« السابقةمتابعة »
it is intimated to us from some other quarter: in which cafe, when called upon by a person capable of comprehending us, and receiving satisfaction on the subjeét in question, we shall be ready to give it in as ample a manner as is confiftent with our work, or can be reasonably required by our readers.
Our antagonist will doubtless call this, in his usual stile, a jesuitical way of fhitting off the argument, intolerable arrogance, &c. we must take the liberty to tell him, however, it is not the argument, but the writer, we should be pleased to get rid of: if we must engage in a controversy, we are indeed so far ambitious, as to wish it may be with a writer capable of understanding, and replying to an argument.
ACCOUNT OF FOREIGN BOOKS.. Elai Analytique fur les Facultés dhe l’ime. Par Charles Bonnet,
de la Societe Royale d'Angleterre, de l'Academie Royale des Sciences de Suede, de l'Acadcinie de l’Inititut de Bologne,
An Analytical Efay on the Faculries of the Mind, &c. Copenhagen, 1760. 4to. Philibert.
Etaphysics, which, in this iland, hath long given place IV to other branches of philofophy, hath stiilits numerous adınirers, and is cultivated with no little appearance of sucress, on the continent. Among the many ingenious productions of this kind, which have been lately published abroad, this of Mr. Bonnet has met with distinguished approbation. It is indeed with great satisfaction that we perceive a number of adents in this science agreed, as to many cflentjal points, which have been so long and so warmly contelted, as to have given the world a very difadvantageous idea of metaphyfira! enquiries in general. Vague and uncertain, however, as they may be generally efcemed, there is reason to think the inperfection of this science rather owing to the want of applis cation, or abiliiies, in the student, than to any defeet or impracticabili y of arriving at truth, in the nature of the study. The objects of such enquiry are too gonerally conceived to he such only as are removed beyond the reach of our faculties, while our means of pursuit fall equally short of their end. But neither that object, nor those means, when scientifically pointed out and pursued, are beyond the limits of human
· reason; nor are they found to be inadequate to the purposes
of philosophical investi ation. So far it is certain that, as, this fcience re pects the most sublime and refined improvements of our knowledge, it requires, as it deserves, the greateft efforts of genius, as well as the strongest powers of the underitanding to be excrted in its cultivation. There are, it is true, a nong pretenders to this, as among those to every other Icience, fome extraordinary adventurers, whose excentric turn of mind, or depravity of taste and judgment, set them hunting after paradoxical novelties and unintelligible chineras. Our author, however, is not one of these. Indeed there is but litile novelty either in his subject or manner of treating it; the Abbe de Condillac having pursued nearly the same plan. Mr. Bonnet, however, having begun this work before the appearance of the Abbé's treatise, was prevailed on by those to whom he had communicated his defign*, to persevere in carrying it into execution : for, though the task he had sketched out was, in fome measure, performed by that eminent philofopher, he found their conformity of sentiments as to general points, had not prevented a considerable difference in their particular ideas, as well as in their method of analysis. Our author has contented himself, nevertheless, with taking only a cursory view of those matters, which Mr. Condillac had considered in the same light he himself inight have done. At the same time, he hath greatly improved on the Frenchman's plan; corrected the mistakes into which he conceives him fallen ; and, by filling up the chalms and tracing a more regular connection between the several parts of the argument, hath formed a complcat chain of reasoning on this nice and difficult subject of investigation.
The general design of this work, as laid down in the preface, is to discover the nature of man, as far as it can be known. Not that the author pretends to inform us of the real esence of those two distinct substances of which he conceives man to be composed ; to penetrate the mystery of their reciprocal influence on each other, or to disclose the secret of their union. He is contented to study man in the manner he would contemplate a plant or an insect. Convinced that all our ideas are originally founded on our perceptions, he has
* The coinpletion and publication of this work are indeed princi. pally owing to the proiection and patronage of the King of Den. mark, to whom Mr. Bonnet has gratefully dedi.ated his per. formance.
considered the latter with peculiar attention. To this end, he examines what passes in the organs of fense, in transmitting to the mind the impressions made on them by external objects. He considers the action of those fibres on which depend our ideas ; reasoning from the result of their various movements and relations to each other. From a particular examination into all these it is, that he endeavours to explain the operations of the human mind, and the manner in which ideas are generated and stored up therein. Again, being persuaded, on the other hand, of the action of the soul on the body, as evinced by the effects of volition, he considers it as a force or power applied to the fibres composing the sensible organs ; from the effects of which he deduces the knowledge of the actual exercise of the mental faculties.
Our author sets out with a detail of those principles, on which he proceeds in the course of his treatise : but these, as we have already intimated, being neither new nor uncommon, we should be thought unnecessarily tedious to follow himn step by step through his work. Having hinted his general mea thod and design therefore, we shall only take notice of a parsage or two, that occur in the prosecution of his subject, which may serve as a speciinen of Mr. Bonnet's manner of thinking, and of his abilities for metaphysical speculation.
“ Our sense of pleasure and pain, says he, depends more or less on the mobility of the sensible fibres; pleasure consisting in all the degrees between their too great or too little agitation. A suscep:ible Being cannot be a moment indifferent to pain and pleafure; nor is it possible for it to distinguish one sensation from another, without giving, at the same time, the preference to one of them. The immediate effect of this preference is that a:tention which such being gives to that sentation which is the most agreeable, which attention consists in a certain exertion of the activity of the soul on the fibres of the brain ; whence the momentum of the motion, first impresied on those fibres by the object, is increased, and such objeét engages the power of volition to exert itself, in consequence thereof, by a method conformable to its pleasure or prelervation. Hence, says he, the will is that act of a sentible, or intelligent Being, by which it prefers, of several circumstances, that which promises it most good or least evil : and its liberty, or the freedom of the will, consists in that faculty by which the soul executes its desires. Every Being, therefore is a free agent that has the power of doing what it wills. To be a free agent, it is not necessary to have the
power of deliberation, or of acting, on any occasion, in this,' that, or the other, manner. It is sufficient that we are ca. pable of voluntary action, or of acting agreeable to the determination of the will. The infinite Being law, and willed, what is right, from all eternity ; but never deliberated about it. By an act of his liberty, he executed his fovereign will, and gave the possible world an actual existence. The philosopher, therefore, continues our author, who has represented the Almighty Being as having made a deliberate choice of the best of all poffible worlds, has expresled himself, in my opinion, much more like a poet than a metaphysician.”
With respect to the immortality of the soul, and a future state, our author's sentiments are not incurious; they may, however, be thought perhaps more ingenious than folid. There are a numerous class of animal beings, says he, which undergo very furprizing metamorphoses. The individual is, in its first state, a crawling worm, or creeping caterpillar, which devours the verdure of the earth. In its next, it becomes, to all appearance, an infenfible mafs, without parts or motion ; such is the chrysalis, which takes no nourishment, and betrays hardly any signs of life. At length, in its third ftate, it appears as a papilio, or butterfly, is ornamented with the most beautiful colours, and, provided with wings, roves from place to place, sporting in the sun-shine, tasting the sweetest flowers, or indulging itself in the pleasures of love. Still the same animal, the butterfly, existed under the form of the caterpillar, and the folds of the chrysalis ; nori doth it pass through those successive changes, but because they are necessary to its acquisition of new faculties. Thus it is, that nature, by a progress, more or less flow, conducts every species of beings to perfection: and thus man, in the eyes of superior beings capable of knowing him truly, inay be in the same situation as the caterpillar in the eye of a naturalist. Death perhaps reduces him into the state of a chrysalis, and is only preparatory to that metamorphosis he will assume in another state *.
This allusion, ingenious as it is, is far from being new: the author of Epistles to Lorenzo has made use of it, though we think less philofophically than Mr Bonnet, as the former supposes the prefent flate of man to resemble that of the chrysalis.
Is man a warm ? 'tis here his fate
· But our philosopher doth not content himself with advancing the plausibility of a future existence; he goes so far, as to endeavour to thew not only the immortality of the foul, but also the possibility and neceility of its future union with an incorruptible and spiritual body, agreeable to what is taught us by revelation.
As it is admitted, that the soul cannot act but through the interposition of the senses, he conceives that the Deity has formed an organical machine, of a substancetimilar to that of fire, æther, or light; that this machine is infinitely sub:le, and is inclosed within a callous body, which is properly the seat of the soul, and is the organ of reciprocal communication between the soul and body in the present state. This organ, or refined body, he conceives also to be the only essential body of man; that, during the life of the groffer material body, the fibres of this feat of the foul, which correspond with those of the sensible organs, receive those impulses or determinations which constitute the physical aconomy or mechanism of the memory.
In death, the communication between the gross, adventitious body, and the refined, essential one, is broken ; as is also that between the organs of sense and the percep:ible universe. The nature, however, of this receptacle of the soul is such, as enables it to divest itself of all connection with those caules that operates to the diffolution of the grosier body. Hence, in this new state, the man ftill retains his confciouinels and personality, because the mind remains united to that little organised machine, which has the faculty of remember. ing the occurrences of its first state.
In this manner he conceives this seat or receptacle of the soul to comprehend the germ of that incorruptible body, with which, according to the scriptures, we shall be cloathed at the general resurreclion.
To the Authors of the MONTHLY REVIEW.