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(TO THE FIRST VOLUME OF THE ELEMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF
THE HUMAN MIND.)
In various parts of the following work, references are made to subsequent speculations, which are not contained in it. These speculations it is my intention to resume at some future period : but when I consider the extent of my subject, and the many accidents which may divert me from the prosecution of it, I cannot venture so far as to announce, in the title-page of this volume, any promise of a future publication.
Some additional chapters are still wanting, to complete the Analysis of the Intellectual Powers. After finishing this, the course of my inquiries would lead me to treat, in the second place, of Man considered as an Active and Moral being; and, thirdly, of Man considered as the member of a Political Society.
OF THE NATURE AND OBJECT OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE
The prejudice which is commonly entertained against metaphysical speculations, seems to arise chiefly from two causes : First, from an apprehension that the subjects about which they are employed are placed beyond the reach of the human faculties; and, secondly, from a belief that these subjects have no relation to the business of life.
The frivolous and absurd discussions which abound in the writings of most metaphysical authors, afford but too many arguments in justification of these opinions; and if such discussions were to be admitted as a fair specimen of what the human mind is able to accomplish in this department of science, the contempt into which it has fallen of late, might with justice be regarded as no inconsiderable evidence of the progress which true philosophy has made in the present age. Among the various subjects of inquiry, however, which, in consequence of the vague use of language, are comprehended under the general title of Metaphysics, there are some which are essentially distinguished from the rest, both by the degree of evidence which accompanies their principles, and by the relation which they bear to the useful sciences and arts: and it has unfortunately happened, that these have shared in that general discredit into which the other branches of metaphysics have justly fallen. To this circumstance is probably to be ascribed the little progress which has hitherto been inade in the PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN MIND; a science so interesting in its nature, and so important in its applications, that it could scarcely have failed, in these inquisitive and enlightened times, to have excited a very general attention, if it had not accidentally been classed, in the public opinion, with the vain and unprofitable disquisitions of the schoolmen.
In order to obviate these misapprehensions with respect to the subject of the following work, I have thought it proper, in this preliminary chapter, first, to explain the Nature of the truths which I propose to investigate; and, secondly, to point out some of the more important Applications of which they are susceptible. In stating these preliminary observations, I may perhaps appear to some to be minute and tedious; but this fault, I am confident, will be readily pardoned by those who have studied with care the principles of that science of which I am to treat; and who are anxious to remove the prejudices which have, in a great measure, excluded it from the modern systems of education. In the progress of my work, I flatter myself that I shall not often have occasion to solicit the indulgence of my readers for an unnecessary diffuseness.
The notions we annex to the words Matter and Mind, as is well remarked by Dr. Reid,' are merely relative. If I am asked, what I mean by Matter ? I can only explain myself by saying, it is that which is extended, figured, coloured, moveable, hard or soft, rough or smooth, hot or cold ;—that is, I can define it in no other way than by enumerating its sensible qualities. It is not matter, or body, which I perceive by my senses ; but only extension, figure, colour, and certain other qualities, which the constitution of my nature leads me to refer to something which is extended, figured, and coloured. The case is precisely similar with respect to Mind. We are not immediately conscious of its existence, but we are conscious of sensation, thought, and voli
i Essays on the Active Powers of Man, pp. 8, 9.
tion; operations which imply the existence of something which fęels, thinks, and wills. Every man, too, is impressed with an irresistible conviction, that all these sensations, thoughts, and volitions belong to one and the same being; to that being which he calls himself; a being which he is led, by the constitution of his nature, to consider as something distinct from his body, and as not liable to be impaired by the loss or mutilation of any of his organs.
From these considerations it appears, that we have the same evidence for the existence of mind that we have for the existence of body; nay, if there be any difference between the two cases, that we have stronger evidence for it; inasmuch as the one is suggested to us by the subjects of our own consciousness, and the other merely by the objects of our perceptions: and in this light, undoubtedly, the fact would appear to every person, were it not that, from our earliest years, the attention is engrossed with the qualities and laws of matter, an acquaintance with which is absolutely necessary for the preservation of our animal existence. Hence it is, that these phenomena occupy our thoughts more than those of mind; that we are perpetually tempted to explain the latter by the analogy of the former, and even to endeavour to refer them to the same general laws; and that we acquire habits of inattention to the subjects of our consciousness, too strong to be afterwards surmounted without the most persevering industry.
If the foregoing observations be well founded, they establish the distinction between mind and matter without any long process of metaphysical reasoning: for if our notions of both are merely relative; if we know the one only by such sensible qualities as extension, figure, and solidity; and the other by such operations as sensation, thought, and volition, we are certainly entitled to say, that matter and mind, considered as objects of human study, are essentially different; the science of the former resting ultimately on the phenomena exhibited to our senses; that of the latter, on the phenomena of which we are conscious. Instead, therefore, of objecting to the scheme of
1 See Note A.