Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

PROP. III.

If any perceived Figure is really extended, all perceived Figures must be.

It may be proper to begin this section by reminding the reader, that the theory of Dr. Reid agrees with me, against Berkeley, that the forms we perceive are really extended.—This being so, the grand question here is, whether these forms are the identical bodies of external things, such as houses, trees, men,-microscopic animals,-meteors,—and stars ? Now, though I consider this very sufficiently answered in the negative, by various arguments in the essay to which this serves as a supplement, yet we will, here, for a moment suppose it otherwise, agreeably with Dr. Reid; and then submit this supposition to any Berkeleian, for his objections. In such case, I think, the Berkeleian would confidently ask-what, and where, are those similar figures which we perceive in dreams, in memory, and in imagination, at all which times we are not impressed by any external things like to the figures so perceived? Here if the Reideian chuse to answer, that though the forms daily perceived, are really extended; yet those perceived in dreams, and memory, are merely ideal figures (creatures of the mind, and therefore non-extended,) will not the Berkeleian laugh outright, at an assertion so purely arbitrary and inconsistent ? Consciousness never deceives, -and both every “ appearance of color," and every remembrance of such appearance, is a feeling with some figure :--and, if the very nature of figure is different from feeling (as both Dr. Reid and I maintain it is) is it not the height of absurdity to suppose one set of figures really extended, and another set nothing but feelings without any extension? Farther, if we are deceived in dreams, by perceiving figures that are not really extended, why may not figure be equally a cheat throughout the day, as Berkeley says it is? It becomes undeniable, that if any perceived figure is really extended, all perceived or conceived figures must be the like.

Now, while figures in dreams, and in memory, utterly overthrow Reid's doctrine, (that perceived figures are separate exter. nal bodies) they do not at all support the Berkeleian theory, or pake against that which is herein advanced; for I find all per

ceived superficial figures (those known with sensations,—those of memory, of imagination, and of dreams) all really extended. That is to say, they are forms agitated upon the exterior surface of the percipient itself. It is subsequent to the perception of figures, that we judge their causes to be external, and of trine dimension; which judgments of externality and depth, we give as well to our dreams, and imaginations, when such things do not impress from without, as to our sensations, when things do. It becomes demonstrated here that perception of an external thing does not depend upon, nor demand, the real existence of any such external thing; but upon a perception of figure in the mind, and a judgment of reuson formed upon it. As a farther proof of this, even during vigilance and attentive observation, we often perceive figures that have no external cause as confidently as we perceive those that have. The ignited point of a stick, moved with velocity, gives us perception of large circles, or other figures; while there is no reason to suppose these figures any other than “ appearances of color in the mind :" And yet I think Dr. Reid would assuredly have admitted, that the fiery circles are really extended. I cannot suppose these proofs can be desired more conclusive.

In the foregoing arguments I have confined the subject to perceptions from the sense of sight, as being the most comprehensive, and most practised sense. But it is proper to add, that, though it is generally thought otherwise, I consider the sense of touch incapable (as well that of sight,) to perceive solid figure, primarily. In other words, the perception of trine dimension, is an acquired perception from touch, as well as from sight. First, It will be granted, that solid figure cannot be perceived by any mode of touch, except wherein the body felt, is embraced; such as a ball, or a cube, enclosed by the hand. Now, I think, if a man grasp a cube from infancy to age, he never can make it out a cube. On the contrary, he must move his hand upon it, and feel the sides, one after another; in which process he will perceive only so many surfaces, related in certain positions; and these he must connect in his judgment, in the same way they stand connected in the cube itself. Here it is intellect only assures him that these superficies,

so related, enclose a cube. In grasping a ball it is more simply evident, that we perceive nothing but one continued superficies ; and it is the fore-knowledge of the form and powers of the hand leads us to judge, that this surface encloses a solid figure. I think no figure is primarily perceived, that requires motion in the process. But, as we can intellectually connect all perceived superficies, in similar angles, and bearings, to what exist in bodies themselves; and can also create an endless variety for our amusement, or information; there appears no utility in a primary immediate perception of solids by touch, any more than by sight; and such a gift from nature would rather lower, than elevate us : for, surely, it is more noble to perceive by intellect, than by sense.

Upon the whole it is manifest, that by sensation the human mind can perceive nothing but superficial figure--and these may exist without any notion of an external cause. And all knowledge of the external world is by intellect itself; that is, by the same genus of process by which we perceive moral truth, and mathematical truth.

Prop. IV. Inspired Perception of Figure is no barrier

against Berkeley's Idealism.

The dogma of the mind's inextension has operated with almost equal power, though with very different effects, upon different philosophers. It is an enchantment of that strength, that under it the soundest minds are made to adopt the most unheard of and incredible conclusions. That it was the foundation of Berkeley's idealism I shall presently endeavour to make evident : and that it has been mainly assisting to produce the almost equally extraordinary theory of Reid, I think is no less true. The last mentioned philosopher having professedly assumed this dogma, (though it is deeply to be regretted that proofs are not given to us) it followed, of course, that he could not possibly admit the general fact which appeared so unquestionable to the three acute geniuses of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, that perceived figure is conjoint with sensa

NO. IX. Pam. VOL. V.

E

tion. He therefore was obliged to suppose the only alternative that could, at one blow, exclude both the extension of the percipient, and the old theory of ideas, and accordingly maintained, that we do not perceive figure at all : but that after a sensation, which is after an impulse from an external thing, we are inspired with a notion of figure, &se.

If this were indeed true, to call it perception of an external thing would still be most arbitrary; since, at best, it is only perception of an inspired notion of figure, several changes of process subsequent to the impulse from the external thing itself; and, for aught we know, may be no more like the external figure, than light is like darkness. To say the least, it is as roundabout, as humiliating, and as questionable an evidence of external existences, as can de supposed.

Such perception certainly opposes no barrier against the idealism of Berkeley : for if we are only inspired with a notion of figure at the last link of a chain of processes, the first end of which is supposed to be at an external thing; why might we not be inspired without the external thing, since inspiration means something from God as contradistinguished from process ?—The instrumentality of matter demands some process, and the idea of process excludes that of inspiration.

Besides the consequence of inspiration, what could Dr. Reid have adopted, more radically Berkeleian, than to maintain that .“ Apparitions of color” have no extension: and, yet, to have in another case taught that we have " the visible appearance of figure and extension," which, according to his general doctrine, must be truly inextended ?- This is the very marrow of Berkeley's doctrine, who insists that we perceive color, extension, and figure, in the mind; yet, “ not by way of mode or attribute, but only by way of idea.".

· Here it is proper to refer the reader to Reid's “ Inquiry into the Mind," Chap. 6. Sect. 4. for the following passages.—“ When a colored body is present, there is a certain apparition to the mind, which we have called the appearance of color.”_“ It is a kind of thought, and can only be an act of a percipient being."-But, with Dr. Reid, an appearance seems any thing

· To treat of “ the visible appearance of figure and extension, after maintaining that the “ appearance of color” is not extended, is a most con,plete oversight, or contradiction. This I think so conspicuously evident, that nothing can make it more so; and the hypothesis, here, both throws its rider and explodes itself. On the contrary side One thing is certain, namely, that we perceive thousands not only of colors, but of figures also, when no such external things are perceived, or even exist. It therefore appears wonderful that any one should attempt to deny, that perceived figures are conjoint with our ideas : while, together with this fact, we must always keep in view that consideration which, on account of its magnitude, I here beg leave to repeat.

The very and only foundation stone of Reid's doctrine, against Berkeley, and against scepticism ; and which also is the foundation of my own view; is, that the nature of figure is different from that of feeling. I, indeed, maintain, and am prepared to show, that the two may exist conjoined; but still, the one can never be the other : and if the very essence of figure be real extension, it is impossible it can in any case put off its essence, and appear to us, in dreams, or in any mode of conception, with only an ideal essence. It therefore follows, that to admit the real extension of figures perceived in ordinary, and, at the same time, to deny the real extension of ideal figures, must be too ridiculous ever to be gravely proposed. What then can be the use of denying that “the visible appearance of color, figure, and extension," is really extended ; since, if this were possible to suppose, it could not alter the remaining general fact, that figures are perceived when external things are not.

It becomes evident that no hypothesis of perception, however

bat itself; for be maintains, “ un upparition” is an “ Act."--An apparition has no extension. An appearance has not one feature of resemblance of that thing of which it is the apparition !!!-All this is wonderful enough when confined to color only; but, it so happens, that in Sect. 3. he teaches us to distinguish “the visible appearance of color, figure, and extension ;" by which fortunate lapse to nature he admits (against his general doctrine) the great fact, that figure and extension have also their appearances, their apparitions to the mind."

« AnteriorContinuar »