« السابقةمتابعة »
and a philosopher who is not poetical, is but a mechanic. Newton imagined the law of gravitation, no less than Milton the character of Satan. There was more of discovery in the imagination of Newton, and more of creation in that of Milton. But in both cases that power was employed which concerns itself with principles embodied in examples. Newton saw the principle of universal attraction in the fall of an apple. Milton caused others to see the principle of moral evil in the person of the fallen angel. The Marquis of Worcester is said to have had the idea of employing steam as a mechanical power suggested to him, by seeing the cover of the vessel in which he was preparing some food, while confined in the tower of London, suddenly lifted up by the expansion of the steam. This hint led to the invention of the steam-engine, which he has described in the “ Century of Inventions,” in very vague and mysterious terms indeed, but clearly enough to leave no doubt that his description furnished the clue by which other minds have been guided in perfecting his invention. Why was it that a trivial circumstance, which had been witnessed a thousand times before, flashed into the eye of his mind the discovery of a new mechanical power, which he himself called " semi-omnipotent ? " It was because he was more than a mere observer. Like Newton he looked through transient phenomena to permanent principles. We do not mean that the force arising from the alternate expansion and condensation of steam was similar to the law of gravitation ; but that the discovery of the applicableness, and the actual application of this force to machinery, implied the philosophic insight which we have described.
It may have been thought during the progress of this discussion that too little has been said about the laws of mind, and too much respecting the principles of taste and natural science. But if our readers will consider what opinion it is that we are opposing, namely, that the sole object of science is to observe the relation of facts to each other as successive, and that the same laws of investigation should govern our inquiries into the principles of criticism, and of natural philosophy, as into the principles of mind; they will see that our allusions to those sciences are not inappropriate. We have chosen to draw our illustrations from the external world, because we could thus make our meaning better understood. There is, in fact, a very close connection between the study
of nature, and the study of mind. We must become acquainted with both by resorting to the same source of intelligence. The knowledge of every thing is included in self-knowledge. We can know nothing of the objects without us any further than we know our thoughts,—every thing is contained within the narrow circle of consciousness. A man can know himself only on condition of becoming acquainted with all the objects of his knowledge, and vice versa, he can become acquainted with the objects of his knowledge only by knowing himself; or, to express the proposition in more general terms, we can make advancement in science, only by the study of our minds; and we can be good mental philosophers, only by being philosophers in the largest sense of the word.
Notwithstanding his inadequate statement, as we must think it, of the object of philosophic inquiry, Dr. Abercrombie has written a work whose popularity we would not destroy, if we were able. It is not its least excellence that it is written with modesty and candor. The author does not make high pretensions ; he prosesses only to give a simple statement of facts in regard to the operations of the human mind, and he has adhered to his purpose with remarkable fidelity. He has not been led astray, as too many of his predecessors have been, by the false lights of theory, even when they thought that they were strictly following the inductive method. He has not been betrayed by the ambition of being the founder of a new system, into the immorality of depreciating and carping at the labors of preceding philosophers. He is a Christian, and has written with a Christian spirit. The work will be useful to those for whom it was more especially designed—the medical profession. The connection between a sound mind and a healthy body need not be pointed out. Physicians ought to consider it a part of their business, not only to administer relief in case of absolute sickness, but also to do all they can to promote the healthy action of mind in their patients, by giving them, so far as medical skill can do it, unimpaired and vigorous health of body. And on the other hand, they should regard the treatment of disordered minds, that most delicate and responsible office, as coming within the sphere of their professional duty, and oftentimes, in fact, absolutely necessary to the successful treatment of bodily disorder. An acquaintance with the physiology of mind is therefore highly useful VOL. III.
to a medical practitioner. Dr. Abercombie's book contains much “excellent learning” in this department of professional study.
The Philosophy of the Moral Feelings is a work of the same unpretending character with its predecessor. We are struck, on opening the work, with its religious tendency. It is the morality of the Bible of which the author treats. He justly considers the word of God as a light of which we ought to avail ourselves in our inquiries concerning the principles of morals. For the Bible contains all the precepts by which our feelings and conduct should be regulated both towards God and towards man. Moral philosophy is not, as it seems sometimes to have been considered, a sort of supplement to the Bible, bringing to light some new truths which the Scriptures do not reveal. It is not the object of philosophy to add aught to the instructions of our Almighty Teacher in the science of ethics. Philosophy, as we have before remarked, seeks to separate principles from the symbols in which they are embodied. The Bible generally teaches morality by examples, and it nowhere sets forth a digested system of morals. It is the office of philosophy to evolve the principles of morality from the examples that occur in the Scriptures, and also from examples taken from the circumstances now present, and therefore more convincing; and to arrange its principles in systematic order under appropriate heads. Philosophy teaches the reasons of duty rather than duty itself. The Scriptures leave it to the reason of man to discover why he should yield obedience to their injunctions. Philosophy is not independent of revelation, but indissolubly united with it, and we are therefore pleased with the religious aspect of the work before us. If religion should leave the world, and return to Him whence she came, nothing could be given to supply her place but the mere shadow of morality.
Our author assumes certain “first truths, or articles of belief.” The very essence of infidelity consists in the refusal to make assumptions. If there be any moral principles at all, there must be first principles. And these principles must, of course, be taken for granted, as well in the science of morals as in every other science. Those who admit the existence of a philosophy of morals, and who yet refuse to make assumptions in this science, must also reject the axioms of every science, if they would be consistent with themselves. The mathematician makes his definitions, and then he declares that certain propositions in regard to the relations of these definitions are intuitively true. Suppose that the mathematician should either be so skeptical himself or should have so much regard for the doubts of others, that he should resolve to assume nothing. He would be compelled by his skepticism, or his misplaced courtesy, to acknowledge, either that there are no first principles in mathematics, and therefore no basis for any subsequent demonstration, and, consequently, that the whole science is without foundation, or, in other words, no science; or else that there are principles before the first. But mark, the person who would assume nothing, must himself make assumptions, and the most absurd assumptions too. He must assume, that every thing should be demonstrated. He must assume, either that we can arrive at no first principles in morals, or that there are principles before the first. But according to him, everything should be proved. These assumptions of his ought therefore to be proved. But who would take it upon him to prove the assumption that every thing requires proof? The very demonstration would prove that itself wanted proof-it would destroy itself. The very existence of all science depends on the assumption of first truths. It arises from a lurking infidelity, we believe, that men are so prone to make utility the test of moral rectitude. Like the unbelieving Jews, who demanded a sign from heaven in attestation of spiritual truths, which none but " an evil and adulterous generation," would have rejected, they cannot be satisfied without some demonstration to sense of that which the spirit only can discern.
Our limits will not allow us to notice many subjects of inquiry brought to view in the Philosophy of the Moral Feelings, which it would be more delightful to us, perhaps, than to our readers to discuss. The work is interesting, and will be useful; but it is not profound. The statement respecting the character of the moral feelings, and the moral sense, is inadequate. There are depths in the philosophy of mind and morals which Abercrombie has never fathomed. Truth, permanent and immutable, dwells below the surface of things.
WRITINGS OF WASHINGTON.
Writings, it resses, „Messd publishedthor, notes an Boston
The Writings of George Washington ; being his Corres
pondence, Addresses, Messages, and other papers, official and private, selected and published from the original manuscripts; with a Life of the Author, notes and illustrations. By Jared Sparks. Vols. II. and III. Boston: 1834.
The first volume of this work is to contain the Life of Washington ; and from the limits to which Mr. Sparks confines the biography, we presume it will be greatly sought. Especially will this be likely to happen, if it shall be also published separately from the “ Writings." Marshall's Life of the same man is too voluminous for universal reading, and too expensive for very general sale. And we have no hesitancy in predicting that Mr. Sparks will produce a Life, which will render of little value the copyrights of Doctors Ramsay and Bancroft.
The undertaking of Mr. Sparks, which is now so auspiciously commenced, has been announced for several years. And it is truly an object of national pride, no less than of national interest. For though the most interesting and valuable part of Washington's letters, as well as of his other writings, has already been given to the public; yet they have never before been presented in such order, sequence, and completeness, as their intrinsic value, the station and character of the author, and the honor of the country, demanded.
The elder President Adams expressed an apprehension, sixteen years ago, “ that the true history of the American revolution could not be recovered.” And undoubtedly there was then, and is yet, much ground to fear that the minutely exact truth of many important events, and of their true operative causes, is forever past finding out. But the nation and the world have reason to be grateful to Mr. Sparks for the additions to historical truth, which his arduous and well