« AnteriorContinuar »
of motives being vested in itself, it is equally true that it is so far free to will, as well as to act, or perform what it wills.
If the distinction here offered had been properly attended to, we should, as I am inclined to think, have had fewer opponents, in all ages, to the doctrine of the freedom of the mind, or of the will as it is commonly denominated. Among the chief of these opponents we may rank the Fatalists of ancient, and the Necessarians of modern times.
The general train of argument by which they have been led, and the ground of its adoption, are not essentially different. Motives, volitions, and actions are supposed by both sects to be of the same nature, in respect to relative force and operation, as physical causes and effects; and, consequently, the same catenation, or necessary dependence of one fact upon another, which marks the experienced train of events in the natural world, is conceived to be perpetually taking place in the moral : “All voluntary actions," as Mr. Hume observes, “ being subjected to the same laws of necessity with the operations of matter, and there being a continued chain of necessary causes preordained, and predetermined, reaching from the original cause of all to every single volition of every human being."* Or, as another writer upon the same subject has expressed it,—" The course of events, both moral and physical, is fixed and immutable; and thoughts, volitions, and actions proceed in one interrupted concatenation from the beginning to the end of time, agreeably to the laws originally established by the great Creator."
So that, under the same circumstances, the same motives must be produced in the mind of every man, give rise to the same volitions, and be succeeded by the same actions; every one of these, to adopt the language of the Fatalists, being equally a link of that
-golden everlasting chain Whose strong embrace holds heaven, and earth, and main. If it were not so, it is pretended that there could be no mutual dependence or confidence between man and man. No person, from the appearance of one action as performed by his neighbour, could infer a second, or form any opinion of his character. And even the doctrine of divine prescience must be entirely relinquished; since, without such a necessary and consecutive connexion, it must be impossible for the Deity himself to foresee any future event, or to know it otherwise than as it occurs at the moment.
It was not my intention to have touched upon this controversy, but the principles upon which it hinges are so closely blended with the subject before us, that it is impossible altogether to elude it, though the remarks I propose to offer shall be as brief and compressed as I am able to make them.
In the first place, then, whatever be the necessary connexion between motives, volitions, and actions, it is by no means true that they are “ subjected to the same laws of necessity with the operations of matter. Let me support this assertion by a reference to a few simple facts. A needle, or an iron ball, placed between two magnets of equal power, will fall to neither of them, but remain midway at rest for ever, suspended between equally contending attractions. Now, if the same laws of necessity control the moral as control the physical world, a similar moral cause must produce a similar moral effect; and the traveller who, by accident, after having lost himself in a forest, should meet with two roads running in opposite or different directions, and offering in every respect an equal attraction, must, like the needle or bullet, remain for ever at rest, because the motive to take one course is just equipoised by the motive to take the other. But can any man in his senses suppose he would remain there for ever, and so starve himself between equally contending attractions ? Or, rather, can any man suppose such a fact, provided the traveller himself were in his senses? Yet Montaigne, in support of this hypothesis, has actually supposed such a fact, and has put forth the following whimsical or facetious example: “Where the mind,” says he,“ is at the saine
* Essays: On Liberty and Necessity, vol. iL
time equally influenced by two equal desires, it is certain it can never comply with either of them, because a consent and preference would evince a dissimilarity in their value. If a man should chance to be placed between a bottle of wine and a Westphalia ham, with an equal inclination to eat and to drink, there could, in this case, be no possible remedy; and, by the law of necessity, he must die either of inger or thirst. The Stoics, therefore,” continues he, “ who were most rigidly attached to the doctrine of fatalism, when asked how the mind determines when two objects of equal desire are presented to it, or what is the reason that out of a number of crown pieces it selects one rather than another, there being no motive to excite a preference, reply, that this action of the mind is extraordinary and irregular, and proceeds from an impulse equally irregular and fortuitous. But it would be better," continues Montaigne, “in my estimation, to maintain that no two objects can be presented to us so perfectly equal, but that some trifling difference may subsist, and some small superiority be discoverable either in the one or the other."
And, no doubt, it would be better to maintain such a position; but who does not see that this is to give up the question ? to renounce the point upon which we are at issue, and openly to confess that there does not exist in the moral world the same counterpoise of cause and cause that is to be perpetually met with in the natural.
Let us confine ourselves to one more example. A cannon-ball, discharged from the centre of a circle, and equally attracted to the north and to the east, will proceed towards neither point; but at an angle of 224 degrees, or immediately between the two. But is there any one, unincumbered with a straitwaistcoat, who can suppose that such a rule has any application to the motive powers of the mind? who can conceive, that a man, starting at Blackfriar's Bridge, and having business so equally urgent at Highgate and at Mileend, that he is incapable of determining to which place he shall proceed first, would proceed to neither, but take a course between the two, and walk in a straight line to Hackney or Newington-Green? Yet, unless he should thus act, not occasionally, or by accident, but uniformly, and at all times, there is not in the mind the same law of operation, the same sort of necessity, as in matter; but a something, whatever it may be, producing and designed to produce an irreconcilable distinction; and, in the correct language of the Epicurean philosophers, perpetually labouring to prevent the same blind force from vanquishing the one as it leads captive the other :
Ne mens ipsa necessum
Lest the mind
But we are told, that unless the moral world were thus constituted, there could be no mutual confidence between man and man; no series of actions could be depended upon, and it would be impossible to distinguish between one character and another; or, in other words, how long the same individual would maintain the same character.
Now this kind of argument, if accurately examined, just as much invalidates the doctrine it is intended to support as the preceding. There is no one who pretends to place the same degree of confidence in the general course of human actions as in the experienced train of natural events. Even where the circumstances to reason from are equally definite, moral dependence is in all instances less certain than physical, and never amounts to more than a probability. The closest friendships may fail, the purest virtue become tarnished ; and, in the words of Sophocles, which I must beg weave to put into our own languagem
* De Rer. Nat. ii. 283.
The power of all things cease; e'en sacred oaths
Forego its steady purpose. Material causes, on the contrary, are regular in their operations, and uninterrupted in their effects. . Nobody doubts that the sun will rise to-morrow; that a cannon-1 will sir in water; or that, if the lamps over our heads were to be extinguished, we should be in darkness. The power of Buonaparte, when in the zenith of his success, was absolute and almost unbounded, but did even this ensure steadiness of conduct? Quite the reverse. We behold the decrees of to-day overthrown by those of to-morrow, and, in the hlind and overwhelming career of his ambition, his hosts of bloodhounds that have just plundered his enemies next sent against his friends; we behold every thing in nature, that is within his reach, tottering and out of joint; while every thing that is beyond and above him continues steadfast and unchangeable; the air is as vital as ever, the seasons as regular in their courses, and, to adopt the beautiful language of our poet-laureate
But we are farther told, that unless there be the same fixed and dependent chain established in the moral creation which unquestionably exists in the physical, the Deity himself could have no prescience or foreknowledge of human conduct. And so forcible has this argument appeared to some men, and men, too, of acknowledged worth and piety, that in the dilemma into which they have felt themselves thrown, like the Brahmins of the East, they have utterly abandoned the doctrine of divine prescience in favour of that of moral liberty.
Shallow and impotent conclusion! Absurd admission of an hostility that has no existence! As though he who sees through infinite space is incapable of seeing through the brief duration of time; or as though, like Theseus in the Cretan labyrinth, the great Author of nature stands in need of a thread to guide him through the maze of his own creation, and depends upon every preceding event as a direction-post to that which follows. There are contingencies in the natural as well as in the moral world, though they are far less frequent because far less necessary. Miracles are of this description; they are direct and palpable deviations from the common laws of nature, the common routine of causes and effects; and he who denies that the Deity can know any thing of contingencies, in the one case, ought also to deny that he can know any thing of them in the other; for the necessary and consecutive chain of causation, upon which alone such philosophers found the attribute of prescience, is equally broken in both instances. But such philosophers have to deny still more than this, or they must abandon their principle altogether. They have equally to deny that the Deity can see or know any thing of such anomalies, even when present; for if he can only know events as successive and necessary links of preceding events, the tie being broken, on their appearance, and the anomalous events detached, he can have no more knowledge of them when gone by or present than when future. It may, perhaps, be thought, that when present and operating they pass before him! Pass before him! O puerile and miserable conception of Divinity! All nature is equally before him, in every point of space, and every moment of eternity, and he who denies God to be every where, must deny him to be any where; unless he sees and knows every thing, he must see and know nothing. Miracles and moral contingencies, then, are as much provided for, and must be so, as the most common train of natural events. It is true, we know nothing of the arrangement by which they subsist; but they are and must be provided for, neverthe. less. It is here, and here only, we ought to rest-in an equal acknowledgment of human ignorance and divine - perfection ;-for it is, assuredly, not quite consistent either with the modesty of genuine philosophy, or the reverence of religious faith, to controvert a truth because we cannot account for it; or
to pluck away attribute after attribute from the diadem of the Deity, out of mere compliment to the demand of a fanciful and empty hypothesis. I retreat from this subject, however, with pleasure. It is too perplexed and mysterious for popular discussion, and I am fearful of darkening it by illustration. I should not have touched upon it, but that I have been forced, by the regular progress of our own inquiries; and now turn, with a free and unfettered foot, to the study of the passions; their general nature and influence upon human actions and language ; which we shall enter upon in our next
ON THE ORIGIN, CONNEXION, AND CHARACTER OF THE PASSIONS.
We have entered upon an inquiry concerning the nature and operation of the various faculties that constitute the general furniture of the mind. These we have divided into three classes; the faculties of the understanding, the faculties of volition, and the passions or faculties of emotion. The commencement of the present series of lectures was devoted to an illustration of the first; the second we discussed in our preceding study; and we now advance to a brief analysis of the third.
In sailing over the sea of life, the passions are the gales that swell the canvass of the mental bark; they obstruct or accelerate its course ; and render the voyage favourable or full of danger, in proportion as they blow steadily from a proper point, or are adverse and tempestuous. Like the wind itself, they are an engine of high importance and mighty power. Without them we cannot proceed; but with them we may be shipwrecked and lost. Reined in, therefore, and attempered, they constitute, as I have already observed, our happiness; but let loose and at random, they distract and ruin us.
How few, beneath auspicious planet born,
Let it not be forgotten, however, that the passions are not distinct agents, but mere affections or emotions, mere states or conditions of the mind, excited by an almost infinite variety of external objects and events, or internal operations and feelings. And here, the first remark that will probably occur to us is, that, derived from sources thus numerous and diversified, they must themselves form a numerous and motley host. Some of them are simple, others complex; some peculiar to certain circumstances or individuals, others general and embracing all countries and conditions ; some possessing a natural tendency to promote what is good; and others what is mischievous and evil; while many of them, again, though distinguished by separate names, only differ from other passions in degree; and, hence, naturally merge into them upon a change in the scale.
It has often occurred to me, that if we were to follow up all the passions, multiplied and complicated as they are, to their radical sources, and to draw out their respective genealogies, we might easily reduce them to four-Desire, Aversion, Joy, and Sorrow. And as aversion and sorrow are only the oppo. sites of desire and joy, and must necessarily flow from their existence in a state of things in which all we meet with is not to be desired or enjoyed, it is possible that desire and joy ought alone to be regarded as the proper parent stocks of all the rest. Let us examine them for a few minutes under this system of simplification.
Perhaps the oldest, simplest, and most universal passion that stirs the mind of man, is DESIRE. So universal is it, that I may confidently ask, where is the created bosom-nay, where is the created being, without it? And Dryden is fully within the mark in asserting, that
Desire's the vast extent of human mind.
AVERSION, which is its opposite, is less universal, less simple, and of later birth. It is less universal, for though there is no created being exempt from it, nor ought to be so upon certain points, it is more limited in its objects and operation. It is of later date, at least among mankind, for the infant desires before it dislikes : and hence there is as much physical truth as picturesque genius in the following exhortation of Akenside, to the lovers of taste and nature :
Through all the maze
And it is less simple, as being the opposite of desire, and in a certain sense flowing from it, and connected with its existence; the whole of its empire being founded on objects and ideas that the elder passion of desire has rejected.
Now the main streams that issue from DESIRE, running in different directions and giving rise to multitudes of secondary streams, are the three fol. lowing :-LOVE, HOPE, EMULATION. Examine them attentively, and you will find, that, different as they are from each other, they all possess the sperm and parentage of DESIRE, and possess it equally.
Love is not simple desire, but flows from it, and is so closely connected with it, that some shade of the latter passion is, in every instance, to be found in the former. The terms are hence, in some particular senses, and especially when employed loosely, used in all languages synonymously: whence Eros ('Epws) among the elegant Greeks, and Cupido among the Romans, was the god equally appointed to preside over both passions. It is from the latter tongue we obtain in our own language the word cupidity, which in like manner embraces both ideas. Spenser has made desire the offspring of love, rather than love the offspring of desire ; but this is to invert the order of nature. The first instinctive passion discoverable in infant life, as I have already observed, is desire-a desire of satisfying the new-born sensation of hunger; and love—that is, love of the object that gratifies it-follows from the gratification itself; nor can we, through any period of life, love what in our own estimation is undesirable. In many cases, for there are innumerable shades belonging to both, love may be regarded as the same passion as desire, but with an increase of intensity; as hatred, which is its opposite, is the same passion as aversion but with a parallel advance in the scale. There are, however, various marks of difference; and I may observe, that while desire is never without a less or greater degree of uneasiness, love, though it is sometimes accompanied with the same feeling, is occasionally free from it, and always so, when perfectly genuine.
Before we proceed to the two other main branches which radiate from DESIRE, let us follow up the subsidiary streams into which the passion of LOVE ramifies. These run in two opposite directions, according as they possess a virtuous or a vicious tendency; and in each direction they are extremely prolific, and offer to us a numerous progeny. Thus, on the one hand, we behold the passion or feeling of love giving birth to charity, benevolence, philanthropy, pity, mercy, fellow-feeling, which the Latins called compassion, and the Greeks sympathy; generosity, friendship, and ardour. They form a chaste and a happy group, are full of social affection, and are hence often called, after the name of the eldest sister, the CHARITIES of life or of the heart.