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two subjects lying perfectly distinct, and their spheres being divided by an impassable boundary.
Lastly, I conceive that Mr Combe's views on the subject of criminal legislation have been admirably refuted by Mr Combe himself, and that on grounds which, on his own principles, it is impossible for him to
There are various other subjects treated of in Mr Combe's work, into which at present I have neither leisure nor inclination to enter. I cannot prevail upon myself, for instance, to engage in any discussion as to the laws of propagation, which, as it appears to me, it would be better to leave to be treated of scientifically and separately, as an object of medical inquiry. The details to which it leads appear to me unutterably disgusting in a work like the present. Some of them may have a foundation in nature, but many others are pre-eminently absurd, and some of them, as I think, demonstrably false. It appears to me that the knowledge which mankind in general possess on this subject is already quite sufficient for any practical or practicable purpose; and that, in relation to the intercourse between the sexes, matters are better ordered by leaving them to be regulated by natural taste and natural feeling, than by attempting to subvert these, and to put them under the dominion of any set of hard philosophical rules. I am not prepared on this subject, to sacrifice the retiring graces of female modesty, or the hallowed flame of virtuous love, to the cold calculations of a harsh and unbending philosophy.
Neither am I disposed to follow Mr Combe through his speculations on politics and political economy, which appear to be equally crude and undigested, as those upon the subjects which have been already touched upon. In these speculations he seems to have taken no enlarged,
statesmanlike, or truly philosophical survey of any question, but to have adopted, in the lump, the prejudiced, and sometimes illiberal views of one particular party, which he does his utmost to support by an application of phrenological principles; and that all this is done in such a way as to shew, not that the political views naturally or necessarily follow from the philosophical, but that the former have been adopted in the first place, and that he has afterwards set himself to bolster them up, by arguments, often of the weakest description, drawn, or attempted to be drawn, from the latter.
It would be endless to follow him through the interminable cases he produces of the evils, or punishments, which men bring upon themselves by what he calls disobeying the natural laws. What is the use of appalling us with such details, until he first informs us what are the laws that we are called upon to obey. I have as yet seen no code of these laws, however imperfect; certainly there is none contained in Mr Combe's book. I have heard of some of them, particularly one, that people should sit for an hour or two after every meal, in total idleness, in order to allow the nervous energy of the brain to expend itself in the proper digestion of the food; and another, (which is particularly new,) that it is necessary to walk a certain number of miles every day before dinner, for the purpose of procuring an appetite. Then we have long stories about shipwrecks, and fires in Edinburgh; about retired tradesmen, and weavers out of work, and il ventilated rooms, and flannel jackets, and colds caught by exposure after being warm, and feminine tales of "unaired shirts, catarrhs and toothach got with thin soled shoes." What utter drivelling is this! Does not every individual, possessing the most limited portion of sense and information, know all these things almost, if not altogether, as well as Mr
Combe? And what is the use of writing interminable books to prove what is perfectly obvious to every old woman in the parish? If Mr Combe thought that the world at large stood in need of this sort of information, he might have communicated all that he has done, and ten times more, to ten times better purpose, without all this fuss the parade of conjoining such commonplace trash with what appears to be intended as a philosophical system.
Taking a general view of Mr Combe's System as a whole, I must be forgiven for saying, that it is a low and grovelling system. It is grovelling in respect of its objects, in respect of the motives it presents to us,— and in respect of its excluding all that can serve truly to elevate the views, and exalt the character of man.
It is low in respect of its objects,-which are confined to the paltry details and insignificant concerns of the present life; leading, if it should ever be practically followed, to the devotion of our whole time and attention to remedying evils which it is often better to despise, and to procuring accommodations which add nothing to the happiness of a noble mind.
It is low in respect of its motives,—which are uniformly selfish throughout. It calls us to cultivate our higher sentiments and intellect, not from high, disinterested, or elevating considerations, but solely as the best means of increasing our own enjoyment. In respect of the motives which it offers, it seems to be exactly on a level with the system of Epicurus; and, like that system, leads us to consider the "supreme good" to consist in
ease of body, and tranquillity of mind." It is infinitely inferior, in this respect, to the systems of Plato or the Stoics, and many others that might be named. I shall not insult the reader by stating any comparison between it and Christianity.
It is a low system, because it leaves out all the motives that most effectually tend to exalt and ameliorate the human character. It presents us with no object of love and reverence-no being who can be the object of worship or adoration, exhibits no character removed above the most ordinary level of human mediocrity none the least approaching to individual excellence - none that can be pointed out as an example for imitation.
The systematic exclusion of a future state-the prime circumstance in our condition which elevates us above the "brutes that perish;" the limiting our views to the present unsatisfactory life — unsatisfactory, unless considered in reference to another; the refusing to Hope, the only object on which it can rest with full satisfaction, - all these circumstances are quite enough to bear out the proposition, that it is a low and grovelling system.
Let it not be supposed for a moment, that I object to the cultivation and proper use of scientific knowledge. On the contrary, I hold, with Lord Bacon, that it is impossible to go too far in the study of natural truth, or in the study of revealed truth.* All truth, when discovered, and when its proper limits and applications have been fully investigated, will in due time be applied to its own legitimate uses. It is impossible to prevent this, and it would be eminently absurd to object to it. But what I object to is, the rash, premature, and ill advised use of a knowledge that is but half scientific; attempting to force into practical
⭑ "To conclude, therefore, let no man, upon a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill applied moderation, think or maintain that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works - divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both only, let men beware, that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling; to use, and not to ostentation; and again, that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together.” Bacon's Works, vol. ii. p. 13.
use a crude and imperfect knowledge, or applying real knowledge to uses which it never can be fitted to serve.
This, however, has been the fate of almost every science at, or soon after, its discovery. In almost every case, the original discoverers, or first cultivators of a new science, have mistaken the true ends which it was ultimately destined to achieve, and endeavoured to apply it in a way and to purposes which could never lead to any successful result. The first cultivators of the science of Astronomy were astrologers, and attempted, by studying the motions of the heavenly bodies, to arrive at the knowledge of future events. This was not the mere superstition of the ignorant vulgar, but was reduced into regular method; and the calculations made by rules, which are treated of in many elaborate works. This extraordinary misapplication of the most perfect and sublime of all sciences, even continued to bewilder the understandings of men down to the age of Bacon and Galileo. Tycho Brahe was infected with it; and Kepler, who paved the way for the discoveries of Newton, was, for a great part of his life, employed in pursuing phantoms equally unsubstantial. Astronomy had been studied in one country or another for three thousand years before its true uses were discovered, and before it was applied practically and efficiently to the improvement of navigation and geography-for ascertaining the true figure of the earth, and the relative situation of places on its surface.
The original students of Chemistry were the alchemists. They had not the least conception of the important results which have since arisen from this science; they aimed at discovering the elementary qualities of substances, for the purpose of enabling them to convert the baser metals into gold,—an object which, if attained, would have been useless to the world, and infinitely pernicious to the discoverers. This pursuit also was not