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The observations which have been now stated, with respect to the proper limits of philosophical curiosity, have too frequently escaped the attention of speculative men, in all the different departments of science. In none of these, however, has this inattention produced such a variety of errors and absurdities, as in the science of mind; a subject to which, till of late, it does not seem to have been suspected, that the general rules of philosophizing are applicable. The strange mixture of fact and hypothesis, which the greater part of metaphysical inquiries exhibit, had led almost universally to a belief, that it is only a very faint and doubtful light which human reason can ever expect to throw on this dark, but interesting, field of speculation.
Beside this inattention to the proper limits of philosophical inquiry, other sources of error, from which the science of physics is entirely exempted, have contributed to retard the progress of the philosophy of mind. Of these, the most important proceed doubtedly, most of these are in a high 8. The history of natural signs and degree curious and important. The fol- language, comprehending the doctrine lowing list comprehends the chief of of physiognomy and of outward gesture. those he has mentioned, with the addi- 9. The history of the power and laws tion of several others, recommended to of the principle of imitation. the consideration of Philosophers and of To this list various other subjects Medical Inquirers, by the late Dr. Gre- might be added; particularly, the bisgory. See his Lectures on the Duties tory of the laws of memory, in so far as and Qualifications of a Physician. they appear to be connected with the
1. The doctrine of the preservation state of the body; and the history of the and improvement of the different senses. different species of madness.
2. The history of the power and in- This view of the connexion between fluence of imagination.
Mind and Matter does not fall properly 3. The history of the several species under the plan of the following work; of enthusiasm.
in which my leading object is to ascer4. The history of the various circum- tain the principles of our nature, in so stances in parents, that have an in- far as they can be discovered by attenfluence on conception, and the consti- tion to the subjects of our own contation and characters of their children. sciousness: and to apply these principles 5. The history of dreams.
to explain the phenomena arising from 6. The history of the laws of custom them. Various incidental remarks, and habit.
however, will occur in the course of our 7. The history of the effects of music, inquiries, tending to illustrate some of and of such other things as operate on the subjects comprehended in the forethe mind and body, in consequence of
going enumeration. impressions made on the senses.
from that disposition which is so natural to every person at the commencement of his philosophical pursuits, to explain intellectual and moral phenomena by the analogy of the material world.
I before took notice of those habits of inattention to the subjects of our consciousness, which take their rise in that period of our lives when we are necessarily employed in acquiring a knowledge of the properties and laws of matter. In consequence of this early familiarity with the phenomena of the material world, they appear to us less mysterious than those of mind; and we are apt to think that we have advanced one step in explaining the latter, when we can point out some analogy between them and the former. It is owing to the same circumstance, that we have scarcely any appropriated language with respect to mind, and that the words which express its different operations, are almost all borrowed from the objects of our senses. It must, however, appear manifest, upon a very little reflection, that as the two subjects are essentially distinct, and as each of them has its peculiar laws, the analogies we are pleased to fancy between them, can be of no use in illustrating either; and that it is no less unphilosophical to attempt an explanation of perception, or of the association of ideas, upon mechanical principles, than it would be to explain the phenomena of gravitation, by supposing, as some of the ancients did, the particles of matter to be animated with principles of motion; or to explain the chemical phenomena of elective attractions, by supposing the substances among which they are observed, to be endowed with thought and volition. The analogy of matter, therefore, can be of no use in the inquiries which form the object of the following work; but, on the contrary, is to be guarded against, as one of the principal sources of the errors to which we are liable.
Among the different philosophers who have speculated concerning the human mind, very few indeed can be mentioned, who have at all times been able to guard against analogical theories. At the same time, it must be acknowledged, that since the publication of Descartes' writings, there has been a
gradual, and, on the whole, a very remarkable improvement in this branch of science. One striking proof of this is, the contrast between the metaphysical speculations of some of the most eminent philosophers in England at the end of the last century, and those which we find in the systems, however imperfect, of the present age. Would any writer now offer to the world, such conclusions with respect to the mind as are contained in the two following passages from Locke and Newton ? “Habits,” says Locke," seem to be but trains of motion in the animal spirits, which, once set a-going, continue in the same steps they had been used to, which, by often treading, are worn into a smooth path.”1 And Newton himself has proposed the following query, concerning the manner in which the mind perceives external objects. “Is not,” says he,“ the sensorium of animals the place where the sentient substance is present, and to which the sensible species of things are brought, through the nerves and brain, that they may be perceived by the mind present in that place ?” In the course of the following Essays, I shall have occasion to quote various other passages from later writers, in which an attempt is made to explain the other phenomena of mind upon similar principles.
It is however much to be regretted, that even since the period when philosophers began to adopt a more rational plan of inquiry with respect to such subjects, they have been obliged to spend so much of their time in clearing away the rubbish collected by their predecessors. This, indeed, was a preliminary step, which the state of the science, and the conclusions to which it had led, rendered absolutely necessary; for however
· [This theory, with respect to Habits, prononciation, pour prononcer les mots is very closely copied from Malebranche. d'une langue étrangère ; mais que peu “Il faut remarquer que les esprits ne peu les esprits animaux, par leur cours trouvent pas toujours les chemins, par continuel, ouvrent et applanissent ces où ils doivent passer, assez ouverts et chemins, ensorte qu'avec le tems, ils ne assez libres ; et que cela fait, que nous trouvent plus de résistance. Car c'est avons de la difficulté à remuer, par ex- dans la facilité que les esprits animaux emple, les doigts avec la vitesse qui est ont de passer dans les membres de notre nécessaire pour jouer des instrumens de corps, que consistent les habitudes." — musique, ou les muscles qui servent à la Rech. de la Vérité, liv, ii. chap. 5.)
important the positive advantages may be, which are to be expected from its future progress, they are by no means so essential to human improvement and happiness, as a satisfactory refutation of that sceptical philosophy, which had struck at the root of all knowledge and all belief. Such a refutation seems to have been the principal object which Dr. Reid proposed to himself in his metaphysical inquiries ; and to this object his labours have been directed with so much ability, candour, and perseverance, that unless future sceptics should occupy a ground very different from that of their predecessors, it is not likely that the controversy will ever be renewed. The rubbish being now removed, and the foundations laid, it is time to begin the superstructure. The progress which I have made in it is, I am sensible, very inconsiderable; yet I flatter myself, that the little I have done will be sufficient to illustrate the importance of the study, and to recommend the subjects of which I am to treat to the attention of others.
After the remarks which I have now made, the reader will not be surprised to find, that I have studiously avoided the consideration of those questions which have been agitated in the present age, between the patrons of the sceptical philosophy and their opponents. These controversies have, in truth, no peculiar connexion with the inquiries on which I am to enter. It is, indeed, only by an examination of the principles of our nature, that they can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion; but supposing them to remain undecided, our sceptical doubts concerning the certainty of human knowledge, would no more affect the philosophy of mind, than they would affect any of the branches of physics ; nor would our doubts concerning even the existence of mind, affect this branch of science, any more than the doubts of the Berkeleian, concerning the existence of matter, affect his opinions in natural philosophy.
To what purposes the philosophy of the human mind, according to the view which I propose to take of it, is subservient, I shall endeavour to explain, at some length, in the following section.
SECT. I. — OF THE UTILITY OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE
It has been often remarked, that there is a mutual connexion between the different arts and sciences; and that the improvements which are made in one branch of human knowledge, frequently throw light on others, to which it has apparently a very remote relation. The modern discoveries in astronomy and in
. pure mathematics, have contributed to bring the art of navigation to a degree of perfection formerly unknown. The rapid progress which has been lately made in astronomy, anatomy, and botany, has been chiefly owing to the aid which these sciences have received from the art of the optician.
Although, however, the different departments of science and of art mutually reflect light on each other, it is not always necessary either for the philosopher or the artist to aim at the acquisition of general knowledge. Both of them may safely take many principles for granted, without being able to demonstrate their truth. A seaman, though ignorant of mathematics, may apply, with correctness and dexterity, the rules for finding the longitude: an astronomer or a botanist, though ignorant of optics, may avail himself of the use of the telescope or the microscope.
These observations are daily exemplified in the case of the artist, who has seldom either inclination or leisure to speculate concerning the principles of his art. It is rarely, however, we meet with a man of science who has confined his studies wholly to one branch of knowledge. That curiosity, which he has been accustoined to indulge in the course of his favourite pursuit, will naturally extend itself to every remarkable object which falls under his observation; and can scarcely fail to be a source of perpetual dissatisfaction to his mind, till it has been so far gratified as to enable him to explain all the various phenomena