Page images

ner, which constitutes the conception of a particular thing, or person, or event, or when we wish to combine new images, in some picture of fancy, this co-existence of desire, with the simple course of suggestion, which continues still to follow its own laws, as much as when no desire existed with it, -seems to us to render the suggestion itself different; and recollection and imagination or fancy, which are truly, as we shall afterwards find, nothing more than the union of the suggested conceptions, with certain specific permanent desires, are to us, as it were, distinct additional powers of our mind, and are so arranged in the systems of philosophers, who have not made the very simple analysis, which alone seems to me to be necessary for a more precise arrangement.

In like manner, those suggestions of another class, which constitute our notions of proportion, resemblance, difference, and all the variety of relations, may, as I have already remarked, arise, when we have had no previous desire of tracing the relations, or may arise after that previous desire. But, when the feelings of relation seem to us to arise spontaneously, they are not in themselves different from the feelings of relation, that arise, in our intentional comparisons or judgments, in the longest series of ratiocination. Of such ratiocination, they are truly the most important elements. The permanent desire of discovering something unknown, or of establishing, or confuting, or illustrating, some point of belief or conjecture, may co-exist, indeed, with the continued series of relations that are felt, but does not alter the nature of that law, by which these judgments, or relative suggestions, succeed each other.

There is no new power to be found, but only the union of certain intellectual states of the mind, with certain desires, a species of combination not more wonderful in itself, than any other complex mental state, as when we, at the same moment, see and smell a rose, or listen to the voice of a friend, who has been long absent from us, and see, at the same moment, that face of affection, which is again giving confidence to our heart, and gladness to our very eyes.

Our intellectual states of mind, then, are either those resemblances of past affections of the mind, which arise by simple suggestion, or those feelings of relation, which arise by what I have termed relative suggestions,-the one set resulting, indeed, from some prior states of the mind, but not involving, necessarily, any consideration of these previous states of mind, which suggested them, the other set, necessarily, involving the consideration of two or more objects, or two or more affections of mind, as subjects of the relation which is felt.

How readily all the intellectual states of mind, which are commonly ascribed to a variety of powers, may be reduced to those two, will appear more clearly, after we have considered and illustrated the phenomena of each set.

I shall proceed, therefore, in the first place, to the phenomena of simple suggestion, which are usually referred to a principle of association in our ideas.



GENTLEMEN, my general arrangement of the various phenomena, or states of the mind, is, I trust, now sufficiently familiar to you. We know the mind only in the succession of these states, as they vary from moment to moment; and you have learned to class them, as, in the first place, External or Internal Affections, according as the mental changes of state that are induced, have arisen immediately from the presence of external objects, or from some preceding state of the mind itself,-and the latter of these classes, you have learned also to subdivide into its two distinct orders of Intellectual States of the Mind and Emotions. Thus far we have proceeded, I trust, without much risk of misconception.

In my last Lecture, I proceeded to consider the former of these orders, and arranged all the variety of our Intellectual States of Mind under two generic capacities,-those of Simple and of Relative suggestion. Intellectually, we conceive or we judge; our past feelings, in Simple Suggestion, of image after image, arise again, in colours more or less faint, without any known cause exterior to the mind. By our capacity of the other species of Suggestion, we are impressed with feelings of a different order, that arise, when two or more objects are contemplated together,-feelings of their agreement, proportion, or some one or other of the variety of their relations. Of these two orders of feelings, and of these alone, consist the whole varied tissue of our trains of thought. All the intellectual powers, of which writers on this branch of science speak, are, as we shall find, only modes of these two, as they exist simply, or as they exist in combination with some desire more or less permanent, with the desire of prosecuting a continued inquiry, for example, or of evolving its results to others,—as in the long series of our ratiocination; or of forming some splendid succession of images and incidents, as in the magic pictures of poetry and romance. The simplification may, perhaps, at present appear to you excessive; but I flatter myself, that after the two generic capacities themselves shall have been fully considered by us, it will not appear to you more than is absolutely necessary for accuracy of analysis and arrangement.


The intellectual phenomena which we are, in the first place, to consider, then, are those of Simple Suggestion, which are usually classed under the general term of the Association of Ideas,-a term employed to denote that tendency of the mind, by which feelings, that were formerly excited by an external cause, arise afterwards, in regular successions to each other, as it were spontaneously, or at least without the immediate presence of any known external cause. The limitation of the term, however, to those states of

mind, which are exclusively denominated ideas, has, I conceive, tended greatly to obscure the subject, or at least to deprive us of the aid which we might have received from it in the analysis of many of the most complex phenomena. The influence of the associating principle itself extends, not to ideas only, but to every species of affection of which the mind is susceptible. Our internal joys, sorrows, and all the variety of our emotions, are capable of being revived in a certain degree by the mere influence of this principle, and of blending with the ideas or other feelings which awakened them, in the same manner as our conceptions of external things. These last, however, it must be admitted, present the most striking and obvious examples of the influence of the principle, and are, therefore, the fittest for illustrating it. The faint and shadowy elements of past emotions, as mingling in any present feeling, it may not be easy to distinguish; but our remembrances of things without are clear and definite, and are easily recognised by us as images of the past. We have seen, in the history of our senses, by what admirable means Nature has provided for communicating to man those first rude elements of knowledge, which are afterwards to be the materials of his sublimest speculations, and with what still more admirable goodness she has ministered to his pleasure in these primary elements of thought, and in the very provision which she has formed for the subsistence of his animal frame,making the organs by which he becomes acquainted with the properties of external things, not the fountain of knowledge only, but an ever-mingling source of enjoyment and instruction.

It is through the medium of perception, as we have seen, that is to say, through the medium of those sensitive capacities already so fully considered by us, that we acquire our knowledge of the properties of external things. But if our knowledge of those properties were limited to the moment of perception, and were extinguished for ever with the fading sensation from which it sprang, the acquisition of this fugitive knowledge would be of little value. We should still, indeed, be sensible of the momentary pleasure or pain; but all experience of the past, and all that confidence in the regular successions of future events, which flows from experience of the past, would of course be excluded by universal and instant forgetfulness. In such circumstances, if the common wants of our animal nature remained, it is evident, that even life itself, in its worst and most miserable state, could not be supported; since, though oppressed with thirst and hunger, and within reach of the most delicious fruits and the most plentiful-spring-water, we should still suffer without any knowledge of the means by which the suffering could be remedied. Even if, by some provision of Nature, our bodily constitution had been so framed, as to require no supply of subsistence, or if, instinctively and without reflection, we had been led on the first impulse of appetite, to repair our daily waste, and to shelter ourselves from the various causes of physical injury to which we are exposed, though our animal life might then have continued to be extended to as long a period as at present, still, if but a succession of momentary sensations, it would have been one of the lowest forms of mere animal life. It is only as capable of looking before and behind,—that is to say, as capable of those spontaneous suggestions of thought which constitute remembrance and foresight,--that we rise to the dignity of intellectual being, and that man can be said to be the image of that Purest of Intellects, who looks backward and forward, in a single glance, not on a few years only, but on all the ages of eternity. "Deum te scito esse," says Cicero, in allu

sion to these powers,-" Deum te scito esse, siquidem Deus est, qui viget, qui sentit, qui meminit, qui prævidet, qui tam regit et moderatur et movet id corpus, cui præpositus est, quam hunc mundum princeps ille Deus."

"Were it not so, the Soul, all dead and lost,

As the fix'd stream beneath the impassive frost,*
Form'd for no end, and impotent to please,
Would lie inactive on the couch of ease;
And, heedless of proud fame's immortal lay,
Sleep all her dull divinity away."t

Without any remembrance of pleasures formerly enjoyed, or of sorrows long past and long endured,-looking on the persons and scenes which had surrounded us from the first moment of our birth, as if they were objects altogether unknown to us,-incapable even of as much reasoning as still gleams through the dreadful stupor of the maniac,-or of conveying even that faint expression of thought with which the rudest savages, in the rudest language, are still able to hold some cornmunication of their passions or designs ;such, but for that capacity which we are considering, would have been the deplorable picture of the whole human race. What is now revered by us as the most generous and heroic virtue, or the most profound and penetrating genius, would have been nothing more than this wretchedness and imbecility. It is the suggesting principle, the reviver of thoughts and feelings which have passed away, that gives value to all our other powers and susceptibilities, intellectual and moral-not indeed, by producing them, for, though unevolved, they would still, as latent capacities, be a part of the original constitution of our spiritual nature, but by rousing them into action, and furnishing them with those accumulating and inexhaustible materials, which are to be the elements of future thought and the objects of future emotion. Every talent by which we excel, and every vivid feeling which animates us, derive their energy from the suggestions of this ever-active principle. We love and hate, we desire and fear,--we use means for obtaining good, and avoiding evil, because we remember the objects and occurrences which we have formerly observed, and because the future, in the similarity of the successions which it presents, appears to us only a prolongation of the past.

In conferring on us the capacity of these spontaneous suggestions, then, Heaven has much more than doubled our existence; for, without it, and consequently without those faculties and emotions which involve it, existence would scarcely have been desirable. The very importance of the benefits which we derive from it, however, renders us perhaps less sensible of its value; since it is so mingled, with all our knowledge, and all our plans of action, that we find it difficult to conceive a state of sentient being, of which it is not a part, and to estimate, consequently, at a just amount, the advantage which it affords. The future memory of perception seems to us almost implied in perception itself; and to speculate on that strange state of existence which would have been the condition of man, if he had been formed without the power of remembrance, and capable only of a series of sensations, has, at first, an appearance almost of absurdity and contradiction, as if we were imagining conditions which were in their nature incompatible. Yet, assuredly, if it were possible for us to consider such a subject, a priori, the real * Like the tall cliff beneath the impassive frost."-ORIG. + Cawthorn.-Regulation of the Passions, &c. v. 15-20.

cause of wonder would appear to be, not in the absence of the suggestions of memory, as in the case imagined, but in that remembrance of which we have the happy experience. When a feeling, of the existence of which consciousness furnishes the only evidence, has passed away so completely that not even the slightest consciousness of it remains, it would surely,-but for that experience, be more natural to suppose that it had perished altogether, than that it should, at the distance of many years, without any renewal of it by the external cause which originally produced it, again start, as it were of itself, into being. To foresee that which has not yet begun to exist, is, in itself, scarcely more unaccountable, than to see as it were before us, what has wholly ceased to exist. The present moment is all of which we are conscious, and which can strictly be said to have a real existence, in relation to ourselves. That mode of time, which we call the past, and that other mode of time, which we call the future, are both equally unexisting. That the knowledge of either should be added to us, so as to form a part of our present consciousness, is a gift of Heaven, most beneficial to us indeed, but most mysterious, and equally, or nearly equally mysterious, whether the unexisting time, of which the knowledge is indulged to us, be the future or the past.

The advantage which we derive from the principle of suggestion, it must, however, be remarked, consists, not in its mere revival of thoughts and feelings, of which we had before been conscious, but in its revival of these in a certain order. If past objects and events had been suggested to us again, not in that series, in which they had formerly occurred, nor according to any of those relations, which human discernment has been able to discover among them, but in endless confusion and irregularity, the knowledge thus acquired, however gratifying as a source of mere variety of feeling, would avail us little, or rather would be wholly profitless, not merely in our speculative inquiries as philosophers, but in the simplest actions of common life. It is quite evident, that, in this case, we should be altogether unable to turn our experience to account, as a mode of avoiding future evil or obtaining future good; because, for this application of our knowledge, it would be requisite that events, before observed, should occur to us, at the time, when similar events might be expected. We refrain from tasting the poisonous berry, which we have known to be the occasion of death to him who tasted it; because the mere sight of it brings again before us the fatal event, which we have heard or witnessed. We satisfy our appetite with a salutary fruit, without the slightest apprehension; because its familiar appearance recalls to us the refreshment, which we have repeatedly received. But, if these suggestions were reversed, if the agreeable images of health and refreshment were all that were suggested by the poisonous plant, and pain, and convulsions, and death were the only images suggested by the sight of the grateful and nourishing fruit, there can be no doubt, to which of the two our unfortunate preference would be given. To take the most familiar of all instances,-that of language,which, either as written or spoken, is in such constant use, and which is so essential, not merely to our first advance, and absolute barbarism, but to the cominon domestic necessities, even of barbarous life, that, without it, we can scarcely conceive two individuals, however rude, to exist together,—this, it is evident, could not have been invented,-nor, if invented, could it serve any other purpose than to mislead,—if the words spoken were to have no greater chance of suggesting the meaning intended by the speaker than any other

« EelmineJätka »