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kind, the social, the benevolent, the moral and religious qualities are added to the intellectual, and the destructive powers used only for the purposes of good, he must be all but divine; “ in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a God, — the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals !” But is it not equally evident, that if the balance of the powers is not duly preserved, if the lower propensities are too powerful, and act without due regulation, or even if any of the higher sentiments exceed the bounds of propriety and moderation, so as to interfere with the due exercise of the rest, his actions will be betrayed into obliquity and error, and the whole character will be degraded? And such is the state of man.
ON MR COMBE'S PRINCIPLE OF THE SUPREMACY OF THE MORAL SENTIMENTS
AND INTELLECT, AND ON CONSCIENCE.
Having stated shortly the scheme of the human faculties, which, generally speaking, both Mr Combe and I assume as the basis of our views, I shall now advert to some points upon which we differ, and where I think he errs in the practical application of his own system.
The first grand principle which he adopts, is what he calls the supremacy of the moral sentiments and intellect over the lower propensities.
Mr Combe opens his remarks on this subject, with another quotation from Butler, which I shall give entire. “ Mankind has various instincts and principles of
action, as brute creatures have; some leading most directly and immediately to the good of the community, and some most directly to private good.
6 Man has several which brutes have not; particularly reflection, or conscience, an approbation of some principles or actions, and a disapprobation of others.”
It is remarkable how very exactly these views tally with the system revealed by Phrenology.
“ Brutes obey their instincts or principles of action, according to certain rules; suppose, the constitution of their body, and the objects around them.
“ The generality of mankind also obey their instincts and principles, all of them, those propensions we call good, as well as the bad, according to the same rules, namely the constitution of their body, and the external circumstances which they are in.
“ Brutes, in acting according to the rules before mentioned, their bodily constitution and circumstances, act suitably to their whole nature.
“ Mankind also, in acting thus, would act suitably to their whole nature, if no more were to be said of man's nature than what has been said ; if that, as it is a true, were also a complete, adequate account of our nature.
“ But that is not a complete account of man's nature. Somewhat farther must be brought in to give us an adequate notion of it, namely, that one of these principles of action, conscience, or reflection, compared with the rest, as they all stand together in the nature of man, plainly bears upon it marks of authority over all the rest, and claims the absolute direction of them all, to allow or forbid their gratification, being in itself a principle manifestly superior to a mere propension. And the conclusion is, that to allow no more to this superior principle or part of our nature than to other parts, to let it govern and guide only occasionally in common
with the rest, as its turn happens to come, from the temper and circumstances one happens to be in, this is not to act conformably to the constitution of man: neither can any human creature be said to act conformably to his constitution of nature, unless he allows to that superior principle the absolute authority which is due to it."
To the doctrine here delivered I cordially and entirely subscribe.
Mr Combe has discarded the term conscience-a term universally used, and perfectly understood by all mankind, as applied to those internal feelings which dictate to us what is right and wrong in conduct-and has adopted in its place a formula involving a theory of his
“ Right conduct,” he says, “is that which is approved of by the whole moral and intellectual faculties, fully enlightened, and acting in harmonious combination. This," he adds, “is what I call the supremacy of the moral sentiments and intellect."
Now in order to understand this, it is necessary to know what is here meant by the term “ moral and intellectual faculties.” Taking the expression in its popular acceptation, it is universally admitted, that the moral and intellectual faculties are those by which the conduct is to be regulated ; and, therefore, to tell us that right conduct is that which is approved of by these faculties, gives us no information whatever. We knew all that before phrenology was discovered. But these expressions are used by Mr Combe in a limited and technical sense—not applied to the whole moral capacities of our nature, but to certain distinct feelings or propensions, of which the precise functions have been specified by phrenological writers, and which they have chosen to denominate, specially and exclusively, the moral sentiments. But although thus limited to a special class of
the feelings, his language with respect to them is far from precise. He sometimes speaks of the moral sentiments and intellect generally; at other times he states them to be the faculties peculiar to man. Here we begin to see the defects of the arrangement and classification of the faculties which he has adopted, as mentioned in the last chapter. The sentiments peculiar to man are there stated by him to be veneration, firmness, conscientiousness, hope, wonder, ideality, wit, and imitation. Benevolence is there excluded, as that is stated to be a sentiment common to man and the inferior animals.
When, however, he comes more closely to the subject, he finds that this enumeration will not answer his purpose. If there be a principle of benevolence in man, which doubtless there is, it is impossible to exclude it from the list of the moral powers. Mr Combe gets over the difficulty in this way: “ Benevolence,” he says in a note, “is stated in the works on phrenology as common to man with the lower animals; but in these creatures it appears to produce rather passive meekness and good nature than actual desire for each other's happiness. In the human race, this last is its proper function ; and, viewed in this light, I treat of it as exclusively a human faculty.” To this I answer, that if the feelings of benevolence in man and in the lower animals are feelings the same in kind, and having the same tendency, (which I presume they must be from their being called by the same name by all phrenologists,) they must be essentially the same feelings, and the only difference between them must be either a difference in degree, which we can perfectly understand, or the difference occasioned by the superior intellect of man, giving the sentiment a larger scope, or field of action.
There can, I think, be no other differences; and if so, Mr Combe is not entitled to state this as peculiarly a human sentiment, unless he
is also disposed to treat in the same way cautiousness, , love of approbation, and other feelings, which, when illuminated by man's intellect, receive a totally different direction, and are extended to a totally different class of objects, than those which occupy the feelings which receive these names in the animal tribes.
But the list is not only defective—it is redundant, and includes faculties which Mr Combe does not admit to have a moral tendency. In his enumeration of the “ moral sentiments” at p. 18, he begins with benevolence, and then adds veneration, hope, ideality, wonder, and conscientiousness, (omitting wit, imitation, and firmness ;) and he adds in a note, “ The classification of the moral sentiments in the phrenological system is not perfect. It includes wit, imitation, firmness, and wonder, which are not necessarily or essentially moral. By the moral sentiments, when used as a general expression, I mean benevolence, veneration, and conscientiousness, aided by hope and ideality."
Mr Combe talks about philosophy, and about philosophical principles ; but surely, if we are to treat the subject philosophically, we are entitled to ask upon what philosophical principle he proceeds, when he fixes upon those five faculties as exclusively the moral sentiments ; and also upon what principle he regards three of them as the chief, and the other two as auxiliary. It appears to me that he proceeds on no principle at all, and that both the selection and the distinction are purely arbitrary.
It might have brought us nearer to a better arrangement, if it had been recollected that imitation is a faculty possessed by several of the lower animals; and still farther, if it be held, as I strongly suspect to be the case, that “ wit” is not a sentiment, but an intellectual faculty, as it was considered by Gall. But why omit