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latter is assigned the sublimer office of seconding the benevolent intentions of Providence in the administration of human affairs; to diffuse as widely and equally as possible, among his fellow-citizens, the advantages of the social union; and, by a careful study of the constitution of man, and of the circumstances in which he is placed, to modify the political order, in such a manner as may allow free scope and operation to those principles of intellectual and moral improvement which nature has implanted in our species.
In all these cases, I am very sensible that the utility of systematical rules has been called in question by philosophers of note; and that many plausible arguments in support of their opinion may be derived from the small number of individuals who have been regularly trained to eminence in the arts, in comparison of those who have been guided merely by untutored genius, and the example of their predecessors. I know, too, that it may be urged with truth, that rules have, in some cases, done more harm than good, and have misled, instead of directing, the natural exertions of the mind. But in all such instances in which philosophical principles have failed in producing their intended effect, I will venture to assert, that they have done so either in consequence of errors which were accidentally blended with them, or in consequence of their possessing only that slight and partial influence over the genius, which enabled them to derange its previously acquired habits, without regulating its operations, upon a systematical plan, with steadiness and efficacy. In all the arts of life, whether trifling or important, there is a certain degree of skill which may be attained by our untutored powers, aided by imitation; and this skill, instead of being perfected by rules, may, by means of them, be diminished or destroyed, if these rules are partially and imperfectly apprehended, or even if they are not so familiarized to the understanding as to influence its exertions uniformly and habitually. In the case of a musical performer who has learnt his art merely by the car, the first effects of systematical instruction are, I believe, always unfavourable. The effect is the same of the rules of elocution,
when first communicated to one who has attained, by his natural taste and good sense, a tolerable propriety in the art of reading. But it does not follow from this, that in either of these arts rules are useless. It only follows that, in order to unite ease and grace with correctness, and to preserve the felicities of original genius, amidst those restraints which may give them a useful direction, it is necessary that the acquisitions of education should, by long and early habits, be rendered in some measure a second nature.—The same observations will be found to apply, with very slight alterations, to arts of more serious importance. In the art of legislation, for example, there is a certain degree of skill which may be acquired merely from the routine of business; and when once a politician has been formed in this manner, among the details of office, a partial study of general principles will be much more likely to lead him astray than to enlighten his conduct. But there is nevertheless a science of legislation, which the details of office and the intrigues of popular assemblies will never communicate; a science of which the principles must be sought for in the constitution of human nature, and in the general laws which regulate the course of human affairs; and which, if ever, in consequence of the progress of reason, philosophy should be enabled to assume that ascendant in the government of the world, which has hitherto been maintained by accident, combined with the passions and caprices of a few leading individuals, may perhaps produce more perfect and happy forms of society, than have yet been realized in the history of mankind.
I have thus endeavoured to point out and illustrate a few of the most important purposes to which the philosophy of the human mind is subservient. It will not, however, I flatter myself, be supposed by any of my readers, that I mean to attempt a systematical work on all or any of the subjects I have now mentioned, the most limited of which would furnish matter for many volumes. What I have aimed at has been to give, in the first place, as distinct and complete an analysis as I could, of the principles, both intellectual and active, of our
nature; and, in the second place, to illustrate, as I proceed, the application of these general laws of the human constitution, to the different classes of phenomena which result from them. In the selection of these phenomena, although I have sometimes been guided chiefly by the curiosity of the moment, or the accidental course of my own studies, yet I have had it in view to vary, as far as possible, the nature of my speculations, in order to show how numerous and different the applications are of which this philosophy is susceptible. It will not, there. fore, I hope, be objected to me, that I have been guilty of a blameable violation of unity in the plan of my work, till it be considered how far such a violation was useful for accomplishing the purposes for which I write. One species of unity I am willing to believe an attentive reader will be able to trace in it: I mean that uniformity of thought and design, “ which," as Butler well remarks,“ we may always expect to meet with in the compositions of the same author, when he writes with simplicity and in earnest.”
PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN MIND.
OF THE POWERS OF EXTERNAL PERCEPTION.
SECT. I.-OF THE THEORIES WHICH HAVE BEEN FORMED BY PHILOSO
PHERS, TO EXPLAIN THE MANNER IN WHICH THE MIND PERCEIVES
AMONG the various phenomena which the human mind presents to our view, there is none more calculated to excite our curiosity and our wonder, than the communication which is carried on between the sentient, thinking, and active principle within us, and the material objects with which we are surrounded. How little soever the bulk of mankind may be disposed to attend to such inquiries, there is scarcely a person to be found, who has not occasionally turned his thoughts to that mysterious influence which the will possesses over the members of the body; and to those powers of perception which seem to inform us, by a sort of inspiration, of the various changes which take place in the external universe. Of those who receive the advantages of a liberal education, there are perhaps few who pass the period of childhood without feeling their curiosity excited by this incomprehensible communication between Mind and Matter. For my own part, at least, I cannot recollect the date of my earliest speculations on the subject.
It is to the phenomena of perception alone that I am to confine myself in the following essay; and even with respect to these, all that I propose is, to offer a few general remarks on such of the common mistakes concerning them as may be most likely to mislead us in our future inquiries. Such of my readers as wish to consider them more in detail, will find ample satisfaction in the writings of Dr. Reid.
In considering the phenomena of perception, it is natural to suppose, that the attention of philosophers would be directed, in the first instance, to the sense of seeing. The variety of information and of enjoyment we receive by it; the rapidity with which this information and enjoyment are conveyed to us; and above all, the intercourse it enables us to maintain with the more distant part of the universe, cannot fail to give it, even in the apprehension of the most careless observer, a pre-eminence over all our other perceptive faculties. Hence it is, that the various theories which have been formed to explain the operations of our senses, have a more immediate reference to that of seeing; and that the greater part of the metaphysical language, concerning perception in general, appears evidently, from its etymology, to have been suggested by the phenomena of vision. Even when applied to this sense, indeed, it can at most amuse the fancy, without conveying any precise knowledge ; but, when applied to the other senses, it is altogether absurd and unintelligible.
It would be tedious and useless, to consider particularly, the different hypotheses which have been advanced upon this subject. To all of them, I apprehend, the two following remarks will be found applicable : First, that in the formation of them, their authors have been influenced by some general maxims of philosophizing, borrowed from physics; and, secondly, that they have been influenced by an indistinct but deep-rooted conviction of the immateriality of the soul, which, although not precise enough to point out to them the absurdity of attempting to illustrate its operations by the analogy of matter, was yet sufficiently strong to induce them to keep the absurdity of their theories as far as possible out of view, by allusions to those physical facts, in which the listinctive properties of