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Conclusion of Chapter First.

Idola specus.

SPECULATIONs similar to those which have formed the chief subjects of this Chapter, might be extended to all the different pursuits of Man both scientific and active; but enough has already been said to convey a general idea of my views with respect to this branch of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, and of some of the particular purposes to which I conceive it to be subservient. Among these, the first place is due to its obvious tendency (by guarding the student against confined scientific and literary pursuits) to correct those biases and erroneous habits of thinking that Bacon classes under the title of

They may also be useful in pointing out the proper remedies to have recourse to, against the various intellectual defects and disorders, whether natural or acquired, to which the human mind is liable. 6. There is no stand or im“pediment” (says Bacon) “in the wit, but may be wrought "out by fit studies, like as diseases of the body may have ap"propriated exercises : bowling is good for the stone and “reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for " the stomach ; riding for the head, and the like; so if a man's " wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics, for in de“monstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he “must begin again; if his wit be not apt to distinguish or find “differences, let him study the schoolmen; if he be not apt to “ beat over matters, and to call upon one thing to prove and “ illustrate another, let him study the lawyer's cases: so every “ defect of the mind may have a special receipt." +

In the First volume of these Elements, I have touched on a subject nearly connected with the same speculations. “ whatever way(I have observed) “we choose to account “ for it, whether by original organization, or by the operation of moral causes in very early infancy, no fact can be more “ undeniable than that there are important differences discerni“ble in the minds of children, previous to that period at which, "in ge veral, their intellectual education commences. There “ is, too, a certain hereditary character (whether resulting from “physical constitution, or caught from imitation and the influ"ence of situation, which appears remarkably in particular 66 families. One race, for a succession of generations, is dis“tinguished by a genius for the abstract sciences, while it is “ deficient in vivacity, in imagination, and in taste another is "no less distinguished for wit, and gaiety, and fancy; while it " appears incapable of patient attention, or of profound re- search. The system of education, which is proper to be " adopted in particular cases, ought, undoubtedly, to have some o reference to these circumstances; and to be calculated, as “much as possible, to develope and to cherish those intellectcual and active principles, in which a natural deficiency is “most to be apprehended. Montesquieu, and other specula

" In

* See Bacon's Works. De Augment. Scientiar. Lib. V. Cap. iv.
† Bacon's Essays, Of Studies.
I See Phil. Human Mind. Sixth Edition. Vol. I. p. 25.

tive politicans, have insisted much on the reference which “education and laws should have to climate. I shall not take

upon me to say, how far their conclusions on this subject are “ just; but I am fully persuaded that there is a foundation in “ philosophy and good sense for accommodating, at a very

early period of life, the education of individuals to those “ particular turns of mind, to which, from hereditary propen“sities, or from moral situation, they may be presumed to have " a natural tendency.

To these observations, I think it of importance to add, that in those parts of Europe where persons of high rank are accustomed to intermarry exclusively with their own order, the hereditary peculiarities or points (if I may be allowed the expression) of families may be expected to display themselves much more remarkably than in other countries. Something analogous to what is practised in some parts of England, for improving the breeds of the lower animals,t there takes place in the human species; and the consequences are strikingly similar. Certain peculiarities, both of body and of mind, become characteristical of particular families, and are apt to be associated, in the fancy of the multitude, with ideas of nobility and of ancient race; but in proportion as these peculiarities are prominent, it is invariably found, that the man degenerates from the perfection of his intellectual and moral, as well as of his physical nature. The superiority of character which raises the English nobility so far above the level of their Continental neighbours, is certainly owing to the frequent alliances among different ranks and castes of the people. Of the result in this instance, the greater part is probably to be ascribed to moral causes, to the crossing, if I may say so, of different accomplish

See Mr. Marshall's Rural Economy of the Midland Counties. Lond. 1790.

ments and of different prejudices; but who will assert the probability that the human race is altogether exempted from those physical laws to which other animals are subjected in so remarkable a degree?

Among the Cretins of Chamouny, it has been remarked by a very intelligent and accurate observer, that, notwithstanding the low state of their intellectual powers in general, instances often occur of individuals distinguished by some extraordinary gifts of nature, such as a strong and almost preternatural turn for mechanism, for music, for drawing, and the other imitative arts. This remark is so agreeable to the analogy of my own experience, so far as it has reached, that I have long been disposed to consider any violent and exclusive bias of this sort, when manifested in very early life, as a most unfavourable omen of the future vigour and comprehension of the understanding.

While, however, we are at pains to guard against the effects of circumscribed scientific and literary pursuits, we ought to be careful not to run into the opposite error. This caution I conceive to be particularly necessary in the present times, in which there is a manifest bias in the rising generation to consider knowledge rather in the light of an accomplishment, subservient to conversation, than of a solid acquisition, convertible to purposes of real and permanent utility. On this subject, I borrow from the Edinburgh Review a lively description of the accomplishments supposed “now-a-days to be essential to en"able a man to pass current in the informed circles of socie"ty;" a description, which, I am afraid, is but too faithful a picture of the present state of our manners.

“ In the informed circles of society, a man can scarcely pass "current without knowing something of political economy, "chemistry, mineralogy, geology, and etymology,—having a “small notion of painting, sculpture, and architecture, -with "some sort of taste for the picturesque, and a smattering of « German and Spanish literature,—and even some idea of In“dian, Sanscrit, and Chinese learning and history,-over and " above some little knowledge of trade and agriculture,-with "a reasonable acquaintance with what is called the philosophy “of politics, and a far more extensive knowledge of existing “parties, factions, and eminent individuals, both literary and

* Traité du Goître et du Crétinisme, par F. E. Foderé, Ancien Medecin des Hospitaux Civiles et Militaires. A Paris, an VIII.

66 Plus

" political, at home and abroad, than ever were acquired in an “ earlier period of society."*

The effects likely to be produced on the mind by this passion for universal knowledge, are well described by Seneca. “ scire velle quam sit satis intemperantiæ genus est. Quid, “ quod ista liberalium artium consectatio, molestos, verbosos, “ intempestivos, sibi placentes facit, et ideo non discentes ne“ cessaria, quia supervacua didicerunt.”+

The following remarks of Diderot on the same subject, are not unworthy of attention: “Une grande mémoire suppose une “ grande facilité d'avoir à la fois ou rapidement plusieurs idées « différentes ; et cette facilité nuit à la comparaison tranquille “ d'un petit nombre d'idées que l'esprit doit, pour ainsi dire, “envisager fixément. Pour moi, je pense que c'est par cette “ raison, que le jugement et la grande mémoire vont si rare“ ment ensemble. Une tête meublée d'un grand nombre de “ choses disparates, est assez semblable à une bibliothèque de “ volumes dépareillés. C'est une de ces compilations Germa"piques, herissées sans raison et sans gout, d'Hebreu, d'Ara“ bique, de Grec, et de Latin, qui sont deja fort grossès, qui “ grossissent encore, qui grossiront toujours, et qui n'en seront " que plus mauvaises. C'est un de ces magazins remplis d'ana

lyses et de jugemens d'ouvrages que l'analyste n'a point en“ tendus; magazins de marchandises mêlées, dont il n'y a pro“ prement que le bordereau qui lui appartienne: C'est un com“mentaire ou l'on rencontre souvent ce qu'on ne cherche point; “ rarement ce qu'on cherche ; et presque toujours les choses dont on a besoin, égarées dans la foule d'inutilités."-(Let" tre sur les Sourds et Muets.)

* Edinburgh Review, Vol. XVII. p. 168.

† Epist. 88. Lagrange, in his translation of this passage, has preserved all the force and conciseness of the original. “ Il y a une sorte d'intempérance à vou" loir savoir plus que le besoin exige. Ajoutez que les vaines recherches renderit “ les savants insupportables, bavards, importuns, suffisants, et peu occupés d'ap

prendre le nécessaire quand ils sont pourvus du superflu."





“Les actions des bêtes sont peut-être un des plus profonds abimes sur quoi notre raison se puisse exercer; et je suis surpris que si pue de gens s'en apperçoivent."--(Bayle, Dict. Art. Barbe. Note (.*)


TAAT the brutes are under the more immediate guidance of Nature, while man is left, in a great degree, to regulate his own destiny by the exercise of his reason, is a fact too obvious to stand in need of illustration. In what manner, indeed, Nature operates in this instance, we are wholly ignorant; but nothing can be more certain than this, that it is not by a deliberate choice, analogous to what we experience in ourselves, that the lower animals are determined to the pursuit of particular ends ; nor by any process analogous to our reason that they combine means in order to attain them.

To that unknown, but obviously intelligent cause which guides the operations of the brutes, we give the name of In

After prefixing to the following Chapter the above motto from Bayle, which expresses my own deliberate and decided opinion, it will not be supposed by my readers that I flatter myself with the hope of being able to communicate any new

and impor

lig on the subject to which it relates. If I shall be able to correct some of the rash and extravagant conclusions still current among contempo. rary writers, and to exemplify what I conceive to be a more sober and rational modes of philosophising, it is all that I aspire to.

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