Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

sensation, it may well be sufficient, and be thought the principle actually appealed to in all others. The next remark that must, I think, occur to every one, is the absurdity of clothing instinct with moral and intellectual powers, with belief and judgment: for we are, in other places, told that this instinct of common sense possesses sentiment and moral sense. Now, all these import the existence of a mind; they import more, for they import mental feeling. . And the consequence is, that we must either employ the term instinct without a determinate idea, and in opposite significations at different times, or we must allow to reptiles, and ought to allow to plants, the possession of belief, judgment, and mental feeling, as well as to mankind; for the existence of instinct is still clearer and more powerful in the first two than in the last. I know there is no attendant upon these lectures who finds any necessity for this confusion of ideas: and who does not apprehend perspicuously, from the definitions I have ventured to lay down, and have so frequently had occasion to repeat, the natural distinction between the principles here adverted to. But iet a man, if it be possible for him, believe that common sense and instinct are the same thing, can he still farther believe that this is the faculty, call it by which of the two names you please, that is to be an infallible guide in physical and metaphysical, in sensible and intellectual, in moral and theological perplexities; where the finest perception falls short, and the most penetrating mind is overwhelmed ! Is it this which is to teach us the mathematical affections of matter; and to direct us in our duty towards God, our neighbours, and ourselves 1 I again refer to Mr. Stewart's own description of the boy, born nearly blind, and wholly deaf, to which I have referred already. If this high and domineering power be instinct, then let us turn, with due reverence, to those quarters where instinct exists in its fullest perfection; let us pay due homage to the brutal and the vegetable tribes. Let us return to the pretty prattle of the nursery, and learn industry from the ant, and geometry from the bee, and constancy from the dove, and innocence from the snow-drop, and blushing modesty from the rose. Let us hail all these, not, indeed, as our equals, but as our superiors; as more richly endowed with that “inspiration of the Almighty,” which is designed to correct the errors of sense and intelligence, and to soar to sublimities to which these can never attain. But let us part with the term INSTINCT, and confine ourselves to that of common sense. Why is this idea set up as a distinct principle from reason? as a principle often opposed to it, and always superior to it? Common sense is plain sense: The common judgment of mankind upon subjects of common comprehension, sometimes given intuitively, and sometimes by the exercise of reason, both of which, as I have already shown, are alike mental processes. And Mr. Stewart has hence, as lately noticed, freely denominated it in one place, though, in my mind, most incongruously with respect to his own system, “the common reason of mankind.” Its proper limit is the common concerns of life, and while it confines itself to these, it is nearly infallible; for the common constitution of our nature must, in most cases, lead us to one common result. When the legislature of our own country (in which this principle exists with peculiar force) appeals to the general voice of the people, it appeals to their common sense. But in doing this, does it appeal to their instinct, or to any other faculty than their common reason; that discursive power, which, by being better exercised here than among other nations, has enriched them with sounder and more general information upon the subject in question ? Common sense, however, must be confined to common subjects. Like the ostrich, it is quick and powerful on the surface, but its wings are not plumed for flight, and it plays a ridiculous part whenever it attempts to soar. When Copernicus, with a trembling hand, first suggested that the sun stands fixed in his place, and all the heavenly bodies move round him, common sense, assuming the philosopher, to which character it has no pretensions, opposed him, and science fell a sacrifice to its conceit. With the same foolish vanity it denied, till laughed out of its folly by circumnavigation, the existence of

antipodes; or that the surface of the earth, which appears to be a plane, could be spherical, and that men and women of our own shape and make could exist on its reverse side, with their feet opposed to our own. When the Dutch ambassador told the king of Siam, who had never seen or heard of such a thing as frost, that the water in his country would sometimes in cold weather be so hard, that men might walk, and bullocks be roasted upon it, his well-known answer was delivered upon the principles of common sense. He spoke from what he had seen, and from what every one had seen around him, and he relied upon the common appearances of nature. “Hitherto,” said he, “I have believed the strange things you have told me, because I looked upon you as an honest man; but now I am sure you are a liar.” Yet this is the faculty held up in the system before us as a sure and infallible judge, whose office it is to correct the errors of reason, and to prove to us that every thing exists precisely As it APPEARs to Exist.* How much clearer, and to the purpose, is the explanation of this subject given by the excellent Bishop Butler, and how perfectly in unison with the language of Mr. Locke : “That which renders beings,” says he, “capable of moral government, is their having a moral nature and moral faculties of perception and action. Brute creatures are impressed and actuated by various instincts and propensions: so also are we. But additional to this we have a CAPAcity of REFLECTING upon actions and characters, and making them an object to our thought; and on our DoING This, we naturally and unavoidably approve some actions, and disapprove others, as vicious and of ill desert. —It is manifest that a great part of common language and of common behaviour over the world is formed upon the supposition of such A MoRAL FAculty; whether called conscience, moral reason, moral sense, or divine reason; whether considered as a sentiment of the understanding or a perception of the heart, or, which seems the truth, as including both.”f Here we have laid down a firm and impregnable basis: it is the capacity of reflection: an arrival at the intrinsic nature of natural and moral good, and natural and moral evil, through the operation of our own reason:—that faculty of reason which the same distinguished writer, instead of despising or undervaluing, expressly calls in another place, after Solomon, “the candle of the Lord;” but which he adds, “can afford no light where it does not shine, nor judge where it has no principles to judge upon.”f With this remark I feel that I might safely drop this part of the argument: but as I have referred Mr. Stewart to his own description of the blind and deaf boy, in refutation of his view of the powers and duties of the external senses, I will, in like manner, refer Dr. Reid to Dr. Reid himself in refutation of the doctrine immediately before us, that every thing exists precisely as it appears to exist. In page 173 of his chapter on the quality of colours, he tells us, that the colour of the body is in the body itself—a scarlet rose being as much a scarlet in the dark as in the day; but that the apparition or appearance of the colour is in the eye or the mind. But when he tells us this, does he not tell us, in as plain terms as can be used, that the object and its apparition or appearance are in a state of separation from each other? that they are two distinct things, and exist in two distinct places? and consequently, that, instead of every thing BEING as it seeMs to BE, nothing has a being either as it seems to be, or where it seems to be Nay, does he not, in spite of himself, adopt the very doctrine of Aristotle and Des Cartes, both of whom hełd the same tenett the former, indeed, calling this separate apparition a phantasm. which is a mere change of the Latin term apparition into a Greek word." But where, let me again ask, is the residence, and what is the nature of this many-titled faculty, which is neither sense nor mind; and is thus capable of discerning what neither sense nor mind can comprehend ? Every other principle or faculty has its peculiar seat, and we know how to track it to its form: Instinct is the operation of the power of organized life by the exercise of certain natural laws, directing it to the perfection of the individual; and wherever organized life is to be found, there is instinct. Irritation exists in the muscular fibre; sensation in nervous cords; intelligence in the gland of the brain: for there is its seat, whatever may be its essence. But where is the seat, and what is the nature of this new principle ! Is it capable of a separate existence 1 Does it expire with the body ? Or does it accompany and still direct the soul after death ! These are important questions : what is the answer to them 1 Or is there any other to be found than that of Dr. Reid already noticed!—“Common sense is a part of human nature which hath never been explained.”t And what, after all, is it designed to teach us? What is the number and the precise character of those primary maxims, or instinctive notions, or natural dictates, or inspired truths, or whatsoever else they may be called, which form the sum of its communication? How are we to know what is a genuine and infallible first principle from what has the mere semblance of one and is spurious Are the founders of the system agreed upon this subject among themselves If so, they are far more fortunate than the Cartesians upon the first principles, the rowd, twowa of their own school. ... If they be not, their foundation slips from them in a moment, and all is wild and visionary; and every one may find a first principle in what his own fancy may suggest, or his own inclination lead him to. Yet we have no proof that any such convention has ever been settled; nor has any individual been bold enough to furnish a catalogue from the repository of his own endowment. In few words, the whole of this hypothesis is nothing more than an attempt to revive the Cartesian scheme, so far as relates to, perhaps, the most obnoxious part of it, the doctrine of innate ideas, but to revive it under another name. Beattie and Stewart have, in fact, indirectly admitted as much, though neither of them have chosen to avow the design openly. The worst and most dangerous part of Mr. Locke's system, in the opinion of Dr. Beattie, is his first book—that very book in which this doctrine meets with its deathblow. While Mr. Stewart, notwithstanding the contempt with which he professes to treat this sanciful tenet of innate ideas, asserts almost immediately afterward, that his chief objection to it consists in its name, and the absurdities that have been connected with it if and adds, that “perhaps he might even venture to say,” if separated from these, it would agree in substance with the conclusion he had been attempting to establish.Ş It was my intention to have pursued this hypothesis in another direction, and to have pointed out its decisive tendency to an encouragement of mental indolence and immorality; a tendency, however, altogether unperceived by

* Dr. Beattie has adopted this precise line of reasoning under the influence of his Common-Sense principles: and points out, by analogy, that the opinion of the Siamese monarch was founded upon a basis which nothing could shake, or ought to shake; for the only appeal that any opposing evidence could make to him must have been through the medium of his reason, which is a less infallible judge than common sense, and hence less worthy of attention. “Common sense,” says he, “tells me that the ground on which ' Istand is hard, material, and solid.—Now, if my common sense be mistaken, who shall ascertain and correct the mistake 1 Our reason, it is said. Are, then, the inferences of reason, in this instance, clearer and more decisive than the dictates of common sense By no means. I still trust to my common sense as before, and I seel that I must do so. But supposing the inferences of the one faculty as clear and decisive as the dictates of the other; yet who shall assure me that my reason is less liable to mistake than my common sense 1–In a word, no doctrine ought to be believed as true that Exceeds Bk LIEF AND contra picts A first principle.”—On Truth, part i. ch. i.

t Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed. Diss, ii. of the Nature of Virtue.

f Ibid. part ii. Conclusion.

B. b

* “The scarlet rose which is before me is still a scarlet rose when I shut my eyes, and was so at midnight when no eye saw it. The colour remains when the appearance ceases : it remains the same when the appearance changes To a person in the jaundice it has still another appearance: but he is easily convinced that the change is in his eye, and not in the colour of the object. When a coloured body is presented, there is a certain Apparition to the eye or to the wind, which we have called the appearance of colour. Mr. Locke calls it an idea, and, indeed, it may be called so with the greatest propriety. Hence the appearance is, in the imagination, so closely united with the quality called a scarlet colour, that they are apt to be mistaken for one and the same thing, although they are in reality so different and so unlike, that one is an idea in the mind, the other is a quality of body.”—Inquiry, &c. ch. vi. lecture iv. p. 172,173. 175, edit. 4. Lond. 1785.

t Inquiry, ch. v. sect. iii. p. 115. † Essay iii. p. 120.

§ ‘‘Perhaps I might even venture to say that, were the ambitious and obnoxious epithet in nate laid aside, and all the absurdities discarded which are connected either with the Platonic, with the Scholastic, or with the Çartesian hypothesis, concerning the nature of ideas,” this last theory (“the antiquated theory of innate !deo. As he has just above called it, and to which he here refers would agree in substance with the conclu. *ion which I have been attempting to establish by an induction of facts.”—rhil. Essay ii. p. 120, 4to, 1810.

the uncorrupt and honourable minds of its justly eminent leaders. But our time has already expired, and I must leave it to yourselves to calculate at home, what must be the necessary result of a theory, provided it could ever be se. riously embraced upon an extensive scale, that teaches, on the one hand, that intelligence is subordinate to instinct, and that our truest knowledge is that which is afforded by the dictates of nature, without trouble or exertion; and on the other, that our moral sense is identical with our instinctive propensities; and that the constitution of our nature is an infallible guide, and can never lead us amiss. This mischievous, but unquestionably unforeseen, tendency of the theory of common sense, I must leave you to follow up at your leisure; but I cannot quit this subject without once more adverting to the total failure of this theory, in accomplishing the chief point for which it was devised,—I mean that of engaging us to believe, in opposition to the philosophical vagaries of the Bishop of Cloyne and Mr. Hume, as well as of the earlier idealists, not only that the external world has a substantive existence, but that it substantively exists in every respect as it AppEARs to exist. I have already observed, that while Dr. Berkeley was contending, metaphysically, that we have no proof of a material world, because we have no proof of any thing but the existence of our own minds and ideas, M. Boscovich was contending, physically, that we have no proof that matter contains any of the qualities which it APPEARs to contain; that whatever the ostessible forms of bodies may present to us, it has in itself no such properties as they seem to exhibit; that the whole visible creation is nothing more than a collection of indivisible, unextended atoms, or mere mathematical points, whose only attributes are certain powers of attraction and repulsion, and, consequently, that every thing we behold is A MERE PhenomENoN,-AN APPARition, and nothing more. Now, meaning to oppose this doctrine, and every doctrine of a similar imort, could it be supposed possible, if the fact did not stare us in the face from }. own writings, that Dr. Reid would, after all, avow and contend, not indeed for the same, but for a parallel tenet, and support it almost in the same terms ? Could it be supposed that he would tell us, as we have already seen he has told us, that every object has its APPARition ; that the object is one thing, and its APPARition another; that the object is IN on E PLACE and its apparition IN ANother ; and that neither the mind nor the eye behold the object itself, but only its APPARition or AppEARANCE, its PHANTASM or PhENoMENoN ? But I have to draw still more largely upon your astonishment; for it yet remains for me to inform you, that Mr. Dugald Stewart, who may be regarded as the key-stone of Dr. Reid's system, and the chief aim of whose writings has been to proscribe the hypothesis of Berkeley, has himself fallen, not unintentionally, as Dr. Reid seems to have done, but openly and avowedly, into a modification of Boscovich's hypothesis; and has even brought forward its more prominent principles, “as necessary,” I adopt his own terms, “to comlete Dr. Reid's speculations.” He labours, indeed, to prove, that the two §o of Berkeley and Boscovich have no resemblance or connexion with each other; and I am ready to admit, that in some respects there is a difference, since Boscovich allows us a visionary material world, a world of apparitions, or orderly phenomena, in the language of Leibnitz, phenomenes bien réglés, while Berkeley allows us no material world whatever; though he, too, has his world of phenomena: but I must contend that they are, to all intents and purposes, alike in their opposition to that tenet, which it is the leading feature of Reid's theory to establish.-I mean that we have an internal principle, that proves to us that the world around us is not a vain show, but a solid REALity, and that every thing actually is as it appears to be. So that the theory before us, even in the hands of its founder and principal supporter, has strikingly failed in the object for which it was devised; and, for all the purposes in question, the former might just as well have continued in the profession of Bishop Berkeley's principles, as have deserted them, and set up a new scheme for himself.

* Essay ii. ch. ii. p. 80, and compare with ch. i. p. 62, 63.

Under these circumstances I must leave it to the enlightened audience before me to choose out of these different hypotheses as they may think best. For myself, I freely confess, that I have no ambition to soar into the higher rank and the infallible knowledge of an instinctive creature, and shall modestly content myself with the humbler character of a rational and intelligent being. still steadily steering by the lowly but sober lamps of a Bacon, a Newton, a Locke, a Butler, a Price, and a Paley, instead of being captivated by the beautiful and brilliant, but vacillating and illusive, coruscations of these northern lights.

LECTURE VII. on HUMAN happiness.

It has required, I apprehend, but a very slight attention to the course of study we have lately been following up, to be convinced of the truth of the remark with which we opened the series, I mean, that the subject it proposed to discuss is, of all subjects whatever that relate to human entity, the most difficult and intractable. And absurd and visionary as have been many of the opinions which it has brought before us, let us in conclusion, check all undue levity, by recollecting that they are the absurdities and visions of the first philosophers and sages of their respective periods; of the wisest and, with a few exceptions, of the best of mankind; to whom, in most other respects, we ought to bow with implicit homage, and who have only foundered from too daring a spirit of adventure, and amid rocks and shoals which laugh at the experience of the pilot. For myself, I freely confess to you, that my own hopes of success are but very humble. I have done my best, however, to render the subject intelligible; and if, in the progress of it, I should also have betrayed dreams and absurdities, I have only to entreat that they may be visited with the candour which I have endeavoured to extend to others; fully aware that the ablest arguments " have been able to submit are not fitted, if I may adopt the eloquent words of Mr. Burke, “to abide the test of a captious controversy, but of a sober, and even forgiving examination; that they are not armed at all points for battle, but dressed to visit those who are willing to give a peaceful entrance to truth.” There is one point, however, and the most important point we have con templated, in which all the different schools seem to be agreed,—l mean, that of moral distinctions. Whatever may be the roads the different travellers have lighted upon, whether short or circuitous, smooth or entangled, they all at last find themselves, in this respect, arrive at the same central spot; and coincide in prescribing the same rules of duty, enjoining the same conduct, and, with a few exceptions, delivering the same determinations. No philosopher in the world has ever dreamed of confounding virtue with vice, or of . writing a treatise on the benefit of committing crimes. Let us search where we will, we shall find that there is a something in human nature, when once emerged from the barbarism of savage life, that leads the learned and the unlearned to approve the one and to condemn the other, even where their own conduct is involved in the condemnation. And what is this something in human nature that conducts to so general a conclusion 3. A set or system of innate ideas and first principles, replies one class of philosophers; a moral instinct or impulse of common sense, replies another class; the intrinsic loveliness and beauty of virtue itself, replies a third ; because the attributes of virtue are useful and agreeable either to ourselves or to others, replies a fourth; because it conducts to human happiness, replies a fifth; and because it is the will of God, replies a sixth. But while all thus agree in the conclusion, the question that leads to it still

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »