« السابقةمتابعة »
If any one should too curiously object that there can be no direct proof of a similarity of impression, from the same object, on the senses of men in general; it might be answered, that neither is there any direct proof to the contrary: while we have many antecedent reasons for believing that there really is such a similarity of impression. The structure for instance of the several organs of taste, smell, hearing, and sight, is essentially the same in all individuals; and the functions of those organs may therefore be presumed to be the same: and from the similarity of the natural expression of disgust, which peculiar odours and flavours usually excite in numerous individuals, it cannot be reasonably doubted that their respective senses are similarly affected by those agents. If, again, any one should further object that we can have no absolutely firm ground for a reliance on the senses themselves, it might fairly be answered, that although, from the time of Pyrrho to that of Berkeley, there have been always speculative sceptics with respect to the testimony .# the senses, there probably has never been a practical sceptic on that point. It is stated in the life of Pyrrho by Diogenes Laertius, that though that philosopher asserted the nonexistence of matter, and pretended therefore to universal indifference, he was sometimes overcome by his feelings, and would then act as other men act on such occasions; and, when reminded of the inconsequence of his conduct with reference to his doctrine, he would excuse himself by asserting, that it is difficult entirely to put off human nature, (* x<xsway tin Saarzigo, ix359a 3,864 wor); and it must be confessed that, in this apology, he offered the best comment on the character of his doctrine. And most philosophically does Lucretius” argue, in noticing the apparent modifications of form which bodies undergo, in consequence of being viewed at different distances, that, although no satisfactory reason can be given of the
*Lib. iv. 502–512.
real cause of the illusion, it is preferable to assign a false reason, rather than, by a consequent want of reliance on our senses, to overturn those foundations of all belief, on which our safety and life depend. We have seen, in the course of the foregoing inquiry, how extensively the various objects of the material world are applicable to the wants and conveniences of man in every stage of society; and we cannot reasonably doubt that they were created for that, as a main purpose, among others to which they are subservient. Such at least was the conclusion of one of the greatest philosophers of antiquity; though unaided by the direct light of revelation. “For what purpose,” asks Cicero, “was the great fabric of the universe constructed was it merely for the purpose of perpetuating the various species of trees and herbs, which are not endued even with sensation?—the supposition is absurd. Or was it for the exclusive use of the inferior animals?—it is not at all more probable that the Deity would have produced so magnificent a structure for the sake of beings, which, although endued with sensation, possess neither speech nor intelligence. For whom then was the world produced 1–doubtless for those beings who are alone endued with reason.” (“Sin quaerat quispiam, cujusnam causa tantarum rerum molitio facta sit: arborumne et herbarum ! quas, quanquam sine sensu sunt, tamen a natura sustinentur; at id quidem absurdum est. An bestiarum ? nihilo probabilius, Deos mutarum et nihil intelligentium causa tantum laborasse. Quorum igitur causa quis dixerit effectum esse mundum ? Eorum scilicet animantium quae ratione utuntur.”) Whether the earliest steps in the discovery of the arts of life depend on the effect of divine inspiration, of which the subject of that inspiration is unconscious—to which supposition there does not appear any reasonable objection—or whether they result from the impulse of unassisted reason; it would be fruitless to inquire : but it is interesting to contemplate the similarity of principle which seems to regulate the discoveries of the useful properties of material substances.* Man does not appear to possess that kind of instinct which leads him to the selection of a specific sort of material for his nourishment or clothing, or for the construction of his habitation: but, in proportion as he feels new wants, he meditates on the means of gratifying them; and usually perceives, with a quick eye, those qualities in external bodies, which make them capable of being fitted to the end he has in view. This power of perception is peculiarly characteristic of the intellectual faculties of man: and although the inferior animals have, to a certain extent, the same power, with reference to their specific instincts, yet in them it is very limited. The nest of the same bird may be composed, in different years, of somewhat different materials, according to the latitude of her choice; but, with the exception of such a modification, she never varies from or improves upon the original plan: the comparatively unsheltered hovel of the rook, for instance, is never improved into the comfortable cottage of the swallow. It is probably owing to the exercise of the above mentioned power of perception in the human mind, that the instruments and arts of uncivilized life, observable at all periods of history and in all parts of the world, have such a general resemblance; although, in the construction of the one, or the exercise of the other, there cannot have been any communication of knowledge. Compare, for instance, the stone arrow-heads and axes of the ancient Celtic nations, with the similar instruments of the inhabitants of those islands of the Pacific Ocean which were not discovered till the last century. The following fact, and accompanying remark, may be mentioned, in illustration of the present part of the subject. Captain Beechey, in describing a dead whale which had been wounded by an Esquimaux harpoon, having “a drag attached, made of an inflated seal skin, which had no doubt worried the animal to death,” adds this pertinent observation. “Thus, with knowledge just proportioned to their wants, do these untutored barbarians, with their slender boats and limited means, contrive to take the largest animal of the creation.” Voyage to the Pacific, p. 270.*
* Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. ii. c. 53.
*The following passages, one from Vitruvius, the other from Cicero, are applicable on the present occasion. “ The Deity has provided an abundant supply in every part of the world for the necessary wants of man; and has ordained that that supply shall be easily attainable: whereas those things which are to be considered in the light of luxuries, as gold and precious stones, are rarely met with, and are procured with difficulty.” (“Igitur divina mens, quae proprie necessaria essent gentibus, non constituit difficilia et cara; uti sunt margarito, caeteraque quae nec corpus nec natura desiderat: sed sine quibus mortalium vita non potest esse tuta, effudit ad manum parata per omnem mundum.” Vitruv. Prefat. ad lib. viii.), “In vain had nature created gold and silver, and copper and iron, unless she had at the same time instructed mankind how to discover the repositories of those metals. And, again, in vain had the material been adapted to our wants, unless we understood the method of obtaining it in a separate and perfect state.” (“Aurum et argentum, acs, ferrum, frustra natura divina genuisset, nisi eaderm docuisset quemadmodum ad eorum venas perveniretur—materia deinde quid juvaret, nisi confectionis ejus fabricam haberemus " Cicero de Divinat. lib. i. e. 51.) The following passage from Isaiah gives authority to the preceding opinion: “Doth the plowman plow all day, to sow doth he open and break the clods of his ground ! When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rye in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.” Ch. xxviii. 24–26. And so, when Dr. Thomson considers it as “remarkable that almost all those metals which were known to the ancients possessmalleability,” (Thomson's Chemistry, sixth edit. vol. i. p. 325.) it may with propriety be observed that those are exactly the metals, without which society could not have existed. * The same author observes, in a short sketch of Upper California, that the natives cultivate no land, but subsist entirely “by the chase and upon the spontaneous produce of the earth; acorns, of which there is a great abundance in the country, constituting their principal vegetable food. Of these acorns they procure a supply in the proper season; and, after having baked them, they bruise them between two stones into a paste which will keep unto the following season. The paste, before it is dried, is subjected to several washings in a sieve; which process, they say, deprives it of the bitter taste common to the acorn. We cannot but remark the great resemblance this custom bears to the method adopted by the South-sea islanders to keep their bread-fruit: nor ought we to fail to notice the manner in which Providence points out to different tribes the same wise means of preserving their food, and providing against a season of scarcity.” (p. 399.) A similar reflection will naturally occur to the reader with respect to their mode of o deer and ducks: their plan, in the latter instance, differing very little from our own; in the former, being conducted on the principle of the stalking horse, (p. 399, 400. See also De Bry, vol. i. pl. 25. Descript. of Florida.) On one occasion, in alluding to the structure of the bow among uncivilized nations, Captain Beechey forcibly reminds the classi. cal reader of a line in the first book of the Iliad: hio 3: ...xayy; wiver’ &c.,weiate 8teio for, after having said that the Californians string their bows much as we do (p. 402) he states that the Esquimaux leave the string in contact with about a foot of the wood at each end; while the Californians muffle that part with fur, in order to prevent the report, which would betray them, when fighting in ambush. (p. 575.)
It is probable, then, that there is an instinctive tendency in man to meditate on the nature and properties of those material objects and phenomena which are frequently presented to his view; and subsequently to derive from this meditation the means of applying those objects and phenomena to his wants, whether of a necessary or an artificial character. Thus astronomy was originally cultivated with most success by those who lived in a climate in which an unclouded sky prevailed; navigation, by those who lived on the borders of the ocean; and the general arts of life, by those who inhabited regions characterized by the fertility of their soil, and the abundance and variety of their mineral productions. Of these positions, ancient Egypt, Phenicia, and India are respectively instances: though it is not intended to affirm that an unclouded sky is alone sufficient to produce a tendency towards the cultivation, much less a national superiority in the science of astronomy; nor a vicinity to the sea, an excellence in