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erroneous views of the nature of man, which render the writings of certain authors so injurious to the best interests of mankind. “ As man (says Addison) is a creature made up of different extremes, he has something in him very great and very mean. A skilful artist may draw an excellent picture of him in either of these views. The finest authors of antiquity have taken him on the more advantageous side. They cultivate the natural grandeur of the soul, raise in her a generous ambition, feed her with hopes of immortality and perfection, and do all they can to widen the partition between the virtuous and the vicious, by making the difference betwixt them as great as between gods and brutes. It is impossible to read a page in Plato, Tully, and a thousand other ancient moralists, without being a greater and a better man for it.
On the contrary, I could never read any of our modish French authors, or those of our own country who are the imitators and the admirers of that trifling nation, without being for some time out of humour with myself, and at every thing about me. Their business is to depreciate human nature, and consider it under its worst appearances. They give mean interpretations and base motives to the worthiest actions; they resolve virtue and vice into constitution; in short, they endeavour to make no distinction between man and man, or between the species of man and that of brutes *."
That the useless disquisitions of the schoolmen, which went under the denomination of metaphysics, have little tendency to afford the student correct and enlarged views of human nature, has been observed
* Tatler, No. 108.
by every one who has given the smallest attention to the subject. They answered some important purposes, however, in the ages of barbarism and of darkness; they preserved awake some share of attention to literary and scientific pursuits; and by the powerful, though ridiculous, contentions which they occasioned, they may be regarded as the means of transmitting the acquirements of Greece and Rome to future times. That knowledge is not altogether profitless which elevates the mind above the grossness of mere animal enjoyment, and which prevents it from sinking into that state of total inactivity, which while it continues, renders amelioration, either in the savage of the wood, or in the vassal of the tyrant, hopeless. “ Whatever," says Dr. Johnson, "withdraws us from the power of our senses ; whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings." Viewed in this light, the quibbles of the schoolmen, and the trifling disputations of a Thomas, and a Scotus, have not been without their use,
That science, however, which is known in modern times by the Philosophy of the Human Mind, is founded, not on hypothetical reasonings, but on a careful induction of facts; and while its study is attended with the incidental adyantages of the scholastic disquisitions, it puts within our reach the means of obtaining a just and extended acquaintance with the nature of
We are, in truth, engaged in ascertaining, not what were the opinions of Aristotle, or what were the theories which in succeeding ages amused the idle disputants who bowed to the authority of so great a Master; but in reflecting on the structure of our intellectual and moral frame, in analyzing the operations of the mind, in obtaining a knowledge of its powers and susceptibilities, and in rendering our inquiries subservient to the practical improvement of society.
“ Truth," says D'Alembert, -"truth in metaphy. sics, resembles truth in matters of taste. In both cases, the seeds of it exist in every mind; though few think of attending to this latent treasure, till it is pointed out to them by more curious inquirers. It should seem that every thing we learn from a good metaphysical book, is only a sort of reminiscence of what the mind previously knew. The obscurity of which we are apt to complain in this science, may be always justly ascribed to the author; because the information which he professes to communicate requires no technical language appropriated to itself. Accord. ingly, we may apply to good metaphysical authors, what has been said of those who excel in the art of writing, that, in reading them, every body is apt to imagine that he could have written in the same man
The same author points out, in the following sentence, the necessity of much reflection, in order to arrive at truth in this department of human knowledge. * In this sort of speculation, if all are qualified to understand, all are not fitted to teach. The merit of accommodating easily to the apprehensions of others, notions which are at once simple and just, appears, from its extreme rarity, to be much greater than is commonly imagined. Sound metaphysical principles are truths which every one is ready to seize, bụt which few men have the talent of unfolding; so diffi
cult it is in this, as well as in other instances, to appropriate to one's self what seems to be the common inheritance of the human race.”
It is an advantage peculiar to this science, that it renders every other tributary to it,--that it may be studied wherever there is a developement of the intellectual or moral faculties,-that the productions of the poet, the orator, and the mathematician indirectly contribute to its progress, and may often be employed in analyzing some of the most intricate and complex operations of the human mind; and that in reviewing the history of error as well as of truth, of speculation and of action, we have before us the phenomena on which many of our metaphysical reasonings are founded, and from which the deductions which we had previously made, receive additional confirmation. The library, which to the natural philosopher presents little that bears any relation to his pursuits, is full of instruction to him who makes man the subject of his study; and its varied volumes, as they are the record of human folly and of human wisdom, may furnish him with the means of extending his inquiries, and of enlarging the boundaries of moral science. Nor is the knowledge thus acquired so different in its practical utility from that of the man of the world, as some would persuade us to believe; it is equally susceptible of being applied to the purposes of life; and as it is the result of general, and not partial views of the intellectual and moral endowments of the species, it is surely far more likely to be conformable to truth, even when the individuals by whom it is possessed are destitute of those active habits which are only formed in society. If they cannot, in every case, account for the varied aspects of the world, and trace to their legitimate causes the perplexing phenomena which continually claim their attention; they are, at least, amply furnished with the means of prosecuting their favourite inquiries, and of forming the most important maxims for the regulation of their own conduct, and for the general improvement of mankind.
Thus the powers of reflection and observation, by which alone the study of man can be successfully prosecuted, are united. “ It is only by retiring within ourselves that we can obtain a key to the characters of others; and it is only by observing and comparing the characters of others, that we can thoroughly understand and appreciate our own*.”
A science which affords such continued discoveries, must be accompanied with a large share of enjoyment. The same feelings of surprise and admiration which were awakened when the world of mind first displayed its wonders to the view, are kept alive, in some degree, through the progress of life, by the ever-varying aspects of the mental phenomena, and by the gradual developement of the hidden windings of the human heart. The almighty and beneficent Creator who willed that the chief happiness of man should consist in the acquisition of knowledge and virtue, has given him, in the consideration of his own moral and intellectual frame, a subject of vast variety, and which furnishes materials not only for the exercise of his faculties, but for the laborious research of philoso phers of succeeding generations. After digging deep
* Prof. D. Stewart. Diss. First.