moral being for the apathy of those whose only avenues of pleasure and pain are to be found in their animal nature; “who move thoughtlessly in the narrow circle of their existence, and to whom the falling leaves present no idea but that of approaching winter ?”—Goethe.]
It is the business of education not to counteract, in any instance, the established laws of our constitution, but to direct them to their proper purposes. That the influence of early associations on the mind might be employed, in the most effectual manner, to aid our moral principles, appears evidently from the effects which we daily see it produce, in reconciling men to a course of action which their reason forces them to condemn; and it is no less obvious that, by means of it, the happiness of human life might be increased, and its pains
diminished, if the agreeable ideas and feelings which children are so apt to connect with events and with situations which depend on the caprice of fortune, were firmly associated in their apprehensions with the duties of their stations, with the pursuits of science, and with those beauties of nature which are open to all.
These observations coincide nearly with the ancient Stoical doctrine concerning the influence of imagination' on morals,a subject on which many important remarks (though expressed in a form different from that which modern philosophers have introduced, and, perhaps, not altogether so precise and accurate) are to be found in the Discourses of Epictetus, and in the Meditations of Antoninus. This doctrine of the Stoical school, Dr. Akenside has in view in the following passage :
“Action treads the path
1 According to the use which I make of the words Imagination and Association, in this work, their effects are obviously distinguishable. I have thought it proper, however, to illustrate the difference between them a little more fully in Note R.
* See what Epictetus has remarked on the χρήσις οία δει φαντασιών.-Arrian, 1. i. c. 12. οία αν πολλάκις φαντασθής, τοιαύτη σοι έσται η διάνοια. βάπτεται γάρ υπό των φαντασιών ή ψυχή. βάπτι ούν αυτήν, τη συνεχεία των τοιούτων OOTTOTIWY. x. 7.2.-Anton. I. v. c. 16.
Or stand the hazard, is a greater ill
SECT. IV.- GENERAL REMARKS ON THE SUBJECTS TREATED IN
THE FOREGOING SECTIONS OF THIS CHAPTER.
In perusing the foregoing sections of this chapter, I am aware that some of
my readers may
be apt to think that many of the observations which I have made, might easily be resolved into more general principles. I am also aware that, to the followers of Dr. Hartley, a similar objection will occur against all the other parts of this work; and that it will appear to them the effect of inexcusable prejudice, that I should stop short so frequently in the explanation of phenomena, when he has account :d in so satisfactory a manner, by means of the association of ideas, for all the appearances which human nature exhibits.
To this objection, I shall not feel myself much interested to reply, provided it be granted that my observations are candidly and accurately stated, so far as they reach. Supposing that in some cases I may have stopped short too soon, my speculations, although they may be censured as imperfect, cannot be considered as standing in opposition to the conclusions of more successful inquirers.
May I be allowed farther to observe, that such views of the human mind as are contained in this work, (even supposing the objection to be well founded,) are, in my opinion, indispensably necessary, in order to prepare the way for those very general and comprehensive theories concerning it, which some eminent writers of the present age have been ambitious to form ?
Concerning the merit of these theories I shall not presume to give any judgment. I shall only remark that, in all the other sciences, the progress of discovery has been gradual, from the less general to the more general laws of nature; and
1 Pleasures of Imagination, b. iii.