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ART. XIV. Remarks on some Modern Opinions relative to the Questions of Materialism and Necessity.
T has long been a favourite opinion with us, that time and the
chievous qualities in popular works, than is ordinarily afforded by organized and deliberate resistance. However this may be, we are quite certain that we are following the wiser policy, in proceeding to the utmost extent of passive endurance, than in hazarding a defeat, or even a doubtful victory, by advancing to the attack with inadequate arms.
At the same time it is possible that a work may assume so marked a character, or its author may stand so prominent before the public eye, as to call for a public and deliberate expression of opposite opinions, even at the hazard of giving to the objectionable views an extended circulation. How far this may have been the case with respect to the physiological lectures first published in 1819 by Mr. Lawrence, we shall not endeavour to decide. Of late they have been drawn further into the arena by the animadversions which they have met with in a court of equity; and it is at once unfortunate, and, we suppose, unavoidable, that, as on this cccasion they have been placed out of the protection of the law, so they can at present obtain a sale, even though their author should desire their suppression.
Meanwhile the speculations of Mr. Lawrence in favour of materialism are encountered by a species of resistance, which, if we estimate it rightly, is calculated to promote, rather than to arrest, the diffusion of his theory. A popular work has, by this time, passed through five editions, which arrays against him doctrines to the full as untenable as his own, drawn from the same sources, and supported by far less knowledge of the subject.
If, as we firmly believe, the admission of an immaterial principle be requisite to the admission of the doctrines of revealed religion, it is certainly desirable that the quantity of evidence on which immaterialism rests, should be ascertained antecedently to that direct proof of it which the gospel affords. It is expedient that we should find some point where we may place our foot, between the conflicting evidence of those whom the light of nature leads
VOL. I. NO. II.
to a confident belief in the distinct existence of the soul, and those who can perceive by this light no other principle than matter.
If the latter class of reasoners succeed, they prejudice our reception of revealed religion by establishing, on the grounds of human reason, doctrines opposite to those which revealed religion inculcates. If the former class of reasoners fail to convince, their illjudging friendship is mischievous to the cause which they would advocate, and no time should be lost before we disentangle that cause from the errors with which they may have encumbered it. Under these impressions we shall pursue the question of materialism, through Mr. Lavrence's reasoning in favour of it, through our own in opposition to it, and through those bolder speculations by which Mr. Rennell has endeavoured to arrive at the latter species of conclusion.
We have endeavoured to concentrate Mr. Lawrence's physiological argument, and to give it in his own vigorous language.
"The same reasoning (Mr. Lawrence urges†), the same facts, in consequence of which we attribute digestion to the stomach, and the various secretions to their respective glands, compel us to assign sensation, judgement, reasoning, as functions to that organic apparatus with which they are connected. If I am told that thought is inconsistent with matter, that we cannot conceive how medullary matter can reflect or perceive, I acknowledge my ignorance how these purposes are effected, but assert that I am equally ignorant how the liver secretes bile, and how the muscles contract. Experience is in all these cases our sole instructress; and the constant conjunctions of phænomena, which she exhibits, are my sole ground for affirming their necessary connexion.-We see that the number and kind of intellectual phænomena in different animals correspond closely with the degree of development of the brain;and we are able to follow this series through Monkeys, Ourangoutangs, Calmucks, Caribs, Hottentots, Negroes, up to Europeans. In ascending these steps of one ladder, where, we ask, shall we place the boundary of unassisted organization? where find the beginning of the immaterial adjunct?
"Conceding an immaterial principle to man, we must equally concede it to the more rational animals, which exhibit manifestations differing only in degree from some of the human: conceding it to them, we shall find ourselves compelled to proceed in a descending series down to the oyster, the sea anemone, the polypus, the microscopic animalcules. This subject, Mr. Lawrence urges, has an intimate connexion with pathology. We refer changes in
*Remarks on Scepticism.
Vide Lawrence on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural History of Man.
the biliary secretion to the liver; we explain disordered states of respiration by assuming some analogous condition of the lungs. We do not talk of jaundice, or cholera hepatitis, as the affections of an immaterial hepatic being. For the ravings of phrensy and delirium, or the suspension of intellectual phænomena arising from the pressure of a piece of bone, we find an adequate explanation in the state of the substance of the brain, or of its circulation, without fancying that the mind is delirious, mad, or drunk. The effects of medical treatment in insanity corroborate these views.-Even they who talk of and believe in diseases of the head are too wise to put their faith in mental remedies. They find it expedient to resort to active medical treatment. I have examined,' says Mr. Lawrence, 'many heads of insane persons, and have hardly seen a single brain which has not exhibited obvious marks of disease.'
We have in the above abstract endeavoured to put our readers in possession of Mr. Lawrence's materialism. We do not entertain the same opinions with him as to its reasonableness, and we propose to meet it by a fair statement of our own sentiments on the зame subject, and by pointing out such errors as occur to us in his line of argument.
It is difficult to travel through a discussion of this nature without frequent reference to the name of Dr. Priestley; and although the scientific honours of that eminent man seem likely to outlive those which he obtained from abstract or theological research, yet we should do injustice to the question which we pretend to treat, if we should pursue it without some reference to Dr. Priestley's speculations.
We do not consider ourselves as justly chargeable with any of fence against the rules of Sir Isaac Newton, such as Dr. Priestley would impute to us*, in attributing the phænomena of thought to a principle in the human being essentially distinct from that, the
Dr. Priestley considers his opponents, and Mr. Locke among the rest, as forgetting Sir Issac Newton's admonition, that we are to admit no more causes of things than are sufficient to explain appearances. (Vide Disquisitions, pages 2 and 72). The reasoning used in the sequel of this paragraph is admirably laid down by Condorcet. "Puisque l'existence des corps n'est pour nous que la permanence d'êtres, dont les propriétés repondent à un certain ordre de nos sensations, il en résulte, qu'elle n'a rien de plus certain, que celle d'autres êtres qui se manifestent également par leurs effets sur nous. Et puisque nos observations sur nos propres facultés conformées par celles, que nous faisons, sur les êtres, qui animent aussi des corps, ne nous montrent aucune analogie, entre l'être qui sent ou qui pense, et l'être qui nous offre les phénomènes, de l'étendue ou de l'impénétrabilité, il n'y a aucune raison de croire ces êtres de la même Ainsi la spiritualité de l'ame n'est pas une opinion qui ait besoin de preuves, mais le résultat simple et naturel d'une analyse de nos idées et de nos facultés."-Vie de M. Turgot.