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596

STEWART

EXPERIMENT AND OBSERVATION.

In the proper Experimental philosophy, every acquisition of knowledge is an increase of power ; because the knowledge is necessarily derived from some intentional disposition of materials which we may always command in the same manner. In the philosophy of observation, it is merely a gratification of our curiosity. By experiment, too, we generally acquire a pretty correct knowledge of the causes of the phenomena we produce; as we ourselves have distributed and arranged the circumstances upon which they depend; while, in matters of mere observation, the assignment of causes must always be in a good degree conjectural, inasmuch as we have no means of separating the preceding phenomena, or deciding otherwise than by analogy, to which of them the succeeding event is to be attributed.

Now, it appears to us to be pretty evident that the phenomena of the human mind are almost all of the latter description. We feel, and perceive, and remember, without any purpose or contrivance of ours, and have evidently no power over the mechanism by which those functions are performed. We may observe and distinguish those operations of mind, indeed, with more or less attention or exactness; but we cannot subject them to experiment, or alter their nature by any process of investigation. We cannot decompose our perceptions in a crucible, nor divide our sensations with a prism; nor can we, by art and contrivance, produce any combination of thoughts or emotions, besides those with which all men have been provided by nature. No metaphysician expects by analysis to discover a new power, or to excite a new sensation in the mind, as a chemist discovers a new earth or a new metal; nor can he hope, by any process of synthesis, to exhibit a mental combination different from any that nature has produced in the minds of other persons. The science of metaphysics, therefore, depends upon observation, and not upon experiment: And all reasonings upon mind proceed accordingly upon a reference to that general observation which all men are supposed to have made, and not to any particular experiments, which are known only to the inventor. — The

METAPHYSICS NOT EXPERIMENTAL.

597

province of philosophy in this department, therefore, is the province of observation only; and in this department the greater part of that code of laws which Bacon has provided for the regulation of experimental induction is plainly without authority. In metaphysics, certainly, knowledge is not power; and instead of producing new phenomena to elucidate the old, by well-contrived and well-conducted experiments, the most diligent inquirer can do no more than register and arrange the appearances, which he can neither account for nor control.

But though our power can in no case be directly increased by the most vigilant and correct observation alone, our knowledge may often be very greatly extended by it. In the science of mind, however, we are inclined to suspect that this is not the case.

From the very nature of the subject, it seems necessarily to follow, that all men must be practically familiar with all the functions and qualities of their minds; and with almost all the laws by which they appear to governed. Every one knows exactly what it is to perceive and to feel, to remember, imagine, and believe; and though he may not always apply the words that denote these operations with perfect propriety, it is not possible to suppose that any one is ignorant of the things. Even those laws of thought, or connexions of mental operation, that are not so commonly stated in words, appear to be universally known; and are found to regulate the practice of those who never thought of enouncing them in precise or abstract propositions. A man who never heard it asserted that memory depends upon attention, yet attends with uucommon care to any thing that he wishes to remember; and accounts for his forgetfulness, by acknowledging that he had paid no attention. A groom, who never heard of the association of ideas, feeds the young warhorse to the sound of a drum; and the unphilosophical artists who tame elephants and train dancing dogs, prccoed upon the same obvious and admitted principle. The truth is, that as we only know the existence of mind by the exercise of its functions according to certain laws, it is impossible that any one should ever dis

598

METAPHYSICS CAN ONLY ARRANGE.

cover or bring to light any functions or any laws of which men would admit the existence, unless they were previously convinced of their operation on themselves. A philosopher may be the first to state these laws, and to describe their operation distinctly in words; but men must be already familiarly acquainted with them in reality, before they can assent to the justice of his descriptions.

For these reasons, we cannot help thinking that the labours of the metaphysician, instead of being assimilated to those of the chemist or experimental philosopher, might, with less impropriety, be compared to those of the grammarian who arranges into technical order the words of a language which is spoken familiarly by all his readers; or of the artist who exhibits to them a correct map of a district with every part of which they were previously acquainted. We acquire a perfect knowledge of our own minds without study or exertion, just as we acquire a perfect knowledge of our native language or our native parish; yet we cannot, without much study and reflection, compose a grammar of the one, or a map of the other. To arrange in correct order all the particulars of our practical knowledge, and to set down, without omission and without distortion, every thing that we actually know upon a subject, requires a power of abstraction, recollection, and disposition, that falls to the lot of but few. In the science of mind, perhaps, more of those qualities are required than in any other; but it is not the less true of this, than of all the rest, that the materials of the description must always be derived from a previous acquaintance with the subject that nothing can be set down technically that was not practically known — and that no substantial addition is made to our knowledge by a scientific distribution of its particulars.

After such a systematic arrangement has been introduced, and a correct nomenclature applied, we may indeed conceive more clearly, and will certainly describe more justly, the nature and extent of our information; but our information itself is not really increased, and the consciousness by which we are supplied with all

STILL OF SOME USE.

599

the materials of our reflections, does not become more productive, by this disposition of its contributions.

But though we have been induced in this way to express our scepticism, both as to the probable improve ment and practical utility of metaphysical speculations, we would by no means be understood as having asserted that these studies are absolutely without interest or importance. With regard to perception, indeed, and some of the other primary functions of the mind, it seems now to be admitted, that philosophy can be of no use to us, and that the profoundest reasonings lead us back to the creed, and the ignorance, of the vulgar. As to the laws of Association, however, the case is somewhat different. Instances of the application of such laws are indeed familiar to every one, and there are few who do not of themselves arrive at some imperfect conception of their general limits and application : But that they are sooner learned, and may be more steadily and extensively applied, when our observations are assisted by the lessons of a judicious instructor, seems scarcely to admit of doubt; and though there are no errors of opinion perhaps that may not be corrected without the help of metaphysical principles, it cannot be disputed, that an habitual acquaintance with those principles leads us more directly to the source of such errors, and enables us more readily to explain and correct some of the most formidable aberrations of the human understanding. After all, perhaps, the chief value of such speculations will be found to consist in the wholesome exercise which they afford to the faculties, and the delight which is produced by the consciousness of intellectual exertion. Upon this subject, we gladly borrow from Mr. Stewart the following admirable quotations:

** An author well qualified to judge, from his own experience, of whatever conduces to invigorate or to embellish the understanding, has beautifully remarked, that by turning the soul inward on itself, its forces are concentrated, and are fitted for stronger and bolder flights of science; and that, in such pursuits, whether we take, or whether we lose the game, the Chase is certainly of service. In this respect, the philosophy of the mind (abstracting entirely from that pre-eminence which belongs to it in consequence of its practical appli

600

STEWART

OBSERVATIONS ON MATERIALISM.

cations) may claim a distinguished rank among those preparatory disciplines, which another writer of equal talents has happily compared to the crops which are raised, not for the sake of the harvest, but to be ploughed in as a dressing to the land.'"-p. 166, 167.

In following out his observations on the scope and spirit of Dr. Reid's philosophy, Mr. Stewart does not present his readers with any general outline or summary of the peculiar doctrines by which it is principally distinguished. This part of the book indeed appears to be addressed almost exclusively to those who are in some degree initiated in the studies of which it treats, and consists of a vindication of Dr. Reid's philosophy from the most important objections that had been made to it by his antagonists. The first is proposed by the materialist, and is directed against the gratuitous assumption of the existence of mind. To this Mr. Stewart answers with irresistible force, that the philosophy of Dr. Reid has in reality no concern with the theories that may be formed as to the causes of our mental operations, but is entirely confined to the investigation of those phenomena which are known to us by internal consciousness, and not by external perception. On the theory of Materialism itself, he makes some admirable observations: and, after having stated the perceptible improvement that has lately taken place in the method of considering those intellectual phenomena, he concludes with the following judicious and eloquent observations:

"The authors who form the most conspicuous exceptions to this gradual progress, consist chiefly of men, whose errors may be easily accounted for, by the prejudices connected with their circumscribed habits of observation and inquiry ;- of Physiologists, accustomed to attend to that part alone of the human frame, which the knife of the Anatomist can lay open; or of Chemists, who enter on the analysis of Thought, fresh from the decompositions of the laboratory; carrying into the Theory of Mind itself (what Bacon expressively calls) the smoke and tarnish of the furnace,' Of the value of such pursuits, none can think more highly than myself; but I must be allowed to observe, that the most distinguished pre-eminence in them does not necessarily imply a capacity of collected and abstracted reflection; or an understanding superior to the prejudices of early association, and the illusions of popular language. I will not go so far as Cicero, when he ascribes to those who possess these advantages, a more than ordinary vigour of intellect : Magni cst ingenii rorocare mentem a sensi

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