Imágenes de páginas


(f the necessary consequences of the Hartleian Theory—of the original

mistake or equivocation which procured its admission-Memoria technica.

We will pass by the utter incompatibility of such a law—if law it may be called, which would itself be the slave of chances with even that appearance of rationality forced upon us by the outward phænomena of human conduct, abstracted from our own consciousness. We will agree to forget this for the moment, in order to fix our attention on that subordination of final to efficient causes in the human being, which flows of necessity from the assumption, that the will and, with the will, all acts of thought and attention are parts and products of this blind mechanism, instead of being distinct powers, the function of which it is to control, determine, and modify the phantasmal chaos of association. The soul becomes a mere ens logicum ; for, as a real separable being, it would be more worthless and ludicrous than the Grimal. kins in the cat-harpsichord, described in the Spectator. For these did form a part of the process; but, in Hartley's scheme, the soul is present only to be pinched or stroked, while the very squeals or purring are produced by an agency wholly indepen. dent and alien. It involves all the difficulties, all the incomprehensibility (if it be not indeed, ús épouye dosii, the absurdity), of intercommunion between substances that have no one property in common, without any of the convenient consequences that bribed the judgment to the admission of the Dualistic hypothesis. Accordingly, this caput mortuum of the Hartleian process has been rejected by his followers, and the consciousness considered as a result, as a tune, the common product of the breeze and the harp: though this again is the mere remotion of one absurdity to make way for another, equally preposterous. For what is harmony but a mode of relation, the very esse of which is percipi ?—an ens rationale, which pre-supposes the power, that by perceiving creates it ? The razor's edge becomes a saw to the armed vision ; and the delicious melodies of Purcell or Cimarosa might be disjointed stammerings to a hearer, whose partition of time should be a thousand times subtler than ours. But this obstacle too let us imagine ourselves to have surmounted, and “at one bound high overleap all bound.” Yet according to this hypothesis the disquisition, to which I am at present soliciting the reader's atten. tion, may be as truly said to be written by Saint Paul's church, as by me: for it is the mere motion of my muscles and nerves; and these again are set in motion from external causes equally passive, which external causes stand themselves in interdependent connexion with everything that exists or has existed. Thus the whole universe co-operates to produce the minutest stroke of

every letter, save only that I myself, and I alone, have nothing to ? do with it, but merely the causeless and effectless beholding of it

when it is done. Yet scarcely can it be called a beholding; for it is neither an act nor an effect; but an impossible creation of a something nothing out of its very contrary! It is the mere quick, silver plating behind a looking-glass; and in this' alone consists the poor worthless I! The sum total of my moral and intellectual intercourse, dissolved into its elements, is reduced to extension, motion, degrees of velocity, and those diminished copies of configurative motion, which form what we call notions, and notions of notions. Of such philosophy well might Butler say

The metaphysic's but a puppet motion
*That goes with screws, the notion of a notion ;
The copy of a copy and lame draught
Unnaturally taken from a thought:
That counterfeits all pantomimic tricks,
And turns the eyes, like an old crucifix;
That counterchanges whatsoe'er it calls
By another name, and makes it true or false;
Turns truth to falsehood, falsehood. into truth,
By virtue of the Babylonian's tooth.1

The inventor of the watch, if this doctrine be true, did not in

[Miscellaneous Thoughts. Ed.]

reality invent it; he only looked on while the blind causes, the only true artists, were unfolding themselves. So must it have been too with my friend Allston, when he sketched his picture of the dead man revived by the bones of the prophet, Elijah.' So must it have been with Southey and Lord Byron, when the one fancied himself composing his Roderick and the other his Childe Harold. The same must hold good of all systems of philosophy; of all arts, governments, wars by sea and by land ; in short, of all things that ever have been or that ever will be pro. duced. For, according to this system, it is not the affections and passions that are at work, in as far as they are sensations or thoughts. We only fancy, that we act from rational resolves, or prudent motives, or from impulses of anger, love, or generosity. In all these cases the real agent is a something nothing everything, which does all of which we know, and knows nothing of all that itself does.

The existence of an infinite spirit, of an intelligent and holy will, must, on this system, be mere articulated motions of the air. For as the function of the human understanding is no other than

? [This expression of regard for the great painter of America may well justify the publication of the following beautiful sonnet, which Mr. Allston, a master of either pencil, did the Editor the honor to send to him


On the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
And thou art gone-most lov'd, most honor'd Friend!
No-never more thy gentle voice shall blend
With air of earth its pure, ideal tones,-
Binding in one, as with harmonious zones,
The heart and intellect. And I no more
Shall with Thee gaze on that unfathom'd deep,
The human soul ;-as when, push'd off the shore,
Thy mystic bark would thro' the darkness sweep,
Itself the while so bright! For oft we seem'd
As on some starless sea--all dark above,
All dark below,-yet, onward as we drove,
To plough up light that ever round us stream'd.
But he who mourns is not as one berest
Of all he lov'd:-Thy living Truths are left.

Cambridge Port, Massachusetts, America Ed.]

merely to appear to itself to combine and to apply the phenomena of the association; and as these derive all their reality from the primary sensation ; and the sensations again, all their reality from the impressions ab extra ; a God not visible, audible, or tangible, can exist only in the sounds and letters that form his name and attributes. If in ourselves there be no such faculties as those of the will, and the scientific reason, we must either have an innate idea of them, which would overthrow the whole system; or we can have no idea at all. The process by which Hume degraded the notion of cause and effect into a blind product of delusion and habit, into the mere sensation of proceeding life (nisus vitalis) associated with the images of the memory ;- this same process must be repeated to the equal degradation of every fundamental idea in ethics or theology.

Far, very far am I from burdening with the odium of these consequences the moral characters of those who first formed, or have since adopted the system! It is most noticeable of the excellent and pious Hartley, that, in the proofs of the existence and attributes of God, with which his second volume commences, he makes no reference to the principles or the results of the first. Nay, he assumes as his foundations, ideas which, if we embrace the doctrines of his first volume, can exist nowhere but in the vibrations of the ethereal medium common to the nerves and to the atmosphere. Indeed the whole of the second volume is, with the fewest possible exceptions, independent of his peculiar system. So true is it, that the faith, which saves and sanctifies, is a collective energy, a total act of the whole moral being ; that its living sensorium is in the heart; and that no errors of the understanding can be morally arraigned unless they have proceeded from the heart. But whether they be such, no man can be certain in the case of another, scarcely perhaps even in his own. Hence it follows by inevitable consequence, that man may perchance determine what is a heresy ; but God only can know who is a heretic. It does not, however, by any means follow that opinions fundamentally false are harmless. A bundreď causes may co-exist to form one complex antidote. Yet

3 [See Inquiry concerning the Human Understanding. Sect. vii. Ed.]

the sting of the adder remains venomous, though there are many who have taken up the evil thing, and it hurted them not. Some indeed there seem to have been, in an unfortunate neighbor nation at least, who have embraced this system with a full view of all its moral and religious consequences ; some

who deem themselves most free,
When they within this gross and visible sphere
Chain down the winged thought, scoffing ascent,
Proud in their meanness; and themselves they cheat
With noisy emptiness of learned phrase,
Their subtle fluids, impacts, essences,
Self-working tools, uncaus'd effects, and all
Those blind omniscients, those almighty slaves,
Untenanting creation of its God! 4

Such men need discipline, not argument; they must be made better men, before they become wiser.

The attention will be more profitably employed in attempting to discover and expose the paralogisms, by the magic of which such a faith could find admission into minds framed for a nobler creed. These, it appears to me, may be all reduced to one sophism as their common genus ; the mistaking the conditions of a thing for its causes and essence; and the process, by which we arrive at the knowledge of a faculty, for the faculty itself. The air I breathe is the condition of my life, not its cause. We could never have learned that we had eyes but by the process of seeing; yet having seen we know that the eyes must have pre-existed in order to render the process of sight possible. Let us crossexamine Hartley's scheme under the guidance of this distinction ; and we shall discover, that contemporaneity (Leibnitz's Lex Continui") is the limit and condition of the laws of mind, itself being

* [Destiny of Nations. Poet. Works, I. Ed.]

5 [This principle of a continuum, cette belle loi de la continuité, as Leibnitz calls it in his lively style, which is even gay for that of a deep philosopher, intent on discovering the composition of the Universe, was introduced by him and first announced, as he mentions himself, in the Nouvelles de la République des Lettres de Mr. Bayle, which forms Art. xxiv. of Erdmann's edition of his works, under the title of Extrait d'une Lettre à Mr. Bayle, &c. He dwells upon this law in many of his philo.

« AnteriorContinuar »