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ON THE PASSIONS OF THE HUMAN MIND.
When we speak of nature, in general language, we convey the notion of the universal system ; the heavens, with their fixed, rotatory, and eccentric luminaries; the earth, with its atmosphere, inhabitants, vegetable productions, and mineral treasures: in short, all the works of the obvious or the presumed creation. Nature, in the stricter definition of a philosophical terminology, is that set and series of qualities which have always appeared attached to, and have been always developed by, any known substance and being. Every animal is continued in its kind; each inorganic structure is cast according to the same law. An exactness in all elementary proportions has been most clearly proved to subsist. The very stratification of our globe, where we might suppose an undigested confusion would be found, follows a perfect scale of order. Genus and species remain what they were ; they exhibit the same phænomena ; their constitution is fixed and successive. When we say that it has always been, we borrow the testimony of history to the fact, or reason upon its silence respecting the contrary. When we say that it shall always be, we reason from analogy to probability, as well as from the inutility to the unlikelihood of any alteration. We are formed and compelled to act upon the assurance of such absolute arrangement. We, therefore, express the strongest certainty with reference to any event, that it is as inevitable as ocean's tide and to-morrow's sunrise. Now what warrants these predictions ? That such states of things have hitherto recurred can establish no perpetuity. They cannot be necessary, for these operations had a beginning ;—what had a beginning may, at least, have an end. The mind, consequently, proceeds upon this belief, that the great machine, so nicely balanced and adjusted in its parts, shall be equally consistent
and regular in its movements. Such is the permanent uniformity which we observe; such is the simple, the intuitive, credence which it obtains; and such is the practical use to which this credence is subservient.
These data will not be refused us in the intellectual enquiry. Mind is given to man. Though we cannot conceive of a point in time when mind, Causative and Essential, did not exist, it is alike impossible to conceive that created mind could have always existed. It is only with the mind of men that we are now concerned. Matter may unfold, to other intelligences, attributes of which we, who judge of it by particular senses, have no perception. Mind may possess, in incorporeal conditions, a life and might to us utterly unimaginable; but we have only witnessed it coupled with its grosser framework, and by no means independent of its control. It is not like matter, unchangeable in its result, for it is a thing of range, volition, and progression. But then these are its signs and laws; in other words, its nature. In its primary susceptibilities, it is in all of one character. “ Ab uno, Disce omnes.” The human intellect is incessantly impelled and affected by the same causes; it is seen acting in the same ways and directions.
It is remarked by Johnson—“Our intercourse with intellectual nature is necessary; our speculations upon matter are voluntary and at leisure.” And this is now more generally allowed than when he made this enlightened observation. The soul of man, long suspected to wait servilely upon what was most inferior to it, and to follow obsequiously in its train-as the sun was degraded to revolve round our planet and to be ruled by its attractions—now challenges its prerogative, asserts its supremacy ; the central sun imparting a glory it could not borrow, and communicating an impulse it could not obey. A sort of Copernican revolution is achieved in the prejudices of mankind.
The fidelity of our mental impressions, the certainty of our mental activities, it is not my present purpose to confirm. We cannot prove them, indeed, by mathematical reasonings. This science can have no application to them. It has nothing to
do with things which exist by constitution, but with things which must have always been, and never could have been otherwise than they are. Mind is a contingent substance; a physic as truly as any form of matter,—a conditional existence. It cannot, therefore, admit of this kind of proof, and most preposterous is it to call for it. “It may seem,” says Warburton, “perhaps, too much a paradox to say that long habit in this science incapacitates the mind for reasoning at large, and especially in the search of moral truth; and yet I believe that nothing is more certain. The object of geometry is demonstration; and its subject admits of it, and is almost the only one which doth. In this science, whatever is not demonstration is nothing, or at least below the sublime enquirer's regard. Probability, through its almost infinite degrees, from simple ignorance up to absolute certainty, is the terra incognita of the geometer. And yet here it is that the great business of the human mind is carried on, the search and discovery of all the important truths which concern us as reasonable beings."
Consciousness and intuition form the basis of this department of knowledge. I exist. I think. Nothing can be more certified than the convictions which every man possesses of these facts. These are our postulates, it is true; but they are also our axioms. They are resolveable into what Dr. Campbell styles “the common sense.” And surely, if these be not allowed, our organs of sensation, history, mathematical truth, can have no existence to us. Consciousness gives me as full assurance of what falls under its cognizance as demonstrative certitude itself. It is no feeble guide; it is our first and best. The region of mind is its province. We thus can pursue our research, not into its nexus and essence, for the substrata of all qualities are by the very shape of our being necessarily concealed from us; but into its capabilities, its workings, its transitions, its excitements. This will require a habit of abstraction, a patience of investigation, which all may not find easy to exercise. We cannot contrive a glass-hive within which the mental operations shall be made visible; nor the solar microscope, under which its most delicate anatomy shall become transparent. But
a no intolerable share of attention is necessary; and whatever is in this way devoted will be munificently repaid. This, so far, may be considered only an internal process, the knowledge by the individual of himself. But we have to deal with the human mind as pertaining to all human beings-individuated, a monad, in each. Yet, while appearing so widely and similarly, we may discourse of it as separable from consciousness, a common and external thing. It may be subjected to ordinary tests. We may bring to bear upon it, experiment, classification, and induction. For what is education but a course of experiments upon the mind? I am afraid that this is so well known, that there are some who, with a wanton curiosity and an idle parade, vary to exhibit them. And we almost unwittingly classify minds. We lay them out in specimens and orders. We speak of them as judicious, acute, strong, susceptible, poetic, argumentative, sentimental, figurative, chaste. Nor can it be doubted that induction may here be as justly introduced. Our thoughts, feelings, elements of character, motives of conduct, are so many phænomena which may be ascertained, established, compared, systematised. The only theory that can live, is the plainest presentation and the closest copy of mental facts. The inductive principle must not be confined, then, to the limits of our own intellect; we must seek information in the self-sketched portraitures of other minds. We must scan those events which, as on a theatre, bring forth our nature in its undissembled reality. Our mind must be studied in its relation to universal mind. The one is only the alphabet, the other is the volume; but from the endless combinations of the one is the other filled.
The mind has been represented as consisting, or as possessed, of various powers; with eyes like Argus, with arms like Briareus. To descend from these classical marvels, it has been made to run as a centipede, and to open into countless instruments as a Sheffield knife. Others have conceived that these enumerations were too extensive ; they have reinserted all these powers into far fewer, some even into one. They have given way respectively, conceding the sovereignty to survivors or
survivor, as the Curiatii and Horatii contended on the condition that the final victor should decide the right of Alba or Rome.
The most intelligible view which can be entertained of the intellectual operations is, that the mind, uncompounded, homogeneous, is found in certain states ; that these may be confidently expected in certain circumstances and from particular excitements, answering to a known relation of what we call cause and effect. I am much inclined to think that our best writers meant no more when they spoke of powers. Reid and Stewart were not likely men to ascribe to the intellect any idea of muscular energies and organic instruments. It is, however, the merit of Brown, that he adopted a more precise phraseology, although Hume's hypothesis, substituting antecedence and sequence, the relation of time, for cause and effect, the relation of influence, -so intricately mixed up with it is not essential to it, and, in my apprehension, tends to confound it.
A distinction has been frequently taken between the intellectual and active faculties. To such distinction we cannot subscribe. The passions are set down by it as the inferior principles of our nature; a sort of lower house, drawing the bills and voting the supplies which the upper one can only pass and expend; and but admissible, by a peculiar courtesy, into the Painted Chamber of the imagination, to conference with their noble and approved good masters.
Only let it be understood that our present discussion does not embrace the animal appetites, but the passions of the human mind. Those appetites are to be known by the uneasy sensations which precede their indulgence, by their inconstancy, by their being soon sated, by the interval necessary to their return. Such are hunger and thirst, and whatever we crave in conjunction and sympathy with exclusively sentient beings. Higher instincts might be subjoined to these appetites; attachment to life, desire of pleasure, delight in feelings and displays of crescent power, parental love, the gregarious principle, the ambition of distinction, adherence to soil and locality, self