« AnteriorContinuar »
posed archetypes, is demonstrated by the stress which they have laid on this very word, in their celebrated argument against the existence of the material world. This argument (in which Hume entirely acquiesces) is thus stated by Berkeley: “As for our senses, by them we have the know“ledge only of our sensations, ideas, or those things “that are immediately perceived by sense, call them “what you will ; but they do not inform us, that “things exist without a mind, or unperceived;— “like to those which are perceived.” ” On the contrary, “as there can be no motion or thought “but in a thinking being, so there can be no sensa“tion but in a sentient being; it is the act or feel“ing of a sentient being ; its very essence consists “in being felt. Nothing can resemble a sensation, “but a similar sensation in the same, or in some “other mind. To think that any quality in a thing “inanimate can resemble a sensation is absurd, and “a contradiction in terms,” It has been already observed, how inconsistent this account of the origin of our ideas, as given by Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, is with some conclusions to which we were led, in a former part of this discussion ;—our conclusions, for example, with respect to the origin of our motions concerning our own existence, and our personal identity. Neither of these notions are derived immediately from consciousness; nor are they copies of anything of which the human mind could ever have been con
• Principles of Human Knowledge, Sect. 18.
scious; and accordingly Mr Hume, true to his principles, rejects the belief, not only of the existence of the Material World, but of the Human Mind itself, and of everything else but impressions and ideas. The force of his argument on this subject, as well as of that alleged by Berkeley, to disprove the existence of matter (both of which I consider as demonstratively deduced from Locke's Theory), I propose to examine afterwards in a separate Essay. At present, I only wish to infer from what has been stated, that, according to the most probable interpretation of Locke's own meaning, and according to the unquestionable interpretation given to his words by Berkeley and Hume, his account of the origin of our ideas amounts to this, that we have no knowledge of anything which we do not either learn from consciousmess, at the present moment, or which is not treasured up in our minds, as a copy of what we were conscious of on some former occasion. The constant reference which is made, in these times, by philosophers of every description, to sensation and reflection, as the sources of all our knowledge; and the variety of acceptations in which this language may be understood, renders it a matter of essential importance, in the examination of any particular system, that it should be distinctly ascertained, not only in what precise sense the author has adopted this very indefinite and ambiguous principle, but whether he has adhered uniformly to the same interpretation of it, in the course of his reasonings. In one sense of the proposition (that, I mean, in which it stands opposed to the innate ideas of Descartes), I have already said, that it appears to myself to express a truth of high importance in the science of Mind; and it has probably been in this obvious and unsuspicious acceptation, that it has been so readily and so generally assented to by modern philosophers. The great misfortune has been, that most of these, after having adopted the proposition in its most unexceptionable form, have, in the subsequent study of the applications made of it by Locke, unconsciously imbibed, as an essential part of it, a scholastic prejudice with which it happened to be blended in his imagination, and which, since his time, has contributed, more than any other error, to mislead the inquiries of his successors. In order to illustrate a little further this very abstract subject, I shall add to the quotations already produced two short extracts from Dr Hutcheson ; an author by no means blind to Locke's defects, but who evidently acquiesced implicitly in his aceount of the origin of our ideas, according to the most exceptionable interpretation of which it admits. “All the ideas, or the materials of our reasoning “ and judging, are received by some immediate “ powers of perception, internal or external, which “we may call Senses. Reasoning or intellect seems “to raise no new species of ideas, but to discover “ or discern the relations of those received.”—Of the full import of this proposition in the writer's own mind, he has put it in our power to judge, by a passage in another of his publications, where he has remarked, with singular acuteness, that “exten“sion, figure, motion, and rest, seem to be more
“properly ideas accompanying the sensations of “sight and touch, than the sensations of either of “those senses.” The exception made by Hutcheson with respect to the particular ideas here enumerated, affords a satisfactory comment on the meaning which he annexed to Locke's principle, in its general applications. From the cautious and doubtful manner in which it is stated, it is more than probable that he regarded this exception as almost, if not altogether, solitary. The peculiarity which Hutcheson had the merit of first remarking, with respect to our ideas of extension, figure, and motion, might, one should have thought, have led him to conjecture, that Locke's principle, when applied to some of the other objects of our knowledge, would perhaps require an analogous latitude of construction. But no hint of such a suspicion occurs, so far as I recollect, in any part of his writings; nor does it appear that he was at all aware of the importance of the criticism on which he had stumbled. The fact is, as I shall have occasion to shew in another Essay, he had anticipated the very instances which were afterwards appealed to by Reid, as furnishing an eagerimentum crucis, in support of his own reasonings against the ideal theory. : The clause, however, in these extracts which bears most directly on our present subject, is Dr Hutcheson's assertion (in exact conformity to Locke's doctrine), “that all the ideas or materials of our rea“Soning are received by certain senses, internal or G
“external; and that reasoning or intellect raises no “new species of ideas, but only discerns the rela“tions of those received.” To this assertion various conclusions, which we have been led to in a former part of this chapter, present unsurmountable objections; those conclusions, more especially, which regard the simple ideas implied or involved in certain intuitive judgments of the mind. Thus, it is surely an intuitive truth, that the sensations of which I am now conscious, and all those of which I retain any remembrance, belong to one and the same being, which I call myself. Here is an intuitive judgment, involving the simple idea of personal identity. In like manner, the changes of which I am conscious in the state of my own mind, and those which I perceive in the exter. mal universe, impress me with a conviction, that some cause must have operated to produce them. Here is an intuitive judgment, involving the simple idea of causation.—To these, and other instances of the same kind, may be added our ideas of time; of number; of truth; of certainty; of probability;-all of which, while they are manifestly peculiar to a rational mind, necessarily arise in the human understanding, when employed in the exercise of its different faculties. To say, therefore, with Cudworth, and some of the Greek philosophers, that Reason, or the Understanding, is a source of new ideas, is not so ex.ceptionable a mode of speaking, as it may appear to be, at first sight, to those whose reading has not extended beyond Locke's Essay. According to the system there
taught, Sense furnishes our ideas, and Reason per