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length, breadth, and thickness by the eye, by the touch, or by both: and acquire, so far as I can see to the contrary, notwithstanding all that has been said upon the subject, as clear an idea as we do of substance. It is first obtained, I grant, from the sight or touch of what is solid alone; and it is afterward made use of in a more abstract form, as a measure of what is unsolid; whence the mind is able to apply it not only to the subject of pure space, but to a contemplation of circles, triangles, polygons, or any other geometrical figure, even though such figures be not present to the senses, and exist alone in its own conceptions. Extension, by the Cartesian school, was only applied to solid substance, or body; but then they supposed the universe to consist of nothing but solid substance, or body, and that there is no such thing as vacuum, or pure space. Among the Newtonians, who admit space, extension is applied as generally to this latter as to the former; but in order to avoid the confusion to which the application of this term to things so totally opposite as matter and space has produced in common discourse, Mr. Locke advises to appropriate the term extension to body, and expansion to space; using both these terms, however, as perfect synonyms, and as equally importing the simple idea of measure; which, as I have just observed, is the most obvious and explanatory idea that can be offered upon this subject. Widely different, however, is the opinion of the metaphysical school of North Britain; and hence, in order to account for these abstruse ideas, to which they affirm that neither our senses nor our reason can give rise, as also in order to compel our belief that the external world exists in every respect precisely As It Appears To Exist, and that external bodies possess in themselves all the qualities, both primary and secondary, which Thev Appear To Possess, and thus, with one wide sweep, to clear the ground as well of the errors of Des Cartes, Newton, and Locke, as of those of Berkeley and Hume; Dr. Reid, who, at one time, had been a follower of Berkeley, and, as he himself tells us, "hadembraced the whole of his system,"* steps forth with his new theory, the more important doctrines of which may be comprised under the four following heads :— I. There exist in the mind of man various ideas or conceptions, both physical and metaphysical, which we have never derived either from sensation or reflection. /
II. There must therefore exist, somewhere or other in the animal frame, a third percipient principle, from which alone such ideas can have been den red
III. From this additional principle there is no appeal: it is higher in its knowledge, and surer in its decision, than either the senses or the reason; it compels our assent in a variety of cases, in which we should otherwise be left in the most distressing doubt; and gives us an assurance, not only that there is an external world around us, but that the primary and secondary qualities of bodies exist equally and uniformly in the bodies themselves, or, in other words, that every thing actually is as it appears to be. IV. This mandatory or superior principle is Common Sense or Instinct. And in order to ensure himself success in the establishment of the doctrines contained in this outline, Dr. Reid, with a warmer devotion than falls to the lot of metaphysicians in general, and in some degree breathing of poetic inspiration, opens his Inquiry with the following animated prayer: "Admired philosophy! daughter of light! parent of wisdom and knowledge! if thou art she! surely thou hast not yet arisen upon the human mind, nor blessed us with more of thy rays than are sufficient to shed a darkness visible upon the human faculties, and to disturb that repose and security which happier mortals enjoy, who never approached thine altar, nor felt thine influence! But if, indeed, thou hast not power to dispel those clouds and phantoms which thou hast discovered or created, withdraw this penurious and malignant ray: I despise philosophy, and renounce its guidance: let my soul dwell with common sense."
How far this petition was attended to, and the prostrate suppliant was ena bled to obtain his object, we shall now proceed to examine. It is not necessary again to inquire whether the abstruse ideas of extension, figure, and motion, time and space, together with various others of the same kind, can or cannot be derived from mental reflection or external sensation. I have already touched upon the subject, and must refer such of my audience as are desirous of entering into it more deeply to the writings of Locke and Tucker on the one side, and of Reid and Stewart on the other. I shall only observe, in addition, that Mr. Stewart himself admits, with that liberality which peculiarly characterizes his pen, that the ideas or notions of extension and figure, which he somewhat quaintly denominates " the mathematical affections of matter," presuppose the exercise of our external senses.* But this being admitted, they ought, if not derived from their immediate action, to be fundamentally dependent upon them. Let us step forward at once to an investigation of the newly-discovered and sublime principle itself, by which all these profundities are to be fathomed, and all the aberrations of sense and reason to be corrected. Many of my hearers will perhaps smile at the idea that this high and mighty principle is nothing more than common sense; but, in truth, the founder and supporters of the northern system seem to have been wofully at a loss, not only what name to give it, but what nature to bestow upon it; and have hence variously, and at times most cloudily and incongruously, described it, and loaded it with as many names and titles as belong to a Spanish grandee or a Persian prime minister.
"If," says Dr. Reid," there are certain principles, as I think there are, which the constitution of our nature leads us to believe, and which we are under a necessity to take for granted in the common concerns of life, without being able to give a reason for them, these are what we call the principles of Common Sense.'^
Upon this passage I shall only, for the present, remark, that the new percipient faculty, which it is the object of the Scottish theory to discover to us, is one, as we have just been told, that is capable of extending its survey far beyond " the common concerns of life," and of forming ideas of the niathematical affections of matter; and, consequently, that if the principles of common sense be limited, as they seem to be here, and in my judgment correctly so, to " the common concerns of life," they can never answer the purpose to which this faculty aspires, and for which it is started in the present hypothesis; which demands not only a common sense, but a moral and a mathematical sense; and all essentially distinct from, and totally independent of, corporeal sensation and mental intelligence. It is much to be regretted, however, and forms an insuperable objection to the whole hypothesis, that its founders have never been able to agree among themselves upon the nature of their new principle. "The power or faculty," says Dr. Reid, "by which we acquire these conceptions (those of extension, motion, and the other attributes of matter), must be something different from any power of the human mind that hath been explained, since it is neither sensation nor re/iectwn."l
This is loosely written; for it seems to intimate that there may be conceptions or ideas in the mind, derived from or dependent on itself, which are not conceptions or ideas of reflection: while the phrase ideas of reflection, as employed in Locke's system, embraces ideas of every kind of which the mind is or can be conscious, and which issue from any powers of its own. Dugald Stewart gives the same doctrine more correctly, as follows, and as a paraphrase upon this very passage: "That we have notions of external qualities which have no resemblance to our sensations, or to any thing of which the mind is conscious, is therefore a fact of which every man's experience affords the completest evidence, and to which it is not possible to oppose a single objection, but its incompatibility with the common philosophical theories concerning the origin of our knowledge."^
But the question still returns, from what source then are these insensible, unintellectual notions derived? Where is the seat, and what is the meaning of that Common Sense which is to solve every difficulty? As these philosophers make a boastof their experimenium crucis, this is an expenmentum crucis in return to them; nor does there seem to be an individual through the whole school that is able to work out a solution, or to offer any definite idea upon the subject. I have already observed upon the looseness of Reid, who, in the passage just quoted, seems still to have a slight inclination to regard his principle of Common Sense as a power of the Mind, and of course as seated in the mental organ; though a power that has not hitherto been explained. In the following passage ne seems to regard it as a power of the external senses, and, hence, as seated in these senses themselves."The account which this system (Hume's) gives of our judgment and belief concerning things, is as far from the truth as the account it gives of our notions or simple apprehensions. It represents our senses as having no other office but that of furnishing the mind with notions or simple apprehensions of things; and makes our judgment and belief concerning those things to be acquired by comparing our notions together, and perceiving their agreements or disagreements. We have shown, on the contrary, that Evert Operation Of The Senses, in its very nature, implies Judgment Or Belief as well as simple apprehension."* Yet, in a third passage, he tells us still more openly, that common sense belongs neither to the mind nor to the corporeal senses, but is " A Part Of
HUMAN NATURE WHICH HATH NEVER BbEN EXPLAINED !**f
Dr. Beattie, on the contrary, who assigns to the phrase Common Sense a much more scholastic import than Dr. Reid appears to have intended, expressly asserts that common sense, as he understands it, signifies "that Power Of The Mind which perceives truth or commands belief, not by progressive argumentation, but by an instantaneous and Instinctive Impulse; J or, as he says on another occasion, "it is Instinct and not Reason."^ While Mr. Stewart, still more decisively, declares it to be the Common Reason of mankind; || in express contradiction, however, to Dr. Reid, who as positively declares the principles of common sense to consist of those principles which we are under a necessity of taking for granted, without being able To Give A Reason For Them."If
Now, whether this third principle reside in the senses or in the mind, so long as it resides in either of them, and constitutes a part of either of them, the argument which they call their experimentum crucis falls instantly to the ground; for the ideas to which it gives rise must be sensitive or mental ideas, or, in other words, ideas of sensation or of reflection. Dr. Beattie's expression of instinctive impulse resulting from a power of the mind is still more objectionable; for instinct is not a power of the mind, but a power meant to supply the place of a mind where no mind is present, or in energy: and always acting most strikingly where there is least intelligence, as in the lowest ranks of animals; and perhaps still more obviously in plants. This is to confound endowments instead of to discriminate them. Nor is there less confusion in Dr. Reid's account of the matter; which is, "that every operation of the senses implies Judgment and Belief, as well as simple apprehension:" for this is to transfer the mind itself from the brain to the senses, as well as to make a like transfer of the principle of common sense to the same organs: it is to produce a chaos in the constitution of man, by jumbling every faculty into an interference with every faculty. And yet upon this very doctrine he stakes the whole truth or falsehood of his theory; and Mr. Stewart abets him in the same appeal.** It is amusing, indeed, to run over the names, titles, or distinctive marks assigned to their newly-discovered principle by the leaders of the Common- • Inquiry, ch. vli. p. 480. t Ibid. ch. v. lea. 111. p. US, edit- 1783. 5 On Truth, part I. ch. L p. 11. 6 Ibid, pan ii rh. I. || K?say ii. p. 60. IT Inquiry, p. 58.
- - stewart'« E&aays, vol. i. p 518.
Sense school. For we have not only common sense, instinct,* instinctive prescience,f and instinctive propensity; J but dictates of nature,^ dictates of internal sensation^ simple notions, and ultimate laws,F judgment and belief furnished by the senses,** inductive principle,ff constitution of human nature,JJ common understanding,^ moral sense,|||| moral principle^? suggestions,*** and, finally, inspiration: thus putting this imaginary power, if not in the place of a Bible, upon an equality with it. The "original and natural judgments" of this faculty, says Dr. Reid, are the Inspiration Of The Almighty: "they serve to direct us in the common affairs of life, where our reasoning faculty would leave us in the dark. They are a part of our constitution: and all the discoveries of our reason are grounded upon them. They make up the common sense of mankind, and what is manifestly contrary'to any of those first principles is what we call absurd."tft
Now, what is to be collected from all this pompous heraldry of highsounding names, so totally inconsistent with the precision of an exact science; and which certainly would not have been allowed had this school been able to settle among themselves, or to communicate to the public, a clear idea of the seat, nature, or attributes of the new and, as I trust to prove, imaginary faculty it thus ventures to introduce; and which, after all, is only
* Beatlie, part 1. ch. ii. p 98, stereotype edit. Stewart's Essnys, vol. i. p. 66. 87, 88. 5?9. t Reid's Inquiry, ch. vi. Iert , xxtv. p. 441. } Beaitle on Truth, par t i. ch. iii. lect. vll. p. 63
$ Ibid, part i. ch ii. p. 98. 3*2. || 1bid. p. 31. IT Stewart's Essays, vol. i. essay iii. p. 121.
** Reid's Inquiry, ch. vlt. p. 481- tt Ibid. ch. vi. lect. xxiv. p. 442.
JJ Stewart, essay i ch. i. p. 7. Reid, p. 391. Principles of the Constitution, Beat tie, par t i. ch. il.D. 90. Original Principles of the Constitution, Reid, Inq- ch. vi. lect. xxiv. p. 428. 441. 4$ Reid, ch. vi lecL xx. p. 380.
|||] Stewart, essay i. ch. iv. p. 44; a phrase of Shaftesbury, and adopted from him by Tlutcheson.
HT Beatlie, part i, ch. ii. p. 20. *** Ibid, essay ii. ch. ii. p. 96. Reid, ch. vi. lecl ii. p. 157.
ttt Reid, ch. vii. p. 489. In treating of the subject of instinct I had occasion in notice that Dr. Hancock, In a recent work of much moral excellence, has ukfn the same generalized view of those various powers, and has directly resolved the whole into an immediate and continual flow of divine inspiration through the agency of the Holy Spirit; so that the lowest animal, in its instincts, and the most gifted saint, in hit special illumination, are supplied from one and the same intellectual fountain And hence, in Dr. Hancock's view, this is a power or energy which not only serves "to direct us in the Common affairs of life, where our reasoning faculty would leave us in the d irk," but to enlighten us in the sublime mysteries of spiritual truth. "In the same manner as the Divine Beini has scattered the seeds of plants and vegetahlfs in the body of the earth, so he has implanted a portion of his own incorruptible seed, or of that which in Scripture language is called ' the seed of the kingdom,* in the soul of every individual of the human race." Essay on Instinct, p.-459. And hence, though Dr. Hancock is obliged to "admit that there are no innate ideas, according to the strict meaning of the term, and no formally Inscribed truths like estnbli sited propositions to be discovered in early life,—yet it is fair to presume that the rudiments or inherent propensities leading to mental and corporeal perfection are still essentially in existence. Hence, because we cannot discover in the infant mind the manifest signs of an original innate truth or eoocepUon that there is a God, and the simple propositions relative to moral and religious duty, we are not to conclude that it has no tendency to develone these notions."—Ibid, p 314, 315.
We have here a clear example of the difficulty of keeping an hypothesis within due limits that has no fixed principles to be built upon. So far, however, as these writers appeal to Scripture in support of their doctrine of a moral sense, or instinctive love of virtue, propensity to moral right, internal light or innate idea of God, they seem to be opposed by every page to which they refer. For whatever man may become by a gradual cultivation of his mental powers, or by immediate irradiation from heaven, we are expressly told, what, indeed, we have sufficient proofs of if we look around us, and especially into savage tribes, that by nature his " heart is desperately wicked ;" that shortly after the fall, God beheld th;it " the wickedness of man was great on the i-arth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually;" that " in the flesh dwelleth no good thingthat men by nature are under " the dominion of sin,"—whose power isso ere.it as to constitute, as it were, a " Law in the members,"—and a law so active and hostile to every good principle as to be for ever " warring against the law of the mind" when enlightened by a divine revelation, and even tufted, as St. Paul was, when he wrote this of himself, as well as of others, with the power of the Holy Spirit. And it is hence, St. Paul tells us farther, that mankind, la their natural state, instead of being children of light, with innate tendencies or propensities to good, have a heart at" enmity against God;" and " are children of wrath." While instead of referring us to any kind of prascognlta, inbred notions, or instinctive suggestions, in proof of the existence and attribute* of a Deity, St. Paul, like Locke, sends us to the works of nature and of providence; to the world imtaoat instead of to the world within us; and to the exercise of our own senses in relation to them: "for the Invisible things of God from the creation of the world Ark Clearly Seen, being understood by The Things That Ark Made, • ven his Eternal Powrr and gOnHbAn." And these proofs are so manifest, and the duties ihey enjoin so easily deducible, as to form a law of nature," a law unto themselves," to the minds of those who attend to them, and have no revealed law,—a conscience of what is right and wrong; so as to leave the whole world, as he farther ndds, without excuse," for not acquiring rhla knowledge, and this natural law. It is to the same Book or Nature, and for the same purpose, that the Psalmist leads himself in Ps. vill. 3—" When I consider the heavens, the work of thy hands: the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained;" and to which he leads every oneelse, In Ps. xix. 1—3. And to what but the same divine yet external proof does our Saviour lead us in Matt. vi. 98—" Costiidk* the lilies of the field, how they grow," &c., as well as in numerous other places 7—external objects general!)* forming a text to the divine comment of him who " spake as never man spake."
intended to supply the place of the innate ideas of M. Des Cartes, as these innate ideas were designed to supply the place of the intelligible world of the Greek schools?"It is hardly possible for us," says Dr. Beattie, " to explain these dictate of our nature according to common sense and common experience, in such language as shall be liable to no exception. The misfortune is, that many of the words we must use, though extremely well understood, are either too simple or too complex in their meaning to admit a logical definition."* But the plain fact is, that they have not come to any definite meaning among themselves.f Let us, then, just give a glance at the two leading terms, for it is hardly worth while to follow up the whole of them. These are common sense and instinct: both of which seem by Dr. Reid, and in various places by Dr. Beattie and Mr. Dugald Stewart, to be used in their popular import. Can any man for a moment, who has the slightest knowledge of physiology and philology, seriously admit that common sense and instinct are the same thing? or rather ought to be confounded under the same term? Do these writers believe so themselves, whenever they form any clear and precise idea of these faculties in their own minds? "Common sense," says Mr. Dugald Stewart, is " the common reason of mankind :"J and every man of common sense will, I suppose, accede to this definition. But common sense, says Dr. Reid, as though in direct opposition to Mr. Stewart, is not reason: for it is that principle which compels us "to take things for granted 'without being able to give a reason for them."^—" Common sense," says Dr. Beattie, " is an instinctive impulse. Common sense is not reason, but instinct. It is instinct, and not reason, that determines me to believe my touch; it is instinct, and not reason, that determines me to believe that visible sensations, when consistent with tangible, are not fallacious , and it is either instinct or reasoning, founded on experience (that is, on the evidence of sense), that determines me to believe the man's stature a permanent and not a changeable thing.l
Now, the first thing that cannot fail to strike us, on comparing these passages together, is the contradictory definitions they contain; the singular confusion which runs through the whole of them in respect to the three ideas of reason, common sense, and instinct; and the acknowledged difficulty the writers feel of drawing a line between the first and the last two of these principles, upon which, however, the whole system of the new philosophy hinges. Surely, "if reasoning, founded on experience," which is the very language of Mr. Locke, as well as of Dr. Beattie, be sufficient to determine us, and is, probably, the principle actually appealed to in one case of external
* Part i. ch. IL p. 32. t The phrases KOINAI A05AI, or common sentiments, of Aristotle,' Premieres Verites or Primary Truths ot Buffier, or even Innate Ideas of Dei Carted, whatever be the truth or fallacy of the doctrines they Impart, are lar less exceptionable than that of Common Sense, as being far less capable of being misunderstood. Attempts have been mad': to support litis pin use by a reference to its employment by other writers, and even in the Latin tongue; and poets as well as metaphysicians have been brought forward with their suffrages. But all tliis is to no purpose, unless it could be proved that such writers had used it in the same meaning as the chief supporters of the present hypothesis, and that this meaning was one and indivisible. Mr. Stewart has felt himself particularly called upon to admit the loose and unsettled character of Dr. Beattle's language, and es|ieciolly hi one of his accounts of Common Sense, which he declares " is linlile to censure in almost every line." Elem. ch. I. lect. iii. p. 83: while Dr. Reid, on the very same subject, has been fur mote roughly handled both by the English translator of Buffier, and by Sir James Stewart, ibid. p. 88.
One unlucky consequence," observes Mr. Stewart," has unquestionably resulted from the coincidence of so many writers connect^ wiih this northern part of the island, in adopting, about the same iieriud, the game phrase, asa sort of philosophical watch-word:—that, although their views differ widely in various respects, they have In general been classed together as partisans of a new sect, and as mutually responsible for the doctrines oi tach other. It is easy to perceive the use likely to be made of this accident by an itncandid antagonist."—Ibid. p. 89. I have endeavoured as much as possible to avoid being open to any such charge, by confining my remarks to a lew alone of the pillars of the school before ns; and by selecting alone those wlto, from personal friend*hip and confidential acquaintance with each other's thoughts, are universally regarded as being lioth the most accordant and ablest defendants of their hypothesis. And if, among wtilers so closely united, discrepancies of doctrine or opinion should lie frequent and flagrant, the only deduction that can be drawn from so unhappy a fact is, that the hypothesis cannot be made to hold true to itself, and is faulty in its first principles.
t Essay ii. p. 60. J Inquiry, ch. ii. lect , vi. (| Essay on Truth, par t ii. ch. L p. 95.